Skirmish #65198 - Steady as She Goes Among Treacherous Waters

“I realized that I did not fully understand those scriptures in 1 Thess. 5.”

 

 

“Perhaps you might want to peruse the article to confirm that there is nothing beyond what is written in the scriptures.”

If they had really wanted to pump everyone into fever pitch, as John charges they do, they would not have let 1Thess 5:2-3 go unmentioned during last week’s assigned Bible reading—the verse about “whenever they are crying ‘peace and security.’ They would have hyped it to the heavens. Instead, they let it pass unnoticed.

I think they are sailing a “steady as she goes” course among treacherous waters, doing their best not to overhype nor underhype. I just don’t like to second-guess their every move. Everyone knows what a pain a back-seat driver is. I don’t want to be one.

Does John want to go back to what he once was doing, reasoning that it is enough to know that the end is “out there somewhere?” This course I believe we are “not allowed” to take—not by the GB, but by Jesus, if we would prove ourselves faithful to him. Does John point to things he thinks the GB does wrong? (Does he ever!) I note how Miriam and Aaron began to speak against Moses on account of his Cushite wife—and how Jehovah really, really didn’t like that, and He let them hear about it. This was so even though Moses actually did have a Cushite wife.

As much as it is good to roam history in the spirit of “he who does not know history is doomed to repeat it,” it is probably one of those things we are just going to have to accept that we do from time to time. The presumed motivation for so searching past publications is so that we do not yet again emerge with egg on our face when something doesn’t turn out as anticipated. I think it is fair to assume that we may—for the alternative is to forget all about “keeping on the watch”—the opposite shoal, which is even more dangerous than the one we are trying to navigate.

To the extent that the intent is to appear “respectable” by never again having to backtrack on prior expectations, I think the intent is misguided, though certainly understandable. Paul was described as a “pest” who was leading a “sect.” Witnesses today can expect no more. Christians then were considered the “offscouring” of the earth. Witnesses today can expect no more. 

What we have on this site is multiple players trying to make the case that the doers are doing it wrong—overlooking the fact that in most cases they themselves are doing nothing. Witnesses just have to accept that it will be that way. Malcontents and renegades will pick up the same refrain as you-know-who, the one who “accuses our brothers day and night before our God.”

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A Review of the New York Times Review of “Leaving the Witnesses,” a book by Amber Scorah

Something is greatly off-base about the New York Times review of Amber Scorah’s new book ‘Leaving the Witnesses’ and it is not Amber. It is the reviewer, C. E. Morgan, who tackles her task with a humanist fervor that merits a review in itself.

She teaches at Harvard Divinity School, per the NYT byline. One wonders what she could possibly teach, or what might be the outcome for students who attend her class—students who presumably went there because they want to learn about God. Her lavish praise of Ms. Scorah’s book: “She teaches us how integrity is determined....by enduring the universe as we find it — breathtaking in its ecstasies and vicious in its losses — without recourse to a God” surely should give those students pause—are they truly in the place they thought they were? Or did they somehow get shunted off into the Atheist Academy? There is such a thing as truth in advertising. 

Ms. Scorah herself, as presented by the Ms. Morgan, is more conventional. Hers is one of the oldest stories of time—of someone disillusioned with her present life, so she reaches out for another, which upon seizing, she finds exhilarating. It is a coming-of-age story, albeit belated. It is a staple of literature.

Since she is ‘leaving the Witnesses’—Jehovah’s Witnesses, a group of Bible-believing Christians—one must at least consider how the Witnesses themselves might have phrased her departure. That can be found in the words of the apostle Paul addressed to Timothy: “Demas has forsaken me because he loved the present world.” Demas himself would not have put it that he “forsook” anyone. He would have presented it as a matter of his eyes at last being opened. “We are regarded as deceivers, and yet we are truthful,” says Paul at 2 Corinthians 6:8. Demas would have been one to say that he had been deceived.

