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

Searching for the why—at first glance, what could be easier? Just read the charges. But when Putin says, “Jehovah’s Witnesses are Christians, too. I really don’t understand why they are persecuted”—there appears more to it than meets the eye. When Human Rights Watch says, “Russia’s religious persecution focuses almost exclusively on Jehovah’s Witnesses,” the plot thickens.
 
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Like Luke to Theophilus, here is a book that “traces everything from the start with accuracy.” Like Luke to Theophilus, here is a book that tells it from the believer’s point of view. Stripped of the red herrings that plagued Dear Mr. Putin—Jehovah’s Witnesses Write Russia, updated to the February 2021 present, and ever respectful towards the land of the bear, in most ebook forms it continues to be free, a labor of love.

Here are presented the modern-day Acts of Russia with regard to worship, the acts of believers and of those who oppose them. The acts of Russia have taken a dark and perplexing turn, puzzling even Putin. Can it be? The wizard who runs Oz doesn’t know how his contraption works? Here is a book that picks up where Baran’s Dissent on the Margins (2014) leaves off. The tale has not yet ended. But then, neither had the tale ended when Luke completed the first century Book of Acts.

Early in 2017, every Jehovah’s Witness in the world was invited to write letters to designated Russian officials, urging that justice be done in their case. I wrote one. Here is my expanded version.
Defending Jehovah’s Witnesses with style from attacks... in Russia, with the ebook ‘I Don’t Know Why We Persecute Jehovah’s Witnesses—Searching for the Why’ (free).... and in the West, with the ebook ‘TrueTom vs the Apostates!’ (free)

A Modern-Day Voltaire

One might think of Introvigne, the fellow who runs CENSUR and does battle with FECRIS (among others), as though in a great Bond movie, as a modern-day Voltaire. Voltaire (many will know) is from the 17th century, and is considered founder of the Enlightenment. He was a fierce critic of organized religion, particularly the Judeo-Christian variety. He was also firmly deist, that is, he never doubted the existence of God, and he came to be much distressed that his body of work was used as a stepping stone into atheism—to break free of God altogether. His dream was that there be religious tolerance, that all religions should get along peaceably. It never occurred to him to change them internally or to mush them into one incoherent whole. He just wanted them not to wreak violence upon one another. 

Early in his life a dispute with a French aristocrat caused Voltaire to flee to England. While there he noted how there were dozens of religions, many (maybe all) claiming to be the one true path (people took religion more seriously then), yet they all co-existed without rancor. (In his native France, the Roman Catholic Church was torturing those professing other faiths.) It never would have occurred to Voltaire that a faith calling itself the one true faith was doing violence to any other one. It is a uniquely modern view to suppose that a religion regarding itself as the one true path does violence to the others. They all used to do it in the England Voltaire visited, yet they got along without cutting each other’s throats.

Voltaire’s Letters from England conveys his amazement and delight that here was a country, so different from back home, where people could worship as they pleased without anyone trying to ban them or beat up on them. He sets himself up as a chump interviewing a Quaker, just about as weird a religion as one could envision backed then—they ‘quaked’ when they became filled with spirit. He paints himself as though a devout Catholic thoroughly scandalized by Quaker beliefs, and he gives dialogue with one in which the Quaker ties him in knots, before summing it all up with how you just can’t talk sense with a fanatic.

It never occurred to Voltaire that the Quakers should change—he was just delighted that, given their “weirdness,” they could coexist so easily with the rest of society. In short, “intolerance” had nothing to do with doctrines or beliefs within a religion. He took for granted that internally each religion would be sufficiently different from other religions. If they were not, there would not BE separate religions—they would all blend into the same. It didn’t matter to him if Quakers were weird; if you conclude they are, don’t be one, would have been his obvious conclusion, just like it should be today with anyone concluding JWs are weird. 

Being a strict religion, serious about their beliefs, there would be severe internal strictures for any Quaker doing a 180 and leaving his faith. This was of no concern to Voltaire, who personally had no use for any of the established religions. Whatever strictures a departing Quaker would encounter would be more-or-less human nature: turn your back on previously cherished beliefs and you will of course find yourself on the outside looking in as regards those still holding true to those beliefs. It only adds “fuel to the fire” that the Christian scriptures can so easily be read that way. It’s the same with JWs today. It’s the same with most of the “new religions” that FECRIS labels as “cults,” as it seeks to homogenize religions, extracting whatever teeth they have to make them stand out from others, and mash them all into something common that doesn’t stand for much of anything other than putting a God-smiley-face on humanist endeavors.

Voltaire’s firm deism, his belief in God, stems from what the Jehovah’s Witness organization has called the “Book of Creation.” It stems from the observed design of creation, and from what he called first cause, the utility that created things are put to. He rejected any “book of revelation,” that is, any sacred scriptures from any source that would attempt to explain the creator. But he also famously, after years of soul-searching, declared insoluble the “problem of evil.” There is undeniably a God, and there is undeniably evil. He could not reconcile the two, though he was the foremost thinker and deist of his time.

To say that it is dumb as a prima facie mindset to reject any revelatory information from God might be going too far, but it certainly is self-defeating. Voltaire yearns with all his heart to discern the problem of evil, yet he confines his gaze to where the answer certainly will not be—in the book of creation. There is only so far that book will take you. His aversion is quite understandable, given the horrendous abuse practices by the religions of his day, but it was still self-defeating as for discerning the problem of evil or any other aspects of God’s personality.

If there is an answer to the “problem of evil,” it will be found in the new religions. Of course, my view is that it will be found specifically within the the tenets of Jehovah’s Witnesses. Indeed, the wording may differ, but “Why is there Evil?” is a staple of each of their basic study guides almost since their founding. Mainstream religions have so homogenized their views, so eager not to be out of step with intellectual or scientific trends, that they have modified their own foundation to the extent that the problem of evil cannot be solved. FECRIS gets around the issue by ignoring it. There is no answer to such questions, they maintain—forget about them. Focus on making the world a better place now. Nevermind arcane spiritual concerns that will distract from how we must, in the words of the Beatles, “come together.”

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….In the greater scheme of things, what really was Voltaire? A brief point of relative light, but also a bridge connecting one train wreck to another.

The train wreck of religious intolerance he battled all his life, and to a significant degree, he won that battle.

But in a very short time, even during his lifetime, atheists usurped his work to provide underpinnings of their own rising movement—another train wreck. Voltaire was an initial hero of the French Revolution, but in short order, as inferior atheistic thinkers took over, he was downgraded as too moderate. Many of his own followers (Voltaire himself was dead by then) fell victim to the guillotine themselves when they resisted the fanatical excesses of those atheists.

Meanwhile, the light that he offered was but relative, in that he refused any revelatory look at God, and thus missed out on solving the problem of evil, since that is only solved through such searching. He may even have represented “one step forward, two steps back.” The step forward is to win against intolerance. The step back is to repudiate the means though which God gives explanation of himself AND to smoothe the way for atheism. Maybe even three steps back, for in declaring the issue of evil insoluble after grappling with it the best part of his life, he plants the notion in the educated people that adore him that it actually is. 

So is he required reading for JW members? No. He is an elective. Read him if you will. It will be beneficial if you do. But by no means is he indispensable to having one’s head on straight. Make him the centerpiece of your education, and it all but guarantees you will not have your head on straight. The JW organization will never recommend that members read Voltaire. Nor will they ever disparage him, at least no more than I have done above. They would have members direct their primary focus on what does deliver with regard to life’s more important things.

 

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Tweeting the Meeting: Week of June 7, 2021

Weekend Meeting:

The Public talk today is entitled “Follow the way to life,” the visiting speaker from Texas, via Zoom. (Will he talk with a Texas twang?)

