A COVID-19 SCHOOLYEAR

I hope you are all safe and well in the midst of this very strange COVID-19 crisis. The past few months have nothing short of unprecedented for most of us. That is definitely the case for Stephanie and me.

In March our schedule was completely upended by our children’s school being closed. Because Stephanie is working full-time and also working on her MBA in the evenings, it fell to me to take on the role of homeschool teacher. This is in addition to my classwork, along with my work at UPS, blog writing, and freelance editing. Needless to say, it’s been pretty exhausting!

As I write this, our kids have just finished the school year, freeing up a little more time for me to finally send out an update. A couple weeks prior to that I finished my coursework at the University of South Carolina for the academic year. This past semester, I took a lab on primate and hominin fossils along with a course on human evolutionary theory. (Because of financial considerations, I had to limit my coursework to those two classes. However, I’m hoping to continue my coursework in genetics and molecular biology as part of my PhD program.)

I took both the course and the lab to help me ensure that I thoroughly understand all of the evidence for human evolutionary theory at a high academic level. I also wanted to understand the type of logic that is being used to argue for it. I was delighted to learn a few things about the theory that I was not aware of, making it all a very worthwhile investment.

So, since I’ve finally worked through all of this material, are you wondering what I now think of the theory? Was I persuaded? Not at all. In fact, I don't think I can really put into words the mixed emotions that I feel about it. It’s kind of like a mix of shock (“Really? That’s it? Is there any other evidence? Why hasn't anyone exposed the terrible reasoning being used here?”), sadness (with lots of prayers for those stuck in this false worldview), and anger. Indeed, my poor wife would regularly have to listen to me rant and rave after each class. “I can’t believe this! They call this science?! This isn't science!”

My anger has been further intensified by the endless stream of people I have met who have abandoned their faith in Christ because they have been bamboozled by this very weak theory. In fact, I just learned that Roosh Valizadeh—a scientist and a bestselling author of appallingly immoral books (explaining techniques for picking up lots of women for casual sex)—has recently become a Christian. He has thoroughly repented of his lifestyle and all of the books he was selling. (In fact, he has removed all of his immoral books from the market). On his blog, he explains why he went down that path in the first place. He said:


Many people are surprised that I have become such a fervent believer in God, and to that I say, “You’re not the only one.” In high school, I confidently declared myself an atheist after learning about the theory of evolution. . . . As a trained scientist, the biggest blockage I had for turning to God was the supposed infallibility of evolution. We were not created by God, I believed, but evolved over billions of years from a primordial soup that randomly developed consciousness. 

When he encountered a book that demonstrates the intellectually superficiality of evolutionary theory, he realized that his atheism was no longer justified. It’s a fascinating story, you can read it for yourself at his website. But be forewarned, because he explains some details of his previous lifestyle, I would rate it PG-13.

Book Writing

I’ve continued to work on both books I am writing. Most recently I’ve been focused on the book geared toward non-academically inclined people. I’ve been researching ways to take advantage of the power of stories to keep this book interesting to the average person. If I learned anything as a pastor, it is that stories have a way of getting (and keeping) people’s attention. When I was preaching, I would sometimes notice several people (during the sermon) looking down, or looking around the room, indicating to me that I was not keeping their attention. Nonetheless, as soon as I started telling a story (to illustrate something), I noticed that those very same people gave all the appearances of being quite attentive. It seems like stories grab people in a very powerful way.

So, I’ve been spending time researching the best ways to use stories when writing nonfiction, especially material that could easily be very technical and boring. I’ve been been learning a lot about this from Malcolm Gladwell and Jerry Jenkins (two people who have probably never been mentioned in the same sentence . . . until I wrote this paragraph).
 

Things To Pray For

To help pay the bills, I continue my freelance editing, blog writing, and working at UPS. Regarding my job at UPS, I’m still getting lots of exercise as I unload semi-trailers at breakneck speed. I have an overnight shift every Sunday night, and I’m still asking God to help me have a good attitude about it. Some days are better than others. The silver-lining has been a friendship I’ve developed with a young man who is trying to figure out what he believes about God. His name is Haroon Muhammad. I often give him a ride home after our shift is done and we have had some great talks.

 

Haroon was raised as a Muslim but has come to the conclusion that Islam is false and he wants no part of it. He’s been listening to a lot of podcasts by Jordan Peterson (who is not a Christian, but speaks very highly of Christianity). Following Peterson, Haroon has embraced an evolutionary view of human origins, but after a few conversations with me about the subject he’s started to have his doubts. And he's still not sure if he even believes in God. Since it’s a short drive to his house from the UPS facility, we only get about 15 minutes to talk each day. I’m dying to have longer talks with him at a coffee-shop, but that is just not possible in the midst of the COVID-19 lockdown. Will you please pray from him? Pray that God would open his heart to the things I have to share with him (just like God did with Lydia in Acts 16:14).

 

As I said earlier, because of our financial situation, we did not consider it wise for me to take any classes beyond the two I mentioned. We are still carrying a lot of debt ($5000) that stems from the classes I took in the fall combined with the cost of this most recent semester. Moreover, my car needs some serious repairs that we currently can't afford, but we are trying to set aside money for. (Yes, I'm still driving that Ford Fusion that I got super-cheap in Vermont.) We are deliberating about whether or not to just add that expense to our existing credit card debt.

 

When my stipend starts, that income will have to be allocated to paying our bills, but it won’t be enough for me to quit all three of my part-time jobs. Thus, I’m a little concerned about doing PhD work while working multiple jobs and trying to write a book. We would love to get free of this debt before the fall semester begins, as that would hasten the day when I can drop one or two of my part-time jobs to focus more on writing and schoolwork. If you could prayerfully consider helping us to do that, we would be very, very grateful. Just talk to Jesus about it and see how He leads you.


Please be sure to keep my friend Derek (from Peachtree City, Georgia) on your prayer list. We haven’t been able to have much communication because of our crazy schedules during this crisis. But I am planning on visiting him over the 4th of July and I’m really praying that God will continue to draw him to Himself. (As far as I know, he's been reading the books I've been recommending to him.)

Last of all, thanks so much for all of your support and encouragement. We really appreciate the occasional texts, cards, emails, and notes of encouragement. We love all of you and we truly could not do this without you!
 

In Christ,

Jim

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Jim Stewart

305 Shadowmoss Lane

Blythewood SC 29016

jims3825@gmail.com

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