Suicide Rate Increase

Suicide Rate Increase
When a celebrity commits suicide, it makes front page news and dominates the tabloids for months. We still hear about Robin Williams’ suicide which happened in 2014. Now we have Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain dominating the news during the early part of June. What many of us don’t realize is that 44,965 Americans killed themselves in 2016 and that from 2010 to 2016 there has been a 70% increase in suicide among girls ages ten to 19. The nation as a whole has seen a 28% suicide rate increase from 1999 to 2016.

The experts are trying to explain all of this. Certainly, there is more than one factor involved, but we suggest that a major factor in our country’s strong movement away from faith in God to a rejection of religion as a whole. Jesus Christ has given us a purpose in life. The unique teaching of Christ is that everyone, no matter what their situation or appearance or abilities, has a purpose in living. In addition to that, Christianity provides a way to deal with the failures in life. No one needs to live with a load of guilt. We can be forgiven of our sins and overcome our guilt, and we can turn the mistakes of the past into a ministry to help others walking the same path that we walked.

What can you expect if you are taught that you are an accident, that you have no purpose, and that life is merely a chance-driven battle for survival of the fittest? It is not hard to see the attractiveness of ending your life when you have no purpose, and you face struggles that seem impossible to overcome. How could we not have a suicide rate increase?

I speak as one who attempted suicide when my atheist belief system couldn’t handle the reality of the life I was living. I know how hopeless life can seem to be without faith. Having lived as a Christian who has still had to confront all the negatives in life, I now know that, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” (Philippians 4:13).
–John N. Clayton © 2018
Data from Time magazine, June 18, 2018, page10.

Male Chauvinism/Feminism Conflict

Male Chauvinism/Feminism Conflict
We live in a world of extremes. As women have become more aggressive in confronting their sexual abusers, there is collateral damage on all sides. Extremists in the feminism camp are using the sexual abuse issue to attack the male gender as a whole. Extreme male chauvinists view the female gender as generally inferior to themselves and want to maintain their superior position. Those who are insecure about their sexual identity find themselves being pushed by extremists on all sides of this male chauvinism/feminism conflict.

The abuse that is present in the world around us is extreme, and the victims of the abuse are looking for reliable answers. We are constantly getting e-mails and letters from people who have received terrible advice from mental health experts in the secular world. We believe that Christianity has an answer to all of the confusion.

The incidents of abuse are undeniable, and the abuse occurs in every facet of human experience–including religion. In the Old Testament, the problem of abuse was identified with the Hebrew word “alal” meaning to roll oneself on or upon. It is used in some horrible stories of rape such as Judges 19:25 and in battle scenes such as 1 Samuel 31:4. In the New Testament, the Greek word for abuse is “arsenokoited,” and the use is totally sexual. Abuse is always wrong, and it is strongly condemned by the Bible however and wherever it occurs.

So how does Christianity offer any help on this issue? The answer is in the identification of roles. One of the victims of the collateral damage produced by the conflict between extremists on opposite sides of the male chauvinism/feminism conflict is young men who haven’t learned their life role. Women have a specific, unthreatened role given to them–that of being a mother. They can choose whether to accept that role, but their gender has a built-in guarantee that no male can threaten. A woman can be artificially inseminated and give birth to a child. A man has no such option.

As women have gained their rightful role in the business world, males have found more and more problems with their self-image. They realize that there are always women out there who can do the job as well or maybe better than their male counterparts. The question is whether some of the physical abuse on women has come from males who have no role that they can claim as theirs, but they do have enough physical strength to subjugate a woman.

From the very beginning, God instituted a system that would work well for both genders. Genesis 2:24 tells us that male and female were joined together as one giving them independence from their parents. That is not just a sexual reference, but rather it presents the family as the basis of stability for both sexes. The entire biblical account shows man not using what God gave him correctly, but allowing sin to tear at the fabric of the one thing that would give men stability and purpose. In the New Testament, the roles of men and women were refocused. Polygamy would no longer be tolerated. Loving and submitting to one another was the guide (See Ephesians 5:21-33). The value of all humans is the same (See Galatians 3:27-29). Women could be involved in the business world as was Lydia and the “virtuous woman” of Proverbs 31:10-31.

The one role given to men that would be unthreatened by women was providing loving leadership to the family and the church. In 1 Timothy 2:8-15 the male leadership is identified as giving males a unique role. That passage ends by reminding the reader that women also have a role guaranteed in childbirth. The next chapter shows who the ideal leader of the church and the home should be. In chapter 5 Paul approaches the failures of humans to keep God’s plan in operation no matter what the circumstances.

