Life on the Lehigh River

The drive down to the Lehigh River is not steep, but it extends seven miles, starting at Summit Point, which for all practical purposes, is the top of the world. I mean, you know you're way, way up there in the Poconos; look all around you, and there are no peaks. And isn't the grid of roads up there mildly convex, as you'd expect on a mountaintop?

A couple of early steep, sharp turns, and your descent is on, unbroken and more-or-less straight. The road enters a gully in its final two miles, imperceptibly at first, nonetheless, embankments on right and left steadily rise. Then....a short string of row houses appear on your left, crammed between road's edge and embankment. Then another string on the right side. Then.....unbroken rows on both sides....they've wedged a town in here!

But if this is a gully, shouldn't there be rushing water? Ah....there it is, cascading down from the left, and a little further from the right, vanishing into a tunnel carved under the row of buildings. It must re-emerge someplace, yet I never discovered where.

The row buildings, right and left, steadily improve in appearance. They become colorful boutiques, artist dens, eateries, and general stores. The final block widens out, enough to allow angled parking, and the row buildings to the left sandwich a grand inn, but all the while this is a one-street sliver of a town. Oh...alright...toward the bottom, they somehow slip in one parallel alleyway, to the right and a bit elevated, but it hasn't even room for its own set of right and left dwellings. On one side fronts a sandstone row of trendy shops; on the other, the backs of buildings from the main drag.

Down here the widened street and it's narrow companion end in tees onto rt 209. Beyond is the train station, the tracks, the Lehigh river, the walkway, and another steep mountain. You're in the town of Jim Thorpe, Pennsylvania. An odd name for a town, don't you think? But when you consider the original name, Mauch Chunk, perhaps you'll think JT an improvement.  Mauch Chunk is the Lenni Lenape word for “sleeping bear;” a native American term that no one except the Lenni Lenape will understand. Jim Thorpe is a native American term that everyone will understand. Descendant of a chief of the Sac and Fox nation, Thorpe attended the nearby Carlisle Indian Industrial School, where he mastered any sport he turned his attention to:  basketball, lacrosse, tennis, handball, bowling, swimming, hockey, boxing, and gymnastics. “Show them what an Indian can do,” his father charged him when he went off to represent the United States at the 1912 Stockholm Oympics. There, he won so many metals, in such a variety of events, that Sweden's King Gustov V gushed  “Sir, you are the greatest athlete in the world!” “Thanks, King,” the unassuming man replied. For years thereafter, he played major league baseball and football, concurrently. ABC's Wide World of Sports, in 2001, named him the greatest athlete of the 20th century.

Just behind and well above that aforementioned grand inn, up the steep hill, is the 1860 home built for Asa Packer. It's an ornate, three-story mansion open for tours,Asa Packer manision  so of course, Mrs Sheepandgoats and I took one. Asa Packer came from Connecticutt (on foot) in 1833 and made his fortune, first as a canal boat operator, and then as founder of the LeHigh railroad. The idea was to transport the area's coal to the great cities on the East Coast. It made him the third wealthiest man in the country. From his front porch, peer over the inn to see the courthouse he built, where he served as judge, the church he built where he served as vestryman, and the sandstone buildings where he housed his employees. Today, those sandstone buildings contain eateries, studios, and trendy stores. At one time, nineteen of the country's 26 millionaires maintained seasonal homes in Mauch Chunk. One of the ten coolest small towns in America, declared Budget Travel Magazine in 2007. Asa Packer's words are on display just in front of his house: “There is no distinction to which any young man may not aspire, and with energy, diligence, intelligence, and virtue, obtain.”

 

Mrs Sheepandgoats and I didn't stay in his town during our Poconos trip, however. We stayed 20 miles upstream in Stoddartsville, the town of a would-be industrialist to whom fortune was not so kind. Stoddartsville shows up on the map, but if you go there, you'll find only the foundations of some 200 year old buildings. And simple signs erected by the Stoddartsville Historical Society labeling what once stood on each foundation. And a graveyard whose worn tombstones reveal several Stoddarts are buried there. And a few private residences built on some of those ancient foundations. And a small rustic cabin overlooking the Lehigh....that's where we stayed.

2010 Oct poconos trip 022 

John Stoddart was ambitious, too, just like Asa Packer. He also sought to harness the Lehigh, so as to ship grain downstream to Philadelphia, in order to divert commerce from a neighboring system that sent it to Baltimore.....this was to be a “win-lose,” not a “win-win”. He built a community straddling the Lehigh along the Wilkes-Barre Turnpike (which he controlled) with grist mill, saw mill, boat-building capacity, and so forth. It flourished in the early 1800's, (a bit before Packer's time) but alas, Stoddart was too far upstream. The best he could do with his river was provide one-way traffic, utilizing a series of dams which held back waters until they reached flood stage, and then, releasing them all at once, his barges could ride the crest downstream to the next dam! Boats were constructed in Stoddartsville and dismantled at destination, the timber sold along with the cargo. It wasn't cost-effective enough to compete with later “two-way” systems, and John Stoddart eventually went bankrupt, his town fading in prominence. He spent the final thirty years of his life a clerk in Philadelphia.

There's a third character, a Quaker businessman by the name of Josiah White, who touches on the fortunes of both Packer and Stoddart. To Packer, he brought success, but to Stoddart, ruin. Stoddart might have gone under in any case, but White sealed his fate. White's endeavor was canal-building, and it was canal piloting that enabled Asa Packer to amass capital sufficient to build his railroad. Back in Mauch Chunk, just before the railroad station (which is now a tourist information center) lies a town square named after Josiah White. It was he who founded the town, before Packer ever traipsed in from Connecticut.

