Entertainment Industry Influence

Entertainment Industry Influence

When I was a teenager, it was common to take your date to a movie. Of course, you knew that there would be a happy moral ending to the film, and it would not contain anything offensive or violent. How the entertainment industry has changed!

As children, we devoted much of our free time to such things as “Capture the Flag.” It was a neighborhood game where each side had a flag, and the other side tried to grab it. It was outside and mainly involved running. If you got “tagged” while trying to get the other side’s flag, you were a captive until one of your teammates could free you. There were rules that everyone obeyed, and no one got hurt. A twisted ankle would halt the game, and both sides would focus on the injured person.

Today children walk around with their faces in their smartphones, watching people getting ripped to shreds by dragons. There are “fake” wars where superheroes kill many people, and violence occupies most of the presentation. Adults watch movies with a great deal of killing, violence, adultery, nudity, and pain. “It is not real” is the answer given to those who question all of this. But, the bigger question is what message the entertainment industry is giving to those who immerse themselves in things the Bible refers to as sin.

In 1 Thessalonians 5:14-23, we see the inspired writer talking to Christians about life. “Now we exhort you brethren to admonish the disorderly, comfort the feebleminded, support the weak and be patient with all. Take care that none of you ever pays back wrong for wrong but always follow the kindest course one toward another and toward all. … Bring everything to the test and cling to that which is good. Reject everything that has a look of evil about it, and may the God of peace consecrate you through and through. I pray to God that your whole spirit and soul and body may be preserved blameless at the appearance of our Lord Jesus Christ.”

It is time for Christians to stop supporting an entertainment system that makes killing, suffering, violence, and abuse “entertainment.” I know this is an uphill battle because the entertainment industry is so embedded in our culture. However, one has to hearken back to the words Jesus Christ spoke to those who aspire to be his disciples: “It is you who are the light of the world … Let your light so shine before men that they may see the beauty of your life and glorify your Father who is in heaven” (Matthew 5:14, 16).

— John N. Clayton © 2021

Christian Compassion and Doing Good in Christ’s Name

Christian Compassion and Doing Good in Christ's Name

One thing that happens to you when you become a Christians is that you grow in compassion for needy people. That is generally not true of other belief systems that tend to view people’s problems as retribution for their wrong actions or as a natural product of the survival of the fittest. Christian compassion and doing good in Christ’s name are unique to Christ-followers.

Since becoming a Christian, I have had many opportunities to be involved in Christian responses to needs. I have supported the drilling of water wells in places where people have inadequate or contaminated water. Another area has been funding medical outreaches to people who have little or no medical care available. Christian compassion involves helping needy people regardless of the cause.

Are the people benefiting from this help Christians? In most cases, they are not. So how do we justify spending large amounts of money on people who may not be believers and who may have caused their own problems by how they have lived? The classic response to this question is to look at what Jesus Christ did.

In Matthew 14 and 15 and Mark 6, we see situations in which Jesus fed thousands of people. You might say that the purpose of these miracles was to demonstrate to the people that Jesus had the power of God. But we should not overlook the words telling us that Jesus had compassion on the people and addressed their hunger. Were all of the people Jesus fed perfect people? I would suggest that many of those people had come to hear Jesus out of curiosity and skepticism. Some were motivated by wanting a solution to a problem they had. They were not people wanting to become disciples. In all probability, many of them were people steeped in sin.

Jesus doesn’t ask any questions. He didn’t refuse food to anyone because they were bad or had evil motives. Jesus addressed a need because He has compassion for all humans. So we today express Christian compassion as we address human needs because we care about people. Unlike other human belief systems, Christianity overflows with caring and compassion. We express it by massive humanitarian aid to people on every continent and in every situation.

Many people are Christians today because they saw what Christianity does and how it overflows with compassion and caring. Galatians 6:10 tells all Christians to do good to everyone. The opportunities to do that are greater today than at any time in human history.

