Sunday, August 2, 2009

Curses! (Acts 23)

Sometimes, a religious community is a closed system, that defines itself entirely in terms of itself. The guy who coined the term "cognitive dissonance" (Leon Festinger) also wrote a book, When Prophecy Fails, about the power of cultic thinking. He studied a small religious group that predicted the exact date that the world would end -- but it didn't. Strangely enough, their commitment to the group, as measured by their zeal in making new recruits, intensified.

Sometimes, when a zealous community has impermeable barriers between itself and the world at large, pressure builds up as the disconnect between the group and reality becomes ever harder to deny. In extreme cases, a single pin-prick can cause the who system to explode. 900 people killed themselves and their children at Jonestown, for example, when their community became unsustainable. Since then, "drinking the kool-ade" has become an American metaphor for dutifully doing something that is incredibly harmful. American newspapers, for example, mostly function as wholly-owned subsidiaries of the Democrat party. When a new proclamation comes from their Vatican about the wonders that socialism will bring to another area of public life, these unpaid propagandists for the salvific State dutifully check in their common sense, and their common decency, to write as commanded. The "drink the purple kool-ade," and wonder why their newspapers keep losing money and readers, year after year.

Quite often, before a community disintegrates, it looks for scapegoats, people it can "Freeze. Target. Personalize."[1] The hatred heaped up upon the head of the perceived troublemaker can cross the border into insanity.
Act 23:11 O gece Rab Pavlus'a görünüp, "Cesur ol" dedi, "Yeruşalim'de benimle ilgili nasıl tanıklık ettinse, Roma'da da öyle tanıklık etmen gerekir."
Act 23:12 Ertesi sabah Yahudiler aralarında gizli bir anlaşma yaptılar. "Pavlus'u öldürmeden bir şey yiyip içersek, bize lanet olsun!" diye ant içtiler.
Let's look at a few words:
  • O gece Rab Pavlus'a görünüp -- That / night / the Lord / to Paul / appeared.
  • "Cesur ol" dedi, "Yeruşalim'de benimle ilgili nasıl tanıklık ettinse, Roma'da da öyle tanıklık etmen gerekir." -- Courageous / be / He said, /In Jerusalem / with me / concerning / testimony / gave, /at Rome / also / thus / testimony / to give / you will go.
  • Ertesi sabah Yahudiler aralarında gizli bir anlaşma yaptılar -- The next / morning / Jews / among the / secret / a / plot / made.
  • "Pavlus'u öldürmeden bir şey yiyip içersek, -- Paul / unless he be killed / any / thing / if we eat / or if we drink (OK, so you've figured out that the locomotive of a Turkish verb can grow a very long train of suffixes. Well, just to make life easier, if you are using a series of verbs with parallel construction, just add -ip to the root of all but the last of them.)
  • bize lanet olsun!" diye ant içtiler. -- upon us / a curse / let be!" / they said / an oath / they took.
Folks, I rather doubt that it's a good idea to pronounce a curse against oneself. Think, however, of the seething, implacable, hatred these people felt towards the guy who threatened to puncture their over-inflated, sealed, system.


[1] This is from Sol Olinsky's Rules for Radicals. Rather than dealing with ideas, ruin the people who advocate ideas you disagree with. See Whitaker Chambers' incredible book Witness for a detailed account of how that process works.

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