Christianity and Racism

Christianity and Racism
The April 2018 issue of National Geographic is a special issue on race. The history of Christianity and racism has been very bad, and that is unfortunate for many reasons. The most fundamental reason is that it contradicts everything the Bible teaches. The history of science has been just as bad as the Christian denominations in promoting racism and slavery.

Some have called Dr. Samuel George Morton “the father of racism” because he released studies of the skulls of various racial groups and related intelligence to brain size. Morton claimed that there were five races and that they varied in intelligence with Caucasians being the most intelligent, followed by Mongolians, southeast Asians, native Americans, and Ethiopians in that order. When Morton died in 1851, the Charleston Medical Journal praised him for “giving to the negro his true position as an inferior race.”

Such labeling and poor scientific reasoning contradict all the Bible says about humans. If we all came from Adam and Eve, then obviously we are all created in the image of God and are of equal value. The flood of Noah would have wiped out whatever major variations there might have been in human genes. The reason races exist is because God designed humans to live all over the Earth. Major racial criteria such as skin color, physical structure, and hair are features built into our DNA to allow for adaptation to climatic conditions.

The divisions of humans in the Old Testament were not due to physical differences. Joseph was an Israelite, but became a ruler in Egypt, as did Moses. The things that caused national divisions and conflict were over lifestyles, moral choices, and worship. The separation between the Jews and Samaritans is spelled out in John chapter 4. The Samaritan woman was amazed that Jesus would talk to her (see verse 9) and his disciples also were also amazed (see verse 27). The thing that separated the Jews and the Samaritans were the religious histories of the two cultures.

Christianity and racism should never be connected. The Christian perspective is that all humans are created in the image of God and have equal value. Acts 17:26 tells us that we are all “of one blood for to dwell in the face of the earth.” Galatians 3:28 tells us, “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” It is sad that people who claimed to be Christians rejected the clear biblical mandate that we are all equal in God’s sight.

Atheists and skeptics will use the National Geographic article to denigrate Christianity, but the fact is that Christianity contradicts racism. A Christian trying to follow God’s word cannot endorse everything that people claiming to be Christians have done in the past. Christ opposed human-created divisions and prayed that His followers would be united (John 17: 20-21). True Christianity and racism are not compatible.
–John N. Clayton © 2018

New Life Behavior Ministries

New Life Behavior Ministries
New Life Behavior Ministries is a project of the Kings Crossing Church of Christ in Corpus Christi, Texas. For years we have worked with Buck Griffith and that ministry.

We refer prisoners completing our courses to them. Their team members visit the prisoners and provide personal needs and baptism if requested. We also refer prisoners with drug problems to their CASA study. CASA is an acronym for Christians Against Substance Abuse. This program has had a hugely beneficial effect on recidivism.

The New Life Behavior Ministries has begun a “Vet Net” program which offers special postage-paid courses (inside the United States) to veterans of all branches of the service and their family members–active or reserve. The top five courses in enrollment numbers are:
Christian Marriage Skills
Attitudes and Behaviors
Christians Against Substance Abuse
Managing My Anger
The “Seeker” Bible Study Series

We would like to make our readers aware of this great program, especially those working with military families. Contact information is:

Prison Ministry
3833 South Staples Suite S-101
Corpus Christi Tx 78411
Phone 361-855-3372 Fax 361-855-7469
email: nlbcasa@yahoo.com
Website: www.kingscrossingprisonministries.org.

The congregation is at:
Kings Crossing Prison Ministries
Kings Crossings Church of Christ
5901 Yorktown Boulevard
Corpus Christi, Texas 78414

Prison ministry is difficult work, but very important in today’s culture.
–John N. Clayton © 2018

Being Human

Being Human
One of the oldest debates among scientists is what it takes for an individual to be called “human.” The problem is that each discipline has its own criteria for being human.

A physical anthropologist would likely base his definition on the size of the brain, the shape of the mandible, or the position of the foramen magnum–the opening into the brain through which the spinal column passes. A cultural anthropologist might use community structure or communication techniques. In each discipline, the criteria correspond to the tools that discipline uses in its study. All of them are useful, but none present the full picture.

