Are People Being Hospitalized With COVID or Because of COVID?

This is an important question, and one we need to process.

Here’s one of the pages I check on a daily basis to try to get a handle on the current situation in Ontario. If you sift through the data on that page you can better understand where we’re at and some of the possible reasons for the actions that are being taken.

Among the numerous other helpful charts there, I’m glad to see that as of today they added the following charts because they bring clarity to the “with COVID or because of COVID?” question.


Counting cases has always been somewhat subjective. There is no way to know the absolute number of cases without everyone being tested. So we’ve relied on harder numbers like hospital and ICU admissions. Now it looks like, with Omicron, hospitalizations are no longer the most trustworthy indicator either.

Almost 50% of people being admitted to the hospital are “incidental COVID positives” – meaning they are admitted for non-COVID reasons but are found to have COVID upon arrival. But let’s not discount that completely – these folks still require extra resources due to their COVID-positive status so that they don’t infect others.

On the second chart, it seems that monitoring ICU admissions is still a reliable metric.


83% of people admitted to Ontario ICUs with COVID were admitted because of COVID. So there is the answer to our question.

What sites and sources do you regularly consult to help make sense of the world as it pertains to COVID? Feel free to discuss in the comments. As always, ask anything, but keep it civil and reasonable.

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The Sin of Trusting in Politics For Salvation

The motive behind many of the cruel critiques of political leaders does not seem to be the securing of a more peaceful and quiet life. It seems to run more along the lines of securing political power and then retaining that power going forward. This is a very wrong turn. To be involved in politics, of course, is no sin, but to trust in politics for salvation certainly is.

God is always at work in human affairs for the good of his people and the glory of his name. This should inspire our confidence when we face the tough circumstances of the present and those yet to come. It is up to us to trust him, seek him, and act according to what he has revealed to us about his will.

The wisdom contained in God’s word is sufficient; we need no new revelation. We need no new instructions, especially when so much of what has already been commanded is not obeyed. What is needed instead is for us to return again and again to the timeless wisdom of Scripture, which is as relevant to us today as it was to those to whom it was originally written.

Praying For Politicians

Here is something he reveals in 1 Tim. 2:1-2: “First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way.”

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It is difficult to pray without hypocrisy for those whom you curse outside of your prayer time. Love, the Apostle Paul tells us, is the supreme virtue. Yet over these last years, while much truth has been spoken, too rarely has it been spoken in love. This has been especially evident in the overheated responses to the actions of leaders in politics and religion. As we go forward, we must commit firmly to the biblical principle that critique is in bounds, but cruelty is not. 

Disrespecting The Authorities

In Canada, it often seems we are a little bit proud of how disrespectful we are of our governing authorities. This is certainly not the example of God’s servants in scripture, and so I think our attitudes about our relationship with and behaviour towards those who govern us could use a few corrections.

I have been guilty of this disrespect on occasion as well, and I have had to reshape my thinking and behaviour. The help we need in this area of our lives is found in Scripture. The words of Scripture and the examples of the stories we find there clearly expose many of us who think we have a license to speak and act disrespectfully to those who govern us. (Especially if they belong to a party with the wrong colour election sign, right?)

God’s Ambassadors

In 2 Cor. 5:20 we are called God’s ambassadors. We should act in ways befitting an ambassador. This means that we represent the one in ultimate authority in front of those who wield his delegated authority. And when we find we must speak up against something the governing authorities are doing, we do so as God’s representatives and we do so out of concern for God’s glory and for their souls.

The motive behind many of the cruel critiques of political leaders does not seem to be the securing of a more peaceful and quiet life. It seems to run more along the lines of securing political power and then retaining that power going forward. This is a very wrong turn. To be involved in politics, of course, is no sin, but to trust in politics for salvation certainly is.

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COVID Has Made Us Weary, But We Should Still Be Doing Good

If you are in a season that feels barren and fruitless, take heart – over time, if we are persistent in our pursuit of God and obedient to his will and plan, we will bear fruit. Now might be a time when you are being pruned and watered and weathered so that your fruit will be both sweeter and more abundant when the appointed season comes. 

