What Does The Evidence Tell Us… About Vaccinations?

Vaccinations: do they work? There is unequivocal evidence that the vaccine prevents serious infection, hospitalisations and death from Covid-19. There is also evidence emerging that immunity reduces as time goes by but even after three months vaccinated individuals still have between 61% (AstraZeneca) and 78% (Pfizer) immunity. (Can you believe that the US’s CDC approved the made-in-New-York Pfizer vaccine only at the end of August? Millions of people in the UK have had the Pfizer; I had my first in February and the second in May, without any adverse effects.) Yesterday, the UK government decided to give booster shots to the over-50s. I will certainly be having mine and have booked my flu shot too.

Why? Because the vaccine is the only way through this. We can be certain none of those currently available contain computer chips, DNA altering chemicals, aborted foetus cells or tracking devices. In this case, absence of evidence is evidence of absence. The needle-phobic idiots who peddle nonsense, like the vaccine being the precursor of the Mark of the Beast, prolong the pandemic and its restrictions when they deter others from having the injection, and contribute to hundreds more unnecessary deaths. (Deaths from the vaccine itself are not unknown but are far fewer than those claimed by some online sources and certainly fewer than deaths from Covid itself.) 

The bulk of hospitalisations in the UK and US are of unvaccinated individuals. A report by the New York Health Dept puts the figure as high as 96% in the city, with a similar figure for the UK. Health line reported two weeks ago that,

The vast majority of people (in the US) who have died from COVID-19 were unvaccinated. Fatal cases of COVID-19 among vaccinated people are either very low or virtually zero in 48 states.

The vaccine does not and has never guaranteed 100% defence against the virus and it is possible to contract Covid after two injections. A 70 year old friend of mine did so recently. His symptoms, however, were mild and after isolating for 10 days he was fully recovered. Who knows how he might have been without the vaccine. The data for those hospitalised after two jabs appears to show an increasing statistical rate. This is to be expected; the more people who are vaccinated the more cases there will be of infections among the vaccinated. The closer we come to being 100% doubly vaccinated, the closer to 100% will be the infection rate among doubly vaccinated people. Most infections of the doubly vaccinated are not serious.

Previous pandemics, mainly of varieties of the flu, have lasted about two years. Covid, though related, is different, but our bodies can and do learn to defeat viruses, and will this time with the help of the vaccine. Like the remnants of older viruses, Covid will be around for a long time to come but the vaccine is the best means of dealing with it.  

 

What Does The Evidence Tell Us… About Masks?

Masks: do they work?

Back at the start of the pandemic, England’s Chief Medical Officer, Chris Witty, and his US counterpart Anthony Fauci had this to say about wearing face coverings:

In terms of wearing a mask, our advice is clear: that wearing a mask if you don’t have an infection reduces the risk almost not at all. So we do not advise that. (Witty, February 2020)

There’s no reason to be walking around with a mask. (Fauci, March 2020)

The World Health Organisation was still saying in December 2020 that,

the use of a mask alone, even when correctly used, is insufficient to provide an adequate level of protection for an uninfected individual or prevent onward transmission from an infected individual. (Google ‘Mask use in the context of COVID-19’.)

While in February this year, The European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) concluded that,

Evidence for the effectiveness of non-medical face masks, face shields/visors and respirators in the community is scarce and of very low certainty.’

Why did experts like Witty and Fauci say initially that masks were inadequate, only later to change their minds? Because, I would venture to say that they were aware of the scientific studies, carried out prior to Covid-19, about masks’ effectiveness in preventing the passage of other SARS viruses, including influenza. At best, these concluded that even wearing surgical masks, as opposed to the supermarket varieties, has a limited effect on the transmission of either influenza or Covid. This is hardly surprising when the average distance between strands of fabric in a mask is between 5 – 200 micrometers, while the virus is 0.1 micrometers in diameter. In other words, the gaps in the fabric are between 500 and 2000 times larger than the virus. (Though this article argues that there is still a chance such masks can stop some transmission of the virus).

