Margaret Sanger, Founder of Planned Parenthood, In Her Own Words: Eugenics, Elimination of the Unfit

Margaret Sanger

INTRO

As most know, Planned Parenthood is a controversial organization because their name is intimately connected with abortion, but a little less known is Planned Parenthood’s founder, Margaret Sanger (1879-1966), defended by the organization as a “woman of heroic accomplishments,” is also a controversial subject.

In this article, we’ll be letting Margaret speak for herself by looking at two written works by the founder of Planned Parenthood: Women and the New Race (1920) and The Pivot of Civilization (1922).

The main ideas of both books are simple enough: Birth control is the key to ending the ills of society. Where contraception was a vastly more controversial subject in Sanger’s day, today the use of contraceptives, such as condoms or “the pill,” is widely accepted, and Sanger was certainly a driving force in this cultural change. Sanger’s basic stance is that making contraceptives available to families and cutting down on unplanned pregnancies would not only improve the life of individual families but of society as a whole.

Sanger’s bombastic, hyperbolic language in both works is often laughable, and the scope of the picture she paints of a utopian society all brought about simply by the availability of birth control is naive. For example, she writes birth control will end “Child slavery, prostitution, feeblemindedness, physical deterioration, hunger, oppression and war will disappear from the earth.” (WNR P.154) Despite her unrealistic expectations of birth control, Sanger’s basic thesis of family planning is hard to argue against.

But there is much more to Sanger’s beliefs that contributes to the controversy surrounding her legacy. It is no matter of debate that Sanger was a believer and promoter of eugenics, and she lays out her thoughts on the subject in the two works mentioned above.

 

WHAT IS EUGENICS?

Sanger explains in The Pivot of Civilization (PC): “Eugenics has been defined as ‘the study of agencies under social control that may improve or impair the racial qualities of future generations, either mentally or physically.” (PC Loc 1387) Unlike socialism, she writes, which tries to fix “the evil effects of our industrial and economic system,” “Eugenics is the attempt to solve the problem from the biological and evolutionary point of view.” (PC Loc 1391)

In Angela Franks’ book Margaret Sanger’s Eugenic Legacy: The Control of Female Fertility (MSEL), Franks gives us more insight into eugenics: “Positive eugenics entailed encouraging the ‘fit’ to have more children and thus to perpetuate their good genes. Negative eugenics was concerned with limiting, either by persuasion or by force, the reproduction of the ‘unfit’ and thus halting the perpetuation of their genes within the human gene pool.” (MSEL Loc 570)

Sanger is a “negative” eugenist in that she sees birth control (including sterilization and abortion) as the means to a greater human race and a wholesale solution to all the ills of the world.

Franks continues, “Eugenicists designated as ‘unfit’ those they considered threats to the genetic integrity of humanity, including the poor, the physically disabled, the sickly, epileptics, alcoholics, those with impaired mental capacity, real or imagined (broadly designated the ‘feeble-minded,’ further distinguished as ‘idiots,’ ‘imbeciles,’ or ‘morons’) (MSEL Loc 572). Franks is correct to lump Sanger in with the type of eugenicist described above, as these terms are used regularly by Sanger in her books to describe those who should not reproduce, “the unfit” (as we’ll see below).

Chapter 18 of her book Women and the New Race is titled “The Goal,” which clearly explains the aim of eugenics: “[T]he creation of a new race… a greater race… evolutionary progress… a strong race” (WNR P.150-151). To be clear, when Sanger speaks of a new race or a better race, the context of her books clearly means a new or greater human race. Though many eugenicists were racists (the Nazis being the most notorious eugenicists of them all) eugenicists are not necessarily racist and not all eugenicists were. (Whether Sanger was a racist, perhaps we’ll explore in a later article.)

Sanger writes, “Birth Control which has been criticized as negative and destructive, is really the greatest and most truly eugenic method, and its adoption as part of the program of Eugenics would immediately give a concrete and realistic power to that science. As a matter of fact, Birth Control has been accepted by the most clear thinking and far seeing of the Eugenists themselves as the most constructive and necessary of the means to racial health.” (PC Loc 1532)

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SANGER & EUGENICS: IN HER OWN WORDS

Now that we understand eugenics, I’ll leave my comments to a minimum and allow Sanger to speak for herself.

From Women and the New Race:

“Over one-fourth of all the immigrants over fourteen years of age, admitted during the two decades preceding 1910, were illiterate. Of the 8,398,000 who arrived in the 1900-1910 period, 2,238,000 could not read or write. There were 1,600,000 illiterate foreigners in the United States when the 1910 census was taken. Do these elements give promise of a better race? Are we doing anything genuinely constructive to overcome this situation?” (P.26)

“The most serious evil of our times is that of encouraging the bringing into the world of large families. The most immoral practice of the day is breeding too many children.” (P.40)

“The most merciful thing that the large family does to one of its infant members is to kill it.” (P.44)*

(*Planned Parenthood has tried to write off the above comment by Sanger as her being ironic. I find no hint of irony in the context where the comment appears. Where I find no problem with encouraging (morally ethical) contraception to control unplanned pregnancy if one cannot provide for children, Sanger does not just condemn large families among the poor but also among the rich. In other words, the whole argument of this 5th chapter of Women and the New Race is that large families, whether poor or rich, are immoral, as is apparent by the title of the chapter: The Wickedness of Creating Large Families.)

