Saturday, April 28, 2012

On (Not) Reading the Bible

Sheri writes:
I decided that I could not say that I valued God's Word if I haven't even bothered to read it all. In church, we read the same passages over and over again, which is why we can all recite them together. Join me..."I am not ashamed of the gospel...He that believeth and is baptized...And Peter said to them, 'Repent and be baptized every one of to show thyself approved..." What about the rest of it?

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Excerpt from Timothy’s First Letter to Paul, and Paul's Response

Thinking about the role of women in Christianity, a friend of mine came up with the following hypothetical letter to Paul from Timothy, which letter we don't have a record of, and Paul's response.

Ephesus, where Timothy lived (1 Tim 1:3), was the headquarters of the cult of the Roman fertility goddess Diana (in Acts 19 it's the Greek "Artemis"), a town in which the women often dominated, especially in religious settings. In light of this, my friend's hypothetical letter below seems to make sense. Neither she nor I are saying that's how it was, but it's interesting enough I wanted to pass it on.


Excerpt from Timothy’s First Letter to Paul

Now, Paul, I need to ask you to address some problems we are having with the women in the congregation. I realize that we are all one in Christ, that there is no Jew or Gentile, no male or female, no slave or free. And I realize the Holy Spirit has given the gift of prophecy to women as well and that they are free to teach as they are being led. But we have some women in the congregation who are extremely outspoken about teachings that are contrary to Christ’s will and they refuse to submit to His truth, specifically with regards to the equality of men and women. Instead, it often becomes a screaming contest where the loudest woman “wins”. It is breaking down the congregation, not building it up. I understand the culture many of our women come out of, where temple prostitutes violently dominate men and degrade men for a living. Where the goddess is “worshiped” through sex and female domination and where children are aborted and pregnancy is a curse. This is what these women see every day in the street. Some of them even WERE temple prostitutes. But instead of turning away from this culture, some of the women are trying to bring this culture into our congregation! They not only teach violent domination of men, they also practice it, proudly and outspokenly! They try to degrade men all the time. They teach outright that Eve was formed first, then Adam and that Adam was the one who was deceived and sinned, not Eve. They also teach, as the temple prostitutes believe, that becoming pregnant and bearing and keeping your child condemns you to hell. Please help me untangle this mess. Maybe they will be more inclined to hear and submit to the truth if it comes directly from your pen.

Paul's Response, in 1  Tim 2:11-15

Dear Timothy,

Please find below my response to the issues you are dealing with.
Now, Paul, I need to ask you to address some problems we are having with the women in the congregation. I realise that we are all one in Christ, that there is no Jew or Gentile, no male or female, no slave or free. And I realise the Holy Spirit has given the gift of prophecy to women as well and that they are free to teach as they are being led. But we have some women in the congregation who are extremely outspoken about teachings that are contrary to Christ’s will and they refuse to submit to His truth, specifically with regards to the equality of men and women. Instead, it often becomes a screaming contest where the loudest woman “wins”. It is breaking down the congregation, not building it up. 
A woman should learn in quietness and full submission.
I understand the culture many of our women come out of, where temple prostitutes violently dominate men and degrade men for a living. Where the goddess is “worshipped” through sex and female domination and where children are aborted and pregnancy is a curse. This is what these women see every day in the street. Some of them even WERE temple prostitutes. But instead of turning away from this culture, some of the women are trying to bring this culture into our congregation! They not only teach violent domination of men, they also practice it, proudly and outspokenly! 
I do not permit a woman to teach [violent domination] or to practice violent domination* over a man; she must be silent.
They try to degrade men all the time. They teach outright that Eve was formed first, then Adam and that Adam was the one who was deceived and sinned, not Eve. 
For Adam was formed first, then Eve. And Adam was not the one deceived; it was the woman who was deceived and became a sinner.
They also teach, as the temple prostitutes believe, that becoming pregnant and bearing and keeping your child condems you to hell. Please help me untangle this mess. Maybe they will be more inclined to hear and submit to the truth if it comes directly from your pen.
But women will be saved through childbearing – if they continue in faith, love and holiness with propriety.

*Noteworthy: the word used for “to have authority over” is “authentein” – can be translated as “domination [with a violent connotation]” as well as several other possible translations. It does not occur in any other place in the Bible.

