No Direct Mention of the 144,000

The new online Bible study lessons on JW.org does not directly mention the 144,000. Instead, it says of God’s kingdom with Christ as King: "God also selects others to be associate rulers with Jesus" and adds that "anyone who obeys its laws can be a citizen."

Good. The 144,000 is a yawner. Nobody cares. I never go there.

To clarify a little, some care, but it is analogous to the wonks on media absolutely obsessed over the doings of government and all its machinations, imagining that they reflect the interest of the ordinary people whose greatest hope towards government is that it will pave the roads, jail the bad guys, keep a few of its promises, and otherwise stay out of their hair.

A handful throughout history go on to rule with Christ in heaven. Good. It means the heavenly government has more of a feel for humanity than it would otherwise, first indicated by the fact that the King himself did time as a human.

That's all anyone really cares about, as they envision how God's Kingdom will bring relief from the incessant woes and travesties they suffer on earth. I barely go further with the 144,000 unless someone insists on it.

It is even now as one might explain ‘the Lord’s prayer’: “Thy Kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.” ‘Sure, God’s will is done in heaven,’ one might point out. ‘I mean, I assume he’s got everything running smoothly up there. But it is ‘on earth’ where we hope to see God’s will be done, as it will be when his Kingdom comes.’

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Dancing on the Edge

Sunday, July 24, 2011

If you stumble and just barely avert falling over the precipice, ought you thereafter assume it's okay to dance upon the spot? Yet that exactly what leaders are doing right now with the world's economic system.

The precipice was just two and a half years ago. Lest anyone think I exaggerate, here's the cover of the Economist that week*:

2011 7 24 world on the edge 
 

 
*not to be confused with 'What the the #@%! is Next'

The fear at the edge was palpable. Did George Bush really fret aloud that “this sucker may go down!”? Panicked into doing something....anything...fast, Congress passed legislation infusing massive cash transfers into critical financial institutions, “bailing them out.” Essentially, the government printed more money, to the tune of $17,000 per American, (cumulative amount of all bailouts) using new public debt, the “promise to pay,” as the asset backing it. And after some breathless days.....ah....safety at last! It seemed to work, after a fashion.

But two and a half years later, the edge is back! Another related crisis, with consequences just as dire if its bungled. Come August 2nd, the United States....the world's largest borrower....will default on its debts unless Congress authorizes a higher borrowing limit. They've done this scores of times in the past, but this time they're stuck. How to do it? Cut spending (a lot), increase taxes (a lot), or kick the can down the road to deal with later? Always, the 3rd option has won out, but maybe not this time.

At present, 41 cents of every dollar spent is borrowed money, and credit rating agencies say they'll downgrade the U.S. credit rating in the absence of more financial discipline. They can't be bombed into submission, so it's a mixture of options 1 and 2, and nobody can agree on just what that mixture should be. So Congress and the President have been squabbling and stonewalling down to the present....dancing upon the edge...terms like 'financial Armeggedon' are bandied about in the event they do not succeed. Even to come near the date without an agreement is said to freak out the markets, which have always assumed that somehow these characters will get their act together.

But Friday (July 22nd) there was 'meltdown' in the negotiations and PBS commentators Mark Shields and David Brooks, never at a loss for words about anything, were dumbfounded:

MARK SHIELDS: Jim, what you have just seen is the rupture of the summit.....  And the time is now short. I mean, the grand deal appears to be in shambles. And now the urgency is to raise the debt-ceiling and get it done.

DAVID BROOKS: Yes, shambles, a complete meltdown, apparently. I have never seen a presidential press conference with a president so angry in public.....if those [terms of a proposed agreement] are real, then I think it was a pretty good deal. But the president's tone of being the only adult in Washington, everyone else is a child, that he's going to summon people to the White House as if they are kindergartners, well, even if you agree with them on the substance, it's kind of hard to go along with someone who is insulting you all the time.

MARK SHIELDS:
.....And now we're down to the point of, you know, look, we're staring right down the barrel of Aug. 2.

…..JIM LEHRER: Is it conceivable that they will not make a deal, or they will make it in such a way that the government of the United States of America will actually go into default?

DAVID BROOKS: Yes, I had been going in thinking there was a 10 or 20 percent chance of that. Now I would move that up to 30 or so.......

MARK SHIELDS: I still -- I'm just -- my native optimism just insists that these -- in the final analysis, they're not partisans, they're grownups, they're Americans, and they know how far how grave the consequences are.

JIM LEHRER: But then why are they acting the way they're acting?

MARK SHIELDS: It's -- it -- Jim, it's a question that I don't have the answer for.

 (Greatly abbreviated. Click above for the full transcript)

 

Of course, the public seethes over this and threatens to vote everyone out come next election. But surely that's a tired response. For people haven't been betrayed by their leaders....who are only doing just what one would expect them to do given the dramatically opposed constituencies they represent. This is the classic “iron mixed with clay” of Daniel 2:42-43. They're honorable people, for the most part, doing their best. Looking out for themselves at the same time, no doubt, but who doesn't? Rather, people have been betrayed by an idea....namely, that human rule, in this case government “by the people,”....works, and can solve our ever-deepening woes.

Oh yeah, Tom Sheepandgoats, oh yeah!? Well, if you don't think 'government by the people' works, tell me of some government you like better. Exactly.......I can't. They all have strengths. They all have weaknesses. And in each case, the former is outweighed by the latter. It simply goes to show that human rule itself is the problem, and that “we need the Kingdom”.... that heavenly Kingdom which the Bible speaks of and which Jehovah's Witnesses publicize.

But human self-rule is an article of faith unrivaled among notions today. Nobody likes to throw dirt at it. So instead they throw dirt at the persons involved, thinking they are the problem, and not the system itself. Yet the Congressmen themselves feel betrayed. They give their all to a system, believing as strongly as any religionist that that system will deliver, only to retire disillusioned, though always replaced by someone new who hasn't yet learned the lesson. Said Senator John Danforth, back in 1981: "I have never seen more Senators express discontent with their jobs....I think the major cause is that, deep down in our hearts, we have been accomplices in doing something terrible and unforgivable to our wonderful country. Deep down in our heart, we know that we have given our children a legacy of bankruptcy. We have defrauded our country to get ourselves elected."

 

Partly accounting for government truculence on economic matters is that past solutions have not proven effective. Accordingly, Senator Ron Paul grilled Fed Chief Ben Bernanke on the $17K per American ($5.1 trillion total) given to bail out the banks. Since there's been no discernible economic benefit, he mused, the Fed could have simply given each and every American $17,000.

Consumer spending would have increased, surely. And consumers could catch up on their loans, or even pay them off, so the bank would hardly suffer. And some might pool their allotments together, forming new enterprises and creating new jobs. Instead, the banks were given the $5.1 trillion directly, for their liquidity, while still holding ordinary persons on the hook for the full amount of whatever they might owe.

But Paul rushed his questions and cut off Bernanke's answers. Why? Senate sub-committee rules: he's only allotted 5 minutes! Right! And if it was the end of the world he was speaking about, he'd only have two minutes! But if it was the brand of coffee to be served during breaks, for that maybe he'd have 60 minutes or more. Shades of Parkinson's Law, if ever there existed any.