So God said ‘control your temper’—a calm heart is better for you health, the speaker points out, citing Proverbs 14:30.

“A calm heart is the life of the fleshly organism, but jealousy is rottenness to the bones.”

“All the days of the afflicted one are bad; but the one that is good at heart [has] a feast constantly.” (Proverbs 15:15) thus the speaker says, try to look at the glass as half full rather than half empty & you will be happier.

On money, “can you think of any better investment portfolio than a righteous standing with Jehovah God?” says the speaker from Texas (Yes—with a twang, but you get used to it)

Now the speaker gets into sexual moral things and tells about “what matters to God.”

He says he can go to WingsoverRoch, a fav restaurant, put their used cooking oil in his car, and it will probably drive fine—for a while.

The speaker contrasts one course with another, holding out one hand and then another, and the hands are HUGE because they are right in the Zoom camera.

Although the speaker is Zooming from Texas, he keeps using local references. How does he do that?

 

Today’s Watchtower Study is taken from the April 2021 issue and is entitled “Follow His Steps Closely” the theme scripture, “Christ suffered for you, leaving a model for you to follow his steps closely.”​—1 PET. 2:21

Setting the tone for the #watchtowerstudy is the statement: Let us consider three questions about following his footsteps​—what? why? and how?”

“We’re going to have to move on, but thank you for the hands, keep them coming,” the conductor says.

That analytical bro tells of how at the workplace one may follow/decipher instructions, and each instruction is called a “step.” Each one is distinct. Not hard to see the applicability to a #watchtowerstudy on following he footsteps of Christ.

One sis tells of her childhood with her cousins and how “if you were crossing your legs, they would be crossing their legs,” because they loved to imitate.

I like the phrasing of John 8:29.  “And the One who sent me is with me; he did not abandon me to myself, because I always do the things pleasing to him.” Even Jesus does not want to be abandoned to himself!

“Sometimes one Gospel writer includes a meaningful detail that another leaves out.” They are like four different newspapers covering the same story. When the story is worth reading, you hunt down all four.

Just now that bro who comments from outdoors did so with a new touch—he and his wife are shielded from the sun by an umbrella. How much you want to bet that he later tells me he “had it made in the shade?”

“Use your imagination to see, hear, and feel what was happening. [of the gospel accounts] paragraph 13

No that does NOT mean you envision stuffing that troublesome bro’s head through the eye of a needle!

“Earlier, some of them questioned his authority. Others tried to corner him with challenging questions,” says para 16

One sis described Mark 11 and 12 as Jesus “having a bad day in service.” Another noted how “the religious leaders were trying to make it hard for him that day.”

Few things are worse than when the bro screws up the sound and you hear a line of two of some unsuspecting bro singing solo! That calamity just visited us all.

 

Weekday Meeting:

Either a certain bro & sis is atypically outside with the brick wall of their home as a backdrop—or they are in a police lineup. #midweekmeeting,

Whoa! D & K are back, visiting from the other congregation, and the artwork behind them is the photo of the solar eclipse this morning! It was a 78% blackout.

Not to worry. It is not a violation of Deut 4:19. “And when you raise your eyes to the heavens and see the sun and the moon and the stars….do not get seduced and bow down to them and serve them.” (I don’t think)

Ah, good. They made a fine appreciative comment on Deut 4:7. “For what great nation has gods as near to it as Jehovah our God is to us whenever we call on him?” Or are they just trying to deflect from their eclipse-worship?

The one bro opens his talk on enthusiasm with the observation that home team advantage has been likened to having an extra player. Makes sense, I guess, but I have never heard it. (It sure didn’t help our home team any last game I attended.)

It is a good line, isn’t it, of Nita’s mom: “if anyone’s enthusiasm is contagious, it’s yours.”

Almost as good as Nita’s answer to Jade apologizing for her crazy questions: “No, it’s good. It means you’re a deep thinker.”

Ah. there it is. Those aren’t bad opening questions for a Bible study, are they?…“How did life begin? Why are we here? Why do innocent people suffer? What happens when a person dies? If everyone wants peace, why is there so much war? What will happen to the earth in the future?”

A talk based on 1 Corinthians 9:26, “Therefore, the way I am running is not uncertainly; the way I am directing my blows is so as not to be striking the air”

“a certain Macedonian man was standing and entreating him and saying: “Step over into Macedonia and help us.” …as soon as [Paul] had seen the vision, we sought to go forth into Macedonia, ….1/2

drawing the conclusion that God had summoned us to declare the good news to them.” I guess the long and short of it is that sometimes the cat has got the tongue of that Macedonian fellow. Only go where he calls, not where he doesn’t…..2/2

That sis whose husband I took to the baseball game—because he’s a baseball nut, but he can’t get around like he used to, but he does fine once he’s on his scooter—just commented.

Can’t go wrong when you can say the words of Joshua, can you?  “Not one word out of all the good promises that Jehovah your God has spoken to you has failed. They have all come true for you. Not one word of them has failed.” (Josh. 23:14)

Both with Babylon and Babylon the Great, completely unanticipated events resulted in the release of those trusting in God.

It was a great meeting except for that brother—the worst speaker in the circuit, if not the world —(who follows these tweets) totally butchering the last part.  Hi, bro!  :)

Grumble grumble. So much for my assignment to the PigLatin group.

 

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Defending Jehovah’s Witnesses with style from attacks... in Russia, with the ebook ‘I Don’t Know Why We Persecute Jehovah’s Witnesses—Searching for the Why’ (free).... and in the West, with the ebook ‘TrueTom vs the Apostates!’ (free)

The Foes Duke it Out With the Acronyms of a Bond Movie—CENSUR vs FECRIS

The foes duke it out with the acronyms of a Bond movie, CENSUR vs FECRIS, whilst the ordinary people sleep on, blissfully unaware of threats to their well-being. At stake is the free expression of ideas, be they be from religious or philosophical movement, historically the birthplace of new ideas, some of which turn out to be keepers, some of which turn out to be duds. There’s no telling what is what, so if they are not violent, keep them, CENSUR says. If they go against mainstream thinking, they’re “cult-like,” FECRIS says. Ban them.

(See FECRIS rebuked by German court)

CESNUR stands for Center for the Study of New Religions. It is roughly the opposite of FECRIS, which stands for the European Federation of Centres of Research and Information on Cults and Sects. The difference between the ideology of FECRIS and the ideology of CENSUR is that the first stands for intolerance and the second for tolerance. CENSUR would allow all law-abiding faiths to exist. FECRIS would not. CENSUR draws the line at defaming faiths with false statements. FECRIS does not. 53% of the statements its makes regarding Jehovah’s Witnesses are factually incorrect, a German court recently ruled. It is not enough for FECRIS to say they don’t like Jehovah’s Witnesses. They have to lie about them, too.

The United States [bipartisan] Commission on International Religious Freedom denounces the “anti-cult” ideology, of which FECRIS is a foremost part, for its “pretension to standing as the final arbiter of religious truth.” FECRIS is a humanist organization. It will tolerate religion only so long as religion embraces humanist goals. If religion is eviscerated to the point where it becomes a majority-rule affair, and thus as subject to contemporary trends as anyone else, FECRIS has no problem with it. If the will of the people is showcased as the will of God, FECRIS has no problem with it.

You can be sure that FECRIS would have a problem with Paul’s recognition that Christ gave “some as apostles, some as prophets, some as evangelizers, some as shepherds and teachers, with a view to the readjustment of the holy ones...until we all attain to the oneness in the faith ... in order that we should no longer be babes, tossed about as by waves and carried hither and thither by every wind of teaching by means of the trickery of men, by means of cunning in contriving error.” Let them be “tossed about,” it would say. To take a stand against that is mind control.

