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America and its Guns

Recent gun-related violence caused me to think about the effect and use of guns in the United States. Here are some observations.

1. The Bill of Rights is not a document from heaven like the Scriptures are. And so no one can claim infallibility of the Bill of Rights. It was written by regular humans (James Madison) for regular humans. And therefore there is always the possibility of error. This is a fact that we must consider.

2. I am not sure that we can equate guns with any other injury-causing device that is usually found at home. For two reasons: One. In terms of sheer destructive power, guns kill much more than a rope or a knife or a pin or anything else. Secondly, guns are not necessary for normal living as are knives or rope or pins etc. It probably was necessary for normal living in 1791, but not today, even in third world countries.

3. The sheer statistics of the matter. Guns in America kill 32,000 people a year – 85 people a day. Yes, the tragedy at Sandy Hook (2012); Orlando (2016) and Las Vegas (2017) bring attention to the matter but many more people are killed on a daily basis than the infamous massacres. The occasional massacres highlight the need for some kind of control, but the daily death of 85 people should be the reason for that control.

4. There is no middle ground. 50% of the country want guns, 50% of the country don’t want guns. What is the middle ground? That is why I suggest having some kind of evaluation for those who do want to get guns. That would be the middle ground. Just the desire to sit at the table for a discussion does not mean that a consensus would be reached. The matter is such that half the country wants the exact opposite of the other. In that case, it is easier to approach the matter from a different tangent. The talk of sitting at the table to discuss is just that.. talk. There is no common ground.

5. It is a fact and proclivity of human nature to sin regardless of the laws. It is precisely for that reason that I suggest making it difficult for those who want to sin from committing widespread destruction.

Phrases I have heard.

“Now is not the time to talk about this. Let us first mourn and then we can talk about it“.
The question is will we talk about it later? It’s been 5 years since Sandy Hook – are we talking about it? It’s been two years since Orlando – are we still talking about it? On the basis of past history -nobody talks about it after the dust settles. So the time to talk about it is when there is an event. So yes, now is the time to talk about it. Also, it doesn’t matter about the event. In Las Vegas, there are 58 dead. But every day 85 people die. So there is an event going on every day. It may not be a “major event” unless the victim is in your family. In a culture where there are short attention span and too many distractions, now is the time to talk about it, or no one talks about it.

“Guns don’t kill people, people kill people”.
This is the most profound sounding false statement I have heard.

If guns and bombs don’t kill people and people kill people, we would have had a far different mortality rate at the end of World War II if countries used arrows and knives. But no, guns and bombs were used instead of arrows and knives and millions died. Yes, people kill but the method of kill is also important.

Just for hypothetical discussion, since guns are a method of destruction, and since people are evil, Let’s wait till people become good and responsible before we put guns into their hands. Does this argument work? Will this be a reasonable argument?

Can we change people? If people are evil then they should not have access to destructive gadgets like guns or bombs – the same reason why the world does not want North Korea to have access to nuclear power – because they are not responsible.
If we ever use this argument that people kill people and not guns, then we need to wait until people become more reasonable so that they would not kill other people.
If people kill people, how do we know who not to give a gun to? There are two options – either we take the guns away from everybody and give only the good people guns or we do an evaluation to weed out the bad people. A starting point would be to have a mental health evaluation. It is not the perfect method but it is a starting point. If there is a better method to screen people then let’s use it. Whatever method is being used now is not working.

“But I am a responsible gun owner“.
You may be a responsible gun owner but since we don’t know how to identify the ones that are responsible and the ones that are irresponsible we have to wait until we perfect an evaluation to know who is responsible.
If there’s no other test, have a comprehensive and regular mental health evaluation done to make sure that you are not a threat to yourself or to somebody else. At this point it is not about one or two people being responsible and getting offended about having to go through a valuation, rather it is about the general safety of the public.

The alternative is for no one to have guns.

“Maybe everybody should be armed“
I have heard this phrase as a way of countering the ownership of guns by bad elements. But on closer examination, does this really work? Can this really be practical? If there is even one policeman that has been shot dead by a civilian with a gun, the argument falls flat. If a trained and armed policeman could not protect himself from a maniac, then “good“ civilians are not the antidote to evil people with guns.
It is funny to see people pointing to random isolated events as examples that guns “protect” people when there is the overwhelming statistical evidence that guns kill people.

Changing the 2nd amendment will open the door to change other things in the Bill of Rights
So what? If there is a need to amend a statute from 1791, why not? No one complains that the 18th amendment was changed in the 21st. Laws were made in different eras without the perspective of future reality. Over the years, many laws have changed and were updated. Since amendments require passage by 2/3 of the House of Representatives, AND 2/3 of the Senate, followed by ratification of 3/4 of the States – it is not possible that basic humans rights of free speech and right for religious assembly etc will be amended. Such objections are more theoretical than real.

Since no one can claim infallibility of the Bill of Rights it should make it easier to amend it.

Why have guns in the first place?

I have gathered at least three reasons, there may be more.
a. To protect yourself: It is a mute point about protecting oneself if nobody has guns. Or if the mentally unstable don’t have guns. In most countries where there are no guns whatsoever, nobody needs to be protected from somebody else with a gun.

b. For sport: If baseball resulted in 85 deaths per day of players and non-players, should the game be banned? Of course. The associated mortality is not worth the fleeting entertainment even though a few want to be entertained.

c. To prevent a future tyrannical government! I heard about this reason only recently and it is the one that I do not understand at all.

