“Rumors Of War”

“Rumors Of War”

Wednesday’s Column: Third’s Words

Gary Pollard

The war in Ukraine is tragic, with loss of life in the several thousands already. Families have been displaced. Untrained civilians fiercely resist invasion. NATO can’t make up its mind, leveling sanctions as though at war, but not declaring war formally. This – among other factors – is escalating an already volatile situation. A great many feel as though we’re at the brink of WWIII. 

Maybe we are. Humans tend to show their very worst or their very best in times of crisis. When the pandemic started, millions forgot their humanity. Fights broke out in grocery stores, people forgot what patience, selflessness, and compassion were, and hoarding was the name of the game. Besides all that – as if we needed another polarizing issue – families, friends, and neighbors bitterly fought about masks and vaccines and social distancing. 

But for many (most?) other people, it brought out their best. People checked on each other regularly. Personal feelings were put aside to accommodate the apprehension some felt. Resilience and benevolence was/is strong. The church was heavily invested in each others’ lives. 

War is a tragic part of the human experience. Some may be fought for good reasons, but war itself is never good. We all hope the conflict in Europe will be resolved soon and with minimal loss of life. It might not, though. So what will we do? 

  • Train the Brain – Determine to respond with levelheadedness and compassion, period. If it comes to war, we won’t forget our humanity. We will look out for others and act rationally. Our conditioned response will be, “How can I help other people?” 
  • Be Like Jesus – He didn’t exploit weakness to gain an advantage. He didn’t stockpile supplies to the detriment of others. He wasn’t concerned about maintaining his standard of living. He fed people, healed people, gave them counseling, and gave them hope. That will be our response, whatever the future holds. 
  • Be Cool – We might get scared, but it’ll never override our desire to look out for each other. We’ll demonstrate genuine faith in the creator by not acting like people who are controlled by fear. 

Those are easier said than done. But we can do them, and I’m confident that we will. If the threat never exceeds high fuel prices or inflation, we’ll have made the best of a bad situation. If the threat becomes war, we’ll make the best of a bad situation. Dark days make it that much easier to shine God’s light. So that’s what we’ll do! 

Слава Україні!

Panic Buying 

Panic Buying 

Friday’s Column: Brent’s Biblical Bytes

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Brent Pollard

Panic buying was in the news again following the Colonial Pipeline hack. People fearing a gasoline supply interruption bought up all the gasoline in many stations throughout the southeast and mid-Atlantic. You might also recall the panic buying of 2020 when the coronavirus pandemic inexplicably caused people to panic-buy toilet paper and paper towels. Why do people engage in this type of behavior? In a word, it is anxiety. Dr. Shahram Heshmat provides seven reasons people choose panic buying as the balm for uncertainty. I would like for us to consider those reasons in addition to the proper, Biblical response. 

 

  1. Emotions trump logic. People know they don’t need 100 rolls of toilet paper, but driven by fears of a possible shortage, their emotions convince them they would be “safer” buying enough to fill a shopping cart while it is available. Though we equate sobriety with abstention from intoxicants, it also highlights a watchful frame of mind. Paul counseled the brethren of Thessalonica to avoid spiritual stupor by remaining vigilant and sober (1 Thessalonians 5.6). Even if I know that there might be an upcoming shortage, my trust in God should prompt me to act rationally regarding the needs of others who likewise need to secure provisions for their own. Hence, all of us can get by with our typical toilet paper purchases.

 

  1. Fearful expectation. I anticipate the worst and become fearful before having a cause. Could it be that there will be a shortage of goods? Perhaps. If my compatriots and I hastily grab all of the items from a store’s shelf, then it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. Jesus told us to pray for our daily bread. Then, after reminding us of Providence, Jesus concluded this section of the Sermon on the Mount by saying: “So do not worry about tomorrow; for tomorrow will care for itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own” (Matthew 6.34 NASB1995). In other words, Jesus says to take things a day at a time. Tomorrow has its own set of concerns, and we can only deal with what is in front of us.

 

  1. & 4. The contagion of fear and herd mentality. Dr. Heshmat lists these as two of his seven reasons. The entwining of these ideas is such I will consider them together. Fear spreads like a virus. People sense fear in a group, believe there is justification for it, and follow the cues of others. God knew this about us when giving Moses instruction: “You shall not follow the masses in doing evil, nor shall you testify in a dispute so as to turn aside after a multitude in order to pervert justice” (Exodus 23.2 NASB1995). It doesn’t matter if “everyone is doing it” because we will give an accounting of ourselves before God (Romans 14.12). The incident of the Golden Calf illustrates how easy it is for us to get caught up in groupthink (cf. Exodus 32.1ff).

