Tuesday, March 23, 2010

John Wesley and Healthcare

Okay - first a disclaimer:

This post has no current political undertones.  If you're attempting to glean a political message from this post - please stop - because there isn't one.  I take great care to guard my personal political beliefs because I work for a church, and in no way is it appropriate for me to talk politics in a public forum.  

I honestly write this because I think its a fun story that not many people know and it I believe it has an important message for Jesus followers - and of course, I'm banking on opportunity to share this during the current popularity of the subject.

I've never actually met a fellow UMC member or pastor who knows this bit of history about Wesley, which is fascinating to me.  That being said, John Wesley (founder of the Methodist movement in 18th century England) cared about people's health.
For Wesley, caring for people's health was a no-brainer.  One could argue that Wesley's calling in life was to care for the spiritual well-being of God's people.  In accordance with this calling, he firmly believed that a persons physical well-being greatly impacted their spiritual health.
So what did he do when he saw so many poor people unable to afford care from clinics?  He started his own, in fact two of them.  Wesley was known for prescribing cheap "medications", and even published books with quirky remedies for the ill.  One such book, Primitive Physic: an Easy and Natural Method of Curing Most Diseases, offered readers such remedies as -
"To cure Baldness Rub the part morning and evening with onions till it is red and rub it afterwards with honey Or wash it   with a decoction of box wood"

"Chin Cough or Hooping Cough - Rub the feet thoroughly with hog's lard before the fire at going to bed and keep the child warm therein. Or rub the back at lying down with old rum It seldom fails. Or give a spoonful of juice of penny royal  mist with brown sugar candy twice a day. Or half a pint of milk warm from the cow with the quantity of a nutmeg of conserve of roses dissolved in it every morning. Or dissolve a scruple of salt of tartar in a quarter of a pint of clear water   add to it ten grains of finely powdered cochineal and sweeten it with loaf sugar."
These are excerpts that I found on a much more updated version of the book (1858) on Google Books which you can find at the bottom of this post.
The book is full of odd remedies for the poor.  But its not the strangest stuff Wesley wrote concerning health care.
I mentioned before that Wesley opened two free health clinics in England.  I forgot to mention that the reason he opened these was because of his newly bought "electric machines" that he used to administer electric shock to patients to cure ailments such as headaches and bloody noses.  Yep - that's right.  Wesley, the beloved founder of the Methodist movement pioneered the concept of medical electric shock after Ben Franklin had discovered electricity (albeit, it was more for physical problems and not the mental prescriptions we think of today).  He kept a journal, wrote, and published about his success with electric shock in a book called the Desideratum or Electricity Made Plain and Useful (which you can also read below if you're that interested). But here's an excerpt from the 1759 edition:
"John Read Cabinet maker in Warder Street was for six years afflicted with violent Pains in the back of his neck In Spring 1758 he was electrified about twice a Week for a Month and quite cured."

"Joseph Jones was taken about March 12 1757 with a violent Pain in the Stomach He received the same day a few gentle Shocks The Pain went off and returned no more."
So there you have it.  Wesley did in the 18th century some stuff we would consider very strange today, and most likely, it was somewhat strange even then.  He even rode a mechanical horse in his bedroom as a sort of primitive precursor to the treadmill or stationary bike to keep in shape.  But he did this for purely theological purposes - 

1) Wesley cared about people souls.  
2) He believed that well-being of one's soul was greatly impacted by their physical health.
3) Wesley saw too many people not able to afford health care.
Wesley cared deeply about God's people.  This is a calling that every professed Christian shares whether they like or not.  I don't honestly know what Wesley would say about the current healthcare debate, and again, spreading a political agenda is not the point of this post.  I'm sure he would agree with many points on the right and left.  But in the end there's no question or debate for Wesley: 

God's people need to be cared for.

And this IS NOT a political statement.  Its a Gospel imperative.  In the end, no matter what you believe about current healthcare legislation, if you are a Christian, you by definition care about people.  While people argue about the logistics of how people should be cared for, where the money comes from, how this works or doesn't work with American law (which are all valid and important conversations that need to take place), if Jesus were here today he wouldn't have much time to debate - because he would be healing people.  Jesus calls us to do the same in the Gospels.
And by the way - the rest of the title of the Desideratum is this:
"By a Lover of Mankind and of Common Sense"

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

This is the Fast that I Desire

Hey all, here is a guest post by Adam Thada I really think is worth reading...