In 1791 this was probably true because British could (possibly) have come back with bigger guns and retaken America. But 300 years later they are unlikely to annex the most powerful country on earth. Or, do we fear a government that could rise up in the future that would have dictatorial inclinations? Is that even possible in today’s civilized democratic society? It may be possible in North Korea or other such dictatorial countries, but in America?? I have a hard time believing that that is even possible. What are the odds of that happening? A hundred percent? 50%? 10%? Or .0001%
I would like that the odds of a future tyrannical government that would kill off all the Americans is low enough to be impossible. And while we prepare for that unrealistic cataclysm, 85 people die every day. If that is the reason why guns are being allowed to kill and maim innocent lives and families, then we need to rethink some things.

The Compromise

In the ideal world, guns would be completely banned (except for law enforcement and military etc) due to its widespread destructive capabilities, just like bombs are banned for the layperson. But the gun lobby is too powerful and there are more guns in America than there are families.

The common denominator in many killings seems to be mental health aberrations. That is why I suggest a comprehensive mental health evaluation prior to and periodically for the purpose of a gun ownership. In fact, the courts try to establish that a person was insane at the time of a crime to avoid jail time. If that were the case why would a person who was insane have access to a gun?

There are flaws with any compromise. There is no compromise that will be completely satisfactory to both parties, but that is precisely what a compromise is – you have to give-and-take because it is not a perfect solution. I fear that in looking for the perfect solution in regard to guns, we are not able to even begin a conversation or attempt a solution because it is not a perfect solution. But we cannot NOT have a solution, albeit an imperfect one, because in the last 24 hours 85 more people died due to gun violence in America.

In 1791 the amount of mental disease was very low and the need for guns was much more. In a civilized society of the 21st-century, there is no need for guns and in a western society, the incidence of mental disease is much higher.

I don’t need to own guns to talk about the dangers of guns. Just like I don’t need to be a drug addict or a drug dealer to look at the numbers and talk about drug use and the dangers of it. Of course, I will not go into the details of kinds of guns because I am not a gun person. But any intelligent person can look from the outside and see that guns kill. Guns kill. There is no question about it. (When people argue that guns save lives it is not that lives are saved per se by the gun, rather, the gun kills a bigger killer thereby indirectly saving lives.)

There is no middle ground. 50% of the people want guns and 50% of the people don’t want guns. What is the point of compromise? To have guns or not to have guns? Hence my suggestion for a comprehensive and regular mental health evaluation IS the compromise because the gun lobby is too big to disappear.

I don’t have a dog in this fight. I started off neutral -neither for or against guns. Just did not care. But that doesn’t change the statistics of gun violence. When I look at the numbers from a neutral point of view, I see gun violence as the number one preventable cause of death in the US. If we stay in a country where baseball bats were the number one cause of death then maybe we should consider banning baseball bats. Will taking away guns stop human nature? No. But it takes away a primary method of killing in the 21st-century. Pro-life after all is anti-death too.

Anush

Resources:
Gun Violence Statistics: http://www.bbc.com/news/world-us-canada-34996604. Accessed: Oct 14, 2017
The Bill of Rights: https://www.billofrightsinstitute.org/founding-documents/bill-of-rights/. Accessed: Oct 14, 2017
History of Mental Illness: Baumeister AA et al., Prevalence and incidence of severe mental illness in the United States: an historical overview, Harvard Review of Psychiatry, 2012 Sep-Oct;20(5):247-58.

A Stammering Monkey

In the recent past, I stumbled upon a British stuttering support website, as I looked for possible ideas to overcome stuttering for my three-year-old son, who we discovered in the last few months had begun to stammer. On this website, some of the comments that were written by sufferers of the condition were extremely heartbreaking. Some sufferers said that they want to die and that waking up everyday and meeting people is torture.

You see, what is normal activity for a person, like breathing or swallowing, for a stammerer is so stressful and shameful that it changes his/her personality. And the more you try not to or the more you think about it or the more people notice it or the more stressful the situation – the stammer gets impossibly worse.

This blog is mainly as an encouragement for those who stammer.

I have stammered from as far back as I can remember. I would be laughed at at school and my cousin once, when we were kids, called me a stammering monkey. (In return, I did call him a fatty!). Stammering controlled so much of my life that during my school days, I could go to school and not speak one word to anyone for a whole week. Not one word. It was easier and less painful to be quiet than to say something and have people laugh at you. You could never tell a joke because you always messed up the punchline. You could never tell a story, because people stopped listening to the story as they were trying to either not laugh at you or pretend to ignore the elephant in the room. So you came off as this is extremely serious, un-fun person and subsequently, was never invited for anything and lost most social contact. And slowly, for me, the fear of stuttering paralyzed my entire outlook.

But by the grace of God, I decided that I was not going to take this lying down. I decided to give my life completely to Jesus Christ and let him lead it in a way that I could never begin to dream. I wanted to fight fire with fire and decided, of all things to become a speaker. At age 10, I gave my first sermon – of course I stammered through it.
I studied at a Christian school (Clarence High, Bangalore, India) that had daily “assembly”. The entire school would gather for 15 minutes for a hymn and a small devotion. Once a year, the graduating class – the 10th grade – would conduct the assembly. When I was 15 and a part of the graduating class, I was chosen as the speaker to give the devotion for the annual assembly.
25 years later – I have received one doctorate and a masters in India, and three doctorates in the US in three different areas – dentistry, medicine, theology. [Education in India is dependent on your score – nothing else. But in the US personality has such a high value in addition to your score, numerous interviews are meant to screen out people like me that remained at the social fringes – never mind that my stammering forced me to those fringes.] I have a sermon podcast that so far has reached 18 countries. I have a radio broadcast that reaches more than 65 countries every weekend. I look back many times and wonder how on earth all this came about. Am I trying to brag? Of course. I am trying to brag. But not about me, but about the Lord Jesus who ‘is able to do far more abundantly beyond all that we ask or think, according to the power that works within us, to Him be the glory’. (Ephesians 3:20-21)

There is no cure for stammering. The only way to “solve” stammering is by learning how to deal with it. Nevertheless, thankfully, at the end of earthly time, the problem of the stammering monkey will be completely rectified: ‘The fearful heart will know and understand, and the stammering tongue will be fluent and clear’. (Isaiah 32:4)

23:56

I am at a crossroad in my life.