Monday, April 23, 2012

The Promises to Abraham

There were several promises made to Abraham, made on several occasions (see "Summary of Promises" section below), but the basic promises boil down to three:
  • I will make of you a great nation, kings, uncountable offspring
  • I will give you the land
  • I will bless the nations of the earth through you
These three promises are seen when God first starts making promises to Abram (see "Gen 12" section below), and when God confirms the covenant with Isaac (see "Gen 26" section below).

Although these promises were made at various times there were two specific covenant ceremonies:
  • Genesis 15 (the cutting of animals)
    • core stipulations:
      • land, great reward
      • uncountable offspring from his own loins
      • Abram believed this promise and his faith was credited as righteousness
  • Genesis 17 (the cutting of foreskins)
    • core stipulations:
      • land
      • uncountable offspring from his own loins
      • covenant to be confirmed with Isaac
Notice that although both of these ceremonies include the promise of land and of uncountable offspring, neither includes the promise to bless all nations. However, when God confirms the covenant with Isaac (see "Gen 26" section below), it includes the blessing of all nations.

Summaries of Promises:

Gen 12:1-3, 7 (the initial call of Abram)

  • I will make you a great nation
  • I will bless you
  • I will make your name great
  • You will be a blessing
  • I will bless those who bless you, and curse those who treat you with contempt
  • All the peoples on earth will be blessed through you
  • I will give this land (Canaan) to your offspring

Gen 13:14-17 (Abram & Lot split, dividing the land)

  • I will give you and your offspring all the land you can see
  • I will make your offspring like the dust of the earth - uncountable

Gen 15:1-21 (faith credited as righteousness)

  • Your reward will be great
  • Eliezer not to be your heir, but a son of your own loins
  • Uncountable offspring
  • Abram believed this about his offspring, and God credited it to him as righteousness
  • You will possess this land
    • the animal-cutting ceremony in response to "how will I know I will possess this land?"
      • Your offspring will be enslaved & oppressed in a foreign land for 400 years
      • I will judge that nation; your people will go out with many possessions, returning here in the fourth generation
      • You will go to your fathers in peace
  • Covenant summarized in v 18 as "I will give this land to your offspring"

Gen 17:2-26 (circumcision given)

  • I will establish My covenant between Me and you
  • I will multiply you greatly
  • You will become the father of many nations
  • Name changed from "Exalted Father" (Abram) to "Father of a Multitude" (Abraham)
  • I will make you extremely fruitful; nations and kings will come from you
  • Covenant is everlasting throughout your offspring's generations to be yours and your offspring's God
  • To you and your offspring I give this land, and I will be their God
  • This is my covenant: you and all your males to be circumcised
  • Your wife's name changed from Sarai (a form of "princess"?) to Sarah ("princess") (the meaning of the name seems less significant than the change itself)
  • Sarah will give you a son, next year
  • I will bless Sarah
  • Nations and kings will come from Sarah
  • Your son through Sarah will be named Isaac ("he laughs")
  • I will confirm my covenant with Isaac
    • Ishmael will also be blessed
      • I will bless him
      • I will make him fruitful and multiply him greatly
      • He will father 12 tribes
      • I will make him a great nation

Gen 18:9-19

  • In a year, Abraham's wife will have a son
  • Abraham to become a great and powerful nation
  • All the nations of the earth will be blessed through Abraham

Gen 26:2-5 (Covenant confirmed with Isaac)

  • I will be with you and bless you
  • I will give all these lands to you and your offspring
  • I will confirm the oath I swore to Abraham
    • Uncountable offspring
    • Land given to offspring
    • all the nations of the earth will be blessed by your offspring

Gal 3:1-29 (We are children of Abraham by faith)

  • those who have faith are Abraham's sons
  • Scripture saw:
    • that God would justify the Gentiles by faith
    • God told the Gospel to Abraham, that all nations will be blessed through him
  • Therefore, those who have faith are blessed with Abraham
  • The promises were spoken to Abraham and to his seed
  • That seed is Christ
  • And if you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham's seed
The covenant made with Moses and his people, which God "made with [them] when [He] took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt" (Jer 31:32) is separate and apart from any previous covenants/promises, including these promises to Abraham. It "came 430 years later, [and] does not revoke a covenant that was previously ratified by God" (Gal 3:17). This covenant, made with Moses, "was added because of transgressions" (Gal 3:19), and was temporary, to last only "until the Seed to whom the promise was made would come" (Gal 3:19). But the promise to Abraham still stands: "If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed, heirs according to the promise" (Gal 3:29).