Ms. Morgan cannot be expected to put it as did Paul, but since she teaches at the Divinity school, one might at least expect her to be cognizant of that point of view. Instead, Amber’s departure is a tale of pure heroism for her—that of escape from an “extreme” religion—even worse than a “fundamentalist” religion in her view—and it is “most valuable as an artifact of how one individual can escape mind control.”

“We have wronged no one, we have corrupted no one, we have taken advantage of no one,” says the apostle again. (2 Corinthians 7:2) Demas might have said he had been victimized by all those things. Nevertheless, you say, I was “crafty” and I caught you “by trickery.” (2 Corinthians 12:16) Demas might have said exactly that. Truly, “there is nothing new under the sun.” (Eccles 1:9)

It would appear that any denomination of Christianity would be fundamentalist in Ms. Morgan’s eyes—at least that would be so of any that haven’t interpreted away the resurrection of Christ into oblivion. “The anti-intellectualism of these [fundamentalist] authoritarian movements, their staunch refusal to cede ground to reason and empiricism, often confounds nonbelievers,” and it is hard to believe that she does not count herself as chief of the nonbelievers—never mind what her teaching title might suggest. “How can people devote the totality of their lives to the unseen, the unevidenced?” she laments, seemingly unaware that such was commonplace until relatively recently. Isaac Newton, oft called the father of science, wrote more about religion that he did about mathematics and science combined. “How can faith subsume thinking?” she continues. Her frustration could not be more clear—‘We have fired everything we have at them and yet they keep standing!’

As bad as fundamentalism is, however, it is not as bad in her eyes as an “extreme religion” like Jehovah’s Witnesses. To establish that she has done her homework, she relates that from its 1870 inception, the faith “rejected Christian doctrines it deemed extratextual, including trinitarianism and hell,” as though providing further evidence of descent into superstition, rather than the advance into rationality that it is—early Witness leader C. T. Russell was known within his lifetime as “the man who turned the hose on hell and put out the fire.” The Witness description of death: “extinction or non-being,” is exactly the rationalist view of today, and it is ‘tarnished’ only by their added take of a future resurrection from the dead.

The notion that Christianity should return to its default state Morgan finds “dubious,” as though the inventors of something couldn’t possibly have known what they were doing. Witnesses have a “hierarchy,” as though no other organization does, their publishing constitutes an “empire,” as evidenced by the fact that it still exists, and they have a following who “actively proselytize, warning of an imminent Armageddon,” as though it is wrong to even suggest that an earth carved up into 200 eternally squabbling nations is not exactly what God had in mind.

In short, she found has people—ordinary people for the most part—who disagree with her, and she oozes disdain for them. Children raised in such religion “experience a totalizing indoctrination that so severely limits the formation of an adult psychology that many don’t ever achieve maturity in the way secular society conceives of it...” Necessarily this means that she thinks the adults of that faith are largely immature children. The patronization is simply too much. Any time someone leaves one culture for another, there is some catching up to do—say, in the case of a person migrating from one country to another. Would Ms. Morgan similarly find it necessary to crow her superiority over the country and culture of emigration—where Islam is practiced, perhaps, or Spanish is spoken? She would recoil at the thought, but when it comes to religious views that stray from her worldview, it is as natural to her as breathing air. Let her “world” prove itself reasonably “free from sin” before she casts stones on those who have come to see things differently,

“Witnesses are forbidden to socialize outside the organization,” she says. How enforceable can such “forbidding” be when people live, school, and work in the general community, as Witnesses do? The forbidding amounts to no more than counsel to choose one’s friends wisely—counsel that should hardly be a shocker. It is surprising that the she does not escalate “higher education is discouraged” also into an ironclad rule. When Witnesses partake of the offerings of “higher education,” they usually prefer to take it a la carte.