How does FECRIS know what model is agreeable with God? It doesn’t, and it doesn’t care. Humanist goals are what it champions. It is plain that Christianity never would have taken root in the first century had FECRIS been around then. The manifest human authority revealed in New Testament writing would have been denounced by them as outside interference. “It is necessary to shut the mouths of these men,” Paul wrote of one situation back then. (Titus 1:1) You think FECRIS would have stood still for that?

It just may be that human authority is inherent in how God leads his worshippers. Any reading of scripture, such as the above Ephesians passage, would certainly suggest so, yet that is a suggestion that FECRIS will not let stand. So it is that they presume to stand “as the final arbiter of religious truth.” 

It matters not whether one agrees with the leadership of Jehovah’s Witnesses in the above court matter. That was not the issue taken up by the German Court (or CENSUR). The court looked the presented material over and judged that Jehovah’s Witnesses were being defamed. It was not their mission to make any judgment upon the faith itself. Doubtless it reasoned that, in the event that Jehovah’s Witnesses are unorthodox, even weird, one can easily solve the problem by not being one of them, and if one already is, one can quit and go elsewhere. It’s a big world.

The author of the report cited above is Massimo Introvigne, the lead scholar at CENSUR and founder of that group. He himself obviously doesn’t agree with Jehovah’s Witnesses in all things, maybe in none of them. Otherwise, he would be one. He is not. He is Roman Catholic. What he is is a voice calling for tolerance between religions. Tomorrow he will write a post about the Scientologists, the next day about the Falun Gong, the next day about some group you never heard of.

If I recall correctly, early Christianity was controversial, so much so that 40 years after Jesus death, Nero was throwing individual Christians to the lions. Introvigne would just prefer not to see the scenario repeat. Anything wrong with that?

Jehovah’s Witnesses are a one true faith religion. There are many one true faith religions. As such, they are known to criticize other religions, as all one true faith religions criticize other religions. It is a valid read of the Scriptures that any perusal will suggest just might be true—that there is one true faith. But in order to pose any danger to other faiths (or lifestyles), they would have to call for violence against them. They would try to get politicians to pass laws against them, a “soft violence.” Instead, the “weapons” of Jehovah’s Witnesses are words only. Tell them ‘no’ and they go away. Joel Engardio has stated how Witnesses provide a fine example, perhaps our last hope, of how groups with strongly polarized views can yet co-exist peacefully in today’s world.

 

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Tweeting the Meeting: week of May 31, 2021

Weekend Meeting:

The speaker today is subbing for the one scheduled. He is the bro that, when he & I worked with the fledgling Vietnamese group long ago , would approach me speaking with the same cadence of one native-born. #publictalk

[He approached me like that after the meeting, too, right over Zoom. It’s sort of an inside joke, only played out before all.]

It is one of those public talks on whether religion overall and historically has been a force for peace.

Ah. Another reference to a passage recently cited, accompanied with a “and I hope you kept your place—I didn’t” Yikes! He just got muted himself somehow. Upon reconnecting—“Okay, where’d I leave off?” Now that’s maintaining poise in the face of distraction.

Any religion teaching human philosophy rather than Jehovah’s thinking—can it really meet our spiritual needs?

This is the bro that during his working life was an accountant, I think for the state. He gets more lively and engrossing by the year.

Now he is citing a few newspaper accounts of various Regional Conventions, reporters who observe that racial enmities is not a problem for the Witnesses.

Watchtower Study:

Another ‘Suit of Armor’ Watchtower, the image taken Ephesians 6:13-15, entitled “Jehovah Will Protect You​—How?”(The Lord is faithful, and he will strengthen you and protect you from the wicked one.)​—2 Thess. 3:3. There is always that one that need be considered.

“Others, who do not believe in God, persecute us because we do not fit into this world’s mold.”...This might cover the relatively recent #anticult” movement, that objects not so much to brainwashing, but to brainwashing that is not theirs.

With regard to Satan as “father of the lie” (John 8:44) AND the one “misleading the entire inhabited earth,” do we really imagine (of course, this not in the article, which leaves such things to the individual) that the only lies operating are the ones we have uncovered. ...1/2

A healthy skepticism of human promises is always in order....2/2

The sis who is a vet just commented on the suit of armor. The only suit of armor that can be had at her place is a dog collar.

“And if that does not work, he will try to bully us into going against Jehovah’s standards.” Nobody likes a bully. (para 6)

One bro likened God’s standards—are they restrictive?—to the standard trans of a car, that demands more involvement. The conductor (who drives a standard) offers as an aside that standards are more fun, anyway.

“For this is what the love of God means, that we observe his commandments; and yet his commandments are not burdensome.” (1 John 5:3)

That offbeat brother who recently commented from his back yard, the worst speaker in the whole circuit (some say the whole world), who has taken to following my tweets, thus seriously compromising my freeness of speech, hasn’t commented yet today. Let’s see if he’s tuned in today. :)

[He was.]

“For although we had first suffered and been insolently treated in Philippi, as you know, we mustered up boldness by means of our God to tell you the good news of God in the face of much opposition.” (1 Th2:2 It just goes without saying that the good news will trigger opposition.

“Just as a literal helmet protects a soldier’s head, the hope of salvation protects our thinking ability. In what way? That hope keeps us focused on God’s promises and helps us to see problems in the right perspective.” (para 10)

Reminds me of a driver I know who, if looking in a certain direction, the car veers ever so slightly in that direction, much to the discomfort of the passengers.

The 3-year-old child of one couple has a Zoom screen in her own name! It’s the family room renamed, I think.

That point on preparing for meetings. I recall one newcomer commenting on how the nature of the meetings was that one COULD prepare for them, so different from any other service he had ever attended. If makes it far more of a Bible study, and far less of just a ‘religious experience.’

One friend apologized that her raised hand was residual, not lowered from a prior comment, to which the conductor replied, “oh, dear.” It is as close to confession as we get in the JW tradition.

Hmm. David took off his complete suit of armor and lived to tell about it—in fact, he wouldn’t put it on. Though, it was hardly tailor-made for him, was it? 3 or 4 times his size, I think.

Weekday Meeting:

Deuteronomy means ‘2nd law.’ It is a restatement of the Law, also an explanation of it. Weekly Bible reading of the #midweekmeetings has turned the page from Numbers to Deuteronomy.

That diagram of the Israelite encampment reminded me powerfully of the many Regional Convention floor plans on the floor of the arena, whilst I gaze down from the surrounding seats.

In the midst of provisions for impartial judges is the direction, “You must not become intimidated by men.” Deut 1:17

Does Deut 1:42 illustrate the principle: The best way to get someone to do something is to tell him he can’t?

“But Jehovah said to me, ‘Tell them: “You must not go up and fight, for I will not be with you. If you do, you will be defeated by your enemies.”’

An eleven-day journey that took 38 years! One sis mentioned how we can make wrong decisions at wrong times that have comparable bad knock-you-off-the-path results.

Someone who has worked on Kingdom Hall builds likened Moses’ speech to post construction meetings, in which is reviewed what went right, what went wrong, near misses, what to repeat, etc.

Someone else likened the Israelites wandering to us wandering through Zoom! but pretty soon will there be direction to resume another path?

I wasn’t counting, but were there 10-12 comments? Good job of the one conducting. The more comments time allows, the better.

Man, that was a good reading from the Asian brother with a hard-to-pronounce name, and there are some who murder it.

Far in the backdrop of the sis speaking is a child’s plastic basketball hoop, and the child is big enough now that it can’t possibly be a challenge.

