‘Using’ the Pandemic to ‘Recruit’ - Sheesh! What is it With These Nutcases?

It must really confound those who accuse the JW organization of being a cult that few people are behaving better these days, or more reasonably, with more of an eye toward the public good. That #CultExpert tweets about how Jehovah’s Witnesses manipulate people, and I reply that their followers put his to shame for vanquishing COVID. Jehovah’s Witnesses immediately transferred all gatherings to Zoom and issued strong counsel to observe government-recommended social distancing—which our people will observe because they strive to be obedient. But his followers? Some will observe social distancing, no doubt—probably even most, but is his mission statement ‘Freedom of Mind’ really compatible with obedience to secular authority? You don’t think some will use their ‘freedom of mind’ to tell the government to buzz off—‘We’ll party on the beach if we feel like it!?’—thus spreading COVID far and wide?

Doubtless they expected ‘scare-mongering’—‘using’ the present crisis to scare new ones into the fold—and in fact, there have been accusations of that. But you really really have to stretch the point if you go there. The lead post on jw.org is the most socially responsible contribution imaginable, replete with suggestions on how to cope with isolation and resulting loneliness. With people beside themselves with anxiety, unable to cope in many cases, you don’t think that is a valuable contribution, perhaps THE most valuable? After all, if your psyche breaks down, all the physical relief in the world does you no good.

It reminds me of the verse on muzzling the talk of the ignorant ones by doing good. To be sure, hostile ones are still criticizing—but in doing so,  they are also plainly revealing their ignorance, and in some cases, their hate.

In fact, I don’t quite go there with the CultExpert, for some of the groups he monitors really DO seem pretty strange—so I don’t go there, though I do think about it—I almost want to say: “LET them join a cult if it helps them get through this and save their sanity! What are you offering in lieu—that we should put our hope in the next crop of politicians? Haven’t we been down that road countless times before?”

Affirming some cult idiot’s charge that I am ‘using’ the pandemic to ‘recruit,’ (to anyone concerned about that, I reply that on the 200th contact I will ask if they want to convert and then they can say ‘no’—in the meantime, it’s just conversation—don’t worry about it) I have many times tweeted that lead post to persons, sometimes in response to a specific plea like with Mr. Fiend, and sometimes I just throw it out there—with good results in both cases. Sometimes the tweets are retweeted. Unless you are a snarling ‘ain’t-cultist,’ people do not misunderstand—they know that you are trying to help.

As always, you tailor your tweet to the person. To persons who appear secular, you say (this one was lamenting a suicide she had read about): “It is a terrible thing. Healthy people struggle when their routine is uprooted, let alone persons unwell to begin with. I sent this to someone who tweeted that he was frankly losing it. There is a spiritual component to it, but it is mostly on combatting isolation and loneliness”—and I attach the link.

To someone decidedly irreligious, you might say: “As a suggestion—nothing more—here is a series of posts on how to cope with isolation and loneliness. Upended routines are driving everyone up a tree. My turn is probably next. Like Bob Dylan: ‘The riot squad is restless, they need somewhere to go.’” I like to play the Dylan card—it doesn’t mean that you have to. You also don’t exempt yourself—hence the ‘my turn is probably next,’

My new pinned tweet is: “With #mentalhealth under assault and even balanced people buckling under the stress, I can’t imagine a better read than this one on coping with isolation and loneliness from #JehovahsWitnesses,” as I include a link to the post.

Note the hashtags. Ages ago my daughter said to me: “They’re hashtags, Dad, not crosstags.” Hashtags are fair game on social media, whereas tagging individuals directly is generally considered rude, unless you know full well that they will welcome it. Hashtags will draw in anyone else who monitors the subject—as an experiment, enter a hashtag anything on social media to see what comes up. You can even use it as your own filing system if you choose a hashtag unique enough.

It can, however backfire. If the hashtag is of any controversial topic, it can bring in people who want to argue, even insult. In the case of Jehovah’s Witnesses, there are disgruntled former members—‘apostates’—that can be attracted—in fact, they almost surely will be. “Oh, yeah,” you can mutter. “They’ll come alright. As surely as flies to dung, they will come!” But you should not say this because, while you are comparing apostates to flies, you are also comparing yourself to dung—so you should seek another metaphor.

My #mentalhealth hashtag drew in some mental health people, some of whom expressed great appreciation. But true to warning, my #jehovahswitnesses hashtag drew in some ‘apostates.’

“The rather large elephant in the paragraph [about the comfort JWs offer] is the Jehovah’s Witness shunning policy.”

But I replied (in three tweets):

“There is hardly an issue here. Those who would trigger a ‘shunning policy’ are those for whom, at the present time, the last thing in the world they would want is to abide by the principles of those who wrote the article. Even so, they are welcome to take from it what they will.”

“The thoughts expressed in the article are non-denominational, offered freely to all, even those on the outs at present with JWs. It’s meant as a public service. One need not take it. One can always put trust in the politicians, medical staff, and economists to fix matters.”

I looked at the detractor’s profile and discovered that she was one who was trying to torpedo the JW organization’s status as a charitable religious organization, something that they plainly are:

“In fact, it is an excellent post for consideration of the @CharityComms, though not written for that reason. Look, nobody is everything to everyone. But they will recognize that we are well past the time for nursing grudges—not with C19 threatening the mental health of the planet.”

It shut her up! I couldn’t believe it! It is unheard of! ‘Apostates’ never ever EVER give up—I’ve had to block some—and yet she gave up. There is no finer proof of 1 Peter 2:15 than that: “For it is the will of God that by doing good you may silence the ignorant talk of unreasonable men.”

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

There Goes Bryan! What a Train Wreck He Is!

Well, well, well! Consider the example of Bryan—what a mess he became!

His parents tried to put him on the straight and narrow, as all parents will. “But when he was in his teens, he questioned whether that path would make him happy” [and] decided to run with those who lived by Satan’s standards. ‘Little did I realize that the so-called freedom I desired would lead me into the clutches of addiction,’ he says. ‘In time, I was abusing drugs and alcohol and living immorally. Over the next several years, I progressively experimented with harder drugs and became a slave to many of them. . . . I began selling drugs to support my lifestyle.’” Happily, he got his act together, returned to the fold, and is now as happy as a pig in mud. (Watchtower, April 20, 2020, ‘Run the Race to the Finish, para 6)

This kind on thing—highlighting such accounts—drives the ex-Witnesses crazy. That may be a worthy goal in itself in the case of the most virulent ones, but for everyone else it is not optimal. Every time one of them accomplishes something, say—graduates from college, lands a job, or is lauded as ‘Citizen of the Year’ somewhere, he jumps on the ex-Witness forum and says, “Looky here! No drug-wasted, gutter-dragging, lowlife scum future for me! I did just fine didn’t I? If they could only see me now!”

That doesn’t mean that the shipwreck version doesn’t happen, and it doesn’t mean that it doesn’t happen frequently. But every single time? “Confirmation bias,” the ex-JWs will say, now that they have learned some new buzzwords. “It didn’t happen to me—I did just fine!”

For those who didn’t do just fine, it’s a little like when the Native Americans are suddenly thrust into the world of the Europeans—they drop like flies at the syphilis and the alcohol, woes that they were absolutely unprepared for and had no idea even existed. It’s a little like when the faithful king throws faith overboard so as to be just like the neighbor kings and “proceeded to do worse than those of the nations.” It’s a little like the child who fails the “sink or swim” method of swimming instruction—down he goes, and up come the bubbles. However, there are those who dog-paddle. There are even those who become marathon swimmers. Why imply they all hit bottom with a thud?

I like the next paragraph better, the one that focuses on Matthew 7:13-14: “Go in through the narrow gate, because broad is the gate and spacious is the road leading off into destruction, and many are going in through it; whereas narrow is the gate and cramped the road leading off into life, and few are finding it.

