A moral issue facing teenagers in America today is whether to change their birth sex. Some young people claim that their gender is misapplied. In other words, some girls claim they are actually boys, and some boys claim they are girls. In addition to legal and relational issues, there are also moral implications of sex change.
Medical procedures are now available using drugs and surgery to implement the sex change some feel they should have. The cause of these feelings is highly complex and may involve environmental factors, social pressure, identity issues, the breakdown of the nuclear family, or just a social fad.
The trend has become very complicated on many levels. One area affected is sports competition which began with sex-changed Russian athletes who seemed to have an advantage in certain sports. In the legal area, parents of girls have brought court cases claiming they have been denied scholarships and awards because a transgender athlete had the body of a male. There are also cases where the sex of a child was changed without the parents’ permission or knowledge.
The Bible clearly spells out God’s design of male and female. To change the sex of a child with surgery, puberty blockers, and hormones means they will need a constant regimen of drugs for the remainder of their life. While court cases are swirling, many in the medical profession are concerned because the long-term effect is unknown. For that reason, Alabama and Arkansas have passed laws making it a crime to administer or prescribe these procedures and drugs to a child under the age of 19.
We have laws to protect people, such as requiring the use of seat belts, but the question of where human rights begin and end is often not very clear. We sympathize with parents and children who are struggling with this issue. Unfortunately, the implications are often not spelled out in advance, and the moral implications of sex change are large.
Sometimes people suggest that animals are at the mercy of the elements and therefore plagued with disease, pain, and suffering. The fact is that animals are not helpless creatures suffering from massive illnesses and infections that make their lives a painful misery. Instead, the Creator has given animals immune systems to resist disease and an awareness of ways to treat injuries.
By watching animals, humans have learned that certain plants can fight infections and help to heal wounds. For example, we use aloe to relieve sunburn pain, but animals have been using it for various skin conditions for many years. Various plants bring comfort to animals when they are sick or injured, and humans have copied plant use by animals for treating a variety of ailments.
Researchers recently discovered that not only can plants offer relief to animals, but insects are also medically beneficial. More surprising is that animals know about these remedies and can use them. For example, scientists have observed chimpanzees catching a tiny flying insect and placing it on a wound or sore to provide relief. Researchers have not yet identified that insect, but they have seen primates use other arthropods and certain leaves to help heal wounds and provide relief from pain.
When humans don’t upset the system, animals are not helpless creatures. They have a minimum of suffering, and they even know ways to treat wounds and infections. Death in the undisturbed animal world is rapid and purposeful. Human interference with the natural balance often results in prolonged suffering for animals.
Too often, we prolong the suffering of other humans with expensive treatments that don’t produce a quality of life. However, we have much to learn from the world God created, and perhaps a tiny flying insect can be one more aid to healing or pain relief if the researchers can just find out what it is.
We tend to think that drinking and the effects of alcohol are a problem for young people and middle-aged adults. There is no question that alcohol is the most destructive drug in today’s world. However, the view that young people need to avoid distilled alcoholic drinks but it is okay for seniors is dead wrong. We see much pain and suffering in our world today from different sources, but there is no reason for seniors using alcohol and adding to the problems that come with age.
Starting at about age 50, the average adult loses muscle, gains fat, and carries less water in the bloodstream. That means that seniors using alcohol may be more affected because it is less diluted than in younger people. In addition, the stomach and liver don’t produce as much of the enzyme called ADH, which processes alcohol. As a result, a person may not be aware that the alcohol content in their body is higher than in the past, and they may not realize the damaging effects. Our ability to perceive the effects of alcohol also diminishes after age 50, so we may ignore changes in vision, balance, and hearing caused by alcohol.
For seniors using alcohol, the aging process can be accelerated because it pulls water from your body. It also causes the shrinking of the brain, especially the cortex, which controls our executive function. In addition, Dr. George Koob, director of the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, says that over 200 medical conditions are made worse by the consumption of alcohol. These include but are not limited to cancer, immune system disorders, liver problems, stroke, and diabetes.
There is a lot of literature blaming God for the age-related disabilities inflicting our world. While not drinking at all doesn’t guarantee a person won’t have health issues, a very high percentage of age-related diseases are impacted by the abuse we tend to heap on our bodies. That abuse includes not only alcohol but recreational drugs and nicotine. For Christians, our bodies are the temple of the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 3:16), and we need to take care of that temple. Learning how to do that is vital for all of us.
