Thursday, September 21, 2023

The Feeding And Aiding Of The Four Billion

In Mark 8, when Jesus was moved to compassion
by a hungry crowd, he asked his followers one
simple question, "How many loaves do you have?"
Of the earth's 8.1 billion people, at least half are living in conditions most of us would consider intolerable. 

One in nine of our world neighbors face serious food shortages. By contrast, an estimated 40% of food in the U.S. goes to waste, and far more to waist.
Over a billion people in the world live in urban slums without power, sewer systems or running water. Most of us over consume energy to the detriment of our environment.
Well over a hundred million people are refugees due to war, drought, persecution and civil unrest, and many of these have been homeless for decades. Their number is growing.
• Fewer than 18% of the world's people will ever be able to afford a vehicle. We have more licensed vehicles in the US than licensed drivers.
An estimated six out of ten children around the world are not learning basic reading and math skills. We are blessed with free public education.
• Countless numbers of people suffer from lack of basic dental and medical care. We take that for granted.

According to World Vision president Richard Stearns, author of the The Hole in our Gospel, those of us who earn $50,000 or more a year are among the wealthiest one percent of the world's population. This raises grave concerns about the future of a world with these kinds of disparities between haves and have nots.

A friend recently noted that we likely ignore such glaring disparities for fear that responding generously and justly would "hurt our pocketbooks."  But in light of St. Francis of Assisi's words, "Remember that when you leave this earth, you can take with you nothing that have received--only what you have given,"  this could actually be the best thing that could happen to our pocketbooks. Francis truly believed Jesus's teaching that giving to those in need was the soundest possible investment we could make in the most secure enterprise on earth, the worldwide and everlasting "Company of Heaven."

Here are some ways we can help create a more just, joyful and peaceful world:
• Urge our nation's lawmakers to set an example to other nations in drastically reducing what we spend on war-making and instead investing in a kind of Marshall Plan that would fund food and development projects all over the globe. According to the War Resister's League, a stack of $1,000 bills equal to what the US government currently spends each year on past and present wars would be over 115 miles high. Reinvesting such funds could literally eradicate starvation.
• Encourage people to divert their retirement savings from stock traded corporations to investments in Calvert and other funds that provide immediate help to the poor through loans for small businesses and which invest in such projects as alternative forms of energy, agricultural development and healthcare.
• Radically reduce the short sighted spending we do for our personal comfort and convenience and double up on investing in the long term wellbeing of our world neighbors. For example, we could all fast regularly and/or have a subsistence rice and bean diet meal once a day, then give extravagantly to organizations that benefit needy members of our worldwide human family.

We all have multiple opportunities to help save lives and to make life better for the hungry and homeless Jesus and the prophets cared for. For example, many in our community support the Virginia Mennonite Relief Sale held at the Fairgrounds on the first Friday and Saturday of October, an effort that raises over $400,000 annually for Mennonite Central Committee's worldwide relief and development work. In the past number of years a significant percentage of that has come through direct cash, check and credit card donations at the Sale, and from contributions made on their website--in addition to income from food, craft and auction sales.

Even this commendable effort represents only a fraction of the kind of generosity today's urgent world needs call for. But to the hungry and homeless every little bit helps.

From the prophet Isaiah:  
Is not this the fast that I choose:
    to loose the bonds of injustice,
    to undo the straps of the yoke,
to let the oppressed go free,
    and to break every yoke?
Is it not to share your bread with the hungry
    and bring the homeless poor into your house;
when you see the naked, to cover them
    and not to hide yourself from your own kin?
 Isaiah 58:6-7 (NRSV) 

When we claim God as our Creator, every human on earth becomes our kin, and deserves a hand up.

Saturday, September 9, 2023

An Alternative Creation Account (Satire Alert)

