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Why do Bad Things Happen? Revisted

We have some characters in the faith. You know who I mean. Bigger than life guys. Everyone likes them, but there's not much finery about them, not much decorum. Was Mickey Spillane one of that group? They tend to be old-timers, younger ones having had the outrageousness refined out of them.

So here is Herman, for example, giving a talk and he's making the point that people aren't perfect; even in Bethel they have their quirks, and to illustrate, he quotes some Bethelite he knew.....I forget which one....who when he was provoked, would use the word “damn.” “I don't give a damn!” Herman quotes him, drawing the words out.

Now, you know how when someone says something out of place there will be some nervous tittering in the audience? Well, there is, and Herman takes that as appreciation! So he repackages the line and runs it through again! “I don't give a damn!” He even did it a third time. “I don't give a damn!” Didn't they install a trap door in the platform next day?

My point, though, is not that repackaging should never be done, but that sometimes it should. And that's what I'm going to do now with a post I wrote about five years ago entitled “Why do Bad Things Happen?” It's buried way back there in the archives....who's going to come across it now? Yet it's among the experiences that got me blogging in the first place. The story it tells really took place, and with only minor modifications, it's an email I sent to a work colleague I was witnessing to from afar. A little light in tone, the way I like to write. So now I've dressed it up a bit, applied lipstick, and am running it through again, just like Herman!

A caution, however. It will only appeal to persons willing to explore what the Bible says on serious matters. You cannot be too firmly afflicted with "we are wise and learned adults, far too clever to be sold Adam and Eve. Who's next, Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck?" syndrome. Any discussion on why there is suffering must necessarily touch upon Adam and Eve. You just can't get around it. If you could, I would. It doesn't exactly square with what the scientists say, does it, yet the two stands do nudge closer together over time.

Moristotle, who is atheist, was firmly in the grip of the above syndrome, and he couldn't stand the post. He almost threw up. He declared it a "fantasy," aspects of which were "utterly repulsive," and the rest "not only not nice at all, nor even adolescent, but simply infantile." Of course, I took his concerns to heart, and wrote a revised post just for him entitled “Why Do Bad Things Happen? Updated for Atheists (Sort Of)” It's just how Paul might have written, I imagine, if he'd been faced with the same audience, in the spirit of “to the atheists I became an atheist.”  (1 Cor 9:19-22)


Oh how I miss Moristotle! What glorious, spectacular rows we used to have! What creative posts came of it, both on his blog and mine! Moristotle was well-read. And thoughtful. And he had many interests in life. Atheist though he was, he didn't fly the scarlet Atheist letter A on his blog, probably because he knew Nathaniel Hawthorne wouldn't like it. These are the types of atheist you want to talk to, but alas, they don't hang around for too long. They inevitably reflect that this life is short, that it's all there is, that there's many things they yet want to do in it, and do they really want to spend those brief remaining years arguing with an intransigent “theist”? So they exit the stage, and leave only the ideological cranks in their wake, snarlpits of condescension and rudeness, who positively live to argue, who imagine they have a lock on “reason,” and who are so persistently unpleasant that it's hard to endure them for long. Moristotle, different in every respect, was my house atheist for a time, and he never even applied for the position; he just naturally assumed it with his trademark flair and wit. Though even he, if another Witness blogger would chime in on the discussion, would hand him his head on a platter. Alas, he has moved on. They all do. Only the snarlpits remain.

But we digress. Without further ado, here is that resurrected post, Why Do Bad Things Happen? (Bible reader's version):

 

Carpooling to work, Bill was pounding me into jelly with non-stop drivel about, of all things, pornography. I was not feeling well, had insufficient sleep and the beginnings of a headache. Jake was either snoozing in the back seat or wisely playing possum. I pretended to be deaf, but Bill was wise to it and kept talking! I considered piercing my eardrums so as to actually be deaf, or breathing in exhaust so as to die, but couldn't muster the nerve.

