May 19, 2012 | Permalink
On a typical church build, construction workers spit, cuss, oogle, belch, drink, smoke, pick their noses, swear, fart, and catcall. After several months of such, out comes this church. (Ex 32:24) But on a Kingdom Hall build, the very animals of the forest join in, chipmunks swinging tiny hammers with their cute paws, robins and bluebirds bringing roof trusses with their beaks...and all the while cheerful music comes from.....where does it come from, anyway?
Alright, alright, so I exaggerate. Artistic license. Still, since Kingdom Halls are invariably built by JW volunteers, typically in a weekend or two, the atmosphere is unique. And it is a fact that a Fredrikstad, Norway city official showed up one Saturday with his brass band to serenade Kingdom Hall volunteers. He was atoning for his initial skepticism, for he and everyone else at City Hall had laughed their sides off when Witnesses said they'd have the project done in three days. But even on day one, it was obvious the work would go on schedule. This was back in 1987.
How could you blame him for doubting? I remember the first time I heard of such projects. Bill Leviathon was telling Frank Mulicotti, a lifelong builder, of reports he'd heard down south. “I don't know...,” Frank kept turning the idea over in his head, “there's so many things that have to come together on a building....can it really be done in a weekend? But now it's clear that it can....Jehovah's Witnesses do it routinely, though in recent years they've come to settle for two weekends. That way, drywall mud can dry, safety can be better emphasized, and everyone gets more breathing space. They're quite routine now; one comes across news stories quite regularly, for example here and here.
On a quick-build near Rochester, a neighbor charged over bright and early one Saturday morning, at hammers first swinging, and made quite a scene. She'd opposed the project from the beginning, and it hadn't helped when she'd learned it would be an all volunteer work force. 'Great....just great.....this will drag on for months, maybe years...cars parked everywhere...garbage strewn all over...' “Tuesday morning I'll have this shut down!” she raged, planning her speech to town officials. “What she doesn't know,” one of our people remarked when she'd left, “is that by Tuesday morning it will be done.” And so it was.
I used to think the sight of such projects would instantly swell the ranks of Jehovah's Witnesses. Surely, you can forgive me for that. I mean, this is a world in which nothing gets done in a timely way, in which cooperation is nearly non-existent, in which new grounds for bickering emerge regularly over matters more and more trivial. And another fellow from the neighboring office building, on his lunch break, stood there with mouth agape, watching that 3 day build, blown away by the perfect order and flow. “Who are these people?” he wanted to know. So....yes...I thought such an evident example of harmony and cooperation would draw people.....not that it was done for such reasons, mind you. It was done because our folks are volunteering their limited time, so no one wants to waste it. But even so, I thought it might trigger an influx more than it has. Instead, soreheads hop on the internet and say it's all because of brainwashing and mind-control.
If I had it to do over again, I think I'd have involved myself more with such projects. If nothing else, I'd have picked up practical know-how, something not now my strength. “It's not too late,” a brother reminds me at the Kingdom Hall. Yes, I know....but....well....I was there at the Assembly Hall project nailing a tarpaulin into place above my head, and Tom Weedsandwheat strolls by leading a tour group. They all paused to watch. “Look how that brother is missing the nail every other swing,” one of them observed. So I went home and wrote nasty stuff about him on the blogosphere. Isn't that what the internet is for?
“Yes, but many activities on the Regional don't involve building, but rather procuring supplies, real estate, planning, food service, and such things. You could do that.” To be sure, a three day Kingdom Hall quick-build does not include land purchase and preparation, nor negotiating with town officials. That stuff can take months, even years. I know, for I worked on some of this preliminary stuff years ago with Hal. Yeah...I could do that, but.....hang it all, I just like to write. It's a great hobby, I've developed a dogged persistance for it, if not necessarily talent, and not that many do it. You can't do everything. Maybe that's why the Bible promise of living forever on earth in paradise has always appealed to me. As “The Truth that Leads to Eternal Life” asks, can it really be God's purpose for us to spend 20 years growing up, a few decades to gain knowledge and experience, and just when we've acquired a little wisdom, to be betrayed by our own bodies and end up a pile of dust?
But maybe I'll wrap this blog up someday, resist the temptation to start another, and log some time with the Regional. It would put me more in sync with things, that's for sure.
Besides developing a fantastic organization of building volunteers, an organization now international, an organization which readily switches to relief mode during outbreaks of natural disaster...moreover, an organization which will no doubt provide a significant jump start going into the new system of things, I suspect Jehovah's Witnesses have transformed the construction industry. Don't structures of all sort go up quicker than they used to? Did we have anything to do with that?
I was discussing this with Tom Oxgoad one day and he pointed to Taco Bell. It seems that during the L.A. Rodney King riots, one of their stores was torched and burned to the ground. Taco Bell wanted it up again, as soon as possible. They hired as general contractor one of our people, a Canadian brother who was active on a Regional Committee, for precisely that reason. To the degree possible, the project was organized just like that of a Kingdom Hall build, even to the point of the drinks (lemon and lime water) served for refreshment from the heat. “We've found pop gives a quick energy boost, but once it wear off fatigue sets in,” our guy pointed out. So to whatever degree we've transformed construction, count it as our gift to the world, same as defining civil rights and advancing medicine.
Business and theocratic interests aren't the same, though. Construction workers generally want to stretch out the project, which is, after all, their livelihood. And why shouldn't they? Why should secular work be all about speeding things up for business? It's a whole different story with theocratic building.
“What ever happened to that irate neighbor?” I asked one of the elders during a visit to the Kingdom Hall mentioned above. “How did it turn out with her?” Well....it turned out that she is now friendly as can be, even after a second building was erected closer to her property than the first. Turned out she'd been concerned mostly about property values....and privacy. She'd lived next to a vacant yard for decades. Let's face it....nobody wants to live next to a public building of any sort. But when she discovered the brothers were quiet, respectful, and the property well tended....all her opposition melted away. Though another neighbor directly across the street, who was never motivated by property values at all, but by dogma, has taken her place. “Jesus is God!” declares huge letters plastered on her garage door. You can't miss it as you exit the Hall.
“In times of crisis, great nations have always turned to folk heroes.” So writes Joe Queenan in the Oct 1, 2011 WSJ, then he waxes nostalgic over folk like Daniel Boone and Joan of Arc. Then he observes that America is in a time of crisis right now, but....well.....there just isn't much to choose from for folk heroes,is there? Oprah? Lady Gaga? Let's face it...the pool is not very deep. “Frankly, things being the way they are today,” he continues, “I'd settle for the guy in the Ford commercial.”