I like it better because it has all that is complete about the preceding paragraph and none of what is incomplete. The broad road is popular and is easier to travel. But it is “leading off into destruction,” the paragraph says. That doesn’t mean that you become road kill the instant you set foot on it.

For some it does mean that. These are the ones who, fairly quickly return, but there are others who keep on sailing and never look back. It may be that the road is leading to destruction—I think that it is—but there are plenty who have a pleasant enough journey along the way, they like it that there are not so many road markers, and only at the end may there be a sense of let-down. My wife, the registered nurse, assigned to the geriatric wing, commented on how many patients reached the end of life with a sense of profound let-down. These were not “losers”—they were persons who had enjoyed careers and had raised families, but at they neared their end there was a sense of betrayal with many—a sense of: “This is all there is?”

The “cramped and narrow” road leads somewhere—the “broad and spacious” one does not. But I sometimes wish there were not so many “trainwreck” stories in the  Watchtower, if for no other reason than that they are so easily portrayed as efforts to “scare” people into the fold. The CultExpert goes into overdrive on something like this, and I would just as soon deprive him of fuel. It might be better to focus on the eventual consequence of the broad road, rather than the immediate one—the immediate one is not always so bad and may well be an initial breeze—a “sugar high.” You know how invincible youth always feels—just look at how they are doing in donning their Covid masks. “There are two factors that determine the spread of Covid 19,” one observer says: “1.) How dense the population is, and 2.) How dense the population is.” Youth are likely to be dense in safeguarding health, and only much later do they reassess.

So when any Witness youngsters go renegade from their upbringing and do not go straightaway to the gutter—Whoa! you should hear how they crow about it! You should hear how they ridicule their old-time-religion! Why give them those easy carbs of instant energy, even if long-time fatigue? Feed them solid food—that they’re on the “road to destruction,” but they may go most of or even all their lives without appreciating it.

For those swept up in the rush of atheism, they may never appreciate it. They think they’ve made a wise trade. They saw off the branch they were once sitting on, convinced it is unsubstantial, and grin as they come crashing down. It makes no sense to me, but people do it all the time. It’s like the fellow who loses his millions in a stock market crash. “They were only paper gains,” he says as he celebrates the hundreds he has left.

Do not think that the Watchtower organization is the only one to have such a blind spot for “the other side.” What they do is done everywhere, and often with poorer motive. Virtually nobody gives an accurate glimpse of the other side. Always the other side is painted as obtuse, sometimes delusional, or even mad. Will the GOP explain Democrats as Democrats would explain themselves, or vice-versa? You’ll think you’ve been on two different planets if you spend a little time visiting both! You’ll find the same craziness in any number of venues: medicine/alternative health, science/metaphysics, atheist/believer, or climate change vs those who think it is a hoax. The other guy is always “wrong,” and often “a liar.” In each case, you are not thought wise to check out his wares, unless it is to search solely for “sound bytes” to make him seem crazy.

In contrast, the Watchtower portraying those who leave as falling immediate prey to thugs is just messing with the sequence—it’s not messing with the overall reality. If the road really leads off to destruction, it is just a matter of moving up the wreck, but it is not a matter of making up the wreck. However, why does the Watchtower do even what it does? I toyed with the idea in ‘Dear Mr- Putin - Jehovah’s Witnesses Write Russia’—and I will let it stand; I think it is entirely accurate:

Furthermore, if the Governing Body ever ‘misrepresents’ the non-Witness world, it is not because they are sinister. It is because they do not know it themselves. They take their own counsel, which is that of the Bible, and they do not go there. They are lowly people who have poured themselves out and who now find themselves in places that are high for them. There are places not just ‘high for them’—they are actually high. They do not puff themselves up over it. They trust in God and, like the kings of old were directed to do, they actually read the scriptures daily. They keep away from what is ‘falsely called knowledge’ and from the ‘empty philosophies that violate what is holy’ that ‘toss people about as though on the waves of the sea.’ They have lived their own lives with the lesson of Haggai ever foremost: clean will be contaminated by unclean, not the reverse, and so they do not go there. Because they do not go there, they know it only through the lens of Scripture.

“If the Bible says, in effect, that the ‘world will chew you up and spit you out,’ they assume that it does. If they find someone who says it in exactly those words, they eat it right up and broadcast it. And who is to say the words are untrue? Some get chewed up and spit out so promptly and decisively that no one would ever deny it, but with others? Who is to say the scriptures are wrong on that point? It may just take a longer time to get chewed up and spit out. Many senior citizens have encountered calamity, even contrived calamity, and have seen everything they had worked for drained away. Even the powerful are not immune as their strength and faculties wane.”

 

 

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

Figuring Out the ‘Bridegroom of Blood’ - Part 2

After I wrote my original post on that tricky ‘Bridegroom of Blood’ set of verses, posted it, and linked to it on Twitter, their were unintended consequences. You must admit that commenting on that passage in Exodus is not exactly a piece of cake: 

“Now on the road at the lodging place, Jehovah met him and was seeking to put him to death. Finally Zipporah took a flint and circumcised her son and caused his foreskin to touch his feet and said: “It is because you are a bridegroom of blood to me.” So He let him go. At that time she said, “a bridegroom of blood,” because of the circumcision.” (Exodus 4:24-26)

My post was light in tone. Afterwards someone recalled how at his meeting “one of elders rather swaggered his way through the answer as if it was a slam-dunk.“

This was my first clue that the passage had been on the program. Maybe I was being seen as flippant toward the ‘official’ version, whatever that might be, and if I could do it, he could do it. Another had picked up on the light tone and one-upped it, suggesting that when he met Moses in the resurrection to ask “And this ‘bridegroom of blood’ stuff, what’s that all about?” maybe Moses would say: “Oh, that.  Well it was late when I wrote that, and the grape juice I had been drinking had been sitting around a while, and I guess it must have fermented. . . .“

I began to worry that I was the unwitting head of an insurrection. So I tweeted that I didn’t know what the official version was, and that I had posted what I did without knowing it was even on the program. This brought a clarification from that first brother that he hadn’t meant to mean-mouth anybody, and that he actually holds that elder in high regard.

A little more back and forth, and then BW Schultz points out that the “Insight book explains the "bridegroom of blood" phrasing. I'm surprised few have looked. the explanation found there was first published in a WT in the 1940s.” (Translation: It would be nice if you did a little research before shooting your mouth off.)

So i went to the Insight book (eventually) to read that they don’t really know what the passage means, since “The literal reading of the ancient Hebrew in this passage is veiled in the idioms used nearly 3,500 years ago.”

Consequently, scholars are all over the board as they “attempt to settle questions as to whether it was Moses’ or the child’s life that was threatened, whether Zipporah touched the feet of Moses or the feet of the child or the feet of the angel with the foreskin,” and “why Zipporah said (and to whom she said), “You are a bridegroom of blood to me.” In other words, there is not a single thing that is not up in the air!

Then the Insight book offered up its own version, and it is this version alone that made it into the CLAM program, giving the impression that they really do know—and that, no doubt, accounts for the elder who is said to have “swaggered his way through it”—he ‘read the answer’ in a manner that suggested he didn’t understand it himself.

So when our meeting came, I waited to see if anyone raised their blue Zoom hand, and nobody did. So I raised mine, and said I had read the Insight book that pointed out how nobody really knew, but that the brothers had offered up an educated guess, which was why the passage abounded with words like “possibly,” “seems,” and “appears.” I knew I was untouchable because I had referred to the Insight Book, and probably no one else had read it, having just read the paragraph quoted in the Research Guide. 

