“I Like Ike”—But Not as Much as Before—Eisenhower’s JW Connection

Dwight D. Eisenhower became Supreme Commander of Allied Forces during World War II, and later President of the United States, utilizing the diplomatic and interpersonal skills he learned during his lifetime from all sources. “I Like Ike” was his campaign slogan. I can still recall the placards.

Surely, one of those “sources” whereby he learned so much was his Jehovah’s Witness upbringing, that of a faith then known under the unwieldy moniker of the International Bible Students. It was Eisenhower who, upon leaving office, warned of a growing “military-industrial complex” that later became the war cry of a protest generation. It was originally to be the “military-industrial-congressional complex” but Eisenhower deleted the last party out of concern not to antagonize members of that body. Doesn’t that triumvirate smack of the “big business-big government-big military” runners of this world that Witnesses used to carry on about back in the day?

Still, I’ve soured on my view of Dwight in recent years.

As Supreme Commander, it was he who liberated the concentration camps. There is an account of a certain nearby German mayor pleading ignorance during that time, an enraged Eisenhower forcing him to tour the camp himself, and the next day that mayor hung himself.

The national system of interstate four-lane divided highways is named after him. You wouldn’t be able to get around in a timely way without them. It is a good symbolism for how he stabilized the country after the war and put it on sound footing to prosper through speedy transportation and commerce. One aspect of the system was that the roadways could be used to evacuate areas quickly in the event of nuclear war. They are used that way today to evacuate for approaching hurricanes. It’s all a good legacy to the man.

He did good things. He is essentially the savior of the world, and then the nurturer of America afterwards. But with my visit to his home in Gettysburg, his star began to fade—for reasons that are not likely to resonate with the average person.

Jehovah’s Witnesses worldwide suffered intense persecution during WWII. There were only about 75,000 of them—not the 8 million of today. In the US, many were beaten, others rounded up and arrested without trial, some tarred and feathered. There were a few that were killed. 

He could have stopped it! He could have explained just who and what they were. No one on the political scene knew them better than he. It was his mama’s religion, and the woman remained faithful to her death. He was raised in it. “Look, they’re patriotic in their own way—they hold off on fighting because of their own religious views about God’s kingdom. They are honest and hard-working otherwise. They are harmless. They are not traitors. It is free speech they are engaging in, and that’s what I am in Europe fighting for!” He could have said that, and probably ended their persecution. Others did speak out in behalf of the Witnesses—notably Eleanor Roosevelt and the ACLU. He kept mum.

It is impossible for me not to think that he kept his mouth shut with regard to his mother’s “brothers” so as not to harm his stature and political career—both during the war and afterwards. That harsh verdict is tempered by the fact that he truly did good by WWII standards and 8 years of presidential standards—and NATO chief afterwards. To the extent that the earth swallows the river disgorged by the dragon, he plays a most significant role. Maybe had he not been where he was, his substitute would have botched everything up. Still, when push comes to shove, he did sell out his childhood “brothers.”

In a sense he was like Pilate, who knew very well that Jesus was innocent, but he also had a province to run and he decided that was more important. “Give the scoundrels what they want, and keep them out of my hair,” was his attitude. It may be the same with Putin, who says: “I don’t understand why we are persecuting Jehovah’s Witnesses—aren’t they Christians, too?” But, one year later, persecution just keeps rolling on, so it obviously is not a priority to him.

Even now the National Historical Park Service, that is not wrong on anything, stays wrong with regard to Eisenhower’s upbringing. The ranger during my visit said that he was raised Mennonite, and he wasn’t. He was raised a Witness. Keep that embarrassing fact well-hidden, so as not to jeopardize his or his families social stature. They are a respected family and they want to remain so. They can survive a Mennonite connection, for that can be passed off as quaint. But they dare not take their chances with a Jehovah’s Witness connection, and the National Park Service helps them maintain this convenient substitution. The actual facts of Dwight’s upbringing lead to somewhere embarrassing for a national figure, and so they don’t go there.

It is hard for me not to think of Jesus’ words that “you will be hated for the sake of my name.” Just the thought of being associated with those carrying out the kingdom proclamation work that he originated and that others spearheaded is enough to make a prominent national leader turn tail and run like a rabbit. “How can you believe,” Jesus asks, “when you are accepting glory from one another and you are not seeking the glory that is from the only God?” Exactly. Dwight did know that you cannot play it both ways. You must choose. He chose to “keep religion in its place.” As is usually the case, that means last place.

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Dealing With the Anxiety of Our Times

In my “practical wisdom” mode, not my “world is going to hell in a handbasket” mode, I start my door-to-door presentation with an invitation to consider a practical verse like Matthew 6:25.

“Anxiety is a huge concern today. We read about it. We experience it. I want to read you a scripture on that theme, you tell me what you think, and I am out of here. Good idea?”

You can throw in a factoid or two from somewhere, like something here from the New York Times, but I usually pass. You are looking for people with whom the idea resonates, and if it doesn’t, the New York Times will not convince them that it should.

An affirmative answer to my offer will earn the householder the reading of Matthew 6:25.

“On this account I [Jesus] say to you: Stop being anxious about your lives as to what you will eat or what you will drink, or about your bodies as to what you will wear. Does not life mean more than food and the body than clothing?”

“That’s all I wanted to do,” I will say, “to get this notion on the table—that anxiety is something that you might hope to just “stop it.” He doesn’t say, don’t start being anxious. He assumes his listeners already are. He says ‘Stop it.’

The next move is the householder’s, and I tell him that he doesn’t have to make one. “If the subject piques interest, if you have views if you.....” and so forth.