The Garden of Eden, as envisioned by Thomas Cole, 1928

And God said, "Let the earth be paved over with urban development, and include multiple convenience stores, McManna fast food outlets and supermarkets laden with all manner of processed food products according to their kind. And let there be large scale factory farms that produce, harvest and ship food from the far corners of the earth, such as beef fattened on massive feedlots, eggs mechanically gathered and packaged from caged laying hens, bacon and prime ribs from pigs confined to cramped individual stalls all their life, exotic fruit from as far away as China, and bananas and pineapples from corporation-owned plantations from all over the world.
And it was so.
Then God created suburbs with three car garages and with manicured, well fertilized and irrigated lawns, regularly sprayed to prevent native clovers and pollinator dandelions from adding any variant color or texture. These acres of unnatural turf created for Adam and Eve's enjoyment were interspersed with a variety of non-native trees, flowers and shrubs that were "pleasing to the eye" but usually not "good for food" for humans, bees, birds and other habitat.
And it was so.
The Lord also provided conveniences like riding mowers, leaf blowers and weed eaters to help keep all of the lawns neatly trimmed, and to separate the sterile paved areas from the sterile turf spaces. Gyms, fitness centers and pickle ball courts were provided for physical exercise so that well-to-do humans would not have to work the ground to produce vegetables, fruits, nuts or berries of any kind for their food. The Lord also offered employment at local McManna and supermarket outlets for their sons Cain and Abel to earn spending money and to keep them occupied in their spare time.
And it was so.
And God saw all that was made, and mused, "What ever made us think this was 'very good'?"

- selections of Genesis 1 and 2 from the "Reversed Standard Version" 

Satire aside, there are these more hopeful visions:

"Indeed, the Lord will comfort Zion;
God will restore all her waste places.
And her wilderness God will make like Eden,
And her desert like the garden of the Lord;
Joy and gladness will be found in her,
Thanksgiving and sound of a melody."
  Isaiah 51:3

"They will say, ‘This desolate land has become like the garden of Eden; and the waste, desolate and ruined cities are fortified and inhabited.’"   Ezekiel 36:35

"Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, as clear as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb down the middle of the great street of the city. On each side of the river stood the tree of life, bearing twelve crops of fruit, yielding its fruit every month. And the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations."  Revelation 22:1-2

Saturday, September 2, 2023

A Gale-Driven Jesus Movement Becomes Radically Inclusive

map courtesy of

...the earth was tohu vavohu (without form, and void); and darkness was upon the face of the deep. And the Ruach Elohim (Wind, or Spirit, of God) was hovering upon the face of the waters.
Genesis 1:2 (Orthodox Jewish Bible)

 Suddenly there came a sound from the sky like the roar of a violent wind, and it filled the whole house where they were sitting. Genesis 2:2 (Complete Jewish Bible)

The God-movement unleashed on the day of Pentecost was revolutionary in the way it brought diverse and disparate people together. Quoting from the prophet Joel, the apostle Peter noted that young and old,  men and women, slave and free were are to be formed together into one living, loving community. 

But that was just a start, the coming together of Jews of different languages and cultures from all over the then known world--Parthians, Medes, Elamites, citizens of Mesopotamia, Judaea, Cappadocia, Pontus, Asia, Phrygia, Pamphylia, Egypt, Libya and Rome, both Jews and proselytes, Cretes and Arabians. From there the circle of inclusiveness continues to expand at a breathtaking rate.

Philip, one of the Greek speaking Jews appointed to oversee the daily distribution of food among needy followers of the Way in Jerusalem, goes on a preaching mission to despised half-breed Samaritans, baptizing scores of them into the new movement. Immediately afterwards, he is led to speak to a eunuch who is a Jewish court official on the road to his home in Ethiopia from Jerusalem, where he would have been excluded from access to temple worship due to his status as an emasculated male. The eunuch is baptized and "goes on his way rejoicing." 

It is soon thereafter that the most dramatic kind of inclusion imaginable takes place. The apostle Peter is called to visit and to baptize the household of Cornelius, an uncircumcised Roman occupier who is a "God-fearing and upright" Gentile. This represented the crossing of the most fundamental of all barriers, an act which would have been anathema to a devout Jew like Peter. But according to the text, God's Spirit gave him no choice but to fully embrace a hated and uncircumcised oppressor whom God had declared "clean." 

Meanwhile, new believers who were scattered all over the empire after the wave of persecution that took place after the stoning of Stephen, carried the inclusionary message of the Way to places like Antioch of Syria, which became a northern hub of the Christian movement, one that openly incorporated both Jews and Gentiles into the church.

Soon thereafter, Paul, once a terrorist prosecutor of followers of the Way, with his companion Barnabas, went on a 500 mile preaching tour in which they baptized Jews and Gentiles alike into the movement. This created major problems on the part of believers in the mother church in Jerusalem, and resulted in a summit of church leaders being called to resolve the rift created by the inclusion of uncircumcised Gentiles. 

