21st Century Prophecy

Internationally, times are incredibly tense these days. Syria’s years-long, bloody civil war has recently taken a turn for the worse – Syrian President Bashar al-Assad used deadly chemical weapons – banned under international law – on over 1,400 of his own people as a way to cripple rebel forces. Now the United States may use a military strike against Assad to send him a message that such barbarism will not be tolerated anywhere…a message that could very easily become yet another U.S.-involved war in the Middle East. Oh, yeah, and Russia is one of Syria’s most vocal allies.

Naturally, Americans are worried and deeply divided as to what exactly should be done, especially since it’s the 12th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks. After warring in the Mid East for over a decade, the American people are weary of the prospect of more war. Most Democrats, Republicans and political independents agree that we should not get involved. Now that Assad has said he will turn over his nation’s chemical weapons to the international community, I expect national public opinion to further sour on the prospect of a military strike.

However, for some, that worry has turned to the to-be-expected belief that this latest episode of turmoil in the Middle East is just another “sign” of the “end times.” For those of you who aren’t familiar with one of fundamentalist Christianity’s favorite obsessions, “end times” refers to the larger eschatological belief that the New Testament book of Revelation contains prophecies written specifically about the modern world. In this worldview, literally every breaking news story about tension in the Middle East is instantly tied to some vague passage of the Bible to support the belief that the “soon” and “coming return” of Jesus Christ may be around the proverbial corner. Ironically, this has been the understanding amongst fundamentalists since the 19th century (Napoleon was once seen as the Antichrist). The fact that these prophecies do not typically outlive the lives of fire-and-brimstone clergymen never seems to sway these fundamentalist believers.

Fox News host Neil Cavuto recently featured a segment on the possible Syria-prophecy connection by interviewing a “scholar” who followed the end times mold to a T. Joel Rosenberg, author of several books on “end times” prophecies, peddled the idea the conflict in Syria was possibly mentioned in the Old Testament book of Jeremiah (because nothing sells books better than the creepy air of possibility…). “…you have seven million Syrians already on the run—two million have left the country; five million are internally displaced,” Rosenberg told Cavuto. “The Jeremiah 49 prophecy says that people will flee, but there’ll still be people in Damascus when the prophecy happens. So the bottom line is we don’t know.” Cavuto was easily convinced and told his viewers, “It’s in there. It’s worth a read.”

Cavuto’s right – it is worth a read. When you read the Old Testament for what it is, a Bronze Age religious document that chronicles stories of conquests, kings and glory (with a lot of genocide, sexism and homophobia, too), you don’t find a secret decoder ring to the modern world. You find numerous examples of tragedy and megalomania. The cycle of civilizations rising, falling, crumbling in on themselves, and overtaking each other all tend to center on fighting, be it over religious superiority/inferiority, natural resources or the throne itself. In the end, these civilizations have all died out, closed off from the rest of the world and new ideas.

It’s not prophecy and mysticism. It’s the darker side of human nature. The only prophecy here is the fact that civilizations are prone to making the same mistakes as their predecessors.

In 2013, communication with anyone on the planet is possible. Ideas, philosophies, popular music, movies and even funny cat memes are shared around the world. With the proliferation of the World Wide Web in the Middle East and the Arab Spring, beginning in 2011, it would seem that the region may be able to change for the better. “Secular” culture and ideas, like equality and democracy, are starting to become mainstream. That’s what led to the conflict in Syria in the first place – rebel groups tried to overthrow their authoritarian government. Never before have such revolutionary ideas spread so quickly all over the globe.

one of NASA's most famous images

The world is rapidly changing faster than it ever has before. The “new” is quickly replacing the “old.” National cultures are becoming part of an emerging global culture of shared values and even entertainment. If we are to avoid the rise of powerful and tyrannical dictators like Assad, we must continue to work through diplomacy and international cooperation as well as strategic, economic sanctions. Civil and regional wars usually become international conflicts because the world is so interconnected. It affects us all. Given the weapons of warfare of the 21st century, we should be doing all that we can to avoid armed conflicts.

We have the knowledge and agency to make sure that the oldest prophecy of all, a civilization’s self-destruction, doesn’t happen.

 

 

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Tall, Taller, Tallest

It’s hard to imagine large metropolises without thinking of their accompanying skyscrapers. However, until the late 19th century, the only tall buildings in large cities were churches and cathedrals, which ranged anywhere from a couple dozen to a few hundred feet. Once it was discovered that steel could be mass-produced at a relatively low cost, humanity began a race into the troposphere. Lightweight (compared to brick and stone) steel skeletons rose to dizzying heights all over American cities.