I have always had many interests and somehow found the time and energy to pursue them, but I think in this phase of my life, that balance of trying to do multiple things will be challenging, if not impossible.

In my heart of hearts I would like to spend about 6 to 8 hours every day in the presence of God – reading his word and listening to Him. This is also tied in to any ministerial opportunity that God gives me to preach His Word or write…

At the same time I have a wife and three children who are in phases of their lives (at least my older two children at age nine and eight are), when having a father figure is important. I love my family and want to spend as much time as I possibly can with them, knowing full well that in a few short years, those opportunities will pass away. I barely have time to talk even once a month to my parents and siblings. Forget about my extended family.

At the same time due to my profession, I need to both work full-time and, in addition to working, have to constantly update myself with surgical and medical knowledge, because it is, after all, a dynamic field.

Over all this, my temperament dictates that instead of sitting around for relaxation, I should do something for relaxation. Thus, my hobby interests would be to learn a new instrument and learn a new language and learn photography and travel the world and …

Does God want me to spend time in his presence? Absolutely.
Does God want me to be involved in ministry? Yes.
Does God want me to spend time and relate to my family? Of course.
Does God want me to work and update my surgical/medical knowledge? I have to.
Does God want me to pursue non-passive hobbies? He created me that way.

As Henry David Thoreau said,  ‘It is not enough to be busy. So are the ants. The question is: What are we busy about?’. I hope to be busy doing something that has eternal value.

23:56 hours in a day is just not enough.

Why baseball is a terrible game (and how to fix it)

There is almost no question that baseball is a slow, boring game. There are baseball players themselves that have mentioned it. For, example, Manny Machado of the Orioles said, ““It was a little boring to watch it, I don’t know how people go out there and watch games. Now I know why sometimes people don’t come to games.” (1). If a baseball player himself says it, there might be some truth to it. Having watched baseball for 12 years (and still support the Boston Red Sox), I have some reasons why baseball may be a super-terrible game. Obviously, just one of these reasons is not enough to make it bad, but the combination of all the reasons might incline it that way.

1. It is an uncouth game.

When a pitcher throws a ball that hits a batter, for some reason there is absolutely no hint of an apology while he stands at the mound stupidly, spitting around and rolling the ball. Really? Even in a high-contact sport like mixed martial arts, the contestants are able to hug it out once the game is done and sometimes even between rounds, or, if there is an inadvertent hit, able to apologize. Not so in baseball.

How is it that a “benches-clearing” brawl and “fists flying” between opposing teams in a non-contact sport is even possible (and allowed) in today’s civilized society?

Also, where else will you have this unbelievable amount of spitting? The constant chewing and spitting it makes it anything other than a classy game.

2. It is a dangerous game.

Rather than obviously dangerous games like American football, Rugby and mixed martial arts, how does such a slow, meandering game like baseball become a dangerous game? Because the pitcher is trying to throw the pitch close to you at full toss. That ball can go anywhere including onto the batter or the catcher or the umpire’s face or head or hand or body and cause potentially long-term damage. In this scenario, the fact that an intentional hit-by-pitch (without apology) is even part of the game is absolutely preposterous.

3. It is a speculative game.

In the center point of the game is the Strike Zone. And this zone is highly subjective. This is extremely incredulous to me. How can the focal point of an entire game be so subjective? There are many factors that make the calling of balls and strikes subjective including but not limited to: the height of the catcher, the height, and position of the umpire, the height of the batter, the whim of the umpire etc. 14% of balls-and-strikes calls are wrong in a game and umpires are wrong 21-22 times per game on average. Over the course of a full season, umpires are wrong more than 50,000 times. (2) Wow! almost 1/7 of the calls in a single game are wrong. It is so ironical to bring up statistics and numbers and averages when 1/7th of a game is so subjective that it is wrong.

4. It is a slow, s l o w, s l o w game.

What makes the inherent slowness of the game an even more boring game? The fact that it is possible, after 2 1/2 -3 hours of the game, for the score to read 0-0. Swing and a miss, swing and a miss, swing and a miss, ad nauseaum. Meanwhile, the commentators try their very best to keep the game entertaining with meaningless facts and statistics. It is not their fault that they have to put up with a meaningless game. Games should have continuous exciting action like soccer or basketball or discontinuous super-exciting action like American football or T20 cricket or MMA. Baseball has neither – it has discontinuous, slow action. On top of all this is the possibility of extra innings! How can we make a boring game even more boring? By dragging it along endlessly. Meanwhile, we can fill up the boredom with an endless list of irrelevant statistics! If food and other distractions were not available, I wonder what percentage of the fans would watch the game from start to finish, riveted.

