About root causes of the 2008 financial collapse! [the one replaying in Europe at this writing] Aren't you worried he may ask embarrassing questions?
Is it really so that Mormons brought us Proposition 8, that 2008 California referendum that banned gay marriage, and that Jehovah's Witnesses overturned? Really? Well.....no, it's not really so. But there is something to it.
Mormons didn't originate that campaign to change the state's constitution. A group called Pro Marriage was responsible. Mormons did, however, rally in a big way to ram it through. “We’ve spoken out on other issues, we’ve spoken out on abortion, we’ve spoken out on those other kinds of things,” said Michael R. Otterson, the managing director of public affairs for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, as the Mormons are formally called, in Salt Lake City. “But we don’t get involved to the degree we did on this."
Just like politicians before election day, or Jehovah's Witnesses....bless their hearts....any old time, Mormons canvassed California to stoke Proposition 8 support and get those recruits to the polls. 80-90% of all Proposition 8 “foot soldiers” were Mormons, says the New York Times. Their efforts succeeded. Proposition 8 carried 52% of the state's voters; thus gay marriage was banned in the California.
But on Aug 4th, 2010, U.S. District Court judge Vaughn Walker overturned the ban, asserting it violated the state's Due Process and Equal Protection Clauses. Jehovah's Witnesses, who within their congregations, also oppose gay relationships, had nothing to do with that, did they? Well, no, they didn't.
But on the other hand, they did. At least a little.
On page 116 of the judge's lengthy judicial opinion is cited West Virginia State Board of Education v Barnette. That's the 67 year old Supreme Court ruling stating that the children of Jehovah's Witnesses could not be compelled to salute the flag. It reversed another Court decision, made just three years earlier in the height of wartime fever (1940), which stated they could. Didn't I write about those two cases here?
That rare reversal was the strongest support cited by Justice Walker to establish that the rights of a minority cannot be negated by the majority, no matter how numerous the latter might be. Justice Jackson, who wrote the prevailing opinion of West Virginia State Board of Education v Barnette, noted that the "very purpose" of the Bill of Rights was to protect some issues from politics and "place them beyond the reach of majorities." In present day 2010, Justice Walker applied that reasoning to gay marriage. "That the majority of California voters supported Proposition 8 is irrelevant," he wrote.
Now, it was Joel Engardio, director of Knocking, a 2006 PBS documentary about Jehovah's Witnesses, who first noted the JW connection in Proposition 8's demise. This prompted another blogger, who, as may be discerned from his narrative, has little use for Witnesses, to opine:
The reference by Judge Walker to West Virginia State Board of Education v. Barnette will have the Watchtower Society scratching their heads. “How did we help those wicked sons and daughters of Sodom and Gomorrah?” they will be asking themselves.
To which I replied: “No they will not.”
Well....... “It was never the intention of the intolerant Witness religion to grant any freedom of expression outside their own narrow view,” he asserts.
“Nor was it their intention to restrict any other group from benefiting from legal precedent they’ve established,” I replied.
Unlike many groups that stand for something, Jehovah’s Witnesses views on homosexuality, or anything else, are theirs alone. They apply them to themselves. They don’t attempt to force them upon general society...say...by writing those views into law, or even resorting to violence. They are respectful of those holding opposing views. To be sure, JWs don't keep those views to themselves. Their door-to-door visits rank right up there with death and taxes as one of the constants of everyday life. But the exercise of free speech is as far as they go, and in today's world, many groups feel sanctioned to go well beyond that. Mr. Engardio has stated that Jehovah’s Witnesses provide an excellent example, perhaps our last hope, of how groups with strongly polarized ideas can yet coexist peacefully. Frankly, I am much impressed that he can be so objective, since, as our aforementioned blogger points out, JW beliefs conflict with his own sexual orientation: Mr Engardio is gay. Most people take a position on various issues based solely on their own immediate benefit. He doesn't.
Roam online, and you'll find countless gay websites that absolutely loathe JWs. I've never found any that praise them. Jehovah's Witnesses, after all, make no accommodation for gay relationships within their congregations. How can they? They're a Bible organization and they don't assume the authority to change scriptures. I don’t think they harp on it. I even think they’re sympathetic to those claiming a different sexual orientation, but they are bound to represent scripture, or else change their mandate entirely. It does make it challenging for anyone gay within their ranks....no question about it. Don't they have to do what swimmers do caught in a rip tide? You don't swim against it; you can't, in any conceivably short time, will yourself or even pray yourself straight. You don't swim with the tide, buying into prevailing propaganda that holds ones sexuality is irrevocable and ought be a source of pride. You have to swim parallel to the current, maybe for a long long time, maybe for the duration of this system, with faith that the influence of God's spirit and congregation will, over time, serve to readjust sexuality. No, it doesn't seem quite fair, does it? That's why I have the greatest respect for anyone following that course, and none whatsoever for Westboro-church types who rail against homosexuals. They've never fought battles the like of which they would have others fight.
But my mention of Joel Engardio prompted a minor skirmish as to his motives. “What could be more transparent about Engardio’s benefit,” shot back my opponent, “he is promoting himself and his film.” Is he?…..well, maybe. But why make such a film in the first place, one that runs directly counter to his immediate interests? Why not use his data and background to make a film bashing Jehovah’s Witnesses? God knows it would find a larger audience than one praising them. To which my adversary (I'm not sure he's really an adversary, for I've stomped around his blog and there's much I like about him....he advocates for the disabled, for instance, so we overlap somewhat. And how can one not like a guy who appreciates Bob Dylan?) acknowledged: “Engardio is definitely an advocate for freedom of speech and the Jehovah’s Witness court record on winning those rights in the United States is strong.”
It is indeed. Jehovah's Witnesses have tried 50+ cases before the Supreme Court, most notably in the 1940's and 1950's, but as recently as 2002. Aside from the government itself, no group has litigated more often before the Court, and their legal victories have clarified the Bill of Rights for all citizens. Said U.S Supreme Court Associate Justice Harlan Fiske Stone: "I think the Jehovah's Witnesses ought to have an endowment in view of the aid which they give in solving the legal problems of civil liberties." (the same can be said in several other countries)
Advocacy groups of all stripes benefit greatly from the groundwork JWs have prepared. Rather than acknowledge any debt, however, they generally join popular clamor in ridicule or even opposition to the Witnesses. Even Rochester's beloved City Magazine piled on, prompting this rebuke from our own Tom Weedsandsheat.
It's a curious fact ...let us acknowledge it...that the most well-known apologist today for Jehovah's Witnesses is an openly gay man. Who would have thought it? Regularly, you'll find Joel Engardio's writings in mainstream publications such as USA Today and the Washington Post. In many ways, he explains Jehovah's Witnesses better than the Witnesses do themselves, at least from a certain vantage point and to a certain audience. Here he writes about Proposition 8. Here about Russia's persecution of JWs. Here even on Michael Jackson. Here he explains JWs for Beliefnet.com.
Not to suggest that everything he writes is about Jehovah's Witnesses. By no means. Check out his own page on the ACLU blog:
Jehovah's Witnesses don't have a lot of friends among the well-connected, and they make no effort to court them. They aren't political. They neither buy politicians nor grow their own. Nobody politically connected owes them anything. Besides, they preach that human efforts of self-government are divinely disapproved, destined to failure, and slated for replacement by God. (see Dan 2:44) How's that for a recipe to ingratiate yourselves with today's elite? Mr. Engardio's one of the few who will speak up for them. He's certainly in a unique position to do it, knowing both worlds well.
