Pandemic Pods and Education

Pandemic Pods and Education

Home Schooling has expanded dramatically as public schools struggle with how to open in the face of the pandemic and the difficulties of online classes. Now parents are organizing into “pandemic pods” where they form groups of five to ten children and hire a teacher for that group.

For working parents, this may seem to be an answer to the school situation.
The problem is that only families with enough money to hire a good teacher will be able to form these pandemic pods. This sends us back to a segregation issue. Families who join together are likely to be families with similar social backgrounds. This arrangement excludes families living in poverty.

As a public school science teacher in South Bend, Indiana, I saw firsthand another issue that should be considered. I would see students transferred during the school year from a nearby large Catholic high school to Riley High School, where I taught. These were always kids who were discipline problems. One of my friends who taught at the Catholic school told me that their ultimate threat was, “If you don’t behave, we’ll send you to Riley.”

We must remember that these are kids who need an education. Virtual learning and online classes work for highly-motivated students who want to cooperate. What about the kid who is not motivated, has a bad family situation, doesn’t want to be in school at all, and is poor? The coronavirus has given people another excuse to separate their kids from those who are different, racially, socially, and/or morally.

Those making decisions about schools must recognize the importance of educating our children. Parents must make their child’s education a priority. Education isn’t just facts, but it’s also how to get along with people who are different from you. The pandemic pods idea might work if they contain heterogeneous student populations supported by tax money and available equally to all. Allowing parents to segregate children to free themselves from the responsibility of educating them is not an answer.

For those who choose homeschooling, the Does God Exist? ministry has materials that can be helpful in areas of faith and science. Through the years, many homeschoolers have used our video series, which is available to watch free on DoesGodExist.tv or to purchase at THIS LINK. Also, our website DoesGodExist.org has various links and mail-in courses. For science, our Facebook page has daily postings telling about various animals and plants.

— John N. Claton © 2020

Reference: The Week magazine for August 7, 2020

God of Hope in Troubled Times

God of Hope in Troubled Times

We live in a time of chaos and uncertainty. One of the things that make humans different from all other living things on this planet is that we require hope. Animals do not require hope to be in a state of good health. They live moment-by-moment as long as their immediate needs are met. If an animal has food, shelter, and perhaps companionship, they need nothing else. Humans are different; we wither away in the absence of hope. Christians receive that from the God of hope.

Catherine Madera describes why we need hope: “Hope connects us to the future and prevents us from becoming stuck in past history or present challenges. It projects out, like a beam of light, illuminating things on the horizon to look forward to. Hope is defined as a feeling of trust and expectation, a desire for a certain thing to happen.”
(From Guideposts Strength and Grace, August/September 2020, page 58)

Romans 15:13 says, “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust Him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” Even with discouragement, depression, illness, loss, frustration, and failure, we can trust in God and that His Spirit will eventually work things out for our good (Romans 8:28).

God doesn’t just give hope; He is the God of hope. This is one of the great blessings of being a Christian. We can always have hope that answers will come, and having that hope gives us a measure of joy, peace, and contentment–even in troubled times like these.

— John N. Clayton © 2020

Doing What Jesus Told Us To

Doing What Jesus Told Us To - Food Banks

I sometimes get a heated letter, email, or phone call chastising me for advocating something that isn’t possible or safe. I can understand the concerns, and yet it is hard to miss the clear teaching of Matthew 25:35-40. How can we do we what Jesus told us to do? The fact is that it is safer and easier to do those things today than when Jesus spoke these words. The examples of the first century Church in Acts 2:44-47, of Dorcas in Acts 9:36-39, and of Lydia in Acts 16:13-15 give us clues as to how we can be doing what Jesus told us to do in Matthew 25.

HUNGERED AND YOU GAVE ME MEAT. Every major city in America has a food bank, operated by Christians, that needs volunteers and donations.

THIRSTY AND YOU GAVE ME DRINK. There are Christian groups like “Healing Hands” drilling wells and putting in water purification systems in areas without clean water. They need help and donations.

A STRANGER AND YOU TOOK ME IN. Churches near major hospitals such as Hands of Compassion near the Mayo Clinic provide housing and help strangers–and they need support.

NAKED AND YOU CLOTHED ME. Programs like “Coats for Kids” are operated by churches in nearly every major city in America. Finding and distributing coats to needy people is always a work that needs help.

SICK AND YOU VISITED ME. Visitation programs to hospitals are operated by groups of Christians and local congregations in every hospital in America. Hospital chaplains can integrate workers into visitation programs.

IN PRISON AND YOU CAME TO ME. There are prison ministries in virtually every prison in America and national correspondence programs like ours that offer programs free of charge to anyone who is incarcerated.

