What In the World: A Summertime Culture Watch Wrap-Up

Culture Watch WednesdayToday is the last Wednesday of August. This coming Monday is Labor Day and the unofficial end of summer. For many people, such as myself, we look forward to fall and its radiance of deep colors on trees in the form of leaves; pumpkins; cooler temps; and many traditions.

And college football.

However, we would be remiss if we didn’t recall things that took place in our culture over the summer. This has been a particularly turbulent summer – not only in the United States, but around the world. In the midst of all the stories that have filled time during newscasts, space in newspapers, and occupied 140 characters in Tweets, I am reminded that we can still be hopeful because Jesus Christ is sovereign and in control. Hebrews 6:19 says, “This hope we have as an anchor of the soul, a hope both sure and steadfast and one which enters within the veil” and later in Hebrews we are reminded that “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever” (13:8).

As a re-cap, here are things that highlighted the summer of 2014:

Escalated battle between Israel and Gaza – In June three Israeli teenagers (one with American citizenship) were kidnapped and killed after hitchhiking in the West Bank. This was the catalyst that sparked airstrikes between Israel and Gaza. Despite numerous periods of declared cease fires throughout the summer (all of which were broken), conflict escalated. Airstrikes have continued and to date, more than 2,100 Palestinians have been killed, while 68 Israelis have died.

Malaysian flight struck down over the Ukraine – In the middle of July, a commercial Malaysian flight en route from the Netherlands to Malaysia fell from the sky after it was hit by a surface to air missile as it was flying over the Ukranian/Russian border. All 298 passengers were killed.

ISIS, the beheading of Christians and James Foley – The militant group, ISIS (Islamic State in Iraq and Levant) was formed in April 2013. The group has sought to form a government over Syrian and Iraq. In the process they have engaged in modern-day genocide as reports of Christians, and people of other religious minority groups in the region, being beheaded and slaughtered emerged all summer. This was happening to people of all ages. Doors of believers in the region were marked with the Arabic letter “N” to signify “Nazarene” and as a target. Additionally, James Foley, an American journalist kidnapped in 2012, was beheaded by ISIS militants, reportedly in response to US attacks on ISIS in northern Iraq. His brutal murder was recorded and posted online.

World Cup 2014 – This summer was also a World Cup summer. The World Cup, which is held every four years, was hosted by Brazil and brought out the nationalism and country-pride of people around the world. Americans cheered for our team, but ultimately the World Cup went to the Germans. However, the month-long tournament provided many on-the-edge-of-your-seat moments as many games were scoreless in regulation time and were decided by penalty shoot-outs at the end of the games.

Ebola – The deadly virus, Ebola, was detected in March of this year in Nigeria and Sierra Leone. The disease, of which there is no known cure, kills 50-90% of those who are infected. When the disease reached Liberia in June, medical aid workers were prepared. However, two of those medical aid workers, medical missionaries Dr. Kent Brantly with Samaritan’s Purse, and Nancy Writebol with SIM, became infected with the virus in late July. At the beginning of August the two were flown separately to the US for treatment at Emory Hospital in Atlanta. As the two first known Ebola victims on US soil, the decision to provide treatment sparked various responses, the two loudest and most caustic from Donald Trump and Ann Coulter. However, after three-weeks in Emory’s isolation unit, the care of a team of five doctors and 21 nurses, and the undeniable hand of God throughout the entire process, the two were released after blood work showed no traces of the virus. The head of the medical team, Dr. Bruce Ribner, said in his comments during a press conference that the two modeled faith and hope to the entire medical team.

Michael Brown and Ferguson – On Saturday, August 9, an 18-year-old unarmed black man, Michael Brown, was shot to death by a white police officer in the St. Louis suburb of Ferguson, Missouri. The shooting sparked violent riots and protests in the community and other protests were held across the country. Brown was laid to rest earlier this week.

Robin Williams – During the early evening of Monday, August 11, reports began to emerge that Robin Williams, the great entertainer that brought us characters such as Mork from the planet Ork, Mrs. Doubtfire, the Genie from Aladdin and my personal favorite, Dr. Malcom Sayer in the movie Awakenings, had died of an apparent suicide. The 63-year-old actor had a body of work that spanned generations and impacted people all over the globe. It was reported that Williams, who could make anyone laugh, battled depression and had recently been diagnosed with Parkinsons’ disease. Williams was the father of three children.

ALS Ice Bucket Challenge – Though the origins differ depending upon who you talk to, greater attention was brought to amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) or Lou Gehrig’s disease this summer through the ice bucket challenges. During the challenges, participants accept the challenge from a friend (or foe) and then challenge others to dump a pail of ice water on their head and donate a minimum of $10 to the ALS charity of their choice. The challenges went viral via social media and were accepted by many celebrities, families, and former heads of state. To date, the challenges have raised almost $80 million for research of the terminal disease.

As I look back over this list, which doesn’t include the recent earthquake in California, the Brooklyn Bridge American flag swap and a host of other things, I am thankful that God is on His throne – always. In the middle of the good, bad, cruel and sad, He is with us.

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