Is the US Heading for Universal Basic Income?

On Tuesday, House Democrats Tim Ryan (D-OH) and Ro Khanna (D-CA) introduced the Emergency Money for the People Act. The plan would give $2,000 per month to Americans over the age of 16 who make less than $130,000 per year. Families with qualifying children would receive an additional $500 per child.

If passed, these payments would last at least six months and until unemployment falls to pre-COVID-19 levels.

The Beginning of Unconditional Basic Income?

Could this mark the beginning of a permanent, unconditional basic income for all adults? No doubt, most people need this money. Our economy is turned upside down and people are desperate for security. The guaranteed money sounds nice, but it may come at a devasting price.

The Emergency Money for the People Act looks suspiciously like an idea called Universal Basic Income (UBI) which has been tossed around for a few years. UBI is an emerging plan which provides an unconditional, guaranteed payment for living expenses to all people. Under the plan, all qualifying adults get a set amount of money; those who earn more will be taxed proportionately to help fund the program.

Some advocates claim a universal, unconditional basic income would eliminate poverty and provide a safety net for workers who recently lost their jobs. Others say it is needed in an era where machines are increasingly displacing human workers. In Finland, the program is hailed for reducing stress levels.

Critics of UBI say the program encourages people to work less, thereby contributing less taxes into the new welfare program.

Worldwide Universal Basic Income Tests

Universal basic income is already being tested in areas of Britain, Finland, Netherlands, Kenya, Canada, and even the United States.

Scotland’s Citizen’s Basic Income for residents living in Glasgow, Edinburgh, Fife, and North Ayrshire was slated to begin in March 2020. According to a report last week, Scotland’s first minister, Nicola Sturgeon, announced the plan for a basic income for Scots was “strengthened ‘immeasurably’ by the coronavirus outbreak.”

In the US, universal basic income has a well-documented following in Silicon Valley. The idea caught the admiration of Tesla CEO Elon Musk and Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg. Zuckerberg pitched the idea during Harvard’s spring 2017 commencement ceremony, saying:

“We should explore ideas like universal basic income to make sure that everyone has a cushion to try new ideas.”[1]

A Hidden Agenda?

What alarms me about the bill for a basic income is the idea can be traced to the UN’s 2015 resolution called “Transforming Our World: the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.”

My concern lies in the manner in which the UN wants to lower the standard of living for all Westerners until we reach what they determine are “sustainable levels” of production and consumption.

To reach “sustainable levels,” our current standard of living must drop tremendously. The quickest way to reach such a “sustainable” target is by a collapse in world economy.

If the economy collapses, world leaders can build a new economy- hence the name, “Sustainable Development.”

In the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, world leaders affirmed their commitment to “combat inequalities within and among countries,” and “create conditions for sustainable, inclusive and sustained economic growth and shared prosperity.”[2] I think migration without borders and wealth redistribution are two of the ways they’re attempting to accomplish their “inclusive” and “shared prosperity” goals.

Further, Agenda 2030 insists by 2030 “all people must enjoy a basic standard of living, including through social protection systems.”[3]

In 2017, the UN published an article which addressed how to combat income inequalities. On UNESCO’s Inclusive Policy Lab website, Universal Basic Income was hailed as the solution: “What if this idea, suggesting a flat income given to every citizen regardless of employment or social status, was part of the solution to today’s inequalities?”

Universal Basic Income and the New Socialist Economic System

The UN’s Agenda 2030 lays the framework for a worldwide socialist economic system. It insists sustainable economic growth is essential for prosperity, and “this will only be possible if wealth is shared and income inequality is addressed.”[4]

Shared wealth on that scale is socialism, which makes Universal Basic Income a key part of a new socialist economic system.

But for a new socialist economic system to emerge, the existing capitalist system must fail.

Could the Emergency Money for the People Act be a way for Universal Basic Income to emerge like a phoenix out of the ashes of a failed capitalist system? Are we watching the transition from capitalism to socialism?

