One of the great evidences for the validity of the Christian way of living as taught by Jesus Christ is the effect it has on the way people treat other people. In Acts 4:31-37, we see the first century Church sharing their possessions and looking after one another. When there was a famine in Jerusalem, churches in other parts of the Roman empire raised funds to feed the Jerusalem Christians. Christianity, when practiced, stood out as a positive force, continually meeting the needs of others. That is the Christian response to a crisis such as COVID-19 or Y2K. During the Y2K scare, “experts” said that the financial systems of the world might collapse. The response was that people stockpiled food and essential commodities. Many people not only locked away supplies, but they set up military-like defenses to keep others out. The government maintained that there was no cause for alarm, but people didn’t trust the government, and they enlisted other ways of protecting their money and property.
Now we have a similar crisis, except this one is a biological problem. How have people reacted? We not only see people stockpiling things they consider important for their survival, but also using the crisis to make money. We have seen people buying massive amounts of toilet paper or hand sanitizer and then trying to sell them for vastly inflated prices. People have made substantial amounts of money by selling “cures” that don’t work and even testing kits, masks, and ventilators that were unreliable. Gun stores have seen a rush on guns and ammunition. Survival of the fittest has been the message of the COVID-19 catastrophe.
Those are the worst-case situations. At the same time, some people have made sacrifices to help others survive. Many individuals and Christians have operated food banks and cared for the ill. Most of them did so as islands of Christian compassion in a world of selfishness and greed. The Christian response to a crisis is entirely different from the selfish response.
Watching these emergencies argues strongly for the need to see God working in the lives of people today. The statement of Jesus, “The harvest truly is plenteous, but the laborers are few,” has 21st-century relevance. (See Matthew 9:37.)
“In no way does Living Honorably Day enhance the readiness of our military. This is about destroying men because they are the foundations of the family … Men are so important, and they are walking out of their families today all over America” — U.S. Army Lt. General (Ret.) William G. Boykin
General Boykin made those comments on Family Research Council’s Washington Watch radio show. He was referring to a program called Living Honorably Day at the U.S. Military Academy. On January 14, 2020, the Academy at West Point canceled all cadet classes and required all cadets to view a screening of Miss Representation. This is a documentary produced by Girls’ Club Entertainment and featuring Gloria Steinem, Jane Fonda, and Rachel Maddow. The feminist leaders label previous military teaching on discipline and accountability as “toxic masculinity.” The phrase “be a man” is no longer allowed in military training.
The feminists running the program at West Point use the term “hypermasculinity” to describe the biblical teaching that men are to be the leaders in the family. It is difficult to read Ephesians 5:21-6:4 and not see the wisdom of God’s plan for the family. Women have some guaranteed roles, and motherhood is one of them. No matter how badly I, as a man, might want to be a mother, it is not possible. The notion that nobody has guaranteed roles is a response to the abuses that have been heaped on women in some areas of our culture. Men need to have a role in life, and feminists like those in the West Point incident demonstrate selfishness and a lack of concern for men while trying to correct abuses women have received.
General Boykin and others in the military see a weakening of our ability to defend ourselves as a nation, and Living Honorably Day is just a symptom of that. We need to consider the reflections of Boykin and others on what is happening to society in general. Christian men and women can correct the weaknesses and abuses that occur in our culture without generating abuses on another part of our culture.
In my lifetime, I have seen several disease epidemics. I find it interesting how differently people are responding to this than they did when I was a child, and polio was running wild. Polio was a much more serious issue than COVID-19 ever thought of being. If you got polio in 1952, you were either going to die, be paralyzed, or be in an iron lung for the rest of your life. For those who are younger, an iron lung was a huge tin can that breathed for you, because polio could stop you from breathing on your own. If you were put in an iron lung to preserve your life, the chances are that you would be in that large tin can until you did die. It was awful, but we did not have the pandemic fear.
Even though polio was much worse than the current virus, my classmates were not absorbed with fear and extreme measures to avoid getting polio. We were told that flies carried polio. I remember my mother stringing flypaper all over the place, and going bonkers if she saw a fly in our garage. I was not allowed to go to outdoor events for fear of polio. Still, there was no panic from the media and no cancellations of anything. That is a huge contrast with what has happened in 2020 as we face this virus. That is even though most people who get the virus do not die or have any long-lasting effects. What is the difference?
In my childhood years, being an atheist was unique. I was the only openly atheistic person in my high school class. Our family went to Brown County State Park every Sunday to swim in the park swimming pool. We had the pool to ourselves because everyone else was in church. I had friends who did contract polio. Outside of a sign which said “quarantine” being placed on their front door, not much else happened.
The panic that has gripped our culture today is amazing. According to the CDC ordinary, run of the mill flu killed 61,000 Americans last year and over 12,000 this year so far. But the pandemic fear of COVID-19 far exceeds the fear that has been with us before.
I would suggest to you that as our culture has drifted away from God, the fear of the unknown has grown exponentially. At least part of the pandemic fear is our lack of faith as a society about life and death and who or what is in control.
One fundamental message of Jesus Christ is that Christians should not be driven by panic and fear of the unknown. In Mark 4:36-41, we read the wonderful story of Jesus and the disciples being caught in a storm in a small boat. Jesus is asleep, and they wake him up. Christ quiets the storm and says to the disciples, “Why are you so fearful? How is it that you have no faith?” (verse 40).
