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Last week, I ran two posts about the merits of disposable plastic bags:

The one positive out of coronavirus: disposable plastic makes a comeback

Why tote bags are not necessarily better for our health or the environment

Many people think that a return to paper bags is better for the environment, however, few know just how polluting paper production is.

In some ways, paper is worse for the environment than disposable plastic.

HowStuffWorks has a great post, ‘Paper Versus Plastic: Environmental Disadvantages of Each’, an excerpt from which follows. Bold emphases are in the original; those in purple are mine:

  • Causes pollution: Paper production emits air pollution, specifically 70 percent more pollution than the production of plastic bags [source: Thompson]. According to certain studies, manufacturing paper emits 80 percent more greenhouse gases [source: Lilienfield]. And, consider that making paper uses trees that, instead, could be absorbing carbon dioxide. The paper bag making process also results in 50 times more water pollutants than making plastic bags [source: Thompson].
  • Consumes energy: Even though petroleum goes into making plastic, it turns out that making a paper bag consumes four times as much energy as making a plastic bag, meaning making paper consumes a good deal of fuel [source: reusablebags.com].
  • Consumes water: The production of paper bags uses three times the amount of water it takes to make plastic bags [source: Lilienfield].
  • Inefficient recycling: The process of recycling paper can be inefficient — often consuming more fuel than it would take to make a new bag [source: Milstein]. In addition, it takes about 91 percent more energy to recycle a pound of paper than a pound of plastic [source: reusablebags.com].
  • Produces waste: According to some measures, paper bags generate 80 percent more solid waste [source: Lilienfield].
  • Biodegrading difficulties: Surprisingly, the EPA has stated that in landfills, paper doesn’t degrade all that much faster than plastics [source: Lilienfield].

On the last point, ReuseThisBag — a pro-tote bag site — explains (emphases mine):

  • It doesn’t break down any faster than plastic in landfills. That’s because, while paper breaks down much faster under ideal conditions, landfills are not ideal conditions. The lack of light, air and oxygen means pretty much nothing decomposes, so paper and plastic are destined to spend equal amounts of time there.
  • Paper bags are bigger than plastic, which means they take up more space in landfills. They’re recycled at a higher rate, which mitigates that fact, but that still means they still have a greater per-bag impact on landfills.

Shipping paper is also more expensive:

  • Paper bags are very thick, so shipping them costs more fuel per bag.

Therefore, out of paper, tote or disposable plastic bags, the plastic bags seem to be the best option. Of course, we know the disadvantages of plastic, but, if we are responsible in disposing of them, there is no problem.

I have a collection of plastic bags, because at some point, post-coronavirus, they might be difficult to get in shops.

They have their purpose on this planet. I reuse mine for all sorts of things before discarding them.

In closing, last year, while I was out in the front garden, a dog walker with three canines in tow, asked me if I had any spare plastic bags. The dogs had eaten something they should not have, and she’d run out of waste bags.

I gave her three or four disposable plastic bags, which made the rest of her walk that much easier and our neighbourhood that much cleaner.

Last Thursday, I wrote about Bevelyn Beatty, who painted over provocative street signage in front of Trump Tower around two weeks ago.

A few days later, Eric Metaxas, a Christian conservative, interviewed her at length. I would like to thank one of my readers, michaelh, for this link:

This is an excellent video, just over half an hour long:

She discusses her personal Christian journey, helped along by her good friend Edmee, who was also part of the group of ladies smearing black paint over the B in BLM in front of Trump Tower.

She explains why no Christian should be associating with or supporting BLM: they don’t believe in family, they don’t believe in saving black lives and they do not like black men.

She discusses the horrific crime rates in New York, particularly under Mayor Bill de Blasio and says that she is seriously considering leaving.

And, yes, Bevelyn talks about her and her friends’ experience in front of Trump Tower, their arrest and their excellent treatment by the police.

Bevelyn is feisty. She’s got spark. She’s a committed Christian.

Eric Metaxas says that the US needs a thousand more like her.

I couldn’t agree more.

When she and her friends finish helping to ‘take back’ America, maybe they can come to cities in England. I am sure many would like to hear her speak and learn more about her journey in faith.

On Monday, as I went out to run an errand, I saw that life appeared to be getting back to normal on our high (main) street, post-coronavirus.

The local cafés had opened to allow customers indoors for a sit-down service. The inviting aromas of hot lunches perfumed the air.

I silently rejoiced that, after three months, normality was finally returning to our streets.

I no sooner returned home when I learned through the media that Health Secretary Matt (‘I’m from Newmarket’) Hancock planned to announce an anti-normality measure on Tuesday, July 14, 2020 — mandatory face coverings effective July 24:

The nightly newscasts confirmed this — at 6 p.m. …

… and 10 p.m.:

Hancock was not alone in choosing July 14 to make that announcement. France’s Health Minister Olivier Véran made a similar announcement that day: mandatory face coverings in all enclosed spaces effective August 1.

Returning to England, Matt Hancock made his announcement from the despatch box in the House of Commons early in the afternoon on Tuesday.

There were two dissensions.

The first came from Peter Bone MP (Conservative, Wellingborough and Rushden). He rightly asked why Hancock’s department provided information to the media about the new mandate before the health secretary presented it to Parliament.

Hancock gave a brusque answer, replying that he (Hancock) was doing it right then.

One can assume only that Peter Bone approves of mandatory face coverings, as he retweeted a government video about it:

The second dissension came from the flamboyant Sir Desmond Swayne (Conservative, New Forest West). He said everything necessary:

Parliamentary sketch writer Michael Deacon filed this report for The Telegraph (emphases mine):

Nothing would make me less likely to go shopping,” erupted Sir Desmond, “than the thought of having to mask up!