The biblical definition of being human is that being uniquely created in the image of God–that being possessing a soul. Physical appearance and physical characteristics are not part of the biblical definition. The indicator of being created in the image of God is how those spiritual characteristics are expressed. Worship, artistic creation, the use of symbolism, musical creation, and the ability to feel guilt and sympathy are leading indicators.

The media has portrayed the Neandertals as prehumans. Because they were bulky and jut-jawed they seem to fit the picture of prehuman cavemen. Movies have portrayed them as brutes lacking human characteristics. We have maintained for many years that the Neandertals were a race of humans. Recent genetic studies have shown Neandertal genes in the modern human population.

Recently researchers found artwork in three Spanish caves that are attributed to the Neandertals because they predate the time when other races of humans, such as Cromagnons, came to the area. Dr. Francesco d’Errico who has been studying the evidence for Neandertal artwork in the caves says, “Neandertals took modern humans into caves and showed them how to paint.”

The Bible tells us that God created humans in His image. We don’t know when that took place, or how far and how quickly the descendants of Adam and Eve moved out across the Earth. God designed humans to adapt to all kinds of environments, and climatic stresses led to racial variations. The Bible’s statement that “God has made of one blood all nations of men to dwell upon the face of the Earth” is supported by every evidence we have available. However, while being human, our capacity to act like animals and not express our likeness to God’s image cannot be denied.
–John N. Clayton © 2018

Data from Science News, March 17, 2018 page 6.

Alcohol and Dementia

Alcohol and Dementia
“Heavy drinking takes an irreversible, long-term toll on the brain, increasing the risk of all forms of dementia.” That is the conclusion of an exhaustive study of alcohol and dementia. The study involved more than a million adults diagnosed with dementia from 2008 to 2013.

Nearly 60% of early-onset dementia cases were associated with alcohol-related brain damage. Alcohol is toxic to brain cells and reduces blood flow to the brain. People who are intoxicated have literally poisoned themselves. The radical increase in dementia in many forms in our culture is a consequence of the persistent use of alcohol.

When you add the use of nicotine, meth, pot, and other recreational chemical agents to the effect of alcohol and dementia, it is clear that we have an epidemic of brain damage afflictions ahead of us. God has told us that our bodies are special. First Corinthians 3:16 tells us that our bodies are “the temple of God.” First Corinthians 6:15-20 warns against the incorrect use of our bodies. These words are not just about religious separation. God has designed our bodies and our brains for the long haul, and taking care of what God has given us is a sacred responsibility we all have.

Not all dementia is a product of individual abuse. We are realizing more and more that our abuse of the environment also brings us great pain of all kinds. The chemicals we get in our food and the polluted air we breathe are also factors. Christians should be leaders in taking care of what God has created. “The Lord God took the man and put him into the garden to dress it and to keep it” (Genesis 2:15). We are the caretakers of the creation, and we have tended to exploit it rather than to take care of it. The consequences have been disastrous, and that must change.
–John N. Clayton © 2018

Data from The Week, March 16, 2018, page 19.

Incredible Human Brain

Incredible Human Brain
As more and more scientific data becomes available, the incredible complexity of the cosmos and our world becomes clearer. A classic example of that is the incredible human brain.

The human brain is not exceptional on a chemical basis. Carbon, hydrogen, oxygen, and nitrogen are the fundamental materials that are present in all brains with traces of various metals also contributing a small part. What is remarkable is the design of the brain and what it can do.

Recent measurements show that the human brain can hold about one petabyte of data. That would be equivalent to a million one gigabyte flash drives. The brain uses more energy than any other organ in the body, but it is only 2% of our total body weight. There are 52 sections to the human brain, each one containing different cells allowing us to do the different things we can do. Every neuron contains about .07 volts of energy. Since a human brain has 86 billion neurons that adds up to about six billion volts–equivalent to 477,777,777 car batteries.

