In the early 20th century, not a few missionaries believed that Buddhism in Thailand was a religion in decline that would soon crumble under the superiority of Christianity and American culture. However, as the century wore on, it became evident that those predictions were entirely premature. Buddhism has shown incredible resilience in the face of the challenges of the modern world. Contrary to secularization theory which posits that as a society becomes more educated and developed, it also becomes more secular (as evidenced in Europe), religious beliefs and modern, scientific learning have long dwelt side by side in Thai society, with little evidence of the so-called “science vs. religion” divide that has wedged itself into the thinking of many Westerners. As recently as 1990, Thai researcher Suntaree Komin found no significant difference in religious attitudes among Thai people of varying educational levels. Her research showed that “the highly educated sought out fortune-telling as often as the uneducated” and “even Western-educated Thai Ph.D. scientists refused to fathom the scientific and religious conflict, and would behaviorally never forget to wear their charms and amulets when traveling.”
Do you think the Apostle Paul ever felt “stuck”? Did he ever feel frustrated at not being able to obey God’s call on his life because of external circumstances? If I found myself in his shoes, I might have.
This past year, a lot of people (including myself) have felt stuck and hindered by external circumstances, largely as a result of government restrictions in response to COVID-19. Plans have been frustrated and new plans were also frustrated, and then the most gingerly held and tentative plans were also frustrated. “Surely, by such-and-such a time, things should be getting back to normal” was in the thoughts and on the lips of many of us, but that confidence that it would only be a bit longer was continually upended.
But what does the train wreck of 2020 (and 2021?) have to do with the Apostle Paul?
This Christmas season, I’ve been thinking about the incarnation of Christ because of all the restrictions that we’ve lived under due to government responses to COVID-19. The Son of God came to the world in-the-flesh, in-person, but for much of this year many of us have been unable to see each other in person. Everyone has been doing the best they can given the circumstances, and there is much to be thankful for, including the miracle of digital communication that enables us to be “present” to some degree for one another. In messaging from the government, we’ve heard a lot about “essential” and “non-essential” activities, but many times “church” has been relegated to the “non-essential” list. For that reason, in this post I wanted to reflect briefly on why God thought it was essential to send His son in-person, in-the-flesh, for us and our salvation. Was the incarnation essential? How does the incarnation of Christ relate to the limited ability to gather with others in-person in the time of COVID-19?
"How can I get out of debt?," you may ask. Deep down, you know that debt is a financial bondage. It is a difficult task, admittedly, seeing that the debt may be massive. Yet, if we take baby steps, we will eventually get out of it.
How Much Debt Does the Average Person Have in the US?
The Lexington Law Firm wrote, “Average consumer debt per capita is approximately $12,687 (total consumer debt as of November 2019/total US population as of January 9, 2020). . . Average loans per student equal approximately $82,170 (total student loans in September 2019/total students enrolled in public or private universities in 2019).”
Forbes wrote in February 2020, “Student loan debt in 2020 is now about $1.56 trillion. The latest student loan debt statistics for 2020 show how serious the student loan debt crisis has become for borrowers across all demographics and age groups. There are 45 million borrowers who collectively owe nearly $1.6 trillion in student loan debt in the U.S. Student loan debt is now the second highest consumer debt category - behind only mortgage debt - and higher than both credit cards and auto loans.”