Friday, July 24, 2020

Animals are NOT People

            “Animals are people, too. Animal radio!” So goes the jingle on XM’s Animal Radio station, and they are not the only ones making this outrageous claim. Billboards all over Arizona say, “Animals are children, too. Love them. Don’t abandon them.” More and more, our culture in America is elevating animals to the level of human beings. You can go to the grocery store today and find greeting cards to send to your pets. As if that were not weird enough, you can also buy greeting cards from your pets to you! At a frozen yogurt shop in Fountain Hills, AZ, they had an entire assortment of frozen yogurt options for your dog or cat with flavors like “sardines” and “salmon.” Because animals are being so anthropomorphized, many people today are even calling for animals to have rights and liberties, or even to be declared as legal persons. This view is problematic at best and blasphemous at worst. Animals do not have consciousness or an eternal soul and therefore are not entitled to the same rights and freedoms as human beings.
            With 2.3 billion professing Christians worldwide, the Bible is the most influential book on philosophy and morality in the history of mankind, and it has a lot to say about animals. For those of us who believe it is the word of God, it is the final authority. In the Bible, there is a great distinction made between animals and humans. After God created all the animals in Genesis 1, he said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth.” Unlike the animals, man is made in the image of God, and has been given dominion (lordship) over the animals on this planet.
            Throughout the Bible God kills animals indiscriminately and does not assign their lives the same value he assigns to humans. For example, in Genesis 6, when God is grieved by the sins of mankind, he decides to wipe out the world with a global flood that kills almost all the animals, even though the animals themselves had done nothing wrong. In Leviticus, he institutes a mandatory program of animal sacrifice that involves killing and butchering a multitude of creatures. In the Gospel of Mark, Jesus sends 2,000 pigs sailing off a cliff to drown in the sea in order to save one person (Mark 5:1-17). Finally, in the book of Revelation, God pours out his wrath on this earth once again, killing a tremendous number of animals.
            Despite this overwhelming evidence from scripture, some would object to this view that God doesn’t seem to care about the lives of animals by pointing to Bible verses that would seem to indicate that he does. For example, in the book of Deuteronomy, there are laws protecting animals and wildlife, such as the admonition “not to muzzle the ox that treadeth out the corn” (Deuteronomy 25:4) or the command not to kill the mother bird if you find a nest containing eggs or young birds (Deuteronomy 22:6). There is also the statement in Proverbs that “a righteous man regardeth the life of his beast: but the tender mercies of the wicked are cruel.” (Proverbs 12:10). Another example is the famous statement by Jesus about sparrows when he said, “Are not five sparrows sold for two farthings, and not one of them is forgotten before God?” (Luke 12:6)
            However, upon closer examination, we see that none of these verses is actually teaching that God cares about animals. In fact, this question is specifically addressed in 1 Corinthians 9 9: “For it is written in the law of Moses, Thou shalt not muzzle the mouth of the ox that treadeth out the corn. Doth God take care for oxen? Or saith he it altogether for our sakes? For our sakes, no doubt, this is written: that he that ploweth should plow in hope; and that he that thresheth in hope should be partaker of his hope.” Notice that the question is asked, “Does God care about oxen?” The answer is that this was not said for the sake of the oxen, but that there is “no doubt” that it said 100% (“altogether”) for our sakes. It was not written to protect oxen whatsoever. Also, when we examine the context of the bird’s nest command, we find that the reason given for keeping the mother alive is “that it may be well with thee, and that thou mayest prolong thy days.” Similarly, when Christ gave the illustration about the sparrows, he followed it up with, “Fear ye not therefore, ye are of more value than many ,” showing his regard for humans, not sparrows.
            In addition to the biblical argument, there are also many practical arguments against considering animals as persons or giving them the rights and freedoms that people enjoy. In 2014, a lawsuit was filed by the Nonhuman Rights Project suing for the freedom of a chimpanzee. The same organization had also tried to win legal rights for apes, elephants, dolphins, and whales. The court ruled unanimously that since chimpanzees are not legal persons, they are not entitled to freedom. The Nonhuman Rights Project claimed that since chimpanzees exhibit highly complex cognitive functions, they should be considered persons and accorded similar rights. They essentially sought to redefine the legal definition of a “person.” One problem with declaring chimpanzees to be “persons” is that Chimpanzees have no concept of right and wrong or morality, and so nothing would stop them from killing, stealing from, or harming others. Since chimpanzees are not capable of fulfilling societal responsibilities, and since they are not held accountable when they break the rules of civilized society, declaring them to be “persons” is very problematic.
            Advocates of granting personhood to animals believe that animals are sentient beings with conscious feelings. In fact, the vast majority of people who don’t believe in giving personhood to animals also hold this view of animal sentience. However, there is an alternative view that should be considered, which was famously put forth by French philosopher and scientist René Descartes in the 17th century. Descartes argued that an animal is like a “machine” or an automaton. He acknowledged that animals have sensations and emotions, but he argued that their emotions are just a result of the way they are “programmed” to feel. In that sense, they are similar to “machines,” or as we would put it today, they are like robots or artificial intelligences. They are simply the products of their inherited instincts and biology and not the possessors of eternal souls or spirits.
For those who argue for animal consciousness, the question of which animals are conscious must be answered. Where do we draw the line? Are snails and roaches sentient, or only whales and chimpanzees? Is the distinction between mammals and non-mammals? Is the distinction between warm-blooded and cold-blooded animals? From a biblical perspective, the line is drawn between humans and animals, but from an animal rights perspective, some other line must be drawn. Animal Welfare Acts passed in the United States do not protect all animals. They exclude mice, rats, birds, cold-blooded animals, and many others. There must be some authority by which the decision is made as to which animals are conscious and which are not.
Another issue with granting personhood to animals is the question of whether it is ethical to harm animals for the benefit of people. If someone truly believes that animals have equal value to humans, then logically they would not be able to justify eating animal meat or wearing animal based textiles. Not only that, but if they truly believe that “meat is murder,” they would have to make it against the law for anyone to eat meat. Medical studies and testing done on animals also come into question. People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals argue that many animal tests are not required by law and even provide false or misleading data about the effects of products on humans. They believe that animal testing is immoral, a waste of money, and not beneficial to humans in any way. Those in favor of animal testing have cited vaccines against Typhus, yellow fever, and polio, as medical advances that would have been impossible without the use of animal testing.
Whether or not we believe in the personhood of animals makes a big difference in our everyday lives. It impacts our diet, our clothing choices, our medical choices, and the way that we view our pets and the pets of others. Whatever the conclusion we come to, it will have a profound effect on our life decisions if we actually think these things through and are consistent in the application of our beliefs.
While my belief that animals are not on the level of people affects the way I live my life, it does not mean that I mistreat or am cruel to animals. I believe that we should treat animals humanely for our own sakes, not for the sake of the animal. Being cruel to animals is harmful to the person carrying out the cruelty. If a person enjoys hurting animals, it is likely that they lack normal human empathy. People who torture animals are sometimes even disturbed individuals who will later graduate to harming humans. Even though animals are not people and are not eternal, they are here on this earth for our benefit and enjoyment, and we would do well for ourselves to treat them humanely and decently. As scripture says, “A righteous man regardeth the life of his beast: but the tender mercies of the wicked are cruel.” Click here to hear my sermon on this subject.