A friend of ours who is of survivalist bent proposed all manner of go-bag improvements, even a solar charger for the devices, & one all-purpose tool, rather than 5 loose and bulky ones.

The trick for the longest time was to find someone who likes us enough that we could crash there in time of disaster or chaos.

Only behave in a manner worthy of the good news about the Christ, so that whether I come and see you or I am absent, I may hear about you and learn that you are standing firm in one spirit, with one soul, striving side by side for the faith of the good news, ...1/2

and in no way being frightened by your opponents. (Philippians 1:27-28)...2/2

No, you do not have room to include a skateboard in your go-bag!

Now there is coordination—the very situation of the wheat awaiting the harvest time collection parallels the ones separated from visible Christian structure during disaster, war, persecution, or insurrection. Matt 13:24-30

Hmm. Summing up, one bro described the negative talk of the ten unfaithful spies as “loose lips sink ships.”

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FECRIS Rebuked by the Hamburg District Court for Defaming Jehovah’s Witnesses.

Be it proactively or in response to a summons, the reason you legally defend the good news in court is in order to give a witness. You do it to keep the path open for witnessing, as with Paul’s “defending and legally establishing of the good news,” (Philippians 1:7) since there are ever factions that would like to rule it illegal. And often the defense you present in itself becomes a witness.

“Why, you will be haled before governors and kings for my sake, for a witness to them and the nations.  However, when they deliver you up, do not become anxious about how or what you are to speak; for what you are to speak will be given you in that hour,” says Jesus. (Matthew 10:18-19)

So it is that Jehovah’s Witnesses challenged FECRIS in a German District Court with regard to 32 separate statements from them, each one picked up and even acted upon by some as though fact. Please rule as to whether or not they are defamatory, they asked the court.

It all makes for a witness when you publicly expose ones lying about you, and that is why you do it. If it leads to a reversal of unjust policies, that is icing on the cake. Word on the street is that, while the friends in Russia are obviously distressed at the villainies visited upon them, they also take consolation that their own undeserved suffering serves to focus world attention on the kingdom hope they proclaim.

FECRIS, is the acronym for the “European Federation of Centres of Research and Information on Cults and Sects.” It is funded by the French government, and it is the source of significant trouble for Jehovah’s Witnesses and a host of other “new religions.”

“New religion” is the scholarly term for any religious group originating in relatively recent times. Scholars deliberately choose “new religion” over “cult” to sidestep the incendiary overtones of the latter word. Non-scholars favor “cult” because they wish to make it as hot as possible for the “new religions.” The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) has identified FECRIS as a main international threat to religious liberty.

The Hamburg court agreed that 17 of the 32 FECRIS statements of Jehovah’s Witnesses were, in fact, defamatory. (Actually, it was 17.5–one was partly defamatory.) This, despite the court’s recognition that there is much latitude in making critical statements of a religion, and that even an incorrect expressed opinion nevertheless is usually protected speech. Even so, FECRIS, with 100% hostility toward the Witnesses, had crossed the line of what was permissible 55% of the time. They were just flat-out lying, to put it in layman’s terms. And yet, ones with influence pick up on their lies, and even implement law based upon them.

There can be no better example of this than Russia. It turns out that the VP of FECRIS, Alexander Dvorkin, rides high in Russia as a government minister—exercising a duel role. He is a chief architect of the ban of the Jehovah’s Witness organization as “extremist.”. Therefore, police arrest Jehovah’s Witnesses in that land, and they do so violently, with fully armed FSB teams (the American equivalent of SWAT teams). After all, if you declare someone “extremist,” you must treat them that way. If you arrest them as you would a jaywalker, you proclaim to all that you know full well they are not extremists and that your entire premise is a lie.

It all falls upon Dvorkin, and his Western FECRIS organization. Anti-cultism in Russia is a Western import. It is not native Russian at all, just like the communism of 100 ago was not Russian, but was injected into that land in hopes destabilizing the Allied powers of World War I. Is Russia forever to be manipulated by outside powers?

Armed with FECRIS ideology, Dvorkin shouts “CULT!” in the crowded Russian theater with “facts” that are incorrect 55% of the time. Thus he and his FECRIS is responsible for the mayhem that results. Each time a Witness is beaten, jailed, detained, robbed of belongings, or harassed, it falls upon him.  It is the same as how someone shouting “FIRE!” in a crowded theater would be held accountable. Hopefully, now that his credibility is seriously undercut, the government may reassess the degree to which they wish to rely upon his “expertise.”

Now, of course, I’m not holding my breath. Perhaps they will say, “Well, he doesn’t lie all the time. We’ll stick with him.” It is a bizarre world in which we live, increasingly irreligious, but a fine parallel one might consider is when the US Supreme Court ruled during WWII that Witness children could be compelled to salute the flag. A wave of persecution broke out across the country that saw widespread destruction of property, and even some Witnesses lynched. In the aftermath of what had been unleashed, three of the justices gave to understand they thought the case had been decided incorrectly. Another two retired and were replaced by ones thought more agreeable to individual liberty. The case came before the court once again, just three years later, and the decision was reversed. Would that such a thing were to happen in Russia. 

“FECRIS comes out of the Hamburg decision with its image of an organization of ‘experts,’ who deserve to be supported by taxpayers’ money in France and elsewhere, deeply shattered,” comments religious scholar Massimo Introvigne. “It rather emerges as a coalition of purveyors of fake news, which systematically use defamation to attack groups they label as ‘cults.’ Hopefully, the German decision will become a model for others in different jurisdictions, teaching FECRIS-affiliated anti-cult movements that they may have powerful patrons but are not above the law.”

Introvigne covers the 17 false statements in a piece he writes for BitterWinter.org. A handful of FECRIS statements were actually just fed them by their VP Dvorkin and uncritically repeated. They are that among the  “characteristic features” of the Jehovah’s Witnesses are “illegal possession of property,” that they “took possession of citizens’ apartments,” commit “religiously motivated crimes,” and bring “adult and children to their death.” Untrue statements of fact, all of them, said the Hamburg District Court, leaving out only the adjective ridiculous.

Because the charges are Russian, I dealt with them in I Don’t Know Why We Persecute Jehovah’s Witnesses: Searching for the Why. It turns out that others had found them outrageous as well:

“Katerina Chernova pushes back at “money-pumping” allegations. Yes, they are heard all the time, she acknowledges, but “when [people] are asked to name just one victim from whom “money, apartments, or something else was taken by the Witnesses, NOBODY was able to remember A SINGLE case in fact! [Caps hers] So we asked to show us or give the address of just one cottage of a Jehovah’s Witness, built with money stolen from people. And again, nobody knows a single real instance.” She goes on to relate a small fact that is actually huge and that says it all: with Jehovah’s Witnesses, baptisms and weddings and funerals are conducted “on a cost-free basis.” With the Orthodox Church? “We have heard many complaints against it regarding the impossibility of performing any ritual in the event that a person does not have money. That is, you want to be ‘baptized,’—some ‘donation;’ you want to be ‘married,’—it takes so much cash; a ‘funeral,’—it is also not for free.”An avaricious organization is not going to cut off these most dependable of all generators of cash.”

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Tweeting the Meeting: Week of May 24, 2021

Weekend Meeting:

Public Talk:

The public speaker’s theme is “Rescue from World Distress.” Though he doesn’t stay on the topic, the first thing he mentions is Covid and the chaos it was wrought. Just prior to the meeting I was reading the same:

Just a quick day-dreaming (during the public talk! (no refection on the speaker, who is good)) about the racial makeup of our congregation. Of 25 Zoom boxes, 11 are black friends, 13 white, 1 Hispanic. Will I do the 2nd page or pay attention?

