Thoughts on Requiring Masks

The best leaders are those who are willing to look at an issue from different angles.

Requiring masks raises a lot of things to consider: whether we should encourage wearing masks voluntarily and protect people’s autonomy but risk the wellbeing of vulnerable citizens from dying of a contagious disease or using the force of law to require wearing masks and punishing (fining/jailing) those who fail to comply for the sake of protecting public health but possibly unfairly punishing those who may have legitimate reasons to not wear masks (allergies to materials that masks are made of, unable to purchase masks, etc).

A verse to consider for pursuing public health policies by volition or compulsion would be Philemon 1:14, which states, “But I preferred to do nothing without your consent in order that your goodness might not be by compulsion but of your own accord.”

I’m personally fine with wearing masks per say Walmart’s wishes as a private business as they’re doing their part to reduce the spread of COVID-19, but I can at least empathize with some of those who have difficulty wearing masks because of the discomfort or allergies wearing one can cause. Such individuals are usually a minority, but they’re still people to care for. For a lot of others though, the reasons they give for not wearing masks (fear of being singled out, masks do not work well, extreme libertarian views that government should not dictate what citizens can or cannot wear), I find less convincing, but they sincerely hold these beliefs, so I would have to do the hard work of meeting them where they’re at and try to persuade them to wear a mask.

A Man of Unclean Lips

And I said: “Woe is me! For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts!”

(Isaiah 6:5)

The United States and many other Western societies has become a permissive, skeptical society very quickly since the 1960s. Freedom of religion and freedom of speech have been used to promote sexual immorality in the guise of protecting sexual and gender equality.

Some of my peers seem to have no filter when openly talking about sexual topics. They may be quick to denounce any attempts to restrain them for the sake of propriety as “puritanical,” but there is a thing as dangerous sexual freedom. Such looseness in speech is especially unbecoming of those who profess to be part of God’s kingdom, but are especially apt for those who still belong to the domain of darkness.

They generally subscribe to critical theory in which the narratives of power and conflict are rewritten such that the most oppressed groups should be given power over the oppressors. The oppressors being “white supremacy,” “patriarchy,” and “cis-genderism.”

These ideologies are commonly taught in California university systems such as the University of California colleges and the California State University.

But I am thankful that at least people are being honest with themselves and just showing the darkness and indifference of an unregenerate human heart. Peter says false prophets promise their audience freedom, but they themselves are slaves of corruption. For whatever overcomes a person, to that he is enslaved.

Biblical sexual ethics is often ridiculed, as people begin to exercise their wills in ways that openly defy the LORD and espouse a new sexual ethics of their own.

Planned Parenthood, abortion on demand, same sex marriage, and transgender participation in sports are but a few examples of the way sexual sins have entrenched themselves in the culture, especially in New York and California. Hollywood stars and left-leaning media and politicians also add their voices to the chorus.

Some people advocate outlawing these things, but for myself, these organizations and policies are but symptoms of a deeper problem: a heart that is in open defiant rebellion against God. It does not always seem best to outlaw idols when it is the heart that manufactures these idols in the first place. The heart is so sick that though it knows God’s righteous decree that those who practice such things deserve to die, they not only do them but give approval to those who practice them.

They know the truth, but it does not register as truth to them because they deceive themselves and their peers. They call abortion “healthcare”, they call same sex marriage “marriage equality,” and they call transgenderism “my truth.” They have a moral compass, but they call evil good and good evil. They cloak their evils in moral language and these evils become the new norm, and so they do not cause moral outrage as they should.

Still, out of love, God graciously sends messengers who tell people to see with their eyes, hear with their ears, and understand with their hearts, and turn to Him in Christ by the Spirit and be healed.

He would redeem us, but we speak lies against Him. More than that, we often twist His words to justify our evil against Him as we carry out the desires of our stubborn rebellious hearts.

He calls us to repent. We must sow for ourselves righteousness; reap steadfast love; break up our fallow ground, for it is the time to seek the LORD, that He may come and rain righteousness upon us.

Sexual sinners have given bitter provocation, so the Lord will leave their bloodguilt on them and will repay them for their disgraceful deeds.

But in the midst of this sentence of death, God will heal the apostasy of some and love them freely. He will be like the dew to them, and those who repent and return to Him in Christ will blossom like the lily and take root like the trees of Lebanon.

Jesus is the Spirit-conceived, virgin-born, perfectly obedient, crucified, risen, and ascended Lord who lived the life we failed to live, died the death and suffered the wrath we deserved, and who conquered the grave to show his victory over sin and death.

All those who come to Him as their crucified and risen Lord and Savior shall have rest for their souls. The Spirit changes the heart of stone into a heart of flesh with new desires to grow in the grace and knowledge of Lord Jesus.

The Father sends the Spirit to dwell within His new covenant people so that they can continue to enjoy the presence of God within them as they live to kill indwelling sin, and become more like Christ along with all those who are also called to live like Him.

They gather together as local congregations under the authority of deacons and pastors as they encourage one another, pray for one another, and minister to one another as they also anticipate the day when Jesus will return to judge all evil and fully usher in the new heavens and new earth where righteousness dwells.

YHWH longs to love us but we must give up our acts of treason and be reconciled to Him in Christ by the Spirit as our Lord and Savior.

“O Ephraim, what have I to do with idols?
It is I who answer and look after you.
I am like an evergreen cypress;
from me comes your fruit.”

(Hosea 14:8)

American Policing

Policing has almost always been a morally difficult task.

The general steps involve target acquisition/profiling, knowing when to detain someone, appropriate level of force for restraint, and use of deadly force for self-defense whether as a police officer or private citizen.

We’re balancing the competing interests of apprehending the bad guy and leaving innocent civilians alone.

Ideally, we have presumption of innocence until proven guilty.