It’s hard to believe that within the span of about a hundred years, skyscrapers have literally become thousands of feet taller. Philadelphia City Hall, completed in 1908, barely scraped the sky at only 548 ft. By 1931, the Chrysler Building became the first building to exceed one thousand feet. However, it was soon dethroned as king of the tallest a year later when the Empire State Building went a few hundred feet higher, 1,250 ft (not including pinnacle and antenna, which brings the height to 1,454 ft.). The original World Trade Center, completed in the early 1970s, rose about one hundred feet higher than the Empire State Building, taking the title at 1,368 feet (not including antenna – 1,727 ft.). The Twin Towers of the World Trade Center didn’t even hold the title for a year; Sears Tower overtook the twin towers at 1,450 feet a few months later in 1973, the same year the World Trade Center was completed. In 1998, the Petronas Towers were completed, snatching the ever-moving title of tallest building to 1,483 feet. By the end of the 20th century, it seemed as if buildings had a limit of around 1,500 feet. Then in 2004, Taipei 101 opened to the public and was declared to be the tallest building in the world at 1,671 feet. Perhaps we could go above the 1,500 ft. cap the 20th century seemed to put on skyscrapers.

As building materials continued to improve – lighter and stronger – man built higher and higher.

Fast forward to 2010. The 2,717-ft.-tall Burj Khalifa broke records. Not only is this supertall building the tallest skyscraper, it’s also the tallest man-made structure (higher than a few ugly radio towers that previously claimed the title). Within the span of a single decade, the record for tallest building dwarfed previous records, exceeding another thousand feet. Seeing pictures of the long, thin structure puncturing the upper atmosphere makes one dizzy…I can’t imagine the thrill of being atop the structure, over a half mile in the sky with nothing but human ingenuity beneath me.

Aside from the crazy-tall height of Burj Khalifa, it’s interesting that Asia and the Mid East now house most of the world’s tallest buildings. America’s dominance in skyscraper construction appears to have floundered. However in a world of globalization and advanced technology, the picture becomes much clearer.

China, for example, is building supertall structures, investing like crazy in green technology and consuming more and more of the world’s rare materials, oil and coal. Capitalism is becoming more prominent. Three of the ten tallest building on Earth are in China (soon to be four). In other words, China is rapidly ascending to first-world status.

The following ten buildings, both completed and under construction, will be the tallest buildings in the world by 2016:

1. Burj Khalifa – Dubai, UAE – 2,717 ft. – 163 floors – completed 2010

Burj Khalifa

 

2. Pingan International Finance Centre – Shenzhen, China – 2,126 ft. – 115 floors – scheduled completion: 2015

Pingan International Finance Centre

 

3. Shanghai Tower (on the left) – Shanghai, China – 2,073 ft. – 128 floors – scheduled completion: 2014

Shanghai Tower

 

4. Araj Al Bait – Mecca, Saudi Arabia – 1,972 – 120 floors – scheduled completion: 2012   *next year, it will be the second tallest in the world*

Araj Al Bait

 

5. 151 Incheon Tower – Incheon, South Korea – 1,972 ft. – 151 floors – scheduled completion: 2015

151 Incheon Tower

 

6. Goldin Finance 117 – Tianjin, China – 1,959 ft. – 117 floors – scheduled completion: 2015

Goldin Finance 117

 

7. Lotte World Premium Tower – Seoul, South Korea – 1,821 ft. – 123 floors – scheduled completion: 2015

Lotte World Premium Tower

 

8. One World Trade Center – New York, NY, USA – 1,776 ft. – 105 floors – scheduled completion: 2013

One World Trade Center

 

9. Busan Lotte World Tower – Busan, South Korea – 1,673 – 107 floors – scheduled completion: 2016

Busan Lotte World Tower

 

10. Taipei 101 – Taipei, Taiwan – 1,670 ft. – 101 floors – completed: 2004

Taipei 101

 

 

After the 2008-2009 recession, the financial world was devastated (and obviously is still recovering). As a result, many supertall skyscraper projects were put on hold or even cancelled. The following list of five buildings have been put on hold by their developers because of the global financial crisis. If construction is resumed and the buildings completed on their scheduled dates or later, they will join the list of tallest of the tall.

 

1. India Tower – Mumbai, India – 2,300 ft. – 126 floors – completion: 2016?

India Tower

 

2. Doha Convention Center Tower – Doha, Qatar – 1,808 ft. – 112 floors – completion: 2012?

Doha Convention Center Tower

 

3. Chow Tai Fook Centre – Guangzhou, China – 1,740 ft. – 116 floors – completion: 2013?

Chow Tai Fook Centre

 

4. Pentominium – Dubai, UAE – 1,693 ft. – 122 floors – completion: 2013?

Pentominium

 

5. Burj Al Alam – Dubai, UAE – 1,673 ft. – 108 floors – completion: 2012?

Burj Al Alam

 

If all goes according to plan, Jeddah, Saudi Arabia will be home of the tallest man-made structure ever made. Known as Kingdom Tower, the project has been approved and construction started. Once it is completed, assuming global economic conditions are better, Kingdom Tower will be the first kilometer-high building…that’s about 3,280 ft…over three times taller than the good ole Chrysler Building.

Kingdom Tower

Technological innovation, better materials and human ingenuity continue to stretch skyscraper heights all over the world. In less than a decade, the record height for tallest building jumped over a thousand feet. Only time (and more global financial stability) will tell if another great leap is made in the second decade of the 21st century.