Wednesday, December 01, 2010

What Did Jehovah Witness?

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 Jehov√° 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.

17 comments:

Murr Brewster said...

What a riot. As it happens I'm in the midst of researching millenialist cults of the 19th century for a novel. From which I have concluded that there are a lot of truly crazy but entertaining religious people out there. In the plus column for them, they do appear to refute evolution by their continued existence.

tom sheepandgoats said...

Well...seeing that you work in a hospital, you might want to read this post from a JW regarding transfusion. It's in answer to a doctor's post on the subject. It's respectfully written, and I hope, not too illogical:

http://tinyurl.com/27b4643

Nameless Cynic said...

Respectful? Sure. But logical? Reasonable? Humane? Even internally consistent? None of the above.

One doctor recorded his encounter with a JW cancer patient - Ms. LF stated that she was a Jehovah's Witness and asserted with an advanced directive that she did not want blood product support... The risks and benefits of continuing therapy were discussed with Ms. LF. She remained adamant in her refusal of blood products and repeated that she wanted to continue treatment and to "die fighting" her disease.”

Let me rephrase that for her: she would rather die, than defeat her disease and continue to live.

JW's die every year because of this stupid prohibition. They can't even agree on which fractions are usable and which are mortal sins. And JW's who knowingly accept a simple medical procedure in order to save their own life are shunned until they are willing to admit that they should have allowed themselves to die. That their own life doesn't matter as much as the ignorant words of a nineteenth century bible scholar.

(A scholar, incidentally, who initially decided that Christ had returned in 1874 and that 1914 would be the end of the 2520-year-long "Gentile Times." Oh, and the world was in it's last days in 1879 - those "last days" have gone on for 141 years so far. When are you going to admit that he dropped a decimal place somewhere?)

(Relax - I'm not going to even touch on the JW history of covering up child sexual abuse that's almost as bad as the Catholic Church. Other than to ask how that's "in harmony with Biblical principles." Other than misinterpreting the phrase "suffer the little children...")

You go on for a while about the benefits of "bloodless surgery." Crap.

"Bloodless surgery" is a misnomer, because it most often uses allogeneic blood products (banned by JW), and most often (since the primary, non-JW benefit is reducing the risk of getting somebody else's disease) uses autologous transfusion (of the patient's own blood), and the act of donating your own blood for your own use is, again, specifically banned by the boys in the Watchtower.

Plus, you're completely ignoring the documented dangers of "bloodless surgery": irreversible damage to a vital organ, anemia, tissue hypoxia, uncontrollable hemorrhage, which can lead to anoxic brain injury, myocardial infarction, bowel infarct, lung injury, or kidney failure.

And most importantly, you're making a false comparison, since the majority of JW deaths are in non-surgical procedures.

I'm sorry. Was that respectful enough?

TJ said...

You seem to have some very strong opinions regarding Jehovah's Witnesses. Of course, there's two sides to these issues, which is part of the reason why we try to talk to people in the first place. We're happy to discuss the reasons for our beliefs cordially.

For example, you say that we ignore "the reasonably positive reference to birthdays in Job 1:4-5 . . . What would 'his day' be, again? Oh, well..."

Well, let's take a look at that. Moses (the author of Job) used this same Hebrew word and pronominal suffix, yom-o ("his day") at Deuteronomy 24:15. It there says, "You must not defraud a hired laborer who is in trouble and poor . . . In his day you should give him his wages." Would that be saying that a poor laborer should only be paid on his birthday? Obviously, context has a bearing on what "his day", "her day", "their day", "our day", etc. means.

We agree with Professor G. Margoliouth, who wrote in Hastings' Encyclopædia of Religion and Ethics: "The occasion of the feasting referred to in Job 1:4 is not clear. As the seven days appear to have been consecutive, they could hardly have been birthdays."

Furthermore, we make the same observations about the biblical record as did early Christians, including Origen, who wrote circa 245 CE, "Someone before us has observed what is written in Genesis about the birthday of Pharaoh and has said that the worthless man who loves things connected with birth keeps birthday festivals. And I, taking this suggestion from him, find nowhere in Scripture that a birthday was kept by a righteous man."

Moreover, the Bible warns repeatedly to not mix false religion with true worship of Jehovah, for one "cannot be partaking of 'the table of Jehovah' and the table of demons." (1 Cor. 10:21) Being the critically-thinking sort, do you ever stop and ask why birthdays have always been celebrated in the first place? And why do they involve a cake with candles, present-giving, wish-making, etc? Much of these traditions are rooted in pagan superstition, of which we try to free ourselves to the extent possible.