5. Salary Cap

Even though my team is the Boston Red Sox, the fact that there is no salary cap for a team means that the team owner with the most money, wins. And the rest of the teams will continue to be at the bottom of the pile, year after year, until they can by fluke win a championship (like Tampa Bay came close to in 2008) or there is a change in ownership of the team.

This is not to take away from the athleticism of baseball players. Baseball players perform excellently well in spite of the game of baseball. The pinpoint, pick up and throw in the infield, the running, acrobatic attempts and strong arms from the outfield are all brilliant, especially because there is so little room for error.

How to improve the game, if at all possible.

1. Ban the chewing and spitting of tobacco and various seeds. It is unfortunate that a rule has to be passed but if that is what is needed to make a game less uncouth, so be it. Start by using an uncommon word in baseball, “sorry”, when someone gets hit.

2. Change the scoring system, so that the scoreboard is less stagnant than it is now. Maybe, count a single as one run, a double as two runs, a triple as three runs, a home run, say 5 runs or any such combinations. Or, if this will result in too much of scoring change then changes can be made only with those left on base so that some score is assigned to people left on base. Not only is stagnation an issue, the game is boring if there is a one-sided score early in the game. If your team is down 0-8 after the first two innings, the remaining seven innings are super boring because the odds of coming back from that deficit is low. However, if every base counts towards the score, there could be a better chance of catching up from a large deficit and therefore, more interest in the game.

3. Stop extra innings completely so that there is an end point to the game. How can we do this? If the above scoring system or a different scoring system is used, the need for extra innings will be unnecessary. However, if the current scoring system is continued then maybe we can count the left-on-base by a team as a way to see who wins the game. The more people that were left on base wins in a tie score. Straightforward.

4. Have instant feedback for balls and strikes. That way we can eliminate 14% of the mistakes. It can be figured out. A digital feedback to the umpire tells him if it is in the strike zone or not. No guesswork, no screaming, no stomping, no coach arrivals, no ejections, no drama. The technology is available, MLB is shunning it, that’s all. (2) When every other game is trying to use technology to make the game as accurate as possible, MLB turns the other way, towards analog.

In my humble opinion, in baseball (there are of course exceptions but,) the excitement is usually in the anticipation of something happening rather than in the reality of something actually happening. Maybe these suggestions can change that.

Anush

References:
1. https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/dc-sports-bog/wp/2017/07/15/orioles-manny-machado-thinks-baseball-is-a-little-boring-to-watch/?utm_term=.1d28b0429edc. Accessed July 2017.
2. http://www.businessinsider.com/major-league-baseball-umpires-balls-and-strikes-2015-9 Accessed July 2017.

A Christian and Alcohol

A Christian and Alcohol

Over the years I have heard many arguments for and against the use of alcohol by Christians. So I thought I would study the matter systematically. In so doing, I have attempted to be as objective as possible. (If, from this post, you can tell what my personal opinion is on this issue – I have failed to be objective.) There are three parts to this post:
1. Arguments for the use of alcohol
2. Arguments against the use of alcohol
3. The conclusion of the matter?
Obviously, it makes absolutely no sense to read just one part of this paper without reading the other parts.

A. Arguments for the use of alcohol

1. The Bible only condemns drunkenness.
Look at the following examples.
Romans 13:13 Let us behave properly as in the day, not in carousing and drunkenness, not in sexual promiscuity and sensuality, not in strife and jealousy.
Galatians 5:19, 21 Now the deeds of the flesh are evident, which are: …. drunkenness, carousing, and things like these, of which I forewarn you, just as I have forewarned you, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.
1 Peter 4:3 For the time already past is sufficient for you to have carried out the desire of the Gentiles, having pursued a course of sensuality, lusts, drunkenness, carousing, drinking parties and abominable idolatries.
1 Corinthians 5:11 But actually, I wrote to you not to associate with any so-called brother if he is an immoral person, or covetous, or an idolater, or a reviler, or a drunkard, or a swindler—not even to eat with such a one.
In Paul’s lists of leadership characteristics, he mentions:
1 Timothy 3:3 not addicted to wine or pugnacious, but gentle, peaceable, free from the love of money.
1 Timothy 3:8 Deacons likewise must be men of dignity, not double-tongued, or addicted to much wine or fond of sordid gain,
Titus 1:7 For the overseer must be above reproach as God’s steward, not self-willed, not quick-tempered, not addicted to wine, not pugnacious, not fond of sordid gain…

And just because someone drinks alcohol in moderation, it does not necessarily mean that it will lead to excess or drunkenness. This is a common refrain I have heard. Advocates against the use of alcohol point to alcoholics and assume that every person who drinks in moderation will end up as an alcoholic. This is not true – the statistics of alcohol abusers are much lower than those who drink alcohol in moderation.

2. Christian freedom.
The Christian faith, in the New Testament, as opposed to Judaism in the Old Testament (or any other religion, for that matter) is not about following rules and regulations, especially about food and drink.
Colossians 2:16-17 Therefore no one is to act as your judge in regard to food or drink or in respect to a festival or a new moon or a Sabbath day— things which are a mere shadow of what is to come; but the substance belongs to Christ.

