President Trump stirred up a bit of controversy recently with his comments about injecting UV light or other disinfectants in an attempt to treat the COVID19 virus. I want to say up front that I do not hate the President or regard him as the genius of the age. I will certainly say that I find it less than helpful for a President to ‘spitball’ in front of running cameras! But I am not setting out to defend or condemn the president – beyond saying that those who misrepresent him as having encouraged people to drink bleach or mainline Lysol are inaccurate and those who regard him as unfortunately prone to speak first and think later have a point. But, it was the President’s remarks that kicked this new wave of national conversation off. I responded, as is my practice, with research. And, it turns out, there is a fairly-long history and a new twist to therapies involving ‘injecting’ UV light as a treatment for viral and bacterial infections. In the 1940’s and 50’s UV irradiation of the blood was heavily researched and did in fact prove to kill off both viruses and bacteria. There were problems. 1. Irradiating the blood didn’t reach the interior of all the organs – places where germs continued to build strongholds. 2. UV light did as much damage to our own cells as to the viruses and bacteria. These were not seen as insurmountable difficulties. Lots of therapies (think chemo) damage the patient. But, if it kills the disease and then allows the patient to heal, it’s an acceptable tradeoff. More research might find ways to get the light into places the irradiated blood wouldn’t carry it. But, in the U.S. the research came to a halt because developing chemical antibiotics and antivirals seemed more promising. As it turns out, the antibiotics made much more rapid gains than the antivirals – at least so far.
UVI advocates have raised the cry to renew that research from time to time on the grounds that germs develop immunities to the antibiotic or antiviral drugs but not to UV light. In 2016 Cedars-Sinai heeded that call and cranked up UVI research again. Advances in LED technology and focusing in on UVA (as opposed to UVB or UVC) have allowed them, they think, to overcome both the previous problems. UVA is much less damaging to healthy cells and by putting LED devices down a catheter, the UVA can be admitted directly into the interior of the lungs. Initially, the research focused primarily on the kinds of secondary infections that arise in intubated patients. But in the face of the current crisis a bio-tech firm (AYTU) has partnered with Cedars-Sinai to push the research in the direction of COVID 19 – which, researchers say – is also killed by UVA. A press statement along with a world-wide patent for the prospects of the ‘Healight’ platform as a treatment for COVID19 was released via AP on April 20. The process is in pre-clinical trials at the moment.
How quickly can the process move through the testing protocols? I don’t know. Will the process be proven effective in clinical trials? I don’t know. Is this process any part of what the President had in mind? I don’t know. Is the timing curious in any sense? It seems so to me. Of course, there is always research going on and something is bound to turn up. Right? Still, it strikes me that we are, over and over again, more fortunate than we have any right to expect. Almost – well, blessed. It appears to me that we (setting aside national borders and thinking of human beings) did this to ourselves. There’s a familiar story! And, although I may be waxing too metaphorical, it appeals to me to think we may find the cure in - the light.
The church (writ large – not just this congregation or any one denomination or movement) should always be learning. Sadly, we aren’t. We tend to coast. One study I looked at years ago estimated that the average American congregation runs 30 years behind circumstances. At the time (the 1980’s) that would have put the average American congregation operating as though it were the 1950’s. There were – and are – lots of reasons for this. Some of it is simple finances. The average American congregation is very small and seldom has more funds than it needs. Many small neighborhood and rural congregations inherit technology as it is phased out in better funded sections of society. For instance, in the 1980’s, lots of congregations were using mimeographs cast off by the school systems. Somewhere about the mid-80’s the congregation I served at the time inherited a mimeograph with extra drums for colors and a stencil cutter to go with it! The new mimeograph was even electric! The old hand cranked black ink only model (and the little wire tipped scribe for attempting to produce art on a stencil) went into a storage closet. You never know – we might need that someday!