Thursday, July 23, 2020

Dry Socket

For almost a week I had only slept about three hours per night because the pain was so intense. I had not even taken a Tylenol in over a decade, but now I was cycling maximum doses of Advil, Tylenol, and Oxycodone. It wasn’t enough. At times the pain became so intense that I writhed in agony on my bed and beat my fists against the wall just trying to get through the minutes and make it to the next dose of painkiller, which only slightly took the edge off. Dry socket is one of the most painful things imaginable.

Like most people, I have gone through many painful experiences in my life. When I was five years old, I broke my pinky riding an ATC. When I was twelve, I broke my collar bone riding a dirt bike. As an adult, I once stepped on a nail at a construction site, and it went all the way through my foot and poked out the top. As an electrician, I have been shocked by 110, 220, and 277 volts. I have even been tasered by the police for 22 seconds straight at 50,000 volts. None of these things even came close to the pain I experienced due to dry socket.

Dry socket, also known as alveolar osteitis, is a condition that can sometimes happen after an adult tooth is extracted. In my case, it was one of my wisdom teeth. The condition involves the blood clot at the extraction site coming loose and exposing the raw bone and nerve endings beneath. The pain then radiates through that whole side of your face, head, and neck, and turns each nerve ending into a cruel implement of torture.

When I went to the dentist to have my wisdom teeth extracted, although it was not a pleasant experience, everything seemed to go well. I stayed awake through the procedure and was given a local anesthetic. As I lay on my back with my eyes shut and my mouth held open, the dentist seemed to bear down with all his might as he sought to rip out teeth that had been firmly embedded in my mouth for many years. To the sound of the crunching and cracking of my own teeth, I felt him pushing, pulling, and downright yanking until they finally came loose. It seemed more like the work of an auto mechanic or a demolition worker than a medical procedure. When it was all over, everything seemed fine, and I was sent home with instructions on how to recover, which I followed to a T. The first few days were normal, but then the incredible pain began. I had developed a dry socket.