It seems there is a certain woman who has forsaken the arts, at which she was successful, to make hard-core pornography, at which she is astoundingly successful, and she has become wealthy. This has caught Bill's attention and it is the subject of the day

. ....Tom, she was a concert pianist and she was successful. Now she makes hard core porn and she is super-rich. I don't understand how she could do it. I mean, she was not just some loser, but she was a concert pianist. I just can't understand how a concert pianist could give that up and start a new living making hard core pornography. (Jake and I have no trouble understanding it) I think these people in Hollywood are so super-rich and powerful that they just laugh at all the rest of us, with our quaint and backward little bourgeois notions of morality. I mean, maybe this is just the capitalist system...maybe this is just free enterprise. Where's the harm, anyway. I mean, if it doesn't hurt anyone, what is wrong with it, anyway? Why not, if it makes people happy? But what I don't get is how she, who was a concert pianist......now, Bill is very predictable and you can fill in the rest for yourself and not be too far off

Of course, I don't want to imply that Bill is a regular consumer of hard core porn. I've no reason to believe that, and I don't believe it. Of course not! It is simply today's topic. Actually, the three of us ride together a lot, and women are a frequent topic of discussion. Not obscenely, you understand, and not specifically, but just generically, as a species. Both of these guys defer to me, since I have been married forever, so they assume I know a lot.

On the job, I resolve not to put up with the same drivel on the drive home. How much can a guy take? But once back in the car, my headache, held at bay during the workshift, returns with a vengeance, and I also begin to feel carsick. Bill, of course, never doubts that I am eagerly awaiting the next phase of his harangue, and picks up where he left off! Desperate measures are called for. 

.....Hard core porn. I mean, where's the harm in it? Isn't it just our petty ideas of morality, which the super-powerful rich people in Hollywood just laugh at? Tom, I think they just laugh at us. And where is the harm in it?......Without warning, I hit him hard with a right punch: "Bill, don't be an idiot! Of course it's harmful! It interferes with a normal relationship with a woman, because all your thoughts are debased!“ He is not fazed! He keeps coming at me!...Yeah, but...if people don't mind, I mean if they find enjoyment...how can it be harmful? What is really wrong with it? .....I land another hard right! "Damn it, Bill, we just came from the job, where about half of the folks are women. You go back and explain to them how wonderful hard core porn is...see if you can persuade them how it doesn't hurt anyone"......Yes!! If only for a moment, he is stopped. Jake, from the back seat, explodes in laughter....he is beginning to sense a good fight, and he perks up.

But Bill is far from down and out. He regroups! ......a concert pianist, who used to play the concert piano in front of a concert piano audience! What I don't understand is....

I feigt with my right, but this time I hit him hard with my left, out of nowhere and completely unexpected! ....."Bill, what really upsets me is that we should die! Why should people die after only 70 or 80 years, when there are some turtles that live 150 years. I'd like to live forever and never die. What do you think of that!!??" (Now, this has nothing to do with anything, but if we must talk, it is going to be on my subject, not porn) ....He staggers! He looks for the gutter, but he has lost the thread of conversation.......After a pause: I don't know why the hell a person would want to live forever, or even just five more minutes on this crappy earth! The way life is today it is not worth living! [He's not a joyful guy, this Bill.] Is this life just some kind of a joke that God is playing on us? I think he must be laughing at us. I mean, what's the purpose of all of this?

With the right combination of moves, I could dominate this fight. I take a gamble:.....

"Bill! I could explain it all to you, but I'm not going to because you'll interrupt!" ......Bullseye!!!  Jake splits his sides laughing. "I could explain it to you, but you'll interrupt," he mimics. Bill is speechless. He stumbles a bit, even briefly goes back to the porn star, but it is no good! The subject has been changed. By and by, he asks what is this explanation about the purpose of life.

Could it be? Is he really going to shut up? Gingerly, I lay down a foundation. "The first thing that you've got to understand is that God did not put humans on earth because he wanted them somewhere else. The earth is not a proving ground from which to launch people into heaven or hell. It was meant to be a permanent home, and people were created to live forever on it." Silence. It looks like I may really have his attention!

"Secondly, Bill, while I am explaining some things, you are going to hear things that you disagree with, but you cannot say so! For example, I will speak about Adam and Eve. You are going to want to say: "I don't believe in Adam and Eve." You cannot say it! You must wait until I am done, see if it hangs together, and then afterwards, if you still want, you can say: I don't believe in Adam and Eve." Again, not a word. It really seems like he is listening, and Jake too, for that matter.