If he doesn’t (and even if he does), I will leave a tract—any of them will do—and call attention to the jw.org website and what is to be found there. If they do, then conversation might go a hundred different ways. Even so, I do not press every moment to stay. Rather, I offer every moment to leave. Even some lengthy conversations I have cut them sort, to the householder’s  protest. “Yes, you say it now,” I observe, “but after I go you will say, “Man! I wanted to get some stuff done today, and then this Bible guy showed up!”

Maybe I have grown sensitive to all the concerns of those who cry over “manipulation,” and so I am determined to not even give the appearance of going there. Of course, the extremists among these ones are babies to whom introducing any idea not mainstream is “manipulation,”—they decry all “brainwashing” except for the brainwashing that is theirs—and there is not much one can do about that, but I try not to attract the charge like a magnet.

I can hear Anthony Morris giving the talk now at the 2016 Regional Convention in Atlanta. I wasn’t there—I was at another convention—but the talk was streamed. “‘Stop it!’ Jesus says. Just ‘stop it!’ as though addressing a child—and that was the idea that he went on to develop, that it was a controllable emotion. It was a meaningful talk for me. Anxiety had proven to be a weakness for me —it afflicts some in the family—and when I was hit with a perfect storm of calamities, I did not blame humans like Jimmy does. I did worse and blamed God.

Believe me, I envy those brothers—I have met a lot of them—who say: “I’ve never worried a day in my life!” To be sure, that envy is tempered by the fact that some of these characters caused plenty of others to worry, and even when it was not so, they had other weaknesses to compensate or even more than compensate. We are all “pieces of work” in one way or another.

I also know quite a few who, by choice, live very close to the wire. They have structured their lives that way. It is deliberate. They have determined to “make use of the world, but not use it to the full.” (1 Corinthians 7:31) They have decided to go light as to material things. The ideal among Jehovah’s Witnesses—which some have attained and some have not—is to acquire a skill that pays well, and then do as little of it as possible so as to have as large a share as possible in the kingdom proclamation work. I am not one of those people, either, but I sort of envy them, as the modern manifestation of Paul, who knew “how to be low on provisions and how to have an abundance. In everything and in all circumstances I have learned the secret of both how to be full and how to hunger, both how to have an abundance and how to do without.” - Philippians 4:12

These ones will crinkle a fender on their car and ask God what to do about it, since there’s no money in the budget for the mishap. What is God going to do about it? Time and again persons I know well have reported such things—they take it to God in prayer—and presently the answer presents itself in totally unanticipated ways, sometimes very unlikely ones. They thereafter attribute it to God’s spirit. Am I going to tell them that they are wrong?

Why would I do that? How do I know? It is more likely—when you hear such things again and again—that they are right. I do what Mary did, with regard to different experiences: “Mary began to preserve all these sayings, drawing conclusions in her heart.” (Luke 2:19) Maybe they’ll do me some good someday, the same way they did her. Key is the confidence of 1 John 5:14: “And this is the confidence that we have toward him, that no matter what we ask according to his will, he hears us.” For it to work it must be “according to his will.”

It seems that it will be very hard to dictate to someone else just how holy spirit is supposed to work. Almost by definition, you cannot. It is the wind of John 3:8 that you feel but cannot see. It is the angels that the cosmonauts did not see—and so concluded from that experience that there was no God. No, it operates as it operates and is one of those “taste and see” sort of things.

 

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Trump, the Dark Lord, and the Brawling Web Site—Define ‘Trump Derangement Syndrome’

The Dark Lord has made his appearance at the bad & brawling website and people who agree with him in many particulars are keeping an unusually low profile. It is probably because they do not want to inadvertently say something wrong and have him find their lack of faith disturbing.

Case in point is JimmyT. Normally, a mention of climate change will trigger a tirade from him as to how it is a masterful left wing hoax. Normally a negative mention of Trump will unleash torrents of praise for him from his corner. This time, however, not a peep. Well...there is a bit of cheerleading for Trump—you cannot completely erase the spots of a leopard—but he does not pursue it. He and another participant have happily squabbled at great length over both these topics. But he does not do it here with Darth Alan.

Do I blame him for this bit of cowardice? Not at all. He is in his senior years and he wants to live them out. He does not want to be accosted with endless taunts about how stupid he is. He does not want every syllable he utters to be corrected. He does not want to have to open dozens of dialogue boxes to recall just what it was that he said to earn the verdict that he is a moron. He does not want to shake his head in disgust that every other forum participant has learned to use those boxes properly, and only the Dark Lord is too enraptured with his own arguing to constrain himself to quoting just three lines of text that will faithfully reproduce without opening boxes. He looks at another challenger, who has had to triple her blood pressure medication, and decides that he wants no part of it. Who can blame him?

So I will carry his Trump ball for him—not as aptly as he would do it himself, for I am not so vested in it as he—but I will carry it.

In the midst of discussion, the Dark Lord reaches back into his quiver for taunts, chooses a old favorite, and hurls back at me: “Apparently you just make up "news" out of thin air -- just like your idol Trump.”

This is the fifth completely irrelevant reference to Trump since he began participation here, just two or three weeks ago. A moment later, he launches the sixth: “You're doing what ever-Trumpers do very well -- project their own faults onto their opponents.”

Six times he brings Trump into a discussion that has nothing to do with him. Each time it is like ripping a loud one in the concert hall. His audience surely must be among the most apolitical people on earth. Some of them, JW and non-JW alike, think it downright wrong to bring politics into a discussion of spiritual things. The DL knows this. He knows everything. So why can he not restrain himself from continually inserting that which he knows will fall flat with almost everyone and be positively off-putting to some?

