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An Appeal to Russia from an 80-Year-Old Who Has Seen it All

 

"I recall the April night in 1951. At the time eight and a half thousand believers of our religion, that is, practically ALL, were deprived of their homes and taken to Siberia for permanent settlement. The life of thousands of believer was irreparably broken. Hundreds and hundreds passed through the camps. But they did not renounce their faith. And they did not become bitter. They always remained peaceful people, as Christ also commanded. Subsequently the state recognized us as victims of political repressions. And how blasphemously we again find ourselves in the position of dangerous criminals!"

If the Ministry of Justice achieves its [goal], believers will face up to 10 years in prison! Recently, after the liquidation of a registered congregation in Taganrog, 16 of our brothers and sisters in the faith were sentenced to large fines and several even to a 5-year suspended prison term—just for joint reading of the Bible. A new indictment may lead them to real prison terms.

For what? What are these people guilty of? That they, as seems to somebody, study the Bible "incorrectly"? That they consider their faith the only truth? Or are they guilty of not resorting to violence, following the gospel commandment: "put the sword into its sheath"?

We ask you who may influence the course of events, look the facts in the face objectively and impartially.


Thus writes Vasily Kalin, a Russian Witness of Jehovah

Find the complete text here.

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Tom Irregardless and Me             No Fake News but Plenty of Hogwash


Fear the King. Do Not Treat him With Disrespect

We should not 'laugh' at the spectacle of these guys not being able to move as freely because we have flooded their mail. If anything, we should apologize for it, with the caveat that the situation is desperate for us, we didn't know what else to do, and we felt we had to get their attention somehow. Fear the king. Do not treat him with disrespect.

To the extent any of us are indiscreet, making 'taunting' comments like "You think you're tough, big man? Well, wait till you see what OUR God can do," I can easily imagine someone at Bethel not being enthused over social media. I haven't seen many of these remarks, but I have seen some. If there's one thing we know about Russian police, it is that they want to be respected. And our brothers in Russia DO respect them, to be sure - it is just that they respect and fear and love Jehovah more. Before we make any comment, it seems well to ask ourselves whether a Russian brother would say it.

 

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Tom Irregardless and Me              No Fake News but Plenty of Hogwash

 


I'm Trying Not to Like the Rabbi, but I Can't Do It

“By the way, the rabbi’s [Tovia Singer] not buying this ‘love the Jews’ slogan, either. Doesn’t this Lutheran character know about Luther? Rabbi Singer writes:

Among all the church fathers and reformers, there was no mouth more vile, no lips that uttered more vulgar curses against the children of Israel than this founder of the Reformation whom you apparently revere. Even the anti-Semitism of the New Testament and the church fathers pales in comparison to the invectives launched by Luther’s impious tongue during his lifetime. Have you not read his odious volume entitled ‘Of the Jews and Their Lies’?’ Although evangelicals repeatedly declare that true believing Christians love the Jewish people, the annals of history clearly do not support this slogan. With few exceptions, the tormentors of the Jewish people emerged out of the fundamentalist genre of Christianity. Remarkably, denominations that evangelical Christians regard as heretical, such as Mormonism or the Jehovah’s Witnesses, do not have a strong history of anti-Semitism.

And while we’re at it, the rabbi also takes a swipe at Trinitarianism, which he wrongly equates with Christianity. Psalm 22 opens with “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” If these words are to be attributed to a Trinitarian Jesus on the cross, asks the rabbi, (Matthew 27:46) can it really be that God has forsaken himself? This is the sort of nonsense you have to buy into repeatedly when you accept the Trinity doctrine. It’s nonsense that clears up instantly once you appreciate that Jesus and his Father are two separate beings, just like any other son and father we can imagine. Indeed, that’s why the Bible uses that bit of personification: so as to highlight the closeness and harmony existing between them, while all the time making clear they are separate beings.

I tell you, it’s hard not to like the rabbi. Maybe it’s a ‘foe of my foe is my friend’ kind of thing. I’m trying my best not to like him. After all, if you get too fast and friendly with the other team’s quarterback, he’ll clobber you, like on the TV ad: “o yeah, baby, Geico’s as fast and friendly as it gets!”

But I can’t do it. I heard once that the Hasidic Jews in New York City aren’t nice to our people when they come calling; it doesn’t matter. I’ve heard the rabbi on the radio being interviewed by snarky religionists trying to crucify him. They interrupt him when he scores a point, they break for a commercial as he threatens to score another. He nonetheless treats them with deference. I respect his sincerity in safeguarding the ‘children of Israel.’ Besides, I like Jews. They are our origin. Everything about their worship is clean.

