In the Last of the Last Days: Faith in the Age of Dysfunction

The new book is now out. Available in print and digital at Amazon. Soon to follow is Apple, Barnes and Noble, others. From the book’s metadata:

“Those of the Enlightenment laud the “human experiment” that is democracy, Jehovah’s Witnesses laud the human experiment that is worldwide family. Theirs is John Lennon’s brotherhood of man not rejoicing that there is above us only skybut instead seeking direction from that sky. A family all but solving racism, a family uniting nationalities and social classes. Who wouldn’t want a double-shot of it? But even a recent circuit overseer likened it to “one big, united, happy, somewhat dysfunctional family,” a phrase I suspect is not in any outline.

Witnesses are ordinary folk, with all the foibles of ordinary folk, and maybe a few extra thrown in since “They that are whole have no need of a physician, but they that are ill do: I [Jesus] came not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.”

What makes the Witnesses tick? Examine the pressures facing these ordinary folk who star in a world-stage role that is alternately noble and strange. Some pressure is external: “A large door that leads to activity has been opened to me, but there are many opposers.” Some pressure is internal: “We have this treasure [of the ministry] in earthen vessels.” Translation: “We have met the enemy and he is us.”

Either way, “Do not be puzzled at the burning among you . . . as though a strange thing were befalling you,” says Peter. Don‘t be puzzled. Tackle it head-on. Start with the pure bonus, ‘Things that drive you crazy about the faith--and how to view them,’ for the goal is to endure: “When the Son of man arrives, will he really find the faith on the earth?” says Jesus. ‘Not if we have anything to do with it,’ reply ever increasing enemies.

"If errors were what you watch, O Jah, O Jehovah, who could stand?” asks the psalm. Is watching errors not the mission statement of today’s culture, typified in its media? Nobody stands as their enemies magnify, enhance, and even concoct evil reports—see it play out on the internet with any public figure, “admiring personalities,” until they destroy them. Ought Christians play that game?

"Who is weak, and I am not weak? Who is stumbled, and I am not incensed? If I must boast, I will boast of the things that show my weakness,” says Paul. Three times the apostle entreated God to remove a “thorn in his flesh” Nothing doing, God said. I look better when you are flawed. If brilliant people achieve brilliant things, it’s easy to see why. But when flawed people do it . . .”

Tips on the ministry within. How did Witnesses fare in the face of COVID-19? How to regard ever-present conspiracy theories that ripple through society? And what about those overlapping generations? How long can they overlap? What is at stake? What facts on the ground identify the times? Venturing to the edge of the universe, rewriting the textbooks, and dressing down the god of good luck is all in a day's work. Meet Mephibosheth, that faithful man of old whom nobody can pronounce his name at the New System Dinner Table. A bad boy turns over a new leaf, a theodicy that works, and my favorite circuit overseer finish up the offerings.”


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The Newbie Who Eclipses the Vets

Working in the ministry with a 75-year old who just became a Witness, he makes a better impression than me (who can be accused of having been around so long as to know every spiel.) But not him. With him, it is pure conviction and sincerity. ‘I had never read the Bible,’ he said, despite his long church affiliation. ‘When I started reading it, I couldn’t put it down.’

It was at a home where no one had answered at first, and you wonder whether that is on purpose or not; sometimes people don’t answer. But upon returning, there she was, an older woman, puttering around in the garage. We crossed the street to speak with her.

She was guarded about my invitation to read a scripture, get her thought, and then be on our way, observing that she was Roman Catholic. ‘Fortunately, we’re not recruiting,’ I told her. ‘It’s just a scripture from a book you know as well as us.’ She then added that there were some Witnesses in her extended family—with the air that ‘They keep me informed so you don’t have to?’ Dunno. Could be, but dunno.

I offered a ‘deal’ which was—sometimes when there are Witnesses in the family, you wonder why they do this or that, you have some views of them which may be good or bad, usually some of both, but you would not just come out and say it to them because—well, they’re family. You don’t want to mess with the chemistry. ‘But us you’ll never see again,’ I told her, ‘so anything you wonder about them we can tell you about.’ 

All this either loosens a person up or shuts them down. If it shuts them down, then off we go. In this case, it loosened her up. Family members had responded differently to her Witness relatives, she mentioned, but as for her, she is open-minded. It was plain that she was open-minded when we finally did read that scripture—in this case it was Matthew 6:9-10, the ‘Our Father’ prayer; I prefaced it by saying, ‘This is where Jesus tells his disciples how to pray,’ upon which she interjected, ‘Supposedly.’

‘She doesn’t really believe it,’ Keith observed to me as we were discussing the call later. Just like he hadn’t really believed church things either during his nominal time as a member. That’s not to say he disbelieved them—only, that he had formed no decisive opinion—they might be so or they might not be. 

