Suicide Prevention Hotline 988

Suicide Prevention Hotline 988

The Federal Communications Commission is working to establish a three-digit suicide prevention hotline. It will use the number 988, comparable to 911 for other emergencies. The reason for this new emergency number is a surge in deaths by suicide over the past ten years. According to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in the United States. More than 20 veterans commit suicide each day, and more than 500,000 LGBTQ youth attempt to kill themselves annually.

You might think that the reason for an increase in suicide is poverty or hunger, but that is not the case. According to the experts at the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, the common denominator is a lack of hope. As a former atheist, I can verify that kind of thinking. As an atheist, when I no longer was the “fittest,” my moral foundation built on “survival of the fittest” collapsed. That’s when I reached the point of attempting to end my life. There is no hope when everything around you is collapsing, and you are no longer in control.

The word “hope” occurs 135 times in the Bible. Life has meaning when we have faith in Christ and believe that this life leads to something better–even when we are not the fittest. Christ’s teaching and the New Testament repeatedly refer to joy. That joy leads to loving life and looking forward to the future no matter how bleak our circumstances are now.

The 988 number of the suicide prevention hotline is good because just having someone to talk to may help a person contemplating suicide. But it may be 2021 before the number is in service. The greatest message of hope comes from the Bible, and it’s available now. The real source of hope comes from finding new life in Christ, as Romans 6 describes in glowing terms.

— John N. Clayton © 2020

Data from Washington Post, December 13, 2019.

Viral Diseases and Christians

Coronavirus- Viral Diseases and Christians

Listening to the media, you might conclude that we have a new threat to our survival in the COVID-19 virus, but that is not the case. Viral diseases have been around from the earliest days of human existence. Recorded history tells us that in 430 BC, a virus took root in Athens and killed two-thirds of the city’s population. Seventy-five million people died from the Black Death in the 14th century. One hundred million people died from the Spanish flu of 1918, and 500 million people were infected. In modern times entire native populations have been wiped out by virus infections. We have all heard of HIV, MERS, SARS, Ebola, H5N1, Nipah, and Zika virus epidemics and their massive numbers of victims.

Scientists studying each of these diseases have determined that they came to humans from animals. HIV originated in chimpanzees. MERS came from camels. SARS originated from bats and civet cats. We can trace COVID-19 to bats and soldierfish. The massive concern about the current coronavirus is that there are far more humans to contract and spread the virus than at any time in the past. Also, we are more concentrated in cities, are more mobile, and have close interaction regularly with animals. In the past 50 years, more than 300 pathogens have emerged. With the use of more animals as pets and as food, there is an increase in the diseases they bring to humans.

From a historical standpoint, the biblical injunctions about hygiene and animal husbandry avoided much of the viral disease problem. The identification of clean and unclean animals reduced human interaction with animals that carry disease. The elaborate rituals of washing and handling animals used as food not only had an aesthetic appeal but reduced the opportunities for disease transmission. The acts of quarantine for anyone showing symptoms eliminated the spreading of disease from one person to another. Pandemics in an isolated farming population was not likely.

As the human population increased, and cities became population centers, the incidence rate of viral diseases increased. Advancing science and technology gave brought the ability to control some diseases. Selfishness, greed, carelessness, and poor hygiene provide easy ways for viruses to spread. Instead of following God’s rules for cleanliness and the preparation of food, humans have employed destructive methods. This is especially true in cultures that have no connection to God’s instructions. It is no accident that the coronavirus for COVID-19 originated in China and in a food market there where food handling and animal managing is limited. It is also no accident that many of the viruses that have decimated human populations were spread because of sexual practices that ignore God’s instructions for sexual relationships.

This virus is not a tool of punishment forged by God. There are good viruses and harmful viruses. Using the intelligence God gave us and following His commands, we can eventually eliminate the effects of the bad ones. Meanwhile, Christians can help those who are infected. We can also work to improve the lifestyles of our friends and neighbors to reduce the spread of viral diseases.

— John N. Clayton © 2020

Data from The Week, March 6, 2020, page 11.

God’s Image in Human Creativity and Spirituality

God’s Image in Human Creativity and Spirituality

Many people misunderstand what it means to be created in the image of God. If you think that God is an “old man in the sky,” then you probably believe that God looks like you. I have a whole shelf of children’s books that portray God as a caucasian, male, old white-bearded man in the sky. I have a few that show God as a man of color. I have one that shows Him as an oriental. All of these are dead wrong and can lead a child to misunderstand an essential concept that we are created in the spiritual image of God. God is not any racial, ethnic, sexual, or aged physical being (John 4:24). We know this is true because we see God’s image in human creativity and spirituality.