Joel Engardio states that he was raised a Witness, but left early on, breaking his mother's heart. He broke it again, he adds, when he later confessed he was gay. But sexuality was not the cause of his departure. Rather, he writes, he didn't want to wait for God to set matters straight. He thought he could set them straight now, as a journalist. He explains it all here. He worked his way through the ranks, and by the time I first heard of Knocking, his name was well-known among NPR newspeople.
For the most part, whenever we receive media coverage, we get slammed. Journalists, by and large, come from a different planet. They seldom get their heads around where we're coming from, so they're quick to buy into stereotypes. Knocking was the first fair shake I've ever seen from the media. It won a few awards. Said Anderson Cooper of CNN: "Riveting and illuminating. KNOCKING takes us inside the world of Jehovah's Witnesses in a way that is utterly surprising and moving.”
As to Mr. Engardio's motives, who knows? Maybe, as a journalist, he values JW contributions to Constitutional law enough to override individual concerns about sexuality. Maybe he wants to do his Mama proud. Maybe he simply wants to strike a blow for what's true, without regard for how it works for him personally. We don't have to know everything. His motives are his. Moreover, the 'fat lady' hasn't sung yet. Maybe he'll be like that guy who hauled Jeremiah out of the muck and so made out just fine when the Babylonians stomped in. (Jer 38:7-13) I haven't a clue. But I'll tell you one thing. He writes about us both accurately and respectfully. I do appreciate that.
[Edit: Joel himself emailed me shortly after the post appeared, to say "......thanks for writing your blog about Prop 8 and me. It was a good read. I wouldn't call myself an "apologist" for JWs (plenty of doctrines I don't agree with), but I certainly value our Constitutional rights to speak, believe and live as we see fit."
I called him an apologist after seeing him described that way on the web. Plainly he doesn't view himself that way, notwithstanding that he's posted plenty of good material about us.]
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.
What's not to like about WALL-E? A trash compactor robot, WALL-E (Waste Allocation Load Lifter Earth-class) spends his days compacting trash (what else?) with an eye on making the earth fit for rehabilitation. See, centuries ago, humans polluted the earth to the point of ruin, so they evacuated in massive spaceships. There, they loll about in such ease that their limbs have atrophied; they've become pretty much helpless, though good-natured, blobs. But before departure, they left robots to tidy up things, so they might eventually return. Only WALL-E remains on the job, for reasons I forget, and as you might imagine, he's lonely. All that changes when a pretty girl robot (EVE) show up. Robot sparks fly, they save the planet, fight off the bad robots, and pave the way for humans' return.
So if I liked the film, and Mrs Sheepandgoats liked it, which we both did, everyone must have liked it – right? But when Mrs. Sheepandgoats mentioned it to a co-worker, the latter lamented how sad the movie was. Sad? “What we're doing to the earth, what we're leaving behind for our children, is an absolute tragedy,” she said. Well...yes, the film would have that effect on many, wouldn't it? Look, we're sickened by the degradation humans inflict upon the earth, make no mistake, but, it's also true that when considering each new nail in the coffin, there is a tiny asterisk in the back of our mind that says “God's Kingdom will solve human mismanagement once and for all.” His “bringing to ruin those ruining the earth” is even foretold. (Rev 11:18) So it's always there, that asterisk, cushioning every blow. If you didn't have it....wow...no wonder some are just crushed by what's happening
Now, this verbal exchange was well before the gulf oil-spill, that mother of all environmental catastrophes. “How to clean up the mess? And who's at blame!” declared Time Magazine's cover of June 21, 2010, against a backdrop of oil-soaked pelicans. (I was mildly surprised that the questions were not posed in reverse order) Time listed a “dirty dozen” which included the prior President, of course, and his Secretary of State, but also the current President and some of his underlings. A handful of oilmen, needless to say, and one or two indulgent regulators. Even the ubiquitous American driver, since he fuels demand for oil in the first place. Got it? We're all to blame. There are no good guys in white hats, only bad guys in black, oily ones.
And to think I was upbraided just a few weeks ago, along with all my people, for not picking up the roadside trash. “Enough Jehovah's Witness preaching, already!” scolded my interlocutor, “what good is that? Do something useful, instead,” said he, and then proceeded to wax poetic on how he and his entire family took part in a local park clean-up, picking up crud that other slobs had tossed here, there, and everywhere. Look, I'm not against cleanup days, but how silly to imagine that, by thus taking part, we're saving the planet, when, in one dastardly swoop, the entire gulf can be ruined by one big-industry blunder. In fact, reports have it that local picker-uppers are showing up on the coast only to be told to get lost – this is a job for pros!
No, I won't stand for it – to be told preaching is valueless and community cleanup days are the path to salvation. And don't mistake that statement as unconcern for the environment! When the kids were little and we hiked trails at Allegheny State Park, we'd take trash bags with us and make a treasure hunt out of it, collecting beer and pop cans along the way – some had been there for years. (there were even some of the ancient tin types, cans that had been opened, not with pop-tops, but with can openers such as I remember from when I was a kid – extra points awarded for such finds!) And heaven help you if you are the pig dumping fast food trash out the car window and Mrs. Sheepandgoats is driving behind you! Steam comes from her ears. She all but rams your bumper and slaps you in handcuffs, hauling you to the sheriff in citizens' arrest.
One fellow is griping here about Jehovah's Witnesses: "They don’t even need to recycle if they don’t want to." What kind of an accusation is that? Are there groups that maintain their people MUST recycle, whether they want to or not? Where recycling is the law of the land/community, JW compliance is higher than most, I've no doubt, since they are well-known to be law-abiding. Where it is not the law of the land, likely JW compliance is still higher than most, out of respect for the planet. Look, when financially secure, trendy neighborhoods take up recycling as their special cause, I admit, they may outdo the average Witness. But we surely shine when compared to the population in general. I attended a wine festival over the weekend. Each vendor offered samples of wine, cheese, candy, sauce, whatever, in one-use plastic cups, or plates, or skewering toothpicks. Were they recycled? I doubt it. All trash was mixed together. In the medical field, everything is one-use only, disposable, in the interests of sanitation. Nothing is washed. Nothing is reused. Again, all trash is mixed together. I once worked part-time for a retail inventory firm, reputed to be the country's largest consumer of AAA batteries. Do you imagine those batteries were recycled? When I asked about it, they laughed at me. In the trash they'd go....each and every one of them.
Look, I'm all for local clean-up-the-park days. Same with clean-up-the-roadside days. None of Jehovah's Witnesses will ever speak against such things, unless you count observations that such are, at best, a stop-gap measure, and that the lasting solution will come only when God carries out his promise to “bring to ruin those ruining the earth.” We tend to use our free time to highlight this latter solution, the one that, in the end, counts. My experience is that it's only the tiniest sliver of the population who take part in such cleanups, anyway – it's not as if JWs are thwarting the whole effort. And surely it must count for something that Jehovah's Witnesses aren't among those who caused the mess in the first place.
