Ice Water and Ethics

A friend of mine challenged me to do the “ALS Ice Bucket Challenge” yesterday. According to the rules of this challenge, I am supposed to do one of two things in the next 24 hours: either I donate $100 to the ALS Foundation, or I donate $10 to the ALS Foundation and dump a bucket of ice water on my head.

I am doing neither.

Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis is a horrible degenerative disease that paralyzes its victims. I support the drive to find a cure. I would love for there to be a time in the near future when we look at ALS as we now look at measles and polio: largely a thing of the past. So if this disease is so horrible, and I am desirous of a cure, why am I not supporting the ALS foundation?

It’s simple: the ALS foundation is willing to kill people to find a cure.

Let me envision a fictional scenario for you. It’s ten years from now. My wife has been diagnosed with ALS. A man knocks on my door and tells me that he has the cure for ALS in his pocket. All I have to do to receive this cure from him is to go next door and kill a child. This is basically what the ALS foundation agreed to when they sent half a million dollars to a researcher who is using embryonic stem cells to attempt a cure. For those of you who aren’t familiar with the terminology, this researcher is using cells obtained from an aborted fetus (i.e. murdered human being). The ALS Foundation through their actions supports that. I can’t support that.

Is it right to kill other people so that I might live? Is it right to kill others so that my loved ones can live disease-free? Ethically, morally, and biblically, I must say no.

And so I will NOT be dumping ice water on my head, and I will NOT be sending money to the ALS foundation. I know many of my friends have done this challenge already, and this post is not meant to condemn anybody, but only to explain why I am not participating. My heart goes out to those affected by this disease, and I pray God allows us to find a cure, but I will not support those who murder the innocent.

Romans 14:5b “Each person must be fully convinced in his own mind.”

EDIT: Apparently I was incorrect in stating that the stem cells came from aborted fetuses, since they evidently come from the leftover embryos from in-vitro fertilization. This does no change the substance of my post, however, since I believe life begins at conception, and these embryos are human beings.

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Rest In Peace?

Rest in Peace. We know what these words mean. They mean that someone is no longer living, and we want them to be at peace after all the struggle of this world.

There’s only one problem with that: it’s not true.

Some people say that death is the end; that you simply cease to exist when you die. But I disagree.

Why do I disagree? Because I believe that the Bible is true. And according to the Bible, there are two groups of people: saved and unsaved. If you are trusting in Jesus Christ and His death on the cross to pay the penalty for your sin, then you are saved. If you are not, then you are unsaved.

For saved people it works like this: They are born, they live on earth, they die, and then they spend the rest of eternity in the presence of God in peace and joy.

For unsaved people it works like this: They are born, they live on earth, they die, and then they instantly enter a place of torment where they will stay until the Judgment at the end of the world at which point they will be thrown into the lake of fire to suffer forever.

You see, saved people are at peace, and they could be described as resting (when compared with the troubles of this world), but they aren’t asleep. Unsaved people are neither resting nor at peace.

Is this harsh? Yes. Sometimes the truth hurts, but we tell the truth. Why? Because it is what is best for the person that we love. And I love you. Whoever you are reading this, I love you. But not as much as God loves you. He provided a substitute for you. Someone who stood in your place so you would not have to go to that place of forever agony. And when you think about it, isn’t it just the craziest thing you’ve ever heard that there’s a way out of this problem, but some people don’t take the way out? MOST people won’t, according to Jesus Christ Himself.

This all hit me as I read messages people were posting about Robin Williams, messages of sadness, and hope that he will “rest in peace.” They even said “At least his suffering is over now.” But according to the Bible, if he did not trust in Christ while he was alive, then he’s suffering more right now than he ever did on earth. He thought he was ending his pain, but he only hastened the most unimaginable torment ever. That saddens me.

And all I can think about is this: how much time do we waste on stuff that isn’t important? And what is more important than knowing where you will spend forever? For those who have already died, their choice is set, but you, if you are reading this: there’s still time for you.

Don’t waste it.

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I used to read Scott Adams’ comic strip “Dilbert.”  I also read his books.  In one of them he wrote about people he called “obliviots.”  The word is a portmanteau of “oblivious” and “idiot.”  It is a way of describing someone who is oblivious to the fact that they are being inconsiderate of the people around them.  One example is someone who blocks the entire shopping aisle with their cart so nobody can get by.

Here’s an example from yesterday.  At my local grocery store there are six “Express self-checkout” stations.  These are stations for you to purchase less than 12 items.  And then there are four or five self-checkout stations with a conveyor belt so that people can self-checkout a cart full of stuff.   I pushed my cart (with more than 12 items) to the checkout, and saw two things:  1. All six express checkouts were open and available. 2. All but one of the non-express lanes were being used.

Here you can see stations 1-6 WERE empty, a woman just arrived at station 3, and the woman at station 4 is an employee cleaning it.