The Tufts University Health and Nutrition Letter for March 2022 has a great article titled “Your Amazing Digestive System.” It explains in great detail what happens to food from the time you look at it until it leaves the body. We take for granted what happens when we eat food, but the amazing digestive system is so complex that it is another extraordinary evidence of God’s wisdom and design. Consider the parts of the system as spelled out by the Tuft publication:
THE GASTROINTESTINAL TRACT: This tube runs from the mouth to the anus with a lining separating the food we eat from the inside of our body. Muscles and nerves control the speed of movement of the food, and nutrients are absorbed through the tube wall, which controls what nutrients are absorbed and how fast.
THE MOUTH: The smell and sight of food stimulate the secretion of saliva (which is why our mouths water), moistening and lubricating the food so we can swallow it. The saliva has an enzyme called salivary amylase, which begins to break down starches as the teeth grind the food into more digestible pieces. THE ESOPHAGUS: This tube is about a foot long and connects the throat to the stomach. It has muscles to push the food along and a valve that opens to let the food enter the stomach.
THE STOMACH: When food enters the stomach, gastric acid and digestive enzymes break down proteins and kill unwanted organisms. Stomach muscles contract and relax, reducing the food to a diluted paste.
THE SMALL INTESTINE: Most nutrients are absorbed here, including proteins, carbohydrates, fats, and micronutrients. This tube is about 20 feet long and an inch in diameter. The small intestine uses enzymes from the pancreas and bile from the gallbladder to break down the food. There are three sections to the small intestine, the duodenum, the jejunum, and the ileum, each absorbing different nutrients.
THE LARGE INTESTINE: Also called the colon, this muscular tube is three times wider than the small intestine but only about five feet long. The colon absorbs beneficial nutrients not previously absorbed. Anything the body can’t use is passed on to the rectum. The large intestine also absorbs water and has a complex organization of bacteria called “gut-microbiota.” Those microbes use fiber to produce beneficial compounds and produce many hormones required for our immune system.
Our amazing digestive system designdefies any chance explanation. Each precisely designed part is an essential contributor to our ability to eat and digest food. It is no wonder that so many diseases can negatively affect the digestive system. It is hard to read all we know about this system and not be reminded of Psalms 139:14, “I will praise you, God, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made: marvelous are your works and that my soul knows very well.”
Genesis 1:11-12 describes Earth having three kinds of plants which most versions translate as grass (“deshe” in Hebrew), herbs (“eseb” in Hebrew, meaning a non-woody plant with seasonal foliage such as most vegetables), and fruit trees (“ets” bearing fruit “peri” in Hebrew). Genesis 2:9 tells us that “the Lord God made every tree that is pleasant to the sight, and good for food.” The first mention of cities in the Bible is in Genesis 11:1-9 with the Tower of Babel. Then in Genesis 13:12, Lot chooses to live “in the cities of the plain,” Sodom and Gomorrah. The Bible shows a contrast between forests and cities.
The habitat of early humans described in the first chapters of Genesis is very different from the cement-paved cities filled with massive structures that we see in the western world today. The construction of cement jungles has brought on an enormous number of social problems as well as pandemics and nutritional issues. As we see the contrast between forests and cities, we are slowly beginning to understand that God’s original design works best.
Archaeologists have a new airborne laser research tool called LIDAR (Light Detection and Ranging). It enables them to see through the canopy of vegetation, and they are discovering ancient cities hidden by the rainforests. Researchers are finding causeways, hydrological networks, massive structures, and elaborate ceremonial centers. They are seeing the remains of the Maya in South America, the Angkor in Cambodia, and an area called Kuk Swamp in New Guinea.
In these ancient cities, palm trees, Brazil nuts, sugar cane, bananas, and many tropical fruits were harvested from trees that surrounded dwellings. In addition, people grew small patches of maize and millet between the trees. Today, we are beginning to insert green spaces into our cities, and new varieties of plant products are showing up in our grocery stores.
Archaeologists have found evidence of millions of people living in cities in the Amazon basin, Africa, and Asia. The first attempt at farming in Britain was some 6,000 years ago, but in the Fertile Crescent, farming dates back to 11,000 years ago. The Fertile Crescent is the biblical location of the Garden of Eden, which brings us back to God’s original plan for human habitation.
A failure to properly use all the resources God has given ushas brought pain, disease, and hunger throughout history. As we see the contrast between forests and cities, we come to appreciate the blessing of the resources God originally created.
Reference: “Rethinking the Jungle” by Matthew Symonds in Current World Archaeology Magazine (#110) for December 2021/January 2022. Symonds shows that the jungle can support massive human populations without all the ills of modern agriculture and city dwelling. His approach is evolutionary, and much of the article comes from a new book by Patrick Roberts titled Jungle: How Tropical Forests Shaped the World – and Us (Viking/Penguin 2021, ISBN – 978-0241472743).