Now the speaker notes in how in many languages literature can be found on jw.org (1032!) and asks: “how many of them can you speak?” for the purpose of getting a feel for “the size of the project.”

“If we have stains in our robes, now’s is the time to wipe them out,” he says, a reference to Revelation 7:9 & 14

It’s the backup #Watchtower conductor today, who never fails to mention the goal of making comments 30 seconds or less.

The trouble with too many long-winded comments, is that it discourages others who would also like to take part. Allow it enough, and pretty soon they don’t bother trying.

Another Watchtower study stuffed with verses on enduring hatred. There’s plenty of them, as anyone who reads a Bible knows. You don’t think the bros in Russia/elsewhere know all these scriptures?

The Watchtower reader today is that bro who was heir to an oil tycoon. When I would work with him in service, if passing a gas station, I might say: “Look, Sam! Texas tea!”

“Then people will hand you over to tribulation and will kill you, and you will be hated by all the nations on account of my name.” Matthew 24:9

I’ve always enjoyed pointing out that when Jesus says the meek will inherit the earth, he is quoting from the OT: Just a little while longer, and the wicked will be no more; You will look ... & they will not be there. But the meek will possess the earth.Ps 37:10-11

2 steps. 1) They are puzzled. 2)They figure out what to do about it. “They are puzzled that you do not continue running with them in the same decadent course of debauchery, so they speak abusively of you.” 1 peter 4:4

I like the more literal rendering of 1 Peter 4:4 “Because you do not continue running with them in this course to the same low sink of debauchery, they are puzzled and go on speaking abusively of you” better. ...1/2

It permits me the witticism of them saying: “Water’s fine here in the low sink! Who are you to judge?”....2/2

In answer Peter and the other apostles said: “We must obey God as ruler rather than men. (Acts 5:29)

For this is what the love of God means, that we observe his commandments; and yet his commandments are not burdensome, (1 Jn 5:3)

This is a beaut. How Jesus’ own family thought he was nuts: “But when his relatives heard about it, they went out to seize him, for they were saying: ‘He has gone out of his mind.’” Mark 3:21

The conductor just said, “oh, look at the hands. You’re making life difficult for me.” Better than the opposite.

“For I am convinced that neither death nor life nor angels nor governments nor things now here nor things to come nor powers nor height nor depth nor any other creation will be able to separate us from God’s love that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Romans 8:38

The sister who is a retired teacher just commented, and AI closed captioning understood her diction perfectly. She’d like that....(Heaven help it if it messed up on her)

Ha. Another elder sis read a verse, but stopped short: “No one has greater love than this,” she said, “that one should surrender his life...” After a pause, the conductor added: “....um....in behalf of his friends.”

“Jesus told his followers to love their enemies. (Matt. 5:44, 45) Is that easy to do? By no means! But it is possible with the help of God’s holy spirit. The fruitage of God’s spirit includes love as well as patience, kindness, mildness, and self-control.” (Gal. 5:22, 23)

Para 15 reminds me of Delia, whose fiercely opposed husband left her, though they had three kids. Yet years later when he got cancer, she took him in and cared for him till his death. (Nobody could cook like Delia)

“Return evil for evil to no one. ... If possible, as far as it depends on you, be peaceable with all men. Do not avenge yourselves, beloved, but yield place to the wrath; for it is written: ‘Vengeance is mine; I will repay,’ says Jehovah.” Romans 12:17-19

Anyone reading the verse for the first time will think it is divine vengeance —“if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by doing this you will heap fiery coals on his head,” but it is actually a reference to how a ...1/2

hard attitude can be softened. (Romans 12:20)...2/2

“There are so many verses saying Christians will be hated that if we weren’t you would have to wonder why,” someone said.

If, due to my sloppy conducting, we ran up against time limits, I would always blame the bros for “writing too many paragraphs.”

Weekday Meeting:

Six cities of refuge—not a concept well-known today—established for anyone who unintentionally takes a life. Leave the city of refuge before death of the high priest, and he’s toast should the wronged relative encounter him.

Don’t you love the application? The modern-day city of refuge that benefits those condemned through sin. Splendid talk. Few bros I respect more than the one who gave it.

It is with the cities of refuge that God says how many, & even on this side of the Jordan and that, but otherwise gives no specifics, leaving it up to the Israelites themselves. ...1/2

Sort of how he leads people today—direction, but not thumbs-on control of every little thing. (Numbers 35) Unified, but not uniform....2/2

I suppose that point is even true with regard to Numbers 36:6. “the daughters of Zelophehad ... may marry whomever they wish. However, they should marry someone from a family of the tribe of their father [so that] No inheritance of the Israelites should circulate from tribe to tribe

Grumble grumble—the bro milked that first question of Gems to such an extent that he had room for only two comments afterwards. Why did he do that? It is not as though there was such a stampede to answer that 1rst question.

That sister whose brother got married over the weekend is back and is a householder. “It’s time he settled down,” she says. (He’s 41) “He found a good woman,” a Russian woman, “who will keep him in line.”

The chairman this evening is a retired cop, friendly enough with the chief of police to have attended his housewarming. I would not be surprised if that former chief’s star is rising, in light of recent developments with the local mayoral scandal.

Wise parental discipline so that the children grow up like fruitful and productive trees. Trust me on this—my children always saw it this way. They’d cut off the circulation, so tightly did they hug my legs.

 

It is true that when they leave off the Christian course, they don’t always go rabble-rousing. (Nor do they all become COs upon return) Or even recall youth with nothing but fondness. But it happens often enough that it still makes a valid video.

 

“The people throng to those places, making offerings and singing hymns to such deities as Marduk.” Why can I only think of that cartoon Great Dane, Marmaduke?

“Many psalms celebrate Zion’s triumphs over Jehovah’s enemies. Perhaps the Babylonians love to mock those psalms in particular..” (ps 137:1) I’d never thought of this....1/2

“Um....excuse me. Back up and sing that line again, would you? Once again? What’s that line? Whoa, that’s a good one! Didn’t turn out that way, did it?” Oh, yeah—they must have had a field day with it....2/2

“Other psalms, though, speak about the Babylonians themselves. One, for example, says: ‘They have turned Jerusalem into a heap of ruins. . . . Those around us ridicule and jeer us.’”​—Ps. 79:1, 3, 4.4....1/3

Hmm. If they wanted me to sing a song about Babylonian victory, I might “sing” this one from Isaiah 39:7: “And some of your own sons to whom you will become father will be taken ...2/3

and will become court officials in the palace of the king of Babylon.’” and after that happens, I’m coming back for you to kick butt....3/3

“Years later, the apostle Paul was inspired to issue a similar warning: ‘I know that after my going away oppressive wolves will enter in among you and will not treat the flock with tenderness, and from among you yourselves men will rise and speak twisted things to ....1/2

draw away the disciples after themselves.’”​—Acts 20:29, 30. Many times I have reasoned that since he went away long ago, would this not have started long ago, and doesn’t it account for the many divisions of faith today?...2/2

A tech-savvy bro gave a brief concluding tutorial on how to use the new Zoom close captioning feature if desired.

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Tweeting the Meeting: Week of May 17, 2021

Weekend Meeting:

Whose values do you cherish? Is the title of the public talk, the speaker from North Carolina—only possible via Zoom.

He says the talk will focus not on things like ‘will we pay for what we buy at WalMart?’ Of course we will, its what Christians do. He will look at questions like ‘should money be the sole priority in our lives?’ like in 1 Timothy 6:9 #determinedtoberich

Jesus didn’t choose Matthew to carry the money box, said the speaker, whom you would think would be qualified. He chose Judas, well-thought of at the time, apparently, but...

