Life Expectancy and Despair

Life Expectancy and Despair
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has just released its latest annual report on American life expectancy. The report shows that for the third year life expectancy in the United States has not grown and has declined. The last time that this happened was in World War I when a flu pandemic killed 675,000 people.

The report says that drugs and suicide are the main culprits now with the overdose rate up 356% since 1999. The 2017 death toll is 70,237 far outstripping the total American fatalities in Vietnam.

It is interesting that everyone studying this life expectancy issue seems to agree on what the cause is, and what the solution is. The NationalReview.com says that “we are facing not so much a drug problem as a heartbreak problem.” An AARP study found that one-third of Americans report chronic loneliness and conclude that isolation is a state “about as deadly as smoking.” David Brooks writing in the New York Times says “It’s not jobs, jobs, jobs or better welfare programs that will save us from this ongoing social catastrophe; it’s human relationships and a society that cares about people more than money.”

We suggest that people need to read and follow the example in Acts 2:41-47. People had a common faith in God, and they took care of each other. They “CONTINUED DAILY WITH ONE ACCORD” and spent time together focusing on meaningful relationships. The result was that “they had favor with all the people.”

This reminds me of a comment I heard Carl Sandburg make when someone asked him what he thought about Christianity. His response was “I don’t know, I have never seen it tried.” Christianity is not a legalistic way of restricting human behavior. It is a way of life that blesses everyone who is a part of it and everyone around those who live it.
–John N. Clayton © 2018

Reference: The Week, December 14, 2018, page 17

Guinea Worms and God

Guinea worm being removed from victim's foot.
Guinea worm being removed from victim’s foot.

Are you carrying around some vestigial conviction that God is good, or that Nature loves you? We guarantee that our newest nominee, the Guinea Worm, will fix that in one easy lesson. –From an atheist website.

Many atheist sites promoted the Guinea worm as the ultimate example of how one cannot believe in God because of terrible things that exist in the creation. It also shows how far atheists will go, and how much sarcasm and derision fills most atheist sites. A frequently quoted phrase is this one: “God’s plan [for the Guinea worm] is … carefully engineered pain machines, self-sustaining, spreading ever wider and deeper through the world … the worm is the very incarnation of god’s plan.”

A careful study of this situation is useful not only to answer the challenges of atheists but to better understand the design issue and how God functions in the world. The Guinea worm is a creature that is unquestionably a real horror story. This animal begins with Guinea worm larvae in ponds or rivers being eaten by small lobster-like water fleas. The embryos mature inside the water fleas. When humans drink the water, the water fleas with the larvae get into the human stomach where the fleas are digested, but the Guinea worm is not. They will find their way to the small intestine where they burrow through the wall and pass into the body cavity. During the next 10 to 14 months, the female worm will grow to as much as 31 inches (80 cm) long and as big around as cooked spaghetti. It will migrate to the lower limbs of the human. The worm will chew its way to the surface of the skin where it will emerge from a blister which causes a painful burning sensation. The only way to get relief is to put the foot or leg into water. When this is done, the female will release a milky white liquid with millions of larvae into the water contaminating the water supply. Once the worm emerges through the skin, you can pull it out, but you can only move it a few centimeters each day. If you pull too fast and break the worm, it will cause massive infection in the human body. It can take weeks to pull a worm from a person’s body. A person who has this parasite is likely to have many worms in his body and can be totally incapacitated and in severe pain. A person does not develop immunity and can be infected multiple times.

Our purpose is not to “gross you out” as my high school kids liked to say, but rather to look at the question of why such horrific creatures exist and how issues like this relate to the concept of a loving and compassionate God. Many other examples could be given from mosquitoes to the AIDS virus, and the points we want to make here apply to all of them.

It is important to understand that many things that exist in the world were not created by God, but they are a consequence of something else. As a simple example, God did not create war, but because God created humans with free will, there is war. Similar statements would apply to pornography, sexual abuse, and any number of other social issues. In the biological arena, there are many things that exist because good things have been mismanaged, misused, or are a product of a human-corrupted environment. Humans have many times caused nature to function in a way it was not designed to function. There are many examples of animal behavior that turn out to be aberrant, caused by the duress of captivity or other human activity and not by the normal function of the organism. In other cases, natural processes have caused changes with negative consequences. Seventy-five percent of all mosquitoes are pollinating insects that feed on nectar and plant juices and do not depend upon blood to survive. However, in many species, the mouthparts of the females have adapted to pierce the skin of humans or animals. Many virus mutations have caused changes in what was a positive organism and turned it into a negative one. Genetic studies of the Guinea worm have shown it is related to other worms which have positive roles in the environment. It appears that this terrible parasite is a mutant. Our point is that assuming that the Guinea worm is something God created to torture humans is an assumption that is due to the vested interests of those making the claim, not what the evidence shows.

