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"… whether Paul, Apollos, Cephas, the world, life, death, the present, or the future— all things are yours, but you are Christ's…" (I Cor 3)

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What the Bible *Actually* Says About Fear

It’s not what you probably think.

Many christians lately have been talking a lot about “not living in fear.” This idea has risen to new heights during the pandemic, but even before that I once wrote, “In my tribe of charismatics, one thing that you learn to be very…afraid of…is to admit to anyone you are afraid of something.” Fear has long been marked as a huge [charismatic evangelical] Christian no-no.

poltergeist (1)
Does this picture make you feel fear?

Any good charismatic follower of Jesus knows exactly what must be done with someone who admits fear: you immediately remind them of 2 Timothy 1:7 which reads: “God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of love, power, and a sound mind.”

In the charismatic world, this verse is used as a sort of stop-thought device: you stop any thought of fear by immediately plastering your thoughts with this verse – or having someone do it to you, if you aren’t yet savvy enough to keep your mouth shut about your fears.  Fear is just not considered holy or spiritual.  

As one person explained this verse to me, fear is a “spirit” according to 2 Timothy 1:7, and a spirit not from God, and thus there is no room in a Jesus-follower’s life for fear.   Fear, it is taught, is the opposite of faith.   And Paul said that anything that is not of faith is sin, therefore, fear is sin.   When one uses the Bible to quote axioms like this, it’s easy to make the proof that a + b = c.    Easy, right?  The Bible says it, I believe it, that settles it – ’nuff said.

I’m not sure why we charismatics decided that doing this sort of thing to Bible verses, or to people, was a good idea….But I think we’ve really missed the boat on treating the Bible and people like this when it comes to the topic of fear.  So let’s look at this closer.

Fear is a Spirit?

Fear is an evil spirit, right?  Er, not so fast.   While 2 Timothy 1:7 does talk about a spirit of fear not being from God, I think we’ve forgotten that the Bible does have other things to say about a spirit of fear.   Check this one out, from Isaiah 11 (NASB):

“Then a shoot will spring from the stem of Jesse, And a branch from his roots will bear fruit. The Spirit of the LORD will rest on Him, The spirit of wisdom and understanding, The spirit of counsel and strength, The spirit of knowledge and the fear of the LORD. And He will delight in the fear of the LORD, And He will not judge by what His eyes see, Nor make a decision by what His ears hear….”

Ok, obviously, basic generic fear – such as fear of spiders, or fear of moving to a new city, or fear of public speaking – isn’t anywhere in the realm of “the fear of the Lord.”   But I just want to point out that if we’re talking about a “spirit of fear” – there is more than one kind of “spirit of fear.”   There’s the kind that Paul told Timothy did not come from God – but there’s also a type of “spirit of fear” that in Isaiah 11 clearly DOES come from God, and is beautiful.    And Jesus had it.

So what HASN’T God given us, then?

And therein lies the rub, doesn’t it?   If there are two different “spirit of fears” then perhaps we ought to start paying more attention to context.   What was Paul talking about to Timothy when he said, “God hasn’t given us a spirit of fear” – was there a certain TYPE of fear he was refering to?   Because obviously he didn’t mean that Timothy shouldn’t receive the same Spirit Jesus had, which was a “spirit of the knowledge and fear of the Lord.”   There is some other fear then, not all fear in all cases in general, which Paul was refering towards.

It might be appropriate at this point to mention that the Greek word (yes, we always end up talking about those Greek words, don’t we?) in Paul’s words to Timothy about the “spirit of fear” doesn’t actually use the standard word for fear: phobos (from which we get our word, phobia.)   Instead, Paul used another term: δειλία deilia which in many Bible versions gets translated not as “fear” but as “timidity” or “cowardice.”   That gives us a clue as we look at the context of 2 Timothy 1:7, where Timothy is being told to shrug off this fear (actually, timidity), it seems to me the specific context is revealed in the preceeding and following verses which embrace our fear verse like a set of parenthesis.

Firstly, Timothy is told to use his spiritual gift (vs 6: For this reason I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you through the laying on of my hands,) and then comes our verse 7 about “for God has not given us a spirit of fear.”   This is followed by Paul in verse 8 encouraging Timothy to be ready to suffer with Paul (…therefore do not be ashamed of the testimony about our Lord, nor of me his prisoner, but share in suffering for the gospel by the power of God…)  While I can’t be completely sure what spiritual gift Paul is referring to here, it looks like it’s the kind of gift that involves the ‘testimony’ Paul is talking about in verse 8 – and sharing it.

Whatever the gift is, it has the possibility of landing Timothy in the same hot water as Paul.   And Paul is reminding Timothy that any spirit that would try to dampen his readiness to suffer for the gospel like Paul has, is not from God.   Rather, with “love, power, and a sound mind” he can join in with Paul’s sufferings for the testimony of Christ.

So we should never fear persecution, then?

Jesus in Gethsemane

Well, not so fast on that one either.   I suppose it depends on what someone means by fear.   But I somehow don’t think that Paul’s exhortation for Timothy to realize that a spirit of fear – of persecution, most likely – would not be coming from God, doesn’t mean that a fear of persecution is somehow always sin.    

This exhortation has its time and place, but I’m not sure it should be wielded as a club on the thoughts of anyone who is feeling nervous about the pain they might suffer for the gospel, either.

I think of the example of Jesus in Gethsemane – does anyone want to remind the poor fellow while he cries and sweats tears of blood at the thought of his upcoming suffering that “Jesus, for crying out loud – God hasn’t given you a spirit of fear!   Snap out of it already!”    It is true that after ministering angels came to him and reminded him of this verse, he found strength.   Or perhaps I’m just being snarky.   I don’t know what the ministering angels said or did for Jesus that helped Him.  Perhaps it was some special angelic anti-fear impartation.   But somehow I think it was a little more than saying, “Jesus, get with the program, this spirit of fear is not from God!”

And while Paul urged Timothy to be ready to suffer bravely with him, let us also not that Paul didn’t always embrace persecution head on.   Acts 9:25 and 2 Corinthians 11:33 both recount the time that Paul escaped from a city that wanted to harm him, in a basket let down from the city walls.   Clearly running away is an acceptable option sometimes. And I think we might surmise that a little bit of fear might be involved when someone decides to run away from a city in the middle of the night.

OK, but fear is bad – the Bible says a zillion times, “Fear Not….”

Yep, I will grant anyone who wants to make this point that many places in the Bible people are told not to fear.  To my knowledge, there are no other places where fear is called a “spirit” than the two instances we’ve already looked at above, but there are a lot of places where we see, “fear nots.”   Sixty-three times, to be exact, in the King James version.   (And “be not afraid” gets 26 appearances, making a total of 89 times.)

So that settles it, right?  People in the Bible are always – 89 times – being told not to fear, so this means fear is wrong, evil, unallowable, and just a generally bad thing always, right?

Except that one of those “fear not” verses actually operates in two directions at once – saying not to fear and to have fear at the same exact time.   Don’t believe me?  Well, heck, here it is:

Matthew 10:28: “And fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul: but rather fear him which is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.”   (Luke 12 sort of repeats this, too.)

Ok, ok, but this is talking about the fear of the Lord again, right?   And that’s the exception, isn’t it?

No, there are actually a lot of other exceptions.  It is worth mentioning that fearing the Lord is mentioned a gazillion times in scripture as a very good thing, culminating I think in this verse:
“Sanctify the LORD of hosts himself; and let him be your fear, and let him beyour dread.”  (Isaiah 8:13).