3. Health Benefits
Every now and then there is a random study that points to the health benefits of consumption of 1-2 four-ounce glasses a day of wine.
a. Reduces Heart-Attack Risk. Moderate drinkers suffering from high blood pressure are 30 percent less likely to have a heart attack than nondrinkers, per a 16-year Harvard School of Public Health study of 11,711 men, published in the Annals of Internal Medicine, 2007.
b. Lowers Risk of Heart Disease. Red-wine tannins contain procyanidins, which protect against heart disease. Wines from Sardinia and southwest France have more procyanidins than other wines, per a study at Queen Mary University in London, published in Nature, 2006.
c. Reduces Risk of Type 2 Diabetes. Moderate drinkers have 30 percent less risk than nondrinkers of developing type 2 diabetes, per a research on 369,862 individuals studied over an average of 12 years each, at Amsterdam’s VU University Medical Center, published in Diabetes Care, 2005.
d. Lowers Risk of Stroke. The possibility of suffering a blood clot–related stroke drops by about 50 percent in people who consume moderate amounts of alcohol, per a Columbia University study of 3,176 individuals over an eight-year period, published in Stroke, 2006.
e. Cuts Risk of Cataracts. Moderate drinkers are 32 percent less likely to get cataracts than nondrinkers, per a study of 1,379 individuals in Iceland, published in Nature, 2003.
f. Cuts Risk of Colon Cancer. Moderate consumption of wine (especially red) cuts the risk of colon cancer by 45 percent, per a Stony Brook University study of 2,291 individuals over a four-year period, published in the American Journal of Gastroenterology, 2005.
g. Slows Brain Decline. Brain function declines at a markedly faster rate in nondrinkers than in moderate drinkers, per a Columbia University study of 1,416 people, published in Neuroepidemiology, 2006. (1)

4. Jesus and his disciples drank wine.
The only people in the bible that were told explicitly told not to drink wine were the Nazirites (Numbers 6:1–4). Jesus was not a Nazirite; He was a “Nazarene,” a native of the town of Nazareth (Luke 18:37) and did not take the Nazirite vow.

Other examples:
He turned water into wine. John 2:10–11.
Other verses that show that Jesus drank wine:
Luke 7:33–44 Jesus said, “For John the Baptist has come eating no bread and drinking no wine, and you say, ‘He has a demon.’ The Son of Man has come eating and drinking, and you say, ‘Look at him! A glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!’”
The Passover celebration included the drink of wine: Matthew 26:27–29; Mark 14:23–25; Luke 22:17–18. Of course, Christ participated in drinking from the Passover cup – Mark 14:23 And when He had taken a cup and given thanks, He gave it to them, and they all drank from it.
I have heard arguments suggesting that the wine in the Cana marriage did not have time to get fermented. But that is an unnecessary point since every use of the word wine in all the verses mentioned above is οἶνος (oinos), which means fermented, alcoholic wine. And the wine that he made at Cana was described as “good wine” – so it is likely that part of the miracle was the simultaneous fermentation of the wine when it was converted from the water.
Paul also mentions the drinking of wine: 1 Timothy 5:23 No longer drink water exclusively, but use a little wine for the sake of your stomach and your frequent ailments.

B. Arguments against the use of alcohol

1. Destructive Nature.
The Bible clearly warns about the destructive nature of alcohol.
Proverbs 20:1 Wine is a mocker, strong drink a brawler…
Proverbs 21:17 He who loves pleasure will become a poor man; He who loves wine and oil will not become rich.
Proverbs 23:29- 35 Who has woe? Who has sorrow? Who has contentions? Who has complaining? Who has wounds without cause? Who has redness of eyes? Those who linger long over wine, Those who go to taste mixed wine. Do not look on the wine when it is red, When it sparkles in the cup, When it goes down smoothly; At the last it bites like a serpent And stings like a viper. Your eyes will see strange things And your mind will utter perverse things. And you will be like one who lies down in the middle of the sea, Or like one who lies down on the top of a mast. “They struck me, but I did not become ill; They beat me, but I did not know it. When shall I awake? I will seek another drink.”
Ephesians 5:18 And do not get drunk with wine, for that is dissipation, but be filled with the Spirit.

According to the National Council on Alcohol and Drug Dependence, Inc:
a. Alcohol and crime
Alcohol is a factor in 40% of all violent crimes today, and according to the Department of Justice, 37% of almost 2 million convicted offenders currently in jail, report that they were drinking at the time of their arrest.
Alcohol, more than any illegal drug, was found to be closely associated with violent crimes, including murder, rape, assault, child and spousal abuse. About 3 million violent crimes occur each year in which victims perceive the offender to have been drinking and … about half of all homicides and assaults are committed when the offender, victim, or both have been drinking. Among violent crimes, with the exception of robberies, the offender is far more likely to have been drinking than under the influence of other drugs.
b. DUI
More than one million people are arrested annually for driving while intoxicated, which is the third most commonly reported crime in the United States. Drinking and drugged driving is the number one cause of death, injury and disability of young people under the age of 21, and nearly 40% of all traffic fatalities are alcohol related. Every day 36 people die and approximately 700 are injured in motor vehicle crashes that involve an alcohol-impaired driver.
c. Alcohol and Violence in College
Each year, more than 600,000 students between the ages of 18 and 24 are assaulted by another student who has been drinking.
95% of all violent crime on college campuses involves the use of alcohol by the assailant, victim or both.
90% of acquaintance rape and sexual assault on college campuses involves the use of alcohol by the assailant, victim or both.
d. Alcohol and Domestic Violence
Among victims of domestic violence, alcohol played a role in 55% of the cases, while drugs played a role in only 9% of the cases; for spousal violence, alcohol was a factor in 65% of the cases, versus only 5% for drugs.
e. Alcohol and Child Abuse
Nearly 4 in 10 child victimizers reported that they had been drinking at the time of the crime. (2)

Sometimes people bring up the argument of the addictiveness of coffee (in the next section) to compare the addictiveness of alcohol. I think that is a silly argument and that is why I put it in this section because I’m not sure there are individuals and families that have been destroyed because of the use of coffee.