How can you not love Jewish folk humor? It’s irresistible. How can you not love Isaac Bashevis Singer’s short story friend whose metaphor for life was that of a chess against God. He’d get slaughtered with every move. But it wasn’t all bad. Nobody wants to waste their time on an unworthy opponent and it was a great honor playing against God.

The friend, a fixer, was called to fix a window casing. He was relieved to find the vile, jealous brute of a husband not at home, but his drop-dead gorgeous wife was there ill, bedridden. The fixer had to use a stepladder and reach over the woman to work on the casing. He slipped! He fell on top of the woman! Belt buckles locked and they couldn’t separate! At that moment, the door flew open; the husband had returned from work! His eyes and nostrils widened! He charged with fists clenched! Our hero had time for one thought only: “Masterful move, God! Absolutely brilliant!”

How can you not love it? Imagine - playing chess against God, but always in the spirit of devotion on the one side, fondness on the other. And when he grinds you into powder for the umpteenth time, he says:

 “Fine game, Tevye. You’re improving! Care for another match?”

The rabbi won’t like it that Judaism is our origin only; he’ll be mad it’s not our destination as well. Maybe put us into proximity someday and we will fight like cats and dogs. But today’s not the day. Isaac Bashevis Singer has seen to it.”

From the Ebook: Tom Irregardless and Me


When You are Writing the Russians, Tell Them Something They Don't Know

When you are writing to the Russians about their proposal to ban Jehovah’s Witnesses, there may be a temptation to speak of legal and constitutional issues, for their recent conduct flies in the face of many of them. There may be temptation to observe that, surely, ISIS provides the template of what extremism is. But I suspect leaders there are aware of these things and, for whatever reason, have chosen to ignore them. Image

Tell them something they don’t know. Tell them about eight million people, from every nation, who don’t know their Russian brothers personally, but care about them anyway. Let them ponder the significance of what if the whole world was like that. When they look to the outside world of international relations, all they see is bickering, bitching and bellyaching. Let them see another world.

Convey that we are ordinary, decent people, the sort who appreciates government’s role to preserve social order and improve the moral fabric of persons within its borders, and that we everywhere cooperate with governments as they pursue such goals. I like the suggestion at jw.org to relate some practical way in which the truth has helped us personally.

Imagine! An invitation from Bethel to write to high Russian officials about the proposed ban on Jehovah’s Witnesses. It is a fine way for individual Christians, most of whom feel quite helpless, to ‘bring their gift to the altar.’


How it Works with Persecution in Russia

“I was just a boy when Stalin exiled my family to Siberia merely because we were Jehovah’s Witnesses. It is sad and reprehensible that my children and grandchildren should be facing a similar fate. Never did I expect that we would again face the threat of religious persecution in modern Russia,” says Vasiliy Kalin, as Russia petitions the Supreme Court to ban Jehovah’s Witnesses.

Of course, it’s all going to go against us eventually in this system of things. When Jesus said his followers would be hailed before courts, it wasn’t so that they could receive ‘good citizenship’ plaques. When Jesus himself was dragged before Pilate, he didn’t sweet-talk his way out of it, did he?

It’s all the doings of the ‘house’ church. Many countries have house churches, who agree to be strictly subservient to the state. Russia, once officially atheist, found they could not stamp out the urge to worship, so they settled on the house church, which they seek to harness as a force for national unity. “What can we do for you?” they ask the house church. “Take out the competition,” is the reply. Image

Putin doesn’t care, most likely. It’s not his thing. “Give the house church what it wants,” he reasons. “That way I keep them out of my hair.” After all, he has a country to run. It was just that way with Pilate, who tried to get Jesus off, but in the end, gave in to fanatics.

‘What are they saying about me, here?’ said Paul to the Jewish leaders in Rome. ‘Are they digging up any dirt on me?’ But there was no internet in the first century, and snail mail was snail mail. “We have not received letters about you from Judea, nor have any of the brothers who came from there reported or spoken anything bad about you. But we think it proper to hear from you what your thought are, for truly as regards this sect, we know that it is spoken against everywhere,” they told him. (Acts 28:21-22)

It is a mark of true religion today. Depend upon it to be “spoken against everywhere.”

Surely, the house church make Russia look like utter fools on the world stage. You cannot view jw.org, banned in Russia and Russia alone, and think for one moment that it is extremist. One would think that ISIS would have taught the Russians what extremism is. Still, while we hate persecution and we pray for our Russian brothers under trial, persecution does often turn out for advancement of the good news. “Why are they making trouble for the Jehovahs?” some people ask. “They’re nice people.”