Ironically, Josiah White's canal ventures owe a lot to John Stoddart's initial support. In the early days of the Lehigh Navigation Company, White tried in vain to raise money from comfortable, conservative, downstream Philadelphia merchants. They were loathe to part with it. White realized he needed the backing of one man, John Stoddart, who (per White's memiors) “was then a leading man among the Mound characters, being esteemed Luckey [sic] and to never mis'd in his Speculations, carried a strong influence with his actions, he being of an open and accessible habit, gave us frequent opportunities with him, & his large Estates at the head of our Navigation, authorized our beseaging [sic] him, which we did frequently." Sure enough, as soon as word got out that Stoddart had invested $5000.00 (with the stipulation that the navigation system begin in Stoddartsville) everyone jumped on board, and the entire hoped-for sum of $100,000 was raised in 24 hours! White began building two-way locks on the Lehigh, but that summer (1819) was unusually dry, and the river proved too shallow for transport. The following winter, ice damaged the locks to the point that White replaced them with the aforementioned one-way “bear-trap” locks, (the locks in no way resembled bear traps, but White's workmen named them so to dispose of incessant pesky “whatcha building?” passerby) the economics of which ultimately sealed John Stoddart's doom....not to mention, destroying the fishing upon which various Native Americans and missionaries depended.

Roaming the Pennsylvania hills where these long-dead men once maneuvered, it's hard to escape the feeling that if you had switched them...put Stoddart where Packer was, and vice versa....the results would have been the same. Both were subject to time and unforeseen circumstances, which might have easily gone the other way. If the Lehigh had behaved that first year of Stoddart's transport system, or if Packer had been subject to a clobbering winter or two, (he went way out on a limb financially in his railroad building) it might be Stoddart's name that is remembered instead of Packer's. That is....as much as any person is remembered. For, successful as he was, I knew nothing about Packer before stumbling upon his home town....did you? Even though he was the third richest man in the country. Doesn't matter. We all end up in the grave, where memory of us quickly fades.

For whatever reason, I vividly remember Brother Benner, the District Overseer, playing devil's advocate with his own argument - an argument drawn from Ecclesiastes about the brevity of life, and its consequent “futility.” Build as you may, you're not around to reap too much benefit from your work. In Ecclesiastes, Solomon reflects upon the “hard work at which I was working hard under the sun, that I would leave behind for the man who would come to be after me. And who is there knowing whether he will prove to be wise or foolish? Yet he will take control over all my hard work at which I worked hard and at which I showed wisdom under the sun.” (2:18-19) This nearly happened in the case of Packer's enormous wealth, after the untimely deaths of his sons. Business associates threatened to squander it all, so Asa's daughter Mary maneuvered to gain control of the family fortune. To that end, she had to marry, since unmarried women back then were never left the estate (even though Mary had nursed both parents through their deaths). She married some obliging business fellow or other, secured the dough, and the marriage ended soon thereafter. Was that the plan from the start? At any rate, as we toured the Packer mansion, the guide pointed to a prominently displayed plaque of St Fabiola, the patron saint of divorced women. (no, I didn't know there was such a saint, either. Must she not need a lot of helpers today, like Santa needs his elves?)

Anyhow, back to Benner, he was discussing the verse 1:11, a recurring theme of Ecclesiastes: “There is no remembrance of people of former times, nor will there be of those also who will come to be later.” We, who were initially created to live forever on earth, are now subject to that sad reality. He spoke of how someone might attempt to counter the verse, for example, pointing to some musician or other: “Yes, so-and-so may have died,” they would say, “but his music lives on and on.” “Give me a break!” Benner responded. “Who was the most famous singer in George Washington's day?” Exactly.

Same thing with Mauch Chunk. Who were the other 18 millionaires who made their home there? Or, for that matter, what about Jim Thorpe, the town's later namesake? What became of him after his athletic days? (alas, for all his fame, he fell upon very hard times) You will remember....imperfectly....a few of the generation before you, and perhaps even a handful of the generation before that, but everyone else is, at best, a name in a stats book, like Packer or Stoddart. Some won. Some lost. But you don't know anything about them.

The brevity or our life is what really defines it. You don't get too many shots. There's a built-in frustration, since every door we open represents several we have closed. Pathways take a while to trod. The more ambitious the pathway, the longer it will take, and the fewer you'll trod. Each pathway we go down represents a multitude we don't go down. And yet, we want to go down them all. Is this what Solomon meant about life being “calamity?” Today's age of specialization makes the calamity even more pronounced. Increase your wisdom or wealth, as Solomon did, and you increase the pathways you can pursue. But, alas, you increase perception of the many more you won't pursue before the clock runs out.

It wasn't meant to be so, and it will not be so one day in the future. Humans, created to live forever but now relegated to a few score of years, are yet to have opportunity for everlasting life. And all these characters of the past....not to mention our own family members...are they to be among the “righteous and the unrighteous” who come out of the memorial tombs, per Acts 24:15, and John 5:28? It's the Bible's hope. It intrigued me from the beginning. It still does, though one must stoke the hope occasionally so that static from this present dismal system of things doesn't drown it out. As Jesus said: “when the Son of man arrives, will he really find the faith on the earth?”  (Luke 18:8)

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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)

Alzheimer's Research: So the Cops Shoot the Bad Guys Instead of the Good Guys...