For all that she might carry on about “mind-control,” it is her environment of higher education that employs a classic tool of it: cut a student off nearly 24/7 from former stabilizing influences to minimize resistance to the absorption of whatever philosophies are taught. It is her environment that normalizes such a drastic shift as no more more remarkable than pursuing health care. Study the Bible with Jehovah’s Witnesses, on the other hand, and there is truth in packaging—you know full well that you are going off the grid of standardized thinking. Still, one remains in the most stabilized environment possible—one’s normal routine and surroundings are entirely undisturbed—the “safest” setting in which to give any new ideas a trial run. It is the very opposite of how one “brainwashes” people.

“Questioning doctrine is an offense punishable by disfellowshipping, or shunning,” she says. It is a matter of degree. Each side of societal uproar that we see on the television news presents itself as merely “questioning” the premises of the other. Amber ran out on a “loveless marriage,” Ms Morgan states, and the implication is clear that Jehovah’s Witnesses think loveless marriages are the bee’s knees, since she presents love as the balm that finally wakes Ms. Scorah up. Seemingly to her, there is no way on earth that love that could be found within the repressive religion. Few cheerleaders are unbiased and Ms Morgan is clearly is not an unbiased reviewer.

“The bravery of [the book] cannot be overstated,” she gushes. I suspect that, not only it can be, but it is. Certainly it pales next to the bravery of a migrant who arrives in a strange country with no money, no common language, and often without family. Ms Scorah, on the other hand, has a new-found partner—the same one who introduced her to her new worldview, and who will presumably be there to give support. 

Notwithstanding that anything with which you agree is “highly readable” on that account, I will take for granted that Ms. Scorah’s book is as it is said to be—an “earnest one, fueled by a plucky humor and a can-do spirit that endears.” Perhaps one day I will read it. And yet it does not completely satisfy the reviewer—it shows too much the “the remnants of a Christian modesty not well suited to the task of memoir.” ‘Come on, SPILL!’ one can all but hear Ms. Morgan urge. ‘Blow this “juvenile” “fundamentalist” tripe out of the water!’ as she totally redefines “miracle” as “enduring the universe as we find it — breathtaking in its ecstasies and vicious in its losses — without recourse to a God.” What will be the subject of her next lesson at the Divinity School?

But she has not yet come to the most gripping part. When she does, she foresees another book. “Many readers know Scorah through her viral article in The New York Times about the death of her son on his first day of day care....” she writes. “This, one senses, is her brutal but beautiful route into a new book — a shorter, wiser one, sharp and devastating. Here she reveals a chastened existence, steeped in grief and unknowing without recourse to pacifying religious answers.” THAT is the book I will read even before this one. Ms Scorah has exchanged a backdrop of: “We do not want you to be ignorant about those who are sleeping in death, so that you may not sorrow as the rest do who have no hope” (1 Thessalonians 4:13) for one that reads: “Stuff happens. Pick up the pieces and carry on if you can.” Ms. Morgans reckons that exchange an unmitigated triumph of the human spirit. Is it? The apostle would have reckoned it as “shipwreck of a faith.” (1 Timothy 1:19)

- Tom Harley is a practicing Jehovah’s Witness in the United States. He does not teach anywhere, but has written the ebooks “Dear Mr. Putin - Jehovah’s Witnesses Write Russia,” and “TrueTom vs the Apostates!”

 

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Another Day on the “Recruiting” Trail - Sheesh

One college kid asked, when I proposed returning, “To what end?” It was a question  I’d not been asked before.

I explained that in my ideal scenario I would return 100 times and engage in 100 different conversations and on the 101st I would ask him if he wanted to be a Jehovah’s Witness like me and at that time he should say ‘No.’ 

I even asked him to rehearse. “Let me show you how it would work. I am going to ask you to become a Witness like me and I want you to say “No.” Would you do that? He agreed. 

“Would you like to become a Witness?” I asked. “No,” he said.

“You see? Nothing to worry about. It’s just conversation. You’ll learn your way around the Bible in the meantime, if that is something you want. The moment you tire of it, just let me know. No one is easier to get rid of than Tommy. You almost have to beg him to stay.”

