Thursday, April 10, 2014

Silas, Tragedy, and One Fallen World

Permit me to break a bit from the format, won’t you?

Oh, don’t worry. I don’t mean that I won’t ramble endlessly. All I mean is that I’m not going to set up the rambling via a film or book or video game, that’s all. We’ll get straight to the point. Relatively speaking. Straight to the rambling? Yeah.

Unfortunately, the real Silas isn't terribly attractive, so I'm using this
photo of a child model instead, since attractive people deserve
sympathy more than uggos.
(Full disclosure: I lied. This is Silas. Isn't he a cutie?)
I want to talk about my first cousin once removed. His name is Silas. He’s the son of my cousin Kristen and her husband Harvey. Harvey is in the Navy and works on a sub and he would have hated my post about the short-lived TV show Last Resort because he cannot watch a show set on a submarine without nitpicking and missing the show entirely while critiquing the number of steps on that stairway leading from the bridge to the constabulary or the composition of the metal alloy used in hatch B3. He’s not the sort of guy you want to watch Hunt for the Red October with. Of course, it’s the same reason I can’t take Castle or Murder, She Wrote seriously. I mean, they actually have times in those shows when the police seem to resent the priceless input of writers into murder investigations! It’s preposterous. But I should stop this digression because my cousin-in-law’s failings as a television-watching companion are not terribly pertinent, and I don’t want to punish my first cousin once removed for his father’s shortcomings.

I am sharing this face swap of President
Obama and Chris Christie for two reasons:
1) My wife Shannon has an irrational love
of face swaps and I love to make her smile;
2) I cannot think of a better way to signify
my commitment to an apolitical blog than this.
And, honestly, Silas has enough problems as it is. In fact, the poor boy has had countless health problems in his three years of life. Questionable diagnosis has followed questionable diagnosis, and we’ve wondered at times if we would ever know for sure what precisely was wrong with him, and how to help him. But it looks like at least some of those questions may be answered.

It seems like all these problems may stem from incredibly rare genetic mutations. In fact, it’s looking like Silas may be the only person in recorded medical history to suffer from this particular variation of these diseases. The child is certainly unique, but this isn’t much to celebrate.

Unfortunately, to get the proper treatment and the accommodations in life that he needs, Silas requires pricey genetic testing to finalize the diagnosis. Although his father is active duty US military and Silas has their health insurance, Tricare will not pay for the testing. They’re looking at somewhere in the ballpark of $25,000 for the required testing. I almost want to type that I wonder how much it would have cost back before the US had affordable care enacted, but I really don’t tend to get political around here so I won’t go there.

So pray for Silas, Kristen, and Harvey, please. You’re good readers. I know you’ve got my back and I know you’ll have theirs. If you’re so inclined, there is a GoFundMe page set up where you can help them meet their financial needs through donations. Whether you give or not, sharing the page on Facebook or Twitter or MySpace or Google Plus could also be helpful. And if you have anything to give, my wife is putting together an online auction in which the proceeds go toward Silas’ needs. I’m kicking in e-copies of all my books, of course, and have reached out to other author friends to do the same. If you’re an author, this sort of thing is a no-brainer if you ask me. Ebooks don’t cost us anything, we get to help out, and it’s even good publicity. And, indeed, some of my author friends are helping out too. Anyway, if you’d like to donate anything to the auction—anything!—go ahead and e-mail me and I’ll put you in touch with my wife, so I can deal with any spam that arises from this and she doesn’t have to. I don’t know exactly when the auction is supposed to get going, but I’m sure I’ll announce it on my Facebook page when the time comes so there’s a plug for that. Oh, and since blog posts are timeless, I’m writing this in early April 2014 and so just bear in mind that, if you’re reading this in May 2088, you might be a bit late to
And, for our friends from 2088, here's a picture of the view outside
your window right now so you can feel all comfy and homey!
Art credit: paooo (
this party. February might still be okay, but May would definitely have missed the boat, as May is wont to do.

But don’t worry. The rest of this post won’t be nearly as time sensitive. Let me say first of all that all the problems my little first cousin once removed is having really suck. I mean, poor Silas is only three years old! I think it’s pretty fair to arrive at the conclusion that this isn’t exactly fair. Three year old boys should be running and jumping and playing in mud and peeing on inappropriate things and people indiscriminately and eating turtles and catching wombats and playing Doctor Who and all that (disclaimer: I’ve never actually raised any boys), not combating incredibly rare genetic mutations! It’s bullcrap!

And, for some people, it’s precisely this sort of thing that precludes their belief in or acceptance of a loving God. So let’s talk about that. Because the Bible does indeed explain why a relatively innocent child like Silas can be afflicted with a horrible illness. Of course, you can choose to reject what God has to say. You don’t have to like it or accept it. But please don’t suggest that the turmoil, violence, chaos, disease, and overall crappiness that afflicts this world is somehow inexplicable within the pages of Scripture. Rather, it fits perfectly.
I'm clearly not speaking to any concierges reading this.
If you're a concierge, you clearly can't help but suggest
stuff even if I tell you not to. But everyone else should stop.