The brain is 75% water, weighs about three pounds with half a pound of that being fat. The incredible human brain is a designed structure that we still have much to learn about it. Our brains speak eloquently of God’s design and the wisdom of God’s creation.
–John N. Clayton © 2018

Data from Popular Science, Spring 2018, page 6-7.

Down Syndrome Abortions

Down Syndrome Abortions
In February, Ohio governor John Kasich signed into law a measure relating to Down Syndrome abortions. Under the law, unborn children cannot be aborted because of a prenatal diagnosis of Down Syndrome.

Ethics professor Peter Singer of Princeton University and other leading atheists have tried to make abortion mandatory for babies who are known to have congenital birth defects. The usual reasons for such actions are the cost factor, refusal of insurance coverage, and refusing admission to state-funded schools and care centers. All if this, in the view of some, makes financial sense for aborting.

As the parent of a child born with multiple birth defects including blindness, cerebral palsy, and mental retardation I can understand the emotional and financial stresses involved. More to the point is the fact that a Down Syndrome child is a human being with a spiritual makeup. In a time of great emphasis on the value of diversity, it seems odd that a state would need to enact such a law. Susan B. Anthony List president Marjorie Dannenfelser says, “In a time of growing acceptance of human diversity and rejection of outdated biases against people with different abilities, such extreme intolerance stands out as a great injustice.”

Recently an abortion proponent suggested to me that autism should be eliminated by abortion, using the same argument as the proposal to have mandatory Down Syndrome abortions. The obvious implication of this is the “slippery slope” issue. Where do you stop? Racial and ethnic cleansing proponents can make the same argument.

The Christian view is that all humans are of equal value because we are created in the image of God. That means we treasure every life. We applaud the leadership in Ohio for their actions.
–John N. Clayton © 2018
Data from Citizen magazine, March 2018 page 9.

Letters in the Sand

Letters in the Sand
What do you see in this picture? Look closely, and you will see evidence of letters in the sand.

Notice the waves that were caused by wind blowing across the desert. Then notice the really surprising thing the wind has done! The wind has created some lines in a very interesting pattern. The lines seem to spell out the name of the world’s largest hot desert—SAHARA. Yes, the Sahara Desert covers most of northern Africa and to find something this amazing that the natural forces have “written” on the sand is truly unusual.

Wait a minute! Are you suggesting that those letters are not the effect of the wind and natural forces? Are you thinking that maybe an intelligent being actually wrote in the sand? Consider carefully the fact that the Sahara is huge and there are vast areas of sand. Given enough time and the proper wind directions why couldn’t this word show up by natural forces alone? Surely somewhere in that desert there must be a naturally formed letter—maybe an “S.” Surely in all of that area it is possible that natural forces could have formed the other letters. Given the billions of grains of sand and enough time they could just happen to line up in the proper order to spell a word. Couldn’t they?

Okay, you are not buying my story. Perhaps an intelligent being was involved in the formation of this word in the sand. But if you won’t believe me concerning the six letters in the sand, would you believe three-billion letters? That’s how many letters came together in the proper order to form the DNA strands in every cell of your body. That DNA code gives the complete blueprint for YOU. You can read S-A-H-A-R-A in seconds. If you were to read the three-billion letters of the DNA from one of your cells at the rate of one per second, every second of every hour of every day, it would take 31 years. Do you believe that the DNA code came into existence in a completely natural and unguided way?

Oh, you are suggesting that it all started out with something simple and then evolved into what it is today. Sorry, but fossil evidence shows that even the simplest bacteria that emerged shortly after the Earth came into existence had extremely complex DNA codes. Life just can’t exist without the code. The code is information and information is the product of intelligence. We suggest that just like those letters in the sand, life can’t happen without an intelligent Creator.
–Roland Earnst © 2018

Should Christians Get Tattoos?

Should Christians Get Tattoos?
Tattoos are nothing new. In 1991 tourists found a 5,300-year-old iceman mummy in the Italian Alps with 61 tattoos on his body. Recently archaeologists found tattoos on 5,000-year-old mummies in Egypt. Even though tattoos have been around for a long time, they have become very popular in the last few years. According to a Harris poll, currently, 21 percent of U.S. adults have at least one tattoo. The thing many people want to know is should Christians get tattoos?

