Should Christians switch to alternative social media?

20 Jan

With the banning of President Trump from some social media platforms, the call to move to alternative applications has significantly increased. Platforms such as MeWe, Parler and Gab have attracted those who feel the more traditional options are suppressing free speech, or that they have some sort of hidden agenda.

Should Christians leave the more established platforms and plant themselves in these newer social media options?

To begin with, we should ask ourselves why we’re on social media. What’s the purpose? Should Christians be on social media at all? (And if you haven’t seen it, I highly suggest watching the docudrama, The Social Dilemma.) If you’ve reflected on this question, and feel that you’re using social media in a manner which is appropriate as a follower of Jesus, then it makes sense to ask if some platforms are a better place for you to be.

One of the major concerns with all social media is how they keep us engaged. Social media often becomes an echo chamber, reinforcing conclusions we already support (even if we’re wrong), and then takes us further down the rabbit hole, because frankly, that’s what keeps you and I on their sites. We can somewhat control this by managing our feed, and practicing discernment with what we read or like. But if we’re not thoughtful and intentional, the echo just gets louder and the rabbit hole just gets deeper. If a particular platform leads to this more, we should be especially cautious.

Then there’s the censorship issue. This is currently the biggest reason many people, including Christians, have cited for moving over to the alternative platforms. Certainly, we need to be cautious of censorship. We should be grateful that we live in a country where we can freely share the message of Christ (and hopefully we actively take advantage of this freedom). Censorship can be dangerous as it can be used to impose values on or control people’s thoughts. When it comes to things like religious freedom, censorship should be challenged.

Are Parler and similar platforms better places because they avoid censorship?

Well, not necessarily. Ironically, a site that is an echo chamber attracting a set group of people, even though built on advocating non-censorship, can end up accomplishing the very thing it is saying it’s avoiding. It effectively censors ideas its like-minded members don’t agree with.

I’d also add that sometimes censorship is appropriate. In law, there are essentially nine categories of unprotected speech.1

Paul gives us something that rules these out for the Christian in one sentence: “Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.” (Ephesians 4:29, ESV)

So, should Christians move to alternative social media sites?

It depends.

First, if a social media platform doesn’t ban and censor the kinds of free speech above, the Christian should seriously ask if it is profitable for them to be spending time there.

Second, if social media is causing you to be angry, or act in ways not consistent with Christian character, then perhaps you should consider abandoning it all together.

Finally, go back to your purpose for using social media. Why are you there? Are you there for news? Are you there for your hobby group? Are you there to brag about your lifestyle? Are you there to witness? Are you there to engage thoughtful ideas and have discussion? Are you there to post memes which may drive non-believers away from your witness? Are you just there to see your grandkids pictures? Whatever it is, just make sure that your reasons are consistent with who you want to be in Christ.


1 – While I’ve taken some college courses in law, this is outside my expertise. I can’t recall the origins of this list, so my apologies to the person who shared it with me for not giving credit. If I find it. I’ll share.

A Hope for the Church in America in 2021

1 Jan

Reflecting on 2020, I look back on a year of missed opportunity. The pandemic that struck has not only taken the lives of hundreds of thousands of people, but many others have been left without a source of income. People are struggling. Early on, some Christians wisely pointed out that the American Church had a timely opportunity to become more missional – to remove the focus on our buildings, and to serve and share.

“Peace be with you. Just as the Father has sent me, I also send you.”

John 20:21 (NET)

Sadly, in 2020, not peace, but rather indignation came out of portions of the American church. In a year when the Church had such an opportunity to shine and help people, and show we are ambassadors of the King, instead, some churches and several church leaders marginalized themselves and made their focus so much about their internal rights being violated. Even more ludicrous, some claimed that this is all some sort of social conditioning for the mark of the beast. Now, of course this wasn’t universal. Many ministries excelled finding ways to serve and some churches saw a revival, all while supporting the efforts of public health in this pandemic. Unfortunately, the actions of others were loud and often confrontational, and seem eerily reminiscent of the Pharisees.

“What sorrow awaits you teachers of religious law and you Pharisees. Hypocrites! For you are careful to tithe even the tiniest income from your herb gardens, but you ignore the more important aspects of the law—justice, mercy, and faith. You should tithe, yes, but do not neglect the more important things.”

Matthew 23:23 (NLT)

In His “woes” to the Pharisees, Jesus points out that they are focusing on the wrong things. It’s not that internal things (like tithing) are not valuable, but that they are considerably less important than some other things. And as Jesus notes, this is preventing the Pharisees from doing the work they should be doing: focusing on fairness, compassion and faithfulness. Doesn’t it seem obvious that today, instead of being caught up on whether we, who are already in the Kingdom, can meet in a building, that we should be focusing on justice, mercy and faith – the things that matter for eternity? Yes! We should be focused on being the church and sharing the message of Jesus.

Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.

Philippians 2:3-4 (NIV)

In order to have what some considered their American rights (to meet inside and to not have to wear a mask), some churches have drawn a wedge with many in their community. Some arrogantly went against the wide range of public health experts who were simply asking that we follow the guidelines for a while, until we are past this pandemic. (Please don’t get me wrong. I want to be back doing in person worship and I think we should be doing that as soon as it’s feasible, including offering indoor options, with precautions, when the numbers go back down. But I also think that as I’ve noted here, some things are clearly more important.) Unfortunately, but not surprisingly, the actions of a few loud churches and people have really had a negative impact on the way Christians are viewed. Just look at some social media comments. People don’t look to those churches as a place they can find support. They look at them now as a place that put them at risk, a place that is full of angry, complaining people who won’t simply put on a face covering to help others, and a place where people’s actions are responsible for other people, maybe even their loved-ones, dying.

Above all, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins. Show hospitality to one another without grumbling.

1 Peter 4:8-9 (ESV)

And for what? What is the most common reason given for this? Freedom. Freedom to meet in a building or to not wear a mask. Is that really more important than showing compassion? Moreover, is it more important than the Great Commission? As Francis Chan recently pointed out, “When you look at the places where there is religious freedom and you compare those places to where there is not religious freedom, what have we done with the freedom? It’s just weakened the Church.” So, is fighting for a freedom (and in fact one that is most likely only lost temporarily) more important than eternal souls? Certainly not. Rather than freedom and rights, our message and our priority should be love and salvation.

For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.

John 3:16 (KJV)

As a church body in America, it is my hope that one of the main things we learn from this pandemic is that we should be more missional and less institutional. I pray that we focus less on the building and more on the people.

So let’s take some time to lament, but let’s also pray for the church in America. Let’s pray that it shines so that the name of Jesus will be proclaimed and the people will know the Savior, our King.

How to do Bad Science Reporting

18 Jul

Recently, on a segment of her show, “Ingraham Angle”, Laura Ingraham discussed some papers in the context of COVID-19. She started with schools and case counts, but then spent the majority of the time talking about masks. You’re probably tired of hearing about face masks, but please read on because this is about far more than just masks. It’s about the integrity of reporting.

Here’s the full segment if you’d like to watch.