Now that I'm old enough to receive the AARP magazine, I read each issue cover to cover. They're packed with nice articles geared to the aging, and......there's no nice way to say this.....that's what I'm doing. But a recent piece about Alzheimers research in September's Bulletin (Alzheimer's: a new Theory, by Elizabeth Agnvall) left me un-warm and un-fuzzy. I've known people to succumb to Alzheimers. Moreover, I don't have it now, but how do I know it's not lurking around the corner? Some would say it's made certain inroads, already. So...yes...I want medical science to get its act together on this malady. Sure, they have their act together now, the author maintains. But they insisted, with the same fervor, that they had it together just a few years ago. The author points out, however, that today's approach is a 180 degree reversal from yesterday's.

Turns out that for the last 20 years, medical science has proceeded on the theory that “sticky plaques” are the culprit causing Alzheimer's. Drugs have been developed to search and destroy those plaques. Haven't they been peddled on American TV: Ask your doctor if such-and-such is right for you? Those ads drive Pop into a rage. But now sticky plaques are thought to be not the culprit! Rather, they are the body's defense for attacking the real menace: clumps of amyloid beta protein, called oligomers. Oligomers do the damage, not sticky plaques, so the new thinking goes. Sticky plaques are the body's means to take them out! We've been targeting the wrong enemy! Medically sanctioned “friendly fire”…...the practice for the last twenty years!

Now, being a blogger who believes in God, I have to be so careful writing anything that might be perceived as critical of science, lest some science-worshipping atheist come along and lecture me that science is based on EVIDENCE, whereas religion is based on mere BELIEF, and what do I think is smarter when I'm sick: pray myself better, or go to a science-based doctor, and do I still believe that the earth is flat?! I tell you, it's a risky course to take. So, let me say it upfront: I'm not against science. I know it's a discovery process. I know mistakes are made along the way. Alright, so the cops arrive upon the scene and shoot all the good guys instead of the bad guys! Is that any reason to be down on law enforcement? Of course not! A slight adjustment is all that's needed. So let bygones be bygones and we'll all be happy.

No. I'm not critical on that account. Mistakes happen. God knows there's plenty of people who scour past publications of JWs to find understandings which have changed, and then get all hysterical over it, supposing, I guess, that any modification is like smashing the Ten Commandments tablets. Jehovah's Witnesses tack. We hone in. We get ever closer and sometimes alter course. Why should science not do the same?

What grabs me is this quote: “[Andrew] Dillin, of the Salk Institute, started pursuing the oligomer theory several years ago. Then, the idea was so controversial, Dillin says, that some scientists would walk out of the room when he made his presentation at conferences. Now, he says, many of the top researchers in the field are convinced.”

They walked out of the room? How dogmatic does that sound? How in keeping is that with Plonka's manifesto “prove a scientist wrong and he will thank you for it.” It's rather hard to prove them wrong when they walk out of the room as soon as they hear something they don't like. Now, that's intransigence of the sort they would, in a heartbeat, ascribe to religion.  And yet, just a few years later, these same scientists alter and say “Oh.....you know, that fellow was right all along!”


They're not immune to stubbornness, that's all I'm saying. What steams me is those who claim they are.....that second buttressing layer of scientist-philosopher-cheerleader-atheist types who worship science themselves and ram it down all of our throats as the be-all and end-all. For, if this new theory is right, then you were better off declining when your doctor prescribed those Alzheimer's medications. “No, I don't trust it,” and “these guys don't know what they're talking about” are now seen to be perfectly reasonable views to have held. But God help you if you held them while the fat-headed 180 degree ass-backward Alzheimer's approach was in vogue. “Alright, don't take the meds, if you're going to be so pig-headed!” can't you hear some of them say. “Maybe you want to go to a faith healer, or a witch doctor, instead!” But now we see that's exactly what you should have done. They may not have helped, but they wouldn't have hurt, as did the now-outdated science-based approach.

The article soft-pedals this bit of unpleasantness: “And if the [new] theory is correct, then drugs that target plaques – as many of the most promising medications have done in the past few years – may not help people who have the disease. They could even make them worse.” A very deferential statement, is it not? If the theory is correct, they certainly make them worse.....one would think, in exact correlation with how they were supposed to have made them better. Even though they were the “most promising” medications. Unless the old meds never did anything in the first place. Perhaps, in that case, you can now claim they do no harm. But when marketers urge us to pester our doctors for the stuff, surely the response they hope to elicit from that learned one is not “don't bother, they don't do anything, you'll just be wasting your money!”

It took me awhile to realize....dikki clued me in, actually....that pharmaceutical companies advertizing on TV is not a worldwide phenomenon. It happens in only two countries, I am told, of which the United States is one. So it will be hard for non-American readers to fathom just how obnoxious these ads are. Decisive, immaculate and impossibly handsome doctors stride purposefully through futuristic laboratories. They glance alternately at teams of researchers peering into microscopes, at banks of computers, at their clipboard, and, of course, at YOU, as they authoritatively report the very latest astounding medical breakthrough. “Such-and-such is not right for everyone,” they acknowledge, “but...damn it, man,” they seem to be saying, “you know it's right for you!” Even as I write, I'm recalling one such “doctor” striding through a lab reminiscent of Batman's lair, touting some new med that unlocks the very “power of the sea,” (fish oil...the stuff you've been able to buy forever at any health foods store) and.....would you believe it?....the donkey actually ends his pitch peering contemplatively into the lab's full-wall aquarium, as if marveling how his outfit has managed to make a buck out of something God provided free.

This formula is not set in concrete. It can vary slightly. Alzheimer's, for example, afflicts our grandparents, and our grandparents are kindly, aren't they? So a brusque futuristic setting will not do. No. The setting here must be warmer, a kindly doctors office, for example, and the doctor himself ought to have gray hair. Antidepressants, too, ought to be touted by a kindly and caring doctor, not some self-centered jerk who's Porsche vanity plates read “PSYCH DR.” For woman's health, we even change the doctor's gender, for isn't any guy specializing in female issues a little suspect? No longer is the doctor an impossibly handsome man. Now it's an impossibly attractive woman, who's also athletic, has piercing eyes and an oddly spelled first name....you know, a Bond girl.