And why not? The guy in the Ford commercial is Mike Rowe. He is the host of Dirty Jobs, a Discovery Channel TV show inspired by his grandfather, who “could fix or build anything." Mr. Rowe testified before the U.S. Senate back in May of 2011, speaking in behalf of “dirty jobs.”
“We've elevated the importance of "higher education" to such a lofty perch that all other forms of knowledge are now labeled "alternative." Millions of parents and kids see apprenticeships and on-the-job-training opportunities as "vocational consolation prizes," best suited for those not cut out for a four-year degree. And still, we talk about millions of "shovel ready" jobs for a society that doesn't encourage people to pick up a shovel.”
In a country where newly graduated youngsters fret over unemployment, it's not happening for Mike Rowe's folk. He speaks of “450,000 openings in trades, transportation and utilities. The skills gap is real, and it's getting wider. In Alabama, a third of all skilled tradesmen are over 55. They're retiring fast, and no one is there to replace them. Alabama's not alone. A few months ago in Atlanta I ran into Tom Vilsack, our Secretary of Agriculture. Tom told me about a governor who was unable to move forward on the construction of a power plant. The reason was telling. It wasn't a lack of funds. It wasn't a lack of support. It was a lack of qualified welders.”
Contrast his words with the truly rotten mainstream counsel over the last two decades. “Go to college” is all anyone hears anywhere. That's the path to successful happy living. Only losers don't. Need to borrow money? Doesn't matter....do it! Need to borrow a lot of money? Look, don't argue....do it! You're investing in yourself!! You'll thank me for it someday.
But....we're seeing these reports everywhere these days.....new graduates are not thanking those that shoved them into college. Are they cursing them instead? Some are. They're graduating with tens of thousands of dollars of debt into a country with few job openings. Whereas those in skilled labor have openings galore, having trained for them much more economically, sometimes without any cost at all. Suzie Ormond interviewed one of these debt-laden graduates on her TV show. He'd borrowed to go through college, but upon graduation there were no jobs, so......"don't tell me,” Suzie says, “you went back to grad school.” Yes! He had! That's what society had told him to do! Invest more in himself! Upon hearing the total sum of debt, Suzie sent him off with advice to enjoy life best he could, much as you might advise someone with terminal cancer.
“Everybody told you,” says Anya Kamenetz on the PBS News Hour, “that BA degree recipients earn a million more over a lifetime than those people who merely have a high school diploma....so it's good debt, it's an investment in yourself.....that was the conventional wisdom for a really long time.” Averages, however, “are a funny thing, because they don't necessarily apply to anyone.”
The remarkable thing about student debt is that you cannot get out of it. Even through bankruptcy. Debt from virtually every other source can be discharged.....if you blew it on gambling, say, or drugs, or just living high......but not that incurred by listening to the education experts. It's incredible! Talk about a world that devours it's young! I thought you were supposed to look out for the younger generation. Wasn't it that way once?
Suddenly the JW organization does not look too bad for the advice they've long offered to their young people. When they weigh in on education at all, it is to defy “the conventional wisdom” and encourage youngsters to look at Mike Rowe's “apprenticeships and on-the-job-training opportunities,” plus technical degrees, certificate courses, and so forth. Do not think it is easy to defy conventional wisdom....you should hear the flak they take for it!
But “Laurence Kotlikoff, professor of economics at Boston University agrees [with a recent Princeton University study] that an expensive education just isn't worth it..... “If you think of education as solely a monetary investment, if we are not thinking about all the other benefits from education like learning things, and getting to hang out with me, and also just becoming a more cultured person, then we have to look at this very carefully.”
Now, to be sure, the JW organization's reservations about college are not the same as Professor Kotlikoff's. That is, they're not primarily about dollars and cents. They're more about “getting to hang out with [him], and also just becoming a more cultured person.” Not he himself, of course....frankly, I'd like to hang out with him....but people he represents who dominate campus life, people who are inclined to think humans have the answers, people who are inclined to denigrate faith, people who are inclined to think the purpose of life is to consume, or even that there is no purpose in life. People who are inclined to overstress the value of being a “more cultured person,” whereas Paul would be apt to dismiss it all as “refuse” (Phil 3:8) and mention more than in passing that “the wisdom of this world is foolishness with God.” (1 Cor 3:19) So why “hang out” with guys like that unless it is truly necessary?
The May 2012 Consumer Reports tells of a web designer who likens his student debt, about $59,000, to “a prison sentence.” It interferes with his buying a home. It prevents him saving for retirement. (no one mentions raising a family) The debt, “just grew and grew and grew,” he says, “and I'm saddled with it unless I make twice as much as I'm making.” He earned his master's degree 18 years ago, when education was cheaper. He's not unhappy with his career choices....I don't want to suggest otherwise......but surely he must wonder sometimes whether it was worth it. He used the words “prison sentence,” not I. He's consigned to paying off debt for a long long time. His freedom of movement is curtailed, not augmented, as he doubtless thought would be the case. Moreover, I know of two young people making their living in web design without any college whatsoever.....they just dove into it as a lifelong interest. Surely it's in the interest of the education industry to suggest learning only takes place in college, an assertion Professor Kotlikoff seems to make. That doesn't mean it's so.
In contrast, Dave McClure, the old circuit overseer reflects on his life and where it has taken him. Some of his old school mates might consider him a failure, he says, but he's not sure why. He's been to more places than they have, done more things, met more people, certainly met with more variety in people. It's all in what you value.
“The skills gap is a reflection of what we value,” Mike Rowe told the Senate. “....In a hundred different ways, [such as the Milton Bradley game of Life, where you are severely penalized if you choose the “business” road over the “college” road] we have slowly marginalized an entire category of critical professions, reshaping our expectations of a "good job" into something that no longer looks like work. A few years from now, an hour with a good plumber, if you can find one, is going to cost more than an hour with a good psychiatrist. At which point we'll all be in need of both.”
Nobody's listening to Mike Rowe. Not many, at any rate. A high school's success is still measured by the percentage they send to college. Unless your grades are in the toilet, just try telling your guidance counselor that you plan to bypass college. Just try it, and see what happens. The promising careers in this country are seen to be in education and health care. (less so in education lately, where budget cutbacks are wreaking havoc) These are also the same two fields whose models are described as “unsustainable.” But it's still only losers that go Mike Rowe's way.
There's an advantage to being older. It's not a complete downer, as pop 'culchure' might suggest. The advantage is that you remember things. Thus, when they try to sell you turds disguised as diamonds, you can spot that they are turds, even if the moderns eagerly embrace the diamonds, wondering why they fail to satisfy. You can also stand up to other moderns who think people today are no different from those of yesterday....only that they have Ipads, and the ancients didn't.
