What Is Happening to Our Military?

The highest echelon of the U.S. military is becoming dysfunctional. 

There are too many admirals and generals for the size of the current U.S. military. It now boasts three times the number of four-star admirals and generals than we had during World War II—when the country was in an existential war for survival and when, by 1945, our active military personnel was almost nine times larger than the current armed forces. 

Somehow a gradual drift in the agendas of our military leadership has resulted in too many various emphases on domestic cultural, social, and political issues. And naturally, as a result, there is less attention given to winning wars and leveraging such victories to our nation’s strategic advantage.

The consequences of these failures are downright scary for a world superpower upon which millions at home and billions worldwide depend. 

There are too many concurrent Pentagon crises. Any one of them would be dangerous to our national security. Together they imperil our very freedoms and security. 

Reform? 

What is to be done? The Uniform Code of Military Justice must be enforced, and not selectively applied on the basis of rank: officers below the rank of general and admiral now face severe penalties for disparaging in personal terms the current administration, while one stars and above are given de facto exemptions for comments about the previous administration. If the code is not considered law but merely a recommendation, then it should be scrapped. 

The Department of Defense Office of Inspector General and the inspector generals of the various branches of the military must enforce existing laws that carefully define the limits of the Joint Chiefs of Staff activity. And they must punish those officers who violate such statues to interrupt the legal chain of command. 

There must be a cooling off period to prevent retiring military officers from rotating onto the boards and lobbying teams of corporate defense contractors, with the presumption that their knowledge of the operation of the Pentagon can be monetized to the advantage of particular corporations. Five years seems a reasonable period in which our top brass should refrain from joining firms that are seeking lucrative contracts from the Pentagon. 

Any former high-ranking retired officer who is paid to provide military commentary on news channels should not enjoy security clearances. The practice is currently much abused. A good example was the case of retired General James Clapper. For months, he went on television, with presumptions of superior wisdom, supposedly based on his access to confidential intelligence, and flat out deceived the American people about the so-called Russian collusion hoax and the supposed treasonous nature of the president.  

We are currently witnessing several scandals in the Department of Justice, the IRS, the CIA, and the FBI by careerist, unelected employees. But far more chilling is the crisis in the U.S. military upon which we all must depend. Its revered history and accomplishment must somehow remain a source of pride and inspiration to guide all of us in these frightening times ahead. 

These types of politicization and violation of a variety of laws do come at a price, either in distracting the military command from its primary mission of defeating the enemy and securing victory in American conflicts or contextualizing such failure through embrace of social activism. 

Since the Korean War, and with the exception of the first Gulf War, the military’s record has not been especially stellar, given a chronic inability to achieve a military victory in a cost-benefit sense acceptable to the American people: optional interventions in Lebanon, Somalia, and Libya, the defeat in and retreat from the Afghanistan war, and strategic stalemate and withdrawal from Iraq. 

Many of these setbacks were due to political loss of will, but the military might have prevented such fickle and fluid civilian policies had it been able to present a strategy for victory, one that justified to the American people the resulting costs in blood and treasure. 

The above pessimistic appraisal is not mine nor conservatives. It is now likely the consensus of our enemies from Afghanistan to Russia to Iran and other parts of the Middle East to North Korea. Our enemies hope that the once most powerful military in the history of civilization is going through a sort of people’s liberation army internal revolution, one in which ideological purity, not battlefield competence, is deemed the better measurement of today’s high-ranking officer corps. 

How strange that in the midst of a humiliating defeat and withdrawal from Afghanistan our military still assured us that culturally sensitive food was awaiting refugees upon landing in the United States—a group, we were told, flown out with acceptable gender ratios and unvaccinated, but shepherded by soldiers who will shortly be discharged if they likewise remain unvaccinated. 

V. Hanson

The Greatest Need for the Gospel Is Not Where You Think

Think mission, and imagine a map of the world. Where are the spiritually neediest places right now? All those unreached people-groups, especially those in India and China? The Muslim world? The many other countries where to be a follower of Jesus is to live in constant danger of being arrested, attacked, or even killed?

Those needs and dangers are very real, but they are not the whole story. Here are a few surprising facts:

  • China and India, who each have just under twice the population of Europe, have at least five times as many evangelical Christians as Europe.
  • One of the fastest growing churches in the world is the church in Iran, a Muslim country where the persecution of Christians continues to be a frightening reality.
  • Nigeria alone, with 28% of the population of Europe, has around four times as many evangelical Christians as Europe.

Am I saying that China, India, Iran and Nigeria don’t need the gospel? Not at all! They do, but Europe needs the gospel too; maybe more than is sometimes reflected in our missionary vision, prayers and involvement.

The current spiritual situation in Europe

How do we measure Europe’s current spiritual situation? Here are three ways we can:

What percentage of Europe’s 750 million people are real Christians?

The statistics that we have, based mainly on church affiliation, suggest that around 2.5% of people in Europe are evangelical Christians, but taking into account nominal evangelicals, 2% would probably be more realistic. That cold statistic represents real people: 98 out of every 100 people in Europe are not evangelical Christians. It’s perfectly possible, of course, that some people who don’t identify as evangelicals may be true Christians, but how many people like that do you know?

How well off is Europe in terms of the number of faithful churches?

For a church to be considered faithful, it would need to be clear on the Bible as God’s Word, on the fundamental teachings of the Christian faith, and especially, on the message of the gospel.

In most European countries you might have to go quite a long way to find a faithful church; I’ve lived in several different areas of Spain and it’s not uncommon to have to travel an hour or so to get to the nearest evangelical church. I think the situation would be similar in most other European countries.

