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Current Events & Trends: September/October 2023

by Beyond Today Editor Estimated reading time: 9 minutes. Posted on 5-Sep-2023
An overview of events and conditions around the world featured in the September/October 2023 issue of Beyond Today.

Nearly half of Americans have a chronic disease

Almost half the people in the United States are beset with chronic, or ongoing, illness—and the number is expected to rise above half by 2030.

An expanding elderly population, with people living longer and ultimately contracting some ailment, might seem to the cause. Yet that’s not the only age group seeing an increase. Surprisingly, “more than 40 percent of children and adolescents currently have at least one chronic illness, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)” (Autumn Spredemann, “Nearly Half of All Americans Have a Chronic Disease,” The Epoch Times, May 30, 2023).

The financial costs are enormous. “Of the nation’s $4.1 trillion annual health care expenditures, chronic diseases account for 90 percent . . . more than $3 trillion dollars of annual direct costs alone.” That’s more than $6,000 annually per patient. As one doctor noted, “That doesn’t even take into account indirect costs such as time off work for the patient and their caregivers” (ibid.). Of course, the strain goes far beyond money—to both individuals and the whole nation.

While illness is a result of the human condition since our first parents were cast out of the Garden of Eden, there are many steps we can and should take. As another doctor noted, “The vast majority of chronic diseases in the United States are related to lifestyle choices, and contributing factors include dietary choices, lack of regular physical activity, [and] mental-emotional stress.”

According to the CDC, “the main factors contributing to this subset of ‘lifestyle diseases’ include tobacco use, poor nutrition, being overtly sedentary, and excessive alcohol usage.” The problem also correlates with a sharp rise in ultra-processed food consumption over the past two decades.

Yet in some cases not much can be done on the physical side. But there is something that everyone can and must do on the spiritual side—turn to God for help and healing. Indeed, God told the ancient Israelites: “If you diligently heed the voice of the Lord your God, and do what is right in His sight, give ear to His commandments and keep all His statutes, I will put none of the diseases on you which I have brought on the Egyptians [who held them in captivity]. For I am the Lord who heals you” (Exodus 15:26).

This and the blessings and curses found in Leviticus 26 and Deuteronomy 28 are major clues to the chronic diseases plaguing today’s leading nations. That’s not to say that individuals are at fault in their particular maladies, as God allows even very faithful people to undergo lengthy health trials, as was evidently the case with the apostle Paul. But in national terms, there would be far less diseases if society were generally more obedient to God. We look forward to the day when Jesus Christ will reign and the world at large will receive peace and healing (Isaiah 35:3-6).

 

Sexual relationship test-driving not the road to happiness

Many have the idea that people should spend their 20s focused on school, career and having fun while trying on multiple sexual relationships, perhaps cohabiting when more serious, but putting off marriage until much later. “But the sociological research shows that this is not the best approach when it comes to marriage” (Paola Belletti, “Research Shows That Marrying Relatively Young Without Living Together First Results in the Most Durable Marriages,” Aleteia, Jan. 24, 2023).

Psychologist Galena Rhoades, University of Denver research professor and director of the Family Research Center, coauthored the Before I Do Report for the National Marriage Project. She points out: “We generally think that having more experience is better . . . But what we find for relationships is just the opposite. Having more experience was related to having a less happy marriage later on” (“Galena Rhoades Discusses How Prior Relationships Are Related to Marital Quality,” YouTube, qtd. by Belletti).

Dan McLaughlin in a National Review article (“Study: Marry Young, Marry Your First, Stay Married,” July 17, 2022) quotes from a Deseret Magazine piece by sociology professor Brad Wilcox, director of the National Marriage Project, in noting: “Many young adults today believe cohabitation is also a pillar of successful marriages, one reason why more than 70% of those who marry today live together before marriage. But the conventional wisdom here is wrong: Americans who cohabit before marriage are less likely to be happily married and more likely to break up. Couples who cohabited were 15% more likely to get divorced than those who did not . . .” (“Perspective: The Surprising Case for Marrying Young,” June 21, 2022).

Furthermore, it’s often thought that people in their mid-20s aren’t ready to settle down and commit and should wait until their 30s or later. Wilcox counters, “Our analyses indicate that religious men and women who married in their twenties without cohabiting first . . . have the lowest odds of divorce in America today” (qtd. by McLaughlin). He notes that religious singles probably have the advantage over secular peers of having access to a pool of relationship prospects who share their family focus.