But there are attitudinal drivers for the lag as well. At about that same time, a couple of grocery chains ran a program where a church or school could turn in $X worth of grocery receipts to get a computer. Another $X worth for a printer. This allowed me to get by the financial constraints. I collected everyone’s receipts (and roamed the parking lots of the stores in question rounding up strays) and soon got the congregation a computer and printer. The fact that it cost no money did not mean that it came into the church without objection. There was apparently some concern the Kremlin would be able to hack into our membership rolls. Explaining that the computer didn’t even have a modem netted me a lot of blank stares. I don’t mean to make fun. I will, all these years later, soon be 63 and I find myself less and less enthused about the expanding state of technology! Like most people, I harbor suspicions of things I don’t understand and can’t control. I try to have this wisdom – there are brothers and sisters I trust who can do what I can’t in these areas and they are treasures in the congregation I currently serve.
And behind all this, the Church is about as traditional an institution as you can imagine. We have a founding and an ethos rooted in circumstances 2 Millennia old and growing! The weight of all that tradition has a positive function. When you need an anchor, nothing else will do and you will want no broken links in the chain. The problem comes in knowing when to raise the anchor, set sail, and drop the solid weight of all that tradition into new waters.
Anyway – The church tends to coast and run behind existing circumstances. Consequently, many of us may still be attempting to address the culture of and meet the problems of, say, the early 1990’s and thus lack relevance in 2020. The COVID 19 contagion and our response to it may be forcing us to catch up. I don’t know what all the lessons will be when the whole thing shakes out but I see some things already.
If I haven’t worn you completely out on this topic, bear with me once more as I wander through a few more thoughts on the Evangelical/Fundamentalist divide. As I related last time, many scholars cast the divide along the fault line of ‘truth’ and ‘spirit’. In this understanding Fundamentalists concentrate on truth to the exclusion of spirit and evangelicals concentrate on spirit to the exclusion of truth. Also, as I related last time, I believe that any effort to have one (truth or spirit) without the other is bound to end with having neither. But, I’m less than certain that this understanding really frames the divide between Evangelicals and Fundamentalists.
I remember one cartoon picturing a labeled Fundamentalist pointing to a labeled evangelical. The speech blurb above the fundamentalist read – “I’ll call you a Christian if you’ll call me a scholar!” I’m pretty sure that doesn’t really capture it either. Certainly, Christian Modernists hold Fundamentalists to be ignoramuses but Christian Modernists are only a sub-set of Evangelicals. I can only say that I have seen what I regard as both good and bad scholarship as well as deep and shallow faith in all camps.
If I have to pick a ‘Mason/Dixon line’ for the Evangelical/Fundamentalist divide it would concern the always necessary balancing act the church has to maintain between ‘in the world’ and ‘of the world’. The New Testament acknowledges that the church is ‘in the world’. Of course we are! But the very name ‘church’ (Ecclesia) is compounded of ‘ek’ (out) and ‘kaleo’ (called). The ‘called out community’. Called out of what? Well, called out of the world.
But – in Jesus – God entered the world. And in the Great Commission He gave us a mission to the world. And we live in the world. And Jesus was about opening the closed gates and inviting the world in. All true. But ‘of the world’ is something else. Jesus objected to the legalism of the Pharisees but he still worked with them and gained followers from among their numbers. Jesus had no tolerance for or outreach to the worldly collaboration of the Sadducees. In all His outreach – and Jesus reached deep into the world – He was calling people out of the world and into a kingdom ‘not of this world. This would not have been possible had Jesus become ‘worldly’.
Hence the New Testament continually urges us to stay clean of the stain of the world, to live in the world without becoming of the world, etc. Here is the balancing act – reaching into the world and ministering to the world without getting sucked in by it. When the stark difference between the world and the church disappears it means either that the promised New Earth has arrived or that the present world ate the church. In this moment, it would mean the latter.