We have different levels of standards of proof: Reasonable suspicion, probable cause, preponderance of the evidence, clear and convincing evidence, beyond reasonable doubt

Say you are a private citizen or police officer on the general lookout for a culprit.
What do you do when you see someone who fits the description of a culprit?
We do not presently have the ability to perfectly determine whether a person is the culprit or an innocent civilian.
But reasonable suspicion is a low legal standard for briefly detaining a suspect for investigatory purposes.
Innocent parties feel harassed when they get detained, but you also still have to catch the bad guy.

Deputies may point a rifle at someone because he fits the description of an active shooter while the suspect walks home from campus.
Ideally, such an encounter may be tense but innocent parties are still left unharmed, but fight or flight responses often kick in, and mistakes can unfortunately happen where they are fatal and final.
A private citizen who is inappropriately detained with guns pointed at him may justifiably pull out his own weapons for self defense, but in which case, police officers, still not knowing whether the person they detained is the culprit or not, will also aim their guns in self defense.

One person describes some of the unfortunate times where he feels penalized for having dark skin in America:
-A car follows him as he walks home from a party. The person had to hide in a stairwell because the car’s occupants got out and chased him.
-This is definitely an unfortunate and terrifying experience.
-But assuming the car’s occupants were private citizens trying to do a citizen’s arrest, they should at least just detain the man with the least amount of force necessary and leave him alone if he did not say anything that may condemn him.
-If the car’s occupants departed from this standard, they should be held accountable for inappropriate vigilante-like justice.

-He has to take precautions with his actions because as a large, tattooed, black man, his actions may be seen as threatening.
-I empathize. It would be nice if we lived in a world where we did not have to worry so much about our public perception for fear of being unjustly harassed or detained. But we do have fight or flight responses for a reason, although we should try to control the degree we let such fear drive our attitudes and actions, but this is not the easiest thing to do.

Friends say he is “not really black” or “not a thug like that guy.”
-These statements are unfortunate. They do betray a racist generalization that is not helpful for anyone. These statements paint with a broad stroke an entire ethnic group with criminal traits. It’s hard to ascertain how many people actually hold this generalization, but for probably the few who do, they should be made aware of it and learn to reprogram their thinking.

Some justifiable feeling of being wronged or facing injustice:
-A state of paranoia because at any given time “someone could no longer deem my life valuable.”
-I can understand how he might feel this way, but this perspective is too extreme. It seems the issue at stake in our criminal justice system is not that private citizens or police officers no longer deem black Americans’ lives valuable, but that the tense instantaneous situation between an armed officer and an innocent civilian who may fight back in self-defense often ends in the death of the civilian. So what tangible steps could be taken so this kind of situation happens less frequently?
-Willing to spill my own blood in service of the people of this country, there are Americans that believe I don’t belong here.
-Again, I can understand how he feels “there are Americans that believe I don’t belong here,” but this is again an extreme perspective. There might be a few who actually hold this view, but it’s more probable that most of our neighbors just want to mind their own business.
-Owning weapons because no one is coming to save me and I’ll have to protect myself.
-This is an unfortunate feeling to have, but again, we make do with what we’re given, and we try enacting reforms where we can. This person feels he cannot trust the government or the local police station with some justification. He does raise a good point that police stations should work hard to earn the trust of the neighborhoods they patrol, but again this is not the easiest thing to do when criminals look similar to and usually try to act like innocent citizens to avoid arrest.
-Character assassination if I wind up a snuffed out flame on side of some country road or big city street.
-I generally agree with this point. Sometimes whenever someone dies from alleged police brutality, major news outlets may reveal that the person who died had some secret criminal history. It seems they do this to better justify the “justice” that was done against the victim, but really the criminal history is irrelevant unless it directly pertains to the alleged crime that the suspect was charged with, and even then, use of deadly force should be avoided if at all possible.
-Staying distant from BLM for fear of being labeled militant, communist, freeloader, a welfare king, a thug, a gangster, a criminal, a cop hater, anti-American, a snowflake, a leech on society, etc.
-This man is free to voice his grievances and concerns with our criminal justice system, but he also has to be willing to hear and listen to the other side too. Not the ones who engage in ad hominem arguments, but the ones who point out that we still need a criminal justice system in place to apprehend criminals, and that even though we should reform the criminal justice system so less innocent people are harmed, this is not always possible given limited information technology and the bias that fight or flight responses have on tense, instantaneous situations.

Citizen’s Arrest

The Arbery case raises a lot of questions about how we should pursue criminal justice.

The primary purpose of this post is to examine profiling, the extent to which private citizens can act similar to police officers, the proportionality of the use of force to restrain a possible suspect, and to what extent a person can defend themselves when a neighbor wrongfully but ignorantly confronts them with weapons like guns, baseball bats, etc.  

Racial profiling is defined as “the act of suspecting or targeting a person of a certain race on the basis of observed or assumed characteristics or behavior of a racial or ethnic group, rather than on individual suspicion.” 

But not all profiling of a person with certain ethnic traits is really true racial profiling.

A surveillance camera caught the appearance of a burglary suspect.
The McMichaels believed Arbery matched the appearance of this suspect.
Profiling is when you have a reasonable suspicion that a person might be the suspect in question based on a few corresponding observations.

Racial profiling is evil primarily because it often goes beyond reasonable suspicion to improperly assumed guilt about a person when there is no evidence to substantiate such a claim.

The profiling that the McMichaels seemed to have performed really is not true racial profiling because it is not motivated by racial intent.  They were not out to kill an innocent black man. They did not have premeditated malicious intent.  They just wanted to act like police officers and stop and hold this criminal suspect until law enforcement arrived.

Now one could question the legitimacy of private citizens acting like overzealous wannabe cops, but this would then bring us to our question of under what circumstances should a citizen’s arrest be performed.

Georgia’s courts have previously ruled that while a citizen can detain someone, a citizen’s arrest doesn’t necessarily allow for uses of force.