[1] “Mark Zuckerberg’s Commencement Address at Harvard,” The Harvard Gazette. Delivered at Harvard’s 366th Commencement on May 25, 2017. (April 15, 2020)

[2] Agenda 2030: The 2030 Plan for Sustainable Development, Resolution adopted by the General Assembly on September 25, 2015, 3,4.

[3] Ibid., 7.

[4] Ibid., 8.

Virginia Governor Northam’s Good Friday Curse

In what seems like a spiteful move aimed against Christians, Virginia Governor Ralph Northam spent Good Friday announcing he signed a bill to roll back many restrictions on abortions.

As Christians prepared to celebrate Resurrection Day, Satan was up to his old tricks. Just as he tried to kill Jesus, he struck hard and fast at the heels of our most vulnerable children.

Our country, indeed the world, seems to increasingly side with the slithery beast when it comes to abortion. Northam did too.

I believe the Bible is clear in Genesis 3:15; God placed enmity between the serpent and the woman and her children:

And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; he will crush your head, and you will strike his heel.”

I also believe abortion is an expression of the enmity between Satan and the woman and her seed.

Since then, Satan has had it out for the children of God. Cain killed Abel, Pharaoh killed the Hebrew children, and Herod killed the Jewish children in a massive attempt to kill Jesus.

At Jesus’ crucifixion, Satan finally thought he’d killed Jesus. But as he struck His heel, Jesus crushed his head- just as prophesied in Genesis 3:15.

Three days after that gruesome crucifixion, Jesus was resurrected- He’d conquered death and defeated Satan.

Yet the enmity continues murdering children and will continue until the end of time.

As the kingdom of God grew, Nero persecuted Christians and Hitler exterminated an estimated six million Jews and others. Now abortion is the number one killer of the woman’s offspring.

Somehow, I think the coronavirus is a way God can draw our attention back to what is right and good. The world’s tolerance to abortion violates God’s command to not murder and shows a world increasingly embracing an anti-godly agenda. Should we not expect something terrible to happen to us for tolerating such an abomination?

As we celebrate our Lord’s resurrection, let’s remember in the end, God always wins. Abortion will be overturned someday.

Freedom from Our Chains

“Man is born free, but everywhere he is in chains,” said Jean-Jacques Rousseau.

Like most of you, for the last several weeks I’ve felt somewhat chained at home. My frequent roaming habits have drastically changed.

I spent January driving to and from the white, sugar-sand beaches and crystal-clear springs of Florida; now my travels consist of walking to and from the brown creek running along the back edge of my great aunt’s 100-acre depression-era farm.

These walks are special because this is time I spend alone with God. I expect to learn something new, and each day I’m richly rewarded.

During my walk yesterday, something sticking out of the ground caught my eye: a rusty chain.

Sensing this wasn’t merely coincidence, I asked, “What do you want to teach me?” After all, I came looking for lessons.

“Shake yourself from the dust, rise up, O captive Jerusalem; Loose yourself from the chains around your neck, O captive daughter of Zion.” (Isaiah 52:2)

I hadn’t given much thought to being a captive, but the message was clear. That chain lying in the dust symbolized my own captivity.

I paused to reflect and lament my ignorance to my own condition. I let myself become a captive without realizing it.

I thought about my weekly screen time notifications. How could I possibly spend seven to nine hours a week on my phone? I thought about the early mornings and late nights reading and writing, and the time between that was wasted.

I thought about relationships I neglected so I could spend more time working. But what was I working towards? I believed I was working towards freedom, which to this point proved an elusive dream.

What had I to show for the precious time God gave me?

I was held captive by vanity.

My life lacked balance and the type of order that brings fulfillment.

Then excitement began to build. I sensed God telling me it is time- God’s time- to set me free and restore order in my life.

Passion Week

My mind became fixed on understanding what God was saying to me, and I sensed it had something to do with His timing.

With this being Passion Week, my thoughts turned to Jesus’ mission: to set the captives free.

“The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free.” (Luke 4:18)

Rethinking Freedom

I know Passover is celebrated to remember God’s deliverance of His people from enslavement.