Ingraham says, “I’m not telling anyone not to wear a mask.” But then she goes on to misrepresent and quote mine from sources while she implies that masks don’t help. It’s like your friend in high school, that says, “I’m not one to gossip, but did you hear what she said about so and so?”

Ingraham asks, “What about the actual data?” Well, if she really looked at what’s been published on the subject, overwhelmingly the papers say masks reduce the spread of COVID-19. I have a page here where I’ve been tracking and summarizing what’s been published. Ingraham even mentions one of those I reviewed, but she totally misrepresents it. This suggests that she’s either scientifically illiterate, or even worse, she did it on purpose.

The first study she mentions is from 2015, entitled “A cluster randomised trial of cloth masks compared with medical masks in healthcare workers” by MacIntyre et al. She highlights this line from the study abstract: “[T]he results caution against the use of cloth masks. This is an important finding to inform occupational health and safety.” The she tilts her head and says, “hmmm…ok” as if she’s sleuthed some big insight. The fact is there’s not much really relevant to COVID-19 and public use of face masks here. Why?

  1. First, this study was before SARS-CoV-2 was an issue. It’s not looking at that virus. It’s looking at others, that have different properties, including different transmission routes.
  2. The study did look for a number of viruses in the testing, including 4 other common coronaviruses. Guess what? The results showed that 85% of the viruses found in those wearing masks were Rhinoviruses. In fact, not one single instance of any of coronavirus was found.
  3. This study involves the use of masks in a healthcare setting, not public use.
  4. This study was only comparing two types of masks and it did not evaluate masking versus not masking.
  5. This study was looking at the risk of transmission TO a healthcare worker. The main reason people in the public are wearing masks is to prevent transmission FROM asymptomatic and pre-symptomatic persons. The study didn’t consider that at all.

It’s completely irresponsible for Ingraham to report on this study without that context.

Next she turns the the WHO and uses an old quote from their website that says that (at the time) they believed there was no benefit to healthy persons wearing a mask with regard to COVID-19. The WHO, based on the developing science, has changed their position. She neglects to mention this.

Then she goes after Fauci and that interview he did back in March saying people shouldn’t wear face masks. Again, this was before a multitude of studies that caused Fauci to change his medical opinion. Does Ingraham not believe in scientific advancement?

Finally, she discusses a study from April 2020. She uses it to argue against masks, but in fact, this study indeed showed a benefit that wearing a surgical mask reduced transmission of alpha coronaviruses from infected individuals. That’s not terribly significant (because the study didn’t look at COVID-19), but it’s a small contribution to the ongoing research showing that masking does reduce transmission. But Ingraham quote mines the following: “Among the samples collected without a face mask, we found that the majority of participants with influenza virus and coronavirus infection did not shed detectable virus in respiratory droplets or aerosols…For those who did shed virus in respiratory droplets and aerosols, viral load in both tended to be low”. Then in a snarky tone, she says, “Wait…what?” The way she says it makes it sound like people don’t need to be wearing masks for COVID-19. But what she neglects to tell you is that this quote is NOT in reference to SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus and COVID-19. In fact, SARS-CoV-2 was not looked at directly in this study. The “confirmed, known infections” that she’s referring to, as if it’s some sort of bombshell, is NOT COVID-19. It’s influenza and alpha coronaviruses. We know that SARS-CoV-2 behaves very differently and is transmitted far differently than those viruses. Additionally, some other studies that have actually looked at COVID-19 cases, show high viral shedding in individuals. If this doesn’t make you mad that she was so deceptive, then you’re clearly coming to this with motivated reasoning and not being truthful.

In sum, this is one of the most irresponsible and ignorant pieces of scientific reporting that I’ve ever seen. It’s pandering to her base, and just trying to stir people up to get them to come back tomorrow night. What is especially sickening is that the cost could be people’s lives.

Ingraham calls Ronald Reagan one of her heroes and influences. I’m certain he wouldn’t have condoned this kind of behavior.

Confirmation Bias Masks Truth OR Confirmation Bias, Masks, Truth

30 Jun

Confirmation bias – the tendency to process information by looking for, or interpreting, information that is consistent with one’s existing beliefs. (Source: Britannica)

It shouldn’t matter what your political affiliation is when it comes to face masks. This is not about if we should go into lock down or not. It’s not about freedom (because there are lots of things we can’t do in a free country). This is simply about 1 question. Will wearing a face mask mitigate transmission of a dangerous disease that is killing a tremendous number of people?

If you’re not following the primary sources of information, like journals or medical news sites like STAT News, you might think that there’s divided science on this. But that’s simply not accurate. I have a running page on studies that have looked specifically at face mask use and COVID-19 that I’m keeping updated as new papers come out. As I note there, overwhelmingly these studies show how masks can help.

Some key reasons why people think the science is divided are simply because of the news sources they watch, the echo chamber they live in and confirmation bias. A person can avoid this by following non-biased news, really listening to and reading (not just passing over) the other side, and avoiding confirmation bias (which also just contributes to that misinformed echo chamber).

For example, the WHO changed their position on masks on June 5, and now advocate for usage of face masks by the general public. Yet, people still ignorantly write that the WHO opposes face masks on their social media posts. (I saw two today, June 30.) This clearly shows how people share things due to confirmation bias, and that they don’t even bother to look up facts. And it’s not just this. People continue to share old clips about Fauci, bogus posts about OSHA, old news articles, etc. All of these contain out of date or false information, yet it fits their bias, so without any research, they share it, and shout, “SEE!”

I want to illustrate a perfect example of this going on right now. I’ve seen this post shared recently many times by people who argue against masks. Masks Don’t Work: A Review of Science Relevant to COVID-19 Social Policy by Denis G. Rancourt.

I would bet that not a single person who I saw that shared it bothered to read even one of the studies (beyond perhaps looking at the abstract). Because I did, and what I found did not even remotely support Rancourt’s argument. In fact, one of the studies essentially says the opposite! So I encourage you to check them out, but if you’re interested in a quick overview, here’s what I found.

Rancourt’s claims are that “masks don’t work” and several studies “anchor” the “extensive scientific literature that establishes that wearing surgical masks and respirators (e.g., “N95”) does not reduce the risk of contracting a verified illness” all in the context of COVID-19 social policy.

So, is he right and are these studies relevant to COVID-19?

Jacobs, J. L. et al. (2009) “Use of surgical face masks to reduce the incidence of the common cold among health care workers in Japan: A randomized controlled trial”
Rancourt’s comment on this paper is, “N95-masked health-care workers (HCW) were significantly more likely to experience headaches. Face mask use in HCW was not demonstrated to provide benefit in terms of cold symptoms or getting colds.”
My review: The study only has an “n” of 24, so that’s not very convincing, a fact acknowledged by the authors if someone reads the paper and not just the abstract. And yes, the mask group experienced more headaches (29% v. 9%), but come on, if you wear an N95 tightly for 12 hours, I’m not surprised some people might have a headache from a mask compressed against their face and bands around their head. But this is nothing like being asked to wear a surgical mask when you go in the grocery story. But more importantly, this study doesn’t even measure the more relevant metric for COVID-19, namely if viral transmission can be reduced FROM someone wearing a mask. Rather, it only measures if viral transmission was reduced TO someone. That’s not the main reason the public is being asked to wear masks. Also, this study, unlike so many of the recent studies, doesn’t have info on COVID-19, because it wasn’t around then. The SARS-CoV-2 virus is different. So, how is this study even really relevant to the crisis today?