“As for you, brothers and sisters, do not grow weary in doing good.”

2 Thessalonians 3:13

Seldom in the world’s history has the entirety of humankind been subjected to such mind-numbing and soul-crushing stress and chaos that has led to such persistent weariness. During this time, on days when I’m feeling down, it’s easy to look for the fruits of my efforts and wonder if I’ve accomplished anything at all. On those weary days, progress seems painfully slow and tangible “results” seem like a barren field on a foggy morning. This is quite opposite of what we desire, isn’t it? 

We would all love for our efforts to result in immediate, visible, tangible fruit, but fruit is a fitting metaphor, and it is no accident that this metaphor is employed frequently in Scripture. As Psalm 1 points out, the blessed person is like a tree planted by streams of water that yields its fruit in its season

How the Wicked and the Righteous Grow

In Psalm 92 we see a clear contrast between the wicked and the righteous. In v7 we learn that “though the wicked sprout like grass and all evildoers flourish, they are doomed to destruction forever,” while in v12 we see that “the righteous flourish like the palm tree and grow like a cedar” that still bears fruit in old age and is ever full of sap and green (v14). 

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The wicked have their day in the sun, their flash in the pan, their proverbial “15 minutes of fame.” They sprout like grass, which grows rapidly but provides little value and fades away just as quickly as it appeared. Although these people are often among the most prominent in the world and seem to be successful by worldly standards (we might even envy them sometimes), in the end, such people are doomed to destruction.

The righteous, however, are like palm or cedar trees. Palm trees take about five years to grow a trunk and another 15 years to produce coconuts, but they can live for hundreds of years. They represent slow growth and much fruit, just the opposite of grass.

Cedars are evergreen trees that can grow to over 150 ft and live up to 300 years. They are known for their alluring scent and have an ornamental quality because of their beauty. Cedar is also used for guitar tops and is known for its warm tone. Cedar trees represent beauty, warmth, and an inviting aroma. We might think of this aroma as “the fragrance of life” that is mentioned in 2 Cor. 2:16.

The Long Blessings of Slow Growth

In contrast to the wicked, the righteous grow slowly but they live long and fruitful lives. For such people, what often looks like a season of fruitlessness is actually a season of preparation. If we see a tree as only useful when there is ripe fruit to pick, we might see it as useless at all other times. 

But trees are not useless during seasons when the fruit is not visibly emerging. During times of not bearing fruit, a tree is still being prepared to be fruitful: it is being pruned and watered and weathered, all of which will make the fruit sweeter and more abundant. Even the blessed person is not bearing fruit in all seasons but in the appointed season; there is a cyclical pattern to fruit-bearing. 

If you are in a season that feels barren and fruitless, take heart – over time, if we are persistent in our pursuit of God and obedient to his will and plan, we will bear fruit. Now might be a time when you are being pruned and watered and weathered so that your fruit will be both sweeter and more abundant when the appointed season comes. 

So, as for you, do not grow weary in doing good.

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The Deep Lack of Wisdom That COVID Has Revealed

The COVID period has revealed a deep lack of biblical wisdom among those who call themselves Christians. We have not been desperate for God’s wisdom, even while we eagerly consume the many doses of folly that invade our minds via social media. Do not be surprised if you are frustrated and do not know what to think if you have feasted on foolishness while starving yourself of real wisdom. 

“Walk in wisdom toward outsiders,

making the best use of the time.”

Colossians 4:5

To walk in wisdom toward outsiders requires us to first seek wisdom from the right source, but too often our words are many while our prayers are few. We crave constant activity and the notoriety that comes along with our publicly visible efforts. We want to be seen and known, and not always with the most virtuous motives.

So we must not apply this command, as I sometimes have, in a way that justifies our burnout-inducing over-busyness. The causes of burnout are many and not all are sinful, but “burning out for Jesus” is not a game plan to be proud of; it is a sin to be repented of. Often the “best use of the time” is to sit and do nothing physically or audibly, to do nothing more than take in God’s word, to ask God questions, and to sit quietly as we wait for answers. He promises to supply wisdom if we ask. 

