Saturday, January 22, 2011

Birth Rate Swings – An Amazing Video

My regular day job involves the analysis of lots of data. I love data. I know you can spin a great tale with amazing clarity - using data. You can also lie with it (not something I recommend).

I came across an absolutely amazing visual the other day – a time-lapse look at the birth rate and average life-span of the countries of the world. You can see this graphic at this link. You can hit the “Play” button and watch the entire fifty years before your eyes. Or, better, you can grab the slider at the bottom and move it around at will.

The graph plots three things – the average life expectancy in years of each nation (x-axis), the average number of births per woman for the year in question (y-axis), and the relative population of the nation (shown as the size of the bubble). Note that you can pause play at any point and hover over any bubble to see the nation name.

Here are some interesting things to note:

• The number of births per woman in China drops remarkably – from around six in 1966, to less than two by 1996. Think about that – the family culture in China changed that dramatically in a mere thirty years, primarily because of government mandates to plan and abort.

• Drag the slider from 1966 through 1977 and then on to 1990. Watch the little blue circle which represents Cambodia – this country goes from an average life expectancy of 45 down to a mere 33 by 1977 (remember, that’s the average at that time!) and then back up to 55. What happened during that time? The rise of the Khmer Rouge under Pol Pot, and the Cambodian-Vietnamese war.

• A similar thing happens to the little blue circle representing Rwanda – start the slider at 1983, where the average life expectancy is 47, then drag it to 1993, where the average person only lived to be 26! The speed of that little circle moving to the left is dramatic. During the genocide in Rwanda, it’s estimated that 800,000 people were murdered in under 100 days.

• Drag the entire length of the graph and watch the big orange circle (India) and the big blue circle (China) and how much bigger they get over the 50 year span. China doubles her population during this time frame, and India triples hers.

• Lest we forget things going on in our own country (the largest pink circle), my wife pointed out to me the dramatic decrease in births per woman in the United States – from 3.65 in 1960 to just 2.1 today. Drag the slider carefully around the year 1973 – what happened around that time frame? It was the passage of Roe vs. Wade in this nation.

The dramatic reduction in birth rate over this fifty year span has not “fixed” anything in our culture. Things continue to get worse. As I pointed out in my previous post, population control is not what God is about. The more people who are born with the chance to worship the Lord, the more potential for praise and glory are able to be given to Him. This graph is a sad testament to man’s attempt to “fix” what he thinks is broken with this world. But population isn’t the problem – sin is the problem. And the answer is not trees, birth control or family planning. The answer is Jesus Christ.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Which Is More Important – People, Animals, or the Earth?

Man’s desire to worship something is seen throughout history. It would be a rare thing to find a period of history that was devoid of man putting his faith and desires into something – the God of the Bible, a carved god idol, the earth, other people, animals, man himself, etc. The desire to set something up as a higher authority must be innate in mankind.

The current prevailing philosophy of our culture is to downplay the Biblical pattern and place the good of “the earth” above all else. The roots of environmentalism go back many years, but the trend seems to gain followers every year. Al Gore and the concept of global warming may be damaged goods, but our society has not replaced the radical environmental movement with anything much different than what has gone before. Indeed, whether the fear is global warming, or the coming of a new Ice Age, the environmentalist cry is still the same – mankind is messing up the earth, and should be stopped.

I was very disheartened to read the following editorial in our local paper last week. I think it is indicative of a spirit of misunderstanding that troubles our nation:

Dear God, when you told us to “be fruitful and multiply”, did you intend for this multiplying to go on, unchecked, forever?
Perhaps it’s time for new orders, like “Stop! Enough with the multiplying! I gave you brains to figure out family planning. By now you should have had the sense to use it.

“You humans are spoiling my beautiful planet. You’re using up all the resources and filling the land and seas with garbage. Your wars wreak havoc on everyone and everything in their paths. Your greed and your sheer numbers are pushing my other creatures into extinction. Enough, already!

“You could have limited your numbers humanely, but you chose not to. Now I’m turning this over to Mother Nature, who will reduce your numbers the old-fashioned way – through war, pestilence, famine and disease.”

We have seen a lot of wars, famine and disease lately, along with earthquakes, floods and tornados. The threat seemed a little light on the pestilence, but now, here come the bedbugs. (The Fort Collins Coloradoan, January 12, 2011)
All of this makes me want to ask the writer a few questions:

1) God told us to “Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky and over every living creature that moves on the ground.” (Genesis 1:28) He has given us no instructions to do otherwise (in fact, He appears to counsel against “family planning” in the Bible – Genesis 38:8-10). So, what makes the writer think that God now has new orders to give? Who decides when it is “time for new orders”?

2) “You humans are spoiling my beautiful planet.” To me, using natural resources to make goods and to improve our living state is exactly God’s design. What does the writer mean by “spoiling”, and by what authority do we choose “spoiling” above “stewardship”? Is drilling for oil inherently “bad” when the result of energy exploration is fuel to keep people warm and the ability to move great distances – in minutes or hours, on only a few gallons of gasoline? If, instead, the resources were to stay in the ground forever, and man decided to live in cold caves, eating uncooked vegetables – is that better for everyone? Is that what we really want?

3) The author of the editorial seems to feel that too many people are getting in the way of some greater good – the common myth of population explosion. So, whose children does the writer propose to eliminate? Mine? The children of the person reading this article? Their own? Where would they start? Is human life really that cheap? So cheap that they would place it below the worth of creatures and the environment?

