When Putin Opens My Letter

When Putin opens my letter, he will be disheartened. He will see several paragraphs. He will want with all his heart to read it, but he has several million other letters to get through. He will toss the letter.

He will then open the next letter and discover, as he suspected from the envelope, that it is from a child. It includes drawings, one of a sad little girl because Putin is being mean to her nice friends, and one from a happy little girl, because he has had a change of heart. Putin will smile faintly, for everyone loves children. He will put this letter aside. Possibly he will show it to his grandchildren someday.

He will open the next letter. It will also be from me—not the same letter but worded and reasoned anew. He will roll his eyes. “Another letter from that windbag Harley,” he will mutter, and toss it in the trash.

(from 2017)

Dear Mr Putin (1) (1)


He Enjoys Disseminating Inflammatory Narratives and Hate Speech

I tweeted, with photo included, that all Regional Conventions had witnessed scenes of Russian police breaking up Christian meetings.

Instantly, the tweet was liked from three entirely separate parts of the world, none of them in English. There is nothing like the worldwide brotherhood. Admittedly, three is not a million, but the diverse background of the likers partly offsets this.

A prominent human rights person, frequently quoted in the media, picked up the tweet and retweeted it.

If you spend any time on the music video section of JW.org—not the choir part, but the convention interludes and original songs, you cannot but be struck by the international flavor, so different from the general world which too often views anyone significantly different as one of “those people.” For some odd reason, I almost prefer lyrics sung in languages I don’t understand. It adds to the appeal of unity despite differences. Can you view such videos, ranging from small groups to international conventions, and view participants as addled victims of a cult? You have to work at it. You really do.

Online is an enemy that I keep tabs on because he reliably informs me of things I might like to address. To say ‘enemy’ might seems a little mean. I have no doubt that he has to his credit some good qualities, as do most people. But spiritually speaking, we are at 180 degree opposite poles, and it is not through any miscommunication. It is through deliberate choice on both of our parts.

The spiritual component of a person comprises two thirds, at least, of his or her total makeup. Everything else is but so much window-dressing. It is why I wrote of Prince: “I would have enjoyed jamming with Prince. Not musically, of course - I can’t play guitar – but spiritually, in the ministry. We would have been seamless together; we’re on the same page – all Witnesses are. But it wasn’t to be in this system of things. Prince was always busy. And I was – well, no – I would have found the time.”

We would have instantly hit it off. It may be that I might have discovered differences in preferences, it almost certainly would have happened, even on matters of substance, but it wouldn’t have mattered. All Witnesses know how to keep such matters in their place and not allow them to disrupt the peace of the congregation.

My online enemy hears of Russian punishment of Jehovah’s Witnesses for being Jehovah’s Witnesses, this week’s arrest including persons in their 70s, as reported in Newsweek, and feigns sympathy. He does more than ‘feign’ it. I have no doubt he genuinely disapproves of it. But as a dedicated “anti-cultist,” he is sorry for it in the same sense that the arsonist is sorry to see California burning to the ground. We must not be obtuse. Once you release the hounds of hell, you find that you cannot control just how many they maul.

It is his fellow ‘anti-cultists’ who have driven the model to cast Jehovah’s Witnesses in such a bad light before the Russian Supreme Court (in combination with some nationalistic factors), with even some former members of the faith giving testimony, knowing that, if acted upon, innocent people would go to jail. My enemy’s allies push and push the narrative that Jehovah’s Witnesses manipulate people and break up families. Religion writer Joshua Gill has outlined how a French NGO dedicated to protecting people from ideas considered socially destructive by the NGO sent a well-known emissary to Russia who spread that view with missionary zeal, maximizing his existing status with the Russian Orthodox Church.

It worth noting that the European Court of Human Rights didn't buy either charge. It wrote in 2010: “It is the resistance and unwillingness of non-religious family members to accept and to respect their religious relative’s freedom to manifest and practice his or her religion that is the source of conflict.”

As to a charge of "mind control," it wrote: “The Court finds it remarkable that the [Russian] courts did not cite the name of a single individual whose right to freedom of conscience had allegedly been violated by means of those techniques.”

The Russian Supreme Court in 2017 was not chastened by this rebuke and saw no need to cite a name for the April 20th trial, either. They did, however, find every need to not hear representatives of foreign embassies who might, for all they knew, have sided with the European Court.