Cowling, B. et al. (2010) “Face masks to prevent transmission of influenza virus: A systematic review.”
Rancourt writes on this review, “None of the studies reviewed showed a benefit from wearing a mask, in either HCW or community members in households (H). See summary Tables 1 and 2 therein.”
My review: First off, this study is looking at influenza, a completely different virus, with a vastly different R0, so note that again, we’re not really comparing apples to apples here. But his statement is not really consistent with the content of the paper. While the authors state there’s not a lot of data to support the prevention of a person being infected, they do acknowledge there is a little, and indicate that the current body of information isn’t really conclusive. Hardly “none show a benefit”. And remember, that’s the transfer TO part only there. Importantly, these authors also looked at the transfer FROM aspect and they noted that there IS some evidence to “support the wearing of masks or respirators during illness to protect others”. This is clearly in favor of the “yes, wear a mask” position and goes against his view. Rancourt left that reference out. It’s like he’s counting on people not looking these up.

bin-Reza et al. (2012) “The use of masks and respirators to prevent transmission of influenza: a systematic review of the scientific evidence.”
Rancourt only offers a quote from the paper, “There were 17 eligible studies. … None of the studies established a conclusive relationship between mask/respirator use and protection against influenza infection.”
My review: Like the study above, this one primarily looked at influenza, different R0, different transmission mode significance. Yes, there were 17 studies about influenza looked at, and there was not conclusive benefits found with that virus. Still, the authors did note they found, “evidence of reduced rates of influenza-like illness if household contacts consistently wore the mask or respirator.” So, wearing a mask properly may help protect someone from getting influenza in certain circumstances. (But again remember this is only the TO part of the equation.) However, the most important thing to report about this study, BY FAR, is that the researchers here also looked at SARS-CoV-1 (a virus much more similar to SARS-CoV-2, the cause of COVID-19). They specifically state, “SARS is an unusual acute viral respiratory infection with a very different epidemiology to almost all other respiratory viral infections. It is fundamentally different from human influenza.”  Rancourt conveniently leaves that part out. Furthermore, in the paper the authors note that 8 of the 9 studies they looked at on SARS, “found that mask and ⁄or respirator use was independently associated with a reduced risk of severe acute respiratory syndrome.” In other words, masks worked for SARS! The fact that Rancourt left this out is ridiculous and shows that he is selectively mining quotes to meet an agenda. This is not science. It’s politics! 

Smith, J.D. et al. (2016) “Effectiveness of N95 respirators versus surgical masks in protecting health care workers from acute respiratory infection: a systematic review and meta-analysis.”
Rancourt only offers a quote from this paper, “We identified six clinical studies … . In the meta-analysis of the clinical studies, we found no significant difference between N95 respirators and surgical masks in associated risk of (a) laboratory-confirmed respiratory infection, (b) influenza-like illness, or (c) reported work-place absenteeism.”.
My review: How is this helping his case? This study doesn’t even look at infection rate baseline. It’s just a comparison of one type of mask to another that showed that there wasn’t much difference. It was a waste of time to read this paper in the context of facemask use and the general public for COVID-19 mitigation. Why did he even include it? Perhaps because he’s counting on your confirmation bias.

It sure is ironic that the people calling others sheep are actually the ones that are following their media source like sheep, without bothering to look up the facts.

Face Masks – A Summary of Relevant Research Papers for COVID-19

11 Jun

Below are papers published in the last couple months or so related to face mask use and their effectiveness for reducing SARS-CoV-2 transmission. For each paper I list the following:

  • Title
  • Publish Date
  • Source (what journal is it from)
  • What it says (a brief summary)

I want to state at the start that, while I do work in an area of public health, I am not an epidemiologist. I have a background in chemistry (undergrad) and biological sciences (graduate). I’m not claiming at all to be an expert in COVID-19 and face masks. That’s why I read the peer reviewed papers from those that are. I am, however, qualified enough to write these annotations about the papers, which I’ve done, but I’ve also provided links to each study and I’d encourage you to read them for yourself for more information beyond my summary. (Note that a couple of the annotations were taken from a post written by Dr. Jennifer Kasten. She is a medical doctor and a pathologist, with degrees in infectious disease epidemiology and mathematical modeling of epidemics, and fieldwork in epidemic control. When I used her comments, I include her name after the “what it says”. You can find the source of her comments here.)

These links and the information are here for your use to share. I will try to update as appropriate. Feel free to link to this page or just take the whole thing and copy and paste it somewhere else. I don’t need any credit for it. Please just get the info out so we can slow this thing. (Last updated 07/27/2020.)


Since April 3rd, the CDC has advocated for the use of masks in public largely to reduce the spread of asymptomatic and pre-symptomatic transmission. Many academic papers and articles have been published in the last couple months on the issue, and almost universally, they advocate for the benefits of wearing a mask. Below are many of them in the order of publish date. If you feel there’s a key one I’m missing, please comment and I’ll try to include it.

(A quick note about older papers some people have shared to argue against mask use. First, many of those studies involved other viruses, usually influenza, with dramatically different transmission rates, and so they have limited application to SARS-CoV-2. Second, those studies generally offer little significance to the question of general public mask use because they are looking at reducing transmission TO healthcare workers, not FROM asymptomatic or pre-symptomatic persons, which is the primary purpose of wearing a mask in the current situation. Finally, some of the things being shared are simply false. I have put some info on that here and here, including a response to the widely circulated Rancourt article, and here, a recent Laura Ingraham segment.)

Current relevant papers

Title: Potential utilities of mask‐wearing and instant hand hygiene for fighting SARS‐CoV‐2
Publish Date: March 31, 2020
Source: Journal of Medical Virology
What it says: This research demonstrated that home made masks could block over 95% of virus in aerosols (and surgical masks over 97%).

Title: Respiratory virus shedding in exhaled breath and efficacy of face masks
Publish Date: April 3, 2020
Source: Nature Medicine
What it says (Kasten): Hong Kong study showed masking was very effective at reducing transmission of alpha coronaviruses.

Title: Effectiveness of Surgical and Cotton Masks in Blocking SARS–CoV-2: A Controlled Comparison in 4 Patients
Publish Date: April 6, 2020
Source: Annals of Internal Medicine
What it says: The statistical power of this study was weak, as it only had an “n” of 4. The authors initially concluded in the paper that “both surgical and cotton masks seem to be ineffective in preventing the dissemination of SARS–CoV-2 from the coughs of patients with COVID-19 to the environment and external mask surface.” Besides an n of 4, another issue with this study was that it only measured coughing, not asymptomatic or pre-symptomatic carrier speech, which is thought to be a key reason for wearing a mask. But alas, none of that matters as on June 1, this paper was retracted because the authors admitted to making a mistake by failing to accurately recognize the limits of the detection in the test they used. So the study is bunk.