Too right.

Just when my far better half and I were ready to venture out to shops, including the garden centres, this mad rule comes in. We are now rethinking our long-anticipated sorties.

Swayne continued:

“Was this consultation with the police force,” he fumed, “and in particular with the chief constable of Hampshire? For it is she who will have to enforce this monstrous imposition – he spat out this phrase as if it were a maggot in a mouthful of apple – “this monstrous imposition against myself, and a number of outraged and reluctant constituents!”

I felt like applauding him as I watched him on BBC Parliament.

Hancock found this amusing. One wonders if he was bullied at school. He has made the most authoritarian pronouncements from his appearances in the government’s daily coronavirus briefings to those at the despatch box in Parliament.

This was his reply:

Mr Hancock, meanwhile, told Sir Desmond that it had been “a difficult balance to strike” between the need to defeat the virus, and “the ancient liberty of a gentleman to go shopping”. But in the end, said the Health Secretary, the Government had decided that this ancient liberty could be protected by “requiring the gentleman to wear a mask”.

Pah.

Swayne was unimpressed:

To judge from his expression, Sir Desmond was neither persuaded nor amused. He was smouldering like a dragon’s nostril.

Note that this is being brought in when England’s coronavirus deaths are at their lowest point since the first week of March:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The original image — not mine — is here.

On Wednesday, Hancock reiterated his resolve (a favourite word of his). The Telegraph reported that we might have cover up until summer 2021:

Rules requiring members of the public to wear face masks in shops and on public transport could remain in place until next summer, Health Secretary Matt Hancock has admitted, as he warned they will be required for the “foreseeable future”.

Asked whether the rules may be in place into next year, Mr Hancock refused to rule it out, instead insisting that the UK needs to “see how we are doing on getting a vaccine”.

Oh, the vaccine, the vaccine! Words fail me.

But, wait. There could be more to come.

That Telegraph piece has this as a subhead:

Next stop, masks in offices

I would not doubt it.

Masks are known to cause hypoxia and hypercapnia. Healthy people can deprive themselves of oxygen by wearing unnecessary face coverings. Hypercapnia — having too much CO2 in one’s blood — is another hazard that results from improper breathing because one’s mouth is covered.

A small upside is that face coverings will become a means of self-expression.

Here is the svelte, slim health minister of Belgium. I wouldn’t take her health advice on anything. Furthermore, her mask is unfortunate, to say the least:

On Monday night, I read a lot of readers’ comments to the Telegraph articles concerning mandatory face coverings.

The hostility of the pro-mask people reminded me of that of Remainers’ during the run-up to the Brexit referendum in 2016. Scary. All emotion, very little fact.

Anti-maskers, on the other hand, pointed to civil liberties and the likelihood that we will be objectifying each other in the coming months because we cannot see each others’ faces.

Personally, I think crime will go up because of it. All it takes is a masked bandit or two robbing small shops.

There is also a Left-Right split on masks.

A left-wing organisation, Masks4All, is promoting homemade face coverings. Its founders include Greens and an Extinction Rebellion activist.

The University of Edinburgh’s Linda Bauld is also a mandatory face covering advocate. Linda Bauld made her name in Tobacco Control.

Bauld disapproves of visors — allowing people to breathe under a transparent barrier — because they do not allow enough protection. On May 18, The Guardian quoted her:

Bauld said she was sceptical. “The reason for having a visor which would cover the upper half of your face would be if you’re regularly coming into contact with the public at closer range, and you might be exposed to somebody who is emitting those small droplets that we’re all aware are very efficient at carrying the virus,” she said.

“So I could see how in some retail settings and other environments they wish to do that, but I don’t think there’s any strong evidence that they’re something the public should be wearing on a routine basis. The key thing is to cover the mouth and the nose.

“The face coverings that people are being encouraged to use, for example, on public transport is not to protect the wearer, but to protect other people. Whereas the visor and harder material is clearly to protect the wearer from coming into contact with others at those droplets.”

On July 13, she advocated the dreaded ‘nudge’:

Linda Bauld, Professor of Public Health at Edinburgh University, said: “Requiring it just gives that little extra nudge and it’s much clearer for the public.”

Anyone who wants people such as this controlling their lives — control being the operative word, as it has been with tobacco — can have at it. Smokers have said for years that Tobacco Control can use their blueprint for any other ‘health’ advocacy issue, from bans on salt and sugar to … well, we’d never have guessed it … mandatory face coverings.

We will just have to play by the rules rather than risk a police-enforceable £100 fine (half-off if one pays within 14 days).

If more people shop online than in the high street, I hope that Chancellor Rishi Sunak will bring that to Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s attention. We need shops and personal discretion, not a useless policy from Matt Hancock, who, at the best of times, sounds like a second-rate headmaster.

I will have more on the dubious efficacy of masks soon.

During the coronavirus lockdown, we have been told to stay indoors.

On sunny days, however, it’s worthwhile venturing outside for exercise and exposure to sunlight, which gives us natural Vitamin D. This was something everyone used to know in the old days.

Vitamin D is fat soluble, which means it is stored in our fat cells. Other commonly touted vitamins, such as B and C, are water soluble (e.g. expelled in urine) and must be taken daily.

Vitamin D might also help to prevent respiratory infections, which could include coronavirus, according to an Australian researcher.

New American has the story, ‘Sunshine Increases Vitamin D and May Build Resistance to Coronavirus’. Excerpts follow, emphases mine:

The researcher, Dr. Rachel Neale, said during an interview with The Australian last week that having low levels of Vitamin D increases vulnerability to viral infections, including COVID-19.