To truly answer the question about what is more important, we have to realize that someone must have authority over the decision. Mankind cannot and will not ever agree on the hierarchy of worth between man, animals, and the earth. Is the ultimate authority going to be me, my congressman, or the President?

For me, the only answer to this question is that there is one, and only one, ultimate authority – God – and His words on this question are the only ones that matter. Mankind may try to argue that someone else has the authority. For the Christian, the answer must be God. And if we choose an authority – God – we must endeavor to find out what He thinks about the value of human life versus the value of animal life or the environment.

1) God set up man to be above all creation - Genesis 1:26, Genesis 9:2 and Psalm 8:5-8 make it clear that man is above the earth, and only a little lower than the angels. If God placed us over the earth, then I have faith that He gave us ample resources to survive until He decides to send His Son back for us. He even left many “closed-loop systems” in place to compensate for our resource use – systems which are self-sustaining, such as the conversion of carbon dioxide into oxygen by trees and algae, and the obvious observation that trees and plants can spring up and grow anew from where they have been harvested. Scientists continue to “discover” and marvel at how resilient and self-repairing our ecosystem proves to be. They should – God made it that way.

2) Preserving the earth is not the ultimate goal of God - Ultimately, the earth will be destroyed. 2 Peter 3:10-11 says, “But the day of the Lord will come like a thief. The heavens will disappear with a roar; the elements will be destroyed by fire, and the earth and everything done in it will be laid bare. Since everything will be destroyed in this way, what kind of people ought you to be? You ought to live holy and godly lives”. God has not intended for the earth to survive in some model, pristine way for all eternity. He has something better coming. He intends to destroy by fire all of these resources that our society holds so dear. The fact that He will destroy the earth, but take His people to live with Him for eternity, is clear evidence of God’s priorities. We do not abuse or show poor stewardship of this planet, but we keep it in perspective to God’s eternal plan.

3) The purpose of man is to honor GodRevelation 4:11 says, “You are worthy, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power, for you created all things, and by your will they were created and have their being.” See also Psalm 86 and Psalm 16:5-11. So, it stands to reason that having more people on earth brings more opportunity to glorify God. Conversely, limiting the number of children born into this world is simply a way of removing glory from our God. That is a hard concept to swallow in today’s culture. But God told us to “fill the earth and subdue it”. He has not yet told us to do any differently. Why would we presume to know better?

The increasing population of the world is not the cause of death, destruction, famine or pestilence as our editorial author suggests. The cause is sin. God has provided us with resources to use for His glory. Bringing glory to God is the one, ultimate goal which overwhelms everything else. I wonder – would our culture like to see that concept printed in our local editorial section? We need to pray for a world that is still trying to function apart from God. Without Him, all we would have left is people, animals and the planet. Hmmm….


If you want to read more about how environmentalism has replaced God in our culture, please visit my Radical Environmentalism series.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Communion Meditation – “My Son, My Son”

The relationship between fathers and sons is very special. I pray every day for the safety and well-being of my own son, and I think I would be lost without him. I know most fathers can relate to this very feeling.

In Genesis 22, we see Abraham being tested by God. God tells Abraham in verse 2, “Take your son, your only son, Isaac, whom you love, and go to the region of Moriah. Sacrifice him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains I will tell you about.” And Abraham obeyed God, even though he had been made to wait until he was a hundred years old to have a son. Because Abraham was faithful, the story has a good ending. As Abraham raised the knife to slay Isaac, the angel of the Lord called out to him in verse 12 and said, “Do not lay a hand on the boy…Do not do anything to him. Now I know that you fear God, because you have not withheld from me your son, your only son.”

King David had many sons. His third-born was Absalom, and while Absalom made some mistakes, it is clear that David loved him deeply. Even though David had demanded protection for his son, Absalom was killed by the commander of David’s army. And when David heard the news, we see his heart-rending reaction in 2 Samuel 18:33. It says, ‘The king was shaken. He went up to the room over the gateway and wept. As he went, he said: “O my son Absalom! My son, my son Absalom! If only I had died instead of you—O Absalom, my son, my son!”’

Stories of a close son, or of an only son are abundant in the Bible. Jeremiah 6:26 says, “Put on sackcloth, my people, and roll in ashes; mourn with bitter wailing as for an only son, for suddenly the destroyer will come upon us.” Amos 8:10 tells us, “I will turn your religious festivals into mourning and all your singing into weeping. I will make all of you wear sackcloth and shave your heads. I will make that time like mourning for an only son and the end of it like a bitter day.” And we even see Jesus involved in the story of an only son in Luke 7:11-13 – “Soon afterward, Jesus went to a town called Nain, and his disciples and a large crowd went along with him. As he approached the town gate, a dead person was being carried out—the only son of his mother, and she was a widow. And a large crowd from the town was with her. When the Lord saw her, his heart went out to her and he said, “Don’t cry.””

Losing a son is a heart-breaking experience for a father. It is perhaps the greatest sacrifice that a father can make, as history continually shows. And that is why we come together weekly to think on these things and we turn our thoughts to our Heavenly Father, who is Almighty and All-Powerful…and we ponder these words:

John 3:16 - “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”

And from 1 John 4:9-10 – “This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.”

And so, we see that though God stayed the hand of Abraham and prevented him from taking the life of his son, Isaac, He did not stop the events that led to the death of his own Son. And we remember.