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|2014 – January/February -Article 7
Waning Confidence in World Systems
“For the Lord’s sake, yield to the people who have authority in this world” (1 Peter 2:13a, New Century Version).
The geopolitical landscape has changed dramatically between the terrorist attacks on the U.S. on 9/11/2001 and the global financial crisis of 2009. The great focus on these two events alone has driven dramatic government action from West to East and North to South and has changed the perception of what is normal in the world. Even before these events, however, the world of the past fifty years has been changing politically, socially, economically, and religiously.
Political systems have become more diverse, reflecting shifts in global power. For example, the political world, once dominated by eight industrialized countries (G8), has seen its power spread among at least twenty industrialized countries (G20). Furthermore, many systems have seen continued civil unrest challenging long established authoritarian and democratic structures. In 2013, the U.S. government’s National Intelligence Council released the report Global Trends 2030: Alternative Worlds. Two of the predictions are quite startling: (1) No single country will be a hegemonic power (ruling or dominant in a political or social context); (2) The diffusion of power through informal global networks is reversing the power of West since 1750 and ushering in an era of “global democratization.”
Social systems everywhere have been significantly impacted by changing demographics. One of the most significant changes is the relative population distribution between countries. Developing countries have become a larger proportion of world population, increasing from 68 percent in 1950 to 82 percent in 2010. During the same time, the percentage of total world population in the developed countries has declined from 32 percent in 1950 to 18 percent in 2010.
Population growth throughout the entire world is slowing, with developed countries showing almost no growth (0.3%) and less developed countries showing population growth of just above one percent. Among the least developed countries, population growth has not really slowed, and remains at about 2.7% annual growth. This stable population, according to the Population Division of the Department of Economic and Social Affairs, is driven by the overall aging of world population at an unprecedented rate. This phenomenon is believed to be largely irreversible (see Population Division, DESA, United Nations).
Economic power is shifting to five emerging economies, known as BRICS: Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa. Since the 2008 financial collapse, the U.S. no longer is considered the unquestioned global superpower and the ally of choice. While its economic dominance today is still significant, America’s unresolved issues such as debt, fiscal deficits and the threat of interest payment default, combined with political scandal such as phone tapping, have changed perceptions about its future leadership role. China is already challenging for superpower status while other BRICS countries are gaining economic respect. It is not yet certain which country or countries will dominate the future economic world.
Religion has declined in influence during the past half century in most developed countries, where a small minority of adults still attends church regularly. In Britain, belief in God has declined from 77 percent in 1968 to below 50 percent today. A slight majority of Americans consider religion “very important” in their lives, down from 70% in the 1960’s. And while Islam may be the fastest growing world religion; it is less of a factor wherever economic development accelerates. Iran, for example, reverted to an intensely religious government after ousting the secular Shah, but today the internal pressure within Iranian society to modernize has dented the power of Islam in that nation, particularly regarding the status of women.
Inefficient World Systems
Over the past fifty years, sentiment of the world population has changed. In 1972, the book The Limits to Growth influenced the environmental movement and warned against a world where more people would mean inadequate food production, rising demand for resources would mean depletion and increasing productivity would result in added pollution and global warming. Today improved technology and a global network have made significant strides in resolving these issues. For example, at the outset of the 20th century, spending on health-related problems was an astounding 32 percent of global Gross Domestic Product (GDP); today it has been reduced to 11 percent. Despite this progress in resolving macro problems, basic living issues still remain a conundrum:
* 70 percent of the world’s population lives in some of the most restrictive countries regarding religion
* More than one billion people have inadequate access to safe drinking water and almost 3 billion lack basic sanitation
* Nearly one billion adults cannot read or write
* 80 percent of the world’s population lives on less than $10 per day and the poorest 40 percent account for only 5% of global income
The forces of progress have failed at the most basic level for a majority of the world’s population. The lack of progress is attributable to continued selfishness, contention and ethnic hatred within that population. For those who lack safe water to drink or cannot read or write, life remains difficult and unsatisfactory. Sickness, pain, and death have been the dreaded heritage of all. Hatred and war have blighted the happiness of the people and destroyed the peace of the nations.
God’s Kingdom Provides Lasting Solution
God’s resolution for the ills of mankind is a government to encompass every citizen of the world. In the Bible, Jehovah promises to establish a government — a kingdom — that will be reliable, equitable, and fair. “Unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government and peace there shall be no end … to establish it with judgment and with justice … forever. The zeal of the LORD of hosts will perform this” (Isaiah 9:6, 7).
Other prophecies assure permanent solutions to major problems. God’s prophet Daniel, during his captivity, interpreted the vision of King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon. The vision of the King was sent from God to picture how God’s kingdom would gradually supplant all other governments. In the vision, that Kingdom’s beginning was compared to a stone gathering momentum and smashing into an image of iron, brass, clay, silver and gold. The stone then grew into a great mountain filling the entire earth. “Forasmuch as thou sawest that the stone was cut out of the mountain without hands, and that it brake in pieces the iron, the brass, the clay, the silver, and the gold; the great God hath made known to the king what shall come to pass hereafter … the dream is certain, and the interpretation … sure” (Daniel 2:45).
Isaiah also likens the kingdom of God to a mountain. “And in this mountain shall the LORD of hosts make unto all people a feast of fat things, a feast of wines on the lees, of fat things full of marrow, of wines on the lees well refined”(Isaiah 25:6). This mountain, or kingdom results in blessings upon the population of the world: “In the last days it shall come to pass, that the mountain of the house of the LORD shall be established in the top of the mountains, and it shall be exalted above the hills; and people shall flow unto it” (Micah 4:1).
God has a plan, and throughout the ages it has been progressing steadily to completion. We stand today in a world of great progress. Yet that progress will seem dim compared to the time when God makes Himself known to the groaning creation. Then the divine plan will be fully enacted for the blessing of every individual with peace and happiness and everlasting life. That finale of the divine plan will be God’s answer to the Christian’s prayer, “Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven” (Matthew 6:10).