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If you’re tired of hearing the rehashes of Katrina, Iraq, terrorism, et al., this will give you a little breather.
1. World evangelization.
The Earth is becoming Christian at a very fast clip. My best estimate is that there are 64 million more Christians now than a year ago. That breaks down to 175,000 a day (births plus conversions minus deaths). The numbers are debatable, of course, but I’ve consulted with several of the best religion statisticians on the planet, and my stats are defensible, being partly based on denominational surveys costing $1.1 billion. History has never seen such a rapid and vast shift in loyalty and identity.
Combat deaths have hit their lowest point since World War II, dropping perhaps below 20,000. The Stockholm International Peace Research Institute has announced that the world’s ongoing wars now number only 18, compared to 33 in 1990. That’s dramatic. And, none of these wars are between nations! They’re all civil conflicts. Also, our much-ballyhooed daily body count in Iraq is less than 1 percent of what it was during all the years of World War II.
3. U.S. debt.
I’m afraid this is one of my two bad-news items. With a $333 billion expected deficit for this fiscal year, I can no longer envision how we’re going to get out of this mess – and believe me, I have a vivid imagination. With the Republicans’ abdication of financial responsibility, I suspect it’s all over. We’ve painted ourselves into a corner – or we’re backing over a cliff, choose your metaphor.
The average college grad this year staggered out of the ivied halls with a $28,953 debt load. Bernanke will not be able to tighten our way out of this as Volcker did – there’s simply too much private debt overhang. And looming above all else is an unfathomable, tangled mass of interlocked derivative deals, totaling in excess of $499 trillion, last I checked. I’ve not been able to find anyone on Wall Street who has any inkling of what it would take to tripwire this time bomb, much less what would happen if it went off.
4. The church.
It has taken us almost 2,000 years to get a clue, but we’re finally starting to do some key things right in structure and outreach. For instance, India probably saw only a few hundred new churches planted in 1995. Then we adopted the house-church model, where even the dalits (“untouchables”) can go out and plant expanding networks of lay-led, home-based congregations. With no financial need for buildings or pastors (and no sermons!), growth exploded to 20,000 new house churches in 2002. In 2005, that grew to 50,000 new house churches. The same story has been repeated in China, where total Christians are nearing 120 million. Ditto for dozens of countries. So do the math.
Muslim authorities have admitted they are rapidly losing Africa. Indonesia, Earth’s largest Muslim nation, is now 30 percent Christian. In Bangladesh, a stunning 522,000 Muslims have turned to Isa (Jesus) since 1997. I could go on. Islam is doomed – and along with it, militant Islamism.
As part of the huge wave of miracles sweeping the globe, rapid ecological transformations are occurring in dozens of countries: droughts ending, crops exploding, endangered wildlife returning, destroyed forests bouncing back, dead zones in oceans coming alive with fish not seen before – even the discovery of diamonds in one newly Christian area!
7. Social transformations.
In answer to simple, sustained prayer, we now often see bars and crack houses shutting down, poverty fading, heathen temples being shuttered for lack of interest, government corruption being exposed and stopped, anti-Christian hostility waning, crime rates plunging, etc.
8. U.S. health.
Our life expectancy has hit 77.6 years (or more if you wear a dress). Our major killers (heart disease, stroke, cancer) are down 3 to 5 percent. Alternative health methods are starting to get respect, and this will eventually transform “old age” into a vibrant, active time of life extending to 100-110 years because chronic degenerative diseases are being cured.
9. World health and progress.
Evangelical lodestar Philip Yancey has demolished whole sets of gloomy statistics. In recent years, he says: Illiteracy has plunged from 53 percent to 20 percent … malnutrition has dropped from 50 percent to 20 percent … infant mortality (first-year) has gone from 1 in 8 births to 1 in 16 … per capita income is up 60 percent, extreme poverty down almost by half … substandard housing is down from 80 percent to 25 percent … 75 percent now have clean water, up from 25 percent … leprosy is way down, polio is almost gone, and smallpox has vanished.
You haven’t heard the whole story yet, but Iran is going to get better … and worse. Stay tuned in 2006.