“…Or we can accept the third, sane, sensible, moral and practicable plan of birth control. We can refuse to bring weak, the helpless and the unwanted children into the world.” (P.110)  

“Birth control itself, often denounced as a violation of natural law, is nothing more or less than the facilitation of the process of weeding out the unfit, of preventing the birth of defectives or of those who will become defectives.” (P.151)

 

From The Pivot of Civilization:

“On the contrary, the most urgent problem to-day is how to limit and discourage the over-fertility of the mentally and physically defective. Possibly drastic and Spartan methods may be forced upon American society if it continues complacently to encourage the chance and chaotic breeding that has resulted from our stupid, cruel sentimentalism.” (Loc 284)

“Surely it is an amazing and discouraging phenomenon that the very governments that have seen fit to interfere in practically every phase of the normal citizen’s life, dare not attempt to restrain, either by force or persuasion, the moron and the imbecile from producing his large family of feeble-minded offspring.” (Loc 838)

“The emergency problem of segregation and sterilization must be faced immediately. Every feeble-minded girl or woman of the hereditary type, especially of the moron class, should be segregated during the reproductive period. Otherwise, she is almost certain to bear imbecile children, who in turn are just as certain to breed other defectives.” (Loc 863)

“The result has been the accumulation of large urban populations, the increase of irresponsibility, and ever-widening margin of biological waste.” (Loc 1111)

“Mental defect and feeble-mindedness are conceived essentially as retardation, arrest of development, differing in degree so that the victim is either an idiot, an imbecile, feeble-minded or a moron, according to the relative period at which mental development ceases.” (Loc 1880)

“The statistics indicate at any rate a surprisingly low rate of intelligence among the classes in which large families and uncontrolled procreation predominate. Those of the lowest grade in intelligence are born of unskilled laborers (with the highest birth rate in the community); the next high among the skilled laborers, and so on to the families of professional people, among whom it is now admitted that the birth rate is voluntarily controlled.” (Loc 1941)

“Every single case of inherited defect, every malformed child, every congenitally tainted human being brought into this world is of infinite importance to that poor individual; but it is of scarcely less importance to the rest of us and to all of our children who must pay in one way or another for these biological and racial mistakes.” (Loc 2189)

“In passing, we should here recognize the difficulties presented by the idea of ‘fit’ and ‘unfit.’ Who is to decide this question? The grosser, the more obvious, the undeniably feeble-minded should, indeed, not only be discouraged but prevented from propagating their kind.” (Loc 1473)

Sanger-Pivotof Civil

Sanger brings up a great point above: Who is to decide what people are fit or unfit to reproduce? Who designates the “racial mistakes” and “biological waste”?  Who ought to hold the power to decide what person should “not only be discouraged but prevented from propagating their kind”?

We can see by her own words Sander wasn’t just motivated by alleviating poverty or promoting women’s rights, but also by who should or shouldn’t be “breeding” according to her eugenic philosophy.

Sources:

WNR = Women and the New Race, Margaret Sanger (Figgy Tree Publishers, 2016). Originally published in 1920.

PC = The Pivot of Civilization, Margaret Sanger (A Public Domain Book. Kindle Edition.) Originally published in 1922.

MSEL = Margaret Sanger’s Eugenic Legacy: The Control of Female Fertility, Angela Franks (McFarland & Company, Inc. Publishers, 2005. Kindle Edition.)

Recommended Reading:

Sanger_EugenicsBook

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Quick Responses to Bad Memes #2 (Ricky Gervais Version)

Welcome to “Quick Responses to Bad Memes #2” i.e. “the Ricky Gervais Version” i.e. “the meme + video version” i.e. “Don’t get your theology from a comedian #2.”

If you see this meme…

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Reply with this meme…

rickymemerevised

In early February, Some people got excited that Ricky Gervais (atheist) and Stephen Colbert (Roman Catholic) had a short (very short) debate about the existence of God on Stephen’s show (Watch the clip here).

In my opinion, even a short debate on primetime TV about God is a good thing. But neither man really said much, and based on how atheists are sharing the clip (and applauding Gervais in the video), they seem to think Gervais won the “debate.” Though what Gervais said certainly sounded clever, he really didn’t say anything at all.

Feel free to use the following memes in reply to the primetime “debate”…

RickyStephen2.jpg

rickystephenmeme1

Sincerely, God From the Machine

Quick Responses to Bad Memes #1 – Click Here.

Indiana Jones, the Lost Ark & the Temple of Blog (Part 6) Skeptics, Legalists & the Superstitious

In Raiders of the Lost Ark, we find three types of people: Skeptics, Legalists, and the Superstitious. In this final article in our Indiana Jones, the Lost Ark & the Temple of Blog series, we’ll look at all three.

 

Indiana Jones, the Lost Ark & the Temple of Blog: 

Read Part 1: What’s a Covenant?

Read Part 2: What’s the Ark Anyway?

Read Part 3: What’s All This Old Testament Stuff About?

Read Part 4: The Ark in Action!

Read Part 5: Where Did the Ark Go?

Indy_snake

 

SKEPTICS, LEGALISTS, & THE SUPERSTITIOUS

Hitler had bad theology. So does Indiana Jones’ arch-nemesis and fellow archeologist Belloq.

