“Nomophobia” 

“Nomophobia” 

Monday’s Column: Neal at the Cross

pollard

Neal Pollard

That’s not a typo for another popularly-used term.  It’s actually a “thing,” at least according to a 2010 study by the UK Post Office.  It is short for “no-mobile-phone phobia” (Tim Elmore, psychologytoday.com). There’s even a website called nomophobia.com, and they identify “the four fears of Nomophobia”—broken, lost, stolen, or useless smartphones. While that site operates “tongue in cheek,” there are a bevy of experts more than ready to talk about how this is an epidemic impacting especially youth in our culture.  University of Connecticut School of Medicine’s Dr. David Greenfield has done much work in this study. He points to the problem of a dysregulation of dopamine, “meaning that it motivates people to do things they think will be rewarded for doing” (clever, cutting, or flamboyant Tweets, posts, pics, etc.) and that it can foster people’s addiction to the internet and technology (Madeline Stone, businessinsider.com). Greenfield adds, “That feeling you’re going to miss something if you’re not constantly checking is an illusion — most parts of our lives are not relevant to our smartphones. What happens on our devices is not reflective of what happens in real life” (ibid.).  There are even digital detox programs, in the United States as well as other countries around the world.  Psychiatrist Dale Archer gives this advice, “Stop texting while you’re driving. Don’t take it into the bathroom with you. Have a rule not to use your phone when you’re with your friends. If you’re on a date, make a rule that you’ll both check your phone for a maximum of 5 minutes every 90 minutes. It’s all about setting simple rules that you can follow” (ibid.).

Amateur psychiatrists and specialists everywhere can quickly diagnose this condition in their spouses and significant others, their children, and their friends, but they may be myopic to their own inordinate practice (see every airport, doctor’s office, restaurant, etc.).  Addiction to, or at least habitual abuse of, smartphones and similar technology is simply the latest and a more obvious example of a long-standing human tendency.  Paul told Corinth, “All things are lawful for me, but not all things are profitable. All things are lawful for me, but I will not be mastered by anything” (1 Cor. 6:12). In context, Paul is beginning a discussion of the sin of fornication after having talked about Corinth’s generally sinful past from which they had been forgiven.  Paul’s desire was not to be “mastered” (ruled, reigned over, Louw 37.48) by anything.  He later writes about the self-mastery and discipline necessary to live the Christian life (1 Cor. 9:24-27).

Cell phones are just one possible impediment to this.  There are so many other possibilities we must keep aware of, things which can derail us from our purpose and focus in this life.  So many of them are fine in balance and moderation, but we can allow them to consume and even overtake us.  A fear of being without those things is only one of the attending problems.  Being ruled by anything or anyone other than Christ is the overriding concern.  We are all served well by looking carefully at the things in our lives and make sure we have no master other than Christ.

“WINNING THE LOTTERY”

“WINNING THE LOTTERY”

Neal Pollard

One of the most recent lottery winners, Jesus Davila, Jr., has an interesting backstory.  He once spent 12 years behind bars for the manufacturing and selling of cocaine, a felony.  This week, he claimed $127 million after taxes.  Sounds like a rags to riches kind of story, doesn’t it?  It is interesting, and not a little sad, to read about some past winners of the lottery:

  • Ibi Roncaioli was murdered by her husband after giving $2 million of her $5 million dollar prize to a secret child she’d had with another man (businessinsider.com).
  • Evelyn Adams won twice, in 1985 and 1986, winning a total of $5.4 million. She gambled it away in Atlantic City and lives in a trailer park today (ibid.).
  • Willie Hurt won $3.1 million in 1989, but spent it all on a horrible crack addiction, divorced his wife, lost custody of his children, and was charged with attempted murder (ibid.).
  • Victoria Zell won $11 million in 2001, but went to prison convicted of a drug and alcohol-induced car collision that killed one and paralyzed another (theatlantic.com).
  • Abraham Shakespeare won $31 million in 2006. He disappeared in 2009, after having spent most of his fortune. He was found under a concrete slab in 2010, a woman accused of fleecing him for nearly $2 million charged with his murder (ibid.).
  • Jack Whittaker, already wealthy when he won $314 million in 2002, suffered too many calamities to mention here, but they include the death of his granddaughter and daughter and being sued for writing bounced checks to casinos. He was quoted as saying, “I wish I’d torn that ticket up” (ibid.).
  • Bud Post won $16.2 million, but squandered it.  His brother was arrested for hiring a hit man to try and kill him. He died of respiratory failure in 2006, living on $450 a month and food stamps. He once said, “I wish it never happened. It was totally a nightmare” (cleveland.com).
  • Jeffrey Dampier won $20 million in 1996. In 2005, he was kidnapped, robbed and murdered by his sister-in-law and her boyfriend (ibid.).

To say there are mountains of additional, equally pitiful stories is to understate the matter.  Certainly, not every one who wins the lottery winds up on skid row or in the morgue because of it.  Yet, neither is it the panacea one might believe it to be.  How many others, who can ill afford to play, squander money on a regular basis in the hopes of striking it rich?  The overwhelming majority will never achieve that, but even many that do wind up worse than before they won.