Ask For Wisdom

In the men’s Bible study I lead on Thursday nights, we always start by having someone read James 1:5-8, which promises the following:

“If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him. But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind. For that person must not suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways.”

After this reading, we pray, asking God with all the desperation we can muster to supply us with wisdom and to make us willing to receive it, learn from it, and then to go and live accordingly. Life is filled with constant challenges and we often feel unprepared. God’s promise to supply wisdom is not a promise made in vain. If we are humble enough to admit that we need wisdom and we ask for it, he will give it to us – generously!

Making the Best Use of the Time

The command to “make the best use of the time” frequently interrupts my days and my thoughts. It is easy to misunderstand this statement as a command to constant busyness, but if we understand it this way we will fail to live as Jesus did. We will not take times of solitude to spend with the Father. We will not rest as often as needed. 

We will flit about, feasting on one bit of information that is presented to us, and then another morsel that is diametrically opposed. Instead of gaining wisdom, we reap confusion. And then we distribute our confusion to others, perpetuating a downward spiral of frustration.

The COVID period has revealed a deep lack of biblical wisdom among those who call themselves Christians. We have not been desperate for God’s wisdom, even while we eagerly consume the many doses of folly that invade our minds via social media. Do not be surprised if you are frustrated and do not know what to think if you have feasted on foolishness while starving yourself of real wisdom. 

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Not by Angry Tirades

May the post-pandemic days, months, and years be filled with generous, courageous, and humble men and women who are servants of God and interested in His glory and not their own.

We seem to be at the tail end of this worldwide event called COVID-19, and yet if the Lord sees fit to allow this affliction a bit longer, we will strive to do as he commands and rejoice in all things. “Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” (1 Thes. 5:16-18)

As the crisis seems to be abating I have begun to reflect on what we’ve had the opportunity to learn over the last 15 months. I have probably not grieved anything more than the disunity that has been brought upon churches and their leaders not so much by the pandemic itself, but by agents of disruption within the churches.

The foundation of our unity is the glory of God

The unity of God’s people is of monumental importance to God. In John 17:22 Jesus, in the course of his prayer for his disciples, says, “The glory that you have given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one…” The foundation of our unity is the glory of God. 

Over the last year, we have seen fractures and disunity among Christians and one reason for this is that we have not been as focused as we should on God’s glory. We have instead been focused on secondary matters. And rather than naming these secondary matters, it will suffice to say that ALL matters are secondary to God’s glory. And many matters secondary to God’s glory have occupied our minds and this, unsurprisingly, has not led to unity.

As a blessing in the midst of what seems to be a curse, we have had clearly illustrated for us various ways that are not effective in bringing glory to God. These double as very effective ways to foster disunity among Christians. God – as he always does – has made these negative examples lessons for our benefit and refinement. 

How can we best bring glory to God and magnify his glory to those who do not yet know him? 

Not by angry tirades. 

“Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger; for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God.” – James 1:19-20

Not by disrespectfully belittling those in authority. 

“I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way.” – 1 Tim. 2:1-2

Not by clinging to teachers who tell us the sweet mistruths we desire to hear.

“For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths.” – 2 Tim 4:3-4

Not by raising awareness for those of whom God says to beware.

“I appeal to you, brothers, to watch out for those who cause divisions and create obstacles contrary to the doctrine that you have been taught; avoid them. For such persons do not serve our Lord Christ, but their own appetites, and by smooth talk and flattery they deceive the hearts of the naive.” Rom. 16:17-18

Not by promoting those who twist scripture.

“There are some things in them that are hard to understand, which the ignorant and unstable twist to their own destruction, as they do the other Scriptures. You therefore, beloved, knowing this beforehand, take care that you are not carried away with the error of lawless people and lose your own stability. But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. To him be the glory both now and to the day of eternity. Amen.” – 2 Peter 3:16-18

Not by praising those who claim they can add words to scripture.

“I warn everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: if anyone adds to them, God will add to him the plagues described in this book, and if anyone takes away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God will take away his share in the tree of life and in the holy city, which are described in this book.” – Rev. 22:18-19

Not by allying ourselves with false teachers.