2. Addictive Potential
The Bible seems to suggest that the use of anything that has addictive potential should be avoided. 1 Corinthians 6:12 … All things are lawful for me, but I will not be mastered by anything.
The addictive nature of alcohol and the resulting effect on a society is mind blowing. Alcohol is the most expensive of all the addictions with an estimated annual cost of $166 billion. (This is more than smoking, drugs, gluttony, and gambling). (3)

3. Stumbling block
Mature Christians should avoid causing others to stumble in the use of their own freedoms… Paul talks about a common task as eating meat, and therefore by extension any of the things we do.

Romans 14:21 It is good not to eat meat or to drink wine, or to do anything by which your brother stumbles.
A study from the National Institute of Health (NIH) shows that almost 10% of people in America have a history or are connected to someone with a history of alcohol abuse. (4)
More than 10 percent of U.S. children live with a parent with alcohol problems. (5)

Thus, of all the people that you meet/know, there are about 10% that have a history of alcohol abuse or know someone personally with a history of alcohol abuse. You can be a stumbling block to them because of your use of alcohol.

4. Constant Clarity
1 Peter 4:7 (NIV 1984) says: The end of all things is near. Therefore be clear minded and self-controlled so that you can pray. And (1 Thessalonians 5:17) ‘pray without ceasing’
When you combined the two verses together, one should not be in any elective position where the mind is not clear – so that you can be in a position to pray at any time, indeed always. I specify elective – because there are times for medical reasons that you have to use narcotics that can cloud your senses and your mind.
Even ONE glass of wine can lower your inhibition and reduce your clarity. Having a lowered inhibition prevents us from practicing self-control, causes us to act in ways we wouldn’t otherwise, lowers the resolve to resist temptation, and can sully our judgments

A photographer captured various people after 1, 2 and 3 glasses of wine and the lowering of inhibition is self-evident. (6)

A lowered self-inhibition in today’s highly public culture can be significantly detrimental in numerous ways and can result in the simplest of mistakes that can result in life-altering consequences. For example, Mark Asay, 53 was convicted of killing Robert Booker and Robert McDowell in 1987 and on August 24, 2017, was executed at Florida State Prison. This was his last interview about the circumstances that led to that incident: (7)

 

5. Health reasons
Even though I mentioned some health benefits present in alcohol, the most evidence remains for the negative effects of alcohol. The following diseases are attributed to the use of alcohol.
a. Breast Cancer
Just ONE alcoholic drink per day—even a teeny one—increases the risk of breast cancer, says the American Institute for Cancer Research and the World Cancer Research fund that looked at 119 studies involving 12 million women globally.
Although a typical alcoholic beverage contains 14 grams of alcohol, the report finds that even a small glass of wine, beer, or spirits (one with as little as 10 grams of alcohol) is tied to a 5 percent increased cancer risk in pre-menopausal women and 9 percent in post-menopausal women, indicating there may be “no level of alcohol use that is completely safe” when it comes to breast cancer, per Ann McTiernan, one of the study’s lead authors. (8) That is, even if taken in ‘moderation’.
b. Multiple Cancers
There is strong evidence that alcohol causes cancer at seven sites in the body and probably others. Current estimates suggest that alcohol-attributable cancers at these sites make up 5.8% of all cancer deaths worldwide. The seven sites are: liver, colon, rectum, breast, oropharynx, larynx, and esophagus. This is true even if taken in small amounts, ie, in moderation. (9)
c. Numerous other diseases
In 2014, the World Health Organization reported that alcohol contributed to more than 200 diseases and injury-related health conditions. (10)

If your body were the temple of the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 6:19), why would anyone want to intentionally harm that body?
One may argue that if even one drink is so harmful, why did Paul ask Timothy to take a little bit for his illnesses? My counter to that argument is that with the existing diet, culture, available medication and health – it was probably true that a small amount of alcohol at that time was beneficial for the stomach. But two thousand years later, with a different diet, culture, available medication and advances in health, it is not necessary to drink wine for ‘stomach benefits’. People who used that verse to argue for the use of alcohol and it’s “beneficial effects” should also resort to the medical recommendations that were prevalent at that time.

6. The Law of Diminishing Returns
This is a law in economics which states that in all productive processes, adding more of one factor of production while holding all others constant will at some point yield lower incremental per-unit returns. (11)
What does this mean for substance use? It means that to get the same effect, all other variables being constant, a person will need more of the same substance. So, for a cocaine addict, if 1mg of cocaine gave him the desired effect, as time goes on, more is needed to maintain the same effect.
Even though it is true that not all people who drink in moderation end up becoming alcoholics, it is true that 100% of the alcoholics started off with one glass. This likely resulted from the law of diminishing returns causing a person to consume more and more alcohol for the same initial effect resulting in eventual alcoholism.

7. The Next Generation
A 1999 study by the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse found that children of substance-abusing parents were almost three times likelier to be abused and more than four times likelier to be neglected than children of parents who are not substance abusers. (12)
It is hard for us to predict what kind of adults our kids may develop into. Your children may have or develop an addictive or obsessive personality. Is there the slightest possibility that our kids, watching our “moderate” consumption of substances, could progress to full blown addiction in their futures? If the answer is yes (even a remote yes), is it worth that risk?

C. Conclusion?

Both sides agree the drunkenness is wrong.