During the first Sunday of lent, my laptop screen went kaput. This normally wouldn’t have been cause for concern. It’s only a month old and still under warranty, but I just moved to South America, and there doesn’t appear to be a single Dell repair center on the entire continent. My wife and I seem to use our laptop for everything here – work-related writing and excel sheets, e-mailing, blogging, calling supporters in the U.S., personal budgeting, listening to music, watching movies, listening to Mars Hill sermons, and even playing cards. So we were understandably a little frustrated. But during this season of fasting, repentance, and reflection, I was able to see the grace and opportunity in this interruption.
Fasting, in the traditional sense of abstaining from certain food and drink, helps us put our sustenance in its proper place. Our well being, maintained by the bounty of the earth, is a gift from God. Like any good thing, however, it can be abused. Today there is a sad crisis in the world surrounding food; about a billion people are overweight while another billion can’t seem get enough to eat. It’s not hard to see that our food production and consumption patterns are not in harmony with God’s intent.  
So to it can be with my computer. Too often, I spend countless hours reading news that I don’t really need to know, I vainly post my latest thoughts for my 356 “friends” on Facebook, or I watch endless hours of footage from the Colbert Report. Being informed, staying in contact with friends, or enjoying a favorite show are healthy habits, but in excess they can displace other very productive and healthy ways of spending my time. 
And so a broken laptop gave me some spare hours to reflect on how I could arrange my hours anew. Being raised in the church, my first impulse was to spend more time on my “spiritual life” (as if the rest of my life is secular?) – reading the Bible, praying, doing devotions, and memorizing the Scriptures. Certainly, the world and I would probably be better if that was so. But my mind came back to that famous Old Testament scripture on fasting, in Isaiah 58 (excepts here, but I encourage you to read the whole chapter ):
“…You are living for yourselves even while you are fasting. You keep right on oppressing your workers. What good is fasting when you keep on fighting and quarreling? … You humble yourselves by going through the motions of penance, bowing your heads like a blade of grass in the wind… Do you really think this will please the Lord?
No, the kind of fasting I want calls you to free those who are wrongly imprisoned and to stop oppressing those who work for you. Treat them fairly and give them what they earn. I want you to share your food with the hungry and to welcome poor wanderers into your homes. Give clothes to those who need them, and do not hide from relatives who need your help. 
If you do these things, your salvation will come like the dawn… Then, when you call, the Lord will answer. ‘Yes, I am here,’ he will quickly reply.” (NLT)
God’s intent is not personal piety for its own sake. He doesn’t want our hearts for one day a week if our bodies, economies, and social systems are dysfunctional the other six. He doesn’t want a holy enclave isolated from those suffering at the margins. What he wants is reconciliation, between family members, between races and cultures and countries, even reconciliation with the very earth from which we derive our life. I have heard it said that when there was hunger among the early Christian church, the whole community would fast until there was enough food for everyone to eat. The fast served a dual purpose, or perhaps we can say it was multidimensional, reconciling everything at once and not excluding anyone. 
So with a broken laptop screen, I had a choice. I knew that there were endless ministry opportunities around the city. There is an orphanage that is overcrowded and understaffed, hundreds of babies with no one to hold them or feed them. The south side of town is run at night by glue-sniffing children who are largely abused, neglected and ignored. Whole neighborhoods are without running water, and the overpriced water they buy is filthy. There was no reason that I couldn’t connect my own spiritual growth and fasting practices with the pain that was so obvious in my own community.
Then something else unexpected happened – my laptop was miraculously fixed by a local technician in 24 hours for a reasonable price, not something I was told to anticipate in Latin America. Perhaps I should have left it in the closet until Easter! So instead of the forced fast that I was initially faced with, I have to choose it now, rearranging my hours so that I can be at service to my God and my neighbors. It has yet to be seen if I will, but God has used this incident to reinvigorate my imagination. After this season of Lent, during the day-to-day grind of life, we will all be faced with the same choice. We can continue with our own vision of spiritual growth and personal piety, or we can join God in the fast that he desires. 
After language school, Adam Thada and his wife Becky will work in El Alto, Bolivia with Word Made Flesh, where the community has established a hospitality center for women who prostitute (La Casa de Esperanza). WMF Bolivia is about to launch a new employment and counseling program, where women will be able to make and export quality craft items as a source of alternative employment.  

Monday, March 1, 2010

Tall Blue People and Scary Preachers...

Okay, here's the deal.  I didn't particularly like Avatar either.  Sure, the graphics were great, and it was cool to see once, but the story was lame and predictable.

But here's what Mark Driscoll thought about it.  I really have no words to describe how silly I think this is (okay I actually do, but I'm trying to be Christ-like)

But what do you think?

