American Marijuana Attitude

American Marijuana Attitude
A recent study showed that most Americans view marijuana favorably thinking that it has significant benefits and few risks. Science does not support the new American marijuana attitude.

The journal Annals of Internal Medicine published the new study on July 23. The researchers conducted an online survey of more than 9,000 people from all over the United States. They found that 81 percent of U.S. adults believe that marijuana has at least one benefit. The most common benefit mentioned was pain management. Other supposed benefits in people’s minds were the treatment of diseases and relief from anxiety, stress, and depression. At the same time, 91 percent of the respondents believe that marijuana has at least one risk. The most common risk mentioned was not medical problems, but legal. They also mentioned addiction and impaired memory. The bottom line is that the American public sees marijuana as having few health risks and significant health benefits.

The prevailing favorable American marijuana attitude is most likely due to the influence of the media. Some individuals and businesses stand to make a massive amount of money on marijuana, and governments see it as a source of tax revenue. In the meantime, the public is ignoring costs in healthcare, addiction treatment, traffic enforcement, and traffic deaths. In a previous post, we reported on a study of the effects of marijuana on the brain. The American Medical Association published information in the JAMA Internal Medicine on the increase in fatal car accidents in the United States on April 20 each year. That’s the cannabis celebration day on which thousands of marijuana enthusiasts light up at 4:20 PM in celebration of pot. The 4/20 celebration has grown as marijuana has become more widely available and legal. According to the JAMA Internal Medicine journal, there was a 12 percent increase in fatal crashes on April 20 and a 38 percent increase among drivers younger than 21.

Since Washington state legalized recreational marijuana in 2012, the percentage of drivers involved in fatal crashes who had traces of marijuana in their blood has doubled. One of the problems involves trying to set a legal limit for marijuana because its effect on the body is very different from alcohol. Blood alcohol level reliably predicts impairment. The level of THC (the chemical in pot) in the blood is not the critical factor until it enters the tissue of the brain where it has its effect. The THC blood level may be lower when the brain is most affected.

Getting high on marijuana makes changes in the human brain and smoking the weed has many of the same health dangers as smoking tobacco. It seems clear that the American marijuana attitude is changing, but it is also clear that we need to step back and think more clearly before our thinking becomes blurred by pot.
–Roland Earnst © 2018

Should Christians Care About Global Warming?

Should Christians Care About Global Warming?
Global warming has been an issue from a scientific perspective for at least 60 years. I remember discussions about it in my college classes at Indiana University many decades ago. In the last decade it has become a political issue and in the last few years a religious issue. There is so much bad information in the media that it is no wonder many people are confused about what is true and what is not true. Should Christians care about global warming?

Let us first point out that global warming and local heat are two different things. The heat wave that you may have experienced in the summer of 2018 in the United States is NOT what global warming is about. It may be hot where you are and very cold somewhere else. Global warming is just that–global. Data shows that the average temperature of the entire planet is rising. This is not the first time it has happened. The history of the planet shows periods of global cold and global heat. The causes of these changes are many and complex. Earth is a large planet with multiple factors involved in how its climatic systems work. Variations in the sun, volcanic eruptions, asteroid and comet collisions, and human activity all can affect climate.

Does climate affect human life? Of course it does. It always has, and with our increased population the effect will be greater. Jesus told his disciples, “You will hear of wars and rumors of wars: see and do not be alarmed for all these things will come to pass but the end is still to come. For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom and there shall be famines and earthquakes in different parts of the world” (Matthew 24:6-7).

Is human life affecting climate and should Christians care about global warming? Genesis 2:15 tells us that God put humans in the garden of Eden “to dress it and keep it.” God expects us to take care of what He created, and we have not done a good job of it. When we mismanage God’s gift to us, there are always consequences. Man-made synthetics cause a large percentage of cancer. We are in an opioid crisis because of materials we take into our bodies that affect us in a variety of ways. Those of us who live in industrialized areas have seen the ecological disasters caused by human greed and selfishness. Several years ago, the Cuyahoga River in Ohio actually caught on fire. I have seen areas like Ducktown, Tennessee, and Sudbury, Ontario, decimated by pollution. Fortunately, people worked to clean up those places. Right now we have a crisis in our oceans because of the foolish disposal of plastics.