Marriage is perhaps the most abused institution God has given us. Historically, people have used marriage for political purposes or as a national defense strategy. One way for a ruler to make peace with a rival king was to marry his daughter. The Bible describes cases of that, and they turn out to be a disaster. People sometimes use polygamy and arranged marriages to cement agreements of all kinds. They have strayed from God’s original plan for marriage by doing so.
Men have used marriage to denigrate and abuse women. They thought of women as possessions and baby machines but nothing more. In some cultures, you could show how wealthy you were by the number of women you controlled. Concubines were common among rulers in the ancient world. Even today, you can buy a wife online or through marriage brokers, and for some women, it has been a path to U.S. citizenship. In recent times, marriage has expanded to include all kinds of relationships, including homosexual and animal relationships.
It is no wonder that God’s original plan for marriage with a man and a woman is becoming less and less recognized in the world today. Genesis 1:27-28 makes it clear that men and women are equal. It is hard to misunderstand when it says, “…in the image of God, male and female He created them.” Passages like Galatians 3:28 point out that there is no distinction between races or sexes in the eyes of God. As far as value, we are “all one in Christ Jesus.”
Genesis 2 elaborates on God’s original plan for marriage between a man and a woman. In verse 18, God says, “It is not good for man to be alone,” and He created a “helper suitable for him.” Genesis 2:24 concludes this relationship by saying, “Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and shall cleave to his wife and they shall be one flesh.” The Hebrew word translated “cleave” means “adhere to.” This word refers to closeness, such as your tongue cleaving to the roof of your mouth (See Palms 137:6 and Job 29:10). This is not talking about a sexual act but a close relationship.
If a person’s view of marriage is that it is just a sexual relationship, then every person who engages a prostitute is married to her. Some marriages have failed because sex is the only thing the two individuals have. Marriage does fulfill the biological drive built into humans (See 1 Corinthians 7:2-), but that cannot be the sole basis of a marriage, or the relationship will not be what God’s original plan for marriage was designed to be. Becoming one and adhering means having a relationship that is so close that each one’s big concern in life is for the well-being of their mate. That kind of relationship blesses everyone, including children and family.
The New Testament tells us to conform to the laws of the land (1 Peter 2:13-15 and Romans 13:1-2), but the state may recognize relationships that God does not. Some people may want to marry their dog, cat, or chimpanzee, but God does not recognize such relationships. Cohabitation is not marriage and fails to bring the kind of blessings marriage brings. Studies show that cohabitation does not produce lasting relationships. Even though the LGBTQ community has adopted its own concept of marriage, the evidence does not indicate that it offers the stability and closeness God wants us to have.
As one who has been married for 61 years at the time of this writing, I can tell you that God’s system of marriage works. Jesus dealt with this issue many times. In Matthew 19:4-5, He repeats the message of Genesis. His critics asked why Moses allowed a perversion of God’s original plan for marriage. Jesus’ response was, “Because you knew so little of the meaning of love, but it was not intended that way at the beginning” (Phillips translation). How true that is in today’s world.
A frequent challenge from atheists concerns the lifespan of early Bible characters. Genesis 5 contains the “generations of Adam” up to the time of Noah. It lists Methuselah as having lived 969 years. This chapter raises many questions, and atheists have ridiculed the idea that people ever lived that long. Anthropologists have methods for determining how old a person was when they died, and no data shows people ever living hundreds of years as we measure years today. Then what was the age of Methuselah?
It is essential to understand that this is not just a biblical peculiarity. Other ancient cultures have records of people living a very long time. The ancient Sumerian King List said that King Alulim ruled for 28,800 years, and others longer than that! However, the all-time longevity champ is a spiritual teacher in Jainism named Shreyansanatha, who was recorded to have lived 8,400,000 years. The message should be clear to us that none of these are our familiar calendar years as established by Pope Gregory XIII in 1582.
There have been studies to determine how ancient people expressed time. The Hebrews used lunar cycles for reckoning time, but they have modified that because certain numbers had special significance. For example, seven indicated completeness, and six was just short of completeness. The Book of Revelation contains symbolic numbers that people have often erroneously misinterpreted.
A careful study of this subject will show that the intent of Genesis 5 is not to establish time or the chronological ages. Applying modern calendar concepts to Genesis would mean that Methuselah was killed by the flood of Noah. The message of the passage is not the age of Methuselah, but that he was a descendent of Enoch and an ancestor of Noah.
One of the great scourges today is Alzheimer’s. At present, over six million Americans are living with Alzheimer’s. That is 1 in 9 people age 65 and older and 11.3% of the senior population. Since 2000, deaths from Alzheimer’s have increased by 145%. The burden of Alzheimer’s disease affects many of us in various ways – financially, emotionally, and spiritually.
