Watching the World
◆ The “Divine Victory” International Assembly of Jehovah’s Witnesses concluded in late January. The assembly started in Detroit, Michigan (U.S.A.), last June and eventually took in the Americas, Europe, the Orient, Africa and islands of the Pacific. Among the outstanding attendance figures in recent months were those from Nigeria. There, three assemblies drew 214,027 persons; 7,153 persons were baptized. Also in Africa, at Accra, Ghana, 37,612 persons attended. The São Paulo, Brazil, gathering had 94,586 in attendance, while Valencia, Venezuela, reached 21,752. At Sydney, Australia, there were 34,447. In many places the attendance figures were much higher than the total number of Witnesses in the area. Why? A partial answer is found in Brazil’s Noticias Populares, which noted, editorially, that “traditional religion is on its way out,” and then, in contrast, said regarding the Witnesses: “They really live by their faith. Nationalities are not a dividing factor among the Witnesses, for they are made up of people from all races and classes. . . . Their faith is based, not on something formal, but on a living hope. It is based on Bible knowledge and research, for Jehovah’s witnesses study the Bible daily. Thus, their faith resists this century’s scorching winds of worldliness, under which so many weak personalities and families have succumbed.”
The Food Dilemma
◆ Obtaining food is daily more difficult even for persons living in the so-called affluent countries. Prices on many items continue to skyrocket. In Seattle, located in the U.S. agricultural state of Washington, for instance, a dozen eggs cost 66 cents in July; in mid-January, six months later, they were 82 cents. Canned green beans were 34 cents; the January price was 49 cents, a 44-percent increase!
◆ In a recent article Catholic priest A. Greeley says: Suppose that Jesus were to come in the flesh today among those claiming to be his followers. He would not want to be accepted, says Greeley, by gun-toting Catholic revolutionaries or superpatriots. Nor would he consider himself a hippie hero. Further, “Jesus would be acutely embarrassed by the attempt of the fundamentalist ‘Key 73’ campaign to ‘win America for Christ.’ What they could win, he wouldn’t want.” Modern musicals and “masses” written for him would repel him. Greeley asks: “If Jesus came back today, would he be crucified again?” And answers: “You better believe he would.”
The Dollar Rebounds
◆ The petroleum crisis has juggled the world’s currencies. The U.S., while affected by the oil situation, has not suffered as much as western Europe and Japan. Thus, the U.S. dollar is now stronger in relation to those nations’ currencies. This is in sharp contrast with the nose dives the dollar suffered last summer. By late January it had gone up over 35 percent against the French franc from the dollar’s mid-1973 low point. Further, it had increased against the British pound, 17.4 percent; the West German mark, 23.8 percent; the Italian lire, 16.7 percent; the Japanese yen, 17.3 percent; the Swiss franc, 24.7 percent; and the Dutch guilder, 19.5 percent. Gold, meanwhile, hit a record $142 per ounce in Zurich and London on January 21.
The Farmer’s Challenges
◆ Demands for food increase. And so do the problems facing the farmer. His land, for one thing, is costing much more. Economist C. K. Randall told the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s recent Outlook Conference that some reports indicate that farm real estate prices rose a record 20 percent nationally in the one-year period ending last November.
Farm experts are trying to perfect new breeds of plants that will resist disease. But it generally takes ten years or more to cultivate and test a new variety of wheat. Usually, in half that time, it is reported, disease and pests have already substantially cut the yield from the new strain!
◆ The state of New Jersey paid about $300,000 in 1973 for religious services in various state institutions. Some twenty clergymen are on the state payroll drawing salaries of $10,000 to over $14,000 annually. A prayer opening a New Jersey Assembly session costs the taxpayers $50; Senate session prayers are $100. At the Woodbine School a clergyman has refused to perform services for severely retarded children unless his fee is boosted from $10 to $25 per visit. What a contrast such mercenaries are with Jesus, who said: “You received free, give free”!—Matt. 10:8.
Death of Theology, Not God
◆ Germany has long been known as the home of theology. But now scholarly theology in Germany is dying. The cause? The once-popular “death of God theology” and disbelief in the Bible. Says Christianity Today: “On the one hand, it is not surprising that considering the attitudes of theological teachers toward the Bible, students would finally tire of consecrating themselves to the meticulous study of Scripture in the original languages . . . On the other, it is ironic that precisely those scholars who thought they were making academic theology vitally relevant to the modern world have succeeded in causing, if not its death, at least a lingering and wasting sickness.”
◆ The latest statistical yearbook reveals that, world wide, 3,659 Roman Catholic priests quit in 1971. Although 7,180 men joined the priesthood that year, the total number of those who died and defected was 8,100. The church’s figures also show that in 1971, of 155,513 seminarians, 19,737 gave up their training. Meanwhile, the Vatican’s L’Osservatore Romano says that there are now only 621 priests to minister to the seven million people living in Catholic Brazil’s Amazon region. Barcelona’s El Noticiero Universal reports that in the last ten years the number of ordinations of priests in Spain has dropped by 60 percent; there were only 289 ordinations in 1972-1973.