“If anyone teaches a different doctrine and does not agree with the sound words of our Lord Jesus Christ and the teaching that accords with godliness, he is puffed up with conceit and understands nothing. He has an unhealthy craving for controversy and for quarrels about words, which produce envy, dissension, slander, evil suspicions, and constant friction among people who are depraved in mind and deprived of the truth, imagining that godliness is a means of gain”. – 1 Tim. 6:3-5

But by Humility, Gentleness, and Patience  

There are good and godly ways to oppose, expose, and resist, but there has been an obvious and fundamental lack of humility in those who have placed themselves at centre stage and demanded the spotlight. This will never foster unity and it will not bring glory to God. Instead, we are urged to “walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.” (Eph. 4:1-3)

May the post-pandemic days, months, and years be filled with generous, courageous, and humble men and women who are servants of God and interested in His glory and not their own.

“Walk in wisdom toward outsiders, making the best use of the time. Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person.” (Col. 4:5-6)

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My Encounter With the Aylmer Police

Yesterday afternoon I dropped my daughter off at work in town. Near the place she works I saw two Aylmer police cruisers behind the vehicle of an elderly women who looked to be in some distress. Recognizing the woman as a friend I felt it was my place to help, so after driving by I turned around and parked a hundred or so meters back, donned my mask, and set out on foot to see if I could be of assistance…

The Incident

Yesterday afternoon I dropped my daughter off at work in town. Near the place she works I saw two Aylmer police cruisers behind the vehicle of an elderly women who looked to be in some distress. Recognizing the woman as a friend I felt it was my place to help, so after driving by I turned around and parked a hundred or so meters back, donned my mask, and set out on foot to see if I could be of assistance. 

There had been a very mild fender bender and the other vehicle had already left. However, there was some unfinished business with my elderly friend. I said hello to my friend and introduced myself to the officers. 

The Encounter

What happened next? I’ll tell you, but first allow me to admit something I’m a little embarrassed about in hindsight.  As I was turning around, I paused as I considered getting out of my vehicle. I second guessed whether I should try to offer assistance. Why? Well, I discovered I was worried about how my offer of assistance might be received. How would the officers respond, in these tense times, in the middle of a state of emergency and a stay-at-home order, to me entering this situation? I wondered if they’d be angry and if their response would be hostile.  

I actually thought these things, and I’d like to say I’m not sure why, but the reason is kind of obvious to me. If you start a sentence with “It’s been a hard year for…” there is no end to the options for how to finish the sentence. But it really has been a hard year for police officers in North America. Closer to home, I haven’t heard much good about the local police in the past year either. Some even believe they are so awful that they’re worthy of intimidation and mistreatment. And so I discovered that my view of police officers has been tainted not by my personal experience, but by the events reported in the news over the last year.

What Happened Next?

But I got out anyway. I offered to help anyway. And I was immediately welcomed with open arms (I say that figuratively, of course). There was not a single negative note in their reception of my assistance. In fact, it was all gratitude and eager cooperation. 

As I continued to enquire about what had happened, I discovered that these two officers had been models of leniency and decency and compassion throughout the encounter. For the sake of my friend’s privacy I won’t mention specifics, but I will say this: the officers, rather than ticketing her hundreds of dollars as they rightfully could have, instead issued three summonses for a court appearance where she will be able to explain her mistake and probably come away with no financial penalty.

Are You Still With Me?

I titled this post in such a way that your assumptions would be tested, as mine were yesterday. Be honest, you probably clicked here expecting a negative report, didn’t you? Because that’s almost exclusively what gets reported. That’s what is deemed newsworthy. 

After the encounter I began to reflect on the other interactions I’ve had with police officers in my lifetime. There haven’t been many but there have been a few: an interview when I was 10 or 11 after it was suspected that a friend of mine had committed arson; a couple of speeding tickets over the years; more recently, being pulled over due to a misunderstanding. Every encounter I’ve had with police officers has been positive. 

Now, I know other people have different experiences – experiences that would lead them to an appropriate skepticism and even legitimate fears in the same circumstances I encountered. I don’t fault them for that, but I should not discount my positive experiences on the basis of their negative experiences. Someday perhaps I will have a negative encounter with the police, and then I’ll write about that.