Other studies seem to bear out the limited nature of masks’ effectiveness. This one, by the University of Waterloo in Canada, concluded that masks filter only 10% of the airborne virus and that moderate ventilation offers better protection.

Similarly, The National Center of Biotechnology Information found that

There is uncertainty about the effects of face masks… The pooled results of randomised trials did not show a clear reduction in respiratory viral infection with the use of medical/surgical masks during seasonal influenza.’

The Influenza Journal, reviewing 17 studies on mask wearing, said,

None of the studies established a conclusive relationship between mask/respirator use and protection against influenza.

The British Medical Journal (BMJ) advised that healthcare workers,

should not use cloth masks as protection against respiratory infection. Cloth masks resulted in significantly higher rates of infection than medical masks, and also performed worse than the control…

(More studies are cited here.)

Specific to Covid is this study from Denmark which examined how far masks protect the wearer from infection (it did not seek to discover the extent to which they might prevent the spread of the virus to others.) It reported:

Infection with SARS-CoV-2 occurred in 42 participants (with) recommended masks (1.8%) and 53 non-mask wearing (2.1%). Although the difference observed was not statistically significant, the 95% CIs are compatible with a 46% reduction to a 23% increase in infection (my emphasis.)

The report suggested that social distancing was as likely to have caused the small reduction in infection rates.

While it is anecdotal, it was my experience that once mask wearing was mandated in the UK, people started to ignore social distancing measures, on the assumption, presumably, that everyone was safe behind their masks. Moreover, as the BMJ and others have pointed out, there is also evidence that mask wearing can be detrimental to one’s physical and mental health. And then there are all those discarded masks, infested with bacteria and virus particles that thoughtless numpties leave on the street for someone else to have to deal with.

So, why did the various experts and organisations change their minds about masks? Was it because more data became available about their efficacy? Unfortunately not. Instead, mask wearing became both politicised and polarised. As journalist Laura Dodsworth points out in A State Of Fear, face coverings became a means of social control and of giving us all a false sense of security (p113). It was and is wrong for politicians to mandate either the wearing or not wearing of masks. If people find some psychological reassurance from wearing them they should be able to do so. Those who don’t should not have to. In the UK, where indoor mask wearing was mandatory only up to July 19th, there has been a sharp decrease in mask wearing with only a small increase in hospitalisations due to Covid. (These admissions are not necessarily the result of less mask wearing; mass social events have returned during this period.) I have rarely worn a mask since July (only when asked, in fact) with no ill effect for myself or others. I’m trusting in the vaccine and other preventative measures. As the ECDC said in February:

the use of face masks in the community should complement and not replace other preventive measures such as physical distancing, staying home when ill, teleworking if possible, respiratory etiquette, meticulous hand hygiene and avoiding touching the face, nose, eyes and mouth.

It is these other measures that minimise the chances of contracting or spreading the infection, not face coverings. It is beggars belief that we had to be told, and taught how, to wash our hands once the virus took hold. That daintily expressed ‘respiratory etiquette’ is important too. I would advocate regular face washing followed by nose-blowing into a tissue; while I’ve no evidence for it, I feel sure these have prevented me from getting colds and flu for most of my life. Physical distancing remains an important measure, though large gatherings make it difficult to achieve; in such circumstances masks might compensate to a limited extent by providing some small degree of protection  

So, masks: do they work? It looks like they don’t, not to any significant degree anyway. Let me give the final word to a doctor whose letter was published in The Daily Telegraph last week:

SIR – A paper published in 2016 by the American National Institutes of Health reviewed previous clinical trials of the use of face masks in operating theatres. It concluded: “Wearing a face mask neither increases nor decreases the number of wound infections following surgical operations.”