This sounds reasonable, but what happens in cases where the suspect is armed and threatens the life of the citizen trying to assist in the arrest?

One might say this situation is why private citizens should just wait for the proper authorities to arrive. But this course of action often decreases the likelihood that the culprit will be caught in time for him or her to face justice. In light of this observation, is there ever any cases in which it might be permissible for seeing a suspect jogging down the street, assuming he might be the culprit, grabbing a gun for self-protection, and chasing him down to assist police officers?

Is it always wrong to do this or are there cases and circumstances where it might be permissible for private citizens to act similar to cops provided certain protocols are followed to minimize the chances of wrongly killing an innocent person?

After all, Georgia’s citizen’s arrest law requires that the offender must have committed a crime in the presence of another person, or that person must have “immediate knowledge” of a crime that has taken place by the perpetrator. These stipulations certainly help constrain and reduce the possibility of arbitrary vigilante justice. This stipulation of immediacy certainly helps reduce the likelihood of situations happening where a person has to defend himself when a neighbor wrongfully but ignorantly confronts them with weapons like guns, baseball bats, etc.

The very difficult aspect of a citizen’s arrest is knowing the force proportionate to the circumstance. Ideally the only force reasonable under the circumstances may be used to restrain the individual arrested. However, in the fog and chaos of chasing or fighting a possible perpetrator, such rational judgments are not always possible. 

Private citizens effectively share in the same risks and responsibilities as police officers when confronting a person of suspicion.

In 2004, a convenience store owner shot an intruder who broke into the store after the store owner told him to halt.  Even though the store owner was right in attempting to stop the intruder, the measure of force used was disproportionate to the circumstance.  But in such a situation, it’s not always easy to potentially let the suspect go free and in the immediacy of the situation milder forms of restraint do not always come to mind or become accessible or present.

In 2017, a citizen may chase a neighbor whom he believes had burglarized his home and attack the man with a baseball bat. A problem exists when gentler methods of restraint could be used, especially in light of the fact the neighbor could have been truly innocent and thus did not need to suffer physical abuse.

In the Arbery case, the McMichaels brought guns just in case the suspect was armed and they themselves had a way to defend themselves.  But at the same time, Arbery was innocent and also wanted to defend himself against the guns that his neighbors brought and so he fought back.  This situation brings up a big gray area.

Citizens have a right to defend themselves in cases of arresting a possibly armed subject.
Yet innocent people also have a right to defend themselves when a stranger confronts them with guns.

Even though we should do our best to protect innocent people from wrongful harm or death, it is also necessary to have protocols in place that allows even private citizens the best chance of arresting a possible suspect to bring him to justice.  But balancing these two interests requires a lot of fine-tuning.

I do not necessarily have the answers to these questions, but it’s important to ask these types of questions in the first place.

Immunizations

This is a thinking out loud/stream of consciousness post.

A common dichotomy in the conversation revolving around vaccinations is personal freedom and public harm.

We generally engage in cost-benefit analysis. We weigh the benefits of vaccinations with the risks of vaccinations.

Anti-mandatory vaccination

Some physicians are anti-mandatory vaccination.  Vaccines are complicated. Children may receive as many as 69 doses in the first 6 months of life. Informed consent for the patient should be prioritized, but the Medical Board of California does not always exercise its authority well.

Medical exemptions can be defined too narrowly for the good of the patient. Patients may have very severe brain damaging neurological injury or they go into anaphylactic shock and nearly die.  Physicians may be afraid to write medical exemptions, even when warranted, because they may lose their licenses if the Medical Board does not consider their medical exemptions appropriate.

Physicians consider some of the following for vaccine safety evaluations: genetic risk and family history of vaccine reactions.  However sometimes the only vaccine reactions that warrant exemption are CDC contraindications: severe brain injury or anaphylactic shock. So the question becomes “Is the limit for medical exemption set too high or defined too narrowly?”

What do physicians do in the grey areas where we try to distinguish between a moderate allergic reaction and a terrible one?

Ideally, physicians are given the freedom to selectively and carefully vaccinate an exempt patient based on need.  But mandatory vaccination policies can take this judgment away from doctors. Instead of a bilateral dialogue between doctors and their patients, a unilateral decision is made by the public health department or a bureaucrat. The decision making process is moved away from the doctors and their individual patients. 

The MMR vaccine can cause very severe brain injury reactions. There have been 48 confirmed cases.  The health care consumer and patient should be able to have conversations with their doctors and assess all the data and kind of make these decisions for themselves.  Other individuals would say the government should step in and make this decision for you and make it mandatory for the sake of  the collective public health.

Personally, I wish patients were free to ask their questions without fear of being ruthlessly ostracized.  They should be free to ask “What’s in the vaccine?” and “Are there any adverse reactions?” without being ostracized as a hippie. 

Now measles, polio, and whooping cough are real dangers.  There is real fear.  But parents that talk about vaccine injuries also have real fears too.  Everyone is weighing the risks and they come up with their own decisions.  They should be free to do so without intimidation or stifled conversations.

In an environment that mandatory vaccination policies create, doctors may kick patients out unless they comply with the full vaccine schedule.  Doctors may also falsely believe that vaccines are so critically important that there is only one right answer.  They start developing tunnel vision and downplay or ridicule looking for and developing viable alternatives.  They commonly believe vaccine reactions are not real and only coincidental.  Yet while vaccine injury may not be common, it does exist. 

Parents may be kicked out of school for not getting vaccines.  The common argument for this course of action is to prevent the risk of their kids spreading vaccine-preventable diseases to other kids.   For physicians who want to adopt a more moderate approach to vaccination, they risk their license and reputation. Malpractice insurance may double or insurances may refuse to contract with them even when physicians seek legitimate medical exemptions for their patients.