It is because he suffers from Trump Derangement Syndrome. I had thought that JimmyT made up the term because he is the only one who has ever used it on the website—another testimony to the apolitical nature of both JWs and many who oppose them—but I see now via internet search that it is not so. DL has that ailment full-blown. He froths over Trump. He obsesses over Trump. He embraces those who every day since before his election experiences orgasm at some new bullet that will supposedly take him out. He inserts references to Trump everywhere, the same way that normal people insert “word whiskers” like “um.”

So what of this taunt that he hurls at me—ME, TrueTomHarley! 

Apparently you just make up "news" out of thin air -- just like your idol Trump.” 

Is he my idol? That depends. Politically, it is not likely to be so. Trump does the Make America Great routine. He pushes for his country, assumes that other national leaders will push for theirs, and if they don’t, it is all the better for him. On the other hand, as a JW, I look forward to “the kingdom”—a government from God that will eliminate national borders. Even now, visit Bethel, observe the huge globe, and take note that there are no national borders to sully it.

So no, politically he is hardly an “idol.” But that does not mean that as a man I cannot learn from him. I try to learn from anyone that comes to my attention—either through personal interaction or by their being in the news a lot. I even strive to learn from the Dark Lord. Nobody can be said to be worthless, for you can always be used as a bad example.

Politics aside, it turns out that I am very grateful for Trump. His election has vaulted 2 Timothy 3:1-5 to the position of the world’s year text—this year and every year. It used to be that if you read how people would be fierce, unreasonable, not open to agreement, backbiting, and so forth, and your householder did not agree that such was the case today more so than in prior times, there wasn’t much you could do about it. Plainly the verse is subjective. It always will be, of course—I expect that should DL ever have the misfortune to be executed by guillotine, he will ignore that unpleasant fact and his head will continue to insult onlookers as it is being carted away in the wheelbarrow—but with ever-Trumpers and never-Trumpers screaming at each other day and night, it becomes a much more difficult verse to deny.

I also take a page from Trump with regard to his communication skills. At first glance, he hasn’t any. Surely he is one of the most ineloquent public figures in history. And don’t come to him for spelling lessons. But at second glance, one comes to see that he is a master at pushing back at his barrage of opponents. After a brief period of supposing opponents would adjust to his presence, he decided that there was no way on earth that they could be placated, and so he redirects his efforts to defeating them. He does it in the most innovative of ways, taking full advantage of their weaknesses. Time and again, he draws them in as with hooks in their jaws, and just as they are ready to pounce, tasting certain victory, he pulls the rug out from under them.

Case in point is the brouhaha over his inauguration. ‘It was the most well-attended inauguration in history!’ he boasts. ‘It wasn’t!’ counter his enemies. He reasserts that it was. They dive into the archives to find photos of other inaugurations. Obama filled the quadrangle. Trump’s crowd is visibly far less. HA!, they shout in victory—surely now that they have caught him in a lie, he will fess up to it. He doesn’t! 

Night after night they run the two photos side by side on national news broadcasts, ignoring everything else. They point to the gaping holes in Trump’s photos that are not there with Obama’s photos. “These are FACTS!” they are close to screaming. “You cannot dispute FACTS!” He does. He doubles down, nearly to the point of saying: “No event in human history has drawn the attendance of my inauguration!”

Tearing their hair out, they invite his advisor on TV—Kellyanne. They rub her nose, and the noses of their viewers, into their two photos. ‘The FACTS show that Obama drew way more than Trump! Right here—look at just this spot! There is just bare ground with Trump and there is shoulder-to-shoulder people with Obama! FACTS are FACTS!

But Kellyanne says that the President is trying to draw attention to alternative facts. He is trying to draw attention to.........’ALTERNATIVE FACTS!! they are apoplectic. ‘THERE IS NO SUCH THING AS AN “ALTERNATIVE” FACT!!! A FACT IS A FACT IS A FACT IS A FACT!! THERE ARE NO “ALTERNATIVE FACTS!!” 

But the Advisor to the President insists that they are, and that the media ignores them. They consist of the fact of popular discontent with the “swamp” that propelled him to victory in the first place. Whatever Trump said to the ignored half of America clearly resonated with them, and it is being ignored by the mainstream media. Today he crows about the economy. Bill Clinton garnered adoration from pundits with his, “It’s the economy, stupid!” Today these same pundits will portray the economy as though an insignificant point.

As for me, I enjoy the spectacle, without taking any position as to whether he makes a good president or not. He may be a terrible one, but I like the way he turns the tables on those seeking to destroy him. I am not even sure that his numerous spelling errors are not deliberate. When he tweets that North Korea has launched its nuclear missels, people of common sense will run to take cover. People of the media will run to their keyboards to point out that the idiot can’t even spell the word right. 

Life is a continued term paper to many of these characters. They did well on term papers in college. They have grades from their professors to prove it. So they launch into the media that only attracts a certain type of people—those who imagine that ‘exposing’ problems is enough to fix them—and assume that life, too, will respect their term paper skills as highly as their professors did. They have little experience in actually doing anything. They are mostly wonks when it comes to government—and the fixes that their type of government can bring is their obsession.

As for me, I take note that if there is any new meme guaranteed to undermine traditional family life, these characters are all over it. If there is any new meme that will bend gender distinctions, for example, these characters are all over it. Gayle King dutifully appended the Q on LGBTQ before she even knew what it meant—I heard her say it. Did it mean ‘queer?’ Did it mean ‘questioning?’ She didn’t know. But she didn’t dare leave it out once the gods of media popularity told her to insert it. With this track record, anyone who can get these characters incensed cannot be all bad.

