Did the Watchtower Give Women Bad Advice?

It is ever the pitfall of zealots that they are so eager to prove a point that, in their haste, they will grab something that proves just the opposite, yet continue to gloat as though have found the smoking gun. Such was the case when atheists at Friendly Atheist tore their hair out over “some truly horrific advice to women in abusive relationships,” from the December 2018 Watchtower magazine. They were to stay in them no matter what!

Well, that does sound truly horrific and there were many who immediately condemned the scoundrels who would give such a vile command. Others went to the article first, where they discovered that it says nothing of the sort.

Isn’t this just atheists depriving women of the right to choose? It is ironic because they generally claim to be champions of that right. The article makes clear that a woman always has a choice, that she need not be railroaded into an action just because it is societally popular.

Some leave amidst these very trying circumstances. Some stay. Either action works from the congregation’s point of view. They have the right to choose. How is that the Watchtower ‘urging them to stay with an abusive mate no matter what,’ the accusation of the atheists? If a woman wants to try to salvage a marriage, what business is that of theirs? It may be an unwise decision, or it may be the best decision she ever made, but either way, it is her decision.

Given the staggering cost of family breakup, emotional, mental, financial, and long-lasting damage to the kids, if a woman decides to stick it out more than athiests approve, with a view towards salvage, who is to say she is crazy? Possibly reading this post are veterans of two, three, four, or more failed relationships who wish they had put more effort into a given one. If she pulls it off, she has gained something very good.

These are not short-term hookings-up that we are speaking of, latching on to some loser that you cut loose as soon as you see what he is. These are marriages of years or decades’ duration. In some cases, they never used to be abusive but they have become so due to who knows what factors? Dignify the woman as having the judgement to decide, based upon history, pressures affecting her man, and factors only she might know, as to whether he should be jettisoned or not.  If the lout has to go, he goes. Just don’t let some third party push you into it. The choice is always hers.

It is as though the grumblers cheer at the breakup of a marriage, oblivious to the damage left in its wake. It is as though they would prevent one from trying to repair theirs. Let her try if she wants to, or even put up with one far from ideal, if that be her choice. Sometimes when you are between a rock and a hard place, you don’t assume or let the atheists tell you that the hard place is really a bed of roses. It isn't always that way. I mean, it is not exactly as they will be around to repair the damage, is it?

Okay, granted, they like marriage over there in the Jehovah’s Witness world. Until fairly recently, everybody did, and considered family the bedrock of society. Witnesses consider it a divine institution. That doesn’t mean others have to, but surely it means Witness women should be allowed to. They let their view be bound by biblical injunctions. Adultery is the one acceptable ground for ending a marriage, but even then, it does not have to be; it is always possible for the innocent mate to exercise his or her right of choice and forgiveness.

Several decades ago the Witness organization took note, as did all of society, of the increasingly visible ne’er-do-wells who, while they might not be unfaithful, were nonetheless ugly to live with. It took another look at 1 Corinthians 7, a chapter that deals with marital matters, and sometimes people are surprised at how it says a husband and wife both owe each other sex (no, not ‘on demand’ – don’t even go there) and should not be depriving the other of it. Specifically, they looked at verses 12 and 13: “If any brother has an unbelieving wife and she is agreeable to staying with him, let him not leave her; and if a woman has an unbelieving husband and he is agreeable to staying with her, let her not leave her husband.” 'Maybe a marriage mate’s conduct says he is ‘not agreeable,’ regardless of what his words say,' they reasoned.

For some time, therefore the guidance for women (or men) in not-so-hot marriages is that there are three conditions that any one of which might justify separation sans tongues clucking: if there is extreme physical abuse, if there is willful non-support, and if there is absolute endangerment of spirituality. It is at once apparent that much in is the eye of the beholder, so from time to time Watchtower publications revisit the subject, so that congregation members are guided by what they signed on for in the first place, and not unduly influenced by what is all the rage elsewhere. If the bad egg must be fried, let him fry. A woman always has that right. But she needn’t feel railroaded into that choice by a flood of outside pressure.

Any Witness woman knows this, because she has read and considered the entire article, not just the cherry-picked paragraph, and she has taken into account how it fits into her overall framework of knowledge. You almost begin to think what causes the steam to emit from atheist ears is another possible benefit of the woman’s forsaking her right to leave: Maybe the ‘unbelieving’ husband will become a believing one. How is that a bad thing?  If the guy makes it as a Jehovah's Witness, he will have made significant inroads against what makes him such a loser in the first place. 

Read the entire article here.

Argument

 


Did the Bible Writer Malachi have Teenagers?

Either Malachi had teenagers or all teenagers have read Malachi. How else can you explain his style of writing?

Everything is a challenge. Malachi is the last Bible book – a short job of just four chapters:

“I have shown love to you people,” says Jehovah. But you say: “How have you shown us love?”

And if I am a master, where is the fear due me?’ Jehovah of armies says to you priests who are despising my name.” But you say: “How have we despised your name?

“‘By presenting polluted food on my altar.’ ‘And you say: “How have we polluted you?”’

