Guide: Oct-1-2016

Today, all across the country (if not the globe) 10-25 year olds are going to be sitting in sanctuaries in Adventist churches reading Guide Magazine. (Yes, even adults read these, yes, during the church service.)

This issue came out the first of this month. At least, I hope it’s still this month by the time I get this posted. I have a lot of studying and homework I’m supposed to be doing… and my cat thinks I’m supposed to be petting her…

But enough of that for now.

ME, A SERVANT?

Our first article in the magazine is clearly written pre-9/11. I say this because the writer has included a picture of the pilot in the cockpit, smiling at the photographer. The only time I’ve ever been invited to go inside the cockpit is when I was flying pre-9/11. (Yes, I am old enough to remember what that was like.) I do not think, nowadays, that you would be allowed to even enter, let alone take a picture of, the cockpit. If I’m wrong tell me, but I heard that that was no longer a thing.

In any case, there was a power outage at the airport the writer was flying out of. Because of this, they were unable to get the Jetway, which leads from the terminal to the plane, to work. So the airport was having to bring a set of steps to get passengers into and out of the plane.

From a distance I noticed that a man was walking up and down the stairs. What’s wrong with him? I thought. He’s delaying our departure.

This was absolutely pre-9/11. Most people nowadays would wonder if this person was acting suspicious, and if so, who should they call? Rest assured, even pre-911, they didn’t let you just walk in and out of the airplane for no reason. At least, I don’t think they did.

In any case, our protagonist soon gets up to the stairs and realizes that the person constantly walking up and down the stairs is the pilot and he’s helping people carry their luggage.

The writer feels some shame, before realizing that the pilot didn’t have to do that. She’s sure that he doesn’t get paid extra to do this, and nobody asked him to. I could play devil’s advocate and say she doesn’t know that for sure, but it’s not that hard to believe that a pilot would do this of his own accord, so I’m not going to argue.

What would happen if we followed his example and served others all the time–even when it’s not easy?

Serving others has its place. However, there are times when you need to serve yourself. I do not think it’s healthy to serve others all the time.

The Kingdom of God calls us to be servants, not masters. Jesus said, “anyone who wants to be first must be the very last, and the servant of all (Mark 9:33)

The article ends with the writer saying that we should be more like the pilot, who cared about the comfort of his passengers even though it meant he himself was exhausted.

It’s not a terrible article, but I’m not sure that’s what I’d have taken from it. I would have realized that huh, I need to examine my prejudices and stop judging people before I even know what’s happening. But we can’t have people thinking like that or they might realize they should stop judging non Adventists.

ROAD RAGE

I have no idea why this next story is titled that, because it is misleading. This story is not about road rage. It’s about car safety and the importance of wearing a seatbelt. Take note Adventists, these are not the same thing.

I do agree with the main point of the story, which is that seatbelts are important. A seatbelt and an airbag are the reason I’m walking and talking today.

The story starts with our protagonist, let’s call her Katie, arguing with her older cousins, Tara and Sara (no, those are not their real names) about what restaurant they are going to. Tara and Sara’s mom, Aunt Nichole, ends the argument by telling them they’re going to Olive Garden. Because  overpriced pasta that is nowhere near actually being Italian is better than going for Chinese, I guess.

Anyway, Katie wants to ride in the car with her cousins, who are riding in the back of the station wagon where there are no seatbelts! I can’t blame them for being excited about this. As a child I hated seatbelts, and I’m not a fan of them as an adult, because I am still too short for them. I know we have booster seats nowadays, and I hate those too. We shouldn’t need them. Seatbelts on cars should be made so they can also fit children (and small adults). But that’s a different rant entirely and I digress.

In any case, Katie’s parents believe strongly in the importance of wearing a seatbelt. Katie throws a fit but loses the argument. Her conscience reminds her she’s not honoring her parents right now and this is probably where ten year old me would have stopped reading because there is such a thing as hitting the reader over the head with the message.

Anyway, in a show of solidarity, Tara and Sara decide they won’t ride in the back of the station wagon either, because cousins have to stick together. So, points for them for being awesome cousins.

As Katie is riding along in the car with her parents, her dad jerks to a stop, slamming her into the seatbelt. No, he did not do it just to make sure she was wearing one, he did it because he saw Aunt Nichole’s car. Katie and her mom rush after Dad to find that they have been in an accident.

This story is on page 7, and I have to turn to page 21 to read the rest of it. I have no idea why magazines do this, it annoys the shit out of me. Can’t they just make the story continue on page 8?

Just past the red truck, I caught sight of my cousins’ brown station wagon. The entire back end was crumpled up like a soda can.