Note, there were two laws given for circumcision: one for all of Abram's seed, given as a part of the promises/covenants with Abraham; and one for the subset of Abraham's seed known as the Jews, given as a part of the later and temporary and faulty (see below) covenant of Moses. So the Jews had two laws insisting on circumcision; their cousins, the Ishmaelites (from Hagar) and the children of Keturah (who may have intermingled to become the ancestors of today's Arabs - Book of Jubilees 20:13), only had one such law.

Regardless of whether circumcision is required of us as part of the promise (it is required, because we are now Abraham's seed; it is not required, because what's important is faith, not the letter of the law), Paul's point in Romans 4 is that Abraham's righteousness came by faith, prior to any work (i.e. circumcision) done on his part. James, in James 2, adds that "faith" is useless if it's merely an academic acceptance without a life-changing acceptance.

The faulty covenant, replaced by the more excellent ministry, was not those promises made to Abraham; the faulty covenant was the temporary one that was added because of transgressions, the covenant which God made with the ancestors of the House of Israel when He took them by the hand to lead them out of the land of Egypt. The writer of Hebrews cites Jeremiah 31, explicitly defining the faulty covenant (Heb 8:7) as "the covenant that I made with their ancestors on the day I took them by their hands to lead them out of the land of Egypt" (Heb 8:9, citing Jer 31:32).

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Is Jesus Against Defensive Violence?

The easy passage to cite when addressing the question of using violence for defensive purposes is Matthew 5, wherein Jesus says:
HCSB Matt 5:38 “You have heard that it was said, An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth. 39 But I tell you, don’t resist an evildoer. On the contrary, if anyone slaps you on your right cheek, turn the other to him also. 40 As for the one who wants to sue you and take away your shirt, let him have your coat as well. 41 And if anyone forces you to go one mile, go with him two.
And here's another popular passage:
HCSB Matt 26:50 ... Then they came up, took hold of Jesus, and arrested Him. 51 At that moment one of those with Jesus reached out his hand and drew his sword. He struck the high priest’s slave and cut off his ear. 52 Then Jesus told him, “Put your sword back in its place because all who take up a sword will perish by a sword.
HCSB John 18:36 “My kingdom is not of this world,” said Jesus. “If My kingdom were of this world, My servants would fight, so that I wouldn’t be handed over to the Jews. As it is, My kingdom does not have its origin here.”
And yet another:
HCSB Eph 6:12 For our battle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the world powers of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavens.
So at first glance, it seems pretty obvious that Jesus was all about submitting to those who might bring violence against us.

But there's another way to look at Jesus.

I think we've mistaken Paul's words in Ephesians 6 that our fight is not against flesh and blood to mean that we should never fight against flesh and blood enemies. But Paul is saying nothing more than what Jesus told Pilate: his issues, his kingdom, our core purposes, are not of this world. And they aren't. But that doesn't mean we should sit by doing nothing while innocent people are abused by others. After all, Jesus said that if his kingdom was of this world, then his disciples would take up arms and fight (John 18:36). Jesus is not against violence for earthly reasons; it's just that his concern at his trial was not about earthly concerns. And Paul is likewise saying that our core concern is not about those things on earth, but in heaven. But there is no prohibition here of taking care of earthly concerns; that's just not to be our core focus.

In fact, Paul focused quite a bit on taking care of earthly concerns, trying to make sure the poor had some financial relief, and even going so far as to make sure his crew had an accountability partner (and perhaps body-guard?) when carrying large sums of money (2 Cor 8:16-21).

Earlier, before Jesus was arrested, he did have concern for earthly matters, including self-defense, as it applied to his disciples as he was about to be arrested. Just after his last supper (Luke 22:35ff), he asked the disciples if they had lacked anything when he had earlier told them to not take normal traveling equipment (change of clothes, money, shoes) the first time he sent them out. After they replied that they lacked nothing, he then instructs them, "Now I'm sending you again, but this time you need to go prepared, with money, a suitcase, and a weapon, even if you have to have a garage-sale in order to buy that weapon" (v. 36).