Before they were freed, though, God exposed the Egyptian idols as false hopes and symbols of vanity. I think he’s doing that in our culture right now. We’ve replaced God with so many things. Think of our vain idols: our careers and wealth, sports and entertainment figures, and whatever else keeps us occupied and away from God.

By the time the ten plagues were over, the newly-freed Hebrews had a good sense of God’s sovereignty, His protection, and His plan for them.

Freedom Found in Uncertain Times

For the Hebrews whom God delivered from Egyptian oppression, what followed was a wilderness experience. Like hearts around the world today, theirs were filled with uncertainty and thoughts of what seemed like certain doom. Yet God delivered them.

If you find yourself without a job, call upon Jehovah-Jireh, which means, “The-Lord-Will-Provide,” (Genesis 22:14). This name calls to mind Jehovah as the God who sees our condition and longs to bless us.

Listen to Him. Maybe you need to change directions and get off the path that keeps you in chains.

God is Faithful to His Covenants

Remember when God told Abraham to sacrifice his only son, Isaac? It seemed completely illogical, but Abraham knew somehow God would do something to keep His promise to bless Abraham and his children.

Are you wondering how God will provide for you and your family? I don’t think the story of God seeing Abraham’s willingness to be obedient and providing what he needed is insignificant to us.

Instead, God’s covenant promise to Abraham was at stake, and we are heirs to that promise.

Our Moral Rebellion

I don’t think the fact this virus hit during such a morally-rebellious time in history is insignificant, either.

Are we not also heirs to the promise of blessings for obedience and curses for disobedience? Are we not children of God and subject to the discipline of a loving Father?

Deliverance from slavery is inherent to God’s promises to us. Let’s not be surprised our Redeemer is both disciplining us and setting us free.

As bad as this virus is, there are many silver linings, one of which is we’re having a discussion about the proper nature of freedom.

True vs. False Freedom

While Rousseau was right about mankind everywhere being in chains, he erred in advocating freedom from any and all moral constraints.

Like Rousseau, the world tells we should be free from moral judgment. That’s a dangerous snare.

Rousseau’s philosophy led to thousands of morally-good people losing their heads during the French Revolution. Those were the people who dared to speak against the moral abominations among them.

Contrary to Rousseau’s philosophy of unrestrained moral freedom, the prophet Isaiah suggests we ought to exercise moral restraint. Isaiah 24 tells us the earth is cursed because of our morality:

The earth is defiled by its people; they have disobeyed the laws, violated the statutes and broken the everlasting covenant. Therefore a curse consumes the earth; its people must bear their guilt. Therefore earth’s inhabitants are burned up, and very few are left. The earth reels like a drunkard, it sways like a hut in the wind; so heavy upon it is the guilt of its rebellion that it falls—never to rise again. (Isaiah 24:20)

I think we’re dangerously close to that point again.

Where most see the horrors of the coronavirus, I see it as a double-edged sword. Yes, it is terrible; I wish it on no one. However, I see God’s grace and mercy shining like I’ve never seen before.

I believe God Himself is calling us to throw off those rusted chains and be free- free to obey His moral constraints so our chains and this cursed virus might be removed.

Doug Carter on on March 2, 2020

Doug Carter on, March 2, 2020. In this episode we take a peek inside Plato’s Cave and discuss my latest blog post, Shadows of Reality. You’ll also find teasers about Pope Francis’ upcoming “New Humanism” summit and my upcoming book.

Shadows of Reality

In Book 7 of Plato’s Republic, the old sage tells us to imagine people chained from childhood inside an underground den, or cave.

They’re forced to face the walls so they cannot turn their heads. Behind them, a fire is burning to provide a dim light. Between the prisoners and the fire, objects pass along a walkway, casting their shadow along the jagged walls. Of course, they cannot see the objects, so the distorted shadows are the only reality the prisoners know.

I recently visited Linville Caverns in the Blue Ridge Mountains to gain a sense of what Plato meant. As my tour group stood inside the cavern deep under the mountain, the guide told the story of Civil War deserters who lived in the cave until smoke rising from the mountain gave them away. “Here is where they built their fire,” he said, pointing to an indention in the rock separating two large passageways. “You can still see the discoloration from the smoke on the ceiling.”