“Now, more than ever, is not the time to be vitamin D deficient,” Dr. Neale said. “It would make sense that being vitamin D deficient would increase the risk of having symptomatic COVID-19 and potentially having worse symptoms. And that’s because vitamin D seems to have important effects on the immune system.”

Last year, Neale headed up a study of 78,000 patients, and found that people with low levels of Vitamin D are almost twice as likely as those with high levels of vitamin D to develop acute respiratory infections, which people with COVID-19 are now dying from

Neale found that Vitamin D supplementation reduced the risk of acute respiratory infections, but she does not take Vitamin D tablets herself, as she believes time in the sun provides more benefits. However, she accepts that oral supplements are useful for people who cannot spend time in the sun.

Get outdoors now and then, especially when it’s sunny.

Vitamin D deficiency has also been linked to depression. Therefore, spending some time in the sun does a tremendous amount to lift one’s mood.

Because it is fat soluble, getting Vitamin D now during the warmer, sunnier months will provide physical and psychological benefits during the colder seasons when we stay indoors.

As always, there is no need to overdose and get a sunburn. Even exposure of 15 or 20 minutes a day can help.

N.B.: This is not to be construed as medical advice.

Bible penngrovechurchofchristorgThe three-year Lectionary that many Catholics and Protestants hear in public worship gives us a great variety of Holy Scripture.

Yet, it doesn’t tell the whole story.

My series Forbidden Bible Verses — ones the Lectionary editors and their clergy omit — examines the passages we do not hear in church. These missing verses are also Essential Bible Verses, ones we should study with care and attention. Often, we find that they carry difficult messages and warnings.

Today’s reading is from the English Standard Version with commentary by Matthew Henry and John MacArthur (here and here).

Romans 2:17-24

17 But if you call yourself a Jew and rely on the law and boast in God 18 and know his will and approve what is excellent, because you are instructed from the law; 19 and if you are sure that you yourself are a guide to the blind, a light to those who are in darkness, 20 an instructor of the foolish, a teacher of children, having in the law the embodiment of knowledge and truth— 21 you then who teach others, do you not teach yourself? While you preach against stealing, do you steal? 22 You who say that one must not commit adultery, do you commit adultery? You who abhor idols, do you rob temples? 23 You who boast in the law dishonor God by breaking the law. 24 For, as it is written, “The name of God is blasphemed among the Gentiles because of you.”

————————————————————————————————-

Last week’s post discussed Paul’s criticism of the Jews’ conduct by contrasting it with that of the Gentiles, who, at that time, had no knowledge of God yet conducted themselves in a much better fashion than those who received God’s law:

13 For it is not the hearers of the law who are righteous before God, but the doers of the law who will be justified.

With regard to the Gentiles:

15 They show that the work of the law is written on their hearts, while their conscience also bears witness, and their conflicting thoughts accuse or even excuse them 16 on that day when, according to my gospel, God judges the secrets of men by Christ Jesus.

The rest of Romans 2 focusses on what the Jews held dear: their special status with God, the law and circumcision. Circumcision comes later in the chapter. When one reads it, one can see that Paul’s criticism of the Jews can also apply to some Christians today. Substitute baptism for circumcision.

This is all about having a false sense of security in God.

John MacArthur summarises the second half of Romans 2 as follows (emphases mine):

Now in Romans 2, Paul speaks specifically, verses 17 to 29, to destroy the false securities of the Jews. But in so doing he also lays bare the inadequacy of many false securities of people today, and we’ll see some very interesting parallels. Now Paul has already indicted the pagan, immoral, irreligious people in chapter 1 verses 18 to 32. And then he indicted the religious, moral people in chapter 2 verses 1 to 16, and the Jews were also sort of included there. But now, having dealt with irreligious people and generally religious people, he now zeroes in specifically on the covenant people, the Jews, in verses 17 to 29 so that he really is just sort of embracing everybody. He catches the pagan, the moral person and the covenant people, the Jew, and all of them are brought to the tribunal, as it were, to be told that they are sinful and they come short of God’s glory. Nobody escapes.

But in verses 17 to 29 he deals with the people who had the highest and the greatest privilege. And the people who at the same time felt themselves the most secure. And he devastates their false securities. And may I hasten to add that it is an act of great kindness. You do people a tremendous favor when you tell them that their security is insecure, when you tell them that they are putting their money in a bank that’ll break, when you tell them that they’re holding onto a rope that will snap. That’s kindness. And so Paul is very honest and very forthright and he is very gracious in so indicting the Jew because he makes him face the inadequacy of his false securities.

Now in these verses, 17 to 29, we face the fact that the Jew had three great privileges which gave him a false sense of security. One was that he was a part of the nation of Israel. Two, that he possessed the law of God. And three, that he was circumcised. So, based on the nation and the law and the sign of circumcision, the Jew, having these great privileges, felt himself greatly secured by them, and believed that, because he was a Jew, because he possessed the law, because he had the symbol or the sign of the covenant in circumcision, he was therefore free from any fear about judgment. And so what Paul does, beginning in verse 17, is take each of these three and systematically destroy them all as securities. He strikes a killing blow at the supposed security of the Jew. And in so doing he strikes a killing blow at the supposed security of many so-called Christians and so-called religious people in the church today.

This is the intended lesson for Christians:

My prayer is not only that you’ll understand the passage so you understand the Jew, but my prayer is that you’ll understand the passage so you’ll understand even in a contemporary setting in the church how people can hide behind false security, and that needs to be made known to them.