I tell you, this is absolutely amazing. And it comes right down to the wire. Perhaps the 30% chance of disaster will not occur just now, and will be postponed a bit. But the answer, God's Kingdom, is being steadily proclaimed unitedly the world over. And yet, because it's proclaimed by humble, ordinary people, it's largely ignored. After all, how many Jehovah's Witnesses have gone to Harvard? How many of them are wealthy and influential?

“For the speech about the torture stake [cross] is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is God’s power. For it is written: “I will make the wisdom of the wise [men] perish, and the intelligence of the intellectual [men] I will shove aside.” Where is the wise man? Where the scribe? Where the debater of this system of things? Did not God make the wisdom of the world foolish? For since, in the wisdom of God, the world through its wisdom did not get to know God, God saw good through the foolishness of what is preached to save those believing.”    Rom 1:18-21

You know, the wisdom of the world does look foolish these days. More foolish all the time. And more disheartening for those who trust in it.

 


Income, Religion, and Jehovah's Witnesses

Pew Foundation recently studied the correlation between religion and average income. They published their results. Anyone religious dropped whatever they were doing to check just where they stood on the list. I know I did. Toward the top, hopefully. That's where I wanted to be. I mean, nobody wants to be in one of those loser religions at the bottom. If you're not making a lot of money, then....let us not mince words here.....what good are you?

But as I checked my ranking, I did so with trepidation. I was hopeful, but still I had my heart in my mouth. See, as one of Jehovah's Witnesses, I knew very well I wouldn't rank at the top. Maybe middle of the pack. Surely I must rate higher than the …....OH NO!!! DEAD LAST!! Well, almost. Right down there with the Pentecostals, who are slightly lower.

Oh, the dishonor! I tell you, I was absolutely mortified. I pulled the shades down, turned off the phone, and didn't leave the house for a month. How could I face anyone? I thought and thought and thought, but couldn't work around the disgrace.

But then I thought some more and I could.

If members eschewing Christianity actually apply the Bible in their lives, will that not, in itself, put them at the low end of the spectrum? Any number of passages advise living simply. For example, from 1 Tim 6:7-8

"For we have brought nothing into the world, and neither can we carry anything out. So, having sustenance and covering, we shall be content with these things."

Seen in this light, it's almost a badge of honor to be on the low end of the spectrum. It's evidence that your group really is content with sustenance and covering, just like Paul said. Yours is a faith that doesn't just shunt aside such verses so as not to distract from what's really important: making money. Just the thought that religious folk get smug when they see themselves at the top of the scale steams me. Ought they not be embarrassed to be there? At least, if they profess Christianity? And yet, for the most part, the blogosphere had it 180 degrees backwards: with writers chest-thumping for those at the top, and hoo-hawing those dopes at the bottom.

But again, it's not the Christian pattern:

“Stop storing up for yourselves treasures upon the earth, where moth and rust consume, and where thieves break in and steal. Rather, store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust consumes, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also."            Matt 6;19-21

 


And


“No one can slave for two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will stick to the one and despise the other. you cannot slave for God and for Riches."       Matt 6:24

And

"For all these are the [material] things the nations are eagerly pursuing. For your heavenly Father knows you need all these things. Keep on, then, seeking first the kingdom and his righteousness, and all these [other] things will be added to you."    Matt 6:32-33
 

Other than Jehovah's Witnesses, is there anyone who actually does this? “Seek first the kingdom,” instead of “eagerly pursuing” material things, trusting that “your heavenly Father "knows you need all these things” and will "add them to you"? I've no doubt there are individuals who apply such counsel, swimming against the tide of their own churches. But are there entire religions who apply such counsel, other than Jehovah's Witnesses? I tell you, it makes me proud to be a Witness. We're all about seeking first the kingdom.

But if your main goal is advancing in your secular career, using religion mostly to put a smilely, softening face on that quest, you won't be attracted to Jehovah's Witnesses. That's not us. We “seek the kingdom,” acting upon such verses as Matt 24:14:

“And this good news of the kingdom will be preached in all the inhabited earth for a witness to all the nations; and then the end will come.”  Obviously, the good news of the kingdom will be preached by those who believe in it. Who else is going to do it? So we adjust our lives to have such a role, rather than chase after money.

And Jesus approached and spoke to them, saying: “All authority has been given me in heaven and on the earth. Go therefore and make disciples of people of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the holy spirit, teaching them to observe all the things I have commanded you. And, look! I am with you all the days until the conclusion of the system of things.”   Matt 28:18-20

You don't make yourselves wealthy doing that. You're not going to be at the high end of the Pew spectrum. Money's going to be a tool for you, not an end in itself. You're deliberate in your choices. You don't want your work so low-paying that no time' s left over for the ministry. But neither do you want work so engrossing and demanding that no time remains for the ministry. You maneuver yourself to get into that position. Believe me, it's a great balancing act, especially for one with a family. It's not easy. It requires planning. Some have even come to regret decisions they've made. But we don't just blindly chase after maximum income, putting material things above all else, which is the pattern of the Western world, if not all humanity.

For example, the Watchtower recently (3/15/11 issue) advised

…...Of course, God does not want you to be imprudent or irresponsible, especially if you have a family to care for. (1 Tim 5:8) but he does expect his servants to trust fully in him – not in Satan's dying world – Heb 13:5

Consider the example of Richard and Ruth, parents of three young children. ….“I had a comfortable life but felt that I was just giving God my surplus, as it were. After praying about the matter and counting the cost, Ruth and I agreed that I would ask my supervisor for a reduced work schedule of four days a week – even though the country was in the middle of an economic crisis. My request was approved, and I started working the new schedule within one month.” How does Richard feel now?

“I get 20 percent less pay than before,” he says, “but now I have an extra 50 days a year to be with my family and train the children. I have been able to double my time in field service, triple my number of Bible studies, and take a greater lead in the congregation.”

He's not worried about lousing up the Pew spectrum, is he? Talk about “counting the costs!” This fellow has counting down to a fine art. Does anyone other than Watchtower publish such counsel? You know religions embrace, if not sanctify, the pursuit of career...if for no other reason that they know they'll get a percentage of the lucrative income. But who actually encourages their people to live simply, besides Jehovah's Witnesses? Even our wealthy ones.....for we have some...the Pew figure is merely the average on a bell curve...are not gushed over and boasted about, as is typical in religion today. Like this fellow in “Never Forget the Door to Door Ministry,” who I mentioned in the post “The New Cool Mormons.” I know him. I've been to his house. His work has prospered. He became (I assume) a millionaire. Yet when the Watchtower features his colorful life story, it doesn't even mention his material success. It's not what's important. Probably the next guy written about didn't have two nickels to rub together. The focus is purely spiritual.

So, it's not so shameful to be at the bottom of the Pew list, after all. Rather, for a Christian, it's shameful not to be there.

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Tom Irregardless and Me    No Fake News but Plenty of Hogwash 


Hiking Around the World

The District Overseer's going to walk around the earth. He told us so at the Circuit Assembly. He's not going now, of course. He'll go in the new system. Probably well into the new system, not on day one. He'll backpack, I guess. Go with his wife.