A simple experiment will show why: if a lighted candle is held in front of a mask the flame cannot be extinguished, no matter how hard one blows. However, if the candle is held to the side of the mask it is easily extinguished.

Moreover, the obstruction of exhaled air by the mask increases its pressure and the distance it will travel.

Hence the wearing of a mask will increase the area in which the exhaled air is dispersed. In this context it is interesting that in one clinical trial a slight but not statistically significant increase in infections was associated with the wearing of masks.

There simply is no sound scientific evidence for the wearing of masks to prevent transmission of infections. On the other hand, a controlled trial is not required to show their dehumanising effect.

Dr Max Gammon

London SE16

What Does The Evidence Tell Us… About Lockdowns?

 

Which brings us to the measures used to combat Covid-19. What should we believe? What politicians tell us and impose on us? What the media says? It’s not as if these sources speak with one voice – though in the UK most mainstream media has parroted exactly what the government has told them. I wanted to see for myself what the evidence, all of which is linked below, actually says. This turned out to be easier said than done. Nevertheless, most of it is out there – the scientific studies, the data, the non-politicised recommendations. First, what they say about…

Lockdowns: do they work? What does the evidence tell us? Lockdowns work in the sense they relieve pressure on health services (the NHS in the UK) at a time when demand is already high, in the winter. They ‘work’ insofar as they defer the spread of Covid-19. They do not eliminate the virus and they don’t prevent deaths. Covid related deaths in the UK were at their highest during the lockdowns of spring 2020 and last winter. While in a significant number of these were elderly people in care homes, two thirds of excess deaths were among the general population. How could the virus spread so widely when everyone was confined to their homes? There appears to be no answer to this question, though this controlled study published in the Lancet replicated the same outcomes. Experts argued, of course, that the mortality rate would have been even higher if we had not been locked down. However, Sweden, which didn’t lock down at all, registered 14,626 excess deaths (0.175% of the population), higher than other Scandinavian countries but well below the totals for France, Spain, Italy and the UK, all of which locked down for extended periods of time. (I am unable to find the percentage rate for the UK. The fact the pandemic straddles two years seems to have made it impossible for statisticians to have worked out the figure.)  

Countries like Australia and New Zealand where lockdowns have been used as the primary means of Covid avoidance are now in a perpetual cycle of lockdown, opening up when infections appear to have been eliminated, locking down again when any new infections are detected. New Zealand did so recently after one new case was discovered (up to 651 at time of writing). Such a reliance on (ineffective) lockdowns has resulted in a low uptake of vaccination: around 30% having had both doses in Australia, 24% in New Zealand, compared with approximately 76% in the UK and Sweden with an uptake similar to that of the U.S., 51%. There would appear to be a correlation between a reliance on lockdowns and a reluctance to take the vaccine. Australia and New Zealand are locked into this perpetual cycle: closing down areas and cities every time the virus reappears and in turn deterring vaccine uptake, making further lockdowns inevitable.

As a deference mechanism, lockdowns only work if there is a preventative measure down the line to defer to; zero Covid is unachievable and is therefore not that measure. High levels of vaccination are. The UK emerged from most lockdown measures on 19th July and although there has been an increase in Covid cases since then, most have not been serious. The diagram below demonstrates that hospitalisations remain low. This has been attributed to a high vaccine uptake; about 60% of hospitalisations are of the unvaccinated. Official figures suggest that ‘82,100 hospitalisations (have been) prevented in over-65s and almost 24 million infections prevented across England.’

Neither do lockdowns work in terms of preventing deaths from causes other than the virus. There has been an increase in excess deaths from causes other than Covid-19 during lockdowns. Some scientists are speculating a flu epidemic in the northern hemisphere this coming winter because, thanks to Covid lockdowns, flu data has not been available from the southern hemisphere’s winter months from which to develop an effective vaccine. (Speculating is a crucial word here.)

