One Hundred Monkeys in Texas

April 25, 2009

A pause for thought at the wordsmith’s anvil

“We are all like the Word himself — we might say that we are ‘little words,’ made to be communicators in words just like our Creator. God is the One who called all worlds into being by his creative word, who sustains and rules over all things by his powerful and law-giving word, who reveals himself by his truth-giving word, who communicates by his life-giving word. We are to use language in imitation of him by exercising the gifts of creative imagination, by understanding and naming the world around us, by revealing ourselves truthfully in all we say and write, by communicating with our Creator and with one another to build trust and to give life to all our relationships.”

— Jerram Barrs, Through His Eyes: God’s Perspective on Women in the Bible

July 28, 2008

“Will all of this ever end?”

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

July 26, 2008

It hurts my I’s

Filed under: Bible,Spirituality — alancochrum @ 8:54 am
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I was looking out a window, waiting for a friend who was supposed to drop off a package. Said friend was not in front of the house at that moment, and I absent-mindedly closed the blinds a little further.

In the nearby dining room, a growl emerged from my wife, one that with a little electronic alteration might have served as a sound effect in a horror movie: “I … want … light!”

Or words to that effect, anyway.

This is a recurring scene at my house. My spouse likes the blinds open, with light streaming into the house. I, on the other hand, like things shady.

For one thing, I have light-sensitive eyes; in our old family movies (the kind that you took with genuine film), I am the child who is always trying to shield his eyes from that glaring indoor camera light. Fall, with its coolness and cloudy skies, is one of my favorite times of year.

(As for you summer-philes out there: If you had to look forward to multiple days of 100 degrees or above, as we do in Texas, you might change your mind. If human beings could hibernate, I would find a nice cool cave — Inner Space Cavern north of Austin comes to mind — and not come out between the beginning of June and the end of September. At least.)

It reminded me of a passage from the Gospel of John, one just after the famous “For God so loved the world” declaration:

“This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but men loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that his deeds will be exposed. But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what he has done has been done through God.” (John 3:19-21, NIV)

My little quirk of preferring the shadow to the light is harmless — except, of course, when it clashes with my wife’s preferences. But my innate, fallen tendency to gravitate toward the moral Shadow rather than the Light — to make “I” the most important word? Much more of a problem.

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