Are there bad-apple police officers? Yes.

And there are bad-apple massage therapists and bad-apple doctors and bad-apple pastors? Yes. 

And I hate to tell you this, but there is even a “bad-apple-whatever-you-are” too.

The problem is that at this point we’ve heard so much bad news about so many people that we’ve exchanged the benefit of the doubt for the assumption of hostility… and that’s not good. 

Let’s make it a good news day! In the comments below, feel free to share a positive experience you’ve had with law enforcement. 

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An Appeal to Pastor Friends (and others) – guest post by Dr. Stan Fowler

Some of you have led your church to disobey governmental restrictions that suspend your public gatherings, and others of you are thinking about it. Some of you have suggested that those of us who accept the temporary restrictions just don’t understand the nature of the church. As a friend and brother in Christ, I appeal to you to dial back the rhetoric and reconsider your choice.

Some of you have led your church to disobey governmental restrictions that suspend your public gatherings, and others of you are thinking about it. Some of you have suggested that those of us who accept the temporary restrictions just don’t understand the nature of the church. As a friend and brother in Christ, I appeal to you to dial back the rhetoric and reconsider your choice.

Dr. Stan Fowler is Professor Emeritus of Theology at Heritage College & Seminary. He is an elder at Grandview Baptist Church in Kitchener, and has been in pastoral ministry since 1972 and theological education since 1980. He is the husband of one wife, the father of four, and the grandfather of six. (Facebook/Twitter)

Below are Dr. Fowler’s thoughts on the current restrictions and a word of caution and encouragement to fellow pastors and church leaders.

Some of you have led your church to disobey governmental restrictions that suspend your public gatherings, and others of you are thinking about it. Some of you have suggested that those of us who accept the temporary restrictions just don’t understand the nature of the church. As a friend and brother in Christ, I appeal to you to dial back the rhetoric and reconsider your choice.

Many thoughtful people have argued that the lockdowns are not really the best way to balance all the legitimate interests during the pandemic, and that is a debate that needs to occur, but good people differ on that question. If you accept the idea of a declared emergency, then you should admit that whether the current governmental choices are right or not, it is not a case of tyranny. The governing officials have to decide which “experts” to listen to, and they may have picked the wrong group, but let’s admit that we don’t have a word from God that identifies the right “experts” on this complex question.

The temporary inability to gather is a frustration to all of us. We all understand the good reasons why Scripture instructs us to gather, but the normative practices can’t all happen in their normal way in abnormal times. We are the body of Christ in the world whether we are able to gather in the same room or not. My pastor’s sermon livestreamed to my computer is still his faithful word for this time and place, no matter how it is transmitted. Baptisms do not have to occur in the gathered church, and in fact, there is no such example in the NT. Individuals can be counselled and encouraged via Zoom, Skype, FaceTime, or telephone.

We all recognize that none of this is the norm or the ideal, but perhaps we can just be grateful that technology enables us to carry on with most of our ministries in unusual ways. I recognize that there is animosity toward traditional Christian values in various forms in our cultural setting. Various judicial and legislative actions have challenged our teaching of the truth as we understand it and our practice of our faith.

This is not the place to list all of the particulars, but I agree that there are current threats that may well lead us to civil disobedience. There are culture wars that are worth fighting, but temporary restrictions in the interest of public health are not persecution of the church. Giving up our right to gather as usual to serve the common good looks like one example of the good deeds that we should be known for as opposed to being known as rebels (1 Pet 2:13-16).

We may not make the same choices on this point, but you are my brothers and sisters in Christ, and this is my small contribution to the family discussion.

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Aylmer on the Verge of Violence: A Plea for Civility

It grieves me to see our town on the verge of violence, but that is where we’re at. You could see hints of this at the rally/march in November. There were several heated moments that almost boiled over. Things have been tense ever since, and the events of this past Sunday morning should raise the alarm for all residents of Aylmer. It’s only a matter of time before we see real violence break out in our town if this is not addressed.

