Message From Roberta Winter
Please let me thank all of you who have been faithfully praying for me. I have gone through my fourth 4-day round of chemo, which is both dangerous and destructive, and am nearing the dreaded day of a bone marrow transplant. That is far more dangerous. It is, in any case, only a postponement of death when you have my kind of cancer—according to my doctor at the famous City of Hope medical center in Duarte, CA.
But, I am not sure I want to go that next step. Other alternatives loom. I don’t have much to lose!
Don’t stop praying for me, but do start praying for a more decisive nationwide assault on cancer at its root. Little is being done. Our prayers must have feet. We have done a lot of study of the situation. It is as filled with human factors, politics, etc. as is the tobacco legislation.
Whenever you read this editorial you probably realize you are reading the new thoughts of an old man. There are just a whole lot of exciting advantages in being “old.” The main advantage is that you know a whole lot more than you did when you were younger. Think of the number of years you have had to learn things, reflect on them and come to new conclusions!
One thought is that I should not expect readers who have not had the advantage of all these years of thinking to be able to agree with some of my latest thinking. Curiously, although rarely, some ideas are instantly recognizable by everyone as “good ideas.” Others are instantly perturbing to some or to many—if they have not had the same background of years of thinking. That’s why Letters to the Editor carry divergent reactions.
Don’t worry, all of my ideas relate to missions directly or indirectly. But that only seems to be true if you have followed the breadth of the “mission” we are talking about—the depth and breadth of the arresting phrase in the Lord’s Prayer: “Thy Kingdom Come, Thy will be done … on earth.”
And, don’t forget, mission to unreached peoples will fail if our faith is a failure at home. We can’t go around the world having to admit that our Gospel fails at home!
But first let me do my duty as an editor to comment on the two main stories on our cover. Even in these comments you will detect some “new” thinking.
Steve Saint’s Mission
After the “Aucas” murdered his father forty years ago, Steve Saint grew up in that same jungle tribe amidst a growing group of believers. Following that unusual childhood he came to the States and became a successful business man.
But then he returned and found a discouraging situation. I want to warmly commend to you the rather shocking story he tells of how mission work can go backward as well as forward.
I can only add that while he very cogently points out the problems, we all need to keep working on the solutions. Do we try to preserve people by “converting” them to “civilized ways?” Do we edge them into a human zoo whereby the zoo animals can make a living showing themselves off to tourists? What is the future of small, exotic tribal cultures? We have not seen the end of this puzzle.
After living for ten years with my family in a tribal culture, I believe the solutions are much more complicated than we can presently see. However, Steve’s accurate description of the problem is, as they say, at least half the solution!
Well-meaning outsiders barging in is very unlikely to lead to the best answers. Short-termers beware. If even long-term missionaries have a hard time figuring out the solutions, how will anyone who is content merely to exercise “conventional wisdom?” That’s what this editorial is all about: God’s perspective versus conventional wisdom!
Joseph Tkach’s Mission
This time we also make some “mission” interpretations of the Worldwide Church of God’s amazing recent transformation. (Could a similar process be happening to the Mormons?) Missionaries often underestimate the future of heretical movements.
Please understand how very, very important are the mission implications of a movement going from quite a bit of theological nonsense (or even heresy) to a standard evangelical position. This is a global issue.
We need to pinch ourselves and realize that on most mission fields there are people so hungry for the Word of God that they snatch incomplete truth and run off with it, into heresy and error. What are we going to do with such people? Shun them? Avoid them? Denounce them? Yes, all of this, but is that all?
In the case of the Worldwide Church of God we all must feel pretty embarrassed that in their early groping for better insights they were roundly condemned and shunned by “straight” evangelicals. One major seminary would not allow one of their leaders to come to study in order to find out where they were wrong. Enormous barriers of suspicion surrounded every outstretched hand of theirs for help.
These insights actually lead us to the doorstep of the first major idea to be mentioned in this editorial.
Idea One: Missions is warfare against “the god of this world” at all levels.
