Skeptics often say that the Bible is loaded with racial, homophobic, and judgmental condemnations, but these assertions are invalid. Jesus and the apostles were totally opposed to racial prejudice. Jesus demonstrated that in John 4 when he spoke with the Samaritan woman. Paul makes it clear in Galatians 3:26-29 that Christianity has no room for racial prejudice. The gay lifestyle is another issue.
You can’t read the words of Jesus in Matthew 5 -7 and not see that He taught against any violence or malice toward those who reject God and the biblical admonitions on how we should live. By the same token, you can’t read Romans 1:18-32 and not see a rejection of the destructive, immoral behaviors that people practiced. It is true that LGBTQ and gay lifestyle choices are harmful, and one of the consequences of those lifestyles is a vast number of diseases. In the past, we have seen HIV transmitted from animals to humans by animal/human sexual relationships and then spread by gay lifestyle sexual practices. Now we are witnessing monkeypox cases on the rise. This is a DNA virus related to smallpox discovered in monkeys in 1958, with the first known human case in 1970. Medical researchers are now seeing cases in the western world, including the United States.
The Centers for Disease Control, on May 23, 2022, revealed that most of the cases in the U.S. have been in men who identified themselves as gay or bisexual. In Spain, the cases have been linked to a Pride celebration and in Belgium to a fetish celebration.
The virus does not spread easily but can be spread by skin-to-skin sexual contact. People with the virus may only have lesions in their mouth and throat, which transmit the virus from person to person during sexual relationships. Although not actually an STD, monkeypox is connected to sexual relationships. This shows again that God’s plan for marriage and sexual relationships is the best way to avoid the virus.
In the United States, the third Sunday in June is Father’s Day. Catholic countries of Europe have long celebrated fathers on March 19, Saint Joseph’s Day. President Woodrow Wilson officially recognized Mother’s Day in 1914, but it wasn’t until 58 years later that President Richard Nixon set aside Father’s Day in 1972. Today, and from the beginning of the Church, Christian teaching honors fathers.
In the Christian concept, fathers are leaders, educators, and providers. Both Ephesians 6:4 and Colossians 3:21 define the father’s role as a loving mentor to his children. In 1 Timothy 5:8, Paul emphasized that it is essential for fathers to provide for their families: “If any will not provide for his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an infidel.” Ephesians 5:25-33 tells husbands to love their wives as their own bodies and partner with them, so they act as one. Husbands are told to address the sexual needs of their wives in 1 Corinthians 7:1-5 and to be islands of love beyond sexual relationships in Titus 2:2 and 1 John 3:11-24.
Being a father is challenging because it takes a special man to begin to live up to what God has called men to be. Unfortunately, our secular world has blurred the role of fathers to the point that even in the Church, it is difficult to find men for leadership who meet the description of 1 Timothy 3:1-7.
Jesus Christ warned that false religious teachers could be identified by the results of following them. “You will know them by their fruits” (Matthew 7:16). The June 17, 2022 issue of The Week magazine contained several articles about problems in the world that are the fruit of false teachings.
One article addresses the application of the atheist “survival of the fittest” mentality to hospitality in Sweden. We have found that Christianity is not accepted very well in Sweden. That society prefers secular explanations of creation and a secular code of ethics. The article by Meryem Yebio on page 14 of The Week is titled, “Yes, Swedes Really Are So Unhospitable.” Yebio explains that by Swedish custom, when a family sits down for a meal, they will refuse to feed their guests. The defense of this behavior is that including guests would threaten their food supply.
Another article on page 15 has to do with a three-way conflict in India between secularists, Muslims, and Hindus relying on the teachings of their faiths. The dispute involves insults to Islam’s Prophet, the religious position of the Hindu ruling party Bharatiya Janata, and the Indian constitution. Finally, an article on the same page tells about water problems in Mexico, where the local wine production facility, with the backing of the area’s dominant religion, controls the water supply, leaving the poor without water.
Know them by their fruits as we see similar fruit problems in American denominations where materialism and racism have oppressed the poor and enhanced the rich. Some wealthy television preachers have flaunted a lifestyle few others can afford, including their contributors. No human-made religion has ever produced positive fruit, even though some claim to be “Christian.”
The fruit of Christ’s teaching includes sharing. Acts 2:41-47 describes the Church of the first century sharing what they had and even selling things their possessions to meet the needs of the less fortunate. Read chapters 5-7 of Matthew and see the difference between the teachings of Christ and what is happening in every other belief system on Earth. You can know them by their fruits.
Humans don’t have all the answers to a fruitful life. However, God does, and He has revealed those answers in His Word. So follow the teachings of Christ, and the fruit will be positive. But, on the other hand, following any human religion will only lead to negative results. You can see this in the current world situation and the struggles within America.