It's not so much facts you remember. Facts are chronicled pretty well on the internet. It's the flavor of the times you recall, which if that is recorded anywhere, it is sniffed at by those educated today as being “anecdotal.” and thereby unreliable.
For example, I am older than the airline hijackings craze of the 60's. It used to be you could park your car at the airport, buy a ticket, and hop on the plane. Nobody wanted to strip search you. Nobody made you walk through wands, puffers, X-rays, and buzzers. Show up ten minutes before departure time? Not a problem. Wikapedia pretty well captures the hard facts of those first hijackings....they were exclusively to Cuba then, but they completely miss the soft facts....that is, how hijackings and the news coverage thereof changed society.
I remember well the atmosphere, if not the specifics, of that first commercial airliner hijacked in the U.S, for it froze public thought. This would have been 1967 or 1968. The plane sat grounded, I forget at which airport, its crew overpowered by desperadoes with some unspecified demands. They wanted to publicize their demands. This was a new tactic. Nobody in the media knew what to do. Should they treat these fellows as common thugs? Or should they make them celebrities, broadcasting their demands for all the world to hear? The uncertainty lasted a day or two. Finally the news people decided to cooperate....the public had a right to know, and the networks had a right to ratings. Hijackings thereafter became a staple of life, the perfect vehicle for any malcontent to gain a listening ear, though they were somewhat abated by international agreements to arrest and extradite any hijacker to their country of origin. Before the late 1960's, there were 2 or 3 hijackings per year worldwide. After the late 1960's, there were 41 per year. (until 1977, the last year of this study)
Fast forward to 2012 and the public trial of Martin Breivik, a killer whose deeds rank as especially heinous even in an age where the slaughter of innocents is commonplace. Distracting authorities with a car bomb explosion parked by an Oslo government building, he boated to nearby Utøya island disguised as a police officer and shot to death 69 persons, mostly children, at a summer youth camp. Many more were injured.
Now, you don't give someone like this a stage upon which to justify his actions. You just don't. A stage is what this fellow wants more than anything, and the deed itself is his means with which to attain it. "Your trial will be your world stage," Breivik exhorts would-be followers through his on-line manisfesto, posted just before his attacks began. Sigh....of course, authorities are granting him his stage. His trial is broadcast throughout Norway to all local courthouses. It's being given exhaustive news coverage. And is he ever savoring the moment! He glides through the courtroom, smiling, gesturing raised-fisted to the cameras. He has no remorse, he would do it again, he says, he ought to receive a medal. It was self-defense for his race, he claims, and the only time true democracy reigned was when Hitler was in power.
Court psychiatrists, before his trial, declared him insane. This did not please him, for who pays attention to a madman? He wants to be paid attention to. Obligingly, other experts reversed course, and declared him sane, even though 'disturbed.' Pleasing him was not their purpose, of course....it was popular outrage they wished to placate....but it was the effect. Those experts watch him closely during the trial, analyzing words and gestures, so as to determine sanity.
Is it not more fitting to ask whether they are the insane ones? Not individually....I don't mean that...they're all honorable people doing their best. But collectively, what on earth is wrong with them? Doesn't that Romans 1:22 verse come to mind, about people who became foolish while asserting they were wise? Breivik's not insane, he's merely hate-filled. Hate-filled people are dime a dozen. But enabling him to broadcast hate throughout the world, surely it takes an “insane” society to do that. If curdled words spread like gangrene in Paul's day, how much more so now. (2 Tim 2:16) We'll see it here in the States, too. Some sick bastard will do some unspeakable deed, and the televised talking heads will speak about it for weeks, mulling, analyzing, and of course, repeating. It's as though they revel in watching their own demise.
On the PBS NewsHour, Margaret Warner asks: “has concern been expressed that this, even though what he says isn't televised, that this trial is giving him a platform to air his views.....that the openness of this trial is giving him that platform?” Norwegian newsman Anders Tvegard, who'd been smooth to this point, stammers though his response. Tvegard's a man with a conscience, no doubt, and he's not comfortable with his role in connecting the man with an audience. After all, is that not the only real difference between Breviek and Hitler.....Hitler found his audience?
“Norway's now taken back to those horrible hours and days last summer, July 22 and -- July 22,” Tvegard says. “And it's -- the national grief and sorrow is back." Trying valiantly to fashion turds into diamonds, he continues: "At the same time, people are listening to what he's saying, like, thinking, how is this possible? Can he really mean that? And to some, it is good to hear that he is a complete lunatic. His views has no resonance in the rest of the public. He does not belong to a political party......to them, it's comforting to see that he is a maniac.”
But I suspect his 'maniac' label is comforting to the 77 victims' families in the same sense that it was comforting to Jews to discover Hitler was a maniac.....namely, not at all. Though perhaps....just perhaps.....it is comforting to some others in that it permits absolution from any sense of responsibility. Breveik doesn't come “from us.” We didn't produce him. Why, “he does not belong to a political party.” What more proof does one need? Few people.....and the more prominent they are, the more this is true....want to confront the fact that, in some unexplained way, this system of things cranks out hate-filled persons nearly as fast as Apple cranks out Iphones.
I don't write much about Satan on this blog. Many persons who visit are skeptics, and if they laugh their sides off over mention of God, what will they do at mention of Satan? Moreover, it's hard to draw a line of demarcation, to apportion blame between deeds of twisted humans and the truly satanic. Suffice it to say the world reflects Satan's values....greed, selfishness..."soft" qualities which inevitably fuel eruptions of “hard” qualities, such as murderous hatred. Several times the Bible points to Satan, not God, as the ruler of this system of things. (John 14:30, 2 Cor 4:44, I John 5:19)
Religion, for the most part, serves to put a smiley face on all of this. It deplores the symptoms, to be sure, and suggests no end of band-aid approaches. But it buys into the overall structure of the world, it's division into nations, it's faith in human self-rule....ingredients which inevitably produces the symptoms it deplores. It has no real problem with the overall structure itself, only the symptoms, and tries to put itself into the driver's seat. To my knowledge, only Jehovah's Witnesses recognizes the true cause of world distress: a Satanic rebellion of long ago. Only Jehovah's Witnesses recognize the ultimate solution: destruction of this system of thing to be replaced by God's Kingdom rule from heaven. Only Jehovah's Witnesses restructure their lives, at considerable personal sacrifice, to tell others of these overall causes.
The question was: how were Jesus words at Luke 9:27 fulfilled?
“But I tell you truthfully, There are some of those standing here that will not taste death at all until first they see the kingdom of God.”