Thinking About Christ’s Return
◆ Very few persons watch world events and meaningfully connect these with Jesus’ prophecy about “the conclusion of the system of things.” This is even true of most who profess to be Christian ministers. But a Church of the Brethren minister in La Verne, California, admits that Jehovah’s witnesses do make this vital connection. Concerning conversations with Witnesses, the minister recently observed in a sermon: “I usually try to talk with the Jehovah’s Witnesses. They have a sense of what is important . . . It is very different from a faith discussion with Brethren or Presbyterians or Catholics. They control the subject matter and they can quote far more Scripture than I can. While I would be thumbing through a concordance to try to find something, they have chapter and verse at the ready. . . . So, the Jehovah’s Witnesses get me to think about the second coming of Christ.”
◆ As statistics show, crime still grows. Consider the Netherlands. Crime in the city of Amsterdam increased 12 percent in 1973 over 1972. In Utrecht the average number of monthly burglaries rose from 200 in 1972 to 300 last year. Detected crimes in Arnhem have increased about 60 percent since 1968. In the U.S. city of Cambridge, Massachusetts, crime expanded 28.1 percent in the first nine months of 1973 over the same period in 1972. The rise in Boston was 14.4 percent, and in Stamford, Connecticut, 15.6 percent. The overall rate of crimes reported in New York city was said, officially, to have “declined” during 1973. Nevertheless, an overwhelming number of interviewed New Yorkers say that they regard crime as the worst problem facing the city.
Success or Failure?
◆ Want to get ahead in business? Consider one of the latest “secrets of success”—at least according to a recent American Management Association survey. The large poll of nearly 3,000 U.S. businessmen found that, among other things, “eighty-eight per cent of all respondents say that ‘a dynamic personality and the ability to sell yourself and your ideas’ is more of an attribute to the manager on the move today than is ‘a reputation for honesty, or firm adherence to principles.’” Could it be because of following that “success” rule that there are also more cases of heart disease, digestive disorder, job dissatisfaction and family breakups than ever?
Crime, Poverty and Morals
◆ Crime is often blamed on poverty. However, in the U.S. there was less crime during the depression years than there is right now. Even during the scarcity and rationing of World War II crime was lower. Why the change? An editorial over St. Louis radio station KMOX makes an interesting observation: “The reason for the rise in crime, we’d say, first, is the breakdown in traditional morals which guided earlier generations of Americans, and secondly our materialistic, humanistic approach to life and living.”
Ski Injuries Up and Down
◆ Good news: Improved ski equipment, such as hard plastic boots and improved release bindings, has brought a decrease in the number of injuries to lower extremities. Bad news: There is now a corresponding increase in injuries to upper extremities! Fractures of the lower extremities at a Vermont resort, for instance, declined from 89 percent of total injuries in 1960-1961 to 62 percent in 1972-1973. Meanwhile, upper-extremity fractures rose from 8 to 25 percent. Intermediate skiers are particularly vulnerable to injury. Why? They are skilled enough to handle difficult terrain at high speeds. But they are not skilled enough to avoid serious falls.
◆ Last year, it is estimated, the makings for more than five billion marijuana and hashish cigarettes entered the U.S. That is enough to provide 20 smokes each for the entire population. Senator James O. Eastland, chairman of the Senate Internal Security subcommittee, says the current use of marijuana and hashish has reached “runaway escalation” proportions; he calls it a “pandemic.” He claims that, among other factors, part of the increase is due to the “benign attitude towards marijuana” in some recent reports, both official and otherwise.
◆ Some currently popular movies feature the occult, sadistic violence and sex. How can the average person, who may feel he has little control over moviemaking, cope with the situation? Writer Frances Taylor of Newhouse News Service offers one commonsense suggestion: “The only way to reduce the movie glorification of violence is to stay away from films that make heroes of killers. Advertising phrases and movie reviews make clear the content of most movies. Parents especially can be the decisionmakers by keeping their youngsters away from the bloody, brutal movies and guiding the young moviegoer toward films that do not exalt the most harmful human behavior.”
Women Leaving Home
◆ There are about as many women running away from home today as there are men. Tracers Company of America, experts on finding missing persons, says that in the early 1960’s the number of husbands running away, when compared with the number of wives who did so, was about 300 to one. By the late sixties, however, the ratio was about 100 to one. In 1972 the figure had dipped to two to one and, now, it is an even one to one. Many see the ‘women’s liberation’ movement as prompting the current female exodus. Nevertheless, thoughtless husbands must bear part of the blame.