Indiana Jones, our hero, has no theology.

And Indy’s friends, Marcus Brody and Sallah have weak theology.

Thus, in Raiders of the Lost Ark, we find three types of people: legalists, skeptics and the superstitious. Thus, in this final article in our Indiana Jones, the Lost Ark & the Temple of Blog series, we’ll be looking at all three.

As you may recall, in the Raiders movie, Hitler wants to find the lost Ark because he believes it will make the Nazis unstoppable. Marcus Brody, Indy’s colleague, explains, “The army that carries the Ark before it is invincible.” Thus, the U.S. army enlists Indiana Jones’ expertise to find the lost Ark before the Nazis (which, in my opinion, is the greatest action plots ever conceived).

Now, Raiders of the Lost Ark isn’t a religious movie; it’s one of the best action/adventure movies ever made, which happens to be driven by a search for a religious artifact. But unlike a work like The Maltese Falcon (another classic), where the much-pursued object is inconsequential and merely a plot device to cause conflict, the unique characteristics of the Ark of the Covenant itself gives Raiders of the Lost Ark an extra element of depth, suspense, and intrigue (and danger!).

 

THE SUPERSTITIOUS

In this day and age, Indy’s friends Marcus Brody and Sallah, both intelligent men, would be viewed by most as superstitious. Both men have enough knowledge about the Ark to be wary of it (and for good reason). Even with Brody’s Bible knowledge, he’s perfectly willing to admit he doesn’t understand it.

Both men at different times warn Indy about messing with the Ark. Sallah, in Cairo, warns Indy that the Ark is “something men were not meant to disturb.” Brody warns Indy of not taking his search for the Ark lightly because “No one knows its secrets.” Indy accuses him of talking “superstitious hocus pocus.”

Despite Brody’s Bible-knowledge, he also says, “The Bible speaks of the Ark leveling mountains and laying waste to entire regions,” which isn’t in the Bible at all. We’ll blame this on the writers of Raiders and not Brody.

Anyway, both men know enough to fear the Ark, perhaps being familiar with some of the biblical accounts of the horrors – such as sudden deaths and outbreaks of tumors – surrounding the Ark that we discussed in a previous article of this GFTM series.

Indy_belloq_ark

THE LEGALISTS

Now, Hitler and Belloq, our two villains (though Hitler doesn’t appear in the movie, he’s the main source of the conflict), believe by simply possessing the Ark they’ll be able to use its power. And even Brody believes, “The army that carries the Ark before it is invincible.”

This is simply bad theology.

But where Brody knows enough to be wary of the Ark, Hitler and Belloq, blinded by their own greed, are straight up legalists. They mistakenly think the power of the Ark is in the Ark itself. Simply possessing the Ark, they believe, will put the power of the Ark at their disposal. As we saw in a previous article, this is not how it works.

Legalists believe if you do X, Y, and Z, you will earn your way into heaven or whatever else might be your spiritual goal. This is the way of religion in general, but this is a serious misunderstanding of biblical Christianity. Salvation comes through faith alone in Christ alone (Ephesians 2:3-9; Romans 11:6). Christ did all the work on the cross; we neither earn nor deserve salvation. But Christ already earned it for us; all we can do is humbly accept his free gift (Romans 5:15-16). No other faith teaches this. All other religions (and corruptions of biblical Christianity) teach that salvation is earned through your deeds, whether they’re rituals or being a “good person.” So, you don’t really put your faith in God, but in yourself or some ritual (or even some object). This is legalism.

So, Hitler and Belloq overlook the source of the Ark’s power (which is God) and put their faith in the Ark itself, an object – which is idolatry, something strictly forbidden to Jews and Christians by the God of the Bible.

And as we saw earlier in the adventures and misadventures of the Ark in the Bible, we can’t force God into a box (or ark)! We can’t expect God to conform himself to our expectations of him, because he’s so much more than we can imagine. Just like Brody and Sallah rightfully fear the Ark, those who truly understand God (as much as humanly possible, anyway), should have a healthy fear of him as well.

Did Hitler really think that the God of the Bible, the God that is so holy that to be in his presence would mean certain death for all of us sinners, who became a man and died for the sins of the world, and who commanded us to love our enemies, care for the oppressed, and overcome evil with good, would share his power with him to conquer the world? Did Hitler really think the God of the Jews would give him his power to help him exterminate the Jews? Come on, Hitler, use some common sense!

At the end of Raiders, we see Belloq, ever the legalist, cloth himself in the dress of the Israelite high priest according to Old Testament law (Exodus 39) and recite a prayer in Hebrew before opening the Ark. Again, did he really think God would bless his evil intentions simply because he did this? Did he really believe dressing in certain clothes and uttering some empty words would give him control over God’s power? No wonder God literally blew him to pieces.

Indy_faceworried

THE SKEPTIC

Finally, we have the skeptic, Indiana Jones himself, who concludes an explanation about Moses and the 10 Commandments with a dismissive “if you believe in that sort of thing,” and he describes a yellow light shooting from the Ark in a drawing flippantly as “the power of God or something.”

