Wednesday, July 29, 2009

To play or not to play

Star Wars Saga edition Roleplaying Game

Over the last few months, with debates going on between my friends about "Harry Potter" and "The Shack", I've been doing some soul searching about my involvement with Star Wars roleplaying. SW is fantasy based, and has an element that could be presented like witchcraft, so I sought some clarification. Though elements in Christianity are also shared by other religions, that doesn't make Christianity less Christian. Other religions and cults also may share moral values, redemptive sacrifice, a belief in one creator, miracles, healing, prayer and meditation.
Unlike Potter though Star Wars does have a more definitive good vs evil, good always wins, redemptive theme, and a closer alignment to a Christian Worldview. Roy M. Anker in his book "Catching Light: Looking for God in the Movies" equates Star Wars to a modern sci-fi version of "Lord of the Rings". Ref. LOtR is fantasy based in a place of Middle Earth that uses those elements to tell a story that aligns with a Christian Worldview. Other fantasy worlds such as Dungeons and Dragons borrow established fantasy creatures and elements, but then redefine the nature of God or create multiple deities and promote occultic themes (magic, witchcraft, evil , nature worship). I've done away with D&D a few years ago. Though I wasn't one to focus on the occultic aspect I realized that by playing there is no escaping it's influence.

As for matters of the heart, Onken and Miller offer this insightful analysis:

"[N]either fantasy nor fantasy role playing is wrong in and of itself. When carried out within the context of the Christian world view, it can serve as a useful and creative activity. We are creatures made in the image of an imaginative God, and we should consider it a privilege to possess and exercise this precious gift of imagination. But we must also realize our obligation before God to use this gift in a wholesome way, and to guard against any misuse.

"Discerning the difference between a wholesome use and misuse begins with the question, 'To what end or for what purpose (is the imagination) being exercised in a particular direction?' This certainly appears to be the question Jesus had in mind in His Sermon on the Mount when He stated, 'Every one who looks on a woman to lust for her has committed adultery with her already in his heart' (Matthew 5:28). "If Jesus taught that lust is tantamount to adultery (which God condemns see Deuteronomy 5:18, 22:13-27), would He approve of the deliberate cultivation and enjoyment of fantasy regarding other things that God condemns? Obviously not. To fantasize about those things that God has forbidden in His Word (immorality, the occult, the pursuit of other deities all elements of Dungeons and Dragons) is tantamount to doing them. This cannot be understood in any other way than a misuse of our God-given imagination.

"With the Bible as our guide, this is what we as Christians must guard against 'so that [we] may walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, to please Him in all respects' (Colossians 1:10)."

Along the way I've been seeing this scripture show up, and it's guidance for Christian Thinking.
"Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is worthy of respect, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if something is excellent or praiseworthy, think about these things." Phil 4:8
Following these principles I have set some guidelines for my games. They have been in place for years, but now I am defining them, and now realizing why I've done it for years.

In my SWRPG:
1) We play good characters as defined by a Christian Worldview of God.
2) We play moral, and immoral is dark side. If their character pursues the dark side it can be lost (turned over the the GM).
3) The Force is a fantastical mechanism in the fantasy universe of Star Wars, call it a midichlorian if you want. A person has superhuman abilities because of something in the blood, a parasite like creature perhaps. Or maybe it's genetic as it seems to pass within a family line. It is not witchcraft, there is no summoning, demonic forces, or magics.
4) Good Jedi are the peace keepers, and bad sith are greedy power abusers.
5) Good will eventually win over Evil.
6) Jedi are not so powerful as to be immortal. They are still human, and can be killed. Though four Jedi Masters seem to have preserved themselves into the force, perhaps for eternity. A spirit like existence.

Outside of SWRPG:
1) I should read my Bible more than I read Star Wars
2) let my morals determine my game, not my game determine my morals.

Interesting thought.
"At its core is a complex and fetching portrait of what Lucas in his fantasy world labels the Force, by which he means, as he has said directly in interviews, God. With studied restraint, he does not go so far as to specify which God he is depicting; but his prime purpose, he says, is to show his audiences what it is like to believe in God (Time, April 26, 1999)."
Christianity Today: Star Wars Spirituality About 20pages from his book, a very interesting read. Broken into 4 parts.

So yes, within the bounds of Biblical instruction I will continue to play a game, that promotes positive creativity when played with positive moral values already in place, and does not detract from the glory of God.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Water Fluoridation

As of late I have had many questions come up about Fluoride, specifically water fluoridation. I have spent many hours looking over all sorts of documents from all kinds of sources and this is my journey.

