Insight on the News
Suicide to Gain Afterlife
● A preoccupation with the idea of life after death and reincarnation recently resulted in the suicide of a 16-year-old boy and serious injury to his 15-year-old girl friend. Friends related how the two had “jokingly” discussed suicide plans with other youths in Washington State after reading a book that dealt with the subject of afterlife. The youths devised a “fantasy” plan in which two of them would die by crashing a sports car into their school, thus moving on to a “higher plane of existence.”
Of course, such a reaction to the idea of life after death is extreme. But it illustrates the mental bondage of millions who unquestioningly accept such teachings because they are part of their religious background, rather than because they are founded on Scriptural teaching. On the other hand, Jesus said that adherence to the Word of truth would ‘set men free.’ He taught his disciples the same truth that was expressed in God’s Word centuries before: “The dead . . . are conscious of nothing at all.” Knowing this might have spared the youths this tragedy.—John 8:32; Eccl. 9:5; compare John 11:11-14.
Whose Side Is God On?
● Recently, the newspaper “Brazil Herald” commented on how the Atlético soccer team of Belo Horizonte noisily celebrated their victory over the Fluminense team of Rio de Janeiro. But the “Herald” noted that four of the Atlético team, “recently converted to Protestantism, maintained themselves separate, opening Bibles and thanking the Lord for helping them defeat the Fluminense.”
Does it make sense to ask for or give thanks to God for such a victory? Whose request should be granted when sincere persons on both sides pray for victory? Observing this, the “Brazil Herald” carried the question one step further: “This revives a question often asked by people not much intoxicated by patriotism during wars: What does the Lord have against the other side—in this case, against Rio’s Fluminense team, to side unilaterally with the Atlético team? Maybe these pious people overrate somewhat the interest the Lord might take in the result of a soccer game—of perhaps even a war between nations, at that.”
Certainly God cannot be held responsible for the success or failure of one side in sports events or blood-shedding wars fought by religious persons against one another. The answer to such persons who pray for God’s help for their side is the same one he gave ancient apostate Israel: “And when you spread out your palms, I hide my eyes from you. Even though you make many prayers, I am not listening; with bloodshed your very hands have become filled.” Rather than taking sides in men’s wars, true Christians will remain neutral, praying only for God’s kingdom.—Isa. 1:15, 16; 2:4; Matt. 6:9, 10.
Puzzle of Papal Politics
● Pope John Paul II’s recent directive that Catholic clergy world wide cease secular political activities has caused some confusion. Jesuit priest and U.S. congressman Robert Drinan has said that he will not run for office again. On the other hand, nun Carolyn Farrell, mayor of Dubuque, Iowa, said she will not quit, as women “have never been in the category of clergy.”
Meanwhile, almost simultaneously, the pope was urging African church members to participate in politics: “An important challenge for the Christian is that of the political life,” he told a giant audience in Nairobi, Kenya. “In the state citizens have a right and duty to share in the political life.” The pope added that “it would be a mistake to think that the individual Christian should not be involved in these areas of life.”
Commenting on the seeming contradiction in principle between the pope’s directive to the clergy and his own exercise of politics in Poland and in the church, a New York “Times” editorial observed: “It would seem to be not politics that the Pope wants priests to abandon, but only elective office.” In view of Jesus’ declaration that his disciples “are not of the world; as I also am not of the world,” can we imagine him issuing such contradictory expressions?—John 17:14; 18:36, Catholic “Douay Version.”