How many more gospel workers are needed in Europe and how many are coming through?

Europe needs many thousands more evangelists, ‘disciplers’, church planters and pastors. We’re thankful for those we see coming through, but so many more are needed.

My wife and I went to Spain because we realised that mainland Europe was a neglected mission field. Why? I think there are two main reasons: firstly, Europe is religious and it already has plenty of ‘Christianity’; and secondly, Europe is relatively rich, and somehow the perception is that poorer countries need the gospel more than richer countries. Of course, we know that’s nonsense; no religion has ever saved anyone, even if it had a Christian label, and the rich need the gospel just as much as the poor.

When we look at Europe through the lens of the gospel, we realise that most of its people are spiritually lost, that there aren’t that many faithful churches in most of the continent and that it desperately needs an ‘army’ of new gospel workers.

What are the main challenges in Europe today?

I will highlight four challenges.

Gospel-less churches

I mean churches that don’t really believe what the Bible teaches or that anyone needs to be saved; churches that are doing little more than keeping alive a particular tradition, or desperately trying to keep up with our rapidly changing world.

Gospel-less churches are not harmless: they misrepresent Christianity, they lure millions into a false sense of security and they lead millions to reject what they think Christianity is, but in reality, isn’t.

Islam

Islam is growing fast in Europe, whether that’s through immigration, through many Muslims having big families or through people converting to Islam. We can find it very challenging to share the good news about Jesus with Muslims, perhaps because we don’t know as much as we should about their religion and we might be afraid of offending them. Sometimes we can be affected by prejudice and fear, or wrongly think that it’s too hard for a Muslim to change their religion, but the growth of Islam in Europe represents an unprecedented opportunity; the Lord is bringing the Muslim world to us to make it easier for us to share the gospel with them.

Secularism

Secularism is the fastest-growing ‘religion’ in Europe right now, whether we think of the anti-Christian media, the aggressive ‘new atheists’ or the person next door, who lives as if there were no God, no meaning in life and no life after death. We can’t assume any knowledge of biblical Christianity on the part of most of the people around us. It’s no wonder that some Christian missionaries in Muslim countries feel sorry for us; often they are seeing more opportunities and encouragements than we are.

Covid-19

The current pandemic has not only affected the lives of millions of people all over the world; it’s made any kind of ‘normal life’ virtually impossible, including a normal Christian life. At the European Mission Fellowship (EMF) we have seen one in five of our missionaries go down with Covid-19. One of our retired missionaries died, several others had to be hospitalised and one or two are suffering from the long-term effects of the virus.

Most of the churches we’re working with have been significantly affected by Covid-19; in some places, up to half the congregation have had the virus and both pastoral care and outreach have had to move online. Some of the countries most affected have been Poland, Romania, Ukraine and the Czech Republic.

What are the main encouragements in Europe today?

The Lord is answering our prayers for more gospel workers for Europe. We have recently accepted new Moldovan and Romanian missionaries, and there are others in the pipeline.     All over Europe there are people coming to faith. I know of several churches that have seen conversions during the pandemic, often through online contact with the gospel. The Lord, in his sovereignty, is using the internet and social media to speak into the lives of all sorts of people. More and more church planting is going on all over Europe; it’s thrilling to see even quite small churches in Poland and elsewhere planning their next church plant.

The rest of Europe is our Samaria, and it is currently one of the spiritually neediest parts of the world. So, let’s renew our commitment to local outreach and to global mission, but let’s not neglect our responsibility towards the rest of our tremendously needy continent.

A. Birch

The Need for Doctrine in the Church

We’ve all heard and seen the numbers that show how biblically illiterate Christians are in America. For example, the reputable Barna Group cites only 6% of identified Christians possess a biblical worldview. This is (more or less) verified by Pew Research Center and LifeWay Research.

No matter how many times I’ve studied statistics on biblical illiteracy in the American church—it always causes me to swell up with tears.

But why? Why are over 90% of Christians unfamiliar with the Bible and incapable of articulating the doctrines of the Christian faith?

As a pastor, I realize the bulk of discipleship is on the parents, not the church. In Ephesians 6:4, Paul commands fathers to raise their children in the “discipline and instruction of the Lord.” But the critical training ground for families, especially for dads and moms, is the church. We see again in Ephesians the duty of spiritual leaders within the church is to “equip the saints for the work of the ministry” and to “build up the body of Christ (4:12). The Greek word for “equip” is katartismos, which carries the idea of “adequately qualifying or preparing someone to accomplish something with sufficiency.” 

Unfortunately, this form of equipping Christians in the Word of God and theology is no longer a high priority for most American churches. Rather than being a place where Christians are trained thoroughly in sound biblical doctrine, the Western church has capitulated to a water-down gospel presentation that seeks to entertain rather than raise up an army of soldiers capable of advancing the kingdom of God amid a dark and perverted world.

However, not only has a lack of teaching sound biblical doctrine contributed to the decline of biblical literacy, but it also has created an absence of godliness in the church and a decline in the overall attendance in denominations across the country.

This (and many more reasons) is why pastors and church leaders need to get back to teaching sound biblical doctrine instead of feeding their congregations a bite-size version of Christianity.

The great Bible teacher, Warren Wiersbe, had this to say, “Churches are not built up and strengthened through man-made programs, entertainment, recreation, or “drives.” The church is a body and must have spiritual food; this food is the Word of God.”

Wiersbe is right. The church’s primary service isn’t to offer programs once or twice a week for families. Instead, the church is meant to be a place where Christians can come and get grounded in the Word of God as they grow in their love for Jesus and love for one another (see Hebrews 10:24-25).