There should be no male chauvinism/feminism conflict if people follow God’s plan and respect the needs of others. Selfishness in church and home leadership is a cause of male insecurity and tends to produce more abuse. The June, 2018, issue of Christianity Today carried an article titled Mending Men’s Ministry which addresses these issues in the denominational world. In the biblical world, the healing of men will come when we simply love God and others enough to do what God says and the male chauvinism/feminism conflict will end.
–John N. Clayton © 2018

Empty the Ocean

Empty the Ocean with a Pail
In the June 2018 issue of the Journal of the American Scientific Affiliation James Peterson gave a wonderful quote of St. Augustine. It seems he saw a little girl marching industriously into the surf with a pail. She then walked back up the beach and poured the water into a little dip in the sand. He asked her what she was doing, and she lifted the pail and said: “Today I am going to empty the ocean with my pail.”

Peterson goes on to say:

“I can picture that the girl felt the waves tugging at her feet. She knew the taste of salt water on her tongue. She could hear the roar of the surf. She could see the blue water stretching to the horizon. She knew the ocean with every sense she had, and as completely as she could. But she did not even begin to conceive that the water stretched all the way to the other coasts. She had no inkling that in the water before her there were mountain ranges and canyons, whales and walruses, icebergs and tropical islands. There is a parallel here with how we know God. All who God is—beyond any one way of knowing, and even with all our ways of knowing together—ultimately, is beyond our current best human comprehension, but we can truly know God with all the ability that we have, including from our ability to experience nature. If one knows God by God’s self-revelation, one can then recognize God’s presence in the serene moonrise rippling across a lake, and in the fierce, and as it turns out, life-giving, forest fire.”

“Living in this material world is a generous and complicated gift that can enrich our understanding and experience of God. What we discover and experience of our material world through the sciences, can sometimes help us to recognize more of its Creator.”

The truth is that we can never fully know God any more than the little girl could empty the ocean with her little bucket. However, the more we learn about God through His Word and His works, the more we will be in awe of Him.
–John N. Clayton © 2018
You can read James C. Peterson’s full editorial HERE.

Jack Phillips Supreme Court Decision

Jack Phillips Supreme Court Decision
We have mentioned before the threats to religious freedom in the United States to people who just want to live out their faith. One of those cases concerns a Christian cake artist in Colorado by the name of Jack Phillips.

Phillips designs artistic cakes for special occasions. He will design cakes for anyone; however, he does not use his artistic talents to decorate cakes for events that go against his Christian convictions. That would include cakes to celebrate a divorce or Halloween or—and this is the sticky part—a same-sex wedding. When he chose to practice his faith, he was severely punished by the Colorado Civil Rights Commission for refusing to create a cake for a same-sex wedding. He had no problem with making cakes for the men who were getting married, but he could not be involved in an event that violated his strongly-held faith.

On Monday, June 4, 2018, the Supreme Court of the United States by a vote of 7-2 agreed that the state of Colorado had wrongly treated him. Justice Anthony Kennedy who wrote the majority opinion said, “[t]he neutral and respectful consideration to which Phillips was entitled was compromised here …. The Civil Rights Commission’s treatment of his case has some elements of a clear and impermissible hostility toward the sincere religious beliefs that motivated his objection.”

This decision is a victory for a Christian who wants to live out his faith in the United States of America where the First Amendment to the Constitution grants freedom of religion. However, it is not a clear and final victory because we don’t know how the court would have ruled if the Colorado Civil Rights Commission had not been so over-the-top in their judgment against Jack Phillips. One of the commissioners had said that Phillips’ request for religious freedom was, “one of the most despicable pieces of rhetoric that people can use.”

There are other religious freedom cases pending, and we will see how they play out in the courts. One of them is the case of floral artist Barronelle Stutzman. When one person’s right to free expression of their faith is removed, and the government punishes the person for their sincerely held religious convictions, we are all in danger. I am sure you will hear more on this.
–Roland Earnst © 2018

Oldest Living Person Is Muslim Woman

Oldest Living Person is a Muslim Woman
One thing you learn when you live past 80 years is that old age isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. The Week (June 1, 2018, page 10), reported that the oldest living person is Koku Istambulova. According to her passport, she is 129 years old. She is a Muslim woman living by strict Islamic codes in Chechnya.