Outside the picture window, the starlings are squabbling over the high-priced bird seed meant for the goldfinches.

Beautiful day today. While preparing the lesson outdoors, a blue jay flew under the gazebo, saw me, I could almost hear it say, ‘Yikes!’ turned around mid-air, and flew away.

“But really, you can put the Bible’s doctrine in the first ten pages of the Bible,” the speaker says, “so what’s the rest of it about?” and he goes on to stress the importance of building a relationship with God.

Always liked this verse the speaker just cited: Do not be loving either the world or the things in the world....everything in the world—the desire of the flesh and the desire of the eyes and the showy display of one’s means of life—does not originate with the Father, ...1/2

but originates with the world [which is] passing away and so is its desire, but he that does the will of God remains forever. 1 John 2:15...2/2

 

From the song: “Your laws are clear and perfect,

your judgments ever true.

Your principles guide us in all that we do.”

I think the most common misspelling (not made here) is to spell the word ‘judgement’, not dropping the e.

 

Watchtower Study

That comment from my father-in-law, “humans have let me down, but Jehovah never has,” fits here in paragraph 1 better than in the context I put it before.

Scriptural examples of this coming up in the study today re David (who made his own problems) &Paul

“So if any one of you is lacking in wisdom, let him keep asking God, for he gives generously to all and without reproaching, and it will be given him.” Jas 1:5. I mean, how could it possibly hurt?

“Hmm. He has a chain on this arm—and I don’t. Bummer if I did. How would I carry on...” you can almost hear the sis imagining the scene she looks upon.

Probably the closer you live to a river or sea the more you would resonate with Isa 46:18: “If only you would pay attention to my commandments! Then your peace would become just like a river And your righteousness like the waves of the sea.”

The reader is murmuring to his wife, not realizing he is Zoom live.

Paragraphs on Absalom. Did I really say on someone else page: ‘your comments are all good and valid, but there is no one here that will listen to you. If only you were on MY page....’

“With the account in mind, tell Jehovah how you are feeling about the way you have been mistreated. (Ps. 6:6-9) Be specific.”....‘That rotten kid of mine is trying to usurp my throne!’

Betraying trust in order to gain authority is the oldest trick in the book. Isn’t that what the angel who became Satan did with God?

Matt 18:15-17 is a great passage, worthy of emphasis, but is it shoe-horned in here, since the first thing David did was to skedaddle? Or do I miss something?

“You know this, that all the men in the province of Asia have turned away from me, including Phy·gelʹus and Her·mogʹe·nes.” 1 Tim 1:15.  ALL of them is a lot. Serious running out on Paul in his time of need, not being repeated today, at least not on that scale. ....1/2

Seems that all thing written aforetime ARE for our benefit and are being taken that way.....2/2

The tendency to become ‘ashamed’ of the good news, but some who held firm: “This is why I am also suffering these things, but I am not ashamed....May the Lord grant mercy to the household of On·e·siphʹo·rus, for he often refreshed me, ...1/2

and he did not become ashamed of my prison chains.....(1 Tim 1:12, 16)....2/2

Notice how the Christian organization fortifies ones for persecution. Granted, it is not that hard to do, since there are so many scriptures that all but guarantee it for ones who would follow Christ. All that must be done is cite and apply them.

Our #Zoom link froze during the song and I had to keep repeating the last two words until it came back, like a record skipping. #jehovahswitnesses

In after-meeting interview the speaker mentioned those who say they can’t wait for “things to get back to normal.” Will they? Or will “normal’ be only in the new system? A resolved pandemic will just lead to a new version of abnormal.

 

Weekday Meeting: (Numbers 33-34)

Drive all the inhabitants out of the land.

Modern day society also has its idols,

Video games, some of the games are harmful, military uses to desensitize, what do we watch on TV?,

Commenting on Numbers 33:55, the speaker mentioned how “we are trying to drive away the pollutants of our hearts” and if we don’t do that, “they will indeed harass you on the land in which you will be dwelling.” #midweekmeeting

“We may have land assigned to us on the other side of Armageddon and not be able to pick and choose where we want,” one sis said. Tell me about it. There will probably be dorms at first.

The student speaker slowed right down with the cities Ataroth, Aroer,  Atrothshophan, Jazer, Jogbehah, Bethnimrah, and Bethharan, but he nailed them all. Just a little bobble with the first, not serious. (Numbers 32:34)...1/2

His reward was to have a go at still more names: Heshʹbon, E·le·aʹleh, Kir·i·a·thaʹim, Neʹbo, and Baʹal-meʹon—he got all those right, too. Good reading, and it wasn’t easy for him....2/2

“When parents have a genetic defect, what happens?”

“Usually the kid gets it.”

“So when Adam sinned, it was like a genetic defect passed along to his children.”

“Ohhhhhhh—I get it.” (from the video)

 

Someone said how we used to use that “lame analogy” of the dented cake pan. I love that analogy. Bake a cake in a dented cake pan and it turn out dented each time. Someone else raised his hand to defend it, too.

They’ll have to pry that dented cake pan out of my cold dead fingers.

(Someone afterwards mentioned how Jade would have had her “light-bulb moment” a split second sooner with the dented cake pan analogy.

 

Another reference to the modern idols to contend with, counterparts of “all their stone figures, and all their images of molten metal ...and all their sacred high places.” (Numbers 33:52)

I recall Bart Ehrman telling how babies sacrificed to idols was certainly an example of fanatical worshipper give his god his best. It is something that Jehovah never would even have thought of. (Jeremiah 7:31)

Again the Regional Convention is virtual this year, on more venues—Apple, Fire, Roku. Invitation digital also. It’s been a while since I actually went to anyone’s door.

One couple is in their back yard, and whenever they comment, you can hear birds chirping.

Defending Jehovah’s Witnesses with style from attacks... in Russia, with the ebook ‘I Don’t Know Why We Persecute Jehovah’s Witnesses—Searching for the Why’ (free).... and in the West, with the ebook ‘TrueTom vs the Apostates!’ (free)

Jehovah’s Witnesses to Join the ARC Redress Plan

Authorities are urging the Jehovah's Witnesses to contact them to get the ball rolling on the religious group's decision to join the national redress scheme for child sexual abuse survivors.

“The organisation says it will sign up because of new rules introduced by the federal government, which mean it would lose its charity status - and subsequent tax exemptions - for continuing to hold out.

"’Now that the law requires charities to join the scheme, Jehovah's Witnesses will comply,’ it said in a statement to AAP on Wednesday.

"’Jehovah's Witnesses believe that it is their responsibility before God to respect and co-operate with the authorities.’

“A spokeswoman for Social Services Minister Anne Ruston has welcomed the statement but implored the organisation to contact authorities.

"(We) encourage them to make urgent contact with the Department of Social Services so they can make good on this commitment," she told AAP.

"It can take up to six months for institutions to complete the process of joining and the department would hope to work co-operatively and with haste to facilitate the Jehovah's Witnesses joining as quickly as possible.”

....

This is not hypocritical, Vic, nor is it hard. Nor does it show, “it’s all about money with these guys.” 

The Aussie authorities devise a plan that fits all other parties for the institutional abuse of their youth clubs, youth schools, youth camps. They invite organizations to join. The WT declines because they do not have such settings. Whatever outlier cases may occur with them they will handle on a case-by-case basis.

The Aussie authorities then say they MUST come aboard, on pain of losing the tax status that is afforded every other charity. At that point, it becomes an operational cost. They still don’t think it is justified, but it becomes a cost of operating in Australia.

There are times in life when it is all about money. One of those times is when someone is trying to take it from you and you alone. 

