“You Can Check Out Any Time You Like - But You Can Never Leave”

I had someone contact me via email, trying to get me going, saying he was “physically in, but mentally out.” And—here’s the kicker—he said that after he placed literature he would later return to warn the householder not to read it! Or if he did, not to act upon it. Now, just let me get a mental picture of how that might go down:

Why did he place literature in the first place? He is “a member of a controlling cult that monitors everything he does, and so he has no choice!”—I guess he would have to say something like that. And they “control” him by threatening to take his family away if he doesn’t follow every “command” that they issue! It is too late for him, but not too late for you, Mr. Householder. Run and save yourself!

Really? Could that truly be?

Look, if you want to present the picture that opposers are batsh*t crazy, I can’t think of a better way to do it. On Christmas Eve, he goes to homes to sing Christmas carols. On every other night, he goes to sing Hotel California: 

‘You can check in any time you like—but you can never leave!’

or House of the Rising Sun:

‘and it’s been the ruin of many a poor boy, and God, I know, I’m one’

or For What it’s Worth:

‘step out of line, the men come to take you away!’

Sheesh. People are crazy. Batsh*t crazy—pure and simple.

He also said, (with a hee hee hee) that he was one of thousands! Could that be? Or is his army like that of Gideon, making such a god-awful racket that they seem far larger than they really are? Or is it just him? Or is it not even him—look, going door to door for even the right reason is a challenge—but to go twice to say that you want to take back what you said the first time because you are actually an undercover guerrilla fighter—when the householder wasn’t all that interested in the first place? What kind of a nutcase could pull that off? 

No matter. I don’t run away from these things. I run toward them. I think of the Philippians verse: 

True, some are preaching the Christ through envy and rivalry, but others also through goodwill. The latter are publicizing the Christ out of love...but the former do it out of contentiousness, not with a pure motive, for they are supposing to stir up tribulation....What then? [Nothing,] except that in every way, whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is being publicized, and in this I rejoice.” (1:15-18)

The object is to get the good news out there, and these unhinged nutcases only help the cause. To be sure, it is a strange way to get it out there, but it does get it out there. The whole program is strange, as I told one fellow trying to run a garage sale that no one was showing up for. Appear out of nowhere as a complete stranger and say you want to talk about God? Christians are a theatrical spectacle in all the earth, says Paul. Tell me about it.

Nor am I ashamed that there are so many “apostates.” I am proud of them. I consider them additional proof that what JWs have fulfills the Bible pattern. If we didn’t have any—that would be a test of my faith, for I would wonder why. There is no New Testament writer who does not deal with apostates. If they existed then, why would they not exist now? In fact, as we get closer to the time, you would expect them to be more numerous and virulent, and would wonder what was the problem if they were not.

To be sure, many Witnesses run away from these things—it has been the pattern. The time may come when they will tackle them head-on. Opponents are having their day in the sun—beyond all question they have thrust awkward, even disagreeable, aspects of JWs front and center on the world stage. I take my hat off to them. Well done! That is not to be confused with personal admiration. It is more like when the Jurassic Park security chief praises the pterodactyl circling round to pounce on him, ‘Good girl!’ just before being eaten alive.

Will the beasts do the same this time? I think not. We are used to presenting the gem of the Christian way of life through it’s most appealing facet. Let us learn to present it through it’s least appealing one. It is the same gem. “The game is the same, it’s just up on another level.” That’s the song we should be singing—leave it to the lunatics to sing Hotel California!

The trick is not to try to sanitize the present. It is to de-sanitize the past. It is to say of Peter, ‘He is the most prominent one, and yet he cowers like an adolescent—his action can be (probably was) painted as the ultimate in hypocrisy! Once the Jewish Christians show up, he avoids company of the Gentile ones? And he is given the keys to the kingdom? Yes. That is how it is. God uses people despite phenomenal weaknesses. 

Transport it to the present day. We have people who did not avoid the trap that everyone else has fallen into. They wished not to advertise their dirty laundry—and to carry on as though they had none. They did it for perfectly understandable reasons—for fear of tarnishing the Name that they tried to stand proclaim. But they did it. The fact that they alone sought to investigate an evil in order to mete out discipline and protect other congregations does not matter.

They can ‘reform’ in the eyes of the reasonable world, and likely have done so even now, with various tweaks culminating in that May 2019 issue. But they will never ever reform enough in the eyes of their virulent detractors. At some point, perhaps they will take on detractors more openly—judiciously, and not so as to satisfy the detractors, which cannot be done, but to offer a defense of the Christian way to those whose ear the detractors have gained. This is what you want to be writing your books about, Greg, not arguing over the Trinity.

In other words, the things that detractors paint as sordid are exactly the traps that well-intentioned and imperfect people who are ‘insular’ (no part of the world) could be expected to fall into. We’ll learn, where necessary, to present the truth through this facet so easily spun as a negative. 

It is the same with disfellowshipping, which opposers (many of them disfellowshipped themselves) have made into a monster issue, and in this age where ‘victimization’ is all the rage, have thrust it into the public eye. Keep it there where it belongs. Don’t try to skulk away from it.

Jehovah’s Witnesses are a faith that adherents take seriously. If you don’t participate, even if you stop, that does not create ripples. If you turn 180 degrees and flame what your family holds most dear, that probably will. The scriptures “tell” congregation members what to do in that event. Leadership merely alerts to those scriptures & afterwards their job is done. It could be tweaked—has been already— but any competent leadership would know of the same verses & principles behind them. Most people will have little difficulty in accepting that if you persistently by word or deed refuse to conform to the standards of any group, you may find yourself out on your ear.

The malcontents who carry on that ‘if it is not perfect, it is filthy’ would not have lasted two minutes in the first century. They would have honed in on the ill doings of those Revelation 2 and 3 congregations and started screaming back then just as they are screaming now. 