I’m done with the hard stuff. I’m going back to taking notes like the tots do, tallying up words to show that I am paying attention:

”Jehovah”  lllll lllll lllll lllll lllll lllll lllll ll

”Jesus” lllll lllll lllll lllll l

”Brother, you’ll have to unmute yourself” lllll lllll lllll lllll lllll lllll lllll lllll lllll lllll lllll lllll lllll lllll llll

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

Shortchanging the Mentally ill?

The April 2020 study issue, under consideration for the  Watchtower Study, was about encouraging all runners in the race. However, some runners are not in good health. Among the maladies faced, some grapple with depression and anxiety. “Their distress is just as real as is the distress of someone with a broken limb, but they may not receive the same compassionate response from others,” the article stated.

Verrrrryyyyyy gingerly I will suggest that the writers themselves provided an example of such withholding compassion.

For the “broken limb” people, there was: “Are you lying in a bed or sitting in a wheelchair? Do you have weak knees or poor eyesight? If so, can you run along with those who are young and healthy? You certainly can! Many older and infirm ones...cannot do this work in their own power. Instead, they draw on Jehovah’s strength by listening to Christian meetings over a telephone tie-line or watching meetings through video streaming.” [italics mine]

But to the “mental health” ones, it was: “Because of severe anxiety, some brothers and sisters feel very nervous and self-conscious in everyday social situations. They may find it difficult to be in large groups, but they continue to attend congregation meetings, assemblies, and conventions.”

Someone cynical persons might suggest that to the latter ones, the hidden message is: “You suck it up and get your rear end to those meetings! There is no reason that you can’t!”

Now, I am not that cynical one. I am not a ‘reformer’—I am an apologist. I either allow myself to be molded by counsel, or if for some reason I cannot, I put it on the shelf and tentatively dismiss it as ‘one of those things.’ I lean more heavily than usual on this item because I have known ones with severe anxiety or depression—so severe that they do not get to meetings. Should they? It’s not for me to say, though I note that the infirm, blind, or wheelchair-bound get a free pass should they require it—but not the mentally ill. Maybe it is agoraphobia some have—a terror of outdoors. Maybe it is claustrophobia—a terror of indoors. There are all kinds of weird issues with which people suffer.

I thinking of such a person now. I know that one’s circumstances. I know that one’s home life. I also know that there will be some that will lean on that one VERY heavy to ‘get with it’—and that the person, who already feels worthless, will likely feel that way all the more.

It probably is not deliberate. Paul became a Jew for the sake of Jews, and a Gentile for the sake of Gentiles. He even became weak for the sake of those weak—but there are limits. Did he become agoraphobic for the sake of those agoraphobic? There are some things that you have to experience to understand.

My favorite circuit overseer—he wins that status with many who recall him, even though there has been very worthy ‘competition’ from a steady stream of excellent traveling overseers since—is remembered for the expression, “Just do the best you can.” He wasn’t one for comparisons. He wasn’t one for guilting or pushing or shaming. “Just do the best you can,” was his slogan. He said it repeatedly, so that the slogan itself is sufficient to identify him.

He was not a favorite of everyone, for there were some who feared that if you tell people “do the best you can,” some will do nothing and pass it off as their best. The urge to transform ‘encouraging’ into ‘pushing’ is strong. There are those who yield to it. I did notice, though, that in one of those elder training schools in which the traveling overseers took turns instructing the brothers, my CO was invariably given the heaviest and most sensitive parts. His was the example thought most beneficial for the friends.

That impression is only furthered by the Branch brother, or Gilead brother, or someone, teaching another class, leading a string around on the overhead projector, with finger placed firmly on the lead end. “See how nicely the rest of the string follows this lead?” he says. “Now what happens if I turn the method around?” he asks, as he attempts to ‘push’ the string from that lead, and it bunches up. “It’s really not very smart of me to do it this way, is it?” he observes.

So I was a little surprised to see what I did in print. These days circuit overseers approach with the directive to simply show love for the friends and don’t “pile on” at all. It is not a huge deal, for there is fine print elsewhere recognizing that some people have extraordinary circumstances which preclude normal activity. Still, I almost wish there had been just one more sentence: “Of course, in some extreme situations.....and these ones, too, need reminders that Jehovah, who knows us better than we do ourselves, knows they are “doing the best they can.”

He was my favorite circuit overseer. He has long since retired. He is in his 90’s, and last I heard, he still keeps a “circuit overseer schedule” for his pioneering. He is the one person referred to by actual name in ‘Tom Irregardless and Me’—everyone else I wait till they die—not only they, but often also family members and friends. I sent him the chapter he is named in. But he replied that “it didn’t make much sense” to him, adding that he still thought he had all his “marbles.” This worried me. It hadn’t occurred to me that he might not like it, and I offered to change the name—electronically you can do such things. But he said that at this point he didn’t really care, so I left it be.

He appears several times in my writings, but only once is he named. It is for the time that he reviewed a demonstration of mine for the upcoming District Convention. Upon hearing it, he was effusive in his praise, and marveled at the hours and hours we must have put into it. “Only,” he finally said, “this one tiny point—I wonder if anyone could get the wrong idea here?” and he outlined some picky little thing.

“Well—sure—I guess we could redo that,” I said hesitantly.

“Oh, wonderful! Just wonderful! The rest is just fine! Absolutely fine! Exactly what the slave means to convey........except...”

By the time he was finished there was nothing left! There is only one thing a brother can say in such circumstances, and I said it: “Thank you, Brother NamedHim, for your counsel,”

One of my participants, himself a man of sterling reputation who had been around forever, said: “Why are you thanking him!? He messed it all up!”

Hmm. Maybe he didn’t want his cover blown. Maybe that’s why it “didn’t make any sense” to him. It’s okay. He certainly did benefit me. And I’ll bet if he’d written that Watchtower, I would not have written this post.

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

The Devil and Dennis Christensen

Dennis Christensen was to be released after serving 3 years of his sentence—there is a formula in Russia for counting each day of pre-trial detention as 1.5 days of actual time—but the Ministry of Justice has appealed. He is now in a special holding cell. He was guilty of ‘misconduct’ during his term, the MOJ charges.

He had organized an English class for fellow inmates—how bad can his ‘misconduct’ be? They are trying to break him, Watchtower HQ says, and everyone with a brain in their head knows it is so. His ‘misconduct’ was not renouncing his faith.

I couldn’t believe it when I heard of his early release. Two days later, I saw that I was right not to believe it. The reason I could not believe it is that it flew in the face of recent Russian escalation of efforts to stamp out the faith. The stiffest prison term yet had just been imposed upon sixty-one-year-old Gennady Shepakovsky. Is he not a little old for such harshness, especially when his “crime” is no more than worshipping God per the tenets of his faith? The judge of the case suggested that Jehovah’s Witnesses (there are 175,000 of them!) go to a country where their faith is “more needed.” I thought of how the prophet Amos was told exactly that by rebellious servants of the king:

Off with you, seer, flee to the land of Judah and there earn your bread by prophesying! But never again prophesy in Bethel for it is the king’s sanctuary and a royal temple.” It is exactly how an anti-God world responds to hearing his words.

This comes directly on the heels of the MOJ appealing its own victorious verdict against another Witness because the sentence imposed was insufficiently harsh. This comes directly on the heels of another Witness having his citizenship revoked.

These penalties are unheard of—even a crime-boss does not have his citizenship revoked—the Ministry of Justice comes across as unhinged in its hatred of a faith—for that’s all these ones are—members of a faith—and everyone of sense knows it. Russian enemies are fighting Christianity, for none of these convicted ones are guilty of anything other than being Christian—and the most exemplary of Christians at that: Christians who will not kill, Christians who will not steal, lie, fall into sloth, do drugs, abuse alcohol, Christians who do more than their share to contribute to the common good.