Earlier he had told parables of strong men protecting their possessions with violence as examples of expected behavior (Matt 12:29; Mark 3:27; Luke 11:21).

And even before that, he had said through the prophet Jeremiah:
HCSB Jer 22:3 This is what the LORD says: Administer justice and righteousness. Rescue the victim of robbery from the hand of his oppressor. Don’t exploit or brutalize the foreigner, the fatherless, or the widow. Don’t shed innocent blood in this place.
(Notice the command to rescue victims from robbers; also notice that the last command is to not shed "innocent" blood.)

Further, Jesus did not "turn the other cheek" when he found God's Temple turned into a mini-mall: he took the time to collect and assemble the materials to make a whip, trudge back into the Temple, and drive the marketers out, with violence (John 2:14-16).

Nor did he humbly submit to the evils of The System when it devours widows' houses or when it makes a proselyte twice as fit for hell as the hypocrites who converted him, but rather forcefully upbraided these evils (Matt 23:14-15).

So whatever Jesus meant by the phrase, "turn the other cheek", it seems he didn't mean we should be passive in the face of evil.

So what did he mean?

I find the following to be of interest:
Jesus clarifies his meaning by three brief examples. "If anyone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also." Why the right cheek? How does one strike another on the right cheek anyway? Try it. A blow by the right fist in that right-handed world would land on the left cheek of the opponent. To strike the right cheek with the fist would require using the left hand, but in that society the left hand was used only for unclean tasks. As the Dead Sea Scrolls specify, even to gesture with the left hand at Qumran carried the penalty of ten days' penance. The only way one could strike the right cheek with the right hand would be with the back of the hand.

What we are dealing with here is unmistakably an insult, not a fistfight. The intention is not to injure but to humiliate, to put someone in his or her place. One normally did not strike a peer in this way, and, if one did, the fine was exorbitant (four zuz was the fine for a blow to a peer with a fist, 400 zuz for backhanding him; but to an underling, no penalty whatever). A backhand slap was the normal way of admonishing inferiors. Masters backhanded slaves; husbands, wives; parents, children; men, women; Romans; Jews.

We have here a set of unequal relations, in each of which retaliation would be suicidal. The only normal response would be cowering submission. It is important to ask who Jesus' audience is. In every case, his listeners are not those who strike, initiate lawsuits, or impose forced labor. Rather, Jesus is speaking to their victims, people who have been subjected to these very indignities. They have been forced to stifle their inner outrage at the dehumanizing treatment meted out to them by the hierarchical system of caste and class, race and gender, age and status, and by the guardians of imperial occupation.

Why then does Jesus counsel these already humiliated people to turn the other cheek? Because this action robs the oppressor of power to humiliate them. The person who turns the other cheek is saying, in effect, "Try again. Your first blow failed to achieve its intended effect. I deny you the power to humiliate me. I am a human being just like you. Your status (gender, race, age, wealth) does not alter that. You cannot demean me." Such a response would create enormous difficulties for the striker. Purely logistically, how can he now hit the other cheek? He cannot backhand it with his right hand. If he hits with a fist, he makes himself an equal, acknowledging the other as a peer. But the whole point of the back of the hand is to reinforce the caste system and its institutionalized inequality.

The second example Jesus gives is set in a court of law. Someone is being sued for his outer garment. Who would do that and under what circumstances? Only the poorest of the poor would have nothing but an outer garment to give as collateral for a loan. Jewish law strictly required its return every evening at sunset, for that was all the poor had in which to sleep. The situation to which Jesus alludes is one with which his hearers would have been too familiar: the poor debtor has sunk ever deeper into poverty, the debt cannot be repaid, and his creditor has hauled him into court to wring out repayment.

Indebtedness was the most serious social problem in first-century Palestine. Jesus' parables are full of debtors struggling to salvage their lives. It is in this context that Jesus speaks. His hearers are the poor ("if anyone would sue you."). They share a rankling hatred for a system that subjects them to humiliation by stripping them of their lands, their goods, finally even their outer garments.

Why then does Jesus counsel them to give over their inner garment as well? This would mean stripping off all their clothing and marching out of court stark naked! Put yourself in the debtor's place; imagine the chuckles this saying must have evoked. There stands the creditor, beet-red with embarrassment, your outer garment in one hand, your underwear in the other. You have suddenly turned the tables on him. You had no hope of winning the trial; the law was entirely in his favor. But you have refused to be humiliated. At the same time you have registered a stunning protest against a system that spawns such debt. You have said, in effect, "You want my robe? Here, take everything! Now you've got all I have except my body. Is that what you'll take next?"