Here in the UK, even with high vaccination rates and low hospitalisations, we fear we could be locked down this winter should the NHS become overwhelmed yet again, this time with a conjectured flu epidemic. We must, as we were told last winter, ‘protect the NHS’. Lockdowns were imposed in large part to help the mismanaged service cope, something it claims not to be able to do every year even without a pandemic. Nevertheless, last year we were persuaded the NHS was our Saviour in need of saving itself. There were even regular, socially distanced worship gatherings every Thursday evening. Yet, according to a Freedom of Information request by the Guardian newspaper during the first wave in 2020 ‘a total of 32,307 patients admitted with other conditions had contracted covid-19 while in hospital, and 8,747 (27%) died within 28 days.’ (verified by the British Medical Journal.)  The UK government has had at least 6 months to initiate reform in the NHS (and arguably a further 6 before next January’s annual crisis rolls round.) So far they have done bugger all precisely nothing. 

On the basis of the evidence, the UK government cannot justify further Covid lockdowns. You can of course judge for yourself whether you think lockdowns are effective and worthwhile, even if ultimately you may well not be given any choice about being subjected to them.

 

 

 

Falling Into Belief

Texas author David Heeren appeared on a UK TV channel the other day in its ‘Uncancelled’ slot, wherein a sceptical presenter interviews, usually while trying to keep a straight face, individuals who have, or have had, a world outlook at odds with any conventional narrative. This is to express it kindly in the case of David Heeren. David believes that the Second Coming is not far off; in this he has much in common with other evangelical Christians. Where he differs from most of them is that David believes the end-times sign of which Jesus speaks in Matthew 24.30 is… a comet.

In fact, David sees comets everywhere in the Bible. Amongst others, there’s the star of Bethlehem, the fire that descended to destroy the followers of Baal and the comet that parted the Red Sea. David has this to say about the last of these:

The rod Moses stretched out toward the Red Sea was a mirror image of the “arm of the Lord” in the sky above his head. A comet-generated tornado parted the sea and froze it in place long enough for three-million or more Israelites to pass through. A comet-produced earthquake cracked the frozen walls, releasing the sea waters to flow back over the Egyptians.

He finds 54 such ‘cometical’ appearances in the bible. He is obsessed both with comets and with the Second Coming. David is evidently on the fringes of an already lunatic movement (Christianity, that is) but, and here is what is astounding, David claims his books, 17 in total, five of them about the End Times, are best-sellers. If he’s to be believed, other people swallow his unadulterated guff and pay good money to do it.

 Last night, the guest in the same slot was Radhia Gleis. Radhia was part of a new age cult, Buddhafield, for 22 years before finally breaking free a few years ago. She and others came under the thrall of a charismatic individual called, variously, The Teacher, Michel and Andreas but whose real name is Jaime Gomez (pictured above). Cult members believed him to be a enlightened being who would lead them into ‘universal love and spiritual awakening’, until, that is, some recognised the level of control Gomez exerted over them and discovered he was sexually abusing young men. (The documentary, Holy Hell, about the cult, can be seen on Netflix. Buddhafield still exists, with Gomez its leader though now called Reyji (‘god-king’) and operating out of Hawaii.)

All of which, Buddhafield and Neeren’s nonsense, serves to underline how readily people will believe almost anything: stories of resurrected godmen, returning saviours, portentous comets, the honeyed words of charismatic charlatans. How crucial it is we see and evaluate evidence for ourselves. Demand to see it. Find it, read it, assess it as objectively as we can; not through a lens of preconceived ideas, be it conspiracy theory, religious worldview or prevailing narrative. We are too easily manipulated and duped not to evaluate what we are told.

Of course, we are not always capable of minimising our preconceptions nor of evaluating evidence objectively. We come with a range of psychological needs and respond emotionally to what the guru, preacher or group offer. Members of Buddhafield speak of the sense of belonging and purpose that involvement in the group offered. Many talk about how they finally felt loved. Even those young men abused by Gomez professed at the time a belief in the enlightenment offered by The Teacher, completely at odds with how he was using them for his own sexual gratification. This is how cults, political and religious movements and churches work. They offer enlightenment, forgiveness, fulfilment, purpose, eternal life, peace and joy – you name it, they’ll claim they can provide it – and our critical faculties are overruled by psychological/emotional need.