It is possible to overplay one’s hand and in so doing provide a glimpse into a deeper reality. There is no human explanation that makes sense for such over-the-top ill-treatment. Therefore, it dawns upon some to look for a super-human explanation. At the Kingdom Hall, a weekly segment for 2 or 3 years running has been a consideration of the book, Jesus’ Life and Ministry, detailing events of his life in chronological order. Last night, his post-Passover final meeting with his disciples came up for examination. Was it to be always easy sailing for those who would stick with him?

Men will expel you from the synagogue. In fact, the hour is coming when everyone who kills you will think he has offered a sacred service to God”​—Jesus’ words of John 16:1-2 were reviewed. See why Dennis is not unprepared? He has been fortified with these words all his of his life.

He has also been fortified by Revelation 2:10: “Look! The Devil will keep on throwing some of you into prison so that you may be fully put to the test, and you will have tribulation for ten days. Prove yourself faithful even to death, and I will give you the crown of life.” It is also to be mentioned John 15: 19-21: “If you were part of the world, the world would be fond of what is its own. Now because you are no part of the world...for this reason the world hates you. Keep in mind the word I said to you: A slave is not greater than his master. If they have persecuted me [Jesus], they will also persecute you; if they have observed my word, they will also observe yours. But they will do all these things against you on account of my name, because they do not know the One who sent me.”

So Dennis is not unprepared. He is bummed, no doubt—how could anyone not be? but probably not unprepared. He knows who he is battling, and it is not men. If I didn’t believe his early release, he probably didn’t, either—“not until it is in the bag,” he would have said. He knows he is up against the Devil, standing up as a test case almost like that of Job. The humans don’t matter—if one of them forgets his/her lines or has a change of heart, he is replaced by someone true to the wicked cause of a play that has not only continued from Jesus’ time but is coming to a head. A friend who has traveled to Russia tells me that the brothers there are cautious—but they have always had to be cautious. They find satisfaction in knowing that their resolute stand answers the taunts of the Wicked One before the entire world.

Of course, Dennis had no way of knowing that he would be the test case—no doubt he does not like that. Or maybe he does. You never know. Some Witness survivors of the Holocaust are on record as saying that they would not have traded away their experience if they could, for it gave them opportunity to give answer to the Devil before the world. They mirror the attitude of certain first-century Christians who, upon release from abusive treatment, went out “rejoicing because they had been counted worthy to be dishonored in behalf of [Jesus’] name. (Acts 5:41)

Is it a coincidence that the weekly Bible reading schedule that Witnesses adhere to has rolled around to Exodus chapter 5, about how Moses’s first foray to Pharaoh initially went badly for the Israelites?

Afterward, Moses and Aaron went in and said to Pharaoh: “This is what Jehovah the God of Israel says, ‘Send my people away so that they may celebrate a festival to me in the wilderness.’”... “The king of Egypt replied to them: ‘Why is it...that you are taking the people away from their work?’... That same day, Pharaoh commanded the taskmasters and their foremen: “You must no longer give straw to the people to make bricks. Let them go and gather straw for themselves.... Make them work harder, and keep them busy so that they will not pay attention to lies.” (Exodus 5: 1-9)

“Hmm. Is there anything today that corresponds to supposedly good news being turned on its head like in Moses’s time and unexpectedly made harsh news?” I asked myself, and then I read about Dennis being shoved back into the slammer. The events even parallel in how the faithless ones back then charged that Moses had made a hash of his assignment and should have left matters alone—just as faithless ones today have charged that the Witness organization reads the situation wrongly and makes it worse for the Russian Witnesses. “They’re no Moses!” the villains will say. Maybe not, but in this case the developments could not have paralleled those of Moses more closely. In fact, the modern Russian brothers put the Israelites to shame, for the latter did blame Moses for their problems. “May Jehovah look upon you and judge, since you have made Pharaoh and his servants despise us and you have put a sword in their hand to kill us,” they accused the one assigned to deliver them. (vs 21)

“There’s something happening here—what it is ain’t exactly clear,” sings the Buffalo Springfield—50 years too soon and on the wrong stage. The fog is dissipating fast. Russia becomes the most visible nation to fight against God. “The kings of the earth take their stand, and high officials gather together as one against Jehovah and against his anointed one” (Psalm 2:2), and Russia acts as though wanting to lead the charge. You never know when a given king will read ahead and decline to play the game, for the ending bodes ill for them: “Ask of me, and I will give nations as your inheritance,” God says to his son, “and the ends of the earth as your possession. You will break them with an iron scepter, and you will smash them like a piece of pottery.” So far, though, most are adhering to script.

Matters are coming to a head—you can smell it. Is it reasonable to insist that Exodus 5 finds a parallel in today’s Russian events? No. But it’s reasonable to suggest it—just as it was reasonable to suggest that the then-scheduled Bible reading of the Assyrian army assaulting Jerusalem prepared the hearts of Russian brothers who were facing immanent ban of their organization in 2017.

Is it reasonable to look at these parallels? It hardly matters. Reason has had its day in the sun. It has been weighed in the scales and found wanting. The point of 2 Timothy 3: 1-5 is that in the last days people would forget all about reason—and a host of other stabilizing qualities. Does it seem that reason is the order of the day in light of the Covid 19 epidemic, as punctuated by protests escalating to riots, as a black man’s death at the hands of police stokes mayhem around the world? Jehovah’s Witnesses are among the few—at least in my American home—who without fuss don masks. Normal meetings and methods of ministry are suspended, and it is almost as though ones are retreating to interior rooms until the denunciation passes. Anger, not reason, becomes the order of the day, and it is not so foolish to lie low during that time.

The world is not friendly to Christian values. The persecution that Jesus guaranteed would visit his followers is not to be averted. But what can be guaranteed, as Paul said to Agrippa, is that this thing will “not be done in a corner.” It will receive maximum publicity so that whoever is of good heart will be moved by it. This the Witness organization has done and continues to do.

F2E68996-3C00-4677-A35C-8F0777394BCD

...This post will soon be appended to the free ebook: Dear Mr. Putin - Jehovah’s Witnesses write Russia. The book is in ‘safe’ and ‘unsafe’ version—the only difference being that in ‘safe’ version, all quotes from Watchtower publications are redacted. Even if is the New World Translation quoting Jesus on how we must love our enemies. “Redacted for reader safety,” it will say.

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

Figuring Out the ‘Bridegroom of Blood’

Whoa! What a mess! Better defuse this one. It’s right there in our assigned Bible reading this week:

Now on the road at the lodging place, Jehovah met [Moses] and was seeking to put him to death. Finally Zipporah took a flint and circumcised her son and caused his foreskin to touch his feet and said: ‘It is because you are a bridegroom of blood to me.’  So He let him go. At that time she said, “a bridegroom of blood,” because of the circumcision.” (Exodus 4:24-26)

What in the world is that all about? I hate to say it—maybe it betrays a weakness on my part—but I cannot rely on the brothers to clear this up. Too often, it seems to me, they go after such verses determined to ‘clean them up’—‘put a smiley face on it’—and....um...it’s really not that easy to do, is it? That’s how they—and nearly all other Bible-believers—go on and on about how Dinah was raped because she hung out with the wrong crowd, and appear not to notice the rather huge elephant in the room—her brothers slaughtered the whole tribe in retribution! Oh, I guess the fact that Jacob rebuked them counts for something, but even so....

It’s like when the she-bears come out of the woods and devour the 42 children making fun of Elijah—“Go up, you baldhead!” they shout with glee but they stop shouting it as the bears were making child-sandwiches out of them (2 Kings 2:23-24). You can—as our people have done, lecture on how those parent should have better trained their “juvenile delinquent” offspring, and then (this they have not done—but it is the kind of thing that appears sometimes) maybe will even go off on a tangent about how the Bible is accurate because it doesn’t say ‘about 40’—it says 42–and thus it reflects getting the details straight, the mark an historian, and not a fairy tale which would content itself with ‘about 40’—but—well, that doesn’t quite smooth it over for everyone, does it? As far as I concerned, about the best you can do with those verses is to assign them to a bald brother who will tap his shiny dome as though he is a protected species and suggest that you’d better not give him any grief. I did try—I really did—to put a smiley face on this one, or at least a plausible one, building off a vaguely parallel contemporary report, and I am rather pleased with the result, but let me tell you: it ain’t easy reconciling cultures thousands of years apart.