And if they would not have lasted two minutes during the early days of the Christian congregation, they would not have lasted two seconds in the early days of the Jewish nation. Yes, yes, there are some things that are not exactly the same. But the similarities far outnumber the differences.

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Photo: welcome to the hotel California, by askpang

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“I Took My Appetite to Madame Mew” - sung to the tune of Love Potion #9

I took my appetite to Madame Mew,
You know that neighbor car that’s been taboo.
She’s got a pad and she’s setting up so fine,
but what she doesn’t know is
for my dinner she’ll be mine.

I told her that I was a reformed bitch.
I hadn’t eaten cat since 96.
She looked at me suspiciously but then she changed her mine,
she said ‘You seem a changed dog,
and that suits me just fine.

She lay down and turned around and I gave a wink.
I said ‘I’ll eat this stupid cat with ketchup, I think,’
I knew that when I made my move she’d raise quite a stink.
I held my nose, I closed my eyes,
but then I blinked:

I didn’t know if it was day or night,
She screeched and scratched at everything in sight,
but when she caught my snout, then I nearly lost my mind.
I said ‘I’ll leave this cat alone,
clear till the end of time.

Clear till the end of ti-hi-hi-hi-hime,
clear till the end of time.

(*You can sing it non-profit but just remember where it came from. It is not yours)

 

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Will the Real Greg Stafford Please Stand Up? - Part 2

Did you tell him that? [that if he is going to ‘defend’ Jehovah’s Witnesses, he should not just hammer away at doctrine]

No. His name came up yesterday in this thread or another ongoing one. It was many years that I emailed him to ask if he was actually a Witness, and he said then that he was and in good standing. I’ve no idea whether that is still the case.

His answer is different from mine when the malcontents on Twitter keep asking me whether I am a Witness or not, and I answer with “Neither am I telling you by what authority I do these things.”

People are incredible. They think that they can slam you anonymously—and all that you stand for—and then expect you to be forthcoming with personal details whenever they request. “You yourself are saying it” is another answer that works well. 

They have pretty well decided that I am not a Witness, due to their own paranoia that if a Witness so much as strays one inch from “orders,” he is immediately drawn and quartered. I have said such things as: 

“I asked a similar question about the liar who represented himself on Twitter as Geoffrey Jackson (and Anthony Morris): ‘Is he really a Witness?’ It seemed like it should have been a very easy question to answer. So I asked him. He said that he was!”

and

If you go online to flame them, [JWs] while still claiming to be a Witness, you may have trouble. Drop the claim, and you can flame them all you want.

If you explode in rage at counsel not to get into cat fights, you may have trouble.

But if you write a book letting the air out of their complaints, will you? Time will tell.

Do you really truly in your paranoid heart of hearts, think that nobody knows of the book—when you are the first to decry them for sticking their nose everywhere?”

At such times, I link to the book, TrueTom vs the Apostates!”

The book itself alludes a few times to the question, such as:

And now I must face the music from my own side, and there may be some. His continual taunts at being “not allowed” were surely overdone, and it must have made him feel a little silly when I kept coming nonetheless, until he felt compelled to “not allow” me himself. Still, nobody here thinks it is the bee’s knees to engage with these characters, and I may hear about it. And they could be right. Maybe I am the yo-yo on the Jerusalem wall singing out just when Hezekiah is telling the troops to zip it. But I just couldn’t take it anymore.

The Witness organization cannot be expected to defend itself on social media, if on any media. It takes the scriptural view of Jesus at Matthew 11, noting that grumblers slam him no matter what he does, before finally saying, ‘Don’t worry about it,’ “wisdom is proved righteous by its works.” It is like David who kept mum as ‘all day long they muttered against him.’ ‘It is like the plowman who knows that if you look behind while plowing, the furrows get all flaky.’ They don’t do it. The common view of opposers is that the Witness headship is telling members what to do, while it cynically manipulates all from above. That view is wrong. They practice what they preach and they do it themselves. The organization headship cites Hebrews 13:7 about ‘imitating the faith of those who are taking the lead among you.’ They don’t go on social media at all. They prefer a less raucous channel, and content themselves with news releases at the website that inform but do not kick back at the critics.

It is scriptural. It is proper. But there is a downside. By staying mum on specifics, essentially our enemies get to define us to the news media who refer to a cover statement about “abhorring child abuse” as “boiler-plate” and then go to former members who will eagerly fill their ears with accounts that we could counter by adding context but don’t. What’s a reporter to do? He goes to who fills his ears.

It will fall upon the Witness journalist to do it, if it is to be done, and there aren’t many of them. If fourteen years of blogging, not shying from controversial things, does not qualify me to take a shot at it, what does? If you are in a spiritual paradise, or even a vacation paradise, you do not have to concern yourself with removing the trash. It may be even dangerous to do so, because there is broken glass and used syringes. It’s not for everyone, and maybe for no one. But I thought I’d give it a go, and I at last got under this fellow’s skin, the big baby.

This was in the chapter ‘Banned From the Apostate Website!”

Of course, I am using Greg as a pretext to launch my own diatribe. I have no idea of where he is now (as I didn’t then), or whether he is friend or foe. Hope he doesn’t mind. Most authors enjoy publicity—almost any publicity will do, and mine of him is not bad. It is merely inconclusive.

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Skirmish #873090 - Will the Real Greg Stafford Please Stand Up?

“There has also been another book by Greg Stafford, who might no longer be a JW.”

Who is this guy? Opposers have likened me to him. 

Perhaps his book is on Amazon.com, and the reviewers may have commented on who he is (was?).”

You know, that’s not a bad idea. I went there. 