The March 2020 issue of Scientific American (page 70-73) carried an interesting article by Kateb Wong titled “The First Story.” She begins a report on new archeological discoveries by saying, “Homo sapiens is the only species known to make figurative art, engage in spiritual thinking, and convey fictional tales through imagery.” We suggest that this is true because humans are the only life-form created in the image of God. We see God’s image in human creativity and spirituality. We don’t see this ability developing gradually over a long period of evolutionary change. The article reports on cave paintings discovered by archaeologists on the Indonesian island of Sulawesi.

What the paintings describe is a hunt. Six hunters using ropes or spears confront a large buffalo. Nearby more hunters are attacking other buffalos and pigs. One of the hunters is a therianthrope, meaning a spiritual leader and similar to the minotaur of Greek mythology. The researchers suggest that the scene shows a communal hunting strategy or game drive in which prey are flushed from cover and driven toward other hunters. These paintings are high up in hard to reach caves, and they appear to be made for cultural and symbolic use.

These are the oldest artworks anthropologists have ever found that depict a story. They show the uniqueness of humans from their earliest days on Earth. When God excluded humans from the “Garden,” they left with no experience, tools, or data. They had to start at the very beginning of the learning curve, but their desire for self-expression artistically and spiritually was in full operation. These ancient drawings display God’s image in human creativity and spirituality.

— John N. Clayton © 2020

Nuclear Families Are Needed

Nuclear Families Are Needed

Television, books, movies, and pop psychology have all tried to offer alternatives to the biblical concept of the family. From Genesis 2:24 on, the Bible gives instructions to build what modern social scientists now call “the nuclear family.” Scientists define a nuclear family as “a unit headed by two loving, married parents.” In today’s society, more nuclear families are needed.

In the first two centuries of America’s existence, people were embedded in a group that included aunts, uncles, cousins, siblings, and grandparents. That meant there were always people available to care for a child or a senior who needed help. With the movement to the cities and the emphasis on self-fulfillment and individuality, the nuclear family has disintegrated. Parents now pay people to perform child-rearing tasks. Kids find themselves in single-parent homes, which leave them alone a vast percentage of the time. Seniors are often isolated because their children have moved away.

Research shows that the collapse of the nuclear family has produced terrible consequences. In 1960, 77.5% of children lived in nuclear families. Today that figure is 48%. The rise of suicide, depression, and income inequality can be linked to family disintegration. Robert Samuelson writing in the Washington Post said that we can’t go back to the way things used to be because of “geographic mobility, the need and desire of women to work, or high divorce rates.” Despite the challenges, nuclear families are needed to create a healthy society.

There is a huge need for Christians to exemplify the success that can come with the nuclear family developed around the core principles found in God’s Word. Nuclear families are needed, and we can best change the world by showing that God’s plan works.

— John N. Clayton © 2020

Data and quote from The Week, March 6, 2020, page 16.

“Winning the American Way”

Houston Astros - “Winning the American Way”

The Houston Astros baseball team won the World Series baseball championship in 2017, but it turns out, they cheated. The team developed a software program which enabled the Astros to decode opposing catchers’ signs so batters would know what the next pitch was going to be. They used this stealing of signs in 2017 and 2018. A Los Angeles Dodgers player is suing the Astros because, “Everyone knows they stole the ring from us.” Has cheating become “Winning the American way?”

You might just blow this off as a quirky act by a group of men determined to win at any cost. However, I have been surprised by the way the media reacted. Lance Gould of CNN said, “In the Trump era, our national pastime couldn’t be more appropriately represented by a team that conned its way to victory.” Max Boot in the Washington Post said, “Cheating is rewarded at the highest levels and vice pays better than virtue.” Brian Phillips on TheRinger.com says, “Sports at its best and its worst provides a window into human nature.”

As our culture drifts further from God and His Word, any sense of honesty, morality, or fairness disappears. Phillips goes on to say, “Driven and obsessive human beings praise impulses as heroic and … offer immense rewards – money, fame, status – for defeating each other.” He calls it a “corruptive algorithm” and then ridicules the idea of calling sports figures role models.

The media has titled this story “The Astros: Winning the American Way.” We would suggest that the story is a vivid reflection of what is happening in politics, in education and in sports. Christians must “let their light shine” brightly in the corrupt world around us.

— John N. Clayton © 2020

Reference” The Week, March 6, 2020 page 16.

