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.

Cross posted at www.theologyforthechurch.com

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.

Cross posted at www.theologyforthechurch.com

Thumbs Up for “Risen”–Way, Way Up

Most people know Joseph Fiennes for playing William Shakespeare in Shakespeare in LoveLately he has been playing significant religious characters.Risen_2016_poster In 2003, Fiennes portrayed Martin Luther in Luther, and he will play Eric Liddell in The Last Race, which is scheduled for release later in 2016. The Last Race is a sequel of sorts to Chariots of Fire, and tells the story of Liddell’s missionary service in China and his eventual martyrdom.

In Risen, Fiennes plays the part of Clavius, a military tribune who serves in the Roman army in Judea during the days of Pontius Pilate. Pilate has charged him with the task of finding the body of Jesus of Nazareth, which has disappeared three days after his crucifixion. Fiennes portrays the hardbitten soldier with understated determination, which makes his performance very effective.

Hollywood finally realizes that the market for faith-based films is a lucrative vein to be mined. A least half of the previews shown before Risen have explicitly Christian themes. Generally the choices have been either theologically aberrant or even abhorrent (The Last Temptation of Christ, or The DaVinci Code as examples) or simply cheesy (God’s Not Dead comes to mind). With Risen, Hollywood gets it right. The sets, the acting, the production values are all top-notch. The story is original and entertaining. Most importantly, Risen faithfully tells the gospel message. This is a great Easter movie. Thumbs up for Risen–way, way up.