April 2012

Shocking Suicide Rates

You may have heard that America’s homicide rates are much higher than other nations; sometimes as much as five times greater. What you may not have heard is that the suicide rate in America is even higher than the homicide rate. In fact, the suicide rate is more than twice as high.

At around 36,500 per year, there are on average 100 people in America who take their own lives every day. In each of the age groups between the ages of 10 and 24, suicide is the 3rd leading cause of death; for those aged 25 to 34, suicide jumps to the 2nd leading cause of death.

The foremost question in the study of suicides is the question of why. In America, the quality of life is generally considered to be very high; it would be reasonable to assume that our suicide rate would be far better than the nations who face a myriad of challenges such as extreme poverty, civil war, famine, and rampant disease. Paradoxically, this is not the case.

Experts have observed that as the quality of life increases, so does the suicide rate. They hypothesize that when people have a clear external reason to be miserable, such as famine or war, the suicide rate is lower because the person has a clear reason to be unhappy and a hope that the external factors will improve. However, when the quality of life is greater and there is no clear cause of their continuing unhappiness, the pain experienced is directed more inward than outward, and as such there is less hope for relief.

So what is behind the despair and hopelessness that so many face, and what is the solution?
Risk factors of suicide prominently include the results of destructive sins. Divorce, drug addiction, and abuse are just a small sample of the risk factors for suicide that stem from the rippling effect of sin.

The hopelessness that fuels suicide results from separation from God. Deep within us is a craving for our spiritual Father, who gives us a hope that this world cannot quench. He is called the God of hope and encouragement (Romans 15:13, 15:5). The Holy Spirit is referred to as the Comforter in the book of John. Hope is so important that it is prominently featured as the helmet of our spiritual armor (I Thessalonians 5:8) and we read that in this hope we are saved (Romans 8:24).

“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.” (Romans 15:13)

Dangerous Unemployment and Tyrants

Steven LeBlanc

They call it the Jobless Generation, tens of millions around the world are unemployed—and they are very angry. From Cairo to Manila, Seattle to Milan, the global economy is failing to provide good job opportunities for those entering the workforce for the first time, including college graduates. In debt burdened Greece youth unemployment is more than 51%, and in Spain youth unemployment hovers at 50%. Over the past 2 years those in America ages 18 to 24 who are employed stands at only 54%.

In aging nations such as found in Europe and Japan, youth unemployment makes funding of health care and pensions of retirees impossible. Most dangerous of all is that jobless youth are much more likely to engage in terrorist activities and crime. Modern history tells us that where you see persistent high unemployment you will eventually see violent clashes against governments. The Arab Spring upraising was fueled by chronic high unemployment rates in Arab nations.

Recent history reveals that high unemployment can pave the way to national chaos, enabling tyrants to come to power. The classic example of this is the rise of Adolf Hitler in Germany. Historical patterns often repeat themselves, which is why we need to watch closely the national and international unemployment picture. Large spikes in unemployment create anger that often leads to radical changes in leadership.

The reason I bring this to your attention is that an economic crisis in the future may open the door for a Hitler-like dictator to take control in Europe. We know from prophecy that a coming European Dictator will sway millions to give him their allegiance; civil leaders will give him support and power…and they will give their power and authority to the beast (Revelation 17:13).

In recent years lack of jobs fueled government changes in Egypt, Algeria, Italy, Britain and Spain. Rising unemployment has caused rioting across the Middle East and in Greece. Americans will quickly vote out of office the politician who cannot tame the monster of joblessness. A recession can quickly turn into a depression igniting fear and despair, two emotions that can rapidly lead to massive civil unrest.

The bruising years of the Depression (1929 to 1933) created a despondency and anger in Germany that made possible the rise of Adolf Hitler. As historian Ian Kershaw, Hitler biographer has pointed out, without the Great Depression Adolf Hitler would never have become the leader of Germany. It is impossible to put into words the despair and fear that hovered over the German people during the Depression years.

The prospect of joblessness is terrifying. Massive unemployment in Germany created an atmosphere of bitterness and fear leading to a willingness to embrace desperate solutions. Extremist political parties preyed upon the anger of the people. Paramilitary gangs contested one another on German streets, skyrocketing divorce and suicide was common, and millions joined the ranks of the German Communist Party because they promised jobs. Hitler took advantage of the chaos and despondency.