I get frustrated with the fact that my mailbox is stuffed every day with requests for help in works like these. Then I think about the fact that Christians do what most people in this world won’t do, and that is doing what Jesus told us to do in Matthew 25. If you can’t find any of these things close to where you live, we can help you find a national and/or local group where you can serve.

In the first century, Christians did most of what Jesus calls us to do on their own. Today we can support groups that others have created to serve. The next time someone asks you to get involved in a faith-based opportunity to serve others, don’t be irritated. Be thankful that Christ continues to call His followers to do good works.

— John N. Clayton © 2020

Growing Up in a Divided Society

Growing Up in a Divided Society

One part of my life’s history that I don’t talk about a lot is my experience with racial issues growing up in a divided society. As a child, I lived for several years in Alabama, where my father had his first college teaching job at Talladega State Teacher’s College. He and the school president were the only whites on the staff, and I was the only white kid in my school. All of my friends were black, and the people we knew in our daily lives were black. We never had a problem with anyone in that community.

When we left the campus area, we had problems. I remember when I had my tonsils removed. My mother had to take me to Birmingham to have it done. She told me later that when they brought me out of the operating room on a gurney, covered with blood, the doctor shoved the gurney at my mother and said, “Here nigger lover, you clean him up.”

We moved to McComb, Illinois, where my father got a job at Western Illinois University. When people learned that my father had taught at an all-black college and that I had attended an all-black school, we had all kinds of problems. The fact that I had spent grades 2, 3, and 4 in an all-black school meant to a lot of folks that I was inferior, and it was okay to beat me up. I tell you this to point out that now as a Christian and having had that experience, I can relate to the current struggles with prejudice and abuse in America.

Jesus dealt with similar issues throughout His life. John 4 tells us of His exchange with a Samaritan woman. Verse 9 says that the Jews avoided and rejected the Samaritans because they were of mixed race and had different religious beliefs. She was a woman, married five times, and living with a guy she wasn’t married to. Jesus addressed her needs and taught her. In Luke 8:26-39, Jesus showed compassion to a man who was severely mentally ill. The crucifixion of Christ happened because people had the same willful blindness that permeates our society today. The people who welcomed Him to Jerusalem in Matthew 21:7-11, crucified Him in Matthew 27:22-25.

The early Church faced massive persecution. In Acts 6:8-14, a man named Stephen was doing great things in the community. In Acts 7:54-60, the community stopped their ears and stoned him to death when he stated religious facts they didn’t want to hear. Christians are still being persecuted today. Racial prejudice still survives today. Children are still growing up in a divided society. We must replace hatred and division with love and service. That’s the only way our world can survive. If Christians don’t lead in this vital matter, who will?

— John N. Clayton 2020

Deforestation and Disease Pandemics

Deforestation and Disease Pandemics
Burning a Rainforest to Plant a Palm Oil Plantation

One of the interesting aspects of the story of Adam and Eve is the environment in which God placed them. Genesis 2:8 tells us that God planted a garden, and verse 9 tells us that He planted every tree that was pleasant and good for food. The Bible doesn’t say how long God took to plant the garden and what was involved in the garden’s growth. Verse 15 tells us that “God took the man and put him into the garden of Eden to dress it and to keep it.” After establishing the man’s environment, the Genesis account turns to man’s spiritual nature. But the planted garden with every tree is our focus here as we think about deforestation and disease.

The Bible describes the first humans as what anthropologists call gatherers. Agriculture was a long way off. The eating of animals isn’t even suggested until chapter 4 when Abel brings “the firstlings of his flock” as an offering to God. An article in Scientific American (June 2020, page 8) points out how modern agricultural methods have led to the three major highly infectious viruses since 2002 – SARS, EBOLA, and COVID-19.

Slashing and burning to create land for crops, such as palm oil, reduces biodiversity and puts humans in contact with wildlife that carry microbes able to kill us. Species that survive the clearing are more likely to host illnesses that can be transferred to humans. In addition to the three main viruses of our time, the Scientific American article mentions some other diseases have come from rain forest inhabitants – Zika, Nipah, malaria, cholera, and HIV.

Humans have brought on most of our major disease issues by allowing greed and “survival of the fittest” mentality to govern our decisions about how we use the environment. We waste between 30 and 40% of the food we produce. Poor agricultural techniques and mismanagement of water prevent efficient use of what God has given us. Deforestation and disease go together. Now we are contaminating our atmosphere and filling our lakes, rivers, and oceans with waste.

The title of the Scientific American article is “To Stop Pandemics, Stop Deforestation.” God gave us the “garden” and the tools to manage it. We can’t continue to mismanage it and not see more consequences such as pandemics, global warming, and diseases produced by our failure to do what God called us to do in the beginning.