The anticult people try to spin it as “recruiting.” That’s why the outrage some have over the recent letter expressing condolences over someone’s loss. If they just took it at face value, they’d be okay with it. We should not let those scoundrels define the game.

Are we “recruiting?” I suppose so, but in the most non-threatening way possible, so that only by really stretching the point could we be said to be doing it. And it is not an immediate goal—telling the good news of the kingdom is.

I always explain my motive: “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,” says Matthew 24:14. Who should be expected to do that other than those who have come to believe it? And no, it is not the end of the earth. But it is the end of the present “system of things.” Earth divvied up into a couple hundred eternally squabbling nations is not God’s idea, and the time will come when “thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth, as it is in heaven.” I mean, presumably it all runs pretty well up there and God’s will rules the day, but it sure isn’t the case here, is it? That’s not to say that “God’s will” loses out each and every time, but it can hardly be said to be the norm, can it?

Jehovah’s Witnesses are “indoctrinating?” College is far more indoctrinating than anything having to do with Jehovah’s Witnesses. The typical student is separated 24/7 from his or her previous stabilizing routine and people—a classic tool of brainwashing.

(I didn’t actually go through the rehearsal with this kid. Our best lines always occur to us too late. But that does not mean that I won’t do it when the situation is right.)

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photo: Airman Magazine

 

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A Lot of Work to Syphon Out the Liars

As much as I hate "conspiracy" theories”

As near as I can tell, Jehovah’s Witnesses buy into conspiracy theories in no greater proportion than the general population. It is a little surprising, since they have become privy to the greatest conspiracy theory of all—that involving religion having deviated so far from its source

As for me, I find myself nibbling at the edges, and in some cases accepting them. If I follow anything on Twitter, I make a point also of following its polar opposite. Sometimes I find the polar opposite point of view to be represented much more persuasively than the common wisdom.

 

“...After a while, one can develop an entire framework of areas (and players) where such admissions happen more often than others. When the pattern of 1)position, 2)slip-up, and 3)method of backtracking to regain the original position becomes very predictable, then you are probably onto something trending toward truth.”

That’s a lot of work to syphon out the liars. 

That’s not to say it is not a good idea, nor that it is any more time-consuming than what I do. It is just that few people have that kind of time. Most people take news from one or two sources, often the evening TV news for people our age, and pretty well accept that they are being told the truth. Usually they are, but it is not “the whole truth and nothing but the truth”—which can completely turn things around.

At one pioneer meeting the elder conducting it was highlighting the importance of neutrality, and never to give the impression of taking sides. “Now we all know that Trump is crazy,” he said, “but.......” I would stake my life on it that his only source of news is the evening news of one of the three networks. 

I was relatively up in years before I discovered to my surprise that my (non-Witness) Dad cared hardly at all about politics. Many were the political discussions swirling around the dining room table, as I was growing up, when the extended family was gathered. However, it turned out that my Mom’s father was very much a GOP person and would crank on about it endlessly, and my Dad was just too gracious to tell him to zip it—it was his father-in-law, after all, who his wife liked.

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Photo: Evening News, by Vasilennka
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“No Viet Cong Ever Called Me N****r”

Cassius Clay (Muhammad Ali) was among the first to break ranks during my youth. “No Viet Cong never called me nigger”21 he declared and refused the draft into the Vietnam war. Exactly. What quarrel did he have with persons halfway around the globe? If the kings of the earth couldn’t get along, how did that become his problem? His real enemy was elsewhere. Ali didn’t go to jail—he won his case on appeal22—but he was stripped of his Heavyweight Title and lost several years boxing. There is a price to be paid to sit out the war that the world leaders would funnel you into. The price is especially steep when, like Jehovah’s Witnesses, you not only sit out war but also the substitute civilian activity that is clearly designed to support the war. As for me, had I not become a Witness when I did, perhaps I would have been shipped out of Vietnam in a box for a cause history judges not especially noble—for I could not then, nor now, scrap like Mohammed Ali.