I paused to imagine the myriad of shadowy figures dancing across the cavern walls in the firelight those men might’ve seen.

The shadows they saw on the walls, and to Plato’s point, were distortions of reality.

Plato then asks us to imagine one of the prisoners escaping the cave and seeing the outside world for the very first time. Having been enlightened by the sun shining on all objects, this person would see objects as they really are, not as the distorted shadows he knew inside the cave.

With his new sense of reality, he experiences a dramatic paradigm shift. “I must go back and tell the others!” But when he goes back to explain, they cannot understand him, for they don’t have the conceptual framework to understand him. His words are meaningless babble to them. For them, the shadows are reality.

In his pity, he knows he should be their guardian. He feels an obligation to do what is best for them, although they might object. So, he takes it upon himself to be their philosopher-king.

The philosopher-king, says Plato, is the rightful ruler of the people, for he has attained knowledge of the Good. Attaining knowledge of the “Good,” he adds, is the most important thing any philosopher can do, for with it comes true knowledge and without it, we’re left with only opinions.

When I study Plato, I can’t help but think of the origins of philosophy in the Garden of Eden. Remember how the serpent tricked Eve into tasting the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of Good and Evil? “If you’ll just eat it,” he said, “you won’t die, and besides, you’ll be enlightened and god-like, knowing Good and Evil.”

Since then, every philosopher has tried to explain the Good. The egoists say Good is what benefits the self; utilitarians say Good is what benefits the greatest number of people; hedonists say Good is what brings you pleasure; relativists say Good is determined by culture, a group, or individuals; humanists say Good is found without God.

I guess that’s why Jesus cut to the chase and said, “Why do you call me ‘Good’? No one is Good except God alone.” (Mark 10:18 ESV)

Unfortunately, some of our political leaders seem to be acting out Plato’s cave analogy. They behave as if we the people are chained to the walls of some sort of cave while they belittle us and call us deplorables, clingers, and nationalists.

Having eaten the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil themselves, these progressive politicians have taken God’s Good and turned it on its head. What we know from God’s revelation as Good, they call evil, and what God calls evil, they call Good.

They exchange the Light of Good with the Shadows of Evil.

Whether it’s climate change, gun control, immigration, sanctuary cities, justice, abortion, gender confusion, or population control, progressives consistently insist upon the Marxist doctrine of turning everything we know about reality and morality upside down.

Like Plato’s philosopher-kings, these progressive politicians insist their way is the true way to Good. For them, it is the only sustainable way.

It reminds me of the prophet’s warning: “Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness, who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter.” (Isaiah 5:20 NIV)

Will you join me in prayer for our nation?

He Left the 99 to Find the 1

I recently wrote about leaving the 99 to visit a friend in need. Two weeks after that visit, I returned to my friend. Binding wounds takes time. Ministering takes time. It also takes initiative to go.

As I prepared to return home Sunday morning, my friend startled me with urgency in his voice: “I’m going to need your help!”

“Of course,” “How can I help you?” I suspected he might have been battling the thoughts in his mind.

“The cows got out.”

Suddenly, “leaving the ninety-nine to find the one” took on a new meaning.

I’d asked God to minister to me during my trip. Predictably, He saved one of the most impactful lessons for last.

Mending Fences

A powerful, overnight thunderstorm drove away the two cows. We quickly spotted the point of escape: a weak part of the fence. This was lesson one: When the storm rages, we often abandon our abode in Christ by following the weaknesses in our minds. We stray through common temptations or erroneous thoughts.

Ezekiel 33:4 says, “The weak you have not strengthened . . .”

A good rancher keeps good fences. How often do we check our own fences? Are we secure in God’s truth? Do we know our own weaknesses? Do we share our weaknesses with our friends so we might strengthen one another?

Will You Wander into the Swamp?

It’s naive to think searching for the lost will always be a walk through a pristine prairie pasture. Sometimes those we seek wander into treacherous places- places we’d normally avoid.