Evangelicalism made Christianity ‘relevant’ to the rapidly changing modern world. Many people believe in a new wave of evangelicalism ushering the church into the information age the way the old evangelicalism ushered the church into the industrial age. But in either case, there is the implicit danger that the church will rush past relevance to the world and become like the world and thus, no good for the world. Fundamentalism sought/seeks to bar the door against this. But if evangelicalism contains the danger of the worldliness of the Sadducees, Fundamentalism contains the danger of the legalism of the Pharisees. This too will create a church that is no good to the world.
As I have said – it’s a balancing act and we tend to lurch from error to error. I still know which way my instincts tend, try to guard against the inherent dangers, and recognize those who must guard against the opposite dangers of their instincts as my brothers. And I praise God that He redeems our works cause elsewise, we’re all toast.
Time to keep another promise! A while back I wrote a post attempting to correctly define ‘Evangelicals’ and clear up some of the confusion surrounding the term. At the time I told you I did not identify as an evangelical myself and promised to explain why - one of these days. To begin the explanation, I need to consider another term – Fundamentalism. For what it’s worth, I’m not incredibly fond of that term either – especially as it has become freighted with baggage that usually invokes thoughts of ‘mean nasty racist bigots’ and, possibly ‘terrorists’. But such negatives were not always associated with fundamentalism and, I don’t believe, need to be today. Whatever you think of that, when I have to choose, I find myself on the fundamentalist side of the evangelical/fundamentalist divide. Why should there be a divide?
Christian fundamentalism arose in the late 1800’s in opposition to Christian
Modernism, largely in opposition to Christian Modernism’s embrace of Darwinism. I need to pause here to explain Christian Modernism as the effort to recast Christianity in a form acceptable to a modern enlightened age. Since ‘every knowledgeable person’ accepted Darwinian evolution, the more backward and embarrassing elements of Genesis needed revision. Hence the ‘days’ of creation became the ‘day/ages’ of theistic evolution. Likewise, Jesus’ feeding of the 5000 was reimagined with a wink and a nod as a great teacher subtly shaming everyone present into sharing lunches, they had planned on keeping to themselves. As to the modern evolutionary synthesis, I will tell you plainly right now that I regard the idea of everything arising from nothing by accident, or even of life arising from non-life by accident as intellectual suicide. I also believe Jesus multiplied the loaves and fish. If that casts me as an ignoramus – then you see how the negatives began to attach to fundamentalism.
But, once a core body of doctrine – fundamentals - starting with the special creation of the physical universe by God, began to be defined, fundamentalism was about much more than Darwinism. Many things pronounced nonsense by Christian Modernists were held to be fundamentals – the virgin birth, the literal belief in the miracles of Christ, an actual future second coming. Christian Modernists held all these things to be metaphors at best, myths at worst. Fundamentalists felt that if you surrendered these ‘fundamentals’ there was nothing left of Christianity worth having. Dwight Moody and Billy Graham* rank among the most famous preachers of the fundamentalist movement.
Now, if you recall my post on evangelicals, you will quickly perceive some similarity between the core good news ‘evangelion’ of the evangelicals and the ‘fundamentals’ of the fundamentalists. But there is also a difference. Evangelicalism was born of a desire to unify Christians in a modern world where transportation, communication, etc. made it possible to exceed the old tribal and political boundaries that had constrained the church. Fundamentalism was born of a desire to defend Christianity against the intrusion of that same modern world. Hopefully, you can see that both movements were good – and bad.
Evangelicalism broadened and unified the too narrow and fragmented church, fitting the body of Christ for service in a rapidly changing world. As Christian Modernism demonstrates though, the evangelical spirit also invited that world into the church. Fundamentalists took exception. But often, fundamentalists become too narrow and especially, too judgmental. Some fundamentalists seem to covet the prerogative of judgment belonging to God alone.
Some Christian scholars cast the evangelical/fundamentalist divide as along the fault line of ‘spirit’ and ‘truth’, I.e., evangelicals emphasize ‘spirit’ at the expense of ‘truth’ and fundamentalists emphasize ‘truth’ at the expense of ‘spirit’. This may very well be. Certainly, any attempt to have truth OR Spirit is bound to result in having neither.