Anyone who gets all excited about 1 John talking about “perfect love casts out all fear” really needs to remember that there are dozens, if not hundreds, of scriptures talking about the beauty and desireability of the fear of the Lord, using the same exact Greek word – phobos – as the fear that 1 John talks about being cast out. (Especially if we call the Septuagint version of the Hebrew Bible into the mix.)   But aside from the fear of the Lord, there are still lots of other fears being exhorted or encouraged or at least treated as sorta normal.

So here’s some other Biblically endorsed fear for us to chew on:

Romans 11:20 exhorts fear of suffering the same fate as unbelieving first century Jews:
“…because of unbelief they were broken off, and thou standest by faith. Be not highminded, but fear”

Romans 13:7 exhorts fear of authority:
“Render therefore to all their dues: tribute to whom tribute is due; custom to whom custom; fear to whom fear; honour to whom honour.”

In fact, Romans 13:4 had exhorted people to be afraid of their authorities if they do evil:
“For the one in authority is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for rulers do not bear the sword for no reason. They are God’s servants, agents of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer.”

2 Corinthians 11:3 has Paul expressing some of his own fear (worry, concern) about the Corinthians:
“But I fear, lest by any means, as the serpent beguiled Eve through his subtilty, so your minds should be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ.”

And again, in 2 Corinthians 12:20 the same thing:
“For I fear, lest, when I come, I shall not find you such as I would, and that I shall be found unto you such as ye would not: lest there be debates, envyings, wraths, strifes, backbitings, whisperings, swellings, tumults:”

And again in Galatians 1:11 – 
“I am afraid of you, lest I have bestowed upon you labour in vain.”

Paul is fearful of his ability to represent Christ to the Corinthians in 1 Cor 2:3:
“And I was with you in weakness, and in fear, and in much trembling.”

Slaves are told to be fearful of their masters as towards Christ, in Ephesians 6:5
“Servants, be obedient to them that are your masters according to the flesh, with fear and trembling, in singleness of your heart, as unto Christ..”

Social fear is employed in 1 Timothy 5:20:
“Them that sin rebuke before all, that others also may fear.”

Noah knew danger was coming, and had fear motivating him to build the ark per Hebrews 11:7:
“By faith Noah, being warned of God of things not seen as yet, moved with fear, prepared an ark to the saving of his house; by the which he condemned the world, and became heir of the righteousness which is by faith.”

2 Peter 2:10 sneers at people who have no fear of speaking evil of spiritual beings:
“But chiefly them that walk after the flesh in the lust of uncleanness, and despise government. Presumptuous are they, selfwilled, they are not afraid to speak evil of dignities.”

These are just a few examples of other kinds of fear being exhorted, or at least acceptable, in scripture.   There are a lot of examples of people just showing a normal, natural fear of something, and nothing is said to them about whether it was ok or not ok to be afraid of that thing.

For instance, the disciples got really scared in Mark 9:6, and nothing is ever said to them about it:
“For he knew not what to say; for they were sore afraid.”

Daniel was afraid of the angel, and the angel didn’t tell him NOT to be afraid, he just gave him some understanding:
“So he came near where I stood: and when he came, I was afraid, and fell upon my face: but he said unto me, Understand, O son of man: for at the time of the end shall be the vision.”  (Daniel 8:7)

The proverbs 31 woman was actually NOT afraid, because she had prepared her family.   But one might easily conjecture that there is a subtle suggestion here that if she had NOT prepared, she would have had valid room for fear in view of the lack of preparation (Proverbs 31:21):
“She is not afraid of the snow for her household: for all her household are clothed with scarlet.”

It also seems worth mentioning that taking precautions about something dangerous does not always equal fear anyway. Wearing a mask or getting vaccinated to take care of one’s body and and one’s family and community does not mean one is “living in fear” as much as it simply means one is using good judgment, wisdom, and caution. There is a verse that says, “The prudent sees danger and hides himself, but the simple go on and suffer for it.” (ESV)

“Prudence” is a type of caution (or “fear” if someone wants to label it that) which the Bible actually seems to hold in high honor. In fact, this verse appears TWO times in Proverbs, perhaps suggesting the verse should be taken doubly seriously. (Proverbs 27:12, Proverbs 22:3)

…..And thus concludes part 2, but you can go on to part three by clicking here.


God Protects Me and My Friends from Covid

A friend of mine recently wrote me about his attitude towards covid-19 and God. We’ll call my friend “Mike”:


[I want to share how I responded. First, a word about statistics: while it is hard to truly estimate the true death rate from Covid-19 because of the severe differences in mortality between ages, ethnicities, nationalities, and socioeconomic groups, it seems like 1% is the typical number that people quote in conversation. This doesn’t seem unreasonable, and it may be worth mentioning my friend is a white American male in his 50s.]

My reply:

The problem with the mindset here you are sharing about “not giving into fear” is that it is very individually centered. Covid only kills one out of every 100 people who get it, that’s what 1% fatality looks like. That means that you, and the average person in the average small church, will look around and say to themselves, “Look! Me and all my friends are recovering! See, we trusted God and it worked out!”

But this is a pandemic, and with a 1% fatality rate, it doesn’t play out on the scale that one person’s social network or church can see. Instead, a pandemic works itself out on large scale populations. So in a small church, maybe no one dies, or maybe one person dies.

But when you zoom out and look at a city, or a state, people are dying everywhere. You would see it playing out at a city’s ICU, or at a funeral home, or at a cemetery because this is where all those people end up. But among your limited group of friends, from that vista, 1% isn’t enough to make a large impact on a sample that small, so it looks like God is really on your side. And I’m not saying He isn’t — but again, when you zoom out and see a larger swath of people, for some 600,000 people in the USA, He didn’t “see them through” like you feel He did for you — many of them just as strong believers in God as you, many of them praying and being prayed for maybe more than you were.

No, this, “I’m not giving into fear” thing is all about individualism. If you move over to a more collective mindset rather than an individual mindset, one begins to see what while one thought they were trusting God to keep them safe, one was a vessel along with all their friends and church through which the virus flowed through a community like a wave. And Christians who insisted on gathering together without any masks, distancing, or vaccinations — without any “fear” as prudence gets mislabeled, these people directly contributed to the death of many people in their community. It’s impossible to see the 2, 3, or 4 degrees of separation where covid-19 got passed along until it killed someone, but everyone who died of covid so far got it from someone else, who got it from someone else. If any one of those people who could have been more cautious had done so, that chain would have been broken. Every person’s virus came from another person. Everyone who died was killed by other people’s bodies making copies of the virus which they then, sometimes without any attempt to hold it back, passed it on to other people.

But people can be myopic and only see what’s right in front of them instead of seeing the big picture. If I wear a mask, it sets an example for others — especially in my group of friends and people I fellowship with. And if I don’t, that also sets an example for others. And so covid-19 tearing through a group is also not just the responsibility of the people who get sick, but the people who sent them the message that they shouldn’t try not to. We are a body after all. I can talk about how God “saw me through” a Covid infection, but what I wish people would see is not how God sees them through covid, but how covid saw a way to get to them and through them to others — some of whom are killed, some of whom will suffer residual effects for years to come.

Not “being afraid” is so misapplied, and I wrote about the church’s mishandling of so-called “fear” long before this pandemic ever started. That’s all I have to share on this post, but since I can hear the gears turning in my readers’ minds and some are thinking about how “death isn’t something we should fight so hard to avoid” — I’m going to write about that crazy way of talking and thinking that’s been going around – in my next post.

The “In-Between”

A long time ago a writer named Robin Gill (which was then echoed by Brian McClaren and others) talked about a concept, “Belonging takes us to Believing.” A story I remember in some publication being an example of this was a church that was having a time of prayer and fasting; a non-believer was invited to the church that week and decided it would be worthwhile to her to participate in the exercises. She fasted and prayed with the church as a non-believer; shortly thereafter she became a believer. The takeaway was that people find the God of a people by participating in the life of that people — that “belonging” leads to believing.