This type of 180 reversal in medical science happens all the time*, so that one ought to be given more credit than they commonly are (namely, none) if they choose to pass on the latest medical, or even scientific, thinking. It's somewhat as they say about the weather here in Rochester (or most anywhere else, I imagine): don't like the weather? Just stick around. It will change. Those who resist the latest advances of science for whatever reasons....perhaps reasons they can't even articulate.....intuitive reasons, if you will, sometimes come out ahead. They certainly do so often enough that there's no reason to criticize them. To acknowledge such is not to deride science, but only to put it into perspective. It's a generally progressive means of discovery, but not so sterling that it trumps every other sort of thinking. If one accepts that the present scientific consensus is tentative, then one does okay, and one can take it in stride when understandings change, being happy about the advance. Even then, however, it's only a (most likely) forward step taken, and not the finished mystery. Alas, there are ever so many who take the latest scientific notion as dogma. God help you if you fail to embrace their conclusions as truth.

It doesn't mean you ought to disparage science, of course, but surely it means you need not respond “how high?” when science says “jump!”

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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)

Picking Flowers for Heaven’s Garden

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.

She doesn’t.

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.

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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)

Dr. Who, Dr. Jastrow, and Living Forever

When they asked Robert Jastrow the physicist about living forever - would it be a blessing or a curse? - he said… it all depends:

“It would be a blessing to those who have curious minds and an endless appetite for learning. The thought that they have forever to absorb knowledge would be very comforting for them. But for others who feel they have learned all there is to learn and whose minds are closed, it would be a dreadful curse. They’d have no way to fill their time.”

So if your purpose in life is to watch a lot of TV, living forever would probably be a drag. But our appetite for learning can be endless, unless we have closed down shop ourselves. Of course, Dr Jastrow is an egghead - a thinker - and so he focused on learning. But other things are probably boundless, too, like our capacity to create, and to love.

Lately, though, pop culture has been selling death as if it were a benefit. It’s probably those atheists. There’s more and more of them, and buying into their thinking means settling for a final death sentence perhaps not too many years away. Pay attention, and you’ll see the ‘death is beautiful’ notion a lot. For example, it surfaced in a recent Dr Who episode - The Lazarus Experiment. Now, Dr Who is probably the only show that I deliberately work into my routine. A British import, it is science fiction with a quirky protagonist, clever writing, neat  travel in a space ship that looks like a phone booth - it's bigger on the inside than on the outside [!], and endless visits from aliens, most of whom are up to no good. And it just so happens the show fits perfectly into some weekly down time in my schedule. Indeed, I might never have discovered it otherwise. But having done so, I try not to miss it. ‘Yeah, you just watch it on account of that cute blonde,’ accuses a workmate. But it’s not true; the cute blonde has been written out of the script (she got stranded on a parallel universe) yet the show continues to hold it’s appeal.

The episode name itself is a giveaway, since Lazarus is the biblical character whom Jesus resurrected (in a context that makes it clear the dead are not high-fiving in heaven not char-broiling in hell, but are in a state of non-existence...didn't I write about that here?). But this TV Lazarus has invented a machine that makes him young again….he steps in a geezer, and steps out a young man, to the amazement of all the high-brow folk invited to his gala bash. But Dr. Who (was he invited?) smells something amiss. He follows the newly minted youngster, and sure enough, the machine has malfunctioned and dooms Lazurus to transforming back and forth from human to monster  - they’re pretty good at doing monsters on that show. See, in setting back his DNA, the machine has selected ancient mutations long-ago rejected by evolution. (Hmmm…yes…indeed, plausible, nod all the atheists watching the show….whereas if you mentioned anything about God, they’d throw up.)

The time lord doctor also lectures Lazarus on what a curse everlasting life really is, and what a dumb, greedy thing it was for him to want it. For when life drags on forever and ever and ever, you will get so tired of it. You will have been everywhere, done everything. Living will have become an endless, pointless trek to nowhere. You will long for it to end, but….fool that you were for choosing everlasting life….it will not end, but go on and on and on. Oh, the monotony! See, without death, it is impossible to savor life…. and so forth.

Please…. spare me (and Dr. Jastrow). This is atheist tripe. It all depends upon whether you see life as futile or not. If you do, then sure...you would want it to end. But as Jastrow stated, life’s only futile if you’ve made it so. Of course, I’ll readily concede that baked into this system of things are various ingredients to encourage that dismal view - for example, old age and frailty.

Next time you visit Rochester, you may decide to visit the George Eastman house. Why don’t you do that? Mr. Eastman, who brought photography to the masses and who founded Kodak, turned philanthropist once he’d made his fortune and built half the city. His mansion on East Ave showcases his life, his inventions, his contributions to society, and serves as the nucleus for all things photographic right up to the present. But snoop thoroughly and you will discover that he shot himself in the head at age 78. In the throes of old age, his health failing, one by one he saw his chums going senile, bedridden or wheelchair bound. He left behind a note: “To my friends - My work is done. Why wait?”

Q: Why did George Eastman take his life?

 a) His work was done. Why wait?

b) He longed for the blessed release of death to finally end a futile life that had dragged on and on for much too long.

c) His health was failing and he (a lifelong bachelor) dreaded the indignities of old age -with its dependence upon others.

Do you honestly think that, with health and youth, he would not have found more work in which to engross himself? Or would he have longed for life to end? What....are you kidding me?

