Monday, November 24, 2014

Does A Poetic Phrase Negate the Work of Jesus on the Cross?

This evening I heard a Christian minister proclaim on the radio that in the Garden of Eden, Satan’s attacked on Eve went “to her need for security, significance and strength.” Evidently it is part of the basis for his book and the phrase rolls off the tongue and who doesn’t have a need for security, significance and strength.


Do you resonate with the statement and agree with him?


In that statement in question the speaker claims that Eve was felt insecure, insignificant and threatened in some manner by the created order around her. When she yielded to the temptation Eve was seeking to satisfy those needs, those deficiencies in her nature that were designed into her by God.


The implication of the speaker’s theology is that the crux of Eve’s decision was much more than a moment of decision, to obey or disobey God. At that moment Satan is attacking those deficiencies, those flaws God designed into her, or could not remove from the design. In other words, Eve had designed into her some elements of a poor self-esteem.  The speaker by saying that humanity and the created order was not perfect, but flawed. He thereby stands against how the church has understood Eve, Adam and the initial basis of disobedience.


This position has implication for how the Garden of Gethsemane is then to be understood and salvation of humanity.


It means that in Gethsemane what transpired there was more than Jesus, a perfect human being, wrestling with a decision to obey or not obey God the Father. The church has held for two millennia that just like Eve and Adam Jesus too was truly human and perfect. The church has maintained that Jesus as the perfect man was faced with the temptation and a decision to obey or disobey, but that unlike Adam and Eve who disobeyed, Jesus obeyed knowing full well what was ahead. The church argues that Jesus as the perfect obedient human going to the cross therefore saved humanity, from the consequences of the Fall. But if Adam and Eve were not perfect humans, the basis of salvation and message of hope is unraveled.


Therefore the speaker’s statement about Eve means:

  • That both Eve and Adam were defective by design, and as they were defective, the created order was not perfect.
  • That Adam and Eve fell because they were not perfect. They were bound to sin because they were not perfect.
  • That Jesus was perfect, unlike Adam and Eve.
  • That Jesus did not sin because unlike Eve and Adam he was perfect.
  • That Jesus was not like Adam and Eve, he was “human plus” and that this extra element helped Jesus not to sin. An argument then could be made that Jesus could not have truly yielded and if that were true he was not truly tempted.
  • That if a “human plus” Jesus saved humanity, then the church’s theological argument of the last two millennium that only a perfect obedient human, the man Jesus could truly redeemed humanity for like Adam and Eve, Jesus was perfect human in every way. Like them Jesus was truly tempted and could have disobeyed, but he did not sin for he obeyed God. The church has maintained since its founding that if Jesus was not like Adam and Eve, that if he was a human plus and if Jesus did not face the same temptation and could not have truly disobeyed then humanity was not saved.   


Clergy, regardless of the denomination, must be cautious in crafting nice sounding statements for a book or a sermon so that poetic beauty doesn't undermine church dogma. This is particularly true regarding Adam and Eve, for how they are handled could readily result in impacting the work and nature of Jesus and even negating the basis of salvation through Jesus.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Ebola, AIDS and False Prophets

On the evening of November 14th I heard a radio personality, state the following,


“I just read that another medical doctor is being flown to Nebraska to be treated for Ebola. Why are all these medical personnel coming down with this thing if it is so hard to contract as the government tells us. You have to be intimate to contract this thing, so we’re being told. Why don’t doctors and nurses come down from AIDS? When did you last hear of medical personnel coming down with AIDS while treating a person with AIDS? Don’t you think that doctors and nurses know how to protect themselves? So if they are catching Ebola, what does that say about the decease and what we are being told? I don’t know. Just asking, that’s all!”


Before I left the show, while he did not explicitly say it, he implied that Ebola is a highly contagious airborne virus that being in the proximity of someone with Ebola was sufficient to infect those around the person with Ebola. I was stunned. Had he really read up on the decease and transmission issues from knowledgeable experts? If he were to claim that he has read about the decease then the readings he has accepted as being informed and valid are those produced by either the uniformed speculators or by those who twist reality for political reason. As many “social and political” commentators are more entertainers than anything else, I wondered that night, if he had shut down his critical thinking capacity for provocative tabloid like entertainment?


Since, what happens if I accept at face value his claim to be a critical thinker searching for truth regardless of where that truth rests. If I did that I find myself concluding that regardless of his posturing and pontificating that he is willing to set aside facts for pandering and ratings purposes, thereby pushing hot button issues while playing upon the ignorance and fears of his listeners. Masking his language in seeking truth and informing his listeners, would he not be the modern version of the traveling tonic salesman of yesteryear? Just asking and wondering!