He doesn't worry that he may not get the time off. He will. He doesn't worry about problems crossing the border.* There won't be any borders. He doesn't worry about terrorists. They'll be gone. He doesn't even worry about nasty people. There won't be any of those, either. He's counting on Isa 11:6 taking place:

And the wolf will actually reside for a while with the male lamb, and with the kid the leopard itself will lie down, and the calf and the maned young lion and the well-fed animal all together; and a mere little boy will be leader over them. And the cow and the bear themselves will feed; together their young ones will lie down. And even the lion will eat straw just like the bull. And the sucking child will certainly play upon the hole of the cobra; and upon the light aperture of a poisonous snake will a weaned child actually put his own hand. They will not do any harm or cause any ruin in all my holy mountain; because the earth will certainly be filled with the knowledge of Jehovah as the waters are covering the very sea.    

So he won't get attacked by wolves or leopards or cobras or whatever, abundant and free-roaming though they will be. But he also won't be contending with people with personalities like those of wild beasts. After all, the “knowledge of Jehovah” is not something animals learn about. People do. Even now, there's plenty of people who've swapped animalistic personalities for peaceful ones upon applying Bible principles (and, alas, some who have gone the other way, abandoning faith to revert back to “this life is all there is” mode).

The District Overseer's not worried about money. You won't need any in the new system. (do we really know that?) He's not worried about where to stay. Everyone will be hospitable. He's not worried about much, is he? He's probably not even worried about the weather. This last item he did not specifically mention...I just threw it in...because weather is a big deal for us in Rochester this time of year. This has been a tough winter. But when March 1rst rolls around, it's like how you feel when you've finally called the cops to throw that drunk out of your house. You know he won't go quietly. He'll probably break a lamp or two on the way out. But he'll be gone soon. And so it is with this winter. Before you know it, the Lilac Festival will be here.

I like talks like the District Overseer gave. They're a little childlike, but let's face it, Jehovah's Witnesses have a lot of child in them. We haven't thrown that part of ourselves away. When we first learned of the Bible hope...living forever on a paradise earth....it resonated deep within us. So it's good to be reminded of that initial thrill from time to time. Otherwise, the aggravations of daily life can squeeze it out.

People nowadays get so cultured and refined and dignified and carry on about their business doings and the least turn of politics, that pretty soon you can hardly stand to be around them. But Jehovah's Witnesses....naw, we're not too sophisticated. We like the idea of walking around the earth in the new system. Not that the pull toward greatness and savvy can't take hold of anyone....it can. We, too,  can get caught up in the minor skirmishes of business like everyone else, and start to carry on about it, if we don't ground ourselves in what's really important. Probably that's what's behind Jame's advice to certain characters he came across in the congregation:

Come, now, you who say: “Today or tomorrow we will journey to this city and will spend a year there, and we will engage in business and make profits,” whereas you do not know what your life will be tomorrow. For you are a mist appearing for a little while and then disappearing. Instead, you ought to say: “If Jehovah wills, we shall live and also do this or that.    James 4:13-15

(sigh....Torre took this verse very literally, and you couldn't tell him you were doing anything without his correcting you: “IF Jehovah's wills, you will do.….,” he'd point out.)

Paradise earth is a tenet pretty much unique to Jehovah's Witnesses. Everyone else is just passing through, you understand, just doing their time. They're all heaven-bound! Though depending on a church's fundamentalist quotient, some won't quite make it. They end up in hell, burning forever and ever and ever, even though their misdeeds on earth spanned only a few decades! They also tell me of some fundamentalists who attempt to tack on paradise earth sort of as a vague afterthought, since several plain-as-day verses insist upon it. But it doesn't really fit in with their overall view, so the result is a kind of theological mush.

But the JW hope is everlasting life on a paradise earth. That's why the D.O. can carry on about walking the globe and strike a chord with all listening. After all, where, according to the Bible, did God put his human creation? Wasn't it on earth? And why did he put them there? Wasn't it because that's where he wanted them? They'd be there still were it not for an early rebellion. So how is it that God changed tactics somewhere along the line and decided to bring everyone to heaven?

Everyone knows that Jesus, while dying impaled, was flanked by two wrongdoers, one on either side of him. And one said: “Jesus, remember me when you get into your kingdom.” to which he answered: “Truly I tell you today, you will be with me in Paradise.”  Luke 23:43

Search as you may, you will not find a translation that renders the subject of Luke 23:43 as anything other than “paradise.” (let me know if you find one; I couldn't) However, the Complete Jewish Bible renders the verse: Yeshua said to him, "Yes! I promise that you will be with me today in Gan-`Eden."  That's as in Garden of Eden, as the word Eden itself means (in Hebrew) “park-like garden.” Right! A paradise earth.

As regards the heavens, to Jehovah the heavens belong, but the earth he has given to the sons of men.  (Ps 115:16)

To be sure, humans today are rapidly “ruining the earth,” but doesn't the Bible point to a time when “God will bring to ruin those ruining the earth?” (Rev 11:18) Once that has taken place, once God's Kingdom rules over the earth, and we all get into swing of things, at that time the D.O's making his trek.

Oh, alright, alright! So there are some who are going to heaven. But in the overall picture for humans, it's but a tiny footnote. I should have a dollar for everyone on the internet who supposes he's found the hidden Achilles heal of Jehovah's Witnesses: “Only 144,000 are going to heaven, yet there's millions of JWs! HA! So that's why they go door to door looking for converts...they're competing with each other, trying to squeeze into a room not large enough for all of them!"  Sheesh!

Look, life on a paradise earth is not second class for us. It's the fulfillment of God's original purpose. But the Bible also speaks of a "sacred secret," (Colossians 1:26) a "secret" first made known to the early Christian congregation, that there would be some from humankind, a comparatively tiny number, who would share in  rulership of the heavenly government. Since this "secret" was made known shortly after Christ's resurrection, and there are only 144,000 of these who will serve as "kings and priests, very few of them are on earth today. Most, we maintain, have long since lived their lives and been resurrected to heavenly life.

Selection of the 144,000 didn't even begin until after Christ's resurrection. That's why Christ is called the “firstfruits” of the "harvest.” He was first. Thus, Matt 11:11 makes sense: “…....among those born of women there has not been raised up a greater than John the Baptist; but a person that is a lesser one in the kingdom of the heavens is greater than he is.” When John was alive and active, the heavenly calling had not yet begun.

Ask them what they're going to do there....all those folks you meet who's churches say they're going to heaven. They haven't a clue. But Rev 5:10 says of all those with the heavenly hope: “…...with your [Jesus'] blood you bought persons for God out of every tribe and tongue and people and nation, and you made them to be a kingdom and priests to our God, and they are to rule as kings over the earth”

Now, not everyone can be a chief, can they? Not everyone can rule. Not everyone can be “inside the beltway.” There have to be some Indians. That's what the D.O. is, and all the rest of us with the earthly hope. And that's why he looks forward to hiking that great future Appalachian trail stretching around the globe.

...........................................

*like I had returning from Canada.