The secular mindset (typically lacking any acknowledgment of Satan) is surely jolted by Scripture’s simple statement that “the whole world lies in the power of the evil one” (I John 5:19).
I used to be aware that we have a major enemy in this world, Satan, but I was unaware of the extent of his infiltration of God’s creation.
In my earlier years I never stopped to think just exactly how God might be involved in the continuous creation of life, how His angels, at His bidding, might be constantly working at the DNA level to make
modifications even as Satan’s dark angels were constantly working cleverly and “diabolically” to tear down the marvelous beauty of God’s design.
You don’t have to sail around the world with Darwin to recognize the constant change in created life. All you need to do is reflect, deeply, on the constant emergence of more and more destructive microbes, and the constant modifications going on in our bodies and in every living thing to counter new thrusts of destruction.
The contest of good and evil at every level of reality has been an imponderable puzzle for some of the greatest minds. One of our readers sent me a marvelous quote from Luther, that brilliant, eloquent, fearless leader—who, note, did not live as long as I have, and with far less access to the facts of nature. Luther speaks in despair of a God who:
"seems to delight in the torments of poor wretches … God, who is proclaimed as being full of mercy and goodness, and so on, should [He] of His own mere will abandon, harden, and damn men [?] … [such a thing] seems an iniquitous, cruel, intolerable thought to think of God … I have stumbled at it myself more than once, down to the deepest pit of despair."
Apparently, Luther underestimated the full range of Satan’s activity. In my old age I am thinking that we are quite blind to many of the levels on which Satan has been active. We do not realize that he tries always to work in unnoticed ways. His worst nightmare—that we would have our eyes opened—is the first point in Paul’s commission “to open the eyes of the blind…(delivering them) from the dominion of Satan to God.” (Acts 26.)
Let me make a list of four levels at which we must counter Satan:
- Satan has invaded the social level—and I will give two truly monstrous examples on that level in just a minute.
- Satan has invaded the personal level. We are all familiar with the fact that missionaries have bumped into New Testament-type demonic activity (and have not generally been prepared to deal with it).
- Satan has invaded animal life. National Geographic (April,1998 p. 106) mentions a very early era (Pre-Cambrian) in which there is no evidence of predatory life! Was this before Satan rebelled? And, once he and his dark angels began tampering with the DNA, new vicious and destructive forms of life were developed?
- Satan has, horrifyingly, employed his rebellious freedom in the development of destructive germs and viruses at the microbial level, which today account for one third of all deaths on the planet. What the Bible calls simply “pestilence,” is a scourge to animals and humans alike. Yet our popular theology does not clearly recognize this as a work of Satan which God expects us to combat as part of His mission.
But, if missionaries do not preach about a God who is interested in all suffering, all distortions of His creative handiwork, on all these levels we are simply misrepresenting the full scope of His pervasive love and concern—His very nature.
If our God does not know or care, or is unable to deal with these atrocious evils, hideous evils, we give a very skewed view of the God we are sent out to honor and glorify.
We have often noted in these pages that Western missionaries are greatly handicapped by the fact that our own dear country which is supporting them is nevertheless one that—despite many marvelous virtues—is still struggling with cavernous evils hidden in mass blindness and making very little progress.
In other words…
Missions isn’t just “over there” on the “mission field.” It is not as if Satan prowls the whole world but stops at the U.S. border. Indeed, missions is essentially the restoration of God’s kingdom and rule and power on this earth. It involves the restablishment of His glory, of His honor of His control of things. When anyone “becomes a Christian” he yields his life to that new Kingdom, and Jesus Christ becomes his LORD as well as Savior (not just Savior).
This means that we must realize that our mission is a global mission not just a “foreign” mission. We must realize that stopping evil wherever it is found is part of that mission.
Idea Two: Whole societies can readily be caught up in devastating “mass blindness”
Let’s just take the first level above, the level of Satanic penetration of the whole of society. As missionaries, don’t we have to counteract evil wherever it is found in order to protect and restore people’s understanding of the nature of God?
Is not the love of God authenticated by His objection to the suffering and evil which abounds in this world? Thus, it behooves us to take a good look at the degree of success or failure we have in fighting evil, even in our own homeland.