— John N. Clayton © 2020

Nuclear Destruction Potential

Nuclear Destruction Potential

We are appalled at the devastation caused by the CORONA virus. We do not wish to minimize the horror of this pandemic, but we hope that some good can come from it. You would think that world leaders would realize the tenuous nature of life on Earth. You would think they should realize that getting along with one another and joining forces to combat all the evils in our world must be a high priority. There is another way in which humans should be motivated to get along. That is the massive nuclear destruction potential in the weapons around the world.

Since the first nuclear explosion in July of 1945, nine nations have detonated 2056 atomic devices. No one fully understood what would result from all of this testing and weaponry. America’ s 15-megaton Castle Bravo test in the Pacific Ocean produced a fine, chalky material that rained down on ships and their crews in the area for three hours, sticking to human skin and piling up on the decks. Later known as shi no hai (ashes of death), they later learned that the dust was highly radioactive coral debris. It caused the entire crew of the Daigo Fukuryu Maru fishing boat to fall ill with radiation sickness.

Today some 15,000 nuclear weapons exist. They are held by the United Kingdom, China, France, Israel, Pakistan, India, North Korea, Russia, The United States, and possibly Iran. If a nuclear war broke out, 270 million people would die in the first hours of the conflict. Remember that 70,000 people died instantly in Hiroshima, and 35,000 died in Nagasaki. That was from eleven pounds of plutonium. Imagine the destruction potential of what nations have now.

Is it possible that all of this nuclear destruction potential can be disposed of without war? Can the message of peace, tolerance, love, and respect possibly come out of the horror of COVID-19 and the “black lives matter” movement? The world needs the Christian message of love now more than ever. It is not just a matter of political correctness and common sense. It is a matter of survival for us all.

— John N. Clayton © 2020

God’s Hygienic Food Laws, Wet Markets and COVID-19

Chinese Wet Market and God's Hygienic Food Laws
Chinese Wet Market

One of the enduring questions with the COVID-19 virus is its origin. We know that it came from the wet markets in Wuhan, China, but it is essential to look at what practices led to this pandemic. No one in the scientific community denies that epidemics and pandemics begin when a pathogen moves from one species to another. We need to consider how God’s hygienic food laws which He gave to the Israelites prevented epidemics and pandemics.

When you read the Old Testament, you see all kinds of restrictions on food. Those include not only what the Israelites could eat, but also how it was procured and prepared. From the earliest times, eating blood was forbidden (Genesis 9:4). Any preparation that allowed blood to remain in the meat was prohibited, so an animal that was strangled could not be eaten. Eating anything that had died on its own was forbidden (Exodus 22:31 and Leviticus 17:15). Leviticus 11 and Deuteronomy 14 give a long and tedious list of what could be eaten and what could not. There were even instructions on how to prepare the meat (Exodus 12:8-9).

The practice in the Old Testament was that eating meat of any kind (other than fish) was a rare situation and usually only for the wealthy. The main diet was grains and fruits. When humans began to build cities, this dietary practice changed, but the early Christians retained much of the Old Testament diet and restrictions. (See Acts 15:29; 21:25.)

As humans moved away from the biblical instructions of God’s hygienic food laws and the handling of animals, they instituted some very dubious practices. The July/August 2020 issue of Skeptical Inquirer (pages 20-24) carries a discussion titled “Did Superstition Cause the COVID-19 Outbreak?” The article describes traditional Chinese beliefs about meat and other byproducts of wild animals.

In China, much of the food is distributed in wet markets. In these markets, fish and a variety of other animals such as bats are slaughtered and gutted on-site to guarantee freshness. In places like Wuhan, the ground is wet with melted ice and the blood of various species. The animals to be slaughtered are kept alive in closely packed open cages where the blood and feces intermingle.

When we read through Leviticus and Deuteronomy, we may feel burdened with what appears to be an endless list of restrictions and rules. However, it doesn’t take much imagination to understand that the wet markets’ environment is conducive to the spread of disease. Epidemics of the past can be related directly and indirectly to cultural practices that would not have happened in the Israelite culture in the day of Moses. We have new problems today because of the size of the human population and the closeness of animals of all kinds and humans. The COVID-19 tragedy is a reminder of the wisdom we see in God’s hygienic food laws in the Old Testament.

— John N. Clayton © 2020

Abortion in the United States

Abortion in the United States

On Monday, June 29, 2020, the U.S. Supreme Court struck down a Louisiana law that required abortion providers to have admitting privileges in a hospital nearby in case of complications. The Court struck down a similar Texas law in 2016. Abortion in the United States continues to be a hot topic. In 2019, legislatures in 12 states passed 25 laws restricting abortions. It seems inevitable that people who profit from abortions will challenge all of those laws, and more cases will make it to the Supreme Court.