And with that, I lay out the following scenario for them. And not just for them, but also for whoever reads this. Perhaps it will seem reasonable to you, and perhaps not. Let me know. Having prepared the earth to support physical life, God creates all life we see, including humans. As one perceptive person put it: "As almost a selfless act, to the extent of….I have life, perhaps I will create more life, so others can enjoy it as I do." In a nutshell, it could not be explained much better.

Still, happy living will depend on their recognition of their Creator's authority, his rightness, the need for obedience to him regarding questions of how to live and how to govern themselves as they grow in number. Not that God's going to control every minute aspect of their lives. Indeed, he has granted them free will. He has not programmed them as one might program robots…they can choose their course. And while that makes a wrong course possible, it also makes a right course so much more meaningful. After all, how meaningful is someone's love if you know they are programmed so they can't behave any other way?

To some extent the obedience that Adam rightly owes God parallels that of a child toward it's parents. The child for many years will encounter situations with which it is unfamiliar, that only the parents will be able to properly assess. Assuming the parent holds the child's best interests at heart, obedience is therefore a very good thing. Now, the child will one day become the equal of the parent, and the need for obedience fades. Humans will never become the equal of God, so with God the need for obedience never disappears, even though God wants us to continually gain wisdom from experience.

You may know that the Bible account, in the first three chapters of Genesis (If you haven't read the Bible, fear not. Few people have) says that God puts a tree, called the tree of the knowledge of good and bad, in the garden of Eden, and tells Adam and Eve not to eat from it. And, in no time at all, they do. Now, what does that mean? Does it mean that before eating off the tree, the first humans couldn't distinguish between good and bad, right and wrong? Plainly, that cannot be. How would they know it is right to obey the command and wrong to disobey? Nor does the fruit have anything at all to do with sex, as some have been told.

Back to the prior illustration, one might say that the child looks to the parent for standards as to what is good and what is bad. It is good to eat vegetables, to wash hands, to learn to read, to be in bed not too late. It is bad to play in the street, to eat only candy, to run with scissors, and so forth. But, if the young child were to absolutely rebel, one way to put it poetically would be to say that the child will now decide for itself what is good and bad....it will no longer look to its parents.

It is in this sense that eating of the tree of the knowledge of good and bad serves to illustrate those first humans rejecting God's right to decide what is right and wrong, good and bad, in favor of making their own rules. By eating from the tree, they are saying that they don't need God telling them what to do, they will decide for themselves! They reject God's sovereignty, his right to rule, his right to set standards. Now, what is God going to do about it?

Of course, he can flatten them all and start over, or give up on the whole notion of creating humans. That shows who's stronger. But that matter's never been in doubt. The question that has been raised is: who is correct? God or those first people? Can they really govern themselves successfully so that neither God nor anyone else ought interfere, or is self-rule an ability they do not have? Better to settle this question and thus salvage the original project.

Essentially, God says: Alright…. I say you cannot rule yourselves. You insist you can. Try it. I will give you this much time (hold our you hands about one foot apart, a distance that can represent the time God allows) It will be all the time you will need to make good on your claim. During that time, as you increase in number, you are free to organize and govern yourselves, divide or unite yourselves any way you see fit and can manage. Accept or reject standards I offer, devise your own ways of living, your own economies, your own religions. Discover science, and see if you can harness it to improve your lot. I will not interfere. At the end of that time, we will see if you have been able to make good on your claim of independence.

Now, as the Bible presents matters, we are nearing the end of that time. We don't have a precise timetable, but we do have many indications that point to this general time period. And, not to deny that there are a few bright spots here and there...people have learned to clean up after their dogs, for instance...but I don't think anyone can point to the overall human record with pride. It's been one long chronicle of butchery and suffering, injustice and poverty, hatred and selfishness, climaxing so that today the question is seriously asked: will humans destroy themselves. We all know of people who choose not to bring children into the world, so inhospitable does it appear.