The question is: Can somebody drink a little bit. One side says you should not and the other side says you can. Since these are opposed to each other, it cannot be that both are true – it is either one or the other.
The question is not can a Christian drink alcohol. Of course, the Christian can drink alcohol – there is no direct command against it.
The real question is: considering the weight of the pros and cons should a Christian drink alcohol today. If a Christian is trying to fully please God in all that they do – should he or should he not.
When people usually have discussions about this topic, the discussion usually degenerates into a nonsensical, pointless, futile back and forth. The reason I believe this is the case is that the argument and counter argument is usually point-by-point. By doing a point-by-point argument it is impossible to convince a person one way or the other because there is no direct command one way or the other. I believe that in lieu of a point-by-point argument, the way to look at this matter is similar to the arguments that look at the existence of God.

When we look at the arguments for the existence of God, there is not one argument that will definitely convince a person that God exists. The Leibnizian cosmological argument or the poetic argument or the argument from fine-tuning by themselves are not enough to convince a skeptical person that God exists. But when all the arguments are taken as a whole, it is more PROBABLE than not that God exists.

Similarly, taking the arguments for or against the use of alcohol point-by-point is completely futile. Instead, I believe a person should take the entire argument FOR the use of alcohol versus AGAINST, and consider not whether there is conclusive evidence for or against, but rather: is it more PROBABLE than not that one is more lined up with God’s will than the other, and do accordingly. And since, as we have said above, both cannot be true, we are forced to choose sides – teetotalling vs moderation.

I will leave the conclusion to your own biblically-influenced, God-honoring conscience.

Anush.

Let me know if you have other reasons for or against the issue: anushdoc@hotmail.com

All scripture quoted from the NASB, unless otherwise indicated.
NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE Copyright (C) 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977,1995 by THE LOCKMAN FOUNDATION A Corporation Not for Profit LA HABRA, CA All Rights Reserved

References:
1. http://www.foodandwine.com/articles/8-health-benefits-of-drinking-wine, accessed July 10, 2017
2. https://www.ncadd.org/about-addiction/alcohol-drugs-and-crime, Accessed July 10, 2017
3. Tom Van Riper, Forbes, https://www.forbes.com/2006/10/02/addictions-most-expensive-biz-cx_tvr_1003addictions.html, Accessed July 10, 2017
4. https://www.niaaa.nih.gov/alcohol-health/overview-alcohol-consumption/alcohol-facts-and-statistics
5. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA). Data Spotlight: More than 7 Million Children Live with a Parent with Alcohol Problems, 2012; http://archive.samhsa.gov/data/spotlight/Spot061ChildrenOfAlcoholics2012.pdf, Accessed July 10, 2017
6. http://mentalfloss.com/article/78600/photographer-captures-subjects-after-glass-or-two-or-three-wine
7. http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-4821604/Florida-executes-man-racist-double-homicide.html. Accessed August 25, 2017
8. http://www.wcrf.org/int/research-we-fund/continuous-update-project-findings-reports/breast-cancer
9. http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/add.13477/abstract
10. World Health Organization (WHO). Global Status Report on Alcohol and Health. p. XIII. 2014 ed. Available at: http://www.who.int/substance_abuse/publications/global_alcohol_report/msb_gsr_2014_1.pdf?ua=1(link is external). Accessed July 10, 2017
11. Samuelson, Paul A.; Nordhaus, William D. (2001). Microeconomics (17th ed.). McGraw-Hill. p. 110.
12. https://www.ncadd.org/about-addiction/alcohol-drugs-and-crime, Accessed July 10, 2017

A Christian And Yoga

A Christian and Yoga

Being an Indian theologian in America, I have received several questions over the years about how a Christian should respond to yoga as seen in American culture.

I honestly don’t know the details of yoga in America so I won’t give a yes-no answer. Instead I will list a few biblical guidelines and let the reader decide the right approach. If I go by the abject failure of Starbucks’ dishwater-esque chai tea to reflect actual Indian chai, I am almost confident that American yoga’s separation from the original Indian yoga should be measured not in meters, but in lightyears.

1. Hindu Yoga is part of what is called as the Jnaya Marga – the way to salvation (Moksha) through knowledge. It involves deep inward meditation while the devotee tries to focus on certain body parts (the navel, for example). The goal is to come to an awareness of the spirit of a person and then, by extension, think about Brahma, the ethereal, non-being essence of the universe. Hindu Yoga is more of a demure, passive, mind-focusing with “less” involvement of demonic/spiritual influence than other Hindu rituals.

2. Christian meditation is similar to Hindu yoga ONLY in relation to its physical posture of silence. Christian Meditation, unlike yoga, is focused outside of oneself – usually on God and the Bible and allowing the Holy Spirit to impress on our hearts His truth. In the recent past I have been more and more cognizant of the general lack of meditation in contemporary Christendom and have personally thoroughly enjoyed its benefits.

3. There are many rituals and objects that are used in animistic, polytheistic and pantheistic cultures that invoke demon spirits’ involvement. It is prudent to stay away from anything to do with the devil or demons regardless of how spiritually “strong” one is. Humans are no match for demons and they will hit us where we are weak. My family  is involved in drug and alcohol addiction recovery in several Indian cities and many times see first hand the consequences of demonic and spiritual influences in addition to the physical, physiological and chemical effects of substance abuse.

4. Paul’s directive about food sacrificed to idols. (Romans 8). The basic premise is that an idol is nothing compared to the eternal God and therefore anything related to that idol is essentially nothing. This command is true if there is no direct demonic influence.