Later, we see his skepticism of the supernatural more clearly in his conversation with Brody at his home. Brody warns Indy about the mystery of the Ark, pointing out that the Ark is unlike anything Indy has ever searched for before. Indy laughs, “I don’t believe in magic, a lot of superstitious hocus pocus. I’m going after a find of incredible historical significance — you’re talking about the boogie man.” Taking out his revolver, Indy concludes, “Besides, you know what a cautious fellow I am.”

A revolver ain’t gonna help against the wrath of God. I’m pretty sure Major Toht and Colonel Dietrich were skeptics too, until God melted their Nazi faces off.

Indy_facemeltindy_facemelt!!!!!!!!!

 

DON’T LOOK, MARION! FACE-TO-FACE WITH GOD’S WRATH

Skeptic or not, by the end of Raiders of the Lost Ark, Indy wasn’t taking the Ark lightly anymore. Coming face-to-face with God’s wrath will do that. (And if it didn’t happen after Raiders, you’d think after Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade Indiana would’ve accepted Christ as his Lord and Savior!)

Likewise, Belloq learns that legalism doesn’t work either – as we see at the end of Raiders when Belloq opens the Ark.

If you read the story of Samson carefully in Judges 13-16, you’ll find that it’s not his long hair that gives him his supernatural strength, but God. His hair is merely a symbol. The saddest thing is Samson was so caught up in his own sin that “he did not know that the Lord [and, thus, his strength] had left him” (Judges 16:20).

Likewise, the Ark was a symbol of the source of the power, not the source of the power itself. The omnipresent, all-knowing God didn’t need the Ark to hear his people; it was a symbol of entering into God’s presence, a tool for teaching Israel about spiritual realities. Nor did the omnipotent, all-powerful God need the Israelites to take the Ark with them to bless them in battle. The Ark was there for Israel’s benefit, not God’s. And the source of the power of the Ark isn’t some mechanical, impersonal force, but the self-existent, personal Creator of all things.

After Belloq opens the Ark, the strangeness begins, and Indy finally catches on. Perhaps his friends’ warnings from earlier in the film finally sank in. Or maybe he remembers some of those Bible passages about the Ark we looked at in this series. Indy, then, becomes the one giving the warnings: “Marion, don’t look at it. Shut your eyes, Marion. Don’t look at it no matter what happens!”

Why? Perhaps he knew they were witnessing forbidden things. Perhaps he thought witnessing the wrath of God would be too horrifying to handle. Maybe he remembered God saying to Moses, “you cannot see my face, for man shall not see me and live” (Exodus 33:20). Or perhaps he remembered Isaiah seeing the vision of the Lord, and being faced with God’s perfect holiness, Isaiah lamenting,

“Woe is me, for I am ruined!

Because I am a man of unclean lips,

And I live among a people of unclean lips;

For my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts.” (Isaiah 6:5)

Whatever the reason, Indiana knew enough to look away. Belloq tried to be his own high priest and all he found was death.

But in Christ we have a high priest who frees us of our sins so we can approach God without fear:

For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need. (Hebrews 4:15-16)

Indiana_DontLookMarion

Read Part 1: What’s a Covenant?

Read Part 2: What’s the Ark Anyway?

Read Part 3: What’s All This Old Testament Stuff About?

Read Part 4: The Ark in Action!

Read Part 5: Where Did the Ark Go?

New from GFTM Blog: Available in paperback for $9.00 (or less) and Kindle version for $3.50 (or less) on Amazon. Or learn more here.

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Indiana Jones, the Lost Ark & the Temple of Blog (Part 5) Where Did the Ark Go?

So, we’ve learned a lot about the Ark, but now the big question on all our minds: Where is it?

Indiana Jones, the Lost Ark & the Temple of Blog: 

Read Part 1: What’s a Covenant?

Read Part 2: What’s the Ark Anyway?

Read Part 3: What’s All This Old Testament Stuff About?

Read Part 4: The Ark in Action!

Indiana_silloette

SO, WHERE DID THE ARK GO?

In the last article, we learned about how King David had some major issues moving the Ark to Jerusalem. Later, when King Solomon built the first Temple in Jerusalem, he had the Ark moved into the Most Holy Place – without incident, we should note! (See 1 Kings 8:1-6; 2 Chronicles 5:2-9.)

Solomon’s Temple was built around 968 BC. It was destroyed in 586 BC when Babylon conquered Israel and destroyed Jerusalem and took the Israelites into captivity for one of the darkest times in ancient Israelite history, known as the Babylonian Exile. This lasted from 586-538 BC, ending when the Persian king Cyrus conquered Babylon and allowed the Israelites to return to their homeland. Under the leadership of Zerubbabel, the second Temple in Jerusalem was built, completed about 516 BC.

Curiously, there’s no mention of the Ark in the Temple during this time. Mention of the Ark is most notably missing in Chapter 3 of Ezra, which is specifically about the building of the second Temple.

