One Hundred Monkeys in Texas

July 28, 2008

“Will all of this ever end?”

Filed under: Bible,Spirituality — alancochrum @ 6:08 pm
Tags: ,

We have two doorbells. The one outside the house is small and golden and makes a pleasant sound; it’s under the control of the person on the porch. The one inside the house is medium-sized and sheds black fur all over the floors; it barks and arguably is not entirely under the control of anyone on the premises.

The other day, the interior doorbell went off at great length and volume; I was busy at the far end of the house and so did not respond for a while. When I finally got to the door, I glimpsed a woman and child going back toward the street; one of them was holding a Bible. A familiar-looking sort of pair.

I could have engaged them in conversation, but I was thinking in terms of having to restrain the dog — not that she would have been any danger to the twosome — and so I decided to take a rain check.

Sure enough, when I opened the door later, a little leaflet with the familiar Jehovah’s Witness look fluttered to the porch. (If you have an eye for such things, you can spot a Witness publication from ten yards away, whether it’s an issue of The Watchtower or books such as Life Everlasting in Freedom of the Sons of God or You Can Live Forever in Paradise on Earth.)

“All Suffering Soon to End!” proclaimed the leaflet’s front. And inside, it said: “The past hundred years have seen more suffering than ever before. Will all of this ever end?

“The comforting answer is yes, and very soon! …

“The human condition is just as the Bible foretold for our times. God’s word identifies our era as ‘the last days’ of this system of things when ‘critical times hard to deal with will be here.'”

Of course, a great many people who are not Jehovah’s Witnesses expect the Second Coming sometime soon. The big differences (aside from the Witnesses’ fairly high score on the Heterodoxometer) have been the iron-fisted ecclesiastical control of Bethel (as the Witnesses’ headquarters is known) and its outstandingly bad batting average on predictions — a situation that could be summarized as: “Eat what we give you, or else … um, never mind; now eat this, or else …”

For those interested in a thorough yet very readable backgrounding, I recommend two books: M. James Penton’s Apocalypse Delayed: The Story of Jehovah’s Witnesses (1985, University of Toronto Press) and Raymond Franz’s Crisis of Conscience (1983, Commentary Press).

Franz’s book is particularly fascinating, given that he was one of the group’s top leaders before being purged. (Commenting on the longtime Witness belief that Jesus’ “invisible presence” began in 1914, he notes that for nearly five decades, the group preached that this event occurred in 1874, and that this was still being taught as late as 1929.)

And judging from the leaflet, things may not have changed all that much. “Will all of this ever end” — this being the misdirected preaching work? You can still hear the tune that was being played more than eighty years ago in the “Millions Now Living Will Never Die” campaign.

Well, maybe millions who are now alive will indeed never die. But if Bethel told me that the sky was blue, I’d still look up.

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