Water Fluoridation is the practice of putting fluoride compounds (sodium fluoride, fluorosilicic acid, or sodium fluorosilicate) into the tap water system to bring the fluoride levels up to “preferred levels”. Preferred by who, you might ask? Well, the ADA, CDC, WHO, FDA, and EPA they all seem to have similar takes on what is best for you and me. What does that matter? I think to myself “Is it ethical to medicate an uninformed and perhaps unwilling populace?” Hopefully everyone would agree; No it is not ethical. Does that stop them though, no, “It’s for the greater good” they say. Does the evidence support that claim, and would that still over rule doing it unethically? We’ll look into that. The Government will let us smoke, drink, refuse vaccines, and eat ridiculously unhealthy, all for the sake of freedom. But for whatever reason we seem to not have any say in putting a potential deadly chemical into our water system and into our bodies.

Investigation of the decay preventing effects of naturally occurring fluoride in water led to the start of community water fluoridation back in 1945 (in Grand Rapids, Michigan). Though even before that time other observations were made in Colorado Springs, CO for excessive fluoride levels causing brittle and stained teeth. For more than 60 years scientists have made observations and conducted epidemiological and animal studies to determine the effectiveness and safety of fluoride in water. It’s still up for debate and in need of further research.

Nearly all water on earth contains “naturally occurring” fluoride at levels below, equal to, or above those used in community water fluoridation. So how much is too much…

How deadly is Fluoride? The currently accepted estimate for the minimum lethal dose of fluoride is 5 mg/kg (i.e. 5 milligrams of fluoride for each kilogram of bodyweight). I’m 106.5kg so 533mg(.5g) should do it(don’t get any ideas). 5g = 1tsp so 1tsp could kill 10 of me! Yes, ALL fluoride toothpastes have the potential to kill if you ate the whole thing. That’s why they have those warning labels on them. A couple hundred parents (on behalf of their kids) contact poison control per year for eating tooth paste. There have been a few deaths over the years. Hopefully you would throw it up, and call poison control. This is some serious stuff. Link

By comparison, arsenic, is about 1 mg/kg (milligrams of arsenic per kilogram of body weight) Fluoride is only 1/5 as deadly as arsenic; are you comfortable with that?

How does it work?
Topically (on your teeth) and systemic (ingested). Fluoride primarily works by interfering with the demineralization mechanism of tooth decay. Tooth decay is an infectious disease the key feature of which is an increase within dental plaque of bacteria such as Streptococcus mutans and Lactobacillus. These produce organic acids when carbohydrates, especially sugar, are eaten. When enough acid is produced the acid dissolves tooth enamel (process known as demineralization.) After the sugar is gone, some of the mineral loss can be recovered—or remineralized—from ions dissolved in the saliva. Cavities result when the rate of demineralization exceeds the rate of remineralization, typically in a process that requires many months or years.

When ingested it attaches to calcium deposits (bone and teeth) to build them up to resistance. The ingested claim is more disputed than the oral one and even the CDC admits there is no need to ingest it. Link

So if a lot at once can kill you, what does it do if a little bit is ingested over a long time?
Exposure to high levels of fluoride over a long time can cause dental fluorosis, a condition which leads to mottled tooth enamel, tooth discoloration, and in some cases erosion of affected teeth to the gum line. The levels of fluoride found in drinking water are considered very low. Watch out if you live in certain parts of the world that have naturally high levels. Like the well water of west Texas, parts of china, and lots of other spots globally.

Drinking water’s fluoride content is limited under federal law. The maximum level of fluoride deemed acceptable by the US Environmental Protection Agency(EPA) is 4 milligrams per liter (mg/L). The CDC has established the “optimal level” for fluoride content in drinking water to be in the range of 0.7 to 1.2 mg/L. WHO (world health organization) says it should be between 0.5 and 1.1 mg/L.

Is it a carcinogen? No

In 1987, the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) reviewed the available data concerning the carcinogenicity of fluoride and concluded that there was inadequate evidence of carcinogenicity in experimental animals (IARC, 1987). Two separate sets of long-term fluoride carcinogenicity studies in rats and mice have been published in the 1990s (NTP, 1990; Bucher et al., 1991; Maureret al., 1990, 1993). These studies have been extensively reviewed with the general conclusion that they do not provide adequate evidence to conclude that fluoride is carcinogenic (USNRC, 1993; WHO, 1996; IPCS, 2002).

Is it a nutrient? No.