We even find this record of a scroll recording the decree of Cyrus in Ezra 6, but still no mention of the Ark:

In the first year of Cyrus the king, Cyrus the king issued a decree: Concerning the house [Temple] of God at Jerusalem, let the house be rebuilt, the place where sacrifices were offered, and let its foundations be retained. Its height shall be sixty cubits and its breadth sixty cubits, with three layers of great stones and one layer of timber. Let the cost be paid from the royal treasury. And also let the gold and silver vessels of the house of God, which Nebuchadnezzar took out of the temple that is in Jerusalem and brought to Babylon, be restored and brought back to the temple that is in Jerusalem, each to its place. You shall put them in the house of God. (Ezra 6:3-5)

Notice Cyrus orders the treasures stolen from the first Temple by Babylonian king Nebuchadnezzar to be returned to Israel to be put in the new Temple, but still no specific mention of the Ark here or anywhere else.

The last mention of the Ark’s physical existence in the Bible is during the reign of King Josiah, an upright, godly king of Israel, unlike the kings before and after him. Because Israel had wandered far from the ways of God, Josiah instituted major reforms by restoring the Temple, the Passover, and doing away with idols and other pagan practices. While doing so, Josiah said, “Put the holy ark in the house that Solomon the son of David, king of Israel, built” (2 Chronicles 35:3). This took place during Josiah’s rule somewhere between 640-609 BC, 20-50 years before the Babylonian Exile.

Josiah had ordered pagan idols to be removed from the Temple and the Ark returned to it. Had Israel fallen so deeply into idolatry that they had actually removed the Ark from the Most Holy Place and replaced it with pagan idols? Or had loyal Israelites, disgusted by the blaspheming of their Lord’s Temple, removed the Ark?

Interestingly, in 2 Chronicles 35:3, Josiah says to the Levites when telling them to place the Ark back into the Temple, “it will be a burden on your shoulders no longer” (NASB). This certainly sounds like those loyal to God had been moving the Ark, perhaps by their own choice due to the idolatry desecrating God’s Temple or by forced expulsion from the Temple by the wicked kings before Josiah, like Manasseh.

Ark_tired

As I said, this took place about 20-50 years before the Babylonian Exile. After the exile, we see nothing more of the Ark.

God had allowed this exile to happen to Israel. Israel hadn’t kept their part of the covenant agreement; they had promised to be God’s representative people on the earth, but they had forgotten God and had turned to pagan gods. Thus, God took his blessings and protection from them.

As God removed his blessing and presence from Israel, the Ark lost its significance, and as the Babylonians destroyed Jerusalem and God’s Temple, it’s quite possible they destroyed the Ark or carried it off as a spoil of war, perhaps stripping the gold from it and destroying the rest.

Or perhaps the Ark was placed in the new Temple after the Exile, and it simply isn’t mentioned in Ezra’s account. But arguments from silence rarely make good cases; it’s odd that such a prominent part of the Temple (and Israel’s history) should be ignored in the biblical record. Plus, we find no mention of the Ark after – ever.

Or had the Ark not even been in Jerusalem at the time of the Babylonian attack?

 

ACCORDING TO INDY

In Raiders of the Lost Ark, Indy explains to the U.S. Army agents that one possible fate of the lost Ark was that the Egyptian Pharaoh Shishak took it when he invaded Jerusalem in about 980 BC. He then took the Ark to the ancient city of Tanis and placed it into a chamber called The Well of Souls. A year later, Tanis was “consumed” by a year-long sandstorm and disappeared. As Indy’s colleague Marcus Brody says, Tanis and all traces of the Ark were “wiped clean by the wrath of God.” Since, Indiana finds the Well of Souls with the Ark in it, it seems to be the explanation the movie sticks with.

Tanis is, in fact, an ancient Egyptian city, and Shishak (Shoshenq I, Sheshonk I, Sheshonq I – pick your favorite spelling) is a historical pharaoh. In 1 Kings 14 and 2 Chronicles 12, we’re told during the reign of rotten King Rehoboam (930-913 BC), the son of Solomon, Pharaoh Shishak invaded Jerusalem and “took away the treasures of the house of the Lord and the treasures of the king’s house. He took away everything. He also took away the shields of gold that Solomon had made” (2 Chronicles 12:9).

The movie has the date of this invasion a bit off, but the important thing to note is that this took place long before the rule of King Josiah – about 300 years before! As we saw above, the Ark was still in the possession of the Israelites at the time of King Josiah’s reign. Therefore, though Shishak “took away the treasures of the house of the Lord… He took away everything,” what constitutes “treasures” and “everything” must not have included the Ark (unless somehow the Ark was returned) because we have evidence of the Ark still being around at the time of Josiah.

Other than there being a historical Tanis, a historical Shishak, and a historical invasion and looting of Jerusalem by Shishak, the rest of Indy’s theory of the lost Ark is pure fiction — which unfortunately means no Well of Souls, no sandstorm, no map room, and no Staff of Ra either. Bummer.

Indiana_Staff_of_Ra

OUTSIDE THE BIBLE

Of course, outside the Bible there are rumors and legends about the fate of the Ark, and I’m sure the popularity of the Indiana Jones movies have inspired many new searches and theories.

Second Maccabees, an ancient text that is not considered Scripture by both Jews and Protestant Christians but is found in the Catholic Apocrypha, says that before the Babylonian invasion, the prophet Jeremiah hid the Ark in a cave on Mount Nebo, the mountain God had Moses climb to see the Promised Land.

