Transforming our Community through Spiritual Awakening
Beneath the charming midwestern veneer of Shiawassee county lies an insidious plague of addictions that suffocates life from our neighbors, friends, and family. These walking dead imprisoned by addiction pass us each day. Today, an opiate-addicted mother picked up her children from school. Today, an alcohol-intoxicated man drove his car by yours on M-21. Today, a thirty-something was denied employment because of a failed drug test. Today, a father addicted to painkillers jeopardizes his family’s future by squandering savings on illegal prescriptions. Today, a porn addict waged war in his mind as he watched children playing at the park. Today, a teen took her first meth hit. Today, a man abused his wife after enjoying libations at the local pub. Today, because of addiction, many in our community stepped closer to death.
Addiction is not unique to Shiawassee county, but like other communities, it is a major issue. According to a 2017 MLive article, approximately seventy percent of the court cases seen by Shiawassee Circuit Court Judge Matt Stewart are drug and alcohol-related. Besides the economic cost of dealing with addictions, the human costs are even greater. The opioid epidemic in America annually leads to over 64,000 overdose deaths causing the life expectancy of Americans to fall in the previous two years. In 2015, alcohol-related auto fatalities numbered 10,265 accounting for 29% of all traffic fatalities. Addictions end life.
Addiction is not limited to substances but also includes compulsive destructive activity. Forty million Americans regularly view pornographic material and 70% of 18-24-year-old males view pornography monthly. An April 2018 Bloomberg news article entitled “Social Media Looks Like the New Opiate of the Masses” reports that in 2017 the average social media user logged over two hours daily engaged in social media. Netflix reported that in 2017 one billion hours were watched weekly by Netflix users. Addictions waste life.
Addiction rehabilitation is big business. The US Government spent over 10 billion dollars in 2017 for the treatment of drug addiction. Community organizations attempt to respond to the desperate need. Judge Matt Stewart’s commendable “Drug Court” attempts to stem the recidivism rate of drug offenders. Churches and para-church organizations nobly attend to the needs of the addicted through programs like Reformers Unanimous which meets weekly at Bible Baptist Church in Owosso. Addictions can be broken.
Addiction rehabilitation, while worthy and necessary, is sadly often a net loss equation. For everyone one individual able to break free many more dive deeper into bondage. Addiction is defeated when addiction never begins. Yet in Shiawassee County, the availability of these vices has only increased. We have created a culture that creates addiction. Our courts are overrun, law enforcement is overworked, social services are overspent, and schools are overwhelmed by the product of our culture. Addiction is everyone’s problem.
Addiction requires that everyone takes responsibility. The New Testament outlines the principle that one individual ought not to exercise his personal liberty so as to be a stumbling block to others. While every individual is responsible for the choices they make, in a virtuous community the wise personal decisions of many helps to encourage those that struggle. Shiawassee County can be a community that reduces addiction if the majority would determine to create a virtuous culture.
Availability feeds addiction. Currently, our state legislature is considering the legalization of recreational marijuana. Marijuana is a gateway drug often leading to the use of other more illicit substances. Legal marijuana will create more addiction – history proves this. Alcohol is an ancient substance that has produced fools for millennia. The Proverbs declare “Wine is a mocker, strong drink is raging: and whosoever is deceived thereby is not wise.” (Pro. 20:1) Yet as a community we have ignored this ancient wisdom and made alcohol readily accessible, even offering up free samples at Meijers. Purveyors of alcohol do not add to the virtue of our community. Simply ask the family devastated by a drunk driver or the spouse who suffers under the abuse of an angry drunk. Currently, “Blue Laws” limit the sale of alcohol between the hours of 2 am and 7 am. While personal alcohol abstinence is a wise and godly choice as a community we must reduce the access to alcohol. This can be accomplished by expanding local “blue laws,” reducing the number of liquor licenses, outlawing public consumption at community events (in particular the “beer tent”), and preventing the free distribution of alcohol samples. These steps will go a long way to shifting our culture away from one dominated by alcohol. In addition, our local law enforcement and the community would benefit from the aggressive prosecution of not simply drug users but more importantly drug manufacturers and importers. Commendable are the actions of Judge Matt Stewart and others who have taken a hard position against this activity in our community. Reduced access starves addiction of its fuel.
Accountability deters addiction. Bible wisdom says, “Iron sharpeneth iron; so a man sharpeneth the countenance of his friend.” (Pro 27:17) There is wisdom in being a part of relationships and communities that deter addiction. Intact families are the core relationships that facilitate avoidance of addictive behavior. Fathers and mothers should model virtuous living to their children and proactively eliminate their exposure to drugs, alcohol, pornography, and other addictive behaviors. Schools and educators should also model the highest of community standards. However, the best community for accountability is the local New Testament Church. A Church, not the building, is a group of identified people determined to glorify God. A Church that raises people to live for a higher calling is a treasured asset to a community. Salt of the earth believers living to love God and love their neighbors are the grace of God to a community. These people voluntarily living an accountable lifestyle by sitting together at the communion table represent the virtuous life God intends for a community. Church life is the best life and you and your family would be well served to be connected to a Bible-centered church. Healthy churches exercising positive accountability deters addictive lifestyles.
Everyone is an addict. Humans are naturally depraved individuals intent on satisfying “the lust of the flesh, lust of the eyes, and the pride of life.” (1 John 2:16) You are addicted to yourself. It is this self-addiction that is the root of all the addictions that plague our community. The only real answer for addiction is the transformation found in the person of Jesus Christ. Addiction can be seen as a thief that robs life. Jesus said, “The thief cometh not, but for to steal, and to kill, and to destroy: I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly.” (John 10:10) The darkness of addiction is overcome by the light of Jesus. The ultimate solution will not be stiffer regulation or increased prosecution but rather a cumulatively increased desire for spiritual awakening. “And you hath he quickened [to be made alive], who were dead in trespasses and sins;” is the promise of Jesus. Can such a spiritual awakening happen in a community? Yes! Throughout American history, individual communities have seen the reprieve from the scourge of addictions brought by the spiritual awakening of an “evangelistic crusade.” The Gospel is the power of God to transform lives, restore homes, and shutter bars. This October 14-18 the Shiawassee Evangelistic Crusade will take place. (See center section for details) The vision is that lives would be transformed by the Gospel breaking the grips of addiction and creating a generation of people determined to worship Christ.