In this, Mr. Eastman is much like Leonardo DaVinci, the fellow who painted the Mona Lisa - likely the most famous portrait of all time. Leonardo made his mark not only as an artist. He also contributed hugely in areas as diverse as geometry, anatomy, astronomy, architecture, and flight. Some of his sketches have been used as blueprints for devices in use today. He was a renaissance man; in fact, perhaps he originates the term. Yet toward the end of life, he reportedly sought God's forgiveness for "not using all the resources of his spirit and art."

Eastman and DaVinci - two fellows that typify Dr. Jastrow’s statement. And they would be joined by most everyone else, were we not sucked into a morass of drudgery, duty, debt, injustice and hardship. Sure...you might well long for death if you can only envision more of that. Ditto for the frailness that comes with old age. I recently attended a funeral of someone who was happy, content, and productive throughout life. Nonetheless, death was not unwelcome, relatives assured me, since he’d grown “so tired of being sick.”

That’s why the Bible’ promise of everlasting life on a paradise earth is so appealing. It’s Robert Jastrow’s dream come true - unlimited time to grow minus the very real liabilities that eventually cause most of us to tire of life. Perfect health is promised, and an economic system will be in place so that people do not feel they are “toiling for nothing.” Will it incorporate some features of the ancient Jubilee system? Note how Isaiah 65:21-23 describes life under God’s kingdom rule, per the prayer “thy Kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven":

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; because they are the offspring made up of the blessed ones of Jehovah, and their descendants with them.    Isa 65:21-23

There’s a lot of things I’d like to do. I’ve done a few of them. But for the most part, I’ve just scratched the surface. And I’ve spent a fair amount of time shoveling aside the dung this system throws at you. No, everlasting life, should I find myself there, will not be a bad thing. Not at all.

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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)

For Mac

“Once you learn the truth, it doesn’t change; it doesn’t flip around like worldly reasonings. Once you learn what God requires of you, just do it.” That was Mac Campbell’s reasoning, and nobody can ever say that he didn’t “just do it.” Unique even among Jehovah’s Witnesses, he died last week at age 85. He and I had kept up over the years, so I was there for the funeral. Surely, the verse was true of him:

“a name is better than good oil, and the day of death than the day of one’s being born. Better is it to go to the house of mourning than to go to the banquet house, because that is the end of all mankind; and the one alive should take [it] to his heart.” (Ecces 7:1) On his day of his death, Mac’s record is his. No one can take it from him.

Mac specialized in a type of ministry rare these days - “street work.” Not the type of street work where you approach passersby, but the type where you just stand there and they (ideally) approach you. A couple dozen years ago the JW organization started to discourage that type of witnessing. Don’t just stand there like a sign post, they’d say, what can you possibly accomplish by that? Sure enough, two or three times I’d gone downtown and just stood there like a sign post. After a time, I began to feel like one. People would whiz by you - did you even exist? But when I endeavored to move and mingle and approach people - the ministry, though a bit more stressful, became both enjoyable and productive.

Still, Mac made a success of the old style street work. He did it because he was always there. Ever  immaculate in appearance, he staked out a position on Main Street and made it his own. They’ve since boarded up that abandoned doorway - I don’t know what he’d do now - but he’d been off the streets for several years, incapacitated by poor health.  He was as much a fixture as any Rochester landmark. Businesspeople would eye him a dozen times or so, eavesdrop, note that he was amiable, dignified, in no way a screwball, and would end up chatting regularly. He’d spend all day speaking with people.

Probably that’s how he caught quirky Bob Lonsberry’s attention. Bob is a radio fixture here, and was once a fixture of the newspapers. He wrote about Mac in his “Real People” series back in July of 1992: [nobody was more real than Mac]  “In friendly conversation, Malcolm is hard to reject. He is commanding of respect; he’s dignified. He is 68, married 45 years and a grandfather of 18, [he took Gen 1:28 -be fruitful and become many and fill the earth - seriously, the funeral speaker pointed out.] coming back from a stroke last year.”

His manner, speech and appearance were the match of the most prominent businesspersons, with whom he frequently spoke. They would have been amazed had they known his modest circumstances. They would have been more amazed had they known it was by design. Mac worked part-time in basic blue collar-type work, which provided enough so that the majority of time was his, and that was all he asked. Even among us, who constantly hear the virtue of simplification, few have the combination of faith and capability to simplify to that extent, particularly while raising a family. Yet, spending time with Mac made it seem quite doable and reasonable, and you began to wonder why you weren’t doing it also.

He was a frugal kind of guy. There he was, having run across this fellow who had built his own furnace from scratch, going on and on about it. Why would anyone do that? his pal responded - just call a furnace guy. But Mac was always impressed with those who could make do. Wasn’t it he who defined (in 1982) the phrase “keeping up with the Jones?” It was “spending money you don’t have, to buy things you don’t need, to impress people you don’t like.” He had that green Volare - he must have driven that 100 years. One day, stopping by, there were two of them in his driveway. Identical. Same color and all. One was for parts. “You probably paid more for those shoes than I did for this car,” he told a visitor. Sure enough, the shoes had cost more.

If that impresses me, it’s because it is a quality I don’t have. Alas, with some justification Mrs Sheepandgoats has accused me of living the motto “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. If it is broke, don’t fix it.” I’m not especially handy, which makes me appreciate guys who are.

Mac was also a put-together guy, again, something I am not. He told of one fellow who would pat his shirt pocket just once to find his pen. If it wasn’t there, he didn’t have it. He wouldn’t pat down his shirt pocket, then his pants pockets, then his coat pockets, then do it all over again, then pull stuff out of all pockets to make sure, like I would do. No. He was organized. There was only one place that pen could possibly be. Mac, too, had that sort of organization.