He has a couple of books on ‘defending Jehovah’s Witnesses.’ I guess that I should applaud, because I claim to do the same, but I find books like these such yawners (granted, I have not read his) because they defend only in a doctrinal sense, whereas I like to believe that I defend in a more practical and strategic sense. These guys give the impression that they know the Bible and nothing else. First thing you know, their head has grown so big that they almost come to believe in themselves as the faithful and discreet slave—they have pointed the way and the supertanker organization doesn’t follow. Disgruntled, off they go as the True Light unheeded. In time, they are launching vicious attacks agains the hand that once fed them—the very place from which the learned the truth in the first place. (Wilma strikes me as one of them)

It is a shame that you are such a blowhard, James, because I rather like complaint of being Gog and Magogged to death. Exactly. You know when there are things “too great for me.” So do I. You don’t think that from your Appalachian still you are going to be emanating cutting edge scholarship. You wait for someone else to say it, and then you ask yourself, ‘Does it hang together.?’ If only you would learn to put things on the shelf when you suspect they do not rather than go all insolent (brazen) online over it and denounce everyone not doing what you think they should. 

Greg apparently devotes chapters to ‘disproving’ the Trinity. It is ridiculous. You can’t disprove it. The trick is to show that, since the doctrine defies common sense, the burden of proof is on their adherents to show that it is so. The default position favors the Witness. With very few exceptions, all ‘proof’ of the Trinity is based on taking literally certain passages which, if they were spotted anywhere else, would instantly be dismissed as figures of speech. I can picture these yo-yos reading of ‘crocodile tears’ and seizing upon it as proof that the writer is a crocodile. 

There are other Greg Stanford books on Amazon, too. they are of subjects that could represent the real one having gone over to the dark side. Or maybe they are a relative. Dunno.

I did contact him many years ago via email when people began to say of me that I sounded like another Greg Stanford. I asked who he was and he told me (then) that he was a Witness in good standing.

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Photo by regard 1400

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The Incredible Sinaiticus Sheepngoats Parchment - Book of Galatians Variation Destined to Update the Bible Cannon

Whenever a new version of Scripture appears that is colloquialized, paraphrased, or just plain dumbed down, the refrain is heard: “If it gets modern people to read God’s Word, it is worth it.” How far you want to take this trend is anyone’s guess. Suffice it to say that the Sinaiticus Sheepngoats pushes the boundaries as they have never been pushed before. It is an incredible find from the dry desert where it has been preserved for thousands of years. (though there are a few critics at the Whitepebble Institute who claim it has only been around two weeks and was discovered in the glove box of Harley’s car)

And yet—and yet—though it takes outrageous liberties and outright manufactures a few things, it does serve to convey the basic idea of the entire Book of Galatians. Is it right to spoil the book for everyone else in the course of getting a good grasp of it yourself? Your guess is as good as mine.

Anyway, here is the text of the Sinaiticus Sheepngoats edition of Galatians:

Chapter 1

Dear Galatians: Hi. Remember me? It’s Paul. How are you? (1:1-5)

The reason I say ‘remember me’ is because I’m not sure that you do! I can’t believe how quickly you are screwing up! Is that chair I used to sit in even cold yet? What is this about louts trying to change the whole narrative? They’re not allowed to do that! Look, even angels are not allowed to do that! (6-9)

You remember what a jerk I was. Nobody made more trouble for you than me. But after God let me hear about it right there on the Damascus road and that other fellow was sent so that I could see again, I went off to Arabia for three years to think about it. (13-17)

Then I came back to Jerusalem and stayed with Peter for a couple of weeks. But no one else—wait, I did see James, but none of the others. Then I went off again. What! You think I am fibbing? For years and years, had you asked those apostles about me, they would have said, “I dunno. Your guess is as good as mine. He used to be the nastiest fellow. Now it looks as though he is on our side. Cool! We’ll take it!” (18-24)

Chapter 2

About 14 years later I figured that maybe I had better give those guys a call. I had Barnabas with me by then, and Titus—fine fellows. I met with them privately, of course, just in case I was not doing something—um, kosher. “You okay with this?” I said to them. “You’re not going to make Titus do that Jewish thing, are you? I don’t see any need for it.” They didn’t either! (2:1-3)

It probably wouldn’t even have come up were it not for those pinheaded louts trying to drag us down, wanting us to everything Jewish that we don’t have to do anymore. We blew right past them, and it was for your sake just as much as for ours. (4-5)

Okay, so I consulted with these ones—I mean, I guess they are important. I wondered if they might try to rein me in, but no!—they said, “Whatever you are doing, keep on doing it. We’ll stick with preaching to Jews, but you—I mean, Peter unlocked that door for the nations, so go for it! Just don’t ignore the poor.” Sure, I can do that. (6-10)

But then Peter came calling later on and suddenly he himself goes all Jewish on me. Oh, sure, he pals around with these new Gentile Christians easy enough, but when his buddies show up, he acts like he doesn’t know them. I said, “I don’t believe it! Here you are living the free life, telling others to be like that, and then the narrow-minded fuddy duddies show up and you get all scaredy cat? (11-14)

Yeah, well he’s a good sort, but he goes a little weak at the knees sometimes. You don’t have to do any of that Jewish stuff! What do you think the Lord is for? (15-21)

Chapter 3

What on earth is wrong with you? How can you be so dumb? You break free but then turn around and go back because you forgot your leg irons? Are you kidding me? (3:1-5)

Don’t pull this Abraham stuff on me. Wait, no. If you want to talk Abraham, let’s talk Abraham. You think he earned anything? No! He “put faith in Jehovah, and it was counted to him as righteousness.” THAT’S what you want to take away from Abraham—his faith, and how he pointed the way for other people to have faith. Not the later Law—that Law did nothing but show you up for the basket cases that you were! Did you manage to keep it? No! All you did was screw up. That’s why when Christ comes along, you are supposed to say, “Exactly what we need! Thank you, thank you, thank you. (6-11)