The global warming issue involves many factors, and human actions are certainly some of them. To what extent humans are responsible can be debated, but the question of rising temperatures globally cannot be debated. Christians can lead the world in helping relieve the consequences of “famines and earthquakes in different parts of the world.” If your belief system is “survival of the fittest,” you will not get involved, but that is not the worldview of Christians.

Jesus said, “Then shall the King say … Come you blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world: For I was hungered and you gave me food to eat: I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink: I was a stranger and you took me in: naked and you clothed me: I was sick and you visited me…” (Matthew 25:34-38). Global warming may cause much suffering on our planet, whatever its cause. Should Christians care about global warming? Yes, and the followers of Jesus Christ will be there to relieve the pain.
–John N. Clayton © 2018

Know the Meaning of Life

Know the Meaning of Life
It was a study using scientific methods to determine what category of people are the most content with life. The research involved compiling the results of five different psychological studies of more than 50,000 individuals completed between 1981 and 2017. The journal Social Psychological and Personality Science published a report of the final result in June 2018. The happiest group are those who know the meaning of life.

A team of psychologists from the University of Southern California conducted the study. They concentrated on the political views of the test subjects, looking to see whether they were liberal or conservative. The conservatives consistently were the happiest, and they more often claimed to know the meaning of life. The media reported this as a “happiness gap” between liberals and conservative.

This study concentrated on political viewpoints, but when the researchers adjusted their model to remove “religious attendance” from the equation, the conservatives were still happier and found more purpose in life than liberals did. However, they found that the people who were pro-life and did not support same-sex marriage (which would include most conservative Christians) were more likely to believe that life has meaning and purpose. (After all, why would someone who believes there is a purpose in life not be pro-life?)

The author of the new study, David Newman, said, “Finding meaning in life is related to the sense or feeling that things are the way they should be and that there is a sense of order. If life feels chaotic, then that would likely dampen your sense that life is meaningful.”

Christians believe that there is order because God created an orderly universe. We believe that chaos is the result of sin. We also believe that God created us for a purpose and no matter what happens in this life, God loves us and has something better waiting for us. Our hope is in Christ, and nothing in this life can take away the “peace that passes understanding” (Philippians 4:7).

The scientists attempted to remove the God factor by taking “religious attendance” out of the equation. Perhaps they didn’t realize that attendance at some kind of religious gathering is not what makes a person a true Christian. The accurate measure of a Christian life is allowing Jesus Christ to be Lord. When Christ is at the center of our being, and we live by faith, we will have contentment, and we will know the meaning of life.
–Roland Earnst © 2018

Future of Faith in America

Future of Faith in America
If you read any survey of what Americans believe, you have to understand that faith in God and the validity of New Testament Christianity is in decline. We have pointed out before, that when pollsters ask people about their religious faith, 40% of all Americans respond with “none.” When we separate those numbers by age group, the picture is even more dismal with young adults overwhelmingly rejecting Jesus as the son of God. We should be concerned about the future of faith in America.

The two primary sources of the decline in church membership are pluralism and the complete rejection of the Bible as God’s one authoritative guide. Most churches have not taught the evidence for God and the validity of the Bible. Most young people have not seen an example of Christian living in the lives of their parents or religious leaders. We can either sit back and watch congregations die with the older people of faith, or we can roll up our sleeves and do something.