Another theory is that the Ark was hidden under the Temple before the Babylonian invasion. Of course, the Temple Mount in Jerusalem is now the location of the sacred Islamic site the Dome of the Rock. Good luck getting permission to dig under there (Apparently, there’s a “partly natural, partly man-made cave located inside the Foundation Stone under the Dome of the Rock” called the Well of Souls! Did the writers of Raiders of the Lost Ark know this? Did they get the name and/or idea for the movie’s “Well of Souls” from this or is this just a coincidence?)

The Bible Archaeology, Search & Exploration (BASE) Institute points out that though 2 Chronicles 35:3 is the last mention of the Ark in the Old Testament, Isaiah 37:14-16 is the last time we know for certain the Ark was actually in the Temple. When Hezekiah goes into the Temple to pray, he says, “O Lord of hosts, God of Israel, enthroned above the cherubim, you are the God, you alone, of all the kingdoms of the earth.” This reference to the cherubim is likely a reference to the two winged cherubim on the covering of the Ark, the Mercy Seat. In other words, even though King Josiah requested that the Levites bring the Ark back to the Temple later in history, we don’t know for sure if the Ark ever got there. After all, sadly, good King Josiah was killed in battle, and the kings after him were evil, so who knows if the Ark ever made it back into the Temple as King Josiah wished (or, if it did, if it stayed there).

The BASE Institute believes the Ark was moved before Josiah’s rule during the reign of Israel’s evil King Manasseh (687-642 BC) to Elephantine Island in Egypt by a colony of loyal Israelites. They claim to have found archeological evidence of a duplicate Temple there.

The BASE Institute also visited a place called St. Mary’s of Zion church in Axum, Ethiopia where they met the current “Guardian of the Ark of the Covenant.” Apparently, this man is part of a long line of specially trained keepers of the Ark. (Sort of sounds like the Grail Knight, who guarded the Holy Grail in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade.) Unfortunately (Conveniently-?), only the guardian is allowed to lay eyes on the Ark. A 105-year-old priest, who claimed to have seen it after one of the guardians died, described the object similar to the description in the Bible. The BASE Institute concludes St. Mary’s of Zion in Ethiopia “is the resting place either of an incredible replica of the biblical Ark of the Covenant, or, of the actual Ark of the Covenant itself,” though they didn’t see the Ark themselves.

Indiana_Chamber

 

ONE LAST BIBLICAL MENTION

There is one last mention of the Ark in the Bible, at the very end of the Bible in the very last book, the Book of Revelation. In this section, we see heaven’s temple opened to John in a vision, and “the ark of his covenant was seen within [God’s] temple” (11:19). The Book of Revelation is notoriously difficult to understand; it’s a highly symbolic book, and often it’s difficult to know what’s symbol and what’s to be understood literally. But the ESV Study Bible explains that this shows John being allowed to see deeper into God’s truth “to receive visions that expose the deepest perspectives on the church’s spiritual conflict.”

Does this mean the Ark is literally in heaven? Remember, Hebrews 8:5 tells us the earthly Temple was “a copy and shadow of the heavenly things.” But does that mean there’s a literal temple in heaven or that the Temple that existed in Jerusalem is a symbolic, physical representation of spiritual realities? I believe most theologians would lean towards the second.

Whether we understand this vision to be literal or symbolic, going closer to God in the earthly Temple would mean entering the innermost part of the Temple, the Most Holy Place, where the Ark of the Covenant once resided as the meeting place between God and man. Thus, this would be an appropriate symbol in the Book of Revelation of God allowing John access to deeper spiritual truths.

I do not believe the answer to “Where is the Ark?” is that it’s in heaven because of this verse in Revelation (as I saw one person suggest online). Here, I understand the image of the Ark as a symbol of spiritual truths. Nevertheless, an actual physical Ark did once exist; so, what happened to it?

As the religious law and ritual of the Old Testament has been fulfilled by Jesus’ death on the cross and God allowed the utter destruction of his Temple again (this time by the Romans) in 70 AD, the Ark is no longer needed because it has lost its significance. Followers of Christ don’t need priests, the Temple, nor the Ark to communicate with their heavenly Father. Because of this, I lean towards thinking the Ark has been destroyed and forever removed from history. But others believe the Ark is in hiding — laying in wait, if you will — only to be revealed again at the victorious return of Christ to reclaim his creation.

NEXT: (The final article of the series) Skeptics, legalists, and the superstitious come face-to-face with God’s wrath… DON’T LOOK MARION!!

Read Part 1: What’s a Covenant?

Read Part 2: What’s the Ark Anyway?

Read Part 3: What’s All This Old Testament Stuff About?

Read Part 4: The Ark in Action!

New from GFTM Blog: Available in paperback for $9.00 (or less) and Kindle version for $3.50 (or less) on Amazon. Or learn more here.

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Annual Christmas Comic 2015! Merry Christmas from GFTM!

For to us a child is born,
    to us a son is given;
and the government shall be upon his shoulder,
    and his name shall be called
Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
    Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. (Isaiah 9:6)

Merry Christmas!

–Steve & GFTM Blog

Click on the comic to enlarge it….

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Read past Christmas comics: 2014, 2013+, Early 2000’s

New from GFTM Blog: Available in paperback for $9.00 (or less) and Kindle version for $3.50 (or less) on Amazon. Or learn more here.

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Indiana Jones, the Lost Ark & the Temple of Blog (Part 4) The Ark in Action!

