The Briefing, Tuesday, November 20, 2012

TODAY: Should Israel put its trust in an Iron Dome? / A day of decision for Anglicans — Women Bishops? / Hindu congresswomen to take oath on Bhagavad Gita / Judge grants injunction in contraception mandate case. I discuss all these and more in today’s edition of The Briefing: A Daily Analysis of News and Events from a Christian Worldview.

1. Israel’s Iron Dome — Should Israel Place its Trust in Technology?

Americans seem almost as fascinated as Israelis when it comes to Israel’s “Iron Dome,” perhaps the world’s most sophisticated and accurate anti-missile defense system. The system deploys rockets fired at incoming missiles or rockets, thus avoiding a deadly hit during a rocket attack. Israel has been subjected to a barrage of rockets from Hamas forces in Gaza, with some rockets now hitting the cities of Tel Aviv, Ashdod, and Jerusalem.

Israeli Defense Minister, Ehud Barak, has called the Iron Dome “probably the most technologically impressive achievement in recent years in Israel.”

According to recent reports, the Iron Dome system has been hugely successful, neutralizing more than 300 rockets and achieving a success rate of between 80 to 90 percent. The system, created with the assistance of the United States, offers Israel a margin of time once an attack begins. Each interceptor missile costs up to $50,000.

As Isabel Kershner of The New York Times reports:

“Iron Dome shoots down rockets with a radar-guided missile known as Tamir, which was developed by Rafael Advanced Defense Systems, an Israeli company. The radar was developed by Elta, a subsidiary of Israel Aerospace Industries, and another company, Impress, developed the command and control system.

Because each interceptor missile costs $40,000 to $50,000, the system is designed to aim only at rockets headed for populated areas and to ignore those destined for open ground outside cities and towns. Israeli officials say that the cost is offset by the lives and property that are saved.”

In recent days Israeli defense and political authorities have expressed concern that the nation’s citizens may be placing too much trust in the Iron Dome system. They fear that people may begin to ignore or minimize air raid sirens and other warnings, increasing the danger of a deadly strike.

Israel’s current leaders are not the first to sound that alarm. King David sounded a similar concern in Psalm 20:7-8 — “Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the LORD our God. They collapse and fall, but we rise and stand upright.”

Technology cannot save. Any nation that places its ultimate trust in technology is creating an idol that cannot deliver on its promises — no matter how impressive it may be.

2. A Day of Decision for the Church of England: Women Bishops?

The Church of England will decide today if women are to be consecrated as bishops. The church’s General Synod will vote on a “compromise” measure that seems certain to please almost no one.

As The Washington Post reports:

“While opening the way for female bishops, the proposal before the General Synod also commits the church, when it assigns priests and bishops, to ‘respect’ the position of parishes that oppose them — without defining what respect means in practical terms.”

“Enough waiting,” declared Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams, a proponent of women bishops. If the proposal is approved by a two-thirds majority in all three houses of the synod, women will soon serve as bishops. If the measure is defeated, it will take at least five years to bring the matter to a vote once again.

In truth, this is not a compromise at all. If the proposal passes, women bishops will be consecrated throughout the church and must be recognized by all parishes and ministers. Given the fact that the Church of England started ordaining women to the priesthood almost twenty years ago, the elevation of women to the episcopacy was inevitable.

One central argument put forth by the proponents of women bishops demands close attention.

Peter Broadbent, the Bishop of Willesden (near London), warned that if the proposal fails, the Church of England would “look completely stupid in the eyes of society.”

Similarly, Rosie Harper, chaplain to the Bishop of Buckingham and vicar of Great Missenden told The Guardian [London[ that, if the measure fails, “it will seem to people in the country [at large] that the church is operating within a lower ethical framework than their own.”

In other words, let the culture set the demands for the church. Since the role of women in society is no longer up for debate, the church must give way. Otherwise, it will look backwards, unethical, and stupid.

Note the absence of any theological or biblical argument, or even an acknowledgement that the service of women in the teaching office of the church runs counter to clear biblical teachings. The culture is cited as the authority in the matter.

On any question, that move is a sure sign of theological and spiritual disaster.

3. America’s First Hindu Congressperson to Take Oath on the Bhagavad Gita

A sure sign of America’s increasing religious and ethnic diversity will be evident in January when Tulsi Gabbard of Hawaii takes the oath of office as the nation’s first Hindu Member of Congress. The Huffington Post reports that Gabbard will take the oath of office over a copy of the Bhagavad Gita, one of several Hindu texts. The Bhagavad Gita is a text of 700 verses and 18 chapters that tells the central Mahabharata epic.

There are an estimated 600,000 to 2.3 million Hindus in the United States. Gabbard will serve alongside at least 2 Buddhist members of Congress.

This development underlines the changing nature of America as a mission field. The world is coming to the United States, and that world brings a universe of worldviews and religious belief systems. Evangelical Christians must see the seating of a Hindu Member of Congress as yet another indicator of that challenge. At the same time, this same development is an affirmation of our American commitment to religious liberty — the same liberty that allows an evangelical Christian to participate in the public life of the nation.

4. Judge Grants Injunction in Contraception Mandate Challenge

Word came late Monday that U.S. District Judge Reggie Walton of the District of Columbia has handed down an injunction that prevents, for now, action against Tyndale House Publishers. Tyndale House had sought relief from the contraception mandate ordered by the Obama Administration as part of its health care reform.

Judge Walton said that the mandate “affirmatively compels the plaintiffs to violate their religious beliefs in order to comply with the law and avoid the sanctions that would be imposed for their non-compliance.”

This is a major victory, though it may be short-lived. Judge Walton said that he will consider making the injunction permanent at a later date. The Obama Administration is certain to appeal.

I discuss all these and more in today’s edition of The Briefing: A Daily Analysis of News and Events from a Christian Worldview. LISTEN HERE.  Links to all articles cited also provided.