 

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Dear TrueTom: Mental Illness, Attrition, Spiritual Progress

Dear TrueTomHarley:

“What would explain the jehovahs witnesses having the highest rate of mental illness out of all Christian religions?”

To the extent it is true, and I am not sure what extent that is, Luke 5:31 is what would explain it:

“In reply Jesus said to them: “Those who are healthy do not need a physician, but those who are ill do.”

Do you think he is speaking of cancer? Or is mental distress, such as might accompany anguish over the atrocities of this world and the blame assigned to God for it more to the point? To my mind, the ones you should worry about are those who are not greatly troubled by the stressors of life today—those who sail blithely through the horrors and cruelties without a care.

 

“If you looked into the 'turnover' within the JW faith, I think you would find one of the biggest turnovers of all religions. Explain that one.”

It is easily offset by the high participation rate of those who stick. After all, with many faiths, people might not actually leave, but how would you know if they did?

It is also explained by the fact that there is a substantial cost to being a Witness—to be a minister of Christ is to be self-sacrificing and to make numerous changes in one’s conduct. Why bother leaving a faith that asks very little of you?

Seen, it that light, it is remarkable that the “turnover” you speak of isn’t much higher than it is.

 

“How is the JW organization moving forward SPIRITUALLY ?...I'm not talking about physical things...I'm talking about purely spiritual matters.”

I would say the numerous schools that exist now that did not 50 years ago fits the bill. For elders, ministerial servants, traveling reps, etc. Intense and reoccurring instruction lasting anywhere from a weekend to a few weeks. 

I have attended some of these schools. Almost all content is on imitating Jesus’ manner of dealing with the flock, dealing with those in the ministry, showing tenderness, not lording it over, leading by example, and so forth. Very little is on what would be called ‘doctrinal.’

I remember in particular one instructor leading around a string on a table with forefinger firmly applied to one end. “See how the rest of the string follows so nicely?” he asked. He then reversed course and tried to “push” the string. “See how it bunches up when I do that?” he said. “It’s really not too smart of me to do it that way, is it?” The lesson, of course, was to lead by example, and not by being “pushy.”

These schools have a cumulative effect of refining those exercising any authority. That they are needed can be inferred from Jesus’ dealings with those to whom he granted the greatest authority. Even on the eve of his death he interceded in an argument they were having as to which one of them was the greatest, the same as you might do with children. (Luke 22:24)

Take that into account for anyone carrying on about how inspired, unerring, and pure the leaders were back then and by extension ought be today. Grown men are capable of behaving like children. It happened then, it happens today. Refresher course training in which students will focus on scores  of scriptures—and if they prepare as the ought—hundreds of scriptures, go a long way towards training those in authority to lead and shepherd as Christ did.

And, far from the GB dreaming up a school that they ride above and apply to everyone else, when such a school is formulated, they put themselves through it first. They do not imagine that they cannot benefit from intense review of how Jesus dealt with people.

      “How did you come by the name TrueTomHarley?”
 
When I began on social media, I sought out TomHarley as a username, but it was already taken. RealTomHarley sounded too much like Trump, so I settled on TrueTomHarley. I never intended the moral implications of the name, though I confess, it is sort of a hoot for me when malcontents get all exorcised over it.
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The Diversification of the Governing Body

Your governing body is ruling right now, 8 mainly American men, with American thoughts and personalities.” 

On the surface, this might seem a valid objection to the present Governing Body—why aren’t they more diversified? I could be wrong, but I think 3 of the 8 are not American—Losch (German—maybe Austrian), Jackson (Australian), and Splane (Canadian)—still I understand the supposed imbalance. It is based on a questionable assumption, though, that Eskimos (to take an example) cannot possibly be adequately governed unless there are Eskimos on the Governing Body. Is it really that way?

First of all, I submit that the “imbalance” is not so dire as is suggested. If we were speaking of 8 mainly American businessmen, all educated in American universities, all wealthy as large corporate businessmen usually are, all “insulated” socially from the working-class people, then I would say that he raises a good point. But it is not that way with the Witness Governing Body.

Your GB are ruling right now, 8 mainly American men, with American thoughts and personalities.”

Why don’t you ask the military generals or the national politicians just how “American” their thoughts and personalities are? The fact is that nobody has been able to overcome nationalism—or racism, classism, or social and educational differences, like Jehovah’s Witnesses, and everyone knows it.

Sam Herd is the son of a mule-driver. Think that puts him out of touch with the regular people? Both Sanderson and Jackson have served as missionaries in developing countries, doing work not as lowly, but more lowly, than those of most of those that they will later lead. Call that being out of touch? Didn’t Losch operate behind the iron curtain? Call that typical? As for the others, I am not sure of their backgrounds, but I know that all of them have worked full-time service, probably for a lifetime, where the emphasis is on working with the lowly people and even taking direction from them. I mean, these are not blue bloods by any stretch. Previous GB members have spent years as missionaries—humble door to door calling and interacting with the common people—in varied foreign assignments; Lloyd Barry in Japan comes to mind, but there are many others. So they are hardly so “white” and “American” as you suppose. 

I am in the US. A few decades ago, the question was asked: ‘How come there are not more black brothers in positions of authority?’ The answer was that, due to social injustices, most black brothers were disadvantaged in various ways—plus the number of JWs themselves was quite small—they only hit 2 million in ....what ....1980 or so? and they were only 75,000 worldwide heading into WWII, and that, with time and growth and societal rebalancing of some grievances, we could expect to see more black brothers in “higher” positions. 