I’m enraged by his implication that we are being told Ebola is primarily a sexually transmitted decease and that the government is lying to the public when it is an airborne virus that is easily caught by being in the proximity of a person with Ebola. I’ve never heard or read from an informed source that like HIV Ebola is a decease primarily caught through sexual activity. Yes, Ebola is transmitted through bodily fluids, and during sexual activity bodily fluids are involved, but that does not equate to Ebola being a decease that is primarily transmitted by sexual activity.  Can a severe flu be caught during sexually activity? Yet is can, but when was the last time you were driven to sexual activity when you had a high fever, experiencing chills and sweats, experiencing diarrhea, body aches and severely vomiting?  If you have, then you must have one of the strongest libidos in your community. Add into the mixture that  Ebola it zaps them of energy. While theoretically a person with Ebola could have sex, functionally it is highly unlikely.


This radio entertainer is about my age, and as such he was in his early adult years when AIDS emerged as a disease that entered our collected consciousness. Back then there was much misinformation and fear about those infected with the HIV virus. There were people who feared that being in the same room with a person with HIV let alone touching the person put them at high risk of becoming infected with the virus. Unfortunately rather than helping to inform the public, some political, religious and media leaders in the 1980s who had a megaphone used their megaphone to play upon the fears of the public and advance their personal and/or political agenda. Today it is evident that the pandering, prejudices and misinformation of these alarmist false prophets of yesteryear made it difficult for both medical community and informed civic leaders to educate the general public about AIDS and HIV how it was and was not transmitted. Today most of us are exposed several times a year to people who are HIV positive without any of us becoming infected. Since the 1980s we have become more balanced in our views and any shrill of a comment brings more discuss than a following.

Today we have a fresh crop of false prophets and uniformed alarmists. Included in that group I would include civic leaders who during an election cycle used Ebola to score points and enflame fears to help secure more votes for themselves. Do you wonder like me why so many of our elected leaders who spoke frequently about do this and than to shield America from Ebola, and who spoke of it as something that is going to devastate America have said nothing in the last two weeks. The election and their silence speaks volumes. And if they do such things on this issue, then how can I ever trust them on other issues?  


The gentleman I heard the other night with his megaphone into several hundreds of thousands of ears is not helping. Is he not akin to the false prophets of the prior years who make matters worse?


Medical personnel are the greatest at risk because they are the ones who are exposed to the sweat, vomit, diarrhea and the other bodily fluids flowing out of the Ebola infected patient. It is those fluids that transmit Ebola. It is those fluids that are covering their protective garments, garments which have to be carefully put on, removed and disposed least the skin of the medical worker becomes exposed to bodily fluid of an Ebola patient and thereby infect the caregiver.


Why are so many in the three African nations in question coming down with Ebola? Simply put, there issues there are cultural and economic issues at work against them, issues that the average westerner has difficulty grasping … a extremely poorly staffed and equipped health care system, a rudimentary sanitary system and absolute squalor, and a cultural that puts high importance upon the family caring for a person who is ill and when the family member passes away, prepare body for burial.  Many of those who are becoming infected with Ebola are family members and neighbors who without even the most basic protection have cared day after day for the infected person and prepared the body for burial.    


The radio personality in question is either clearly ignorant regarding medical personnel coming down with infectious illnesses, including illnesses such as hepatitis and HIV, or he is informed and ignoring that information. While rare medical personnel do contract such deceases from treating those with infectious deceases. Fortunately over decades protocols have been developed and followed that greatly minimize their risk. Why do think doctors and nurses in your local office always wear disposable gloves when their predecessors of forty years ago rare did so? Still each year medical personnel do become infected, we just hear about it on the nightly news. A stray needle accidently pricking a medical staff does occur, or some error in protocol does lead to a medical person being effect. The son of one of my former professors who is a medical doctor contracted hepatitis when he nicked his finger while doing surgery on a person with hepatitis.  Fortunately when these exposures occur they are caught early.


When my baser and ungodly fears seek to take hold and drive me, I need to remind myself to take a deep breath, recall what I know and educate myself further from reliable sources, and resist chasing ghosts and bogymen.  Further, I need to reject politicians, commentators, religious and other leaders who play upon our ignorance and fears, and express that rejection to them.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

The Legalization of Marijuana...My Stand

In November the citizens of Washington DC are voting to decriminalize the smoking of marijuana. If passed, it is a step short of legalizing the retail sale of marijuana.  While I don’t know which jurisdictions would be doing so, other jurisdictions may be doing the same this November or in the coming years. A handful of jurisdictions in the United States already permit the sale of marijuana.  