I wondered if other people had experienced the unbelievable levels of pain I felt. Many people online told their own horror stories. One lady even mentioned that she had given birth to eight children naturally, but that her experience with dry socket was worse! One person said they would have been willing to have their jaw amputated. Some people mentioned that clove oil provided relief. I put clove oil in my mouth, and it felt exactly like inserting a hot poker from the fireplace into the socket.

It is ironic that something so tiny can cause so much pain and take your entire body out of commission. In the words of scripture, “Behold how great a matter a little fire kindleth!” The Bible also says regarding the body that if “one member suffers, all the members suffer with it.” There are a lot more dramatic ways to get injured or experience suffering, but in my experience, this little invisible torment is the absolute worst. May you never have to experience it yourself.

Wednesday, July 22, 2020

The Hopi Tribe in Arizona

Two young Hopi women in 1920

    The Hopi are a Native American tribe in Northern Arizona whose reservation lies within the borders of the Navajo reservation. Today they have a population of around 19,300 people, approximately half of whom live on the reservation, while the other half live throughout the rest of Arizona. Their reservation occupies about 2,532 square miles and is one of 22 reservations in the state of Arizona.

    The word “hopi” itself means “the peaceful people” in the sense of “the well-behaved ones,” probably in reference to their sedentary, agricultural lifestyle, as opposed to other bands of natives whose way of life was more nomadic and included plundering and carrying out of raids as part of their economy.

    It is impossible to know the exact history of the Hopi tribe due to a lack of written records, but they are most likely descendants of the ancient Anasazi tribe and are probably one of the tribes which has been in Arizona the longest. Their first contact with Europeans took place in the 16th century, when Spanish explorers first came through Arizona and encountered the Hopi and other nearby tribes whom they called “pueblo” peoples since they were settled in permanent towns (“pueblo” is the Spanish word for “town”).

     Much of the history of the Hopi has been shaped by their interactions with the nearby Navajo tribe, which is their traditional enemy. The Athabascan peoples who would later be known as Apaches and Navajos migrated to Arizona from Northern Canada and Alaska around the 16th century. Ever since that time, the Navajo and Hopi tribes have been close neighbors. Today the Hopi reservation exists like an island, surrounded on all sides by the Navajo reservation, and enmity between Navajos and Hopis still persists. On my many trips to the Navajo reservation, and specifically on visits to Tuba City (on the Navajo reservation) and Moenkopi (on the Hopi reservation), I have witnessed this enmity firsthand. According to the testimonies of locals, fistfights between Hopi and Navajo young people are frequent, and on the weekends, rowdy groups of young people from both sides will sometimes get together near the border of the two reservations for the purpose of a violent clash.

    There has also been serious conflict within the Hopi tribe itself over the issue of Westernization. In 1893 when the Oraibi Day School was founded in one of the tribe’s main cities, many Hopis, including the chief of Oraibi himself named Lololoma, were enthusiastic about Hopi children being given the opportunity to be educated and learn from white Americans. Others were very hostile to the school and viewed the efforts of both the government and missionaries as an assault on their way of life and traditional Hopi culture. This led to the town splitting into two factions, with the hostile conservative faction eventually leaving and founding their own separate village called Hotevilla in 1906. Several other towns went through similar splits in the following years.

    Today conditions on the Hopi reservation vary depending on which part of the reservation you visit. In the city of Moenkopi, for example, the average incomes and average housing values are the same as in the rest of Arizona (, and the city has good infrastructure, resources, and accessibility to basic amenities. Deeper in the reservation, especially in places like Hotevilla, poverty abounds, and access to nutritious food is very limited.

The Hopi reservation, like all the Indian reservations in Arizona, is a fascinating place to visit, and makes for a very educational and entertaining excursion. One of the great things about living in Arizona is having access to so many culturally diverse people and places within such a short distance of our home. I recommend pulling off the main highway one of these days and spending a few hours experiencing “the rez” for yourself.

Tuesday, July 21, 2020

It Doesn't Always Have to Be a Blockbuster

I was 17 years old, and tonight I was going to be preaching for the first time in my life at the “youth service” our new church was hosting. At the youth service, teenagers handled every part of the service including song leading, piano, announcements, and even preaching. The audience would be about 150 strong, and this would be my first time speaking to a group that large in my entire life so of course, I was very nervous. I stood in front of the mirror wearing one of my dad’s ties and a very mature-looking Members Only leather jacket since I didn’t own a suit coat. I went over and over the sermon in my mind as the clock moved toward 6 o’clock faster than I would have preferred. In spite of my doubts about my personal ability to preach, I knew that I had an important message to deliver, and that God could use me to deliver it.

I do not come from a long line of preachers. My dad was an electrician, his dad was an electrician, and before that, electricity may not have been invented yet. Neither of my parents were the most involved members of the church, but I never doubted their faith in the Lord or questioned how seriously they took the Bible or the things of God. I learned the basics of electrical work from my dad, but it was my mom who imparted to me my love for language and the power of words.