“You have made Jehovah weary with your words. But you say, ‘How have we made him weary?’

Return to me, and I will return to you,” says Jehovah of armies. But you say: “How are we supposed to return?”

“Will a mere human rob God? But you are robbing me.” And you say: “How have we robbed you?”

“Your words against me have been strong,” says Jehovah. And you say: “How have we spoken against you among ourselves?”

Enough already! Everything is challenged! Everything is hurled back in his face.

Malachi is the last book of the Hebrew scriptures. Just for kicks, turn the page. Find yourself in the gospels and roll that attitude onto Mary, mother of Jesus. (Luke 1:26-28)

"In her sixth month, the angel Gabriel was sent from God to…Mary. And coming in, the angel said to her: “Greetings, you highly favored one, Jehovah is with you.”

“In what way is he with me?” she shoots back.

“Forget it!” comes the reply. “There is my servant Ethel. She’ll do fine.”

Whatever is wrong with Mary - not smart-mouthing the angel?


There Has to Be a Limit to Insolence

Either Malachi had sulky kids or all sulky kids have read Malachi. How else can you explain his style of writing?

Everything is a challenge. Malchi is the last Bible book – a short job of just four chapters:

“I have shown love to you people,” says Jehovah. But you say: “How have you shown us love?”

And if I am a master, where is the fear due me?’ Jehovah of armies says to you priests who are despising my name.” But you say: “How have we despised your name?

“‘By presenting polluted food on my altar.’ ‘And you say: “How have we polluted you?”’

“You have made Jehovah weary with your words. But you say, ‘How have we made him weary?’

Return to me, and I will return to you,” says Jehovah of armies. But you say: “How are we supposed to return?”

“Will a mere human rob God? But you are robbing me.” And you say: “How have we robbed you?”

“Your words against me have been strong,” says Jehovah. And you say: “How have we spoken against you among ourselves?”

Enough already! Everything is challenged! Everything is hurled back in his face.

Malachi is the last book of the Hebrew scriptures. Just for kicks, turn the page. Find yourself in the gospels and roll that attitude onto Mary, mother of Jesus. (Luke 1:26-28)

"In her sixth month, the angel Gabriel was sent from God to…Mary. And coming in, the angel said to her: “Greetings, you highly favored one, Jehovah is with you.”

“In what way is he with me?” she shoots back.
“Forget it!” comes the reply. “There is my servant Ethel. She’ll do fine.”

I mean, there has to be a limit to insolence.

Geishaboy500

photo: geishaboy500


Can't a Man Drink His Coffee in Peace, for Crying Out Loud?

With outdoor temps in the 90s, I was at the swimming hole yesterday. A lot of young people were there. Tattooed have never offended me, but the kids do look like walking billboards these days.

I once knew a young woman of artistic bent who was heavily tattooed, including her neck and face. She came to regret it because people formed an instant impression of her different from what she wanted to project.

I refuse to even wear a tee shirt with printing on it, though I may one day have one printed up with an image I like a lot. Image


Sir, can I interest you in some kitchenware?

You can listen In on the phone line when you miss a meeting, but I chose not to do it. I remembered my old man’s words from long ago: “let him go hungry if he can’t be bothered to show up for dinner – I guarantee it won’t happen twice.” Besides, I didn’t want to hear Sister Faithful comment: “So we must all remember our vow to Jehovah. We should not be like Brother Harley, sitting on his rear end at home, trading his birthright for a bowl of garage sale soup!”

Yeah, but it was a nice garage sale. For once in our lives, it was worth holding. Everyone knows I don’t do garage sales. By the time Harleys are done with something, there ain’t nothing left of it to sell. It’s different this time. We are seriously downsizing, so as to spare our kids some not so fine day the nightmare that my wife’s parents neglected to spare us. Plus, we have significant items from the home of the Great Forgetter to add. It’s a piece of cake to sneak them out before him, for he is also the All Unseeing One. Even if he should catch you red-handed, he immediately forgets what he has caught.

All Forgetting and All Unseeing. It’s a lethal combination. It reminds me of my words to a coworker about the public we both served. "Ican deal with a stupid person. I can deal with a belligerent person. But a stupid AND a belligerent person stops me in my tracks." "Yeah, that’s pretty unstoppable,” he agreed.

I was even ready for the pro who unfailingly appears at the crack of dawn to scoop up everything not junk. Sort of, anyway. “We’re not set up yet,” I told him, “you’re welcome to look around but I’m not dealing on anything.” One person later told me of an ad which read: “Prices doubled if you arrive early.”

Also later on that morning, someone grabbed a four dollar item and asked if I could throw in a 75 cents item for free. It’s not a big deal – usually I would, but we were just getting started. I said that, for now, I would hold firm. She got huffy and threw down both items! “I don’t want to deal with people like you!” she steamed. I almost told her I’d let her have them both for six dollars.

So it was a worthwhile garage sale. It justified missing a meeting. It was not like the garage sale decades ago in the poor neighborhood, in which the upstairs tenant held out a dented pot to a wandering derelict: “Sir, can I interest you in some kitchenware?”

