Dear Dennis Carleton Latham,
I must admit, I was disappointed. I thought that our discussion – at least, it was meant to be a discussion on my part, you clearly had a different agenda – would have borne more fruit, but it was not meant to be. You panicked and raced out of the room when the questions, when the challenge over your Bible knowledge became too close for comfort; when it became clear that Bible Scholar, when applied to your good self, only suggests that you have had a Bible in the hand, have read it once, maybe twice, but certainly, by no stretch of the imagination, studied it, nor thought about its content. And yet you claim to be a Bible Scholar, as you also claim to be a web designer and many other things which, upon reflection, are as baseless and hollow as your knowledge of the Bible.
You will recall, I have no doubt, that our discussion (again, on my part) began when you claimed that the Bible specifically bans chain letters and calls them, in your words, the work of Satan. I can well understand your frustration at receiving chain letters, and your desire to be removed from various mailing lists; I have no doubt there are many other people in your position who desire the same but, as many know from experience, once you start fighting against such things in public, put your name to a campaign against one specific thing, those adherents, those who gain pleasure from initiating and maintaining whatever it is which antagonises you, strengthen their resolve and double their activities. Experience shows that breaking the chain, which brings no harm to anyone and any other belief is mere superstition, and ignoring the letters is far more effective. With no response, no rising, no anger, and no forwarding of mail, those initiators lose interest, cut their costs and move on elsewhere.
What interested me, though, was your claim that the Bible specifically bans chain letters, and specifically states that chain letters are the work of the devil, in the form of Satan. I write in the form of Satan because this name has many figures, many characters behind it. Initially it was from the Abrahamic religions, and a direct translation would have been enemy or adversary from the Hebrew, astray or distant in Arabic. There are some who believe he was an angel who set himself against God, a tale which has been superbly described by John Milton in his epic Paradise Lost which, as you know, is a work of fiction, but still seems to influence those who wish to believe, but are not prepared to think and assess what is possible and what has been invented.
The main commentary on Satan in the Bible concerns Job and Satan’s assertion that, having been granted everything in life he could desire, Job would turn against his faith if faced with adversity. It is God, and not Satan, who then places Job in such a situation that his faith is tested, allowing Satan to:
[smite] Job with sore boils from the sole of his foot unto his crown
in an attempt to test his faith. As we know, Satan fails.
But he didn’t use chain letters in his aborted attempt, which could have made a difference, especially when one considers your reactions and your almost immediate loss of patience. The other mentions of Satan in the Bible, using the King James Version, have little of great interest in our discussion; he rises against Israel in Chronicles, is at the right hand of various people, even God, in Psalm 109, Zechariah, and then shown to be in disfavour in Matthew as well as tempting Jesus Christ in Mark and in Luke.
And that, I’m afraid, was it. There is no mention whatsoever of Satan being connected to chain letters, indeed not to letters at all, in the Bible, which tends to negate your assertion that chain letters are the work of Satan. He seems to be very good at tempting people in deserts, at creating boils on a man’s body from head to foot and standing on the right hand side of a variety of entities, but definitely remains illiterate throughout; neither writing, dictating, sending nor even receiving a single letter. Which is sad, in many ways, as I can imagine correspondence with him could be interesting; he would certainly have other experiences from his life to those we have and, perhaps, a completely different world view, bearing in mind his former life, before becoming a fallen angel, and his present position as a blame-all for everything that goes wrong.
So if Satan is not responsible for chain letters, unless there is another reliable source available than the, admittedly not too reliable, Bible, he is pretty much out of the picture and should be left in peace to tempt, create boils and stand on the right hand side of whoever he feels attracted to. In this discussion he plays no role and we have no reason to hold him back.
One of the things that I asked you to do, right at the beginning of our discussion, before you started shouting and calling everyone a witch, or accusing people – especially myself, but I see that you have done it to others in the past – was to provide chapter and verse for your claim that the Bible forbids chain letters. It was interesting to see you quote John, but the passage had no relevance whatsoever, and you came up with no other passage from the Holy Book at all. This, as I am sure you will understand, didn’t surprise me at all; I’ve already commented on your claim to be a Bible Scholar, despite your total lack of Bible knowledge. So I have taken the liberty of plumbing my own knowledge of the Bible, in various versions, although I would never claim to be either a scholar of biblical works, nor especially well versed in the Bible’s contents. You will, I am sure, understand that I am merely following a tradition well known in Christianity, of taking what I feel to be relevant to my argument, and interpreting it appropriately. This is not just a Christian thing, it has its roots in the Jewish faith, where interpretation of the Holy Texts is a vital part of the understanding of their meaning, and their adaption into present day needs.
As I mentioned above, there is no reference to chain letters in the King James Version of the Bible whatsoever, so we are off to a bad start if we wish to prove a direct banning, or acceptance, of chain letters. It is fair to accept that chain letters were not quite so prevalent during the many hundreds of years over which the Bible was written, edited, corrected and re-written. They are very much a modern creation, although mainly used by children initially as fun, they have been taken over by some doomsday theorists. Although, I must be careful when I call them doomsday theorists, since most religions would fall into this category: Christianity, with its claim of a Second Coming, a Judgement Day and the destruction of the Earth can easily be described as a Doomsday cult or religion, depending on your point of view.