Now, the reader is welcome to decide the approach to American yoga.

Anush.

anushdoc@hotmail.com

The Prayer Against

Whenever there is a tragedy today, one of the rallying calls is for prayers for the victims of the tragedy. So we see prayer for Paris, prayer for Orlando, prayer for whatever with its various hashtags and links. However, I think that we are called not only to pray for something but also against something else. Just as we pray for good, it is equally important to pray against evil.

In the Christian study on spiritual warfare, the whole premise is not built on fighting for something but rather on fighting against something – precisely, evil. (Ephesians chapter 6).

It is extremely important to pray for good – for people to follow that which is good, for people to follow God and obey him. At the same time it is also important to pray against evil, against evil doers in particular. It is especially critical when it comes to evildoers that have control or influence over many others.

In this light in recent times, I have prayed against specific people that are major influencers in the world today and are unapologetic perpetrators of evil.
Therefore, specific prayers can be prayed against the evil empire ISIS, against its leaders and beheaders in particular, against Syria president Bashar al-Assad, Hungarian financier George Soros that has for decades pushed his evil agenda on world powers, Planned Parenthood and its murder of millions of defenseless unborn under the guise of women’s health etc.

We can also pray for specific policies that are more evil in design even though it may originate from people that are not necessarily evil. And example of this class may be Vladimir Putin and his policy of global expansion by annexation.

Another category would be anyone who is in direct opposition to the Christian faith and message. For example, Indian president Narendra Modi and his clandestine overtures to persecute Christians and the related Hindu fascism in India, persecution of Christians in Communist North Korea and China and the Islamic Middle East.

The prayer for good is important, the prayer against evil is a necessary complement.

Knees

There are certain times in history that are more momentous than others. This is one of those times due to its political and moral implications.

Paul writes that ‘there is no authority except from God, and those which exist are established by God’.  (Romans 13:1)

Paul writes this in approximately AD 57. At that time, incredibly, the leader of the known world was Roman Emperor Nero – the ancient equivalent of Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the evil, brutal head of ISIS.

So I vote my conscience. My key question is: Can I vote for someone who is okay with the unapologetic murder of children?

At the Democratic National Convention, Ilyse Hogue, president of NARAL, publicly announced her abortion to widespread cheers.  Nancy Pelosi, former speaker of the House, said recently that Hillary Clinton is losing votes because of gun, gays and God, ‘clarifying’ that “God” refers to a woman’s right to choose. I am not sure what exactly she means by this. It could mean either that a woman choosing to murder is like playing God or that being pro-choice is being anti-God. Both options are horrendous. This is, unfortunately, straight out of the horse’s mouth.

I used to think that one of the most important long term effects of a president are his/her supreme court appointments – until Justice Kennedy went against the possible desires of his party and President Reagan, 27 years after his appointment.

God used King Cyrus, a Persian, to build His temple in Jerusalem for the Jews (Isaiah 44:28). It is akin to getting Cecile Richards to build orphanages. God can do anything he wants. He can get anyone, ANYONE, to do anything He wants – even a Hillary or a Trump or a Merkel or an Erdoğan or an al-Baghdadi or a Putin or a supreme court judge or whomever.

Regardless of who comes to power, God is still in control. A Christian’s main responsibilities to the government are twofold – to pay taxes (and contribute to civic improvement) (Romans 13:6-7) and to pray for the leaders and country (2 Chronicles 7:14). Unfortunately, even though we don’t have a choice in paying taxes, we do have a choice in praying for our leaders and for our nation. And, in spite of our complaining about the state of the country and world, our passion and earnestness in prayer is lacking and therefore, at the end of the day, the onus falls on us.

But I need to pray.

When I pray, I am able to access an infinite, all knowing, all powerful God who is bigger than anything and anyone.

I need to pray for the conversion of specific people, including leaders and judges.

I need to pray for leaders to have wisdom.

I need to pray that, above all, God’s name would be glorified. The God who created the universe and can bring people to power also knows to bring down anyone He wants. (As I live, says the Lord, every knee shall bow to MeAnd every tongue shall give praise to God.” Romans 14:11)

I just need to get down on my own knees and pray.

The American Dream Indeed

The founding fathers of America wanted a country that offers “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” And this phrase is the ultimate goal for millions of people who have migrated to America. But it is what it is – a Dream and a Pursuit. It is dream that one can never achieve and an endless unproductive pursuit. What am I this critical?
Let me ask. How many people wake up in the morning and look forward to going to work? How many people don’t mind the end of the weekend and the beginning of a week? This is NEVER the case. American life is about getting through the week and to the weekend. Once the weekend is done, the goal is to get through the week as soon and as unscathed as possible, so that we can enjoy the weekend. Everything is geared to help take you through the week as soon as possible, hence the existence of Monday and Thursday night football. But then the weekend slips by oh so quickly, and we are staring down the familiar start of another painful week. Why is it painful? The week is always painful. The week is always stressful. The week is always dreaded. Why is this? Why is work in America always so stressful? This is because the workplace is always understaffed and we are overworked. Every job that a person does is more than what one person can comfortably do. Of course, employers have their reasons – reasons that are perfectly valid. But at the end of the day the average American hates his/her job. Some jobs have more security than others. Those jobs require more education and more work including weekend work. A person working a less secure job is worried about that very issue.. that it is not secure.

America is the richest country in the world (as of today). Unbeknownst to its unsuspecting citizens, America continues to be the richest country at the expense of the Americans.