Title: Visualizing Speech-Generated Oral Fluid Droplets with Laser Light Scattering
Publish Date: April 15, 2020
Source: New England Journal of Medicine
What it says: This is a brief report on a test using laser light to demonstrate the difference of speech-generated droplets and their trajectories when wearing a mask verses not wearing a mask. It clearly shows the benefits of wearing a mask in reducing droplet related transmission. Here is a video they produced. Please take the two minutes to watch it.


Title: To mask or not to mask: Modeling the potential for face mask use by the general public to curtail the COVID-19 pandemic
Publish Date: April 21, 2020
Source: Infectious Disease Modelling
What it says (Kasten): a mathematical model for COVID in New York and Washington shows: a) if 80% of people wear cloth masks which are 20% effective, mortality is reduced by up to 65% in low-prevalence Washington. B ) In high-prevalence New York, wearing 50% effective masks reduces mortality by up to 45%.
THIS MODEL EQUATES MASK-WEARING TO THE REDUCTION IN BETA (# OF CONTACTS AN INFECTIOUS CASE HAS) SEEN IN VERY STRICT SOCIAL DISTANCING. MEANING EPIDEMIOLOGICALLY, MASKS REPLACE LOCKDOWN.

Title: Cloth Masks May Prevent Transmission of COVID-19: An Evidence-Based, Risk-Based Approach
Publish Date: May 22, 2020
Source: Annals of Internal Medicine
What it says:  This report from an international research team made up of a number of MD’s and other specialists, reviews the data available on cloth masks and concludes that cloth masks worn by the public will reduce COVID-19 transmission rates, and furthermore, those benefits outweigh any risks that may be brought about by wearing masks (such as improper use).

Title: Reducing transmission of SARS-CoV-2
Publish Date: May 27, 2020
Source: Science
What it says: This paper authored by aerosol chemists and an infectious disease specialist argues that masks are necessary. The team analyzed both analytical information about the virus and looked at countries where masks are commonplace. They note “airborne spread from undiagnosed infections will continuously undermine the effectiveness of even the most vigorous testing, tracing and social distancing programs.”

Title: Physical distancing, face masks, and eye protection to prevent person-to-person transmission of SARS-CoV-2 and COVID-19: a systematic review and meta-analysis
Publish Date: June 1, 2020
Source: Lancet
What it says: A review of 172 observational studies and 44 relevant comparative studies. The authors summarize their findings and regarding the use of face masks conclude, “Face mask use could result in a large reduction in risk of infection.” They note that N95 respirators or similar would likely result in added benefits.

Title: A modelling framework to assess the likely effectiveness of facemasks in combination with ‘lock-down’ in managing the COVID-19 pandemic
Publish Date: June 10, 2020
Source: Proceedings of the Royal Society A
What it says: The authors advocate for widespread use of face masks to keep the R0 below 1.0. They conclude, “facemask adoption by entire populations would have a significant impact on reducing COVID-19 spread” and “in summary, our modelling analyses provide support for the immediate, universal adoption of facemasks by the public”.

Title: Identifying airborne transmission as the dominant route for the spread of COVID-19
Publish Date: June 11, 2020
Source: PNAS
What it says: This study is a retrospective observational look at three epicenters of COVID-19 outbreak (Wuhan, Italy and New York), examining mask use, including after effects of mandatory implementation (in Italy and New York). Based on their analysis, they conclude that mask use is “the most effective means to prevent interhuman transmission”.
IMPORTANT NOTE: The methodology in this paper has been called in to question by some epidemiologists, including one who has called for a retraction, but others are standing by its conclusions. UPDATE 6/19: A larger group of epidemiologists is now calling for a retraction. They write, “While masks are almost certainly an effective public health measure for preventing and slowing the spread of SARS-CoV-2, the claims presented in this study are dangerously misleading and lack any basis in evidence.” More to come.

Title: Face Masks Considerably Reduce COVID-19 Cases in Germany: A Synthetic Control Method Approach
Publish Date: June, 2020
Source: IZA
What is says: Using the synthetic control method to examine the impact of face masks, the authors analyzed COVID cases in different regions in Germany. For example, in Jena, the first German city to make face masks mandatory, the COVID-19 cases fell by almost 25%, 20 days after implementation. They conclude that the public use of face masks reduces the daily growth rate of COVID-19 by about 40%. This is substantial and would have a dramatic impact on the R0. They do note in their conclusion that different norms and climatic conditions in other countries might not result in the same level of protective outcomes as seen in Germany.

Title: On Respiratory Droplets and Face Masks
Publish Date: June 16, 2020
Source: Physics of Fluids
What it says: This study reviews droplet transmission through and around filters as a result of coughing. The conclusions reinforce other studies that have noted that workers in a healthcare environment should also be using face shields and other PPE. The relevance of this study to public face mask use is limited, except to serve as a reminder that face masks, while they reduce droplet transmission significantly, do not provide complete prevention of droplets when individuals cough. So, other measures such as social distancing and staying home when you are sick remain essential to mitigating COVID-19.

Title: Community Use of Face Masks and COVID-19: Evidence from a Natural Experiment of State Mandates in the US
Publish Date: June 16, 2020
Source: Health Affairs
What it says: This study looks back at the time period in the US from April 8 to May 15 and examines the effects of different governmental orders to wear face masks on COVID-19 growth rates. The authors suggest that the mandates which where in place prevented between 230,000 and 450,000 cases by May 22 (a reduction of 14-27%). There are some limitations to this research. For example, there is no way to measure compliance in different regions, and there were some city and county ordinances not accounted for. Still, this retrospective analysis (essentially a natural experiment) provides complementary evidence on the benefits of public use of face masks, along with other mitigation efforts.

Title: The Use of Facemasks May Not Lead to an Increase in Hand-face Contact
Publish Date: June 28, 2020
Source: Transboundary and Emerging Diseases
What it says: This study looked at video of bus passengers before and after COVID-19 to compare the amount of times people wearing masks verses not wearing masks touched their faces. The purpose was to determine if mask wearing indeed causes people to touch their face more, as has been advocated by some opponents of mask wearing. The researchers found that facial touching was essentially equal, if wearing a mask or not. Importantly though, they note that wearing a mask, “did reduce the risk of direct contact of the hands with the nose and mouth; a high-risk action for virus transmission.”

Title: Fundamental Protective Mechanisms of Face Masks Against Droplet Infections
Publish Date: June 28, 2020
Source: Journal of Aerosol Science
What it says: This paper looks at both transmission TO and transmission FROM. On the TO side (self-protection), they note that a surgical mask (or similar) likely will not provide sufficient protection for the wearer to protect against droplet infection (and only properly fitted particle-filtering masks, such as an N95, can offer that type of protection). On the FROM side, they note that a simple mouth and nose cover is effective at limiting droplet emission when breathing, speaking, singing, coughing or sneezing. A face covering greatly reduces the spread of virus. Thus, public wearing of face masks is, “a very useful contribution to contain a pandemic.”

