Sunday, March 1, 2015

Jimmy Kimmel on Vaccinating Your Children....

I came across an hilarious but enlightening segment from the Jimmy Kimmel show about vaccinations. His witty barbs were directed at the folks who are “more afraid of gluten than they are of smallpox.”

“If you are one of those anti vaccine people you probably aren’t going to take medical advice from a talk show host and I wouldn’t expect you to. I wouldn’t either. But I would expect you to take medical advice from….almost every doctor in the world.”

I did some online research for this blog post and I came across an article at the Atlantic website commemorating the 100th birthday of Jonas Salk, the inventor of the inactivated polio vaccine, The article is entitled, The Anti-Vaccine Movement Is Forgetting the Polio Epidemic.

The article begins:

It started out as a head cold. Then, the day before Halloween, 6-year-old Frankie Flood began gasping for breath. His parents rushed him to City Hospital in Syracuse, New York, where a spinal tap confirmed the diagnosis every parent feared most in 1953: poliomyelitis. He died on his way to the operating room. “Frankie could not swallow—he was literally drowning in his own secretions,” wrote his twin sister, Janice, decades later. “Dad cradled his only son as best he could while hampered by the fact that the only part of Frankie’s body that remained outside the iron lung was his head and neck.”

What a horrible scenario.

In the peak year of 1952, there were nearly 60,000 cases throughout America; 3,000 were fatal, and 21,000 left their victims paralyzed. In Frankie Flood’s first-grade classroom in Syracuse, New York, eight children out of 24 were hospitalized for polio over the course of a few days. Three of them died, and others, including Janice, spent years learning to walk again.

Then, in 1955, American children began lining up for Jonas Salk's new polio vaccine. By the early 1960s, the recurring epidemics were 97 percent gone.

I was born in 1956 at the tail end of the polio epidemic; a year after Dr. Salk’s vaccine was introduced and the number of polio cases dramatically declined. I don’t remember the polio epidemic firsthand because I was just a baby. Many (most?) of those opposed to vaccinations were born years, even decades, after the polio epidemic.  

And they….we... live in a country where many terrible, deadly diseases have been eradicated. We just don’t know or we forget what it was like to live with the fear of polio killing and maiming our children. Or how in desperate attempts to stop the spread of the disease, movie theaters closed, churches cancelled services and almost everyone avoided crowds. We are spoiled, privileged and complacent, even sneeringly ungrateful for the amazing progress medical science has made to improve our lives and to increase the average life span.

Having recently witnessed the complete freak out because of several cases of Ebola in the United States, I can imagine the reaction if eight children in a class of twenty four  were infected by the Ebola virus. And if a vaccine was available, parents would be lining up with their children just like parents did in 1955….thankful for a way to protect them.

But we just don’t know or we forget what it was like during the polio epidemic.

The Atlantic article also featured an interview by Peter Salk, the son of Jonas Salk. He had this to say about vaccinating his own son against pertussis:

When my own son Michael was born 31 years ago, the whole-cell vaccine was still in use. Whooping cough was essentially gone in this country by that time, so from one perspective, why should we take the risk of causing a high fever or other side effects in our own child? I know I certainly thought about this a lot. But I just couldn’t bring myself to take advantage of the good that other people had done by immunizing their kids—to take a free ride, so to speak. Michael did end up developing a fever. But I couldn’t have lived with my decision if we hadn’t given him the vaccine.

I thought long and hard about whether I should vaccinate Matthew. I lived in Iowa, then. It was all very holistic. My pregnancy had very few medical interventions (not even an ultrasound) The delivery was long and very close to a natural delivery.  I read Mothering magazine. I read Dr. Sears. I watched Penelope Leach. I was VERY reluctant to vaccinate him. But I researched (via the library) and thought and discussed and came to the conclusion that it was the right thing to do and the best decision for him and for society.