So there comes a point when God can say: Enough. Case closed. The question has been answered. He can bring about his own kingdom rule, he can remove those opposed, and he can see his original purpose toward earth come back online. All this without negating the free will he has endowed his creation with, (among the things most people cherish is freedom of choice) and without any permanent damage to those who have suffered in the past, since there is provision of resurrection.

Furthermore, the issue, once settled, becomes a standard for the future, just as a Supreme Court decision becomes a precedent. Should some future whiner make the same claim about self-rule, the experiment does not have to repeat. In time, since everlasting life is the object, the time spent in self-rule and human suffering recedes and comes to represent an insignificant amount of time, like a bad dream of long ago.

And then there is some stuff about how conditions will change under kingdom rule, and a little etc, and thus ends my speech.

Silence. It, or at least parts of it, has struck home.

But, by and by, Bill cranks up again.

Now you must understand that, physically, I feel horrible. My headache has gone migraine, and the ride has made me nauseous. When I am later dropped off at the meet spot, I don't get into my car, but instead walk a few laps around the parking lot, trying to steady myself before the drive home.

The next scene is straight from the movies! How often, after the hero has beaten the foe and has turned his back...exhausted...does that foe.....gasp! Look out!....impossibly rise up for one last blow, which will surely find its mark except for the completely unexpected intervention of some third party....say, the woman in distress, or a bad guy just turned good, or an up-to-this-time ambiguous character. And so it is that way in the car!

......What I don't understand, Bill says, is what is the purpose of all this suffering.... how can God allow all of......

Jake comes to the rescue!!! "Bill, Tom just explained all of that!! he says. Weren't you listening?" ....Bill next says something about evolution, and again it is Jake: "Wait! he says. This is something I can chime in on. I used to believe in evolution but I don't anymore...not because of religion, but because of science. Evolution doesn't make any sense because of"......and he starts into a discussion on DNA and some other science things. Thus the two of them talk for awhile, while I try to nurse my head and stomach, hoping I do not die. [I did not]

There is an epilogue. A week or two later, about ten of us were at another jobsite. From the other side of the area, I can hear Bill complaining to someone: .......What I don't understand is what is the purpose of this life. Is this some sort of joke that God is playing? Is he just laughing at us........"Bill! I interject, I explained all that to you...don't be carrying on as if you don't have a clue!" My ally, Jake, roars with laughter." He did!" Jake says. "It made sense, too! Don't worry, Tom, I believe you!"

So I'm batting 500. It could be worse.

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

 

Tom Irregardless and Me     No Fake News but Plenty of Hogwash

 

 

 

Defending Jehovah’s Witnesses with style from attacks... in Russia, with the ebook ‘Dear Mr. Putin - Jehovah’s Witnesses Write Russia’ (free).... and in the West, with the ebook ‘TrueTom vs the Apostates!’ (free)

"Because Then You Will Find the Culprits"

In late 2008, trashing bankers was the way to go, what with the huge economic breakdown....a breakdown which has lately rekindled, this time with Europe the flashpoint. I have no great love for bankers, so I hopped aboard.

“Hi. We're speaking today about a group of people no one likes,” I began my house-to-house presentation. “Bankers.”

The householder replied: “I'm a banker.”

“No, no, no, I'm not talking about you...” I backpedaled. “I mean big-time bankers!”

“I'm a big-time banker,” she pursued. “So are all my family.” For crying out loud! What are the chances? Believe me, there was nothing about the street to suggest big-time bankers lived there. Frankly, I still think she was pulling my leg, but you won't have to stretch your mind too far to picture that the call sort of fizzled.

My companion was mortified. He still brings it up to suggest how embarrassed I must have been. But I wasn't. Light and semi-flippant is the way I like to go; that way you can readily retract if you see you've missed your mark. It's exactly the right tone to cut through apathy, or cynicism, or dullness, and we have a lot of that here in the United States. Plus, if you find you've come across a sincere person, you can immediately modify your tone. This won't work everywhere; it might not even work in most places, but in the U.S.A, at least where I live, it's just right, at least for me. It doesn't work for Mrs. Sheepandgoats, but then, her approach doesn't work for me. We all have to make the most of the personalities we're stuck with.