Hitler was a known personality in Germany in the 1920s but only a small minority took seriously this strange angry man with the funny mustache. Everything changed in October of 1929. America and Europe plunged into a depression; suddenly panic, humiliation, and hopelessness compelled many in Germany to listen to the speeches of Adolf Hitler, a man they paid little attention to just a few years previous.

Hitler made convincing promises fueled by his powerful speaking style. He made promises of full employment, promises of a restoration of German dignity and pride (remember Germany suffered a humiliating defeat in World War I), promises to stamp out the Communist threat within Germany, and of supreme importance, promises to the army to restore them to first class status, something they had lost after German defeat in the First World War. The people and military leaders listened and voted Hitler to power. Hitler became German Chancellor in January 1933. Soon after, he gained complete control over the government and the military.

We do not see such an extreme context in Europe as was experienced in the early 30s, but it is wise to appreciate the recent historical lessons of high unemployment. Great turmoil in world events will bring a new set of leaders to power in key countries.

Israel's Holocaust Remembrance Day

Yom Hashoah is a day when Israel – and Jewish communities in other countries – remember the Holocaust and its victims. The date is April 19th.

A small group of performers has been recreating songs written in the ghetto of Theresienstadt – the prison community near Prague where the Nazi authorities gathered Jewish families from Czechoslovakia and beyond between 1941 and 1945. Around 160,000 Jews passed through the ghetto in its four years of operation – 36,000 died there of malnutrition, mistreatment and disease. Of the 90,000 men, women and children who were sent east to death camps like Auschwitz only 4,000 returned.

New exhibitions in Israel of photographs of football matches played inside the ghetto underline that perception. Games were played in front of substantial crowds with some spectators looking down on the seven-a-side matches from balconies high above the courtyard that served as a pitch. Search on the internet and you will easily find the unbearably poignant footage of the doomed players – most had been transported to the death camps within weeks or months of the film being shot.

One of the few who survived was Peter Erben – now 91 and living in the Israeli Mediterranean city of Ashkelon with his wife Eva, who also lived through the nightmare of Theresienstadt. He survived a period in the slave labor camp at Mauthausen in Austria too, his personal story an extraordinary odyssey of good luck woven into a tapestry of despair and depravity.

Of his days playing football in Theresienstadt as he waited through the long months for the inevitable transfer to Auschwitz he says simply: “Football was very important in Theresienstadt – there was a game every week and thousands of people came. Even the SS men were there in civilian clothes. They liked it too.”

We have grown used to the over-arching narrative of the Holocaust with all its cruel destruction – but we know little of its grim subtleties, and perhaps struggle to find the words to describe them.

The truth is that Theresienstadt was a place of death but it was less brutal than the ghettos of Poland or Lithuania. It’s not clear exactly how that came about – it may have been determined by the character of local commanders, or it may have been that the Germans drew ethnic distinctions between Jews from Central Europe and Jews from countries to the East.

The Czech ghetto was still a gateway to hell but because it was less brutal and squalid than the others it also came to play a role in one of the most extraordinary of all the German propaganda operations of World War II.

In an attempt to disguise the true nature of the Holocaust, the Nazi authorities consented to a request from the Danish Royal Family to allow a visit by Red Cross inspectors. The results were a shameful farce – the inspectors seem to have agreed to speak only to the guards and commanders and not the malnourished inmates who were ordered to sit around in fake cafes drinking water dyed black so that it resembled coffee. Peter was one of those inmates.

Oded Breda, director of the Terezin House – a museum set up by survivors to commemorate and study the ghetto – says the film remains a powerful piece of propaganda for Nazi apologists and Holocaust deniers to this day.

“That film is still working. Look at it on YouTube and look at the comments that are left. People are saying, ‘Look at Jews during the war, how they even played football. There was nothing [sinister].’” If Oded Breda is right to claim that Holocaust-deniers are still reinforcing their grotesque perversions of historical fact with Nazi propaganda films then there are worrying signs for the future.

Nazis and the Disabled

Recently, there was an article published in the Journal of Medical Ethics which argued that infanticide should be permissible for many reasons, including the situation where a child is born with a disability. The authors, Alberto Giubilini and Francesca Minerva concluded that newborns are not “actual persons,” merely “potential persons,” and as such had no moral right to life. They argue, “To bring up such children (mentally disabled) might be an unbearable burden on the family and on society as a whole, when the state economically provides for their care.”

