Watch Your Tower

So when the smoke clears from another leap day barely survived, and my Apocalypse calendar tells me about the looming end of all things, and the Jehovah’s Witnesses stop by and leave a Watchtower with the headline “Armageddon” at my door, I start to get a little paranoid. Did I miss the memo on this? I tend to be suspicious of any religion that is less than 150 years old—call me a historical snob in that respect. By the time of the nineteenth century of the Common Era, we were getting industrialization, evolution, and the Whig party sorted out. It was hardly a propitious time to be starting new religions. Well, I was curious about Armageddon, so I read a bit of the Watchtower in any case. It goes best with salt.

“The original Hebrew word Har-Magedon literally means, ‘Mountain of Megiddo.’ Although no such literal mountain existed, a place known as Megiddo does exist.” So I learned. But there was a mountain at Megiddo. Literally. I’ve been there. It’s not an impressive mountain like the Front Range of the Rockies, but it is sufficient for the purposes of the Bible. Megiddo overlooks the broad plain of the Jezreel Valley. In ancient times such valleys were highly valued for fighting because of a basic engineering difficulty with chariots: they don’t work well on hills. Chariots have open backs, so falling out would hamper effective up-hill battles (literal ones), and your chariot bumping into your horses or chasing them downhill would have resulted when the fighting was done. Or when you were fleeing. Valleys like Jezreel were perfect for fighting. And Megiddo has a front-row seat on its little mountain. The site of Megiddo has been excavated by archaeologists and is well worth the time it takes to get there.

By coincidence (or is it?) my apocalypse wall calendar begins March by saying, “Make Archaeology Your Friend.” Hmm, is there a message somewhere in here? When the Jehovah’s Witnesses and the Mayan interpreters agree, should we not at least admit a little doubt? I don’t think so. Both traditions, as certain of special revelation as they may be, are human attempts to make sense of our world. We know of nothing that doesn’t end. The great Eastern religions seem to have caught on more readily to the idea of impermanence than Western cultures have, but they all share this in common—it’s gotta end sometime. I would, however, point out to Mr. Santorum, as he begins to think about his concession speech, that the Jehovah’s Witnesses seem to agree with the amateur Catholic on the part about Satan. My Watchtower says “Satan will marshal the nations for an assault on those who worship Jehovah God.” Perhaps politicians should stick to following the Mayans.

8 thoughts on “Watch Your Tower

  1. I was born a 3rd generation Jehovah’s Witness and we lived breathed and went door to door ad nauseam,declaring the imminent Armageddon and the only way to survive was to hurriedly convert to Jehovah’s Witnesses.Apocalyptic hysteria feeds right into the false prophets which were the Watchtower cult leaders.

    Danny Haszard
    more on this apocalyptic jazz dannyhaszard(dot)com

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  2. Uncanny. A J-Dub thrust the same copy of The Watchtower at me, as I strolled into our local supermarket. I haven’t seen a copy of the magazine for years. They must be on a bit of a conversion drive.

    I couldn’t bear to read the words, but I did notice that The Watchtower has retained its long time preference for those 1950s-looking soft-toned pastel Jesus pictures.

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  3. Steve Wiggins

    @ DJ, thanks for the link! I had a feeling something was going on here. @ Daniel, sorry to hear about that, but I’m sure it builds character. @ Deane, those pictures are so much of my childhood that it’s scary.

    To all readers in general: do these three D’s mean anything apocalyptic?

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    • Steve Wiggins

      Good luck with that! When I’ve actually talked with them, they aren’t impressed that I’ve got a PhD in biblical studies. Have fun!

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