I was aiming that day to speak of security, specifically financial security, since it didn't seem to exist just then. Remember, the whole world was on the edge, said the Economist, a condition which is being revisited as I write, except blasé people say “been there, done that.” and pay much less attention than three years prior. But I was trying to nudge folks into discussion of Isaiah 65:21-23:

And they will certainly build houses and have occupancy; and they will certainly plant vineyards and eat [their] fruitage. They will not build and someone else have occupancy; they will not plant and someone else do the eating. For like the days of a tree will the days of my people be; and the work of their own hands my chosen ones will use to the full. They will not toil for nothing, nor will they bring to birth for disturbance....

Many people sense today that they are building and planting so that someone else can live the good life. Protesters are camping out right now on Wall Street and major U.S. cities, angry about the top 1% of the population controlling 99% of the wealth. President Obama is preaching for all he is worth about creating jobs, jobs, and more jobs. Is it an ill omen for him that even Steve Jobs just died? So it seemed that folks might be receptive to this Bible promise recorded in Isaiah, that under God's Kingdom rule, they will see good for their hard work, rather than finding they just dig themselves deeper into a hole while someone else sees good for it.

Recall three years ago that the banks had just been “bailed out.” They'd been given massive cash transfers, funded by the taxpayers, and taxpayers weren't happy about it. Would anyone bail them out of their money troubles? Or would those banks, now that they had been saved, go easy on the small fry indebted to them? Not a bit of it! Instead, they began tossing people from their homes, as the housing market collapsed, jobs withered, and folks fell far behind in their mortgages. Yes, they booted them out right and left until someone uncovered a law that said you actually had to read documents you were signing when someone's home was at stake. Banks weren’t doing that. They were robo-signing! The courts said they could no longer carry on like that. So they had to hire people to actually read the stuff, which slowed them down a bit. But only temporarily.

Doesn't this just make your blood boil! Doesn't it call to mind Matt 18:23-34?

…..the kingdom of the heavens has become like a man, a king, that wanted to settle accounts with his slaves. When he started to settle them, there was brought in a man who owed him ten thousand talents [60,000,000 denarii]. But because he did not have the means to pay [it] back, his master ordered him and his wife and his children and all the things he had to be sold and payment to be made. Therefore the slave fell down and began to do obeisance to him, saying, ‘Be patient with me and I will pay back everything to you.’ Moved to pity at this, the master of that slave let him off and canceled his debt. But that slave went out and found one of his fellow slaves that was owing him a hundred denarii; and, grabbing him, he began to choke him, saying, ‘Pay back whatever you owe.’ Therefore his fellow slave fell down and began to entreat him, saying, ‘Be patient with me and I will pay you back.’ However, he was not willing, but went off and had him thrown into prison until he should pay back what was owing. When, therefore, his fellow slaves saw the things that had happened, they became very much grieved, and they went and made clear to their master all the things that had happened. Then his master summoned him and said to him, ‘Wicked slave, I canceled all that debt for you, when you entreated me. Ought you not, in turn, to have had mercy on your fellow slave, as I also had mercy on you?’

As one senator (Ron Paul) pointed out, since the total bank bailouts eventually came to $17,000 per person, with no discernable economic benefit, you might have just given the money directly to the individual Americans. The results could hardly have turned out worse, and might well have turned out better. Debts would have been paid down, new purchases made, small businesses started. So that's why I led off with my “bankers” presentation. It's not something I would ordinary do.

By the way, whatever became of Winged Migration Man? Was he hurt by the collapse? It hit retired folks especially hard. WMM used to comment here a lot, and I cherished his comments. They were witty, they never agreed with me, yet they were always respectful. But his last one showed discouragement. He wrote: (first comment on this post)

Tom, Sheep and Goats,

The present debacle ….has devastated many an unsuspecting individual who had been led to believe his house would continue to appreciate and his 401K was as safe and as dependable as the tide, and unfortunately it is not over yet. This hard working individual who was probably reared to believe that the system of Free Enterprise and Capitalism would allow him to achieve what most folks felt was the American dream.....I do trust that those of you out there that read this blog know that I hope you all will recover from this financial downturn that has developed.