You don’t go back to the Law again—what’s wrong with you? The Law has nothing to do with faith. Christ pulled us out of that—THAT’S what Abraham was pointing to, and you want to dive back in again? (12-14)

Okay, now look—let’s take this real slow. Take notes if it will help. So Abraham gets a promise that means the Christ will come through his lineup, but how does the Law figure in? It comes 430 years later. Does it change his promise? I don’t think so. (15-18)

Why the Law? It’s because you guys kept messing up, that’s why. And it was supposed to dawn on you that you DID keep messing up and that you’re never (and yes—me, too) going to come out like the champion of Jeopardy. You weren’t supposed to think that dotting all the ‘I’s and crossing all the ‘T’s would get you there—besides, you missed lots of them. (19-22)

Yes, it gave you something to do and kept you off the streets. But now that the real thing has arrived, you can set down your slates. Class is over. You can join in with that promise to Abraham. (23-29)

Chapter 4

It took a long time for you to get to where you are. A lot of work went into it. Don’t mess it up. (4:1-8)

You had real freedom. I mean, real freedom in Christ. And now you want to become law nerds again and focus on dotting ‘I’s and crossing ‘T’s? Really? What! Do I have a death wish or something? What am I doing this for? (9-11)

Remember the good times we used to have? Remember how you used to loan me your specs? You didn’t then stick out your foot to trip me up. What’s gotten into you? (12-16)

Do you think that these pinheaded louts are your friends? They just want to be your bosses. “Meet the new boss—same as the old boss.” (17-20)

Go back to Abraham, you law nerds, and take a point. Two women, remember? One a concubine, one a wife. Hagar gave birth first because Sarah thought she was too old to have a child. No mystery about how Hagar conceived. You see it all the time on TV. But Sarah! THAT’S where God’s promise came in, and she didn’t even believe herself it could happen until it did!

The two women stand for two groups of people. Hagar, the one of ordinary birth, is mother to the ones of Law (that you want go back to!) Sarah, the one of the promise, is mother to the ones putting their faith in Christ. (21-28)

The Hagar kid made trouble for the Sarah kid back then. It’s the same today with these pinheaded louts trying to force their Law on you. But what does the verse say? “Take this Law and shove it! I ain’t workin here no more!” Keep it that way! (29-31)

Chapter 5

You are free from slavery. Don’t go back to it. Or if you do, you’d better not miss a single one of those ‘I’s or ‘T’s. (5:1-6)

You were doing so well. Who tripped you up? Who made you think you need circumcision? It ain’t me, babe. Those Jews would give me a free pass if they thought I was turning Christianity into just one of their outposts. “Just you wait, enry iggins”—they’ll get theirs. (7-11)

In fact, I have half a mind to come and kick them in the nuts so hard that they won’t qualify to serve in the temple that they want to drag you into! (12)

No, brothers, don’t go there. Just don’t. You don’t need their picayune Law. It all boils down to love anyway—that is the greatest part of it—so if you get you head around that, you’ll do just fine. You start nitpicking at each other over every pissy little thing and you’ll tear each other apart! (13-18)

Don’t do bad things. Do good things. What do you mean, ‘What bad things?’ “No back-biting, no ass-grabbing, you know exactly what I mean!” [thank you, Randy Neuman] It shouldn’t be hard, if you really are following the Christ. Do the best you can, and don’t go thinking that you are better than the other guy. (19-26)

Chapter 6

Okay, let’s wrap this up. Don’t be babies—man up, but pull each other out of the crud when you have to (be sure you don’t fall in yourself). (6:1-5)

Don’t try to Play around with God. You can’t. Keep on keeping on—it will all pay off. Lend a hand where needed. (6-10)

See the large letters I make, all by myself with my own hand? Why? Because I am blind as a bat—that’s why. I dunno—it comes and goes. That’s why I insulted that pompous character before I knew he was the high priest. I asked God to take it away, but he said, “Nah, it keeps you humble.” And it has. It’s not an altogether bad thing to have a thorn in the flesh. (11)

Now, remember—they are pinheaded louts trying to lay their Law on you. And why? They’re just chicken themselves—like Peter might have been, but he saw where he was heading and corrected himself. They don’t want to stand out among their cronies, and they want to find strength in numbers by having you do what they do—it will hide their cowardice. What! You think they do the Law themselves? No way! They just want to do some back-stabbing and ass-grabbing themselves and then throw in a gerbil or something for sacrifice to make it all good again. Come on! Please—you are too smart not to see through them. (12-16)

I’ve suffered for carrying the good news of the Christ. So have you. Don’t turn back to be a law nerd again. Press on ahead. God will back you. So will Christ. (17-18)

***

What a bunch of idiots there at the Whitepebble Institute—tossing this amazing new manuscript in the dumpster! The place has gone right downhill ever since the director, Wayne Whitepebble, took a course on critical thinking and tried to kiss up to the evolutionists by adding an ancient skull to his library alongside the globe and old maps because he heard that is what smart people do but then it turned out that his ancient skull was actually missing evidence in the Mugsy McDougal ax murder case and he got into serious hot water with the authorities.

Plainly, this new find belongs in the Bible canon.

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“Now, I finally want to express special thanks to those who helped and supported me during the last 2 years of this criminal case:”

[Dennis Christensen’s closing statement]

First, I want to thank my wife Irina, who from the very beginning did everything in her power to help and support me. She took care of me, passed me clothes, groceries, medicines and other things that I needed in the SIZO (Pre-Trial Detention Centre). She has supported me emotionally and spiritually with her visits and letters that I have received from her every day.

My dear wife, your strong faith, your great patience, your peace of mind and love for me and for the truth, including your optimism, have all been a great example to me. You should know that I love you very much and that I am very proud of you!