Keith had come into his own during this short call. I had gradually yielded to him. They had some things in common, such as having recently lost a spouse. One never knows how someone will respond to the Bible until you run a few verses past them and they get to put it in context.

Strange how some, like Keith, say that once they started reading the Bible, they ‘couldn’t put it down.’ Even I was able to put it down, if he’s speaking of reading it straight through. But once a person is given a few keys to it—then one is not able to ‘put it down’; then they are forever flipping back and forth to see that this portion really does explain that portion. They are just drawn to that basic Witness approach to understanding the scriptures: for any given passage in question, gather together all other passages on that same topic and on that basis decide what the scripture means. In the process of doing so, one sees through and jettisons a truckload of religious doctrines that serves to impede understanding.

But others will read the Bible and see a lot a nasty doings chronicled. ‘If it’s there, it must be A-okay God,’ they figure. What is wrong with people to think that way? It’s just history. It’s history of what people did when they knew of Jehovah, when they didn’t know of Jehovah, and when they knew but were oblivious to his requirements. Obviously, he has requirements. The creator of humanity—we are going to have requirements of him or he or us? That doesn’t mean people pay any attention to them. Sometimes comeuppance for such straying is prompt and sometimes it is not. Sometimes it doesn’t happen at all and is one of those things for which we must stay tuned.

And here I am, on another occasion, with a fellow long-time Witness. Keith, meanwhile, is working in the field service with someone else new—in this case, someone who ran a local youth agency until he retired. He and Keith are chatting up a storm at one door. No one had given my fellow and me the time of day.

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Could Disfellowshipping be Likened to Time in the Penalty Box?

Could you liken disfellowshipping to time in the penalty box? It depends on your criteria.

It is time spent out of the game. It is also not forever. After a stint of cooling one’s heels, you get readmitted to the game; an outcome never in doubt—assuming a player wants that outcome, of course, and they all do in hockey.

In disfellowshipping, they may not. They may even decide the spiritual game sucks and they’re not going to play anymore. You do have to believe in God to be happy as a Witness. Occasionally, a DFed one even goes into full vengeful Haman mode, plotting revenge upon the ousting congregation. But I like the ones who view it the hockey way. At any rate, it is possible to do so, and say, ‘Ah, rats! Here I am in the penalty box. But not to worry. Do my time and out I come.”

Meantime, there you are watching the game. Same thing in the case of disfellowshipping. No one excludes you from the Hall. There you are watching the game. You just don’t take part for a time until you get your act together.

Of course, another main difference is that the refs in hockey don’t try to gauge repentance. They hold no conference to judge whether a player feels bad about slamming another into the boards (even spearing them with the stick!) or is apt to do it again. To the penalty box they go—whether they feel bad or not. But in the congregation, repentance will cut you slack every time. If you have it, you’ll avoid the box entirely, though you still may have your skates restricted for a time. Of course, if you slam them against the boards, apologize, and then go off to do it again, congregation refs start to wonder just how repentant you are.

Playing with the notion a bit, here I notice that Wikipedia calls that penalty box the ‘sin bin’ or the ‘bad box’—a point on viewing in my way, isn’t it? See how repentant this fellow looks.


[[Photo:Richard Gynge going to penalty box.JPG|Richard_Gynge_going_to_penalty_box . . . No, this post has nothing to do with him personally.  He’s just here for the pic.]]


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‘Controlling’ People—the Very Notions of Society and Morality Can be Spun in Terms of ‘Controlling’ People

The modern-day anti-cult obsession is that religious teachings are used (and even designed) to “control” people. They see it where they want to see it and overlook it where they don’t.

What of the Pink Floyd song, the one with the chorus of children? “We don’t need no education. We don’t need no thought control.” Whose plaintive cry is it it? Helpless cult victims? Maybe. I wasn’t thrilled to be made to go to school every day. It is the school systems of the world, put in place by the governments of the world! But it too, uses, ‘thought control.’ It is the boss cult which thereafter exempts itself while pointing a finger at everyone else.

I made a quip in Go Where Tom Goes that today’s anticultists would go bonkers at the seating system of early Charleston churches. There, you purchased your pew. Thereafter, you always sat there. Today’s anticultists (and only they) would spin that as ‘manipulating’ people to attend church since if you weren’t there in your pew everyone would know it. Peer pressure would do its dastardly work. There was zero chance you were sitting anywhere else. 

Instead, I liked Bro Sanderson’s talk that if you’re going to talk manipulation, do it with something that counts. He cited the Nuremburg trials, and how fear of death ‘manipulated’ people to do the most despicable things, a fear from which they would have been released had they known and exercised faith in Christ. The very notions of both society and morality can be portrayed in terms of ‘controlling’ people. If you’re going to play that game, do it with something that counts, such as fear of death that will manipulate you into being a mass murderer. 