I know, I know. In these days of massive instability, a person can do much worse than merely suffer financial loss, no matter how large. Still, this crisis hurt good, decent people. I hope he made out okay.

So I was all excited to hear of an upcoming film Inside Job Inside Jobwhich was to expose the fraudsters behind that 2008 collapse. When it hit the theaters here in Rochester, I did what I never ever ever do. I went to see it without waiting for the DVD release, or at the very least, for it to hit the cheap theaters! But amazingly, it only played here for a week, and it was gone! I had to go to Buffalo to see it, and even there it played only in a couple second-run movie houses. This seemed so odd to me that I theorized conspiracies had to be at work! ME! Tom Sheepandgoats, who never goes in for that kind of thinking! Not that I don't think that people aren't low enough to conspire; they're easily low enough. I just don't think they're smart enough. You have to be able to keep your stories straight for any conspiracy to remain hidden.

The film no one saw went on to win that year's academy award for best documentary. Director Charles Ferguson, accepting his prize, delivered the only serious line that entire star-studded silly night: “Forgive me, I must start by pointing out that three years after a horrific financial crisis caused by massive fraud, not a single financial executive has gone to jail, and that's wrong!” The movie's doing well in rentals, in contrast to its initial debut, and I highly recommend it. In fact, I'll review it soon. And in the spirit of movies.....here's a teaser preview:

CHARLES FERGUSON: Why do you think there isn't a more systematic investigation being undertaken?

NOURIEL ROUBINI (professor, NYU Business School): Because then you will find the culprits.

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

 

Tom Irregardless and Me               No Fake News but Plenty of Hogwash

 

 

Defending Jehovah’s Witnesses with style from attacks... in Russia, with the ebook ‘Dear Mr. Putin - Jehovah’s Witnesses Write Russia’ (free).... and in the West, with the ebook ‘TrueTom vs the Apostates!’ (free)

"Mentally Diseased" and Political Correctness

You know, Joel Engardio's words seem more prescient each day. I wrote once that he was an apologist for Jehovah's Witnesses. He wrote back to say he wasn't. Still, his words seem more relevant with each passing day.

Through his film KNOCKING, Mr. Engardio offers Jehovah’s Witnesses as an excellent example, perhaps our last hope, of how groups with strongly polarized ideas can yet coexist peacefully. Jehovah's Witnesses are “moral conservatives who stay out of politics,” he observes. “They attempt to persuade, but not impose their beliefs.” Isn't that the key? “Persuade, but not impose.” 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 of malcontents, firebrands and terrorists, what an example that is of getting along! Even politics might be viewed as a form of personal violence, since it offers a means of imposing one's views by law upon others. JWs steer clear of politics.

“There was little tolerance for my explanation that we only worshiped God, and that God wasn't American,” Joel writes of his childhood upbringing. Those words, too, are prescient. For today there is considerable backlash against JWs by those who insist that God is American. Or at any rate, that he embraces traditionally American values, such as “rugged individualism” and "independence." But he doesn't.

Signing on with Jehovah's Witnesses is in some ways like joining an army; no one's ever said otherwise. And in an army, you can disagree with those taking the lead, but you can't go on a campaign to undercut them. You just can't. Everyone who has ever served in the military knows it. Now, Jehovah's army poses no threat to any nation. In aspects of personal fiber and morals, members are a great asset to any country. And surely, they're the largest “army” in history whose soldiers have never taken a life. People today join armies at the drop of a pin; daily we see news images of young men firing AK47s into the air. The only army people look askance at is the one in which they don't get to fire guns, the one whose weapons are words only.

Desperate to avoid absolute disintegration in human society, and having utterly failed to curb human violence, nations increasingly resort to “political correctness.” If you can prevent people from saying certain things, the theory goes, perhaps love and tolerance, peace and good will to all will one day come about. There's not much evidence it works that way, but one must try something. So woe to anyone uttering words suggesting lack of tolerance.