Christian Women in Science

Christian Women in Science

We are pleased to see a report about Christian women in science. A typical attack against Christianity is the claim that it views women as second-class citizens. Critics use Scripture references such as 1 Timothy 2:11-15, which urges women to learn in silence and not to usurp the authority over men. Another passage they use is 1 Corinthians 14:34-35, which tells women to keep silent in the assembly and to ask their husbands at home if they want to learn anything. Atheists and skeptics have not only quoted these passages, but they have sometimes been used by males in the Church as control devices over women.

It is essential to consider to whom those instructions were written, why they were written, and what the circumstances were when they were written. The critics ignore the fact that Galatians 3:28 tells us that there was no such thing as male or female in the Church because we are all one in Jesus Christ. All of this misunderstanding has been catalyzed by what has taken place in the world as a whole. Women have been mistreated in every aspect of life, both in their secular roles and in the Church.

The March 2020 issue of Christianity Today carried an excellent article on the roles of women in science. For the report, the magazine interviewed twelve Christian women who are respected scientists and highlighted their accomplishments. These women are part of the American Scientific Affiliation, an organization made up of scientists of both genders that integrates science and faith.

We recommend this information about Christian women in science, especially to young women and their parents. It is encouraging to see so many women of faith having success in the secular world of science.

— John N. Clayton © 2020

Christian Martyr Data Discrepencies

Christian Martyr Data Discrepencies

We live in a time in which many people who wear the name “Christian” are being killed. Various groups who keep track of Christian martyr data have wildly different counts of how many have died for their faith.

The Center for the Study of Global Christianity says that 90,000 Christians were martyred in 2019. The International Society for Human Rights says that 10,000 were martyred. Open Doors puts the number at 4,305. The problem here is that the definition of a “martyr” is not the same for everyone.

The Nazis killed Dietrich Bonhoeffer in World War II because he was involved in a plot to assassinate Adolph Hitler. His Christian faith was the reason he became involved in the plot. Does that make him a martyr? Christians were killed in civil wars in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and South Sudan. Should they be classified as martyrs? There is a monument in Bicknell Park in Montebello, California, in memory of one of the worst genocides of the 20th century. Between 1915 and 1921, the Turkish government killed 1,500,000 Armenian Christians. Does that make all of them martyrs?

Martyrs have always been held up as examples of faithfulness. In today’s world, there are many countries where converting to Christianity is a sure way to be executed. The early Roman persecution of Christians is undeniable and uncontested. Determining Christian martyr data in our modern world varies by how we define “martyr.”

Those of us who live in the United States should be thankful that, so far, we don’t have to be worried about being singled out or killed by the government because of our worship. That may change, but we should thank God for the freedom Christians enjoy now in the U.S. and other countries.

— John N. Clayton © 2020

Data from Christianity Today, March 2020, page 23-24.

Can We Produce Enough Food?

Can We Produce Enough Food?

Some have said that this is the only command of God that humans have fully obeyed. Whether that is true or not can be debated. There is also debate about whether there is enough food for the enormous population of humans inhabiting this planet. Every day organizations trying to stop the hunger stalking our planet send us heart-breaking pictures of starving people. Did God err in commanding humans to multiply and then not providing enough food? Can we produce enough food for the population with what God has given us?

The February 3, 2020 issue of Time magazine carried a pictorial article about “planet-friendly eating.” The article highlights companies that are producing food from plants and insects. Some of the companies are:

1) Exo sells what they call “Cricket Protein Bar” and roasted crickets. They say that crickets are the perfect protein source, high in essential amino acids, B12, and iron.

2) Plenty grows salad greens indoors with wind and solar providing power. They plan to add strawberries to their production line.

3) Just (which was formerly known as Hampton Creek) produces an egg substitute from mung beans. You can buy it at Walmart.

4) Mosa Meat grows meat from animal cells cultured in a bioreactor. It won’t be practical until the cost can be reduced unless you want to buy a $280,000 hamburger.

5) Beyond Meat bypasses the animal cells to produce burgers and sausage from peas, beans, rice, and sunflower seeds. You can buy their product at thousands of grocery stores.

6) Odontella uses algae to produce a product with the texture and flavor of salmon. They call it Solmon, and it’s available in vegan grocery stores in Europe.

7) Huel makes drinks that are supposed to have the nutrition of a meal with 27 essential vitamins and minerals as well as protein, fat, fiber, and phytonutrients.

8) Solar Foods uses microbial fermentation of nutrients, water, and carbon dioxide to produce protein that resembles wheat flour.

Can we produce enough food using these new techniques? These ideas are encouraging because plants and insects can be grown inside so that pesticides or herbicides are not needed. Cultivation can be automated, reducing the massive overhead of conventional agriculture. Add to that, the fact that much of the food grown outside is wasted by pests, war, pollution, unpredictable weather, and bad agricultural practices.