On those endless trips in the family car, restless kids in the back, my dad would sometimes yell, ‘If you kids don’t stop crying back there, I’m going to pull this car over and give you something to cry about!’ I thought he was just being mean. I did not then realize he was proffering the wisdom of the ages, for sometimes that is exactly what must be done.

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The Man Who Memorized the Bible—and Still Wanted to Become a Jesuit.

It’s a bit of a cheap shot—but on account of that Babylon the Great scripture we Witnesses are known to take such shots*—John Barr, the GB member until he died, related an amazing feat: a candidate who was rejected as a Jesuit for being too short. Whereupon, he memorized the entire Bible to prove his worthiness.

The truly amazing thing, John Barr related, was that after having done so, he still wanted to be a Jesuit.

As I recall it, the account was included in Barr’s talk at a District Convention. Such GB talks would often find their way into the Watchtower magazine within the year. When his did, the magazine dropped the line about still wanting to become a Jesuit. Instead, it skipped right over to the more milquetoast, “Surely, however, it is far more important to understand God’s Word than it is to memorize it.” It declined to take the ‘cheap shot’ that Barr could not resist.

The Watchtower paragraph, from the February 1, 1994 issue (pages 8-9):

“In the 17th century C.E., a Catholic man named Cornelius van der Steen sought to become a Jesuit but was rejected because he was too short. Says Manfred Barthel in his book The Jesuits​—History & Legend of the Society of Jesus: “The committee informed van der Steen that they were prepared to waive the height requirement, but only with the proviso that he would learn to recite the entire Bible by heart. The story would hardly be worth telling if van der Steen had not complied with this rather presumptuous request.” What effort it took to memorize the whole Bible! Surely, however, it is far more important to understand God’s Word than it is to memorize it.”

___ *As for ‘cheap shots,’ nothing is a more cardinal sin in Jehovah’s Witnesses’ eyes than obscuring Bible teachings. Examples are the teaching of trinity, which makes God incomprehensible, someone impossible to know. Another is the hellfire teaching, which makes him cruel, someone you would not want to know. The Jesuits were firmly in that category, never mind whatever good things they did.



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An Updated Explanation of Everything: Part 1

I’m starting to play with the notion, for an upcoming talk, that if you wanted the policies of one party to prevail, would you vote for the other party? So it is that Jesus demonstrates control over the elements (fed the crowds, stilled the windstorm, healed some sick)—deeds that neither of the two political parties can touch. And yet people keep voting for the human parties that can’t do these good things.

To be sure, the promises of the kingdom of God are future, whereas those of the two squabbling human parties are here and now. Still, since they so eclipse human promises, one would almost think more people would ‘vote’ (take interest in) the doings of that kingdom rather than campaign incessantly for the human parties.

Similarly, if you consistently vote for one party, can you be livid that the policies of the other do not prevail? So it is when skeptics and atheists fume at God for not eliminating suffering—blaming him for every famine and natural disaster. Why didn’t he stop it from happening? Well, they keep voting for the wrong party. You would think they would vote for the party that can control these things. Instead, the vote for the party[s] that not only can’t control these things, but that exacerbates, even causes, them. The previous New York governor said he didn’t want to weigh in on the climate change debate, but 100-year floods were now occurring every two years, so clearly something was happening

To be fair, the ‘here and now’ will generally capture attention before that of ‘the future.’ That will favor the promises of the human parties, even if so many of them aren’t realized. There are some people who give barely a thought to the future—how do they know it will bode them any good? Maybe it will be like Nicholson’s character in Batman, who yells, “Hey, Eckhert! Think of the future!” before putting a bullet through the creepy lout.

The reason kingdom promises (feed the crowds, still the storm, heal the sick) must wait is that time is needed to complete and clear out the wreckage from the failed experiment of human self-rule. Put in a nutshell, that ‘experiment’ goes:

God: ‘You can’t rule yourselves.’

A&E: ‘Watch us.’

God: Okay, I will, and when the elapsed time is done, we will see if you have capably ruled the planet or brought it to the precipice of disaster.’

A lot of time is spanned.

The planet is not at the precipice of disaster today? Just like the Barry McQuire song; “You don’t believe we’re on the eve of destruction?” Accordingly, our Lord provides a few examples of feeding, controlling, and healing. He didn’t do everyone, for his time was not then. He provided a few tokens, as evidence of what he will do when his rulership arrived. If a candidate promised to heal the sick and provided no evidence he could do so, would you believe him?

Yikes! That song of Barry Mcquire? He sang that 60 years ago. As though a false prophet!! I know someone else who has been called a false prophet a time or two.