“This [JW belief that God's Kingdom only can permanently solve earth's environmental woes] leads to the undeniable fact that Witnesses take almost no initiative towards making the world we live in a better place in any way:” someone tries to sell me that line. Hogwash! Not to oversimplify, but if the entire population were Witnesses, there would be no need for efforts to make the world we live in a better place. This, because of the traits which are instilled into each Witness. Law-abiding to the core, honest, working, not abusing government services, not contributing to the criminal element freely operating in most lands, promoting stable, monogamous families – all this by virtue of making Bible principles a way of life. Thus, merely propagating Witness beliefs is a step toward making the world a better place.
Meanwhile, I had to go to Canada (the Globe and Mail, June 19th) to discover that at least half of the leaked gulf oil is being recovered through various means, such as salvage ships that corral surface oil and burn it. It really is true that the U.S. media ignores even qualified good news, preferring to focus only the overwhelming devastation itself, along with who is to blame, and delighting in the President's declaration that he's looking for “asses to kick,” even while insinuating that his own “ass” might be among them, that the oil spill is his Katrina, and so forth. Sigh....that's what we're good at here: kicking asses.
Every married man my age, bar none, has seen the film Steel Magnolias. Not one wanted to see it. They were all dragged along by their wives. When it was my turn, I wisely went along without fuss, so as not to be accused of insensitivity toward womenhood. It wasn't a bad film, mind you; it had its moments; it's just not the type of film a guy would ever choose, at least, not of his own free will.
I mention Steel Magnolias because it's the first example that comes to mind of that stupid "God is picking flowers" analogy. One SM character loses a son, and another- a recent convert - comforts her by suggesting God is picking flowers for his beautiful garden in heaven! He doesn't want wilted stuff, of course, he wants only the best! That's why he chose that woman's son, implying she should feel privileged to lose a son for so great a Cause.
Who would ever think such an analogy could be comforting? It's monstrous! No wonder people go atheist! Take away the most precious thing a person has simply because you have a vacancy, and expect her to be comforted over that? Yet we hear it all the time, and the younger the deceased, the more likely some sappy preacher will use it: God has a garden. He grows pretty flowers, see - absolutely the best. But he needs one more; there's one spot that's just not right. Ah! The missing ingredient is your flower. He'll pick it. Surely, you'll be happy. What's that? You're not? Tough!
The "picking flowers" illustration is nowhere found in the Bible. But, just once, the Bible uses an illustration parallel in all respects except the moral, which is exactly opposite from the PF. It takes place after King David, drooling over Uriah’s knockout wife, takes her as his own. 2 Samuel 12:1-7 tells us:
The LORD sent Nathan [a prophet] to David. When he came to him, he said, "There were two men in a certain town, one rich and the other poor. The rich man had a very large number of sheep and cattle, but the poor man had nothing except one little ewe lamb he had bought. He raised it, and it grew up with him and his children. It shared his food, drank from his cup and even slept in his arms. It was like a daughter to him.
"Now a traveler came to the rich man, but the rich man refrained from taking one of his own sheep or cattle to prepare a meal for the traveler who had come to him. Instead, he took the ewe lamb that belonged to the poor man and prepared it for the one who had come to him." David burned with anger against the man and said to Nathan, "As surely as the LORD lives, the man who did this deserves to die! He must pay for that lamb four times over, because he did such a thing and had no pity." Then Nathan said to David, "You are the man!"
Now, this analogy is just. The man is not expected to be comforted that the king stole his wife! So anyone who’s ever recoiled in disgust at the “picking flowers” analogy is reacting exactly as the Bible says they should! It’s the preacher who is suggesting what is obscene! The flower picker is not to be praised. He deserves death!
Since the illustration is slanderous toward God and not found in the Bible, why do preachers routinely use it? The answer is, just as in Mean Things God Doesn’t Do, Part 1, church preachers have bought into unscriptural, unreasonable doctrines that unfailingly paint them into moral corners. You make a god-awful mess trying to escape from these corners, just as you would from a real corner.
The unscriptural doctrine here is that, when we die, we don’t really die. There is some component of us, usually called the soul, that lives on. It is immortal. Have you been good? Or are you a cuddly child? Then death is your friend. You get promoted to heaven, and how can anyone not be happy to see good people promoted? It’s a win-win!
Trouble is, people don’t behave as if it’s a win-win. People mourn at funerals; they don’t rejoice. They take a long time to readjust. Some never readjust to the death of their child; children are not supposed to die before the parent. Death is unnatural. It is not a friend, as most religions would have us believe. It is an enemy, which is what the Bible says. (1 Cor 15:26)
Wasn't it Abraham Lincoln who said he wasn't smart enough to lie? Meaning, of course, that once you've told a lie, you never know when you'll have to make up another fiction to uphold that lie – in this case, a fiction like "picking flowers," to uphold the lie that we have immortal souls that survive our deaths. We don't.
The Hebrew word from which soul is translated is nephesh. It occurs in the Old Testament 754 times. Only twice in the KJV is soul translated from any other word. Therefore, find the meaning of nephesh, and you've found the meaning of soul.
The first OT instance of nephesh applied to humans (four prior times in Genesis chapter 1 it is applied to animals) is at Genesis 2:7:
"And Jehovah God proceeded to form the man out of dust from the ground and to blow into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man came to be a living soul. "
Now.... a man who comes to be a plumber is a plumber. He doesn't have a plumber. A man who comes to be an architect is an architect. He doesn't have an architect. A man who comes to be an atheist is an atheist. He doesn't have an atheist. And a man who comes to be a soul is a soul. He doesn't have a soul. Soul, therefore, is the individual himself. In some cases, it represents the life an individual enjoys as such. It never stands for some mystical substance that survives our death. That latter notion is common among ancient peoples, but is nowhere found in the Bible. Attempting to infuse those ancient philosophies into the Bible, various theologians seized upon nephesh as the equivalent of that immortal substance, but thorough consideration of the Hebrew word indicates it means something else entirely.
The Bible is unique among religious books in that it does not teach an immortal soul.
Here the New World Translation does something so intrinsically honest that its translators ought to be lauded for it, rather than accused of slipping in their own doctrinal bias. Every time nephesh occurs in the Hebrew, the NWT translates it soul. Thus, it's rather easy to look at every instance of soul and discern what the word means by its context. Few Bibles do this. They bury the word amidst multiple renderings so you can't tell what it means.
For example, the English Revised Version (1881) translates nephesh as soul 472 times, but in the other 282 places renders it by any of forty-four different words or phrases! What determines how these translators render nephesh? Is it not obvious they have a preconceived idea of soul? They translated nephesh as soul when it fits their preconceived idea; they translate it otherwise when it doesn't! To then claim that the Bible teaches immortal soul is dishonest in the extreme. They have doctored their translation to make sure it does so!
Genesis 2:7, quoted above, is one verse that usually doesn’t "make the cut" for nephesh being translated soul. Many modern translations like to render nephesh here as living being or creature, such as the New International Version (1978):
"...then the LORD God formed the man of dust from the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living creature."
also NASB (1971), NKJV (1982), RSV (1952)
It’s a recent development. Older Bibles render this instance of nephesh as soul, just as they do in its other 700 places. For instance:
and man became a living soul (ASV 1901)
and Man became a living soul (Darby 1890)
and man became a living soul. (Douay-Rheims 1609)
and man became a living soul. (KJV 1611)
and the man was a liuing soule (Geneva Bible 1587)
And so was man made a lyuynge soule (Miles Coverdale Bible 1535)
and man was maad in to a lyuynge soule. (Wycliffe 1395)
The innovative modern translators will tell you they’ve chosen being or creature to make their Bibles more readable. Well….maybe. The words surely do no harm to readability. But the inconsistent translating also serves to confound anyone trying to investigate soul (nephesh) as described in the Bible. By rendering nephesh any old way they like, those translators are able to leave the impression that nephesh is the equivalent of the immortal soul beliefs held among the ancient Egyptians, Babylonians, Greeks, Romans, and others. One wonders if that isn’t the real reason for the selective translating of nephesh.