The arguments for and against abound, some of which are fallacious while others are much stronger. One prime argument against legalization of marijuana is that it is a gateway drug, a mild drug that leads to the taking of harder drugs. The reasoning is that if smoking of marijuana is legalized that the consumption of harder drugs will increase. The anti-legalization advocates note the number of people who are taking hard drugs who had smoked marijuana first. I’ve not been impressed with such an argument. While those using this argument are trying to make a direct cause and effect argument the argument is built upon a correlation of two behaviors that may or may not be linked.


It is true a high number of hard drug users first smoked marijuana, but does that mean that behavior drove or caused them to take harder drugs? The anti-legalization advocates claim that the high correlation argues that it does. I see some problems with argument. One is that the correlation between consuming of alcohol and the consumption of hard drugs is much stronger. There is a strong correlation between those who smoke marijuana and those who smoke cigarettes.  Are we then to argue that drinking alcohol or smoke cigarettes leads to the consumption of hard drugs?


The reason no one is making such arguments about alcohol or cigarettes being gateway drugs is that there is a high number of people who drink alcohol and smoke cigarettes who never take hard drugs. And that is my issue with linking marijuana with hard drugs, for there are millions of people who have smoked marijuana and have never then consumed hard drugs. Add to the mix is that when the Netherlands legalized marijuana, there was no increase in hard drug consumption.     


Does marijuana lead those who smoke it into the taking of other drugs?  Indicators suggest that other causes and issues are likely at play, not the smoking of marijuana.


Likewise, I’ve not been overly impressed with the argument that marijuana is a harmless drug. It is a drug which is much like alcohol, that when consumed affects the body. It is not harmless just as alcohol is not harmless. The degree of intoxication as well as detoxification is directly related to the amount consumed.  The more consumed in a short period of time the more marijuana impacts the body, judgment and conduct. Just as people get addicted to alcohol, people can become addicted too to marijuana.


The United States effort to expunge alcohol from society was a dismal failure. People consumed alcohol underground and increased black market related crime. America realized that its citizens were going to drink alcohol whether it was legal or not, and that it there are fewer social consequences in permitting and regulating it manufacturing, sale and consumption in the open than to have it unregulated and driven undergrounds. Are we as a society at the same point with marijuana?  Should we legalize and regulate marijuana just like we do alcohol?  Should we be more pragmatic about as do the Dutch?


At one time in my life, I would have been firmly in the anti-legalization. While I’m open to the idea, I’m not an advocate for legalizing of marijuana. If legalizing of marijuana was on Virginia’s ballet this year I’m uncertain how I would vote. Fortunately, due to the nature of downstate politics in Virginia, I have several years to become more settled on the matter.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

This Could Be a Long Stressful Winter

The winter of 2014/2015 may well be one of the most stress filled winters in recent memories, equaling and possibly surpassing the oil crisis winters of 1973-1974, and 1976-1977, 1979-1980. In those winters, many with modest to low incomes wondered if they would have oil to heat their homes, and gas to drive their cars as well as the anxiety the affordability of heating oil and gasoline. Those winters were years of significant stress across America.


The winter of 2001-2002 was also a winter of increased stress. Experiencing terrorism on its own soil, Americans were under stress that winter wondering not if another attack would take place but when and how it would strike. While many nations in Central America, Africa, Europe, the Middle East and Far East had experienced and long adjusted to such events, for Americans the 9-11 attacks was a new experience which created stress across the nation. Added to that stress was the stress that the nation was quickly moving to war with its people’s crying out for amends and its aging leaders voting to sacrifice the lives of the nation’s youth.


The winter of 2014-2015 has the potential to well surpass the stress and fears experienced during those four winters. There is no oil crisis looming for heating oil and gasoline are not only in good supply but their prices are dropping. The cause of the stress are the common flu and cold. We normally handle our own and the colds and flu of others with little concern, but there is evidence all around us that this winter may well be different. A person with a slight fever or who vomits would not give us much concern, but this year our irrational nature will wonder if the person has Ebola and that we will catch Ebola too. That fear will bring stress to many across the nation, and if they later have the flu many will become alarmed. 


This week a person at a community college in the Shenandoah Valley had a fever and vomited in a bathroom. Immediately he was identified as an Ebola suspect, quarantined, the men’s bathroom in which he was ill was sealed and quarantined. Then those who had likely were in contact with him were identified and put on a list.  In Charlottesville a feverish woman was also viewed as an Ebola suspect, treated as if she had the decease and tested. There was no evidence that either person had traveled in the past months to Africa or had been in contact with anyone who had or with any current Ebola victim in the US or Europe. Yet, around both individuals people reacted and treated them as if they had Ebola.  Both had a common illness. An overreaction? Most definitely.


