Few topics have drawn more attention than the energy crisis. But the really important dimension has been ignored.
ALOUD public debate rages over the subject of energy. Some believe that large oil companies have deliberately withheld oil from the market so as to drive prices up. Others believe that government laws, which fix the price of oil below what it would be on the open market, have created an incentive for producers and distributors to keep energy supplies down. Most of the discussion has centered on who is to blame and how the energy crisis will affect consumers as they go about their daily lives. Overlooked, however, is a critical danger to the Work of God and to the free exercise of religion!
The Real Threat
As Plain Truth Editor Herbert Armstrong has conclusively proved, the thing which is uppermost in God's mind at this moment in world affairs is the restoration of God's government to the earth (Rev. 11:15: "The kingdoms of this world are become the kingdoms of our Lord, and of His Christ") and, absolutely necessary before that can come to pass, the making of His own Church ready for that restoration (Eph. 5:27: "That He [Christ] might present it to Himself a glorious church not having spot or wrinkle"). Likewise, before God will restore His government, the great commission which He has given to His apostle and Church to preach the good news of that coming government to the whole world (Matthew 24:14, 28:19) must first be completed. Yet the one thing which it seems almost everyone has ignored about the energy crisis is the grave-danger it poses to the great commission! Few realize that the energy crisis is beginning to have really far-reaching implications. Areas of life which were formerly private — like travel — are now being made public. How you use energy has suddenly become everybody's business. Today, as you can read in the letters-to-the-editor section of your local newspaper, people are demanding that their fellow citizens cease taking long trips by automobile, cease driving large cars, cease using private aircraft. Things which were once part of the private sphere of life are now fair game for a whole host of would-be regulators. The energy crisis has gotten people thinking about how their neighbor "wastes" energy. Often their motivation is just plain envy. (James 4:5: "The spirit that dwelleth in us lusteth to envy.") The energy crisis has prompted many people to decry as "frivolous" or "wasteful" uses of energy of which they disapprove. A high government official says that farm families should stop their "frivolous" trips to town. Owners of small cars self-righteously insult owners of large ones. One religious leader glibly declared that fully fifty percent of all the energy used in the United States is "wasted." But "waste" is in the eye of the beholder. Is the fact that you drive a comfortable, large car to work when you could drive a small, cramped subcompact a "waste" of energy? When people talk of "waste," look out! It means that they really want to subject your life to their scrutiny — and if they think that your standard of living is too high, or you are not using energy in a way they would approve of, well then, that's supposed to be "waste." What puny man may consider "waste," the great God may consider the most important activity on earth. No doubt in this modern, secular world, many people think that any kind of religious activity (not to mention that which God Himself directs) is a waste. And yet the great commission requires the use of energy. Because of energy and modern technology, God has opened doors for His Church to be physically able to preach the Gospel into all the world. This would not have been possible before the 20th century, when adequate supplies of energy have given rise to worldwide travel and communications systems. Among the physical resources which God has given to His Work to preach the Gospel are systems which require the use of energy: radio, television, printing presses, and, most importantly, the transportation involved in personal evangelism to world leaders. Up to now God has provided His Work with the necessary means to purchase energy on the open market. But if all energy transactions came under public — state — control — if being able to obtain energy were made the province of some state bureaucrat — then the state could arbitrarily cut off supplies of energy to God's Work, or anyone else out of official government favor. Even now there are cries for man's government — the state — to take the "forceful" step of rationing energy. A Harris poll reveals that a majority of Americans want compulsory measures (rationing, ordering people not to travel, that sort of thing) to make sure that energy use is cut back. One letter to Time magazine even went so far as to say that "what we need is a Caesar" to deal with the energy crisis! Time has also noted that people are in a mood to sacrifice at least some of their individual liberty to "solve" the energy crisis. Man's government has already used the pretext of the energy crisis to "allocate" energy to "priority" users. In effect, man's government is saying that it knows which are the most deserving users. The government has, then, in effect set itself up as the arbiter of who is worthy. If the human government doesn't like a group — if it wants to persecute it — all it has to do is deny it energy! When energy is traded on the open market, anyone can buy it. But when energy is controlled by man's government under the sway of Satan, then only those people of whom the human government approves can obtain it. The threat to the great commission should be obvious. Under the pretext of the energy crisis, man's government may seize control of all energy supplies. But in a world where man's government makes all the energy decisions, the physical resources with which God's apostle and Church accomplish the great commission are dependent on the good graces of human beings wielding worldly, political power.
