When Jesus stood before Pilate to be judged, Pilate asked him, “Are you the king of the Jews?” Jesus replied, “My kingdom is not of this world. If it were, my servants would fight to prevent my arrest by the Jewish leaders.” By referring to his kingdom as a spiritual reign and not one of this world, Jesus gives us good reason to maintain a healthy perspective on and participation in current events, including sports and politics.

Recent research confirms the wisdom of this perspective. A paper published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences shows that in addition to the spiritual and psychological benefits of following this advice, our physical health actually depends upon it. A team of twelve medical researchers led by Matthew Mefford discovered a surprising connection.

Mefford’s team first cited previous studies showing that within minutes to hours after major traumatic events, the number of acute cardiovascular disease events (angina, heart attacks, and strokes) rises substantially.1 For example, on the day of the 6.7-magnitude Northridge, California, earthquake in 1994, the number of deaths due to cardiovascular disease events (CDEs) of Los Angeles County residents rose by 92% above the average daily rate for the 16 days previous and the 14 days following the quake.2 More people died as a result of increased CDEs than from the earthquake itself.

On September 11, 2001, medical diagnoses associated with cardiac ischemia (restriction of blood supply to heart tissues), even thousands of miles away from New York City, rose by 70%.3 Even something far less disastrous, such as a nationally significant sports defeat, can trigger an uptick in CDEs. On June 22, 1996, when the Dutch soccer team was eliminated from the European championship, mortality from heart attacks and strokes among Netherlands’ male adult population increased by 51%.4

The research team compared these numbers with the rate of acute CDEs among Kaiser Permanente Southern California patients around the time of the 2016 US presidential election. They found that during the two days after the election, the rate of heart attacks and strokes increased by 62% compared with the same two days of the previous week. The increase was similar across race, age, and sex.

Healthy Responses to Political Upheaval
Mefford and his colleagues made no recommendations on how to better respond to the health challenges posed by disasters and other stress-inducing events other than to conclude that more research studies are needed. However, reading their paper stirred my thinking about spiritual connections.

Given a surge in CDEs after a sporting event, no wonder we see a substantial increase in them after a national election, which has bearing on our laws, economy, national security, international relations, and so much more, including the moral-ethical-spiritual climate of the country.

From a Christian perspective, we should not be surprised by the degree to which many political contests become rancorous, disturbing, and stressful. Paul reminds us in Ephesian 6:12 that rulers, authorities, powers of darkness, and spiritual forces are engaged in a battle for human souls. In Daniel 10 we learn that God may deploy angels to oppose or support the rulers of nations.

While I do not mean to imply that all political events involve supernatural interventions by demons and angels, I believe that some do. So, we can expect that many of our political leaders, especially those with the greatest influence over a municipality, state, nation, or cluster of nations will be affected by “spiritual forces of evil.”

Given that our political leaders are targets of spiritual forces, Scripture commands us to pray for these individuals (see 1 Timothy 2:1–2). However, we can pray without grave anxiety, fear, or stress because “the army that fights for us is more powerful than the one against us” (2 Kings 6:16).

Meanwhile, our cardiovascular system can be protected from undue stress as we focus on the certainty that God is in control. Whatever happens in the political arena or anywhere else, “God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose” (Romans 8:28).

Check out more from Reasons to Believe @Reasons.org

Endnotes

  1. Matthew T. Mefford et al., “Sociopolitical Stress and Acute Cardiovascular Disease Hospitalizations around the 2016 Presidential Election,” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA 117, no. 43 (October 27, 2020): 27054–58, doi:10.1073/pnas.2012096117.
  2. Robert A. Kloner et al., “Population-Based Analysis of the Effect of the Northridge Earthquake on Cardiac Death in Los Angeles County, California,” Journal of the American College of Cardiology 30, no. 5 (December 1997): 1174–80, PII S0735-1097(97)00281-7.
  3. S. Claiborne Johnston, Michael E. Sorel, and Stephen Sidney, “Effects of the September 11th Attacks on Urgent and Emergent Medical Evaluations in a Northern California Managed Care Plan,” American Journal of Medicine 113, no. 7 (November 2002): 556–62, doi:10.1016/s0002-9343(02)01321-9.
  4. Daniel R. Witte et al., “Cardiovascular Mortality in Dutch Men during 1996 European Football Championship: Longitudinal Population Study,” British Medical Journal 321 (December 23, 2000): 1552–54, doi:10.1136/bmj.321.1552.

About The Author

Dr. Hugh Ross

Reasons to Believe emerged from my passion to research, develop, and proclaim the most powerful new reasons to believe in Christ as Creator, Lord, and Savior and to use those new reasons to reach people for Christ. I also am eager to equip Christians to engage, rather than withdraw from or attack, educated non-Christians. One of the approaches I’ve developed, with the help of my RTB colleagues, is a biblical creation model that is testable, falsifiable, and predictive. I enjoy constructively integrating all 66 books of the Bible with all the science disciplines as a way to discover and apply deeper truths. 1 Peter 3:15–16 sets my ministry goal, "Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, keeping a clear conscience." Hugh Ross launched his career at age seven when he went to the library to find out why stars are hot. Physics and astronomy captured his curiosity and never let go. At age seventeen he became the youngest person ever to serve as director of observations for Vancouver's Royal Astronomical Society. With the help of a provincial scholarship and a National Research Council (NRC) of Canada fellowship, he completed his undergraduate degree in physics (University of British Columbia) and graduate degrees in astronomy (University of Toronto). The NRC also sent him to the United States for postdoctoral studies. At Caltech he researched quasi-stellar objects, or "quasars," some of the most distant and ancient objects in the universe. Not all of Hugh's discoveries involved astrophysics. Prompted by curiosity, he studied the world’s religions and "holy books" and found only one book that proved scientifically and historically accurate: the Bible. Hugh started at religious "ground zero" and through scientific and historical reality-testing became convinced that the Bible is truly the Word of God! When he went on to describe for others his journey to faith in Jesus Christ, he was surprised to discover how many people believed or disbelieved without checking the evidence. Hugh's unshakable confidence that God's revelations in Scripture and nature do not, will not, and cannot contradict became his unique message. Wholeheartedly encouraged by family and friends, communicating that message as broadly and clearly as possible became his mission. Thus, in 1986, he founded science-faith think tank Reasons to Believe (RTB). He and his colleagues at RTB keep tabs on the frontiers of research to share with scientists and nonscientists alike the thrilling news of what's being discovered and how it connects with biblical theology. In this realm, he has written many books, including: The Fingerprint of God, The Creator and the Cosmos, Beyond the Cosmos, A Matter of Days, Creation as Science, Why the Universe Is the Way It Is, and More Than a Theory. Between writing books and articles, recording podcasts, and taking interviews, Hugh travels the world challenging students and faculty, churches and professional groups, to consider what they believe and why. He presents a persuasive case for Christianity without applying pressure. Because he treats people's questions and comments with respect, he is in great demand as a speaker and as a talk-radio and television guest. Having grown up amid the splendor of Canada's mountains, wildlife, and waterways, Hugh loves the outdoors. Hiking, trail running, and photography are among his favorite recreational pursuits - in addition to stargazing. Hugh lives in Southern California with his wife, Kathy, and two sons.



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