"In their literature, there are some very harsh statements and very insulting statements about other faiths," says Alexander Dvorkin, a former Russian Orthodox priest who now teaches the history of religion and cult studies at St. Tikhon University in Moscow. "Of course, every religion has the right to criticize other faiths, but that should be done in a non-insulting manner, especially if you are talking about [my faith] the faith of the majority." (brackets mine)

The reason you can and should criticize other faiths is that, as any non-religious person knows, religion has historically served as cheerleader of war and killing. That’s why a growing number of persons would like to ban it.

“Dvorkin says that the Jehovah's Witnesses are not Christian because they don't believe in the divinity of Christ.” (from NPR) Got it? It’s also violence at the hands of Trinitarians. A more intolerant bunch you will never see.


The Church Makes Them Look Like Utter Fools Before the World

Russia's a nation of laws, just like here, and there's no legal barrier now for those who hate us to shut down the Branch. The brothers lost a critical legal appeal at Moscow City Court.

Putin may not even know about it. He's had a lot on his plate lately.

Places like Russia favor the 'house' church. They don't necessarily believe it, they likely don't, but they favor it because it's a force for national unity. 'What can we do for you?' they ask. 'Take out the competition,' is the reply from the Church.

How could any brother in Russia not think it a remarkable coincidence? The enemies of Jehovah's Witnesses are fully empowered to close Bethel. And at Witness meetings worldwide this week was played the movie about how the Assyrian army was poised to destroy Jerusalem, and in one night a single angel destroyed them all. Yet the movie was made two years ago, and the Bible reading schedule that determines when to play it is many years old! Since it is based on mere sequential Bible reading, it is decades old.

 Hezekiah, the Israelite King, wasn't overconfident. He didn't assume God was going to bail him out - for maybe he wouldn't. He just knew that he was to trust fully in God and remain faithful. But I hate to see the brothers go through more harassment, if not total shut-down. They've been through so much already.

'Hey, remember that angel we dispatched to Jerusalem? I'm impressed with his portfolio. Check on his availability, won't you?' Is there that sort of discussion somewhere? Probably not. We tend to take it on the chin these days. But one day it may not be that way. For now, even Jesus, when he was hauled before Pilate, didn't sweet-talk his way out of it, did he?

Will it work that way? Or will world opinion prevail upon leaders there to carry on as every other nation does, Russia being the only nation on earth to ban JW.org. ImageIt's laughable. The Church makes them look like utter fools before the world. (not to mention it clobbers us) Nobody can watch JW.org and think it is, even to the tiniest degree, extremist.

Our brothers bear up under persecution when they must, and it often brings honest-hearted (and courageous) people into the fold. People say 'why are they making trouble for the Jehovah's? They're nice people.'

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'Tom Irregardless and Me*  30% free preview. After that, we'll talk, your people and mine.


A Field Service Experience

Years ago I called on a man and placed a set of magazines. I called on him again and placed another.

But then I called back and he said he no longer wanted them. His wife was allergic to newsprint.

“Look, just tell me you don’t like them,” I thought. “Lots of people don’t. I can live with that. “Allergic to newsprint! What a stupid excuse! Now I’ve heard them all.” Image

The man and his wife moved away. But some time after that I met them at a District Convention. By then, Bethel had switched to a higher-grade paper and he and his wife had made rapid progress.

They’re probably in the circuit work now that Bethel has gone digital, the last obstacle having been removed.


Persecution in Russia

Russia's a nation of laws, just like here, and there's no legal barrier now for those who hate us to shut down the Branch. The brothers lost a critical legal appeal at Moscow City Court.

Putin may not even know about it. He's had a lot on his plate lately.

Places like Russia favor the 'house' church. They don't necessarily believe it, they likely don't, but they favor it because it's a force for national unity. 'What can we do for you?' they ask. 'Take out the competition,' is the reply from the Church.

How could any brother in Russia not think it a remarkable coincidence? The enemies of Jehovah's Witnesses are fully empowered to close Bethel. And at Witness meetings worldwide this week was played the movie about how the Assyrian army was poised to destroy Jerusalem, and in one night a single angel destroyed them all. Yet the movie was made two years ago, and the Bible reading schedule that determines when to play it is many years old! Since it is based on mere sequential Bible reading, it is decades old.

 Hezekiah, the Israelite King, wasn't overconfident. He didn't assume God was going to bail him out - for maybe he wouldn't. He just knew that he was to trust fully in God and remain faithful. But I hate to see the brothers go through more harassment, if not total shut-down. They've been through so much already.