Nakedness was taboo in Judaism. Shame fell not on the naked party but the person viewing or causing one's nakedness (Genesis 9:20-27). By stripping you have brought the creditor under the same prohibition that led to the curse of Canaan. As you parade into the street, your friends and neighbors, startled, aghast, inquire what happened. You explain. They join your growing procession, which now resembles a victory parade. The entire system by which debtors are oppressed has been publicly unmasked. The creditor is revealed to be not a "respectable" moneylender but a party in the reduction of an entire social class to landlessness and destitution. This unmasking is not simply punitive, however; it offers the creditor a chance to see, perhaps for the first time in his life, what his practices cause--and to repent.

Jesus in effect is sponsoring clowning. In so doing he shows himself to be thoroughly Jewish. A later saying of the Talmud runs, "If your neighbor calls you an ass, put a saddle on your back."

The Powers That Be literally stand on their dignity. Nothing takes away their potency faster than deft lampooning. By refusing to be awed by their power, the powerless are emboldened to seize the initiative, even where structural change is not possible. This message, far from being a counsel of perfection unattainable in this life, is a practical, strategic measure for empowering the oppressed. It provides a hint of how to take on the entire system in a way that unmasks its essential cruelty and to burlesque its pretensions to justice, law, and order.

Walking the second mile

Jesus' third example, the one about going the second mile, is drawn from the enlightened practice of limiting the amount of forced labor that Roman soldiers could levy on subject peoples. A soldier could impress a civilian to carry his pack one mile only; to force the civilian to go further carried with it severe penalties under military law. In this way Rome tried to limit the anger of the occupied people and still keep its armies on the move. Nevertheless, this levy was a bitter reminder to the Jews that they were a subject people even in the Promised Land.

To this proud but subjugated people Jesus does not counsel revolt. One does not "befriend" the soldier, draw him aside, and drive a knife into his ribs. Jesus was keenly aware of the futility of armed revolt against Roman imperial might. He minced no words about it, though it must have cost him support from the revolutionary factions.

But why walk the second mile? Is this not to rebound to the opposite extreme: aiding and abetting the enemy? Not at all. The question here, as in the two previous instances, is how the oppressed can recover the initiative, how they can assert their human dignity in a situation that cannot for the time being be changed. The rules are Caesar's but not how one responds to the rules. The response is God's, and Caesar has no power over that.

Imagine then the soldier's surprise when, at the next mile marker, he reluctantly reaches to assume his pack (sixty-five to eighty-five pounds in full gear). You say, "Oh no, let me carry it another mile." Normally he has to coerce your kinsmen to carry his pack; now you do it cheerfully and will not stop! Is this a provocation? Are you insulting his strength? Being kind? Trying to get him disciplined for seeming to make you go farther then you should? Are you planning to file a complaint? To create trouble?

From a situation of servile impressment, you have once more seized the initiative. You have taken back the power of choice. The soldier is thrown off-balance by being deprived of the predictability of your response. Imagine the hilarious situation of a Roman infantryman pleading with a Jew, "Aw, come on, please give me back my pack!" The humor of this scene may escape those who picture it through sanctimonious eyes. It could scarcely, however, have been lost on Jesus' hearers, who must have delighted in the prospect of thus discomfiting their oppressors.

Some readers may object to the idea of discomfiting the soldier or embarrassing the creditor. But can people engaged in oppressive acts repent unless made uncomfortable with their actions? There is, admittedly, the danger of using nonviolence as a tactic of revenge and humiliation. There is also, at the opposite extreme, an equal danger of sentimentality and softness that confuses the uncompromising love of Jesus with being nice. Loving confrontation can free both the oppressed from docility and the oppressor from sin.

So Jesus is not teaching us to be passive in the face of violence; he's teaching us not to get sucked into an unwinnable escalation of conflict, an eye-for-an-eye seeking of vengeance, to use our brains to accomplish what our brawn won't or can't.