I know, I’ve been there.

 

What Christian Music Tells Us About God

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Have your ever noticed how the unchanging God’s musical tastes… well, change?

In the time of David, or so we’re told in Psalm 150, he liked nothing better than the sound of lutes and harps. When monasteries were all the rage, he was pacified by the monotonous chanting (‘plainsong’) of those very same psalms. He went all highbrow a few centuries later with the likes of Bach and Handel, but found out later still that he preferred bad poetry set to rousing tunes, such as How Great Thou Art and Amazing Grace (the latter by slave trader John Newton.) Not to show partiality, he’s also been known to be turned on by some good ol’ gospel music. Last night on TBN, a TV network of spectacular mindlessness, he was brought to orgasm by a third-rate hip-hop track that, like a primitive enchantment spell, repeated Jesus’s name ad infinitum. Which reminded me of a Christian rock group of that name that performed back in my youth, when God was into sub-standard glam rock. It is amazing, isn’t it, that God’s musical tastes keep pace with our own.

On the other hand, maybe it’s that we delude ourselves into thinking our changing musical preferences, be it for lutes and harps, glam rock or hip-hop (ten years past its sell-by-date), are what please the Lord. He is not a God of changing tastes but one who is a reflection of whichever culture projects its idiosyncrasies, musical or otherwise, onto their conception of him. He truly is made in our image.

Same Old Same Old

I’ve been watching a Storyville documentary on the BBC iPlayer on the phenomenon that is Hillsong Church. In case you’ve not encountered it, Hillsong is a megachurch that began in Australia in the 1980s under the auspices of a remarkably uncharismatic individual, Brian Houston. It is hip, trendy and oh so cool. Its superstar preachers minister to thousands of gullible souls in vast stadia all over the world.

The programme represented the church fairly (needless to say Hillsong disagreed), interviewing people who felt it had rescued and helped them, as well as those who believed it had taken advantage of their goodwill. In the latter category were volunteers who had given their all to an aspect of the church’s ministry – attendees are told not to be ‘stingy with God’s money’ – while its higher echelons used members donations to finance lavish lifestyles and thousand dollar sneakers. It covered the child sex abuse of Frank Houston, Brian’s father and minister of the Lord, and Brian’s failure to disclose it, as well as superstar preacher, Carl ‘marriage is for life’ Lentz’s extra-marital affair.

The overall impression was one of a church that doesn’t practise what it preaches, or at least what the supposed object of its worship preached; money and sex loom large. What the documentary didn’t show was Hillsong’s compromised doctrinal position, at least according to other arms of Jesus’s one true church; its failure to preach repentance, focusing instead on individual happiness and purpose.

How like some of the early churches Paul wrote to. Churches that strayed from his personal brand of Christianity, not yet called that of course, but which he felt weren’t adhering to the ‘gospel’ he’d preached to them, being attracted instead to the alternate versions proffered by his many rivals: Apollos (1 Corinthians 1:12), the ‘Pillars of the Church’ (Galatians 2:9), Judaisers (Galatians 2:14); ‘those who preached another Jesus’ (2 Corinthians 11:4) and the unnamed smooth-talkers of Romans 16:17-19, all of whom Paul hates with a vengeance. Who is to say their gospels were any more ‘wrong’ than the aberrant nonsense that emanated from Paul’s psychotic ‘visions’? He rails too at the excesses of those early cult communities; their stinginess (2 Corinthians 8:8-9), greediness (1 Corinthians 6:8-10), muddle-headedness (Galatians 1:6-9) and sexual immorality (1 Corinthians 5:9-13). I have long wondered at Paul’s stubborn insistence that these were groups of people inhabited and guided by the holy spirit, when they had, according to him, no idea how to live lives of holiness, committed to (his) sound doctrine. Any lesser man would have given up; lesser that is in obstinate arrogance. How jealous he would have been of the numbers Hillsong attracts.