In his early days, Charles Darwin toyed with becoming a church minister. Such a ministry was then a respectable choice for a man of letters who couldn’t decide what else he wanted to do with his life. Darwin had a daughter named Annie, who was, by all accounts, his favorite child. At age 10, Annie contracted scarlet fever, and died after six weeks of agony. Also a casualty was Darwin’s faith in a beneficent Creator. The book Evolution: Triumph of an Idea, by Carl Zimmer, tells us that Darwin “lost faith in angels.”
Did those sappy preachers tell him that God was picking flowers? that he needed just one more angel to make his garden perfect? I wouldn’t put it past them. Again, you almost have to do it if you want to uphold the ‘immortal soul’ lie. Devastated, Charles Darwin was later to pen the work that would pull the rug of authority out from under all those clergymen. No longer would they be the guardians of Sacred Truth and Wisdom. Instead they'd become the guardians of Childrens' Stories and Nonsense.
One can only wonder how things might have turned out had Darwin been comforted with the Bible’s actual hope of a resurrection (something not possible if one is still living via their ‘immortal soul’). Death is an enemy, not a friend, the Bible realistically tells us. It was never part of God’s plan, it came about only through rebellion early in human history, and it is to be eliminated once God’s purpose reaches fulfillment:
That is why, just as through one man sin entered into the world and death through sin, and thus death spread to all men because they had all sinned—. (Rom 5:12)
Next, the end, when he [Christ] hands over the kingdom to his God and Father, when he has brought to nothing all government and all authority and power. For he must rule as king until [God] has put all enemies under his feet. As the last enemy, death is to be brought to nothing (1 Cor 15:24-26)
And he will wipe out every tear from their eyes, and death will be no more, neither will mourning nor outcry nor pain be anymore. The former things have passed away. (Rev 21:4)
False religion leaves a vacuum which is quick to be filled with other reasonings. As discussed here, the pull of evolution is as much emotional as it is scientific. One can only wonder…. how different history might have been had Darwin known the truth about death. Not just Darwin, of course, but everyone of his time, as well as before and after. Instead, fed a diet of phony pieties….junk food, if you will…..he and others of inquisitive mind searched elsewhere in an attempt to make sense of life.
It's not unusual for the developmentally disabled to have issues of self-esteem. And it's not hard to see why. If your closest associates - in the vast majority of cases, your only associates - are people who have to be paid to see you, you don't think you might have some self-esteem issues?
But Doug has no issues of self-esteem. He is one of the few who has benefited from heavy family involvement. At the restaurant, he barks (more or less literally) directions to staff as they pass by - this or that dish is empty, and he holds it up to make his point. Doug is non-verbal. If you don't know him, you won't understand a thing he says. If you do know him, you still won't understand a thing he says but, combined with gestures, you can usually catch the drift. Doug's very social. He thrusts out a hand to men as they pass, inviting a handshake. From women he wants hugs; he holds out both arms.
After the meal, we drive over to the Fairport commons area - Liftbridge Park - to hang out a bit. We're in luck. Lots is happening - a classic car show and a live band. I wheel Doug near the band, an all-girl group called It's My Party, who perform songs from the early 60's, and perform them very well. They have matching outfits, just like in the 60's, synchronized gestures, and ... um...some campy 60's dialog between songs. The drummer is their producer, and their website says they have performed for 20 years. How can that be, since the singers themselves are yet high-schoolers? Ah, the producer has been around that long, and maybe some of the backup musicians, of which there are 8 or 9 - are some of them high-schoolers, too? The girl singers have been replaced once or twice.
Many in the audience are older folk - revisiting their youth, one suspects - and after the show, a woman remarks on the lankiest singer's long limbs. "Yeah, it's hard to get clothes," the performer replies. Actually, I thought she said it's hard to get close. That would fit too, for the trio accentuate their songs with 60's cheerleading gestures, arms flailing like windmills.
Doug is captivated by all this. You want to leave? I ask after a few songs. Slight but emphatic shake of the head no. You want to stay? Slight but emphatic shake of the head yes. You want one of their CDs? Yes. So we wait in the lineup, which really isn't wheelchair accessible, and they sign his copy with hugs and kisses - xxooxxoo. Of course, Doug solicits actual hugs and gets them from the girl or two closest to him. Backing out, he keeps it up and gets several more hugs from other girls....you know...girls in the audience, girl friends of the singers, and so forth!
Back at the home I write up a report - they like to keep track of social progress and "if it's not documented, it didn't happen." I tell about all the hugs and conclude with the question "how does he do that?" I mean, it's not as if anyone offered to hug me.
These are my people: the developmentally disabled - to use the current jargon. Working at the group home was probably the most enjoyable job I've ever had, and I resisted any attempts to rise in the ranks because each step up meant more bureaucracy and less contact with residents. I still keep up with them. This outing with Doug was on my own time.
All this explains why I'm not in a hurry to pick any quarrel with Sabrine Bonnaire, one of France's premiere actresses. We're on the same team. True, I'm not familiar with her acting career, but then I'm not French, am I? Who would ever have thought that a film would be made about a group home, and if it was, who would ever have thought it would be any good? But such is Ms. Bonnaire's first stab at film directing. The film is Her Name is Sabine. It's a documentary set in a group home. Sabine is Sabrine's sister. Sigh....I hope it's not a sign of how invisible these people are that even the reviewer has screwed up the title: it is not the cheery My Name is Sabine, as he states. It is the more provocative Her Name is Sabine, implying that most people would see her as a subject, a patient, a resident, a disabled person, a ....but she has a name.
Sabrine Bonnaire makes sure people know her name. She's pulled photos and home movies out of a seemingly bottomless reservoir to show her sister growing up - a vibrant, talented (she plays classical piano), pleasantly quirky girl - once inseparable from the 18 month older Sabrine. But she suffers from autism. It's effects grow more pronounced through the years. Her parents pull her out of school and hire tutors. Still, she deteriorates. An admittance to the hospital's psych ward is a total disaster - the screen goes black while Sabrine narrates the details.
Sabine is now in a group home, just like where Doug is. The French actress used her fame to jump-start funding, and the house exists largely because of her. She's since met with French President Nocolas Sarkozy and Minister for Work and Social Affairs Xavier Bertrand to argue for the disabled. Is Sandrine Bonnaire the French version of Geraldo Rivera? Like him, she's done much to advocate for this most vulnerable population, and I can't do anything but cheer her for that.