On the other hand, if you have labor pains and they subside, it doesn’t mean that a birth is not coming. Not wanting to take anything for granted and knowing the importance of proof, I ran this statement past my wife. She confirmed it was true.

To be continued…


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Keepers from Psalm 119–the Longest (by far) Psalm

Make God’s law our concern “all day long” and become “wiser than [our] enemies,” “more insight[ful] than all [our] teachers,” and “with more understanding than older men.” (Psalm 119:97-100)

Or at least they’ll stop mopping the floor with us.

Those verses are probably my favorites from Psalm 119; there are 176 to choose from. The odd thing is, just two psalms before is Psalm 117, with only 2 verses. Is it only me who wonders why bother to write a psalm at all if it will only run two verses—especially when big brother shows up just two psalms later to drown you with his 176?

You have to admit, it’s a draw to think you might become wiser than enemies, teachers, and older men through application of Bible principles:

(98) Wiser than my enemies your commandment makes me, Because to time indefinite it is mine.

(99) More insight than all my teachers I have come to have, Because your reminders are a concern to me.

(100) With more understanding than older men I behave, Because I have observed your own orders.

As for other verses, it’s probably worth, for those aggravating nights of insomnia or when you wake after 2-3 hours and can’t get back to sleep, posting something like this on your wall:

(vs 62) “At midnight I get up to give thanks to you for your righteous judicial decisions.”

It’s not a bad idea, is it? I mean, I don’t wake up purposefully for that object, but if I do wake up, I might as well do that as anything else.

Another fine runner up in the very long psalm is verse 165: “Abundant peace belongs to those loving your law, And for them there is no stumbling block.” It reminds me of how my father-in-law would say, “People have let me down, but Jehovah has never let me down.”

Of course! As a Witness, you get a relationship with God and his Son. As a pure bonus, a freebie, God throws in a united brotherhood—a network of believers the world over, numbering in the millions. Anyone would be crazy to let that slip by. But you’d also be crazy to put all your trust in it. They’re people. People can let you down.

It is God’s “law” that brings the abundant peace. That way, if the people ever mess you up, you’re still good. God’s “law’ will do that, along with the closely related terms that comprise the theme of Psalm 119: his reminders (mentioned 22 times), orders (20), regulations (21), commandments (20), and judicial decisions (21). Immerse yourself in those things and it serves you well.

The long psalm has a unique construction. Divide the total number of verses (176) by 22 (the number of letters in the Hebrew alphabet) to get 8. Accordingly, the psalm is usually displayed in stanzas of 8. The first 8 verses begin with (rendering this as though English, to make it easier) ‘A’, the second 8 verses each begin with ‘B’, the third 8, ‘C’, and so forth. It is said to be a memory aid, though it would take a lot more than that for me to memorize this monster.

Honorable mentions for winner verses—not that any of them are dogs, but it sort of depends upon your circumstances and mood at the time—would include 65: “You have dealt well indeed with your servant, O Jehovah, according to your word.” This would be in accord with a mindset of counting blessings, see the glass as half full rather than half empty, and so forth. It is healthier when you can look at life that way. One counselor said that even if your reason tells you it isn’t that way at the moment, it still benefits you if you can see the glass as half full.

Somewhat related is verse 71: “It is good for me that I have been afflicted, In order that I may learn your regulations.” This verse is in the theme of pulling victory from defeat. You wouldn’t choose ‘affliction,’ but when such a period abates, hopefully you can come out of it with a renewed appreciation for life. Or, if not appreciation, at least better adjusted. If you come out of it with only bitterness, you tend to hurt only yourself.

There are people who have seen plenty of affliction. It resets their attitude. A friend who has spent time in developing countries now says she would be ill-suited for her former customer rep job in the West. It would be too much for her not to say, “I don’t care, you spoiled rich person!”


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The Kennedy-Khrushchev Rapport, and the Man to Uncover JFKs Assassination: Part 2

I didn’t want to run the above title and ignore question of interest to most people: Who killed JFK? But now that I have discharged that responsibility with Part 1, I can focus on just what caught my attention in the first place and how it dovetails with some other things I’d come across.

RFK Jr’s words, from that first article:

“The Cuba Station was “angry at my uncle for not sending in air cover during the Bay of Pigs invasion”, he says. “After the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis, my uncle developed this friendship with Khrushchev, and he shut down all the attacks on Cuba by Alpha 66 and other groups who were harassing Cuba and sinking Russian ships.”

He did? Became friends with Khrushchev? Can you imagine what would happen to any pol today who became friends with a Russian leader? These days such a charge is leveled at pols with the assurance it will be a career ender if it can be made to stick. Apparently, if RFK Jr’s charge is true, it was for JFK, too—literally.

