Recent teaching from Dave
13 August, 2009
Of Microscopes and "Honest to Whom"?
Someone recently told me that there were no grounds for unity between us because of what he called my "honest to whom concept". It bothered me that this person was making such a fundamental judgment against me on the basis of something that is, at least at this stage, sheer gossip. There seems to be a story going around that we JCs teach that we can bend the truth and the law to suit ourselves and justify anything we do through some kind of a teaching that makes us unaccountable for our actions. I wish to address that claim in this article.
This much is true: I once wrote an article, entitled "Honest to Whom?" which no longer exists. It seems to be the assumptions of those who want to generate lies against ourselves to major on what does NOT exist, and to use only the title of the article to make it into something that it never was. (A similar drama happened with another article with it appearing, in the end, that they even got the title of the missing article wrong!) Considering that there are literally hundreds of articles available on what we do teach, you would think that they could find some real evidence there to support at least some of their claims. But you will notice that our real teachings hardly ever get a mention. So now we're going to be quite honest about what "Honest to Whom?" actually did say, and we will let the chips fall where they may.
I believe that some of the concepts covered in the original article appear in an article called just "Honesty", which you can view here: Honesty.
Further, the original "Honest to Whom" article was superseded by a much longer one, called The Id and the Superego. It starts by saying that it has incorporated the thoughts contained in the original "Honest to Whom" study. You can see it here: The ID and The Super Ego.
However, apart from a better article having come along to replace it, there were a couple of other good reasons for dropping the original version of "Honest to Whom?".
Not long after it was first written, a member of the community by the name of Malcolm, said to me when we were discussing finances one day, "Why don't we just rob a store if we need something?" I was shocked, and I asked him what he was getting at. His distorted understanding of the article was that it doesn't matter how we act toward people in the "system"; as long as we are going to use what we rob to do good, it is okay. I told him in no uncertain terms that this was not at all what the article was trying to say. As far as I can see, Malcolm continues to operate on the assumption that he can tell all the lies he likes, so long as it achieves the goal (destruction of myself and the JCs) that he tells himself will justify the lies.
The original article had mentioned how Australian law allows anyone lost in the outback to kill a sheep and eat it for survival purposes, as long as the carcase is hung on a fence as evidence that they were not trying to hide what they had done. I used that illustration to show that even secular legislation accepts that there are times when it may be justifiable to "rob" something. I pointed out that the Catholic Church also teaches that if someone seriously needs food, and stealing is the only way for them to get it, then it is justified.
Both of these are examples of "the end justifying the means". Everyone in the world believes that some ends justify the means taken to achieve them, although there is always room for disagreement with regard to which ends and which means. Is the convenience of transport, for example, sufficient to justify you contributing to the carbon footprint by having a car, using public transport, flying in a plane? People would, of course, vary in their answers. Yet it is customary for people to condemn others with whom they disagree, supposedly on the basis that the other people teach that "the end justifies the means". In itself, the accusation says nothing. We need to know what end and what means. I personally think that killing a sheep for survival in the wilderness (even if you know the sheep belongs to someone else) is justifiable, even if others may call it theft.
There was another member of the community who took to shoplifting on a fairly regular basis, even after repeated instructions not to. He had convinced himself that he could steal, as long as what he was stealing was being used to do something good (like feeding himself, perhaps).
This particular member was rebuked several times on this matter, yet continued to shoplift. It culminated in him one day (with help from a couple of other members of the community) stealing a microscope from Deakin University in Geelong, Victoria, and bringing it over to India to be used in our clinic there. This was all done without my knowledge or approval.
I was in a quandary when the matter came to my attention, because I could see their arguments, i.e. that the university was not using the microscope and would eventually be throwing it out anyway, and it was going to be used to help some very poor people in our clinic in India. I acknowledged that their motives may have been pure, but I did not believe that the fallout from such an action would justify the good that they could see coming from the microscope, and I seriously warned them if the incident ever came to light, I would have to further dissociate myself from what they had done, and turn them over to the authorities.
Now that same incident has been included in a dossier that has been sent around the world, condemning me for not reporting that person to the authorities. Of course, the person who provided Brian with that information also condemned me for writing to the person involved, asking him to use his influence to get the story killed, lest it be reported to the authorities (by the likes of Brian, not by me), in which case I WOULD tell the truth this time around. This was further reported as me blackmailing the person involved.