American tastes may take a long time to adapt to these new foods, but a starving child in Africa is not concerned about how the food was produced if it satisfies hunger and provides nutrition. God has given us the means to produce all the food we need, but greed, waste, and ignorance have led to starvation and misery.

— John N. Clayton © 2020

Drones and Alien Invasions

Drones and Alien Invasions

The old adage says, “If you don’t believe in something, you will believe anything. That seems to be accurate as people are reporting new waves of invading flights with increasing frequency. Part of the problem is that people are confusing drones and alien invasions.

In December of 2019, people were placing videos on YouTube and other similar sites of “huge planes with large wingspans flying in formation over Colorado and Nevada.” Between December 19 and 21 of 2019, England’s second busiest airport was closed for about 33 hours, canceling hundreds of flights and affecting over 100,000 passengers because of confusing drones and alien invasions. There are always religionists and atheists who will attempt to use these sightings to promote their agenda. There are many causes for people to see things in the sky that they don’t understand. Satellites, stars, planets, planes, meteors, the International Space Station, military flares, helicopters, and now drones are on the list of reported UFOs.

Drones are used by journalists, photographers, police, railways, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, surveyors, Amazon.com, the military, and hobbyists. When it comes to drones and alien invasions, the Colorado Department of Public Safety issued an update on January 13, 2020, stating that they found no incidents that did not have a good explanation.

Some people claim that we need help from aliens to live successfully. They fail to realize that the instructions on how to live are available, and people all over the world are living by them. They are simply following the teachings of Christ. (I don’t mean the teachings of any religious person.) It isn’t that we don’t know what to do. We need to eliminate the greed, selfishness, ignorance, and desire for fame and notoriety that is producing the new wave of claims of extraterrestrial visitation. This was the case in the past, and history is merely repeating itself. Even the entertainment industry is jumping on board with a new movie about the return of E.T.

We want to say again that we are not suggesting that there is no life elsewhere in the cosmos, and the Bible doesn’t say that either. What we have, however, is many vulnerable people being exploited because of their loss of faith in God. That has caused them to search in the wrong places for a better and a more abundant way to live. That is true of both secular and religious shysters. Jesus said “I have come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly” (John 10:10). That doesn’t mean buying into any human-made religion or personality. It means living as Christ has called us to live.

— John N. Clayton © 2020

Data from Skeptical Inquirer, March/April 2020, page 6.

Reaction to the Euthanasia Article

Reaction to the Euthanasia Article

Yesterday we discussed the push for euthanasia in secular society. We have received a massive reaction to the euthanasia article. Several people have asked what states in the U.S. allow assisted suicide. In addition to Washington, D.C., those states are California, Colorado, Hawaii, Maine, Montana, New Jersey, Oregon, Vermont, and Washington.

We received information about Professor Theo Boer, a Dutch ethicist who was a major supporter of the Netherlands’ 2002 Euthanasia legislation. Boer wrote to the British House of Lords in 2014, “We were wrong, terribly wrong. Assisted dying in the beginning was the odd exception, accepted by many including myself as a last resort.” He pointed out that what happened was that many patients who received euthanasia were patients who were depressed, lonely, or in bereavement. In Switzerland a woman paid to be euthanized because she no longer felt pretty. He concludes by saying, “Public opinion has shifted dramatically toward considering assisted dying a patient’s right and a physician’s duty.”

In Oregon, physician-assisted suicide was legalized in 1997 “for cases of suffering from terminal disease.” In 2018 a followup study found that 75% of the people who died by assisted suicide said their pain control was adequate, but over 50% were concerned about being a burden to their families.

We also received a story of Karen Welch, who was a missionary in Belgium. During a routine surgery, blood was cut off to her brain resulting in a stroke. After several days, doctors told her husband that her MRI showed dead brain cells and that there was no hope for her recovery. “Your wife will be a vegetable,” Mr. Welch was told. The medical establishment recommended euthanasia. To make a long story short, Karen Welch eventually walked out of the hospital, and that December, she played the piano and sang at the Belgium School Chapel Christmas program.

As we said in our original article, euthanasia is a highly complex issue. The reaction to the euthanasia article we posted indicates that people are concerned about the issue. Until you are involved in a personal situation where euthanasia is offered as a simple and inexpensive solution, it is easy to give simplistic answers. The critical thing to remember is that humans are not just animals. We are created in the image of God, so we must treat every human life as special.

— John N. Clayton © 2020

You can watch Bob and Karen Welch’s Story on YouTube. Also see AffirmDignity.org.