In addition, a world where vaccination is mandatory can create a system that is very difficult to remove once in place.  Insurance contracts could state that for every MMR and chickenpox vaccination, a 150 dollar year end bonus will be added.  Sensible reforms from politicians may be difficult to put in place and enforce.  Legislators who want a more moderate approach to vaccination, even when warranted, than their more hardline colleagues may lose the support of their fellow party members. 

Big business donates to legislators.  Legislators are beholden to those who donate to them.  In 1986 a Vaccine Injury Compensation Act was passed.  This law effectively takes away liability for big pharmaceutical companies.  There is a pro and con to this law.  One could say that removing liability allows pharmaceutical companies to make their products without fear of lawsuits, but at the same time, it puts a lot of faith in the pharmaceutical companies that they will not take advantage of the public trust. 

Congress did Pharma a favor to take away liability.
Pharma returned the favor by donating billions of dollars.
Congress returns the favor by mandating liability free products.

For some individuals, this sequence of events looks fishy.  There appears to be a conflict of interest just as bribes distort justice. 

The philosophical assumption behind the vaccination debate is again freedom versus public harm.  We basically have a bureaucrat deciding if a child was injured enough to be exempt from the vaccine as opposed to the physician.  There should be patient autonomy: just as private decisions can be made between an OB and a woman, so there should be private decisions between a pediatrician or family physician and parents.

Mandatory vaccinations does not seem a wise course of action so long as we have a system where large corporations can exert unduly large influence over the government.  Pharmaceutical companies can use the force of law to bully parents asking about vaccine risks into silence.  Physicians seeking a moderate approach such as delayed vaccination or parents with severely vaccine injured children may face segregation or discrimination from the system.

Pro-vaccination

People who are pro vaccination believe vaccines prevent suffering, hospitalization, and death.  Pharmaceutical companies have the resources and expertise to make the vaccine. Usually 1.2 billion dollars are spent on the company’s part to make a vaccine.

Some physicians want to follow the CDC schedule for vaccinations as the benefits outweigh the risks. They acknowledge that vaccines can cause type 1 allergic hypersensitivity but vaccines only prevent vaccine preventable diseases and not everything else.  

They favor the HPV vaccine because it is a cancer preventing vaccine.  They favor the flu shot because the flu normally kills 30,000 to 40,000 people, from the very young to the very old and the flu shot is 40 to 60 percent effective.

They admit some vaccinations are made from the two cell lines from elective abortions in England and Sweden in the 1960s: chickenpox, hep A, rubella/German measles, one of rabies. 

Some physicians believe good information leads to good decisions, but some parents will put their children or the children of other parents in harm’s way.  They cite the measles outbreak as an example. They say 500,000 children cannot be vaccinated because they are immunocompromised.  If we have bad information, bad decisions will be made. Parents who refuse to vaccinate their children are effectively making decisions for other people’s children. 

Vaccination has no link to autism.  Quality studies prove shots are the best way to deliver those vaccines. The season we give flu shot is also the season we get colds and other viruses. Correlation is not causation.  The amount of aluminum in the first six months from vaccines is less than that in diet.  The usual side effects from vaccination would be redness, swelling in injection site, and mild fever.  Anaphylaxis is 1 in a million, and reversible by epinephrine. Vaccinations are the best treatment we have given the information we have.

Physicians who favor vaccination also care about informed consent. They would say there is a lot of statistical evidence.  Statistics, studies, and research.  Yet there is a micro issue: each vaccine should be evaluated. Each set of vaccination has different set of adverse reactions.

For the child that has an adverse vaccine reaction, the physician would ask what about the children that have an immunodeficiency and a non-immunized child spreads deadly illness to them.  A child may have an adverse reaction to vaccine, yet the doctor may say continue getting vaccines to protect all of us.  He is also engaged in risk benefit analysis and says herd immunity exists.

Some physicians want to make sure parents are giving quality care to their child.  Just because they’re your child does not mean they can do whatever.  If the child does not get vaccinated, it is medically and statistically proven that the parents are endangering their child to develop these deadly diseases.

The axiom: “Parents know their children best” may indicate that bias will play a role in judgment and decisions.  It helps to share personal stories, relate emotionally and reasonably to your patients.  People who are hesitant about vaccinations may find themselves isolated by family, the medical community, and society.  We should find common ground.

Staying Close to Christ While Away from Your Home Church

Post graduate life in the present day sees a lot of transitions. It is not uncommon for my classmates in medical school and me to move around the United States in search of a school, rotations, and residency interviews. It can feel difficult to feel rooted in any one particular place because of the way the American medical educational system seems to structure itself around positional flexibility. Also being a minority in post Christian America can add further challenges in forming healthy social relationships with local peers.

Having grown up close to the San Gabriel Valley, I took for granted the large Asian American community. Having at my disposal many Hawaiian poke bowls, Vietnamese pho, Taiwanese hot pot, Korean BBQ, Japanese ramen and sushi, Chinese dimsum, boba milk tea, and many other Asian supermarkets and restaurants felt normative. In moving to other states, I found that I lived in areas that do not have as many Asian American restaurants available, or if they are, they are relatively out of the way for me to go on a consistent basis.

However you can still usually rely on some common American companies being present: Rite Aid, CVS, Walgreens, Walmart, Taco Bell, Chipotle, Starbucks, Panera Bread, McDonalds, etc. Yet I also find that many states have their own regional specific restaurants and supermarkets such as In n out and Stater Bros in California, Culver’s and Publix in Florida, Tim Horton’s and Wegman’s in Pennsylvania. Thus you get the feel that even within the same country, each state has their own personality.

The Bible sees Christians as “sojourners and exiles in the world.” (Leviticus 25:23; 1 Peter 2:11)

The LORD called Abram out of his country and his kindred and his father’s house to the land that He would show him. He would be the vehicle of blessing to all the families of the earth (Genesis 12:1-2). The LORD later tells Abram his offspring would be sojourners in a land that is not theirs and will be servants there, and they will be afflicted for four hundred years (Genesis 15:13).

