Tag Archives: usa

Why did the US death rate jump sharply in recent years? – First Sunday of Advent 2019, Part 1

2 Dec
Photo by Kyle Johnson on Unsplash

If you could say in one word what you want more of in life, what would that be?

What this question gets at is longing.  This Advent, we are talking about longing. 

Advent is a season of longing.  Ancient Christians created the season of Advent as a four week long preparatory time for the great celebration of Christmas.  Advent means “coming,” and it looks back to the first coming of the Messiah, when Jesus was born.  It also points forward to Jesus’ second coming.  As Jesus taught us, we need to be ready for his second coming.  There is a sense, then, in which Advent is a period focused on longing for Jesus to return, and so we would do well to evaluate our longings.  Are we longing for the right things?

I read an article this week in which the author asked the same question of her readers that I asked you: in one word, what do you want more of in your life?  This is just another way of asking, “What do long for?”  Nearly 800 people responded, and the results were fascinating.  I’m going to list the top 8.  What do you think nearly 800 people in our society said they want more of? 

  • 8 – Confidence
  • 7 – Fulfillment
  • 6 – Balance
  • 5 – Joy
  • 4 – Peace
  • 3 – Freedom
  • 2 – Money
  • 1 – Happiness

People have many longings.  This is no surprise.  What is alarming is that there seems to be a growing sense in our culture of longings going unfulfilled.

Another article I read talked about this.  The article studied the death rate in the USA from 1959 through 2017. The general trend: the death rate improved a great deal for several decades, particularly in the 1970s, then slowed down, pretty much leveled off and has recently reversed course after 2014, increasing dramatically since then.

The article reported sharp especially among those in mid-life, ages 25-64.  The report showed the trend to be true both genders, all races and ethnicities.  By age group, the highest relative jump in death rates between the years 2010 and 2017, a jump of 29 percent, was people age 25 to 34. What is going on?  The title of the article is “There’s something terribly wrong.” 

One person in the article said:

“Whether it’s economic, whether it’s stress, whether it’s deterioration of family, people are feeling worse about themselves and their futures, and that’s leading them to do things that are self-destructive and not promoting health.”[1]

This is alarming because, we are the richest country in the history of the world.  We’re not in a major war.  Our health care is amazing.  We have loads of connection through social media.  We are more educated than ever before.  We have so much opportunity.  Yet there is deep despair in so many in our culture, leading to self-destructive behavior.  What is going on?  Perhaps at the root is a epidemic of unfulfilled longing.

As I answered for myself the question above, “What do you want more of in life?” I’ll admit that “peace” and “money” were the first two words that came to my mind.  Let us consider this: How many of us thought of Jesus?  How many people are longing for Jesus? 

We might actually find that a bit odd.  “What do you mean, ‘longing for Jesus,’ Joel?” What I am referring to is the long-held Christian idea that in Jesus and Jesus alone is where we will find the answer to all our longings.  But is it true? Keep following the blog, as our next few post will look into that.

[1] https://www.washingtonpost.com/health/theres-something-terribly-wrong-americans-are-dying-young-at-alarming-rates/2019/11/25/d88b28ec-0d6a-11ea-8397-a955cd542d00_story.html

Why I’m talking about the election this Sunday

20 Oct

Image result for who should you vote for

This may be the most stupid preaching decision I’ve ever made.  This coming Sunday as we continue our series, Life in These United States, I’m talking about government.  And with only a few weeks left until our general election, I need to talk about politics.  My tag line for the sermon series has been “We’re talking about what everyone’s talking about.”  I have heard over the years, though, that we preachers need to keep politics out of the pulpit.  While I think that church should be the one place where people can talk about anything, there is certainly the feeling out there that we should not talk about politics.  But why?

For one thing, it is so controversial, and that is true within a church family.  Perhaps you go to a church that is politically uniform.  Faith Church is not.  If I talk about politics in a sermon, I face a high risk of offending someone.  So maybe I should just avoid it. I am not a fan of offending people.

Also, talking about politics might give some the impression that the church is in cahoots with the government.  And there is a feeling out there that the church should be neutral.  “Separation of Church and State,” is the cry.  No doubt, when the church has gotten involved in governmental affairs throughout history, it is pretty easy to see that it hasn’t gone so well.  Again, maybe I should avoid it.

But I can’t.

This might really be stupid, but I am going to talk about the election.  It seems to me that not only is most everyone already talking about it, but more importantly what they say is that they are very confused about it.  “Who should we vote for?” is the big question, and the answer is extremely unclear.  No matter what political party you align with, the chances are you aren’t happy about the candidate your party has nominated.  And that goes for the third parties too.  John Oliver recently remarked that this election is not a frustrating choice between the lesser of two evils, but a choice between the lesser of four evils!

Are you frustrated by this election?  What should a population do when they feel they have no good choices to vote for?  Do you feel like choices for president are being forced on you, and you don’t like the options?  Maybe you feel like this guy:

What are we to do?  Can the Bible be of any help?  The newest books in the Bible are nearly 2000 years old, and they were written in a time and place that did not include a national election for that country’s top leader, and those New Testament biblical writers were not living in a country that had a Christian majority.  No, civic life was quite different then.  Is it possible that we can learn principles from this old ancient book that might help us figure out what do to with this election?  I think so.

For starters, I would like to suggest that the question “Who should we vote for?” is the wrong beginning point.  Instead we should ask “How should we vote?”  Well, on a voting machine on November 8th at our polling place, of course!  Yes, obviously.  But I don’t mean “How?” in that logistical sense.  I mean “How?” in the sense of “What principles should we use when we vote?”  And when we start with that question, the Bible is an excellent guide.

Please join us at Faith Church on Sunday October 23, as we continue looking at life in these United States, talking about what everyone is talking about: the election!