There is no "principle" at stake here. They attempted to escape a "fee" they felt unjust and were thwarted. At which point they drop back and say governments have the power and authority to impose or not impose fees. It's what they do, and adjusting to it is no more than obeying the superior authorities. 

Appealing the verdict of a court is not the same as disregarding the superior authorities. It is a right afforded any citizen or collection of citizens. Will this be appealed? No idea. 

....

I would not be so sure that genuine victims will get a better deal with this program. It may be that handling complaints on a case-by-case basis, as was being done, will be more to their advantage. Governments with their agencies, not to mention lawyers, tend to seriously erode funds meant for victims. Plus, it has already been revealed that those churches that did sign on, to much fanfare, are subsequently dragging their feet and are being as uncooperative as possible. These things tend to be facades, with everyone taking bows while raiding the till, and the victims don’t fare nearly as well as you might think.

It may turn out to be more like the vaccine court in the U.S. Though you can sue a manufacturer for every other defective product, you cannot sue for a vaccine injury. Pharma managed to legislate themselves immunity. There is a vaccine court for redress, funded in part by surcharges on each vaccine given. Ask any injured party and they will tell you that their cases are almost invariably denied, and it is only by fighting it out with lawyers that they may, after a few years, get a few thousand dollars, seldom very much. This is true even in cases of permanent paralysis.

...

Jehovah's Witnesses believe that it is their responsibility before God to respect and co-operate with the authorities."

I actually think the statement is a little clunky—for it doesn’t account for the reversal— and that it might have written it better, along the lines already stated. Still, it is such a white-hot issue, and some are trying to milk it for various reasons, that maybe it is just as well not to risk looking “defensive”—state what has been stated, and move on. 

It is a good deal to have resolved. I am sure they are happy to do that. I am sure victims are happy, too. That is the nature of any reconciliation. People are happy when it is done.

I liked how Holly Folk did not shirk from taking on lawyers. Essentially, if you have money, someone will devise a means to take some of it. It will not be a completely fictional means, for that will seldom produce results. It will be something that is real, but overstated, exaggerated, and legitimate cases will be mixed with more dubious ones. It is in lawyers’ interests to portray people as victims, whatever happened to them was not their fault. Accordingly the “cult” mantra is hugely popular with them. At times, one wonders if they to some degree have invented the idea, for they surely benefit from it.

It is not just CSA. That is but a tiny part of the iceberg. In my community, there are about twenty legal firms that advertise on media, and some of them do it virtually non-stop. I can remember a time when manufacturers were the prime sponsors of TV shows. Now they are sidled aside by lawyers. What does that tell you as to the nature of society?  It amounts to a global society-wide transfer of funds, with barristers netting a third.

I was a defendent in such a case. I don’t think many people have not had some such experience, unless they have taken care never to do anything in life. This one involved a house I rented out. Insurance kicks in and you have little to do with it, but if you don’t know that in advance, it is very disconcerting. Even knowing it in advance, it is not comfortable. The suit was for $6 million and the settlement was for $200K. “How can the insurance companies afford this?” I asked my agent. “They can’t,” was the reply. “They just keep raising their rates.”

”My lawyer got me 5 million dollars, 18 times what the insurance company offered.” Such ads are staples on TV. In satire, I append the following to them: “All my neighbors rejoiced with me. Then they opened their premium bills.”

My teenage daughter’s car was hit—not her fault—and within days the other insurance company was hounding me to “settle.” Settle what? I was not accustomed to this new normal. They offered thousands of dollars if only I would settle. Finally I told them, “I don’t think this is going to cost you a dime. Pay a few chiropractic bills and that will be the end of it. But I am not signing anything away, for I don’t know what the finale will be.” They paid a few bills. I never did settle. There was never any reason to. I was probably a chump. I probably should have hit them up for as many thousands as I could. I just didn’t know that mindset, and concepts like “honesty” got in the way. The latest prompting from TV lawyers is that you call them immediately after your doctor to find out what “your accident is worth.” I am of the generation where you didn’t call them at all. You had insurance, the other party had insurance, you relied upon them for fair compensation, and were seldom dissatisfied with the result.

Defending Jehovah’s Witnesses with style from attacks... in Russia, with the ebook ‘I Don’t Know Why We Persecute Jehovah’s Witnesses—Searching for the Why’ (free).... and in the West, with the ebook ‘TrueTom vs the Apostates!’ (free)

Notes from Ancient Egypt: Weighing in on Joseph and the Exodus Account: Part 1

Sitting in on Bob Brier’s Egyptology lecture series for Great Courses, you learn that nations don’t war on their neighbors. They don’t conquer them. They “beat up on them.” If he said it once, he said it a hundred times. List the accomplishments of any pharaoh: he built the temples, he built the tombs, he beat up on the Syrians (or whoever).

“Beating up” is especially emphasized in Egypt, for with them, there was no place like home. Egyptians warred with their neighbors constantly—“peace was not a virtue in Egypt,” Bob says—but they never established garrisons in those conquered lands. Why—were you to die thousands of miles from home, how could you be properly mummified? And if you weren’t that, what would happen to your chances at the afterlife?

So they didn’t stay. They “beat up” their neighbors, left demands for yearly tribute, but after a while, people forget. You have to go and “beat them up again,” to remind them they had better pay—carting off “everything that wasn’t nailed down” while you were at it.

What is it with this guy? Is he from the Bronx? In fact, he is. And even though he’s a professor steeped in Egyptian honors at Long Island University, he still lives in the Bronx. (as of 1999, when he recorded these lectures). Of the supports used to raise a body so mummy wrappings could be wound beneath him—“it’s like jacking up a car,” he adds helpfully, possibly while gazing through his window at a muffler being attached to a jacked-up car). 

D92A199D-8CD1-492D-A547-DBCC64B5D125

(Photo by Sam LaRussa)

What would he do when he comes to Bible accounts? I wondered. He will blow them away, of course, but will he do it with respect or ridicule? He seems like a nice guy. But sometimes people with brains lose it when it comes to spiritual things.

To my surprise, he does not blow them away. He treats them with great respect and allows that they are probably true in essence. To be sure, the “external evidence” that is archeology is scant. Archaeology corroborates the Bible in many things, says Bob, but it says next to nothing about the Israelites in Egypt. However, what he calls the “internal evidence” is strong, and as an Egyptologist, he has learned how the two must be combined.

After the Old Kingdom period, during which the pyramids were built, there arose the “Hyksos,” kings who ruled from the north, the delta region. The word means “rulers of foreign lands.” Could Joseph’s family have been the Hyksos? Not much is known of the Hyksos, Brier says, they “didn’t integrate well,” Some have said they were the family of Joseph. Josephus says so. Therefore, I say so, too. I mean, someone has to correspond to Joseph and his brothers. The north is a  damp and marshy region, where archeological finds are meagre, inferior, and badly damaged. It is the dry climate to the south that preserves papyri for thousands of years.

At this point Bob Brier assigns his listeners homework. They are to read Genesis 37-50. Then he narrates the story—just who was Joseph and what was his involvement with Egypt, highlighting what these “guys” are doing and what those “guys” are doing.

There is no external evidence for Joseph, but what is the internal evidence? Does the story “hang together?” It does, he thinks. He recounts the Bible story, which ends in a tearful tale of forgiveness—Joseph sold into slavery by his jealous brothers, his quick rise in Potipher’s house, his reversal and hard times, his meteoric rise to fame upon deciphering the dream that had perplexed Pharaoh, and how those same brothers approach and bow before him decades later—he, the one now in charge of alleviating famine.