When I think of a north Florida swamp, I think gators, snakes, ‘skeeters, and soaked sneakers. I can’t explain why anyone would want to live next to a Florida swamp, but that’s where we were.

We’d spent the previous day clearing briers, vines, small trees, and other nuisance undergrowth from the swamp. We labored, sweat, and bled. Guess where we found those cows? Yep. They’d wandered deep into that thickly vegetated swamp.

Years ago I’d underlined Ezekiel 33:6 in my Bible: “My sheep wandered through all the mountains, and on every high hill; yes, My flock was scattered over the whole face of the earth, and no one was seeking or searching for them.” In the margins I wrote, “I will. Send me.”

That weekend, God sent me to seek and search for the lost- not just a couple of lost cows, but lost people too.

That’s lesson two: Sometimes we must be willing to leave our comfort zone and venture out into the unknown. Sometimes we must go into places we’d normally avoid. But the lost are in those places. We’ll sweat, bleed, and soil our feet, but there are people out there who need us to be the hands, feet, and voice of our Shepherd.

That’s what Christ did for us on the cross. The thorns that pierced us were nothing compared to the crown of thorns pressed into our Savior’s head. The blood we shed was nothing compared to the amount of blood Jesus gave as he took the vicious beating and piercing for us.

Isaiah 53:5-6 says, “He was wounded for our transgressions, He was pierced for our iniquities, the chastisement for our peace was upon Him, and by His stripes we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned, every one, to his own way; and the Lord has laid on Him the iniquity of us all.”

Our Savior-Shepherd shed His blood for me. He shed His blood for you. And He suffered for the one astray deep in the swamps of life.

Let’s go find them and bring them back.

Solitude with God

There are times when I crave solitude with God. If you’re reading this, I trust you know that feeling.

Creating Solitude with God

St. Anselm, the Archbishop of Canterbury from 1093-1109, felt it too:

“Come now, little man! flee for a while from your tasks, hide yourself for a little space from the turmoil of your thoughts. Come, cast aside your burdensome cares, and put away your laborious pursuits. For a little while give your time to God, and rest in Him for a little. Enter the inner chamber of your mind, shut out all things save God and whatever may aid you in seeking God; and having barred the door of your chamber, seek Him. Speak now, O my heart, O my whole heart, speak now and say to your God: My face hath sought Thee: Thy face, O Lord, will I seek . . .”

This weekend I finally got away to a place where I could be completely alone and have some unobstructed God time.

Yet I almost missed it. Life has a way of keeping me super-busy. Between my full-time jobs as a professor and parent, taking care of older relatives and working on a book, my time is stretched pretty thin.

Nevertheless, God knew I needed this time, and God compelled me to go anyway.

God Invites Us to Spend Time with Him

I admit, I was quite amazed when I recognized how God orchestrated this whole trip. I couldn’t help thinking about Esther’s story. Although God’s name is never mentioned in her story, His actions behind the scenes are evident.

Similarly, Elijah knew it was time to leave when the water dried up and the raven stopped coming around to bring him food. Likewise, when my shower’s tub cracked, I needed to find a place to shower for a few days while my bathroom underwent some emergency remodeling.

That led me to visit an old friend who needed me just as much as I needed him. It wasn’t long before we both realized God called this meeting.

Jesus explains how this works in John 6:44: “No one,” he says, “can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him. . .”

God Renews Our Minds

What Anselm’s inner chamber of the mind is to him, the beach is to me. There’s something about being alone in nature, with just the sights and sounds of the gentle waves massaging pure white sand, that calms and renews my mind.

Navarre Beach, Florida, December 2019

As we started walking along the beach, I suggested we walk separately to spend time alone in prayer and reflection. For four miles down and back I walked with God. My friend did the same.

You know what really blows my mind? That craving in my soul to connect with God originated with God’s desire to connect with me.

How amazing it is to know the Creator of the universe invited two old friends to reunite and step inside His throne room! Psalm 15 says, “Lord, who may abide in Your tabernacle? Who may dwell in Your holy hill?” That day, we were both there- not because we barged in, but because God called us to Himself.