Title: Visualizing the Effectiveness of Face Masks in Obstructing Respiratory Jets
Publish Date: June 30, 2020
Source: Physics of Fluids
What it says: This study shows how different types of home made cloth masks impact respiratory droplet travel. They tested different types of cloth made masks against emulated coughs and sneezes. All worked to varying degrees. They note that issues like leakage happen when improperly worn, but that nevertheless, home made cloth masks significantly reduce the distance traveled by expelled particles, and that they are especially effective in stopping larger respiratory droplets, which constitute the majority of total volume of ejected respiratory fluid.

Title: Association Between Universal Masking in a Health Care System and SARS-CoV-2 Positivity Among Health Care Workers
Publish Date: July 14, 2020
Source: JAMA
What it says: This study presents evidence that universal masking of health care workers and patients helps reduce transmission of SARS-CoV-2. The study presents data that shows after universal masking policies were put in place, cases of COVID-19 declined.

Title: Absence of Apparent Transmission of SARS-CoV-2 from Two Stylists After Exposure at a Hair Salon with a Universal Face Covering Policy — Springfield, Missouri, May 2020
Publish Date: July 14, 2020
Source: Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR)
What it says: 139 clients were exposed to two hair stylists with confirmed COVID-19. Both the stylists and the clients wore face masks. No evidence of transmission was reported. 67 clients were tested for SARS-CoV-2 and all test results were negative.

Title: Face coverings and mask to minimise droplet dispersion and aerosolisation: a video case study
Publish Date: July 24, 2020
Source: Thorax
What it says: The authors tested one-, two- and three-layer masks with speaking, coughing and sneezing. They found that all worked to block droplets, but that two-layer worked significantly better for coughs and sneezes. Three-layer surgical masks performed best. The authors suggest that guides for home-made masks should stipulate the use of a minimum of three-layers.


Below are papers still in the peer review process that I will likely include once completed. If you don’t have a background in the material, I would advise waiting for the peer review process, but I include them here as a reference for those in the fields.

Title: Assessment of Fabric Masks as Alternatives to Standard Surgical Masks in Terms of Particle Filtration Efficiency 

Title: Estimating the Effect and Cost-Effectiveness of Facemasks in Reducing the Spread of the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome – Coronavirus 2 (SARS-Cov-2) in Uganda 

Title: Universal Masking is Urgent in the COVID-19 Pandemic: SEIR and Agent Based Models, Empirical Validation, Policy Recommendations

Title: Face Masks Against COVID-19: An Evidence Review

Title: Could Masks Curtail the Post-lockdown Resurgence of COVID-19 in the US?

Title: Quantifying Respiratory Airborne Particle Dispersion Control Through Improvised Reusable Masks

The following are links to experimental work that has been reported on, but yet to be formalized into a paper.

Wake Forest, testing of homemade cloth face masks

Oh, and have you had people tell you that the New England Journal of Medicine is against mask wearing in public? Well, they’re either lying or expressing their ignorance and inability to do a little research. Besides what they’ve published above, see this:

Universal Masking in the COVID-19 Era

“Facemasking is the single most effective strategy to reduce COVID transmission” –  Jennifer Kasten, MD

Face Masks and the Christian, part 2

3 Jun

For those who haven’t, please be sure to read part 1 of this post before proceeding.

And for a list of all relevant studies on face masks, see here.


Unfortunately, some people, including many Christians, have been spreading incorrect or misleading information about face mask use for COVID-19. Maybe they don’t know. Maybe they’ve been wrapped up in a narrative by a news media source they follow. Or maybe they’re just sharing something without reading it first, because of confirmation bias. Ultimately, that doesn’t matter. What does matter is that lives are at stake, and for the Christian, our witness is at stake. (Again, I laid this out in the first post, which is much more important, so please be sure to read that.)

There are a several things people have been sharing on social media lately.

  1. A clip of Dr. Fauci on 60 minutes saying that people shouldn’t be wearing masks.
  2. A Fox News story about the WHO still recommending masks not be worn except by people displaying symptoms.
  3. A study using 4 people that concluded face masks were “ineffective in preventing the dissemination of SARS–CoV-2 from the coughs of patients with COVID-19”.
  4. UPDATE 6/8 – A story about a scientist from the WHO saying that asymptomatic transmission is “very rare” and implying that physical distancing and other efforts including masks may not be necessary.
  5. UPDATE 6/18 – A post circulating on social media supposedly from someone who claims to have OSHA certifications talking about how masks are bad for you.

I address each individually below.

1. Fauci’s quote
This was on March 8th. That’s more than two and a half months ago, and we’re talking about a disease that just hit the planet a short time before that. We’re still learning all the time. Two and a half months is eons in this thing. Fauci reversed his position weeks ago. How is it remotely representing Christian values to still be spreading this now? Are you really seeking wisdom here? Or are you just trying to confirm your own bias? One of those is honoring to Christ. The other is not.

2. The Fox news story on the WHO recommendation
Here’s just one example of this widely circulated story and the misinformation that’s going along with it. This person says, “more and more information is coming out to say that masks are unnecessary”. This is absolutely NOT true. Quite the opposite, in fact. And sadly, this kind of ignorance will lead to additional deaths that didn’t have to happen.

Screenshot (16)

To begin with, there are two incredible ironies associated with the spread of this on social media. One is that many of the same people sharing this WHO advice were the ones calling for the US withdrawal of funding to the WHO because of it being unreliable (largely based on how the WHO handled the early information of the Chinese outbreak). So, an obvious question is, are people sharing this really assessing the situation (as biblically guided by the Proverbs and 1 Thessalonians 5:21), or are they feeding into their confirmation bias? The second irony is that it doesn’t appear that people sharing the story have even read the whole article. The headline implies that we shouldn’t wear masks, a narrative that much of the Fox news base is supporting, but the body of the article actually links to some good support that masks should be worn. Once again, those sharing seem to be guided more by their confirmation bias than their biblically informed discernment.  As for the WHO’s minority position, Dr. Roger Seheult and others have noted that the WHO may have other motivations, such as protecting mask supplies for healthcare workers in less developed countries. The WHO has admitted to saying things that are not fully accurate regarding COVID, in order to accomplish a different goal, as this article from the AP shows. UPDATE 6/5 – The WHO has changed their position after completing a study and now state masks should be worn in areas where the virus is spreading when social distancing isn’t possible (for example in stores or on public transportation).

The Lord detests lying lips, but he delights in people who are trustworthy. – Proverbs 12:22

3. The study that claimed masks didn’t work and had an n=4
Right off the bat, anyone with a scientific background knows that you need to really question the power of any conclusions from of a study with an “n” of 4. Also, this study only measured coughing, not asymptomatic carriers, which is the main reason for wearing a mask. But alas, none of that matters because a couple days ago, on June 1, this paper was retracted because the authors admitted to making a mistake by failing to accurately recognize the limits of the detection in the test they used. So the study is bunk.