In the ever-elusive search for happiness and satisfaction, mankind will come up empty when looking to material things for the answer.  Jesus taught that it’s a hollow pursuit (Mat. 6:19).  Paul says not “to fix their hope on the uncertainty of riches, but on God, who richly supplies us with all things to enjoy” (1 Tim. 6:17).  Jesus warned that your life does not consist of your possessions, even if you have an abundance of them (Lk. 12:15).  The good news is that there is a true treasure, one that never disappoints, that never depletes, and will never go away.  Peter calls it “an inheritance which is imperishable and undefiled and will not fade away, reserved in heaven for you…” (1 Pet. 1:4).  Strive to “win” that!

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“Please Let My Mom Stop Smoking”

“Please Let My Mom Stop Smoking”


Neal Pollard

It was written on the back of a recent attendance card by one who seems to be pretty young–less than ten years old.  I did not recognize the child’s name, so I would guess it to be a visitor.  Yet, the plaintive cry pulls at my heartstrings.

Ironically, another visitor (a grown man) several weeks ago took great issue with the idea that smoking is sinful.  Apparently, I had talked about how harmful the use of tobacco is to the body and he did not appreciate it.  We discussed the matter, and using some other substances which the Bible does not specifically condemn as comparisons–methamphetamines, heroine, and cocaine–agreed that lacking a specific “thou shalt not” statement does not make the use of a substance okay. With the body of evidence regarding the carcinogenic properties of tobacco and the known associated health problems connected to its use, one would stand on thin ice and shaky ground to defend the use of tobacco.

But, where does the Bible say that smoking cigarettes is a sin?  How does one come to that conclusion?  What principles are there to consider?

  • What about stewardship?  1 in 13 people in the U.S. will develop lung cancer in their lifetime, but a 2006 European study revealed that 0.2% of men and 0.4% of women who never smoked will develop it. That same, latter study shows that 24.4% of men and 18.5% of women who smoke 5 or more cigarettes per day will develop it (for more info, see http://jnci.oxfordjournals.org and http://aje.oxfordjournals.org). That is an extremely elevated risk.  Additionally, few, if any, have argued that cigarettes or smokeless tobacco are essential (like, say, food) to the body.  Thus, to spend money–often money one does not have–on a substance that actually elevates the risk of harm to oneself is reckless, poor stewardship.
  • What about selfishness?  Given studies like the one above, and there are multiplied many more, a tobacco user does so selfishly.  To knowingly engage in something that could shorten or impair one’s life is to puts self above others.  It also often places others in harm’s way who have to endure “second-hand smoke.” Jesus’ “Golden Rule” seems apt consideration in this regard (Lk. 6:31; cf. Ph. 2:3-4).
  • What about sway? What Paul says about meat could equally apply to smoking (cf. 1 Co. 8:13). Why make my brother stumble? Especially when such stumbling brings ramifications to us, too (Mat. 18:7). Our lives should exemplify Christ, leading people to a better way of living on this earth.

Who knows exactly why this young child wanted us praying for mom to quit smoking? But this little one’s concern was palpable.  May we share concern over any habit, substance, or practice so potentially damaging to ourselves and those close to us.

The Vicious Cycle Of Pornography

The Vicious Cycle Of Pornography

Neal Pollard

Dr. Les Parrott III, in the book Helping the Struggling Adolescent, discusses the four-step cycle of pornography addiction. It is (1) preoccupation (with thoughts and a search for sexual material), (2) ritualization (the specific, immoral routine), (3) compulsive sexual behavior (the culminating act), and (4) despair (utter hopelessness or powerless about one’s behavior).  It is not just adolescents, but also teenagers, young adults, and the middle-aged who are caught in this vicious cycle.

Sin is described as a powerful, but deadly, attraction (Js. 1:13-15). It is described as an entanglement that can overcome one (2 Pet. 2:20).  Sin is destructive, though it promises life and pleasure (cf. Ecc. 9:18; 2 Pt. 2:19).  Pornography is one of the devil’s sharpest tools, slashing and cutting hearts, lives, marriages, families, and other relationships.  It destroys trust, can actually hurt natural, healthy desires, desensitizes the user, and alters how the user views other people.  Many experts say it leads some to act out on desires kindled by feeding the addiction.

The thing about Parrott’s observation is that the hunger so deeply felt by one addicted to pornography is ultimately followed by the acidic reflux of remorse.  However, the pain of remorse is forgotten the next time the hunger pangs are felt.  Each gluttonous indulgence in dark desires risks internal and external trouble like that already mentioned.

Like any other addiction, to food, tobacco, alcohol, drugs, etc., success comes in breaking the cycle.  That means changing habits, retraining thinking, removing temptation, and clinging more closely to one’s relationship with God.  He will help those who humbly and honestly come to Him for help.  Anyone who has struggled with an addiction knows that the low that follows quenching it is lower than the euphoria that precedes it or occurs during it.  Sin simply cannot fulfill.  It can deceive, but it hollows out and leaves a wake of harm and destruction.  True satisfaction is built only by channeling our hunger and thirst for that which is righteous (Mat. 5:6).  If you are struggling with this (or any) addiction, break the cycle!