MacArthur reminds us that what Paul wrote came from Jesus’s own words, the Sermon on the Mount:

Jesus arrived in the scene in Judaism in Matthew. First time He gave a sermon, chapter 5 through 7, He spends the entire sermon literally demolishing the walls of Judaism. First of all, He says in chapter 5 verse 20, “Your righteousness is not adequate to get you into the Kingdom.” There goes that security. Then He says, “Your attitudes are wrong. Your view of Scripture is wrong. Your human relationships are inadequate. Your words are inadequate. Your praying doesn’t cut it. Your fasting doesn’t cut it. Your giving doesn’t cut it.” And literally, in Matthew chapters 5, 6 and 7, Jesus strips Judaism threadbare naked without securities. And that is the approach that you always have to take in a presentation of the gospel. The person has to be led to the place where they know they have no resource, they have no protection, they have no hope, they have no solution, they have no security. So we are not surprised to see Paul do this.

Therefore, the practical application for us is to read these verses as if they were directed towards Christians today.

Paul begins by attacking the boastfulness that the Jew had in being one of God’s chosen and having His law (verse 17).

Matthew Henry elaborates:

They were a peculiar people, separated and distinguished from all others by their having the written law and the special presence of God among them. (1.) Thou art called a Jew; not so much in parentage as profession. It was a very honourable title. Salvation was of the Jews; and this they were very proud of, to be a people by themselves; and yet many that were so called were the vilest of men … (2.) And restest in the law; that is, they took a pride in this, that they had the law among them, had it in their books, read it in their synagogues. They were mightily puffed up with this privilege, and thought this enough to bring them to heaven, though they did not live, up to the law. To rest in the law, with a rest of complacency and acquiescence, is good; but to rest in it with a rest of pride, and slothfulness, and carnal security, is the ruin of souls … It is a dangerous thing to rest in external privileges, and not to improve them. (3.) And makest thy boast of God. See how the best things may be perverted and abused. A believing, humble, thankful glorying in God, is the root and summary of all religion, Isa. xlv. 15; 1 Cor. i. 31. But a proud vainglorious boasting in God, and in the outward profession of his name, is the root and summary of all hypocrisy. Spiritual pride is of all kinds of pride the most dangerous.

The Jew from the time of the late prophets of the Old Testament to Paul’s era thought he was superior to everyone else. MacArthur explains:

Now the term for boast is used many times by Paul. The word group from which it comes is a very familiar one. It sometimes is used for God-centered glorying, and sometimes for man-centered boasting. And I think the [character] indictment … of this passage indicates that it should be here seen as their boasting, the self-confident boasting of a man who thinks that God owes him something because he’s superior to everybody else. They were bragging about their relationship with God. So special were they, so great were they that God had to favor them.

And the effect of this — and this really was their attitude, you see it over and over again even in the minor prophets — but the effect of this was that they thought they could live their life any way they wanted and everything would turn out okay because God was obligated to them because they were so superior to everybody else.

Paul takes the Jews to task for claiming that, because they had the law, they knew what was excellent in God’s eyes (verse 18). That holds true only if one obeys God’s revealed will.

MacArthur says:

Verse 18, they were boasting about resting in the law and about knowing God’s will. We know God’s will. We’re okay. Boy, that is shallow, isn’t it? Because to know God’s will doesn’t mean anything except you’re more responsible, again, if you don’t do it.

Paul goes further by criticising their sense of self-privilege of being the enlightened ones (verse 19), the great teachers above all others (verse 20).

Matthew Henry points out:

A man may be a good casuist and yet a bad Christian–accurate in the notion, but loose and careless in the application. Or, we may, with De Dieu, understand controversies by the ta diapheronta. A man may be well skilled in the controversies of religion, and yet a stranger to the power of godliness

Those whose knowledge rests in an empty notion, and does not make an impression on their hearts, have only the form of it, like a picture well drawn and in good colours, but which wants life. A form of knowledge produces but a form of godliness, 2 Timothy 3:5. A form of knowledge may deceive men, but cannot impose upon the piercing eye of the heart-searching God. A form may be the vehicle of the power; but he that takes up with that only is like sounding brass and a tinkling cymbal.

In verses 21 and 22, Paul asks questions of the Jews of the day. When they teach others, do they also teach themselves? When they preach against stealing, are they themselves guilty of stealing? In telling people not to commit adultery, were they guilty of committing that same sin?

MacArthur distils the message from these verses for us:

It’s not what you teach, it’s what you do. I would venture to say that this country is full of people who teach Christian truth who will never enter God’s kingdom. I mean, the country is loaded with angels of light, or those disguised, I should say, as angels of light, false teachers, false prophets, who under the guise of true prophets and true shepherds are teaching. And sometimes perhaps they even teach the truth to gain their own ends.

And I think there are other people who may be teaching the law of God, teaching principles out of the Bible, teaching things out of the Scripture. But it is not what they teach, it is what they do. And here you find the terrible gulf between what theologians call orthodoxy and orthopraxy, between profession and practice. And Paul says, in fact, you’re guilty of what you condemn in other people. You’re a teacher and you don’t even live up to your own lessons. You’re like a crooked cop, somebody out there under the pretense of upholding the law, all the time breaking it. You’re like an unjust judge, somebody who sits on the bench with the task of rendering justice, and living out injustice. The worst kind of hypocrisy is this kind of hypocrisy. They pretended and they did not obey. And so he really indicts them there in a very simple way.