I also want to thank my family in Denmark, especially my elderly father and my sister. You should know that I miss you so much. I love you and appreciate everything you have done for me. During my stay in the SIZO you supported me with your numerous letters and telephone conversations. I am sure that you will never give up and lose hope that we will be able to come together again as a family one day.

I also want to thank all my many friends from all over the world. You supported me with your letters, encouraging thoughts, beautiful drawings and various gifts. All this has helped me to understand that I am not alone, and that I have a large global family.

Dear friends, you should know that every letter, big or small, has encouraged and strengthened me. Please do not be discouraged if I do not have time to respond to your letters. I will find you, thank you and hug you in the future, I promise!

I also want to thank the Embassy of the Kingdom of Denmark in Moscow and all its staff. You attended many court sessions and repeatedly visited me in the SIZO. Your helpful advice, guidance and encouragement mean a lot to me, and I really appreciate your support and the great help that you have given me.

I would also like to thank the Court of Appeal for the fact that I personally was able to attend this court hearing. When I participated in other appellate cases through videoconferencing from the SIZO, it was difficult for me to hear everything that was said. I had to guess half of what was happening there. This is an unworthy way to defend someone. In addition, when using the conference call in the SIZO, you must sit in jail, as if you were an animal in a zoo. I consider this an unworthy, inhuman treatment today, in the 21st century.

At the present, I have already been in the SIZO for almost two years, and this trial has been going on for 15 months. To endure all this, not to give up and not to lose heart, it is extremely necessary to have a certain inner strength. The Bible says - in Philippians, the 4th chapter, the 12th verse - that “I can do everything by him that strengthens me.” In the book of the Prophet Isaiah, the 12th chapter, in verse 2 it is written: “Behold, God is my salvation: I trust in Him and have no fear; for the Lord is my strength, and my song is the Lord; and he has been my salvation. "

Throughout this period, I have felt that my God, Jehovah, has been next to me and has given me the strength to endure all this. The power to not give up, not to lose heart, to be joyful and happy and to continue to smile. I am sincerely grateful to him for this and am proud to serve Him as one of his witnesses, one of Jehovah's Witnesses.

Many people have asked me how this criminal case have affected me. Of course, it is not easy to be in a SIZO for such a long period of time, to be cut off from your wife and from close contact with your family and friends. The last two years I have lived a very closed life. You could say I have just existed. 23 hours a day I have spent in my prison cell of 3 by 6 meters, and for an hour every day I have gone for a walk in the walking yard, also 3 by 6 meters, although under the open sky. During this time, I met various people with whom I had many interesting conversations. And I noticed that many of them are trying to achieve a decent, honest investigation and trial. Most feel that the system does not hear them, and I have also felt a similar feeling in the past two years. I tried to support and encourage them as best I could, because I am sure that Jesus Christ would have done the same.

I made many new friends, some of them were present at a part of the court sessions, and some wrote letters to me. I personally know some of them, but others not yet. Some havethe same faith as I do, others do not, but they still support me, because they cannot tolerate the injustice that is happening here in Russia, the way some here try to make Jehovah’sWitnesses, citizens who love their neighbour as themselves, out to be criminals and call them extremists. This is completely illogical and ridiculous. Many are shocked by the fact that such things happen here, in Russia, in the 21st century.

Someone asked me how this criminal case has affected my faith. Thanks to this criminal case, my faith has only become stronger, and I have experienced what the Bible said in the Epistle of James, the first chapter, in verses 2 through 4: “Take great joy, my brethren, when you meet with various trials, knowing that the test of your faith produces endurance; but endurance must have its action complete, so that you may be complete in its entirety, without any deficiency. ”

I am still far from perfect, but I have learned to be steadfast and remain joyful in my ordeals. And the most important thing I want to emphasize is that I have drawn even closer to my God Jehovah and have received an even more ardent desire to tell others about him and his purposes, an ardent desire to continue preaching the good news of the Kingdom of God, which is the only solution for humanity. A fervent desire to share with others the joyful message from the Bible about the world and eternal life here, in paradise on earth to help them get closer to the Creator and help develop strong faith in him and his promises.

This speech is officially called “the last word in my defence,” and maybe these will be the last words you will hear from me today. Maybe this is the last court hearing in this criminal case, and it will become an end to this last two-year period of my life. But I want to assure you that these are not my last words in this case about the injustice that is happening here in Russia against peaceful and completely innocent people. I have just started, and I have a lot more that I want to tell you publicly. I'm not going to be silent, as if I am guilty and have something to hide. I have a clear conscience, I have not done anything wrong, I have not violated any law of Russia and I have nothing to be ashamed of.

What is being done against me and other Witnesses here in Russia are false accusations of extremism, interrogations, detentions, searches, confiscations, discoveries, threats, and now even torture. This should be shameful. It is of course adisgrace. The truth always becomes apparent, and justice will sooner or later prevail. In the Bible, in Galatians, chapter 6, verse 7, it says: “Do not be deceived: God is not mocked. Whatever a man sows, he will reap. ”

The court of first instance sentenced me to 6 years in prison, but for what? Nothing. There is no evidence that I did something wrong. On the contrary, there is a lot of evidence that I enjoyed the rights granted to me under Article 28 of the Constitution of the Russian Federation. I observe the law of the Russian state and am an honest person. I am a Christian, a believer, a Jehovah's Witness, and I love the Russian people. What are they punishing me for? Why should I be in prison for 6 years? Nothing. This is unfair.

I sincerely hope that the Court of Appeal today will protect what is right and take care that justice prevail. That it will namely stop the persecution of faith, which is happening now in Russia. I very much hope that this court of appeal will send a signal to the whole world that here in Russia there is freedom of religion for all people.