— John N. Clayton © 2021

Tulsa Massacre in Greenwood

Tulsa Massacre in Greenwood

One hundred years ago, on June 1, 1921, a mob of white people engaged in one of the worst acts of terrorism in United States history. In Tulsa, Oklahoma, ten thousand black Americans were left homeless, and as many as 300 were killed. Not only did the white mob attack and destroy black-owned businesses and churches, but they set fires to complete the destruction. Some even made firebombs out of turpentine-filled bottles and dropped them from airplanes. Today we remember the anniversary of the Tulsa Massacre in Greenwood.

I am amazed that I never heard of the Tulsa Massacre in all my years of formal education until recently. That is even though I grew up as the only white kid in my elementary school and had a father who taught in an all-black college in Talladega, Alabama. It is also despite the fact that I saw and experienced racial hatred and prejudice in person after I left Talladega and moved to Illinois. It has only been since the murder of George Floyd that I learned of this terrible blot on America.

As a Christian, I look for explanations of how such a thing could happen in a Christian nation. As an educator, I have to search for lessons to draw from this horrible tragedy. Here are some lessons I see from the Tulsa Massacre in Greenwood:

1-Mob violence is irrational. It was mob violence that killed Jesus Christ. How could people have seen the miracles of Christ and comprehended the practical applications of His teachings, and still nail Him to a cross? When a “mob” of atheists attended my lectureships over the years, I have experienced violence. I learned that you can’t get a mob of people to think and reason logically when they are shaking their fists in rage.

2-Ignorance produces irrational violence. Those who attacked Greenwood and started shooting people and setting fire to their homes, businesses, and churches had been convinced that blacks were less than human. If you can write off people who threaten your ego as less evolved than you, killing them is no worst than shooting an animal. The teachings of Jesus are very clear that love and openness are crucial parts of the Christian system. 

3-Another facet of ignorance is not taking the Bible literally. It will lead people who claim to be religious to do things that contradict the Bible. I would assume that people in Oklahoma in 1921 would have claimed to be Christians, but they did not apply the message of Matthew 5-7. Emotional contagion is a term sociologists use to describe people who allow themselves to do something that violates common sense, and it was a major part of the Greenwood massacre.

4-History books are sanitized to promote a worldview desired by the ones who publish the books. I took U.S. History classes in high school and college. How can I be over 80 years old before I knew about the Greenwood massacre? I find that atheist books do not record the Liberal, Missouri, experiment in which a town was established that did not allow churches. The reason is that it was a failure, but atheists, like Christians, do not want to admit their failures.

5-Humans fail to learn from the history of failures. Jesus said, “By their fruits you will know them.” What has been the result of men and women following religious systems outside of Christianity? Has Hinduism produced a higher standard of living? Has Islam elevated the status of women? 

Have we learned anything from the Tulsa Massacre in Greenwood? Do we believe that “black lives matter,” which those who attacked Greenwood in 1921 did not? Can atheism stamp out Christianity, knowing that it promotes equal rights for all humans and espouses a moral code that values all life? This ministry promotes evidence, but ignoring evidence leads to a repeat of history. 

— John N. Clayton © 2021

Even Christians Have Abortions

Even Christians Have Abortions

In 1973, the U.S. Supreme Court clearly stated that killing a baby is a choice women have the right to make. We have pointed out before that it is scientifically impossible to support the view that a fetus is just an extension of the mother’s body. Morning sickness happens because the mother’s body tries to reject a foreign object. Nearly 50 million babies, each with their own genome, have been aborted in the United States, and even Christians have abortions.

It is easy to carry a sign around opposing abortion or write an article condemning it. The fact is that if a woman finds herself pregnant and doesn’t want the baby, she has an excruciating decision to make. No one should trivialize an unwanted pregnancy or throw stones at a woman who has had an abortion.

It is essential to look at ourselves and see that we don’t become hypocritical when faced with a situation where abortion seems to be the easiest answer – either for us or someone we love. “40 Days for Life” is a pro-life movement claiming the involvement of over 20,000 churches and more than a million participants. Carmen Pate, working with that group, released disturbing statistics that even Christians have abortions. Of the women who have had abortions, 43% identify themselves as Protestants, and 27% identify as Catholic. One in four women has had at least one abortion by age 45.