Henry explains the ways in which the Jewish hierarchy sinned and why Paul mentioned those sins specifically:

He specifies three particular sins that abound among the Jews:– (1.) Stealing. This is charged upon some that declared God’s statutes (Psalms 50:16,18), When thou sawest a thief, then thou consentedst with him. The Pharisees are charged with devouring widows’ houses (Matthew 23:14), and that is the worst of robberies. (2.) Adultery, Romans 2:22. This is likewise charged upon that sinner (Psalms 50:18), Thou hast been partaker with adulterers. Many of the Jewish rabbin are said to have been notorious for this sin. (3.) Sacrilege-robbing in holy things, which were then by special laws dedicated and devoted to God; and this is charged upon those that professed to abhor idols. So the Jews did remarkably, after their captivity in Babylon; that furnace separated them for ever from the dross of their idolatry, but they dealt very treacherously in the worship of God. It was in the latter days of the Old-Testament church that they were charged with robbing God in tithes and offerings (Malachi 3:8,9), converting that to their own use, and to the service of their lusts, which was, in a special manner, set apart for God. And this is almost equivalent to idolatry, though this sacrilege was cloaked with the abhorrence of idols. Those will be severely reckoned with another day who, while they condemn sin in others, do the same, or as bad, or worse, themselves.

Paul tells the Jews of his era that, although they boast in the law, they dishonour God by breaking that law (verse 23).

This is why good Christians warn against legalism. As MacArthur says:

There’s one thing about legalism, folks, legalism has no ability to restrain sin. It can’t. All it does is intensify it. Anybody caught up in a legalistic system where they’re trying to gain God’s favor by their own works finds themselves utterly unable to restrain their evil flesh.

When we break God’s law, we blaspheme Him to those not of our faith. In Paul’s context, these were the Gentiles (verse 24).

MacArthur explains:

You see, if you claim to know Christ, if you claim to know God, and then you live a sinful wicked life, if you say you’ve learned the truth about God and you teach the truth about God and live a sinful wicked life, you just blaspheme God, that’s all.

MacArthur illustrates an example in Christianity which applies to Paul’s criticisms of the Jews:

In America there are many churches that come under the term “Covenant Church,” “Reformed Church,” and many of them are very good. But in some of them there is a teaching along the line of what we would call, I guess, for lack of a better term, family covenant, that the salvation of the child occurs because he is born to Christian parents. Now you may not have been able to identify that because it’s not in your background but that is true of many, many Protestant backgrounds …

I’ve been in parts of America where this kind of theology is fairly dominant, back in the Midwest. Parents have actually expressed the fact that even though their child is wayward and even though their child is indifferent to the cause of Christ, the child is still saved because they were born in the covenant and their salvation was affirmed in their infant baptism. And that the hope of the parent is that. Because of that, that child is secure …

We are not secured by our heritage. You may have had Christian parents, you may have been born in a Christian hospital with a Christian nurse and a Christian doctor who used tools purchased from a Christian manufacturer. You may have been fed Christian baby food and don’t be surprised if somebody doesn’t come out with that now. We have everything else. That doesn’t mean a thing. It’s a matter of individual faith. But the church has been so confused by this through the years. Heritage is not a security.

As believers, we bear a heavy responsibility in our conduct to honour God. It isn’t easy. This is why we should read the Bible and pray continuously, as if our lives depend upon it, because they do.

Next time — Romans 2:25-29

Churchmouse Campanologist turns 11 years old today!

Thank you to everyone who made this anniversary possible.

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Thanks for flying with us. Keep up the good blogging.

May I extend a warm welcome to my latest subscribers, my appreciation to the dozens of readers who subscribed over the past year and to my loyal, long-term readers over the past decade.

My top ten referrers over the past year, after search engines various, are as follows:

1/  WordPress.com Reader
2/  churchmousec-wordpress-com.cdn.ampproject.org
3/  Facebook
4/  Voat
5/  Martin Scriblerus
6/  Head Rambles
7/  The Politically Incorrect Australian
8/  Muffled Vociferation (welcome back!)
9/  Ichabod
10/ Twitter

Readers visit from all over the world — 172 countries — with the greatest views as follows in descending order:

1/  United States
2/  United Kingdom
3/  Australia
4/  Canada
5/  Germany
6/  Philippines
7/  France
8/  India
9/  Netherlands
10/ Spain (new)

My top ten posts over the past year are as follows:

1/  This quiz can help you find the right denomination (1st place sixth year running)

2/  The Anglican Prayer of Humble Access (2nd place, second year)

3/  Charles Spurgeon on Matthew 7:6 — pearls before swine (3rd place, second year)

4/  Guest post: sourdough starter’s acetone smell is a necessary step (4th place, second year)

5/  Lamb’s hearts — a tasty, affordable alternative to stir-fried steak (5th place, second year)

6/  Cadbury Dairy Milk: when chocolate won’t melt, there’s a problem (returning from a few years ago)

7/  A must-see Christmas documentary: Wild Tales from the Village (down from 6th last year)

8/  Historical meaning of the Parable of the Prodigal Son (up from 10th last year)

9/  FBI Anon speaks — part 1 (down from 8th last year)

10/ Gospel readings for Christmas Eve (new)

Thank you to all my readers who have helped make these posts into Churchmouse Campanologist ‘classics’!

At the top of my website, I have four pages of posts which might be of interest:

Essential Bible Verses page has all of my Forbidden Bible Verses posts;

Christianity / Apologetics has dozens of posts about the Church and the Bible, including those relating to ancient religious history;

Marxism / Communism has my socio-political posts, relating to history old and new;

Recipes / Health / History / Trump has easy-to-make recipes, many posts on health, miscellaneous history and posts relating to President Trump’s first term in office.

In closing, I hope that everyone made the best of St Patrick’s Day, despite coronavirus bans on public celebrations. My commiserations to those who wanted to go to parades last weekend or attend Mass today.

This is what Ireland’s prime minister Leo Varadkar brought as a gift to President Trump last week. What a splendid bouquet:

This was the scene in a New York neighbourhood, near Mott and Mulberry Streets, on Sunday — one way to get around the coronavirus ban:

True that!

Not sure that drive-in Confession is a good idea, though:

Here’s a thought for St Patrick’s Day:

Friends, I look forward to the year ahead, sharing more thoughts and news with you!

