Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Hate What Is Bad

After writing about the growing divisive hatred in this world in my “Brotherhood of Mankind” article, it dawned on me that a good follow-up article would be to consider what the Bible teaches about hatred and separation from wickedness.

To reiterate scriptures used in that article, indeed the direction to those claiming to be Christians, is to view all humans as brothers from the same living God. So what does the Bible teach about hatred? Back in the days that Jesus walked the earth, the Jewish religious leaders of the time had veered considerably off the path of God’s direction. They were teaching strict separation from non-Jews and even instructing the common folks to actually hate foreigners and strangers. Jesus countered such divisive teaching and instructed those who would follow him with the admonition to “love your enemy” and pray for him/them. Another object lesson Jesus gave was his willingness to talk to the Samaritan woman at the well. But what initial direction did Jehovah give the Israelite people that became so extremist in application? At Deut.7:22-26 God is essentially telling his people to desire nothing about the people they were about to conquer. Like a father that wants to protect his child from evil influences and have his child grow up to be a responsible and respectable adult, God strictly warned his “child” (the nation of Israel) not to envy the bullies, the drug dealers, the morally corrupt influences at school and in the neighborhood (the national groups around them). But this wasn’t intended to be applied to those that accepted Jehovah is the true God and the nation of Israel was his people. This, again, was demonstrated in God’s allowing the Gibeonites to live and become servants to Israel AND by his allowing Rahab and her family to live because of the faith she demonstrated in saving the lives of the Israelite spies. There were other instances where a wanton destruction was not sanctioned. Instead “terms of peace” were outlined that, if agreed to, would have spared the lives of Israel’s national enemies.

Today, Christians are guided by principals of love and peace. So is there anything they should hate? Although part of Hebrew/Aramaic scriptures, Psalms says godly people should hate “what is bad.” Notice, it is not who is bad, but what. How does this work out in practice? Those acting contrary to Christian ideals are kindly helped to adjust their ways and thinking but, for our own protection, we hate the action, not the person. In fact, hating our “brother” (fellow human and especially those related to us in faith) condemns us as being hypocrites.

Bottom line then, we are to hate (completely reject, loathe as if it were a food that is disgusting to us) anything that breaks the Bible principles of love and respect for all humans. So again, turning my attention back to the Brotherhood of Mankind essay, the actions, ideas, and divisive emotions promoted by supremacists and others is very hated by God himself. They misrepresent the intent of the Word the Bible and thus slander him by promoting hatred. It is not at all what the Bible promotes.

More on the subject of hate.

Brotherhood of Mankind

"And he made out of one man every nation of men to dwell on the entire surface of the earth." (Acts 17:26) The Bible does NOT promote segregationist ideas. However, a disturbing trend seems to be in the works and it is worldwide. Instead of wholesomely accepting that all humans are related and equal, extremists, segregationists, and elitists all want to sell the divisive idea that a particular race, ethnicity, or nation is better than another. From my 60-plus years in life, I’ve observed that no race has the “corner on the market" of intelligence or on evil conduct. Every race has even perpetrated obscene cruelties against its own people.

Recently, the Catholic Church apologized for its part in the genocide that took place in Rwanda in the 1990’s. I very much remember this because it became well-known that, in contrast to the perpetrators of that slaughter, Jehovah’s Witnesses protected their fellow believers even when doing so threatened their own lives. Even today, Jehovah’s Witnesses are not segregated by color, race, or age. Worldwide we are taught to view all mankind as God’s creation. In the local Kingdom Hall that I attend, we have a healthy mix of Caucasians, Hispanics, Blacks, as well as people from Asia and India. With heartfelt honesty we refer to each other as brothers and sisters. No congregation of Jehovah’s Witnesses are segregated.

But this is not the case with other religions. Even here in the United States of America, segregated congregations of white Baptists and black Baptists (and other religions) still exist. Then there is the alarming rise of Nazism, KKK, and other white supremacy adherents. They misapply a scripture wherein God commanded the Jews to keep themselves separate from the nations. Either ignorantly or blatantly they disregard the fact that in at least two instances, God allowed another group to join the nation. The first that comes to mind were the Gibeonites. The second, is Rahab. In her case, even though not of Abrahamic descent, she was privileged to come into the lineage leading up the Jesus Christ. Another fact they disregard about that scripture they use is that the admonition was written to Jews, NOT to white supremacists (or any other self-elevated group).

Have you become disillusioned by the hypocrisy in religion and politics today? If you are a person looking for a fellowship of Christians that truly believes AND APPLIES the Bible’s teaching of inclusionary brotherhood, you need look no further than Jehovah’s Witnesses.

Saturday, November 5, 2016

Text-to-Speech as Rudimentary Proofreader

In general, most people are challenged to read things they’ve written and not see their own mistakes. Part of this is because in our mind, we “see” what we think we said, but not what we actually wrote. It is usually the little errors like “the the” or thinking we wrote a word when it is not actually there. I am guilty of all these little errors, especially now being challenged with failing health. I’ve read articles by professional writers that advocate writing your final draft, sticking in a drawer until the following day, and then reading it to ensure it is error free. Others recommend sharing your written work with a trusted friend so they can proofread it. These are both viable and reliable methods, but neither of them work for me. The first one doesn’t work because of my failing memory. I can write an article, file it away, and promptly forget I even wrote it. (I only discover it when I check my “unpublished” folder days later.) The latter choice also doesn’t work because I am retired and trying to find a friend that doesn’t already have a busy life of their own and can make time for me just doesn’t work.