So what happens when you believe, but you stop belonging? In this season thousands upon thousands of evangelical Christians have found themselves at odds with their brothers and sisters in their cell groups, prayer groups, churches, even on their social media pages. They couldn’t stomach voting for Trump, they watched as they believed the church was conned by a man greedy for power at any expense, and they proceeded to wear masks, socially distance, and get vaccinated all while their friends and churchmates labelled them “sheep” and acted like no virus existed. Quite unwillingly, people who never planned to rock the boat have found themselves thrust into a giant disconnect with the groups and movements they quite recently called home.

I am one of these people. My disconnect began even before Trump, as earlier blog posts will testify to my pushing the evangelical envelope with embracing theistic evolution. My reward for that, plus my gradual and yet now resolute rejection of conservative right-wing politics has been that my conservative friends regard me as a bit too much of a hot potato, as something of a loose cannon, and as someone outside of any “solid teaching” they might trust. At 45, when I would wish to impart, to be asked to lead or teach somewhere like my other friends I grew alongside of, instead I am thrust to the sidelines, heck, I’m not sure “sidelines” is even a strong enough term. Never mind though, with the Delta variant showing signs of vaccine breakthrough, I am still preferring Zoom to real life gatherings.

So I write. Writing ends up being the only outlet for anything I think God has dropped in my soul to say to anyone. And I wrestle with — do I unfriend all those folks on Facebook I knew from earlier churches I was part of that seem to have blocked me from their feed anyway? Again, people I shared life with never drop a comment, never hit a like (or even a sad or angry button) on a thing I say — and haven’t for years — this is how in modern life, one knows they are marginalized by their group.

Meanwhile, I have collected myriad friends who are sympathetic to my “angry prophet rebuking the church on a hillside” vibe, but are appalled and ready to pounce me when they realize how much I really am still a charismatic evangelical at heart — that I’m not a universalist, that I believe in hearing the voice the Holy Spirit, that I speak in tongues, heck, I even believe in demons and deliverance, and I still think sex is for marriage, despite my overall critique of purity movement excesses. I am caught in the “in-between;” most of my current audience go to liturgical churches for which I bear no ill will, but I personally prefer to dance in when the church meets corporately, while at some point maybe I end up on my face with others as we are moved along in a corporate spontaneously written song.

And I (and my husband) still want to do missions, go to other countries with the gospel which my predominantly mainline friends likely will consider “white European colonialization” and be appalled at my goals to “share the gospel with the unreached.” I have known countless ministry leaders and missionaries who confide in me their misgivings about everything happening in the evangelical scene right now; and yet they lay low and keep their views to themselves to avoid losing position and supporters. I’m not wired that way; I can’t quite call it integrity but rather an inability to shut up that makes it really hard to attempt to be so “strategic.” I’m just a zealous idiot who figures the chips just have to fall where they may.

But all of this leaves me, and countless others, in a quandry. I sit and wonder, when will the new evangelical churches, made up of all these disenfranchised mask-wearing people like me, arrive on the scene?

Aside from an occasional outlying congregation, it doesn’t seem to be happening. I watch as people either find their place in migrating to a mainline denomination, try to do some sort of home church thing which doesn’t last long, or they drop from Christianity altogether.

So back to my original thought: Belonging takes us to believing. Sociology also teaches that those who don’t fit into a group are labeled deviants. And deviants seek out deviants. What is outside the groups of our evangelical faith?
A lot of disoriented people. I wish, over and over, that I could be content to just let my group identity shape me, that as so many of my friends are still comfortably enjoying all the fruits of never having rocked the boat of the ideologies of their groups, they continue to be invited to teach, to lead, to have play dates for their kids, to have friends come over and pray and worship, to be invited to things, to feel connected to things. If only I could close my eyes and just pretend everything is ok, and just fit in. But I can’t. And if you’ve read this far, there’s a good chance you resonate way too much with this too.

I think of this verse: “And so Jesus also suffered outside the city gate, to sanctify the people by His own blood. Therefore let us go to Him outside the camp, bearing the disgrace He bore.” Hebrews 13.

I wish this verse brought some comfort. If anything it’s hard to know how it applies. It seems very self-congratulatory to quote it, when the last thing I really want to do or be is “outside the camp.” I want to sit at the table with my brothers and sisters, inside the camp. But I guess the promise is that Jesus is doing something outside of it, and I need to hope in that and keep my eyes open for that. I don’t really have much of a choice at this point in time. Maybe that will change sometime soon, or at least, some day.

~ Heather

COVID-19 Truths for Christians

It’s not that there’s a different set of truths about Covid-19 for Christians than for anyone else; but there are certain myths and ideas that seem particularly frequent in the Christian internet. So let’s look at them through a uniquely Christian lens.

As believers, we are told to be transformed by the renewing of our minds.   This is because what we think and what we believe shapes our actions, decisions, and character.   If we are believing myths, urban legends, and rumors, we end up essentially believing lies and our decisions are shaped by these lies.   We are not the first people to be challenged by legends in our day; Paul wrote to Titus, “This testimony is true. Therefore rebuke them sternly, so that they will be sound in the faith and will pay no attention to Jewish myths or to the commands of men who have rejected the truth.”

There were myths and urban legends in Paul’s day, and there are in ours as well.  Here are the most common myths being spread in Christian circles about Covid-19, in no particular order:

  • Myth: The CDC said that only 6% of Covid-19 deaths were actually caused by Covid-19.
  • Myth: Only old people with pre-existing conditions are at risk from Covid-19
  • Myth: Covid-19 is no worse that the flu.
  • Myth: Covid-19 kills as many people as car accidents do every year.
  • Myth: Covid-19 death counts in the USA are exaggerated by hospitals misreporting.
  • Myth: More people in the USA are dying from suicide, drug abuse, and loneliness than Covid-19.
  • Myth: Old people and people with pre-existing conditions should stay home and the rest of us can live a normal life.
  • Myth: If we just follow Sweden’s example and let the virus rage, we’ll reach herd immunity quickly and everything will be fine.
  • Myth: Liberals believe in survival of the fittest and should follow that idea now.
  • Myth: I don’t need to worry about Covid-19 in my area because all the cases locally are in nursing homes.
  • Myth: Masks don’t work.
  • Myth: Masks protect us so we should be able to live life normally wearing them.
  • Myth: Covid-19 is a respiratory illness.
  • Myth: Taking vitamin D and other immune boosting supplements, and a healthy diet, is all we need to defeat Covid-19.
  • Myth: As long as I feel healthy, I don’t have coronavirus and can’t spread it.
  • Myth: Masks are bad for you.
  • Myth: The mRNA vaccines coming out will permanently alter your DNA.
  • Myth: Wearing a mask removes individuality and is against human rights.

    Each one of these myths is tackled below. Scroll down to read about the one you are interested in reading about.

Myth: The CDC said that only 6% of deaths counted as covid deaths were actually caused by Covid; the rest were all caused by pre-existing conditions.


Truth:

The CDC did say something about 6% of causes of death being Covid-19, but the meaning of what was said has often been twisted and taken out of context. Death certificates are what this myth is discussing.  On a death certificate, in most cases, physicians will list everything that went into the process of someone dying.   So if someone got in an automobile accident, and died from a deep wound in their neck that resulted in a massive loss of blood which then caused a heart attack, all four things will likely be put on the death certificate as the cause of death:  the automobile accident, which contributed to a neck wound, which resulted in blood loss, which ultimately caused a heart attack.

The same is true of Covid.   People die from covid sometimes because of pre-existing conditions; for instance: the patient had asthma, which resulted in respiratory distress, because of Covid.   In that case, three causes of death would be on the death certificate.