As British and American health officials have been saying for the past few weeks, washing our hands is the best defence against coronavirus.

It’s something so simple, yet oft neglected.

Soap and water experiment

The following photos illustrates the efficacy of using soap and water over a hand sanitiser.

Note, in particular, No. 1 (far right) — ‘Wiped on Chromebook’. It’s filthy:

Here is a close up of soap versus hand sanitiser:

This experiment began in November 2019, not long before the initial appearance of COVID-19 in China the following month. How timely.

The New York Post reported the story, which took place in Discovery Elementary School in Idaho Falls, Idaho.

The two teachers who conducted the experiment, Jaralee Annice Metcalf and Dayna Robertson, were even surprised at the results. Robinson:

learned about the experiment on Mystery Science, a website for teachers to share science lessons.

They had students touch the various slices of bread after lunch, according to the conditions illustrated above. The teachers purposely left the Chromebook unsanitised from the day before.

The ensuing weeks unfolded as follows (emphases mine):

Each slice was dropped in a plastic bag, labeled, and hung on the classroom wall. It was about two weeks later, according to Roberston, that they started to see mold growth. At that point, the class took their Thanksgiving break.

After that, says Robertson, “It just exploded.”

“I don’t even think we expected it to look so drastic,” added Metcalf.

The revolting results were “a big surprise” for the class, according to Robertson. While they assumed that the unwashed hands sample might be the most vulnerable to mold, it turned out that the bread rubbed on the Chromebooks turned the blackest and fuzziest of all.

They also didn’t expect to learn that hand washing would be the most effective means of battling bacterial growth, as opposed to hand sanitizer. Shockingly, the bread handled post-gel appeared to harbor at least two different strains of both black and yellow-colored mold …

Word of their alarming assessment spread like a virus. Soon teachers throughout the school came to the classroom with their own students to give “mini-lessons” on proper hygiene using the moldy bread as an example.

Their demonstration yielded even better results than they’d anticipated.

“We have students that will just pop up randomly and be like, ‘I’m gonna go wash my hands,’ and just walk out of the classroom,” says Metcalf, who’s not complaining about the interruption. “We’re like, ‘OK, that’s a good idea!’ ”

I hope that adults who have seen the photos on social media have taken note. I worked with quite a few people during my career who did not wash their hands.

Why soap and water work so well

Dr Palli Thordarson is an expert in supramolecular chemistry and the assembly of nanoparticles. He is from Iceland but teaches at the University of New South Wales in Australia.

He recently published a long thread of 39 tweets about the superiority of cleaning hands with soap and water.

This is the Thread Reader App link.

Below are excerpts from his highly informative thread:

He explains how a virus is structured and how soap breaks up that structure. Lipids are organic compounds that bind together because they do not react to water. Fats are part of a subgroup of lipids called triglycerides. Other types of lipids include, but are not limited to, waxes and fat-soluble vitamins (A, D, E and K). We need lipids in order to live, but there are bad ones, too — those that cover virus cells:

Viruses can bond with certain types of surfaces. Unfortunately, these include skin, clothing and wood:

This is why we should not touch our faces. Parents and teachers used to teach this fact to children a few decades ago. For centuries, it was a sign of good breeding not to touch one’s face. That advice went out the window, probably in the 1980s. It’s time we rediscovered it for the following reasons:

Now on to the chemistry of soap and water against virus cells:

The professor explains why antibacterial washes do not work as well:

Conclusion

Let’s keep calm and wash our hands — often!

Readings for the Second Sunday in Lent — March 9, 2020 — follow.

These are for Year A in the three-year Lectionary used in public worship.

Emphases below are mine.

First Reading

Abraham receives the Lord’s instruction to leave his family homestead. He was thought to have been 75 at the time. Abraham’s extended family were pagans, so Abraham obeyed with a blind faith in God. His wife Sarah and his nephew Lot accompanied him. Abraham’s story is utterly amazing, as demonstrated by his unquestioning faith and his unwavering obedience to God.

Genesis 12:1-4a

12:1 Now the LORD said to Abram, “Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you.

12:2 I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you, and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing.

12:3 I will bless those who bless you, and the one who curses you I will curse; and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.”

12:4a So Abram went, as the LORD had told him; and Lot went with him.

Psalm

This is known as the Soldier’s Psalm or the Traveller’s Psalm. Regardless, its words are uplifting and should be prayed wherever one is, even at home.

Psalm 121

121:1 I lift up my eyes to the hills– from where will my help come?

121:2 My help comes from the LORD, who made heaven and earth.

121:3 He will not let your foot be moved; he who keeps you will not slumber.

121:4 He who keeps Israel will neither slumber nor sleep.

121:5 The LORD is your keeper; the LORD is your shade at your right hand.

121:6 The sun shall not strike you by day, nor the moon by night.

121:7 The LORD will keep you from all evil; he will keep your life.

121:8 The LORD will keep your going out and your coming in from this time on and forevermore.

Epistle

Paul addresses Abraham’s righteous faith, an example for us all, as we are his spiritual descendants.

Romans 4:1-5, 13-17

4:1 What then are we to say was gained by Abraham, our ancestor according to the flesh?

4:2 For if Abraham was justified by works, he has something to boast about, but not before God.

4:3 For what does the scripture say? “Abraham believed God, and it was reckoned to him as righteousness.”

4:4 Now to one who works, wages are not reckoned as a gift but as something due.

4:5 But to one who without works trusts him who justifies the ungodly, such faith is reckoned as righteousness.

4:13 For the promise that he would inherit the world did not come to Abraham or to his descendants through the law but through the righteousness of faith.

4:14 If it is the adherents of the law who are to be the heirs, faith is null and the promise is void.