All of which goes to show that, as it was in the beginning, so it would be forever more; two thousand years later, the Christian church, as typified by Hillsong, exhibits all the faults and shortcomings of its progenitors. It is exploitative, self-serving, hypocritical, while other factions object, jealously, to its doctrine and success, just like Paul with his rivals. The more things change, the more they stay the same; how very disappointingly human.

 

A Little More Time

A few weeks back, I experienced a health scare that had me thinking maybe my end was nigh. I’ll spare you the medical details, but I had painful, alarming symptoms, (unrelated to Covid), that suggested I might have a condition that can very often prove terminal. Because of the pandemic, however, I couldn’t get a face-to-face appointment with a doctor for three weeks; I only managed it then when a helpful nurse, who was taking a blood sample, arranged an appointment for me.

Those three weeks gave me time to consider what I thought of the prospect of potentially not having very long left. Let’s be honest, I’m 66 so there’s already more of life behind me than there is in front; the problem brought my mortality into sharp relief. It was a bitter-sweet experience. I was so aware of all the things that make me so appreciative of life: my partner, my children, grandchildren, other family and friends, music, books, writing, everything that I enjoy. I knew that I wanted more of those things, and others that I’ve written about before; I didn’t want to leave them behind just yet. It all felt, despite my age, to be too damned early. At the same time I recognised that I might not have very much control over whether I had more time or not. There’d be some form of treatment offered of course, but then that would become the focus of life and I’d have to consider whether that would be what I wanted.

These thoughts occupied the same space as one of calm acceptance. If this was it, then so it be it. I was – am – in a good place. I have so much in life. I love the people in it and enjoy it all, even the mundane and the stuff I’m prone to stress about. It would be okay to go out on a high, to take my leave, if that was where things were heading, from such a good place. I have no worries either about what happens after death. Nothing happens after death, not for the deceased anyway, and oblivion never hurt anyone.

Finally I got to see the doctor. He told me the results of the blood test were fine. Some of my symptoms had eased after three weeks and he concluded, after examining me, that they were not, after all, life threatening despite how they might have seemed. His explanation of how they appeared in the first place: ‘bodies do peculiar things… especially as they get older.’ They certainly do.

At least the episode gave me the chance to consider and come to terms with my inevitable demise. As Jean-Luc Picard* said to the omnipotent Q when he supplied the good Captain with a replacement electronic heart: ‘So I won’t die?’ To which Q responded, ‘Of course you’ll die. It’ll just be at a later time.’

A later time will do for me.


*Image copyright whoever owns Star Trek: The Next Generation these days (from the episode ‘Tapestry’).

Memories Are Made Of This

But that’s the trouble, doctor. I remember things, yet when I try and get hold of the memory, really try and recall all the details, it slips away as if it wasn’t really there in the first place.

I see.

I’m sorry to trouble you with this, but I have to say I’m worried I might be getting Alzheimer’s or something.

These are short term memories, I take it? Alzheimer’s typically affects the short term memory. Long term ones are already in the bank, as it were, and are usually still available to those with the onset of Alzheimer’s. Not that I think that that’s what we’re dealing with here.

There’s plenty of problems with my short term memory certainly, doctor. Like where I’ve put my keys and glasses. And I can’t tell you how many umbrellas I’ve lost. The number of times I go into the kitchen and can’t remember what I’ve gone in for.

Oh, but that’s perfectly normal. There’s even a name for it. It’s called the boundary effect and it isn’t just confined to people getting on in years.

Yes, that’s just it, doctor. It’s not only senior moments, though there are plenty of those. It’s memories from earlier in life too.