If we understand Jesus' teachings to be not that of passive non-resistance, but of wily disarmament, and if we understand his and Paul's emphasis on the next world to not exclude paying some needed attention to this world, there is no longer any conflict with Jesus' instruction to carry a self-defense weapon when traveling, or his Old Testament instruction to stand up with whatever it takes to rescue victims from robbers.

Jesus does not say "Be a door-mat"; he says, "Do what brings peace, disarm the aggressor, which requires wisdom and cunning and courage and self-sacrifice, and sometimes even physical strength".

More Scripture?

The Biblical writer and apostle, Paul, writes:
HCSB Col 4:15 Give my greetings to the brothers in Laodicea, and to Nympha and the church in her home. 16 When this letter has been read among you, have it read also in the church of the Laodiceans; and see that you also read the letter from Laodicea.
We consider the writings of Paul to be inspired. He considers his writings suitable to be read to the churches. He sent a letter to the Colossians, of which copies have survived to the present day. He sent a letter to Laodicea, which has been lost.

What if a copy of the letter to the Laodiceans were to be found in the buried ruins of a first-century library tomorrow? Would we consider it as scripture? Would we add it to our existing Bibles?

Just food for thought.

Pilate Replaced Herod with Jesus

You'll recall that at the time of Jesus' arrest, Herod was the reigning king over the Jews. Even though he was king, Herod was still subject to his own superior authorities, such as the local Roman governor, Pontius Pilate, and ultimately to the Roman Emperor, Caesar.

When the Jewish police and religious authorities arrested Jesus, they set up a kangaroo court and convicted him to a death sentence, but being under Roman rule which reserved the death penalty to Roman courts, they then took Jesus to Pilate to push injustice through the Roman court system.

Pilate, recognizing the affair as being of local Jewish concern, sent Jesus to the lower court of King Herod, rather than wasting the higher court's time on a minor matter.

Herod, however, couldn't get anywhere with Jesus, and sent Jesus back to the higher court of Pilate.

Pilate couldn't find any justification for the death sentence, so he tried various methods of calming down the Jewish rioters and releasing Jesus, even going so far as to beat Jesus to fatal lengths, which technically wasn't a death sentence, but was so in practical terms. Jesus was at this point a dead man walking. As such, he was presented bloodied, weak, and dying, to the rioters as "the man" (John 19:5).

But even that wasn't good enough for the rioters; they wanted him crucified, tortured, hanging from a cross for expected days. So they pressured Pilate more, and inadvertently scared him with the magic words "Son of God" (vv. 7-8).

So Pilate took Jesus back into the governor's headquarters for further questioning, becoming even more convinced that he simply must get Jesus released. But nothing he did satisfied the rioters.

His final attempt was to depose Herod, and make Jesus the king of the Jews. The next time Pilate presented the dying Jesus to the mob, he announced, "Here is your king!" (v. 14). (This can't have made Herod happy, even though Jesus' reign would be short-lived due to his almost-certain impending death from his earlier beating.)

But even that was not suitable to the mob; they wanted Jesus crucified, and they rejected Jesus as king, announcing they had no king but Caesar (v. 15), which just a few hours prior would have probably been considered by the Jews to be treasonous language.

So Pilate gave in, and had Jesus executed by crucifixion. But he still had the last word; on the cross, Pilate affixed a sign that said in three languages, "Jesus the Nazarene, The King of the Jews" (vv 19-20).

What Pilate probably did not intend, and what probably riled the Jews up even further, is that this phrase, as I understand it, in (Englicized) Hebrew, is rendered:
Yahshua Hanatzoi Wehemelech Hayuhadim
 From a distance, the first letters stand out: YHWH

Pilate has just declared Jesus to be YHWH God, King of the Jews.

When the Jews object to the sign, wanting it changed, I can just see the smirk on Pilate's face as he responds to these trouble-makers: "What I have written, I have written" (v. 22).

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Same ol', same ol'

I got into a discussion the other day with a young man, 10-ish or so. He's in a Sunday morning Bible class that mixes 3rd, 4th, and 5th graders together. At one point he informed me that he doesn't like Bible class, because "they talk about stuff he already knows", because the class is oriented for the third-graders.


Wednesday, April 11, 2012

When a Doctor Turns Evil

I have a friend, Jen, who has a multitude of health issues, one of which is magnesium depletion.

Her general practitioner referred her to a specialist, a Dr. X, to look into this issue. The first thing Dr. X did was have a med-port inserted into Jen's chest, so that the bi-weekly infusions could be done without tearing up the veins in Jen's arms.

