Worship the invisible God or our modern idols: Which?

Isaiah 55:1-9
Psalm 63:1-8
I Corinthians 10:1-13
Luke 13:1-9

Guidance through the Wilderness

Emmanuel Anglican Church, Sunday March 7, 2010

A Warning against Idolatry

Paul wrote 1 Corinthians to a very young church that he himself had planted.  But the new Christians at Corinth were confused about what is ok for a Christian to do.  So throughout the letter Paul offers practical instructions about how they must behave as Christians.  In ch. 8, he begins to give instructions about idolatry, and how the Corinthian Christians must act.  In ch. 8, he gives specific instructions about idol meat:  it was a practice in ancient world to sacrifice an animal to idols and then cut it up and sell it in the market place.  This was a difficult dilemma for Christians since most of the meat that they could buy had been sacrificed.  Could they eat such meat?  Paul also instructs these new converts, men and women who used to be pagans, that they must shun idol worship.  This was a hard lesson for these early Christians, because so much of life in the ancient world revolved around religion; in some cases, in order to belong to a certain profession, you had to worship in a pagan temple.  Some of the Corinthians had a pretty lax attitude:  they believed that they could partake in the feasts in the pagan temples, visit the prostitutes there, and none of this would harm them.  They were fooling themselves saying something like, “Food is for the stomach, sex is for the body, but my knowledge of God remains intact.  The whole world belongs to God and I can go into the temple eat and visit prostitutes and it will not harm me.”  But Paul is horrified and warns them not to visit the temple:  Even though there were no other gods besides the One God, they would be eating at the table of demons.  Then he recalls what happened to the Israelites, who were brought out of the land of Egypt; While in the desert they feared that Moses would not return from the mountain. So they had his brother Aaron fashion a calf out of gold and Aaron said to them about this golden calf ,  “This is Yahweh, who brought you out of the land of Egypt”; they began a feast with dancing, and they began to commit sexual immorality too.

Why Idolatry?

After many long centuries of Christianity in Western culture, we no longer practice idolatry.  So it is nearly impossible for us to relate to these passages. What was the motivation of the Corinthians to return to the pagan temples?  Why did the Israelites have Aaron create an idol?  My African friends who are first or second generation Christian may understand better than us.  Dr. Abel Ndjerareou, who once preached here at Emmanuel, said that he practiced idolatry at his grandparents house before becoming a Christian.  They are much closer to idolatry than we are.  Perhaps, a little story can explain what motivates idolaters:

Barthelemy Kombo, a Bayaka pygmy of Central African Republic, was afraid to become a Christian because he did not know how he would hunt without practicing fetishism—certain pagan rituals must be done to placate the spirits and make it possible to have a successful hunt.  The evangelist told him however that, while he could no longer practice his pagan rites, he could pray to God.  So Barthelemy decided to become a Christian but he was still worried that without the fetishist practice which made him a powerful hunter, he would be unsuccessful.  Not only that, but all the other Bayaka believed that he would become an ineffective hunter and that his family would starve.

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Iatrogenesis and Public Health Care

Iatrogenesis is a term that hardly ever enters the public debate on health care.  Any public discussion of the socialization of health care that pays no heed to iatrogenesis is inadequate.  Awareness of iatrogenesis also would call into question the mantle of divinity that we bestow upon physicians, believing that we cannot exist without them.  Yet physicians are contributing to a serious demographic problem of negative population growth.

The word iatrogenesis comes from Greek word, “iatros” (“physician”); and “genesis” (“origin”) and refers to health problems and death caused by medical science. I was first introduced to the word “iatrogenic” by Neil Postman’s Technopoly, ch. 6; Ivan Illich has written a primer on the subject, Medical Nemesis, which is now dated but still largely valid. The first line of his book is: “The medical establishment has become a major threat to health.”

Iatrogenesis is considered by many to be the third leading cause of death in US (conservative estimates of the US death toll due to iatrogenesis to be 225,000 per annum). But I would argue that abortion is also iatrogenenic and is nearly always intentionally fatal to the unborn baby. The death toll in this case is 1.2 or 1.3 million more deaths per year. So now we are at 1.5 million per annum or so people killed in the US by medical science. But then this may only be the tip of the iceberg, since it is not in the best interests of medical practitioners to publicize the number of people they have killed. For example, AIDS may be iatrogenic, if Edward Hooper’s theory (see his book The River) that an experimental polio vaccine used in Belgian Congo in the late 1950 may be the cause of the transfer of the Simian immunodeficiency virus (SIV) from chimpanzees to humans, creating HIV.  The push for assisted suicide and euthanasia will make the circle of iatrogenic death complete, from the young to the old and sick.

A discussion of public health care and socialized medicine that doesn’t take into account iatrogenesis makes an idol out of health care.  Such issues must be approached with sober judgment and care.  I am not saying that physicians can’t help the sick and the injured.  I am saying it really bothers me that we are not publicly aware of iatrogenesis, the leading cause of death.

Here are some examples of iatrogenesis:

Here is another website indicating sources from medical journals and claiming the death rate via iatrogensis is more like 1 million per annum: http://www.ourcivilisation.com/medicine/usamed/deaths.htm

Cosmetic surgery:
Malaria prophylaxis Lariam: http://www.yourlawyer.com/articles/read/8650
Heath Ledger:

Michael Jackson

During an abortion (mother):