And I agree with Peter Salks. Anti-vaxers are taking a free ride on the risk that he took vaccinating his son and they are taking a free ride on the risk that I took vaccinating Matthew....and then Beth....and then Emily. Yes, it was to protect them but it was also to protect other children who cannot be vaccinated because of medical conditions or age. The herd immunity thing which is another way of demonstrating that I am my “brother’s keeper”

Now many states (20) allow an exemption not only for medical and religious reasons but also for reasons of conscience. My conscience dictates that I not only protect my own children from serious, potentially deadly diseases but that I protect other vulnerable children. And yes….that even includes those children whose parents opt out of overwhelmingly safe and effective vaccines because of misinformation and selfishness.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

silence is your only claim to wisdom

I've been reading Job as part of a recently undertaken "read the Bible chronologically in a year" reading plan. My version of choice for this undertaking has been The Message. I've come upon some interesting ways The Message "turns a phrase" that makes me stop and think.

In Job 13:5, Job tells his miserable comforters:

- silence is your only claim to wisdom.

That reminds me of the oft repeated quote that has been attributed to numerous well known public figures such as Abraham Lincoln, Oscar Wilde, George Eliot, Silvan Engel

Better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to speak out and remove all doubt.

 Or how about....

When you are crazy you learn to keep quiet. ― Philip K. Dick, VALIS

Sunday, February 22, 2015

‘There are many more peace mongers than warmongers"

According to Rueters on February 21st

More than 1000 Muslims formed a human shield around Oslo's synagogue on Saturday, offering symbolic protection for the city's Jewish community and condemning an attack on a synagogue in neighboring Denmark last weekend.

And this act of solidarity was not a “CYA” kind of thing. The number of Jews is tiny compared to the number of Muslims in Norway.

Norway’s Jewish community is one of the continent’s smallest, numbering only 1000. The Muslim population numbers 150,000 to 200,000 and is growing.  

"There are many more peace mongers than warmongers," Abdullah said as organizers and Jewish community leaders stood side by side. "There's still hope for humanity, for peace and love, across religious differences and backgrounds.

I love stories like this. Perhaps these isolated incidents of peace on earth, goodwill to men could be the leaven that starts to affect the whole lump.

“Another parable spake he unto them; The kingdom of heaven is like unto leaven, which a woman took, and hid in three measures of meal, till the whole was leavened” (Matthew 13:33).

Check out some of the coverage and photos of the gathering here and here and here and here…..

Friday, February 20, 2015

Musings on ISIS and Hell

I happened upon a short blog post written by Benjamin L. Corey on Patheos this morning.  Why ISIS Should Make Christians Rethink the Doctrine of Hell. It “puts a face with a name” concerning the fiery doctrine of hell...eternal conscious torment.

We’ve all seen the pictures. They’ve been plastered all over Facebook, in the news, on “start pages” like AOL (yes, AOL still exists) and Yahoo. The single, lone pilot, caged, in anguish, as the flames advance toward him. I don’t know if the whole video is available anywhere online but if it is, I could never watch it. I can’t even watch fake torture on shows like 24 and The Blacklist. And now there are sources saying ISIS is threatening to burn 17 Kurdish fighters….and even some claims about burning children alive. Hideous...horrible….soul sucking….heartbreaking evil.

As the article points out, ISIS is not the first to use fire as an instrument of death and torture. Christians were quite fond of using it against their enemies. Even just their theological enemies. Let’s not forget that atrocities were committed by followers of Jesus all down through Christian history. The Inquisition, the Witch Hunts, the Crusades.

For a long list of these atrocities…..“events that solely occurred on command of church authorities or were committed in the name of Christianity,” check out THIS ARTICLE. If you are skeptical, think of the list as a starting point for further research. I don’t want to see Christianity blackballed NOR whitewashed, it’s sins hidden.  As followers of Jesus, we are obligated to learn from the mistakes of our Christian predecessors. There are many variations of the oft repeated quote, “Learn from history or repeat it.” We are obligated to expose and denounce (and learn from) any and all atrocities committed in the name of Jesus.