It is hard to overestimate the gravity of this question among early believers. It could not have been more abundantly clear, in the only Bible Jesus and the early apostles knew, that God had initiated this special rite of inclusion as mandatory, first to Abraham, at age 90, and then 400 years later, to the lawgiver Moses. There were to be no exceptions. 

"Here is my covenant, which you are to keep, between me and you, along with your descendants after you: ...Generation after generation, every male among you who is eight days old is to be circumcised, including slaves born within your household and those bought from a foreigner not descended from you. The slave born in your house and the person bought with your money must be circumcised; thus my covenant will be in your flesh as an everlasting covenant. Any uncircumcised male... will be cut off from his people, because he has broken my covenant.”    from Genesis 17:10-14 (CJB)

"The Lord said to Moses: 'Say to the Israelites: If a woman conceives a child and gives birth to a son, she will be unclean for seven days... On the eighth day, the flesh of the boy’s foreskin must be circumcised.'"   Leviticus 12:1-3 (CEV)

For people whose faith was deeply rooted in Judaism, any thought of being a part of God's covenant people without that kind of sacred initiation was nearly unthinkable. Clearly the first century church could have easily divided over this issue, but instead felt led to draw the circle of welcome wider rather than excluding those being drawn into it. That appears to be the trajectory in which God is forever moving.

Today there are still those among us who seek to exclude rather than to include, who would draw the circle ever narrower. And the movement should exclude those would be followers of Jesus who insist on doing harm to others in violation of the first and greatest commandments, the "royal law" to love God with a passion and our every neighbor with compassion. Christ-like love, by definition, never inflicts harm to a fellow human being. 

It is there, and only there, that all those with "circumcised hearts" must draw the line. No harm.

Friday, August 25, 2023

Updated Post: Is Parole Board Following The Law?

Steven Goodman, a friend and a model prisoner who has been denied parole year after year in spite of his impeccable record, recently filed another lawsuit regarding the legality of how the Virginia Parole Board makes its decisions. In spite of his thoroughly researched effort, the suit was denied a hearing for being "legally insufficient." 

I post the following update with his permission:

Steve Goodman has repeatedly dared to ask the Courts in Virginia whether state law empowers the Parole Board to investigate and consider his crime, sentence, or criminal record when they review him for parole.
The first lawsuit was dismissed by the Court without applying, citing, or discussing any decisional case law, and the Supreme Court of Virginia said that was not an error.
Now, Assistant Attorney General Bryan refuses to sign the Response she filed to my current lawsuit, which the Court is now required to strike from the record," says Goodman, "You can't make this stuff up!"
Virginia law prescribes the specific factors the PB is directed and empowered to investigate as follows:
"the prisoner's history, physical and mental condition and character and his conduct, employment and attitude while in prison" Va. Code Sec. 53.1-155(A), clause 1.
"The General Assembly could have included the crime, sentence, and criminal record among these factors, but they chose not to do so," Goodman says. "Parole Board rules, however, lists the crime, sentence, and criminal record among the factors they investigate.
This conflict between administrative rules and the governing statute is a boilerplate administrative law claim that state and federal courts decide everyday. Obviously, these rules are either legal or illegal; and if they are legal, then there must be statutory language somewhere that gives the Parole Board the power to investigate these crime-related factors.
It doesn't take a lawyer to figure out that in Virginia, it is illegal for the Parole Board to deny parole for any crime-related reason because the crime, sentence, and criminal record are beyond the scope of the parole review process prescribed by state law in sec. 53.1-155(A). If this were not so, Judge Sharrett would have decided my case according to law, and AAG Bryan would have actually signed the response she filed.
I'm a certified paralegal, have worked in the prison law library, and have been a jailhouse lawyer for over 30 years. I attached a memorandum of law with my lawsuits in which I presented the courts with a legal argument, supported by controlling authorities from the Supreme Court and Court of Appeals of Virginia, respectively.
Respectfully, I challenge any attorney, professor, or judge, including Attorney General Miyares, to justify the actions of the Commonwealth in my prior and current lawsuits against the Parole Board, and to cite the statutory language that empowers the Board to investigate my crime, sentence, and criminal record when they review me for parole.
I should add that prior to filing my current litigation, I sent a letter, demanding that the Parole Board CEASE and DESIST from their illegal use of the crime, sentence, and criminal record to deny parole, to Governor Youngkin, Attorney General Miyares, and Parole Board Chairman Dotson via certified mail, return receipt.
In this demand letter, I cited facts and law, including well settled principles of constitutional law enunciated by the Supreme Court of Virginia and the Fourth Circuit to demonstrate Parole Decision Factors D (Sentence Data), E (Present Offense), and F (Prior Criminal Record) violates the separation of power, due process, and ex post facto clauses in the Constitution of Virginia. I received no response to these letters."
According to Goodman, "The manifest abuse of judicial power by Judge Sharrett, which was furthered and covered up by the Supreme Court of Virginia, exposes the reality that courts frequently put their thumbs on the scale to make cases turn out the way they want. Judges and Justices refer to this abuse as utilitarianism or serving a "greater good."
In fact, I established a web site called to address this issue. At the center of my web site is the following quote from a speech by Professor Monroe Freedman:
"I'm tired of judicial opinions that bear absolutely no relationship whatsoever to the cases that have been filed and argued before the judges. I am talking about judicial opinions that falsify the facts of cases that have been argued, judicial opinions that omit or make disingenuous use of controlling authorities, judicial opinions that cover these things up with no-publication and no-citation rules." Speech to the Seventh Annual Judicial Conference of the United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit, 128 F.R.D. 409, 439 (1989).
While this dirty little secret may not be known by the general public, it is well known by the legal community.
First Case: Goodman v. Bennett, et al., Case No. CL19-249, Greensville County Circuit Court
Appeal: Goodman v. Bennett, et al., Record No. 200555, Supreme Court of Virginia
Current case still pending: Goodman v. Dotson, et al., Case No. CL23000425-00, Pittsylvania County Circuit Court
You can contact Steve Goodman by email at or by writing him at:
Steve Goodman 1028377
Green Rock Correctional Center
Post Office Box 1000
Chatham, Virginia 24531