And yet, it fits well with facts I discovered in writing ‘I Don’t Know Why We Persecute Jehovah’s Witnesses: Searching for the Why.’ Khrushchev arguably saved the world during the tense days of the Cuban Missile crisis with a frank letter that notably defused tensions. Kennedy, who was modest enough to admit (to advisors), ‘He kicked my butt!’ at their first meeting, doubtless would have looked at the Soviet leader with some appreciation. 

The letter, which I included in the ‘Statesmen’ chapter of ‘Don’t Know Why,’ reads:

Dear Mr. President:

 I have received your letter of October 25. From your letter, I got the feeling that you have some understanding of the situation which has developed and (some) sense of responsibility. I value this.

 . . . Everyone needs peace: both capitalists, if they have not lost their reason, and, still more, Communists….War is our enemy and a calamity for all the peoples. . . . I have participated in two wars and know that war ends when it has rolled through cities and villages, everywhere sowing death and destruction.

 . . . Mr. President, do you really seriously think that Cuba can attack the United States and that even we together with Cuba can attack you from the territory of Cuba? Can you really think that way? How is it possible? We do not understand this. . . . You can regard us with distrust, but, in any case, you can be calm in this regard, that we are of sound mind and understand perfectly well that if we attack you, you will respond the same way.

 . . . We, however, want to live and do not at all want to destroy your country. We want something quite different: To compete with your country on a peaceful basis. We quarrel with you, we have differences on ideological questions. But our view of the world consists in this, that ideological questions, as well as economic problems, should be solved not by military means, they must be solved on the basis of peaceful competition,

If there is no intention to tighten that knot and thereby to doom the world to the catastrophe of thermonuclear war, then let us not only relax the forces pulling on the ends of the rope, let us take measures to untie that knot. We are ready for this. . . . There, Mr. President, are my thoughts, which, if you agreed with them, could put an end to that tense situation which is disturbing all peoples. These thoughts are dictated by a sincere desire to relieve the situation, to remove the threat of war.

The superpowers came close. Was it Khrushchev’s telegram that averted catastrophe? Both sides removed missiles and the U.S. promised not to invade Cuba again. We “lucked out,” wrote The Week magazine, commenting on the telegram. Pundits will squabble till the end of time as to who was the worst villain or the best hero. It is in the eye of the beholder. But I didn't want to write a Russia-bashing book. To do so might have been a temptation, since Russia now visits unhinged persecution on the religious community that I hold dear. "Russia’s religious persecution focuses almost exclusively on Jehovah’s Witnesses,” said Rachel Denber, Deputy Director Europe and Central Asia division of Human Rights Watch, in a 2020 statement to

But it's not even their 'fault,' really. It is a result of an anti-cult lunacy that sweeps in from the West, like communism itself did, and finds fertile soil on which to thrive. Thrive it does, but it is an invasive species--from France. There, FECRIS operates for the purpose of harassing 'cults' (virtually anything that deviates from mainstream thinking, especially if it incorporates authority that is not that of the mainstream). Russian national Alexander Dvorkin is the VP of that organization. He was a mastermind of the anti-Witness campaign in Russia under the guise of fighting 'cults.' Of course, we Witnesses, who follow such things barely at all, imagine it is all the machinations of the House Church, the Russian Orthodox. They're happy as pigs in mud, to be sure, but they did not originate the persecution, the case for which is made in 'Don't Know Why.'

So, not wanting to bash Russia unduly, I searched for noble things to write of, and found several. There are arguably three instances of a Russian 'saving the world,' if we count Khrushchev's letter as the first: 

"In 1983, Lieutenant Colonel Stanislav Petrov, in charge of the command center for the Oko nuclear early-warning system, saw that five missiles had been launched by the United States. The eyes of all his subordinates were upon him. Had he passed the information along to his superiors, it would have triggered an immediate Soviet counterstrike. He judged it was a malfunction and told underlings to forget about it. Of course, investigation later confirmed that he had been correct. Stanislav died during 2017, to relatively scant notice.2 He is one of the Ecclesiastes “princes who went on foot like slaves, while slaves rode on horseback.”

"Another was Vasili Arkhipov. He was the sole person of three senior officers on the nuclear-missile equipped submarine B-59 who refused to authorize their use—authorization had to be unanimous—during the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962. Thomas Blanton, then director of the U.S. National Security Archives, credited him with “saving the world.” Third was Nikita Khrushchev, mentioned in the Statecraft chapter, sending the telegram that arguably defused the Cuban tension and ended the crisis."

And now here is RFK Jr, speaking of a "friendship" that developed between Kennedy and Khrushchev. Two of the three above events occurring on his watch, it's plausible. I'd had no idea, but it's plausible.