A Japanese man has decided he no longer wants to be a human and has chosen to be a dog named Toko. He had a professional dog costume designed for 2-million Japanese yen (more than $15,000). You can see him walking on four legs and rolling on the floor in YouTube videos. When inquirers asked why he wanted to be a dog, he said the question was difficult to answer. His case is an extreme example of people wanting to change who they are that has caused a transgender explosion and confusion of gender definitions.
The transgender explosion in the United States has now become a target for Bill Maher, Ricky Gervais, and other comedians who refer to it as “trans extremism.” Gervais says, “The worst thing you can say today is ‘Women don’t have penises.’” The comedians point out that the root of the issue is the belief that gender is purely an internal feeling often stimulated by peer pressure. The point of no return occurs when doctors perform surgery and prescribe hormones. Making irreversible decisions at age 14 opens the door to terrible problems when you become an adult.
However, the transgender explosion is just another symptom of what happens when a culture discards God and His Word. Every past culture on this planet has gone through a similar path. After a period of growth and strength, humans start to rely on immorality, materialism, naturalism, and racism, and the culture eventually collapses. Will America learn from history or repeat it? Only Christianity offers any hope that we will not follow the civilizations that have lived and died in the past.
Seeing the design and wisdom in the natural world leads many people to realize it cannot be merely a product of chance. But, at the same time, they don’t want to attribute it to God because that would obligate them to live for God as Christ told us. So, they adopt the idea that aliens are controlling planet Earth as an alternative.
Enterprising hucksters have seized upon this thinking by offering a variety of claims about aliens from space. Nearly every day, someone claims evidence of alien visitation. Looking up at night, we can see much to fuel this thinking. There are roughly 3000 active satellites in orbit today, ranging from communication devices to military observation platforms and scientific research projects.
When you add to all of the active satellites, others that no longer function and all of the debris from various launches, the area around planet Earth is full of material to cause sightings. The term “Unidentified Flying Object” (UFO) has now become “Unidentified Aerial Phenomenon” (UAP). That seems more correct because many of them are reflections, ball lightning, auroras, and drones.
Nothing in the Bible says this planet is the only place where God has created life. However, the size of the cosmos and the distances to places where aliens could exist is so massive that alien visitation is highly unlikely. For an alien to travel from even the closest star system to planet Earth would require over four years if they could travel at the speed of light, which is impossible. Any alien affecting things on Earth would have to know how to manipulate time and space. If they are that advanced, it would be simple for them to avoid detection.
The bottom line is that we should not expect aliens to solve our problems. Humans need to find a way to get along and manage our relationships. The one system that has proven itself when followed is the teachings of Jesus Christ. Every human effort to find a successful alternative to Matthew 5 – 7 has failed. “Survival of the fittest” thinking has led to slavery, war, and the likes of Hitler, Mao, Stalin, and Putin. Instead of suggesting that aliens are controlling planet Earth, we need to turn control over to God.
Critical Race Theory has become a hot issue today because one of the significant failings of America has been the way racial issues have been handled. My father had his first college teaching job at Talladega State Teacher’s College, an all-black college in Talladega, Alabama. I was the only white kid in the neighborhood and also in my first and second-grade classes at school. I never had a problem in Talladega, but when we moved to McComb, Illinois and people found out where I had gone to school, I experienced persecution because I was “a nigger lover.” I didn’t know what that word meant, but it began my education about race issues in America.
Today, we are being told about the “Tulsa Massacre,” something I had never heard of until recently. “Black lives matter” has made it impossible to avoid exposure to the entrenched problems facing all Americans, especially those of dark brown skin. Unfortunately, politicians have waded into this struggle and have made “race” the lens through which we view everything. They seem to think they have the power to legislate a solution to this issue. Critical Race Theory (CRT) is an ideology that says people are either “oppressors” or the “oppressed,” “good” or “bad,” based entirely on their race. The conflict over CRT has resulted from its inclusion in the school curriculum at a very early age. That has produced a strong reaction, both pro, and con, in every corner of our country.
Atheists and skeptics have jumped into the promotion of CRT, pointing to the poor history of race relations in religious groups. I remember the Klan burning a cross in our front yard in Talladega because of where my father was teaching. I remember a terrible experience when I had a tonsillectomy. The surgeon pushed me, a blood-soaked kid, on a gurney out to my mother and told her, “Here, nigger lover, you clean him up.” My family’s closest friends have been people of color, and I have seen what they endure. However, teaching Critical Race Theory to first graders is not a solution to racial prejudice in America.
The Bible makes it clear that Christians must treat all people as equals and that we are all one. Therefore, the Church must take the lead in educating its members about race while reaching out to the oppressed. Galatians 3:27-28 says: “For all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” Changing the hearts of non-Christians is an uphill battle that can be won, but Critical Race Theory won’t do it.
When I was a promoter of atheism, one thing I envied the most was the unique bond between Christians. As an atheist embracing “survival of the fittest” as a way of life, I was always looking over my shoulder to see what might threaten my security. I watched my father, an atheist college professor, go to extreme ends to protect his standing at the university and promote his reputation and standing in the academic community. I remember him telling me, “It’s a dog-eat-dog world,” and encouraging me to assert superiority over my peers to achieve success.