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

An Open Letter to Anyone Disgruntled with Christianity... From a Postmodern Jesus Follower

Thank you for taking the time to read this. I believe that it’s important for me to clear some things up. Even though what’s below represents some of my convictions, know that Christianity represents a broad range of beliefs and ideas that are not shared by all. That being said, here are 10 things that I really want to communicate to you:

1) I also get frustrated when christians say one thing, but do the opposite.

2) I don’t understand either why most christians simply refuse to take what Jesus said seriously.

3) I do want to apologize to you for how bad and poor quality the christian entertainment industry usually has been over the years. I am often times embarrassed.

4) Or, maybe I should apologize that there’s even a christian retail market to begin with. Jesus was against materialism, so I suppose that would include things that bear his name also.

5) Not all christians are like televangelists asking for money or like the people in mass crowds handing out pamphlets and holding signs with hateful messages. I apologize for how they’ve distorted your view of christianity. Just know that your frustrations with these and others are shared by christians as well.

6) I don’t like how christianity has meshed with politics either. No matter what the right or the left says, I am sure that Jesus would not be a democrat or a republican. He really isn’t concerned with with such things.

7) I also get angry when I think about all the times through history and to the present where christians have used the name of Jesus to manipulate, create fear, wage wars, or do anything to amass power over land, wealth, or people. Its disgusting. I think Jesus would be very angry.

8) I am so sorry that our churches have not been willing to listen to you, that we haven’t been as welcoming as we should, and that we haven’t loved all people the way Jesus does. I am ashamed that many churches are more concerned with stains on the carpet than loving the broken and the poor. I promise that many of us are trying to bring change in a positive and constructive way.

9) My hope has never been to “convert” you or anyone, but rather, to get dialogue started, ask for your forgiveness, and remind you through my words and especially my actions that God loves you, and nothing you could ever do could change his unwavering love for you (or even the people mentioned in #5).

10) Don’t expect that because I follow Jesus I am trying to be perfect or that I am trying to convince people that I'm perfect. I have issues, mistakes, and problems in my life too. But, this in no way makes my efforts to be like Jesus less genuine. Without them, I will never grow or learn.

I hope this clears some things up between us.  I wanted to let you know that it's difficult for me to understand you when you say that you’re open minded, but think anyone willing to bear the label “christian” is automatically intolerant, ignorant, or gullible. Please be open to the possibility that you don’t have us all figured out.

Even though I've mentioned above the many ways that my religion has failed, and will continue to get it wrong in the future, I am still a Christian and I believe that participation in church is important.  We have to start understanding that the church is simply a group of admittedly broken people attempting to do what Jesus asked of his disciples together.

So many people leave the church because they are tired of christians being hypocrites.  But, I hope we all can come to the conclusion that the church is supposed to be a group of transparent sinners striving to do better through God.  If this could happen, no one would have so much of an issue with us being hypocrites because we wouldn't be hiding that fact. Ever. We should be embracing it.  If we were anything more, we would have no need for a savior.

I hope that we can start some really good conversations sometime soon.

God is Love,

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If you want to share this, feel free to post a link to it on twitter, facebook, or wherever.  If you have an issue with anything I've written here, let's get a conversation started.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010


Brian McLaren posted this a while back.  I think its fascinating.  It seems like Buddhism and Christianity not only have similar problems, but in some cases are trying to use the same remedies.  But what do you think?

Paul in the Shadow of Jesus - Part 2

Continuing my proposal that even though Paul didn't know Jesus personally (you can read Part 1 here), he understood very well the heart of Jesus, I think we should consider Philippians 2.1-5 (NRSV):

If then there is any encouragement in Christ, any consolation from love, any sharing in the Spirit, any compassion and sympathy, make my joy complete: be of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility regard others as better than yourselves. Let each of you look not to your own interests, but to the interests of others. Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus...

Although admittedly, we're not talking about this passage in its context (which is not the purpose of this particular study), I believe its safe to say that Paul knew that one could not follow the teachings of Jesus without intentional humility and purposeful submission.  This is what Jesus taught, and showed by example.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Are You Ready to Fall?...

As we journey toward the cross together, I thought I'd share some devotional material.

Take a look at Psalm 38.  Read it aloud.  Read it again.  And Again.

"But My will is that you do not try to find a place free from temptations and troubles.  Rather, seek a peace that endures even when you are beset by various temptations and tried by much adversity." - Jesus speaking to his disciple in Thomas Kempis' The Imitation of Christ (Penguin Classics, pg 108, December 30, 1952).

Is your faith about managing and avoiding sin, or living in God's grace?  Do live your life knowing that Jesus hung on the cross in your place, or do you live out your faith as though Jesus' death doesn't cover your sins?

Are you ready to fall?