Let’s take three awesome examples of mass blindness.
1. First example of mass blindness: cancer
In Vietnam ten Americans died every day on the average during the entire ten years of that war. And, our government poured uncalculated billions into that conflict to extricate our people from it.
However, right now not ten but 1,500 Americans die every day of cancer. Yet our government truly puts only pennies in that direction: 80% of it diverted to HIV/AIDS research, the 20% that ends up in cancer research going almost entirely to evaluating treatments not working toward prevention. I understand that all 40 funded projects of the federal National Cancer Institute are focused on chemo and radiation treatment, not prevention.
It’s like getting caught up in 150 Vietnam wars at the same time—as far as battle deaths are concerned. And yet we act as though no war exists!
How can the consciousness of America be aroused to the fact that one third of all women and half of all men will contract cancer before they die?
2. Second example of mass blindness: nicotine
Pardon me, but I wince every time I hear about “anti-tobacco” legislation going through congress. This is incredibly “pro” tobacco legislation. I don’t follow this closely, but even a casual contact with the news reveals that the initial proponent of a multi-billion dollar payoff to the states and government was made by a tobacco company agent. But whoever came up with the idea of “narco” money going to the states, this is one of the baldest payoffs in history.
What if the Colombian cocaine industry were to come to congress and offer to pay for the privilege of continuing in their business—but without the harassment of federal agents? You know, they could help with the costs of dealing with cocaine babies, etc. They can afford it.
Would that wash? No, because legalizing cocaine would lead to enormously larger social harm.
By the same token making nicotine illegal would lead to enormously smaller social harm. But the money-greedy bureacracies of our time have dollar signs in their eyes. Clinton himself said “we are not trying to shut down the tobacco industry.” Why not?
The real cost of nicotine is the cost of a father or mother dying of lung cancer. The state does not now pay for that horrendous financial and human cost, and even with the tobacco BRIBE in hand does not have assistance for that in mind.
Philip Morris alone earns ten times as much in a year as the largest retail chain in the country—WalMart. Big tobacco companies have raised their prices four times recently. The last time was 5¢ per pack. All they need to pay off Minnesota’s $6.5 billion demand (note: over 25 years) is a 1¢ increase. That means they can readily pay off all the states without the price per pack rising even to the level in Canada.
How successful will anti-tobacco TV shorts be if those funding them stand to lose in a big way if they are successful?
3. Third example of mass blindness: gambling
However, Big Tobacco is not the only one that has figured out how to bribe governments.
Tim Stafford’s keenly researched article in Christianity Today (May 18,1998), “None Dare Dall it Sin,” tells the shocking leap from legalized gambling in one state in 1931 to 48 states today.
The Gambling industry is talking like the tobacco people:
“Wow, look at the progress we’ve made.
- We’ve gone from one state in 1931 with legalized gambling (Nevada) to 48 states in 1998!
- We’ve added 30 floating casinos in southern Mississippi in just five years.
- We’ve cleaned them up so much that church groups have their parties on our river boats!
- And, we’ve changed the laws of the state so that no town can refuse to put legalized gambling up to vote each year even if they’ve voted it down year after year—but that once voted in, the law (our law!) will not allow it to be put to vote again!
- See how smart we are! Sure, we destroy lots of families. Sure, Mississippi pays out in one way or another $600 million a year to rescue the people we destroy. But we’ve finally got the state to accept our $240 million BRIBE and still walk away with millions free. While the state loses $2 for every $1 they accept! Such a deal!
- Think of the jobs we create (they can’t turn us out now!). We not only hire people to run these casinos and hotels, we indirectly hire social workers and increased police forces to deal with the human suffering that results. Natch.
- Most important of all, we have hooked the State of Mississippi itself, just like the Tobacco people!
- Nope, you don’t need to worry about these two fine industries. Gambling and tobacco are here to stay. In fact, with these millions we are garnering we are more and more taking over the state itself!”
Dear Reader, this is just the state of Mississippi. Add in 47 more states and… Isn’t this mass blindness?