Another thing of which I had no idea was that Khrushchev was regarded a reformer in his day, one who worked to mitigate the extremes of Stalin. I remember him as the hothead who pounded the desk with his shoe at the UN and on another occasion boasted 'We will bury you!'--which the media spun in terms of threatening war, whereas he meant economic competition. He's pretty much forgotten today, an embarrassment to be ignored, as is Mikhail Gorbachev. Both accommodated Western values in the Soviet Union/Russia. The current mood is to get as far away from that as possible—ideally, forget that it ever happened.

(See: ‘In Putin’s Footsteps: Searching for the Soul of an Empire Across Russia’s Eleven Time Zones,’ by Nina Khrushcheva [Khrushchev’s granddaughter] for the current ‘ranking’ of previous Russian leaders.)


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1 Thessalonians 5: Verses Amassed on Jehovah’s Day

If you’ve been around for awhile, as I have, you’re on the lookout for something,to make you prick up your ears. Most things don’t. Most things are reminders, reinforcements, applications, etc, of what you already know. So here featured in the WatchtowerStudy is a chapter in 1 Thessalonians in which verse after verse, each one a solid base hit, adds up to a grand slam of illustrations about Jehovah’s day. Had I ever looked at the passage that way?

Now as for the times and the seasons, brothers, you need nothing to be written to you.  For you yourselves know very well that Jehovah’s day is coming exactly as a thief in the night. Whenever it is that they are saying, “Peace and security!” then sudden destruction is to be instantly on them, just like birth pains on a pregnant woman, and they will by no means escape.  But you, brothers, you are not in darkness, so that the day should overtake you as it would thieves, for you are all sons of light and sons of day. We belong neither to night nor to darkness. So, then, let us not sleep on as the rest do, but let us stay awake and keep our senses.

“For those who sleep, sleep at night, and those who get drunk are drunk at night. But as for us who belong to the day, let us keep our senses and put on the breastplate of faith and love and the hope of salvation as a helmet  because God assigned us, not to wrath, but to the acquiring of salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ. He died for us, so that whether we stay awake or are asleep, we should live together with him.  Therefore, keep encouraging one another and building one another up, just as you are in fact doing.” (1 Thessalonians 1-11)

The study was a verse-by-verse commentary. I love those things. The Day comes so quickly as to perhaps surprise even those expecting it, like birth pains, like a thief in the night, not to be slept through, nor drunk into oblivion in an effort to ignore. “When we want to sleep, we turn out the lights—intentionally,” said one brother, as he likened that course to what some do today in the face of plunging world conditions.

The congregation of Thessalonica was founded amidst great persecution, another pointed out. The temptation in similar areas of persection, such as current Russia, is to imagine maybe that Day to come any second now. The temptation in more laid back areas is that it is yet a long ways off. Either view can mess one up.

I kind of liked this side reference from Ephesians on keeping our act together: “For you were once darkness, but you are now light in connection with the Lord. Go on walking as children of light, for the fruitage of the light consists of every sort of goodness and righteousness and truth. Keep on making sure of what is acceptable to the Lord; and stop sharing in the unfruitful works that belong to the darkness; rather, expose them for what they are. For the things they do in secret are shameful even to mention. (Ephesians 4:8-12)

Who knows what devious schemes or deeds or plots are referred to—things shameful even to mention? Good to be far away from where those things are launched.

******  The bookstore

Defending Jehovah’s Witnesses with style from attacks... in Russia, with the book ‘I Don’t Know Why We Persecute Jehovah’s Witnesses—Searching for the Why’ (free).... and in the West, with the book, 'In the Last of the Last Days: Faith in the Age of Dysfunction'

The Kennedy-Khrushchev Rapport, and the First ‘Conspiracy Theory:’ The Assassination of JFK: Part 1

In 1992 was passed a law (The President John F. Kennedy Assassination Records Collection Act) that all documents relating to Kennedy’s 1963 assassination be released in 2017. The year came and went. ‘Only’ 56,604 documents were released.

Is it only me who finds 56,604 documents of anything an absurd overkill? It’s just the tip of the iceberg, apparantly, since 89% of all relevant documents were said to be already fully visible to the public—as of the late 1990s.

The Biden administration ran the quest again in 2022, and still some more were shaken loose. Still, 4000 documents continued to remain secret and are down to this day. All but the children from that time period are dead. Why keep what remains under such tight wraps—unless, it is not individual people, but entire agencies whose secrets must be ‘protected?’

The ubiquitous ‘conspiracy theory’ term was coined just after the Kennedy Assassination. Within months, the Warren Commission, named for the Chief Justice of the United States, and staffed by a panel of Congressional people, plus the then CIA director, concluded Kennedy’s assassin (Lee Harvey Oswald) had acted alone. Also, the man who shot Oswald to death two days later, (Jack Ruby) he too, acted alone. Case closed. Shortly thereafter, anyone questioning that report would be labeled as advancing a ‘conspiracy theory,’ the first appearance of that term.