And he wouldn’t blow his horn. On the mean streets of Rochester, where people routinely block traffic so they can kibitz with their pals - not in the snooty suburbs, where “such things just aren’t done” - but in the city where they are done all the time, Mac wouldn’t blast his horn to break up the jam. “Daddy, just blow your horn,” his daughter would say, “that’s what people do.” But Mac wouldn’t. “You never know when you are the last straw,” he’d observe.

He kind of hoped - in vain, as it turned out - that his own funeral would not be a big deal. “Just put me in a pine box and lay me down quietly,” he’d say. "Don’t make a fuss over me.“ He was troubled that his death would inconvenience people, make them take a day off work, and such. (Indeed, for a time, funerals did get out of hand, with some high-profile people filling up the whole assembly hall, but I think that is not done anymore) “Mac, it’s not for you, it’s for us,” a friend retorted. “You’ll be asleep. We’re the ones who’ll be comforted by it.” He smiled, in the way that Mac did. That was the only answer that could have prevented him from going on and on.

I served with him once in one of the congregations, and had more or less kept up with him since, visiting him at home a few lengthy times, and always seeking him out at conventions. “You going to visit me again?” he asked at the last convention. “It depends on if you’ll give me a beer,” I responded. Mac was hospitable, and he liked beer. “I’ll give you a whole case,” he replied.

Six months later, in one of those strange convergences that you don’t quite know what to make of afterwards, I was mentioning to my wife how I was going to pop in for a visit - I brought the subject up several times. But I was too late. Next meeting they announced that he’d passed away.

I’ll probably hear about it upon his resurrection.

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More in the Afterword of Tom Irregardless and Me      "Black Mack, Slow Joe and Davey the Kid"

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Bounced out of Heaven?

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.

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Tom Irregardless and Me     No Fake News but Plenty of Hogwash

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Atheists....the Next Generation!

Is there a trend hotter today then atheism? When Christopher Hitchens penned "God is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything," his publishers thought 40,000 copies was more than enough. That's how many they printed. Since then they're printed 256,000 to keep up with demand. And a rival publisher has engaged the same author for a follow-up: 'The Portable Atheist.' Sam Harris, who City! gushed over for his 'Letter to a Christian Nation,' is now an also-ran. Only Richard Dawkins, the grand old man of atheism, sits on top, with 500,000 copies of 'The God Delusion.' "This is atheism's moment," says publisher David Steinberger. [WSJ 6/23/07]

It had to happen. Religion has acted too outrageously for too long. Isn't that really why, starting a generation or two ago, people started defecting for the mystical individual faiths, where you could be "one with the universe?" But now people have gone further still. Now they're willing to throw the baby out with the bathwater, dumping, not just religious structure, but even God.

These new atheists are fierce. They are in-your-face. They are almost evangelistic. They have pride. No longer will they lay low. Now they assert themselves, and thus they join the universal trend of self-assertion. They join the proud nationalists, proud racial groups, proud ethnic groups, proud disabled groups, proud sexual orientation groups, proud transgendered groups. Isn't there a modest person left on the planet?

Mr. Hitchens, as part of his book promo, challenged a panel that included an Orthodox Jew and a Buddhist nun. "I now wish I hadn't participated," say Nathan Katz, a professor of religious studies at Florida International University. "he was utterly abusive. It had the intellectual level of the Jerry Springer Show" [ibid WSJ] Actually, I got that impression myself when I "took on" a web atheist called Ebonmuse. (the abusive part, that is, not the Springer part)

These are "Atheists - the Next Generation." The first generation had a decidedly different tone. They came in the wake of Darwin's theory, and the floodgates really opened wide following the bloodbath of WWI, in which clergy on both sides eagerly urged their parishioners to maim and kill each other. Thus was founded atheism's initial surge, but it was a "sad" surge. It was mournful. Atheists then despaired of God's existence. They weren't happy with their conclusion. They knew they were giving up on the hopes and dreams of mankind from time immortal, that this life, so fraught with hardship and suffering, wasn't all there is. And, they realized, the death of faith had a deleterious effect even on this life.

For example, H.G. Wells, who turned atheist over time, observed: “The Darwinian movement took formal Christianity unawares, suddenly. . . . The new biological science was bringing nothing constructive as yet to replace the old moral stand-bys. A real de-moralization ensued.” Then, connecting that attitude with an increased appetite for war, he continued: “Prevalent peoples at the close of the nineteenth century believed that they prevailed by virtue of the Struggle for Existence, in which the strong and cunning get the better of the weak and confiding. . . . Man, they decided, is a social animal like the Indian hunting dog . . . so it seemed right to them that the big dogs of the human pack should bully and subdue.” [Outline of History]

They concluded God was dead. They didn't disagree with their own conclusion, but they were saddened by it. They knew they had lost a lot.

Not so atheist's Next Generation! They gleefully saw off the branch upon which they sit, in return for the ecstasy of no one telling them what to do! Our 70-80 years, with nothingness looming beyond, seems to them a great bargain. No matter if it ends in the nursing home with someone changing our Depends three times a day! In his time, Ronald Reagan was, arguably, the world's most influential person. Ten years later he didn't know who he was. Does this faze the "next generation?" Not a bit! For the first time in human history, relative comfort and ease is possible for most of us, provided we play our cards right and aren't terribly unlucky, and live in privileged nations. We can have fine homes, fine cars, cool technology. And that's good enough for them! What could God possibly add to that?

It's sad to see. But it had to happen.