Here, I can only speak for myself. What I really want to identify as is – ‘A Christian’. And though my instincts lean to the fundamentalist side of the divide and though my experience of the evangelical movement is that some fundamental truths are inevitably sacrificed in the name of ‘unity’ and ‘relevance’, I count evangelicals as my brothers. Further, I recognize that the adaptations and reactions of the church in every age are always both good and bad as our fallen nature and the work of the enemy among us assures. Our righteousness is always filthy rags as it were. Somehow, God redeems us and our works anyway.
*To demonstrate the potential for ‘crossover’ in the evangelical/fundamentalist divide, Graham was definitely a fundamentalist in his early career. In his later years he seems to have become an evangelical. I assert only that he remained a Christian all through.
A good friend of mine recently sent me a copy of some words by one of my favorite writers – C.S. Lewis. I have read most of Lewis’ works but was not familiar with the collection of essays called Present Concerns (1948) from which this selection was drawn. But it reconfirms for me why I am so fond of Lewis’ writings. Though published 72 years ago, I think it speaks with an absolutely fresh voice for us as we navigate the current COVID 19 crisis. Remember – in 1948 the atomic bomb was new. If you read this through a second time you might want to try substituting COVID 19 for the atomic bomb. At any rate, let me share with you what was shared with me.
“In one way we think a great deal too much of the atomic bomb. How are we to live in an atomic age? I am tempted to reply: Why – as you would have lived in the Sixteenth Century when the plague visited London almost every year, or as you would have lived in a Viking age when raiders from Scandinavia might land and cut your throat any night; ; or indeed, as you are already living in an age of cancer, an age of syphilis, an age of paralysis, an age of air raids, an age of railway accidents, an age of motor accidents. In other words, do not let us begin by exaggerating the novelty of our situation. Believe me, dear sir or madam, you and all whom you love were already sentenced to death before the atomic bomb was invented: and quite a high percentage of us were going to die in unpleasant ways. We had, indeed, one very great advantage over our ancestors – anesthetics; but we have that still. It is perfectly ridiculous to go about whimpering and drawing long faces because the scientists have added one more chance of painful and premature death to a world which already bristled with such chances and in which death itself was not a chance at all, but a certainty. This is the first point to be made: and the first action to be taken is to pull ourselves together. If we are all going to be destroyed by an atomic bomb, let that bomb when it comes find us doing sensible and human things - praying, working, teaching, reading, listening to music, bathing the children, playing tennis, chatting to our friends over a pint and a game of darts – not huddled together like frightened sheep and thinking about bombs. They may break our bodies (a microbe can do that) but they need not dominate our minds.”
Some strictures are laid on us by the state and federal governments and I encourage us all to be as good citizens as our conscience allows – but those who are coming unhinged are only afraid of death – if not for themselves then for those they love – and the Bible has always assured us of what we all already knew – the mortality rate for life in the fallen world is 100% At present, the mortality rate for COVID 19 in the U.S is still under 2% and that is calculated only from those people who were sick enough to go to the hospital or worked in medical settings. The rest of us have not even been tested. I do not intend to make light of the crisis – but as Louis Lamour frequently put it – There is one thing certain about life – none of us gets out of it alive! Take reasonable precautions – but have a little perspective. And for those whose trust is in God – a little faith.
How about something more lighthearted today.
Years ago, my daughter brought home a corn snake – it had been a whole-class science project in her senior year of high school. When summer came, someone had to keep the snake. She named it Carmel (corn snakes are predominately orangish brown in color). When summer ended Sarah went off to college – Carmel continued to live in our basement.