What the Bible Says About Climate Change

By Doug Carter

Climate Change and Fossils

I’m fascinated by fossils and what they can tell us about our world. Two weeks ago I traveled to the Virginia Museum of Natural History in Martinsville to view the world’s largest fossilized stromatolite cap.

image inside Virginia Museum of Natural History showing a t-rex skeleton overlooking a large stromatolite
Stromatolite at the Virginia Museum of Natural History, Martinsville, Virginia

Stromatolites are masses of algae mixed with sediment and typically form in tidal areas of warm tropical seas. If climate change isn’t real, stromatolites like this one shouldn’t be found in a rock quarry at the edge of the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia.

In 2018 I walked across a fossilized coral reef in the Ohio River at Falls of the Ohio State Park in Clarksville, Indiana.

Exposed Fossilized Coral Reef in the Ohio River, Falls of the Ohio State Park, Clarksville, Indiana

I’m going to go out on a limb here and assume most people can agree coral reefs should not be found along the Indiana and Kentucky border. It’s too cold and there’s no ocean even imaginatively close by. The only logical explanation of these two fossilized sites is if climate change is real.

Coral Fossils, Falls of the Ohio State Park, Clarksville, Indiana

So how did they get there? Scientists believe the earth’s continents were once connected as a giant supercontinent called Pangaea. As some point, Pangaea was divided as rifts formed to separate what is now North America from Africa. The Atlantic Ocean now fills a giant rift between the two continents.

Does the Bible have anything to say about Pangaea? I believe it does. “In the days of Peleg, the son of Eber, the earth was divided.” (Genesis 10:25; 1 Chronicles 1:19) A second geneaolgical list in Genesis shows in that time period, over approximately 250 years, something catastrophic occurred on earth. The lifespans of Eber and the older generation were approximately 400 or more years, while the lifespans of Peleg and the younger generations was approximately 250 years or less. (Genesis 11:10-26) Could this mark the time of the splitting of Pangaea and be the cause of a mass extinction? Could this be what scientists call the Kellwasser or Hangenbeg events attributed to the demise of the Devonian period?

Devonian-era Tribolite fossil, Falls of the Ohio State Park, Clarksville, Indiana. Nickel for scale.

Climate Change and Government Intervention

Since the 1960’s, we’ve been told man-caused cause climate change is a threat to our existence. Richard Falk’s This Endangered Planet: Prospects and Proposals for Human Survival (1972), was the first time I heard about the devastating potential of man’s impact on our world.

As a seminary student, I encountered the topic again. While browsing the third-floor stacks of the campus library, a report published by the World Bank of the United Nations on how to deal with the environmental crisis caught my eye. Something about the report didn’t seem right. I recall the World Bank calling for government intervention and the creation of an environmental awareness campaign to educate the public about the dangers of man-caused climate change. I sneered with disgust as I re-shelved the report. “Did God create a world He can’t sustain?”

Within years, I recognized the first fruits of the World Bank’s environmental awareness campaign. Sustainable Development efforts popped up around the world. Many of those efforts were great: villages received clean water and power; children gained access to education; medical care expanded. I also heard more about man-caused climate change and how it would affect population. But what I didn’t hear much about until the last several months is the connection between climate change and population reduction.

Erected while the world’s population was approximately 4 billion, the Georgia Guidestones call for the world’s population to be maintained under 500 million people in order to be balanced with nature. We have nearly 7.6 billion people today.

Should We Multiply or Reduce World Population?

The idea of population control is organic to the idea preventing man-caused climate change. If mankind’s production and consumption habits are the source of climate change, it makes sense to limit the number of humans available to produce and consume. It’s simple: less people equals less impact on the environment. It’s one thing to suggest controlling population in areas limited by geography and resource availability, but population reduction involves unparalleled evil.

This is where man-cause climate change theory unravels. If man-caused climate change theory is right, God must be wrong.

From the beginning, God gave mankind the mandate to “fill the earth and have dominion over it.” (Genesis 1:28) Since Adam and Eve didn’t fill the earth, nor did their children, nor their grandchildren we can be certain God’s mandate was given to all humanity.