Here you can see stations 1-6 WERE empty, a woman just arrived at station 3, and the woman at station 4 is an employee cleaning it. The offender is wearing the grey soccer shirt. 

I pushed my cart towards the empty non-express lane, when a guy with three kids (looked to be between ages 9 and 14) jumped in ahead of me.  He had no cart.  As I watched, he allowed each of his kids to swipe their item (each item was smaller than a deck of cards…I couldn’t tell what they were). Then he messed around with his payment method and finally left.  Was it a huge inconvenience for me? Not really.  But it was a point in my day that perhaps God had put there to remind me to be patient with people.  I’m sure if I had a time machine and could go back to just before the process and freeze time, I could ask the guy, “Ok sir, you have two options here:  you could use any one of six express checkouts to pay for your 3-4 items, or you could utilize the non-express checkout, thereby making other people with more than 12 items wait for five minutes longer while you pay for your kids’ items.  What do you think?”  I’m sure he would say, “Well, the obvious choice is to use one of the express lanes.”

But I don’t have a time machine. And this guy learned nothing.  But I got to practice patience and understanding.  You see, we all have the potential to be obliviots.  Sometimes we just don’t think.  Sometimes we say or do things without thinking through the effect that we will have on others.  I know I have the potential to open my mouth and put my foot in many times a day.  And so I’m taking this as a reminder to  be considerate to others, to be loving, and to be understanding that we all make mistakes, because we’re human.

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Joke Etiquette

I like making people laugh.  I have been told (by my wife and others) that I am at my funniest with situational humor. This is something I can’t plan, it’s unpredictible.  This is where I say something funny in the moment that was not planned.

Obviously I can’t rely on funny situations to be around all the time, so sometimes I rely on telling jokes to make people laugh.  My favorite short joke is “Why don’t lobsters share?  Because they’re shellfish.”  I probably know over a thousand jokes, because I can remember most jokes after hearing them once.  They sit there in my memory waiting for something to remind me of the joke.  Mention an animal, and I probably know a joke about it.  Sports, etc.

All that being said, I dislike when I hear jokes being told wrong.  Sometimes people mess up the punchline.  But the worst thing you can do to a joke is to make it longer than necessary by using “filler.”  The longer the joke, the less funny it is. People frequently have the character in a joke doing something three times before the punchline.  Ask yourself: would it be funny if he only did it once?  Then don’t have it three times.

Here is an example of a long joke I found on the internet:

“Sir you have got to help!” said the tearful man at the door. “There is a family that I know very well that is in desperate need of money. The Father has been out of a job for over a year, they have five kids at home with barely a bit of food to eat. The worst part is, that they are about to kicked out of the house and they will be left on the streets without a roof over their heads!” The man concluded with one last heart wrenching sob. “Well,” said the man at the door, “that really is a sad story. Why don’t you come inside and we’ll talk about it a little more.” “So how much money is needed exactly?” asked the man when they were both seated. “Oh it’s really terrible”, said the man starting up again, “why just for the rent $3000 is needed by tomorrow otherwise they’ll be kicked out onto the streets.” “How do you know so much about this situation?” asked the man as he reached for his check book. “Well,” said the man breaking down once more “they are my tenants.”

Now I will tell the joke, removing all the extra, unnecessary parts.

Please help!” said the man at the door. “This family I know is very poor! They have no money and no food, and they’re about to be evicted from their house!” The homeowner said, “That’s horrible! Are they your relatives?” “No,” said the man. “I’m their landlord.”

Here’s another example: if your joke contains the words “….and without missing a beat…”  it’s too long.  Examine your jokes and break them down to the absolute minimum parts before you tell them.  Do those words you were going to put in there add anything to the joke?  No?  Then leave them out.  Your audience will thank you.

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Getting a Handle on Germs, or Vice Versa.

Hand WashingWhen I was in my 20’s I laughed at people who used a paper towel to open the bathroom door.  Then I went to nursing school and took microbiology.  I don’t laugh anymore. Now I AM the one holding the paper towel.  I’m not germophobic, I just have a healthy respect for germs and the damage they can do.

Coming from a nurse, here is how you should wash your hands:

  1. Turn on the faucet and get your hands wet.
  2. Get some soap and rub it all over your hands for about 20 seconds, working up a lather. Make sure to get in between your fingers and under your nails. Here’s a tip: singing “Happy Birthday” twice is about 20 seconds.
  3. At this point, you will be tempted to reach out and turn off the water, because of your public school education where you learned that wasting water is akin to beating baby seals.  Don’t do it.  Consciously remove your hands from the water, and reach for the towel/paper towels/air dryer.  If the air dryer has a button, hit it with your elbow.
  4. After your hands are totally dry (sometimes it takes two cycles of the dryer), then you can use the paper towels to turn off the water. Voila! Your hands are clean!