Wilcox concludes: “The conventional wisdom holds that spending your twenties focusing on education, work and fun, and then marrying around 30 is the best path to maximize your odds of forging a strong and stable family life. But the research tells a different story, at least for religious couples. Saving cohabitation for marriage, and endowing your relationship with sacred significance, seems to maximize your odds of being stably and happily married.”

Of course, there does need to be a certain level of maturity and stability—and a right spiritual focus. To learn more about that, download or request our free study guide Marriage and Family: The Missing Dimension.

 

Diseases rise with open U.S. borders

A study published by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) revealed 159 new cases of leprosy in 2020, doubling the number of reported cases over the past decade. The state of Florida accounts for the most cases, with others found in California, Louisiana, Hawaii, New York and Texas (“CDC: Researchers Suggest Leprosy May Become Endemic in Florida,” Breitbart, July 31, 2023).

“Leprosy, otherwise known as Hansen’s disease, is a ‘chronic infectious disease . . . Researchers believe ‘prolonged person-to-person contact through respiratory droplets is the most widely recognized route of transmission’” (ibid.).

The leprosy of the Bible is often regarded as a broader category of skin diseases, but Hansen’s disease would fit in that category—though biblical leprosy may have been a more contagious strain than what we see in modern times.

It’s surprising to find the disease in the United States, as it’s been one of the neglected tropical diseases affecting poorer nations.

The study noted that in Spain an increase in leprosy contracted locally rather than abroad accompanied a rise in immigration, pointing out, “The number of international migrants in North America increased from 27.6 million persons in 1990 to 58.7 million in 2020.” And more recently America has seen the largest ever influx of people across the southern border.

It’s further reported that “a separate study by the National Institute of Health found a high prevalence of tuberculosis (TB), hepatitis B virus, hepatitis C virus, and human immunodeficiency virus among refugees and migrants . . . Last year, border control encountered more than two million migrants at the U.S.-Mexico border, many of who were from Venezuela, Cuba, and Nicaragua, CNN reported” (ibid.).

And as these come in droves to the border, “as a result of scant access to basic sanitation and overcrowded living conditions, infectious diseases such as measles, cholera, tuberculosis, chickenpox, scabies, respiratory infections, rashes, and eye infections have all been reported.”

Furthermore, on June 6, a New York Post headline announced “CDC warns of deadly bacteria with 50% fatality rate that has been declared endemic to the U.S. Gulf Coast.” It lives mostly in the soil, yet primarily in subtropical and tropical climates. “People are typically infected by the bacteria through open wounds or by inhaling the germs during a strong storm” (ibid.). And now it’s been carried up from the south and deposited in the United States.

If that’s not enough, another New York Post headline informs us “Malaria found in US for first time in 20 years, alarming officials” (June 26, 2023). The alarm is not over the very small number of cases but that the cases were locally acquired in Texas and Florida. Evidently people who were infected with the malaria parasite came into the U.S. and were bitten by mosquitos that then carried the malaria parasites to other people.

As the influx of illegal immigration continues to be facilitated by the current U.S. administration, these problems will no doubt get worse—along with the fact that God said He would bring judgment on national sins in the form of various plagues. There will certainly be much more to come.

 

Military developing drone swarm defense

A story posted at SpaceWar.com reported that “the Air Force Research Laboratory, or AFRL, conducted a demonstration, April 5, 2023, of its high-power microwave counter drone weapon . . . as it engaged a swarm of multiple targets” (“AFRL Conducts Swarm Technology Demonstration, May 17, 2023).

The microwave beams were successful in disabling and dropping the targets. It’s further noted that “as the dangers from drone swarms evolve, leaders from across the Department of Defense are working closely to ensure we are exploring different technologies like directed energy to support the needs of the warfighter in the future against such threats.”

In the book of Revelation, the apostle John was given a vision of what are apparently modern war machines, yet described from a first-century vantage point and vocabulary. In Revelation 9:3-12 we are told of “locusts” and “scorpions” emerging from the smoke of the abyss moving loudly like chariots with many horses.

It’s been speculated that the “locusts” could be attack helicopters, yet they might alternatively refer to newer swarming drone weapons. The “scorpions” with stings in their tails might be a reference to modern mobile missile launchers, or perhaps they could refer to mounted beam weapons. The fact that they cause terrible pain without killing for a while might also refer to modern pain beam weapons, though it could also refer to something like chemical nerve agents.

It’s not entirely clear, but we should again remember that John was writing from the perspective of never having seen any kind of modern technology, so it makes sense that he would describe what he saw in terms familiar to him. To help in understanding more of the imagery in this book, download or request our free study guide The Book of Revelation Unveiled.

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