It has been more than a year since my son Tim died of COVID. A man who refused to wear a mask or get a vaccination gave him a disease that his weakened immune system could not handle. He died after a six-month battle in which he could not walk, feed himself, or speak clearly. Even though Tim was an adult, watching your child die needlessly and painfully is hard because life is not supposed to end that way.
Every time I see a news report about the death of a child, it reminds me of the pain caused by a careless or even vindictive act of another human being. However, sending your child to school healthy and happy never to come home is even harder. Having your child take their own life is harder yet.
We all cope with the death of a loved one in different ways. Jim Smith has produced a booklet that discusses the ten stages of grief. Those stages are: (1) Shock (2) Denial (3) Lamenting (4) Withdrawal (5) Frustration (6) Panic (7) Depression (8) Detachment (9) Adaptation (10) Reinvestment.
The stages do not necessarily come in that order, and we all have many questions with no answers to make the pain disappear. Guilt, anger, and blame are almost always involved when watching your child die. We may even blame God for our loss and wonder why a loving God would allow it. Unfortunately, atheists have used that as a club against believers.
When we think about what death means to atheists, it seems strange that it can destroy faith in God. I grew up in an atheist home with strongly atheistic parents who taught me that death was the ultimate tragedy. I was not allowed to go to a funeral or a memorial service, even as a teenager. My mother was furious when my girlfriend’s mother took me to a visitation for a classmate’s father. Seeing a dead man in a casket was a radical experience for me. Now, as a Christian, I am dealing with my son’s death. Although I miss him, his death is a blessing that has allowed me to move through the ten stages very rapidly.
Death for Christians is freedom from the evil of the world. My son no longer has to deal with his blindness or his struggles to breathe, walk, feed himself, or speak clearly. He is finally finished with the war between good and evil. Furthermore, his life still speaks to me and others as one full of purpose and meaning. While watching your child die, it is difficult to understand how good can come from the senseless death or murder of an innocent person. However, the response of those left behind can bring meaning to the life we have lost. For Christians, death is a beginning, not an end.
Here we go again! Another virus is spreading and has begun to infect large numbers of people, and the LGBTQ community has borne the brunt of those infections. That data has led to hatred and polarization. This reminds us of the situation with AIDS in 1984 when over 7,700 people became infected with AIDS, and over 3,500 died. There was a great deal of finger pointing and some violence, as vividly displayed in the 2005 movie “Brokeback Mountain.”
On May 7, 2022, British health officials discovered the monkeypox virus and announced it occurred primarily in LGBTQ men. In July of 2022, infections have been found in 42 states, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico. At this time, infections approach 1500, with California and Illinois having more than 100 cases and New York with more than 400. The virus spreads from person to person through direct contact with rash lesions or body fluids. Men having sex with men provide an easy pathway for the virus, so as another virus is spreading, some blame the LGBTQ community.
Those who delight in attacking Christianity have claimed that Christians are fueling hatred against the LGBTQ community, but that claim is simply incorrect. It is true that the Bible teaches us not to engage in sex outside of marriage, but it also tells us not to use alcohol or other substances harmful to the body. Christians are concerned about people doing things that hurt themselves or others. For Christians, the human body is the temple of the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 3:16 and 6:15-20; 2 Corinthians 6:14-18). Therefore, we urge everyone not to engage in destructive lifestyles, including the use of all recreational drugs and the practice of aberrant sexual activity.
We also oppose any violence against others. Anyone who abuses, brings harm to, or verbally condemns others is not following Christ’s teaching. Instead, he told us to love our enemies, go the second mile, and turn the other cheek. (See Matthew 5:38-48.)The teachings of Christ are unambiguous, but not everyone who claims to be a Christian follows them.
Another virus is spreading as people engage in the activities of the LGBTQ community, putting themselves and others at risk. There is no question about the wisdom of the Bible’s teaching about sexual conduct. But unfortunately, every alternative to God’s way has caused injury to the participants and others, and monkeypox is just one more evidence of that truth.
One of the challenging questions we face is why some people seem to be smarter than others. We may think that intelligent people have brain power because their brains are somehow different from the rest of us. Most people would probably say that Einstein was more intelligent than they are, and perhaps because his brain was different from theirs.
When Einstein died in 1955, the pathologist who conducted the autopsy removed his brain. The University of Pennsylvania dissected Einstein’s brain and made slides and sections available to scientists so they could look for the secret to Einstein’s brain power. They found nothing in those studies showing anything unique about Einstein’s brain.
The whole question of intelligence is very complicated because there are different kinds of intelligence. Some people have musical intelligence, some can create poetry and literature, others use mathematics creatively, and still others can handle mechanical processes. My son Timothy was labeled “retarded” because a Stanford-Binet intelligence test showed his I.Q. was under 50. When he was given the Wechsler-Bellevue test, his I.Q. was measured to be 120, which is considered normal intelligence. That test is based on literary intelligence, while the Binet test measured mechanical association intelligence.