Don’t think it need be thousands of years, and don’t think it need be the Bible. “Here, I thought you might like this,” researcher B.W. Shultz tweets to me, as though he were flicking a spec of dandruff off his shoulder. It is an ebook from 1884: Rochester—A Story Historical, and it upends everything I thought I knew about my home, upstate New York! It turns out that the first settler in what became Rochester, Ebenezer Allan, was a scoundrel. He was a barbarous ne’er do well. He was a drunken lout. He’d pair up with Mary Jemison’s (the white woman on the Genesee) no-good son—the one who shoved around his mom whenever he’d consumed too much firewater, which was a frequent occurrence—and raise all manner of hell.

Now—it’s a little hard, when you are holding up your city as a shining example to the world, to come to grips with how its first settler was a dirtbag. But a certain town historian tries—she tries mightily. She seizes on the fact that he was not a lowlife in every way—he actually could work hard when he wanted to and he did run some diplomatic missions that did benefit, even if accidentally, persons other than himself. She gushes on of how he “found happiness” after taking on yet another wife, and does not mention how with a former one, he had guys paddle her on a canoe to the falls and bail out so that she would go over and not they—for is that not but a trifle in the overall tale of a man’s finding happiness? The poor woman—she swum to shore and then went to beg the jerk’s forgiveness! Our historian is determined to plaster lipstick on a rather hideous pig, and she works up to the hope that “If history colors him a little testy at times, perhaps it needs to reflect opon the primitive conditions of that era and be a little more understanding of, and charitable to, Mr. Allan.” Elsewhere, she genuflects to him as “one of the frontier's greatest romantic rogues.”

So with that established—that outrageous histories abound and the temptation to clean them up is not unique to Bible students, let’s try to clean up this mess at Exodus, knowing that the critical thinker may not be satisfied with our effort—perhaps even cynically ad-libbing “At least they gave attention to their dress and grooming”—with whatever spin the Watchtower puts on those verses. It’s hard to know where to start, but we could acknowledge that Abraham decreed circumcision for his offspring as a sign of a special relationship with God, that Moses “knew or should have known” that, and that Moses accordingly should have seen to it that his son was circumcised. Maybe it didn’t occur to him, because Issac and Jacob deliberately set out to find and marry one of their own, whereas he, Moses, had to hotfoot it out of Egypt and take whoever he could get—believer or not. “Here, you can have my daughter,” Midian says—and that’s the way marriages were commonly done—women were used to build alliances. It’s not exactly the world of today, is it? That’s how royalty might end up with hundreds of wives, and have to put them in a harem—a lonely existence for women: men gave their daughters to form alliances and otherwise get in good with the king.

“He probably didn’t circumcise him because he was a man just like you, and he was oblivious to what everyone else knew he should be doing,” says my wife, as she glances at the back lawn, the grass now as high as an elephant’s eye. She may be on to something. At any rate, you don’t mess with Jehovah. It was Zipporah who guessed what the problem might be, as Moses was thinking “Why is this angel messing with me?—I’m the good guy!” and it was she who did something about it, taking responsibility for it, though it hardly seems her fault. I won’t go so far as to say that she said, similar to Abigail, “Please, my Lord. You know how it is with Moses. He has his head in the clouds always. He’s so spiritually minded, he’s no earthly good.” No. I won’t say it. You don’t think I know what happened to Koran, Dathan, and Abiram?

Thus, all that remains is to explain away her words: “It is because you are a bridegroom of blood to me.” I’m not touching it—I’ve done enough—other than to observe that blood was something thought sacred back then—today it just sounds gory and calls to mind a Freddy Krueger movie—and in some way she is acknowledging the sacredness of bonds that we are oblivious to today. “For the life of the flesh is in the blood, and I myself have given it on the altar for you to make atonement for yourselves, because it is the blood that makes atonement by means of the life in it,” the Torah says, as we scratch our heads at something that we know we probably should know more about but don’t.

So we can clean that one up, more or less, at least enough to carry on. But what is it doing there in the first place—the outrageous passage? Is it just there to trip us up? The question is better asked by going to a less-weird, but still not what we would expect, passage—that of Moses trying to wheedle out of an assignment:

“Moses now said to Jehovah: “Pardon me, Jehovah, but I have never been a fluent speaker, neither in the past nor since you have spoken to your servant, for I am slow of speech and slow of tongue.”  Jehovah said to him: “Who made a mouth for man, or who makes them speechless, deaf, clear-sighted, or blind? Is it not I, Jehovah?  So go now, and I will be with you as you speak, and I will teach you what you should say.”  (Exodus 4:10-12) Really? He makes them “speechless, deaf, or blind?”

Let’s see what the brothers toss our way in the Research Guide. On those verses, there is a link to the 3/15/04 Watchtower, that says: “Although Jehovah has on occasion caused blindness and muteness, he is not responsible for every case of such disabilities. (Genesis 19:11; Luke 1:20-22, 62-64) These are the result of inherited sin. (Job 14:4; Romans 5:12) Since God has allowed this situation to exist, however, he could speak of himself as ‘appointing’ the speechless, the deaf, and the blind.”

Okay. I can roll with that. If you look at the greater picture, and those other verses, it certainly seems that it is that way. However—why not word it more precisely there in Exodus to begin with, and save everyone the trouble? Is God trying to mess with us? My guess is that he is. Recall the illustration of the secretary composing a letter for the boss. It is said to be the boss’s letter, but he didn’t actually write it—the secretary did. And it turns out that the secretary, in Exodus case, is like all humans—the treasure is carried in ‘earthen vessels.’ And God rolls with it: “Oh, wow—that ought to mess them up!” he whistles, as he surveys the work of the secretary. “Let’s see what they do with that one!”

Call it “testing” people if you like. God does it. It has a way of separating the wheat from the chaff. Nowhere is it more apparent than with Jesus telling how persons must eat his flesh and drink his blood in order to be saved. (John 6:52) “This is outrageous!” all the huffy ones say. “Who can make sense out of this? My time is too important for this nonsense!” and they stomp off before they can hear God say, “Who gave you any time at all, you pompous buffoon, so that you can carry on about how important it is?” Jesus’ disciples, of course, couldn’t figure it out either, but awareness of their own spiritual need was sufficient for them to stick around and find out.

So it is with the “bridegroom of blood” passage. Leave it where it is. Let the learned ones say, “This just shows that there are many sources of ancient history competing for the final word, and that they all want to stick in their two cents, and the reason it doesn’t make any sense is that they were all fighting their own turf wars and advancing their own opinions, and it all got jumbled up together, and I know it was that way in that world back then, because it is that way in the educated world in which I hang out, and I have never seen it any other way, so it must be there is none.” Meanwhile, the regular people will say of the passage, “Huh!” make a mental note to research it someday that will probably never come, and go on to consider with benefit the meat of the chapter.

See Part 2.

 

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

Witnesses Decline to Take Part in the National Redress Program

The announcement that Jehovah’s Witnesses will not sign on to the national redress plan of Australia provoked the instant wrath of some. However, I rather liked the Witnesses’s reasoning.
 

“The Jehovah's Witnesses said the religion does not have the institutional settings that the voluntary redress scheme is designed to cover and it will not join,” said The Murray Valley Standard.

"The Jehovah's Witnesses have not sponsored any programs or activities that separate children from their parents at any time," it said in a statement to AAP.