'Hey, remember that angel we dispatched to Jerusalem? I'm impressed with his portfolio. Check on his availability, won't you?' Is there that sort of discussion somewhere?

Will it work that way? Or will world opinion prevail upon leaders there to carry on as every other nation does, Russia being the only nation on earth to ban JW.org. ImageIt's laughable. The Church makes them look like utter fools before the world. (not to mention it kills us) Nobody can watch JW.org and think it is, even to the tiniest degree, extremist.

Our brothers bear up under persecution when they must, and it often brings honest-hearted (and courageous) people into the fold. People say 'why are they making trouble for the Jehovah's? They're nice people.'

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'Tom Irregardless and Me*  30% free preview. After that, we'll talk, your people and mine.


They Welcomed Back Charlie Rose at CBSThisMoring

They welcomed back Charlie Rose on CBSThisMorning. He’d been off a few weeks for heart surgery. His colleagues made a great fuss over him. Even Trump said ‘Welcome back, Charlie. We missed you.’ Even CBS, who hates Trump, ran the clip. Who doesn’t like it when enemies come together? Image

You know, I switched to CBS mostly because of him, but I liked him better personally when he stuck with PBS. There, he had freedom to interview newsmakers at any length he chose – sometimes 20 minutes, sometimes 2 hours. He’s perceptive in his interviews, and that talent can’t come across on razzle-dazzle network TV. Did he sell out? Yes and no. He didn’t give up PBS. He simply went for more exposure. Goodness knows I go for more exposure. I want to sell my books, which I like.

If anyone sold out, it is Larry King years ago. When I first heard of him in the 70’s, he was interviewing newsmakers for three hours on-air. The first hour was one-on-one. The second and third was moderating questions from the call-in audience. But he sold out to someone, and pretty soon he they had him doing only puff-pieces with celebrities, which aren’t as good.

Nonetheless, who am I to say? A person can do what he/she wants with his/her career. Sometimes people tire of the present and want to move on. Is that so wrong? They wouldn’t be able to (in my eyes) degrade unless they were up there in the first place. I was furious with Mary Tyler Moore for sinking the Dick Van Dyke show by leaving for a solo career. But why should she not? She made shows of her own, which I didn’t like as well. Not that hers were bad, it is just that Dick Van Dyke’s was so good.

But is there not an overall sad component to this? Charlie once stated he has enjoyed a wonderful career because he has been able to know so many newsmakers. Are they really worth knowing? I’ll take brothers and sisters in my circuit any day.

And surely there is also something tragic about hitting maximum exposure just as you know the clock is about to run out. It is why I value the JW faith, for only they explain how that came to be, and how it will be remedied.


The Great Forgetter

Rochester does its bit for the Book of Revelation. A windstorm with sustained gusts of up to 81 mph takes down trees everywhere. Does anybody have any extra shingles?

'Why is it so cold in here?' asks the 94 year old Great Forgetter.

RG&E says 90% of all customers will have power restored by end of Sunday.

'Why aren't we at the house?' asks the 94 year old Great Forgetter. Image

Where are my keys, anyhow?" asks the 94 year old Great Forgetter. "They're in my coat pocket, Pop," I answer. "Oh," he says.

"Where are my keys, again?" he asks for the 200th time.

For crying out loud, there must be some old keys around here."Here they are, Pop."

"These sure don't look my keys," he says. "Are you sure you're not pulling the wool over my eyes?"

"C'mon, Pop! Why would I do that?"

I successfully replaced a refrigerator because my wife said the old one was gross and made him think the new one was his! I bought him a junked car, had it towed and pushed into his garage so I could drive the one that was his and made him think the wrecker was his car! You don't think I ought to be able to sneak a few keys by him? Image

At considerable length, New York Governor Cuomo expounded upon the topic of how an unheated house gets cold in the winter, following the Rochester windstorm of 2017, during which 140,000 homes lost power. Don't learn the hard way, he urged. Go to where it's warm.

I was touched at his mother hen love and concern for the New York State family, for he does speak that way. But Dr. William Woo of the SPCA (science-philosopher-cheerleader-atheist) Institute harshly condemned the statement:

"Such sniveling mush is interfering with the very foundation of evolutionary science," he charged. "If they are too stupid to know a house unheated gets cold in the winter, the sooner you remove their genes from the gene pool the better. It is only through such harsh action, repeated countless times through the millenia, that natural selection can take place and intelligence such as I have in spades can develop." Image