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

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Letter Writing in the Ministry

There it is again. An experience of writing letters containing “some comfort from the Scriptures.” Here is from the recent Watchtower article on ‘Show Fellow Feeling in Your Ministry.’

A letter was well-received in this instance of a family whose child had died.

“‘I was having a horrible day yesterday,’ wrote the bereaved mother. ‘I don’t think you have any idea what impact your letter had on us. I can’t thank you enough or even begin to describe how much it meant to us. I must have read your letter at least 20 times yesterday. I just could not believe how kind, caring, and uplifting it was. Thank you from the bottom of our hearts.’”

And to think that there are some malcontents who have all but popped a vein over things like this. Well, it would be a little odd to get such a letter out of nowhere, but most times it is seniors who write them—ones in poor health who don’t get around anymore as they once did. Ideally, this also gives then a certain empathy that a younger person might not have.

Look, it’s because the soreheads view it as “recruiting” that they have a cow over it. It isn’t. If you take it at face value, you’ll be fine. You may not frame it and hang it on the wall—more likely it will be tossed quite soon—but neither will the blood pressure soar.

I can’t quite recall whether I have ever done this or not. I don’t think so, but it is possible. What I do recall is that in the mid-seventies, when the Awake! devoted an entire issue to the subject of depression—back when the topic was seldom breached in public, as though it were something shameful—that I was so impressed with that issue that I sent a copy to all the psychiatrists in the phone book. One of them responded—to point out that his own research had been included in the magazine.

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photo: Peanuts. Charles Shultz

 

 

 

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Talk: (5 min. or less) w04 5/1 19-20 ¶3-7—Theme: How Were Certain Christians “a Strengthening Aid” to Paul? (Col 4:11, ftn.) (th study 7)

“I know several people who rose in their employment far beyond what their qualifications and education would have seemed to permit. When I investigated, I found that it was because they had deliberately made themselves indispensable. 

“Aw, man, I can’t believe I left my parchments at my apartment,” someone would say. He (or she) would volunteer to get it. “Rats, I left my cloak in the car,” another would say. “I’ll get it,” was his reply.

Of course, those are Bible examples from 2 Tim 4:13, the gist of such will be revisited presently. What they would actually volunteer for is some pain-in-the-neck spreadsheet that had to be done but nobody wanted to do it.

So it is that five obscure characters rose in the ranks in the apostle Paul’s eyes. “Only these are my fellow workers,” he says of Tychicus, Onesimus, Aristarchus, Mark, and Justus, almost as though they formed a cabal. He describes them as a “strengthening aid” (“source of great comfort” - 2013 NWT) and the Greek root word is peregoria, used only once in scripture, which generally has medicinal connotations, hence the two acceptable renderings. Going back several decades, there was the English ‘peregoric,’ an over-the-counter medicine. It had opium in it. It was good for whatever ailed you.

Paul comes across as almost superhuman in his endurance—recall Mark Sanderson at the Gilead gradation referring to the list at 2 Corinthians 11:23 and observing that just one of those experiences would have floored most of us—yet he surely could have used “strengthening” from time to time. Like when enemies try to pin the charge of ‘sedition’ on him—as they did with Jesus—as they have done with Jehovah’s people today—and, far from according him respect as a driving force of an important religion, dismiss him as a “pest” promoting a “sect.” (Acts 24:5)

If someone is described that way—especially if they are under (house) arrest, as was Paul—there is a tendency to keep one’s distance, lest the unsavory accusations rub off. If someone is charged with sedition, you think twice before you say, “That’s my buddy!” If someone is written off as a “pest,” you show whose esteem you are trying to court by whether you identify with that person or not.