This brings up a problem I’ve noticed in the last several years: the lack of paper towels in some bathrooms.  Now, am I anti-hand dryer?  No.  Actually I really like the Xlerator hand dryer by Excel.  If you’ve ever used one of those, it feels like the dryer is forcibly removing the water from your skin at Mach 2.

The problem exists when there are no paper towels, and the bathroom door opens IN.  That means you could have been immaculate, washed your hands like a surgeon scrubbing in, and dried them off completely with the blow dryer, but the instant you touch that door handle, your hands are as dirty as if you hadn’t even washed at all, assuming someone else didn’t wash (and we know this happens).

My local library is trying to be as hygienic as possible: You go in the bathroom and the toilet flushes itself.  The faucet and soap dispensers are both motion activated.  The hand dryer is also motion activated.  And then you look at the door handle.

Let me give you an illustration.  Let’s say Jim is the first person to use the bathroom that day.  Let’s say good ole Jim doesn’t wash his hands, and gets his germs all over the handle.  Let’s say 50 people use the bathroom after him.  Now how many of those people have clean hands?  Zero.

What is the answer? If businesses are really serious about hand hygiene, they need to either make the doors open OUT, or provide some kind of entryway that requires no door, but still ensures privacy.  Movie theaters do this.  For now, I guess I’ll just keep grabbing some toilet paper to open the door, and throwing it on the floor near the door.

EDIT:  Evidently hand dryers are bad too. 

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For those of you who didn’t read my last post, go read it so you know what frame of mind I was in this weekend.

After the internet drama of the past few days, this morning I read the July 20th devotional in the devotional book I’ve been reading, “Strength For Today” by John MacArthur. Today’s devotional had a relevant passage, which was interesting, because it’s the passage for today’s date, not cherry-picked by me. I’m always amazed at how God gives me the message I need to hear exactly when I need to hear it.

Peter noted the reason for the world’s hostility to Christians when he wrote,

[Unbelievers] are surprised that you do not run with them into the same excess of dissipation, and they malign you” (1 Peter 4:4). Christians’ lives are a threat because they rebuke unbelievers’ sin and remind them of coming judgment.

Now I’m not making any claims about who is saved and who isn’t, but I find it interesting that this verse specifically addresses the issue of the attitude of unbelievers to sin. Reading the above verse in context, it says:

“…having pursued a course of sensuality, lusts, drunkenness, carousing, drinking parties and abominable idolatries. In all this, they are surprised that you do not run with them into the same excesses of dissipation, and they malign you; but they will give account to Him who is ready to judge the living and the dead.”

 So the passage basically says that unbelievers won’t like it when you, as a believer point out their sin.  It also says that they will be held accountable for their sin, but not to me.  They will answer to God for their choices.

And so I say that the biblical thing for husbands to do is this: stop looking at other women.  Stop ogling bikini-clad babes and women wearing low-cut blouses.  If someone tells you that there’s nothing wrong with looking at a woman in a lustful way when she isn’t your wife, then you can know that these are the people Peter was talking about in I Peter 4:4.  They don’t understand why you don’t enjoy sin like they do, and they will mock you and “malign” you (which means to speak about someone in a spitefully critical manner). As someone who has recently experienced this, I can tell you that taking a stand for what is right is not always the popular choice. But it is the right choice.

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Blogs and Lust

This is a long one. Buckle up.

There is a blog I used to frequent. I share a similar sense of humor with the author of the blog. He is a conservative (like me), he has a family (like me), and he is a Star Wars geek (like me). He is only a blogger part time. He has a day job. His job is dangerous, and I have the utmost respect for him for doing it. In the past several  years I have exchanged a few emails with him. I wouldn’t say we were “friends” but we were friendly acquaintances, especially given the fact that we never actually met in real life.

The only problem was that his blog contains frequent pictures of half-naked women (wearing bikinis, in suggestive poses, etc). For simplicity, I’m going to refer to these from now on as “lust posts” since the obvious intent of showing these photos is to incite lust in the viewer. He used to post one of these photos every now and then (I don’t know, a few per month, maybe). When reading his blog, I would quickly scroll past these photos so that I wouldn’t have those women in my mind.

Several months ago it seemed to me that the ratio of lust posts to non-lust posts had increased to where it seemed about every third post was a lust post. I decided to stop reading his blog as a result.

Yesterday I clicked on the bookmark to his blog (which I hadn’t done in a while) to see if anything had changed. The very first picture had the word “Naked” in the title and had a picture of a woman (fully clothed). Not encouraging. So I scrolled back through his recent blog posts. Four out of the previous seven days had a lust post. I decided that I had had enough.