If you are going to write about Goodman's charges, make sure you include the lawsuit he filed before the felony charges were filed, Goodman v. Godson, in which he claimed he was the victim of false arrest, false imprisonment, malicious prosecution, and conspiracy, and the hearing he had on a motion to dismiss based upon prosecutorial vindictiveness.

Friday, August 18, 2023

HARDTIME VIRGINIA Vol. 8, No. 3, Summer 2023

by Christopher Blackwell
     Last month, a tiny, colorful barn swallow and her partner began building a nest outside a window at the prison where I am incarcerated. The brightly colored birds worked diligently, assembling their nest one beakful of mud at a time. All the guys in my unit were immediately entranced by the glimpse of nature we so rarely get to experience.
     In prison, guys act tough and move carefully within a highly segregated environment. But once those birds planted themselves outside our window, those barriers melted away. The dayroom was packed, with guys from different gangs and races squeezing in together to observe the swallows at work. We watched their every move, pointing, laughing, and yelling like we were close friends. In those moments, we could let our guards down, forget about prison politics, and just be ourselves. I notice moments like these because they are so unusual.
     After completing her nest, the mama bird laid four fingernail-sized eggs. The eggs hatched, and the baby birds quickly became the talk of the unit. Suddenly, every guy in prison was an ornithologist, claiming to know whether barn swallows were an endangered species, what kind of food they ate, how long the chicks would take to mature, and a string of other details that seemed at least somewhat believable. I have no idea if any of them knew what they were talking about, but it felt good to see everyone excited about something other than typical prison crap, like lifting weights and card games. Even the toughest guys became consumed by these little creatures. It was impossible not to be—they were adorable.
     The baby birds became a treasured part of my daily routine—each morning at 5 a.m. I would make my first cup of freeze-dried coffee and check on the nest. I approached slowly, careful not to upset the mama bird. As you can imagine, she wasn’t exactly thrilled about us looming over her brood. But during these calm, quiet mornings, she sometimes allowed me to get close.
     I would count each of the four babies, making sure they had all survived another night. I savored the silence, the time to think. After living in prison for 20 years surrounded by layers of dense razor wire fencing designed to keep us in and everything else out, having this personal connection to nature felt special. For a few minutes, I could feel like a part of something much bigger than the closed world of this penitentiary.
     As the chicks grew, we fretted about whether they would all survive. One prisoner was convinced it was only a matter of time until the birds pushed one of the babies out of the nest to make more room. I wondered if that was true. I swore that if it happened, I would raise the baby myself, giving it a home in my cell. How would it learn to fly? That was a problem for later.
     We didn’t always agree on what was best for the birds. One time, one of the guys climbed up on the window ledge and tapped on the glass—as if he were a child peering into a fish tank—hoping the babies would lift their heads. This caused chaos. Several prisoners, myself included, got worked up and accused him of disturbing the birds for his own selfish entertainment. He tried to insist he wasn’t bothering them, but the mama bird’s nervous chirps said otherwise. Finally, he left them alone, but he was too prideful to admit he was wrong.
     On the morning of July 4, a prisoner on my unit named Dakota Collins quipped the birds were bound to find their independence that day. “It’s destined,” Collins said.
     What had started as a joke became a prophecy. By midday, all four babies had left the nest.
     “It’s cool that these birds are finding their independence on Independence Day,” Thomas Mullin-Coston, another prisoner in my unit, told me. “It just makes the day—we get a good meal today and our friends are off to start their little lives.”
     Although the guys were also sad to see the birds go, we would be the last to begrudge any living being its freedom.
I post this with the kind permission of The Appeal, a nonprofit news organization that envisions a world in which systems of support and care, not punishment, create public safety.