Notice how Paul described what the Word of God does for a believer: “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be completeequipped for every good work” (2 Timothy 3:16–17).

Did you catch that? When churches and Christians spend time learning God’s Word and unpacking the rich doctrinal truths that make up the Christian faith—they will be complete and able to fulfill the will of God. As physical exercise is beneficial for your body, so too is the Word of God profitable for Christians as they are trained on how to form proper habits of behavior so that they are qualified and able to live out their faith every day.

So, if you are a Christian leader in your church, ask yourself, how effective am I in teaching sound doctrine to the people God has called me to shepherd? If you are currently not serving in your church, ask yourself, what can I start doing to be a part of the solution to train up more Christians in the Word of God?

J. Jimenez

One Is Only 8 Months Old

A day of prayer and fasting will be held on Thursday for a group of 17 missionaries and children kidnapped in Haiti.

Christian Aid Ministries (CAM) said it was praying for their safe release, as well as for the kidnappers to turn to Christ.

The group is formed of 16 Americans and one Canadian, and includes five children, the youngest of which is just 8 months old. 

They were kidnapped near capital Port-au-Prince on their way back from visiting an orphanage supported by CAM. 

The gang behind the kidnapping, 400 Mawozo, has demanded $17m for their release.

The US-based non-profit said it was working closely with government authorities to bring the group home. It has not commented on whether it will meet the ransom demand.

Asking people to pray and fast, CAM said: “We invite continued prayer for: the victims—for endurance, faithfulness, and a spirit of Christlike love … the kidnappers—that they would experience the love of Jesus and turn to Him [and] government leaders and authorities—as they relate to the case and work toward the release of the victims.”

One of CAM’s ongoing projects in Haiti is to provide meals for school children.(Photo: CAM)

CAM is also asking for prayer for Haiti.

“This time of difficulty reminds us of the ongoing suffering of millions of Haitians,” it said.

“While our workers chose to serve in Haiti, our Haitian friends endure crisis after crisis, continual violence, and economic hardship.

“Despite the difficulties and dangers involved in working there, both our Haitian and American workers carry a vision to minister the love of Jesus in Haiti.

“Our goal is to seize opportunities around the world, even in difficult contexts, to follow in the footsteps of Jesus, who ‘went about doing good’ (Acts 10:38).” 

J. Lee

Islam – Fact or Dream

In 1993 I was a seasoned federal prosecutor, but I only knew as much about Islam as the average American with a reasonably good education—which is to say, not much. Consequently, when I was assigned to lead the prosecution of a terrorist cell that had bombed the World Trade Center and was plotting an even more devastating strike—simultaneous attacks on the Lincoln and Holland Tunnels, the United Nations complex on the East River, and the FBI’s lower Manhattan headquarters—I had no trouble believing what our government was saying: that we should read nothing into the fact that all the men in this terrorist cell were Muslims; that their actions were not representative of any religion or belief system; and that to the extent they were explaining their atrocities by citing Islamic scripture, they were twisting and perverting one of the world’s great religions, a religion that encourages peace.

Unlike commentators and government press secretaries, I had to examine these claims. Prosecutors don’t get to base their cases on assertions. They have to prove things to commonsense Americans who must be satisfied about not only what happened but why it happened before they will convict people of serious crimes. And in examining the claims, I found them false.

One of the first things I learned concerned the leader of the terror cell, Omar Abdel Rahman, infamously known as the Blind Sheikh. Our government was portraying him as a wanton killer who was lying about Islam by preaching that it summoned Muslims to jihad or holy war. Far from a lunatic, however, he turned out to be a globally renowned scholar—a doctor of Islamic jurisprudence who graduated from al-Azhar University in Cairo, the seat of Sunni Islamic learning for over a millennium. His area of academic expertise was sharia—Islamic law.

I immediately began to wonder why American officials from President Bill Clinton and Attorney General Janet Reno on down, officials who had no background in Muslim doctrine and culture, believed they knew more about Islam than the Blind Sheikh. Then something else dawned on me: the Blind Sheikh was not only blind; he was beset by several other medical handicaps. That seemed relevant. After all, terrorism is hard work. Here was a man incapable of doing anything that would be useful to a terrorist organization—he couldn’t build a bomb, hijack a plane, or carry out an assassination. Yet he was the unquestioned leader of the terror cell. Was this because there was more to his interpretation of Islamic doctrine than our government was conceding?

Defendants do not have to testify at criminal trials, but they have a right to testify if they choose to—so I had to prepare for the possibility. Raised an Irish Catholic in the Bronx, I was not foolish enough to believe I could win an argument over Muslim theology with a doctor of Islamic jurisprudence. But I did think that if what we were saying as a government was true—that he was perverting Islam—then there must be two or three places where I could nail him by saying, “You told your followers X, but the doctrine clearly says Y.” So my colleagues and I pored over the Blind Sheikh’s many writings. And what we found was alarming: whenever he quoted the Koran or other sources of Islamic scripture, he quoted them accurately.

Now, you might be able to argue that he took scripture out of context or gave an incomplete account of it. In my subsequent years of studying Islam, I’ve learned that this is not a particularly persuasive argument. But even if one concedes for the purposes of discussion that it’s a colorable claim, the inconvenient fact remains: Abdel Rahman was not lying about Islam.

When he said the scriptures command that Muslims strike terror into the hearts of Islam’s enemies, their scriptures backed him up.

When he said Islam directed Muslims not to take Jews and Christians as their friends, the scriptures backed him up.

