Comparing Starling Murmurations to Social Distancing | The Institute for Creation Research

Comparing Starling Murmurations to Social Distancing
Should we murmur (whine, complain) about our presently inconvenient circumstances?1 Or should we adjust to what happens around us, so we keep our proper distances as we ourselves move about, carrying on our daily activities,2 many of which involve interacting with others?3

Not only do “birds of a feather flock together,” people who belong together should get together, if that is an available option, legally and as a matter of prudence.2,4

The orderly assembling of both people and birds can give us a preview of Jesus’ second coming—when the world that we now know is replaced by one redeemed, where we gather together in glory as a harmonious heavenly host.5,6

After these things I looked, and behold, a great multitude which no one could number, of all nations, tribes, peoples, and tongues, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed with white robes, with palm branches in their hands, and crying out with a loud voice, saying: “Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!” All the angels stood around the throne and the elders and the four living creatures, and fell on their faces before the throne and worshiped God, saying: “Amen! Blessing and glory and wisdom, Thanksgiving and honor and power and might, to our God, forever and ever! Amen.”6

While driving in Texas (something not to be taken for granted nowadays2), I recalled the phrase “birds of feather flock together.”

It was something that my wife and I noticed on the side of the road. Unfinished road construction activities (suspended at present) on the side of the road have involved reshaping the land surfaces and drainage patterns, enabling rainwater to collect in a large mud puddle by a large “blanket” of black that somehow quivered with motion.

Why was that black “blanket” moving? It was a gregarious mob of star-spangle-jacketed European starlings! The congregation was more than our eyes could count. The pooled water had attracted a mega-flock of European starlings, some of which drank water while others waited nearby for their turns.

But more spectacular than these earth-bound starlings were their swarming legions of cousins, swirling, and looping in the air above—called a “murmuration” of starlings.7 This fluid flock of aerial acrobats were gracefully swirling, curving, arching, banking, spinning, irrupting, swerving, pouring, turning, dipping, spreading, blending, soaring—all in harmony, each one perfectly synced to one another like a living fabric of black-winged wonders, dancing in the wind, a choreographed choir of chattering starlings.

The starlings’ murmuration is more than “birds of a feather flock together.” This is “birds of a feather fly like a fluid-fabric together!” Truly an amazing display of God’s handiwork in flying feathers.7

As we watched in amazement at the synchronized motions of these little black (and somewhat iridescent) marvels, we thought about the high-speed harmony God has directed these starlings to implement in their humble little lives. God-honoring harmony—what a concept!

Accordingly, seeing hundreds (if not thousands) of European starlings, flying like a flexible fluid in choreographed unison, provides a birdwatching foretaste of someday seeing the heavenly host in action.6,7

Of course, if we “forsake the assembling of ourselves together” we cannot achieve any such mutually supportive and inter-relational choreography.2

In Texas, in recent days, we have been balancing contagious disease risks (as regulated by a recent executive order of the Texas governor,2 in conjunction with local mandates not inconsistent therewith) with the need to facilitate uninterrupted “essential services,” in conjunction with avoiding implementing a cure that is worse than the viral illness.

[Texas Governor’s Executive Order GA-14 provides:] … “Essential services” shall consist of everything listed by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security in its Guidance on the Essential Critical Infrastructure Workforce, Version 2.0 … plus religious services conducted in churches, congregations, and houses of worship.2

Meanwhile, whenever we do get together like “birds of a feather”—whether in person, or via online telecommunications—we do well to focus on our unity in Christ, which means prioritizing, proclaiming, and practicing the truth in love.8

References
1. Complaining (murmuring) is a serious sin producing terrible outcomes. See Exodus 16:2-12; Numbers 14:29; 1 Corinthians 10:10; Jude 1:16.
2. E.g., “Executive Order GA-14” of Texas Governor Greg Abbott (Austin Texas: March 31, 2020), incorporating by reference definitions and categories in Version 2.0 of “Advisory Memorandum on Identification of Essential Critical Infrastructure Workers during COVID-19 Response” from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (Cybersecurity & Infrastructure Security Agency), Washington, D.C. March 28, 2020—plus adding extra exceptions for protection of religious freedoms. See also Johnson, J. J. S. 2020. When Travel is Restricted, Be Honest and Trust God. COVID-19 News. Posted on ICR.org April 4, 2020, accessed April 10, 2020.
3. Hardy, C. 2020. Teaching Kids about Creation during Quarantine. COVID-19 News. Posted on ICR.org March 30, 2020, accessed April 10, 2020; Bowling, T. 2020. Citizenship on Earth and in Heaven. COVID-19 News. Posted on ICR.org April 5, 2020, accessed April 10, 2020; Pennington, L. 2020. Prison or Palace? COVID-19 News. Posted on ICR.org March 26, 2020, accessed April 10, 2020; Tomkins, J. 2020. New Study Confirms Coronavirus Quarantine Period. COVID-19 News. Posted on ICR.org April 3, 2020, accessed April 10, 2020.
4. Hebrews 10:25. This Scripture, as a biblical mandate, justifies constitutional (First Amendment-protected) religious liberty rights, so any governmental interference with religious assembly rights can only be legitimized to the extent that they directly accomplish governmental needs while minimally hindering religious liberty rights. See, accord, Wisconsin v. Yoder. 406 U.S. 205, 92 S. Ct. 1526 (1972), explained in Eidsmoe, J. 1995. Institute on the Constitution: A Study on Christianity and the Law of the Land. Marlborough, NH: Plymouth Rock Foundation, 78.
5. Romans 8:18-28. For encouraging insights on this Scripture, see Billups, T. 2020. Coronavirus, Evil, and the Redemption of God. COVID-19 News. Posted on ICR.org April 2, 2020, accessed April 10, 2020; Perry, W. 2020. Psalm 8 and COVID-19. COVID-19 News. Posted on ICR.org April 1, 2020, accessed April 10, 2020.
6. Revelation 7:8-12.
7. Flight of the Starlings. National Geographic. Posted on YouTube.com November 15, 2016, accessed April 10, 2020; Peterson, R. T. 1980. Peterson Field Guides: A Completely New Guide to All the Birds of Eastern and Central North America, Volume 1. Boston, MA: Houghton Mifflin, 256-257, and Map #334.
8. Ephesians 4:15-16.

*Dr. Johnson is Associate Professor of Apologetics and Chief Academic Officer at the Institute for Creation Research.
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