Joseph, the son of Jacob, the grandson of Abraham, was sent to Egypt after his brothers sold him into slavery by Midianite traders (Genesis 37:28). Jacob and his family move to Egypt to survive a famine (Genesis 45:9-11). God sent Joseph to Egypt and in his stay there he blessed the house of Potiphar, blessed the house of Pharaoh, and provided for his formerly estranged brothers, and reunited with his father.

Even the plagues that God inflicted upon Egypt for Pharaoh’s enslavement of His covenant people was meant to have an evangelistic purpose. After the 10th plague, the LORD had given the people favor in the sight of the Egyptians, so that they let them have what they asked (Exodus 12:36). Also a mixed multitude went up with the people of Israel (Exodus 12:38).

Then many centuries later, the prophet Jeremiah writes a letter to those in Babylonian exile: “But seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the LORD on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare.” (Jeremiah 29:7)

Daniel is a great example of this instruction. He stayed true to his Jewish heritage, resolving that he would not defile himself with the king’s food, or with the wine that he drank (Daniel 1:8). Even so, Daniel and his three friends sought to bless the Babylonians and submitted to their educational system: to learn the literature and language of the Chaldeans (Daniel 1:4). His steadfast loyalty to YHWH led Nebuchadnezzar to praise his God as the King of heaven and the Most High (Daniel 4:34, 37).

Throughout the Scriptures, God has a number of ways of sending His people to the nations to bless them: calling them out of their homes with Abraham, letting them be sold into slavery like Joseph, drawing them into Egypt through a famine, sending them out after great plagues of judgment on Pharaoh, exiling them into Babylonian captivity.

In the modern era, people still move around for similar reasons: war and famine. For others, we could move around places because of jobs and education. But no matter the reason, for Christians, our purpose is to hold fast to the LORD and bless the people to whom God sends us.

Abraham, Joseph, the people of Israel before the Exodus, and Daniel did not have the temple to which they can travel to offer up sacrifices and worship God. But they held fast to their faith and submitted and interacted as best they could to the local authorities without compromising their faith.

Jesus is the ultimate example of a sojourner. He enjoyed the worship of thousands of angels, but left His throne in heaven to tabernacle among the people He made in His image. Even though He was the God who created the heavens and the earth, He submitted to the Sanhedrin and the Roman government insofar as it was obedient to the Father’s will. He did so to bring many people to glory with Him.

Likewise, in light of all this biblical insight, I need to embrace my identity as a sojourner and exile in this world. I do my best to find a local church who hold a high view of Scripture and desire to stay faithful and obedient to the Lord Jesus Christ, and fellowship with brothers and sisters in Christ. The local culture of the places I find myself in may be quite different than the one I was born and raised in, but I learn to adapt to them.

I can be flexible in my external circumstances because I have God is my rock, refuge and strength. In other words, you can deal with variables when you have a constant you can fall back on. Thankfully, Bible reading and prayer are portable actions, so I can do these things wherever I go, and these two means of grace should inform and shape the actions and decisions I make. In addition, social and communication technologies such as Facebook, Messenger, Instagram, phone calls, and emails help compress the world, so distance is not always an obstacle to staying close to home, but the priority should be placed on focusing on the local people.

Since the United States is a multiethnic, multifaith, and multigenerational country, there are quite a different number of cultures and backgrounds that we will interact with. It definitely helps to be confident in your own culture enough that you know how to engage with the cultures of others.

Every now and then, I would have some colleagues or patients ask what is my heritage. Sometimes the way the question is asked makes me feel like I’m an alien in a foreign land, even though I was born and raised in the States, but other times, I can hear that the question is just a curious inquiry to help make conversation. I cannot control how other people think of me, but I can control the way that I react and converse with them. The attitude I strive to maintain is to seek the good of others, even when they may not always reciprocate that kindness, knowingly or not.

I have met people in the LGBT community in my medical school, and I have met people who are Zoroastrian and Muslim. I always welcome hearing their stories and their struggles, and I do my best to model the gospel through these relational channels. I build relationships with my peers as best I can, but if the activities involve alcohol or drugs, I am more reluctant to participate. Sometimes it is difficult to show peers that rejecting these activities is not rejecting them as friends, but they can still take the rejection personally.

In the Christian walk, it is difficult to maintain that balance between faithfulness to Christ and building friendships with others. Many times, you can be as friendly and as welcoming to others as you can be but your faithfulness to Christ can and will drive others away while it also draws others in.

Staying close to Christ while being away from home is difficult, but possible. It involves knowing your faith well enough that you can stand on your own. Joseph and Daniel are two examples of this. They were relatively separated from like-minded peers in a community that was alien to their faith, yet they held fast to YHWH and blessed their peers. The Spirit should be reshaping your desires such that you want to please and honor Christ in all that you say, think, and do. He does this through Bible reading, prayer, and the local church. The primary purposes of these is to relocate your local experiences in the context of a covenantal relationship with YHWH. Christians live under His reign and seek to proclaim the glory of His name to our neighbors. I can stay close to Christ wherever I go, because He is with me wherever I go. I can face the variables of life because He is my constant.

Some Thoughts on Birth Control

Birth control is not necessarily wrong. Condoms and intrauterine devices do separate sex from conceiving children. Married couples could use these devices to help plan when and if they have children.

Sex is a human activity.
But it deserves context.

Biblical standards mandates that sex be done in a marital relationship. “Let marriage be held in honor among all, and let the marriage bed be undefiled, for God will judge the sexually immoral and adulterous.” (Hebrews 13:4)

All humans are made in the image of God. Since sex is part of our humanity, God has the right to decree how we exercise our sexuality.