Now....the point upon which I would contend with Ms. Bonnaire is a small point. It's hardly the focus of her story. Barely worth mentioning. On the other hand, I will mention it AND I will make a big deal over it. It steams me. In the midst of the film review linked to above is inserted Sabrine's observation about their Jehovah's Witnesses upbringing (who would have guessed?), as if it somehow explains Sabine's troubles:
Sandrine and Sabine grew up in a large, working-class family on the outskirts of Paris. Their mother was a Jehovah's Witness whose strict adherence to the sect's rules on birth control explains the number of children: 11 in total, of which Sandrine, now 41, is the sixth, Sabine the seventh. Growing up in a Jehovah's Witness home was "quite heavy", says Sandrine. "First of all, it was very boring. You don't do birthdays and Christmas when everyone else does them. You can have them, but three or four days after the date, so you feel apart from your friends."
I tell you, I won't put up with it. I'll bet you anything that this girl was fully embraced in the local congregation and circuit, where the atmosphere is warm and accepting, and where children are taught to be kind and compassionate to those less fortunate, rather than "bullying" and "mocking" (yes, even during birthdays and Christmas), as they were in the grade school Sabine had to be pulled from. It's not Jehovah's Witnesses who screwed up the title of her film. The JW mother ought to be a hero in this story, not a token religious nut. She nurtured her daughter as a child and adult as, one by one, other siblings departed for lives of their own. How is it that Sabine plays classical piano without, at the very least, mother's support? Mom dutifully followed doctor's advice and admitted Sabine into the local hospital, where they put her in locked isolation and straightjacket, administered drugs by the truckload, denied toilet facilities, and ultimately forbade family visitation - these were medical experts, mind you - and finally returned the woman to her mother in far worse shape than they found her. Does it occur to anyone that the mother's faith helped her carry on when everyone else failed her daughter? As stated at the outset, family involvement with the developmentally disabled is, at least in the U.S, rare.
And what is this about the "sect's rules on birth control?" Nobody among Jehovah's Witnesses has any hang-ups about birth control, unless you mean the abortion-inducing IUD kind, which yes, we do reject. But contraceptives? Condoms? No one has any issue with them. So if the mother did have strong views in this regard, it didn't come from the "sect." And the holidays? Well, yes, I suppose. But surely it's a matter of perspective. There were Jewish kids when I was going to school and they sat out every Christmas and Easter. It wasn't that big of a deal. There were compensating attributes within their own faith. No one carried on about how they were deprived. Look, if there's a party going on, of course a child will want to be part of it, same as all will want to subsist on ice cream and candy. But as adults, you hopefully come to realize what's important and what's not. Christmas, to take the most prominent example, does not fall on Christ's birthday. Jesus never said anything about celebrating his birth anyway, and most customs associated with it are from non if not anti-Christian sources.
In fact, is it just Sabrine Bonnaire or is it all of France? For perhaps two decades, France has leveled a 60% tax on financial contributions made to Jehovah's Witnesses, a repressive measure unheard of in any free country, and a plain attempt to stamp out the group. The policy's been under appeal from the outset and will likely be decided in the European High Court. Look, I know that much of Europe is intensely secular, and probably France most of all. I suspect it stems from World Wars I and II, bloodbaths that found fertile soil in the very continent where churches held most sway. If churches can't prevent such mass slaughters, what good are they? But how ironic that the only Christian group with the guts to unilaterally stand up to Hitler is the one most harassed in post-war France!
Still, the movie is great. It's a shame so few Americans know of it, just as they know nothing of Maigret. French critics dubbed it "the most beautiful film Cannes has given us this year". Mrs. Sheepandgoats and I, though not of that august body, fully concur.
Talk about politically incorrect!
Senator Anderson punches his gay ex-lover in the mouth. The poor fellow drops face-down in the gutter. Now...there's a lot of things that can happen to a guy when he's punched, but this guy goes in the gutter! Face down! The unmistakable symbolism: that's where he belongs!!*
That's how Otto Preminger treated homosexuality in his 1962 movie Advise and Consent. A former Academy Award winning director, Preminger took bows for his film. Today, he'd be crucified for it. When the movie was re-done for DVD a few years ago , the homosexual sub-plot was replaced with a Jewish one. (even though the original plot was based upon a true incident.)
Times have changed. It's anyone with an unkind word about homosexuality who belongs in the gutter today. The District Overseer can barely believe his own words as he observes: "nowadays, only homosexuals want to get married." Evidence, he maintains, that the world is "upside down."
It sure seems that way from any historical perspective. In my lifetime, I've seen homosexuality go from reviled fringe to cutting-edge alternative. There once seemed nothing more unlikely than this verse becoming reality:
Therefore God, in keeping with the desires of their hearts, gave them up to uncleanness, that their bodies might be dishonored among them, even those who exchanged the truth of God for the lie and venerated and rendered sacred service to the creation rather than the One who created, who is blessed forever. Amen. That is why God gave them up to disgraceful sexual appetites, for both their females changed the natural use of themselves into one contrary to nature; and likewise even the males left the natural use of the female and became violently inflamed in their lust toward one another, males with males, working what is obscene and receiving in themselves the full recompense, which was due for their error. Rom 1:24-27
It's an unflattering view of homosexuality, but I don't include it for that reason, rather, for it's implication that homosexuality would become commonplace. Nobody of my generation would ever have foreseen it. Seemingly, the going against what is "natural" was enough to rule it out. When you work with plumbing or electricity, you link the male end with the female end. Always. That's the way it's done. Nobody thinks it's cutting edge plumbing to solder two male ends together, or female. It doesn't happen. And it's always been that way with human sexuality. Doubtless, that's how we came to apply those terms to electricity and plumbing.
Preminger's portrayal plays mean-spirited today, yet it was right in sync with popular sentiment of that time - indeed, of any time. Homosexuality used to be perverted. Now, however, it is edgy, and heterosexuality....well, a little unimaginative, if not downright dull. The very words straight (inflexible, efficient, but monotonous) vs gay (happy, live life to the full!) are rife with the implication. Tabloids breathlessly speculate about this or that star. Are they attracted to .....yawn, how boring....the opposite sex, OR are they enamored with.....cross your fingers, oh please, please, please....the SAME sex! Yes!! That's what I'm talkin about!!!
It's unbelievable!! How can this be the rage? How can it be mainstream? Yes, as a small fringe...that has always been, but how can it seriously rival "natural" sex attraction? Can they all really have been born that way?
Are any of them born that way? Freud used to say that sexuality was determined at a very early age based on interaction of the parents. He's shouted down today on that point, but is there reason to shout him down? Or is his theory, which implies abnormality, just not what people want to hear today?
Or are there yet other factors at work?
Otto Preminger pioneered in introducing taboo subjects to film: homosexuality in Advise and Consent, rape in Anatomy of a Murder, drug addiction in The Man With the Golden Arm. You can count upon films making abundant use of these juicy themes today, but in Preminger's time they were unheard of. Yet, from Advise and Consent (1962) on, every film treatment of homosexuality was more favorable than the one before. Today, there's no film stigma whatsoever about gays, as there was then. Quite the opposite. The gay character is cool, intriguing, hip, contrasting well with other dullards on the show.
I don't pretend to know how to weigh these 3 factors - genetics, Freud, media - or if there are yet other ones. The endorsement of the psychiatric profession, for example. Excess hormones, for another, readily found in modern food and water supplies. Not that this would cause homosexuality, I don't imagine. But it may push sexuality to be much more fluid, more susceptible to other influences. Pure guesswork on my part. I don't really know. But I'll tell you one thing. Never would my generation have anticipated that sexual identity would be so pliable as it has proved to be. That the Bible forecasts this, against all then-common wisdom, is a major point in its favor.