July Parole Numbers Are Up, But Only Slightly
     The Parole Board released a grand total of five individuals in July, and the total number of grants for the year so far is only 25. And in spite of the marked increase in “old law” prisoners eligible for geriatric parole, only six were released under that provision.
     Reform advocate Jonathan White at Augusta  Correctional Center recently quoted a “new law” prisoner he is mentoring as saying, ”Why should I care about doing right and staying on the straight path when they will not even give you parole after all the many decades of being a model prisoner and kissing up to their rules that they put everyone through? Now, they don't even want to give us the privileges to earn our way back to freedom with the little bit of good time that would have allowed many of us to go home before dying in this place!” 

ACLU Appeals Two Cases Involving Earned Sentence Credits
     After two of their lawsuits in Richmond courts failed. the ACLU appealed to the Virginia State Supreme Court, and in June that court ruled in favor of the Steven Prease case, agreeing that he had been denied by VADOC the earned sentence credits he had earned and were now overdue to him by a year. Currently the VADOC has not applied the ruling to all related cases, however. The hope is that the DOC will be directed by Attorney General Miyares to simply apply the earned credits to the related cases without the need for further lawsuits, thus saving taxpayers thousands of dollars. The second case appealed to the State Supreme Court is for those with “mixed charges.” These were denied enhanced earned credits by Amendment 19 to the budget in June 2022 because at least one of their charges was specifically excluded in the ESC Law. That case will be heard in September.            -Deb Turner, VJC

Overdose Deaths In Prisons—A Form Of Suicide Or Something Worse?        
     According to recent stats from the DOC there have been 417 overdose deaths in Virginia prisons since 2016, and the numbers are increasing. There were eight confirmed cases of such deaths in one 24 hour period at Lawrenceville Correctional Center in August of last year, and at the end of July, three such deaths were reported in a two day period at the Greensville Correctional Center, another facility where drug use is alleged to be rampant.
     Some have come to believe that many such deaths may be murders, cases of gang members forcibly injecting someone with a lethal dose of fentanyl or other drug, as well as cases of some guards who are bringing in drugs from the outside having a potential informant eliminated.
    We won’t assume any of that being true without hard evidence, but it illustrates the need for having an independent ombudsman make immediate and thorough investigations of all such cases. An ombudsman bill was making its way through the legislature in the last session, but it was held up by the Appropriation Committee and did not receive the support of the Governor.

I Love Your Letters, But May Not Always Be Able To Respond Promptly
     At 84, I am still working two days a week and am active in a lot of church and community causes, so I can’t always keep up with my correspondence as I should. Sorry!
    Something I want to feature in a future newsletter is the topic of prison food, especially as it relates to the health of those behind bars. I will also forward your responses to Elizabeth Weill-Greenberg, who is a senior reporter for The Appeal, a prisoner advocacy group in New Jersey. 

Harvey Yoder, co-chair of the Valley Justice Coalition, P.O. Box 434, Harrisonburg, VA 22803

Wednesday, August 9, 2023

Guest Post: The Untold Nagasaki Story 8/9/45

There are an unimaginable number of untold stories associated with the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki 78 years ago.  