It was multiple choice! The options were (with hints from the blogmaster):
A. The Transfiguration (already widely refuted by Christian scholars)
B. Jesus' Resurrection (has nothing to do with seeing Jesus come in His Kingdom)
C. Jesus' Ascension into Heaven (has Jesus going somewhere else, not coming in His Kingdom)
D. Pentecost (has nothing to do with seeing Jesus or His Kingdom*)
E. When the Gospel message was preached to the world (has nothing to do with seeing Jesus come in His Kingdom with power*)
F. When the Roman legions, under the command of Titus, crushed the Jewish rebellion and destroyed the Temple in Jerusalem in 70 CE (has nothing to do with seeing Jesus come in His Kingdom)
G. When Jesus established His "mediatorial" Kingdom (which nobody can actually see)
Of course, I can't resist multiple choice, especially on the internet! I jumped in both feet and said: “A! It's A!" What clinches it is that “A” is "already widely refuted by Christian scholars. If these guys refute it, it must be so.”
The blogmaster caught my drift: “Always the contrarian, huh tom? Do you run a hedge fund, by any chance?”
I don't. But it is a fact that when all the experts are screaming “sell,” that's the time you buy. And so with choice “A.” All the 'experts' are selling it. I'll buy.
Alright, alright, so it's a little more involved than that. We must look at why the experts refute the transfiguration, which Luke goes on to describe (Luke 9:28-37)
“In actual fact, about eight days after these words, he took Peter and John and James along and climbed up into the mountain to pray. And as he was praying the appearance of his face became different and his apparel became glitteringly white. Also, look! two men were conversing with him, who were Moses and Elijah. These appeared with glory and began talking about his departure that he was destined to fulfill at Jerusalem. Now Peter and those with him were weighed down with sleep; but when they got fully awake they saw his glory and the two men standing with him. And as these were being separated from him, Peter said to Jesus: “Instructor, it is fine for us to be here, so let us erect three tents, one for you and one for Moses and one for Elijah,” he not realizing what he was saying. But as he was saying these things a cloud formed and began to overshadow them. As they entered into the cloud, they became fearful. And a voice came out of the cloud, saying: “This is my Son, the one that has been chosen. Listen to him.” And as the voice occurred Jesus was found alone. But they kept quiet and did not report to anyone in those days any of the things they saw. On the succeeding day, when they got down from the mountain, a great crowd met him.”
Frankly, how could anyone not take this as the fulfillment of Jesus words. It's the very next event to follow! Luke even throws in a transitional phrase: "in actual fact." ("And it came to pass that"....KJV) Talk about connecting the dots! How could anyone miss it?!
The answer to how anyone could miss it is that “we don't see things like this happening today.” Thus, if the “scholars” and “experts” give “A” as their answer, they will be laughed off the stage by those intellectuals whom they so desperately want to be counted among. This is but an NT manisfestation of the OT “we are wise and learned adults, far too clever to be sold Adam and Eve. What's next, Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck?” syndrome. Far better to choose from answers “B” through “G,” options which can all be presented as “inspiring” or at least “open to many interpretations” (both the province of intellectuals) rather than “miraculous” (the province of dunces).
These guys are spineless. And faithless. They ought not label themselves Christian experts, but something more along the lines of “deistic-flavored philosophers.” Why wouldn't Jesus' words just prior to Luke 9:27 apply to them?
“For whoever becomes ashamed of me and of my words, the Son of man will be ashamed of this one when he arrives in his glory and that of the Father and of the holy angels” Luke 9:26
The laugh is that these Christian experts ignore the scripturally obvious answer to Luke 9:27, to suggest less miraculous and thereby more respectable interpretations, only to find that these choices also are ridiculed by today's intellectuals, who lean increasing atheistic. They sell out faith, and gain nothing in return! I'll side with Paul any day, who was “not ashamed” of the good news. (Rom 1:16)
This sucking up to the world is by no means a modern development. Rather, it's a recurrent NT theme, expressed here, for example: “For there will be a period of time when they will not put up with the healthful teaching, but, in accord with their own desires, they will accumulate teachers for themselves to have their ears tickled.” 2 Tim 4:3
To be sure, not “putting up with healthful teaching” was to happen for a variety of reasons. Not all could be chalked up to currying favor with intellectuals, but a lot of it could.
For example, the New Encyclopedia Britannica (remember encyclopedias?) writes: “Christians who had some training in Greek philosophy began to feel the need to express their faith in its terms, both for the own intellectual satisfaction and in order to convert educated pagans.” The Trinity teaching wormed in this way. It's not to be found in scripture, unless you take rather obvious metaphors literally. At various church councils, according to scholar Charles Freeman, those who came to believe Jesus was God “found it difficult to refute the many sayings of Jesus that suggested he was subordinate to God the Father.” So they began to elevate intellectual opinion (the sayings of Church Fathers) over the scriptures themselves!
Now, everyone knows that Christianity began as a working-class religion, not an educated intellectual religion. From the former come folk who can call a spade a spade. From the latter come folk who can lift scripture to a loftier plane, make it respectable, and monetize it. Get a load of this snooty comment from theologian Gregory of Nyssa, mocking the 'lowlife' that were dumb enough to take scripture at face value:
“Clothes dealers, money changers, and grocers are all theologians. If you inquire about the value of your money, some philosopher explains wherein the Son differs from the Father. If you ask the price of bread, your answer is the Father is greater than the Son. If you should want to know whether the bath is ready, you get the pronouncement that the Son was created out of nothing.”
The above three paragraphs incorporates much that was presented in the Jan 15, 2012 Watchtower, including the quote from Gregory. JW detractors apparently accused the Watchtower of making up this quote out of thin air, since they couldn't find it themselves on the internet, and figured if it's not such low-hanging fruit, it must not exist! But Weedhacker [!] would have none of it and tracked down Gregory's words in Greek, Latin, and obscure places. So there.
Back to my “Transfiguration” answer, the one "already widely refuted by Christian scholars."......this is a beaut: the blogmaster summarizes their attitudes thus (with apparent agreement): they “dismiss it by mentioning it in passing, as if it was not worth their effort to rebut because it is already known to be false.” Of course! There's my mistake! I'd overlooked how substantial their talents and valuable their time must be that they cannot deign to waste them analyzing the verses that immediately follow Jesus' words with regard to coming into his kingdom.
The important thing is for scholars to intellectualize the subject. Armchairify it. Steer far away from any interpretations that give credence to miracles, and especially any that might suggest commitment or action is required. Analyze the words....make a living off analyzing them, in fact. But don't be dumb enough to trap yourself into having to do any of them. Just like at Ezek 33:32: “you are to them like a song of sensuous loves, like one with a pretty voice and playing a stringed instrument well. And they will certainly hear your words, but there are none doing them.” They love to hear them. They love to debate them. They love to discuss them. But they don't love to do them. Not the experts. That's not their gig.