I inherited the duty of procuring a mouse per week. Nature is harsh. Snakes are also a little moody in the appetite department. Sometimes a mouse lasted no time at all. Sometimes Carmel and the mouse became room mates for several days. Either way I generally felt a little guilty – especially since the place I got the mice from put the poor little things in a box with a picture of a cartoon mouse jumping up in the air, clicking its mousy heels and proclaiming ‘Yippee, I’ve found a home!’
The feeding I most recall took place when Carmel had just about finished molting. This meant she had pretty much skipped a feeding and was ravenously hungry. It also meant her eyesight was poorer than usual. Still, somehow, she perceived I was coming and began anxiously striking the glass front of her cage in anticipation. The way the cage was set up, I had to lift the sliding glass door with my left hand and make a quick thrusting motion with my right – holding the box, open end facing the cage, to propel the mouse into the feeding grounds. This had always worked very well.
On this occasion however, the mouse seemed to have caught the vibe and clung with tenacity to the still closed end of the box. I thrust the box forward, but no mouse came out. Carmel struck just the same and closed her serrated jaws on the tip of my right pinky. As far as she was concerned, she had caught something alive and meaty and she immediately went to work trying to constrict and swallow it. I was not overly worried about being eaten by the snake. I was more concerned that the mishap had resulted in at least a third of Carmel’s body being extended under the sliding door – still held up by my left hand – and that her efforts to choke me down were pulling more of her elongated form out of the cage by the second. The mouse, recognizing an opportune moment to flee, leapt from the box onto the floor. The basement was rife with places a mouse could go and I could not follow. Both my hands were otherwise occupied. I quickly reached out with my left foot and stepped on the mouse’s tail. Now both my hands and one foot were occupied, the remaining foot pretty much tied up with bearing my weight.
I shouted to my wife that I needed some help. Note: my wife only barely tolerated Carmel’s presence in our home in the first place and is only slightly less anti-mouse than anti-snake. She came down the basement stairs, took one look at the situation, said ‘No way!’ and went back up. After a moment’s stunned silence, I dropped the box, used the other digits of my right hand to pry Carmel off the pinkie, pushed her back into the cage and closed the door. Hands now freed, I got the mouse back in the box. A few moments later, after a little re-engineering, well, my marriage survived. The mouse did not. The above is true in its entirety. I share it because I figure we could all use a laugh right now. I hope you got one.
So, the coronavirus – which I’m sure everyone is already tired of hearing about. And, on the medical side, my opinion only carries so much weight - I am not a biologist, epidemiologist or any other kind of ologist that would give me expertise in the areas of predicting or combating viruses. I have only the anecdotal experience of having lived through the swine flu, the bird flu (I think the corona virus only narrowly avoided being called the snake flu!) SARS, MERS, etc.
With that background, I do not take the corona virus lightly. People have already died. More people will die. I can also tell you with absolute certainty that people will die from the organized response to the pandemic. You cannot make decisions for 300,000,000 people without killing some of them. Kids out of school will spend more time with their vulnerable grandparents. Statewide business closures will result in fatalities. Those who rushed out to strip store shelves of toilet paper, disinfectant wipes, and hand sanitizer all increased their risk of exposure exponentially by getting elbow to elbow with their fellow hoarders.
And even with all those measures and their attendant harms, the pandemic will get worse. All the others did. I believe 60,000,000 Americans were infected with H1N1 and nearly 20,000 died. I remember visiting children from our congregation with SARS/MERS and being legitimately worried. So, yes, I expect the coronavirus pandemic will get worse. Then, like every other viral plague, it will either burn itself out or become a permanent part of the landscape – with, I predict, a mortality rate in line with all the other viral plagues we’ve endured. In the latter case, there will be a vaccine that will work about as effectively as all the other virus vaccines and we’ll all argue about whether-or-not we should get that shot.
I do understand trying to slow the advance of the virus so as not to overwhelm the system and to give more time for testing improvements, vaccine development, and other responses. But I think everyone should realize that cancelling every event on earth, blocking travel beyond township lines, bathing daily in hand sanitizer, and doing whatever it is people plan to do with all that toilet paper- will not stop the virus from blanketing the earth at this point.