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The wicked one according to his superciliousness makes no search;
All his ideas are: “There is no God."      Psalm 10:4

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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)

The Grumbling Slave

"I never thought I'd ever be this old." The circuit overseer was addressing a circuit assembly. He looked at his hands "I didn't think I'd have wrinkles or my hair would turn gray. I thought this present system of things would long have passed, but isn't it fine that many people have come into God's organization over the last decades?" The notion went over well. People clapped.

It doesn't always go over so well, not with everyone. If there's one thing we know about life today, it is that people are restless. In turmoil. Uneasy. Society has broken down in many areas, be it family life, finances, public health and safety, integrity and trust. People are unsettled. And where is the master? Wasn't he supposed to be here by now?

The master, of course, is the one referred to at Matt 24:48-9. Matt 24 and 25 are the apocalyptic chapters of Matthew. They're concerned with the "last days" of human rule on earth. Matt 25:13, for instance, advises Christians to "keep on the watch, therefore, because you know neither the day nor the hour."

If the day and the hour are out-of-bounds, Jehovah's Witnesses have nonetheless tried to nail the year more than once, most recently in 1975. It's not just them, either. Isaac Newton, the grandpa of science, who wrote more about spiritual matters than math and science combined (to the annoyance of Richard Dawkins, I suspect), decided 2060 was the final year. And even outside Christian circles, didn't the Mayans come up with some date - 2011 - a date rapidly approaching?

And why should people not wonder about such things? Give us a few decades, and we'll all be senile and in diapers. And that amidst an ever-decaying world. Who is so dull as to not be curious about what lies after our 80 years?

We Witnesses learned our "date" lesson for awhile (perhaps) and for some time Armageddon has merely been "soon," even "just around the corner." Armageddon, remember, is not the earth's destruction, but the wiping clean of rebellious society that accompanies Kingdom rule coming to power. Still, that is one heckuva corner.

So some do what Jesus said in 24:48-9:

"But if ever that evil slave should say in his heart, ‘My master is delaying,’ and should start to beat his fellow slaves and should eat and drink with the confirmed drunkards, the master of that slave will come on a day that he does not expect and in an hour that he does not know...." and will not be pleased.

The "master" seems to be "delaying," and so some of his slaves start to beat up on the other slaves, apparently the ones not so concerned about timing. . "I was misled! It's  mind control! They're false prophets!" You hear people say such things about the Witness organization.

No question about it. There are older JWs who literally never thought they'd see old age in this system. Because of that, some have found themselves "out of sync" with practical life, sometimes seriously so.  Undeniably - a great inconvenience for anyone in that boat. (though there's the other type of person who adapts to anything - nothing inconveniences them! Ah. I wish I were more like that. Tom Whitepebble, for example, who's never worried a day in his life. His goal, he tells me, is to take his last dime out of the bank two minutes before he has his final heart attack. Then he will die with a smile on his face!)

But some are like the "evil" slave, beating up their fellows. Other slaves, who may also have gone out on a limb, simply suck it up and move on. That is not necessarily easy and some opportunities, when they pass, never return. Life in this system is smoother, certainly more predictable, if you do things in a certain order. But the Christian faith, after all, holds that this is not the "real life."

Give orders to those who are rich in the present system of things not to be high-minded, and to rest their hope, not on uncertain riches, but on God, who furnishes us all things richly for our enjoyment; to work at good, to be rich in fine works, to be liberal, ready to share, safely treasuring up for themselves a fine foundation for the future, in order that they may get a firm hold on the real life.    1 Tim 6:17-19

Faithful ones can expect to be a bit like Abraham, an alien in a foreign land.

By faith he resided as an alien in the land of the promise as in a foreign land, and dwelt in tents with Isaac and Jacob, the heirs with him of the very same promise. For he was awaiting the city having real foundations, the builder and maker of which [city] is God.    Heb 11:9-10

Have some Witnesses been disappointed with aspects of their personal life? Probably. But only in matters relevant to this system of things, which is not the real life. After all, it's not as if a botched end prophesy is the only grounds for disappointment today. This system of things disappoints people all the time. Ask them about that in Iraq.

Are not our times, at least compared with recent centuries, the most materialistic, individualistic, and self-centered ever? That's not to criticize anyone coming under their spell. It's the world we're born into and it permeates our being. It's harder on the younger generation because the backdrop has become more and more pronounced.

When all is said and done, the real question may be the one Jesus raised in Luke 18:8:

"....when the Son of man arrives, will he really find the faith on the earth?”

Frankly, you cannot but have great respect for the JW governing organization. They alone are unafraid to go out on a limb. Everyone else hedges their bets. Everyone else covers their rear end. Everyone else tries to have it both ways. They don't.

It's not as if they personally benefit when timing doesn't turn out. They live in dormitories, for crying out loud! Nice dormitories, to be sure. But dormitories, all the same. Should they decide to leave, they don't walk away with a pension or 401K.

Yes, in hindsight, it might be well if dates had never been given. But they're the watchman. Conditions Jesus foretold have long been upon us. So they peer all the harder for details. Mist and fog can mess up a watchman, interfere with his vision. But what good is a watchman who sounds the alarm only when the bow of the approaching ship is scraping your toes?

Son of man, a watchman is what I have made you to the house of Israel, and you must hear from my mouth speech and you must warn them from me.    Ezek 3:17

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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)

Violet in the Old Folks Home. A Dirty Trick

They like Violet at the nursing home. She's good natured, always says "hi," and doesn't complain. She's lived there four years.