And a fair amount of people with Covid do have pre-existing conditions. But there are also a fair amount of people who die of Covid who do not have pre-existing conditions; yet even in this situation, more than one cause of death will generally be listed.   For instance, Covid has been known to cause strokes in young, healthy people.   In which case, the cause of death listed may be a stroke, and Covid-19.


Covid also causes respiratory distress (inability to breath sufficiently), and it causes blood clots and heart attacks.   It’s also common for Covid to open the door for secondary infections, such as systemic pneumonia.  Pneumonia can cause sepsis (an infection of the blood throughout the entire body which causes all organs to shut down.)   Etc etc.    Someone who had a cascade of events of failing health, all due exclusively to Covid even without pre-existing conditions or anything else, is still likely to have several causes of death on their death certificate, explaining exactly HOW Covid killed the person.


In 6% of cases, only Covid was listed on the certificate.   This could happen because health professionals were in a hurry, or weren’t present at the time of death (for instance, the person died at home) or because the physician who filled out the death certificate just decided to be brief.   

But this does not mean that only 6% of the people who had covid on their death certificates actually are the only people in the Covid count who actually died of Covid.

For further reading: https://www.health.com/condition/infectious-diseases/coronavirus/cdc-6-percent-covid-deaths

Myth:  Only old people with pre-existing conditions die from Covid-19.


Reality:

It is true that having a pre-existing condition greatly increases the odds of a bad outcome from Covid.   But many young people and middle aged people with no known pre-existing conditions die of Covid-19, too.   For example: sadly, a 41 year old elected official recently died of Covid, and it is specifically stated that he had no pre-existing conditions.   A thirteen year old boy with no real pre-existing conditions recently died of Covid.   A 21 year old college student recently died of Covid.   

Anecdotes aside, many many young people have died of covid, many of whom had no pre-existing conditions.
AND — many many people who have not been killed by COVID, have had their lives completely wrecked by COVID after-effects that have yet to go away half a year later.   Death is not the only problem this thing causes.

For more reading about young people dying from Covid:

https://www.cidrap.umn.edu/news-perspective/2020/12/data-reveal-deadliness-covid-19-even-young-adults

https://www.news-medical.net/news/20201026/COVID-19-now-likely-leading-cause-of-death-among-25-44s-in-USA.aspx

Myth: Covid-19 is nothing special, it’s just like the flu.

Reality:

The flu kills roughly 30,000 people in the USA in a given year, or almost one in ten-thousand Americans.   In a really bad year, the flu might kill 60,000, but this is rare.   Covid-19 has already killed 330,000 at the time when I’m writing this, and we haven’t even been counting covid deaths for a year yet (more like 9 months.)   This represents roughly one in a thousand people in the USA, already dead from Covid.   


One of my friends pointed out that we have a vaccine for flu so it would probably kill a lot more people without it.   But this effect is small; estimates are that the flu vaccine saves 40000 lives over a 9 year period, or around 5000 people a year, give or take. 

https://www.cdc.gov/flu/about/burden/index.html — flu death statistics

https://www.cdc.gov/flu/about/burden-averted/2019-2020.htm – flu vaccine statistics

Myth: Covid-19 kills as many people as car accidents.

Reality:

About 36,000 people a year die on American roads.   Covid has killed 11 times as many people in 10 months thus far.

Myth: Covid-19 case counts are exaggerated.  One of the reasons is that the USA tests more people than any other country, so of course we find more cases.

Reality:

President Trump first started saying back in May that the USA tested more than any other country.  Even in May, this was not the truth.  (Here’s an article from July, after that it is hard to compare because Trump stopped saying it as often, so less articles were written to refute it.).

https://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/americas/coronavirus-tests-us-trump-data-testing-near-me-a9580816.html

Myth: Covid-19 death numbers have been exaggerated.  Hospitals make more money every time they say they have a covid case so you can’t believe case counts.

Reality:

Experts say that Covid-19 death numbers are actually UNDER represented.   This is because many deaths due to Covid look like deaths from other reasons; for instance, we know that Covid is a vascular disease that causes blood clots, leading to heart attacks and strokes in people who sometimes have no other symptoms.   People who are found dead at home from a heart attack might not get a covid test, but nevertheless may have died from Covid.  

The CDC keeps track of what is called the “excess death rate” for various causes of death.   The excess deaths are the number of people dying from a cause that are markedly in excess of what one would see in a common year in the USA.  A certain large percentage (like over 100,000) of these excess deaths are believed to be attributable to undiagnosed COVID-19.  Covid deaths often look like non-covid deaths, as covid can cause things like heart attacks and strokes without any other symptoms. For more reading on this click here.

Also, there are rumors spreading that doctors are labeling car accident deaths as occurring from covid-19. Johns Hopkins medical center responds to that here.

Furthermore, not everyone who dies with a positive test for Covid-19 is labeled as a “covid death” unless the doctors believe covid reasonably was a contributing cause.

But, if you don’t believe the CDC, you can just ask the funeral home and coffin industries.  In Los Angeles, for example: https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-9097153/L-funeral-homes-short-pine-coffins-one-rented-52-foot-refrigerated-truck.html

Myth: We need to open the country up because more people are dying of suicide and loneliness than are dying of Covid.

Reality:

We do need to open up the country, but that is only possible if COVID is kept to low levels of spread.  To get there, we need people to be diligent about social distancing, and not travel over the holidays. We need rapid testing which in most corners of society, we don’t yet have.  We need people to cover their noses and mouths with masks at all times when around other individuals they do not live with or have a small group “bubble” with.  And when COVID-19 spread starts to rise, we need short term lockdowns to bring it back under control.  Ultimately, we need as many people as possible to get vaccinated now that vaccines are starting to become an option.   And we need people to stop spreading disinformation about masks and so forth that leads to a jump in case numbers because people refuse to take precautions to limit the spread in their community.


If we all cooperate with one another, we can keep covid-19 under control and open many things up.   But if we continue to behave in ridiculous and ill-advised ways, Covid keeps spreading like a wildfire and we can never get case numbers down low enough to open things safely. Read more about how countries can be open during COVID-19 here: https://time.com/5836607/reopening-risks-coronavirus/

As for overdoses and suicides, there definitely has been an increase during COVID-19.   It would be interesting though to know what percentage is linked to families grieving lost loved ones.   At any rate, the increased depression and dysfunctional coping among people in our country definitely needs to be addressed; but it is also worth noting that the increase is nowhere near the numbers of deaths from COVID-19 directly.   https://www.crainsdetroit.com/health-care/covids-heavy-toll-depression-suicides-opioid-overdoses-increase-pandemic-era


Myth: Old people and people with pre-existing conditions simply need to quarantine and stay inside, and let the rest of us keep living normal life.  

Reality:

That would be nice if it could work that way, but that’s not how an epidemic works.   First, as already stated, the elderly and those with pre-existing conditions are not the only people dying from Covid.   But even if we imagine a disease that truly only killed easily predicatable groups of people, and we had those people quarantine while everyone else went back to normal, the behavior of the many would still kill those few.   Why?   Because even people quarantining are still, no matter how hard they try to stay inside, are connected to the outside world whether they want to be or not.  

The only way to protect people is to slow down the spread of COVID-19 in the entire population; the realities of life don’t let us pick and choose to allow a disease to spread in some people and not other people.  

People still need to go food shopping.   They occasionally need to go to the doctor for things not related to COVID-19.   My 66 year old husband had a medical emergency in July when Covid was thankfully mostly under control in our area, and we were grateful for that because he had to go to the emergency room.   If Covid was spreading like wildfire, that trip may have been deadly for him.  