The abortion dilemma continues to divide America and is a challenging problem to solve. The real answer is to stop endorsing promiscuity and provide better ways for couples who want children to adopt babies. As an adoptive father of three children, I am so thankful that my kids’ biological mothers were strong enough to allow them to live and grow into productive adults.

— John N. Clayton © 2021

Challenge of Feeding the Hungry

Challenge of Feeding the Hungry

The COVID-19 pandemic has caused many hardships for people of all economic levels, but children have been hit especially hard with child hunger becoming a national problem. Last year in Michigan, over 67,000 children faced hunger. In 2020, that number has increased to almost 118,000. Right now, one in six families in Michigan is struggling to have enough food. The challenge of feeding the hungry is being met, and there is a lesson in who is meeting it.

Feeding America is an organization that gathers and distributes food to relieve hunger in West Michigan and the Upper Peninsula. They do this by donations of money and food from various companies and relying on volunteer labor.

The Does God Exist? ministry is dedicated to showing evidence that there is a God and that the Bible is His Word. Although the evidence for God’s existence is vast, perhaps more convincing is Christianity’s effect on people’s lives. Recently, the Feeding America truck came to our small congregation, where we unloaded food and distributed it to 103 families that don’t have enough to eat in our area. Our small operation reflected what is happening all over America. In 2019, Feeding America distributed almost 28-million pounds of food.

Our point here is who is meeting the challenge of feeding the hungry? Are atheist and skeptic groups involved? In 2019, volunteers turned three-and-a-half-million pounds of food into almost three-million meals for people in Western Michigan. Who were the volunteers making this possible? Four of the five groups were churches, and the other one was a Kiwanis Club. Feeding America lists agency partners for Michigan, and of the 20 partners listed, 13 were churches.

When churches feud or a minister is involved in a scandal, it frequently becomes front-page news. Atheist magazines like The Skeptical Inquirer and Skeptic publish stories in nearly every issue about a church or religious leader involved in some scam or mismanagement of money. Not making the headlines are the people of faith who meet the challenge of feeding the hungry. They are the ones who manage the food pantries and are the primary workers in programs like Feeding America.

Jesus said, “By their fruits you will know them,” and the good being done by churches and people of faith speaks volumes about the effect of Christianity. There is an old saying, “I would rather see a sermon than hear one,” and that is happening all over America in this time of need.

— John N. Clayton © 2020

Are We Doomed or Is there Hope?

Are We Doomed or Is there Hope?

I am amazed by the lack of understanding of our planet and how it works. It is astounding how the public refuses to take the cause and treatment of the current pandemic seriously. Politicians worldwide are promoting distrust of just about everything, making progress on any level almost impossible. The Bible is the one thing that we can trust, but since atheism and false religions have taken over the planet, people reject the Bible’s teachings and create chaos all around us. Are we doomed?

Proverbs 8:32-33 quotes wisdom as saying, “…hearken unto me…hear instruction and be wise and refuse it not.” Romans 1:17-32 tells us that we can know God by understanding the creation. The meaning of those passages is more evident today than ever before. We now have the means of seeing the vastness of the cosmos, and understanding how fragile Earth is. We see pictures of polluted skies, contaminated lakes and rivers, and plastic-filled oceans. When we see images of starving people around the world, that should motivate us to make changes. You can see evidence for global warming if you will look. There is no debate possible about pollution or water shortages. Look at the evidence and “hearken to wisdom.”

Scientific American (September 2020, pages 74-81) published an article by Peter Brannen titled “The Worst Times on Earth.” Brannen surveys the evidence of mass extinctions and the implications for the future. He offers logical solutions to likely future catastrophes. If we believe that God created the cosmos, we understand that wisdom and design went into every corner of the creation. We know that God told us to “take care of the garden” (Genesis 2:15). As Christians, we are told to serve others as if our salvation depended on it, because it does. (See Matthew 25:31-46.)