When I was 4 years old, she taught me how to read using Dr. Seuss books like Hop on Pop and One Fish Two Fish Red Fish Blue Fish. She would put pencil marks above the vowels to let me know which ones were long and which ones were short, and I would sit on her lap and read them out loud to her.

When I was growing up, my mom and I always loved word-related games. We would often try to stump each other with obscure vocabulary words or sit down and play board games like Balderdash or Scrabble. When we played Scrabble in my family, no one was very patient. We didn’t like for people to take too long on their turn, so when I was taking too long on my turn, my mom would often say, “It doesn’t always have to be a blockbuster.” What she meant was that every round you play is not necessarily going to be your best round, so don’t take all day thinking about it. Sometimes you just have to throw something on the board, so we can all get on with the game.

Thankfully, my first sermon went pretty well, and I was off to a decent start as a preacher. I pretty much bombed my second sermon and on many subsequent attempts, I laid an egg so to speak. In my mind as I prepared, I would be eloquent and dynamic, but when I would go to actually preach, it would often fall flat. Sometimes I questioned whether I was even cut out to be a preacher (and so did the people around me!).

One night in particular I sat and listened to my pastor preaching, and it was one of those nights when he was simply on fire. I can picture him now from my front row seat as he thundered forth God’s word with such power from behind that pulpit. At that moment, I thought to myself, “I will never be able to preach as well as Pastor Nichols is preaching right now. He is preaching at a level that I will never reach. But I wonder if I can just preach well enough to be a pastor - not necessarily like him, but just a pastor. Can God use me to accomplish something for his glory?”

21 years after my first sermon at that youth night, I have written and preached almost 3,000 sermons, and I’ve been a pastor now for 15 years. Preaching for one hour three times a week to the same group of people can be challenging. Especially when people have traveled a long distance to attend church or even flown in from out of town, there is a lot of pressure to preach a home run sermon. Over the years I’ve learned that mom was right: it doesn’t always have to be a blockbuster. 

Friday, April 10, 2020

"Deported" Movie Now on YouTube!

Experience the adventure of a lifetime through the eyes of Pastor Steven Anderson, Paul Wittenberger, and their friends. Faithful Word Baptist Church began a soul-winning mission trip in South Africa and Botswana, and everything went wrong, or did it? The African governments gnashed upon them with their teeth and quickly deported most of the group. However, they were unable to prevent the Word of God from spreading. 

Tuesday, September 17, 2019

UDATED - Schedule for FWBC Missions Conference (Jan 22-26, 2020)


Wednesday - Australia

5:00pm - Soul-winning @ FWBC
7:00pm  - Preaching (Pastor Kevin Sepulveda)
Song - "Jesus Loves Me” in English

Thursday - Africa

10:00am - Preaching (Bro. Chris Segura & Pastor Oscar Bougardt)
Song - "Jesus Loves Me” in Yoruba
1:00pm “Deported” Premier / Soul-winning @ FWBC
3:20pm “Deported” Premier / Seminar at FWBC (Learning a Foreign Language)
5:40pm “Deported” Premier / “Little Africa” Soul-winning

8:00pm “Deported” Premier / Testimonies from Africa and Australia

Friday - Asia

10:00am - Preaching (Pastor Anderson) “The Spiritual Condition of Asia”
Song - “Jesus Loves Me” in Korean
1:00pm -1:45pm - Seminar (How to organize a missions trip)
2:00pm - 2:45pm - Seminar (Internet technology and evangelism)
3:00pm - Soul-winning in Chinatown and “Little India”
5:30pm - Testimonies from Asia
7:00pm - Preaching (Pastor Roger Jimenez)
Song - “Jesus Loves Me” in Tagalog

Saturday - Caribbean & Americas

10:00am - Preaching (Bro. Corbin Ressl)
Song - “Jesus Loves Me” in Navajo
1:00pm -1:45pm - Seminar (How to do Rez’ Soul-winning)
2:00pm - Soul-winning on the Gila River Indian Reservation
5:30pm - Testimonies from Canada, Caribbean, & Latin America
7:00pm - Preaching (Pastor Bruce Mejia)
Song - “Jesus Loves Me” in Spanish

Sunday - Europe

10:30am - Preaching (Pastor Anderson)
Song - “Jesus Loves Me” in German
1:30pm - Soul-winning in South Phoenix
4:00pm - 4:45pm - Seminar - (Starting a Soul-winning Club in Europe)
5:00pm - Testimonies from Europe
6:30pm - Preaching (Pastor Patrick Boyle)
Song - “Jesus Loves Me” in Romanian