Every day we hear a new report about someone killing a number of people in a way that raises the question of whether the killer is mentally ill. We can’t know what goes on in the head of someone who pulls out an assault rifle and starts killing a bunch of strangers. The fact is that even innocent children have been the victims of someone who had no logical motive for shooting them. However, Christ’s teachings are key to good mental health.
Mental illness has always been an issue for humans, but the increase we have seen in recent years has not just been because of the greater availability of guns. It has also been catalyzed by poor mental health in our culture. The rejection of God and the denigration of Christianity are factors in that mental health crisis.
Read Matthew 5-7 and ask yourself why Jesus told His followers to do the things He taught them. In the first 12 verses of Matthew 5, known as “the beatitudes,” Christ’s teachings are key to good mental health. If you choose to comfort, exhibit meekness, strive for purity, show mercy, and be a peacemaker, God will bless you with stability and good mental health.
In verses 21-25, Jesus talks about relationships and the importance of not carrying grudges and long-term conflicts. Next, in verses 27-32, Christ deals with sexual issues and the importance of not looking for sex in a context that violates God’s plan for marriage. Finally, in verses 38-48, He talks about handling conflict and avoiding acts of revenge and retribution.
In Matthew 6, Christ deals with materialism and the importance of trusting God to care for our basic needs. A person who follows all that Jesus taught will be on the way to good mental health. The most common cause of mental illness is a failure to live as God has told us to live. Of course, there are other causes of mental illness, such as disease, injuries, and environmental factors, but even those causes would be reduced or eliminated if we would live as Christ told us to live.
There are multiple causes for the violence, including gun violence, plaguing America today. Hypocrisy on the part of those who claim to be Christians is part of the problem, but it doesn’t dilute the value of what Jesus taught. The fact that Christ’s teachings are key to good mental health is another evidence of the validity of Christianity and the inspiration of the Bible.
One of the most challenging issues today is the question of how to die. Thanks to medical advancements, a person with a terminal illness can be kept alive for a very long time with no quality of life. This has resulted in a worldwide push for the adoption of euthanasia. In 2015 the Supreme Court of Canada ruled that criminalizing euthanasia violated the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. In 2016, the Canadian Parliament passed Bill C-14, the Medical Assistance In Dying or MAID law.
In 2021, the Canadian Parliament passed a more expansive MAID law called C-7, allowing mental disorders to be sufficient grounds for euthanasia. That year, euthanasia became Canada’s sixth leading cause of death, with 10,064 deaths reported. The expanded MAID law allows people who are nowhere near death to be euthanized. Anyone experiencing dependence or feeling that their life lacks dignity is a fit candidate for euthanasia under C-7. Having to wear diapers or drooling could potentially qualify a person. In addition, persons with disabilities who can’t afford housing that would meet their needs are being euthanized.
One of the main problems with legalizing euthanasia is the “slippery slope” it creates. That is already becoming evident in Canada. The Quebec College of Physicians recently called for parents to be allowed to euthanize infants younger than one year. Nevertheless, various churches in Canada have not opposed MAID. The United Church, Canada’s largest Protestant denomination, released a statement saying, “we are not opposed in principle to the legislation allowing assistance in dying.” The Anglican Church of Canada and the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada have supported MAID.
Evangelical, Pentecostal, Anabaptist, Roman Catholic, and Orthodox Church leaders, along with Jews and Muslims, have opposed MAID. Also, various disability organizations, such as the Canadian Council on Disabilities, have been vocal against the euthanasia issue.
The Canadian experiment with the MAID law should alert us that euthanasia is not the answer to what to do with the disabled or those in extreme pain. Instead, in our day of medical advances, the emphasis should be on combatting pain and allowing people with disabilities to live productive, dignified lives. Just as Jesus ministered to the poor and disadvantaged, so should we.
As our culture turns away from God and the Christian system of living, we have a vast void that many people fill by turning to recreational drugs. Drug promoters try to convince people that they offer solutions to the negative human experience. For example, we now see “churches” that advertise a quick way to have a spiritual experience using a psychedelic brew known as ayahuasca. The promoters of ayahuasca drug use in churches claim it will give spiritual enlightenment and bring the user closer to God.
The government of New Mexico has allowed the ayahuasca church the right to use the drug as a sacrament even though the main ingredient is illegal under U.S. federal law. In Oregon, a U.S. District Court ruled that a church is free from prosecution for the use of ayahuasca because of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act. The Hummingbird Church, with locations in California and Utah, regularly conducts ayahuasca services.