 

 

It doesn’t seem, then, like the seatbelt would have solved the problem. If the back end is crumpled in like that, and you’re wearing a seatbelt, you’re still probably dead.

In any case, what happened was that Aunt Nichole was stopped at a traffic light, when the driver of the red truck came along, not paying attention….and also not stopping for the red light. Good thing Sara and Tara were wearing their seatbelts!

The officer tells the girls how lucky they are that they didn’t follow through with their plans to ride in the back seat. If they had, they would be dead right now.

Katie realizes that she is grateful to have her parents and a guardian angel to watch over her, and tells the officer, “we’re not lucky, we’re blessed.”

Which, btw, is a super annoying response.

Alright, turning back to page 8, where we pick up the story of

DASHEE AND THE MUD GOD, PART 3 OF 8.

If you recall, we read part 2 of 8 already. I do not have access to more Guides, so we will not be finishing the story. I’d say I’m sorry, but I notice that this story is dragging along forever with nothing really happening. Honestly, this probably could have been condensed into 2 or 3 parts.

But Guide magazine has to fill out X number of pages each week, so, 8 parts it is, then!

If you recall, we left off with the clean white missionaries with their Indian students in clean white pants visiting Dashee’s village. They have come to tell stories.

Now, I’m not familiar with Indian cultures, but I know in some cultures storytelling is very important. I’m wondering if that is what plays a part in the villagers being willing to listen to the stories the missionaries are going to tell. They are definitely being more receptive now that the missionaries aren’t interrupting their religious ceremonies.

Dashee is excited to hear about the great God of heaven, and watches as the white missionary talks.

“Our God loves everyone.” The White man’s face glowed as he spoke.

Yes, the word “white” is capitalized in the text. The word “man” isn’t. Read into that what you will.

The White missionary shows Dashee and the Villagers a picture of Jesus knocking on the door of a heart. I have to wonder if the Jesus in the picture is white, too. The Guide illustrations would indicate that this is the case. Because Jesus was totally a white dude.

“This is Jesus….He is the son of the great God in heaven. This picture means that Jesus wants to come into our lives and help us every day with our problems. He is not like the spirits, waiting for us to do something wrong so they can do evil to us.”

So, the “clean, White missionary” isn’t planning to introduce the Old Testament, then. That explains rather a lot.

At the mention of Spirits, we are told that Dashee looks over his shoulder, as if expecting the Spirits to strike him and the missionaries dead. Dashee marvels that the missionary isn’t afraid of the spirits.

After the story, the White woman and the Indian students (terrible name for a band, btw) sing a song, which is very different from the songs Dashee and his family sing. We don’t get told which song she sang or exactly how it differed from Dashee’s songs, so I hope no one wanted to know.

Then the missionaries pray with the villagers, and I really want to know the Villager’s reaction to that. Do they see this sort of thing as rude and disrespectful to their gods? Do they wonder if the spirits will punish them for listening to the missionaries? What did they think of the stories? We don’t get to know. The story only cares about Dashee who, as we know, is very interested.

Dashee comes up to the White woman afterward, but when she acknowledges him, he forgets his questions. The White woman tells Dashee to come to the compound to work for her the next day. She needs someone to feed and water the animals.

Dashee’s heart leaped into his throat. What a chance to learn more about the missionary’s God! He would not have to work as a coolie in the bazaar anymore.

Alright, I looked it up. It seems that a coolie is either

  1. a derogatory term for unskilled laborer
  2. some kind of indentured servant
  3. A person of mixed race with some Indian in them and possibly African.

Maybe the vocabulary lesson would have been in lesson 1, but would it really have killed them to stick in a footnote? I mean, the magazine later feels a need to define “Obituary” for crying out loud.

Dashee can hardly believe his good fortune, and I want to tell Dashee to run. I don’t even know anything about these missionaries, but if an offer seems too good to be true, it probably is. I would be cautious.

The next morning Dashee leaves for the compound at sunrise. For some reason, he hides under a mango tree at first, watching.

A tall Indian boy, looking well scrubbed and neat, was tying a water buffalo cow to a post. He was carrying a large clay jug under her. Soon he was busily filling the jug with rich white milk. The boys and girls of the mission compound would have fresh milk with their rice this morning.

Honest question time: Who are the children that live on this compound and why do they live there? Are they orphans? Dashee eats rice out of a small clay pot he took with him from his home. We are told he eats with his hands.

Then Dashee hears the missionary wife. She’s singing as she walks toward the hospital.

A crisp white nurse’s cap was perched on her head, and her uniform was the brightest white Dashee had ever seen. He looked down at his own grimy loincloth. He had never really noticed before how dirty it was.