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Tom Irregardless and Me      No Fake News but Plenty of Hogwash 


Cake, Fruit, and the Limits of Reason

It was irksome when those atheists put up their "Let Reason Prevail" billboard right next to that Illinois State Capitol Nativity Scene - that much was immediately apparent. But putting my finger on just why it was irksome required more effort. Of course, I immediately shouldered the task. Was it the presumption, by the sign's authors, that they held a monopoly on "reason?" Partly. Was it the crassness of plunking it next to the Nativity Scene, as though it, too, offered a message of hope? Closer. In fact, I prematurely declared, that was IT!

However, you don't necessarily express your innermost fears on the internet, to be pawed over by all and sundry.  In truth I was anything but convinced that my answer was IT. Something was still missing. I've tossed and turned each night since. 

Until now. For now I see clearly what was lacking: scientific indication! We all know today that one ought not think anything without first checking with scientists, yet I had done exactly that! Well....no more! Diligently consulting tomes of research, I came across an experiment that blew that silly "Let Reason Prevail" slogan sky-high. Reason cannot prevail among humans. We're not capable of it. We can muster a fair effort when distractions are few. But add in any significant stress, and human reasoning ability goes right to hell. It's hard to come to any other conclusion after pondering the cake-fruit experiment of a few years back. Alas, it's received only the publicity of light fluff news. It deserves more, as it holds unsettling implications for any future based on the veneration of reason.

The cake-fruit experiment unfolded thus: (as discussed on NPR Morning Edition) In 1999, Stanford University professor Baba Shiv enrolled a few dozen undergraduates and gave each a number to memorize. Then, one at a time, they were to leave the room and walk down a corridor to another room, where someone would be waiting to take their number. That's what they were told, anyhow.

On the way down, however, participants were approached by a friendly woman carrying a tray. 'To show our thanks for taking part in our study,' she said, 'we'd like to offer you a snack. You have a choice of two. A nice piece of chocolate cake. Or a delicious fruit salad. Which would you like?'

Now, unbeknownst to each participant, some had been given two-digit numbers to memorize, and some had been given seven-digit numbers. When Shiv tallied up the choices made (for that was the object of the experiment) he found that those students with seven digits to remember were nearly twice as likely to choose the cake as those given two digits! Two digits - you choose fruit. Seven digits - you choose cake. What could possibly account for that?

The reason, Shiv theorized, is that once you weed out the occasional oddball, we all like cake more than fruit. It tastes better. But we also all know that fruit is better for us, for cake makes us fat and promotes tooth decay. This is a rational assessment that almost all of us would make. But if our minds are taxed with trying to retain 7 digits instead of a no-brainer 2, rationality goes right out the window, and the emotional "yummy, cake!" wins out! 'The astounding thing here,' said the Wall Street Journal's Jonah Lehrer, reviewing the experiment, 'is not simply that sometimes emotion wins over reason. Its how easily it wins.'

Now, this experiment was not taken very seriously by anyone. When the media covered it at all, they treated it as fluff - a transitional piece going in to or out of more serious news. "Oh, so that's why I pig out after a hard day at work here," giggling HappyNews people would tell each other on TV. But plainly, the experiment holds deeper significance. Aren't world leaders also susceptible to emotion trumping rationality? Daily they grapple to solve the woes afflicting us all. Meanwhile, opponents seek to undermine them and media outlets try dig up dirt on them. If it takes only five extra digits for emotion to overpower reason, do you really think there is the slightest chance that "reason will prevail" among the world's policymakers, immersed in matters much more vexing (and urgent) than choosing between cake and fruit? Has it up till now?

THAT'S what's so irksome about the "Let Reason Prevail." slogan. Reason cannot prevail among imperfect humans! It can occur, but it cannot prevail. Humans are not capable of it.  Five digits is all it takes for our rational facade to crumble!

Now, if there is one thing Jehovah's Witnesses are known for, it's their insistence that humans do not have the ability to govern themselves. Everyone else (among Christendom) accepts the present setup of squabbling nations as a given and prays for God to somehow bless the leaders running it - usually with the proviso that whatever country they're in emerge on top (or at least intact). Doesn't matter too much, though, since said religionists are all heavenbound! Just passing through, you understand. So while one might not like staying in a crummy hotel, you can at least console yourself that it's only for a night or two.

Not so Jehovah's Witnesses. Earth is where God meant us to be, so that is where we focus. Like the psalm says: (115:16) "As regards the heavens, to Jehovah the heavens belong, but the earth he has given to the sons of men."  And our view that humans are incapable of governing the earth is no more than acknowledging the words of Jeremiah:  "I well know, O Jehovah, that to earthling man his way does not belong. It does not belong to man who is walking even to direct his step." (Jer 10:23) And: "The wise ones have become ashamed. They have become terrified and will be caught. Look! They have rejected the very word of Jehovah, and what wisdom do they have?" (Jer 8:9) In other words, today's calamitous conditions aren't really a surprise to those who've immersed themselves in Bible instruction. It's what they've always expected. They're not stuck with the pathetic hope that voting out the incumbents will somehow bring in a more amenable bunch of politicians among whom "reason can prevail." It's human rule itself that's at fault.

You could almost view it that God himself is conducting an experiment, just like Baba Shiv. Not that it was his purpose, but when humans insisted on setting their own standards of "good and bad," rejecting his sovereignty, he said "Go ahead.....for such-and-such an amount of time see if you can make good on your claim of self-government. When the times runs out, then.....we'll see." Isn't this the meaning of those early Genesis chapters? Isn't the grand experiment of human self-rule ending exactly as the Bible foretold it would? And doesn't it show, as any novice JW will tell you.....sometimes a bit parrotlike, but true nonetheless, that "it just goes to show we need the Kingdom." Announcing this Kingdom, so that people may align themselves with it, is the purpose of the Witnesses' public ministry.....................see also here

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Tom Irregardless and Me   No Fake News but Plenty of Hogwash


Mean Things God Doesn't Do - Part 1

When Katrina flooded New Orleans back in 2005, Pat Robertson promptly announced the reason. It was God. God did it, he declared, because of the city's abortions and homosexuals. This made New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin mad...hopping mad, and he jumped in to set the record straight. God did not destroy New Orleans because of abortions and homosexuals, he stormed.

He destroyed it because of the war in Iraq and disunity among its black residents.

No one thinks, apparently, that locating a coastal city below sea level yet in the path of hurricanes might have anything to do with it. No! It's all God. God destroyed that city for....well....pick your reason. But whatever reason you pick, have no doubt that God did it. Even insurance companies have long acquiesced to the language; natural disasters, they tell us in their policies, are "acts of God," whereas every non-religious person says, quite sensibly, if a bit crudely, that "shit happens." Which is it - "acts of God" or "shit happens"? Moreover, if such calamities are not really caused by God, does not church instruction that they are amount to monstrous slander against him?

Now, I recently came across a religious blogger who says he can accept God smiting New Orleans, or anywhere else, because "God is Sovereign" and thus can do whatever he wants! I swear, it's a wonder we're not all atheists! You don't think it might be nice for God to warn the "non-guilty" so they can clear out before the smiting starts?  And what's so especially wicked about New Orleans? People aren't creampuffs up here in Rochester either, I assure you - why single out Louisiana folk? Atheists may say rotten things about God, but the really nasty things come from those who claim to be his friends! They don't do it on purpose, of course, but they buy into longstanding doctrines - nonsensical and unscriptural doctrines- that unfailingly paint them into moral corners. With friends like these, so the saying goes, who needs enemies?