Coming from that perspective, I was amazed to see Christians making themselves vulnerable. I envied the unique bond between Christians who were not related and had nothing to gain from those bonds. When Christians were together, they really enjoyed being together. There was sincere kidding and laughter that did not insult, demonstrate prejudice, or serve an ulterior motive. The terms “brother” and “sister” were alien to me as an atheist. When there was laughter between my atheist friends, it was derisive and usually spurred by alcohol or other drugs, and it was hollow and insincere.
I remember riding with my father several miles from our home when a tire blew out. After my father called several work associates with no success, he called a family friend who was a Christian. That man came with a replacement and a jack to change the tire. My father was amazed that anyone would do that, and the Christian friend told my father, “That’s how Christians do things.” I’m not sure my father ever comprehended the importance of that statement and the testimony that it presented.
If I believe in “survival of the fittest” and “he who finishes first wins,” why would I do anything that doesn’t give me an advantage? Who can put a price tag on what it means to have someone care about you just because you share a connection to the teachings of Jesus Christ? The warning of 1 Corinthians 15:33 that “bad company corrupts good character” is borne out in the struggles of life.
In the real world, few people have the strength and resolve to care about others sacrificially. Jesus demonstrated that in the extreme on the cross. Following His example, the unique bond between Christians can show love and care, reaching out to those who don’t share their faith. The “bond of peace” and the love of brethren is not just a nice cliché but a vivid apologetic for the validity of the Christian life.
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.
The media and medical profession pay a great deal of attention to the damaging effects of methamphetamine, cocaine, and opioids, but alcohol is a more destructive drug. In 2019, alcohol directly caused the deaths of almost 79,000 people in the United States from illnesses and car crashes. In 2020, the first full year of the COVID pandemic, more than 99,000 people under age 65 died directly from the use of alcohol. That was a 25.5% increase and more lives than COVID claimed that year for those under 65.
There is a widespread belief among many college students that you can’t have fun unless you drink. At the University of Notre Dame, Ted Mandell teaches a class called “Drunk on Film.” The subtitle of the course is “The Psychology of Storytelling with Alcohol and Its Effects on Alcohol Consumption.” Using film clips from movies and alcohol commercials, he helps students understand the problems with drinking and how advertisers and filmmakers seduce them into thinking that excessive alcohol consumption is normal and desirable.
One film that Mandell uses is a 20-minute clip from a documentary by Sut Jhally titled “Advertising at the Edge of Apocalypse.” It shows how alcohol advertising weds drinking to the sports industry and portrays alcohol as an alluring lifestyle. You would think that bright college students could see the indoctrination by the alcohol industry and its role in destructive sex and health issues. However, that is simply not the case. Stress is a part of the problem students face, but peer pressure is a more powerful motivator to drink.
From a Christian perspective, if you believe that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 3:16) and should be cared for both physically and mentally, that should lead you to avoid alcohol. Seeing the results for people who drink alcohol and use other recreational drugs should be a motivator to avoid them. Our culture condemns the use of meth and crack but sanctions the use of alcohol and marijuana. Looking at the evidence should convince thinking people that alcohol is a more destructive drug.
People communicate with each other through spoken and written words and actions. We also know that animals communicate by using sounds and movements. However, we may not be aware that plants talk to each other. They don’t do it by speech, writing, sounds, or movements. Since they are stationary and silent, how do plants communicate?
Plants are continuously engaging with other plants in their environment, mostly underground. For example, the roots of most plants host fungi, and working together, the plant roots and the fungi create underground structures called mycorrhizae. These mycorrhizae resemble a web system surrounding the plant’s roots, helping the plant absorb nutrients such as nitrogen and phosphorus in a symbiotic relationship. As the mycorrhizae help the roots absorb essential nutrients and water, the plant uses photosynthesis to produce sugars which it shares with the fungi.
But how do plants communicate? The mycorrhizae can connect multiple plants into a network through which they can share energy and information. This web creates a fine-tuned community-wide sharing system. Through this communication channel, plants can pass defensive chemicals to protect against insects. When pests such as aphids attack a plant, it can send a message to its neighbors so they can preemptively activate defense responses. In this way, mycorrhizae enable a system of cooperation between plants.
However, when resources such as light or nutrients are scarce, a plant can limit its mycorrhizae connections and avoid making new ones. Then when resources are good, they can restore their sharing network and even make new connections. When the plants connected in the mycorrhizae network are closely related, they share more than if their neighbors are not close relatives. Trees use these fungal networks to communicate and share but also sometimes to sabotage their rivals. Plants determine when to share and when to maintain their independence.
As we investigate the question, “How do plants communicate?” we realize that they behave as humans often do, putting their own interests first. Yet, sharing and working together is part of God’s design for life, and humans should always follow the example set by Jesus in His life and teaching. (See Matthew 5:38-48 and 25:31-46.)