The statement said the Jehovah's Witnesses did not operate boarding or Sunday schools, did not have youth groups, choirs or sponsor any programs for children, nor run youth centres.

"Jehovah's Witnesses simply do not have the institutional settings that result in children being taken into their care, custody, supervision, control or authority."

Less than 10 redress scheme applicants have referred to the Jehovah's Witnesses, it said.

"Jehovah's Witnesses have responded and will continue to respond directly to individual claims for redress in a caring, fair, and principled manner, taking into consideration the unique circumstances of each claim.

"The religion of Jehovah's Witnesses also provides spiritual comfort and assistance to child abuse victims and their families."

Now—do not misunderstand—my comment only comments on what it comments on. It makes no judgment—pro or con—on Watchtower interaction with those members who have suffered child sexual abuse. Are they adequate or not? I don’t go there. It’s for another post. I speak only to the government plan to lump in as one dozens of organizations for their “mutual sins”—sins the Watchtower organization does not have.

How many groups did the ARC look at? Was it not 30 - 40? Every one of them involved some program in which children were separated from parents as a condition of participation. Separation was necessary for participation, and in the case of government schools, mandated by law. It seems reasonable that if you sponsor a youth group and/or even require children to congregate, you have a greater responsibility to provide a safe environment for them.

Jehovah’s Witnesses, and they alone, so far as I can see, of the scrutinized groups, have never had any such program. They ought not be lumped into the same basket of mutual culpability with those that do. Actually, from the article, it seems that very few are signing on—even though they do have youth segregated from parents—just a sporting organization or two were cited.

Of course, this comment of mine was not taken lying down. Let us call the succeeding person “John,” an ex-Witness, and extremely vociferous opponent.

John: “I've been on the ministry in the past and a child has actually asked to be with me on the doors. I've declined as I think children should be with their parents.” 

I take from this that you were not stalking the child. Are there situations in which an adult might come into contact with a child not his own? Of course there are. Your own experience testifies to one. But they are the sort of incidental thing that could happen anywhere—if your child frequents the home of a friend and it turns out that friend’s dad is a pervert, for example. 

There was a time when my father-in-law, a man with little formal education, asked elders to study with his high school son so maybe they could help him reconcile evolution vs creation and such things that he, the father-in-law, had no experience with. The elders said no—it was for him to study with his own son. It may not have even been a wise decision, but the point is there is no program for elders to wrestle children away from their own parents.

The typical abuse case among Witnesses involves the misconduct of congregation members—often members within a step-family. The culpability of the organization, if there is one, is that elders left it to the disgression of the aggrieved parties to report it. The culpability of the other groups is for systemically separating children from the parents and then allowing someone in authority to abuse them. The two courses are different enough that they ought not be included as though two peas in a pod.

The only point I made in the prior post, John, was that groups that insist upon separating children from parents and then fail to protect them ought to be held to more stringent standards than those that do not. There is nothing wrong with that point. It makes perfect sense. That is not to say it covers everything.

John: Elders take young children, that are not their own children, on the ministry. Older brothers ans sisters do likewise. Brothers or sisters take children, that are not their own, to meetings in their cars.

Of course it has happened, and still does—though in view of persons like yourself who want to stunt children by suggesting any adult contact with a child other than its own is perverted, they do it less and with much more discretion. Always in the situations you describe, it happens with full approval of the parent, and often at their request. I’ll give you an example:

My wife and I were in the ministry, along with a sister with her two children—ages probably 2 and 4. We’re all going at a snail’s pace, working in and out of the car, on account of the children. The sister, too, needs adult encouragement—she doesn’t get out all that much—and that’s why the “righteous” solution you might hit on: ‘Work with your wife, and let her work alone with her two kids,’ does not work. 

When I am alone in the car with the two-year-old, and my wife, the sister, and her older child are all working together, I get impatient to do another door or two. “C’mon, Seth,” I swoop the kid up, “Let’s take a door!” I ring the bell and a woman answers. I tell her I am working with my friend Seth (whom I am carrying), and “he wants to show a video to you.” I thumb through a few Caleb and Sophia cartoon videos on my IPad, ask Seth which one did he have in mind, and act as though it is he who has made the decision. Meanwhile, the woman seems bemused by this—she’s playing along—it doesn’t happen all the time. We play the video, she views it attentively, Seth even more so because he knows them all well—they are tools for child-training, and when it is all done, I thank her, acknowledging “You’re a sport,” and we take our leave. I had the feeling that she was playing along simply for the child’s sake, and I stopped in sometime later to discover that I was right. I still reaffirmed that she was a good sport.

Now, I know child’s the mother well. I know the chemistry. This was not a stranger’s child. I know you are probably dying to make a molestation scene out of this, but anyone not completely warped in their own values will instantly see if for what it is—a win-win-win for the child, the householder, and me—and even another win if you include God, for it is advancing the ministry.

(Backtracking)

John: I've been on the ministry in the past and a child has actually asked to be with me on the doors. I've declined as I think children should be with their parents. 

You probably did the child a favor by not exposing it to your strange personality. That point notwithstanding, why in the world would you not agree to this?—unless there is some twisted background that you are not conveying. I would do it in a heartbeat if a child asked it of me, and I knew the parents would have no objection.

Do you think you are proving yourself virtuous by your all but criminalizing contact between adults and their non-offspring? Do you think the interests of the world’s children are advanced by the Boy Scouts of America driven into bankruptcy as consequence and retribution for the injuries inflicted upon a handful of children? The Boy Scouts take you out camping. They teach you how to tie knots. They teach responsibility. “Eagle scout projects” are seen everywhere in my area—deeds of civic enhancement, education, historical illumination, ecological projects—deeds that are not likely to be done otherwise. They provide opportunities for children growing up that parents will most likely not be able to provide. And now your type deprive them of that by bankrupting the organization—all the time as you bask in your holiness about how you are ‘protecting children.’

You suggest all contact with a non-related child is wrong, even twisted, and then you think you are doing the village of children a favor? Back in JoePa days—American example, you may not know of it in Britain, when a man outstanding for molding generations of youth was suddenly destroyed because in a certain instance, he did not go “beyond the law” to penalize something he didn’t know was happening—a former coach of youth sports, Bob Cook, wrote: “The most upsetting thing about many child-protection rules is they assume any adult is capable of doing something bad. If you think of yourself as a good person, and the people around you as good people, you can’t help but be taken aback. You can’t help but think a wall has been put between yourself, the children you coach, and the families you deal with. It’s a wall that seems patently ridiculous when, in the case of the Catholics involved in my Virtus meeting, were tight-knit, south side Chicago parishes where families had known each other for generations.”

John: I quote you here to show how perverted you are Tom,  "I take from this that you were not stalking the child."  it's a sort of semi-accusation i know. It is a thing that JWs do well.

I cleared you previously on this, but now I walk it back some. With you, it may well be an example of the verse: “All things are clean to clean people; but to those who are defiled and faithless, nothing is clean, for both their minds and their consciences are defiled.” Nothing seems clean to you, and with your vengeful crusade, you would penalize generations of children from the adult interaction that helps them grow into balanced adults themselves.

I do understand the goal of stamping out child sexual abuse. I do agree that few things are as wicked. I do acknowledge that smoking these ones out is difficult. I do agree, particularly in view of the now commonly acknowledged damage done to a child victim, that punishments ought to be harsh. I agree to all these things. But all society ought not be destroyed in order to attain that goal, for the ones who will collectively suffer the most are the children. John Holt, the homeschooling pioneer, used to maintain that a driving factor of juvenile delinquency is children being shut out of the adult world under the guise of protecting them—and this is well before CSA was on anyone’s radar—he was speaking of the overapplication of child labor laws.