4. Statement from Dr. Maria Van Kerkhove, head of WHO’s emerging diseases and zoonosis unit that asymptomatic transmission is “very rare”.
If this is true, this will be great news. However, before we jump the gun, we should think about this carefully. This is an opinion by one professional, offered at a press briefing, with no published supporting data. An easy search of google scholar shows a number of studies which say the opposite. She may be right, but we should at least wait for published data and peer review.
UPDATE 6/9: The WHO has backtracked her comments and Van Kerkhove said it was a “misunderstanding.” WHO Executive Director of Health Emergencies and epidemiologist Dr. Mike Ryan added about asymptomatic transmission, “That is occurring, I’m absolutely convinced that that is occurring.”

5. “OSHA Certified Individual”
This one has to be one of the worst examples of people just sharing something because it fits their view. For one, there’s no person attached to it. No name. Someone could’ve just made it up, yet people share it like it came from NASA’s top scientists. Second, a simple search and click to OSHA’s website will show you that they actually advocate for public mask usage, stating they support the CDC guidelines. One quote on their website says, “Face coverings are intended to prevent wearers who have Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) without knowing it (i.e., those who are asymptomatic or pre-symptomatic) from spreading potentially infectious respiratory droplets to others.”

Christians and others alike should really be thinking about giving advice to people to “STOP WEARING A MASK”. People are going to die as a result of your comments. Again, see the first post where I provide links to the actual papers and other sources. The evidence in now abundantly clear.

There will come a time, hopefully soon, when we don’t need to anymore, but right now, the vast majority of the medical community, and many of our governing bodies, are telling us this is what we need to do, and it’s based on evidence, not some google degree.

So, as I said previously. Wearing a face covering is simple. It’s loving. It’s Christlike.

Please show some compassion and follow the guidelines.

Face Masks and the Christian

31 May

Untitled picture

This post is not about whether we should remain in some sort of lock down, or whether churches should be open, or if the government has done a good job in handling the US epidemic. All of those things are important and Christians on both sides of the issues have shared some good reasoning. But there’s one thing regarding COVID-19 that Christians should not currently be debating about, and that’s the use of a face mask.

There’s no question that early on there was debate on the issue. Part of that was due to concern for supplies for medical workers. Absolutely that must be our first priority. But as supplies have stabilized, and as new research on cloth masks has become available, the preponderance of evidence shows that wearing a facial covering slows the spread of SARS-CoV-2. 

Since April 3rd, the CDC has advocated for the use of masks in public to reduce the transmission rate. There have been a number of academic papers and articles published in the last couple months on the issue, and almost universally, they support wearing a mask. To see the difference it makes, watch this short video from the New England Journal of Medicine, that shows an actual example, mask verses no mask, using laser light. (You can read the accompanying article at NEJM here.) 

 

The following are a few other recent items worth reviewing if you still have doubts:

  • On May 22nd, an international research team made up of a number of MD’s and other specialists released a report based on the review of the data available on cloth masks and concluded that cloth masks worn by the public will reduce COVID transmission rates, and furthermore, those benefits outweigh any risks that may be brought about by wearing masks (such as improper use).
  • Just a few days ago, a new paper was published from some aerosol chemists and an infectious disease specialist, who reviewed data and argue that masks are necessary.  They analyzed both analytical information about the virus and looked at countries where masks are commonplace. They note “airborne spread from undiagnosed infections will continuously undermine the effectiveness of even the most vigorous testing, tracing and social distancing programs.” 
  • Dr. Jennifer Kasten is a medical doctor and a pathologist, with degrees in infectious disease epidemiology and mathematical modeling of epidemics, and fieldwork in epidemic control. She’s written a good piece looking at several studies.  She writes, “up to 85% of transmission events are from people who feel well and therefore don’t modify their behavior, so infect others…Facemasking is the single most effective strategy to reduce COVID transmission.”
  • UPDATE 6/1: A systematic review and meta-analysis just published in the Lancet concludes, “Face mask use could result in a large reduction in risk of infection.” 
  • UPDATE 6/10: Another study led by Cambridge just published calling for “immediate and universal adoption of facemasks by the public.”
  • UPDATE 6/13: All future updates on new studies will be found here.

Unfortunately, some (including Christians with a large social media following) are choosing to tell people to not wear masks, and they are sharing false and misleading information which I’ve detailed here (but please finish reading this post first before linking there).

With the studies we have available now, the evidence is strongly supporting the use of a face covering to slow COVID-19. Still, one of the reasons I’ve heard Christians saying they don’t wear one is because “the science is divided.” This is simply not true. Sure there may be a few people out there still saying don’t wear a mask (some trying to sell books or get social media hits), but you wouldn’t call a 85-1 lead in the ninth inning a “close game.” Again, the evidence from the mounting studies show that masks slow COVID transmission. How significant is still up for discussion. But does it make a difference? The growing body of evidence we have says yes.

But suppose even IF the science were divided, wouldn’t the charitable thing to do still be to wear a mask? A lot of people are scared. Think about the message you’re sending to this group of people, many of whom are non-believers, people we are commanded to reach as part of the Great Commission. A large number of them are deeply concerned. It may be that they have underlying conditions. It may be that they take care of someone who does. It may be that they work in an environment where they are more exposed, but need to work to maintain an income. What should the Christian response be? Should we throw temper tantrums because we have to wear a mask in Home Depot because this is ‘Merica and we got rights? Should we post on social media about how those people are just a bunch of scared sissies? Should we offer excuses like “they can still get it in their eyes”? My heart breaks every time I see a Christian do or say these things. Do we not long for these people to share eternity with us? Why are we alienating them so and teaching them to think we lack compassion?

Keep in mind, largely the purpose of wearing masks is not to protect the wearer, but to protect others in case the wearer is an asymptomatic carrier (or is pre-symptomatic). This is an act of compassion. It’s not out of fear. As followers of Christ, can we not live by His serving example? Is the mild inconvenience to our lives too much to ask? I’m not advocating that we need to be militant about it, or that there shouldn’t be exceptions for some for medical reasons. But those that can, let’s follow the CDC guidelines to wear a facial covering “in public settings where other social distancing measures are difficult to maintain.”

Wearing a face covering is simple. It’s loving. It’s Christlike. 

I understand that we’re still learning on this. So, if the science changes, certainly we reevaluate, but right now, today, what’s the charitable, loving thing to do? As ambassadors of the King, how should we represent Him? I think the answer is clear. 

Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others. In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus (Phil. 2:3-5, NIV)

Note: Before commenting about why masks are not needed, please at least review the relevant links above (Proverbs 18:13).

Our Natural State is to Believe in Eternity

3 Feb

In Philippians 1:21, the apostle Paul says, “For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.”