Have you tried accessing, as we in the medical profession like to say, happier memories? It could be that your mind is blocking more unpleasant ones. Try accessing a happier memory, something that made you feel good that you’d really enjoy reliving.

It’s happier memories I’m talking about. They’re just as elusive as any other sort. I can summon up the feeling – the elation or the contentment or the excitement – that a past event represents, but then when I try and think of what actually happened – where it was, who was there, who said what, that sort of thing – it all slips away.

So give me an example.

Right. Okay. Maybe like when I think back to when I first realised I was in love – a long time ago now – we’re both lying in the sun, looking into each other’s eyes. And I think, so this is it, this is love. And it’s a wonderful feeling. But then I realise I can’t remember where the field was that we were in, and which friends were with us, because I’m certain we weren’t alone, nor even whether the sun really was shining. Maybe it wasn’t. Maybe, over time, I’ve added that bit. And I start to wonder if I’ve imagined all of it. And then I realise that all my memories are the same. I can’t remember any details and those that there are, I have a troubling feeling I’ve added myself over the years,well after the event

I see. And does that matter? You still have the feeling, don’t you? Of what it was like to be in love for the first time?

I can still conjure up the feeling, yes, but then, that’s it. I feel as if my memories are like those Roman gravestones you used to see in museums. You know the ones, where only one corner is the real thing. The rest is someone else’s reconstruction of what they think the stone would have looked like, or should’ve looked like, all built around that one tiny fragment. Who’s to say whether they’re right, the people who’ve added on the rest? Even if they are, it still means most of it is largely fake. That’s my memories – tiny fragments of feeling – supported by what I think should be around them, but I suspect wasn’t at all.

I think you’re worrying unduly. I’m sure you’re not inventing your old memories.

But I am. I’ve forgotten almost all of them, so I embellish what’s left. And every time I do, something real falls away and I lose another piece of my past and of myself.

Perhaps that’s how it is for everyone. Perhaps our memories are not nearly as fixed as we like to think. It’s possible that each time we recall a memory we have to reconstruct it from the time before, which is itself a reconstruction of the time before that. Some psychologists think so, anyway. All that repeated copying is bound to make for the occasional error, which we then fill in as best we can.

So is it the same for you then, doctor? Your memories are full of holes too?

Well, I have to say I haven’t given it much thought.

Maybe you should. Maybe you’ll find you’ve more holes than memories.

Perhaps. But then, does it really matter? Isn’t it now that counts? Perhaps memories are no more than an indulgence anyway.

I don’t think so. I think our memories are the record of all the things that have made us what we are. Lose them and what have we got left?

Oh, now I’m afraid you’re getting a little too metaphysical for me.

Nothing more than a few scattered impressions, full of holes.

Well, perhaps you’d like to make an appointment with one of my colleagues who can help you with your problem. In the meantime, if you could see your way to bringing our desserts, I’m sure my wife and I would be most grateful.

Dilemma

I don’t dare speak out. It’s so difficult to go against what the council of elders say. I know that it’s right in all it says about the great Providence of our gracious God and the redeeming crosse of our Lord Jesus Christ. And how, if we don’t confesse our sins, we will be cast into the lake of fire forever, along with the devil and his mynions. I know all of this to be true. I have been raised in the ways of the Lord. Everyone in the settlement knows these things.

And yet, that is part of the problem, is it not? When thou knowest something is wrong but no-one else seems to and they conform and their conforming makes matters worse. Our hard-earned freedoms are slowly being taken from us and no-one seems to have noticed. We are even being instructed on what we should wear; cover yourselves the reverend says – in this infernal heat! – and treat thy neighbours as pariahs if they do not comply, do not play their part in keeping the colony safe. I know there are dangers out there, but this does not seem like the way to deal with them.