 


You, Too, You Silly Kid - Double Down on the Cyberbullies

"Are you 14, 15 or 16 years old? Did you do something really humiliating or kinky and has it been photographed, or worse yet, captured on video? Either solo or with someone else? Do vicious people threaten to post it online and launch it viral?...I can’t imagine the pressure a youngster must face thinking humiliating photos may go viral.


"The greatest lesson Trump will teach you has nothing to do with governing. He will teach you about surviving end-of-the-world humiliation.’ The words he never thought would see the light of day became more familiar than the Lord’s Prayer. What would he do? Imagine that family of his – they must all have been humiliated and shocked! What of his own pain? Even the ten-year-old had to have heard it.


"Did he wither away and die? He quickened his pace! He doubled down! Hours before the second debate he called a news conference - reporters never ran so fast. ‘We’ve got him! We’ve got him! He’ll plead - he’ll beg forgiveness - he’ll cry, but it will do him no good! We’ll make him grovel and grovel and grovel some more, then we’ll kick him to the curb broken, like we’ve broken hundreds before him!’ But it was a trap! He’d put together three persons guaranteed to embarrass them! Their jaws hit the floor as they burst into that room, their reactions caught on camera.


"You, too, you silly kid! Double down! We’re all silly at one time or another, and many are silly till the day they die. You’ll never be silly again, and if it actually works that way, this nightmare will not be a bad thing. This is your fifteen minutes of fame, but not the fame you ever imagined. You may get more. It doesn’t matter. Double down! Be like Mona in the ministry when the householder answered the door naked to unnerve her. “I’m a registered nurse,” she told him. “You don’t have anything I haven’t seen before!”


"It’s the same with you. You’ve got nothing that anyone hasn’t seen before. You’ve done nothing that anyone else might not have done but for the grace of God. Beautiful children are committing suicide out of mortification their embarrassing deeds will be posted for the world to see! Tell them: ‘that photo you have of me strutting about naked? Well, there’s an even worse one of me masturbating that you don’t have!’ You’ve got nothing that anyone else doesn’t have. Double down on those bastards – or they will eat you for lunch! They will even kill you if you go suicide.


"You’re in over your head, aren’t you? Seek out someone – a parent, an elder, a friend – and spill. You may be pleasantly surprised. Or you may find you’ve chosen wrong and it blows up in your face. It doesn’t matter. Choose again. One of them may even call a cop and if that happens you are likely to find an arsenal of anti-bully warriors at your side.


"Scared you’ll be humiliated before your friends? Terrified that your parents will be crushed? Worried you may catch heat from the elders? Look, it was a stupid thing you did, but people have been stupid since the beginning of time. Pay no attention to the damned SPCA’s when they tell you things are getting rosier and rosier – they don’t look too rosy at the moment, do they? Drop to your knees and pour your heart out to God – he knows a lot of people – you’ll be okay. It’s a vicious world that lures and breaks children, but don’t let it happen to you. Fess up before whoever you must, for they, too, are human. Take the hit and start afresh. In a few months, it will be someone else’s turn and everyone will forget about you."

From: No Fake News but Plenty of Hogwash


Look, Mommy: Two mommies!

Sophia saw the picture her classmate made, the classmate with two mommies. ‘What is important is that two love each other,’ the teacher (always on the cutting edge of such things) said.

So Sophia’s mom explained how these things work. No one need miss the plane, but they will have to leave the forbidden baggage behind before passing through the screener. Or wait for their own plane. Cart witnessing

The four-year-old who watched that video was impressed. Then he watched another video, of two sisters cart-witnessing. “Look, mommy,” he said, “two mommies.”


Love, Marriage, and Politicians

As politicians go, they're popular. As politicians go, they're capable...Mayor Michael Bloomberg of New York City, and Governor Andrew Cuomo of New York State. Following notable trainwrecks of governorship, Cuomo has made inroads on the seemingly impossible.... prodding, cajoling, and otherwise leaning upon the notoriously dysfunctional State government to....well....function, at least to a degree. Don't get me wrong. He has a long long way to go. But he's made some progress, whereas predecessors have all broken apart on the unyielding rocks of intransigence.

So imagine my dismay when State Senator (and Pentecostal preacher!) Ruben Diaz blasts Cuomo and Bloomberg on the blogosphere for being “unmarried fornicators!” Wow! Talk about letting your light shine with a flame-thrower! I didn't know anything of their private lives, nor was I curious, but it turns out that  both men live with long-time girlfriends, not wives.ImagesCAOQECS1 “I, for my part, don’t want to offend anyone,” wrote Diaz on a cable show website, “but the Bible, the word of God, calls it fornication to live as husband and wife without having made this union a wedding officially blessed by God and man.”

Now, what are we to make of this? On the one hand.....

Sheesh! Were these two fellows elected to patch roads and herd politicians or teach Sunday School? Can't a guy learn to mind his own business? Whatever happened to 1 Thess 4:17-18, the famous MYOB verse, a verse some of us have learned to wear as a shield:

….make it your aim to live quietly and to mind your own business and work with your hands, just as we ordered you; so that you may be walking decently as regards people outside and not be needing anything. 

