So, earlier this week was the boss' birthday. We are all extremely fond of Sharon, so we got her a card and a gift certificate at a church bookstore she likes. And that's when I learned something new.
We were carefully sneaking the card from desk to desk to get it signed by everybody, and it got to Jeanie. She was doing something involving reports and graphs and charts, and so the whole "card" business came to a halt for a while. But shortly (and I'm not sure it was on purpose, but at least Jeanie waited until Sharon was out of the office), she came marching over to another co-worker, slapped down the card, and said, relatively forcefully, "I'm not going to participate."
You see, Jeanie is a Jehovah's Witness.
(I say that like it explains things. I only know this because a couple of us were so curious about the reaction that we looked it up.)
If you are a normal human being, the only thing you know about the Jehovah's Witness movement is that they come to your door, try to hand out copies of the Watchtower and ruin your weekend, and are generally the annoying kind of Christian.
(Full disclosure - I'm probably not a normal human being, either. The Trophy Wife cheerfully recounts how, early in our marriage, two Jehovah's Witnesses came to the door one Saturday morning, while we were dealing with kids and weekend mornings and the like, and I stood out on the porch - trust me, you never let them into the house! - and talked with them for two hours. It was less than fifteen minutes into it when they were diving into their bibles and flipping pages, and I just kept going.)
To be honest, we already knew that Jeanie doesn’t celebrate holidays (because whenever the subject comes up, she smugly informs us “I don’t celebrate holidays”), but this particular sect of Christianity also doesn't celebrate birthdays, as it turns out.
They base this on the two explicit uses of the word “birthday” in their translation of the Bible: Genesis 40:20-22, and Matthew 14:6-10. Because two pagan rulers (the Pharoah and Herod) did mean things to people on their birthdays, everybody loses. Apparently, God’s like a kindergarten teacher.
The Jehovah’s Witnesses use the New World Translation (NWT) of the Bible, which no other religion uses. So maybe they can be forgiven for ignoring the reasonably positive reference to birthdays in Job 1:4-5, since the NWT uses the phrase “his day” there. (What would “his day” be, again? Oh, well...)
Some people, in fact, argue that there are a lot of translation issues in the NWT, but a lot of that boils down to semantic quibbling, really; it’s their religion, and if they want to rewrite parts of the Bible to fit their beliefs, I suppose that’s their business. (It doesn't mean we can't make fun of them, of course. I'm just sayin'...)
Working in a hospital, I've tripped over the Jehovah's Witness beliefs before. You see, they can't seem to believe that God wants them to survive a gunshot wound: based on the Old Testament provisions against “eating blood,” JW’s can’t get transfusions (apparently you can eat through a hole in your arm – who knew?).
Well, OK, they can get some transfusions: there’s a whole list of allowed and prohibited practices, which gets changed every so often, usually for no logical reason - for example, hemoglobin, which makes up 97% of red blood cells, has been allowed by some dissident Witnesses since 2004 (but transfusions of red blood cells are usually still verboten). There is significant controversy on this point.
So, essentially, a Jehovah's Witness with hemophilia would just be proof that God has a sense of humor. Admittedly, a really, really dark sense of humor...
There’s a group of slightly less insane JW’s who are trying to get this particularly dangerous prohibition done away with. Good luck with that.
(Incidentally, on one of the major roads near my house, there's a Jehovah's Witness hall, with a sign out front in both English and Spanish - I live in New Mexico, what can I say? And driving past it, when you catch Testigos de Jehová out of the corner of your eye, I keep having to repress the giggles of my inner twelve-year-old. Because my mind always reads it as "Testicles of Jehovah." Every time. I can't help it.)
Now, there's one more thing. In the end (and yes, when you get down to it, the JW are another End-Times cult), only 144,000 people going to heaven. Which compares badly to the fact that there are over 16 million Jehovah’s Witnesses worldwide.
Now they do believe in a kind of an "anti-rapture" - instead of the holy folks going to heaven, the evil will be taken away. ("As regards the wicked, they will be cut off from the very earth; and as for the treacherous, they will be torn away from it."—Proverbs 2:22 NWT.)
(Of course, if you read all of Proverbs 2, it's a declaration that you should lead a good life in most translations - but let's just ignore that, shall we?)
So, let's see. If you're a Jehovah's Witness, you can't have birthdays or holidays, because you should suppress all the fun in this life. Which will frequently be a very short life. And you almost definitely won't go to heaven.
Yeah. Sign me up for that.