Ayahuasca came to the U.S. from South America, where it has been used in religious rituals for many years. It is usually consumed as a tea. The active ingredient is N,N-Dimethyltryptamine (DMT), with harmala alkaloids added to prevent the hallucinogenic drug from breaking down in the digestive system.
The risk factor for ayahuasca is very high and similar to the LSD craze. It raises the heart rate and blood pressure. Many users experience seizures, and most lose muscle coordination resulting in falls. Respiratory arrests have happened, especially with people who have had the COVID virus. One complication is HPPD (hallucinogen persisting perception disorder), which, along with persistent psychosis, results in flashbacks long after discontinued use. New data also links serotonin syndrome disorder to the drug.
With ayahuasca drug use in churches in the United States, we can expect it to become more widely distributed. In addition, we can expect to see use among high school and college kids, especially those who have rejected their parent’s church and Christianity in general.
A person who throws God out of their life will desperately seek something to fill the void. Ayahuasca, like LSD, is a bad choice. The body of a Christian is the dwelling place for God’s Spirit (1 Corinthians 3:16-17), and any attempt to find a substitute is destined to fail. Ayahuasca drug use in churches and on the street will bring pain and, ultimately, death to the user. Worse than death, eternal separation from God is the ultimate tragedy for any human being.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) released a report on drugs and highway safety (December 2022) showing data from seven level-one trauma centers and four medical centers around the country. Of 7,279 road users tested, 20% of drivers had blood alcohol levels of .08% or higher, exceeding the legal limit in every state. However, they also found that 20% of those tested were positive for two or more drugs, so alcohol was only part of the problem. The studies also found that over 50% of injured pedestrians and just over 43% of injured bicyclists had a drug in their bloodstreams.
In addition to recreational drugs making highways unsafe for all of us, new studies released by the American Lung Association show the effect of long-term marijuana smoking. Data gathered at Ottawa Hospital in Canada show that 93% of older marijuana smokers had developed emphysema. That is higher than the rate in cigarette smokers, which was 67%. However, the data on non-smokers that have come out over the years suggests that emphysema is not a significant concern unless a person is around second-hand smoke.
Addiction to recreational drugs, including alcohol, is not just a problem for the users. Last week, here in Niles, Michigan, a friend was driving on Main Street with her child in a car seat. A person pulled out of the local marijuana distribution shop without looking, hitting, and totaling my friend’s car. I was putting groceries in my car at the local supermarket when a guy drove into the parking lot at high speed, doing wheelies and forcing me and several others to run into the grocery store to avoid being hit. The policeman later told me the driver had just come from the marijuana store and was using the drug as he drove.
This issue goes beyond drugs and highway safety. The further our society goes away from God, the more pain, suffering, disease, and abuse we can expect to see. Christians know that our bodies are the temple of the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 3:16), and we should take care of them. Therefore, bringing the gospel of Christ to our society is not just a spiritual issue. It is also a clear road to a better and safer life for all of us.
At this time of year, a wide range of organizations addressing some human need solicit money from those of us who try to wisely use what God has provided. My personal list is 98 organizations that I have attempted to help in some way during 2022. What kind of organizations are these, and what does it say about the influence of Christianity?
The largest group of requests comes from organizations dealing with health issues. Many of those groups deal with vision problems, including blindness, eye diseases like glaucoma, and correctable problems like congenital cataracts, but also guide dog programs. Of the 98 organizations, 36 of them deal with health problems. Of the 36, nearly half are Christian organizations that supply things like ships with surgical facilities that travel around the world.
The next largest group is organizations dealing with poverty and hunger. Of the 20 groups doing this kind of work, all of them are Christian organizations. Another 13 are environmental groups, and 6 of those are Christian organizations. That adds up to 69 of the 98 being in these three areas or 70% of the total. Of those, 44 are Christian-operated–47% of the total.
Of the remaining 29 groups, 7 are child-care organizations, and all are Christian groups. Two are disaster relief groups, and both are associated with Christian organizations. Several other areas of concern have Christian connections but are not managed by a Christian group. For example, wildlife conservation, veterans, and entertainment programs involve some Christians but are not sponsored by a Christian organization.
How many atheists, naturalists, and world religious groups in the United States are involved in the issues of today’s world? The media takes great delight in telling about a mistake by a Christian leader or hypocrisy in a Christian organization. However, the press ignores the work done by groups claiming allegiance to Jesus Christ, even though the influence of Christianity in charitable work is evident.
