Now! p. 106-110

Last week, our teenage protagonist had just told the guard why she was an Adventist (sort of) and is now being questioned about certain SDA beliefs. Now, which one do you think would be brought up first, in a society that has Sunday Laws:

  1. The Sabbath
  2. Immortality of the soul
  3. You mean you don’t eat meat?

If you guessed #1, you’re completely wrong. The guard decides to start with…the immortality of the soul.

Huh? People in this society are persecuted for not going to church on Sunday, and this prison guard is worried about Book!Merikay not believing that souls are immortal?

Just….roll with it, ok?

“Now, you say that all your doctrines are based on the BIble, but you don’t believe the immortality of the soul…in my Bible I read where…Lazarus was in heaven and the rich man was in hell after they died. Now, you have to agree that this is in the Bible. Jesus told the story himself…”

Teenage!Merikay doesn’t list Bible verses, so I had to google this. Here’s the Bible story.

Luke 16:19-27

19 “There was a certain rich man who was clothed in purple and fine linen and fared sumptuously every day. 20 But there was a certain beggar named Lazarus, full of sores, who was laid at his gate, 21 desiring to be fed with the crumbs which fell[d] from the rich man’s table. Moreover the dogs came and licked his sores. 22 So it was that the beggar died, and was carried by the angels to Abraham’s bosom. The rich man also died and was buried. 23 And being in torments in Hades, he lifted up his eyes and saw Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom.

24 “Then he cried and said, ‘Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus that he may dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue; for I am tormented in this flame.’ 25 But Abraham said, ‘Son, remember that in your lifetime you received your good things, and likewise Lazarus evil things; but now he is comforted and you are tormented. 26 And besides all this, between us and you there is a great gulf fixed, so that those who want to pass from here to you cannot, nor can those from there pass to us.’

27 “Then he said, ‘I beg you therefore, father, that you would send him to my father’s house, 28 for I have five brothers, that he may testify to them, lest they also come to this place of torment.’ 29 Abraham said to him, ‘They have Moses and the prophets; let them hear them.’ 30 And he said, ‘No, father Abraham; but if one goes to them from the dead, they will repent.’ 31 But he said to him, ‘If they do not hear Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded though one rise from the dead.’”

Adventists hold that this is a parable Jesus is telling. Jesus told this parable because the pharisees were pissed off about something Jesus said. He’s telling this parable to illustrate the fact that “ye cannot serve both God and money.” The pharisees are pissed about this because they love money.

That is the context in which Jesus tells this story. Whether or not it’s a parable isn’t actually all that clear from the text, but it could be.

The guard is still speaking, and this next one I could practically recite from memory.

“And when the thief was on the cross, Jesus said to him, ‘I say unto thee, today thou shalt be with Me in paradise.’ Now right there Jesus, Himself, said the thief would be with Him that day, the day he died.”

Here’s the verses being referred to.

Luke chapter 23. We will pick up in verse…. 36. The context of this passage is that Jesus has just been nailed to the cross and put up to die alongside 2 other people who are also being crucified. The “criminals” being referred to in the text are the other 2 people being executed.

The soldiers also came up and mocked him. They offered him wine vinegar 37and said, “If you are the king of the Jews, save yourself.”

38There was a written notice above him, which read: this is the king of the Jews.

39One of the criminals who hung there hurled insults at him: “Aren’t you the Messiah? Save yourself and us!”

40But the other criminal rebuked him. “Don’t you fear God,” he said, “since you are under the same sentence? 41We are punished justly, for we are getting what our deeds deserve. But this man has done nothing wrong.”

42Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.d

43Jesus answered him, “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise.”

Emphasis mine.

Adventists have a ready answer for this one. In the original Greek, they say, there were no punctuation marks. Those were added later to make the text more readable. Here’s what happens if you move the comma a little to the right:

Jesus answered him, “Truly, I tell you today, you will be with me in paradise.”

When you move the comma, you realize that Jesus isn’t saying that the thief will be in paradise today, but that he is telling the thief today that he will be in paradise eventually.

I don’t have enough knowledge of Biblical Greek to comment on this much. If anyone does, please feel free to chime in. For now, I’m just going to move on.

The prison guard is continuing his monologue.

“And in the old testament there is the story of Saul. He went to a Spirit medium, and she brought up the spirit of the prophet Samuel. And the spirit told Saul what was going to happen to him.”