In circles of humility and modesty, no one cycles higher than Tom Sheepandgoats. Far be it from he to blow his own horn, but....hang it all....if you've nailed something, you've nailed it! Why not trumpet it far and wide throughout the blogosphere?
Several months ago I prophesied that Evengelical Born Agains would vote for a pig in heat before they would vote for a Mormon. Some readers were doubtful, and those of scientific bent still demand a pig should run so as to properly test the hypothesis. But everyone else is convinced, having watched in dismay the unfolding of the 2012 Republican Primary race.
Among GOP (Grand Old Party) operatives, Mitt Romney is the guy they'd like to see as Presidential Candidate to run against Barrack Obama. The other wannabe's carry way too much baggage. They all have starry-eyed bases, to be sure, but that's it. In a general election you can't depend upon them to attract one additional vote. But with Romney you probably can, and thus he might conceivably beat Pres Obama, who is not that strong of an incumbent.
Even Romney doesn't positively thrill them, but he can probably get the job done. Why, oh why, they sigh, can't someone like Mitch O'Connell run? The South Dakota Senator gave the Republican response to the State of the Union and he was so reasonable, so reassuring, so competent, so......yawn....isn't there something on another channel?.....so boring. Only flamboyant cowboys run for President today, because folks can't focus on anyone else.
That's what Sesame Street did to us. It made us unable to hold a thought longer than two minutes. We have to be razzle-dazzled, awed by charismatic presence, and candidates in recent decades have had that ability in spades, if nothing else. Sesame Street...brought to us by the best and brightest and most well-intentioned of PBS child development experts. They loused us up, just like Dr Spock loused up the generation before. "We have reared a generation of brats,” he acknowledged toward the end of his life. “.....Of course, we did it with the best of intentions. We didn't realize until it was too late how our know-it-all attitude was undermining the self assurance of parents."
But don't let me stray off topic! We're talking about voters, Mormons, and Evangelicals. Romney does fine in eastern, western and northern states. There, he is watered down only by the Evangelical minorities. In the south, however, where Evangelicals prevail, he gets shellacked. He came in 3rd in Alabama and Mississippi, behind Santorum and Gingrich. Yet Romney outspends them 10 to 1! The reason is painfully obvious, though no one will say it lest it appear politically incorrect: Romney is a Mormon. He thinks.....I almost feel sorry for him.....that surely these folks can be won over, swayed by his reason, charm, and ability. I don't think so.
Do a blogoshere search of “Mormon” and “cult” and your server will crash. Mormonism is a “cult,” the Evangelicals insist, in the same league with devil worship and Jim Jones. Do you think in your wildest dreams Evangelicals are going to vote a cult member into the Presidency? They're not. As Amy Sullivan writes, “it is nearly impossible to overemphasize the problem evangelicals have with Mormonism.” Only one other significant faith draws the 'cult' label.....Jehovah's Witnesses. Actually, I think JWs draw it more, but I could be wrong.
Now, Mormons don't fit the traditional definition of a cult any more than Jehovah's Witnesses do, but they do fit the new refined definition: faiths we don't like. At any rate, pundits, naïve as can be, suggest the real problem is that Romney may not be conservative enough for Evangelicals. Nonsense. What about how Mormons rammed through Proposition 8 in California that banned gay marriage? Call THAT not conservative? What about when Ron Paul suggested the U.S. ought not go picking fights around the world, and Mitt Romney swore that on his watch American military forces would be second to none? Call THAT not conservative? No, believe me, the problem is that Mitt Romney is a Mormon. Everyone else can adjust and live with that fact. But Evangelicals? From early years they're indoctrinated to think Mormons are a cult, same as JWs. We wouldn't have a prayer either, were we to run. Fortunately, we never have, save only for Dwight D. Eisenhower, who doesn't count, since by the time of his election he'd long outgrown his JW upbringing.
Thinking his trouble might be Northernism, not Mormonism, Romney lays a “Mornin' y'all” on a Mississippi audience one recent morning. He started his day off right, he says, with “a biscuit and some cheesy grits.” Sigh....that's cheese grits, laments poor Kathleen Parker of the Washington Post, who wants to know why can't he just be himself? Because 'himself' is Mormon, that's why, and he's playing to an audience intent on re-establishing America as a Christian nation, and a Christian nation is not one led by a Mormon.
Be it Republican or Democrat, each primary race lands more spectacular than the one preceding it. The pattern's held for decades. But this current race takes the cake. Already, wannabes have shot like meteors only to vanish into thin air. Who can forget Rick Perry, an Evangelical like Ron Santorum, vowing in debate that he would eliminate three Federal departments...this one, that one, and um...um....uh....he couldn't think of the last one!....Ron Paul had to help him out. I guess it doesn't matter if you're going to ax them anyway, but voters weren't reassured. And Herman Cain, the GodFather Pizza founder....what pure charisma that fellow has! Alas, it turned out that he likes the women.
Romney will likely emerge with the candidacy, but will he emerge strong enough to beat Obama in November? Kathleen Parker offers advice ('be yourself') but it's inapplicable, because Evangelicals know who he is and don't like it. If he listens to me, however, the election is in the bag. And I offer my advice freely. I am not seeking Vice Presidential office, and will not accept it if drafted. The secret lies in registering dead voters. There's a lot of them. It plays to a Mormon strength. Nobody else has thought of it. And dead voters are not about to contradict you.
As politicians go, they're popular. As politicians go, they're capable...Mayor Michael Bloomberg of New York City, and Governor Andrew Cuomo of New York State. Following notable trainwrecks of governorship, Cuomo has made inroads on the seemingly impossible.... prodding, cajoling, and otherwise leaning upon the notoriously dysfunctional State government to....well....function, at least to a degree. Don't get me wrong. He has a long long way to go. But he's made some progress, whereas predecessors have all broken apart on the unyielding rocks of intransigence.
So imagine my dismay when State Senator (and Pentecostal preacher!) Ruben Diaz blasts Cuomo and Bloomberg on the blogosphere for being “unmarried fornicators!” Wow! Talk about letting your light shine with a flame-thrower! I didn't know anything of their private lives, nor was I curious, but it turns out that both men live with long-time girlfriends, not wives. “I, for my part, don’t want to offend anyone,” wrote Diaz on a cable show website, “but the Bible, the word of God, calls it fornication to live as husband and wife without having made this union a wedding officially blessed by God and man.”
Now, what are we to make of this? On the one hand.....