 

  1. & 6. Inability to deal with uncertainty and the desire to be in control. Once again, Dr. Heshmat deals with these separately, but I think they are related. Some people find it harder to deal with the unknown. Do you know someone who keeps watching the news or checking social media about a current event? Does it not seem to fuel their anxiety? Such a person likely keeps an eye open for which gas station has fuel or store has toilet paper. He convinces himself he is on top of things by swiftly grabbing up supply as it becomes available. But man is not in control due to the uncertainty of life (cf. James 4.13-15). There are things that we cannot know (Deuteronomy 29.29). We do best to trust the One Who will supply all our needs (Philippians 4.19).

 

  1. Misinformation. Dr. Heshmat explained how social media spread the misinformation about the toilet paper shortage. People in Japan thought there would be a toilet paper shortage because of what they had seen on social media. Given that we had a mad dash to buy toilet paper in the United States, it is apparent that the online rumors crossed the Pacific. The spread of false information is undoubtedly a hazard to having an interconnected world. It is interesting to note how Paul connects gossip (or being a busybody) to idleness. Paul tells Timothy that the church should not financially support young widows since their inactivity might encourage gossip (1 Timothy 5.11-15). Paul said that their undisciplined life led some in Thessalonica to act as busybodies (2 Thessalonians 3.11). In regards to such Thessalonians, Paul famously reminded that those unwilling to work should not eat (2 Thessalonians 3.10). Hence, if we enough time on our hands to entertain rumors, we may well be neglecting our Christian duty elsewhere.

 

Panic buying is a peculiar problem of modern man. However, it ultimately stems from anxiety, a commodity of which Christians are to be in short supply. Not only did Jesus tell us not to worry (Matthew 6.25ff), but Paul reminds us that prayer brings incomprehensible peace (Philippians 4.6-7). Let us avail ourselves of the precious promises of our Lord and cast our anxiety upon Him (1 Peter 5.7). 

 

Works Consulted 

Heshmat, Shahram. “7 Reasons for Panic-Buying Behavior.” Psychology Today, Sussex Publishers, 22 Mar. 2020, www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/science-choice/202003/7-reasons-panic-buying-behavior

 

FEAR NOT

FEAR NOT

Monday’s Column: Neal at the Cross

Neal at ATF 2020
Photo credit: Wayne Roberts

Neal Pollard

Fear not…

Military Threats.  Whether Al Qaida, the Taliban, Iranian nuclear weapon building, alliances between China, North Korea, and Russia, or armed forces spread too thin.

Natural Catastrophe.  Whether global warming, meteors crashing through the atmosphere, glacial melting, California sliding off into the ocean, or events like tornadoes, tsunamis, and hurricanes.

Economic Collapse.  Whether the breaking of Social Security, a major stock market crash, the mounting U.S. debt, recession, the real estate bubble bursting, bankruptcy, out of control inflation, or job losses to illegal immigrants.

Potential Persecution.  Whether the steadily rising antagonism against Christianity, overthrow by foreign oppressors, the mounting tide of immorality promoting sin, or the epidemic ignorance of the Bible in our land.

Health Problems.  Whether Coronavirus, cancer, heart disease, Alzheimer’s, ALS, AIDS, kidney failure, dementia, arthritis, blood clots, or liver disease.

Academic Decline.  Whether comparative test scores with children in other nations, a socially-charged curriculum agenda, the “dumbing down of America,” the de-emphasis of classroom competition, or outcome-based education programs.

Rather, “Fear God” (Ecc. 5:7; 1 Pet. 2:17).       “Do not fear those who kill the body but are unable to kill the soul; but rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell” (Matt. 10:28).  “You shall follow the Lord your God and fear Him” (Deut. 13:4). “The secret of the Lord is for those who fear Him” (Psalm 25:14).  “He will fulfill the desire of those who fear Him;  He will also hear their cry and will save them.  The Lord keeps all who love Him,  but all the wicked He will destroy” (Psalm 145:19-20).  “And His mercy is upon generation after generation toward those who fear Him” (Luke 1:50).  “I most certainly understand now that God is not one to show partiality, but in every nation the man who fears Him and does what is right is welcome to Him” (Acts 10:34-35).

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