Today, President Kennedy’s nephew says, “I feel that I’m probably the only one that can unravel” the machinations behind that killing,. It is probably so. Not only was it his uncle that was assassinated, but also his father, Robert F. Kennedy Sr.

With a long history of environmental lawyer, lauded by progressives until he turned upon the vaccine industry, Robert F Kennedy Jr has this year announced his candidacy for president. ‘In normal times I would not do this,’ he says, ‘but these are not normal times.’ No, they are not.

He has the stature, he has the resources, the wherewithal, the ‘chops,’ and Lord knows, the motivation, to uncover just who killed both his father (RFK) and uncle, JFK. These days he is spilling some serious beans:

“The Cuba Station [essentially, a hit division of the CIA] was “angry at my uncle for not sending in air cover during the Bay of Pigs invasion”, he says. “After the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis, my uncle developed this friendship with Khrushchev, and he shut down all the attacks on Cuba by Alpha 66 and other groups who were harassing Cuba and sinking Russian ships. They were operating flotillas out of South Florida, and doing raids. My uncle (JFK) and father (RFK) sent the Coast Guard to confiscate their ships and weaponry and arrest those that kept doing it.”

Kennedy had inherited the Bay of Pigs invasion plan. It had been earlier proposed by the CIA and approved by President Eisenhower to overthrow the newly installed Communist regime in Cuba. First thing Castro had done was to nationalize American interests. Says Wikipedia: (8/20/23) of the Bay of Pigs invasion:

“As the [April 1961] invasion force lost the strategic initiative, the international community found out about the invasion, and U.S. President John F Kennedy decided to withhold further air support. The plan, devised during Eisenhower's presidency, had required the involvement of U.S. air and naval forces. Without further air support, the invasion was being conducted with fewer forces than the CIA had deemed necessary. The invading force was defeated within three days by the Cuban Revolutionary Armed Forces.”

For its part, the CIA did not forgive JFK. For JFK’s part, (says RFK Jr) “he came out of his office during the Bay of Pigs and said, ‘I want to shatter the CIA in a thousand pieces and scatter it to the winds.” RFK Jr adds: “The Espionage division [of the CIA] is made up of extraordinary people who are doing an important job of protecting the country. … The Plans Division is the action division. They’re the ones that assassinate people, fix elections, overthrow governments and do all the things that we’re  paying for in our foreign policy – and domestic policy – today. My father was going to separate those two divisions. My uncle was going to do that too.”

It was enough to trigger an assassination, RFK Jr. maintains.

******  The bookstore

Defending Jehovah’s Witnesses with style from attacks... in Russia, with the book ‘I Don’t Know Why We Persecute Jehovah’s Witnesses—Searching for the Why’ (free).... and in the West, with the book, 'In the Last of the Last Days: Faith in the Age of Dysfunction'

Can a Crocodile Play Basketball?

Can a crocodile play basketball?


AI’s answer in this age of ChatGPT, 3 different applications:

One: That’s an interesting question. Crocodiles are amazing animals that have been around for millions of years. They are very good at swimming, hunting, and surviving in different habitats. But can they play basketball?

Well, the answer is probably no. Crocodiles are not very good at jumping, running, or handling a ball. They have short legs, heavy bodies, and long tails that make it hard for them to move quickly on land. They also have very strong jaws, but not very flexible hands. They can’t grip a ball or pass it to their teammates. They might even try to eat the ball or the other players!

So, crocodiles are not suited for playing basketball. But they are still fascinating creatures that have many other skills and abilities. IMG_1011


Two: No, a crocodile cannot play basketball. Crocodiles are reptiles and do not possess the physical abilities or cognitive skills required to play basketball.  (Photo by Pixabay)


Three: Crocodiles are not capable of playing basketball due to their anatomy and lack of abilities required for such activities. They are not built for complex motor skills or coordination needed for sports like basketball.


Walter Isaacson wrote in 2005 that the crocodile question stymied AI, which invariably did well with any number-crunching question but not something that involved ‘thinking.’ So said his book ‘The Innovators,’ which traces the development of both computers and the internet. The most significant advance for the former was the microchip, which allowed for computers to shrink to desktop-sized. The most significant advance for the latter was switchable digital packets, allowing computers to communicate with each other over a network.

The first crocodile answer hedges its bets. ‘Probably no,’ it says, and explains why, exploring the crocodile’s anatomy, taking the question quite seriously (rather than giggling it away, as any 4 year old would do).