Sheesh! Were these two fellows elected to patch roads and herd politicians or teach Sunday School? Can't a guy learn to mind his own business? Whatever happened to 1 Thess 4:17-18, the famous MYOB verse, a verse some of us have learned to wear as a shield:
….make it your aim to live quietly and to mind your own business and work with your hands, just as we ordered you; so that you may be walking decently as regards people outside and not be needing anything.
Or can we not catch more than a whiff of disapproval in Paul's next letter to that town of busybodies:
For we hear certain ones are walking disorderly among you, not working at all but meddling with what does not concern them. 2 Thess 3:11
John the Baptist pulled a stunt like this, and it cost him his head. Did he come to regret it?
For John had repeatedly said to Herod: “It is not lawful for you to be having the wife of your brother.” But Herodias was nursing a grudge against him and was wanting to kill him, but could not. For Herod stood in fear of John, knowing him to be a righteous and holy man; and he was keeping him safe.......But a convenient day came along when Herod spread an evening meal on his birthday for his top-ranking men and the military commanders and the foremost ones of Galilee. And the daughter of this very Herodias came in and danced and pleased Herod and those reclining with him. The king said to the maiden: “Ask me for whatever you want, and I will give it to you.” Yes, he swore to her: “Whatever you ask me for, I will give it to you, up to half my kingdom.....She said:....“I want you to give me right away on a platter the head of John the Baptist.” Although he became deeply grieved, yet the king did not want to disregard her, in view of the oaths and those reclining at the table. So the king immediately dispatched a body guardsman and commanded him to bring his head. And he went off and beheaded him in the prison and brought his head on a platter. Mark 6:17-28
If Cuomo and Bloomberg are anything like Herod, Senator and Preacher Diaz should watch out. That's one way to look at it.
On the other hand.....
If Sen Diaz is “digging up dirt,” he certainly didn't invent the technique. Since time immemorial, accelerating in recent decades, politicians have gleefully slung mud at each other for pure mean political advantage. The excellent example playing out as I write is the Republican Primary race. (do we conclude anything from the fact that supporters in this contest physically resemble their candidates? I defy you to watch coverage and not be struck with that impression) Diaz, however, makes his charges not for political gain, but out of moral outrage. I respect that. After all, I, Tom Sheepandgoats, well-known in circles of matrimonial bliss for spoiling rotten the fabulously omnipresent Mrs Sheepandgoats, can hardly be expected not to empathize with Diaz, even if he is sticking his nose into what's none of his business.
Or is it indeed none of his business?
The reason Diaz gives for his remarks certainly rings true. “Everyone living in this situation is reinforcing the idea that it is okay to live in common law without being married” I give him credit for inserting common sense into a world that wants no part of it. We are heavily swayed by the example of others. It's so tempting to deny this, because it's a very unflattering truth. The selfish, the over-educated, and the headstrong do deny this, so as to pursue whatever they want to pursue without twinge of guilt or responsibility. But when a new fad appears on the scene, and within ten years we're all doing it....even as we look aghast at our photos 30 years ago....how did we ever think those glasses did anything for us?.....it's so flattering to the ego to think our vulnerability to our surroundings only extends to the trivial. It's so flattering, yet it's also so ridiculous. In matters small and great, we run with the herd. So Sen Diaz is absolutely right to insist public examples exert influence, whether they're meant to or not. Trouble is, isn't it a little late in the game to close the barn door?
I'm reminded again of the Circuit Overseer's remarks: “70* years ago the differences between Jehovah's Witnesses and churchgoers in general were ones of doctrine.” That is, conduct and morality was pretty much the same. Why have we retained traditional morality, whereas most lost it long ago? Because we've internalized Diaz' sentiments within our own organization. Because we have organization that insists upon studying God's sayings and adhering to them. Because we try to choose friends in harmony with that end. Because we realize that bad examples will influence others. Because we have internal discipline to curb bad influences. Believe me, we are roundly chastised for it by those who cherish blowing whichever way does the wind. But it has served to maintain Bible morality among us. Many churches also used to apply discipline to their members. But when they noticed parishioners didn't like it, they gave it up.
(* adjusted for the date spoken)
On the other hand......
The reason John the Baptist could get away with it (if having your head chopped off can be called “getting away with it”), or rather, the reason he could upbraid Herod for his unorthodox marriage without going down in history as a busybody or a template for Senator Diaz, is that Herod claimed to be a Jewish proselyte. He claimed to worship Jehovah. Does Coumo? Does Bloomberg? Not that I'm aware of. So what business are their private lives of mine? It would be like me reaching into the Catholic or Presbyterian church and demanding they make their folks adhere to Bible standards. Why would I do that? It's not my business.
Chalk this up to one of the oldest disputes regarding the role of religion toward the general world. Ought one stay at arms-length from it, keeping “no part of the world” while through a ministry inviting individuals from it to take a stand for God's Kingdom? Or ought one role up one's shirtsleeves, dive in and fix the world, or even convert it, viewing that as your ministry? We think the former, but many church groups think the latter.
If you think the role of Christians is to fix the world, then you have to fix the world with the tools you have. Thus, Senator Diaz' reprimand is entirely appropriate. But from the ranks of folks like him arise those who insist America is a “Christian nation,” and so strive with all their might to impose their standards upon it, (an impossible task, since the very idea of sovereign nations is foreign to God's will) and who might well blow Republican chances this election by ignoring all factors except religious affiliation in the candidates. Thus, Mitt Romney, widely considered the most viable of Republican choices, emerges a weak candidate from the Republican primary race (unless it occurs to his campaign to register dead voters).
But Jehovah's Witnesses view their role toward the world along the lines of 2 Corinthians 5:20:
We are therefore ambassadors substituting for Christ, as though God were making entreaty through us. As substitutes for Christ we beg: “Become reconciled to God.”
In short, using words of the verse, we invite persons to embrace God's purpose as their own, to become reconciled to him. It's a process that begins with a Bible study, which is how one finds out what God's purpose is. If someone reaches the point of wanting to “reconcile to God,” then, by degrees, he conforms his life to God's standards. But if he doesn't reach that point, if he has no interest in making inquiry, what business is it of ours how he live his lives? None. We don't try to make it such, nosing into his life to tweak this or that practice, let alone blasting him in public. Will there one day be an accounting for rejecting God's purpose and standards? JWs think so....you know they do.....but it won't be at our hands. We fancy ourselves ambassadors of a kingdom, no more. We invite, we don't meddle. It's an important distinction, though perhaps one lost upon someone woken up Saturday morning at 9:30.