Ah yes, the story of the Witch of Endor. So, the story goes that Saul, for some reason, wanted to find a witch. So he found one, went to one, and asked her to conjure up the prophet Samuel. This made the witch realize who Saul was, so he had to swear to her that he wouldn’t kill her, as was the custom in that time.

We pick up in 1 Samuel chapter 28:13

13. The king said to her, “Don’t be afraid. What do you see?”

The woman said, “I see a ghostly figurea coming up out of the earth.”

14“What does he look like?” he asked.

“An old man wearing a robe is coming up,” she said.

Then Saul knew it was Samuel, and he bowed down and prostrated himself with his face to the ground.

Adventists will argue that, when reading this, it is Saul who decides that the figure the witch sees is Samuel. The text itself doesn’t say that.

And they’re right. It doesn’t.

15Samuel said to Saul, “Why have you disturbed me by bringing me up?”

It’s not clear whether or not Saul actually saw this, or the witch is just speaking for the ghost.

If the witch is pretending that the ghost of Samuel is speaking through her, this could be a woman who is very clever at fooling people, Adventists will say. Or Adventists will say that it was one of Satan’s evil angels disguising himself as Samuel. Opinions within the church are divided on this. What they all do agree on is that it wasn’t actually Samuel that Saul was seeing.

The text itself isn’t horribly clear.

The guard is still speaking. Still making arguments against a doctrine SDAs have that isn’t really all that important while using arguments an Adventist could knock down with a flyswatter.

Here’s the thing. No one in Adventism thinks that you will burn in hell for believing that, at the moment of one’s death, one goes to heaven right away. They don’t agree with it, but most will agree that it’s not really a key point necessary for salvation.

That is not the case with the Sabbath. The Sabbath, Adventists believe, absolutely is a key point necessary for salvation.

The Sabbath is also the reason for the death penalty, so why would a prison guard be hammering away at something Adventists consider important, but not 100% essential?

And there is the instance where Jesus was glorified on the Mount of Olives. Both Elijah and Moses were there. Moses, you will remember, died. Way back in the old testament it tells us that. But then here in the New Testament he was alive. Therefore, it is only logical to believe in the immortality of the soul, right? Right.

He knows better than to assume that Elijah was dead, because the Bible says Elijah never died, but was taken up to heaven without having to go through that messy business of actually expiring.

Hang on, Moses was resurrected and taken to heaven right after he died. It says so in the Bible. Hang on, I’ll look it up.

Wait. That verse isn’t in there? What? Moses… wasn’t… THOSE BASTARDS! THEY LIED TO ME! They. Lied. To. Me.

Excuse me. I have to go break a commandment.

Ok, I’m back. I went and googled for other bible verses wherein maybe it was explained that Moses was resurrected. It all sounded reasonable, until I actually looked the verses up myself. In Jude 9, Satan and the archangel Michael fight over Moses’ body. That doesn’t say that Moses was resurrected.

The resurrection of Moses isn’t in the Bible. Oh god. What else have they been lying to me about?

I don’t know how many of my readers identify as atheist, but would any of you be interested in doing a read through of the Bible? We don’t have to believe in it in order to read and critique it.

Critiquing. Um, right. I’m supposed to be critiquing Merikay’s story…

The Prison Guard is still monolging.

I really don’t see how you people can claim to follow the Bible when you don’t.

I kind of agree. I think the Adventists follow an interpretation of the Bible. Whether or not that interpretation is true is up for debate. According to the guard, their interpretation is not true. Even as an Adventist, there were things I thought were super unbiblical. Like the entire premise of this story.

“Another thing is this Sabbath keeping.”

I am trying to be nice to Teenage!Merikay, but you just spent the whole book talking about how persecuted the characters are because they keep the Sabbath. The prison guard should not be mentioning this as a sort of after thought.

Now, the Sabbath was kept by God’s people through the Old Testament and on till Jesus’ death. Then when he was raised on Easter morning, the day of holiness was changed from Saturday to Sunday. We read where the Bible talks of the Lord’s Day.

Yes, but those Bible verses don’t say what day exactly is The Lord’s Day. I know, because I’ve read them.