The NGO itself has come in for censure more recently, in that it “has benefitted from abusive grants that they have used to disseminate hate speech targeting some minority religious groups in the countries of the European Union and beyond.” The occasion was a side event to the Universal Periodic Review of France in Geneva (January 15th, 2018) where several NGOs and an international law expert called upon President Emmanuel Macron and his Prime Minister to revise the financing of the NGO that sends a clear “open hunting season” on religious minorities. 

Of the emissary, a Mr. Dvorkin, it is written that he “enjoys disseminating inflammatory narratives and hate speech. Last year, in the capital city of India, Hindus have held a demonstration outside the Russian embassy to protest against the persecution of their religion and burnt an effigy of Dvorkin.” Nonetheless, his views have carried the day in Russia, the same as they do with my enemy closer to home.

 

IMG_0289


Who Called it First

Jehovah's Witnesses probably came up in 2.5 hours, but only briefly. @Dr_Ariel_Cohen: religious freedom is "burning, but not paramount importance to Trump & Co, given critical geopolitical issues.

I called it first here: http://www.tomsheepandgoats.com/…/ill-take-it-fake-news-or-…

Somewhat increasing odds of Witnesses arising briefly as topic of discussion is that pre-campaign Jerod Kushner bought the Watchtower buildings and said extraordinaryly nice things of them, such as with them "a handshake deal means something"

It was originally on the Witness website. They took it down when Trump began running for President in earnest, probably so that no one would think they were poltiical. But it is picked up here on YouTube

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zfp1a7k3N7s

Summit


I'll Take it, Fake News or Not

Fake news is everywhere, and some of it surfaced about the Russian ban: ‘Church members of Russia have united! They have launched massive protests against the government in behalf of the Witnesses! President Trump rebuked Russia and invited its entire Witness population to the United States! He visited a Kingdom Hall to worship with them!’ All of it is fake news. It didn’t happen.1

Is “the news” another one of those biblical hills that melt in the last days? Is it now a thing that people of bygone days could depend upon but now need to call in Sherlock Holmes to decipher whether or not it is genuine? Is ‘reading the news’ now the information equivalent of playing Russian Roulette?

Given this apparent new normal, I will take the Trump story, fake news though it is. No, he did not speak out in favor of Jehovah’s Witnesses. But the story plants the clear notion that he should have. Most fake news about Jehovah’s Witnesses is derogatory. It is the ‘every kind of evil’ falsely said against them. It’s about time something went our way. Now it is only a matter of time before some poor body of elders must deal with NBC or somebody attempting to set up shop in their foyer so that they can broadcast “Live from the Kingdom Hall.”

From: 'Dear Mr. Putin - Jehovah's Witnesses Write Russia'

The above becomes relevant because today Presidents Trump and Putin meet for summit, and the New York Times tells of an exiled Jehovah's Witness who proposes Trump ask Putin a simple question: "Why are Russians who pay their taxes, follow the law and embrace the Christian values promoted by the Kremlin being forced to flee their country?" 

A simple [and single] question. To propose Trump do this is exactly the non-confrontational style of Jehovah's Witnesses, and is proof in itself that they are not extremist. Moreover, because the goal is so modest, it is not impossible that it could happen. Persecution of Jehovah's Witnesses in Russia is not everywhere, but where it is, it is draconian, with police dressed in riot gear breaking down doors to arrest them.

Meanwhile (and irrelevant), I did a google search of "New York Times Jehovah's Witnesses." The second hit is an article from 1958, telling of (I think) the largest Christian assembly in history.

 


"We Know that Satan's Coming After Us"

A major American newspaper has published material meant to be damning to Jehovah’s Witnesses, which refers to a group of elders at a 2017 meeting, where they were supposedly advised to destroy handwritten notes of meetings and notes of internal documents due to the potential legal harm such pose. Presumably (though it is not explicitly made clear) these are notes relevant to child sexual abuse investigations.

The reason? A Witness representative reportedly states: “Well, we know that the scene of this world is changing, and we know Satan’s coming after us, and he’s going to go for us legally. We can see by the way things are shaping up.” It is not hard to imagine what certain ones are doing with the explanation that “Satan’s coming after us.”

The reason the Witnesses have whatever child abuse records they do is that they sought to investigate this evil in their midst at a time that others did not. Should they destroy anything, it merely puts them on par with everyone else, who never left a ‘paper trail’ in the first place because they never were proactive. Seen in this light, it does indeed seem that Satan is ‘coming after them.’ It is the quintessential example of the cynical phrase: ‘No good deed goes unpunished.’