[EDIT Feb 21, 2010] The newly emerging field of epigenetics also suggests some possibilities.
I used to work with a young woman who’d been brought up without religion. She knew God’s name was Jehovah because she’d seen Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom. And from Dogma, she knew that God’s original purpose was for humans to live on earth forever; our planet was never a launch pad to heaven or trap door to hell. And that angels were a separate creation; they weren’t former "good people" enjoying their reward for being good.
From two movies she had more Bible knowledge than 90% of church folk who’ve spent a lifetime butts glued to pews! If you don’t approach the book determined to read in teachings that aren’t there, it becomes much easier to understand.
For instance, just try to reconcile the heaven/hell dogma with John chapter 11, which relates a resurrection Jesus performed:
He [Jesus] said these things, and after this he said to them: “Lazarus our friend has gone to rest, but I am journeying there to awaken him from sleep.” Therefore the disciples said to him: “Lord, if he has gone to rest, he will get well.” Jesus had spoken, however, about his death. But they imagined he was speaking about taking rest in sleep. At that time, therefore, Jesus said to them outspokenly: “Lazarus has died, ……
Consequently when Jesus arrived, he found he had already been four days in the memorial tomb. …….
Hence Jesus, after groaning again within himself, came to the memorial tomb. It was, in fact, a cave, and a stone was lying against it. said: “Take the stone away.” Martha, the sister of the deceased, said to him: “Lord, by now he must smell, for it is four days.” Jesus said to her: “Did I not tell you that if you would believe you would see the glory of God?” Therefore they took the stone away. Now Jesus raised his eyes heavenward and said: “Father, I thank you that you have heard me. True, I knew that you always hear me; but on account of the crowd standing around I spoke, in order that they might believe that you sent me forth.” And when he had said these things, he cried out with a loud voice: “Lazarus, come on out!” The [man] that had been dead came out with his feet and hands bound with wrappings, and his countenance was bound about with a cloth. Jesus said to them: “Loose him and let him go.” John 11:11-44
He’d been dead for four days. Where was he during this time?
You don’t think if he’d been in heaven he would have said something upon being dragged back to earth? When Johnny Cash had a near-death experience during surgery and imagined he’d seen heaven, he was steamed to wake up again in the hospital. Even with his sweetheart June around. Yet Lazarus had been there four days, long enough to check out his room and settle in, if it really is so that the good all go to heaven.
For non-judgmental types, let us allow that even if he’d not gone to heaven, but spent those four days in hell, and Jesus still brought him back, letting bygones be bygones, Lazarus still did not mention a thing. And he didn't right away run for a bucket of water to sit in, as you can be sure I would have done.
No, the account suggests that Lazarus was nowhere during those four days; he was DEAD, non-existent, not conscious of a thing. Didn’t Jesus suggest as much when he likened the man to being asleep and not conscious in some other realm?
Jehovah’s Witnesses are unique among Judeo-Christian groups in not buying into the heaven/hell routine. For them, a future resurrection (foreshadowed in places like the above passage) is the hope for all who have died, or nearly all. In the meantime, dead people really are dead; they don’t exist; they’ve gone back to the dust from which they came.
Once we get this through our heads, so many scriptures make instant sense. Like this one about John the Baptist, one of the nicest people around, in fact, the fellow who baptized Jesus:
Truly I [Jesus] say to you people, Among those born of women there has not been raised up a greater than John the Baptist; but a person that is a lesser one in the kingdom of the heavens is greater than he is. Matt 11:11
No one of humans better than John. Yet the janitor in heaven is higher up than he. So John didn’t go to heaven. And if he didn’t, being top of the heap, no one else did, either.
Or this one about David:
It is allowable to speak with freeness of speech to you concerning the family head David, that he both deceased and was buried and his tomb is among us to this day…..Actually David did not ascend to the heavens….. Acts 2:30-34
Or this one:
All that your hand finds to do, do with your very power, for there is no work nor devising nor knowledge nor wisdom in Sheol, the place to which you are going. Eccles 9:10
Many Bible translations render sheol in this passage as “the grave;” but the New World Translation simply transliterates the original Hebrew word, for which the Greek equivalent is hades. Although sheol and hades are two of the three wordsoften rendered into English as “hell,” their actual meaning is “place of the dead“, without reference to being good or bad during life.
All basic scriptural teachings, which you could have learned by staying out of church and going to the movies.
When the first blood transfusion experiments were done, Professor of Anatomy at the University of Copenhagen, Thomas Bartholin (1616-80), objected. His concern was not on scientific grounds but on spiritual.
"Those who drag in the use of human blood for internal remedies of diseases appear to misuse it and to sin gravely," he wrote. "Cannibals are condemned. Why do we not abhor those who stain their gullet with human blood? Similar is the receiving of alien blood from a cut vein, either through the mouth or by instruments of transfusion. The authors of this operation are held in terror by the divine law, by which the eating of blood is prohibited."
The only people I know of who still have regard for this aspect of divine law are Jehovah's Witnesses. If there were others (and judging from Bartholin's comment there must have been) they abandoned it when transfusions entered the mainstream. More or less the same thing has occurred with both abortion and embryonic stem cell research.
Jehovah's Witnesses catch a lot of flack for their stand regarding transfusions. Yet the stand is one that can be accommodated medically. In recent years, partly due to the efforts of Jehovah's Witnesses and partly due to the very real risks that have surfaced regarding transfusion, new techniques of bloodless medicine have emerged. Watchtower produced some videos about them in 2001. They followed some case histories, filmed some operations, used some computer animation, and interviewed prominent surgeons the world over who said supportive things about the new methods.
The 34th Annual U.S. International Film and Video Festival was coming up, so Watchtower entered their video (Transfusion Alternatives - Simple, Safe and Effective) and won, beating out 1500 other films from 33 countries:
Research Documentation category: 2nd place (Silver Screen Award)
Professional-Educational category: 2nd place (Silver Screen Award
Current Issues category: 1rst place (Gold Camera Award)
It's always good when your film wins. It adds credibility.
You can view it here: (see "from our videos)
So I was surprised to find the video torn apart frame by frame on some Next Generation Atheist website, the kind where the most exalted qualities are logic and reason, and the most admired person is Mr. Spock of Star Trek. Evidence, a fellow named Psiloiordinary demands! Give me some evidence that blood transfusions are not perfectly safe. Give me some medical reason that silly religious scruples should not be trampled underfoot should they interfere. So I gave him some.
Here is a doctor who likens transfused blood to "water from a dirty fish tank"
[Patricia Ford, MD, a hematologist/oncologist and Medical Director of the Center for Bloodless Medicine and Surgery at Pennsylvania Hospital, part of the PENN Medicine hospital network. Dr. Ford is one of the pioneers of bloodless surgery and has been teaching its technique to doctor’s around the world.]
Blood stored for any length of time loses most of its oxygen carrying capability, she maintains. Perhaps she reached that conclusion through such studies as this:
Note how Dr Bruce Speiss in this post declares about transfusions: "So it's just largely been a belief system-- almost a religion, if you will-- that if you give a unit of blood, patients will get better"
As you have observed, Jehovah's Witnesses steadfastly refuse blood transfusions for religious reasons. As a result, some in the medical field have pioneered bloodless techniques. By eliminating the risk of foreign tissue, human error, and blood-borne diseases, these new techniques offer a safety margin that conventional blood transfusions do not. Might the day come, or is it even here already, when the number of lives saved through such medicine will outnumber those lost by a few members of a relatively tiny religious group that stuck to its principles amidst much opposition?