From Genesis to Revelation, the Bible calls believers not to be driven by fear. Joshua 1:9 tells us not to be afraid. Psalms 23:4 talks about walking through the darkest valley. Psalms 27:1 says, “The Lord is my light and my salvation—whom shall I fear?” Deuteronomy 31:6 says, “…the Lord your God will never leave you nor forsake you.” Hebrews 13:5-8 tells us that the Lord is our helper, so we should not be afraid. Jesus tells us in John 14:27, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.”
If you believe that this life is all you will ever have, then you will fear anything that threatens this life.If you believe that there is something better coming, then nothing that happens in this life is of great consequence. However, I have an instinct to survive and knowing that my body is the temple of the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 3:16-17), I will do what I can to avoid premature death. I am washing my hands, avoiding crowds, and following the other guidelines. Still, I can relate to Paul’s discourse in Philippians 1:21-24, where he says, “For me to live is Christ, and to die is gain … I am in a struggle between having a desire to leave and be with Christ, but I know I should abide in the flesh, which is more needful for you…”
In our March 16, 2020, post, we discussed the issue of suicide, and the Federal Communication Commission’s efforts to create a suicide hotline. We discussed the problem of assisted suicide or euthanasia in our February 24 and 25 posts. The March 20 issue of The Week magazine carried an article (page 11) titled “The Spread of Assisted Suicide.”
In addition to the data showing how much assisted suicide has increased, the article in The Week points out that assisted suicide is now available to people for various reasons. It is being made available to those who are in psychological pain, those who don’t want to go into a nursing home, and to minors with their parent’s permission. This is a significant problem with large numbers of people involved. In the Netherlands alone, there were 6585 assisted deaths in 2017.
Our biggest concern in this growing trend is the misinformation that the public is receiving. Dignitas, which is a Swiss organization assisting in suicides, says that assisted suicide is “far preferable to letting ill people make a lonely, risky suicide attempt.” Those are not the only choices available to a person who is depressed, in pain, or fearing dementia.
As life expectancy continues to climb, more and more people will struggle with emotional and physical pain. Our focus needs to be on solving those issues, not just in finding ways to destroy the “temple of God” (1 Corinthians 3:16).
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.
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.
In the early morning of Tuesday, March 3, 2020, an EF-4 tornado did devastating damage to the city of Cookeville, Tennessee. On the same night, several lesser tornados swept across middle Tennessee, including Nashville. We have discussed before the question of, “Where is God when disaster strikes?” That is where Churches of Christ Disaster Relief is involved.
When a need arises, God works through His people. One of the buildings that survived the hit was the one where the Jefferson Avenue Church of Christ meets in Cookeville. Within hours, their gymnasium became a relief center. Churches of Christ Disaster Relief Effort, Inc., with headquarters in Nashville, brought in truckloads of needed supplies for the hundreds of people who had lost their homes. Members of the Jefferson Avenue church came in to assist, even though they had also been affected by the storm. Area schools were closed, so teens, as well as others, showed up to help.
Before this tragedy happened, Rick Gilbert, deacon who serves as the church’s disaster relief coordinator, had taken groups of church members to Nashville to pack supplies for Churches of Christ Disaster Relief. Now they had a chance to see where those boxes go and how much they are needed. He said, “Now we see why we did what we did.”
On March 6, President Trump visited Cookeville, and Gilbert guided him on a tour of the relief center set up by the church. Gilbert said of the President, “He was touched. He was really touched.” President Trump was in the relief center for about 45 minutes, talking with people and even praying with them. The President said, “Even all of this—Churches of Christ—tremendous amounts of food and goods, and it all came within a matter of hours. So it’s a case study—a case study of what should be done and how it can be done. It’s Tennessee.”
Starting in the fall of 2020, all of New Jersey’s public middle schools and high schools will be required to teach LGBTQ lessons. The state is not requiring a separate class on the subject, but to incorporate LGBTQ into various subjects. Every course on history, economics, grammar, etc. must include three to four lessons on “social, political, and economic contributions of LGBTQ people.” The requirement for LGBTQ lessons in New Jersey schools follows a similar law in California.
Included in the curriculum, now being tested in twelve schools in four cities, is a lesson about a gay boy forced into “gay conversion therapy.” The education manager of Garden State Equality, the advocacy group leading the pilot program, said, “We want students to see themselves in the stories that are told.” LGBTQ promoters will serve as curriculum coaches making site visits and training teachers. The state will dictate to local school boards what policies, curriculum, and textbooks they must use to comply with the LGBTQ law standards.
We have discussed the LGBTQ issue before such as HERE and HERE. There is no justification for the abuse of any person based on sexual orientation. The problem with governments promoting moral laws for individuals is that they never tell the whole story. The Bible speaks against the gay lifestyle, and history indicates abuse both by and towards gays. It’s a fact that LGBTQ participants have a shorter life expectancy. Transgender persons need continual medical support, including a lifetime of hormone drugs. LGBTQ persons historically have a vastly higher rate of STDs. Will all of these facts be presented in the LGBTQ lessons in New Jersey schools?
What would happen if a state passed a law mandating that historical Christian values must be presented across classes by teachers and coached by Christian ministers? The history of the Christian belief systems would emphasize great accomplishments, but it would also reflect the bias of whoever did the coaching. LGBTQ lessons in New Jersey schools will possibly drive more and more people to charter schools and private schools, weakening the diversity of the public schools.
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.
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.