In the near future these words will be fulfilled: “And he, God, will judge many nations, and they will cast their swords into plowshares and their spears into sickles; nation will not raise the sword against nation, and they will no longer learn how to wage war. But each one will sit under his vine and under his fig tree, and no one will frighten them.” The words of Micah, chapter 4, verses 3 and 4.

God always judges justly, and under his rule there will no longer be disagreements, violence and wars. On the contrary, there will be peace, and there will be no anxieties. In other words, there will be true happiness for all of humanity.

Your Honor, with your decision today you can make a big step in this direction, in the direction of justice and peace. A big step towards a world without anxiety, sadness and injustice. And I hope you do that. Thank you in advance!

[The appeal failed. Seemingly, it had already been decided that it would.]

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”Tasting” Apostasy - ‘Yeah, I’ll Have Me Some of That!’

The present policy of God’s organization is not to “taste” apostasy. I would never say that that is wrong. In fact, it is all but required by the Scriptures, such as at Matthew 11:19–they criticize you no matter what you do, so pay them no mind, and press full speed ahead. Or “Let them be. Blind guides is what they are.” That is why I am a bad boy for hanging out where I do.

However, just because a policy is right does not mean that there may not be a significant downside to it. As it is, many of our young have succumbed to the oldest temptation in the world, going where they have been advised not to, like the cat that curiosity killed. There they find material that they have never seen before. It is material that is mostly misrepresented, but they do not see how—some of it is presented convincingly.  It strikes a chord with some of them.

Ideally, parents or other older ones should be able to show them how it has been misrepresented and what is wrong with it, but they cannot because they don’t know what is there themselves—they have not “tasted” apostasy. That’s why I could see Ann’s point when she said that she kept on top of “apostate” things, lest one fine day her teenage son ask about them and she is not able to do more than say, “Don’t go there!” which the opposers unfailingly spin as evidence of trying to keep the kid in a “cult.”

As it is, last I heard, the kid is happily serving as a regular pioneer, has never displayed any interest in such things, and says: “Mom, what’s with all this goofy stuff that you read?” But he is not everyone.

***

The reasons that some will turn aside are plain as day, clearly stated. Sometimes one could wish they were specifically applied to the courses different ones follow:

For there are many, I used to mention them often but now I mention them also with weeping, who are walking as the enemies of the torture stake of the Christ...[who] have their minds upon things on the earth.  (Philippians 3:18-19)

Look out: perhaps there may be someone who will carry you off as his prey through the philosophy and empty deception according to the tradition of men, according to the elementary things of the world and not according to Christ; (Colossians 2:8)

...in order that we should no longer be babes, tossed about as by waves and carried hither and thither by every wind of teaching by means of the trickery of men, by means of cunning in contriving error. Ephesians 4:14

***

Don’t allow these malcontents to raise straw man arguments, [for whom a character in my first book, Tom Irregardless and Me was named ‘Bernard Strawman’] for example, making a huge fuss over JW understandings that have changed over time. To one such grumbler who grumbled over one such understanding, I answered: “They changed that. Where were you? They are very open about it, calling it tacking or light getting brighter. It is only you that try to spin a conspiracy out of it. It is not a piece of cake looking at the future. Look how many climate change predictions have proven wrong.” Such grumbling is but muddying the waters. The fundamental teachings of Jehovahs’s Witnesses have been in place for well over 100 years—from their beginning.

It is the divine/human interface that is always going to be the problem. This was even true with Judas. He and God were tight. There were no problems there! But this upstart who claimed to be the Messiah—he was not to Judas’ liking at all. And those bumpkins that he was attracting—don’t even go there. None of the respectable people at all were buying into Jesus. “Not one of the rulers or of the Pharisees has put faith in him, has he?” said the Pharisees. “But this crowd that does not know the Law are accursed people.” (John 7:48-49)

Nicodemus tried to stick up for him, but he got shot down: “Our law does not judge a man unless first it has heard from him and come to know what he is doing, does it?” he asked. “In answer they said to him: ‘You are not also out of Galilee, are you? Search and see that no prophet is to be raised up out of Galilee.’” It is a slur. Galilee was out in the sticks, where all but one of Jesus’ twelve disciples came from. Only Judas was from cosmopolitan Jerusalem.”

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I don’t think I have ever been distracted in a prayer by rounds of ‘Poor Jud is dead.’

I don’t think I have ever been distracted in a prayer by rounds of ‘Poor Jud is dead.’

And folks are feelin' sad 

Cause they useter treat him bad 

But now they know their friend is gone for good 

Curly: Good.

How can a guy seriously pray, as one ought to do at a memorial, with that playing over the sound system? It wasn’t good at all that my friend was dead. Still, I should have expected it, attending the memorial of 92-year-old Barbara, who had once played in the musical Oklahoma. She had been in Lil Abner, too, as the back-up Daisy Mai, and also a few other venues.

After show business, she served as an administrator at NYU.

After retirement she became one of Jehovah’s Witnesses, and moved to upstate New York, probably because her youngest daughter lived there. She was 27 years as a Witness and became known locally as one of ‘the Golden Girls,’ pioneering with some other oldsters, none of whom had been show girls.

“We have someone in our audience today who once worked with Mr. Rogers” [of Rogers and Hammerstein], said the program director at Hochstein Music School. Barbara used to attend all the violin concerts of one of the elder’s children—the same elder who gave her memorial talk, as it turned out. Everyone made a fuss over her after that announcement, and for a brief time she was transported back to the day.

Only the Pioneer Service School conductor had been able to get away with calling Barbara (who never had a hair out of place) Babs—as in “So that everyone can have a share, please try to keep your comments to under 30 seconds. Except for you, Babs—15 seconds for you,” and by this tactic he managed to restrain most of her comments to under three minutes.