[I nearly gave him another study which came to my attention at about the same time, but I thought two items would be sufficient]
His reply (on his own blog) was prompt:
I had asked JW's for evidence to back up their claims. What I am provided with here is in fact an anecdote with no supporting evidence. I quote peer reviewed materials and in reply I get a story. The reasons that stories don't count as evidence is that they can fall prey to all of the errors of thinking I highlighted above. Wow this all fits in with the other stuff your skimmed earlier on doesn't it. Ok I'll wait while you go back and read it properly - hurry up.
OK. Off we go again.
Tom does a little better with his next salvo;
"Blood stored for any length of time loses most of its oxygen carrying capability, she maintains."
This piece relates to the fact that Nitric Oxide seems necessary to get the oxygen from the blood into the body. Here are some more quotes from this same article; [he quotes almost the whole article, which I won't reproduce, as I've already linked to it. Feel free to check it again]
But at least this does appear to be some bona fide research, just bear in mind that it was preliminary research done on 10 people - yes just 10 and so needs to be followed up in proper clinical trials. Why? Well so that all those errors of thinking we outlined above can be ruled out.
Who is doing this research? Doctors. I have highlighted in bold their comments about the need for blood transfusions. Remember confirmation bias? Our friend Tom CatsandDogs has managed that particular error of thought big time hasn't he? Or was he just selectively quoting to be deliberately dishonest? Not sure actually.
Lets see what else he has for us;
"Note how Dr Bruce Speiss in this post declares about transfusions: "So it's just largely been a belief system-- almost a religion, if you will-- that if you give a unit of blood, patients will get better"
Once again I can give you a little more honest version of this by simply telling you everything the chap actually said [and again he quotes virtually the entire article, which again I won't reproduce as I've already linked to it, and again feel free to check it once more]
Of course Tom FishandChips doesn't agree with these bits so he doesn't quote them. It's as if they don't even exist. Tom's brain is pretty amazing isn't it? Does he even know that his brain has done this?
Or is he simply dishonest?
Maybe he will let us know.
For now he signs off as follows with a tour de force of broken logic;
"As you have observed, Jehovah's Witnesses steadfastly refuse blood transfusions for religious reasons. As a result, some in the medical field have pioneered bloodless techniques. By eliminating the risk of foreign tissue, human error, and blood-borne diseases, these new techniques offer a safety margin that conventional blood transfusions do not. Might the day come, or is it even here already, when the number of lives saved through such medicine will outnumber those lost by a few members of a relatively tiny religious group that stuck to its principles amidst much opposition?"
Tom states that medical research of this kind only happened because of the JW stance. The article he links to shows this is not true. [Actually, it shows just the opposite. The writer states: "Originally developed to meet the needs of the Jehovah’s Witness community, bloodless surgery is transfusion-free and is acceptable to Jehovah Witness followers because they are being reinfused with their own blood." (third paragraph)]
A quick summary of Tom's "evidence";
An anecdote followed by selective quotes, taken out of context from preliminary medical research, which presumably would be a waste of time for Tom anyway as he will never take blood because of what he thinks the bible means. All topped off with a claim that because JW's are dying for their beliefs they are saving the lives of others.
Takes your breath away doesn't it.
Over to you Tom.
What is remarkable about this reply is its sheer meanness. Did I do anything to provoke it other than exist with a different view? Psiloiordinary asked for evidence. I gave him some.
Essentially he charges that I have used the researchers' words out of context. That's nonsense. All you have to do when quoting is to quote honestly. The words you cite should be as the speaker intended them to be understood. You don't have to analyze his entire life philosophy for consistency, otherwise all historical writings would need be delivered by forklift.
To be sure, these researchers said some things not entirely consistent. But that's how people are. We are all a maze of contradictions - even ...gasp....scientists, reason lovers and logicians. Even with science, new views are not quickly accepted simply because they are supported by evidence. Max Planck the physicist sums it up more realistically: "People think new truths are accepted when the proponents are able to convince the opponents. Instead, the opponents of the truth gradually die, and a new generation comes along who is familiar with the idea." Alas, here too Psiloiordinary will be outraged that I've not included a lexicon of all Dr. Planck ever said. But I found his words in a (science friendly) source that also saw fit to take the quote by itself.
In view of the bile, I wasn't quite sure how to reply, but in time I thought of something.
First of all, it is not Catsanddogs. Nor is it Fishandchips. It is Sheepandgoats.
When you are trying to sway someone over to your point of view, you don't insult them at every turn. You don't ridicule them. You don't portray yourself as the ultimate fount of wisdom and express surprise that they can even tie their shoes. You do all these things if you want to puff out your chest and impress pals with your razor-like wit, but if you are actually trying to persuade somebody, you don't do it.
Instead, you look for areas in which you can commend them. You are conciliatory where you can be. You afford them dignity. That way, in the event you do make some valid points, you find your points are not rejected out of hand by a recipient who resents how ill-mannered you are.
I suspect these are the factors that account for mixed signals in the studies we've discussed. The doctors make the appropriate deferential remarks about the blood transfusion industry, yet those remarks in no way follow from the research they present.
For example, Dr Stamler asserts: Banked blood is truly a national treasure that needs to be protected
Yet he previously observes: we saw clear indications of nitric oxide depletion within the first three hours...we found blood depleted profoundly by day one and it remained depleted through day 42 and without nitric oxide the transfused blood cannot transfer oxygen, which is the only reason to select it over non-blood volume expanders. Therefore, banked blood is hardly a national treasure. Rather, if this study is true, banked blood, which has been given countless times, has generally been near worthless in oxygen-carrying capability (though each time it was hailed as "life-saving."). True, Dr. Stamler hopes he can correct the deficiency, but that says nothing for the transfusions already given.
Ditto with his comment which you excitedly put in bold: "There is no doubt, if you are bleeding to death from a trauma you need a transfusion." Not if you need immediate oxygen transfer, you don't, per his previous remark. What you need is fluid to replace the volume lost. It need not be blood, and it appears blood holds no advantage over non-blood volume expanders, perhaps even something so simple as saline solution. In an otherwise healthy person, the body, with restored volume, immediately goes about making new red blood cells.
So his latter two comments seem to me to be a sop to the blood sensibilities of his audience. They don't logically follow from the research he presents. He is simply being diplomatic.
Similar points could be made regarding Dr Speiss. And the non-sequiters presented above illustrate pretty well his comment that transfusions are practiced almost as a religion.
The fact is, both sites I've presented plant severe doubts to the wisdom of transfusion. You act as if they've strengthened the case.
Now, did my mock outrage over my name being massacred in any way placate him? Or my reasoning on the articles I linked to? Alas....
Tom Sheepandgoats has previously ignored my questions and most of the facts I presented here, here, here, here, here and here.
Now we get this; [he reproduces my reply; I have deleted my words, as I did in his prior reply]
Listen to me Mr Bedknobsandbroomsticks, its unreasonable to go around with that appellation without expecting the mickey to be taken. In the unlikely event that no one has actually told you this before, then I can now have the honour of revealing to you that they have all thought it. Even if it is your real name, didn't you know you could have changed it in the "blogosphere"? How about Mr Iwouldletmykiddieiftheyneededabloodtransfusion?