Istambulova doesn’t view long life as a blessing. She says “I have not had a single happy day in my life. Long life is not at all God’s gift for me, but a punishment.” Istambulova saw Nazi tanks, Stalin’s deportation, and the death of all of her children. Her faith is one of strict rules and regulations with very legalistic guides for life. As a Muslim woman, the role she was forced into is very restrictive.

So the oldest living person says she has had a life of misery. It is important to note that the things that made Istambulova’s life miserable were the violent acts of humans and the legalism of man-made religion. Those factors contributed to her misery instead of addressing it and solving it.

In contrast to Istambulova’s situation, Christ came to eliminate the things that bring misery in life. Istambulova never knew the peace, love, family, and joy of being free from the legalistic human rules based on race or sex. Galatians 3:26-4:7 presents a contrast to legalism and the misery that human sin and legalistic religions bring. Jesus said, “If you continue in my word, then you are my disciples, and you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free” (John 8:31-32).
–John N. Clayton © 2018

Road to Enlightenment

Buddhist Road to Enlightenment
A Buddhist monk in Japan is suing his monastery for making him work too many hours. Buddhism has traditionally taught that “the road to enlightenment” involves enduring hardship. When a young man decides to enter a monastery, he understands that he will learn discipline through hardship. He knows that an austere regime will be part of the road to enlightenment. That doesn’t sit well with many people in the world today. Without faith in God, they may not be willing to take that road.

The teachings of the Dalai Lama released in June of 2001 stated that “There is no God or Supreme Creator.” The “Four Noble Truths” and the “Noble Eightfold Path that leads to Nirvana” depend on individual effort. There is no concept of a Holy Spirit to assist one in making the journey. When your belief system excludes a personal relationship with a power higher than yourself, self-discipline and sacrifice just don’t work.

In contrast to the Buddhist beliefs, Christianity promises help from God on a personal level. Acts 2:38 speaks of receiving the Holy Spirit when one is baptized into Christ, and Jesus repeatedly promised to be with the individual to the very end. “The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children” (Romans 8:16). The idea of traveling the road to enlightenment without God is outdated.
–John N. Clayton © 2018

Patron Saint of Drug Traffickers

Patron Saint of Drug Traffickers?
Time magazine and Time.com published a picture of a shrine to Jesus Malverde considered the patron saint of drug traffickers in Culiacan, Sinaloa, northwest Mexico. In attempting to contact the managers of the shrine we were told that it was under the auspices of the local bishop and that he would answer any questions we had. We have not been able to get a response from anyone connected with that area of Mexico.

I inquired about this from a good friend of mine who is a Roman Catholic priest (and wishes to stay anonymous for obvious reasons). He told me that clergy in the Catholic church throughout the ages have chosen to serve the spiritual needs of people they were ministering to even if that person was engaged in behavior the priest didn’t accept or sanction.

It is interesting that in some wars there have been clergy on opposing sides of the conflict, both ministering to the people in their area. The difference in this case is that there is no political ideology involved in the question of drugs. I know of no religious person who would maintain that drugs are a good thing or that the Church should be supporting people who traffic drugs.

Those who wish to charge believers in God with being ineffective in stopping evil in all cultures have a good point. That is why this program we call “Does God Exist?” is not a part of any denomination or cult. The fact that religious people make mistakes, and may even stand up for something that is wrong and sinful does not make it right. When believers try to defend immoral behavior, it is a human making a human mistake.

We cannot defend what humans have done in the past, or what they continue to do today. God’s existence is not related to human inadequacy. The credibility of the Bible is not dependent on any theologian or scholar. The New Testament makes it clear that the human body is the temple of God (1 Corinthians 3:16 and 6:19), and that it must be cared for and not abused (1 Corinthians 3:17). There is no defense for anyone who would protect or promote drug trafficking be they atheists or religious leaders. The idea of a patron saint of drug traffickers is indefensible because Christians have a special reason for opposing the use of recreational drugs.
–John N. Clayton © 2018

Boy Scout Dilemma

Boy Scout Dilemma
When I was a young man, some 70 years ago, I wanted to be in the Boy Scouts. My parents, who were atheists, were not enthusiastic about the idea because the Boy Scouts met in the facilities of churches. Also, there was an emphasis, in my parents’ minds at least, on religion. To them, that was the Boy Scout dilemma.

The truth is that many of the merit badges were on morality, faith, worship, and leadership in spiritual matters. I avoided those so not to irritate my parents. In retreats and camping, there were talks and classes on issues of concern to a young teenage boy. Those included sexual matters and the concept of keeping “purity” as a virtue. Our leaders were men who demonstrated how to live as good citizens, fathers, and husbands.