I surprise myself for getting into this thread so. I hadn’t intended to. I literally wrote the book on this topic of JW CSA accusations, with ‘TrueTom vs the Apostates!—numerous chapters are on the topic, and I think there is not another like collection anywhere. Since it is free, I can link to it as simply another information source.

It covers events up to the initial verdict against JWs in Montana, and has not been updated to include that verdict being thrown out. Maybe there will be a “Round 2” or maybe I will tack additional chapters on Round 1: At any rate, I’ve done my share on this and did not intend to involve myself much beyond—because the topic will never be dropped, and there are other things to explore. But your demented notion of ‘nothing being clean’ draws me in despite myself.

 
 

 

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

Sympathy for ‘Sympathy for the Devil’

“Sympathy for the Devil? No. I don’t like that fellow. He makes a lot of trouble. I’m not listening to no song that has sympathy for the devil.“

That was my sentiment for 50 years. It will still be my sentiment, but not so much, until my grave—which maybe will not arrive anytime soon, and if I play my cards right and the ducks line up, maybe not at all. Funny how you can live life as though the system may end tomorrow, and also as though it may not end before your natural death. Yikes! Cognitive dissonance! I hate that stuff!

Nah—cognitive dissonance is a topic worthy of a pamphlet, perhaps, but no more. It is what used to be called, ‘Coming to grips with the fact that you don’t know everything.’ People used to be able to do that without their heads shorting out—before ‘critical thinking’ became all the rage.

“You will still dislike the song, but ‘not so much’ Tom?” You going warm and fuzzy on the Devil these days? No. I still don’t like him. But somewhere along the road I came to recognize that ‘Sympathy for the Devil,’ the Rolling Stones song, is not really about sympathy for the Devil. It is about exposure of him.

For years I refused to listen to the song. For years I slapped it down if it reared up on the radio, and later skipped it over if Pandora served it up. I still will, of course, at least if in anyone’s hearing. “Wow, brothers—great song! Sympathy for the Devil! I love it! Let’s give it a listen—right here at the congregation picnic!”—can I picture myself saying that? No. There is stuff that you tuck out of sight when the respectable people come calling. I always did that with the Keith Richards/Mick Jagger song. It’s a little too bad, because if you like rock music, you really can’t do better than The Rolling Stones. On the other hand, there’s a lot of music—you don’t have to chug down everything that comes down the pipe;

The song exposes the works of the Devil nearly as well as the Bible itself—in fact, better—if we are going for specifics and exclusive focus—that is, not being diluted by anything else. The obscenities of history—the Devil’s behind them all. He’s pulling the strings.

A fellow with the handle “Apollyon911” says of the song, that Satan is “implicating humanity for the evil they have committed” and “expresses glee for the crucifixion and other atrocities that he helped orchestrate”—Hitler’s reign, murder of the czar, murder of the Kennedy’s. “He is a ‘man of wealth and taste’...just as the SS had impeccable manners, listened to Wagner and drank fine wine, there is a powerful desire to be impressive...to be admired (or, more to the point, worshipped).”

What is the polar opposite circumstance that triggered for me memories of this song? It was this verse from Isaiah and a subsequent video included in the mid-week JW meetings during June 2020–a video on highlighting God’s name in the countries of Denmark, Norway, and Sweden. “I am Jehovah. That is my name,” says Isaiah 42:8 (NWT). But the King James Version, and the majority of translations, say, “I am the LORD. That is my name.” How can translators be so dense? “The LORD” is a name? What’s with the all-caps?

You don’t translate the tetragrammaton as “The LORD.” The first is clearly a distinctive name—the name God gives himself—a name that makes clear his power to transform: “He causes to become.” The second is no more than a title, gussied up with all-caps, but clearly a title. Sometimes I call people’s attention to Psalm 110:1 to expose this idiocy: “The LORD said to my Lord, ‘Sit at my right hand, until I place your enemies as a tool for your feet.’” Who is talking to who? Why is one Lord all caps and the other not? There is a Charlton Heston movie—I think it is ‘The Ten Commandments’—in which the Israelites are distressed early on because “We don’t even know our God’s name.” Later on, they are as happy as pigs in mud, for they have learned it: it is ‘The LORD’—how much sense does that make?

Even Mick Jagger knows better. “Pleased to meet you—hope you guess my name,” his devil says—and later in the song he gives his name! It is not ‘The DEVIL.”—it is ‘Lucifer!’ Now, as it turns out, ‘Lucifer’ is not a name either; it is a translation of the Hebrew word “hehlel’ and means “shining one.” But the intent is there—Jagger has his head screwed on straight. He knows that if you say Satan has a name, you don’t tell people it is SATAN. And if God has a name, you don’t say it is The LORD. He has put his name in scripture nearly 7,000 times. You don’t think he might be a little peeved that churchmen paper it over, essentially taking it out? Wouldn’t you—if you wrote the most beautiful letter that people sighed in delight over and praised it for its beauty—after crossing out your name, as though it were a putrid thing?

Richards and Jagger are more on to matters of truth than they know. Sign them up for the Kingdom Hall! Of course, they’ll have to clean up their acts first. They can’t quite carry on the way they do, can they? But having declared a “been there, done that—time to move on,” let them do one of the ‘original songs.’ Why—with their background, let them even do two! Seriously. Prince did this—cleaned up his act—whereupon they let him do an original song. Well—they didn’t, actually, they slapped his hand when he tried to rework their own—but they would have today. I wrote up a nice chapter on Prince. It heads the book ‘Tom Irregardless and Me’ and is even in the free preview section. You don’t think that I would do the same for Mick and Keith if only they would behave a bit more?

These guys are on to something with their ‘Sympathy for the Devil,’ even if they don’t nail every little detail. They do better than Apollyon911–he has a little too much ‘churchiness’ in him. The reason I had to quote excerpts from him and not the entirety is that he screws it up in part—whereas the Stone’s song I can let stand untouched. Apollyon says in full:

While Satan is clearly implicating humanity for the evil they have committed, he is not absolving himself. He expresses glee for the crucifixion and other atrocities that he helped orchestrate (not realizing, until it was too late, that Christ’s Crucifixion – and Resurrection, were all part of God’s Plan).

He is a ‘man of wealth and taste’. This does not simply mean he is sophisticated. He does not deny his evil but, just as the SS had impeccable manners, listened to Wagner and drank fine wine, there is a powerful desire to be impressive (and perhaps, in the case of humans, to deny the evil they commit). He wants to be admired (or, more to the point, worshipped).

Satan or, as he prefers to be called, Lucifer, his pre-Fall name, is also warning mankind to treat him with respect or he will destroy us. As Martin Luther (the Reformer) noted: ‘Satan cannot bear to be mocked’.

Satan is not denying he is the author of evil. He is merely implicating mankind and also emphasizing his power.

Satan, the Devil, is the Father of Lies and this is implied when he talks about ‘lay[ing] your soul to waste’. Satan does not have full authority over mankind. Only what is allowed by God (his Creator). But, Satan wants us to believe he has all power.

Well, maybe it’s not so bad. But isn’t it a little too glib on how things like the Holocaust is “part of God’s Plan?” (capitalized, no less, though it includes the Holocaust!) It reminds me of the time I passed the church billboard that read “‘Don’t Worry, I’m in Charge’—God” Two days later planes flew into the twin towers in New York City, and I began to wonder if that stupid sign was still there. I returned to read the modified version: “God Bless America.” Had the priest swapped the letters at 3 AM, hoping no one would see him? Even the new didn’t fit. Would you have carried on about God’s blessing in the big city at the time?