I’ve written about topics like this beforeon this blog. Extremism is the problem and, all too often, the extremism is based on religious theology/ideology. Christians are not exempt and, in fact, are some of the worst offenders.

But I digress….

Back to the topic of ISIS, hell and our Heavenly Father.

Corey says this:

But here’s the irony of it all: while we find burning people alive morally repulsive when ISIS does it, most Christians seem to have no moral qualms about believing in a God they think will do precisely that.

And not only does he burn people alive, he uses his “special powers” to keep them conscious and burning (but not consumed) for all eternity. The traditional concept of a hell….eternal conscious torment... orchestrated by God… a heinous doctrine that besmirches the character and nature of the God Jesus spoke of and represented. “If you’ve seen me, you’ve seen the Father.”

For many of us, hell is the bitterest pill to swallow when embracing traditional Christianity. I didn’t….couldn’t….swallow the pill. I researched and prayed and studied until, like William Barclay, I was a “convinced universalist.” Sadly, there are some Christians who seem to revel in the concept of God burning his enemies  (enemies who, coincidentally, look just like their own personal enemies) in hell forEVER. Try to take their hell away and they are pissed. I’ve witnessed it.

One of my favorite stories in the Gospels

51 When the days were approaching for His ascension, He was determined to go to Jerusalem; 52 and He sent messengers on ahead of Him, and they went and entered a village of the Samaritans to make arrangements for Him. 53 But they did not receive Him, because He was traveling toward Jerusalem.54 When His disciples James and John saw this, they said, “Lord, do You want us to command fire to come down from heaven and consume them 55 But He turned and rebuked them, [and said, “You do not know what kind of spirit you are of; 56 for the Son of Man did not come to destroy men’s lives, but to save them.”] And they went on to another village. Luke 9:51-56

Jesus rebuked them...and even though some early manuscripts skip the “spirit you are  of” part, I think this passage highlights a question we should all answer. If we derive any kind of satisfaction from the doctrine of hell it is time to take a good long look at what is in our heart to see if it lines up with what Jesus had to say here.

A newer translation, The Voice, sums it up...

Jesus (turning toward them and shaking His head): You just don’t get it.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

The Question That Never Goes Away.....

My mother has a problem with religion. She has a problem with God. She was raised in a very strict denomination, by very strict parents who worshiped a very strict God. You were never sure about your salvation because you could lose it just like that. Movies were out, any games that had dice, no jewelry, pants on women, purchases on Sunday etc. etc. etc.

Her biggest issue with God is the Problem of Evil...the Problem of Pain. Theodicy. We talk about it sometimes during our twice a week phone calls.

I tell her I don’t have the answer why bad things happen..that nobody really has the answer. It has been talked about and written about and argued about for thousands of years. Perhaps, it is a mystery that we may not understand until we are “on the other side.”

This doesn't satisfy her, of course. I understand that. It didn't satisfy me during the several year stint when I was too mad at God to talk to him very much. I was mad about all those starving children and the rampant, overwhelming, seemingly unstoppable evil in the world. Except that I was convinced he COULD stop it, if he wanted to. I read many articles that looked at the question from different perspectives.  I discussed it on message boards and yahoo groups. I talked it over with Keith (time and time again)

I found little dollops of salve here and there that took the sting out of the anger but I never really found an acceptable answer that explained why God allows this stuff to happen.

I read several books that helped a little.. “Why” by Adam Hamilton and Phillip Yancey’s twin volumes (written decades apart)  Where is God When It Hurts and The Question That Never Goes Away.

Following are two quotes I happened upon recently. One, I found just this morning on Ann Voskamp’s FaceBook wall. The other quote, that says practically the same thing, is from Rob Bell.