If we are overreacting to these two individuals, what are we headed for as the flu season hits? Are our fears going to drive us to avoid people with slight flu symptoms and colds, force them to go home and not return until they are well? Are parents going to rushing a child with a fever to the emergency room with a fear that their child has Ebola? Are we months away from thousands of people around us refusing to go to church, parties, sports events and other group gatherings, and flying or traveling on mass transit, all because they fear of being exposed to Ebola?

Are the fears realistic? Not from what I understand of the decease but what can I expect when the press hypes the story and how it covers the story by airing unfounded statements. Was is unfortunate are states made by a growing number of politicians and political operatives who during this campaign season talk of Ebola in irrational uninformed manners and speak as if within months all across the nations many thousands will be fighting for their lives. (The comments made by their politicians and political operatives again reminding me that for too many politicians it is all about the election and the power, not about statesmanship and leadership.)


While humanity can be so rational, let's also remember that we can become so illogical too if we don't stop, take a deep breath and think thoughtfully about things.  As for me, I'm going to treat your cold and flu symptoms, and mine to, as just that. 

I fear that this could be a long winter people around us a state of higher than normal stress.      

Thursday, October 09, 2014

What's In a Name

What’s in a name? As evidenced by actors changing their name or author’s having a pen name, a name has great significance for marketing purposes. In the Middle Ages someone crying out “Vikings” created fear and even panic across England and the north coast of Europe. In the tenth century, Erik the Red knew the value in what name can project when to attract new settlers he named an ice laden rocky Arctic island Greenland. Today when most of us hear the word “gas” it doesn’t evoke an emotional response but someone yelling “gas” in 1916-1918 in the trenches of northern France evoked the emotions of urgency, dread, fear and in some cases panic.


I’ve been reminded afresh by three events of the significance a name may carry for good or for ill. The first two are apartment complexes. University Fields, a complex mainly populated by students suffered from a declining reputation over the years as the complex had not been well maintained and operated. With declining occupancy the complex was sold to a group of local investors who announced with some fanfare plans to renovate and upgrade the complex, and in doing so they changed the name to “The Harrison” as a means to distance themselves from past baggage and a poor reputation. A wise choice and one that is not uncommon for firms to do when a brand name has become toxic.


With grand plans announced and promised The Harrison saw a good number of James Madison University students willing to sign leases in April and May with a late August move in. Over the summer, the owners commenced the renovations. While crews were working daily across the complex, as those who have been involved in construction projects know, when work is being done on a budget and you use low cost subs, the schedule falls behind. Subs have a way of taking portions of their crews elsewhere when higher paying opportunities come along. That is what occurred at the Harrison, and their major interior projects ranging from new flooring, freshly painted walls, electrical upgrading, new kitchen cabinets with new appliances and new furniture (furnished apartment complex), started to fall behind in June. The schedule was so far behind that when JMU students were moving in August, many of the apartments were not yet available for occupancy.   The Harrison as a brand took a major hit and became toxic, so much so that by late September the complex quietly returned to its former name.

The new owners overpromised and under delivered, and in the process destroyed the new name they were using to signal a change in ownership and an improved complex. It may well be years before the owners of University Fields will see their investment yield the return they projected earlier in the year when they bought the complex. It will take another two classes of students to come and go before they will have a chance to build a new brand around a new name...yes I anticipate a name change will happen because University Fields is still somewhat toxic, just not as toxic as The Harrison.  


Across the street from University Fields another housing complex, The Commons, announced in April that it too would be undergoing some upgrading…new flooring and appliances, and new siding. All the work was to be completed by mid August, but it too fell behind schedule. Flooring and the appliance installation that was to be completed by late July didn’t finish until mid August, just ahead of the return of the students. The siding installation to give the complex a fresh appearance started late and while the work will not be completed until late October, the outside work is a minor disturbance. Interestingly, this second complex likewise quietly underwent on the first of October, changing its name from The Commons to Campus Edge in an effort to market itself afresh to the JMU students whose campus is a half a mile from the complex. 

The other event revolves around the growing reaction and in some cases panic in some circles off American politicians, political commentators and segments of the public to two terms, Ebola and IS (and its various name derivatives). It is interesting to see how such names evoke panic and fear, and is being used by some “leaders” to inflame such fears and calling for drastic responses that are beyond the level of their threats. And it is likely the fears and paranoia will be further enflamed over the coming months. Hopefully we will not only return to a more balanced reaction but that the public will increasingly view the “brand” of those who played upon their fears as toxic.