There are disagreements among Christian teachers about tattoos. You can search the internet and find discussions on the topic, such as here and here. What does the Bible say? The passage that is often quoted is Leviticus 19:28. However, there is disagreement on exactly what it means. We don’t have room here to go into a lengthy theological discussion about whether or not tattoos are sinful. We will leave that to others. But there are some things we can say for certain about tattoos.

You may wonder why tattoos are so permanent when our skin cells, like other cells in our bodies, die and are replaced every few years. According to an article published on March 6 in the Journal of Experimental Medicine, the reason has to do with our immune system. When the needle punctures the skin, immune-response cells called macrophages rush to the site and gobble up the foreign substance. After capturing the ink, they hold it until they die. When they die a cellular recycling system kicks into action. New macrophages take up the ink and hold it until they die. The process continues keeping the ink as a permanent part of the cellular network. Tattoo removal requires laser pulsing the macrophage cells that hold the ink coaxing them to release it into the lymph system of the body. This removal process can take years.

It is also safe to say that tattoos can cause serious adverse reactions. These can be short-term problems such as infections. They can be long-term problems including redness, swelling, and itching. In a random sampling of tattooed people in New York City, ten percent said they had some complications. Of that ten percent, sixty percent had chronic problems. Sometimes people develop allergies to the inks used, and sometimes that happens only after they get a second tattoo. The treatment for tattoo allergies may involve topical or injected steroids or surgical removal. Tattoo inks are not closely regulated, if at all. Unsanitary tattoo parlors or a tattoo artist who doesn’t use proper precautions can cause infections. Bacterial infections are the most common, but fungal or viral infections are possible. Tattoos can result in blood-borne diseases such as hepatitis B and C.

Another potential problem of tattoos is that they can hide health problems such as skin cancers of all kinds including melanoma. With skin cancer, as with any cancer, early detection is essential and even a dermatologist may not see early evidence if it is hidden by a tattoo. Tattoos can also increase your risk of the effects of Sun exposure. Yellow ink, which contains cadmium, is known to cause itching and redness when exposed to the Sun. Black or dark ink colors can absorb the Sun’s rays and cause overheating. Because black ink contains iron, it can also create problems if you have an MRI (magnetic resonance imaging). Black ink contains iron, and the magnetic field can generate electric currents in the iron. That can cause burning, and the more black ink, the more danger in an MRI.

But should Christians get tattoos? For a Christian, there are more things to consider before getting a tattoo. Why do you want one? Is it to glorify God, or is it to draw attention to yourself? Is it an act of rebellion? How will friends and family react? Will it be a stumbling block for other Christians? Will this tattoo be appropriate for me 30, 40, or 50 years from now? Will it make it hard for me to get a job? (Many employers do not want their employees to have visible tattoos.) Is this the best stewardship of money which could be used to spread the gospel or help others in need? (Tattoos are expensive, but removal is much more expensive and painful.) What does the tattoo say about me? Does it convey the kind of message I want to present as a Christian?

Let’s go back to the original question. Should Christians get tattoos? If you are a Christian, a better question to ask is, “Should I get a tattoo?” As you ask that question remember “you are not your own” and “your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you.” (1 Corinthians 6:19-20) Finally read Romans 14:22-23 and consider, “…everything that does not come from faith is sin.”
–Roland Earnst © 2018

Infertility and Desire for Motherhood: Our Recommendation

Infertility and Desire for Motherhood
Yesterday we looked at the problem of infertility and desire for motherhood. We dealt with several causes of the problem. We looked at the possible solutions of adoption, test-tube babies, and surrogate motherhood. We have more thoughts to add, and we want to share our recommendation.