At the end of each year, media looks back to recap just what went down in the past 365 days, even as they brace for the new year. Didn't Ogden Nash point out that every new year is the direct descendant of a long line of proven criminals? It was a light and breezy line when he said it, long ago, but over time the criminals are getting nastier and nastier. PBS ran a story Dec 28th titled “How 2011 Became a 'Mind-Boggling' Year of Extreme Weather” Anyone halfway observant knows that last year blew us away (sometimes literally) for extreme weather, but people of scientific bent demand evidence! So here it is:
Whereas normally there are three or four “significant” weather events per year in the U.S, last year chalked up twelve. The prior record breaking year, 2008, registered nine. “So, we went a third again in the number of events each of which had greater than a billion dollars, many other events, of course, that just fell below that billion-dollar threshold through the course of that year, quite a remarkable string, quite a remarkable array,” said Kathryn Sullivan of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
Jeff Masters, of Weather Underground, added: “we talk about the Dust Bowl summer of 1936. Well, this summer pretty much matched that for temperature, almost the hottest summer in U.S. history. We also talk about the great 1974 tornado outbreak. Well, we had an outbreak that more than doubled the total of tornadoes we had during that iconic outbreak. And, also, we talk about the great 1927 flood on the Mississippi River. Well, the flood heights were even higher than that flood this year. So, it just boggles my mind that we had three extreme weather events that matched those events in U.S. History.”
The story focused on U.S. weather events, but worldwide extremes were not ignored: “Weather around the world showed equal extremes. Australia was hit with record flooding, followed by one of its worst tropical cyclones ever. Floodwaters also ravaged parts of Thailand and China, while the Horn of Africa suffered its worst drought in decades.” Jeff Masters especially keeps track of drought, since that corresponds with social upheaval. Russia cut of wheat exports in 2011, so bad was their drought. Food prices surged, and it's thought that the Arab spring revolts were caused, in part, by that woe.
For my money, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo said it best in his 2012 State of the State address. He didn't want to get into a debate on global warming, he prefaced, but “100 year floods are now happening every two years, so something is clearly happening.”
Does rotten weather count as one of the signs of the last days that Jesus ticked off? You have to force it a bit. I mean, it's not so directly mentioned as are earthquakes, food shortages, wars, and so forth. Does it fit under the “fearful sights and from heavens great signs” of Luke 21:11? Or is it a factor, among many, that when put together, give relevance to Jesus' fig tree remark? “Note the fig tree and all the other trees: When they are already in the bud, by observing it you know for yourselves that now the summer is near. In this way you also, when you see these things occurring, know that the kingdom of God is near.” (Luke 21:30)
No one in the story's comment section pays any attention to Biblical relevance, of course. They just debate over whether the extremes do or do not indicate global warming, since upon that question hangs major economic policy. One character remarks weather may not be getting any worse at all; we simply have miraculous scientific measurements today so that we notice things more, as though the flattened town of Joplin, Missouri might not have registered upon less enlightened folk of a generation ago.
Weather Underground's Jeff Masters thinks global warming is positively a factor, and by pumping more heat energy into the atmosphere, the result is weather events “on steroids.” If he's correct, then surely extreme weather is but another manifestation of humans “ruining the earth” today, as Revelation 18:11 says.
Football season's over. And though it was just whimsy at first, the more I turn the idea over in my head, the more I'd love to see it for next year: atheist football players with Matt 6:5 on their eyeblack. Or atheist fans with that verse on their bare chests.
“Also, when you pray, you must not be as the hypocrites; because they like to pray standing in the synagogues [substitute “stadiums”] and on the corners of the broad ways to be visible to men. Truly I say to you, They are having their reward in full. You, however, when you pray, go into your private room and, after shutting your door, pray to your Father who is in secret...”
Wouldn't that balance out those characters praising the Lord after every punishing pass, tackle, or touchdown? And ought not today's American atheists be ashamed of themselves for not yet doing it? So much so that I'm beginning to reassess my long-held view that our atheists are cutting edge, as opposed to Britain's atheists, who are wusses.
But wait, Tom Sheepandgoats, just wait. Would you really, truly like to see it? Wouldn't that turn God into a laughingstock? It's a well-meaning question. I realize that. Trouble is, Evangelicals have already turned him into a laughingstock. And that's the best face you can put on it. The worst is that they've turned him into an obscenity. I mean, wrap your head around the picture they present: God, for whatever reason, doesn't do much about suffering or injustice....those things go unchecked....in fact, they intensify....but he never misses a game, tweaking each play to bless the born-again players. That's the God that Evangelicals present us with. Can atheists make matters any worse? I don't think so.
But...but...what if the effusive John 3:16 crowd gets mad, and fistfights break out on the field and in the stands? Wouldn't that be bad, Tom Sheepandgoats? Well.....that could happen, and yes, it would be bad. But not worse than the present spectacle, and it might even prompt these gushing religionists to conduct their prayer life in accord with the Lord's words at Matt 6:5. And that would be a good thing.
I don't know how to play this Tebowing sensation....it irritates me so. It's just like Paul strolling through the Aeropolis growing irritated at the idols. (Acts 17:16) If that got him irritated, he'd go ballistic over this! Should I spin it satirical? Relate how, back in the first century after a hard day doing religious stuff, the disciples would pair off into teams and play athletic games? And if one of them scored a goal, or run, or touchdown, he'd pump his fist and holler “GO LORD!” or “YEA GOD!” And how Peter especially would shout at such times “LORD, YOU ROCK!”....an expression which found it's way into scripture in a curiously garbled way? And how eventually the disciples forgot all about the religious stuff because the games were just so much more fun? But won't this border on blasphemy if I write all these things? Yes, I fear it will, but no more so than that which it satirizes, that which we see every Sunday on the field, throwing a pass, sacking a quarterback, or scoring a touchdown and praising God for it! As though the greatest miracle He might perform is to produce Perfect Stats! As though he revels in all the trophies he has produced for born-again players, knowing that their trophies are really His! Beaming with pride when the quarterback, having won a game, says "First of all, I want to thank my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ!"
It wasn't always this way. Fran Tarkenton, who quarterbacked for the Vikings and Giants during the 1960's and 1970's, was religious. He'd been raised that way. Son of a Pentecostal Holiness minister, he'd attended church services Wednesday night, Friday night, Sunday morning and Sunday night. That's more meetings than Jehovah's Witnesses attend!! Far from his faith being “honored” by him playing football, he had to get a special dispensation to play in the NFL!
In a piece for the Wall Street Journal Opinion page, Mr Tarkenton writes that he “never understood why God would care who won a game between my team and another. It seemed like there were many far more important things going on in the world.” See? Common sense once prevailed, before Evangelicals came upon the scene. Even when he relates how the New York Giants team owner would invite “half the priests in New York City into the locker room before games.” At least they didn't burst onfield with players from the locker-room, crossing themselves as they ran!