You could counter that there are other ways of construing the scriptures. You could contend that these exhortations to violence and hatred should be “contextualized”—i.e., that they were only meant for their time and place in the seventh century.  Again, I would caution that there are compelling arguments against this manner of interpreting Islamic scripture. The point, however, is that what you’d be arguing is an interpretation.

The fact that there are multiple ways of construing Islam hardly makes the Blind Sheikh’s literal construction wrong. The blunt fact of the matter is that, in this contest of competing interpretations, it is the jihadists who seem to be making sense because they have the words of scripture on their side—it is the others who seem to be dancing on the head of a pin. For our present purposes, however, the fact is that the Blind Sheikh’s summons to jihad was rooted in a coherent interpretation of Islamic doctrine. He was not perverting Islam—he was, if anything, shining a light on the need to reform it.

Another point, obvious but inconvenient, is that Islam is not a religion of peace. There are ways of interpreting Islam that could make it something other than a call to war. But even these benign constructions do not make it a call to peace. Verses such as “Fight those who believe not in Allah,” and “Fight and slay the pagans wherever ye find them, and seize them, beleaguer them, and lie in wait for them in every stratagem of war,” are not peaceful injunctions, no matter how one contextualizes.

Another disturbing aspect of the trial against the Blind Sheikh and his fellow jihadists was the character witnesses who testified for the defense. Most of these people were moderate, peaceful Muslim Americans who would no more commit terrorist acts than the rest of us. But when questions about Islamic doctrine would come up—“What does jihad mean?” “What is sharia?” “How might sharia apply to a certain situation?”—these moderate, peaceful Muslims explained that they were not competent to say. In other words, for the answers, you’d have to turn to Islamic scholars like the Blind Sheikh.

Now, understand: there was no doubt what the Blind Sheikh was on trial for. And there was no doubt that he was a terrorist—after all, he bragged about it. But that did not disqualify him, in the minds of these moderate, peaceful Muslims, from rendering authoritative opinions on the meaning of the core tenets of their religion. No one was saying that they would follow the Blind Sheikh into terrorism—but no one was discrediting his status either.

Although this came as a revelation to me, it should not have. After all, it is not as if Western civilization had no experience dealing with Islamic supremacism—what today we call “Islamist” ideology, the belief that sharia must govern society. Winston Churchill, for one, had encountered it as a young man serving in the British army, both in the border region between modern-day Afghanistan and Pakistan and in the Sudan—places that are still cauldrons of Islamist terror. Ever the perceptive observer, Churchill wrote:

How dreadful are the curses which Mohammedanism lays on its votaries! Besides the fanatical frenzy, which is as dangerous in a man as hydrophobia in a dog, there is this fearful fatalistic apathy. . . . Improvident habits, slovenly systems of agriculture, sluggish methods of commerce, and insecurity of property exist wherever the followers of the Prophet rule or live. A degraded sensualism deprives this life of its grace and refinement; the next of its dignity and sanctity. The fact that in Mohammedan law every woman must belong to some man as his absolute property—either as a child, a wife, or a concubine—must delay the final extinction of slavery until the faith of Islam has ceased to be a great power among men.

M. McCarthy

What One Woman Can Do

Say “Florence Nightingale,” and instantly the word nurse pairs with it. Probably she was the most extraordinary nurse in history. Kings, queens, and princes all consulted her, as did the president of the United States, who wanted her advice about military hospitals during the Civil War.

It was Florence Nightingale who revolutionized hospital methods in England—and indeed throughout the world. During the Crimean War, she served in the first field hospital ever run and tended by women. She established schools for training nurses, and she introduced procedures that have been benefiting people ever since.

Still, this is an incomplete portrait. For years Florence acted as behind-the-scenes British secretary of war, managing to considerably better conditions for men in the armed services by setting up a system of health administration that was without precedent.

Suffering, wherever it existed, challenged her. She even set up a system for extending nursing care to the poor and the criminal underworld in the slums of English cities.

One reason Florence managed to accomplish so much was because any occupation but working for improved health standards seemed to her a waste of time. And Florence had remarkable stamina. When she was young, she sometimes worked twenty-two out of twenty-four hours.

Then, too, she was gifted with a peculiar genius: She could assimilate information in prodigious quantities, retain it, marshal her facts, and use them effectively. A relative wrote that when Flo was exhausted, the sight of a column of figures was “perfectly reviving to her.” Altogether she wrote eight lengthy reports and seventeen books on medical and nursing subjects.

Early Family Life

Florence was born in 1820 while her English parents, Fanny and William, were vacationing in Florence, Italy. She was named for her birthplace, although at that time Florence was not listed among feminine names, as it has been since Miss Nightingale gave it fame. She had an older sister, Parthenope (always called Parthe), who was also named for her birthplace.

Florence’s beautiful and intelligent mother and her wealthy, dilettante father were not very compatible, nor were the two little girls. Parthe, though she all but adored her sister, at the same time was envious and selfishly possessive of her.

It was impossible to find a tutor with the intellectual prowess demanded by Mr. Nightingale. So he assumed the responsibility himself, teaching the children Latin, Greek, German, Italian, French, English grammar, philosophy, and history. A governess was trusted to teach them only music and drawing.

When Parthe was eighteen and Flo sixteen, study was somewhat curtailed. The girls were presented at court and introduced to society. Their life then included many parties and much travel on the Continent.

Flo was tall, willowy, graceful, and pretty. Two young men promptly fell in love with her and proposed marriage. She liked them both, but she wasn’t ready to marry either.

Divine Mission

Then a strange thing happened. Though she did not think herself deeply religious and never thought she became so, on February 7, 1837, when she was scarcely 17 years old, she felt that God spoke to her, calling her to future “service.” From that time on her life was changed.