Judith tells me just keep my mouth shut and do as I am told. Judith, my goodly wyfe. Just be quiet she says, then they don’t single you out too. She is right of course. No-one wants to meet the same fate as the dissenters; the heretics as the council calls them. But when you can see that the church is doing something that just does not seem… well, right. Shouldn’t you speak out then, whatever the consequences? When it is telling you something that deep down you know is not faire or reasonable?

But then, the dissenters did that and look where it got them. No-one will hear from them again. Cast out, like the scapegoats of Holy Writ. Judith is right. Do not step out of line, conform, keep quiet. The ministers and powers-that-be know what they are doing. It is our job to do as we are told. They know what’s best for us. It is for our own good. It is how we will survive these cataclysmic times.

Isn’t it?

Jesus writes…

Image: Caleb Havertape (https://www.pinterest.co.uk/calebhavertapei/_saved/)

Ubi Dubium has posed the question, ‘why didn’t Jesus write his own gospel?’ It’s a good question. What better way to ensure his ideas were conveyed precisely without any margin for error or misinterpretation, than to do it himself? If he hadn’t the time or the ability to do so, why didn’t he dictate his message to one of his literate disciples (surely one of them could write) who could then, as an eye-witness, finish off the story accurately once Jesus himself had returned to Heaven. Why, instead, did he leave it to people he’d never met, most of whom wouldn’t be about for another few decades?

It seems to me there are three possible answers.

  1. Jesus believed the world as he knew it was soon to end. He was convinced God was about to intervene and sweep away the old order and inaugurate the Kingdom of God on Earth. If the gospels that have come down to us are to believed, this was the core of his teaching. Jesus mentions its imminence repeatedly across the synoptic gospels and the morality he proposes, wholly impractical in the long term, is designed for the ‘shortness of the hour’. In this scenario, Jesus and his followers had no interest in writing anything down for posterity. There was no posterity; the end was very truly nigh.

  2. God didn’t want his Son to write his own story. He wanted the job left to people whom Jesus never met, who were little more than children during his lifetime and who lived hundreds of miles from where events occurred. God was sure this was the best way to create a record of his Son’s visit to Earth, without inaccuracies, inconsistencies and contradictions. 

  3. The creator of Mark’s gospel bought into Paul’s celestial Saviour, his illusory ‘Lord Jesus Christ’. Mark set about creating a ‘what if’ back story for him, set in Palestine in the recent past and constructed from Paul’s ’revelations’ and Old Testament ‘prophecy’. Mark highlighted Paul’s teaching that the Christ, whom he calls the Son of Man in his gospel, would soon be coming to the Earth (not a second coming or a return) to rescue his Chosen and reset reality.

Are there any other possibilities? I can’t think of any, nor have I read of any. So which of the three is the most plausible?

Scenario 1 leaves us with a Son of God not knowing what he was talking about. This Jesus was wrong about when the Son of Man would appear, wrong about the End of the Age, wrong about the traumatic nature of God’s intervention, wrong about the Final Judgement, wrong about the fate of the unrighteous and wrong about the Kingdom of God being established on the Earth. This scenario gives us a Jesus who is a failure as both a prophet and Messiah. It’s a wonder anything at all was written about such a loser, let alone narratives that preserved his hopeless predictions about the Kingdom’s arrival.

Scenario 2 is of course ridiculous, though it is the one most Christians buy into, more or less. As well as its inherent implausibility, it relies on the hypothetical document Q, for which no evidence exists let alone any extant copy (or even fragment). It, and a supposedly reliable oral tradition, are speculative, needed only to counter the improbability of this scenario.

Scenario 3, while contentious, makes most sense of why neither Jesus nor any of his contemporaries wrote down or otherwise recorded a single thing he said or did. Mark’s gospel, created shortly after 70CE, was the first anyone had heard of a Jesus on Earth. The three subsequent gospels were all based, to varying degrees, on Mark’s fable. In this scenario there was no real Jesus, and no dozy disciples, to have recorded his exploits and teaching.

What you think, Ubi?