I post the following with the kind permission of Walt Zlotow of the West Suburban Peace Coalition of Glen Ellyn, Illinois:

Why no Hollywood movie on Nagasaki Atomic Bombing?

In the 1952 movie ‘Above and Beyond’, movie idol Robert Taylor played handsome Col. Paul Tibbetts, straight out of Central Casting, who piloted Enola Gay to drop the first atomic bomb on Hiroshima 78 years ago today. We all grew up in awe of Tibbetts, Enola Gay and the perfect mission which incinerated Hiroshima from the first A Bomb dropped in anger. My awe eventually turned to revulsion over a horrendous war crime.

But who piloted what plane that dropped the second A Bomb on Nagasaki just 3 days later? The American Story has largely erased the saga of the Nagasaki mission for good reason. It was a colossal screw up that almost got the pilot court martialed; indeed, nearly detonated Fat Man over the Pacific en route.

Trouble began early on. Paul Tibbetts, fresh from his Hiroshima success, picked his friend Charles Sweeney to pilot the drop plane ‘Bockscar’ instead of its regular pilot Fred Bock. Sweeney was unfamiliar with both combat and the plane. Preparing for takeoff, Sweeney was unable to operate the reserve tank containing 640 gallons of fuel needed to get Bockscar safely back to its Tinian takeoff point. Bock may have had the familiarity with the plane to accomplish that. Regulations required the mission be scrapped so Sweeney and crew exited Bockscar. But Tibbetts overruled them and the mission was on with insufficient fuel.

Three hours in, worse trouble. Fat Man’s red detonation lights began blinking wildly. Chief weaponeer Dick Ashworth frantically searched the blueprints and realized 2 switches had been reversed in the pre flight assembly. Solving that problem, everyone relaxed till Bockscar failed to rendezvous with the second of two back up planes, one for photography and one for instruments. The instrument plane, The Big Stink, was 9,000 feet above Bockscar. 

Instead of pushing on to original target Kokura, Sweeney wasted 45 minutes of precious fuel trying to link up. Big Stink pilot Hoppy Hopkins broke radio silence frantically calling Tinian asking “Is Bockscar down?” Mission officials only heard “Bockscar Down” and freaked out believing Bockscar, Fat Man and the 13 member crew were in Davy Jones Locker.

Ashford was frantic that all was lost. As tension mounted between the weaponeer and the pilot, he finally persuaded Sweeney to proceed to primary target Kokura. But a smokescreen put up by Japanese defenders responding to the Hiroshima attack caused Sweeney to go around for a second and third bomb run, wasting more fuel.

More trouble. Flack and approaching Japanese Zeros forced Sweeney to abandon Kokura to flee 100 miles to alternate target Nagasaki.

The drop made, Sweeney made a desperate dive to avoid the mushroom cloud that nearly engulfed them. But his previous delays made the return trip to Tinian impossible. Low on fuel, Sweeney began a treacherous 450 mile flight on dwindling fuel for Okinawa. All aboard Bockscar prepared to ditch. Approaching the Okinawa airfield unable to radio the tower of their emergency, Bockscar had to drop into a forced landing amid numerous other flights without control tower clearance. Bockscar bounced 25 feet in the air landing at 30 MPH over the maximum landing speed, nearly colliding with a row of fuel laden B-24’s. One engine quit on the approach and another upon touchdown. Thinking Bockscar was lost, airport personnel inquired who this strange plane was that descended out of the sky unannounced. ‘We just dropped an atomic bomb’ was the reply.

There were no celebrations for the crew of Bockscar. Officials considered a courts martial for Sweeney for his life and mission threatening delays but considered the embarrassment it would cause and decided against. Why mar the mission-perfect first nuking of civilians by Paul Tibbetts and Enola Gay? 

While we’ll never get a Hollywood treatment of the Bockscar A Bomb mission, it would be a lot more exciting than ‘Above and Beyond’. An appropriate title? ‘Nearly Down and Out Over Nagasaki’.

Walt Zlotow
West Suburban Peace Coalition
Glen Ellyn IL 

Friday, August 4, 2023

Hail And Fire--We May Someday Look Back To This Summer As One Of Our Milder Ones

A hotter, drier climate is a major contributor to extreme weather conditions and out-of-control wildfires around the world.