At first the call disturbed her. Not knowing the nature of the “service,” she feared making herself unworthy of whatever it was by leading the frivolous life that her mother and her social set demanded of her. Now she was given to periods of preoccupation, or to what she called “dreams” of how to fulfill her mission. Meanwhile she spent all her spare time visiting the cottages on her family estate and bringing neighboring poor people food and medicine.

When a family friend died in childbirth, Flo begged her parents to let her stay at the country home year round and take care of the baby instead of making her go to London for the winter social season. They vetoed the idea, believing she should mingle in society, eventually choose a husband, and bear children of the family bloodline. Too, Parthe had hysterics at the thought of the “ungrateful and unfeeling Flo” wanting to be separated from her.

In London one of Flo’s suitors again pressed her for an answer to his marriage proposal. She liked him, but she could not bring herself to say yes, especially when she did not know what “service” lay ahead.

Visiting her family home at the time were Dr. Howe and his wife, Julia Ward Howe (author of the “Battle Hymn of the Republic”). Florence asked Dr. Howe, “Do you think it unsuitable and unbecoming for a young Englishwoman to devote herself to works of charity in hospitals and elsewhere as Catholic sisters do? Do you think it would be a dreadful thing?”

He answered that it would be unusual and “whatever is unusual in England is thought unsuitable.” Nonetheless he advised her, “Act on your inspiration.”

If Florence was to consider nursing her “service”—and she was beginning to believe it must be—then she needed training. She proposed going to an infirmary run by a family friend.

Her parents were shocked, horrified, angry! She was a gentlewoman! Their objections were understandable. In that era English hospitals were places of degradation and filth. The malodorous “hospital smell” was literally nauseating to many, and nurses usually drank heavily to dull their senses. Florence herself admitted that the head nurse of a London hospital told her that “in the course of her long experience she had never known a nurse who was not drunken, and there was immoral conduct in the very wards.”

Years of Preparation

But at least Florence could study on her own. From a friend in Parliament, Sidney Herbert, she procured government reports on national health conditions. Then she got up at predawn every morning and pored over them by the light of an oil lamp, filling notebook after notebook with facts and figures, which she indexed and tabulated.

She planned to acquire practical experience by going to the unquestionably moral Institution of Lutheran Deaconesses in Kaiserwerth, Germany. Although her father called the move “theatrical,” and although Parthe again had hysterics, her parents reluctantly allowed her to go. After the Kaiserwerth stint the old pattern reappeared: Her parents wanted her to lead a “normal” life and were baffled and annoyed when she turned down another eligible suitor and seemed indifferent to marriage.

Then Florence met and confided in Cardinal Manning. He understood her aims, and she wondered if Catholicism could be her gateway to “service.” She proposed becoming a Catholic, but the cardinal demurred because she rejected certain Catholic tenets.

However he arranged for her to enter a Paris hospital staffed by nuns who obviously didn’t resort to drink. She would wear the postulant habit but live apart from the nuns. Shortly after she arrived, ironically, she came down with measles and had to leave.

Back in England, the Institution for Care of Sick Gentlewomen in Distressed Circumstances needed a superintendent. Florence’s study of health, hospital problems, and management recommended her. While she held this job, cholera broke out and nurses, fearing the disease, refused to serve, so Florence acted as a nurse herself and earned universal respect.

Opposition and Adulation

Then the Crimean War erupted. English military hospitals were a disgrace; in them a wounded man had almost no chance of recovery. When a reporter wrote that the French took far better care of their wounded, English consciences were stung into action.

Sidney Herbert, now secretary of war, not only authorized the purchase of hospital equipment, but also created a new of official position to which he appointed the best qualified person he knew, Florence Nightingale. She became “Superintendent of the Female Nursing Establishment of the English General Hospitals in Turkey.” She was to go to Crimea with plenary authority, taking nurses of her choice.

Previously no woman had ever entered a military hospital. But because of Miss Nightingale’s reputation (she was called Miss Nightingale by the public), the order was applauded.

Now to implement it! First, how was she to find good nurses? Through Cardinal Manning a great concession was made: ten Catholic sisters were allowed to go to Turkey under Miss Nightingale’s leadership, subject to her orders. Eight Anglican sisters joined too, and Florence painstakingly gathered other women.

On arrival they found moldy food, scarce water, filth, overcrowding, no sanitary arrangements, no bed sheets, no operating tables, no medical supplies. The forty nurses were allotted a kitchen and five rat-and-vermin infested bedrooms; this meant crowding many nurses into each room.

Miss Nightingale had authority to requisition supplies, so she quickly asked for towels and soap and insisted that clothes be washed and floors scrubbed. That’s when she ran into trouble; some officers and doctors grumbled about her power. The superior of the Catholic sisters, although she had agreed to accept Miss Nightingale’s leadership, questioned why anyone but herself should direct the sisters, and she constantly made trouble. The Anglican nuns felt that Florence favored the Catholics.

Only the patients—the wounded men—fully approved of her. They all but adored the “Lady of the Lamp,” as they called her when she visited the wards at the end of the day. They spoke of “kissing her very shadow” as she passed.

The Cost of Caring

Despite difficulties, Miss Nightingale went on working. She dressed wounds, administered or supervised medical treatments, instructed nurses, and made rounds of the wards. Then, before she dropped exhausted into bed near midnight, she spent an hour or two writing reports for the government at home.

She also suggested legislation to help the men. For example, the old law mandated that hospitalized men, since they were no longer in danger of being shot, have their pay cut. But their wounds often handicapped them for life, so Miss Nightingale opposed the pay cuts and wrote directly to Queen Victoria to explain why. The men’s pay was restored, just one instance among many where she suggested or wrote legislation that her friend Sidney Herbert introduced in Parliament.