On the other side of the world, the Jehovah’s Witness organization during the same year was banned in Russia. Government and media have partnered to whip the public into a froth, hurling many virulent accusations about the faith. Yet, child sexual abuse allegations have played no part whatsoever. Chivchalov states that nobody has heard of it there. Only after the ban did the Russian Embassy, in response to one of my tweets, respond with a Western headline of pedophile charges.

In other words, they found a completely separate reason to ban Jehovah’s Witnesses.

Keep in mind that we are speaking of the faith whose members are universally recognized as ‘pacifist’ – who will on no account resort to violence or support war efforts. It is highly unusual for a large group of people to have absolutely no blood on their hands in this regard, but they do not. Is it so crazy for the Witness spokesman to say: ‘Satan is coming after us?” Given the foregoing, it would almost be crazy for him not to.

Among the most heated charges in Russia are those of Jehovah’s Witnesses refusing blood transfusions, stemming from their interpretation of scripture. It is an issue that has largely been put to bed in the West because of the success of bloodless medicine and the growing recognition that transfusion therapy poses many risks. Still, it does happen from time to time that such refusal costs a Witness his or her life. Russian media rages over this, labeling leaders of the religion murderers.

Surely, somewhere along the line it should be acknowledged that Jehovah’s Witnesses have absolutely no deaths at all attributed to illicit drug abuse, overdrinking, and tobacco use, save only for when someone is slipping into old habits. Witnesses could multiply transfusion deaths 1000-fold and still not not come close to the mortality record of the overall world. Far and away, they are the ‘safest’ religion out there. Yet they are said to be the murderers.

And we are to laugh when they say: ‘Satan is coming after us?’ One thing we know about opposers: they will always overplay their hand, giving honest-hearted persons a heads-up. How can it not be getting near to crunch time?

It is in the free ebook (soon to be in print), ‘Dear Mr. Putin – Jehovah’s Witnesses Write Russia,’ with chapter 12 devoted to pedophile accusations. I had no idea when I wrote it that the book would so quickly become so relevant.

https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/815620

With the major outlets increasing dedicated to attacking Jehovah's Witnesses, it is not easy to balance the reports. One can do shares and retweets, but still. When push comes to shove, the Word makes clear that the enemies will have their day in the sun during this system of things.


Picking Strawberries

It is just a detail, not at all the main point. But I appreciate that sportwriter Ian Herbert, in his narrative of Russia while covering the World Cup, included an encounter with two strawberry pickers, who are of the same faith as me. This means that I would call them my 'sisters' and I included am saddened at what they are being put through.

It is just a chance encounter for Mr. Herbert. He writes: 

Two women, Anastasia and Elena, who approach in the sunshine of Samara's beautiful Volga embankment to say 'you are English?' turn out to be Jehovah's Witnesses.They talk about their lives. It transpires that mine is far easier than theirs. Russia and North Korea are the only two countries on earth where Jehovah's Witnesses are outlawed. Human Rights Watch reports that one Russian in their number faces a 10-year jail term, as a member of an 'extremist organisation'

Reports are that many members are being sacked from their employment, which will drive more of them to pick strawberries

 

A Dangerous Criminal That Everyone Can See is Not

Okay, do I understand this correctly? Dennis Christensen presided over a Bible study meeting at a Kingdom Hall in Russia one year ago. He has been jailed for a year in pre-trial detention, after police broke in with SWAT team gear to arrest him. Several motions to have him released on his own recognizance have proved unsuccessful and bank accounts have been frozen, leaving his wife to fend for herself. Only now, after a year in prison, is his case finally coming to trial, having been postponed several times.

And…a key prosecution witness is an individual who will testify out of sight, his or her voice garbled by electronic means. Are you kidding me? For a Bible teacher? Is it prosecution theatrics to plant the notion that Jehovah’s Witnesses are as dangerous as the mob?

And then…more evidence that this escalation is unheard of, at least in the Orel court, it turns out that no one knows how to make the machine do what it is supposed to. The witness’s testimony is garbled to such an extent that nobody could understand it, and the trial was postponed until they either got someone who knew what he was doing or brought in a better machine. “Try speaking in syllables,” the judge (or someone) had said, but it was no good.