When the first angel blew his trumpet, hail and fire mixed with blood were thrown down on the
earth. A third of the earth, a third of the trees, and a third of all green plants were burned.

When the second angel blew his trumpet, something like a great fiery mountain was thrown into the sea. A third of the sea turned to blood, a third of the living creatures in the sea died, and a third of the ships were destroyed.

When the third angel blew his trumpet, a great star fell from heaven. It was burning like a torch, and it fell on a third of the rivers and on a third of the springs of water. The name of the star was Bitter, and a third of the water turned bitter. Many people died because the water was so bitter.

When the fourth angel blew his trumpet, a third of the sun, a third of the moon, and a third of the stars were struck. They each lost a third of their light. So during a third of the day there was no light, and a third of the night was also without light. 

Revelation 8:7-12 (CEV)

Whether we take these words as a literal prediction of the earth's fate or as simply among many Biblical warnings of apocalyptic disasters, we are seeing records broken for summer heat around the globe. According to data provided by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the 2022 surface temperature of the earth was 1.55 °F warmer than the 20th-century average, with the past decade being the warmest in recorded history. 

Weather variations are normal, of course, but current long-range climate trends are ominous, resulting in catastrophic fires and severe droughts that are putting billions of lives at risk. Ocean temperatures, which require an enormous amount of thermal energy to affect, are in some areas exceeding 100 degrees for the first time ever, threatening marine life and adding to the likelihood of ever more destructive tropical storms.

In Jennifer Szalal's review of Jeff Goodell's bestseller,  The Heat Will Kill You First: Life and Death on a Scorched Planet: she writes, ”Goodell’s stripped-down style suits his subject. This is a propulsive book, one to be raced through; the planet is burning, and we are running out of time. Death is a common refrain, and it doesn’t apply only to humans. ‘When it gets too hot, things die,’ an agricultural ecologist tells Goodell.” Or, as Goodell writes of creatures that adapt by moving to cooler places: “If they can’t find refuge, they die. A hotter world puts the most vulnerable at risk — the old, the sick, the poor.”

According to John P Abraham, professor of thermal sciences at the University of St Thomas School of Engineering, we will all face life altering changes in a warming climate. “Working outdoors in the heat will require shorter shifts with more breaks, and more overnight work.” Meanwhile, night-time heat is increasing faster than daytime ones, according to Abraham, who adds, “If workers are in daytime heat at work but night temperatures are sufficiently hot that their body cannot cool, they will have a much harder time the next day.” 

We do well to heed warnings like these, each calling for serious repentance of our self indulgent ways, and for radical changes in the way we care for the planet. According to the Revelation text, the trumpet warnings follow the opening of the last of seven seals, suggesting that God is permitting, rather than causing, what is happening to the planet. So to the extent that we humans are contributing to the problem, might there still be hope, as in the case of the Biblical story of Nineveh, that God may withhold judgment if we do an about face and work at righting our wrongs?

Certainly ignoring the problem and simply turning up our air conditioners will only make things worse.

As someone has observed, "Good planets are hard to find." Certainly ours is a rare jewel worth making every effort to preserve. Not only has our Creator made humans responsible for the stewardship of the earth,  to “cultivate and care for it,” we are also urged to practice good creation care by reputable organizations like the Audubon Society, National Geographic Society, American Association for the Advancement of Science, American Chemical Society, American Medical Association, American Geophysical Union, American Meteorological Society, American Physical Society, Geological Society of America, Union of Concerned Scientists, United Nations IPCC, NOAA, U.S. National Academy of Sciences, NASA, EPA, American Geophysical Union, National Center for Atmospheric Research, Royal Society of the United Kingdom, Canadian Meteorological and Oceanographic Society, Science Council of Japan, Russian Academy of Science, Brazilian Academy of Sciences, Royal Society of Canada, Chinese Academy of Sciences, French Academy of Sciences, German Academy of Natural Scientists, Indian National Science Academy, Accademia Nazionale dei Lincei (Italy), Australian Academy of Sciences, Royal Flemish Academy of Belgium for Sciences and the Arts, Caribbean Academy of Sciences, Academy of Sciences Malaysia, Academy Council of the Royal Society of New Zealand, Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences, etc., etc.

We can act in ways that will cause our children and grandchildren to be forever grateful.

Or not.