Fluoride is not an essential nutrient (NRC 1993 and IOM 1997). No disease has ever been linked to a fluoride deficiency.

What if I want to remove it? Removal of fluoride from water is difficult. Most home treatment systems are installed at single faucets and use activated carbon filtration, which does not remove fluoride. Fluoride is not released from water when it is boiled or frozen. You would need a specific filter type to remove fluoride (most of them are expensive).

Infants and Fluorosis

A recent study, however, has raised the possibility that fluoride exposure during the first year of life may play a more important role on fluorosis development than was previously understood. It now appears that the amount of the fluoride contained in the water used for mixing infant formula may influence a child’s risk for developing enamel fluorosis, particularly if the child’s sole source of nutrition is from reconstituted infant formula.

If tap water is fluoridated or has substantial natural fluoride (0.7 mg/L or higher)[WHO recommended levels are .5 to 1.0mg/L], a parent may consider using a low-fluoride alternative water source. [Rowlett, TX is .8mg/L]

Parents should follow the advice of the formula manufacturer and their child’s doctor for the type of water appropriate for the formula they are using. Parents and caregivers of infants fed primarily with formula from concentrate who are concerned about the effect that mixing their infant’s formula with fluoridated water may have in developing enamel fluorosis can lessen this exposure by mixing formula with low fluoride water most or all of the time. This may be tap water, if the public water system is not fluoridated (check with your local water utility). If tap water is fluoridated or has substantial natural fluoride (0.7 mg/L or higher), a parent may consider using a low-fluoride alternative water source. Bottled water known to be low in fluoride is labeled as purified, deionized, demineralized, distilled, or prepared by reverse osmosis. Most grocery stores sell these types of low-fluoride water. Ready to feed (no-mix) infant formula typically has little fluoride and may be preferred for use at least some of the time.

Using only water with low fluoride levels to mix formula will not eliminate the risk of enamel fluorosis. But following such a practice may reduce the chance of fluorosis occurring.

“Breastfeeding is ideal for infants. CDC is committed to increasing breastfeeding rates throughout the United States and to promoting optimal breastfeeding practices.”

What’s your waters fluoride level?

Interesting observation from Australia:

“Until the 1980s the caries prevalence among the Aboriginal children were considered low, better than the non indigenous Australian children. Recent studies however suggest that the Indigenous children now have on average twice as much (or even five times as much in some communities) caries when compared with their counterparts.”

So… “Thanks for sharing your sugary drinks, beers, food and candies.” Now the government is experimenting with them and fluoridating the water system.

Humans can have perfectly good teeth without fluoridation. Call it good genes or good hygiene.

Behavior, behavior, behavior…

Fluoridated toothpaste (introduced in the 1970s) has been one of the defining factors of reduced tooth decay, not fluoridation. Eating an excessive amount of sugar food or drink is going to increase the acidity of your saliva and eat away at your teeth. Reduce the amount of sugary foods and brush your teeth will help reduce the amount of cavities you have more than any fluoride intake you may get. PDF

Water Fluoridation

Pros – supposedly provides for better tooth resistance to decay.

Potential Cons – skeletal fluorosis, dental fluorosis, aches that mimic arthritis, hypothyroidism (underactive thyroid), and osteosarcoma (in young males.)

Many of these problems don’t show up until later in life, from a lifetime of consuming fluoride. Try and have nice teeth, then have issues because of the ‘treatment’ for it, that’s nuts. If there is 0% tooth decay in fluoridated areas I’d probably be more for it. As it stands, the best way is to take care of your teeth. Scrub plague or food buildup off (brushing with or without fluoride), floss your teeth, and get dental checkups, eat less sugar. Good hygiene doesn’t have to involve fluoridation. As a community that cares about our quality of life at all stages (young or old, poor or rich) we should emphasize and work to achieve the availability of good hygiene for all.

As for me and my house:

1) If given the opportunity I would encourage our local government to review the studies on water fluoridation and see if they would stop putting fluoride in the water. Given the opportunity, I would filter it out at the kitchen sink (drinking and cooking water).
2) I and my wife will continue to use fluoride toothpaste (also per my dental hygienists’ request).
3) My son(and daughter) will not use fluoride toothpaste until he is able to spit it out of his mouth properly, and then with proper supervision and instruction.

4) I am not against the use of dental sealants.