The 1973 Supreme Court decision that legalized abortion in the United States is known as Roe v. Wade. The plaintiff in the case was given the pseudonym Jane Roe to protect her identity. Her real name was Norma McCorvey. She was a poor young woman with a very troubled life who was trying to obtain a legal abortion by falsely claiming that a group of black men raped her. When that failed, she tried to get an illegal abortion. Some abortion activist attorneys who were not interested in helping her used her as a case to challenge laws against abortion. It took three years for the case to reach the Supreme Court. In the meantime, McCorvey had her baby and put it up for adoption.

In 1994, McCorvey put her name on an autobiography titled I Am Roe. Under the influence of an evangelical minister who founded Operation Rescue, she became a Christian and was baptized. She quit her job at an abortion clinic and went to work for Operation Rescue to campaign against abortion. She said she was sorry for her part in making abortion legal. She published a second book in 1998 titled Won By Love telling about her conversion. In 2004 she petitioned the Supreme Court to overturn Roe v. Wade, but the Court dismissed the case in 2005.

McCorvey died from heart failure in 2017, but shortly before her death, she recorded a “deathbed confession.” In it, she said that her activism against abortion was “all an act” and that she was paid to do it. She said she didn’t care whether women got abortions. On May 22, 2020, a television documentary called AKA Jane Roe was released on FX. It included her “confession,” in which she said, “I took their money, and they put me in front of the cameras.” However, a friend who knew her well said that McCorvey felt guilty for the abortions and was trying to justify herself in her own mind by saying that abortions are okay. Only God knows the true feelings and motivations of Norma McCorvey. All we know is that she lived a very troubled life for 69 years.

The latest five-to-four decision by the Supreme Court was based on “legal precedent.” It indicates that any hope of reversing Roe v. Wade or finding any real solution to the abortion dilemma will be difficult with the present Supreme Court. We have pointed out before that you cannot explain a baby as “an extension of the mother’s body.” Apparently, abortion in the United States will continue as our culture is accepting infanticide as a method of birth control. State-by-state the rights of babies before birth are being eliminated.

— John N. Clayton and Roland Earnst © 2020

Compassion and Choices in Death

Compassion and Choices in Death

An organization that has been gaining a great deal of support by promoting medical aid in death is called Compassion and Choices. It has been instrumental in getting state legislators to consider end-of-life options, including hospice and medical assistance in dying. This is an emotional issue that virtually all of us have faced, are facing, or will face in the future. If someone is in the final stages of dying from an incurable illness, what would God have us do?

Compassion and Choices’ promoters make a strong case that it is cruel to make a loved one face their last hours alone. They say nobody should be allowed to remain in great pain while their loved ones are also in agony listening to them scream in a nearby room.

The Bible is not silent on this subject. Proverbs 31:6-7 says, “Give strong drink to the dying and wine to those who are in misery. Let him drink and forget his misfortune.” It has always interested me that when Jesus was crucified, his executioners offered him “wine mixed with myrrh” (Mark 15:23). Myrrh was a pain-killing drug, and He refused it. It is clear from the teachings of Jesus in Matthew 9:12 that He didn’t oppose physicians or the medical practices of the day. However, the pain of Jesus dying for our sins could not be diluted by using human pain-killers to reduce His sacrifice.

There is a difference between offering pain killers, counseling, support, and loving care to the dying and outright killing them prematurely. We have the capacity to make natural death quiet, dignified, compassionate, and of value without forcing our will upon God’s will. I have seen too many cases where a dying person used that moment to cement their relationship with others and with God. I have also seen a dying person bring comfort, support, and blessing to others. So-called mercy killing would not have allowed those things.

Jesus had a purpose in rejecting the myrrh. But for the rest of us, the medical establishment must provide palliative care. Compassion and choices should not mean that we deal with the crisis of the moment by using our technological ability to end life.

— John N. Clayton © 2020

Wife Sharing Proposed in China

Wife Sharing Proposed in China

From 1980 until 2016, the Communist Chinese government mandated a one-child policy, which led many couples to abort female fetuses because having a male child offered many advantages. As a result, China now has 34 million more males than females. Fudan University professor Yew-Kwang Ng has proposed wife sharing as an academic solution to “men’s physical and psychological needs not being met.”

Ng argues that Chinese prostitutes already serve more than ten clients in a day. He added that making meals for three husbands won’t take much more time than making a meal for one husband. Ng says these facts prove that allowing women to have many husbands is a solution to the imbalance created by the one-child policy. You can imagine the response the wife sharing proposal received on social media. The backlash may prevent the Chinese government from implementing this proposal.

The point here is that when humans throw out one of God’s laws, there are always problems with collateral damage. As America throws out one standard of behavior after another, we wonder what the consequences will be. God’s plan for men and women works. The problem is that humans always want to find an alternative to God’s plan, and the result is catastrophic.

— John N. Clayton © 2020

Reference: The Week, June 26, 2020, page 14.