Jesus said, “by their fruits you shall know them.” False claims and moral corruption by some claiming to be Christians and even Christian leaders will eventually be rooted out. The good things done by groups and individuals who sacrificially give to address the world’s problems live on and will be seen in eternity. Read Matthew 25:34-46 and see what Jesus says about it.
Roe v. Wade and the Supreme Court decision has affected almost every aspect of American life. Politicians have jumped into the abortion war not only as a party platform, either pro or con but also as a fund-raising device. I counted eleven organizations using anti-abortion messages in solicitations we recently received. Planned Parenthood reports a 4000% increase in donations to their pro-abortion efforts. The political involvement in the abortion issue is staggering.
Planned Parenthood has received billions of dollars from taxpayerssince the year 2000. Laws like the one in Indiana requiring health providers to bury or cremate fetal tissue have been upheld by a federal appeals court and are still being challenged. Throwing money at this issue or debating it in court or Congress will not settle the fundamental problem that led to the abortion war. Americans are going to have to decide whether human life is special or not.
We are a small step from deciding that any human life that is costly, inconvenient, or dysfunctional can be legally terminated. We recall Peter Singer’s suggestion that severely mentally ill people, life-sentenced criminals, seniors who cannot manage their own affairs, and mentally challenged people unable to do productive work should all be euthanized. That would save massive amounts of money and eliminate prisons, nursing homes, and hospice facilities. Singer is an Australian moral philosopher, currently the Ira W. DeCamp Professor of Bioethics at Princeton University.
The Bible has fundamental answers to the abortion war:
All humans are of infinite value, and their bodies are the dwelling place of God’s Spirit. (See Matthew 5:44-48 and 1 Corinthians 3:16.)
Sex is a designed creation of God to provide a unique bond between a man and a woman in a committed relationship. It is not a recreational device to be used in any way one chooses. (See Matthew 19:4-6 and I Corinthians 6:15-18)
Humans are uniquely endowed with the capacity to love (agape) all other humans and to consider ALL humans to be of extraordinary worth. (See 1 John 4:7-11.)
As long as we make sex a commercial commodity and use human life as a tool to promote a political agenda or raise money, the abortion war will continue. Science and technology can offer solutions to prevent unwanted pregnancies without the wholesale use of abortion as a method of birth control. But the real solution is beyond that.
As faith in God and acceptance of the Bible as a guide for life decline, we can expect the intensity of the abortion war to increase. However, Christians can set an example, teach biblical moral principles, and address the collateral damage. However, looking the other way as these issues swirl around us does not help the situation.
The most destructive recreational drug on the planet is alcohol. The consequences of alcohol consumption are more than tragic accidents. New research on alcohol consumption during pregnancy indicates that the damage of alcohol is more pervasive than anyone believed ten years ago.
Researchers at the University of Vienna have revealed their fetal development studies showing that even one glass of wine a week by the mother can significantly reduce her baby’s brain development. The major damage was in the right superior temporal sulcus. That region of the brain involves social cognition and language development.
As the world moves toward acceptance of marijuana as a recreational drug, we can expect to see more problems with the development of children. As the adoptive parent of a child whose biological mother had not used good judgment during her pregnancy, I know the problems caused by alcohol consumption during pregnancy.
With careless environmental pollution and recreational drugs, having a healthy baby is more of a challenge than ever before. When our son was diagnosed with numerous congenital problems, some people told us it was God’s doing. We can’t expect God to constantly be undoing what we have done to ourselves, both individually and collectively.
Our hearts go out to the families of those killed and those injured in recent shootings. In November 2022, there were six mass killing incidents in the United States. Violence seems to be increasing against people attending LGBTQ clubs, venues, and drag events. Some blame this violence on Christians, claiming that biblical teachings against homosexuality and alternative lifestyles cause senseless violence. The truth is that the teachings of Jesus Christ adamantly oppose violence against anyone. It is a biblical mandate that Christians oppose sin, but it is also Christ’s command that we love the sinner. LGBTQ hate crimes have no place in Christianity. In the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5, 6, and 7), Jesus explained how Christians should deal with opposition. In Matthew 5:38, Jesus reminds His listeners that people in the past had said, “an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.” In the violent world of primitive people, that way of thinking was common. Unfortunately, that principle is followed by many people today. By contrast, Jesus said, “But I say to you, don’t resist the man who wants to hurt you…” (verse 39). In verses 43-44, He expands that command by saying, “It used to be said to be kind to your friend and hate your enemy. But what I tell you is love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you and persecute you.”
