Wednesday, April 24, 2013

My Fifth Grade Teacher, The Disappearance Of The Original Europeans, And The Reality Of The Flood In The Days Of Noah

My 5th grade teacher, Mrs. Mary Frances Shannon, passed away a couple of weeks ago. I remember her for several reasons. First, because she was calm, cool, collected, and consistent. Teaching 5th graders is challenging, and we were particularly so. She taught us well in spite of  ourselves. Second, because she had some sort of health issue while she was teaching. I did not know what it was then (I believe I learned later it had to do with her eyesight), but she had to miss some of that year. We missed her and prayed for her while she was out. Third, because of something that happened one day in her class. She was asking questions and we who thought we knew the answer were straining our hands upward, hoping to be called on. One of my buddies was so excited that he raised his hand, jumped up out of his chair and grunted, "Oh, oh, I know!" It was at precisely that moment that the natural processes of his own body betrayed him. Fermenting digestive gasses audibly escaped his body in front of a classroom full of 5th graders. I will never forget that, nor will I forget Mrs. Shannon handling it calmly, coolly, and with great dignity.

Today, I read an article from Live Science detailing a strange new quandary for scientists. In studying the remains of ancient Europeans, scientists have discovered that the genetic lines of those Europeans completely disappeared approximately 4,500 years ago. Scientists are puzzled, since the society was successful and there appears to be no clear reason for the introduction of completely new genetic lines. The article states, "Instead, about 5,000 to 4,000 years ago, the genetic profile changes radically, suggesting that some mysterious event led to a huge turnover in the population that made up Europe." What does Mrs. Shannon's 5th grade class and this story have to do with each other, you ask?

Well, when I read the article, I wanted to jump up in my chair and shout, "Ooh, ooh! I know! I know!"  See, there are some of us who believe that the Bible is the Word of God, that it is truthful and without error in all that it addresses. That means we believe that Creation occurred in 7 days, and that there was a literal world-wide flood that killed all of life on the earth except that which was protected in the ark God instructed Noah to build. So, why did this article about the obliteration of the genetic lines in Europe make me want to jump up and shout?

Young earth scientists like myself have estimated that the Noah Flood occurred approximately 4,500 years ago.  I know the answer. Those genetic lines were wiped out because they were wiped out in the flood. New lines appeared because they were descendants of Noah. You can read more about it at Answers In Genesis.

P.S. If Mrs. Shannon were still alive, I don't think she would be surprised by my story. She would handle it with her usual calm, cool, and collected demeanor, even if the digestive gasses began to flow.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

I Knew This Would Happen: Responding To The Suicide Of Matthew Warren

Rejoice with those who rejoice.
Weep with those who weep.
Romans 12:15
When I heard the tragic news of the suicide of Rick Warren's son, Matthew, I prayed for his father, his mother and his church. I prayed for them, not only because of their grief, but also because I knew what would happen. It happens when anyone commits suicide, whether their father is a pastor, a politician, or a postman. Whether it is via innuendo or is more direct, any time a child does something that is wrong, or falls short, or fails people begin to blame the parents. Now, sometimes that is warranted. If an 8 year old child is allowed to play in the street and is struck by a speeding automobile, a parent should be blamed. However, if that parent had warned the child repeatedly, taught them not to play in the street, and the child snuck out a window, ran after a puppy dog and was struck, what blame is there?
Matthew Warren was 27 years old. He was not a child. He was a man who took his own life, and left behind grieving parents, grieving friends, and a grieving church. God is clear. Now is not the time for blame of any sort. Now is the time for compassion. Now is the time to weep with those who weep.
Rick Warren is Matthew's father. Whether you agree with Rick or not, his ministry has effected millions of people worldwide. His book, the Purpose Driven Life has been used by God to change millions of lives. Many love what he has done. Many hate what he has done. And, many of the haters have used the tragic death of Matthew to write, text, facebook, tweet and blog their accusations against Rick Warren. Many blame his theology for his son's death.
I worked with suicidal, homicidal and mentally people in a public mental health setting for 10 years. I have worked as a pastor and hospice chaplain for nearly 20 years after that. I have worked with suicidal people who were pastors, priests, politicians, atheists, agnostics, children, parents, gays, straights, whites, blacks, browns, republicans, democrats, libertarians, doctors, dropouts, addicts, tea-totallers, rich, and poor. I say that to point out that no one is immune from the potential hopelessness that convinces a person that death is the only way out of suffering.
I do not mean to say that theology is not important. It is. Ask Jim Jones' followers if theology is an important influence. I do not mean to say that everyone who commits suicide is mentally ill. I have seen perfectly sane people make bad decisions in the middle of an overwhelming crisis. I do not mean to say that demonic influence is not involved, because I believe it often is.
I mean to say this. When someone commits suicide, it is not time to be mean. It is time to be compassionate. It is time to weep with those who weep. It is time to pray for the survivors who are now fighting their own depression, guilt, shame, and hopelessness. It is time to comfort them, for they will surely blame themselves, needing no help from the mean, thoughtless, and vulgar comments of those who are not God but who have decided to play God.
Suicide is not a time to ask why. It is a time to ask God what I can do to support those who are left behind.