More on that in a moment. First, permit me to briefly get scientific. I don’t do this very often given that, despite my high school career at the Battle Creek Area Math and Science Center—which was for advanced students, not those who needed extra help, thank you very much!—my mind is actually much more creative and inventive than analytical, cold, and calculating (that pretty much describes scientists and mathematicians, right?). The last time I really delved into a defense of biblical creation, it was really much more of a theological argument than a scientific one: God simply used His human author to word the Genesis account in such a way to completely preclude the possibility of defending millions or billions of years of evolution through Scripture. The six days of Genesis simply cannot be reconciled to modern evolutionary theory. God anticipated (of course) the latter and developed the text deliberately to contradict that. It is only by twisting the Bible and completely ignoring the author’s clear intent that anyone can bring the two concepts together.

But this much I do know: when we hear about someone having a genetic mutation, it doesn’t mean that Patrick Stewart is finally going to get to open his special school for mutants. That’s not real life. What’s going on with young Silas is much more in line with what genetic mutations have to offer in real life. They’re bad. When DNA is corrupted, we are looking at the loss or perversion of normal genetic material, not the invention of new, beneficial changes. It’s tragic. While again reiterating that I am not a scientist (truth be told,
If I ever buy a bowtie, of course, I'll buy a fez to go with it.
Fezzes are cool.
I don’t even own a bowtie), it’s my understanding that one component of evolutionary theory is the unproven mechanism of going from very simple, basic life forms to infinitely more complex ones due, in part, to billions of years of serendipitous, beneficial, new-material-producing genetic mutations. Poppycock. I can show you a special three-year-old boy and demonstrate how genetic mutation really plays out in our world. It’s not the creation, extension, or upgrading of life. Not at all.

All right. Enough of that. Back to the Bible. First of all, let me assure you that I am definitely praying for my FirCoz1Mov’d whenever he comes to mind (I decided to abbreviate it a bit, as first cousin once removed is a bit cumbersome). I care about the little guy and his family and hate to see them all suffer as they fight their way through this. I’m behind them completely, and obviously one of my chief purposes in writing this blog post is to spread the word about what they’re going through, to ask for prayers and donations. I believe I offered the sentiment earlier, but permit me to repeat myself: this sucks.

Yes, this sucks, but the Bible makes it very clear that suckiness will come. That doesn’t necessarily make it any better, but we at least can be confident in the fact that this of course does not take God by surprise. And we don’t have to start pointing fingers like biblical Israelites trying to ascertain which parent sinned for the child to be afflicted like this. This isn’t divine punishment.
Having said that, I reserve the right to alter my
position if fire and brimstone should start
raining down on the boy.

Oh, that’s not to say that sin is not involved at all. On the contrary, sin is at the very heart of the issue. We simply don’t have to be pointing fingers at individual sin in the life of Silas or his family members—but sin is still very much to blame. God made a wonderful, beautiful world for us to live in, and He is such an artist that it still retains so much of its majesty and splendor, but it has been ravaged by sin for tens of thousands of years. Sin touches everything. Yeah, we know it ruins lives and families and marriages and churches and friendships and communities. The human fallout from sin is well documented, and none of us have been immune.

But it goes deeper, to the point “that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now” (Rom. 8:22). Jesus spoke of earthquakes, famine, and war as birth pains as well (Mark 13:8). We think of sin in terms of actions and consequences, and there’s truth to that, but sin as a cancer has infected absolutely everything this world has to offer. We cannot for a moment forget the fact that we live in a fallen world because that truth manifests itself daily in Chilean earthquakes, Ukrainian invasions, widespread corruption and, yes, rare genetic mutations. This world is broken. Disease, violence, and natural disasters are all symptoms. The groaning of creation will only increase until Jesus returns to restore all things; eventually, this world will be put out of its misery, to be replaced with a shiny new model (Rev. 21:1).

This is not to say that God does not intervene. We know that prayer is effective and we have countless biblical examples of His direct intervention as He wills (James 5:16-17). I believe entirely that He still performs miracles today. Why does He sometimes choose to stay His hand? I cannot begin to say. There comes a point where you finally realizes that He is so far beyond us that I have no right to question why He does what He does. I cannot see what is going to happen two minutes from now, and yet am I going to presume to know better than the One who knows and sees all? We know that He uses tragic circumstances and difficulties to mold us and give us opportunities to grow closer to Him (James 1:2-4). This may offer small comfort in the midst of our grief and fear, but even then we can have the comfort of knowing that He is
This doesn't have the slightest application to the post.
It's simply one of my wife's favorite face swaps.
unquestionably sovereign, undeniable in control, unassailably good.

Again, you don’t have to accept any of this. Faith can seem almost impossible when hope seems farthest and circumstances most dire. I understand that. But it’s true regardless. I will not be the one to offer empty platitudes to my cousin and her family, I assure you. Like I said: it sucks. God may well have a wonderful plan to grow them all and bring oodles of glory to Himself through this nightmare—indeed, I hope He does!—but where they’re at right now would still suck. So I won’t try to pretend that I know how they’re feeling; I won’t try to guess for them what God wants to teach them through this. Not at all. Rather, I’ll donate my books to the auction. I’ll pray—for strength, for comfort, for healing for Silas, for the cash to get the proper testing done. I cannot really have faith on their behalf, and yet I do believe with all my heart that God is not surprised by these developments; that He loves Silas, Kristen, Harvey, and Violet; and that He sees the whole picture whereas I can barely grasp what’s happening now. And I’ll ask for your prayers.

Oh, and I’ll link to the donation site one more time. I can’t do much, but I can do that.