Skeptics will respond to this by referring to Romans 1:18–2:16, which identifies those who reject God’s plan for human morality. Romans 1:24 tells us, “God abandoned them to impurity, letting them follow the cravings of their hearts, so they degrade their own bodies with one another.” Later verses describe all kinds of aberrant behavior by those who deliberately choose lifestyles of violence and opposition to God.
The first point we need to make about these verses is that they do not describe most LGBTQ practitioners in America today. The more important point is that if you keep reading further in Romans 2, you find it telling Christians to leave the situation to God. It is not the job of Christians to be the judge, jury, and executioner. Leave the judging to God. LGBTQ hate crimes have no place in Christianity
The reason God opposes LGBTQ behavior is that it is a destructive lifestyle. We don’t know all the causes of homosexual behavior, but they are clearly not the same for everyone. Statistics show that such behavior leads to negative numbers for stability, disease, and life expectancy. However, those affect the individual and are not a direct threat to others. I have gay friends who are the kindest and most creative people I know, and Jesus tells His followers to love all people.
Nevertheless, Jesus must weep with us at the horrible violence that has been part of American life in recent years. It makes no sense to direct violence toward people who have done nothing that would suggest they are a threat to anyone except possibly themselves. LGBTQ hate crimes have no place in Christianity.
According to the Boston Globe, 80% of college students are living in fear. The article says that activists and administrators have created an “Us vs. Them” mentality. This applies to race, pronoun usage, and political views creating “intense, persistent and excessive worry and fear about everyday situations.” For example, the article says that even “picnic” is now deemed racist and can get a student branded a bigot or transphobe.
In the history of America, one of the rights we all have is the right to express an opinion. An adage says, “I may disagree with what you say, but I will defend to my death your right to say it.” But, unfortunately, that is no longer applicable to life in America.
People could say that in the past because most Americans believed in the Christian concept of God and that all people are created in God’s image. The biblical concept of love was “agapao,” which governed how people thought of even those with whom they disagreed. That word means “to consider of great value,” and Christ introduced the concept in His “Sermon on the Mount” (Matthew chapters 5-7). Christ and the apostles taught that every human is infinitely and equally valuable (Galatians 3:28).
People today are living in fear because they have adopted “survival of the fittest” as their guide for dealing with one another. That means I can denigrate those I deem less fit and treat them as less valuable. All abuse of others is rooted in this belief system. Carried to extremes, it even applies to political differences. Recently a female member of congress suggested killing a political opponent to advance her concept of democracy. No wonder people are living in fear.
The Christian belief system eliminates living in fear. John writing his excellent dissertation on love in 1 John 4:7-21 says it beautifully: “There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear; because fear has torment. He that fears is not made perfect in love. We love Him because He first loved us. If a man says I love God and hates his brother, he is a liar, for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen can not love God whom he has not seen” (verses 18-20).
The Netherlands has been a trailblazer in legalizing abortion, same-sex marriage, and euthanasia. For many years, that country has had a euthanasia law that allows doctors to actively kill a patient with an injection of drugs. It is supposed to be done only under strict conditions, but some cases have resulted in criminal actions. Now a group has filed a suit to force the Dutch government into legalizing assisted suicide.
The group called Cooperative Last Will, which claims 30,000 members, brought the suit. They want to legalize assisted dying, in which patients are provided with a lethal substance they take themselves. Lawyers have presented their arguments both for and against assisted dying, and the Hague District Court will render a decision on December 14.
From a purely secular standpoint, there are obvious problems with this issue. There are times in life when you hit rock bottom, and dying can look pretty good. Taking your life might make sense if you believe you are an animal with no more value than any other animal. However, people thinking of taking their own life are not considering what their death does to those who love them, to material possessions, or their obligations to society.
The Christian view of life and the physical body is explained in 1 Corinthians 3:16-17. It tells us that the body is the temple of the Spirit and expresses God’s displeasure with anyone destroying it. I have been with several Christians when they died. Their expressions of love, forgiveness, sharing, and caring have impacted the lives of their family and friends. In some cases, the actions or words of one who was dying have changed the lives of others.
Assisted dying is a selfish, cowardly, atheistic choice by someone who may be influenced by any number of destructive agents. We need to work toward ending our lives in a positive way that expresses our love and the care that we have for others. Doctors need to work on relieving pain, not finding ways to terminate a life. Legalizing assisted suicide to allow distressed individuals to end their lives is filled with problems.