People still need to buy gas and stand at the gas pump sometimes downwind from other customers.   People still have problems with their pipes and need an emergency plumber to come in their home, or they need an emergency electrician.  Sometimes storms destroy homes and people need a contractor and they need to stay in a hotel. Sometimes people at high risk have no choice but to go to work because they have no savings and their employment is deemed “essential,” so they don’t get laid off and can’t collect unemployment.    If they are like my husband who needed to be admitted to a hospital for a non-covid reason, they need doctors, nurses, cafeteria workers, and cleaning crews that will not spread Covid to them. If they live in a nursing home or care facility, they need staff that did not get coronavirus at the grocery store, or church, or at their friends’ party the other night.

What we need is for COVID-19 to be at very low levels of spread in the entire population to have any chance of protecting the most vulnerable.   Whatever the society is carrying is going to make its way to the vulnerable folks too.   And, again, we don’t actually know who those folks are — because even young people without preexisting conditions are at risk from Covid-19. 

https://www.theguardian.com/world/datablog/ng-interactive/2020/apr/22/see-how-coronavirus-can-spread-through-a-population-and-how-countries-flatten-the-curve



Myth: Let the virus rage (like Sweden supposedly did) and we’ll get herd immunity and everything will be fine.


Reality:

Sweden did keep things open for a bit, but Sweden had as part of their plan that companies could reduce peoples’ hours and with government pay people their full normal paycheck, even though they only had to work 20% of their normal hours to get that check. 

However, after a little while, Sweden’s herd immunity plan had to be curtailed because the virus started raging out of control there too, and too many people were dying.  

It is largely considered by medical ethicists and disease experts trying to reach “herd immunity” with wild and unchecked spread of the virus in the USA would be deeply immoral and cause too many deaths to be a reasonable course of action. 

Additionally, it does not appear that natural immunity to COVID-19 lasts very long, although it is true we do not know yet exactly how long it lasts.  We know that other coronaviruses humans are familiar with confer immunity for 1 or 2 years, but we don’t know much about this one.  There are many people documented though to have already gotten COVID-19 twice this year, and while for many people it was less severe the second round, although we know of one woman who died the second time round after doing OK with it the first time.  


Myth: Liberals believe in “survival of the fittest” so they should be fine with letting weak and vulnerable people die from COVID.


Reality:

Some people, and unfortunately many of them being Christians, might be OK with letting Covid-19 do its worst, killing off whoever is susceptible to dying of COVID-19, or having people that survive it incur lasting and devastating effects for months or years to come.  But many people, a large number of them liberals, are far more concerned about the weak and vulnerable and in so doing, hold up a mirror to conservative Christian ethics. Yet I’ve heard Christians mocking people saying, “Those liberals believe in ‘survival of the fittest’ so why aren’t they into that now?”  

I can not express enough how repugnant it is to hear brothers and sisters in Christ flippantly and callously speak in such selfish and ugly terms as wanting to kill off weak and vulnerable people — and using an overly simplistic version of the theory of evolution, which they hate as a scientific theory, in order to scorn those who are doing what they themselves ought to do. But they instead mock those who care about COVID-19 sufferers, and use their misunderstood summation of the “survival of the fittest” to justify themselves in so doing.  

But to clear the air, those who properly understand and accept the science of evolution and the idea of survival of the fittest, would mostly agree that the idea of “survival of the fittest” as applied to humans in evolutionary theory is not merely about the fittest “individuals” in our society. The adaptations that the species has which enables us to respond to adversity are what makes us evolutionarily fit for survival, and in that regard, humans are rather intelligent social creatures that at least within their own social groups can be quite compassionate, and can use that caring intelligence to look out for one another. Group cohesion and intelligent care for one another is a big part of what human “fitness” for survival looks like and which has enabled our species to survive all that nature has thrown at us. “Survival of the fittest” is not specifically an individualized thing, but can often be seen in how humans are social creatures who look after the weak in their families and societies.

Myth: I don’t need to worry about spreading coronavirus or catching it because the only people in my area sick with it are in nursing homes.


Reality:

If it’s in a nursing home in your area, its there because other people in the community brought it there.   There has never been a bigger need for everyone, but particularly the people of God, to live out the ideal of “loving your neighbor” than now.   Coronavirus spread is a matter of what everyone in a community does; and the more people who believe themselves to be the invincible “healthy” people in a community pass it around, the more the nursing homes and everyone else ends up with it.  If you want to understand more about how your actions as an individual affect the weak and vulnerable in your community, check out this interactive here.

Myth: Masks don’t work
Reality:

Masks are not 100% effective at preventing coronavirus, but they do massively reduce how many people will contract the virus compared to how many would get it if no one was wearing a mask.

Here’s a great video that explains:

Myth: Masks protect us, so we should be able to live a normal life.

Reality:

Masks only work when combined with social distancing. And masks only have an effect in reducing how often someone new gets infected with covid — they don’t prevent covid infection entirely.

Myth: Covid is a respiratory illness

Reality:

Covid is more likely properly defined as a vascular disease, with respiratory features in some individuals. 
https://www.infectioncontroltoday.com/view/is-covid-19-primarily-a-heart-and-vascular-diseases

Myth: As long as I take vitamin D, eat a healthy diet, take a lot of immune boosting supplements, etc, I have nothing to worry about.

Reality:


There is no known cure or prevention for coronavirus other than the new vaccines coming out.   While vitamin D does have a small but beneficial effect at preventing the severity of coronavirus, it is by no means a *guarantee* of health.   There are things that can help you be healthy but helping is not the same as a perfect shield against Covid-19.  Northwestern University for instance found a statistically significant improvement in the outcomes of patients with adequate vitamin D vs. those with deficiency, but the improvement was only present for about 3% of cases.

Additionally, if you get the virus and your immune system handles it well, that will still not keep you from spreading the virus to everyone you come in contact with.  You may recover, but the person you gave the virus to may give it to someone who gives it to someone who dies.   If you didn’t believe yourself to be invincible because you took a handful of herbs and vitamin D, that person might have lived long enough to get the vaccine and be relatively safe.  With coronavirus, the expression, “It’s not all about you” has never been more true.

Myth:
As long as I feel healthy, I don’t have coronavirus.

Reality:

I know a guy who has been testing positive for three months straight and has never had a symptom of the virus.  He feels perfectly fine and he’s frustrated he is still having to quarantine himself from his girlfriend.  

But it’s not just my friend.   It is well known that people without any symptoms do carry and spread coronavirus to others.   In the political climate of the moment, this was briefly refuted by a public health organization over the summer but that organization went back to stating the facts of the situation later on — as do all other health departments on the planet:  You can spread coronavirus without having any symptoms.

Myth: Masks are bad for you.
Reality:

Masks have been widely used in our society by people every day for decades.  Surgeons wear them, people who do sanding and painting wear them, people who fight fires wear them.   Doctor after doctor has gone on youtube showing that their oxygen levels don’t go down even while wearing a mask.   No one has questioned the safety of wearing masks for occupational hazards until this became a political issue.


The truth is that of course, if your mask is made out of some non-breathable material, like super thick material or a plastic bag, then yeah, you could be suffocating yourself with it.   But the average face mask made from regular types of fabric or paper, is not going to cause issues with oxygen levels, unless you already have a breathing disorder like COPD.


Myth: The mRNA vaccines coming out for COVID permanently alter your DNA.