Of course, my special concern is the mission of the church – and the church has a mission regarding this pandemic! God has prepared grace for this hour and the church has a mandate to present it. In part, this begs the question of whether or not local congregations should cancel services. I have received criticism in varying degrees because IRCC has not cancelled services – though we are making every effort to keep any particular gathering below the ever-changing numerical recommendation, taking extra measures to minimize the kind of personal contact that spreads the virus, advising anyone concerned to stay home, learning to live-stream our service and working daily to increase and refine our response.
Still, we have not yet cancelled services. Other congregations have. I am not party to their calculations. If anyone is interested, I would be happy to discuss our calculations.
But – whatever decision congregations make on that front – there is that mission I mentioned. It has three prongs
I promised back in the first installation of this blog to discuss what it means to be an evangelical (a title I do not claim for myself) and, perhaps, to consider how we ever got so confused about it. Here goes. Evangelicals are not a church or a church movement – rather, an 18th century adjustment in the way Christians in general saw themselves. About 1740, Christians, suddenly, as these things go, found themselves in a new situation. Christianity was now a firmly linked trans-Atlantic community exceeding former tribal, national, and philosophical borders. In the prior century if you were, say, a German and not a Catholic – you were Lutheran – like all non-Catholic Germans. If you were British and not a Catholic you were Episcopalian or, a little later, Methodist. This was an English thing. If you lived in Geneva and were not Calvinist, mean old Jean wouldn’t let you stay! But the expansion of European protestants to America changed things. Capitalism and Humanism took root and grew. Slavery was being seriously questioned. The world was all at once, different – both larger and smaller.
Into this period (The first Great Awakening) walked the great revivalists George Whitfield and Jonathan Edwards, preaching a ‘good news’ (evangelion) that existed above and beyond all national and denominational barriers: a good news shared by German Lutherans, English Methodists, and American Puritans alike – those pesky Swiss too! Never mind all that other stuff written up in handbooks, bylaws and catechisms – there is a core good news – an evangelical truth - that defines all Christians.
This new evangelicalism was strengthened in the second Great Awakening (1790 to 1830 or so – seems like we fell back asleep pretty quick!), becoming the dominant expression of American Christianity which had now moved as far west overland as it did over sea to get here in the first place! But while Methodism or Presbyterianism had official headquarters, sanctioned literature, designated spokesmen, etc., evangelicalism was a more free-range operation carried west by circuit riders who got considerably ahead of denominational organization.
Perhaps because it was so generalized and thus hard to stomp on, evangelicalism emerged from the Civil War in better shape than the denominations from which it arose: a strength still present in the early to mid- 1900s by which time World Wars and a Great Depression caused a lot of questioning about God’s nature and even existence. Evangelicals felt they had the best answers to such questions but, lacking formal organization, the weakest voice. Enter the National Association of Evangelicals – circa 1942 – born in a conference of 147 Christian leaders from 40+ American denominations.
Spoiler alert – organization both strengthens and stifles! And now we’re ready for the part where the understanding of evangelicalism gets really messed up! In 1976 Jimmy Carter became the first ‘born again evangelical’ to be elected President of the United States. Newsweek declared 1976 – the year of the evangelical! But – there were other evangelicals (remember that free-range thing) accepting the same core good news as Carter but living far enough to the political right of the erstwhile peanut farmer turned politician as to need a separate philosophical zip code. These evangelicals birthed the Christian Coalition, the Moral Majority et al and became known collectively as ‘The Religious Right’ – as opposed to the original evangelical coalition that formed behind Carter. The Carter evangelicals didn’t go away – but no organizational genius stepped up to help them compete with their right leaning brethren.
