Ulcers, Easter, and Truth

Truth is at times unbelievable.


By the early 1980’s medical experts were certain they understood the causes of gastric ulcers. As the stomach is an acid secreting organ, and because acid can damage tissues, everyone knew that acid was the reason people got ulcers. Because ulcers were more often found in urban businessmen, doctors concluded that stress had a role. This theory was “confirmed” by studies in rats that showed ulcers developed when rats were wrapped in straight jackets and dropped in ice water, and when research showed antacids prevented these ulcers.

Enter Barry Marshall, an internal medicine doctor in Perth, Australia. Along with a pathologist colleague, Robin Warren, he gathered evidence that ulcers were the result of a bacterial infection. Further, he found evidence that the bacteria was a root cause of stomach cancer. He started treating ulcer patients with antibiotics, with remarkable results.

The medical community refused to accept his findings. They thought they knew the cause of ulcers, and could not believe that a bacterial infection could be the cause. It did not make sense. Bacterial infections were the cause of acute infections, of pneumonias and ear infections and sinusitis and cellulitis. They did not cause chronic infections, and they definitely did not cause cancer. Marshall’s theory was simply unbelievable.

It was unbelievable, but it was true. Convinced of the truth of their claims, Marshall and his colleague fought for their findings. The medical community took longer than they should have to accept their research, but the eventually did. In 2005 Marshall and Warren, were awarded the Nobel Prize for medicine. They changed the world of medicine forever.

Their story came to mind today as I thought about Good Friday and the Easter Story. The Gospel accounts tell an unbelievable tale. The Bible declares that Jesus of Nazareth, a Jewish teacher of dubious parentage, was actually the Son of God. This Son of God, instead of asserting his right to rule and demanding that all honor and worship him, allowed himself to be put to death at the hands of the Romans who governed the conquered Jewish nation. He was publicly executed in brutal fashion, nailed to a wooden cross where he hung until in agony he died.

The story did not end with Jesus’ death,  the New Testament writers report that 2 days later he appeared alive to many of his followers. He had risen from the dead, in so doing proving to the world that he was indeed who he had claimed to be, the Son of God and the savior of the world.

What an unbelievable story.

So much of the story does not make sense. Why would God decide to live as a man? Why would he choose to die? Why couldn’t he just choose to forgive everybody without going through such suffering? How could someone come back to life after two days in a tomb. There are too many “whys” and “hows”.

The story flies in the face of so much that people know. The story is unbelievable.

That does not mean it isn't true.

- Bart


The Wrong Kind of Easter Message

They had a megaphone, held up sloppy handwritten signs and a GoPro camera and were shouting as church members walked by them on the way to the cars after Easter service. From a distance I could not tell what they were protesting about. I wondered if they were atheists are some anti-Christian cult. When I came even with the protesters I learned the cause was even more ridiculous. They were animal rights activists.

One of them called out to my wife, “Who died for you this morning?” Surprised, she gave the answer appropriate for the morning, “Jesus.” The protester clarified his “point", rephrasing the question, “Who did you eat this morning?” It took me a moment to realize that he was telling us that it was not right that animals die for our sustenance. He apparently believed that animals have feelings and desires, just like people do. He didn't know us, did not know if we were carnivorous or vegan, yet he was convinced that we were evildoers in need of nutritional repentance. 

He and his colleagues rained down taunts and jeers as people walked by. They were clearly not interested in dialogue. They only wanted to attack us for the wrongness of our thinking.

Among the claims I heard as we passed-

- Animals want to live just like people do.

- Animals want to be with their families too.

- Animals have feelings.

- Eating meat is tantamount to murder.

These claims were repeated over and over, in  loud voices and with condescending tones. The message they were trying to proclaim was not the message their audience received. They wanted us to believe that animals have rights and feelings. What we believed was that they were terribly misguided and deceived. 

Those who walked by them were Christians, people who hold to the biblical teaching that mankind is unique, that people alone are created in the image and likeness of God. Unlike animals, we alone possess body, soul and spirit. We alone have reason and creativity, we alone will live eternally. We all know that animals are not at all like us.

We also know that the Bible does not advocate for the vegan lifestyle. The Old Testament gives detailed instructions for offering animal sacrifices. The most holy feast in the nation of Israel, the Passover, involves a meal centered around a ceremonially killed, unblemished lamb. Jesus himself participated in the celebration of this feast. These facts did not stop them from condemning us as we walked by.

As I walked away I wondered what it was they were hoping to accomplish by their diatribe. They could not expect that anyone would be persuaded by their angry shouts. Increased volume does not make up for the ignorance of an argument. I suspect their goal was one shared by many political protesters, Facebook commenters and internet trolls. They wanted to feel morally superior. What they did not realize was that they were creating the same feelings in those who walked by.

- Bart

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