When the war ended, she was the sole hero to emerge. As one biographer said, “She had the country at her feet.” The queen presented Florence with a diamond brooch. The inscription on the reverse side read, “To Miss Florence Nightingale as a mark of esteem and gratitude for her devotion toward the queen’s brave soldiers from Victoria R. 1855.”

Fighter for Reform

In Crimea, Florence had collapsed once or twice from overwork, and she returned home gaunt, pale, and suffering from several ailments. But she had no intention of resting. Military reforms were urgently needed. The mortality rate (73 percent in six months from diseases alone) was outrageous and resulted not from battlefield casualties but from the execrable state of the British army’s health administration.

Her aims were furthered when the queen summoned her to palace visits. Amazingly, the queen even made informal visits to her home. The women became friends, and Florence convinced Victoria of the value of her reforms. Although royalty could not act directly, the queen summoned the secretary of state to the palace along with Florence, so that she had an opportunity to present her ideas to him and to try to persuade him to act. Florence kept at him until he at least appointed a commission to study the matter.

The secretary of state then asked her for a detailed report. Night and day, she worked on the report; it ran 1,000 pages. Then she collapsed. She was seriously ill, but she had won her point. The government acted.

A friend, Sir John McNeill, wrote her, “To you, more than to any other man or woman alive, will henceforth be due the welfare and efficiency of the British army. I thank God that I have lived to see your success.”

Adviser, Writer, Educator

When her health improved, people came to her for advice, among them the queen of Holland and the crown prince of Prussia. Between visitors, she wrote books. Notes on Hospitals ran into three editions and was widely translated into other languages. After its publication, the king of Portugal asked her to design a hospital in Lisbon, and the government of India consulted her. Her next book, Notes on Nursing, sold thousands of copies in factories, villages, and schools and was translated into French, German, and Italian.

Writing mostly at night and working by day, she opened a nurses’ training school, using money given to a Nightingale Fund by the grateful British troops. If she had not done so before, surely now she changed forever the image of a nurse from that of a “drunken hussy” to that of an efficient attendant of the ill.

Despite illness, she pushed for reorganization of the War Office. One of her friends said that she was virtually secretary of state in the War Office for the next five years.

Her next big task came when a prominent Liverpool philanthropist approached her, begging nursing care for slum dwellers and workhouse inmates. She arranged to supply the care. Moreover, she called for legislation that would provide separate facilities for the children, the insane, and the victims of communicable diseases, who had previously lived cheek by jowl in the same workhouses.

No letup followed. Next came the Franco-Prussian War, during which Florence worked with the National Society for Aid to the Sick and Wounded, later called the British Red Cross Aid Society. When the war ended, Jean Henri Dunant said, “Though I’m known as the founder of the Red Cross … it is to an Englishwoman that all the honor is due. What inspired me … was the work of Florence Nightingale.”

For an interval, however, she did slacken her public work to devote herself to nursing first her dying father, then her dying mother, and then her dying sister, Parthe, with whom she was closer than in bygone years.

Florence lived on into old age, always supervising work at the Nightingale Fund School and always and everywhere being treated with a respect akin to awe. In 1907 Edward VII bestowed on her the Order of Merit; it was the first time it had ever been given to a woman. She continued to write until her sight failed, her memory dulled, and she became a little vague. On August 13, 1910, she fell asleep around noon and did not awaken.

M. Coakley

Peace of Mind Anyone?

Most people would define peace of mind as the absence of mental stress and anxiety. The expression “peace of mind” conjures up images of Buddha-like composure wherein calm, comfort, and composure are so prevalent that nothing can disturb the one who has peace of mind. An imperturbable, placid person is said to have peace of mind. The only time “peace of mind” is found in the Bible is the NIV translation of 2 Corinthians 2:13 where Paul says he found no “peace of mind” because he didn’t find Titus in Troas. The literal translation of this phrase is “rest of my spirit.”

The Bible uses the word peace in several different ways. Peace sometimes refers to a state of friendship between God and man. This peace between a holy God and sinful mankind has been effected by Christ’s sacrificial death, “having made peace through the blood of his cross” (Colossians 1:20). In addition, as High Priest the Lord Jesus maintains that state of friendship on behalf of all who continue to “come to God by him, seeing he always lives to make intercession for them” (Hebrews 7:25). This state of friendship with God is a prerequisite for the second kind of peace, that which sometimes refers to a tranquil mind. It is only when “we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ” (Romans 5:1) that we can experience the true peace of mind that is a fruit of the Holy Spirit, in other words, His fruit exhibited in us (Galatians 5:22).

Isaiah 26:3 tells us that God will keep us in “perfect peace” if our minds are “stayed” on Him, meaning our minds lean on Him, center on Him, and trust in Him. Our tranquility of mind is “perfect” or imperfect to the degree that the “mind is stayed on” God rather than ourselves or on our problems. Peace is experienced as we believe what the Bible says about God’s nearness as in Psalm 139:1-12, and about His goodness and power, His mercy and love for His children, and His complete sovereignty over all of life’s circumstances. But we can’t trust someone we don’t know, and it is crucial, therefore, to come to know intimately the Prince of Peace, Jesus Christ.

Peace is experienced as a result of prayer. “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:6-7).

A peaceful mind and heart are experienced as a result of recognizing that an all-wise and loving Father has a purpose in our trials. “We know that all things work together for good to those who love God and are called according to His purpose” (Romans 8:28).