4:15 For the law brings wrath; but where there is no law, neither is there violation.

4:16 For this reason it depends on faith, in order that the promise may rest on grace and be guaranteed to all his descendants, not only to the adherents of the law but also to those who share the faith of Abraham (for he is the father of all of us,

4:17 as it is written, “I have made you the father of many nations”) — in the presence of the God in whom he believed, who gives life to the dead and calls into existence the things that do not exist.

Gospel

There are two suggested Gospel readings for this Sunday. One is Matthew’s account of the Transfiguration, which was read two weeks ago on Transfiguration Sunday. Therefore, I will only include the reading from John, which concerns Jesus’s encounter with Nicodemus.

John 3:1-17

3:1 Now there was a Pharisee named Nicodemus, a leader of the Jews.

3:2 He came to Jesus by night and said to him, “Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher who has come from God; for no one can do these signs that you do apart from the presence of God.”

3:3 Jesus answered him, “Very truly, I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God without being born from above.”

3:4 Nicodemus said to him, “How can anyone be born after having grown old? Can one enter a second time into the mother’s womb and be born?”

3:5 Jesus answered, “Very truly, I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God without being born of water and Spirit.

3:6 What is born of the flesh is flesh, and what is born of the Spirit is spirit.

3:7 Do not be astonished that I said to you, ‘You must be born from above.’

3:8 The wind blows where it chooses, and you hear the sound of it, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.”

3:9 Nicodemus said to him, “How can these things be?”

3:10 Jesus answered him, “Are you a teacher of Israel, and yet you do not understand these things?

3:11 “Very truly, I tell you, we speak of what we know and testify to what we have seen; yet you do not receive our testimony.

3:12 If I have told you about earthly things and you do not believe, how can you believe if I tell you about heavenly things?

3:13 No one has ascended into heaven except the one who descended from heaven, the Son of Man.

3:14 And just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up,

3:15 that whoever believes in him may have eternal life.

3:16 “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life.

3:17 “Indeed, God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.

Nicodemus pops up two more times in John’s Gospel. The next time is in John 7:50-51, when he reminds his fellow Pharisees that they must hear Jesus out before condemning him. He appears a third time in John 19. We have reason to believe that Nicodemus became a follower of Jesus, because he helped Joseph of Arimathea prepare His body in the tomb. He brought with him 75 pounds of a myrrh and aloe mixture (John 19:39-40).

Super Bowl LIV (54, in new money) took place on Candlemas, February 2, 2020.

It is hard to imagine any half-time display less worthy of a Sunday, let alone on an important feast day in the Church.

February 2 is also Groundhog Day, and that found its rightful place in the advertising.

Half-time show

Not being an American football fan, I did not watch any of it but saw tweets about the half-time show the next day. You’ll have to click on the link to see the content.

Was this family viewing?

Jeb! liked it, though:

Yes, it does sound creepy. Quite something for a convert to Catholicism and a Fourth Degree in the Knights of Columbus.

The self-described ‘Follower of Christ’, Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Florida) also enjoyed it. He gave the half-time show an A+:

The SGT Report wrote about child grooming on February 7, mentioning the half-time show. This excerpt begins after the introductory section about a mother who posed online as an 11-year-old (emphases mine):

This is the new face of how predators are grooming young girls (and boys) to be trafficked, molested and raped. However, it starts much earlier, with a culture that has brainwashed itself into believing that sexual freedom amounts to a Super Bowl half-time show in which barely-clad women spend 20 minutes twerking, gyrating (some of it on a stripper pole) and showing off sexually provocative dance moves.

This is part and parcel of the pornification of American culture

Pop culture and porn culture have become part of the same seamless continuum,” explains theatre historian and University of Illinois professor Mardia Bishop. “As these images become pervasive in popular culture, they become normalized… and… accepted.”

This foray into porn culture—the increasing acceptability and pervasiveness of sexualized imagery in mainstream media—is where pop culture takes a dark turn. “Visual images and narratives of music videos clearly have more potential to form attitudes, values, or perceptions of social reality than does the music alone,” notes author Douglas A. Gentile in his book Media Violence and Children. In fact, music videos are among the worst culprits constantly bombarding young people today with sexual images and references.

Screen time has become the primary culprit for the oversexualization of young people.

Danger, Will Robinson, danger.

Mar a Lago party

President and Mrs Trump held a large private Super Bowl party at Mar a Lago in Palm Beach.

It looks as if they were filing in to the dining room during the half-time show. Actor Terrence K Williams was with them. Good for him:

The US president gave a pre-game show interview to Sean Hannity. This was before his third State of the Union address and his impeachment acquittal:

Advertising

The Super Bowl is the advertising world’s biggest day of the year.

Some American viewers are just as interested in the adverts as they are in the game, if not more so.

However, some advertising themes are more worthy than others:

That day, Ad Week posted ‘The 10 Best Super Bowl Ads of 2020’. They chose ads in reverse order for Porsche, Tide, Microsoft, Mtn Dew Zero Sugar, Snickers, Hyundai Sonata, Amazon Alexa, Google AI (artificial intelligence) and Jeep.

What, no Budweiser? Well, the iconic Clydesdales were nowhere to be seen — at least not this year.

Jeep won the top spot, in Ad Week‘s estimation. Those responding to Jeep in the tweet below also raved about it. I found it rather frustrating to watch. Then again, I never liked Groundhog Day:

Although this next video on Super Bowl LIV advertising is just under 20 minutes long, the two presenters from The Corbett Report offer an amusing, yet sound, critique of three adverts, which one of them chose to analyse:

The three adverts chosen have one running theme: artificial intelligence.