In the past five years, the Boy Scouts have eroded most of that. Openly gay and transgender boys can become Boy Scouts. The ban on openly gay adult leaders has been thrown out. Now the word “Boy” is being dropped, and the organization will admit girls.

Recently, one out of every five Boy Scouts was a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormons). The Mormon Church has announced they are ending their partnership with the Boy Scouts and they are forming their own youth program. I have friends who are active in the Boy Scouts who say they are refusing to continue camping trips or summer camps because they cannot control the dynamics of a sexually mixed group in a wilderness setting. The Boy Scout dilemma today is much different from what it was in the past.

It is likely that lawsuits will ultimately come from this debacle. The question arises of whether any group has the right to exclude anyone from any activity on the basis of gender or morality. That could have implications for the Church.
–John N. Clayton © 2018

Clothes Make a Difference

Clothes Make a Difference
In our days of concern over human rights, there has been a continuing argument over whether anyone has a right to tell others what to wear. In my years as a teacher and my teaching of Bible principles, the question of clothing comes up with great regularity. Dress codes at school or Church are almost universally failures. A point to remember is that clothes make a difference.

In Genesis 38:12-18 there is a story of a woman named Tamar who was a widow and was wearing widow’s clothes. She needed a favor from a man named Judah who was not living a moral life. She put on clothes which suggested she was a harlot and was successful in getting Judah to sleep with her. In 1 Timothy 2:9 and 1 Peter 3:3 Christian women were told some things not to do with their attire and jewelry because of what it would say to others about them.

In my younger days, there were lengthy debates about what women should wear, and they usually degraded into who had the right to say anything about dress to anyone else. The issue re-surfaced in May of 2018 when an attractive 18-year-old white, non-oriental girl named Keziah Daum wore a Chinese style dress to her prom. The dress she wore is called a cheongsam similar to the one in the picture. As you can see the dress is very modest with a high neck–and it has a long skirt.

After she posted on Twitter photos of herself wearing the dress, the social media went wild. A man named Jeremy Lam suggested that her wearing the cheongsam was an offense to the Chinese culture because she is not Chinese. Many accused her of racism. One interesting statement was from Eliza Anyangwe who said, “Clothes are part of the way we communicate with the world.” She also said, “ cultural appropriation is about power, and to many she’s the embodiment of a system that empowers white people to take whatever they want.” After 42,000 retweets, people are now accusing “culture police” of creating the controversy.

All of this goes to show that clothes make a difference. The message of the New Testament is that Christian women should radiate their morality and religious beliefs by dressing modestly. Obviously, the world is watching how we dress and how we live. Acts 24:16 and 1 Corinthians 10:32 talk about Christians not giving offense to anyone, and focusing on how we can bring men and women together in peaceful lives that bring happiness and stability to all.
–John N. Clayton © 2018

#MeToo Impacting Society

#MeToo Impacting Society
One of the most powerful secular movements in America today is the #MeToo movement. For many people, this movement is merely a response to sexual predation, harassment, and bias. It that were all, it would be positive. We need to consider, “How is #MeToo impacting society in other areas?”

The #MeToo movement demands that gender and race quotas should be enforced in all areas of culture and economic endeavor. The impact on fashion design, the Oscars, the Golden Globe awards, the Grammys, and a wide range of industrial and journalism corporations has filled the news media in recent months. Stanford and UCLA have “diversity deans” to make sure that gender and racial compositions are balanced. Google fired James Damore for suggesting that a lack of balance between groups was due to career predilections. They accused Damore of “using harmful gender stereotypes that put Google’s female employees at risk of unspecified trauma.”

The truth is that there are roles that favor one gender or the other. To suggest that everyone is of equal ability in every discipline and subject is just not true, and anyone who has worked with the general public knows it. Most men do poorly working in a daycare. That’s not true of all men, but to force a daycare to have equal numbers of males and females is ludicrous.

Religious groups that follow the Bible carefully are going to be impacted by #MeToo. The Bible assigns the role of leadership of the church to the male gender. Not everyone agrees with the passages that talk about this such as 1 Timothy 2:11-3:5 and Titus 1 & 2. However, requiring churches to have women fill the role of 50% of their pulpit ministers would force many churches to close their doors and meet clandestinely.

There is an excellent article on #MeToo impacting society by Heather McDonald in the April issue of Imprimis magazine published by Hillsdale College. You can read it HERE.
–John N. Clayton © 2018