Once she presided over her own country farmhouse kitchen table, peopled with family and neighbors. Though they might not get along in all contexts, the table bonded them, cementing various degrees of familiarity, love, and dysfunction. Over the stove hung a plaque that read "Kissin don't last, cookin do"

Uncle Vic thought it a great joke when I "got religion." Over cards, he would challenge "you're prayin against me, aren't you Tommy? I'll bet you're prayin against me." I was only praying he'd take his turn.

Violet lived for years in that farmhouse after Vic died. Then she lived with one daughter, then another. When she got so she needed round the clock care, the daughters didn't know what to do. She fell a few times - no small matter for someone in their 80s. About that time she entered the nursing home. One daughter or the other visits her nearly every day.

Pop comes over from Rochester, 300 miles away, to visit his sister a few times each year. "Charlie, it's so good to see you! And Tommy, what a pleasant surprise!"  On a pleasant day, we wheel her out to the front walkway, where she remarks on trees and greenery and family history. "Gram will be so disappointed that she missed you," she laments. "Violet, Gram's been dead for years," someone says. "Oh yeah, that's right," and she resumes contemplation. That's how it goes. She freely mixes several generations, some living, some dead. Sometimes we correct her, and sometimes not.

She used to caution as the afternoon wore on "It's getting late. You'd better be going." Lately she's been including herself. "It's starting to get late. We ought to be going." "Violet, you're staying here. You live here now." "Oh that's right," she says.

"So who's cooking tonight," she observes after a bit. "Do you want me to cook?" Pop again explains that the home will cook, the home in which she lives, but she's not so sure anymore.

"Well, we should be going Vi," he says. "Okay, I'm ready, let's go" "You're staying here, Vi. You live here now." "Not me," she says. "You do," Pop says. "You have a room here, for several years." "I know, but I'm not ready to go just yet."

She gets progressively resistant, then alarmed, then pleading, then angry. "Well, that was a dirty trick!" she charges. "I wouldn't have come with you if I knew you were going to stick me here!" In the end, the staff wheels her back.

That evening, sitting at the cousins' own long kitchen table, a table that Violet rarely sees now, Pop wonders aloud how tomorrow's visit will go. Maybe it will be unpleasant. "No," the cousin says, "she will have forgotten all about it." And it turns out just that way.

Until the end of the visit. After initial maneuvering, Pop and the cousin tell Violet we have to be going. But isn't she going too? "Oh no, you're not sticking me here!" she snaps at us. But the nurse distracts her. "Violet, we're having vanilla cookies with dinner tonight. Would you like to have a couple now?" "No thank you," she says. "I'll just wait till dinner and have mine with everyone else."

They all want to go home. But none of them will.

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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)

The Two Trees of Eden

In general, churches portray the earth as a launching pad from which to leap into an eternity of heaven or hell. We don't. God did not put us on earth because he wanted us somewhere else. He wanted us here and he wanted humans to expand the boundaries of Eden to embrace the whole planet. He did not create humans to die at all, but to live indefinitely, which they would have done had they not rebelled against him.

The Genesis account tells, not of one tree, (the tree of the knowledge of good and bad) but of two. The one we don't hear much about is called the tree of life. They are both introduced to us in Gen 2:9:

Thus Jehovah God made to grow out of the ground every tree desirable to one’s sight and good for food and also the tree of life in the middle of the garden and the tree of the knowledge of good and bad.

Though real, neither tree conveys magical properties. Their qualities are symbolic. The tree of the knowledge of good and bad represents God's right to rule over his creation, that is, his right to determine what is "good and bad," as opposed to humans usurping that function. The second tree, the tree of life, represents God's guarantee of life. That guarantee was withdrawn after the first humans ate off the former tree, disobeying his direction and rejecting his rulership.

The original command given to Adam:

From every tree of the garden you may eat to satisfaction. But as for the tree of the knowledge of good and bad you must not eat from it, for in the day you eat from it you will positively die.    Gen 2:16

They did eat from it, as noted, and so we come to the second tree:

And Jehovah God went on to say: “Here the man has become like one of us in knowing good and bad, and now in order that he may not put his hand out and actually take [fruit] also from the tree of life and eat and live to time indefinite,—”  With that Jehovah God put him out of the garden of E´den to cultivate the ground from which he had been taken.  And so he drove the man out....Gen 3:22-24

The point is that humans were designed to live on earth forever, to time indefinite. Death after 80 or 90 years was not God's idea.    

This fits in very well with what we observe about ourselves. For example, we use (what is the correct percentage?) one tenth of one percent of our brain's capacity. How did that come to be? Evolution can hardly be responsible. In the absurdly unlikely event that super-brain storage could mutate into existence, natural selection dictates that it is passed on to progeny only if it offers a substantial edge in the fight for survival. But the bigger brain hard drive offers no such edge....we have already defined that it is unused. It's a bit like having a house the size of Europe when we only use 3000 square feet. Wouldn't you scratch your head and wonder what the realtor had in mind?

But if we recognize that we were created to live forever....well....then it all makes perfect sense. We would eventually find a use for all that brainpower.

That indefinite life was dependent on those first humans remaining in harmony with the Creator's purpose and design. Once that first couple pulled away....well....it's somewhat like a fan pulling itself out of it's wall socket. Those blades, spinning like mad, begin to slow and eventually stop. And it's hardly the fault of the wall socket, especially if you, the fan operator, were told to keep it plugged in.

But now, how will God yet achieve his original purpose towards earth and humankind? He will, of course. He has a plan set in motion, a plan hatched immediately upon that original rebellion.

It is cryptically referred to in Gen 3:15 [And I shall put enmity between you and the woman and between your seed and her seed. He will bruise you in the head and you will bruise him in the heel.] and is frequently discussed in the literature of Jehovah's Witnesses.  The "plan" makes for lengthy discussion. Some of it is here:

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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)