So I have a third solution. After going through spell- and grammar-checking in MS-Word, I copy the whole text into a text-to-speech app offered free by Microsoft. (This only works on Windows-based systems, so I do this on my laptop.) Microsoft doesn’t attach a fancy name to this, it is merely SAPI5 TTSAPP. As I listen to what I wrote, I am easily able to capture the missed or double words. I also listen for sentence structure and general thought organization.

I share this because it dawned on me that this app is not common knowledge. I have mentioned it to a couple other bloggers that had never heard of it. Feel free to click on the link in the paragraph above and download the free app. Just one small caution: If you write articles with links in them (as I do), if you paste that into this app, the links will expand and include the URL (http://www.......) which can be very annoying and break your concentration. To overcome this, I first copy the whole text into Notepad (which strips out all the URL info), and then copy the text in Notepad into the text reader.

Addendum: It appears Microsoft now includes this app as a piece of much larger apps. It is no longer available as a stand-alone app. I searched and found one highly-rated app called eSpeak. It is also free but I have no experience with it.

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Babylon The Great – Who or What Is She?

As with other subjects in the Bible, picking a single scripture and using it as a foundation for formulating a belief can be and usually is misleading and na├»ve at best. I’ve even had a reader of this blog charge me with such an accusation. However, in that particular case it wasn’t that I couldn’t support it with numerous other scriptures, it was that I was making a passing comment, connecting other thoughts together. It wasn’t the crux of my argument.

So before even getting into Babylon the Great (BtG), I thought it worthwhile to consider puzzle pieces throughout the Hebrew scriptures. Specifically: How does the use of figurative prostitution in the Hebrew scriptures help a Bible reader identify BtG in its real form? To answer that, I am going to examine three ways the disobedient Israelites (in one case divided into the southern and northern kingdoms) acted as a prostitute. Those three ways were literally, politically/militarily, and religiously.

LITERALLY: 1 Kings 14:24. This passage mentions male prostitutes being employed in the land of Judah. Female prostitutes were also there. What made this even more disgusting was that they were part of temple worship. Sex perversion was done under the guise of worship.

POLITICALLY: Exodus 23:31-33; Deuteronomy 7:3; Ezra 9:1,2. The foregoing three scriptures demonstrate the prohibition against intermarriage and, In Ezra, how miserably the nation failed to obey. In case you have any doubt that God considered this as adulterous prostitution, consider the symbols God used in portraying the northern and southern kingdoms to two prostitutes named Oholah and Oholibah. (Although these instances mention specifically intermarriage as the issue, back in those times, and even today, marriage between nations is seen as a means of forging political alliances, thus protecting each other’s sovereignties.)

RELIGIOUSLY: 1 Chron.5:25; Deut.7:4; Ezekiel 16:26,28. Besides seeking political and military assistance from foreign nations, the nation of Israel also took up the worship of foreign gods. Sadly, even wise King Solomon sinned very greatly in this regard.

With the above as a consistently demonstrable backdrop, we learn that God’s people can act in ways that God considers to be more than mere unfaithfulness. How about Christianity? On point here, is probably James 4:4. However, so that I’m not charged with finding a needle of thought in a haystack of scripture, look at all these references. (See also this subheading, “How could one become guilty of spiritual adultery?”)

Now, finally, we get into the book of Revelation. (Some I meet still wrongly call this the book of Revelations. It is one revelation containing many visions.) In Jesus’ opening remarks to various congregations, he cited two instances of spiritual adultery. For the most part, the congregations were keeping themselves clean, but there were individuals that were corrupting clean and pure worship.

Babylon The Great

Drunken sexual trysts with the Beast. Sits on many waters and has a kingdom that is worldwide, even over “all the kings of the earth.” Obscene wealth. Seen drinking the blood of “holy ones” and those who witnessed about Jesus.

A wiki article I read indicated that both the Mormons (LDS) and the Seventh Day Adventists identify the Catholic Church as BtG. Although extremely reprehensible, the Catholic Church is a mere component of a much larger religious entity. In short, just as the wiki article mentioned, Jehovah’s Witnesses consider BtG to be “the world empire of false religion.” Let me explain.

Rev.17:10 is pivotal to our understanding. It mentions the succession of kings. These were not concurrent rulerships. They were successive. It is our understanding that these kings date back way before Christ was on earth and hence way before the Catholic Church or any claimed Christian organization. (See these three references: Reference 1, Reference 2, Reference 3)

Indeed, down through time, not only false Christianity, not only wayward Israel, but all forms of pagan worship have persecuted those who wanted to remain loyal to God. However, seeing as BtG is seen as specifically drinking the “blood of the witnesses of Jesus,” indeed the Jews that persecuted converts to Christianity in the first century, along with (since the middle ages) the aggressively cruel treatment of anyone standing up to the Catholic Church’s compromised pagan influences, and indeed in our modern times “mainstream religion” persecuting Jehovah’s Witnesses, clearly identifies false Christianity as holding a prominent place in fulfilling the prophecy of Babylon the Great. This doesn’t reduce the guilt that other non-Christian belief systems hold. Truly, as scripture proves, we are all descendants from one man. And even after the flood, the survivors of Noah and his three sons were united in serving the one true God. Their ancestors unfortunately did not hold to that.

Jesus is quoted as saying: “That is why I speak to them by the use of illustrations; for looking, they look in vain, and hearing, they hear in vain, nor do they get the sense of it.” (Matthew 13:13) I have personally noticed the use of illustrations throughout the Bible, so just as Jesus mentioned, he imitates his Father in this regard too. Why didn’t God just come out and say “this means that”? Again, just as Jesus said, these “truths” are something reserved for those who truly demonstrate appreciation for what God has to say. Those not respecting even the rules and principles shown in scripture, are not going to show any interest in the finer things God’s Word has to offer.