That has proved to be the case. Black brothers have “risen the ranks” and, to my mind, bring unique gifts to the table that whites lack. It is a black brother that gave the streamed Memorial talk one year (streaming is quite new) and the streamed special talk the next. I have spent most of my life working in congregations with about a 50/50 mix of white/black in the rank and file and the servant body. It is with congregation things as it is with music—things are more interesting and have more “life” once blacks are involved. Jazz, rock n roll, the interesting developments of American music, all come only from the contribution of blacks.

A friend in Myanmar tells me this inbalance of resources that once held American blacks back is duplicated where he lives with native brothers. Those in the positions of highest oversight are usually “needgreaters” of various nationalities, and locals are not heavily represented. The reason? Poverty is so extreme that most locals cannot afford the nominal transportation costs to travel to any destination that isn’t absolutely essential to hold together life and limb. It is not the Governing Body’s fault that the world is all screwed up. It is enough for them to spearhead the message of how it will be fixed.

Will there be a Japanese GB member someday, or a Brazilian GB member, or a Mexican one? It could be, as those countries catch up (and even outstrip) US and European lands where the organization first took root. It is unlikely to be an Indian member, a Middle Eastern member, a Myanmmarese member, because the preaching is yet thinly represented there. But it could be one of the former, though I wouldn’t hold my breath. The end is “right around the corner.” It has proven to be one heck of a corner—but still, the end is right around it. I wouldn’t mind seeing it, but it is hardly a big deal.

No, even as is, international interests are well-represented by the GB, given their unique backgrounds, worldwide unity, and lowly origins. Besides, this insistence that only Brazilians can represent Brazilians is largely a contrived political concern. President Obama is black and yet his background is not at all like those of any but a tiny minority of black Americans. He is mostly a product of large universities run by white blue bloods and infused with their philosophies for building a better world. Poor urban blacks will complain that he didn’t do a thing for them. Nothing changed for them with him eight years at the helm.

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On Approaching People in the Ministry

Yikes! $50 per minute to speak with a householder?!

So says a gag sign posted on someone’s porch. “Doorknockers, please note. This householder charges $50 per minute to listen to any sales pitch, religious messages, or fundraising stories! Payment required in advance. By knocking on this door, you indicate that you are agreeing to these terms.”

Video has captured a couple of visitors—our people, I think. The one on the sidewalk says: “What’s it say?” and the nearsighted woman squinting to read it responds with: “Let’s skip this one.”

I’m done for if this catches on!......

Actually, as far as I am concerned, this sign represents a win-win. It does not make me mad. It is doing me a favor. If anyone doesn’t want to talk to me, then I don’t want to talk to them.

There is a squirrelly assumption that underpins this meme: that Jehovah’s Witnesses are determined to talk to each householder no matter what,and are incredibly frustrated if stymied. It plays into the infantile view that they are “recruiting,” a view popularly spread by “anti-cultists” who obsess over all the ways that people can “manipulate” others. They abhor all forms of “brainwashing” except for the brainwashing that is theirs, as they safeguard mainstream values—values that have not worked out very well insofar as promoting overall peace and well-being. If the mainstream thinking contained answers to the vexing questions of life, people would’t have to worry for one second about “sects” and even “cults”—they would be rejected out of hand.

So are Jehovah’s Witnesses “recruiting?” 

“I am going to ask you to convert,” I told a certain householder, “but it is not going to happen until the 100th call—and what are the chances It will go on for so long? In the meantime, it is just conversation.” To householders who state they have their own religion or spirituality and who decline conversation on that basis I say, “Well, I’m not going to ask you to change, and if I do, you can say No.” I mean, it is fine to decline conversation—more people do than do not—but just not on that basis. You might say it to an evangelical Christian—the sort that actually dofeature instant conversion of the “Come down and be saved!” variety. You might say it to a Moonie, because their people are known to disappear off the surface of the globe, only to reappear in robes selling flowers. But you ought not say it to one of Jehovah’s Witnesses, whose members live and work in the general community.

No, the sign does me a favor. I have no problem with it. It might be different if they proliferated so that they became a commonplace gag sign, just a fad witticism inspired by late-night TV that didn’t necessarily mean anything. In that case, I might just walk away or I might playfully attempt to negotiate terms before deciding if I wanted to enter into such a “contract.” “Well, a guy has to serve the Lord,” I will say non-aggresively to some while trying to size them up. You’ve got to have a sense of humor.

Like a No Soliciting sign, there are no legal consequences to blowing past it, [in the U.S.—it may be different elsewhere] and like a No Soliciting sign, it doesn’t necessarily mean anything. It might be put up by a previous owner, and the current one sees no reason to remove it. It might be put up by a family member that died. It might have been put up after those pushy people selling vacuum cleaners left. It might be put up in the heat of election campaign season. It might be put up to dissuade Jehovah’s Witnesses, but I do not assume that is the case.

”I saw your sign and was a little concerned that you might think it applies to me,” I sometimes say when one of them is staring me in the face. “It doesn’t—but you might think it does.” You can assess by the response if the householder had that intention or not, and if he did, I have no problem moving on from what would cause both of us stress. Don’t argue, “We’re not soliciting,” because it really doesn’t matter whether you are or not. What matters is what the householder thinks you are doing. Of course, you can tell him that what he thinks is wrong, but that is never a fine foundation for a visit, is it?