Still, even after Tarkenson blasts right through the hypocrisy of making God a Fan, he concludes: “But seriously, isn't it refreshing that the chatter around the NFL is about a great athlete with great character who says and does all the right things and is a relentless leader for his team—and not about more arrests and bad behavior from our presumptive "heroes"?
No no no no no, Mr Tarkenton! NO! It isn't! Sam Harris is right. You must call a spade a spade! Of course Tebow is a great guy and a great player! Of course its good that he's not raping and pillaging, as some of his NFL cohorts are wont to do. That's not the point! The point is that he trivializes God, painting Him an avid fan, even while taking no interest, apparently, in the unspeakable worldwide atrocities we daily see on the news! All that remains is to paint Him with a Beer and a TV Remote, his Heavenly Throne now a Celestial Easy Chair! Imagine yourself a victim of such atrocity, and you cry out to God for justice or relief, or even understanding. Not now, not now.....what....do you expect Me to miss The Game? This is what the Evangelicals bring us! No matter how much I rail about it, it's not enough!
It's not just Tarkenton. Michael Medved, scratching his head, it seems, also writes in the Wall Street Journal. There have been other great religious atheletes, he observes. “Three great Jewish baseball players—Hank Greenberg in 1931, Sandy Koufax in 1965 and Shawn Green in 2001—drew mostly admiring comments when they refused to participate in crucial games that fell on Yom Kippur......So why should Tim Tebow draw more resentment than other religious athletes?”
Are you kidding me, Mr Medved? You don't know why? It's because Greenburg, Koufax, and Green's actions represent sacrifice. They represent service to God. They're giving up something....something important to them....for the sake of their faith. They're not simply putting a God smiley-face on what they'd be doing anyway, an activity which hardly seems endorsable by a God who says he doesn't care for violence, nor is he keen on the competitive spirit. That's what rankles folk! Look, if you want to play football, play football. Nobody has any problem with that. But don't go carrying on as if it's sacred service you're performing. It's not. It's football.
Matt 6:5 resonates. It rings true. Those oh-so-public in-your-face prayers, punctuating high points of a decidedly unChristlike activity just turn the stomach. “Hypocrites” is the inspired word Jesus uses at Matt 6:5, and everyone except Evangelicals knows Jesus hits the nail on the head.
There was some bunch of atheists somewhere who denounced Tim Tebow as a hypocrite, even adding that he was “full of crap.” But there's no reason to think so, not especially. By all accounts, he lives a virtuous life off-field. No, it's not a personal hypocrisy that he can be charged with. It's a systemic hypocrisy, inherent with a me-first religious system he's bought into...that he was born into...so that it hardly seems fair to lambaste him personally. It's institutionalized hypocrisy, which these guys pick up as readily as breathing.
Sometimes the spirit of an entire age is captured in a single event. Even better, sometimes the spirit of an entire age is bookended by two separate events, one defining the “before,” the other the “after.” Whenever this happens, it's a fine thing. It saves a lot of work. You don't have to read up on the entire age....don't you have a lot to do already? Just get your head around the two bookend events and you're homefree. Like Morgan Freeman said to Miss Daisy, "we don't have to worry about what's in the middle?" No. We don't.
We have exactly this situation today with regard to the Costa Concordia, that luxury cruise liner that capsized January off the Italian coast. It's a nautical bookend. It's complement, the Titanic, also capsized, almost exactly a century ago, in 1912. The age thus bookended is the “last days”, as proclaimed by Jehovah's Witnesses. That age began in 1914 and is near completion, since we are “right around the corner” from the end of this system of things. 1914, you will remember, was the year of WWI, and marks the first time the entire world went to war concurrently. It was the year that events described in Luke 21:10 set off with a bang, and have intensified to our day. Odd as it may sound, that year is determined by biblical prophesy.
If ever there were contrasting events to illustrate the fulfillment of 2 Tim 3:1-5, they are to be found in these behemoth boats. Those verses of Timothy read:
"But know this, that in the last days critical times hard to deal with will be here. For men will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, self-assuming, haughty, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, disloyal, having no natural affection, not open to any agreement, slanderers, without self-control, fierce, without love of goodness, betrayers, headstrong, puffed up [with pride], lovers of pleasures rather than lovers of God, having a form of godly devotion but proving false to its power; and from these turn away."
In other words, the verses point to a general deterioration of human character. People have “gotten worse” during the last days. As Pop, who's even older than I am (and not a Witness) readily asserts: the world is going “to hell in a handbasket.” But this is not necessarily easy to prove to one who thinks otherwise. It's subjective. If you show the verses to someone who doesn't agree that they apply more today than at other times, there's not much you can do about it. To some extent, it depends upon where you look. If you think in terms of technology, for instance, the notion of things worsening is patently untrue. One is reminded of that line from the 1968 book The Truth that Leads to Eternal Life, “True, there has been progress in a materialistic way. But is it really progress when men send rockets to the moon, and yet cannot live together in peace on earth?” Some people think it is.
Still, the best chance we have of illustrating 2 Tim 3:1-5 lies in contrasting similar events occurring in different time frames. Like ship sinkings. Consider: after the Titanic struck a berg, back in 1912, the captain expedited rescue efforts, then went down with his ship. After the Costa Concordia struck a rock, in modern 2012, the captain, seen beforehand schmoozing up women in the bar, was among the first to jump ship. Titanic's crew, in 1912, urgently worked to shepherd passengers to lifeboats. Concordia's crew, in 2012, told them to go back to their rooms....surely this crisis would pass. With the 1912 Titanic, it was “women & children first.”* With the 2012 Corcordia it was “every person for himself.”
In short, all that was noble and self-sacrificing is replaced today with all that is cowardly and self-serving. That's the relevance of 2 Tim 3:1-5. Tell that to fatheads that can's see any change in people!
Even the big liners themselves seem to fulfill 2 Tim 3:1-5. Titanic, in 1912, went down majestically, gracefully, symmetrically. Concordia, in 2012, rolled over on its side like a huge fat pig and just lay there lolling in the sun, like our overstuffed cat does in hopes someone will scratch it's belly. People of the last days can't even sink a ship properly.
Okay, okay, so it doesn't prove anything, comparing the two sunken ships. It's pure symbolism. I understand that. But as symbolism goes, it doesn't get any better. I don't issue many prophesies, being a modest guy, but I'm comfortable with this one: James Cameron will never make a film entitled Concordia.
*74% of the women on board Titanic were saved and 52% of the children, but only 20% of the men. (with major variations over First Class, Second Class and Third Class passengers)
Thanks to Aussie blogger Daniel for the inspiration.