• I'm in Springfield two days this week:  one for the Board of Ministry to meet with new candidates who are just starting their projects and papers, and one day for our regular training on sexual ethics.
  • My parents left for Texas for their annual trip to warmer weather.  They arrived in Houston and will head to Castro in a couple days.  They'll be there till mid March.
  • Two weeks from today I'll leave for Israel for a 9 day trip, along with Jie, Mindy, and Jordan (my assistant at the church.)  We'll be going to the usual sites and also having conversations with Israelis and Palestinians about the ongoing conflicts there.
  • Reading Oleg V. Khlevniuk's biography, Stalin:  New Biography of a Dictator.
  • My friend Nic passed along an article that is worth reading, "How Democracies Die." It is a very thoughtful article, worth many conversations.  Click Here to read it.  And drop me a line and let me know what you think, whether you agree or disagree.

February 4, 2018
Did Noah Take Deodorant on the Ark?
Financial tip:  don't invest in companies trying to sell deodorant in China.  The New York Times ran an article yesterday about western companies trying to sell deodorant to east Asians.  One company, Unilever (the same corporation that produces Dove soap, Lipton tea, and Hellmann's mayonnaise) thought they could make a mint by selling deodorant in China. After all, the world's most populated country boasts about 3 billion armpits.  

But alas, Unilever ended up spending more money on marketing than they were getting in sales.  It turns out that only about 10% of Chinese adults use deodorant.  In fact, you can't even buy deodorant in many parts of China, so scarce is it in the stores.  

So, here's my question  Why do Chinese buy our Buick automobiles, Coach purses, and Starbucks drinks...but not our "Secret," "Rexona," and "Old Spice" deodorants?  Is the pollution so bad over there that they can't smell each other?
Americans, on the other hand, are really worried about how we smell.  Each year we purchase $15-20 billion worth of perfumes, colognes, lotions, hair mists, deodorants, body splashes, toothpastes, and mouthwashes so we will not smell like ourselves.  

Every fifth grade teacher in America knows that you have to give your class "the lecture."  This is roughly the age when the apocrine sweat glands come to life.  According to one internet article, boys' armpits begin to smell like spoiled cheese and girls' armpits begin to smell like a fermenting onions.  By the teen years, 92% of Americans are using deodorant.  The American nation might have died out if we had not found some way to stanch the stench that supposedly makes it impossible for us to get close to one another.
We are not sure why God gave humans body odor.  It makes sense in other animals.  Living possums have the ability to smell like they are decomposing, which causes most of their predators to choose another entrĂ©e.  Porcupines also give off a stink, although I've never been close enough to one to know what it smells like.  But I'm told that a 7th grade boy can only dream of emitting such odors, as it takes two days to get the porcupine smell out of your nostrils.  Such a lucky animal to have two defense mechanisms:  it can either stab you with its quills or make you gnash your teeth with its reek. C amel spit will make you think twice before messing with the next dromedary that comes your way.  

On the opposite spectrum, cats spend hours licking themselves so they will not have any odor, which gives them an advantage when they try to sneak up on their prey. (I have no idea why dogs lick themselves.  Well...I do...sort of...but I'm not going that direction in this letter. )
Some researchers have indicated that a person's body odor is a critical factor in mating.  And while I have a pretty clear notion how body odor might cause one to avoid mating with certain individuals, I'm clueless as to how your natural body odor might help you catch a hot date.
Deodorant was  first  invented and sold under the brand name "Mum" in 1888 by Edna Murphey of Philadelphia.  She was a surgeon's daughter who heard her father complain about his sweaty hands while he was trying to hold the scalpel.  So Edna invented a product that she tried out on her own arm pits to see if it stopped the sweat.  It not only kept her dry, she noticed that it also made her scent less offensive.  So, she bottled her product and sold it with the assurance that it was "doctor approved."  

But sales never really took off  until her marketing department struck the fear of God into people. "Your friends are talking behind your back:  about how much you stink!" Fake peer pressure helped the product finally take off.  Today, Americans buy about $2 billion of deodorant a year.  

The apostle Paul calls upon all Christians to be the pleasing aroma of Christ.  Our devotion to deodorant and other "smell good" products  is conclusive proof for me that we are indeed a Christian nation.  We are moving on to sanctification: one stick, roll-on tube, and aerosol spray can at a time.
As for the Chinese?  Do they resist deodorant because the Communist party is against the sanctifying power of Christianity? Is it an ideological statement against capitalism? Not quite. 

It turns out that due to genetic happenstance, about 90% of the people from east Asia (Japan, Korea, and China) have a non-functional gene, named ABCC11 allele.  It is the one that causes wet earwax and odor after sweating.  East Asians also seem to have fewer apocrine sweat glands:  hence, less body odor.  Hence: less need for deodorant.  The rest of us, on the other hand, have an ABCC11 allele that seems to be working just fine. 

Ah...the joys of human diversity.  Blessed are those who think they smell bad, for they shall have deodorant.  Thanks be to God.  --Mike

 The Sunday letter is something I have done now for over 20 years.  It is a disciplined musing:  mindfulness, memory, and imagination.  I write it when I first wake up on a Sunday morning and then share it with the congregation.  The letter you see published here is usually revised from what the congregation receives.  This discipline of thinking and writing puts me in the place of describing rather than advising.  It prepares me to proclaim the gospel rather than get preachy with the souls who will sit before me.  --JMS


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