Instead we can look at it from a different view point, and see whether there is anything which supports chain letters. Again, however, we are on stony ground: if there is nothing on the banning of chain letters, they not being mentioned at all in the Bible, then there can hardly be anything on their acceptance, let alone an invocation to use them as a means of communication or to permit the further of knowledge through mass circulation. If, however, we take simple letters, singular or plural, we have a much better chance of finding something likely to bear fruit. Although, again, as mentioned above, we will have to use our interpretive skills since any reference is not going to be a direct one, and we need to bring ancient writings into line with modern thoughts, customs and events.
I quoted two verses for you, as you requested, although I can’t help pointing out that you refused to accept either. The first one you claimed had never been posted at all, even though it is still there, preserved on the internet for all time, and the second one you simply ignored. I think this was around the point where you were screaming that witchcraft was being employed against you. Yes, the use of ALL CAPS in the internet is deemed to be either shouting or screaming, rather than talking coherently and following events in a calm and civilised manner.
My first verse is from the Epistle of Paul the Apostle to the Colossians, chapter 4, verse 16:
And when this epistle is read among you, cause that it be read also in the church of the Laodiceans; and that ye likewise read the epistle from Laodicea.
This epistle, as you know, was written in the form of a letter, something Paul is justifiable famous for. And here we do not so much need to interpret, more read exactly what is being said here: the letter that Paul has written is to be passed on to other people, it is to be read aloud, communicated to an entire church or, in our modern terms, a flock or congregation. The person receiving this letter is required to pass it on, required to ensure that many people get to read the same letter and, presumably, pass it on to other members of their congregation. Not only that, but those sending it are required to receive and read, and distribute by the same means, a letter from the Laodiceans. The passage of information from one person to many by way of duplication: a modern definition of this could well be the chain letter, and this approval by Saint Paul should be adequate to justify chain letters.
Unless, of course, you are of the opinion that Saint Paul is not a suitable example upon which to base our everyday actions and deeds; but for that I would love to receive chapter and verse, with a very good justification.
Now let us turn to another matter, which may seem small but is of vital importance as it refers to you personally. You claim to be a man of God, and are more than happy to shout and yell at those who do not follow their path through life according to what you believe to be Right and Good. This shouting and yelling is often, I have no doubt, backed up by claims that the Bible says this or that as a justification, although I am also convinced that you do not quote chapter and verse unless you’ve prepared yourself well in advance. We’ve already covered your knowledge of the Bible, and your false claim to be a Bible Scholar. To make it as easy as possible you can open your Bible at Exodus, which will be our reference for this lesson, this discussion.
Now, many Christians, when challenged, state that we shouldn’t take the Bible literally, that it needs to be interpreted according to modern times, something I am fully in agreement with. They also claim, when caught out over an Act of God or an attribute of Him, that the Old Testament isn’t really there to be used, and most Christians leave it out entirely, which I find to be a great shame. Those self-same christians (lowercase, you understand why) seem to forget that the creation of the world is contained in the Old Testament, which many believe. They also forget that the Ten Commandments are also clearly explained in the Old Testament, not just the New, which would suggest they are both refusing to accept them in their modern lives, and accepting them at the same time: something of a puzzle, but I am sure many can weave an excuse for their beliefs though some means or other. I shall take it that the Old Testament is a part of the Bible and should be treated with the same respect as the New Testament. So we are in Exodus, chapter 20, verse 16 which states.
Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbour.
I don’t think there is anything clearer than this, it hardly needs interpreting as it is so clear, so much a matter of commonsense, that it can be applied to our modern society as easily as to any other time throughout history. You asked me to justify calling you a blasphemer. This single line is my justification: you called me a witch and claimed that I was using witchcraft against you, that I was sinning against the Word of God. Here, in this letter, I have given you my arguments and my justifications for stating that chain letters are not banned in the Bible, and certainly not claimed to be a work of Satan. You made your claims – of me being a witch and using witchcraft against you – in a public forum, for all to see and that, no matter how you wish to interpret it, is bearing false witness.
However, it is far more than that. It is also incitement to murder, as we see in Exodus, chapter 22 verse 18:
Thou shalt not suffer a witch to live
which, if you are a believer who takes everything literally, is an incitement for other believers, taking this passage and your claim that I am a witch, practicing witchcraft against you, to kill me. The fact that I am a male and the main accepted dictionary definition of a witch is female makes little difference: the accusation is there, coupled with the claims that I am working against the Word of God, and false witness is proven.
Using the Bible to justify calling chain letters the work of Satan, despite the fact that there is no reference to it in the Bible, and bearing in mind that the Bible is considered to be the Word of God, is taking God’s Word, and Name, in vain. That is blasphemy.
I must admit, Dennis, you don’t come out of the whole affair exactly smelling of roses. Perhaps you ought to reconsider your position, especially the shouting and calling names bits; remove the Bible Scholar claim from your résumé and calm down a touch. That would be a good beginning. We might, sometime in the future, discuss where you want, or need, to go next to redeem yourself, but I shall leave that up to you. You have my address – I’m not hiding from you, and certainly not abusing you and then blocking you on Twitter as you did to me – so let’s see if you can piece together a coherent justification for your actions.
Until then, stay safe, pay your police fines on time, and don’t go upsetting people who, unlike me, only need to jump in a car to come and visit you.