millions audition; only 144,000 make the cut

18 Jul

So my goofy but harmless Jehovah’s Witness of an aunt made us dinner the other night – she was on a West Coast road trip with a fellow Witness, who, inconveniently, suffers from chronic severe motion sickness, making her a less-than-ideal road trip companion – and after the meal was consumed and niceties exchanged, my boyfriend and I charged straight to Wikipedia to get the skinny on her chosen religion.  My aunt has been a Jehovah’s Witness for nigh on 30 years, so you’d think I’d know a little bit more about it than the fact that they don’t celebrate birthdays (devil worship) or most holidays (more devil worship, or perhaps idolatry, or maybe something to do with the government), and that they don’t call the place where they do their worship a “church,” but a “hall.”  And now that I think of it, I’ve noticed she tends to refer to said activity not as worship, but “study.”

Semantics aside, immediately following that dinner, my interest in the Jehovah’s Witnesses was suddenly, inexplicably piqued – much in the same way it can be about a vast array of unfamiliar subjects that, prior to the Age of Wikipedia, registered far too weak a pulse on my intrigue meter to inspire any further investigation on my part.  However with that Stone Age of intellectual inertia long behind me, I, in fact, WE are now free to turn our fleeting trivial musings into actual answers, or at least someone else’s unverified versions of answers. And we can do it quickly enough to culminate our search before the interest in the subject at hand has died; which is important because the digital age has given us all the attention span of a 2 year-old.  But I digress.

What about those darned Jehovah’s Witnesses?  Well, the Wikipedia  article was long and dense, and frankly a bit tiresome, so we scanned through to find the sexiest sound bites, and there’s a couple.  For instance, did you know that they don’t believe in hell?  I’m personally a fan of the No Hell perspective as well; it’s just so much easier to go about your sinning that way.  However while hell is out of the picture, Satan most definitely is not – he plays a fairly key role in J-Dub doctrine – but it is unclear to me where he is thought to hang his hat at the end of the day, what with no hell and all.  Perhaps hell is unnecessary because Satan never sleeps, or he’s so comfortably entrenched on earth, or simply because he’s morally incapable of handling real estate . . but I guess that’s neither here nor there.

Big, glaringly weird JW fact? Come Armageddon, exactly 144,000 people will be granted access to heaven.  Hey, wow, 144,000, that’s kind of a lot of people, right?  Well maybe it was when the Witnesses first established their doctrine, a few years before the onset of WWI, but today there are an estimated 7 million followers worldwide.  Which means roughly 98% of those people – all of whom consider themselves “in the truth” (JW terminology), who stroll in tidy family groups and knock on doors every Sunday, who stand in pleasant silence on street corners, wan smiles on their faces and Watch Tower in hand – 98% of those bastards are shit outta luck.  I know that if I was looking at that kinda odds, I for one certainly wouldn’t be trying to recruit more competitors for one of those 144,000 coveted seats.  Actually if I came in knowing the odds, I wouldn’t even have jumped into the race from the get-go.  But do practicing Witnesses just not think about that?  That their best friend, child or spouse might get in, but they themselves may not?  Even though they’ve been doing everything exactly the same as all the other lucky 144,000?  How does looking at that statistical crap heap keep the flame of faith burning for this cheapskate of a religion?

Then I got the idea, how great would it be to have a reality show about the competition for the final 144,000?  There’s so many possible formats – Survivor, American Gladiator, Making the Band.  Or maybe a game show?  Jehovah Jeopardy.  The 144,000-Person Pyramid.  Thumbing through a copy of American Theatre magazine at work yesterday, I can across an ad for the New York Academy of Dramatic Art that read, quite dramatically (pun intended), “thousands apply . . . only 150 make the cut” and had a flash of inspiration: Cattle Call Audition on Judgement Day.  God in the house seats, a few rows back from the front, unlit and virtually invisible to the nervous auditioner onstage.  Occasionally one hears God whisper unintelligibly to the Stage Manager to his left, the shuffling of papers, the clearing of a throat, and God’s sporadic, curt utterings of  “thank you” or “next!” in his characteristically booming baritone. “Only 2%,” you think to yourself.  Now that’s one brutal audition.

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