I have said at times, when my attention is directed to such a sign, “Oh. Well....I’ll make sure not to do that, then,” either by soliciting money (which Witnesses never do) or soliciting opinions—drawing people out—which we do. Simply tell them stuff, don’t ask them a thing—that is enough to technically comply with such a sign. But the trick is not to argue over technicalities. The trick is to see if such and such a vague sign actually means anything to the householder and respect his wishes if it does. 

No, a No Soliciting sign means nothing legally, same as this new $50 per hour JW sign that some are giggling over means nothing. The only sign with legal consequences (in the US) is a No Trespassing sign, and even that only has legal consequences for individual dwellings—you can’t wall off an entire community with a No Trespassing sign. To be sure, some are trying to change that, but the idea of answering for large swaths of other people is repugnant to most and so the change may not readily happen.

Let’s face, this sign is kind of crude, and not too many people are going to put one up. It is sort of like that sign in which you find yourself as though staring down the barrel of a gun that says, “Never mind the dog! Beware of the owner!” I don’t just jauntily breeze by that sign as though is was a Welcome mat. I tread a bit cautiously. If my companion was to turn around and leave, I wouldn’t blame him a bit. Still, you never know. I was leaving one such home—no one had answered—and as I was walking away, a pickup truck drove in with a gun rack in the back window. “Great!” I muttered to myself—“probably a real hothead here!” He turned out to be the nicest guy in the world—very respectful of our purpose and of the Bible. There was a lot of crime in the neighborhood and he had just “weaponed-up” for the protection of his family.

These signs are not a red light—No Soliciting, Beware of Whatever—but they certainly are a yellow light. They are not a yellow light legally, but they are a yellow light in that they might reveal something of thehouseholders wishes, and I have no problem always complying with their wishes once I know what they are.

As it is, Jehovah’s Witnesses have a method to keep note of those who have emphatically said that the don’t want JW calls ever. It is an imperfect system and I usually forget to consult it, but it works better than nothing. Ironically, it may all vanish one day if the current “data-keeping” laws gathering steam in Europe, spearheaded by the same people who see “manipulation” everywhere, spreads to the US. It will be illegal to keep track of who doesn’t want a call. As it is, one US brother I know reported on a trip to Europe and how the brothers there were wrestling with these new anti data-gathering laws that had never been intended (at least, by most) for them, but were being applied to them, with: “Good! They’ve just made your job easier! Preach to one and all and don’t worry about any “records”—keeping track of them is a pain in the neck!”

What about a child answering the door? For me, that depends upon the age of the child. For a teen, sometimes I will go Bible-lite, such as commenting on what the words of the Lord’s Prayer literally mean, and I do not press any point. Or show a video geared to teens—I have never had a teen not pay rapt attention to the video, “Be Social-Network Smart.” With teens, I have sometimes told them that I really don’t know what to do with teens, because they are learning and gathering data, but they are also under their parent’s roof, with the latter guiding that process, and so they may or may not want them speaking to persons of different beliefs at the door, and ‘which is it with them’? 

Even that doesn’t guarantee anything. One parent that I finally encountered said, “I don’t appreciate you speaking to my children,”—I had done so twice and had shown a couple of videos. I responded that I had never been looking for the kids—I had been looking for her—and that when the teens had answered I had asked them whether their parents would want them speaking to a visitor about religion and they had said she would not care. “Kids will say anything!” she told me. So I explained that I would not call again (she said ‘thank you’), repeated that I had never been looking for them in the first place, and even was able to give a brief synopsis for why we call at all—she became pleasant.

Another teen—I had just finished something brief and similar—he had been home alone. As I left, the mother drove up in the driveway. I told her who I was, that I had spent a few minutes speaking with her son, I had asked him a question and he had answered intelligently. “You should be proud of him,” I said as I took my leave.

Cultures are different. I once handed a tract to a child with directions to give it to her parents, and upon leaving, my companion said that she would have witnessed to the child. My companion was newly arrived from South America where it is commonplace for parents to allow and even encourage children to talk religion to anyone calling about it. There are congregations there heavily populated by children with the full blessing of parents who do not attend themselves—respect for God runs deep in some lands and the assumption is that you cannot go wrong allowing your children to learn about the Bible.

Though the following has nothing to do with the Bible, it has everything to do with that fact that cultures are different, and so when the Witness organization speaks in a way that is not really my cup of tea, I say, “It is probably one of those others cultures that they are taking into consideration.”

There is a large community of deaf persons in Rochester NY. Accordingly, there are a number of Witnesses who make their living as translators. One of them told me of a certain deaf family of two adults and two children—all deaf—who are known not only locally but also nationally, and the following story is told nationally as a way of highlighting the challenges of catering to different cultures: 

A neighboring “hearing” girl would come over to play at the home of the deaf family. The two children were surprised that she didn’t seem able to sign very well at all, but they all managed to sign well enough to each other to get by. Then the two children went to the little girl’s home to play, where they saw the mother not signing at all! Her mouth kept moving, and the little girl seemed satisfied with that, but there was no signing. Upon returning home, they related their bewilderment to their parents and asked, “Are there other people like that?”

 

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The GitHub Arctic Code Vault—In the Northernmost Town of the World—Mother of All Conspiracies!

It is a good thing for you people that I keep up with multiple universes and know how to connect the dots! Thus I can see right through the machinations of the GitHub Arctic Code Vault, which you should see right now. I know the forces truly at work.

 

GASP! “Northernmost town in the world?”

We know who lives there.

SANTA CLAUS!

So it is HE who is gathering data on us!

It is HE who pulls off the most sinister ruse of all time, under the guise of children’s beneficiary!