This situation is not new. When the people of Jesus day saw that following Jesus required some commitment, most of them left. In John 6:35-69 people rejected Jesus as having come down from heaven. Later in the Temple, they wondered at the wisdom of Christ’s teaching. In John 7:16-18 Jesus told the people, “My teaching is not mine, but his who sent me.” He then referred to the evidence seen in what people do: “If anyone chooses to do God’s will, he will find out whether my teaching comes from God or whether I speak on my own.” We must find some method of answering people’s doubts about God and showing them that Jesus is “the Way, the Truth, and the Life” (John 14:6). That is what the future of faith in America must be about.

We can no longer rely on inherited faith to build faith-filled adults. Young people being dragged to church three times a week is not going to do the job. There has been too much hypocrisy, bickering, and inconsistency in churches for young people to blindly accept what their parents and grandparents believed. We can no longer rely on talented speakers and youth leaders to emotionally stampede young people into becoming active, dynamic Christians. There are too many speakers with conflicting views for modern adults to respond to emotional pleas at worship services, youth rallies, camps, or lectureships.

The war for the minds of 21st-century adults is going to be won or lost on the battlefield of evidence. That was true in the days of Jesus and the church in the first century. We have a tremendous advantage over those who lived in the first century. Quantum mechanics has opened the door for us to understand how gravity, electric charge, and matter/energy were created. The complexity, wisdom, and design of the formation of electric charge and the wave nature of gravity show that the cause of these things must be outside the realm of the physical world. Quantum mechanics leads us to dimensions beyond our own, which is the concept the Bible has always given us about God.

In today’s world, we see the results of following systems other than the biblical pattern. When people follow other guidelines as to how to live their lives, the result is inevitably disastrous. When people who call themselves Christians fail to follow what Jesus taught, the result is also disastrous. If we study the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5-7 and compare it to all other ways of life, we see the truthfulness of Jesus statement, “By their fruit ye shall know them” (Matthew 7:16). The future of America depends on the future of faith in America.

Scientific knowledge of the world around us continues to amaze us. Rather than presenting God as a magician who zaps things into existence by tricks and illusions beyond our understanding, we must show people that what God does make sense and many of God’s methods are within our ability to understand. People have had enough of mystic explanations and magic tricks. If they are going to commit themselves to discipleship, it must be clear and logical both in purpose and in methodology.

The church has the capacity to present this message. Young people respond to evidence that doesn’t depend on tradition or blind, mystic faith. When 1 Peter 3:15 tells us to “be ready to give an answer to anyone who asks for the reason of the faith that is within you” it includes not just the ancient shepherd in the hills of Judea, but also the educated engineer living in 2018. Today, the fields are ripe unto harvest (John 4:35), but our outreach must change with changing needs. The future of faith in America depends on it.
–John N. Clayton © 2018

Retiring Early – Good Idea or Not

Retiring Early – Good Idea or Not
Some people dream of retiring early and spending the rest of their lives in pleasure-filled relaxation. That may not be a good idea.

Relaxing for a few days is a good thing, but studies show that when we stop doing anything constructive and challenging, both our mental and physical health decline. The Washington Post reported that studies “have shown a strong correlation between early retirement age and diminished cognitive function.”

Not only can too much leisure be bad for our physical and mental health, it even has an adverse effect on our happiness. Humans were designed to be productive and creative. Without physical stimulation, our bones and muscles become weak. Without mental stimulation, our brains lose their sharpness. The saying, “If you don’t use it, you’ll lose it,” contains a lot of truth.

All this doesn’t mean that we have to keep working at an occupation for our entire lives. Retiring early can open the door to new opportunities of service. For those who retire from a paying job, volunteering for some service which is mentally, and even physically challenging can be rewarding in many ways. It can keep us physically stronger and more mentally alert. It can give us enjoyment and even help us to live longer. It can also be rewarding for those we are able to serve.

God created us to work. Even in the paradise of the Garden of Eden, God gave Adam and Eve work to do. (See Genesis 2:15.) If you want to live a long, healthy, and happy life, find a way to be productively stimulated while serving others. It’s what God designed us to do.
–Roland Earnst © 2018

Marijuana Legalization – The Rest of the Story

Marijuana Legalization
The media has sold the American public on the idea that marijuana cannot hurt anyone and is not habit forming. Proponents argue that marijuana legalization in all 50 states would produce 46 billion dollars in federal sales tax revenue and more than one million jobs by 2025. Polls show that 61% of Americans believe marijuana should be legal.