The first ad they played was Budweiser’s. It was poorly put together. This is because most of the advert shows an Alexa-type device in a young man’s flat. Where’s the brew, you might ask? Nowhere. Or maybe a bottle showed up briefly at the end. I don’t recall. (That is what makes it a bad ad.) This is a safety announcement about drinking responsibly. The Budweiser logo shows up only at the end.

The next advert the men looked at was the one Ad Week rated second (see above): Google’s. A man went through old photographs of his late wife Loretta and spoke to Google, narrating a caption for each photo. Each of his phrases began with the word ‘remember’. The helpful electronic Google assistant confirmed that it was logging all his captions.

The two presenters rightly pointed out that people were unwittingly posting their life stories to the cloud. How would Google use those data? How many thousands or millions of lives would be logged for Google’s use? Food for thought.

The third ad was for Verizon. It showed clips of first responders in emergency situations. Verizon’s superior network capabilities help them get to the scenes of accidents and fires that much quicker. What’s not to like, right? Yet, as The Corbett Report presenters said, pandering to the public’s emotions is a very slick and underhanded way of getting people to accept and rely on artificial intelligence.

So, we have Alexa monitoring one’s drink levels, Google ‘helping’ with memory problems and Verizon’s GPS (tracking) capabilities.

Danger, Will Robinson, danger.

Next week: How Cannes Lions ad winners shape your worldview

On January 21, 2020, the BBC’s radio and television presenter Victoria Derbyshire interviewed a Briton who lived as a woman for four years before returning to manhood.

Richard Hoskins tells his story here (two weeks left to view, probably geolocalised) and says of his life as a transsexual (emphasis in the original):

‘I used gender transition as a form of escape’

For four years, Richard Hoskins lived as a woman.

But he now believes it was a reaction to the trauma of losing three children, rather than relating to his gender identity.

He has now detransitioned, and tells the BBC’s Victoria Derbyshire that more must be done by the NHS to ensure others are properly assessed before treatment begins.

In the clip below, he explains that he had PTSD after the loss of his three children and from earlier sexual trauma as a child. Derbyshire, whose television news and chat show has recently been cancelled, kept showing him national guidelines saying that medical practitioners are following them to the letter. He counters her arguments by saying that what is needed before any of that takes place is one-on-one therapy, which he had after he had become a woman and felt increasingly uncomfortable.

Please watch this two-minute video (‘or’ in line two should read ‘of’):

In Britain, it is very difficult for medical practitioners not to eventually sign off on transsexual procedures. There is legal and professional pressure so to do.

The comments following that tweet are enlightening and show just how wrong ‘following the procedures’ can be:

It turns out that Richard Hoskins is actually Dr Richard Hoskins, a lecturer in theology and present-day criminologist.

He helped police in a horrific murder case that took place in London in 2001. A little boy, known only as ‘Adam’, had been mutilated and thrown into the Thames by Tower Bridge. He was close to being swept away into the North Sea. After Hoskins became involved, more similar cases in London came to light.

Hoskins wrote an award-winning book about it called The Boy in the River, available on Amazon, from which an excerpt of the synopsis follows:

Unable to identify the victim, the Murder Squad turned to Richard Hoskins, a young professor of theology with a profound understanding of African tribal religion, whose own past was scarred by a heartbreaking tragedy. Thus began a journey into the tangled undergrowth of one of the most notorious murder cases of recent years; a journey which would reveal not only the identity of the boy they called Adam but the horrific truth that a succession of innocent children have been ritually sacrificed in our capital city.Insightful and grippingly written, The Boy in the River is an inside account of a series of extraordinary criminal investigations and a compelling personal quest into the dark heart of humanity.

According to the highly interesting readers’ comments, in the book, Hoskins discusses his experiences as a missionary in the Congo. He seems to have spent part of his earlier life there before returning as an adult to spend six years there. His Wikipedia entry gives brief details about his life, mostly focussing on his career as a lecturer and, later, as a criminologist.

One reader wrote, in part:

Through this well written book, Dr Richard Hoskins takes us from his happy times in the Congo marked by devastating personal tragedy whilst living under the rule of an autocratic dictator and contrasts it with the Congo many years later, free of the dictator but with a disintegrating social fabric providing a void for new churches to fill using their corrupted fusion of Christianity with a brutalised version of previously benign traditional beliefs. The Congo that he used to know is not the one in which he is almost killed years later.

When Adam is pulled from the river the Police come to him seeking guidance in a belief system which seems so alien. Dr Hoskin’s personal story run’s parallel with the cases he provides help on, fighting to maintain his sanity and marriage in the face of the case reports he must read and interpret for the benefit of Police and Courts to make sure all understand this is not an Africa problem steeped in tradition but a terrible corruption by a minority in recent years of a faith that has lasted hundreds of years with the victims being dreadfully abused before, in the most extreme, death.

The Evening Standard‘s review said, in part:

As well as being an important book for all sorts of reasons, The Boy in the River is a remarkable one. The horror it evokes will be matched by a sense of disbelief that such appalling things are happening, now, in London. What makes it all the more powerful is the deliberately measured manner in which it is written. Throughout, there s a sense that Hoskins is struggling to maintain his own equilibrium, his own sanity even, as he explores what he calls, with ample justification, the darkest underbelly of human nature.

It is worth emphasising that only a small percentage of the Congo’s Christians practice such brutal syncretism involving ritual child abuse and sacrifice.

Yet, from this, it is understandable why Hoskins was traumatised.

From this we can see that the urge to change one’s sexuality or remove body parts is complex. Not everyone has as involved a past as Dr Hoskins, however, therapy should be strongly advised in such cases before further action is taken.

There are other ways to come to terms with one’s highly personal conflicts:

I hope that Hoskins and others in the same situation continue to speak openly.

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