Or can we not catch more than a whiff of disapproval in Paul's next letter to that town of busybodies:

For we hear certain ones are walking disorderly among you, not working at all but meddling with what does not concern them.    2 Thess 3:11

John the Baptist pulled a stunt like this, and it cost him his head. Did he come to regret it?

For John had repeatedly said to Herod: “It is not lawful for you to be having the wife of your brother.” But Herodias was nursing a grudge against him and was wanting to kill him, but could not. For Herod stood in fear of John, knowing him to be a righteous and holy man; and he was keeping him safe.......But a convenient day came along when Herod spread an evening meal on his birthday for his top-ranking men and the military commanders and the foremost ones of Galilee. And the daughter of this very Herodias came in and danced and pleased Herod and those reclining with him. The king said to the maiden: “Ask me for whatever you want, and I will give it to you.” Yes, he swore to her: “Whatever you ask me for, I will give it to you, up to half my kingdom.....She said:....“I want you to give me right away on a platter the head of John the Baptist.” Although he became deeply grieved, yet the king did not want to disregard her, in view of the oaths and those reclining at the table. So the king immediately dispatched a body guardsman and commanded him to bring his head. And he went off and beheaded him in the prison and brought his head on a platter.     Mark 6:17-28

If Cuomo and Bloomberg are anything like Herod, Senator and Preacher Diaz should watch out. That's one way to look at it.

On the other hand.....

If Sen Diaz is “digging up dirt,” he certainly didn't invent the technique. Since time immemorial, accelerating in recent decades, politicians have gleefully slung mud at each other for pure mean political advantage. The excellent example playing out as I write is the Republican Primary race. (do we conclude anything from the fact that supporters in this contest physically resemble their candidates? I defy you to watch coverage and not be struck with that impression) Diaz, however, makes his charges not for political gain, but out of moral outrage. I respect that. After all, I, Tom Sheepandgoats, well-known in circles of matrimonial bliss for spoiling rotten the fabulously omnipresent Mrs Sheepandgoats, can hardly be expected not to empathize with Diaz, even if he is sticking his nose into what's none of his business.

Or is it indeed none of his business?

The reason Diaz gives for his remarks certainly rings true. “Everyone living in this situation is reinforcing the idea that it is okay to live in common law without being married” I give him credit for inserting common sense into a world that wants no part of it. We are heavily swayed by the example of others. It's so tempting to deny this, because it's a very unflattering truth. The selfish, the over-educated, and the headstrong do deny this, so as to pursue whatever they want to pursue without twinge of guilt or responsibility. But when a new fad appears on the scene, and within ten years we're all doing it....even as we look aghast at our photos 30 years ago....how did we ever think those glasses did anything for us?.....it's so flattering to the ego to think our vulnerability to our surroundings only extends to the trivial. It's so flattering, yet it's also so ridiculous. In matters small and great, we run with the herd. Barn doorSo Sen Diaz is absolutely right to insist public examples exert influence, whether they're meant to or not. Trouble is, isn't it a little late in the game to close the barn door?

I'm reminded again of the Circuit Overseer's remarks: “70* years ago the differences between Jehovah's Witnesses and churchgoers in general were ones of doctrine.” That is, conduct and morality was pretty much the same. Why have we retained traditional morality, whereas most lost it long ago? Because we've internalized Diaz' sentiments within our own organization. Because we have organization that insists upon studying God's sayings and adhering to them. Because we try to choose friends in harmony with that end. Because we realize that bad examples will influence others. Because we have internal discipline to curb bad influences. Believe me, we are roundly chastised for it by those who cherish blowing whichever way does the wind. But it has served to maintain Bible morality among us. Many churches also used to apply discipline to their members. But when they noticed parishioners didn't like it, they gave it up.

(* adjusted for the date spoken)


On the other hand......

The reason John the Baptist could get away with it (if having your head chopped off can be called “getting away with it”), or rather, the reason he could upbraid Herod for his unorthodox marriage without going down in history as a busybody or a template for Senator Diaz, is that Herod claimed to be a Jewish proselyte. He claimed to worship Jehovah. Does Coumo? Does Bloomberg? Not that I'm aware of. So what business are their private lives of mine? It would be like me reaching into the Catholic or Presbyterian church and demanding they make their folks adhere to Bible standards. Why would I do that? It's not my business.

Chalk this up to one of the oldest disputes regarding the role of religion toward the general world. Ought one stay at arms-length from it, keeping “no part of the world” while through a ministry inviting individuals from it to take a stand for God's Kingdom? Or ought one role up one's shirtsleeves, dive in and fix the world, or even convert it, viewing that as your ministry? We think the former, but many church groups think the latter.