This is one of the reasons the number of evangelicals is so hard to pin down. Are they 7% of the American population? Or 50%? Both things have been asserted! In 1967 were there 10 million of them? 20 million? 50 million? Well, it depends on which ones you count – which depends a lot on who does the counting! To a preacher the definition is theological or doctrinal. To a sociologist the definition is demographic. But to a politician at any time after 1980 the definition is a voting block or, to put a finer point on it – white Christian Republicans.
Herein lies the trouble. Maybe the first political pollster in line really meant to understand the forces that caused a certain segment of the population to turn out for a certain candidate in a certain election. But after that evangelicalism became no more (to politicians) than one more mailing list for use in the endless process of hitting people up for money and votes. This in an era where political voices get a lot more airtime than the preacher or the sociologist. To wit: the most commonly accepted non-political definition of evangelicalism was put forth by historian/sociologist David Bebbington in 1989.
A moments thought will tell you that the current politically driven definition of Evangelicals is far too narrow – even when recast as ‘white Evangelicals’. Funny how politics desires to take a movement created to ignore forced boundaries and shoehorn it into a narrower and narrower space.
Now, if this hasn’t bored your socks off, you might look sometime down the road for another post explaining why I do not consider myself an evangelical. If this did bore your socks off, put them back on! Spring is still some days away!
As the famous Disney character said – ‘Let your conscience be your guide.’ It pretty much goes without saying that conscience steers action. Perhaps it does not always go without saying that this phenomenon rises beyond the personal level. In my case, at least, my conscience has steered a lot of the ministry of Indian Run Christian Church. The recycling ministry is a case in point.
Several years ago, I was cornered by a reporter at the Stark County fair who asked how much I recycled. I replied honestly, ‘Well, not very much.’ The reporter then asked me why. I formulated the answer in my usual slow, methodical way (many people lack the patience for a real conversation with me) and with not nearly enough consciousness that I was talking to a reporter! ‘I guess, if I’m honest with myself, it’s just so much easier to put it all in bags by the road knowing it will all go away.’ When my name and that quote appeared in the paper, I was much dissatisfied. But, I was being honest! I determined to do better and I think I have. However, my life is ministry and I also feel strongly that it is part of any Christian congregation’s obligation to address the ills of the community.
In case you didn’t know, Stark County, Ohio is famous/infamous for our landfills. Yay us!? This post would grow too long if I went into the details – suffice it to say I perceive certain ‘problems’ with our landfill situation. Others, perceiving the same problems, launch law-suits or pursue legal reforms. I do not disagree in principle with such efforts. I’m just not wired that way. My game is always on the ground in front of me. For all these reasons, my determination to do better at recycling enlarged into a recycling ministry for the congregation I lead.
As I am also slightly compulsive about goal setting and record keeping, I can tell you that since launching the recycling ministry in 2012, we have recycled 654,446 pounds of metal and 390,013 pounds of paper*; meaning that 2020 is the year we exceeded 1,000,000 pounds of material kept out of the landfills and injected back into the economy in more useful forms. As the recycling numbers have grown over time (other consciences aligning with mine) I suspect (Lord willing) it will not take eight years to recycle a second million pounds. In 2012 we recycled 27,605 pounds of metal and 17,875 pounds of paper. In 2019 we recycled over 105,000 pounds of metal and over 80,000 pounds of paper.
My main reason for writing this post is to encourage you to look around. IRCC is not unique. Thousands of local congregations have conscience driven ministries that benefit their community in concrete ways. The church is more than you think and the church is good for the world! It is also true in my experience that the local church accomplishes these things on a budget that is CONSIDERABLY less than government or corporate programs would require. And I bet your conscience aligns with some of these ministries. Let your conscience steer your actions. If recycling isn’t your ‘thing’ find out what ‘things’ other local congregations are doing. Though I suspect any local congregation would welcome you as a full-time member, that probably isn’t necessary for you to pitch in. Get involved!
*I personally recycle plastic but have not yet found a good way to expand that practice to a congregational ministry level.