We get it. Missionaries are clean and white, Dashee is dirty and brown. And by the way, this story is not at all racist. (/sarcasm)

The blue eyed white missionary wife tells Dashee she’s impressed that he’s here early. She says for him to call her M— Dorasoniegaru. We are told that that Dorasoniegaru is “a feminine title of respect.” Unhelpfully, they do not tell us how this word is pronounced.

I’m just gonna call her Mrs. M. Mrs.  Mtakes Dashee to show him the garden and the animals and explains to him what his duties will be.

And that’s where our story ends. So basically, Dashee listened to the missionary stories, met the missionary wife, and got a job. Oh boy. Exciting stuff. Can’t wait to find out what happens next.

This next story is near and dear to my heart because I have done this. I have been the main character in this story. Minus the spoiler at the end where he gets a check for $1K.

Full disclosure alert: canvassing (going door to door selling Ellen White books) was the catalyst that made me an atheist. The way the program works also does not take safety into account at all. So there are many reasons to dislike the program.

I’m getting ahead of myself.

THE LAST HOUSE

Our story takes place in 1993, and I’m very glad the writer told us this because I like knowing what time period we are discussing.

It was my first summer colporteuring (selling religious books door-to-door). I had memorized what we were supposed to say, perfected the at-the-door smile, and become pretty good at praying silently while I spoke out loud, just as we had been taught.

The first week of training they drilled us until we could spit out our canvass in under a minute.

We spent the next 2 weeks learning to slow it way down, so that people could understand wtf we were saying. I think I can still remember mine:

Hi, my name is _____. We are students working on a scholarship. Instead of junk food, we have something better. I’ll let you take a look.

At which point, you would hand the potential customer a book. In any case, that is what the boy here means when he says he’s memorized his canvass: he can spit it out in under a minute.

We are told that things weren’t going well for young… I’ll call him Tony, and that he was about ready to give up by his 4th week.

Canvassing programs, at least most recently, are usually 10 weeks long. So Tony is about to give up before the halfway mark.

On Monday, we are told, nobody even opens the door when he knocks. Smart people.

On Tuesday, we’re told that the weather was very hot. Someone with air conditioning invited Tony in, and he spent a lot of time stalling so he wouldn’t have to go back out in the heat.

Lots of people do this, moreso than the leader’s realize. I may or may not have been one of them, though of course we always felt guilty whenever we did it.

On Wednesday, nobody bought anything but at least they handed Tony water bottles.

This is very common. At some point, I radio’d my canvassing leader and told him I had way too many water bottles and could he please take some and perhaps distribute them to other team members who needed them? I had so many I couldn’t carry them and my books. He took an hour to arrive, the little prick. Ahem. sorry. Really off track. Let’s continue.

Tony talks about being discouraged as he counted his sales in the van going home. Yeah, that part is hard, but not as hard as being rejected at the door, which is what Tony tells us.

Tony questions whether God really wanted him to go canvassing, whether he’s really growing in God… and I think, to an extent, this is a question all canvassers ask themselves. Certainly I did. Was I supposed to be there? Was I growing as a Christian? Those around me told me I wasn’t. Those around me who knew me told me I was. I didn’t know what to think….

So Tony decides that today, Thursday, will be his last day canvassing. At the last house of the day, he meets a woman who invites him in. The lady is old and feisty, and I’ll call her Gladys. Because Gladys is an awesome name.

Gladys gives him a glass of water, lets him sit down, and they start talking. Even though Tony knows his leader would be pissed if he knew, Tony tells Gladys that the week has been a terrible one. Yeah, we really weren’t supposed to tell potential customers that, but, I mean, at some point, you just want to talk about it with somebody.

Tony decides to give Gladys a book instead of selling her one. We get a few paragraphs telling us that this is when Tony realized that canvassing is not about selling books. Canvassing, really, is about connecting with people and leading them to Jesus. That day Tony vowed that no matter what, he would finish out the summer. It was about people now, not money.

But, we are told, that’s not the end of the story. Tony tells us that after “a busy, but restful Friday–” Yeah right. Fridays were set aside so we could do laundry, clean, and…. I think we were supposed to do other chores, but I always disappeared the minute after returning from the laundromat.  I was very good at getting out of clean up duty on Planet Adventist…

I really am getting away from the story. In any case, unless you’re like me and good at disappearing, Fridays are not restful in canvassing.

That Sabbath, Tony is surprised to see Gladys in church. Gladys told him she was non denominational, so he’s not really sure what she’s doing here. After the service, she comes up and tells him she forgot to pay for the book.

Pro tip: If you want to pay an Adventist for something they’ve done, and you for some reason have to do it on Saturday, wait till sundown. They either won’t take it or they will take it and give themselves a serious guilt trip about it. Just save everyone the grief, ok?