God can bring a variety of good things, including peace, from the afflictions that we experience. Even the discipline and chastening of the Lord will “yield the peaceable fruit of righteousness” in our lives (Hebrews 12:11). They provide a fresh opportunity for “hoping in God” and eventually “praising Him” (Psalm 43:5). They help us “comfort” others when they undergo similar trials (2 Corinthians 1:4), and they “achieve for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all” (2 Corinthians 4:17).

Peace of mind and the tranquility of spirit that accompanies it are only available when we have true peace with God through the sacrifice of Christ on the cross in payment of our sins. Those who attempt to find peace in worldly pursuits will find themselves sadly deceived. For Christians, however, peace of mind is available through the intimate knowledge of, and complete trust in, the God who meets “all your needs according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:19).

Who Do Christians Trust?

As houses of worship continue to reopen, most U.S. adults who regularly attend religious services voice confidence in their clergy to provide guidance on the coronavirus vaccines – and far more say they have heard their pastor, priest, rabbi or imam encourage people to get vaccinated than have heard their clergy raise doubts about COVID-19 vaccines. But a slim majority of regular worshippers say they have not heard their religious leaders say much about vaccinations either way, according to a new Pew Research Center survey conducted Sept. 20-26, 2021.

Also, among U.S. adults overall, there is no clear consensus about whether houses of worship have had a positive or negative impact on the American response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The survey finds that a growing share of Americans are now attending religious services in person. Among those who say they typically attend services at least once or twice a month, a clear majority (64%) report that they actually have gone in person in the past month, the first time that has been the case in three surveys conducted since the pandemic began.

The resumption of in-person attendance has been accompanied by a decline in the share of both U.S. adults overall and regular worshippers who say they have watched religious services online or on TV in the past month.

Many U.S. congregants – i.e., people who say either that they typically attend religious services at least monthly or that they have attended in person in the past month, who together comprise a little more than a third of all U.S. adults – say they have heard the clergy or religious leaders at their house of worship weigh in on coronavirus vaccines. And among those who have heard from their clergy on this issue, far more say their priest, pastor, rabbi, imam or other religious leader has encouraged people to get vaccinated (39% of all religious attenders) than say their clergy has discouraged getting the shots (5%).

Far more U.S. worshippers say their clergy have encouraged COVID-19 vaccines than discouraged them

Even among evangelical Protestants, who have tended to be relatively skeptical toward the vaccines, just 4% say their clergy have discouraged people from getting a vaccine. But more than half of U.S. congregants (54%) and nearly three-quarters of evangelical churchgoers (73%) say their clergy have not said much about COVID-19 vaccinations either way. Most members of the historically Black Protestant tradition, on the other hand, say their pastors have encouraged people to get a vaccine (64%).

There is a relatively high degree of trust in clergy to give advice on the coronavirus vaccines: Fully six-in-ten U.S. congregants (61%) say they have at least “a fair amount” of confidence in their religious leaders to provide reliable guidance about getting a vaccine. This figure is virtually identical to the share who express confidence in public health officials, such as those at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), to give reliable guidance on COVID-19 vaccinations (60%), although Americans who attend religious services at least monthly are slightly more likely to say they have “a great deal” of confidence in guidance from public health officials than to say the same about their clergy (27% vs. 21%).

Religious attenders express more trust in their clergy on this issue than they do in state elected officials, local elected officials or news media. Among the options presented by the survey, only primary care doctors rank above clergy in the share of U.S. congregants who have at least “a fair amount” of trust in each group to provide guidance on vaccines.

Clergy have responded in differing ways to the COVID-19 outbreak that began in the United States in early 2020. At various points in the pandemic, some religious leaders have refused to limit attendance or enforce other public health restrictions at their houses of worship. At the same time, other members of the clergy have encouraged vaccinations and even hosted vaccination sites at their churches or other facilities.

Americans overall express ambivalent views about the broad impact of churches and other religious organizations on the U.S. response to the pandemic, with 25% saying that religious organizations have done “more harm than good” and 22% saying they have done “more good than harm.” About half (52%) say that religious organizations have not made much difference.

There is a substantial gap between the two major political parties on this question, with four-in-ten Democrats and those who lean toward the Democratic Party saying that religious organizations have done more harm than good (39%), compared with just one-in-ten Republicans and GOP leaners who take that position (9%).

Democrats more likely than Republicans to see harm from religious groups in COVID-19 response

Even more broadly, there appears to have been a modest but noticeable change in recent years in the way Americans view the role of churches and other houses of worship when it comes to addressing social and political issues. Some pastors have waded into a wide range of political and social debates regarding not only the pandemic but also the 2020 presidential election and the national conversation on racial injustice in the wake of the murder of George Floyd.

Fully seven-in-ten U.S. adults now say that, in general, churches and other houses of worship should keep out of political matters, up from 63% the last time this question was asked, in March 2019. Just three-in-ten Americans (29%) now say that churches should express their views on day-to-day social and political questions, down from 36% in 2019. Democrats remain more likely than Republicans to say that houses of worship should stay out of politics (76% vs. 62%), although members of both parties are more likely to express this view now than they were when the question was last asked.

There has been little change on two other questions about religion’s role in public life over the past few years: More people continue to say that churches and other religious organizations mostly bring people together (rather than push them apart), and that in general – not just regarding the pandemic – religious institutions do more good than harm (as opposed to more harm than good).

These are among the key findings from a new Pew Research Center survey of 6,485 U.S. adults, conducted on the Center’s American Trends Panel. Although the survey was conducted among Americans of all religious backgrounds, including Jews, Muslims, Buddhists, Hindus, Mormons and more, it did not obtain enough respondents from these smaller religious groups to report separately on their views.