Affects True Christians
The takeover of energy decisions by man's government not only poses a grave danger to the preaching of the Gospel in this end time, it also poses a threat to the edification of God's true Church, and the way of life which the Bible prescribes. A certain amount of travel is not only necessary for the preaching of the true Gospel, it is also part of God's Law. Members of God's Church must travel to various sites around the world every autumn to observe God's Feast of Tabernacles. (Deuteronomy 14:23-25). Most do so by car; some fly. Often the travel is a considerable distance. (Perhaps this is the reason why up to now there have been no gas crunches in the autumn — God has divinely ensured that energy was available when it was needed by His people!) Should the right to travel to God's Feast rest in the hands of some bureaucrat? God's Church is also commanded to hold a holy convocation each Sabbath day (Lev. 23:3). While the distances are shorter, this also involves travel. Coupon rationing, "careless" days, "gasless days," all pose at least a threat to the physical ability of God's people to travel to Church services. (The same, of course, holds true for other religions as well) When human government starts making decisions which would normally be made by millions of private individuals in the open market, the danger of terrible intrusions into the free exercise of religion arises. One former politician has suggested that President Carter call on all merchants to close down one day a week. Most, of course, would probably close on Sunday if they had the choice. At the very least, this would impose a burden on those who keep God's Sabbath and work normal weekdays, or Sunday. And where does it all stop? If you concede that man's government has the moral right to ration energy, then there's nothing which its power won't be able to touch. It could stop people from going to God's Feast, or stop them from going to church, or even enforce Sunday observance — all in the name of conserving energy! Moreover, God's ministers must travel in the course of their duties. They must visit and anoint the sick, (James 5:14) for example, and counsel members and prospective members of God's Church. The average minister of God travels 30,000 miles a year in the course of his duties! Suppose the government of man were to tell him that he could only buy enough gasoline to travel 10,000 miles (which is just a bit less than the national average). Such a restriction would gravely inhibit his ability to carry out Christ's command to His ministers to "feed my sheep" (John 21:15-17). To the degree that man's government seeks to curtail such travel, it is interfering with the administration of God's own government in His Church.
God, Government, and Raw Materials
When man's government attempts to "allocate" raw materials, God's Work can be made physically dependent on the good graces of human government. The example of Nehemiah is right on point. In Nehemiah's time, God's Work was rebuilding the gates and walls of Jerusalem (Nehemiah 2:3, 17-18). Because the human government controlled all the country's raw materials, Nehemiah himself, personally charged with the task of seeing to it that God's Work got done, had to go and ask permission of the government (King Artaxerxes) not only to do the work, but also to obtain the necessary physical resources (Nehemiah 2:5, 8). If the government had refused Nehemiah permission to build, or denied him access to the timber which he needed, Nehemiah would not have been physically able to do the job God gave him. And there were petty bureaucrats who saw the chance to advance their personal careers by charging Nehemiah with rebellion against the state (Nehemiah 2:19). Given the physical helplessness which the government control over raw materials meant for Nehemiah, it took the direct, divine intervention of God Himself to bring the conspiracy to nothing (Nehemiah 4:15). In our time, of course, God can also supernaturally assure that no lack of physical resources prevents the Work from being done — even to the point of raising up stones to do it (Matthew 3:9). But God has commissioned His Work to be done the way it is being done now — through the modern means of mass media and personal evangelism to world leaders.
In God's World: Energy Abundance
The very fact that control of energy resources by man's government poses a grave danger to religious freedom ought to focus your mind on the desperate need for God's government to be restored to the earth. As with every other aspect of human life, the restoration of the government of God to the whole earth is exceeding good news. The Bible indicates that when Christ returns and establishes His rule on earth, mankind will have the benefit of energy in abundance. In the World Tomorrow, for example, there will be highways: "In that day shall there be a highway out of Egypt to Assyria, and the Assyrian shall come into Egypt, and the Egyptian into Assyria..." (Isaiah 19:23). The fact of highways and travel implies some means of rapid transportation — perhaps even superior to cars as we know them. Rapid transportation, of course, implies energy. Moreover, one of the few good things about today's world is our modern means of transportation and communication which, among other things, allow the Gospel to go forth in a way which would have been impossible before. Does it make sense that the great God would not allow people during the time of His direct rule to have the benefits (without the curses, of course) of rapid communication and transportation? Consider that during the time of God's Kingdom there will be times (at least once a year) when whole nations will travel to the city of Jerusalem to observe the Feast (Zechariah 14:18-19). How could such gargantuan projects possibly be done if energy was being doled out miserly? Moreover, God's Kingdom will in all likelihood preside over a vast tourism industry. The institution of land Sabbaths and the jubilee year, as described in the 25th chapter of Leviticus, means that many people will enjoy whole years of leisure time. Such time will, of course, not be idled away, but used productively. One obvious productive use of such time is travel — the opportunity to see different peoples, customs, lands. Such tourism naturally implies abundant, overflowing energy supplies. And since it will be God's world, God can show man how to use energy without polluting the environment. In contrast to the danger — and even potential tyranny which the energy crisis portends for this present evil world, God's world will stand in delightful contrast.