This doesn't mean that we reject fun altogether, there's just some things with which we don't go along with the rest of the crowd based on scriptural principle. Adhering closely to those principles have kept us from things like signing a birthday card, which you might find annoying, but it has also kept us from things you might agree with, such as our 1930s and 40s German brothers and sisters staunchly refusing to join the Nazis, even being put in concentration camps for that stand. It goes both ways.


TJ

Nameless Cynic said...

You know, if I'd thought about it, I might have realized that the people who spend so much time going door-to-door trying to drum up members would cheerfully come knocking on my little blog when I started chatting about them.

Ah, well. Live and learn, I guess. Let's start at the top.

No, I don't have particularly strong feelings about the JW. Any more than you probably have strong feelings about that odd man who feels that his pet cat talks to him at night, explaining the secrets of the universe...

OK, potentially bad example. Depending on your level of disassociation from reality, you might get all cranky and up-in-arms that his cat might be possessed by Satan. Let's just say that I feel you're deluded, and don't feel any great urge to change your mind; I just enjoy pointing out the fascinating facets of your fantasy.

Now, you compare the use of the Hebrew words in Job to Deuteronomy. Again, though, context is crucial. Ancient Hebrew had only about 30,000 words. Unlike modern English, with in excess of a quarter millioin words, they needed to reuse words, with inflection to indicate emphasis.

In other words, "in his day" indicates "in the important day to him." So in Deuteronomy, it refers to the day when the worker busted his hump for you. Easy stuff.

Now, though, let's look at Job. But, for context, let's pull in more of the quote - Job 1-5 (NIV)

In the land of Uz there lived a man whose name was Job. This man was blameless and upright; he feared God and shunned evil. He had seven sons and three daughters, and he owned seven thousand sheep, three thousand camels, five hundred yoke of oxen and five hundred donkeys, and had a large number of servants. He was the greatest man among all the people of the East.

His sons used to hold feasts in their homes on their birthdays, and they would invite their three sisters to eat and drink with them. When a period of feasting had run its course, Job would make arrangements for them to be purified.


Yeah, I think it's pretty clear. "Yom-o," in this case, refers to "a day important to him" - and since they threw a feast, it's not just any day, but his birthday.

(Nothing in that says that all seven days are consecutive, by the way - that's Professor Margoliouth's interpretation. Incidentally, it's interesting that George Margoliouth was not just a contemporary of Charles Taze Russell, your founder, but of Sir Ernest Alfred Thompson Wallis Budge, an Egyptologist who essentially just made up translations of Egyption heiroglyphics. Scholarship wasn't always what it could be, back at the turn of the 20th Century.)

And by the way, you quote Origen's opinion on birthdays. Perhaps the thoughts of the man would hold more weight if he hadn't castrated himself to avoid "the sins of the flesh." Perhaps he could be considered a bit of an extremist - not your best choice for how to run your life.

And finally, "it has also kept us from things you might agree with, such as our 1930s and 40s German brothers and sisters staunchly refusing to join the Nazis, even being put in concentration camps for that stand. It goes both ways."

Yes, it does. Of course, since that same opposition to nationalism prevented members of your nascent order from joining the American army and opposing the Nazi movement in anything but a passive-aggressive way, perhaps that isn't the philosophical victory you're trying to portray it.

That's more like saying "Well, we didn't rape the girl; we turned our backs in silent oppostion."

tom sheepandgoats said...

Relax - I'm not going to even touch on the JW history of covering up child sexual abuse that's almost as bad as the Catholic Church.

Good. Because this post might alter your thinking, if that is possible (search it for Jehovah's Witnesses):

http://jeriwho.net/lillypad2/?p=4820

TJ said...

Hello again,

You wrote: "Yeah, I think it's pretty clear. "Yom-o," in this case, refers to "a day important to him" - and since they threw a feast, it's not just any day, but his birthday."

So just because a feast was held, that was necessarily a birthday? I don't think that's evident at all. What we do know is that the Hebrews had a word to explicitly denote 'birthday', which was used by Moses in Genesis, and he didn't employ it here.

You wrote: Of course, since that same opposition to nationalism prevented members of your nascent order from joining the American army and opposing the Nazi movement in anything but a passive-aggressive way, perhaps that isn't the philosophical victory you're trying to portray it."