Similarly, “they will say every sort of [wicked] thing about you,” Jesus says of his disciples. And ‘if you see how they treat me, then you know how they will treat you.’ (Matthew 5:11, John 15:20) There is a tendency to back away from anyone of whom “every sort of wicked thing” is said, and these five cabal Christians would not do it. It is hard not to think of Jehovah’s Witnesses in Russia right now. As some are being led off to courts andimprisonment, after having personal property confiscated, their brothers, far from laying low, are publicly identifying with them. There is even a scene somewhere of the friends clapping in the aftermath of a trial, as the “guilty” member is being led away. It plays a little odd from a distance, but the idea is to recognize and support those keeping integrity under trial. It is hardly just Russia, however. Everywhere “every sort of wicked thing” is said about Christians, affording ones opportunity to gather round or distance themselves.

Qualifications were not unreachable for those whom Paul would later recognize as a “strengthening aid,” or “source of great comfort”—just stick with him under censure and don’t run like a chicken. One of them even DID run like a chicken at one time (arguably) —Mark, but he later got his act together and identified with Paul in hard times—so if we are chickens, there is yet hope.

The others: “Tychicus, my beloved brother and faithful minister and fellow slave in the Lord, will tell you all the news about me. I am sending him to you so that you will know how we are and that he may comfort your hearts. He is coming along with Onesimus, my faithful and beloved brother, who is from among you; they will tell you all the things happening here.Aristarchus, my fellow captive, sends you his greetings, and so does Mark, the cousin of Barʹna·bas (concerning whom you received instructions to welcome him if he comes to you), and Jesus who is called Justus, who are of those circumcised. Only these are my fellow workers for the Kingdom of God, and they have become a source of great comfort to me.” (Colossians 4:7-11)

Tychicus made himself a conduit and a go-for. Onesimus is the former slave that the educated Paul hung out with—probably freed at his request, since his owner had also become a Christian. Aristarchus—all that is known about him is that he was a jailbird with Paul, and incurred the same slander. Mark, as mentioned, is the reformed chicken. Justus—virtually nothing is known about him. These are not high-profile people and their high praise as Christians is not unreachable for anyone.”

That is how I ended the talk, by observing that anyone could attain that status and that I hoped to be described that way myself someday.

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photo: Jwilli74 

 

 

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Skirmish #195662 - “Oh, Zeeena, Zeeena....”

Oh, come on. Let me drag in my arch-porkchop again. 

I think of that overdone drama of a few decades back of Zena, who resisted every word of counsel from Moses and everyone responded with such bland remarks as ‘Oh Zena, Zena,’ while shaking their heads in dismay and disappointment at her bad attitude. Were it a video version, she would be making that ubiquitous Witness hand-wave, seen in all dramas, that means ‘Get out of my face!’

Of course, she goes down with the scoundrels when Jehovah opens up the earth, to cries of ‘Zeeeena! Zeeeena! Oh....Zeeeena, no no no.  (Numbers 16:32)

It will be like that in modern times. The call will come to ‘go but for moment into the interior rooms until my denunciation passes over.’ Everyone will rush in their to take cover, but JT will bellow, “What for? I’m not going anywhere! It’s stuffy in there! I quit the best job I ever had in 1975! No more! Who do they think they are?!” and I will be crying to the last ‘Jaaaames! Jaaaaames! Oh......Jaaaaaaames, no no no (you old porkchop)’

 

For whatever it’s worth, here’s an interesting item of history that I read from Professor Allitt: American’s so readily bought in the stories about the ghoulish & inhuman doings of ‘the Huns’ in WWI, which proved to be mere concoctions, that when stories emerged about atrocities toward the Jews in WWII, some said, “We’re not falling for that again!” and thus they were “wrong twice.”

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photo: fissure1, by BrennxOr 

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“Why so much foul language? I don't see how Jehovah can approve of that or the necessary disregard for many of the friends' consciences.”

Sorry, Tom, After spending a couple of hours reading your blog, I’ve changed my mind.

Not a problem, John. I appreciate your taking a look at it. I consider that everything that I write about spiritual things is loyal to Jehovah’s earthly organization, EXCEPT for counsel not to engage with some of the types that I do. Why I do what I do I have explained in several places, such as here. As an FYI, the elders of my congregation are aware of it, as is the organization, because I have written to them. What they think of it I do not know. I have written the 4 ebooks that I have and have never been given any feedback about it. Best to you in your service to our God.