Reality: 

This is not what mRNA does in cells.   There is no reason to think mRNA would do anything whatsoever to your DNA, from any mRNA vaccine.  mRNA is made by picking up the pattern of DNA, but in the case of the vaccine, the DNA pattern being used is not YOUR DNA, but it has a copy of a portion of the virus’s DNA.   It can’t do anything to YOUR DNA with this, because that’s not how mRNA works.

mRNA heads to the ribosomes (not your DNA) of your cells where it instructs the ribosomes to make various types of proteins — in this case, the protein being made is the spike protein from the outside of the coronavirus.  But this sounds worse than it is — any time in your life you have ever had a virus, the virus invaded your cells and used your ribosomes to make its proteins.  With the vaccine, the whole virus isn’t in your cells, just a temporary instruction on how to make the protein on the outside of it, so your immune system can be trained against that unique protein. Your body does not continue to make this protein forever, either — when the mRNA from the vaccine runs out from telling enough cells what kind of protein to make, your cells move on to making other stuff. 

https://www.umassmed.edu/news/news-archives/2020/12/inside-the-new-mrna-vaccines-for-covid-19/


Myth: Mask wearing takes away your individuality and your human rights.

Reality:

Masks can massively show off the individuality of the person wearing them.  Masks come in all types of fabrics and designs and colors.  There are artistic masks, high-tech masks, you’ll almost never see two people wearing the same mask.   Individuality abounds with masks.  And if you are desperate for people to see your face, there are even clear plastic masks.  
As for rights, in the USA we decided a long time ago that health and safety in many instances was not an infringement on human rights.   We made laws against driving without seatbelts.  We made it illegal to smoke on airplanes, most areas of restaurants, or in hospitals.   We made kids wear bike helmets and adults wear motorcycle helmets.   Wearing a mask is important because we share the air together, but we don’t want everyone to share coronavirus.

https://sojo.net/magazine/november-2019/who-my-neighbor

https://www.brettmccracken.com/blog/blog/2016/06/14/following-christ-relinquishing-rights



Lies and disinformation and myths hurt everyone, because when it comes to Covid, we’re all in this together.   What you do affects me, and what I do affects you. This one takes a village — working together — to conquer. 

Some Thoughts on Identity in Christ

I’ve noticed that many churches and ministries emphasize knowing one’s “Identity in Christ.” I attended a YWAM DTS training school — it’s a training school designed to prepare one for cross-cultural ministry — and an entire week of the curriculum was called “Identity Week.” Aside from that, two entire weeks not entitled “Identity Week” covered much of the same material.

During identity week, almost every statement in the New Testament that could possibly hide any truth about the identity of believers on this Earth before God in Christ was turned into emphatic “I am” statements, and students were led to announce aspects of their identity loudly to themselves and the Heavens, until they really felt it had been able to sink in and they could believe these amazingly powerful and positive things about themselves from God’s perspective.

Sacred Cows of Identity


I remembered many sermons I had heard elsewhere on the topic of identity. Charismatic believers, of which I am one, are often taught extensively that spiritual power is linked to confidence in one’s identity. (I’m not sure I completely agree with this, but it is often unquestioningly taught as a basic truth.) As one often-shared story goes in many sermons, Jesus was tempted by the devil with continual attacks on his sense of identity, with satan repeating, “*IF* you are the Son of God,” do this or that. The premise of these messages was that the temptation of the enemy was aimed at getting Jesus to question who He was, which would have incapacitated him.

But, as I’ve reconsidered this, I think the emphasis in this story is not that satan comes to steal our identity from us — if anything, it began to stand out to me that satan was challenging Jesus with an “if” that was already a given, creating “if…then” statements to tempt Jesus to do something BASED on his already firm acceptance of his identity, which would have been out of line with the Father’s will, and done instead out of personal pride. “IF you are the Son of God, throw yourself down from the temple,” was inviting Jesus to act in His own sense of Himself, rather than to do only what He saw the Father doing. Identity, even when based on truth, can become pride, or at the very least distract us from the focus we ought to have and instead put our focus on ourselves.

What Actually IS Healthy Spiritual Identity?

Ultimately though, learning one’s identity in Christ has a place. Yet another risk awaits those who teach and learn about this; and that is, that identity is cultural. Western cultures tend to form identity based on individualism, whereas Eastern cultures, of which the Bible is based in, emphasize a person’s role in connection with a broader group, such as a family, or a clan, or a tribe, or a nation. Yet in teaching from the Bible about identity, people in the West tend to notice and emphasize aspects of identity that function as individualized definitions. We need to be aware of this inherent weakness we as Westerners have in how we even approach the idea of having an identity in Christ, as Christian identity is a little bit individual but more so it is extremely collective.

So then, my identity is not just a child of God, but it is a sister in the faith in reference to you, another child of God. IMHO, I think if done corrrectly, learning about our identity, should not be something that separates us more from one another or gives us reason to feel proud, but instead be something that humbles us before the Lord in seeing His love for us undeserved, and then teaches us more about who we are collectively, as a body, and as a temple being built TOGETHER with spiritual stones, as a holy Priesthood, a holy nation, and a family.

We talk a lot about community in the body of Christ, but unfortunately deep expressions of community that are not mere frriendship cliques are in short supply among God’s people. I think if we did do a better job of teaching a more accurate Biblical identity, it may go a long way in helping us embrace a vision of who we are as a house of and for God, a radical community of people loving and walking with one another, that transcends ethnic and racial boundaries, age boundaries, political boundaries, personality preference boundaries, common hobbies, church cliquiness and religious social ladders, to instead become something this world has rarely seen, a group of people who through their shared fellowship, friendship, and life truly demonstrate together an “US” — a holy habitation of people joined heart to heart in which is found God’s kingdom come to Earth.

In short, a robust awareness of our identity in Christ I think ought to challenge us to see ourselves not so much as the individuals we are prone to be, but as those who learn to love others and walk with them as those who are literally part of us, and us part of them. Perhaps those who see identity as being a key to spiritual power may have some truth then, for Christ’s people are never as powerful as we are when we are humbly laying down our lives for others, and learning to walk in love and the connected joy of sharing in Christ with others, and sharing in common humanity with all.

Yet, Going Beyond Identity


Yet there is however something else to be considered when those who disciple others emphasize learning about and embracing one’s identity. The other day I was reminded of Erickson’s Stages of Psychosocial Development, and my conviction deepened that barking up the identity tree too much might be not so much the wrong tree, but may certainly become unhealthy as too prominent a tree when there are other trees to eat from which require leaving behind that one and moving on to others. Ok, that may be a clunky analogy I know, but I wonder if emphasizing identity as our source of power and strength all the time may cause us to not realize how identity really functions in terms of a timeline of human growth and development.

Erickson was a developmental psychologist who observed that in human development, there is something of a crucial struggle at various ages, where things could go one way or another. So for instance, a first grader who is struggling in school unfortunately is also in the stage of life characterized by developing a sense of inferiority versus industry. Success at this stage means people develop a sense of efficaciousness in their own ability to do things — industry, while failure at this stage leads to inferiority. The stages progress as one ages and encounters new inner struggles.


It is in teenager-hood that the main struggle becomes Identity. However, the struggle is not between identity and inferiority, as inferiority was the foe to deal with in an earlier stage. Now the struggle is between developing a coherent identity and confusion about how one’s various roles and self-expressions make a coherent self. Yet this stage usually gives way to another stage of development in early adulthood.

Now certainly some people may have gotten lost somewhere in an unsuccessful attempt to create and understand a whole identity for themselves in teenagerhood; just as others may have enduring complications from earlier stages than that, such as industry vs. inferiority. But identity development is just one stage of many; and it is not as though all the stages hinge on that one.

In Christ, we do receive a new identity with our new birth. And this can be healing for those who never developed a cohesive identity in their teens, or it can be redefining for those who did. But this is not the be-all and end-all of personal development. There are more stages yet to come.

So it is not as though I am saying that identity is not worth teaching about. But what I do think is that it is not worth getting stuck on it, as if it is a fountain from which all spiritual life and health emanates. We must press on to know the Lord, and this also means pressing on to seeing Him manifest in other stages of development that are not focused on identity.