Tony tries to refuse the payment, not because it is Sabbath but because he genuinely doesn’t want it.

Before you all get confused, I should tell you that it is very common, in canvassing, to give books away for free if the Holy Spirit impresses you to do so. Do not worry about the money, you will get enough donations to cover the cost of the book. And if you don’t, wait till a day you do and then write it in. That last sentence isn’t an official rule, I made it up. But the rest of it still stands.

Gladys manages to give the money to Tony so fast he has no time to refuse, then she disappears.

In the envelope is a note saying that this is the first time she’s been happy since her husband died, along with a check for $1K.

Years later, Tony comes across her obituary on the internet. Guide feels a need, for some reason, to tell us what the word “Obituary” means.

In Gladys’ obituary (notice of someone’s death) it says that she converted to Adventism shortly before her death, thanks to a book someone gave her.

Tony is in awe of the awesome God we all worship.

Stories like this are common, to advertise the canvassing program. I am not at all surprised to see a story like this in Guide.

THE EXPLODING SNAKE

This article is only a page long, and had me saying: “Um, what?” At the end of each sentence.

(Ok I won’t lie the title had me doing that too.)

So, this girl gets sick. Then a guy steps on a snake and almost gets bitten. But Pastor kills it and puts it in a bottle to show off. Afterward, a tractor somehow falls on Pastor’s chest, and he is unconscious for a week. While he was unconscious, the snake in the jar began to swell, because apparently the pastor hasn’t put in enough fluid. I’m not sure what fluid he used exactly, it doesn’t say.

The local witch doctor said that he cast a demon out of the girl, and it went into the snake. The devil is angry that the snake was put in the bottle, which is why the tractor fell on the pastor. If the snake bursts before Pastor has a chance to give it a proper burial, the devil will kill the pastor.

Instead of telling the audience that devils don’t exist, we get this:

Christian missionaries don’t believe in such nonsense.  they know that the God of heaven is more powerful than any devil, especially one living in a dead snake.

Christian missionaries don’t believe the nonsense the witch doctor is spouting, but they do believe the nonsense spouted by a teenager with a head injury who believed God was talking to her!

Besides, there’s no proof that the “demon” cast out of the little girl was a real demon. There are a variety of medical problems that people think are signs of demon possession, but really aren’t. Some fringe crazies believe my neurological disorder is caused by a demon living inside of me. Fuck them.

Anyway, the missionaries pray, but leave the snake where it is. The snake explodes, then Pastor recovers from his accident. The villagers are very impressed by this, and even the witch doctor agrees that the missionaries’ God is more powerful than theirs.

I feel like the argument over whose God is more powerful is equivalent to the argument over whether Dumbledore is more powerful than Gandalf. The discussion may be fun for nerds, but ultimately irrelevant because neither one of these characters actually exists.

DEATH BY DECEPTION

This is the week’s Sabbath school lesson, and it is about the clusterfuck that was the Bathsheba “affair.” I put affair in quotes because there is debate over just how much consent Bathsheba actually had.

This story kind of tends to fill me with ragey feelings, so all I’m really going to note is that:

  1. The magazine feels a need to tell us how to pronounce “Ammonites,” but doesn’t feel a need to tell us how to pronounce that long D word in the story of Dashee and the Mud God. I get that not everyone knows how to pronounce “Ammonites,” but it’s a lot easier for someone to sound that out than that other word I don’t feel like trying to spell.
  2. You can read the story yourself in 2 Samuel Chapter 11

The article goes on to compare David’s sin (which they don’t think was rape, btw) to our sin. All sin separates us from God and causes us not to want to do His will…..

Fuckit, I’m done. I’m just done. Moving on.

There’s the Sabbath school lesson… I don’t care…ah, here’s something that looks semi interesting.

YOU’VE GOT MAIL

Jane and Samuel wrote each other lots of letters while Samuel was away at war. Unfortunately, the letter Sam wrote asking Jane to marry  him got lost in the mail. Somehow they got married anyway, and 50 years later, on their anniversary, a postal worker found the letter. He looked for an updated address, found one, and delivered the letter.

Jane checked the date, and realized that even during the times of silence Sam was still communicating his love to her. The message simply never got through.

In what sense is God’s message in Scripture like a love letter to us?

Are…. are they seriously admitting that the Bible isn’t clear on whether or not God loves us?

Aside from the comic illustrating the story of David and Bathsheba at the end (no, they don’t illustrate that part) that’s the end of the magazine. I don’t have any more of these to do, but don’t worry, I have other magazines. We’ll get to them…. at some point.

 

 

 

 

 

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