Are we doomed? We know that God will ultimately destroy the creation (2 Peter 3:10), but He will not allow humans to do it. We may make the planet uncomfortable to live on. We may pass on a contaminated, overheated Earth to future generations. Hopefully, we will heed the words of Proverbs 8 and Romans 1 and be wise in what we believe about the creation, how we use our money and energy to make this physical world better, and how we vote.

Are we doomed? As Christians, the answer is loud and clear. NO!! We have hope no matter what happens here in the physical world. We know that we have a spiritual existence beyond the grave that is totally free of all human ignorance, selfishness, greed, and stupidity. The God whom wisdom describes in Proverbs 8 has promised it to us.

— John N. Clayton © 2020

Helping Prisoners Restore their Lives and Faith

Helping Prisoners Restore their Lives and Faith

Today we are doing something different, but we feel this is an area of apologetics that needs attention. In this day and time, Christians getting involved in prison work is an excellent evidence of the existence of God. Atheists are not going to spend time and money helping prisoners restore their lives.

We have over 4,000 students in our “Does God Exist?” correspondence course, and a vast percentage of them are in prison. They tell of losing their faith in God and immersing themselves in activities that landed them in prison. They take our courses in the hope that their faith can be rekindled, and they can rebuild what is left of their lives.

One of the programs that has assisted us is the Kings Crossings Prison Ministries in Corpus Christi, Texas, directed by Buck Griffith. They have a program called “NewLife Behavior Ministries” and a study called Christians Against Substance Abuse (CASA). Substance abuse is a major issue in America today, and many of our students have had substance abuse problems.

Buck Griffith has written a manual titled Loosed and Forgiven which describes how to start and grow a jail ministry. The manual has 151 pages, and it is the best resource we have seen on the mechanics of prison work. Helping prisoners restore their lives, and faith is a great way to demonstrate the love of Christ.

If you are interested in prison work, I recommend that you purchase Buck’s book. The cost is $14.95 plus shipping. For more information, contact NewLife Behavior Ministries, PO Box 270720, Corpus Christi, Texas 78427-0720. Their phone number is 361-855-3372, and their email is nlbcasa@yahoo.com. You can find more information on their website www.nlbm.org.

— John N. Clayton © 2020

Early Christians Confronted Plagues with Faith and Courage

Early Christians Confronted Plagues with Faith and Courage

We hear a lot about the current virus struggle and references to the idea that this is a first-time event. That may be true for those of us living in America, but plagues have been the scourge of humankind throughout recorded history. We recently saw a writing by the early Christian historian Eusebius that tells us about how early Christians confronted plagues. He referred to a report from an elder in the Church named Dionysius around A.D. 260. Dionysius was writing about the plague in Alexandria. Here is a quote from part of his letter to Eusebius:

“Most of our brethren showed love and loyalty not sparing themselves while helping one another, tending to the sick with no thought of danger and gladly departing this life with them after becoming infected with their disease. Many who nursed others to health died themselves. The best of our own brothers lost their lives in this way – some elders, deacons and laymen – a form of death based on strong faith and piety that seems in every way equal to martyrdom.

“All things are filled with tears, all are mourning, and on account of the multitudes already dead and still dying, groans are heard throughout the city… There is not a house in which there is not one dead. Despite afflictions we Christians rejoiced in the peace of Christ which He gave to us alone… Most of our brethren by their exceeding great love and affection, not sparing themselves and adhering to one another, were constantly superintending the sick, ministering to their wants without fear and cessation, and healing them in Christ.”

This quote appeared in Action! magazine, May 2020, page 2. John Reese, the president of World Bible School which publishes Action! added a comment. He said that the existence of hospitals was an early Christian innovation to improve the ability to serve those struck down by the pandemic of their day. We can learn much from how early Christians confronted plagues.