As Christians, we have no need to fear death. What we are, our soul, continues on for eternity with God. And we know that forever is true because it is part of our being. When God made us in His image, eternity was placed on our hearts (Ecc 3:11). To believe anything counter to this truth is to deny something our Creator has infused into us.

monksIt’s no surprise then that this recent study, shows that Tibetan monks, who spend years meditating and learning the teaching that the self is an illusion, are those who wind up being most afraid of death (by a significant margin). Without hope, fear takes over, and no matter how many times you tell yourself the lie, deep down, if God placed it on your heart, you’re going to know the truth.

Christ is the answer. He is our hope. Eternity is found only in Him.

“Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to mankind by which we must be saved.” Acts 4:12

The Surrender Experiment

17 Dec

I recently read “The Surrender Experiment” by Michael Singer. The book was at times an interesting read, but mostly it just felt tedious, and even at times frustrating.

surrenderGoing into the book, I was hopeful. I had no knowledge of Singer or his beliefs, and a respected friend recommended the book to me. As I read through the first few pages, a few questions popped into my head about his statements, but nothing I considered major concerns. I enjoyed his story of personal discovery, and how he struggled with the inner voice. I even recognized some similarities in my own journey. However, the more I continued, the more I questioned not only Singer’s “surrender” philosophy, but also his (or anyone’s) ability to live this philosophy out.

In the following, I will review the three biggest issues I found with the book, in reverse order of their significance: first the writing, then his adherence to his philosophy, and finally the adequacy of the philosophy itself.

Writing Style

Michael Singer is not a bad writer, but I wouldn’t call him a great one either. While his flow is generally good and the story telling at times captivating, he often reflects on his accounts using nearly identical vocabulary. He regularly repeats himself, even using the same adjectives. Additionally, over and over his stories go like this: (1) he thinks things will turn out bad; (2) he “surrenders” and someone/something unexpected arrives/happens; (3) all is bliss. It gets very repetitive. And another tiresome reoccurring thing he writes about is how something profoundly changes him. It seems like this happens just about every few pages. It’s odd that someone can be profoundly changed on such a semi-regular basis.

The other problem I had with the writing is how much he writes about himself. He says things like “my intellect did not give her the room to breath.” Ouch. And many times he recounts stories of how awesome people told him he was. He tries to tell these tales in a way as if he were so deeply humble, but even to the casual reader it will seem like he included those details with the intention of lofting himself up. Ironically, occasionally he even notes how humble he is.

Singer Surrendering

While a major purpose of the book is to teach us to surrender to the flow of the universe, Singer himself doesn’t always surrender. Sure, there are lots of anecdotes about him surrendering. The pages are filled with personal accounts of him “giving in to the flow of life.” No doubt he takes care to be sure to avoid telling stories counter to this thesis, but on occasion, they’ve found their way in to the narrative. One example is a recollection of a neighboring property where the owner was clearing native forest and planting a new tree crop for profit (p158-9). Rather than “surrender” to this thing going on around him, Singer called the landowner and negotiated a land agreement with him. Singer then describes how this was actually a surrender. What? I guess you can spin almost anything. Other examples can be found as well, including when the city proposed building a dump near his land, he fought it. (Certainly, I would have done the same, but the point is, it is not consistent with his teaching to “surrender to whatever life brings before me.”)

And what about his first wife? One causal mention. nothing more. He makes it sound as if he were so noble “if I truly loved her, I had to let her go.” Is that surrender? Why not try to work it out? Surrender to your wife? Sure marriage is hard, but if he loved her, surely it’s worth it. And what of his daughter? Was that another surrender? It just seems disingenuous. Finally, when the book reaches the business section, it is obvious that many of the business decisions were not surrender, but rather well calculated business decisions (and Singer does seem to be good at that).

So ultimately, his “surrender experiment” sounds all nice and lovey-dovey with the universe, but he doesn’t live it out completely. Clearly if life threw a murderer in front of Singer who was intent on killing him, Singer wouldn’t say, “oh, I’ll just surrender to the universe and let this man stab me into nirvana.” No. Of course not, he’d fight back! And that’s precisely the main problem.

Surrendering to the flow of life is a bankrupt philosophy

Singer doesn’t live out his philosophy completely, because he can’t. He must often struggle against the world around him. We all do. It’s the way the world really is. Evil exists. Bad things happen. We don’t just sit back and let someone steal our car because it’s part of the universe flow, and think “oh, they must need it more than I do and this is the universe’s way of showing me.” No. We call the police and have them arrested. Going with the flow as a general rule can make you an easy going person, but going with it always makes you a fool.

While Singer wants to give the impression that he follows this rule just about all the time, in reality, it’s more like his basic guiding principle. And in that case, he seems to be genuinely committed. Living by this general rule, along with his intellect (which again, he makes sure we know about), Singer has had a very successful life. But he seems to think his success is validation for his spiritual intelligence, rather than recognize it for what it actually is – his business intelligence and some really beneficial timing. Of course, he suggests that the special timing is the universe rewarding him for going with the flow. Oh, please. Someone kindly remind Singer that this is the same universe that has been rewarding good “surrendering” people in Africa with starving to death.

The root of Singer’s problem is that his philosophy is based on a pantheist view of the universe. Discussing pantheism’s problems is far beyond the scope of this review, and there are many good books written on the topic, but it is worth noting here how Singer (and other pantheists) deal with the problem of evil. To Singer, evil is just an illusion. It doesn’t really exist. Of course, he doesn’t put it that way specifically, but if that surprises you, do a little study on pantheism, or check out some of the teachings of the gurus Singer mentions. They universally say evil isn’t real, but that it’s just an illusion – and essentially they have to say this since they believe everything is actually part of God. But if evil is just an illusion, then why spend so much effort trying to avoid it? The fact is that evil does exist. It is a departure from God. A great question to ask a pantheist like Singer is, “Is the illusion of evil, evil?” Most likely they’ll say it’s not evil. But this begs the question: why try to spend so much effort getting people to recognize that it’s an illusion if the illusion is not bad? Of course, if they actually say the illusion of evil is a bad thing, then they’ve won your case for you because they’d be admitting that at least some evil is real and exists. Either way, pantheists like Singer have a serious logical inconsistency in their worldview. And this is just one of pantheism’s philosophical problems.

With reference to Christianity, Singer mentions Christ and notes how Jesus taught about the Kingdom of God, but Singer completely misapplies Jesus’ words. Singer says “Christ said the Kingdom is within you” and Singer sees this as being about an inner peace, akin to nirvana of Zen religions. (Much of this is based on what he learned from Yogananda – this post has some information on that yogi’s teachings.) At another point in his journey, Singer recounts reading the New Testament story of Jesus telling Nicodemus that man must be reborn of spirit. Rather than reading out of the Bible and accepting what Jesus meant by this, Singer reads his own context in to the words of the Bible. Singer says that Jesus is talking about the same spiritual journey he is on – a personal journey that leads to a state of recognizing not that one needs God (trusting in Him, the one God, as Savior and King), but rather that one is a part of God (pantheism). He writes “God was no longer a word to me. It represented where I wanted to go.” But the teachings in the Bible are clear. God is not place to go. He is a person, that desires Singer turn to Him and accept the pardon He has freely offered, and embrace the loving arms of Jesus.

