Wednesday, December 16, 2009

There's your trouble ...

(with thanks to the Dixie Chicks for the title!)

As yet another "save the planet" exercise wraps up with more finger-pointing and rancor and personal attacks (some of the many signs that God has been left out of the discussion on the state of the environment!), the Lord has gob-smacked me with another piece of Scripture, which shows how we continue to miss the boat. That applies to Christians, too, who are also becoming divided over the whole Global Warming/Climate Change issue.

It is not for you to know the times or the seasons, which the Father hath put in His own power. (Acts 1:7 KJV)

I call this a Scriptural "gob-smacking" because, as is often the case, it's the verse right before the one I use frequently to remind Christians of their responsibility to minister to the "yucky" in society (e.g. the Downtown East Side). And it just happens to encapsulate the problem we're facing right now with the environment.

We're observing times and seasons when we should be fulfilling The Great Commission - spreading the Gospel, healing the sick, binding the brokenhearted, etc. etc. We're watching symptoms like changes in the polar ice caps and widespread changes in weather patterns, rather than being Jesus' witnesses at home and abroad.

There are a couple of key issues here. One is that observing the times is strictly forbidden (Leviticus 19:26 and Deuteronomy 18:10). The meaning of "observing the times" ranges from the obvious -- astrology, tarot and reading tea leaves -- to the "scientific" -- focusing on events in nature and then obsessing on man's influence on them. The instruction in Deuteronomy is that "there shall not be found among you an observer of times": in other words, we shouldn't even be listening to such people, because that takes away our focus from God and what He called us to do.

Part of the trouble is that we are also called to be stewards of God's Creation, so it's easy for us to be motivated by fear and guilt to do things, thinking we're obeying the First Great Assignment (Gen. 1:26-28), and get sucked into the hysteria when the world keeps pointing at the signs and saying disaster is imminent and we have to avert it. Nowhere have I seen that we're even capable of averting disaster, at least, not in our own intellect. After all, human intellect -- science and technology -- got us into this mess: why would we expect to it get us out? One of the big problems is that environmentalist solutions are often at cross-purposes with God's will. Think about it. That's why Jesus gave us instructions about what we're supposed to do, and let God worry about the signs.

And since the signs are in God's control, He wouldn't worry about them, would He?

It's very much like the way the Israelites acted when Moses went up into the mountain to meet with God. No sooner had he gone -- and with their throats probably hoarse from shouting, "all that the Lord says we will do, we will do" -- than they made their golden calf and started worshipping it. They got impatient waiting for Moses to come back, and tried to take matters into their own hands. That's what we're doing here. Spiritually, are we getting tired of waiting for Jesus to come back and fix things, and creating our own golden calf to worship, hoping that will save our skins?

Jesus' parable of the ten virgins and the image of the thief in the night should tell us that, while only the Father knows the exact time of Jesus' return, the very time that we should be on our guard, doing the jobs He's assigned us is when we think He's not coming back and try to take matters into our own hands.

Another stern warning is in Deuteronomy 18:14, when God warns that the inhabitants of the promised land listened to those who observe times, and got driven out. Think about it.

From the enemy's perspective, the obsession on the environment is one way to make us disobedient to God; it may even be a futile attempt at forestalling Jesus' return by eliminating the signs. That's like taking cold medication and thinking you're cured of the flu.

Remember: the fear, the confusion, the personal attacks, the self-righteousness and the ultimate failure of our efforts at "fighting" climate change are all indications that God has shut out of the discussion. If He isn't involved, then that leaves only one alternative, and, sad to say, he doesn't give a flying fish about preserving God's Creation. He just wants to keep us at one another's throats and focusing on anything but God.


To close, another "stupid question" ("The only 'stupid' question is the one that doesn't get asked," as my old colleague Joe Easingwood would say) about the climate change debate: the local weather office recently predicted 20 cm (8") of snow over the weekend. We got a dusting, and then the temperature shot up and it turned to rain. Last summer, the weather office missed a major heat wave, and almost a year ago, was blind-sided by a major snowstorm.

My stupid question: if meteorologists, with all their scientific data and equipment and charts, can miss a forecast for something happening two or three days down the road, how are we supposed to believe climate projections over the next 10-20 years?

That's not a smartass rhetorical question: it's something that really needs to be answered.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Some stupid questions about H1N1

"The only stupid question is the one that doesn't get asked."
-- Joe Easingwood, talk show host, C-FAX Radio Victoria

When Kenneth and Gloria Copeland came to Vancouver in the spring of 2002, their theme was NO FEAR HERE. The 9/11 attack was still fresh in the world's memory and the whole premise was to encourage people to walk in faith, in love towards one another, and not to allow terrorists -- the ultimate fear-mongers -- to rule their lives. It's a lesson and an attitude that I've tried to live by -- and encourage others to live by -- to this day.

Fear is a terrible motivator. You get pushed to make decisions and take actions that turn out to be more hasty than considered, simply because you're scared, and one of the many reasons for being scared is that you don't have enough information about something. Knowledge overcomes fear, and when that knowledge is God's promises, that's faith.

This is why I'm concerned about the level of fear surrounding the H1N1 flu. There are a lot of pronouncements by health officials -- dutifully and sensationally echoed by the media -- but some basic information is lacking.
On the "Easingwood Principle" mentioned above, therefore, may I offer some STUPID QUESTIONS ABOUT H1N1:
  • How serious is H1N1 flu compared to other "seasonal" flus?
  • What makes H1N1 different that there is so much hype this season?
  • How does the projected death toll compare to the overall projection of deaths from influenza?
  • Did the people who died receive H1N1 shots?

That last one may seem like a really stupid question, but no one's asking it, and it would go a long way towards convincing people whether or not to get vaccinated.

As for the question before it, it's dashed hard to get "normative" data on H1N1. (The Corporate Wellness manager where I work tried without success to get it from health authorities.) A 2004 Health Canada report -- the most recent I could find online -- projected that 2500 people a year in Canada would die from flu and flu-related causes. Now note that, since April, 42 people have died in BC from H1N1 and BC's Medical Health Officer this week predicted another 30 or so would die before this is over.

If you figure BC has approximately 12% of Canada's population, "72 or so" would extrapolate to less than 600 for the entire country.

So if you go back to that initial figure of 2500 projected to die from any kind of flu "and related causes", that leaves maybe 1900 such deaths in Canada expected this year.

The "information" that is being provided is simply information on where to get vaccinated and a lot of highly-placed doctors telling us we should. But we're not getting anything to put this into perspective.

I don't know how many of you remember this, but when H1N1 started appearing last spring, the World Health Organization, while talking about a possible "pandemic", was careful to say that the word did not relate to the severity of the disease, but rather its readiness to spread from person to person and the number of countries where it was spreading.What do we get? Stories about the "deadliest week" (8 deaths). An item in Business in Vancouver recently, trumpeting the business opportunities from developing vaccines and other preventive measures against H1N1. Opinion pieces like one that says there's too much fear and ignorance in the discussion, without actually answering the questions, itself: it just ridicules the people (like me) who want some simple information. A full-page ad from the country's chief medical officer urging us to get vaccinated.

(Not that there isn't some pretty ridiculous talk out there on the anti-vaccination side: one friend of mine piped up that he'd heard the vaccine was made out of pigs. Swine flu, right? He was serious! I'd hate to see how they make vaccine against Hong Kong Flu. But I digress ...)

Darn right there's too much fear and ignorance. I'm not a doctor (although I did play one on the stage), but when I see the level of fear and lack of simple information -- or people asking the "stupid questions", I start to smell something.