Answers two and three also don’t realize someone is putting them on, but they are more definitive and give evidence of ‘thinking.’ That is, they draw conclusions from how a crocodile is built in a way that is beyond pure number crunching.

‘The Innovators’ final chapter tells how chess grandmaster Gary Kasparov agreed to a challenge from IBM’s Deep Blue and lost. ‘Yeah, well, it’s just pure number-crunching,’ he comforted himself, not that it made losing to it any better. The machine wasn’t actually thinking. It was just running any given chess board against a gargantuan database it had downloaded, including all grandmaster games, and recalling whether any given move next move had turned out good or bad. Later, he got the idea of working in tandem with AI, letting the machine crunch the numbers whereas the person could focus on the overall deep strategy that was beyond the machine’s capability.

The concept was tested, also in 2005: grandmaster matched against machine against chess amateur paired with computer backup, The grandmasters lost. So did the machines alone. The amateurs with computer-backup were the ones victorious.

So the current crocodile answer isn’t too bad, really. It ‘reasons’ on the reptile’s anatomy to say, ‘No way.’ It doesn’t just search the internet for websites that says if a crocodile can play basketball or not, a method that would return zilch results.

AI prognosticators have christened as the ‘singularity’ the moment AI reaches the point where it doesn’t need people, where it can and does program itself. Will it decide people just get in the way at that point?

Dumping science in our collective lap with no idea as to how to control it is something I have worked into most of my books. From ‘Tom Irregardless and Me:’

“Sam Harris gave yet another TED talk in which he asked: “Can We Build AI Without Losing Control Over It?” The answer is no; you’ll screw it up like you screw up everything, like you drove Albert Einstein to say, “if I had known, I would have become a locksmith.”

From: ‘In the Last of the Last Days: Faith in the Age of Dysfunction:’

“Elon Musk, Steve Wozniak, Andrew Yang, and a panel of other leaders in technology, urged in March 2023 at least a six-month moratorium on AI development, allowing a little time to figure out what its long-term consequences will be. From their open letter of March 2023:

Advanced AI could represent a profound change in the history of life on Earth and should be planned for and managed with commensurate care and resources. Unfortunately, this level of planning and management is not happening, even though recent months have seen AI labs locked in an out-of-control race to develop and deploy ever more powerful digital minds that no one – not even their creators – can understand, predict, or reliably control.

“… Should we let machines flood our information channels with propaganda and untruth? Should we automate away all the jobs, including the fulfilling ones? Should we develop nonhuman minds that might eventually outnumber, outsmart, obsolete and replace us? Should we risk loss of control of our civilization?

“Events move quickly. Who would ever have thought a major risk to writing a book like this would be that portions would be obsolete by its date of release? Within days of this AI caution came a “photo” of Pope Francis fleeing a bevy of police closing in upon him from all sides. “I asked Wonder App to paint, Pope running from the police,” the banner advertised You could never tell it wasn’t him—even if you did wonder how His Holiness could hustle so fast.”


From ‘I Don’t Know Why We Persecute Jehovah’s Witnesses: Searching for the Why:’

“The New York Times writes about an app that makes it “relatively easy to create realistic face swaps and leave few traces of manipulation. . . . It’s not hard to imagine this technology being used to smear politicians, create counterfeit revenge porn, or frame people for crimes. Lawmakers have already begun to worry about how such deepfakes might be used for political sabotage and propaganda.” The anonymous developer cheerfully helps the Times reporter try his own hand at it. “I’ve given it a lot of thought,” he [says], “and ultimately I’ve decided I don’t think it’s right to condemn the technology itself.”[i] Of course not! They never do. It’s on to the next advance of science! Let the ethicists figure out what he has just dumped in their laps, something “which can of course be used for many purposes, good and bad.” It’s their problem, not his.

“Already, news sources show an eagerness to rely upon unidentified sources that frequently turn out to be wrong. Will they handle this new advance responsibly? Not only must we anticipate dubious proven by video character assassination to become routine, but the more lasting consequence of this new technological advance may be that even genuine video evidence will be dismissed as fake news. It is as Isaiah envisioned: “Ah! Those who call evil good, and good evil, who change darkness to light, and light into darkness, who change bitter to sweet, and sweet into bitter!” The guileless one so slandered will explode in moral indignation, and thus appear guilty as hell. The professional liar will shrug it off with the feigned saddened dismay that his enemies could sink so low.”


Which will come first: Will humans succeed in harnessing their science so as not to ruin them all? Or will the NBA begin drafting crocodiles?


******  The bookstore

Defending Jehovah’s Witnesses with style from attacks... in Russia, with the book ‘I Don’t Know Why We Persecute Jehovah’s Witnesses—Searching for the Why’ (free).... and in the West, with the book, 'In the Last of the Last Days: Faith in the Age of Dysfunction'