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.

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