If you think the role of Christians is to fix the world, then you have to fix the world with the tools you have. Thus, Senator Diaz' reprimand is entirely appropriate. But from the ranks of folks like him arise those who insist America is a “Christian nation,” and so strive with all their might to impose their standards upon it, (an impossible task, since the very idea of sovereign nations is foreign to God's will) and who might well blow Republican chances this election by ignoring all factors except religious affiliation in the candidates. Thus, Mitt Romney, widely considered the most viable of Republican choices, emerges a weak candidate from the Republican primary race (unless it occurs to his campaign to register dead voters).

But Jehovah's Witnesses view their role toward the world along the lines of 2 Corinthians 5:20:

We are therefore ambassadors substituting for Christ, as though God were making entreaty through us. As substitutes for Christ we beg: “Become reconciled to God.”

In short, using words of the verse, we invite persons to embrace God's purpose as their own, to become reconciled to him. It's a process that begins with a Bible study, which is how one finds out what God's purpose is. If someone reaches the point of wanting to “reconcile to God,” then, by degrees, he conforms his life to God's standards. But if he doesn't reach that point, if he has no interest in making inquiry, what business is it of ours how he live his lives? None. We don't try to make it such, nosing into his life to tweak this or that practice, let alone blasting him in public. Will there one day be an accounting for rejecting God's purpose and standards? JWs think so....you know they do.....but it won't be at our hands. We fancy ourselves ambassadors of a kingdom, no more. We invite, we don't meddle. It's an important distinction, though perhaps one lost upon someone woken up Saturday morning at 9:30.

*****************************

 

Tom Irregardless and Me     No Fake News but Plenty of Hogwash


Love, Marriage, and Soulmates

When I became a JW in the 1970's, I would tell people divorce was unheard of among us; it simply never happened. It wasn't true.
 
But it was almost true. Divorce was rare enough that a new person might think it was true, and I did. Back then, there might be a couple dozen divorces within the entire circuit, and that would be cumulative, not per annum. Not anymore. Nobody today has the slightest difficulty listing any number of divorced persons. In fact, someone even tried to tell me that, here in the West, divorces are slightly more frequent among JWs than the general population. I don't think that's true, just based upon what I see. But it might be true if one considers that huge swaths of people just don't bother with marriage anymore; they simply cohabit. Thus, should they break up, it does nothing to “harm the stats.”
 
Several years ago, I worked a part-time job that put me shoulder to shoulder with lots of young people. They'd ask how long I'd been married and do a doubletake when I told them. Products of divorce, separation, and single-parent families, they'd never come across someone married so long. Can you really expect that they're going to commit themselves to a model they've never seen work? So they simply live together when the time comes. Those who formalize their relationship into marriage may have lived together so long that their relationship is like an old comfortable shoe, unlikely to pinch.

But long-married folks among us know how marriage is. It's built on love and loyalty. You find just that right person to start with.... personalities that click, common interests, goals and so forth, and then you add in shared experiences, lots of communication, and deliberate acts of kindness expressed towards each other. You put time and effort into it. It's like sewing, really. Hundreds of tiny stitches, adding more all the time, to bind the garment ever tighter as one. It's all very fine. It builds over years and years.

And then one day someone comes along out of the blue, someone with whom you've done none of these things, and immediately narrows the gap by half simply by being themselves! What's with that? A “soulmate”? A “treacherous heart?” Or a bit of both?  Let's face it – people today love the idea of soulmates. 

Mrs. Sheepandgoats and I have talked through these things before. We have a good marriage. We don't have a perfect marriage. Are there any of those? We mesh as one on some things. We're quite unlike on others. We've worked through issues, like, really, any other lasting couple I know of.

That's why it irked me a little when I stumbled across that film Before Sunset, though at the same time I liked it a lot because it dealt intelligently with the attraction of soulmates.  It doesn't use the actual word, probably so as not to be assigned the category of “new age babble,” but it sure does explore the concept. It's a talky movie, full of persuasive, unforced, seemingly spontaneous dialogue, most of it filmed in long 6 or 7 minute takes while the two characters, man and woman, are strolling the streets of Paris. These two have reunited after a too-brief chance encounter ten years ago. It seemed, back then, that they were made for each other. They felt that instinctive attraction. They meant to develop and continue the relationship, but alas, circumstances yanked them apart and they did not reconnect until now – ten years later. In the meantime, they've both built lives, taken responsibilities, one of them is married with child.

What I like is that the soulmate notion is explored so well...we feel as they that developing awareness that they've both passed on that one person...each other...with whom they were meant to be. Moreover, the film develops so gradually you don't for a moment find it contrived. Ever so gradually it unfolds that this married fellow isn't happy with how his life has turned out, nor the woman with hers. His marriage is like a prison, he at long last confesses; he's married to a wonderful person, mind you, no one says otherwise, but just the wrong person. And when we learn why the he wrote his best-selling book in the first place....for that's the opening of the film: he's on a book tour promoting it.....you should think Slumdog Millionaire. He wrote the book about her, the only way he could think of to find her again! It's emotionally moving, I admit. That's what I like.