Look, you want to fear the authorities, “for it is not without purpose that it bears the sword,” and it sure has been bearing it lately with Jehovah’s Witnesses, the subject of numerous SWAT team searches in various parts of Russia. One tries not to invoke images of Boris and Natashia from Bullwinkle, but with reports like these it is hard to banish the thought.

Prosecutors attempted to restrict news media coverage to the trial. But Dennis doesn’t see himself as a criminal and stated such secrecy would impede a fair trial. The judge agreed with this and denied the motion of the prosecution.

Christensen

#dennischristensen, #jwrussia, #stopJWban

 


I Mean, Bernie Sanders is so 'Been There, Done That'

As the whole-wide-world international version of Newsweek ran the cover of the persecution of religious minorities in Russia, with Jehovah's Witnesses the foremost target, the American cover was of Bernie Sanders.

I mean, Bernie Sanders is so 'been there done that.' This country is insane over politics.

I thought I had taken the following out of 'No Fake News but Plenty of Hogwash' when I revised it to remove much of what was political, but instead I recalled that I had merely modified it, liking it for the family reference:

"It is steering the supertanker for four-to-eight years through rough seas and around treacherous shoals that will not matter in the long run. It polarized families. I saw it in my own extended family. One cousin I hadn’t seen in years began to extol the virtues of Trump. “Well, let me tell you about your Mr. Trump,” another cousin whom I also hadn’t seen in years cranked up. Everyone else cleared the room. The exodus was considerable, for I come from a dairy farm family where the kitchen table might easily be twelve feet in length, and it will figure into this book in later pages. Years after everyone left their agrarian roots, we would still refer to such reunions as ‘going down to the farm.’"

The insanity over politics only intensifies and it peaks in the routine reports that 'Trump falsely stated" or "Trump charged without evidence." Now, there have been (and are) countless liars, villains, scoundrels, and neer-do-wells throughout history, but I have never heard a, for example, "Putin falsely stated," "Kim falsely stated," "Benedict Arnold falsely stated," or even "Hitler falsely stated." No matter what sort of drivel or poppycock anyone serves up, media just repeats it without pre-screening. I get it, already. They hate him.

It is almost like inviting guests into your home and they proceed to hash out their battles right in your living room. It gets so old. When Trump tweets that North Korea has launched its missills, people of good sense will run for the hills. People of the media will run to their keyboards to point out that the idiot can't even spell the word right.Newsweek cover WNMF


Background Material for Media

I have written a free 160K word ebook on the problems of Jehovah’s Witnesses in Russia. It covers worldwide news reports, trials, ban of the Bible, and confiscation of property. Also, separate chapters are devoted to the most vehement accusations against Witnesses (most of which are made everywhere) and philosophical answers they might make to such accusations.

The book contains about 500 endnotes. It is faithful to the Jehovah’s Witness point of view (I am an active Witness) and that of their parent organization. Arguments made in support of faith and freedom of worship will be of interest to all minority religious groups, all of whom experience harassment today. There is also a ‘safe’ version of the book, with all quotations from extremist sources removed. To the extent possible for a Westerner, it is written from a Russian point of view. In ebook form on Smashwords, it is free. 

https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/815620

'extremist' quotes removed:

https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/826384


There is a Second Version of 'Dear Mr. Putin'

The book quotes a few times, not often, from Watchtower publications. Technically that makes it extremist and it can be like the broken tail light the cop stops you for as a pretext to making more serious trouble.

Hence there is an identical 2nd version for anyone who wants to avoid the problem with all such quotes replaced with 'redacted' or 'redacted for reader safety' or the like. Both are found at

https://www.smashwords.com/books/search?query=tom+harley

Enjoy.

The stopgap measure will only apply to Russia, because anywhere else you can read a Watchtower quotation without being thought extremist. And since relatively few Russians speak English anyway, the release of the 2nd Dear Mr. Putin is mostly symbolic. The book covers are identical, save only for the message in the orange ball.

Not only does the new version not violate any extremist law (unless and until the book itself is declared extremist) but it serves to highlight the silliness of it all, for context nearly always indicates that the eliminated quotes are perfectly innocuous. However, every effort is made to be deeply respectful of the government. In no way could this be described as a protest book. It also strives to relate things from a Russian perspective.

Dear Mr Putin Russian edition Dear Mr Putin (1) (1)