No matter how we don't understand the why of suffering, we know that the God who went to the Cross, He *knows* suffering & *He suffers with us.* *We never suffer alone.* The whole suffering world rings with the comfort of it, how Your nailed scarred hands cup our faces, hold our hurting hearts & You whisper: "I know... *I know.* Me too. *Me too*." Anne Voskamp

“Our tendency in the midst of suffering is to turn on God. To get angry and bitter and shake our fist at the sky and say, "God, you don't know what it's like! You don't understand! You have no idea what I'm going through. You don't have a clue how much this hurts." The cross is God's way of taking away all of our accusations, excuses, and arguments. The cross is God taking on flesh and blood and saying, "Me too.” ― Rob Bell

I still don’t understand it but I know he saves our tears in a bottle and the Bible promises in three separate places that he will wipe all our tears from our faces.

Behold, he makes all things new.

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Who Do You Say I Am?

A hat tip to Adam Hamilton and the sermon series I've been posting about. And another hat tip to PixTeller, a free site with tools that allowed me to put the quote on a background and share it here. What a great quote. A question we must all answer for ourselves.

Matthew 16:12-16 Living Bible (TLB)

12 Then at last they understood that by yeast he meant the wrong teaching of the Pharisees and Sadducees. 13 When Jesus came to Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, “Who are the people saying am?”14 “Well,” they replied, “some say John the Baptist; some, Elijah; some, Jeremiah or one of the other prophets.”15 Then he asked them, “Who do you think I am?”16 Simon Peter answered, “The Christ, the Messiah, the Son of the living God.”

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Did He or Didn't He?

Here on Mercy, I’ve written posts based on thoughts and topics piqued by Adam Hamilton. I’ve  thought about/meant to write many more posts based on things I’ve read that he authored (Why?) and sermons that he preached. On the Church of the Resurrection website, where he is senior pastor, there is a vast collection of sermon archives dating back to 1999.

This new year, as part of my goal of getting more structured in my “devotions”, I decided I would listen to sermons (by Adam Hamilton, Nadia Bolz-Weber and Greg Boyd) AND read the Bible (Book of Common Prayer reading plan) while exercising at the gym. Talk about multitasking. So far, so good. Well….so far, pretty good. Not a failure, not a raging success. Still plugging along.

So, I randomly picked a sermon series from last January called Jesus: Myth, Madman or Messiah and listened to the first sermon in the series, “Searching for the Historical Jesus.” I listened to it twice. Learned a thing or two and picked up a different perspective about the historical Jesus. From the sermon notes available on the website:

Let’s begin with an easy question, as there is great consensus even among secular scholars,agnostics and atheists that Jesus actually lived. He was a real, historical person. Dr. Louise Antony, Professor of Philosophy at the University of Massachusetts and a noted atheist stated,“I don't personally know a single atheist who would deny that Jesus existed.” Bart Ehrman, a popular agnostic writer and professor at the University of North Carolina recently wrote a book called, Did Jesus Exist? in which he offers an emphatic yes....

Well, isn’t that cool? And if you want to read a short writing by Bart Ehrman on Huffington Post discussing why he is sure Jesus existed, click HERE.

More from the sermon:

I finished reading Zealot last week. Aslan lays out the premise of the book,
writing: “In the end, there are only two hard historical facts about Jesus of Nazareth upon which we can confidently rely: the first is that Jesus was a Jew who led a popular Jewish movement in Palestine...the second is that Rome crucified him for doing so.”

To watch a 27 minute Huffington post video of Aslan discussing his views about Jesus, click HERE.

Another New Year’s post more frequently on this blog. In order to do that (and also fit in living my life/exercising/and working at a challenging and full time plus some job) I’ve got to be less picky. This post feels a bit unfinished and unpolished. In the past, I would save it in draft form and plan a series…..which most of the time never actually came to fruition.  

So here it it is. There is fodder for those who might want to read/listen to a bit more. I have intentions to write more about the sermon because it piqued many thoughts and insights. We’ll see if that happens.  For now...I’ve gotta’ get moving and get ready for work.