There is an explanation for disasters. The churches don't offer it, but it is this: If you've voted the Republicans into power, you can't be upset that Democrat policies aren't being carried out (or vice-versa). Everyone knows that. And with only minimal exaggeration, the same reasoning can be applied to spiritual matters. There is a "party" that offers control over natural forces. That party is God's Kingdom, as in "thy Kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven." (Matt 6:10) Alas, last time there was an "election" back in Genesis days, God's rulership was rejected in favor of human rulership - rulership which can't control the weather or the economy or health or peace or very much else.

Control of natural forces? An attribute of God's Kingdom? Why not? Consider the account at Mark 4:37-41:

And on that day, when evening had fallen, he [Jesus] said to them: “Let us cross to the other shore.” So, after they had dismissed the crowd, they took him in the boat, just as he was, and there were other boats with him. Now a great violent windstorm broke out, and the waves kept dashing into the boat, so that the boat was close to being swamped. But he was in the stern, sleeping upon a pillow. So they woke him up and said to him: “Teacher, do you not care that we are about to perish?” With that he roused himself and rebuked the wind and said to the sea: “Hush! Be quiet!” And the wind abated, and a great calm set in. So he said to them: “Why are you fainthearted? Do you not yet have any faith?” But they felt an unusual fear, and they would say to one another: “Who really is this, because even the wind and the sea obey him?” 

Rejecting God's right to rule, as was done in Eden at man's start, has had long-standing, terrible consequences. God has responded by allowing humans to make good on their claim that they can govern themselves without him. He's set aside a block of time during which humans can devise schemes of government, harness the power of science, improvise their own economies, philosophies, moralities, and so forth. When that time runs out, and all such schemes have fallen flat, (aren't they doing that now?) God brings about his own rulership, the same rulership he purposed from the start but which he allowed to be briefly diverted so that humans might carry out their experiment of self-rule. That, in a nutshell, is the Bible's explanation for present abysmal conditions, as outlined here and (for atheists) here.


It's an explanation that makes splendid sense, but accepting it means rejecting some cherished church beliefs, such as the dogma that earth is but a temporary home upon which people prove their fitness for their ultimate destiny in heaven or hell. Unwilling to part with such unscriptural notions, what is there left to church teachers other than to defend each and every natural disaster as part of God's plan? Thus, Katrina, 911, tsunami 2004, earthquake after earthquake - tragedies that haphazardly ruin rich and poor, good and bad, old and young, all such calamities are manifestations of God's will, say his friends! He's Sovereign. He can do what he wants. Don't try to figure it out. His ways are higher than ours. Though such events give not the slightest appearance of wisdom, love, or justice, we're told to accept them as such! (And to think some detractors accuse us of being told what to believe!) Does God really need enemies, with friends that say such things about him?

One reason people become Jehovah's Witnesses is that they don't buy into such a moral vacuum. They look, instead, to when God's permission of human rule runs out, at which time he brings about his own 'kingdom.' The Lord's prayer points to that time:


Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name.
Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven.
  (Matt 6:9-10)

The Book of Daniel points to it:

And in the days of these kings shall the God of heaven set up a kingdom, which shall never be destroyed: and the kingdom shall not be left to other people, but it shall break in pieces and consume all these kingdoms, and it shall stand for ever.  (Dan 2:44)

Revelation points to it:

And I John saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a great voice out of heaven saying, Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and he will dwell with them, and they shall be his people, and God himself shall be with them, and be their God.  (Rev 21:2-3) 

Note above that they're not angels; they're men - people -  and New Jerusalem stands for God's government over all the earth, just as literal Jerusalem stood for God's government over his ancient people.

Several Old Testament verses prophetically point to it. For example, Ps 93:1

Jehovah himself has become king! Let the earth be joyful. Let the many islands rejoice

But here we run into something peculiar. Most Bible's don't say "has become," as the New World Translation does. Some do, such as Young's Literal Translation, J.B. Rotherham Emphasized, and Douay-Rheim. But most say that God "is reigning," or something similar. What's with that?

It turns out that the Hebrew verb has two tenses: perfect and imperfect. The perfect tense is used to convey action completed. Events in the past would likely be described with the perfect tense. But, oddly, future events may also be conveyed with the perfect tense, when the writer regards their fulfillment as absolutely certain. The imperfect tense, on the other hand, denotes a work in progress, an ongoing action. Also, everyone acknowledges context plays its part in determining how to translate the perfect or imperfect tense.

The verb "reign" [malakh] in Ps 93:1 is in the perfect tense. It therefore seems that malakh should be rendered as an action completed, and not "reigning," as in an ongoing process. The New World Translation, and a handful of others, has thus translated it that way. And why do most others translate it "reigning?" Apparently due to their perception of doctrinal context - if God "has become king," they reason, there must have been a time when he was not king, and they can't get their heads around that. However, Jehovah's Witnesses side with Sigmund Mowinckel, who wrote in his 1962 book Psalms in Israel’s Worship:

 ...it is not a valid objection to say that Yahweh had, according to the Israelite view, always been king. The latter statement is correct enough . . . but in the cult the fact of salvation is re-experienced as a new and actual reality. Yahweh is ever anew witnessed as ‘coming’, ‘revealing himself’, and doing works of salvation on earth. The Israelite idea of God was not static but dynamic. Israel did not regard the Lord principally as sitting in calm possession and execution of his divine power, but as one who rises and seizes the power, and wields it in mighty works. And this is as a rule concretely pictured; from the ‘mythical’ side this is seen epically and dramatically: at a certain time Yahweh became king. To the Israelite way of thinking there is no contradiction between this and that he is king for ever; such a contradistinction is modern and rationalistic.

And with Charles H Spurgeon, who points out with regard to Ps 93:1 "In the verse before us it would seem as if the Lord had for a while appeared to vacate the throne, but on a sudden he puts on his regal apparel and ascends his lofty seat, while his happy people proclaim him with new joy, shouting "The Lord reigneth." Though he prefers "reigneth," probably out of convention, reading his remark makes apparent he'd have no objection to "has become."

And with  Rabbi Avrohom Chaim Feuer, who "sees this psalm as reflecting the various pronouncements that will be voiced in the Messianic era and, therefore, the past tense is syntactically uttered in the psalm in retrospect."

Go here for some of these arguments, scroll ahead to page 67. The New World Translation agrees, not with the paper's author, Gerald Randall Kirkland, writing his Master's Thesis, but with Mowinckel and Feuer, whom he has cited.

So.....Ps 93:1 and similar verses take some time to discuss, but in the end they agree with the other verses cited. Though always king, God has granted a stay of his kingship for a time while humans try to prove their boasts of self-rule. The stay will run out soon - such is a prime import of the Jehovah's Witnesses position. In the meantime, we don't accept disasters and calamities as manifestation of God's will. They're an integral part of a rapidly decaying system of things under human domination.