Again, we are consistent with living according to the Bible principles, even when it's difficult politically to do so. Jesus stated clearly that his true followers are to be "no part of the world". They don't take up arms for one worldly kingdom over another, because they look to another government, God's Kingdom, as the only permanent solution to humankind's problems. Jesus himself refused to get caught up in the fomenting Jewish revolt against the Romans, even hiding himself when some Jews tried to make him their political leader and king on earth. (John 6:14-15)

Let me ask you this. You are a self-proclaimed cynic, but don't you have an appreciation for the teachings and manner of Jesus? Would you style him as cynical?


Thanks for your time,
TJ

Nameless Cynic said...

Because this post might alter your thinking, if that is possible

Really? A post where somebody concentrates on Baptists saying that the Jehovah's Witnesses have a low rate of sexual abuse?

OK, Let's work on defining our playing field. The JW society is insular and patriarchal; they control as much information going to the outside world as possible. They also have a documented history of trying to ensure that information about sexual abuse doesn't get reported to the outside world.

Gee, I don't know. Does a stated organizational position requiring two eyewitnesses to a crime normally carried out in private count as a loophole? Golly, I don't see how anyone could get around that requirement...

It's an ongoing cover-up that is slowly coming to light. Despite your organizations efforts to suppress the truth, it's still out there. (Here, for example, is a webcache of the Silent Lambs - a group of sexually abused JW's. (Yes, you claim it's a scam - of course you do.) Here's some of many settlements which include requirements not to discuss the case in public ever again. (Funny how that works...)

You keep trying to clamp the lid down, and it keeps boiling over. Maybe you should do something to prevent the initial crime, instead of trying to mop up after the fact. What'd'ya think?

tom sheepandgoats said...

No. The author concentrates upon one area, because that's where the abuse lies. He likens the amount of abuse occuring among JWs as comparable to that occuring among Quakers, and Reformed Jews.

I'll try once more. See what you think:

http://tinyurl.com/5cdny4

Nameless Cynic said...

You know, I've got a nice glass of wine, Muddy Waters is singing about "Champagne and Reefer" and I'm feeling generous. I'll back down from that one. (Plus, I did a little more research...) You do have an acceptable track record on the subject. (I still don't like the "two eyewitness" policy, but there it is...)

I still find far too much about your organization worth laughing at. Way too many cult-like aspects for me.

But maybe you aren't diddling children. (It's nice that you leave something for the Catholics to do, I guess...)

tom sheepandgoats said...

Nameless Cynic, I am impressed. Thank you for that honesty. Of course, it is expressed cynically, but I can hardly complain about that, can I, in view of your moniker.

Perhaps....it's just a suggestion.... I mean, you were very firm in your opinion, and you are a guy that puts much stock in examination and evidence.....yet further research convinced you that whatever sources you had previously consulted were incorrect.....maybe that might happen regarding other areas of our organization. Maybe if you broadened your sources, you might modify your views on other aspects of our faith. The website you mentioned before positively loathes Jehovah's Witnesses. Perhaps they should be one source among many, and not the primary one.

How much time you want to put into this I don't know, but you appear to already have put a significant amount of time into gathering unflattering "facts" about us, which in one area you've now acknowledged is flat-out wrong.

There are many categories in the linked-to blog dealing with other controversial items you have also expressed strong opinions about.

Relax. This is not a plug for you to "repent" and become a JW. I doubt very much that would happen. (Best case scenario...I would think there would still be much about us you would not like) But it might help you to become more informed, and thereby more fair-minded.

Should you decide to "go for it," start with my category: "opposers," since that deals with some of the charges frequently leveled against us.

Nameless Cynic said...

OK. So I apparently have to start checking my "spam" file more often. Admittedly, there's a certain symmetry to Jehovah's Witnesses ending up going straight to "spam," but that's just me...

(It also caught one from my stalker, trying again after lo these many months, plus one from Dennis Markuze. So I think I love me some spam filters.)

Anyway, the last comments from TJ and Tom were stuck in the drain. Now we answer them. (But one at a time. And later this evening.)

Nameless Cynic said...

So, TJ.

I don't think we'll ever agree on birthdays. You believe that only pagans celebrate birthdays because they venerate themselves instead of God; on top of which, birthdays were placed in an unfavorable light in the Bible.

I, on the other hand, don't believe that. I, to be more precise, believe the following:

Fuck you. Stop being an idiot. You celebrate birthdays because it makes the child feel important. It's their day. (And when they get older, and are no longer a child? Yeah, fuck you still. Why shouldn't somebody have a day set aside for them? We take crap from the entire world for 364 days every year. Maybe everybody deserves a day where they're important. And the fact that you don't see this is just an example of what a sad excuse for a human being that you are.

So, past that, though, what else do you have to say?

we are consistent with living according to the Bible principles, even when it's difficult politically to do so.