EVERYONE except some religious oddballs lets this agent into their homes with open arms each year! They’ve done so for two centuries!

Dropping off presents takes two seconds. What does he do with the REMAINDER of his time—rummaging through file cabinets while sugar plums are dancing through our heads? And we even leave COOKIES for him, little suspecting that he is planting his own cookies on our hard drives so as to enable MIND CONTROL!

Where are the anti-cultists when you need them?

It is the mother of all conspiracy theories revealed!

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Turn Me On, Dead Man—The “Paul is Dead” Hoax

“That reminds me of people who claimed they used to play Beatle's records backwards ( I don't even know how you could do that ...) , and claimed you could hear voices saying "Serve Satan" or some such nonsense.”

You do it by putting the turntable in neutral and spinning it backwards with your finger. When you do, you hear repeatedly and very distinctly, “Turn me on, dead man.” (Revolution #9) When you play “Strawberry Fields Forever” forward, you hear at the very end, “I buried Paul.”

The rumor was that Paul, of the wildly popular only-game-in-town Beatles, had died some years ago and that the other three had covered it up, hiring a look-alike to take his place. This look-alike was referred to as “Billy Shears” from the Sgt Pepper’s album, who worried “what would you do if I sang out of tune?” but took solace that he would “get by with a little help from my friends.”

The Beatles cross the street “Abbey Road” in single file on the cover of the album of that name. John leads, dressed in white—he is the preacher. Ringo is next, in black—he is the undertaker. Paul is third—barefoot as a corpse would be, out of step, with cigarette in hand, though he supposedly quit them years ago—he is the dead man. George is fourth, dressed in workman’s clothes—he is the ditchdigger. The license plate of the VW just over the curb is “28 IF,” the age Paul would be IF he was still alive. The first song of that album, “Come together,” incorporates a sound that could best be characterized as a shovel piling on dirt, as in a burial. References abound to the group going on without Paul: “He says, ‘one and one and one is three,’ Hold on to his armchair, you can feel his disease.”

The Sgt Pepper’s album cover features the old Beatles looking down upon the new Beatles, recostumed and renamed Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. The scene is of a burial—“Beatles” is spelled out in floral arrangement, and a host of other famous, though dead, people—Albert Einstein, Mae West, Edgar Allen Poe, about thirty in all—join the old Beatles in looking on.

This is just for starters. Supposedly, the three surviving Beatles had planned this for years, hiding clues in their records.

Why do I know this in such detail? I was a college student at the time. When this story broke, campus life came to a standstill. Kids were glued to campus radio, which cancelled all other programming to run with this 24/7. There was radio tie-in with major schools, which were also at standstills as regards academics activity. Students would call in with the latest theorizing. There were many in our school who cut classes so as not to miss a word. My roommate urged me (unsuccessfully) to install a reverse gear in my record player so as to play all Beatles songs backwards in search of additional clues. Had it been feasible, I probably would have done it.

Outlandish rumors were bandied about and accepted as gospel. The feed station—from UCLA, perhaps—featured neverending call-ins and interviews featuring the latest “research.” On the back  cover of the Sgt Pepper’s album, one of the four—Paul’s replacement, I think—is conducting the band. Superimposed on the cover are the lyrics to the songs within. By this means, “Paul’s” finger points to the words from “She’s Leaving Home,” “Wednesday morning at five o’clock.” If you called a certain number at that time—the number also listed in the album somewhere, I think—you found yourself connected to hell. I think that if you pressed the matter, you risked losing your soul. Don’t ever let anyone tell you that they are “young adults” in college. They are big children, reveling in the [then] newfound freedoms of drugs and sex, free of parental supervision,  ideally on their way to becoming adults.

This Beatles’ plot was  the dominating concern of students then and it lasted for days on end.

The weekend came. Maybe it was even some holiday. I went home, about 250 miles away. NOBODY KNEW ANYTHING ABOUT THIS! On campus, NOBODY KNEW ANYTHING ELSE! I couldn’t believe how oblivious the out-of-touch farts were to the greatest story of our time! Finally, after a day or two, there was a brief snippet at the end of the “World News Report” and it was in the form of a scolding. Walter Chronkite or someone ran a line of two, briefly acknowledged that the Beatles—those precocious kids—were having a laugh on the whole world, but what a sick laugh it was.

I wrote this up long ago. It does me good to recall it:

Wikipedia (11/18/19) calls it a conspiracy theory. What! Are they nuts? A conspiracy theory is when you put a gullible spin on innocuous facts. In this case, it it the obvious spin on elaborate staged facts. Do you think that Paul showed up for the album cover photo and said: “Well, what a coincidence! I came dressed as a dead man, John is a preacher, Ringo an undertaker and George a gravedigger! Well, well, well!” ?

There is such a thing as “an educated fool” who really ought to be out digging ditches somewhere or unplugging toilets. That same Wikipedia entry references a few:
 
Author Peter D writes that, while the theory behind "Paul is dead" defied logic, its popularity was understandable in a climate where citizens were faced with conspiracy theories.” 
 
Ian D says that the Beatles were partly responsible for the phenomenon due to their incorporation of "random lyrics and effects", particularly in the White Album track "Glass Onion" 
 
What does he mean, “partly responsible?” They were fully responsible, and unless you knew that they were pranksters, it was emanantly logical to draw the obvious conclusion that they had “carefully concealed” in their Word.
 
During the 1970s, the phenomenon became a topic of academic study in America in the fields of sociology, psychology, and communication. [Of course] among sociological studies.
 