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Tom Irregardless and Me       No Fake News but Plenty of Hogwash


The League of Nations and Jehovah's Witnesses

After the first World War, weary nations hoped world war would never ever happen again, though it did 20 years later. They proposed a League of Nations -  an international forum - that would hash out problems before they reached the boilover point. They even included Germany. Alas, the same Treaty of Versailles that proposed the League also decreed that Germany pay the full cost of the war just ended. Of course, Germany couldn't, and the resulting economic strain created chaos (compounded by the Great Depression) from which Hitler emerged, appealing to national pride and a sense of victimization. World War II started, and the League of Nations collapsed.

After the second World War, the League was resurrected in principle, and rechristened the United Nations. Jehovah's Witnesses have pointed to it as the beast of Rev 17:8 -

The wild beast that you saw was, but is not, and yet is about to ascend out of the abyss, and it is to go off into destruction.

It "was," prior to World War II. It "is not," during that war, and it "ascends out of the abyss" (as the U.N.) after that war. It is also described as (Revelation 13:14-15) the "image of the beast," since it reflects the qualities of its component nations. Since the most prominent of these component creates it, they are said to have "breathed life" into it. Beasts are frequently used in the Bible as symbols of human governments, likely for the way they rip and tear and devour each other, and even their own peoples.

Detailed explanations of these verses, and indeed of all of Revelation, are found in the book Revelation - It's Grand Climax at Hand, available from Jehovah's Witnesses. I've previously referred to it here and probably some other places as well.

Now, offhand, a League of Nations - an international forum for peace and security - seems like a good idea. Let nations talk it out, not fight it out, and so forth. And no one has any gripe at all with the humanitarian good such agency has accomplished. The organization is, however, the exact opposite of what the Bible proposes. For the Bible advocates world government by God - God's Kingdom - which is to replace human rulership. It is described here, as God's answer after a long torrent of failed human efforts:

And in the days of those kings the God of heaven will set up a kingdom that will never be brought to ruin. And the kingdom itself will not be passed on to any other people. It will crush and put an end to all these kingdoms, and it itself will stand to times indefinite.    Dan 2:44

This is the same government of the "Lord's prayer," named here in Matt 6: 9-10   (NIV):

Father in heaven, hallowed be your name,
your kingdom come, your will be done
on earth as it is in heaven.

People repeat this prayer, usually by rote, and it becomes like the Pledge of Allegiance. They have no idea what it means.

The League of Nations, noble though the idea sounds, advocates world government by man, and this puts it at odds with the Bible. President Woodrow Wilson lead in birthing the new organization. Ironically, he couldn't talk the U. S. Congress into joining. Europe was a long ways away. The oceans had always afforded good isolation, and hopefully, with WWI in the past, they would continue to do so. Let Europe attend to their own squabbling.

The churches, whom you might think would side with world government by God, fell all over themselves to embrace world government by man. The National Council of the Churches of Christ in America lost no time declaring "such a League is not a mere political expedient; it is rather the political expression of the Kingdom of God on earth...." If Congress didn't want to sign up, it wasn't for the churches' lack of effort; 14,450 leading clergymen signed a petition urging the Senate to get onboard with the rest of the League supporters. The Pope, too, pleaded for the League’s adoption. All this in 1919.

Seemingly, the only ones not buying into the hoopla were Jehovah’s Witnesses, then known as the International Bible Students. That same year - 1919 - addressing a convention in Cedar Point, Ohio, J. F. Rutherford, Watch Tower Society president asserted that "the Lord’s displeasure is certain to be visited upon the League . . . because the clergy—Catholic and Protestant—claiming to be God’s representatives, have abandoned his plan and endorsed the League of Nations, hailing it as a political expression of Christ’s kingdom on earth.”

Jehovah’s Witnesses would not abandon “his plan,” even if all the rest of Christendom did. Three years later, discerning that the actual Christ’s kingdom had been established in heaven in 1914, (written about here and here) Rutherford urged conventioneers (it’s an oft-reported speech that all Jehovah’s Witnesses have heard about) to “advertise, advertise, advertise the king and his kingdom” - which is what Witnesses have done ever since.

Thus, establishment of the League of Nations represents a fork in the road. The churches, almost without exception, publicly embraced world government by man. At the same time, Jehovah’s organization publicly took the opposite path, advocating world government by God, in acknowledgement that God’s Kingdom does not come through any consensus of manmade governments. This explains Jehovah's Witnesses' neutrality toward this world’s governments. The churches, meanwhile, are ever convinced that God uses whatever national government they live under, to accomplish his aims. They are forever meddling in political affairs, trying to sway governments to write their own views into law. The actual Kingdom of God means little to them. Their goal is to put a smiley face on existing human governments.

Recommending world government by man or world government by God - this was among the chief differences between the churches and Jehovah's Witnesses back then. It is also so today.

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Tom Irregardless and Me             No Fake News but Plenty of Hogwash


Bailing, Bailing, and Bailing

It seemed certain that the House would pass the bailout bill, but it almost didn’t happen. It took two tries.

Conservative House members cited their constituents, who demanded by a 9 to 1 margin (if not more) that the plan be rejected. The threat of another Great Depression didn’t faze them. Bailing out Wall Street bankers just made their blood boil! Would those same bankers bail them out if they fell behind in their mortgages? HA! Out on the street they would go! Ask anyone who’d been late with a credit card payment and in consequence seen their interest rate jump from 10 to 30%, and that with the bills deliberately arriving only days before payment was due……no, there was not much sympathy for big-time bankers. Tuesday (9/30/08) that bailout package went down by a 228 - 205 vote.

But the stock market immediately dropped 800 points. And small businesses back home were promptly frozen out of credit markets as banks simply stopped lending (even to entire states, like Schwarzenegger’s California). By Friday the Representatives were in a different mood and signed off on a slightly revised bill. Sixty of them had changed sides. The new vote was 263 yea, 177 nay.

The nature of the revisions is significant. The approved package took up 450 pages, whereas the initial proposal took up 3. You can read three pages; Representatives did and concluded the bill stunk. But do you seriously think these guys are going to read 450 pages? In a two day period? You just check to see that your own pet project is in there, and sign on the dotted line. Incredibly…..I mean, this is truly astounding, given that life or death for the entire worldwide financial system was purportedly at stake….Congresspersons loaded up that final bill with pork….a few million for this favored project, another few million for that one….same as they always do! Total added cost: $100 billion! PorkFor example, it was stipulated that from this point on, government subsidies for mental health disabilities were to be on par with those for physical disabilities. (though perhaps addressing mental disabilities isn't so dumb an idea in the wake of the current meltdown)

And they nearly came to blows blaming each other. On the very cusp of that first vote, the Democratic House Speaker nancy Pelosi launched into a bitter tirade blaming the entire mess on the Republicans and its President in particular. At that point it’s said that some of those Republicans who were prepared to vote “yes” dug in their heels out of sheer partisan spite and switched to “no.”

It is still to be seen if the world’s financial system begins to stabilize or if the woes have only begun. But either way, this past week has not been kind to human governments or those who put their confidence in them. Instead, its played into the Bible theme that Jehovah’s Witnesses have been advancing forever, that humans do not have the ability to rule themselves. They simply don’t have it, same as they don’t have the ability to fly or walk through walls. Avarice, arrogance, corruption, or just plain ineptness wins out every time.

