Last month, I had a post featuring three of my favorite, or most thought-of, headlines and topics from the month of January. The post discussed Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s tirade against anti-abortion groups, the Jordan Peterson/Cathy Newman interview, and Rachael Denhollander’s victim impact statement at the Larry Nassar trial.
Now, I’m writing another post for the month of February (I figured, why not make this a monthly thing). In this post, I want to cover three more issues including new results in chimeric research, the death of Billy Graham, and the Florida school shooting. I will very briefly handle each of these issues.
1. Thoughts on the Florida School Shooting, Tragedy, and Dialogue
On February 14th, Valentine’s Day and coincidentally the beginning of Lent, a high school in Parkland, Florida suffered tragedy. 17 men and women were shot dead by an armed intruder. Once again, the world stares at screens–TV’s, computers, phones–in horror, perplexion, and sadness.
How does one even begin to imagine, much less understand, the kind of devastation and emotional trauma this kind of event, in its violent nature, can cause to the victims and nearby observers of the havoc? Can I possibly put myself in the shoes of the parents of the students? I try, but it is in vain, not because the effort itself is meaningless, but because the magnitude and kind of terror that was inflicted and suffered is absolutely incomprehensible.
Sadly, sadly, while each tragedy has its uniqueness, for sure, shootings have become far too common and far too expected in the United States. It seems that we’ve all become somewhat adjusted and familiarized with the ongoing issue of gun-violence. I recently saw a post on Twitter putting Parkland in perspective with other US shootings:
Of course, that number has now been confirmed at 17, not 16. In any case, what’s most appropriate, given the greater context of an event like this and nature of an event like this, is that we reconfigure ourselves to rest and mourn, with others, alone, with few words and gentility.
Most people, I understand, have mourned and continue to do so. Nothing can reverse the damage of that deadly moment. However, it’s so frustrating to me that these headlines seemingly serve no other purpose than to feed coal into the political furnace of the guns debate. Why have dead children became the signal-trumpet of political warring?
Now, that might be a harsh overreach of a rhetorical question. Political discussion isn’t bad in itself. After all, it is the way change is made. However, debate tends to lack sincerity, honesty and general productivity when it is only made soon–mere hours–after an incident.
When the emotions are so high and people are so fixated on one viewpoint and blinded by egotistical fear-mongering, that even basic distinctions and assumptions can’t be recognized, all meaning in tweeting, posting and conversing is lost.
Consider for example this dimwitted tweet by Shane Claiborne:
The guns and gun-restriction debate, while fruitful and insightful in many ways, has to be carefully treated. It isn’t simple. Why make it black and white when it isn’t? Many of the people I’ve followed on Twitter have been wise to note that hours, days, or even weeks after the attack is not the time to be bringing up gotcha! arguments and picking fights. We cannot recover from tragedy divided. We have to march out in unity.
In light of tragic events like this, we have to find our common ground, in the fact that what happened at Parkland could’ve happened to any one of us, to our own kids, brothers, sisters, friends or parents. And there’s no making sense of it, necessarily. There isn’t always a magic variable to explain what happened, why it happened, and present the magical solution to the problem. In light of this, we can be grateful to be alive and try to be more generous and loving to our neighbor, in response. We can pray for the sufferers and we can hope that God will guide our steps through this dark, temporary world.
2. Human-Sheep Hybrids, Latest in Chimeric Research
A slight shift in gears, now, I came across a rather interesting story about how scientists managed to create a hybrid sheep-human embryo by adding human stem cells to sheep embryos. 1 in 10 000 of the sheep’s cells were human. The embryos were destroyed after 28 days.
Cool. Weird. Scary?
I recently watched Jurassic World (an ok-but-not-great movie), and me and my dad were talking about how, nowadays, they are actually starting to mingle DNA from different animal species in research, similar to how, in Jurassic World, they would combine DNA from frogs and raptors and other things to create this invulnerable, stealthy, smart mega-dinosaur. It reminded of this particular story of human genes being mixed into sheep DNA.
It merits its own post to discuss the ethics and scientific potential of what’s called chimeric research–the combining of genetic information (via stem cells, for example) from different animal species into one hybrid embryo. But, in the present moment, it was very much news to me that human genetic info was used in a sheep species. “When did they start doing that?” I thought to myself.
In short, people look to chimeric research as having the potential to solve the problem of the lack of organ supply for patients needing donation. “Scientists say growing human organs inside animals could not only increase supply, but also offer the possibility of genetically tailoring the organs to be compatible with the immune system of the patient receiving them, by using the patient’s own cells in the procedure, removing the possibility of rejection.” says Nicola Davis from the Guardian. “According to NHS Blood and Transplant, almost 460 people died in 2016 waiting for organs, while those who do receive transplants sometimes see organs rejected.”
3. The Death of Billy Graham
Lastly, shifting gears again, it’s been much talked about, the sudden loss of Billy Graham, probably the most famous and recognizable Christian evangelist of the 20th century. He was 99 years old when died on February, 21st.
After the news broke, many mainline evangelists and preachers penned condolences and words of appreciation for the man who served as inspiration for many within this community.
I remember the scene well: Years ago I was sitting in the pews of an almost-empty church listening to an Episcopal bishop discuss why Billy Graham was irrelevant. The prelate insisted that Graham was not the problem. No one could question his sincerity or integrity—only his message.
“Modern people simply cannot accept the supernatural basis of Billy Graham’s gospel,” I recall the bishop saying. “Billy Graham should change his gospel or he will never reach our world as it is.” A man sitting next to me turned and said, “There are 40 people here, and four million listened to Billy Graham in a crusade last night.”
Graham, who died Wednesday at age 99, was perhaps the most significant Christian evangelist since the Apostle Paul. This wasn’t because of his media savvy or political influence. He transcended all of that with an obvious belief in the Gospel he preached—obvious even to those watching on television or sitting in a stadium’s nosebleed seats. Graham did not think the brave new world needed anything other than an old-time Gospel. (Moore, Billy Graham Bore Witness For 99 Years)
Graham was one of the titanic figures of American evangelicalism and his life spanned some of the interesting and tumultuous years of world history. We cannot even speak about 20th-century evangelicalism without referencing the impact of the ministry of Billy Graham and the movement he led. (Mohler, The Preacher: Billy Graham and American Evangelicalism)
While only God can rightly assess the ripple effect of a person’s life in all the ways it has influence, my own judgment would be that Billy Graham’s greatest impact is the eternal difference he made in leading countless persons, from all over the world, out of destruction into everlasting joy and love. This was his primary mission. (Piper, ‘God Did The Work, Period’)
Of course, and as these writers have noted, Billy Graham lead a ministry not without some controversy. In addition to appreciation, some have chosen to remember Graham by dissecting his theology, his ministry approach, some have labeled him as a fundamentalist (probably more true than not) and even as a heretic (which I reject).
I have not listened to much of Graham’s teaching, myself, having been born decades after the apex of his ministry. But I have heard enough and dealt with enough people profoundly impacted by Graham’s teaching and outreach to know the substance of his ministry and that he was a man driven to simply to make the one, true gospel known. And this mission, it must be said, has obviously inspired and influenced so many of us, especially within the Protestant church.