I have found the last 24 hours quite difficult. Aylmer is the town I grew up and went to school in. It’s the town I returned to as a pastor a dozen years ago now. Ours has always been a pleasant and friendly town, and not particularly newsworthy. But now we are newsworthy, receiving local, regional, and national coverage regularly. It is safe to say that the events of 2020 have done (likely irreparable) damage to the reputation of our community. And we seem to be reaching a new threshold of concern.

It grieves me to see our town on the verge of violence, but that is where we’re at. You could see hints of this at the rally/march in November. There were several heated moments that almost boiled over. Things have been tense ever since, and the events of this past Sunday morning should raise the alarm for all residents of Aylmer. It’s only a matter of time before we see real violence break out in our town if this is not addressed. 

Why is the tension in our town escalating?

  1. The church north of town has clearly been spoiling for a fight for some time. While I am sympathetic to some of their principles, their practice of drowning these principles in waves of incendiary rhetoric is something I detest. This escalates tension.
  1. The police, early on at least, seem to have handled the church’s provocations with inconsistency at best, leading to more opportunities for publicity for the church. This escalates tension. (It should be noted that in the video evidence that exists of Sunday’s events, the officers seem to be a model of courtesy and restraint under very trying conditions.) 
  1. Paragraph retracted. See explanation here.
  1. We have the counter-protesters who are equally angry, equally outraged and in some cases, equally willing to take the confrontation to the next level. Included with this lot is the creepy, mysterious, and anonymous “Plague Pastor” video star, who decries the church’s condemnable actions while promoting his/her own xenophobic biases and implicit calls for violence. This certainly escalates tension.
  1. The protesters – a combination of locals and out-of-town “protest tourists” – lack focus but not anger, outrage or disrespect. So many varied grievances gathered under one tent is like so much dry grass around a shortening candle. This escalates tension.

Where does all this tension go?

All this escalated tension is on full display every minute of the day on social media, where every conversation seems to end in conflict, where the benefit of the doubt is never given, and where judgments are made before both sides of the story are heard. From there this tension works its way into our stores and restaurants, where people are short on patience, often assuming the worst about each other, and sometimes openly serving up abusive insults about the ethnic heritage of some of their fellow citizens.

These are not normal or acceptable boundaries for civil disagreement, least of all among those who claim to be followers of Jesus. We have what seems to be a cult of protest on one side and a cult of counter-protest on the other. Neither one represents the majority while both scream at the top of their lungs, staking their claim to be, apparently without irony, the silent (or silenced) majority. I suspect neither one would win an open vote with the townspeople if given a third choice somewhere – anywhere – between the two. 

What a mess. 

More Than a Mess

But now it is more than a mess; now it’s a public danger. What has come to be a weekly circus north of town is quickly evolving into something far more serious. There is a real potential for open physical conflict.

Back to the events that unfolded this past Sunday, some of which you can see here or below.

The “protest tourists” are the main accelerants of this fire. I want to draw your attention to one moment that should cause us all grave concern. After the ticket was issued and the officer returned to his vehicle, the agitated crowd of angry men were instructed to not allow the officer to leave. One of the protestors shouted at the officer asking, among other things, where he lives and where his kids go to sleep. I would certainly feel threatened to have those words screamed at me, wouldn’t you?

Others stood behind his vehicle blocking his way. When the officer gets out his vehicle to ask those blocking his vehicle to move, someone near the camera seems to say these words around the 2:40 mark of the video: 

“There’s more of us than them…” That’s a lit fuse right there.

Warning

Listen, anyone who would say such a thing needs to be uninvited from future protests. And if they come uninvited they should be notified that they are not welcome. They should certainly not be encouraged in any way. If this is not addressed this will turn from local to national to international news. That might be good business for the news outlets of our region, but it will be no good for the people of Aylmer.

We need to be reminded that we can disagree and still be friends. All but a few seem to have forgotten this fact. Friends can speak to each other bluntly but with care and respect, even when they disagree. It’s time we all start practicing this. There has been enough trauma to go around in 2020. If we don’t take quick action 2021 will be even more traumatic. 