Therefore having sex outside of marriage would be considered rebellion against God because it goes against the design He has for our sexuality and such an offense would rightly be punished by Him. Sexual sinners have two choices: repent and believe in the good news of Jesus who was crucified and risen on their behalf or face Jesus for their sins at their deaths or Judgment Day.

Ideally, humans should find someone of the opposite sex that they love and take the time and effort to commit to that person in spite of the inevitable flaws and mistakes that they see in one another.

However, God shows common grace to all. If people reject the authority and rule of Yahweh, it would not be expected that they would obey His moral teachings regarding human sexuality. That being said, sexual sinners could still use birth control to help mitigate the consequences of their actions like sexually transmitted diseases.

There is also the issue about using tax money to subsidize birth control for women.

I generally believe that women should pay for their own birth control, just as anyone else would pay for their own physician visit. People should not have to pay for the costs of other people’s decisions. Sex is voluntary: it takes both the man and the woman to agree to sexual relations. If it does not involve consent, then it would no longer be sex, but devolving into coercion and rape.

Ultimately, sex is a blessing when it is done in the marriage covenant, a grace for unrepentant sinners and redeemed saints. Birth control helps married couples plan if and when they have children. It also protects those engaged in premarital sex from sexually transmitted diseases even as we hope and pray that the Spirit might regenerate their hearts to solve the deeper issue of their rebellion against God.

Beto O’Rourke, the Gospel, and the Law

Christians submit to the authority and reign of the crucified and risen King, Jesus of Nazareth. People usually find our ways and customs to be contrary to the moral culture of a secular, post-Christian America.  Biblically speaking, same-sex marriage is not a marriage in the eyes of God just as gods made with hands are not gods.  The Supreme Court of the United States currently recognizes same-sex marriage in the eyes of the law just as the city of Ephesus recognized Artemis as a goddess to be venerated and worshiped in the eyes of Roman law.  

Since we are made in the image of God, God has a right to determine our worship.  He commands that we have no other gods before Him but to worship the LORD alone in Christ by the Spirit.  He also decrees that we exercise our sexuality in a way that honors Him.  We either pursue marriage to a partner of the opposite sex or abstinence.  Failure to honor God in this way merits His wrath. 

Thankfully, God provided His Son Jesus to die and rise in our place so that those who repent of their sins and come to Jesus as their crucified and risen Lord and Savior will be saved.  Not only that but the Spirit comes to regenerate and purify our hearts so we would not delight in our former sins but delight in God, in whose presence, is fullness of joy.

Christians ought to agree with Paul in saying “The sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God.”  But we also hope with Paul that God will wash, sanctify, justify some of them in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Holy Spirit.

The gospel message speaks against people in the LGBTQIA+ community just as it did against the idolaters and magicians in the apostle Paul’s day. Yet Paul did not advocate for Roman law to change such that idolaters and magicians would be prosecuted and put to death, but rather those among them who did listen and respond to his message of faith and repentance gave up their practices willingly while those who disagreed with him were free to continue as before.  Neither did Paul advocate for people to bully, harass, and call idolaters and magicians with derogatory names. 

The church, just as Paul did, works through the power of persuasion.  Laws, just as Roman law did, carry in them the power of the sword, or the power of coercion.  We teach others the moral standards of God, but we do not force them to submit to God by the law when it comes to sins that do not carry a threat to life and property as murder, abortion and theft do. 

Idolatry was the law of the land in Paul’s day just as same-sex marriage is the law of the land in America today.  We do not need to change the law per se, but we faithfully preach the gospel, in the hopes that God will change the hearts of those who are His, so even though sin may be enshrined in the law, they will give up their old sins willingly and return to God in Christ Jesus. 

That all being said, Beto O Rourke’s statement to make religious institutions like colleges, churches, and charities lose their tax-exempt status if they oppose same-sex marriage is concerning.   He would be acting as the city of Ephesus did, in bringing the law down on Christians to force them to be in alignment with a moral order that stands in opposition to YHWH. 

Mr. O’ Rourke states, “There can be no reward, no benefit, no tax break for anyone – or any institution, any organization in America – that denies the full human rights and the full civil rights of every single one of us. So as president we’re going to make that a priority and we are going to stop those who are infringing on the rights of our fellow Americans.”

The gospel message would be seen as speaking against the full human rights and the full civil rights of those who identify in the LGBTQIA+ community, which would be true in the way Paul spoke against the idol worship of his day. But to say that we are infringing on the rights of our fellow Americans would be false, because we do not seek to bring the law down on people to force them into submission with our moral standards. Paul did not infringe on the right of idolaters to worship their pagan gods, as they were still free to worship them as they pleased, but he did speak against these idols as he strived to lead people to God in Christ Jesus.

A Response to Trevor Noah

Trevor Noah gave this speech on his talk show.

After the recent outbreaks of gun violence in Dayton and El Paso, our lawmakers in Congress thought of a few policy ideas.  Republicans passed new red flag laws which would enable courts and police officers to take guns from people who show signs of threatening behavior.  Democrats advocate for universal background checks, renewing the assault weapons ban, and getting high-capacity magazines banned.

2nd Amendment

Noah notes that in Dayton, Ohio, the gun the assailant used could fire a hundred bullets.  He is disappointed in people who say that they need guns to hunt, because he feels no hunter needs a 100 bullets to hunt a deer. 

There is some truth to this statement, but guns are also used for self-defense.  The founders of this country originally provided the 2nd amendment so citizens could have some measure of protection for themselves against a government that did not have their best interests at heart.  The 2nd amendment also provides protection for women, both young and old, who wish to better protect themselves against any assailants.

Religion

Noah characterizes the Republican platform as, “Shootings have nothing to do with guns,” and that we need not fewer guns, but more God.

He provides an excerpt from someone saying that the common denominator to mass shootings is “not the weapon, but the hate inside the heart, the loss of morality, and disconnection from God who values all people.”