*Is “The army that carries the Ark before it is invincible”? Should Indy have listened to his friends’ warnings about the Ark?*

Read Part 1: What’s a Covenant?

Read Part 2: What’s the Ark Anyway?

Read Part 3: What’s All This Old Testament Stuff About?

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LET THE BODIES DROP

So, Indiana Jones goes on one heck of an adventure to find the lost Ark, but in the Bible the Ark itself participated in some adventures.

CANAAN

When Israel left Sinai and were nomadic in the wilderness, we’re told,

So they set out from the mount of the Lord three days’ journey. And the ark of the covenant of the Lord went before them three days’ journey, to seek out a resting place for them. And the cloud of the Lord was over them by day, whenever they set out from the camp.

And whenever the ark set out, Moses said, “Arise, O Lord, and let your enemies be scattered, and let those who hate you flee before you.” And when it rested, he said, “Return, O Lord, to the ten thousand thousands of Israel.” (Num. 10:33-36)

After Moses’ death, Israel, led by Joshua, set out to conquer Canaan, the Promised Land. Crossing the Jordan was an important milestone as the beginning of their conquest of God’s promised land, so just like God showed Israel a miracle by parting the Red Sea as they fled from the Egyptian Pharaoh, God showed he was with them by drying up the Jordan and allowing Israel to cross on dry ground. The Ark played a prominent role in this event.

As the feet of the priests carrying the Ark entered the Jordan, the water was cut off. The priests stayed within the dry riverbed holding the Ark until all of Israel crossed, and once the priests’ feet exited the river, the water flowed again. (See Joshua 3-4.)

Later, against the famous walled city of Jericho, Israel marched around the city outside its walls for seven days, once a day, led by seven priests with horns before the Ark. Then, after marching around the city seven times on the seventh day – according to the instructions of the LORD – the priests blew the horns, the Israelites let out a great shout, and the walls of Jericho fell and the city was conquered. (See Joshua 6.)

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But some of the people of Israel disobeyed God and took loot from Jericho, which they were commanded not to do. Thus, later, God allowed them to lose the battle of Ai. When Joshua, in grief and dismay, goes to the LORD in prayer, he “tore his clothes and fell to the earth on his face before the ark of the Lord until the evening” (Joshua 7:6).

Later, when Joshua renews the covenant between God and Israel, the people stood on opposite sides of the Ark as Joshua read to them all the words of the law given to them through Moses. Then, the Ark with them, Joshua and Israel continued on to conquer Canaan.

In Raiders of the Lost Ark, Indiana Jones’ colleague Marcus Brody tells the U.S. army agents, “The army that carries the Ark before it is invincible.” Brody is both right and wrong.

Yes, Israel is invincible because they have God’s favor and blessing with them represented by the Ark, but when Israel turns away from God’s ways, God turns away from them. Israel was still carrying the Ark with them at the defeat in Ai, yet because God wasn’t with them, they lost. The Ark has no power within itself; it’s not some magical object like we’d find in a movie with wizards. The power of the Ark is from God. This is a biblical truth Brody overlooks. The Nazis and Indy’s archenemy Belloq make this same theological mistake in thinking they can use the Ark’s power independently from God, and they pay a horrible price for this at the end of the movie.

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Further, Brody also says, “The Bible speaks of the Ark leveling mountains and laying waste to entire regions.” I found nothing in the Bible about the Ark doing any sort of mass destruction like this, nor anything like “lightning – fire – the power of God” shooting from the Ark at Israel’s enemies as depicted in the drawing in the book Indiana Jones shows to the army intelligence agents. The Israelites defeated their enemies with standard ancient combat weapons and techniques. The only exception (and the closest example of mass destruction associated with the Ark) is the falling of the walls of Jericho.

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THE PHILISTINES

But the warnings Indy receives about messing with the Ark do have a biblical basis. Brody says to Indy in a private conversation that his search for the Ark “is not something to be taken lightly.” Indy’s friend in Cairo, Sallah, echoes a similar warning, saying the Ark is “something men were not meant to disturb.” Indy doesn’t appear concerned, but he should be.

In the book of 1 Samuel, Eli served as high priest in the tabernacle in Shiloh where the Ark was housed. Eli’s two sons, Hophni and Phinehas, were wicked and exploited their positions as priests. When Israel lost in a battle against the Philistines, they promptly called for the Ark to be brought to the battlefield.

As soon as Hophni and Phinehas, as priests, brought the Ark into the army’s camp, the Israelites let out a great shout of joy. They knew victory was assured. The Philistines heard the shouts and were afraid and said, “A god has come into the camp… Woe to us! Who can deliver us from the power of these mighty gods? These are the gods who struck the Egyptians with every sort of plague in the wilderness” (1 Sam. 4:7-8).

It wasn’t uncommon for pagan armies to carry idols of their gods into war, but the pagan Philistines are a bit confused here. First, Israel believed in an invisible God, and no idols could be made of him (and even if they tried to make an idol to their invisible God, the making of idols was forbidden by God anyway). Secondly, Israel only had one God, but you can understand why the polytheistic pagans would have their facts mixed up, thinking Israel had “gods.” After all, the Israelites were the weirdoes of the Near Middle East, claiming there were only one God – and an invisible one at that! Yet, notice what the Philistines got right: they fear Israel’s God because they know what he did to Egypt during the exodus. If you really want to see the wrath of God, read Exodus.