Is that what we want?

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A Local Pastor’s Open Letter to the Town of Aylmer (and those looking in)

I live in Aylmer, Ontario. I’m a resident, a father, a youth soccer coach, and a pastor here. I have been saddened this week to see my town in the national news with our squabbles on display. I would be happier if this was not what we are becoming notorious for.

I am fully “awake” AND I wear my mask regularly. I am not afraid of my government. In fact, I’m thankful for and I pray for my government, as I am instructed to do in 1 Tim. 2:1-2.

I live in Aylmer, Ontario. I’m a resident, a father, a youth soccer coach, and a pastor here. I have been saddened this week to see my town in the national news with our squabbles on display. I would be happier if this was not what we are becoming notorious for. 

I am fully “awake” AND I wear my mask regularly. I am not afraid of my government. In fact, I’m thankful for and I pray for my government, as I am instructed to do in 1 Tim. 2:1-2. I don’t agree with all of the decisions my government makes, but I also don’t have to make decisions for 14 million people, and I don’t have all the information I need to make decisions of that magnitude. 

There’s a protest planned for Saturday. It is legal to protest and express your opinions, and that’s a good thing. We need greater diversity of opinion on how to navigate our way through this difficult time. I won’t be attending, but that doesn’t mean I don’t agree with some of the points that will be made. 

It seems likely at this point that many from outside our town are coming to join this protest. Our mayor wants everyone to be safe and has taken appropriate action to ensure that’s the case. That’s also a good thing, but because she has done this, she has reportedly received threats to her safety. This is evil and cowardly. 

Defiance and Obedience

Over the last months as I have prayed, pondered, observed, and lived through this time of upheaval and uncertainty, a number of thoughts and commitments have become clear to me. 

  1. Defiance is sometimes necessary, but blind defiance is no better than blind obedience. Blind defiance and blind obedience are both unhealthy, knee-jerk reactions. Informed defiance and informed obedience can have a conversation; blind defiance and blind obedience can only have conflict. I will stay informed, enter many conversations, and  follow the laws of my province while at the same time making it known that I think there are better ways. This is how a healthy democracy works. 
  1. Of all the things Canadian Christians could be at this point, I think grateful ranks near the top. We have more freedoms than people in most other countries do, our governments, while imperfect, are responsive as they adapt to a situation that is still developing, and our worship spaces have fewer restrictions than almost all other similar spaces. (Thank you, Premier Ford)
  1. I do not believe that freedom means I don’t have to submit to anyone’s authority. God has placed people in places of authority (Romans 13:1-7) and it is my privilege and duty to submit to their authority (1 Peter 2:13-17) unless they compel me to do something that God considers sin (Acts 5:27-32). If I was convinced that this is what’s happening right now, I would be the one organizing and leading the protests. (I am, after all, a PROTESTant pastor.)
  1. I will not use my platform as a pastor to grandstand, collect followers, encourage rebellion, or make myself feel important. I will not confuse my calling as a pastor for an unexpressed but obvious aspiration to enter politics. I have no desire to be Aylmer’s most influential unelected politician. If I want to be a politician, I should run for office in the next election. 
  1. I will look first to the Bible to guide my thought and behaviour, not to the constitution of the great country in which I live. As I use the words of scripture, I will use them responsibly and according to their context. Parachuting out-of-context biblical passages into a speech doesn’t make the speech stronger. All it does is bring dishonour and disrepute to the scriptures. 
  1. I will not use the language of peace while hinting at insurrection. Inferring that those who abide by the mask mandate would have been Nazi supporters in earlier times is a dangerous and disgusting tactic. And after all, if your enemies are Nazis then violence is warranted, isn’t it? If anything, forcing a derogatory label on other community members – as if it were a visible badge – is the behaviour that needs to be called out. (I know that protest organizers can’t control every element of a public protest, but I do hope they will publicly rebuke this element of the protest if it is again on display, as it was at the last protest. See picture below.)
  1. I will continue to do what I can to love and remain in conversation with the people in my community, regardless of what they believe about masks or vaccines or any other hot topic.

P.S.

