Killing Our Children Painlessly

In 1996, Purdue Pharma introduced OxyContin as a painkilling drug that was both “safe and highly effective.” Drug reps insisted to family doctors that “OxyContin had no real risks–only benefits.”oxycontin In 2007, Purdue pleaded guilty to criminal charges that it “misled regulators, doctors, and patients about OxyContin’s addictive qualities. But by that point, hundreds of thousands of Americans were hooked.” These are the claims of a damning report published recently by The Week magazine (02/19/16, p. 13).

An epidemic is plaguing America–the abuse of opioids such as Vicodin, Percocet, and OxyContin. A record 47,000 Americans fatally overdosed last year. That’s more than the number who died in car crashes. “This epidemic isn’t being driven by illicit drugs, but by a surge in the use of prescription opioid painkillers.”

The way American society is reacting (or not reacting, to be more precise) is revealing. The “War on Drugs” of the last 30 years against crack, meth, and other illegal drugs resulted in literally millions going to prison. The muted response to the current painkiller abuse may be indicative of the fact that its abusers typically are from higher socioeconomic strata than most users of crack or meth.

The road to addiction to painkillers is very different from the trek taken for other forms of drug abuse. Student athletes or housewives are prescribed opioids to deal with sports injuries or ailments. “Addiction experts say doctors have fueled this crisis by recommending that patients with even minor ailments and aches take highly addictive opioids…..Physicians wrote 259 million opioid prescriptions in 2012, triple the number two decades ago…” That was enough to provide every adult in America with a bottle. This is an epidemic “that’s essentially caused by physicians.”

Pastors need to be aware of this situation. The next person you counsel who is struggling with drug addiction may not fit the typical stereotype. Rather than a homeless person off the street, he or she may be an honor student in your youth group.

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Some Disturbing Facts about the Lottery

Recently a $1 billion Powerball jackpot sent the nation into a frenzy. An article in The Week magazine entitled “Addicted to Lotteries” (02/12/16 p. 11) presents some sobering facts about our country’s “harmless” obsession.

People waited in 3-hour lines during the latest Powerball frenzy

People waited in 3-hour lines during the latest Powerball frenzy

  • Last year Americans spent $70 billion on lottery tickets. That’s more than what was spent in this country on video games, movie tickets, and sporting events combined.
  • Over half of all lottery tickets were purchased by just 5% of the population. This group “tend(s) to be poor and uneducated.” A Duke University study found that people with household incomes of less than $25,000 spend an average of $583 per year on the lottery (Upper income families spend about half that much). The educational differences are even more pronounced. High school dropouts spend around $700 while college graduates spend less than $200.
  • Lottery defenders generally claim that the money raised by state lotteries goes to support education. However, the states that do not have lotteries on average spend 10% more of their budgets on education than the states that do have lotteries.

“While the lotteries spend millions promoting their games as harmless entertainment and encouraging people to imagine themselves quitting their jobs and buying mansions–‘Hey, you never know,’ reads the New York lottery’s tagline–studies show that poorer players are 25% more likely than richer players to consider a ticket a genuine investment, and to vastly overestimate their chance of winning.”

The article concludes that lotteries are “just a tax in disguise” designed to exploit the poor. I have to agree.

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What Percentage of Americans Are Evangelical?

During this election cycle a great deal of attention has been given to the evangelical vote. And for good reason: evangelicals are believed to make up 20% of the voting electorate. However, counting the number of evangelicals has always been a challenging task.evangometer Some evangelicals attend mainline denominational churches, and not everyone attending evangelical churches hold to what are typically considered evangelical distinctives. And to make things even more complicated, some who hold to evangelical beliefs do not self-identify as evangelicals. Leith Anderson and Ed Stetzer, working with a group of evangelical leaders, came up with four belief statements that appear to identify evangelicals when used in a questionnaire. They report their findings in the latest issue of Christianity Today (April, 2016) in “A New Way to Define Evangelicals” (pp. 52-55; the online version can be found here).

The four belief statements are:

“The Bible is the highest authority for what I believe.”

“It is very important for me personally to encourage non-Christians to trust Jesus Christ as their Savior.”

“Jesus Christ’s death on the cross is the only sacrifice that could remove the penalty of my sin.”

“Only those who trust in Jesus Christ alone as their Savior receive God’s free gift of eternal life.”

Their findings? Anderson and Stetzer conclude that “29 percent of whites, 44 percent of African Americans, 30 percent of Hispanics, and 17 percent from other ethnicities have evangelical beliefs.” This means that, overall, about 30 percent of Americans hold to evangelical beliefs.

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