What I don't like is how conventional marriage suffers in comparison. Don't you have to cultivate a marriage? If this guy's marriage is a “prison,” isn't it through this own neglect? He's surely cultivated his career with due diligence, as we are made well aware. Would that he put the same effort into his marriage. But you know how it is with folks today. Relationships must be “pure heart,” no effort required. Thus, we have that stupid 1970 film Love Story, with it's silly “Love means never having to say you're sorry.” Any effort implies that perhaps the relationship is phony to begin with, and is not “meant to be.”
 
Though, having said that, if I recall correctly, this Before Sunset fellow married so as to be a responsible father to the child he had conceived. That's not the best foundation upon which to build, is it? Doesn't it serve to remind that you ought to go conceiving after the stable relationship is established, not before? I tell you, it makes me grateful to be one of Jehovah's Witnesses, a faith which has “held the line” regarding marriage over the past century, while most everyone else has learned to accommodate a new morality....to be satisfied with, not necessarily marriage, but merely a “caring relationship.” Okay, okay, so JWs show the strains of withstanding the new anti-marriage environment. We've even adapted to the times, and in the last few decades have listed a few scenarios....essentially, when you're married to someone who's just plain no good....under which separation is understandable. I mean, there are people with whom you just can't do much. Still, the JW stance is a far cry from most groups, who have thrown the marriage model overboard altogether, and how many of us might not have fared well were it not for that strong framework? For marriage, as practiced in most quarters today, is not thought to be a permanent bond, but simply a manifestation of hopeful intentions. You see your lawyer beforehand to draw up the pre-nups in case it doesn't work out.
 
However, back to the movie, and, of course, "true love" wins out at the end.....doesn't it always with new-age people?....this fellow reunites with his soulmate, presumably leaving his wonderful wife (and child) behind to fend for themselves.... responsibly, of course, with financial support and so forth. And, glory of glories, now that the very cosmos are aligned, doubtless the dumped wife (and child) are now freed to be reunited with their own soulmates! So it's a win-win-(win).
 
Now, what to make over all this?
 
With several billion men and women on the planet....you're not going to meet too many of them before marrying one for yourself, are you? So, after marriage, it would seem there's no way you're not going to run across someone, sooner or later, who appears more compatible than your own spouse! But if you've cultivated, sewn, and built upon your own marriage, shouldn't you be able to withstand a soulmate “assault?” Especially if you put some distance between yourselves. Whereas if you've cultivated, sewn, and built upon every other aspect of your life, while allowing the marriage to become a weed patch, it's likely doomed to extinction. Or you come to regard it as “a prison,” which isn't much better. Build on the marriage, however, and it becomes a great source of happiness, stability, loyalty, and love, even if you scratch your head sometimes over a “what if” soulmate scenario.
 
Besides, I 'm not so sure about “soulmates,” anyway. In the mid 1980's author Richard Bach brought soulmates to the masses. He was already well-known...a somewhat spacey character who authored Jonathan Livingston Seagull. His book stayed on the New York Times bestseller list for years, and spawned a movie scored by Neil Diamond. But then he went off on a well-publicized quest to find the "perfect match," the "one and only" for whom he was "meant to be!" He found her! He married her! His one true soulmate! His disciples swooned with joy and ecstasy! He spun a few books off the experience. He became THE soulmate guru. Years of natural bliss ensued. And then......don't you know....he divorced her! His soulmate!!! They say he received death threats from fans, who felt betrayed and who perhaps began to look apprehensively at their own soulmates. Read up on it here and here, if you like.
 
So it's intriguing, that notion of soulmates, but I hesitate to put too much stock into it.
 
Nonetheless, let's pursue this a bit. Wouldn't it also be the case that atheism, which is all the rage today, increases the appeal of the “soulmate?” I mean, if this life is truly all there is, then time's running short. You don't want to waste your remaining decades with the “wrong” person, and if you should happen to meet that “right” person....well.....better change horses now while there's yet time. And since, just playing the odds, you're always going to meet someone more “right” than the one you have now, just where does it end? Aren't you apt, if you really follow soulmate propaganda, to merely end up with a lifetime of failed relationships?

But with a healthy belief in God, one can take the long-range view. Doesn't the Bible even instruct that this life is not the real life, anyway....that the “real life” doesn't commence until 1000 years into the new system of God's kingdom rule over earth? So I don't know why we can't be patient, and learn to enjoy the trip. It seems sure to be a good destination in store, since God “is opening his hand and satisfying the desire of every living thing.” (Ps 145:16)
 
It's an alluring anomaly, that of soulmates. I think we lose a lot of marriages to it. Not all. Doubtless much divorce is just good ol sleaze and lust, today's world plastering illicit sex all over the place, so that people come to think of nothing else. Thus, we Watchtower readers are always hearing about trading one's relationship with God for “a few moments of pleasure.” But with the ever-increasing awareness of ones own emotional well-being that pop culture insists we all must cultivate, one begins to wonder about marriage itself. I mean, it doesn't, as practiced today, really take into account “soulmates,” does it? And yet soulmates would appear to be a good thing. Or is it all just Richard Bachian new-age drivel?
 