If you’ve been monitoring the situation for long, you might assume that the one Aylmer pastor you see constantly in the limelight represents the other pastors and churches in our community. As far as I am aware, he represents no other church except his own. In his many speeches and broadcasts, he frequently attempts to goad other pastors into joining his crusade. So far, no pastor that I know of has taken the bait. And that’s because the gospel is STILL not under assault in Aylmer, Ontario.

All the pastors I know in my community are working hard to care for people both inside and outside their churches. 

Like me, they are not afraid. Like me, if they were convinced that the government was trying to pressure us to sin against God, they would speak out.

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COVID-19: Let’s Talk About This Supposed “Second Wave”

The “second wave” terminology alone is unhelpful. There certainly appears to be a second wave of confirmed cases, but we’re looking harder now and doing a lot more testing. There is not yet a second wave of deaths – and here’s hoping there never is.

COVID-19 is not a hoax. I personally know and have spoken to several people who have had it. It is an experience similar to but worse than the flu, seems to last longer, and may have permanent effects. Please continue to be careful and follow all reasonable directives from the government and public health officials.

All my graphs are based on data found here. Feel free to browse that data and confirm the below information for yourself.

Graphic 1 – Daily Tests (top) and Daily Confirmed Cases (bottom)

Looking at the bottom graph, it certainly seems like we’re having a second wave! And it’s true, there are a lot more confirmed cases of late. That seems to be the big news we hear on repeat. But that number should always be paired with the total number of tests being done. We are testing more and finding more, and that makes sense. And this needs to be mentioned as often as the “second wave” terminology.

How many people in Canada have COVID-19? The answer is: nobody knows. The only way we could know is if all 38 million of us take a test everyday and get the results immediately. The “confirmed cases” number is related in some way to the absolute number of cases, but we’re not exactly sure how.

This is why the “confirmed cases” number alone is insufficient to make the case that’s we’re having a second wave that looks exactly like (or worse) than the first one. This number tells us how many cases have been discovered but not how many cases there actually are right now. Are there more or fewer people with COVID-19 now than at the spring peak? Again, we don’t actually know.

Graphic 2 – Positive Tests (as a percentage of daily tests)

There has been a slight increase in positive cases as a percentage of daily tests. Currently, just under 2% of tests yield a positive result. That number peaked in April with over 10% positives. Keep in mind that this is not random sampling. The government is providing the following guidance on who should get tested:

“Contact your local health authority for advice about testing if you:

  • think you may have COVID-19
  • have been in contact with someone who has COVID-19”

Summary: Even among people who suspect they might already have COVID-19, the positive test percentage is currently under 2%.

Graphic 3: Daily Confirmed Cases (top) and Daily Deaths (bottom)

There are many more tests being done and more positive cases being found. What about the number of daily deaths? You can see that this number has barely moved and has been in the same range (below 10 per day) since around mid-July. This fact should be pointed out far more often than it is.

Graphic 4: Daily Deaths as a Percentage of Daily Confirmed Cases

Daily test rates are up and as a result the confirmed case rate is up, but the daily death rate is is not ruling parallel to the confirmed case rate like it did during the first wave. As you can see, the “second wave” terminology alone is unhelpful. There certainly appears to be a second wave of confirmed cases, but we’re looking harder now and doing a lot more testing. There is not yet a second wave of deaths – and here’s hoping there never is. Please notice that while the “Daily Confirmed Cases” peak is nearing the previous peak, at the same time the “Daily Deaths” average is down by 95% (177 on June 5 vs. 8 on Sept. 29). 

Summary: Every death from an (at this point) incurable disease is a tragedy. But as I stated in my last update, hysteria and the possible ensuing mandated lockdowns based on inflated and incomplete information is going to do more harm than good. 

Being constantly angry about all this isn’t helping either. I’ve been angry and frustrated at times. I choose to look at the data, make sense of it, and show what I’ve found to others. I believe that if enough people do that we can have a positive impact on our elected officials, who seem to (at times) make decisions based on media narratives instead of hard data.

So go forth and share what you’ve learned. Be a reasonable and calm presence in the lives of those who are drowning in a second wave of fear.