[It's a good thing for him my Great Grandpa Shepundgoots from the old country isn't here to read his words. He would not turn the other cheek as readily as I have done.]
I am not trying to persuade you of anything Mr Cheeseandbiscuits, I am trying to look into this issue. You are not. In fact you seem to simply be trying to justify these primitive views by picking out selective quotes from people who completely disagree with you so that you don't feel as bad when the next JW man, woman or child dies needlessly. I assume these are your views - you have not said so explicitly but it seems a reasonable assumption from your posts.
For the record, Mr Bangersandmash, I write this Blog for the pleasure it gives me. I occasionally win a small victory for the side of rationality and reason and I even get appreciative feedback sometimes. Most often though I get to learn things. Learning about the sinister cult that is JW's has certainly been an eye opener for me.
I did not learn anything from your comments apart from your willingness to distort the words and opinions of some doctors to "support" your silly but dangerous beliefs.
So as far as the small kingdom that is this blog I am the ultimate fount of wisdom - so "suck it up" as I believe you say on that side of the pond.
The other reason I blog is that I think that very occasionally some one who has not been completely indoctrinated into the JW's or whatever form of woo I happen to examining, perhaps someone who has nothing to do with whatever it is might come across the odd item on this blog and make their own mind up based on the evidence.
You have provided excellent evidence of selective quote mining and anecdotal stories being used to justify a practice which amounts to letting people die.
That is what you have done for this blog and I thank you for it.
I have often quoted before that I don't think it is possible to use reason to persuade someone from a view which they have reached without use of in the first place.
As I previously remarked, quite eloquently I thought [naturally], "Suck it up". You can't expect to defend a practice of letting people die needlessly and go around flaunting the name of Mr Saltandvinegar without someone taking the mickey.
Next you demonstrate your inability to engage in a complex issue. For you it must be black or white, it can't be complicated or incompletely understood.
The research you speak of is a preliminary finding based on just 10 patients - proper clinical trials are only now being set up - if changes to medical practice are demanded by results which can be replicated by people who don't have a financial interest in the results then medical practice will change - which gives the lie to the comments about dogma.
It was I who gave the full quotes from the articles which clearly show that none of the doctors agree that blood transfusions should be stopped. You were the one who just picked out the bits to suit your argument - this is dishonest in itself - to now claim that you were open about both sides of this issue is a simple lie.
The doctors you quoted out of context even comment with concern about being quoted out of context in the very item you linked to.
Excuse me Mr Smokeandmirrors you pulled quotes out of context and you continue to refer to small scale preliminary findings as research as if we can draw conclusions from them.
Go and examine your conscience.
- - -
PS you are still ignoring all the questions previously raised - but hey - just keep quiet and hope no one notices eh?
sigh....The sources I link to speak for themselves, as does the Watchtower videos.
Sometimes my greatest fear is that these atheists are right and that their cherished evolution is how we all got here and that they represent its crowning achievement. If so, kiss goodbye to any hope for peace on earth. Such a pit bull, attack-oriented people I've rarely seen. Does it come from the grandmaster Dawkins himself?
Though in retrospect, there may be some failure to communicate. Psiloiordinary seems to feel the goal of the Watchtower videos (and my own comments) are to demolish the blood transfusion industry. They are nothing of the sort. They seek only to persuade the medical community that it is not unreasonable to try to accommodate our stand. We always hope that yet more doctors will come to treat our stand of religious conscience simply as a fact to adjust to, much as they might for an allergic reaction that rules out a favored medicine. Recent years' developments have seen considerable progress along this front. Whereas two or three decades ago, a doctor's opinion was unchallengeable law, these days, in the U.S. anyway, the principle of bodily integrity is recognized. It has come to be widely acknowledged that patients have the right to authorize or decline what is done to their own bodies.
Joel Engardio's documentary Knocking features two Jehovah's Witness families, the Knights and the Kemplers. Joseph Kempler gives the most compelling reason for serving Jehovah I've ever heard.
As a teenager, Kempler was shuttled though six Nazi concentration camps and survived them all. He was interred as a Jew and freed as a Jew. While confined, though, he observed Jehovah's Witnesses. After the war he became one.
"It's difficult to speak to Jews," he says. "They say I became a traitor. Six million Jews died and I joined the other side.
"I was among those survivors who felt that God was really responsible and guilty. He was the one who permitted the Holocaust. So we didn't fail him, we didn't do anything wrong. He failed us. And this is a very common belief.
"God is being maligned and misunderstood and in many different ways looked down upon as being uncaring or dead or whatever, and there are all kinds of distortions as to what God is and who he is. To be able to speak up in his defense....what a powerful turnaround from somebody where I was to become a defender of God...what a wonderful privilege this is."
It is a privilege. Mr. Kempler recognized that and grabbed hold of it, even in the aftermath of suffering that turned millions away from God, millions who could not fathom how God could possibly permit such a monstrous thing. Yet accurate Bible knowledge conveys the reason for both suffering and persecution, how God will ultimately work matters out, and how his worshippers should respond in the meantime. Armed with such knowledge, Jehovah's Witnesses survived what was likely the greatest evil in history, with faith and dignity intact,
What is remarkable about the account is how so many people today go the other way in the face of far less provocation. Mr. Kempler saw, in the holocaust aftermath, an opportunity to defend God. But people today, even some of our own people, sever all ties with God for reasons no more substantial than personal inconvenience, having somehow lost all ability to conceive of any life beyond the here and now. Such is the power of a materialistic age where self is the focus.
God being where he is and we being where we are, and we in distinctly imperfect form, one might imagine him keeping us at arm's length. Instead, we're told that we can serve him shoulder to shoulder, as if he considers us equals!
For then I shall give to peoples the change to a pure language, in order for them all to call upon the name of Jehovah, in order to serve him shoulder to shoulder. Zeph 3:9
and that it's possible to be his friend:
and the scripture was fulfilled which says: “Abraham put faith in Jehovah, and it was counted to him as righteousness,” and he came to be called “Jehovah’s friend." Jas 2:23
Inherent in defending God is speaking about him. You cannot read the gospels (literally "good news," Mark is the easiest; it moves the quickest) or Acts (the early history of Christianity's spread - "acts" of the apostles - things they did) without sensing that the ideas expressed were not to remain private but were to be offered to others. So speak Jehovah's Witnesses do.
The Bible consistently likens spiritual things to water. Water is healthy when it moves and stagnant when it does not. If Christians take it in through reading, meditation & congregation meetings, then their public ministry serves to keep in flowing. People have lots of views today, and, as a way of proclaiming "truce," a popular notion is that religion is too "private" to discuss, at least, to discuss with strangers. Plainly, JWs don't feel that way. To be sure, to keep "pushing" something upon someone who's made it clear they don't want it is ill-mannered. (though that doesn't necessarily preclude a later call. People change.) But the other extreme, labeling faith as too personal to even discuss, is not in keeping with the nature of Christianity.
In spite of their public visiting, Jehovah's Witnesses are a "live and let live" religion. Their "weapons" are ideas only. When you tell them "no," they go away. Sure, they try to be persuasive, but it's still only words. They don't afterward attempt to legislate their beliefs into law, so as to force people to live their way, much less resort to violence.
To be a defender of God is a rare privilege indeed.
More on Knocking here and here