But all that fear may have served the Philistines well because, after all of the shouting and woe, they actually win the battle! Hophni and Phinehas – the corrupt priests – are killed. And the Ark is captured. Upon hearing this news, the wife of Hophni lamented, “The glory has departed from Israel, for the ark of God has been captured” (1 Sam.4:22). The thing is, because of the corruption of the priesthood, God’s favor had already left Israel before the Ark was captured; this is the exact reason why the Ark was captured! Hophni’s wife makes the similar theological mistake as Hitler, the Nazis, and Belloq make in Radiers. Again, the Ark is not a source of power itself, but the source of the power of the Ark is God.

Now, this is where the fun begins.

The Philistines take the Ark to Ashdod and set it in the temple of their god Dagon, beside Dagon’s idol. This was nothing unusual. They had defeated their enemy and captured their God, so they would place their enemy’s God in subjugation to Dagon as a gift for their victory. But when they enter the temple the next day, Dagon is lying facedown before God’s Ark! So, the Philistines stand Dagon up again. The next morning, Dagon is not only prostrate before God’s Ark again, but his head and hands have been broken off!

(This reminds me of a small scene I love in Raiders: when the Ark is alone in a room of a cargo ship and the Nazi swastika on the crate containing the Ark mysteriously burns off.)

Then, God turns a heavy hand against the people of Ashdod and they are afflicted with tumors. So, they panic and move the Ark to Gath, and the people of Gath are now inflicted with tumors. So, they sent it to Ekron, but the people of Ekron weren’t messing with it; they gathered all of the lords of the Philistines and said, Send it back to Israel!

The Philistine priests and diviners said to send it back with guilt offerings, hoping God’s wrath would turn from them. They also told them to put the Ark on a cart led by two milk cows that have never been yoked before. If the cows carried the Ark back to Israel, then they would know Israel’s God had done these things to them – it wasn’t a coincidence.

The cows straight-away carried the Ark back to the Israelites in Beth-shemesh, but even there some Israelite men were struck down in the presence of the Ark because of their sin. (See 1 Samuel 4-7.)

Indy should heed his friends’ warnings.

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MOVING THE ARK AIN’T EASY

After the Ark’s return from the Philistines, it stayed in Kiriath-jearim in the house of Abinadab for 20 years (1 Sam.7:1-2). When David was king of Israel, he wanted to move it into his city, the City of David (Jerusalem), so he had a tent made for it. But they ran into a problem transporting the Ark.

They chose to move the Ark on a cart, celebrating along the way, but the celebration was brought to an abrupt end. A man named Uzzah had reached out to steady the Ark on the cart, and he was immediately struck dead! Understandably, David was afraid but also angry and dismayed. So, David abandoned his mission and moved the Ark to the house of Obed-Edom. After three months of no incidences with the Ark, and actually the house of Obed-Edom reported they were blessed during those three months, David decided to try to bring the Ark to Jerusalem again.

Again, David transported the Ark, along with all of Israel celebrating, David himself dancing “with all his might” (2 Sam. 6:14), but this time accompanied with some sacrifices and peace offerings. And David brought the Ark successfully into his city.

The record of this in 2 Samuel 6 gives no insight into why Uzzah was killed for touching the Ark. Considering what we know from Scripture about God and the Ark, we can make some informed guesses. If the Ark represents being in the presence of the one and only most holy God, death due to our sin should be expected when encountering God. Or perhaps the Israelites were sinning by not giving the Ark (and, thus, God) its proper reverence; maybe they were taking what they were doing lightly (like Indiana Jones).

When we turn to the parallel account of this event in 1 Chronicles 15, we find our answer; we get details we don’t find in the account in 2 Samuel. Before trying to move the Ark a second time, David gathered priests and Levites, the only people who are allowed to handle the Tabernacle, Ark, and other religious objects according to God’s commands, given way back in the day to Moses (and recorded in Exodus). David says to them,

“You are the heads of the fathers’ houses of the Levites. Consecrate yourselves, you and your brothers, so that you may bring up the ark of the Lord, the God of Israel, to the place that I have prepared for it. Because you did not carry it the first time, the Lord our God broke out against us, because we did not seek him according to the rule.” So the priests and the Levites consecrated themselves to bring up the ark of the Lord, the God of Israel. And the Levites carried the ark of God on their shoulders with the poles, as Moses had commanded according to the word of the Lord. (1 Chronicles 15:12-15)

Exodus 25:12-14 says,

You shall cast four rings of gold for it and put them on its four feet, two rings on the one side of it, and two rings on the other side of it. You shall make poles of acacia wood and overlay them with gold. And you shall put the poles into the rings on the sides of the ark to carry the ark by them.

So, in David’s second attempt, he brought the Ark into Jerusalem with proper reverence and in obedience to God’s directions, and the city celebrated as the Ark was brought into their presence.

NEXT: So, where did the Ark go??

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Read Part 1: What’s a Covenant?

Read Part 2: What’s the Ark Anyway?

Read Part 3: What’s All This Old Testament Stuff About?

New from GFTM Blog: Available in paperback for $9.00 (or less) and Kindle version for $3.50 (or less) on Amazon. Or learn more here.

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