The next stage in young adult life is the struggle between intimacy and isolation. This is rarely taught about in Christian circles; other than to exhort everyone to be part of a church. But many young adults do get lost in not being able to meaningfully find their place in community or with a significant other, and the struggle to define the intimacy vs. isolation stage of life can be even louder and more crucial than identity. How can we disciple people through this process, of learning how to interact in healthy ways as part of a community, and appropriately respond to others’ healthy or unhealthy attempts to seek intimacy or break out of isolation created either from their own decisions or the unhealthy decisions of those around them? A robust expression of Christian faith needs to be able to address this even more than have people state truths about their identity.

And by far, the bulk of a lifetime is spent in yet another phase: Generativity vs Stagnation. Someone in this stage may not feel any deep connection to a teaching about identity, even though at some points it may have cross-over to the struggles of this stage, but the struggles finally are not the struggles of identity. They are struggles of resource management, of dreaming, of partnering with other’s dreams, of birthing, of growing, of molding and shaping, and knowing one’s desires and which to explore and build out of. This is the most long-term stage, how does the church walk people through this one?

Finally, in older years, the last stage is integrity vs. despair. There is wisdom to be had in how to regard one’s earlier phases, how to regard the successes and losses, how to recapture things and still build even in a late hour, how to appreciate and celebrate and remember and commemorate what has already been done. This is also something for mentoring and discipleship and support, even as people in this stage may turn and be the ones mentoring, supporting, and discipling.

Conclusion

To sum it up, I hope this can open up a broader discussion among people and groups who read it, as to where the importance of teaching about identity does or doesn’t rightfully have a role of importance in the discipleship process of people. Thanks for reading, and, as always please comment below.

Adoption is a Beautiful Choice — AND so is IVF

It’s no secret that my husband and I have been walking through the process of building our family together with IVF. I’ve been fairly open about this on social media and on my blog here. In doing IVF I’ve been part of a large community of women (and men) who join support groups to walk through this very formidable process together and help each other out with information and validation.

One of the things that comes up over, and over, and over again — both for me as an individual and with others in my support groups, is what can only be termed a “microaggression” from people who seem to look down on people who turn to medical science for help with getting pregnant. It’s the statement, said sometimes gently, and other times harshly, “Why don’t you just adopt?”

From religious people in particular, I think this is based in a few misconceptions. The pro-life movement holds up adoption as a virtue, and it surely is. But many people I think get this misconception that there are literally thousands if not millions of babies just waiting for someone to step up and adopt them, and failure to adopt these ethereal babies results in rampant abortion. Yet nothing could be farther from the truth.

The reality is that there are thousands of couples desperately trying to adopt a baby, and it is a very, very difficult road. For every baby that comes up for adoption, there are dozens of couples vying to be the chosen ones who get to take that baby home. Many couples will never fit the bill – preference will go to families that are well-off, with parents who are under a certain age, and have a certain level of education. The process is often heartbreaking (I have known many would-be adopted parents who are given babies to take home, only to have the birth mother change her mind at the last moment) and expensive (thousands and ten-thousands of dollars are used up on each attempt.)

Of course, one could adopt from the foster care system, although even there, there exists a lot of competition for babies and small children, and I’ve heard too many stories of well-meaning would-be adoptive parents praying and hoping that parental rights get terminated of some woman who they hope does NOT get off drugs in time or show up in court in time to keep her family together. I personally don’t want to be that person, as I came from a family where my mom had a very real risk of losing me due to her irresponsibility, and no matter how messed up my mom was, I’m very glad no one ever took me away from her. I’m a real bleeding heart for family reunification (except in the extremist of cases) and I wouldn’t want to be on the other side of that fence.

But here’s the salient reality: Infertile couples (and singles looking to have children) have no more responsibility to take care of the world’s unwanted children than anyone else. Being infertile while yet desiring to reproduce, does not suddenly bestow a mandate upon a person that unwanted children are one’s assignment.


The fact is that all competent adults of the world share an equal responsibility towards unwanted children — both fertile couples, and infertile couples, both singles who want children, and singles who don’t want children. Every adult in our society has a responsibility to ask themselves what role they ought to play in helping the unwanted children of the world. Shirking off this responsibility the moment someone shares that they are doing IVF, to inform them subtly that THEY ought to adopt unwanted children simply because they are trying to get pregnant with medical help, is just a form of scape-goating of one’s own responsibility to the children of the world.

People have a natural desire to reproduce themselves. For some, this means biological reproduction. It is a privilege to be able to reproduce with ease, and for the privileged to look at those who have medical issues and inform them that they are judged for wanting the same privilege, is nothing short of a microagression towards a weaker party.

Adoption IS a beautiful choice, that every adult should consider if and how it might play a role in their lives. But this choice is just that — a choice. And as long as couples can freely reproduce naturally without being put down for having biological kids instead of adopting, no one should be judging those who reach out for medical assistance, either. Adoption ultimately is not the responsibility of the infertile; it is the responsibility in one way or another, of all.

Revisiting 25 Views on Hell

If there is one blog post out in the blogosphere that I have shared more often or brought up in conversation more often both off and online, it has been Chuck McKnight’s classic post, “25 Views on Hell? 2 Questions to Reframe the Debate.” (Classic to me, anyway.) Yet now, 3 years later, I’d like to suggest a revision.

Chuck (otherwise known as “The Hippie Heretic”) aptly noted that most of the viewpoints out there about hell can be placed in a grid making up 25 views, based on asking two main questions: What is the duration of hell, and what is the purpose of hell. The answers to the two questions get laid out on the two axis of a graph, like so, with the purpose going across the top, and the duration up and down on the side:

The inside cells with the weird letters are all the possible interactions of all the answers to the two questions about one’s notion of Biblical hell, placed into this grid.

It’s too much to explain, and if I did, I’d be plagarizing, because Chuck explains it in huge detail over on his post, which in case you missed the link above, I’ll repost again HERE. If you’ve never read his post, I highly recommend you go give it a read and then come back to finish reading my post. I’ll wait. 🙂

******************

Ok, so, wasn’t that revelatory and deep and chew-worthy? Maybe you can see now why I share that post so often. (HEY, you, go and READ IT!) But as an avid fan of the post, I’ve road tested it in many a real life discussion and after getting to chew on it for quite a few years, I’ve realized it needs an update. So, Chuck — I’m adding to your conversation, if I may 🙂

It has occurred to me that this grid needs another question added, a third dimension. This is because I have found that in many conversations about hell, there are a few assumptions being made — usually, the assumption is that we are talking about EVANGELICAL hell in some form or another. And the assumption about Evangelical hell is that it applies to everyone, who ever lived, or ever will live, no matter where they live, no matter their situation, everyone goes to this hell unless they…know Jesus.

So I realized we need a third row, a third question in the discussion, and that is: “Who goes there?”

Does Ghandi go there, because he never believed (as far as we know) in Jesus? Of course many would say he does not go to hell, but this would be outside the scope of the 25 Views of Hell chart (lucky him.) Or, one might envision that he does, but gets out quickly the moment he realizes Jesus the Way, in one of Chuck’s “consequential yet healing escapable process” scenarios. Or one might imagine he goes to hell, and is annihilated (sorry Ghandi) in a “retributive inescapable destruction” scenario.

What I have found is that many people almost don’t care as much about what kind of hell we are talking about — as much as they care who goes there. Sending Ghandi to Hell divides the no-holds-barred evangelicals (and some other groups) from most others.

So the question of “What kind of Hell” are we talking about really needs to include a discussion of who Hell is for. Is it just for demonic spirits, and perhaps humans never go there at all? (This is not a widely held theory because it doesn’t seem to go along with most Biblical statements about Hell, but some folks might hold that.)