Conclusion

In sum, I felt the book suffered in three key areas. First, the writing was fairly weak and repetitive. Second, it seemed that Singer was not really 100% genuine when he talked about “surrendering.” And third, the biggest problem, is that the overall philosophy itself is just incompatible with reality in general, and Christianity specifically.

One final point that I should note, is that to me, it felt like this book was mostly a treatise to exonerate his name from the legal questions that arose later in his life. It seemed as if Singer is trying to shape his legacy rather than “surrendering” to how the narrative about him would go. Perhaps he was completely innocent, but it does make one wonder.

Ultimately, there is only one thing we really need to surrender to, and that is the Almighty God, our Creator and Redeemer. He is our salvation. In Him, and only Him, will we find the comfort and peace Singer so often talks about longing for.

Yogananda’s shoddy hermeneutics

12 Jul

Paramahansa Yogananda is the founder of SRF. (For a basic overview of the religion, see this post.) He was extremely impressed with Jesus and wrote a lengthy commentary on the Gospels. However, as is consistent with the teachings of SRF, his remarks on the Gospel stories are often reimaginations of the text in light of a modified HinduYogananda theology.

Below are just a few specific examples of Yogananda’s poor Scripture interpretations. In many instances, he offers a meaning of the verse without regard for any historical or contextual background. This results in a gross misrepresentation of the words of the text. The other major flaw in his interpretations is, as noted, rather than let the text say what it says and read out of the text, he approaches the text with a Hindu mindset and reads a Hindu worldview interpretation into his understanding of the text.[i]

Reference Biblical scholars interpretation Yogananda’s interpretation
Matt 10:32-33 Jesus points out the seriousness of not following Him. Accept Jesus as the Savior of the world, or reject Him. There is no option in between. Yogananda says this is a warning from Jesus that devotees will lose their “contact with Christ Consciousness, and be unable to advance” if they are materially minded or give in to temptations.[ii]
Matt 18:19-20 Unfortunately, many Christian laypersons misinterpret this passage as well. The statement about two or three agreeing is a Jewish legal one. God is with His people (in the sense of His presence) when they are alone just the same. This passage is about God confirming a decision made regarding church discipline (see whole paragraph for context). Yogananda suggests that Jesus meant that a weaker person reinforces a stronger one in meditation.

He also says, if two people have a “strong and continuous” concentration, any “good” wish will be fulfilled.[iii]

These interpretations are completely ignorant of the surrounding context.

Mark 2:10-12 Only Jesus has the power to forgive sins because He is God. He is the one who was sinned against. Yogananda says that what Jesus means when He says He can forgive sins is this:  People, by following what Jesus says, since he is a true teacher of wisdom, can be free of those sins (as opposed to trusting in Jesus as savior).
John 3:16 Jesus is the one-of-a-kind Son of God. He will make atonement for the sins of the world and man will have eternal life. See “Jesus” in comparison chart

Yogananda does not address “only begotten”(Greek monogenes, also translated one and only) other than to say like so many other phrases it means “Christ Consciousness” but there is just no linguistic or biblical support for this.

John 3:18 Not believing that Jesus is the one and only God-sent Son is self-condemnation. So man condemns himself by not believing in Jesus. “To think that the Lord condemns nonbelievers as sinners is incongruous. Since the Lord Himself dwells in all beings, condemnation would be utterly self-defeating.”[iv]

Yogananda is interpreting this passage in light of pantheism, but the God of the Bible is clearly separate from the creation, and frankly it is nonsensical to interpret the text otherwise. There are a plethora of passages that teach of the difference.

John 5:24-5:25 By trusting in Jesus as our Savior, we pass from death to life and are no longer subject to judgement for our sin. “Jesus meant, never that he was the sole Son of God, but that no man can attain the unqualified Absolute…until he has first manifested the ‘Son’ or activating the Christ Consciousness”[v]

As he often does, Yogananda takes another Christian term with a specific meaning and says it just means “Christ Consciousness.”

John 9:1-35 The disciples asked Jesus why the man was blind. They asked the question because Rabbis of the day generally believed that suffering was a result of sin. While Jesus acknowledged that suffering could be due to sin (John 5:14), He denied that it was always so (Luke 13:2-3a). In John 9:3, the man’s blindness was not the result of any previous actions and Jesus made that clear to the disciples “Neither this man nor his parents sinned.”

Jesus looked at it as an opportunity for Him to show God’s glory and make the larger point that evil is not always the result of sin, but it is allowed in order to move us toward God.

Jesus brought the man from darkness to light.

Yogananda says that Jesus is speaking of Karma here. He says, “Jesus meant that the man’s affliction was linked to hidden causes formulated in his past lives that brought him to his present condition.” He adds that Jesus healed the man because in this life he had worked up “sufficient good karma.”[vi]

Yogananda wants the reader to believe that when Jesus said “Neither this man nor his parents” that he actually meant it was a past life. If that were the case, why didn’t Jesus just say so? And why didn’t He say He healed the man because of his good works if it was karma?

John 14:6 The only way to salvation is through Jesus. “To ‘come to the Father’ every human consciousness has to expand and attain realization of the Cosmic Vibration first…Only those advanced disciples who attuned themselves with the Christ Consciousness by deep meditation could realize the presence of the Father. ”[vii]
John 18:3-6 Jesus declared not only that He is the man from Nazareth when He answered, “I am” but also that He is God Almighty. Jesus used the expression “I am” on a number of occasions. (The “he” part of the expression in the translation is not present in the Greek.) “I am” is in reference to Exodus 3:14 when God appeared to Moses in the burning bush and said His name was “I am.” Note that the men fell to the ground when Jesus said this. Yogananda says that when Jesus said “I am” that he meant “I am the Christ Consciousness manifested in the body of Jesus which you want for persecution.”[viii]

Again, this is completely reading his theology into the text and ignoring the historical context of how the Hebrews understood the term.

[i] His comments on Jesus post Resurrection appearances are radically reinterpreted in light of Hinduism. However, due to the fact that they use many terms that Christians are unfamiliar with (gunas, the difference between astral and casual bodies, etc.), I have not included them in the chart. It would take a whole lesson in Hindu vocabulary to explain what he is saying. The essence of it can be gathered by a basic overview of Yogananda’s views listed in the comparison chart.

[ii] Yogananda. The Second Coming of Christ: The Resurrection of the Christ within You, 790-791.

[iii] Yogananda. The Second Coming of Christ: The Resurrection of the Christ within You, 938.

[iv] Yogananda. The Second Coming of Christ: The Resurrection of the Christ within You, 276.

[v] Yogananda (Quote of Sri Yukteswarji). The Second Coming of Christ: The Resurrection of the Christ within You, 1373.

[vi] Yogananda. The Second Coming of Christ: The Resurrection of the Christ within You, 1005.

[vii] Yogananda. The Second Coming of Christ: The Resurrection of the Christ within You, 1373-4.

[viii] Yogananda. The Second Coming of Christ: The Resurrection of the Christ within You, 1448.