Can journalists get Revelation?

microwaveOf all the stories readers and friends sent along to me today, the one headlined “Man Sees ‘Mark of the Beast’; Cuts Off, Microwaves Hand” is the most memorable. There’s really no way to get into this so I’m just going to post the entire story:

HAYDEN, Idaho (AP) – A man who believed he bore the “mark of the beast” used a circular saw to cut off one hand, then he cooked it in the microwave and called 911, authorities said.

The man, in his mid-20s, was calm when Kootenai County sheriff’s deputies arrived Saturday in this northern Idaho town. He was in protective custody in the mental health unit of Kootenai Medical Center.

“It had been somewhat cooked by the time the deputy arrived,” sheriff’s Capt. Ben Wolfinger said. “He put a tourniquet on his arm before, so he didn’t bleed to death. That kind of mental illness is just sad.”

It was not immediately clear whether the man has a history of mental illness. Hospital spokeswoman Lisa Johnson would not say whether an attempt was made to reattach the hand, citing patient confidentiality.

The Book of Revelation in the New Testament contains a passage in which an angel is quoted as saying: “If anyone worships the beast and his image and receives his mark on the forehead or on the hand, he, too, will drink the wine of God’s fury.”

The book of Matthew also contains the passage: “And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to go into hell.”

Wolfinger said he didn’t know which hand was amputated.

Okay, so let’s take a moment to get over our initial reactions and revisit the story.

I appreciate that the reporter attempted to explain the mark of the beast. I do. But as the reader who sent it along to me noted, dropping in the Bible verses and then running out of the story might give the impression that the Bible somehow endorses, say, cutting off and microwaving one’s hand. I know for a fact that microwaves aren’t even mentioned in either Matthew or Revelation. And I can imagine a theologian or two who might suggest that the young man from Idaho might benefit from some improved exegesis.

Yes, tragic as this story is, it may not be of great consequence. But it’s being read across the world and published in hundreds of different newspapers already. A bit more care couldn’t hurt.

Print Friendly

  • Ken

    I didn’t have a negative reaction to the story. The event itself is sad; I spent many years working in adult mental health services and have seen lots of religious psychosis, though nothing like this.

    I guess the writer could have included something from a theologian or pastor, preferably not railing against the evils of fundamentalism, but providing a good exegesis of the admonition in question.

  • Dean Barnett

    I know for a fact that microwaves aren’t even mentioned in either Matthew or Revelation.

    Neither does the Bible contain the words “abortion”, “evolution” or “global warning”, and yet. . .

  • Pingback: Think Christian » Blog Archive » One Way to Rid Yourself of the Mark

  • Andy

    For a little historical context, the writer could have mentioned Origen of Alexandria, who took the commandment from Matthew’s gospel just as seriously. Only it wasn’t his hand that he believed was causing him to sin. (Cough, cough.)

    Okay, it’s gratuitous. But this isn’t exactly a hard news story to begin with.

  • Jeremy Myers

    Hey, that’s where I’m use to live…the Kootenai area. Ha ha. We had all types up there.

  • Asinus Gravis

    It is rather unusual these days when someone actually takes the Bible literally and seriously. Most simply pay lip service to it, or treat it allegorically.

    Was the “mark of the Beast” on the person’s head? on the hand he cut off? On the hand he used to cut off the other one? What did the mark look like? One could imagine a lot of possiblitiies here–religious and/or political.

    Was the person “in protective custody in the mental health unit” because he put the hand in the microwave over? Or was it because he cut his hand off? Or because he called 911 after doing the above?

    That he used a tourniquet before the cutting procedure is interesting, and significant I suspect. Would it have been less or more mentally questionable had he forgone the tourniquet?

    Would it have been more or less mentally questionable it he had used a kitchen cleaver instead of a circular saw?

    Not only was a microwave oven not mentioned in Scripture; neither was a circular saw, nor a tourniquet. It also does not mention homosexuality, family values, just war, preemptive strikes, or a Christian nation.

  • Elizabeth Niederer

    This poor fellow doesn’t need better teaching or improved exegesis. He needs good mental health care. I hope he recovers from his psychotic state and gains some degree of stability.

    I daresay few if any readers of this story will assume he was following a true “command from God.”

  • Seth

    It’s too bad people don’t understand the symbolism behind scriptures which the book of Revelations largely is. When it refers too the mark of the beast being on your hand or on your forehead it is really referring to doing evil in your works (hand) and thinking evil in your mind (forehead). Also the scripture quoted in Matthew which states that you should cast your right hand causes sin that you should cast it off really means that if you have a problem (say alcoholism) that is causing you to be further from God that you would be better to absolve yourself of that desire than to lose your whole self to sin.

  • http://none Lynne Travers

    When I first read this tragic story, my heart goes out to this poor soul. My first reaction was to recall the verses he may of read that made him “THINK” this sort of thing would be of God. I teach God’s word weekly and take this very seriously. We have alot of sayings today that if read 2000 years later,then translated to another language, might be interpreted wrong. For instance, we say today, “Knock it off!” I know that to mean simply, Stop what you are doing, or did…..Again many years later, then translated, someone might think in literal terms, as someone got hit, or something should get knocked off, when we know it in our society to mean Stop. This is what can happen when we don’t understand what was being said in Jesus day,and w/o understanding what was meant. Jesus said, search the scriptures and see what these things mean. When he said “It is better to enter life maimed, than to….. I believe this to mean,”There are things that I believe and do that need to be stopped to bare the fruit of being a better person, like our Lord. Over time when allowing the Spirit of God work in our lives, these things will be cut out of our lives… Spiritually, then become part of our nature. Not a literal interpretation. Our Lord also said,” My yoke is easy and my burdon is light”. If he has through the Holy Ghost, called us sinners to really maim our bodies, I don’t see anything light or easy. Upon believing his word, his death, the beating he took FOR me, nothing else is required but to Seek first the Kingdon of God, and all these things will be added unto you. God does the pruning Spiritually to help us to bare more fruit. This poor gentelman, now does bare a mark. Not all is lost. With love from the brethren, people praying for him, he can get the help he needs to further the Kindom, and be a Branch…. Please pray with me for him and his family. I love you.