Noah summarizes the position as the problem in America is not access to guns, but a lack of access to God. In other words, if people were more religious, then they wouldn’t do bad things.

I would not frame the phrase in the way Trevor Noah does.
The position is better stated as “When people obey Yahweh, bad things would not happen.”

Noah notes that everyone seems to have a different idea of what God is saying. I agree with this observation, which is exactly what Old Testament prophets, Lord Jesus, and the apostles kept rebutting several times in their respective ministries.

He puts forward the premise that God and evil never mix, and so if you have God in your heart, you’re a good person.

He then goes on to list examples of history in which people have a zeal for God which led to destructive ends.
-In the Middle Ages, Crusaders said God told them to kill people in the Middle East
-In 1960s America, white evangelicals said that God told them black and white people shouldn’t mix.

Noah rightly observes that people pick and choose when and how to use God. To this I would say, yes this event does indeed occur, which is why bad theology is so dangerous and that is what the Old Testament prophets, Lord Jesus, and the apostles were fighting against for most of their time with their contemporaries.  Some theological positions are better supported by the Bible than others and lead to better outcomes than others.

Trevor Noah then jokes, “God’s just so far away, He’s hard to hear.
Love thy neighbor and people are like, “What? Black people should be slaves?”

Lord Jesus in 1st century Rome quoted Isaiah, the prophet who lived in 7th century BC Israel, saying, “You hypocrites! Well did Isaiah prophesy of you, when he said: “This people honors me with their lip, but their heart is far from me; in vain do they worship me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.” (Matthew 15:7-9)

The apostle Paul would put it this way: “For, being ignorant of the righteousness of God, and seeking to establish their own, they did not submit to God’s righteousness. For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes.” (Romans 10:3-4)

Humans have been mischaracterizing Yahweh since our beginning. Satan led Eve astray by making her question what God actually said to her in the Garden of Eden, and humans have been following suit in similar ways ever since.

Noah notes that people who are close to God still do really bad things. King David literally walked with God all the time. That did not stop David from killing a guy just so that he could sleep with his wife.

To this Richard Baxter would say, “If you are so foolish or malignant, as to pick quarrels with God and godliness for men’s faults, (Which nothing but God and godliness can reform,) you may set up your standard of defiance against heaven, and see what you will get by it in the end.  For God will not remove all occasion of your scandal. There ever have been and will be hypocrites in the church on earth. […] The falls of good men are cited in Scripture, to admonish you to take heed. […] If you will make all such the occasion of your malignity, you turn your medicine into your poison, and choose hell because some others choose it, or because some stumbled in the way to heaven.”

Trevor Noah concludes religion is not going to solve America’s mass shootings, but again I would say, with Baxter, nothing but God and godliness can reform men’s faults.

Family

He then moves on to the possibility that more parents will solve the problem.

He agrees that it helps young men to have a stable family life, but it would be hard to have a stable family life if your dad is getting gunned down at a Walmart.

He agrees that it would be nice if every young man in America had a perfect upbringing that helps get rid of their rage. He naturally asks, “How you’re gonna achieve that?”

You can write laws that will regulate guns, but we can’t write laws forcing people to have a good family life.  This statement of Noah’s reveals the biases in an American liberal worldview.  Almost every social problem needs to be solved with more government intervention and laws in their mind.  They give very little attention to creating a culture around a stable nucleus family and personal responsibility. 

Strategic placement of guns

Noah moves on to the next possible solution that it’s “Not too many guns, but not enough guns.” Some policymakers are suggesting the following:
-Secure the perimeter of schools with retired police and military
-Equip every school and every mall with metal detectors
-Create an instant response opportunity

To this position, Noah responds that guns are everywhere in America.
-Parkland had an armed guard but he was afraid to go in.
-Country music festival in Vegas had armed guards, but the guy was shooting from the window of a hotel.

As for the instant response opportunity:
-Police in Dayton, Ohio responded to mass shooting in 30 seconds, but still 9 people were killed.

For these examples, I believe Noah is guilty of the nirvana fallacy, where a solution should be rejected because some part of the problem would still exist after it were implemented. It’s an example of black and white thinking, in which “a person fails to see the complex interplay between multiple component elements of a situation or problem, and, as a result, reduces complex problems to a pair of binary extremes.”  In addition, even though guns do not always protect people, we still have them in place.  The POTUS still has a Secret Service, and the Hollywood Academy Awards have paid armed security.

Basically Noah’s argument is “More guns are not going to work. People are still going to die no matter what.” The rebuttal to this argument would be “Complete eradication of deaths due to gun violence is not the expected outcome. The goal is reduction.”

He pleads with the audience to think about the issue the right way.
He says, “Mass shootings can happen anywhere.” I agree with this statement.

If we need armed guards in every Walmart, every movie theater, every synagogue, every mosque, every church, every office building, every bar, every nightclub, every concert, and every garlic festival, we’d all have to become police. There is some truth to this.  The 2nd amendment provides a legal enablement for private citizens to assume some of the responsibilities and privileges that police officers hold in the sense of having guns available for the defense of themselves and others. Our government could remove gun-free zones and encourage conceal carry weapon laws so private citizens are legally allowed to protect their neighbors should the occasion arise.

Noah states, “I don’t want to be a policeman. I don’t.”  This is perfectly fine. But it does not follow that you have to force the rest of our neighbors in America to follow suit.  It seems quite likely that we do have a few private citizens who are willing to undergo training to help protect their neighbors from unwarranted violence, but Hollywood, the mainstream media, and some Democrats do not give the appropriate attention to these things.

He goes on to say that if we are protecting American freedoms, how can that be if everyone in America is forced to live in a world of perimeter fences, metal detectors, and armed guards in every hall?  Would it not start to feel like society’s living in a prison, and the only thing that’s free is the gun?  This is an interesting picture that Noah paints for America. 