Brian Birmingham did not get his information out of the air. He got it from "Apostate", who was, at that time Tony Barry. (If Craig wants to claim credit for this one, he can, but I know it was Tony.) Tony posted it on the Rick Ross forum, where it was later removed. Yet the most astounding thing is that Tony was actually one of the people who helped Gary and Robin steal the microscope. And now Tony, Craig, et al are pretending to be outraged at me for (a) letting them get away with it in the first place; and (b) promising that I would reveal the truth if they let it get out further.
This whole microscope drama (like so much of the other information in Brian's dossier) is a classic example of the double-standards that exist when someone wants others to live up to a level of honesty that they would never even consider inflicting on themselves. Such hypocrisy is the lowest form of dishonesty.
The primary message of "Honest to Whom?" was to get people to see past a legalistic approach to honesty and to think seriously about being honest to GOD, and honest to themselves. It is the legalistic approach to telling the truth that is, in itself, so dishonest. In the articles referred to at the start of this article, we say that religious people do with honesty today like they did with adultery in Jesus' day. They are riddled with deceptions (most significantly deceptions that hide the truth even from themselves), but they claim religious superiority over someone telling a good honest lie and admitting to it.
That is what happened with regard to Fran and Kim donating kidneys in Australia. Both of them had to give the authorities the impression that they knew their recipients longer than they had, in order to be accepted as "long-term friends" of the recipient (because at that time, Good Samaritan donations were not legal in Australia). The fact that Fran and Kim very HONESTLY admitted (and admitted publicly) after the transplants, that they had done that, was jumped on by many as proof that they were despicable human beings. The Minister for Health in one state declared that no kidney would ever be accepted from any Jesus Christian in her state. She seemed to think her stance was a good one, despite the fact that people were dying there for lack of kidney donors who could save their lives. Obviously Jesus Christians were being used as scapegoats for her own archaic policies. In a neighbouring state (New South Wales), however, the laws were changed just days after the news broke about what Fran and Kim had done, and now Good Samaritan donations are legal there.
The same person who took the high moral ground about the "honest to whom concept" said that he would have felt "justified" in telling a lie to keep a Jew from being killed by Hitler, but that he would feel "remorse" and feel "upset with myself" for having done it. Well, for Christ's sake, then don't do it, if that's the way you feel! That's my opinion. If you would feel good about handing the Jew over to be killed, and if you would have had a clear conscience before God that you had kept yourself pharisaically pure by doing so, then do it. But I personally could not. And I don't think that anyone needs to feel "upset" or "remorse" for following their conscience.
It is only this simplistic, legalistic obsession with what constitutes a "lie" that clouds the issues and screws up people's minds, making them hate people like ourselves who have the courage to speak quite plainly about having told a lie to save a life. I have no doubt that the person concerned has told literally hundreds of lies in his life, many of them for quite trivial reasons, including a couple that I have discovered personally. But he continues to feel that he is better than me because he would feel remorse if he ever told a lie for an unselfish reason. What hypocrisy!
This sort of double-think is a mild form of mental illness that can grow into what we have discussed here so much recently, where Dr. Jekyl (the superego) convinces himself/herself that Mr. Hyde (the id) does not exist. These people need to get real, and start practicing more honesty to God and to themselves.
Seriously, I think more harm is done by people lying to themselves than by people robbing banks. (Put down that gun, Malcolm! I'm not saying that you SHOULD rob banks.) And stealing a microscope to be used in a clinic in India to help poor people (especially given that the university was not using it in the first place) is an even more minor offence by comparison to the stuff we are talking about here, i.e. lying to God and to ourselves. Once again, I never authorised the theft of the microscope, and I bawled out the people who did do it. I think that there would have been a good chance of them getting it legally if they had simply asked the university for it. We did that years later in Newcastle, and were given a much nicer microscope than the one they stole, for use in Kenya.
So there we have the full picture of the "honest to whom concept". It's probably not so different to what they imagined, i.e. that we are saying that there can be times when we break a lesser rule to fulfill a higher rule. Like the pacifist issues that led to the "killers for Christ" claim, what we discussed is nothing more than what is discussed by anyone seriously thinking about ethical issues anywhere in the world. But what I discovered when we brought it up years ago, is that there are some people (e.g Malcolm) for whom such a concept is too complex, and who seem to have a natural bent toward abusing such a teaching. However, there is no evidence of us having abused the teaching either before or since the article was written.
I hope, by now, that we have laid yet another urban legend to rest, and that people can stop talking about our position on honesty without giving actual quotes from our teachings to support what they are saying about our position.