Guinea worm infections are due to misuse of the environment. The worm is totally transmitted by humans drinking from contaminated water. Filtering water to remove the water fleas would stop the disease. Drinking from underground water sources would prevent it. The water sources given to the Israelites in the Old Testament would never have allowed the Guinea worm to exist. Not allowing humans to enter water supplies would stop the disease. For the most part, the disease has occurred where war has forced people to extreme situations and conditions.

God gave humans instructions on how to live. God told the first humans to have dominion over the Earth and all that is on it, and to “take care of the garden, to dress it and keep it.” Mismanagement of the natural world has caused massive hardship for humans, but to attribute this to a design or plan of God is to simply be dishonest. Christian organizations have led the battle against the Guinea worm. Atheist complaints against agents like the Guinea worm would be much more convincing if atheists were instrumental in helping to alleviate the suffering. The Carter Center founded by former President Jimmy Carter began attacking the problem in 1986 when there were almost a million cases. Since then the number of cases has decreased each year until there were only 25 in 2016. Many Christian organizations have worked to supply clean drinking water to people in impoverished and war-torn nations.

This is what Christianity is about–helping others, especially those who are less fortunate and who are victimized by the selfishness and arrogance that exists in the world. It is Christianity that characteristically rises to meet natural disasters, human disasters, and human needs and suffering on any scale. Pointing to errors made by people who claim to be Christians is not a response to the massive good done by Christians who obey the commands of Jesus to feed the hungry, care for the sick, clothe the naked, and visit the imprisoned. Christian teaching in the Bible defines pure and undefiled religion as “to look after the orphans and widows in their distress” (James 1:27). Jesus said of his followers, “by their fruits you will recognize them” (Matthew 7:20). Christians establishing hospitals, providing sources of clean drinking water, and caring for the orphaned and neglected are demonstrations of the truthfulness of that statement.
–John N. Clayton © 2017

Gay Community Hurt by Media’s Downplay of CDC Report


Atheists and skeptics have accused the Bible and Christians in general of being homophobic. This accusation is inaccurate and actually the opposite of what the Bible teaches. Jesus and the Apostles taught very clearly that Christians are to take care of everyone, and no passage says to avoid taking care of the homosexual. We are to love our enemy, do good to those who are opposed to us, and never return evil for evil. (See Matthew 5-7.) By the same token, Christians are obligated to oppose all forces that bring evil, pain, and suffering to others.

Last September the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released data on the spread of HIV and AIDS in the United States. The report made it very clear that homosexuality is a destructive lifestyle, but that material was largely ignored by the media. Here are some facts from the CDC:
1) Gay men are 2% of the population, 55% of all HIV cases, and 67% of all new cases of HIV.
2) Gay and bisexual men ages 13 to 24 accounted for 92% of the new HIV cases and 27% of new diagnoses among all gay and bisexual men.
3) Gay and bisexual men accounted for 83% (29,418) of the new HIV diagnoses among males aged 13 or older and 67% of the total estimated new cases in the United States.
4) Gay and bisexual men accounted for 54% (11,277) of the cases of people diagnosed with AIDS.
5) One in six gay and bisexual men will be diagnosed with HIV in their lifetime.

The Bible clearly teaches that God’s plan was for men and women to have sexual relationships in the context of marriage to members of the opposite sex. Christians need to encourage people not to live destructive lifestyles. We are not “alcoholifobic” because we oppose the use of alcohol as a social drug. We are not “abusophobic” because we oppose any form of abuse. We want people to live in a way that keeps them healthy, and we will do what we can to urge people to make good choices. But if they make bad choices we will still love them, encourage them, and try to help them become free of destructive lifestyles. Homosexuality is a destructive lifestyle, and we will work towards stopping the spread of diseases which homosexual acts tend to spread. We will also work to help those who are victimized by their destructive lifestyle choices.
Data from http://cdc.gov/hiv/pdf/group/msm/cdc-hiv-msm.pdf
–John N. Clayton © 2017