Slightly related odd thought/fact:

I was trying to find out if any other chemical is forced upon society at large with such fervor “for the greater good”, and then I found this gem:

Did you know that the FDA has encouraged salt manufactures to put iodine into their product because of iodine deficiency (leading cause of mental retardation)? I suppose you could argue that they are putting chemicals into our food without us being informed. At least you can choose not to eat iodized salt, but then that would be like encouraging you to be a retard. The FDA recommends consumption of 150 micrograms of iodine (that’s super tiny) per day, for both men and women.

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Of God or Not of God

This week has been filled with deep discussions on a religious level. Other weeks often are in the circles I hang out with, however this week God impressed upon me a theme to think about:
"Of God" or "Not of God"
Through conversations over the web, chats with the in-laws, to Bible studies with friends. Some of the topics churned my stomach and made me think really hard, to a point of mental, emotional, and spiritual exaustion.

So now you are probably wondering what made my stomach churn? It all starts with this verse:
Matt 10:33 But whoever denies me before people, I will deny him also before my Father in heaven.
Here in America we have it pretty easy. The persecution Christians face might only be a rude comment, a snear, or politcal vice. Sure there have been some pretty serious offenses but in general we have it easy. Are you aware of the atrocities committed against Christians in other countries, all because of their religious affiliation. Voice of the Martyr News Room
With some of the news and scripture I've been reading this week I've been wondering if God is preparing me not for a specific situation but preparing my heart. This is the DUH moment. Of course He has been working on my heart.
I remember back in 1999 Columbine shootings; when asked if she believed in God Cassie Bernall was shot because she said "Yes". Whether that happened exactly like that has been contested, but that scenario plays out around the globe often enough to concern me. Now what if you we presented with that question. If you do believe in God would you have the conviction to say "yes", no matter the outcome. Now escalate that scenario a notch, your family is being held at gun point and asked the same question. Next step up in severity, you, your wife, friend or family is threatened with rape and death. Is there some magical 'grey area' that developes so you can say no and escape harm, you think God can forgive you later, he'll understand; or do you say yes and whatever happens happens. A potential tragedy for sure.
Matt 10:33 But whoever denies me before people, I will deny him also before my Father in heaven.
So what churned my stomach was what if this scenario was my life, and this was my wife... my hands shake at the thought, I get choked up, and find it hard to type just thinking about it. I believe God has impressed upon my heart the need to be prepared for the scenario, and hope it never occurs. My heart also mourns for those who face this as a reality daily. www. Do I think this will ever happen to me? Does anyone? I pray it never does.

Matt 16:24 Then Jesus said to his disciples, “If anyone wants to become my follower, he must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me.

Whew, take a breath and lets continue...

Second thought of the week is more in line with the title of the blog.
I've had a couple conversations that dealth with the analogy of Black and White viewpoints. Yes, some people wish to add in the 'grey area'. It's just used in conversation, used to represent that uncertain line of thought. Black and White is generally used to represent Good or Bad. With a Christian Theistic Worldview everything you can think of will fall into these two categories as well, but lets define it a step further. Everything in this world will either be 'of God' or 'not of God'. If it's not of God then it is of man or Satan. If something that comes up and you aren't sure which way it would go you might be tempted to try and put it into the 'grey' area, but really it just means you haven't explored and understand the nature of God enough. I've temporatily put a few things into the grey area this week, and have tried to take time and discover more about God. I have sought to deapen my relationship with God to know his will, by knowing his nature.

One aspect that I haven't had closure on yet is one that is close to my heart. Star Wars Roleplaying. I don't put it into the more obvious categories of idol worship, magic, or witchcraft. I've gotten rid of my Dungeons and Dragons collection(polytheistic, magic, cultic) and don't mess with the Harry Potter series (witchcraft, gateway to the occult). There is no such thing as a good witch. I have a saying "Don't let your games make you, you make the game." Let your morals guide a game, don't let a game develope your identity. I generally think that as long as I can read my Bible more than I read Star Wars, and don't hold it up as an idol, I'm doin OK. It's a source of entertainment, I can bring my Christian Theistic Worldview to the game. I can participate and have fun without taking part in something that is anti-Christ.

Which brings me to my next question up for discusion.
What would Jesus think about fantasy? Jesus often uses parables in the Bible, but those are still in the realm of possibility. The stories are drawn from reality. Does Jesus ever use fantasy? Would he have an issue using it for entertainment or story telling? I think that God blessed us with imagination and creativity and we can honor him when using it positively. I refer to "The Lord of the Rings" and "Chronicles of Narnia" Both written by men with Christian Worldviews. (side note: Both use the sacraficial character architype like Jesus, but aren't supposed to be a story of Jesus.) Would Jesus be dissapointed at these two works?

I'm exausted and await any thoughts...