After recalling a few anecdotes of Babs’ life, the speaker presiding said that “We are here because she is not.” He went on to let the air out of a few suppositions that invariably fail under stress—such as ‘she is in a better place now.’ She is not. Death is an enemy, not a friend, he pointed out, and cited 1 Corinthians 15:26. He went on to recall how death had not been God’s original purpose, how it had come about in the first place, and how the resurrection hope would one day undo it. She is unconscious in the meantime, as though asleep.

I didn’t overlap with Barbara as much as had most others at the reception afterwards—people who had worked with her in field service for years. Probably the reason I struck a chord with her is that when she heard that I blogged, she did not say ‘Why in the world would you do that?’ (as many of the friends might) but she was very encouraging over it. Her son, too, was a writer, she said—the researcher and author of a book on a topic almost totally unknown to Western audiences, but the Eastern equivalent of Hitler’s concentration camps—Unit 731 in China under Japanese WWII domination. To this day relations between the two countries are strained. It became the subject of another of my blog posts.

The son was there at the memorial talk and reception, looking very much an author, with two satchels hung around his neck—whereas everyone else had managed to stow their gear elsewhere. “Oh, he just talks and talks—you have to interrupt him,” his sister had told me, so I did, briefly, to express condolences and to say that his mom had been very proud of him. The three daughters were there, too, and only the Witness one had I known, so I made a point of meeting the other two. They are both retired professional women and both lit up at my mention that a shared interest in the arts is what had attracted me to their mom. We even spoke some of Barbara’s 2nd husband, Lloyd Barenblatt, whose professional career as an academic was ruined because he wouldn’t name names during the McCarthy era.

Babs didn’t have a background typical of most Witnesses. More typically they have been raised on a farm out in the prairie or worked on a ship in the Atlantic or a workshop in Boise. I refrained from telling these refined daughters about Mickey Spillane, another writer who became a Witness, and who had observed of the ‘great’ authors: “What these guys could never get is that you sell more salted peanuts than caviar.” I wasn’t sure how they might respond to that.

The resurrection hope to an earth made paradisiac under God’s kingdom rule is something very real to Jehovah’s Witnesses, and is what attracted many of them to the faith to begin with—most other religions either being disheartenly vague on the topic or promoting everyone to heaven, where they will float around and—well, who knows what they will do there? I don’t think that I have ever heard a Witness question the resurrection hope. I look forward to seeing my old friend there again someday.

 

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photo: Oklahoma - Mraz Center for the Performing Arts

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One Dud of a Hall Here Can Buy 100 There - the Kingdom Halls

The fellow was in a rush when I first contacted him, just about to leave to pick up the kids from school. He was apologetic about it, very nice, and allowed that I should visit some other time. When I did I told him it was to show a video that lasted exactly a minute (actually a minute and six seconds—I lied).

He said we should go into the darkened garage where a video would be easier to see. It is the short video ‘Would You Like Good News?’ and it points to a brochure of similar name. That brochure’s table of contents lists about a dozen questions people have raised about God. ‘Ask if there are any that grab their interest,’ the C.O. had suggested. If there are, there is a basis for short conversation. If there are not, off you go, nice as you please. I even thank them for their time. After all, people are busy, we call without appointment, which is pretty much unheard of today, and there is no obligation for them to speak with us at all. The fact that a given person does is reason to thank them for their time, in my view.

‘That says it all as to what we do,’ I told the fellow after the video. My instincts had not been wrong that here was a decent guy with an interest in spiritual things. “How people can not believe in God?—all you have to do is look around,” he had said unbidden. I even tried to stick up for “those people” with the observation that a lot of bad things happen today and some feel that if there is a God, surely he would have fixed them. He didn’t buy it.

Your building is right up there on route such-and-such, he said. But I told him that we had sold that one, and I gave him the party line—it was because of our great growth—(whereas if anyone else had done it, it would mean they are going belly-up). Well—it can be spun that way and so I do. The Halls aren’t all where they should be, so if you combine some groups here, you can sell off an underutilized one there and build one where you need it. This especially works when the ones needed are in developing lands. One underperforming dud of a Hall here can finance 100 over there—aiding ones who could ill afford it on their own—a significant advantage of organization.

It’s all valid to explain it that way. It works. It’s true enough. Having said that, that was not the intent when the Hall was built in the first place. The intent was to fill it to the rafters. Ah, well. With admittedly some hyperbole, Witnesses can put up and dispose of Kingdom Halls as readily as the greater world puts up and disposes of Coleman tents—they are very handy people—so it makes sense to do it this way. The arrangement that I thought could never be improved upon has been significantly improved upon—streamlined for overall efficiency—again, something that shows the advantage of organization.

This guy lives way out there, where I don’t get too often. It’s why I like the website, and specifically the online series of Bible study courses. They are self-guided, I explained, and you can take a day or a year to go through them all, building a foundation of basic Bible knowledge. In fact, I am looking forward to saying—the timing and circumstances will have to be just right—I would never do it with this fellow: “I don’t want to study the Bible with you. Do it yourself!” You don’t have to spoon-feed everyone elementary verse by elementary verse. People are smart. They can do it themselves, in most cases. I even think that keeps some of us babes ourselves—if we eternally are striving to present the basics.

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photo: First Solids, by Squiggle

 

 

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Geoffrey Jackson Before the Commission - the New Requirement to Go “Beyond the Law”

Excerpt:

In fact, certain persons cannot go ‘beyond the law’ with impunity. A doctor in the U.S. absolutely dare not go beyond the HIPPA law ensuring confidentiality; it is a meticulously enforced law, leading some to wish that more major crimes were so quickly avenged. Three confidential relationships are bedrock to Western law: confidentiality of doctor-patient, lawyer-client and clergy-penitent,36 for none of these relationships can work without the expectation of confidentiality. If law is not written otherwise, it is illegal to go beyond the law in such cases. Without a clear legal mandate, a Witness elder cannot go ‘beyond the law’ because the default law says he cannot violate confidentiality in matters where the wronged individual would prefer it so.