Medical science is still looking for the causes of Alzheimer’s. There is a genetic connection, and Alzheimer’s also seems to be a product of environmental factors. God does not cause it, and so far, it appears to be untreatable. One of the blessings of Alzheimer’s is that the afflicted person is not aware of what is happening to them. In most cases, they do not recognize family or friends or what has taken place, good or bad, in the past.
I have seen that when we apply Christian principles, people with Alzheimer’s respond positively. First Thessalonians 5: 14 tells us to “comfort the feebleminded, support the weak and be patient with all men.” Alzheimer’s patients respond to kindness and love. As Christians, we have the unique perspective of putting the past behind us and accepting people where they are – not where they were 25 years ago.
If your view of life is “survival of the fittest,” you will have very little empathy for someone living with Alzheimer’s. That person is no longer among the fittest and may be a burden. On the other hand, if your view is that all humans have value and God will bless us for serving those in need, the burden of Alzheimer’s disease becomes an opportunity.
Matthew 25:21-40 finds Jesus talking about the blessing of serving others. Verse 36 speaks of Christians reaching out to help someone who is sick or in prison. Alzheimer’s is a kind of prison and is certainly a sickness. The need for us to bring love, care, and relief applies as much to an Alzheimer’s patient as to anyone else.
One of the major conflicts in our society today is when a woman becomes pregnant and the man involved is unwilling to assume any responsibility for the pregnancy’s financial, emotional, psychological, or spiritual cost. Unfortunately, there are no easy solutions for pregnant women without the father’s support.
Despite the rhetoric that the woman has a right to control what happens to her body, she has to make decisions in which all the options are difficult. The baby is not an extension of the mother’s body. Morning sickness occurs because her body knows a foreign agent has invaded. The baby is a human with its own DNA and will demand outside help to survive or an outside agent to be killed.
Abortion is not a practical method of birth control. Abortions are costly financially, emotionally, and spiritually. Chemical changes in the mother’s body trigger reactions for some time after the abortion. With all of this very personal struggle, many women are choosing to bear the child but not raise it. Adoption is a preferred choice for many, but the adoption process has become increasingly complicated. Many adopting parents have found it so difficult that they go to other countries to adopt a child.
A growing and yet controversial solution is the use of “baby boxes.” In Indiana, the production of “newborn safety devices” is supported by legislation. These devices are embedded in an exterior wall of a hospital or fire station. They have both heating and cooling elements and a silent alarm to notify emergency responders that a child is there. The Knights of Columbus has paid for installing the boxes, and already 12 newborns have been surrendered in Indiana.
Monica Kelsey was abandoned by her biological mother in 1972, and she campaigns for the boxes. She says that the opponents of the boxes “don’t understand what women who are giving up their babies are going through. If you don’t have this available for these mothers, you are going to continue to find babies in dumpsters across this country.”
Safe Haven Baby Boxes provide an option for pregnant women without the father’s support. When people fail to follow God’s plan, the alternatives are always complicated, but compassion and caring can help solve this issue.
One of the significant challenges today is controlling the collateral damage from growing enough food for our world’s population. This issue is especially true with livestock which create a large carbon footprint and require two-thirds of land devoted to agriculture in the United States. That includes the land dedicated to raising feed for the livestock, which requires massive amounts of water and creates water contamination by polluted runoff and soil erosion. We need to make better use of the food sources God has given us.
A National Science Foundation research program in Yellowstone National Park led to the discovery of a fungus named Fusarium flavolapis, which has amazing abilities. It can ferment sugar to produce a protein that mimics the taste and texture of meat and dairy products. A company called Nature’s Fynd is already making meatless breakfast patties and dairy-free cream cheese and marketing it in California, New York City, and Chicago. They grow this product in trays without soil or sunlight using just sugar, water, and nutrients.
Another food of the future is mycelium, which is the root structure of mushrooms. It grows incredibly fast and has fibers that mimic chicken or steak. A startup company called Meati Foods is now growing enough mycelium in a small facility to equal the meat of a cow in about four days. They are building a much larger plant in Colorado, with expected production to start there in 2022.
Imagine a future where we can grow food in controlled conditions inside a building and where there is no need for massive amounts of water or large areas of land. Also, pesticides or herbicides would not be needed. As a result, hunger could be eliminated from planet Earth, and there would be no shortage of water or release of greenhouse gases.
These products are not a fantasy but another case where humans are finally using food sources God has given us. Fusarium flavolapis grows in hot water springs in the natural world. Growing mushrooms produce mycelium. The big issue is getting people to accept these products in their diet, replacing the ones they have been accustomed to.