OK, so let's see if I can phrase this gently and in a politically correct maner.

Fuck you.

You're being stupid. What was it that I said earlier? "Well, we didn't rape the girl; we turned our backs in silent oppostion."

Yeah, feel proud of that. You didn't cause the suffering of the Jews, you just allowed it, you psychopathically passive-aggressive pinheads. (Is it possible to be "psychopathically passive-aggressive"? Well, yes. And here's a fine example.)

The only thing required for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing.

It's been said before. I don't have to add anything.

Except this: if you allow evil to be done, and you do nothing to combat it, then you might as well be doing that evil yourself. And if you follow the teachings of someone who tells you to "keep yourself above it all," then that teacher might as well be doing the evil acts in question.

"God helps those who help themselves." He also allows those to die who do nothing to help themselves.

don't you have an appreciation for the teachings and manner of Jesus?

Yes. The same appreciation that Jefferson did, when he cut out all the mystic or miraculous things ascribed to Jesus, and published the "Jefferson Bible." Look it up.

Nameless Cynic said...

Tom,

Well, hell, I guess you should probably read and reflect on what I said to TJ. I think I was pretty clear there.

But, really, let's go past that.

I googled "jehovah's witness opposers" - and aside from mention of people like Gerald Bergman, I kept hitting pages like this one. (Yeah, that's "watchMAN.org" - entirely different from "watchMEN.org," except that, as far as I can tell, you're all deluded.)

(Oh, and for some reason, none of you had anything to do with "Watchmen" - a great movie that took far too long to get made.)

It's simple. I live IN THIS WORLD. If God didn't want people to live IN THIS WORLD, then He probably wouldn't have put people (am I being redundant yet?) IN THIS WORLD.

No, I'm not likely to "repent" and become a JW. I think you're boring sheep, not people. And if God had wanted you to blindly follow the unthinking ideals of a self-proclaimed "leader," he would have given you a woolly coat, and a specific cut to make you kosher.

But, you know, maybe that's just me.

tom sheepandgoats said...

Nameless Cynic:

No, no, no, no. When I spoke of an "opposers" category, I said it was in the linked-to blog, which is the Sheep and Goats blog. It turns out that I know the author. Ah....I see the return link goes to a Blogger profile and not directly to S&G.

So I'll give the link here:

http://tinyurl.com/3ys7o57

There. See? Directly to the Opposers category.

Now, remember. We're building on the fact that, upon further research, you changed your opinion regarding child abuse and JWs. That impressed me. Because I've come across, and so have you, plenty of people who never ever ever EVER reverse a strongly expressed opinion. But you did. If your sources fed you a bunch of bullshit on one controversial topic, perhaps they did on others as well. That's all I'm saying.

Oh....and if you come to the Kingdom Hall to check out things, you have to clean up your language aforetime. Sigh....you've even got me speaking that way, which is something, considering how boring I am.

TJ said...

Hello NC,

I find it interesting that you say have an appreciation for Jesus' manner, yet you conduct yourself in the very opposite way. Sure, it's easy to cuss out those that you disagree with and denigrate them, which you apparently do with everyone with whom you disagree. That is how a child reacts to things. Jesus showed how an adult should behave, respecting both himself and others around him.

If you really care so much about 'doing the right' thing, man-up and act the part in every aspect of your life.


Take care,
TJ

Nameless Cynic said...

Aw, darn, TJ, did I hurt your feelings with my coarse language and less-than-respectful manner? Shit, I'm sorry.

Let's be clear here - I feel that some of the teachings ascribed to Jesus of Nazareth are good. But almost everything attached to those teachings is horrendous.

I don't even have to start listing everything that's wrong with almost every organized religion. I can just borrow somebody else's list (a relatively mild one, at that):

They can drain your wallet.

They will waste your time.

They can become the basis for irrational, unnecessary, and dangerous laws.

They offer false hope that will never come to fruition.

They can make you kill or hate or injure others.

They can make you take placebos when actual medicines are available.
(That one should sound familiar)

They make you believe in fiction.

They make you fight against reality.

They brainwash children and adults alike.

As one commenter said about McParland’s article, no one is flying planes into buildings because they don’t like basketball.

We can't "live and let live" when we see how much damage these beliefs — as silly as some might seem — have inflicted on people we love, and how much pain these beliefs have caused by people who took them too seriously.


See, I respect people who deserve it, not just because they exist. For the most part, I'm alternately rude, crass and unpleasant.

Don't like it? Well, hell, take your own advice, dude. Man up and walk away.