Has the Watchtower run afoul of that stricture recently? In its July 15, 2011 issue, for consideration in JW congregations, the magazine recommended (strongly) avoiding “apostates,” even calling them “mentally diseased.” You should have heard the howling from those who don't like Witnesses, grousers who immediately broadened application of those words to include all who left the faith, something the article never suggested. Government ought to investigate such “hate speech,” they insisted.

Look, most persons who leave JWs simply move on in life, some with the viewpoint that the religion just wasn't for them, some with minor grumbling over this or that feature of the faith that prompted their decision, some with the viewpoint that they couldn't live up to it. None of these are viewed as 'apostates.' To be sure, we don't think their decision is wise, but they're not “apostate.” A fair number eventually return. You could liken those leaving to a man or woman leaving a relationship, like a failed marriage. Most just move on. But there's always a certain few psycho ex-mates that can't let go, who devote all their time and energy to harassing the person they once loved. Sigh....with the internet, these ones have a voice and it's amazing how prolific they can be. One such character (I'm not suggesting he is typical) even hosted a website (does he still?) in which he offered expert testimony in legal proceedings against Jehovah's Witnesses and expert testimony in legal proceedings against pharmaceutical makers of anti-depressants, apparently not realizing that each offer undercuts his credibility for the other. In any other setting, he'd be a quite ordinary person, but put him on the internet and he looms huge.

That's the type that the magazine commented on, not at all simply everyone who departs.

Moreover, 'mentally diseased' was placed in quotation marks, indicating it was not meant as a medical diagnosis, but as an adjective to suggest a manner of thinking. Nor is the term anything original. It's merely a repeat of the Bible verse 1 Tim 6:3-4....."If any man teaches other doctrine and does not assent to healthful words, those of our Lord Jesus Christ, nor to the teaching that accords with godly devotion, he is puffed up [with pride], not understanding anything, but being mentally diseased over questionings and debates about words."

Whoa, whoa, whoa! said guys like this one....that's not in any Bible I know of except the New World Translation, your Bible! He offered some alternatives, and I'll quote from his blog:

“That's not what it says in any English translation I know of. Here are 3 as a sample (courtesy of Unbound Bible):

If anyone advocates a different doctrine and does not agree with sound words, those of our Lord Jesus Christ, and with the doctrine conforming to godliness, he is conceited and understands nothing; but he has a morbid interest in controversial questions and disputes about words, out of which arise envy, strife, abusive language, evil suspicions (NASB)

If any man teach otherwise, and consent not to wholesome words, even the words of our Lord Jesus Christ, and to the doctrine which is according to godliness; he is proud, knowing nothing, but doting about questions and strifes of words, whereof cometh envy, strife, railings, evil surmisings (KJV)

If any man teach otherwise, and consent not to the sound words of our Lord Jesus Christ, and to that doctrine which is according to godliness, he is proud, knowing nothing, but sick about questions and strifes of words; from which arise envies, contentions, blasphemies, evil suspicions (Douay-Rheims)

“But of course, translations are unnecessary for people like me who can read the original Greek:

“ει τις ετεροδιδασκαλει και μη προσερχεται υγιαινουσιν λογοις τοις του κυριου ημων ιησου χριστου και τη κατ ευσεβειαν διδασκαλια τετυφωται μηδεν επισταμενος αλλα νοσων περι ζητησεις και λογομαχιας εξ ων γινεται φθονος ερις βλασφημιαι υπονοιαι πονηραι (Wetscott-Hort)

“I will discuss the meaning of the Greek passage with you if you wish. In fact, I invite you to do so. If you can't read the Greek, then we have little to discuss about it. What I will say is that the NASB, in this case, happens to be nearest in meaning to the original. I will stand by that assessment unless you can demonstrate conclusively that it's not true.”

 

 

To which I answered (starting with a requote of his words):

But of course, translations are unnecessary for people like me who can read the original Greek:

“Of course! [Why do people have to be such blowhards?] Fortunately, people like you produce translations so that dumb people like me can hope to understand the original. Surely we are permitted to use translations. If not, then all international dealings/relations ought to be suspended unless all parties involved are thoroughly conversant in all languages.

“By comparing many translations, even the dunce can get an accurate feel for the original.