Being 1000 years removed from perfection, it's a little hard to tell. (Rev 20:1-6) We're an awfully self-indulgent people right now, living in an world that insists upon satisfying immediate desires. A “god of their belly” world, where people mind only “things on the earth.” Says Paul:
 
For there are many, I used to mention them often but now I mention them also with weeping, who are walking as the enemies of the torture stake of the Christ, and their finish is destruction, and their god is their belly, and their glory consists in their shame, and they have their minds upon things on the earth.     Phil 3:18-19
 
Perhaps it will be that, upon continual cultivation of one's own marriage over time, our spouse, whoever they are, becomes our full blown soulmate. Or, for all I know, marriage itself may turn out to be primarily a provision to get us through our time of imperfection....an arrangement tailor-made for this system, necessary for now, an acceptable way to interact with the opposite sex and provide a framework for raising the next generation, but due to become obsolete 1000 years into the new system, when the originally intended condition of humankind has been realized. Or maybe not. Dunno. It's a 'wait and see.' But we'd do a lot of changing in 1000 years, even without the burden of human imperfection removed. What might we do when it is removed?
 
You can almost read the possibility in the current wedding vows: “for as long as we both shall live together on earth according to God’s marital arrangement.” While that might imply permanence, doesn't it also allow for the possibility that “God's marital arrangement” might one day, 1000 years from now, change? You must admit, it is one way to resolve that perplexing question of why resurrected ones are said not to marry.
 
But I haven't the foggiest. No one knows. We don't get it all, in this system of things, nor do we even know what the “all” is. But we do know that, regarding God, he is “opening his hand and satisfying the desire of every living thing.” And really, that ought to suffice.

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Tom Irregardless and Me  No Fake News but Plenty of Hogwash


Jim and Pam and Ray Goth

 

Deep within the comment section of a certain prior post, whilst I’m being pummeled from the right by religionist whining, and from the left with atheist blather, comes a plea from Ray Goth, an occasional correspondent. I’m to help him salvage his love life!

Hey Tom,

This really has nothing to do with this post, so...yeah...but, I figure you're older and wiser [he got the first one right] than me; and we've had some fairly in-depth conversations, so, why not?

I'm in a pretty messed up situation with this girl. Morally, ethically, whatever...yeah...it's just bad. But, it's so right, and I know that we're really right for one another, in a way that I've never felt in any of my previous relationships. Like, all those cheesy 80's and early 90's romantic comedies...for the rest of my life, if nothing works out with this girl, I'll think to myself "There goes my wife..."

But it's a really messed up situation...What do you do? I mean, I guess I'm asking from the point of view of not having you say "Wait and pray about it," because, I feel like that's where I'm at anyway. Just...how do you go about your life when you know something is so right, that you want to be with someone for the rest of your life and are so completely happy and comfortable with them and being so unsure that it's ever going to work out for entirely external factors?

Thanks,

Ray Goth

I get this kind of request all the time and, frankly, it’s a great distraction from my important work here at the Whitepebble Religious Institute. Moreover, helping out with someone’s relationship difficulties is foreign territory for me since my life with Mrs. Sheepandgoats has never been anything but 24/7 marital bliss. Time was when I would fob a query like this off on an assistant, perhaps Tom Pearlsandswine. But Pearlsandswine recently read an article critical of Charles Russell, and he has defected, saying “how can this be the truth?!” I met him at the Institute door and tried to reason with him but he told me: “Go to hell!”

So now he believes that, too. Very well, Ray. I’ll do what I can in person to help.

You have to pay attention to the chemistry between Jim and Pam of The Office, particularly during seasons one and two. In the first season, Jim pines away every episode for an unavailable Pam. In the second season, it’s exactly the opposite. The writers of that show are not just funny; they are astute, and have a good grasp of how men and women respond to each other.

Season 1: Jim loves Pam. He cutsies up to her all season, horsing around, playing tricks on the co-workers, and so forth. He probably wouldn’t even be at this silly job were it not that he wants to see her. Pam likes him a lot. Does she love him? It sure seems so, but she’s engaged to Roy. Now, Roy is an inconsiderate lout - we all know it. He probably does love her, but he takes her absolutely for granted - one possession among many, and runner-up to drinking buddies, car and sports. How many years has he stretched out this engagement? She deserves better - why did she ever agree to marry this clod? Most likely, (strictly my guess) her dad is just like him. A woman (and vice versa) will often be drawn to someone like her father because that’s the pattern she’s seen all her life - it’s the only type of man she can relate to, warts and all.

Having strung us along all season, Jim tells Pam he loves her madly in the final episode. Well, it’s about time, you weak-kneed idiot! Now, surely, all will be well. But no! Pam is disquieted and confused. She’s not admitted to herself any feelings for Jim. What’s the point, since she’s not available? She’s got to marry Roy.

Season 2: “It’s over,” Jim says to himself. He put his cards on the table. She said no. There’s nothing more to be done, so he leaves town, taking that job in Connecticut. Guys do things like that, especially guys that make inordinate fuss about facts and logic.

Fact: He said he loved her.

Fact: She said no.

Conclusion: Case closed. Leave town.