Before going any further let me say that no matter what you do, no situation is fool-proof. My wife and I adopted a baby boy who was examined at birth by three doctors, one of whom was our family doctor. My son Timothy was deemed a ”normal newborn.” The biological mother had no special medical problems, and the father was unknown. When the baby was six months old, some medical problems became obvious. To make a long story short, my son Timothy was found to be mentally challenged, had a form of muscular dystrophy which made leg braces and wheelchairs necessary. He also had a form of cerebral palsy which led to tremors and visual problems which eventually left him blind at age 16.

The Roman Catholic Church has taken a strong position opposing surrogacy. The Conference of Catholic Bishops has declared, “Because of the dignity of the child and of marriage and because of the uniqueness of the mother-child relationship, participation in contracts or arrangements for surrogate motherhood is not permitted. Moreover, the commercialization of such surrogacy denigrates the dignity of women, especially the poor.”

The National Catholic Bioethics Center said, “…children are not engendered by technology or produced by an industry. Children should arise from an act of love between a husband and wife in cooperation with God. No human being can ‘create’ the image of God.” We suggest that this statement is not true. No matter how a baby is conceived, he or she is in the image of God. God places the soul in the child whether it is in a test tube or in a woman’s body. No human is an android no matter how conception takes place.

There is no question that the ideal way for a child to be born is the old-fashioned way. The problem is that for many young couples that just isn’t possible. Should the fact that a woman had cancer stop her from ever becoming a mother? Many women face the problem of infertility and desire for motherhood. My wife was a full-time mother. Her three children were all chosen children.

The dangers of surrogacy are huge. Abraham, Sara, and Hagar are the biblical example of those dangers. We will let the theologians argue about the ethics issues. For us common people, I suggest that adoption is the best solution for both the abortion issue and the needs of women facing infertility and desire for motherhood.

Many women have had babies but are not really mothers. The mother is the one who changed the diaper, read Bible stories to the child, took the child to the doctor, bandaged the cuts, and kissed the bruises. No matter how the child came into this world, it is a child with a soul created in the image of God. Every child needs the love only a mother can give.
–John N. Clayton © 2018
Data from Christianity Today, March 2018, Pages 28-35.

Infertility and Desire for Motherhood: The Problem

Infertility and Desire for Motherhood
What does a married couple do when they want to have a child but are unable to do so? There are many reasons for the problem of infertility and desire for motherhood. A woman who has had cancer and yet desperately wants a child even though the chemo has made her unable to conceive is very common. Male infertility is a major cause of couples not being able to conceive a child. Diseases like diabetes may make it impossible for a woman to conceive or to carry a pregnancy to birth. My wife was an insulin-dependent diabetic from age ten, and the disease made it impossible for her to conceive a child even though she desperately wanted to be a mother. There are several movie stars who don’t want to have their physical appearance disturbed by pregnancy, or maybe they don’t want to spend nine months carrying a child. The list goes on.

For my wife and I, the answer to this problem was adoption. We adopted three wonderful children, and that in my mind is the best option. But there are complications and issues in adoption. Some couples desperately want the child to be from the husband’s sperm and the wife’s egg. “Test tube babies” where fertilization occurs in a petri dish and the egg is implanted in the woman are very common. However, the failure rate is high, and some women simply cannot carry a child.

In this latter case, what a couple sometimes does is hire a surrogate. A surrogate mother is a woman who will allow the baby to be implanted in her womb and carry the child to birth, but the child will legally belong to the couple. The surrogate mother is, in essence, an incubator and has no claim to the child, but is paid for her services. The American Society for Reproductive Medicine says that 2807 babies were born that way in 2015. That is four times more than in 2014, and when data becomes available for 2017, it will probably be well over 8000.

The issue becomes very complicated when the woman is not producing any viable eggs or if the man is sterile. You then are dealing with donated eggs and sperm which means the genetic background of the baby may be unknown creating all kinds of implications. When a genetically carried disease shows up in the child, there have been lawsuits.

There is no simple solution to the problem of infertility and desire for motherhood, but we will continue our discussion tomorrow.
–John N. Clayton © 2018
Data from Christianity Today, March 2018, Pages 28-35.