Why so much foul language? I don't see how Jehovah can approve of that or the necessary disregard for many of the friends' consciences.”

It is for two reasons. One is because of the challenge of writing to two audiences—Witnesses and non-Witnesses. My books are not primarily for the friends, especially Dear Mr Putin and TrueTom vs. the Apostates. I hope they like them, but they are not the primary audience. They are written in the hope of changing perceptions of some in the greater world, especially those who may be able to afford us relief or mold popular opinion. The interested journalist and policy-maker class is who I am aiming for. With non-Witnesses primarily in mind, I think of the language as actually quite mild. If you use foul language all the time, as many do, it becomes just lazy, provocative, and disrespectful speech. But it you use it very sparingly, it becomes like the spice—occasionally something off-color is exactly the right terminology to make a point. There is one person I follow on Twitter precisely because of the contrast between the outrageous language he employs and the basic refinement and decency of the man himself. 

The second reason I go off-color sometimes is that “bad associations spoil useful habits,” and I should take to heart more what you say. I have no bad associations in person, but one cannot spend any time on social media without encountering massive quantities of it, and it rubs off. You are not the first one to point out what you have about language. The last one triggered my cleaning several instances of it up, but it sneaks back in again.

I think that the friends are on such a spiritual island—even if they think it a paradise island—that they have become oversensitive to what is not, in the greater scheme of things, an especially egregious sin. I also rebel at the thought that there will always be some who “strain out the gnat, but swallow the camel”—their language may be impeccable, but they do things that are far worse. But it doesn’t matter what I think. I am on that island, too, and I should not bring onto it what offends. I will be readjusted by you about this, and I will try to not go that way, and even take it out where it already exists. it is good counsel and I thank you for it.

Much of what I write about controversial things I have never heard anyone say before. Partly this is because that we are so much ‘no part of the world’ that we have forgotten how the world thinks, and are not good at answering it on its own terms. I read and write all the time—it is not really to my credit that I do this, but in this case it comes in handy—and I have gotten good at answering them on their own terms. I go on social media sites because I feel able to supply what some of the friends will find helpful, and to be sure, it is an interchange of encouragement. But I don’t really go online for the sake of making friends, for like most of us, I have a circuitful of real flesh-and-blood friends that I never have to wonder about who they really are.

Thanks, John. It is good counsel on language. I will take it to heart. Whether that resolve holds remains to be seen, but I will try to make it so.

....Hmm. You know, there is quite a bit to clean up. Did I really rebuke the National Historical Park Service with “It is history, dammit, get it right!” No more! Now I merely observe that history is their reason for existence—they ought to get the details right. And did I really say that certain opposers are “batsh*t crazy?” No more! Now they are “loony-tunes” crazy. I admit, I don’t like it as much, but it is not about me.

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Photo: Bats, by moleitau

Defending Jehovah’s Witnesses with style from attacks... in Russia, with the ebook ‘Dear Mr. Putin - Jehovah’s Witnesses Write Russia’ (free).... and in the West, with the ebook ‘TrueTom vs the Apostates!’ (free)

The Russian Brothers are Doing Very Well, Thank You Very Much

What Witness of Jehovah could not think of their brothers in Russia when reviewing Philippians, this week’s Bible reading?

The imprisoned Paul writes: “Now I want you to know, brothers, that my situation has actually turned out for the advancement of the good news,  so that my prison bonds for the sake of Christ have become public knowledge among all the Praetorian Guard and all the rest.  Now most of the brothers in the Lord have gained confidence because of my prison bonds, and they are showing all the more courage to speak the word of God fearlessly.” (Philippians 1:12-14)

It is the case with Witnesses in Russia, isn’t it? They are holding up pretty well, by all reports—it can be seen in the public support they give to ones punished by the state for their worship of God. As in the first century, “most of the brothers in the Lord have gained confidence,” trial-some though their circumstances are. We are proud of them, and even wonder whether we would do so well ourselves. ‘Don’t think that you can do it on your own strength,’ comes the answer, ‘and you will do fine.’