Another consideration is that all the statements Jesus made about any sort of Hell were to a mostly Jewish crowd, and maybe we are dealing with a uniquely Jewish hell? After all, even Jews themselves did not believe that their 613 laws applied to anyone other than Jews, and that God would not be holding non-Jews to that standard nor judging anyone for failing to uphold Jewish law. Perhaps there is one punishment for disobedient Jews, and another one for the rest of humanity? Many people have noticed that Jesus harsh words were not directed at just anybody, but specifically to the Pharisees. Perhaps the people who might go to hell were specifically religious elite among Jews.

Perhaps we have extrapolated unique punishments promised to that generation to all people to come, and the Hell we think we know is really a Hell meant specifically for disobedient first century Jews, not Jews of all time, and not the entire population of humanity for all time. I could see some version of preterism postulating this, as preterism makes 70AD a firm cut-off for Biblical prophesy, and centers it all on the Jewish world.

This would also mean for instance that concerns about the injustice of murdered innocent Jews such as Anne Frank going to hell, who did not believe in Jesus because of their time and culture could be assuaged because of perhaps the Biblical hell was meant specifically for those who had the chance to hear from Jesus or those who saw Him personally.

Perhaps none of this is true (after all, it borders on sounding pretty darn anti-semitic) and perhaps Hell does exist for everyone, Jew and Gentile, but again, only in the first century, before the Preterist 70AD cutoff, and then now we are in a new era where things somehow work differently.

That brings us more up to date with most versions of Christianity, which believe that Hell, whatever the duration or purpose, would apply to all humanity that is disobedient to God and fails to believe in Jesus. But, does it apply to those who never had a chance to really hear the Gospel? What about the Aborigines in Australia before Europeans arrived, were they going to hell (at least, one of Chuck’s 25 versions of Hell) or were they not?

Perhaps our chart needs to have a version of hell that is only for those who have had a chance to hear an adequate telling of the gospel, and still refused Christ.

Of course, perhaps people go to hell whether they believe in Jesus or not, just based on their actions. This is why on my chart I defined categories as “disobedience” to God, because one can view “failing to believe” as gross disobedience, or cling to an Anonymous Christian idea like the Jesuits do, that there are those who do not believe in Jesus by name but still live according to His Spirit without knowing His name. Then again, Cornelius was a righteous man, but salvation still came to Him when Jesus was made known…..oh well, this post is not aimed at figuring these things out, but only stating that more options need to be covered…..and those options center around the question of WHO.

If the table of the variety of possible Hells includes a third dimension for “Who”, then there is room for the unique Jewish scenario of the Rich Man’s hell in the story of the Rich man and Lazarus to be one form of hell (say, CIP – consequential inescapable process, for Jews of the first century who had Moses and the Prophets and refused to listen), while Ghandi could end up in RHED (retributive but healing escapable destruction, specifically for Gentiles who heard the gospel and refused post-first century) and Anne Frank to miss hell entirely. In fact, there could be dozens of different hells for different situations at different points in time.

Or maybe there is only one hell, but that is for you to decide amongst yourselves. With the help of this nicely expanded table, to chew on for the next several years until you update it and send me a link to it. 🙂

— Heather

A Woman Responds to: An Open Letter to John MacArthur (re: Beth Moore)

This excellent blog post by Nijay Gupta has been getting passed around on Facebook and for the most part being received with a lot of popularity. I hope he and others can appreciate my push-back along with my praise, it’s part of the iron-sharpening-iron of writers and thinkers to critique and build on one another’s work. I could be a “good girl” and just swoon with appreciation to Nijay, and to some degree I do, but as an equal with him (as he defends women as being, more or less) I’d love to share my thoughts from the female side of the fence and hope that it is taken as the intellectual and spiritual engagement such conversation is meant to be.

Nijay’s post is good for evangelical culture in that it accomplishes two things:

1) It uses examples from scripture of a narrative involving women that counters the “women should never minister to a man” script
2) It demonstrates that women can be extremely useful in the leading and teaching domain. 

However, I’m not a real big fan of this letter, for a couple of reasons. For one thing, it subtly continues the sexism it is trying to confront. In this letter, the arguments of “Paul” come across as if sexism against women would be okay if it weren’t for the fact that women were so competent and useful in ways that men might not expect. It also presents the idea that women should be valued because they were important to a MAN’s ministry. (Excerpt from Gupta: “Women have played such a crucial role in my apostolic mission, I could not operate without their wisdom, partnership and leadership.“)

However, I think this detracts from a greater point: that women should be looked as equal to men whether or not they have proven themselves, that their worth should be honored and potential be valued, rather than determined by whether or not men think they are already proving useful in some domain. 

When men have the attitude that we can make exceptions for women who are particularly competent in an area to be allowed into an area they are normally shut out of, women are not nurtured in their potential, because potential doesn’t count–there are only looked at as valuable once they have somehow proven themselves to men by beating the odds and becoming something. This is why, even in Evangelical churches where women can occasionally minister, often no one goes out of their way to disciple women into being ministers and leaders. Once they already are a leader they are recognized, but they are still not given the same opportunities to be nurtured and recognized and rise up through the ranks as men are, unless somehow they are already there. 

Additionally, this letter asks Evangelical Christians to ignore some verses in the Bible because of other verses, as people are somehow to understand that the apostle Paul doesnt remember saying that he doesn’t allow women to speak or teach, nor does he hold to any inkling of that sentiment, that instead the few very undeveloped mentionings of women in the NT doing something or other, supersedes anything else Paul thought on the matter.

I suppose if that gets us to a place where women are valued as fully equal to men in value and abilities and permissions before God, then maybe it’s just a wrong road to take us to a right place. But deeper questions really ought to be confronted in evangelicalism, instead of just presenting ideas in such a way that whatever Paul said in one place just doesn’t exist, deep theological discussions should be had about the nature of inspiration and the influence of culture and how the body of Christ ought to weigh these things.

Here is Nijay’s letter:

https://cruxsolablog.com/2019/10/21/an-open-letter-to-john-macarthur-re-beth-moore/?fbclid=IwAR3CRd4JHxKqEs3JgJ1SzQWktvezd3ii3KHZhVdZ8KBsrSRZmpfXAjo5fLg

Walking through IVF

I was afraid

I was afraid of doctors
Afraid of showing a stranger my body
Afraid of tests
Afraid of probes
Afraid of shame

I was scared
I was scared of needles
Scared of anesthesia
Scared of surgery
Scared of mistakes
Scared of pain

I was overwhelmed
I was overwhelmed by costs
Overwhelmed by credit checks
Overwhelmed by insurance denials
Overwhelmed by medication prices
Overwhelmed by newfound debt

I was wounded
I was wounded by ignorant comments
Wounded by ignorant questions
Wounded by passive aggressive people
Wounded by those close by who didn’t care
Wounded by those who didn’t approve

I was discouraged
I was discouraged by doctors who didn’t want to try
Discouraged by eggs that didn’t work that well
Discouraged by statistics about my age and weight
Discouraged by embryos that looked great then weren’t
Discouraged by transfers that didn’t go as hoped

I was confused
I was confused by recommendations of supplements
Confused by various recommended medication protocols
Confused by ideas about LH and birth control
Confused by studies about PGS testing and 3 and 5 day transfers
Confused by Keto, vegetarianism, avocados, and fresh fruit.

And yet I am undaunted
Undaunted by being afraid
Undaunted by my fears
Undaunted even while overwhelmed
Undaunted by these wounds
Undaunted in the midst of being discouraged
Undaunted by confusing information

I hold a dream deep within my soul
A dream I will not let go
A child I pray God will give me
The baby I will one day know.

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