JWs are the only major faith I know of that takes this position. All others assume, to a greater or lesser degree, that God is backing the present human system of governments. As if to illustrate, after that second vote the House Minority Leader John Boehner reminded all of the U.S. currency motto: in God we trust. “We’re going to need his help,” he warned his colleagues. (Privately he called the bill a "crap sandwich.") But the present system of worldwide rulership….scores of independent nations eternally pushing and shoving each other… isn’t God’s system. Rather, it finds its roots ages ago in rebellion against God’s own sovereignty….as shown way back there in the Adam and Eve account. After a sufficiently long (thousands of years) trial period during which the unsuitability of human rule makes itself blatantly clear, God intervenes with his own kingdom, which is really no more than a restoration of his original purpose. The “Lord’s prayer,” which everyone used to know, informs that his will is done only when his kingdom comes (as opposed to patching up disintegrating human governments):

                                                your kingdom come,
                                        your will be done
                                        on earth as it is in heaven
       Matt 6:10

Or as foreshadowed in Daniel 2:44: 

In the time of those kings, the God of heaven will set up a kingdom that will never be destroyed, nor will it be left to another people. It will crush all those kingdoms and bring them to an end, but it will itself endure forever.

Announcing this kingdom is what Jehovah’s Witnesses are all about. Lots of people….most people by far…don’t really want to hear it. But there are some who do, some who respond to the JW invitation to a Bible study, and some of those who….recognizing a message that is found nowhere else….attach themselves to the faith.

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Tom Irregardless and Me     No Fake News but Plenty of Hogwash


Salvation by Grace, Trinity, Hell, and so forth...

When I first began blogging about two years ago, I imagined that from whatever posts I wrote with a spiritual theme, about half would be directed toward the skeptic crowd and half aimed at the religionists. Like our Lord impaled between two thieves, Jehovah’s Witnesses are caught between two unsavory types. On the one side are the atheists who don’t like us because we are theists (an annoying word…..would you call a married man a wifeist?). On the other hand are the churches who also don’t like us because we fail to line up with their favorite doctrines.

In spite of my noble 50/50 intentions, I find myself writing 90/10 in response to a powerful Carolina force who’s name I will not mention but whose initials are Moristotle. A prolific commenter with boundless energy, he not only writes his blog but he also writes mine in that he plants ideas in my head - they swirl around, and gel into some post geared to something he’s brought up.

Now, this is not disagreeable to me, for I tire very quickly of fisticuffs with the religionists. Squabbling with someone over the trinity, for example, brings to mind that Monty Python scene with the Black Knight. You take off one arm; they keep charging you. You take off another; they don’t notice it. Take off a leg and it doesn’t faze them. Another leg and they keep on arguing, confident they’ve trapped you. You take your leave in disgust and they taunt you for being a coward. Look…almost all scriptures proving the Trinity are wordings that would instantly be recognized as metaphor or illustrative device in any other context, and you have to painstakingly go through every blasted one of them with the Trinitarian and then start at the first and do it all over again since nothing you said in the first place registered. Some people enjoy the exercise. More power to them. The field is theirs. As for me, if for some reason I’ve kept a car group waiting, upon my return I may say “I don’t believe I couldn’t get that person to see that Jesus and God are not the same.” You can see veins standing out on the necks of those waiting. “You kept us waiting all that time for the Trinity!?” they seem to be fuming.

Still, in an effort to respect my original Mission, here’s a few tidbits either from my blog or from exchanges I’ve had on other blogs. They've accumulated. They're too good for the dumpster yet too meager to merit a post of their own. So I'll present several together as a casserole. Perhaps I'll expand on some later.

One religious blogger takes issue with our stand on holidays. Most  holidays Jehovah’s Witness refrain from. Does that not border on child abuse? she suggests, recalling how eagerly she anticipated Santa. Yet in the next breath she worries that, deviating from Truth in this or that doctrinal way, surely I and mine are all apt to go to hell. There is not some incongruity here? Refraining from holidays is intolerable cruelty, but she has no problem with an all-powerful God who would hand someone over to be tortured forever and ever!

With a single exception, all instances of "hell" in English Bibles stem from one of three original language words (sheol, hades, gehenna) Find the meaning of those three words and you've found the meaning of hell. None of them refer to a place of eternal torment. A well known early Witness, Charles Russell was known in his lifetime as the man who "turned the hose on hell and put out the fire."

 

.............................

Salvation is by Grace, sir...that's the point. Religion cannot save, only Jesus does.

Well, of course, everyone knows that.

If "everyone knows" that salvation is by Grace, why does JW preach that you earn salvation by good works?

They don't. I think this accusation originates with people who do little or nothing in appreciation for Christ's free gift of life, yet want to feel morally superior to those who do. "Works" that Jehovah's Witnesses perform are in appreciation for that gift, and in obedience to Christ's command to "go and make disciples." (Matt 28:19) They do not imagine for one minute that they are "earning" everlasting life. The importance of Christian activity is supported by James 2:26: “For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also.” KJV

Only 144,000 are going to heaven, huh? No wonder you knock on so many doors! There are 7 million of you! That’s a lot of people to beat out so as to grab one of the heavenly spots.

Well....the premise is wrong here.

Jehovah's Witnesses are unique among Christian groups in that they entertain no hope of future heavenly life. Instead, they look forward to everlasting life on this earth when it is ruled over by God's Kingdom, the same Kingdom people familiarly know from the Lord's Prayer. Should we die before that Kingdom comes, our hope is to be resurrected to that paradise earth. God first put humans on earth. He didn't put them there because he wanted them somewhere else. Life on earth is not "second class." to us. It is God's original purpose for humans.

Kingdom rule over earth is not too far away, in our view, and Revelation 7:9-17 is now taking place. This passage tells of a great crowd of persons gathered from all "nations, tribes, peoples, and tongues" who would survive the "great tribulation" and live on into the "new order," life under Kingdom rule. Almost all of Jehovah's Witnesses claim to belong to this group. I do.

The Bible also speaks of a "sacred secret," (Colossians 1:26) a "secret" first made known to the early Christian congregation, that there would be some from humankind, a comparatively tiny number, who would share in this heavenly government. Their ultimate destiny would be in heaven, not on earth. Since this "secret" was made known shortly after Christ's resurrection, and there are only 144,000 of these who will serve as "kings and priests," very few of them are on earth today. Most, we maintain, have long since lived their lives and been resurrected to heavenly life.

I'd like to know where in the Bible it says to keep files on your members, or how about where it says that child abuse should only be reported to elders not the police, and while on that note, where does it say again that you should not support your country? I'm also certain the Bible doesn't tell us there is no hell or that Jesus should not be worshiped. And where exactly does it say that God is not a trinity? I'm really curious where the scripture is that backs up these rules.