When sin entered the world, the world became cursed. Part of that curse involved the earth, and part of it involved the establishment of enmity between the serpent, Satan, and the seed of the woman, her children.

Since that time, evil set its heart on destroying children. Cain killed Abel; Pharaoh killed the Hebrew children during Moses’ infancy; Herod killed the male children two years old and younger; we know at least some pagan cultures sacrificed children to idols.

As history shows, the mark of an evil regime is to kill children. We now kill ours before and after they’ve been born, calling it a woman’s right. This is a gross evil that carries dire consequences for our entire nation. For the love of God, it must stop.

The Bible and Climate Change

Nothing ever catches God by surprise, not even this radical, progressive attempt to undermine God’s sovereignty over His creation.

3,000 years ago, the prophet Isaiah predicted man-caused climate change and population reduction. “The earth staggers like a drunken man; it sways like a hut,” he says, and it will be because of mankind. “The earth lies defiled under its inhabitants; for they have transgressed the laws, violated the statutes, and broken the everlasting covenant. Therefore, a curse devours the earth, and its inhabitants suffer their guilt; therefore, the inhabitants of the earth are scorched, and few men are left.” (Isaiah 24)

I’m confident mankind will be responsible for the demise of the planet and progressives will get their wish for drastic population reduction. Do I believe we need to eat our babies to prevent the world from ending in eight years? No. Do I believe research suggests rising seas may erase major coastal cities by 2050? Of course not. But I do believe a global catastrophe is inevitable.

The planet’s demise only happens because mankind rebels against God, not because we obey God.

Genuine repentance and a return to God is our only hope for a sustainable future.

Unlocking the Mystery of the Rattlesnake Disk

I became intrigued by archaeology and mysteries as a boy trudging through fields looking for arrowheads with my mother and brother.

Since then I’ve visited Indian mounds throughout the Southeastern US, but none have stirred me quiet like those at Moundville.

Moundville, Alabama, just 13 miles south of Tuscaloosa, is home to more than 20 ancient Indian mounds. Adjacent to the Black Warrior River, this site is considered the second largest Native North American complex behind only Cahokia near St. Louis. It’s also home to some of the most famous Indian relics in the United States, including the Rattlesnake Disk.

The Rattlesnake Disk is one of those enigmatic archaeological finds that appeals to my inner Indiana Jones, and there was only one place where I could see the real thing. I was finally here.

My mind reeled as I entered the tall double doors of Moundville’s Jones Archaeological Museum. Pausing to let my eyes adjust to the dimness, I found myself immersed in an ornate display of ancient relics from a lost civilization. “This,” I whispered to my not-as-enthusiastic son, “is way better than an afternoon in a hundred year-old library!”

Armed with two cameras and a keen interest, I took in as much as I could.

There were mannequins dressed in ceremonial costumes. A young bride sat in a wooden chariot carried on the shoulders of four warriors.

Another display showed a royal family consisting of the chief, his wife, and their son, the heir to the kingdom, meeting with a medicine man holding a round tablet.

I took note of the scenes, but the objects behind them caught my eye.

The Rattlesnake Disk

There it was. I could hardly contain my excitement as my eyes beheld the genuine Rattlesnake Disk. Mounted inside a dimly-lit, double-sided glass wall, the 12-inch diameter Rattlesnake Disk was noticeably larger than other less-decorated disks. One side of the disk contained nothing. The other side contained an open left hand with an eye in the palm. Two rattlesnakes, knotted together on both sides of the hand, surrounded the hand. Both snakes had horns on their head, and both had a ribbon streaming from their upper fangs.

“What could this mean, I wondered?”

The mystery began to unravel across the museum.  Other pottery contained variations of images of the hand symbol.  Other objects contained images of birds that were combined with the snake motif.  It became apparent much of the pottery from Moundville was associated with death and the afterlife. 

The Soul’s Journey

Signs scattered throughout the museum told the tale.  At the time of death, one’s soul was released from the body through a portal in the palm of the hand.