— John N. Clayton © 2020

Decline in Practicing Christians in America

Decline in Practicing Christians in America

The Barna Research Group is a research agency that has been doing statistical analysis of religion since 1984. Their studies are widely recognized as academically valid. One useful part of Barna’s work is that they repeat studies to identify trends. Research this year indicates a decline in practicing Christians in America.

Barna defines a practicing Christian as: “Someone who identifies as a Christian, agrees strongly that faith is very important in their life, and has attended church within the past month.” In the year 2000, 45% of Americans surveyed identified themselves as Christians using that criterion. In February of 2020, that percentage had dropped to 25%. This research was based on interviews with 96,171 adults.

When you think about the numbers associated with the Barna definition, it is evident that the word “practicing” is the weasel word. Many people who claim to be Christians have not made a practice of attending Church services. At the same time, they would probably be upset to be called “non-practicing Christians.” However, the truth is that Barna used the same set of questions in 2000 and 2020. There can be no doubt that there has been a sharp decline in practicing Christians in America.

It may be that the coronavirus pandemic will pull some of us away from making a god out of our material possessions. But unless we replace our zeal for things with enthusiasm for the teachings of Jesus Christ, we will continue to be poorly equipped either for this life or for eternity.

— John N. Clayton © 2020

You can find previous posts about Barna Group research HERE and HERE.

Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill Ten Years Later

Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill
BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill in 2010.

On April 20 of 2010, the Deepwater Horizon oil spill began. By the time technicians could bring it under control, it had dumped 134,000,000 gallons of crude oil into the Gulf of Mexico over 87 days. Ten years after this disaster, we still see the effects in ways that no one would have expected. The entire issue of National Wildlife for February-March 2020 was devoted to new data on the long-range damage.

There is far more involved in this disaster than the removal of the obvious symptoms of the spill. Even on a commercial level, the damage is more than most people realize. Oyster production from Apalachicola to Galveston has collapsed. Louisiana has lost well over 50 million dollars in oyster harvest revenue. Scientists studying the oyster beds tell us that 8.3 billion oysters died as a result of the spill. A single oyster can filter up to 50 gallons of water a day. When explorers came to the Gulf of Mexico between 1600 and 1800, they described the oyster beds as “the Great Barrier Reef of the Americas,” nearly 100 miles long and several miles deep. Oyster shells are used to make mortar, build roadbeds, and to supplement chicken feed. The Deepwater Horizon oil spill has changed all of that.

The massive killing of wildlife has been well-publicized with pathetic pictures still showing up on the web. Does the killing of 30,000 loggerhead turtles, 17% of the Bryde’s whales, 800,000 coastal birds, a vast number of dolphins who are still having lung problems, and 20% of all corals in the area have any significance for those of us living far from the Gulf of Mexico? Most of us eat shrimp, crabs, lobsters, and fish. Much of the fishing industry in the Gulf has gone out of business, and those still existing are hard-pressed to find enough seafood to make a living. That results in higher prices and the risk of pollution effects on what we eat.

So why are we reminding our readers of the consequences of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill? Skeptics criticize any notion of God creating the Earth by saying that if there is a God, He didn’t do a very good job. Humans are threatened with shortages of food and water. In my mail yesterday, I received 16 different requests from organizations wanting financial help in feeding and helping hungry children and starving families. (By the way, all of them were faith-based). Why are there shortages? Human greed, selfishness, ignorance, desire for power, and refusal to live as God told us to has resulted in destructive wars, mismanagement of resources, waste of incredible proportions, and foolish and irresponsible management of resources.

When God created the Earth, He provided for an abundance of food and water. God also told us how to live. Read Matthew 25:34-40 and see how Christ portrayed Christian living. The Deepwater Horizon oil spill is just one human failure, but look at what it has done to innocent humans. We are just beginning to understand the biological damage and effects. We cannot blame God for what humans have done. God has given us all we need and the means of taking care of it. Christians must lead the way in the responsible use of God’s gifts.

— John N. Clayton © 2020