Adventists have another thing right: there is no verse wherein the Sabbath is officially changed from Saturday to Sunday. It’s just not in there. Does that mean it’s wrong to go to church on Sunday? No. Does that mean I don’t think there’s room for argument that the Bible supports worshiping on Sunday? No. There is absolutely room for argument, however, if you go looking for the verse where the day was changed, it’s simply not there. What you do with that information is your business, not mine.

And further, in the New Testament it tells of the disciples assembling for a religious meeting on the first day of the week.

I remember this. I remember reading this in the Bible. Unfortunately I don’t remember where I read it, and Merikay doesn’t give texts. I can understand why she wouldn’t want the story to get bogged down in large quotes of Bible verses, but it would be nice if she’d included a footnote or something. I am unable, after a 5 minute google search, to find the passage Teenage!Merikay is referring to, so we will move on.

I can say, however, that the guard is correct on this one. Paul did hold a religious gathering on the first day of the week.

And it also says that the law was done away with at the cross. We know that this law was the old law given at Mount Sinai. The new law is the law of grace.

The guard should be citing verses at this point, but he isn’t. This is because Adventists believe that this is complete and utter nonsense. And it’s only possible to believe in complete and utter nonsense if you don’t actually read the Bible.

Teenage!Merikay isn’t having the prison guard character refer to specific texts about the law and grace because the adults around her all taught her that there is only one way to interpret the Bible, and that most non SDA Christians only believe certain things because they have not read the Bible.

This is not entirely wrong. The majority of Christians haven’t read most of the Bible. However, Christians do exist who read the Bible and study it but still don’t agree with the ways SDAs interpret it.

The adults around teenage!Merikay would not have acknowledged this, so teenage!Merikay likely would not have even known about it. Teenage!Merikay did not have access to Christian forums via the internet, after all.

Back in the 1960s, it was actually possible to keep teenagers in a bubble. By the time teenage!me came along, not so much.

The prison guard is winding up his speech.

“Now, you say you follow the Bible, and yet here are just two instances out of many that I could name where you go contrary to its teachings. Think about it, Merikay.”

I’m not entirely sure State of the Dead as SDAs believe it is against the Bible. At the very least, after having read both sides, the Bible is unclear about exactly what happens when you die.

I’m also not sure why he’s attacking State of the Dead? That particular SDA belief, while weird, doesn’t really affect Merikay’s daily life. It certainly doesn’t affect how she treats others, soooo who cares?

At least with the Sabbath, you can argue that it affects Merikay’s life, and the lives of those around her. They’re piss poor arguments, but set that aside. The guard is still speaking.

“You are an intelligent girl, and I know that you are seeking for truth. You feel you are doing the will of God, but think about what I’ve just said.”

This is something I can see as being realistic. The guard realizes that book!Merikay may not have actually ever sat down and thought through what she believes. Many Adventist teenagers haven’t. The prison guard is trying to get her to see things from another perspective, except he’s using piss poor arguments to do it.

I can sympathize with Prison Guard until he says this. All this, mind you, has been uninterrupted monologing.

“You wouldn’t want to kill anyone, would you? But some of your friends or even members of your family may be killed because you are so stubborn. Don’t you think God is going to hold you responsible?”

No. A decent God wouldn’t hold someone responsible for that sort of thing.

And yet…

It’s not just Book!Merikay’s life on the line here. Now, the lives of her book!Family are in danger.

This is a moral and ethical dilemma, but none of the adults around teenage!Merikay would have seen it as such. Book!Merikay expresses sorrow that her parents might be persecuted, but she never seems to really wrestle with the question: is it moral to lie to the Sunday Police if someone else’s life is on the line?

Any God who would rather have your family get shot than have you tell a lie is an asshole, and I wouldn’t want to worship him.

I can kind of give Teenage!Merikay a pass on this. It’s natural, as a teenager, to see things in black and white. When I was a teenager, I was just learning to think in shades of gray. Adventism doesn’t encourage that particular way of thinking, so any Adventist teenager is going to have an especially hard time learning not to think in black and white.

In fact, if one is to remain in the SDA community, thinking in shades of gray is not an asset, but a liability. Someone who doesn’t see things in black and white is less likely to be trusted, and acceptance could be cautious.

We’ll pick up here next week, wherein we see Book!Merikay reunited with her mother. I have to admit, I was not expecting that.

Stay tuned, it gets interesting.

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