In teaching physics for 41 years, I had students who did poorly in English class but did marvelous work in my class. When I started teaching, people believed that physics was for boys because girls could not do physics. I battled the guidance department and even some parents as I encouraged girls to take physics, and some of them did very well. In my son’s case, my wife read to him constantly before he could walk or talk, and his love of books and literature continued throughout his life. My daughter excelled in science and became a science teacher, but she grew up under my influence and encouragement.
The point here is that intelligence is not a matter of brain power. Barring brain damage, we all have equal intelligence. The difference is shaped by how we are raised, what happens in our lives, who we are exposed to, and what we learn from those around us. God created all of us with the ability to think, understand, reason, and respond to Him. We may do it in different ways, and we can overcome our limitations, but God tells us that we are responsible for what we do with what we have. “Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling” (Philippians 2:12) is within reach of all of us.
We are all familiar with houseflies except those readers in Iceland, where they don’t have any. We may not realize that, like all living things, flies provide useful functions and demonstrate incredible design.
Most of us know that flies can spread diseases such as salmonella, E.coli, chlamydia, typhoid fever, dysentery, cholera, polio, anthrax, leprosy, and tuberculosis. That’s because by using chemical receptors in their foot pads, flies can smell rotting organic waste. They land on garbage or dead animals, vomit digestive enzymes onto them, and lap up the liquified remains with a sponge-like tongue. In this way, they help to decompose and remove organic waste. However, they can pick up bacteria and carry them to humans.
Flies have glandular pads on the soles of their feet that secret a fluid that adheres to any solid surface. That adhesion is greater than the force of gravity, allowing the fly to walk up a wall or upside down on a ceiling. Flies can only fly about 4 miles per hour, so they become food for other life forms.
Flies in their larval stage are called maggots. Because they are sterile, green bottle fly maggots (Lucilia sericata) are used to treat wounds that don’t respond to antibiotics. The fly larvae also promote the healing of diabetic ulcers, gangrene, and burns by stimulating blood flow to the injured areas. In addition, they have been used to treat MRSA (a bacterial infection resistant to antibiotics) because they eat the dead and decaying flesh caused by the bacteria.
There is no question that humans need to restrict fly numbers and avoid contact with them. At the same time, flies provide useful functions and demonstrate incredible design. They are an important food for frogs and other animals and helpful in treating the medical problems of humans. Nothing in nature is evil or malicious because God created all of life with a purpose and function. That is even true of the housefly.
When you read the hygienic rules for the nation of Israel in the Bible, you might think they are restrictive and unnecessary. However, we now understand that some 60% of known infectious diseases in humans came from animals, and over 250 known diseases have come directly to humans from virus-carrying animals.
We also know that 850,000 viruses exist within the bodies of mammals and birds, and 10% of rodent species host pathogens that can infect people. Seventy-seven known viruses can come from primates to humans, and bats are well-equipped to carry viruses to humans. For example, the SARS-CoV-2 virus in bats probably initiated the COVID virus in humans. We are seeing significant increases in diseases carried by animals and spread by mosquitos, ticks, and a variety of parasites. The Lyme disease incidence rate has doubled in the past ten years, and scientists have identified two new tick-carried diseases. Dengue fever has increased 30-fold in recent years. In addition, researchers have identified white-tailed deer as carriers of the Omicron variant of the COVID virus.
Massive vaccination is never going to eradicate the agents of pandemics. However, careful understanding of the creation’s design and maintaining separation between humans and virus-carrying animals can make a huge difference.
Many times animals pass diseases on to humans. However, recent research by scientists at Georgetown University shows disease spillback from humans to animals. In nearly 100 documented cases, humans have given wild animals a disease.
This discovery has implications for the spread of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19. This virus has shown up in wild white-tailed deer populations in the United States and Canada. Medical researchers are concerned that the virus may mutate in these animal populations providing a reservoir of variants that can spread back to humans.
In addition to the deer, researchers have found the SARS-CoV-2 virus in mink farms, lions and tigers in zoos, and various primates. The “cute” animals seem to be the primary source of viruses because of their proximity to humans. Taking care of the creation involves allowing wild animals to be wild. When animals are domesticated, they can bring their pathogens with them into human homes.
We cannot blame God when a disease occurs in humans that was contracted by improper management of the animals that live around us. The exotic animal business has brought with it some extreme risks to humans. Not only can animals pass diseases to us, but disease spillback from humans to animals is possible and dangerous.
As our knowledge of disease and genetics increases, we learn to prevent ailments in the human population. Understanding the uniqueness of the human genome has become increasingly important in the medical field. Limiting contact with wild animals may help to avoid possible future pandemics.
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.”