** Full disclosure: IRCC receives money for metal and paper recycled. I can assure you the dollars received divided by the volunteer hours invested would not rise to minimum wage – not counting fuel, cutting blades, and other necessary investments. It is a ministry in the truest sense. The money that does come in is turned into food to feed the hungry – it doesn’t pay our light bills, insurance, etc.
***We also grow food for the hungry. Over the same time period (2012-to present) we have grown or gleaned 270,000 pounds of fresh produce for the various feeding ministries in Stark County.
I have recently held several conversations concerning the book of Revelation – no problem btw – I am always happy to discuss Scripture and Revelation is a perennial concern to most Christians. I am going to pass on here what I believe to be the single most powerful tool for interpreting the Revelation. The official name of this interpretive tool is ‘historicism’ I know – everyone’s eyes start glassing over as soon as an ‘ism’ appears but bear with me as I attempt to simplify the basic list of competing ‘isms’.
Futurism contends that prophecy is always oriented toward the future (some prophecies concerned what was future for the prophet is question but is now our past) and that much of the end time prophecies of the Bible describe events still in our future.
Preterism contends that almost all Biblical prophecy and especially end time prophecy describes events that have already happened or at best, were in the midst of happening at the time the prophecy was given. In this view, almost all the book of Revelation describes the destruction of Jerusalem in AD 70.
Idealism contends that the imagery of Revelation does not describe concrete persons or events at all. Rather, they describe spiritual concepts. Idealists do not look for real world events to fulfill the prophecies at any time – the prophecies metaphorically describe sets of ideas common to the world and the kingdom respectively.
The position I recommend is historicism – tinged with just a dab of idealism. The book of Revelation describes the cosmic war in which Jesus Christ is central. That war was going on in the days of the Old Testament, at the time of Jesus’ ministry, at the time the book of Revelation was written, is still going on today and will be going on for as long as the present creation lasts. The events described in the book, then, occur over and over in passing generations – with one final cataclysmic repetition which will bring the historical process to a halt.
Read Revelation chapter twelve with this in mind and see what you think. Then try this: Read Revelation chapter 13 and consider the beast. Then read Daniel chapter seven and consider the beasts. It is made clear that at least the first of the beasts is in active operation at the time Daniel gave the prophecy. It seems equally clear that the operations of the beasts continue beyond Daniel’s time – passing up the Babylonians, Meads and Persians and entering into the ages of the Greek and Roman empires. Other visions in Daniel tell the same story. And if you think the beast of Revelation 13 is the same as the beasts of Daniel 7 – Gold Star! The Beast(s) are human governments opposed to the will of God and following the program of Satan in the great cosmic war. The beast was operating in the time of Daniel – and in the time of John – and today – and into the future – and, I believe, the rabid beast will finally be put down in one final cataclysmic clash.
Try one more. Consider the horsemen of Revelation 6:1-7. Then read Zechariah 1:7-12 and 6:1-9 – horsemen who patrol the earth, acting in the midst of the wars of men (The horsemen in Zechariah were impatient at first because the war which would contain their coming ministry seemed to them to be slow in getting started!) to achieve the purposes of God. You see, the question is not – When will the horsemen ride? But When will they stop? I, of course, believe they have been riding for ages, are riding today, and will have a last ride one of these days.
Keep going – the four living creatures of Revelation chapter 4. Where have you seen them before and what were they doing and how do we know they are Cherubim? Hint – read Ezekiel chapters one and ten.
So, when will the events of the book of Revelation - you know – apostate governments, apostate religions, (the false prophet) apostate nations, apostate economic systems (Babylon) and charismatic but apostate leaders (antichrists) of all the above all working to bring about Satan’s will on our sad fallen planet – happen? Well, of course they happened in AD 70. But check out today’s newspaper too. And count on it all continuing to happen – until God brings these events to a final end.
We have been in the End Times since the ascension of Christ and have been surrounded by the events described in the book of Revelation the whole time.