The anti-cultist mastermind, Alexander Dvorkin, did not foresee it happening this way. Just after the ban went into effect in April 2017, he was “absolutely convinced that after a few years, the number of members of the organization will decrease dramatically, two or three times, because, when one cuts off its financial foundation, its ability to freely, without hindrance, recruit other people, to rent large halls and so on, then, in fact, people will lose interest and will very quickly disperse.” Now, two years is not “just a few years,” but it is not so far apart. He did not say “generations.” He expected his results rather quickly, and it is not turning out that way at all.

One is reminded of Satan’s taunt: “Is it for nothing that Job has feared God?  Have you not put up a protective hedge around him and his house and everything he has? You have blessed the work of his hands, and his livestock has spread out in the land. But, for a change, stretch out your hand and strike everything he has, and he will surely curse you to your very face.” (Job 1:9-11) It isn’t working out that way. Our brothers in Russia are doing us proud.

Human rights advocates widely predicted that this would happen—it is not a circumstance solely of Jehovah’s Witnesses, but of people in general who are concerned with spiritual things. Similar fortitude is shown in other faiths as well. It is Dvorkin who, fleshly man that he is, totally misjudges the power of spiritual things to motivate. “But a physical man does not accept the things of the spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; and he cannot get to know them, because they are examined spiritually,” says the apostle again at 1 Corinthians 1:14.

He drinks too much of his own Kool-Aid, and thus, when things fail to turn out as he anticipated, it is due to his own self-deluded assumptions. Dvorkin is playing the role outlaws of religion have played from before he was born, using state apparatus to squash enemies, and doing so under a guise of People’s Protector. His premise is wrong: that individual Witnesses are being “manipulated” by an evil corporate outside class. Instead, the ‘outside’ class IS them, merely in the organized form that members know is necessary to best implement the faith that they have chosen. They are not like the munchkins of his imagination, delighted that the wicked witch is destroyed. They recognize his attack as the attack on Christianity that it is.

We see this all the time—enemies impose their own standards on spiritual things, and then draw wrong conclusions when things do not turn out as they have anticipated. It is seen when they make the self-determination that religious things cannot change, as secular and scientific things do, and that should Witnesses see that some teachings have “flip-flopped,” they will be outraged at having been “misled.” How can people be so nuts? They change all the time—it is called “tacking” and the “ever brightening light”—completely above board and nobody has ever said otherwise.

Still, the changes that are made are analogous to details, roughly akin to looking at the map anew and rereading it. It happens all the time with science. Somehow, physical people have decreed that it cannot happen with spiritual things. Of course it can. It is their own presumption of everything religious being autocratic, ironclad, and unyielding, that stymies them. It may not be so fluid—‘to each his own!—as the world they have chosen, but it is far from inflexible.  Moveover, the essential building blocks of the faith—defusing the ‘immortality’ of the soul, establishing the non-Trinitarian nature of God, the reason as to why he allows suffering and evil, along with the Name that he says he wants sanctified—these things have been firmly in place for over a century.

The Russian brothers are doing very well, thank you very much—“in no way being frightened by [their] opponents. This very thing is a proof of destruction for them, but of salvation for you; and this is from God.” (Philippians 1:28)

Surely the people are but green grass. The green grass dries up, The blossom withers, But the word of our God endures forever.” (Isaiah 40:8) So. Dvorkin thinks he will kill off the green grass, like a dog peeing on it? Time will tell. So far his dream is not coming true.

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photo: persecution 2, by dr zoidberg 

Defending Jehovah’s Witnesses with style from attacks... in Russia, with the ebook ‘Dear Mr. Putin - Jehovah’s Witnesses Write Russia’ (free).... and in the West, with the ebook ‘TrueTom vs the Apostates!’ (free)