But - the moron - anyone with the slightest understanding of women knows the case is not closed. Pam simply needs time to adjust to the idea, that’s all. Throughout the second season, she pines away for Jim, who doesn’t have a clue - even though he’s been transferred back to the original office - because, in his mind, the matter is settled. He’s even got himself a new girlfriend - might as well move on in life, he reasons. Meanwhile Roy self-destructs, as we all knew he would.

The point, Ray, that you have to be persistent. And patient. Just because she doesn’t come around immediately doesn’t mean she never will. Men and women process thought and events differently. Not only must you be persistent, you must be willing and able to hear her out, to make her concerns yours. That does not mean you have to fix them! Men are always thinking they have to get in there and fix things, but understanding a situation and her feelings is better than fixing it. Women often want listening more than fixing. Of course, if she’s tied to the railroad tracks with the train approaching, you might want to fix that. But in general, listening is your best move. And whatever you do, don’t show yourself obsessed over sex! Women - for the life of me, I don’t know where they get this from - often think that men “are only after one thing.” If this is truly Miss Right, you must rise above the instinct. Sex does not make faulty relationships well.

Actually, Jehovah’s Witnesses, you likely know, are among that vanishing breed that reserves sex for marriage, and considers it off-limits elsewhere. We needn’t go into that here, only to say that sex relations creates an enormous emotional bond, which muddies the waters as to seeing the other person clearly, and is a source of major frustration if a person is not prepared to follow through with continued commitment. Even if one imagines they are doing it just for sport, that is no guarantee the other thinks that, or that one or both party might change at any time. As the ad used to say: “it’s not nice to fool Mother Nature.”

And, as the geezers from the old country will still say (to their daughters): “why buy the cow when you can have the milk for free?” But this is a vanishing lifestyle these days. Once it was the norm, even if it was not always strictly adhered to. But, in our day, Jehovah’s Witnesses and a handful of others are pretty much the only ones still attempting to live thus.

Now, a couple of caveats to the Jim and Pam scenario:

1.) When I tell you to be persistent, I am taking you at your word (and my general impression) that you are a good guy, an attitudinal cousin of Jim. If you were a lummox like Roy, “be persistent” is the worst advice I could give. Miss Right would justifiably hate me for it. But guys like Roy seldom ask for such advice. They are already convinced they are God’s gift to women, and they are unmercifully persistent, much to any sensible woman’s disgust.

2.) There is a bell curve for men and a bell curve for women. When I say that “women are this” or “men are that,” it is understood that there is great variety in individuals and that they might rest anywhere on their bell curve, even to the point of reversing roles in some areas where both persons sit toward the edges of their overlappinng curves. For the bell curves, while they may overlap some, are not the same. They are different, and it is the averages I have described. There really is a “men from Mars, women from Venus” phenomenon.

3.) Jim and Pam are storybook characters. Yes, the writers are astute, but it is still fiction. Are you really the kind of guy Jim is? Could I even depend upon you to take Miss Right to the Kingdom Hall regularly? (wait….strike that….that’s for another post)

Worrisomely, you admit to having messed up morally, ethically, and whatever. I mean, it’s good you admit to it, but worrisome you have done it. Of course, we are all human, and who hasn’t, to some extent, shot themselves in the foot before? What are we to make of your confession? Typical man! huffs Mrs. Sheepandgoats: he gives no details and just expects you to read his mind! (Note: I am not prying here. cl took a similar statement of mine as an invitation to dump a busload of anti-Russell, anti-NWT tripe on me!) You have messed up. So you have some fixing to do - not of her, but of yourself - and you must persuade her that the fixing is genuine. And it must really be genuine. Are you ready for a permanent relationship? Alas, I have no way of knowing from here.

Relationships take work. Ideally, you start off with someone close enough to your heart that real love can develop. But that will not negate the need for work, self-examination, and ongoing communication to keep the relationship growing and healthy. Unfortunately, we live in a quick gratification society in which, instead of working through problems, people are inclined to conclude that the relationship was “not meant to be” and run off looking for the perfect soul-mate, who they once thought was the person at hand, but no longer do. My guess is that atheists would be especially susceptable to this kind of reasoning, since for them the clock is always ticking, the end draws near, and this life is all there is.

Ray, I hope within this mass of words there is something you can run with. As for me, though ours is a culture obsessed with youth, I’m sort of glad to have reached the age in which personal dramas are all sorted out, in which one has come to know oneself - who he is and who he isn’t - and perhaps offer something to another generation (who won’t listen). Not to say that all things have gone swimmingly in my life; some have, whereas others have sort of fizzled, but the point is that it is done, and one can move on to another stage of life.

It may suffice simply to show Miss Right this post. That may solve all your woes. Or she might break the laptop over your head - it’s a tough prediction from here. Or she might dump you altogether and try to schmooze up to me! But it won’t do her any good. I am married to the gracious, lama-loving, blog-tolerating Mrs. Sheepandgoats. Besides, I am older than your Miss Right by half an ice age.

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Tom Irregardless and Me               No Fake News but Plenty of Hogwash