Geoffrey Jackson of the Witness Governing Body three times pleaded for such a consistent mandate across all territories before the Australian Royal Commission to Institutional Responses into Child Sexual Abuse mentioned above. When it was his turn to testify, he said:37

  1. Jackson: “Thank you for the opportunity to explain this. I think very clearly Mr. Toole pointed out that if the Australian Government, in all the States, was to make mandatory reporting, it would make it so much easier for us.” …
  2. Jackson: “The point being, here, another aspect that an elder needs to consider is he does not have the authority to lord it over or take over control of a family arrangement, where a person—let’s say it is a victim who is 24 or 25 years of age—has a right to decide whether or not they will report that incident. They also respect the family arrangement that the appointed guardian, who is not the perpetrator, has a certain right, too. So this is the spiritual dilemma that we have, because at the same time, we want to make sure that children are cared for. So if the government does happen to make mandatory reporting, that will make this dilemma so much easier for us, because we all want the same goal—that children will be cared for properly.” …

Council Assisting (Stewart): “Leaving aside the question of overriding mandatory law from the civil authorities, do you see the possibility within the scriptures as you have identified them for a change in the practice of Jehovah’s Witnesses?  In other words, would it be within the scriptures for the Jehovah’s Witnesses organization to adopt a policy which says that in cases where there are others at risk, a report must be made to the authorities?”

G Jackson: “That is a possible thing for us to consider, and I think, already, the assumption is there, that if any elder was to see that there was some definite risk, that their conscience should move them to do that. But the point I was trying to make, Mr. Stewart, is there are other scriptural factors that maybe make that a little complicated, and it would certainly be a lot easier if we had mandatory laws on that.”

He is pleading for sanity to prevail. Sometimes reporting is mandated. Sometimes it is not mandated, and in such cases, Witness elders run legal, even moral, risks in doing it. Where not mandated, they are not free to override concerns of family members if they choose not to report; yet they are held to account if a victimized one, years later, regrets that decision, and blames, not the family members who made it, but the elders themselves. Sometimes, doing their best to navigate a maze, our people have likely stumbled. Other times, the maze itself has tripped them up. Jackson pleads for an across-the-board policy, with no room for misunderstanding or misapplication, so that it won’t matter if a given family wants to avoid airing its dirty laundry on the 11 PM News. Even today, families do not line up to do that, whether religious or not.

If going beyond the law is so laudable, then that should become the law. With the prioritized, near-sacred quest of protecting children, one would think nothing could be easier. Failure to go ‘beyond the law’ is an invitation to Monday morning quarterbacks assigning motives, invariably bad ones, to parties they don’t like. However, in most things legal, careers are built on complexity. They are all undermined when the course is made simple.

The reader will have noted by now, and may even have been an exasperated by, this author’s disdain of the greater world for being so disunited; it has never presented itself otherwise, he or she might note. When the agency says “United Nations” and even affixes the Isaiah quotation about nations beating swords into plowshares, it is just joking. It is not to be taken seriously. It is just dreaming of an ideal it knows full well is unattainable. This author must be forgiven because he comes from a people who have pulled it off. He comes from where they are not just joking about such things and where the dream has become reality. Unity among Jehovah’s Witnesses is a commonplace and unremarkable fact. It is not in the Witness world that one hand plants the seed which produces the plant that the other will eventually have to uproot.

So the following is admittedly sarcastic—which is risky because Thomas Carlyle said sarcasm is the language of the Devil. Forgive me. The Devil made me do it. Here is my fictionalized hearing with the commissioner, not speaking specifically of Australia, but for the overall world:

 

Lead Commissioner: “Mr. Jackson, I hope that you people will straighten up and fly right and cooperate more fully with what we are trying to do. I emphasize the word “trying,” Mr. Jackson, because we are terrible at it and the overall track record of the world would be laughably bad were it not so tragic. But our hearts are in the right place.

“Mr. Jackson, I am impressed by your humility, your distress at what clearly is a problem, and your overall demeanor. We have so many people strutting their stuff about here and you almost can’t stand them. We appreciate your willingness to work with us and we hope we can further work with you along this line.

“You have pleaded with us, Mr. Jackson, to make our policies the same across all territories, for that would make your job so much easier. It is a reasonable request. Unfortunately, Mr. Jackson, we cannot comply, though we would like to, because we represent squabbling and disunited governing entities that cannot collectively tie their own shoe. You would think it would be the easiest thing in the world to do what you request. Unfortunately, it is impossible.

“And this is just one area. Don’t get me going about international efforts to fight child sexual abuse. Children in many third world countries are routinely abused every day without anyone at all to stand up for them. That’s because there is no money over there, and consequently, no interest. But we do have a lot of money here.

“We have a request for you, Mr. Jackson. I know it’s a bit irregular, but can you take this off our hands for us? I have looked into your organized nature and have concluded that you could do it. Aren’t you the people who set up and take down your buildings of worship almost as easily as our people set up and take down Coleman tents? I know you do not have grandstanding politicians who will push and shove to do whatever will keep them in their jobs, and that you can focus on the real issues, undistracted by personal agendas. I know you can separate the truly worrisome pedophiles from the run-of-the-mill ones, who appear to be almost everyone. I know too, that you care about poor people just as much as you care about well-off people. Listen, we just want to save our kids here, and we think that if we funneled all reports to you, you would be able to handle keeping a centralized list and handle its distribution.  I know it is not your main line, but surely you can devote a committee to it. Ten of your people are worth 10,000 of ours because your people know how to work together and our people do not. The more people we add to our efforts, the more chaotic the overall picture gets.

(in my dreams)

from the book: Dear Mr. Putin - Jehovah’s Witnesses Write Russia

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