“That makes sense. I can see why they might think that,” I thought, “after all, in some cultures we don’t look people in the eyes because they feel like you’re staring into their soul. The eye is the window to the soul.”

The people of Moundville believed after the soul departs the body it embarks onto the Path of the Souls.  This pathway, they thought, was the Milky Way. 

The soul’s journey across the Milky Way led them to the realm of the dead, which was guarded by the celestial serpent- a rattle-snake figure with wings and horns on its head.

Guardian of the Realm of the Dead- the Winged Serpent

Suddenly I realized the Moundville people shared profound beliefs with other groups of people I studied.  Among the ancient Egyptians, the winged serpent, Wadjet, is depicted on Egyptian reliefs, coffins, and in tombs.

Asian dragons also seem to be types of these winged serpents. 

Could the winged serpent be a shadow of the fallen Satan, the angel who appeared as a serpent in the Garden of Eden and is elsewhere named as the guardian of the dead?

A couple of Bible verses suddenly flashed in my mind. “And he seized the dragon, that ancient serpent, who is the devil, or Satan, and bound him for a thousand years.” (Revelation 20:2 NIV)

“How you have fallen from heaven, morning star, son of the dawn! You have been cast down to the earth, you who once laid low the nations! You said in your heart, “I will ascend to the heavens; I will raise my throne above the stars of God; I will sit enthroned on the mount of assembly, on the utmost heights of Mount Zaphon. I will ascend above the tops of the clouds; I will make myself like the Most High.” But you are brought down to the realm of the dead, to the depths of the pit. Those who see you stare at you, they ponder your fate: “Is this the man who shook the earth and made kingdoms tremble.” (Isaiah 14:12-16 NIV)

The Mystery of the Eye in the Hand

I hardly had time to process the mystery of the winged serpent when my attention returned to the eye in the hand.

In my studies of Hinduism, Buddhism, and Jainism, I encountered numerous variations of the hand and eye symbol, known to them as the ahimsa. For the peoples of India, the ahimsa is the sign of non-violence, non-injury, or peace.  

The eye in the palm appears in Islam, too. Perhaps it was adopted from their Indian neighbors, but for Muslims, the palm and eye symbol is the hamsa, or Hand or Fatima, and is believed to bring people peace and protection.

Similarly, the people of Moundville were seeking a safe, peaceful passage to the realm of the dead, and their hand and eye symbols were an important expression of that belief.

Like the ahimsa and the hamsa, I observed variations of the eye in the hand. One variation in particular blew me away. On one vessel, part of a collection of three pieces recently returned after being stolen forty years ago, a cross appeared inside a hand. Had I visited Moundville when I first wanted to go, I would’ve missed it.

Imagine the mysterious symbol of a cross in a palm- a symbol of a portal into the afterlife- fulfilled by Jesus’ death on the cross when he was nailed through his hands.

Then the full weight of the mystery of the eye in the hand hit me.  Around 700 BC, the prophet Isaiah wrote, But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed.” (Isaiah 53:5 NIV) 

Jesus was pierced in his hands!  The violence he endured brought peace to our souls. The piercing of Jesus’ hands is the portal to our atonement with God! Jesus’ suffering wasn’t just for Christians and Messianic Jews.  Jesus suffered so that anyone, anywhere could have peace in Him. 

Where did Jesus go immediately after his death?  He descended into hades, the realm of the dead, to defeat death!  There, Jesus defeated Satan, the guardian of the realm of the dead, then proved His victory when He rose again and was seen by hundreds of people. 

“I am the Living One; I was dead, and now look, I am alive for ever and ever! And I hold the keys of death and hades,” (Revelation 1:18 NIV)

Paul tells us Jesus is the fulfillment of the mysteries kept hidden since the beginning of the world. (Colossians 1:26)  If the Roman centurian could exclaim, “Surely this was the Son of God!” after witnessing the events surrounding Jesus’ crucifixion, doesn’t it seem reasonable that Christ’s death is a signal to people all over the world to look to Him as their Protector in the afterlife?  

That’s the gospel message:  “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whosoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:16 NIV)