 

I'd like to know where in the Bible it says to keep files on your members  [I’m not exactly sure what “files” this writer was referring to, but I took a stab, in view of the point she brought up next]

The policy of Jehovah's Witnesses is that a known child molester may never be appointed to any position of oversight. Plainly for such a policy to succeed, someone has to keep track, otherwise simply changing congregations would be enough to thwart it. Jehovah's Witnesses should not be criticized for this. Rather, you should criticize churches who do not care enough about protecting children to have done the same. A simple police background check is not enough. Many known molesters have never been convicted. Nor are police records necessarily reliable. A report from Toronto last week laments that, due to loopholes, only half of the province's convicted sex offenders appear on the national list.

or how about where it says that child abuse should only be reported to elders not the police

There is nothing to say congregation members can't call the police in cases of child abuse. Where do you get this from? If they choose to contact the elders first, or instead of, then the elders contact the police as required by law in New York, and I think all of the United States.

and while on that note, where does it say again that you should not support your country?

I'm not sure what the author means by that remark. Jehovah's Witnesses scrupulously obey laws, they diligently pay taxes, they stand for family values. Do those things not count as supporting your country? Or is he speaking of attitudes toward military ventures? At present this country is sharply divided over military policy. Does he feel one side or the other is not supporting the country? If so, which side?

I'm also certain the Bible doesn't tell us there is no hell

I've already answered this in my comment about the three original language words from which the English word hell is translated. None of them refer to a place of fiery torment. When you translate a word, you have to translate it according to its meaning, not according to what simply fits into your belief structure.

or that Jesus should not be worshiped. And where exactly does it say that God is not a trinity?

Since the Trinity goes against common sense, one would not expect the Bible to expressly deny it, any more than one would expect it to deny that the ground is really green cheese. Exactly the opposite. If the Trinity is true, one would expect the Bible to explicitly and unambiguously state it. It doesn't. The only verse that directly states the Trinity is found at 1 Jn 5:7 in the King James Bible. Virtually all modern Bibles have either removed or footnoted the verse, since it appears in no ancient manuscripts prior to the 6th century. In other words, it was inserted into the text, [!] most likely by someone intent on proving what the Bible otherwise does not say.

I'm really curious where the scripture is that backs up these rules.

There’s quite a few grousers who like to portray Jehovah’s Witnesses as an organization of rules “enslaving” people. Two thoughts on this. First, there’s no question that we do adhere to standards as close as we can approximate to that of the first century Christians. No apology for this.   

But where someone presents a list of JW rules, and some of them seem too petty to believe, in general, they should not be believed. They are usually the result of some discussion in the Watchtower or Awake, sometimes decades old, sometimes mentioned only once, with no intention of proposing rules, but only food for thought. To be sure, we have some folks who take every suggestion found anywhere as a rule, as acknowedged in the July 1 1994 Watchtower:

An elder could think that in order to be theocratic, the brothers should obey all sorts of rules. Some elders have made rules out of suggestions given from time to time by “the faithful and discreet slave.”

Don’t such folk exist anywhere? From time to time, these ones are readjusted.

For example, from the Aug 1 1994 Watchtower:

Responsible brothers today are equally interested in reaching hearts. Thus, they avoid laying down arbitrary, inflexible rules or turning their personal viewpoints and opinions into law. (Compare Daniel 6:7-16.) From time to time, kindly reminders on such matters as dress and grooming may be appropriate and timely, but an elder may jeopardize his reputation as a reasonable man if he harps on such matters or tries to impose what are primarily reflections of his personal taste. Really, all in the congregation should avoid trying to control others.—Compare 2 Corinthians 1:24; Philippians 2:12.   (page 18)

Or from the Sept 1, 1996 Watchtower (page 23):

We can have faith that Jehovah God by means of his holy spirit will influence the hearts of true worshipers. Thus, mature Christians appeal to the hearts of their brothers, entreating them, as did the apostle Paul. (2 Corinthians 8:8; 10:1; Philemon 8, 9) Paul knew that it is mainly the unrighteous, not the righteous, who need detailed laws to keep them in line. (1 Timothy 1:9) He expressed, not suspicion or distrust, but faith in his brothers. To one congregation he wrote: “We have confidence in the Lord regarding you.” (2 Thessalonians 3:4) Paul’s faith, trust, and confidence surely did much to motivate those Christians. Elders and traveling overseers today have similar aims. How refreshing these faithful men are, as they lovingly shepherd the flock of God!

There! Now back to those pesky atheists.

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Tom Irregardless and Me     No Fake News but Plenty of Hogwash


Virginia Tech and the Blame Game

A student gunman killed 32 people on Virginia Tech campus Monday, and wounded 15 others. There were two attacks, one at 7:15 claiming two persons, and the other across campus 2 hours later. Hordes of media descended, asking all questions except the important ones. Like:

Did you ever imagine, when you came to class this morning, that such a thing would happen?

Has it sunk in yet?

The blaming began within hours. There was Katie Couric, so somber, oozing love and compassion, ever so gently probing college president Charles Steger. Didn't he bear bloodguilt, she implied, for not locking down campus immediately after the first shooting?

No, he didn't. He'd already explained the first incident bore every mark of a domestic dispute. No reason to think differently. Besides, thousands of non-resident students were just then arriving for 8AM class. "Where do you lock them down?....You can only make a decision based on the information you know at that moment in time. You don't have hours to reflect on it." West_Virginia_Flying_WV_logo.svg

That made sense to me. God help us if we start shutting down entire communities (30,000 plus at Virginia Tech) every time domestic violence flares up.

But Mr. Steger is my age, brought up in a different time. The younger you are the more likely you were to disagree. Today's students were born in the late 80's, not the domestically tranquil 40's, 50's and even 60's. A madman on rampage is not so unusual for them, so that it seemed the college should have taken this in stride. They should have known and been ready. Reporters searched until they found SWAT team experts, guys who live and breathe and dream CSI. Yes, they affirmed, the college should have known. All night, cable and satellite stations pushed the theme.

Lawyers have facilitated this thinking by successfully implanting the notion that money can compensate for life. Of course, that only happens if someone is found blameworthy. So someone must be.

On the other hand, local radio guy Bob Lonsberry found someone here who's a student there. He chatted a few minutes on air with Doug MacEvoy. Doug didn't fault anybody. Absolute madman, who could have known? totally out of the blue was all they could say from the start. But within hours, the same media folks were in full court blame press.

So maybe it's not young people at all. Maybe it's entirely lawyers and media, two groups who distinctly gain by finding parties to blame. [media, because it extends the life of the story]

For those who view such violence as, if not everyday, at least common enough that everyone should always be ready, the important question was not asked. How did society get to be this way?

In the last days, so says the apostle Paul at 2 Timothy, people will be .... without natural affection, not open to any agreement, slanderers, without self-control, fierce, without love of goodness.

They've always been like that, some today counter. So was Paul giving a non-prophesy? Of course he knew what people were like. But there would be a time, he advised, when such traits would be off the charts. Is such the case today? Do we not entertain the nagging suspicion that we are just this close to such events becoming absolutely routine?

Jesus said the dangerous times he foretold...times that would serve to seal the dismal record of human self-rule...would find people "faint out of fear and expectation of the things coming upon the inhabited earth." [Luke 21:26] Those with faith would also be affected by events. A sign is a sign.

Yet knowing the meaning behind it all would give them a different outlook, even a hopeful one. "In this way you also, when you see these things occurring, know that the kingdom of God is near." [vs 31]

Announcing this kingdom forms the core of Jehovah's Witnesses ministry.

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Tom Irregardless and Me        No Fake News but Plenty of Hogwash