Not surprisingly, the authors received significant backlash over their article, including some death threats. The editor of the article, Professor Julian Savulescu, denounced the response the authors had received to The Daily Telegraph: “This “debate” has been an example of “witch ethics” – a group of people know who the witch is and seek to burn her. It is one of the most dangerous human tendencies we have. It leads to lynching and genocide. Rather than argue and engage, there is a drive is to silence and, in the extreme, kill, based on their own moral certainty. That is not the sort of society we should live in.”

His response gives us valuable insight into the thinking that leads to the Holocaust. As part of the Holocaust, over 200,000 disabled people were killed in a program called “Aktion 4″ or “T-4″ which began before the methodical murder of over 6 million others. Here is an excerpt from the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum website:

“The Third Reich also stepped up its propaganda against the disabled, regularly labeling them “life unworthy of life” or “useless eaters” and highlighting their burden upon society.
The term “euthanasia” (literally, “good death”) usually refers to the inducement of a painless death for a chronically or terminally ill individual. In Nazi usage, however, “euthanasia” referred to the systematic killing of the institutionalized mentally and physically disabled.”
http://www.ushmm.org/museum/exhibit/focus/disabilities/

Sound familiar? The Nazi regime used asylums as their training ground where they prepared officers to kill without questioning. They trained ordinary men and women to overcome this “moral certainty” that the editor of the aforementioned article found so deplorable.

As soon as they would accept conditional morality, (in that instance, killing the disabled) then all they had to do was slowly tweak those conditions to get the person to kill men, women, and infants cruelly. These people were often described before and after the war as upright citizens, genial, loving parents, having excellent character. Even their families couldn’t comprehend it, when years later they were brought to trial for the heinous things they did to their victims.

The moral certainty provided to us in God’s law provides an unchanging, enduring rock upon which we can solidly place our trust.

“The law of the Lord is perfect, converting the soul; The testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple; The statutes of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart; The commandment of the Lord is pure, enlightening the eyes; The fear of the Lord is clean, enduring forever; The judgments of the Lord are true and righteous altogether. More to be desired are they than gold; Sweeter also than honey and the honeycomb. Moreover by them Your servant is warned, and in keeping them there is great reward.” Psalm 19:7-11.

“For the commandment is a lamp, and the law a light; Reproofs of instruction are the way of life.” Proverbs 6:23

“Love does no harm to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfillment of the law” Romans 13:10
The unborn and the severely disabled are our neighbors. God holds us responsible as to how we treat the afflicted.

Rumors out of Iran...

Tensions are running high between Iran and Israel, and Washington is trying to avert a war. Just today Iran is reporting it has identified “a major terrorist group from the Zionist regime (of Israel) and has arrested some of its protected operational members inside the country,” –IRNA reported, without saying when the arrests had taken place.

The semi-official Fars news agency said the suspects were arrested “while preparing to carry out terrorist acts”, adding that a considerable number of bombs, machineguns, military and communication equipment had been seized. So wars and rumors of war continue to come out of the Middle East (Matthew 24:6). We will wait and see if Iran can confirm their claims.

On another note, former U.N. Ambassador John Bolton has spoken out concerning the latest rumors regarding Israel and a possible base in the geopolitical strategic nation of Azerbaijan (see recent blog).

The Obama administration is using either leaks or propaganda to slow down Israel’s plan to attack Iran. America’s former ambassador to the UN John Bolton certainly thinks this is the case – and he is not a man given to rash statements.

An article on the website of Foreign Policy Magazine written by Mark Perry, quoted four unnamed ‘senior diplomats’ and ‘intelligence officers’ saying that Israel had been granted access to air bases in Azerbaijan on Iran’s northern border. The article inferred that this meant Israel planned to use Azerbaijan either for a strike at Iran or for support for an attack. An Azeri official has denied the claim. It is hard to know what is taking place between Azerbaijan and Israel. Israel recently sold the Azeris 1.6 billion dollars worth of sophisticated weapons and defense systems.

John Bolton has concluded that whether this is a genuine leak or disinformation, the story is an attempt to harm Israel by its principal ally the United States. On FOX NEWS, Bolton said : “I think this leak today is part of the administration’s campaign against an Israeli attack.” … Bolton, a Fox News contributor, noted that tipping the Israelis’ hand by revealing “very sensitive, very important information” could frustrate such a plan of attack by Israel.

Steven LeBlanc

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