With any other blog, I would have simply deleted the bookmark and forgot about the blog. But I had some history with this guy. I had been reading his blog for several years. I had communicated with him personally. And so I sent him an e-mail letting him know my concern and my problem, and telling him why I was no longer reading his blog. This is what I said:

You used to do police stories, funny stories, news stories, entertainment stories (Star Wars, etc) with the occasional hot babe thrown in the mix. For the past several months, your blog has turned into a regular pinup collection. Seriously, go back and count how many pictures you posted a year ago, and look at one of the past few months and compare numbers. I don’t know how your wife feels about this, but it really irritates my wife, and I don’t need to be tempting myself with looking at women who aren’t my wife, and that’s why I haven’t been frequenting your blog.

You may call me a prude, a Puritan, or what have you, but Jesus Christ is my Lord, and He said in Matthew chapter 5 verses 27-29, “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery’; but I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart. If your right eye makes you stumble, tear it out and throw it from you; for it is better for you to lose one of the parts of your body, than for your whole body to be thrown into hell.”

That seems pretty clear to me that if I am going to be faithful to my wife, I need to not frequent places where nudity and partial nudity are prominently displayed. Unfortunately your blog is now one of those places. And so I have removed your blog from my bookmarked page. Please let me know if you ever decide to go back to your former habits of posting news and entertainment stories without posting half-naked photos along with them.

I thought I had made my case pretty clearly. I thought I had been respectful and polite. But today I looked at his blog one last time, and I found that he responded by turning my private email into a blog post, printing most of the letter and stating how angry my email made him, and how I said he was probably going to hell. For the record, I never said he was going to hell. What I said was that Jesus said adultery isn’t just PHYSICAL. Adultery is MENTAL. Adultery is VISUAL. And then Jesus says (basically) that if there’s something in your life that is encouraging you to sin (in this case, to commit visual adultery), you should get rid of it.

And he asked his readers (of whom I used to be one) what they thought. Here are their thoughts about me, and my response to them:

1. “I do feel the readers comments are a reflection of his marriage and the demons he may be fighting.”
“Seriously it sounds like this guy has other issues if he thinks reading a PG rated blog is adultery.”
“It sounds like he has issues in his life beyond your blog.”

Am I fighting demons? Yes. Do I have “other issues”? Yes. Actually these readers understood my e-mail as I intended it: not as a condemnation of the blogger, but as a statement that I have a problem with lust: a problem that every man I know struggles with.

2. “That couple needs to learn how to live life. They need to sleep in, have a little Woo-Hoo or a lot and then go have donuts for breakfast! Better yet have the donuts in bed.”

For the record, my wife and I are very happy in our marriage, and she was glad that I sent him that e-mail, because it showed her that she is important to me, and I am trying to be faithful to her, and the vow that I made the day we got married. Am I sinless? No, but I am forgiven, and I am trying to sin less.

In addition to these, three readers assumed I was struggling with secret homosexual thoughts about the occasional pictures of half-naked men. Let me just say this in response to that: no.

Let’s do an exercise in perspectives. Let’s say you eat at a restaurant once a week. You’ve eaten at this restaurant pretty much every week for several years. Now let’s say that the quality of the food starts to decline. The food doesn’t taste good anymore. You go away for a few months, and return, only to find that the food has gotten even worse. If you like the owner, do you simply walk away, never to return? I wouldn’t. I would say, “Hey, just to let you know, I used to come here all the time, but something happened, and I wanted to let you know why I’m not coming back. Please let me know if you ever fix the problem, because I value our relationship.”

Now let’s say you are the owner. You have a patron that eats at your restaurant weekly. But then he disappears for a few months. He returns finally, and he tells you the message above. As a business owner, should you get angry? If you can’t take constructive criticism about your restaurant, people will start disappearing, and you won’t ever know why. If I were that business owner, I would want to know why.

In conclusion, he was hurt by my e-mail, but instead of emailing me privately, he made it public. And so I am responding publicly. I am truly sorry that he was angered by my message. It was not my intent to offend him.
I will be praying for him, because I truly believe that lust is evil (according to the Bible), and by posting what he does he is encouraging others to lust. This is not a good place to be. I will miss reading his posts. But not as much as I will enjoy the absence of added temptation.

PS: For the record, all these people who think watching porn isn’t affecting their relationship with their wife are deluding themselves.  Here is one website that discusses the negative overall effects of porn.  Here is an article from the Journal of the American Medical Association detailing the effects of pornography on the brain (it shrinks the brain).  Turns out Jesus knows what he’s talking about. Makes sense, Him being God.

EDIT:  In attempting to afford him the same courtesy he afforded me by not naming me in his blog post, I had decided to keep the other blogger anonymous, but he has stated on his blog that he does not appreciate the fact that my blog post does NOT name him, and so I am now naming him, in keeping with his wishes.  He goes by “Wyatt” and his blog post about me can be found here.  Again, I have nothing but respect for Wyatt, I simply disagree regarding the issue of lust.

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