But we live in a post 9/11 world.  I still remember the days when my cousins could still see my family and me off at the airport up to the departure lounge before 9/11 happened.  Ever since that day, we had the introduction of the TSA and security clearance gates, so now we have to say our goodbyes at the baggage check-in area instead.  Evil exists in this world.  It comes from anyone and at any time, and we have to make the necessary adjustments to the reality of it. 

The Gospel and Hate Speech

Lord Jesus says, “Love your neighbor as yourself.”

The apostle Paul says something similar, “Let no one seek his own good, but the good of his neighbor.” (1 Corinthians 10:24)

The prophet Jeremiah, on telling his neighbors to repent, says to God, “Remember how I stood before You to speak good for them, to turn away Your wrath from them.” (Jeremiah 18:20)

One of the ways Christians seek the good of their neighbors is to look to their eternal well-being and thus help them be saved from the wrath of God against unrighteousness.  

We are unrighteous when we exercise our sexuality and express our gender identity in ways that go against God’s design for them, because we would be insulting His authority and creativity.  God has a right to punish us for sexual sins, just as He does with other sins, because they all oppose His glory.  All sins are considered rebellion against Him.  However, He gave us an opportunity to amend our ways and return to Him so we could instead enjoy the blessings of His presence. 

Hate speech is broadly defined as “speech that attacks a person or a group on the basis of attributes such as race, religion, ethnic origin, national origin, sex, disability, sexual orientation, or gender identity.”

Homophobia is defined as a range of negative attitudes and feelings toward homosexuality or people who are identified or perceived as being lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender.

Preaching the gospel could be seen as speech that attacks a person or a group on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity.  The gospel could also be seen as generating negative attitudes and feelings towards the LBGTQIA community.  But this broad definition is unhelpful because it is not placed in a proper and specific biblical context.  It gives the impression that the gospel is just meant to make people feel bad instead of helping them enjoy a reconciled relationship with their Creator.  

In other words, even though hate speech and the gospel both attack a person and group on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity, they have very different purposes and goals in mind. 
-hate speech seeks evil and destruction against its audience
-the gospel seeks the eternal good of its audience

The Bible sees adopting certain sexual orientations and gender identities as rebellion against God, who then sets His wrath against these things among many other things that are done against Him.   However, He sent Lord Jesus to be our substitionary atonement.  Jesus took the death penalty and absorbed God’s wrath on behalf of everyone who would trust in Him to be their personal Lord and Savior.  When we covenant ourselves to Him, God sends the Holy Spirit who then regenerates our souls and works upon our disordered desires so we begin to enjoy Jesus as our treasure.  Instead of looking to our broken sexuality for satisfaction, we look to King Jesus. 

All of us are born sick, born with disordered desires and emotions.  We have a choice to either allow our desires free reign or to regulate them for the good of ourselves and others.  We have a choice to either follow the desires of our heart into sin or to submit them under God’s authority for our good and for His glory.    

Loving someone as yourself does not mean never making them feel bad, it means helping them understand the danger that they are in, so they could find joy in salvation. 

Hate speech just leaves people feeling bad and unwanted, but the gospel ultimately helps people find true joy and acceptance in God. Hate speech is a sharpened knife that kills you, but the gospel is a sharpened knife that saves you. 

Calling same-sex attraction and transgenderism a sin is not hate speech.  To say otherwise would be misleading our neighbors into trusting a lie, and preaching rebellion against God.  Calling a sin a sin is part of a process by which we seek to speak good for our neighbors, where we can turn away God’s wrath from them. As unpleasant as the topic of God’s wrath is, it is a reality that can be seen in the way God punished His covenant people with Babylon for their sins in 586 B.C.

Not only do we seek to turn away God’s wrath from our neighbors, we want them to know and enjoy His love and joy.  If His well-deserved wrath is so terrible, think of how grand and amazing His love and joy can be for those who seek forgiveness from Him.  When we preach the gospel, we do it so we can share with our neighbors in its blessings that come from a reconciled relationship with God.

Now even though the Bible calls certain sexual orientations and gender identities sin, God does not expect people to punish them on His behalf.  Sins are things done against God, and so God has the right and authority to forgive and punish them as He sees fit.  Thankfully, God sent His Son Jesus to die on the cross for our sins so those who trust in Jesus as their Lord and Savior would not have to face punishment.  But punishment is still reserved for those who fail to amend their ways and return to Him.  Yet, before that Day of Judgment comes, God does not expect anyone to punish transgressors on His behalf as He once did under the Mosaic covenant.

Anyone who do so would be acting as a vigilante, and would be punished for exercising an authority that is not theirs to exercise. 

 Therefore States/governments should decriminalize homosexuality, and should no longer punish, imprison, or execute individuals who are charged with this.  Lynching, a premeditated extrajudicial killing by a group, would also be wrong.  Both judicial and extrajudicial punishment would be usurping God’s authority on a sin that He will punish Himself.  In the meantime, Jesus appointed evangelists who would save men from God’s wrath, without any coercive power, by the management of His powerful word upon their consciences. 

To look at the matter another way:
-God states the conviction of homosexuality and transgenderism as sin.
-He sentenced the death penalty for these sins. 
-The enforcement of the death penalty lies in His hands, not in governments. 
-He offered Jesus as the substitute for rebels who ask for forgiveness from Him.
-He gives people a chance to know of this means of forgiveness because He wants us to live
-He will punish everyone who still fails to surrender to Him.

As a Judge, God has to punish sin because that is what justice mandates, but His love as a Father motivates Him to seek our reconciliation more than our punishment. 

Calling homosexuality and transgenderism a sin, while true, is one thing.  Throwing LGBT kids out on the streets and abandoning them is quite another and contrary to what God desires.  Instead, we should be kind, forbearing, and patient, hoping that our kindness will lead them to repentance, so they can fully enjoy the blessings that God provides.