“You've objected to "mentally diseased over questionings and debates about words." What do your other quoted translations say? Douay-Rheims says "sick about questions and strifes of words." In view of the context, what sort of 'sickness' do you think the translator had in mind? Tuberculosis, maybe? Or is it not a sickness of thinking, so that "mentally diseased" is not such a bad rendering after all? NASB, which you admire, offers "morbid interest in controversial questions and disputes about words." Does "morbid," when applied to thinking, suggest balance and soundness of mind? Or is "sickness", even "mentally diseased," more to the point?”

 

I'm okay when grousers who don't like the Bible denigrate Jehovah's Witnesses for that reason. But it burns me up when they suggest JWs...or the translation they generally use....misrepresent the Bible.

Here's a few other translations:

 diseased (Emphasized New Testament; Rotherham)

 filled with a sickly appetite (Epistles of Paul, W.J.Conybeare)

morbid appetite (A New Testament: A Translation in the Language of the People; Charles Williams)

 morbid craving, (An American Translation; Goodspeed)

 unhealthy love of questionings (New Testament in Basic English)

 morbidly keen (NEB)

unhealthy desire to argue (Good News Bible).

Do any of these other versions suggest soundness of mind to you? So the NWT's "mentally diseased" is an entirely valid offering, even if more pointed than most. Plus, once again, the term is an adjective, as it is in all other translations, not a medical diagnosis. Context (in that Watchtower article) made this application abundantly clear. But my blogging opponent declared all such context (apparently without knowing it) "irrelevant." The last time I carried on that way with regard to the remarks of some scientists, I was immediately accused of "quote mining."

Surely that sword must cut both ways. Malcontents who harp on that Watchtower sentence are quote-mining, totally ignoring (or disagreeing with) its context, so as to lambaste a religion they can't stand.

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Dr. Lonnie D. Kliever (1932 – 2004), Professor of Religious Studies of the Southern Methodist University in his paper The Reliability of Apostate Testimony about New Religious Movements that he wrote upon request for Scientology, claims that the overwhelming majority of people who disengage from non-conforming religions harbor no lasting ill-will toward their past religious associations and activities, but that there is a much smaller number of apostates who are deeply invested and engaged in discrediting, and performing actions designed to destroy the religious communities that once claimed their loyalties. He asserts that these dedicated opponents present a distorted view of the new religions and cannot be regarded as reliable informants by responsible journalists, scholars, or jurists. He claims that the lack of reliability of apostates is due to the traumatic nature of disaffiliation, that he compares to a divorce, but also due to the influence of the anti-cult movement, even on those apostates who were not deprogrammed or did not receive exit counseling. (Kliever 1995 Kliever. Lonnie D, Ph.D. The Reliability of Apostate Testimony About New Religious Movements, 1995.) [Submitted by “Jay” on the Beliefnet blog]

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Years ago Jehovah's Witnesses faced down another form of “political correctness,” that of compulsory flag salute. As with the present political correctness, it involved forcing certain speech or actions so as to foster desired attitudes. Observed a Court opinion of the era: "there are schools all over the United States in which the pupils have to go through  the ceremony of pledging allegiance to the flag every school day. It would be hard to devise a means more effective for dulling patriotic sentiment than that. This routine repetition makes the flag-saluting ceremony perfunctory and so devoid of feeling; and once this feeling has been lost it is hard to recapture it for the "high moments" of life." Yet for three years, until the Supreme Court overturned its own prior decision, compulsory flag salute in public school was the law of the land.

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Read ‘Tom Irregardless and Me.’    30% free preview

Starting with Prince, a fierce and frolicking defense of Jehovah’s Witnesses. A riotous romp through their way of life. “We have become a theatrical spectacle in the world, and to angels and to men,” the Bible verse says. That being the case, let’s give them some theater! Let’s skewer the liars who slander the Christ! Let’s pull down the house on the axis lords! Let the seed-pickers unite!

 

Defending Jehovah’s Witnesses with style from attacks... in Russia, with the ebook ‘Dear Mr. Putin - Jehovah’s Witnesses Write Russia’ (free).... and in the West, with the ebook ‘TrueTom vs the Apostates!’ (free)