In a dream that nobody can figure out for Pharaoh until someone remembers that Joseph in prison had a knack for that sort of thing, he is brought to interpret the dream. Seven lean cows are preceded by seven fat cows. The lean ones eat up the fat ones! They are years of famine following years of plenty. During the years of plenty, preparation can be made for the years of famine. “Based upon Joseph’s interpretation of dreams, the economy of Egypt is planned for the next 14 years.”

Joseph shows what a “sharp businessman” he is during the famine period, is how Bob Brier puts it (perhaps as he is buying a used car from a sharp businessman on the corner lot). People get destitute enough that they eventually sell him their land in return for food. He makes Pharaoh very wealthy, and Pharaoh rewards him.

The ring that Pharaoh gives to Joseph—that also is how they would do it in Egypt, a ring to the “right hand man.” A signet ring. A sign of authority. When the Bible says, everybody cried out Abrek after Joseph—that’s “real Egyptian.” Somebody knew what he was talking about. He deciphers the phrase as roughly meeting ‘Let God be with you.’ (Genesis 41: 42-43)

For a long time, Bob had a problem with Egyptian priests admitting defeat in interpreting Pharaoh’s dream. They never admitted defeat in anything. But later finds cleared it up for him. There is a papyrus in the British Museum which is a book for interpreting dreams.

All dreams meant something, the Egyptians believed. They were all prophetic. The trick was in interpreting them. When you had a dream, you went to the priest to see what it meant. Everything was written down in a book. The priests didn’t “just wing it.” They looked it up in a book. “If it’s not in the book, you’re stuck,” Bob says. So Joseph‘s account has the ring of truth to it, he says. When they said to Pharaoh, We don’t know, about his dream, it just meant that nothing about fat cows or lean cows was in the book—it didn’t go there. So it wasn’t the fault of the priests, who never would have admitted a fault—it wasn’t in the book. (Genesis 41)

There’s a Egyptian inscription on Sahel Island of seven years when the Nile did not rise, resulting in famine. Another inscription shows skeletal figures of people who were not slaves. Potipher is an Egyption name. Goshen is where the brothers of Joseph settled—a real Egyptian place in the delta region. Two cities are cited with names they had at the time, and not names they would be given later. Joseph (and Jacob) are embalmed by the Egyptians and mourned for the proper period. The Joseph story is written by someone who knew Egypt, Brier states. Testifying that Hebrews did indeed come to settle in Egypt is the excavation of a classic Israelite four-room house, with its unique floor plan. A full-sized model of one can be seen at Semitic Museum at Harvard University.

“Internally, we get a feeling for the Joseph story that it fits. It’s not archaeological evidence, but the story fits.” Embalming for 40 days, mourning for 70. For a long time that was not understood, but it turns out that is how Egyptian‘s did it. (Genesis 50:3)

The Hyksos did not control all of Egypt. Instead, they coexisted with the Sixteenth and the Seventeenth Dynasty, which were based in Thebes, 500 miles to the south. Warfare between they and the pharaohs of the late Seventeenth Dynasty eventually ran the Hyksos out of Egypt. (and Bob approves of this, because the Hyksos are not “his guys”—they are not real Egyptian) Later leaders of them would be portrayed as oppressive and warlike.

A papyrus of the time, sent by the last Hyksos king to the Prince of Thebes, reads: “The hippopotami in your pool are keeping me awake at night. They have to be silenced.” What exactly does that mean? Dunno, but it’s not friendly. Inflammatory for sure, Bob says. The Prince sends an army in retaliation. How does it turn out? No idea. The papyrus breaks off. The first and the last portions of an ancient papyrus roll is often no good. The inside end is wrapped so tightly that it breaks. the outside end is on the outside where it gets knocked around a lot, torn and scuffed up over time.

See Part II, Evidence of the Exodus

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Tweeting the Meeting: Week of May 10, 2021

Weekend Meeting:

“Where can you get help in times of distress?” Is the theme of the public talk.

That shut-in sister of ill health who hasn’t been around for awhile is onZoomline today. Neat.

Also, the one who has been DFed almost since the beginning of time and has not been heard of for many moons continues to attend online, having said, “It’s time to come home.”

Had to get up to chase the squirrel away from the birdfeeder, just outside the picture window. They like to eat, too, and are hard to stop. Sometimes just a sudden movement will chase them away. This time it took a rap on the window. #HellBeBack

(after I tweeted this, a manufacturer of squirrel-proof birdfeeders tweeted me.)

The speaker refers to one stumbled who stays stumbled, in contrast to the normal human urge to get up. Sure enough, when I stumbled on the sidewalk crack, first thing I did was say “So much for being cool” and hoped no one had noticed.

It recalls my father-in-law, who memorably said: “Jehovah has never let me down. People have let me down, but Jehovah never has.”

Watchtower Study:

Uh oh. The Watchtower reader just messed up the pronunciation of Vanuatu. Hopefully, no Vanuatuans are listening in today.

“The love and warmth shown to the student can help him to identify Jehovah’s people.”​—John 13:35.4, says someone quoted, which plainly cannot happen unless they see those people.

“If you are asked along on a Bible study, you are there to support, not to take over,” someone says, though the paragraph said nothing about “taking over.”

When asked to give prayer at a study, short and simple is probably better than long and vague and containing “everything we know about the truth,” one commenter says.

The brother who gets interrupted all the time just commented on how its good not to interrupt people

Rats. I got distracted and did not catch how the reader did with ‘Omamuyovbi.’ If he had a tough time with Vanuatu....

The younger bro said how he’d pointed out some details on the picture, his part of contributing. So how’d he do? said the Wt conductor to his actual physical bro, who conducted the study. Pretty good, the joker said, though I had to tell him to stay away from the pictures.

“As iron sharpens iron, So one man sharpens his friend,” modern Bibles are inclined to say, but I sort of the more literal, even if not so plain, “By iron, iron itself is sharpened. So one man sharpens the face of another.” #SharpenUpThatFace

I am reminded of a new Witness, who contrasted JW meetings with just about any religious service he had ever attended, with the observation, “you can prepare for them.”

Weekday Meetings:

You had to dig around to see how Elkanah was okay with Hannah’s vow. There it is in 1 Samuel 1:23, as he says: “Do what you think is best. Stay at home until you wean him. May Jehovah carry out what you have said.”

One sister mentioned how Isa 55:10 is especially right for the season: For just as the pouring rain descends....and does not return to that place, unless it actually saturates the earth and makes it produce and sprout....1/2

so my word that goes forth from my mouth will prove to be. It will not return to me without results, but it will certainly do that in which I have delighted, and it will have certain success in that for which I have sent it....2/2

Six examples of endurance from creation: camel, bristle-cone pine, monarch butterfly, arctic tern, lapwing plover, acacia tree.

One bro took the camel, that can drink 25 gallons at a time to last it for weeks, and said, ‘do we fortify ourselves in favorable season?’

Could you put in a plug for a go-bag here? I did. Terns, Monarch butterflies. Maybe we’ll be moving someday. Best be ready. It wasn’t the answer anyone was looking for, but nobody said I was wrong.

 

Earlier comment about humans paying vows to God. Now someone takes the Ezekiel 34:22-24 verse to show how God carries out his vows regarding us.

What about Isa 11:6? “The wolf will reside for a while with the lamb...” Would not the ‘for a while’ be now, as formerly violent persons are rehabilitated? There won’t be ‘wolves’ in the new system.

Defending Jehovah’s Witnesses with style from attacks... in Russia, with the ebook ‘I Don’t Know Why We Persecute Jehovah’s Witnesses—Searching for the Why’ (free).... and in the West, with the ebook ‘TrueTom vs the Apostates!’ (free)