Normal mag levels are 1.5 to 2.5. Below 1.0 is critical.

After the first infusions and subsequent testing, it was determined that Jen would need weekly, rather than bi-weekly, infusions.

So one day a week, Jen would go in to have her levels measured, and then the next day she would go in for 2 to 4 hours of infusing.

After a while, Jen wondered if they were just going to keep giving her infusions or find out what was causing the depletion. Dr. X told her that he doesn't do research; that's her GP's job.

But that's why the GP referred her to Dr. X! Dr. X is supposed to be the specialist. So she gets referred to him to find out what the problem is; he just puts a port into her chest requiring a traumatic (and dangerous; they snipped a vein in the process, requiring cauterization, causing a significant amount of blood loss) operation, doesn't bother to pursue what the cause of the problem is, and then without warning or, I believe, justification, does the following.

What Jen didn't know, and what Dr. X's office didn't tell her, is that if she missed (or even rescheduled prior to the appointment!) three appointments for any reason, she would get "fired" as a patient of his.

Once, her son had a conflicting appointment with his doctor in Fort Worth, 3 hours away. She rescheduled her appointment to keep his. Strike one.

Another time, her GP insisted she come in to see him at the same time as one of her infusion appointments. Being a good patient, she rescheduled her infusion to obey her GP. Strike two.

A third time, her son again had a conflicting appointment with his doctor in Fort Worth, so she again rescheduled. Strike three.

But it's okay for them to miss appointments with Jen, without warning, and without rescheduling in a timely manner. She went in on one of her days to get her levels measured, to find that the office was closed that day, even though she had the appointment card they had given her in her hand. It was nearly another week (for a total of two weeks without a treatment) before she could get in again.

Because of her three strikes, she got fired.

Dr. X's office sent her a certified letter saying they were severing ties with her, that they would provide service to her for 30 days, and that they would help her find another doctor, suggesting at one point that it might require Jen to drive to Fort Worth or Lubbuck (both 3 hours away) twice a week. This is without any warning whatsoever. None.

They did not help her find another doctor. Her husband found one for her, and made an appointment for her for the next week. In the meantime, she had an appointment with Dr. X in the present week. She went in to have her levels checked; they were now at 0.7, sub-critical. But when she called to check on her infusion appointment the next day, Dr. X's office told her that since she now had a new doctor, they were completely severing their relationship and would not honor her appointment.

She has a level of 0.7, heart-attack levels, and has 7 days to go before her appointment with her new doctor, and Dr. X once again, without justification in my view, refused treatment to her.

I have no word for Dr. X's actions except "evil". I believe he has committed sin against Jen, numerous times. I'm reminded of several Biblical injunctions against such evil, such as:
HCSB Isa 5:20 Woe to those who call evil good
and good evil,
who substitute darkness for light
and light for darkness,
who substitute bitter for sweet
and sweet for bitter.
21 Woe to those who are wise in their own opinion
and clever in their own sight.
22 Woe to those who are heroes at drinking wine,
who are fearless at mixing beer,
23 who acquit the guilty for a bribe
and deprive the innocent of justice.
HCSB James 4:17 So it is a sin for the person who knows to do what is good and doesn’t do it.
HCSB Micah 1 Woe to those who dream up wickedness
and prepare evil plans on their beds!
At morning light they accomplish it
because the power is in their hands.
2 They covet fields and seize them;
they also take houses.
They deprive a man of his home,
a person of his inheritance.
9 You force the women of My people
out of their comfortable homes,
and you take My blessing
from their children forever.
Aren’t you supposed to know what is just?
3:2 You hate good and love evil.
You tear off people’s skin
and strip their flesh from their bones.
3 You eat the flesh of my people
after you strip their skin from them
and break their bones.
You chop them up
like flesh for the cooking pot,
like meat in a cauldron.”
 5 This is what the LORD says
concerning [those]
who lead my people astray,
who proclaim peace
when they have food to sink their teeth into
but declare war against the one
who puts nothing in their mouths.
6 Therefore, it will be night for you—
you ...
who abhor justice
and pervert everything that is right....
I believe Dr. X has abhorred justice, chopping Jen up like flesh for the cooking pot, while he sits back and proclaims peace.