We are also told that a benefit of marijuana legalization is that the government will control dosage and potency. I can remember when the Food and Drug Administration was making the same claims about the use of tobacco when I was a teenager. We all know the result of the long-term forestalling of government control of the use of tobacco. Dr. Sharon Levy who is the director of the Adolescent Substance Abuse Program at Boston Children’s Hospital says, “We are simply not prepared for the fallout of marijuana legalization.”

Here are the known facts about marijuana:

*The concentration of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) is roughly 40 times stronger in today’s “weed” than the “grass” of the 1970s.

*Claims that marijuana is not addictive are simply lies. One out of every six teens who smoke marijuana become addicted to it.

*Studies of teens while smoking marijuana show that there is a significant change in the brain. There is a change in the nucleus accumbens, the part of the brain that affects motivation and learning.

*Studies of long-time users show long-term memory loss, a drop in IQ points equal to lead poisoning, and deterioration in the language areas.

*Studies show that teens who frequently smoked pot were less likely to hold full-time jobs as adults, less likely to get married, and less likely to finish their education.

*Since Colorado legalized the drug, marijuana-related visits to emergency rooms and urgent care centers have tripled among those under 21.

Those of us who follow Jesus Christ believe that the body is the “Temple of the Holy Spirit” (1 Corinthians 3:16). The Bible tells us to take care of the body, and that certainly means not taking a recreational drug that we know damages our bodies. Alcohol, nicotine, and pot damage the temple of God, and we must stand opposed to their use.

The chemicals in marijuana that can ease pain and help those in distress are not what we are talking about in this discussion. Paul told Timothy to “use a little wine to help you to get over your frequent spells of illness” (1 Timothy 5:23). We need to use our intelligence and apply the things God has given us wisely as we consider marijuana legalization. Using any substance in a way that does damage to our body and alters our ability to think and react wisely and constructively is wrong.
–John N. Clayton © 2018
Data and quotes from Reader’s Digest, July 8, 2018 pages 78-82.

Permanent Solution to a Temporary Problem

Permanent Solution to a Temporary Problem
Suicide is a permanent solution to a temporary problem. At the lowest point in a person’s life, suicide takes away any future blessings.

Some would say, “The problem has been with me for a long time and is not going away.” If that’s the case, someone needs to step in to address the problem and help to find a solution. As God’s people, Christians need to love and care for others.

Whether you believe in God or not, you have to admit that the desire to live is built into our DNA. Every living thing wants to live. If that were not true, all life on Earth would have ended long ago. No animal commits suicide. No, not even lemmings. (We dealt with that yesterday.) No animal willingly submits to a predator. No wildebeest surrenders to the lion. The predator wins only when the creature has no more ability to go on or to run faster. Why is the predator so desperate to catch that prey? It’s the predator’s will to live.

Why do animals resist death with every fiber of their being until their very last breath? Some would say it’s an evolutionary development that life has evolved to want to live. But that can’t be right because life must have had a strong desire to live from day one. I think the desire to live is evidence of a Creator who put that desire into the very first life—even those living things without conscious understanding. The drive to live built into every living thing, even plants, is another evidence that life is not an accident.

It’s only humans that have the ability to chose. Only humans can choose right or wrong. Only humans KNOW right from wrong. We can choose to make bad choices. We can even choose a permanent solution to a temporary problem. That ability to choose is evidence that we were created by God. The desire to choose right over wrong is evidence that we were created in God’s image. The failure to always choose the right is evidence that we are merely human. God’s willingness to redeem us from our bad choices is evidence that God is love. (1 John 3:1, 16; 4:7)
— Roland Earnst © 2018

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.