J. Nortey

Bad News Before the Good

Not too long ago, a pharmacist in Nashville was arrested for diluting cancer drugs while still charging full price for the prescription. Local doctors would phone in their patient’s prescriptions and this pharmacy would mix the required drugs. Patients would drop by the pharmacy, pick up their drugs and take them as prescribed. If the cancer had been caught in time, the medicine, mixed with a lot of prayer, would do its work. The pharmacist had developed a very successful practice. Both doctors and patients had learned to trust him.

Sometime in the past few years, the pharmacist had gotten into money trouble. So, he started diluting the medicine. That is, he wouldn’t put as much of the chemicals into the solution that attacked the cancer cells and still charged the full price for the prescription. His scheme was working pretty well until the doctors noticed a consistent downturn in their outcomes. People with similar illnesses were no longer responding to the medicine. A routine investigation discovered the problem. The medicine wasn’t strong enough to do the work.

Some days, I wonder if we’ve done the same thing with the gospel. For years, experts, whoever they were, told us as preachers that we should with go easy on the guilt and condemnation in our sermons. On one hand, I can see their point. I grew up in a church where we were held over hell like marshmallows. We were afraid all the time, never knowing when one sin would be the final straw, forcing God to give up and throw us into hell.

So, we did. We laid off the guilt and preached grace upon grace. That didn’t work either.

For one reason, it’s not honest. Unless you’re dealing with a psychopath, people know when they’re doing wrong. Most people are aware that they’re causing pain, making a mistake, or doing harm. When they talk to you about their decisions, they’ll usually say something like, “I know I’ve messed up,” or, “I don’t know how they will ever forgive me.”

When we tell them, “Don’t worry about it because Jesus will forgive you for what you’ve done,” even though we’re well-meaning when we say it, they don’t believe us. Why? Because they know the seriousness of their sin. Most people know it’s just not that easy. They know that making things right isn’t a matter of saying “I’m sorry” and forgetting all about it. Part of confession is admitting we’ve done something wrong…very wrong. Something so wrong that Jesus had to carry our mistake, our failure, our sin to the cross.

The gospel is bad news before its good news. The bad news is we’ve broken the relationship with God and we can’t fix it. Hearing that makes us really uncomfortable. Since we don’t want to make our congregations feel uncomfortable, we rush past this part of the healing. We, as ministers, have become uncomfortable in allowing our people to become uncomfortable. We won’t let our people sit with the pain — even for a little while.

This is why most people never understand the seriousness of their sin. When we take the edge off the gospel, people don’t trust us. They know what they did is wrong and people were hurt. You can’t just say “It’s okay. Jesus forgives.” The world doesn’t take sin seriously either. Our world is scattered with the corpses of broken families, broken children, broken communities and cities, even broken nations, and still, we think all of this can be made better with a simple tweak or two.

Several years ago, when I first started working with a trainer, I was at the gym the morning after a very nice banquet the night before. There had been lots of food and, well, lots of food. Needless to say, I was struggling during the workout. In fact, I was sure I was near death. At one point in my suffering, my trainer leaned in and said, “You’re feeling pretty bad, aren’t you?”

“Bad? I think I’m going to die.”

“You won’t,” he said, “but you’re going to feel like it. You poisoned your body last night with rich food and now, your body is looking for energy it doesn’t have. So, it’s pulling from every fiber of your body.”

And then he said, “Remember this feeling. I don’t ever want you to feel like this again.”

Sometimes, I wonder if we as ministers need to sit with our people in their grief and pain and remind them, “This is what sin feels like and we don’t ever want you to feel like this again.” Like the pharmacist I mentioned earlier, we’ve diluted the gospel to the point that it doesn’t make us uncomfortable anymore. We’ve weakened its strength so that it doesn’t make us feel bad anymore.

The problem is, we have diluted it to the point that it’s not strong enough to make us well either.

Our world is a mess and the world knows it. As proclaimers of the good news we can’t just say, “Go and be well. Jesus forgives you.” The message is more demanding than that. It has to be. It’s a matter of life and death. We don’t just say, “Go and be well.” We say, “Drop everything and come follow.”

Only Jesus can forgive. Only Jesus can heal. Only He has the words of life.

This is the only gospel worth preaching. This is the only gospel worth following.

It’s the only one that can help.

M. Glenn

Will My Pet Go to Heaven?

The Bible does not give any explicit teaching on whether pets/animals have “souls” or whether pets/animals will be in heaven. However, we can use general biblical principles to develop some clarity on the subject. The Bible states that both man (Genesis 2:7) and animals (Genesis 1:30; 6:17; 7:15, 22) have the “breath of life”; that is, both man and animals are living beings. The primary difference between human beings and animals is that humanity is made in the image and likeness of God (Genesis 1:26-27), while animals are not. Being made in the image and likeness of God means that human beings are like God, capable of spirituality, with mind, emotion, and will, and they have a part of their being that continues after death. If pets/animals do have a “soul” or immaterial aspect, it must therefore be of a different and lesser “quality.” This difference possibly means that pet/animal “souls” do not continue in existence after death.

Another factor to consider regarding whether pets will be heaven is that animals are a part of God’s creative process in Genesis. God created the animals and said they were good (Genesis 1:25). Therefore, there is no reason why there could not be pets / animals on the new earth (Revelation 21:1). There will most definitely be animals during the millennial kingdom (Isaiah 11:6; 65:25). It is impossible to say definitively whether some of these animals might be the pets we had while here on earth. We do know that God is just and that when we get to heaven we will find ourselves in complete agreement with His decision on this issue, whatever it may be.

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