Barbara S recognised it as, in Schaffner's description, a contemporary reading of the "archetypal myth wherein the beautiful youth dies and is resurrected as a god". [and to think I wasted my career caring for the developmentally disabled].
 
Oh—here’s a beaut: American social critic Camille P locates the "Paul is dead" phenomenon to the Ancient Greek tradition symbolised by Adonis and Antinous, as represented in the cult of rock music's "pretty, long-haired boys who mesmerize both sexes", and she adds: "It's no coincidence that it was Paul McCartney, the 'cutest' and most girlish of the Beatles, who inspired a false rumor that swept the world in 1969 that he was dead."
 
Ding dong.......Excuse me, I’m expecting Paul to return. Hello?
 
It’s him!!! Squeeeeaal!! Wheeeeeeee!!!! Paul!! I’ve been keeping on the watch! I knew you would return!!
 
The one quote that is believable in all this aftermath polishing is from Paul himself [The Beatles Anthology]: “Well, we'd better play it for all it's worth. It's publicity, isn't it?"
 
Oh, and this one: 
 
In November 1969, Capitol Records sales managers reported a significant increase in sales of Beatles catalogue albums, attributed to the rumour. Rocco Catena, Capitol's vice-president of national merchandising, estimated that "this is going to be the biggest month in history in terms of Beatles sales"
 
Do you think?
 
This is the antitypical myth of the meandering Greek god Cashco beholding, not the reality on the wall, but the artificially superimposed image that is all his educated and drug-altered brain can take in.” — The Sheepandgoats Guide to Heroes and Has-Beens.
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The Wood-Sawing Contest—What a Way to End Field Service!

Joan is pushing ninety, alert, and she looks spry. The bevy of pills before her testifies that there may be more than meets the eye, however. Indeed, they just released her from the hospital after a three day stay. Her daughter sits kitty-corner at the table. She quit her job so as to be her mom’s full-time caregiver. That way mom will likely not go into a nursing home, and avoiding one is what she wants.

New York State wants it, too. It’s far cheaper on the social structure if Medicare/caid patients stay at home, and there is a program whereby a family member can be reimbursed by the state, which would otherwise send funds to far more pricey places.

I have come to visit the two, and they pour me some chamomile tea.

As usual on visits like this, talk turns to reminiscing of back in the day. Such as when daughter and mother and aunt worked the door-to-door ministry in a small town that had a wood-sawing contest going on. The mother—she was raised on a farm and is well accustomed to chores—gazed at the clumsy white men pretending to be pioneers—and said to her sister: “I think we can take them.”

“You’re in field service, Mom!” her daughter upbraids her, mortified at the spectacle she might make. But....these flabby young men, in their new store-bought flannel shirts—“it’s important to keep the saw moving so it doesn’t seize up,” the daughter told me, and some of these guys working out their affectation weren’t doing so hot as they struggled to tug the blade to and fro.

“I think we can take them,” Joan repeated to her sister. “Oh, sure! A couple of old ladies in dresses and carrying bookbags stuffed with Watchtowers! No, mom! Forget it!” the daughter rebuked them.

It would have happened on my watch! Forget service—I would have signed them up then and there! Nor do I think it would have been a bad witness. “Jehovah Witness Ladies Capture Wood-Cutting Crown, Beat Out Smallville’s Best”—what a witness that would have been! What! Do you think it would have been a greater witness to place a couple of magazines with someone on the topic: “What is the Purpose of Life?”

The purpose of life is to take wannabe roughing-it pioneers, and hand them their heads on a platter—and show them how REAL pioneers do it!

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“Oh, No. I Would Never Presume to Compare Myself With the Most High God!”

It’s funny how people are.
 
I ran into someone from pioneer school 30 years ago. Back then, students would learn techniques for the ministry, and would spend an afternoon field-testing them. So it was that I found myself working with a certain sister one afternoon long ago. I had barely seen her since.
 
She spoke so glowingly of me. Her memories of our working together were so appreciative. A householder had answered the door, as she recalled, and had asked, “Are you Jehovah?” ”Oh, no,” I had instantly answered, full of self-effacing humility, aghast at the very thought. “I would never presume to compare myself to the Most High God. No, I am just a lowly servant of His trying imperfectly to serve him. I would never, ever...” and so forth. The sister was so impressed at my humble manner. She had carried that memory around for who knows how many years.
 
It didn’t happen like that at all! I didn’t say any of that stuffl! Of COURSE I’m not God—I don’t have to explain why!
 
I remember the incident well. The friendly woman had been barely visible through the screen door that hot summer afternoon—she was way back there in the kitchen, and we were on the front doorstep. Interrupted and preoccupied, she had blurted out the first thing that had popped into her head: “Are you Jehovah?”
 
“Um....no....actually, I’m not,” was my hesitant reply. At which point, she realized what she had really said and she burst out laughing. Her gaffe served to make her still more friendly, as though she owed us, and we had a nice, if brief, conversation. I never said any of those silly things that my companion had for years attributed to me!
 
She was confusing, I am pretty sure, this experience with one in print from decades ago, of a lowly Mexican brother working in a fabulously wealthy territory—responding to the demand that he identify himself. Wasn’t he one of Jehovah’s Witnesses? a haughty fellow wanted to know. He had answered to the effect that he tries to be...he tries. It is not easy measuring up to the standards of the Most High God, and he would not presume to say that he does measure up....but he tries. The fellow peddled goods from a donkey cart, if I recall correctly. The householder was a leader of industry.
 
I didn’t even have a donkey cart that afternoon. I had left it at home. We had driven up in a car—just like that of the householder who asked me if I was God.
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