What Apollyon downplays is that Satan, not God, is described as the “ruler of this system of this world.” Satan is the one who is “blinding the minds of the unbelievers.” Satan is the one who is “misleading the entire inhabited earth”—that covers a lot of territory!—so it seems that Apollyon might expound at least a little on how Satan has managed to hijack the world God created. He doesn’t do this because he doesn’t know—all he can do is offer up some muddled alteration: “‘Don’t worry (much), I’m in charge, even if it seems I am sleeping at the switch’—God.” No. It won’t do. Satan is the “ruler of this world,” says the Bible repeatedly. (John 12:31, 14:30, 16:11, 2 Corinthians 4:4, Revelation 12:9)

Jagger and Richards nail it, but they don’t go far enough. Jesus has come to “break up the works of the Devil,” 1 John 3:8 says. The first thing you do in breaking up the works of the Devil is to expose them. If they went far enough they would come to the indictment of Babylon the Great, the party identified by Jehovah’s Witnesses as “the world empire of false religion.” “Yes, in her was found the blood of prophets and of holy ones and of all those who have been slaughtered on the earth.” (Revelation 18:24) Of all those? Yes, for it is not just the acts of commission we speak of, but it is far more for the acts of omission. Had religion trained its members to be peaceable, as Jehovah’s Witnesses do theirs, they would have held their ground when the king tried enlist them in his latest war; they would have “paid Caesar’s things to Caesar, but God’s things to God”—they would have told Hitler to take a hike, as Jehovah’s Witnesses in Axis lands did. That Babylon the Great has been so negligent is why it can be fingered for the blood of all.

The Daily Text under consideration for Friday, June 26, was John 16:2. “The hour is coming when everyone who kills you will think he has offered a sacred service to God.​.” The commentary included: “How ironic that in committing such evil crimes as murder, religious fanatics violate the very laws of the One whom they claim to worship! Clearly, their consciences are treacherous guides! How can we prevent our conscience from becoming ineffective? The laws and principles contained in God’s Word are “beneficial for teaching, for reproving, for setting things straight, for disciplining in righteousness.” (2 Tim. 3:16) Therefore, by diligently studying the Bible, meditating on what it says, and applying it in our lives, we can train our conscience to be more sensitive to God’s thinking, and it can thus serve as a reliable guide.”

We hear the remark all the time that so and so will be guided by his or her conscience—and it sounds good, it plays well—how can anyone go wrong if he listens to his conscience? But as history demonstrates time and time again, the local king and the prevailing mindset is more than a match for any conscience. That conscience must be trained by God’s thinking—otherwise it will be trained by Satan’s. We ought not be as “children, tossed about as by waves and carried here and there by every wind of teaching by means of the trickery of men, by means of cunning in deceptive schemes.” (Ephesians 4:14) It requires training in God’s thinking to stand firm. Had religion not so quickly bent over for the sake of anything claiming to be “science,” it might still be able to draw upon Genesis as a credible source to explain some of the deeper questions that science cannot touch. Had religion held fast to its core, it would not find itself acquiescing, to various degrees,—sometimes only partially, and sometimes completely—to the humanist and Satanic lie that humans are capable of self-rule.

Mick and Keith are on to it—they even nail the too-frequent reversal of roles, with their, “Just as every cop is a criminal, and all the sinners saints”—but they still haven’t gone far enough. They even nail the “refinement” of those under Satan’s influence, who may very well be men “of wealth and taste”—but they still don’t go far enough. They still deserve an honorable mention, not me burning their record. I’ll burn it anyway, for—let’s face it—‘Sympathy for the Devil’ is not really a kingdom song, is it? But they deserve better. Ah, well—there are greater injustices. There are bigger fish to fry. I’ll stick with the other songs on the Martin Scorsese movie ‘Shine a Light’—which is the Stones in concert—and I’ll reaffirm my favorite scene: that of Buddy Guy standing like a mountain while two of the scrawny Stones buzz around him like gnats, blown away by his fierce guitar work.

 

Please allow me to introduce myself

I'm a man of wealth and taste

I've been around for a long, long year

Stole many a man's soul to waste

And I was 'round when Jesus Christ

Had his moment of doubt and pain

Made damn sure that Pilate

Washed his hands and sealed his fate

Pleased to meet you

Hope you guess my name

But what's puzzling you

Is the nature of my game

I stuck around St. Petersburg

When I saw it was a time for a change

Killed the czar and his ministers

Anastasia screamed in vain

I rode a tank

Held a general's rank

When the blitzkrieg raged

And the bodies stank

Pleased to meet you

Hope you guess my name, oh yeah

Ah, what's puzzling you

Is the nature of my game, oh yeah

I watched with glee

While your kings and queens

Fought for ten decades

For the gods they made

I shouted out

Who killed the Kennedys?

When after all

It was you and me

Let me please introduce myself

I'm a man of wealth and taste

And I laid traps for troubadours

Who get killed before they reached Bombay

Pleased to meet you

Hope you guessed my name, oh yeah

But what's puzzling you

Is the nature of my game, oh yeah, get down, baby

Pleased to meet you

Hope you guessed my name, oh yeah

But what's confusing you

Is just the nature of my game, mm yeah

Just as every cop is a criminal

And all the sinners saints

As heads is tails

Just call me Lucifer

'Cause I'm in need of some restraint

So if you meet me

Have some courtesy

Have some sympathy, and some taste

Use all your well-learned politesse

Or I'll lay your soul to waste, mm yeah

Pleased to meet you

Hope you guessed my name, mm yeah

But what's puzzling you

Is the nature of my game, mm mean it, get down

Oh yeah, get on down

Oh yeah

Oh yeah

Tell me baby, what's my name

Tell me honey, can ya guess my name

Tell me baby, what's my name

I tell you one time, you're to blame

Oh, right

What's my name

Tell me, baby, what's my name

Tell me, sweetie, what's my name

 

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

Q: Have You Stopped Advertising Your Ebooks?

Hardly.

Obtain your copy now at the link below while the supply lasts:

‘Tom Irregardless and Me’—Starting with Prince, a fierce and frolicking defense of Jehovah’s Witnesses. A riotous romp through their way of life. “We have become a theatrical spectacle to the world, and to angels and to men,” the Bible verse says. That being the case, let’s show some theater! Let’s skewer the liars who slander the Christ! Let’s pull down the house on the axis lords! Let the seed-pickers unite!

All persons with names like ‘Irregardless’ are real though generally composite. You can meet them in my circuit or even yours. Events related are faithfully depicted except for a few that I’ve made up. Persons with names recognizable from history or current events – you’re nuts! – it’s not those people at all!

https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/686882

Puts Rolf’s book to shame!”.....Oscar Oxgoad

”A highly entertaining author—especially if you’re not fussy”.....Tom Brexit

Acceptable after a fashion. But his grasp of science is weak, and his critical thinking skills are abominable.”....Bernard Strawman

A pack of lies! I hate it!”.....Vic Vomodog

His chapter on bloodless medicine completely changed my practice.”....Dr Max ‘Ace’ Inhibitor

Mr. Harley works tireless to serve his readers. He has even taken out the typos!”...Wayne Whitepebble

Tom Harley’s Tom Irregardless and Me has been described as “a romping and riotous defense of Jehovah's Witnesses and their place in today’s world.” This really sums up the book, which is a light-hearted look at numerous aspects of the Watch Tower Society from the perspective of a practicing Jehovah’s Witness in the US.

“To the outsider, Jehovah’s Witnesses may seem deadly serious and preoccupied exclusively with their religion and the Society’s own publications. Harley dispels this stereotype. The book is about real people and issues, although the author has changed the names of rank-and-file members to preserve name anonymity. Tom Irregardless is an elder who uses the spurious word “irregardless” liberally in his Bible talks. Other characters include John Wheatnweeds, who hinders members from their house-to-house ministry by spending inordinate amounts of time expounding the text of the day before they set out. Then there is posh brandy-sipping Bernard Strawman, who receives frequent visits from the publishers, but continues to raise facile objections to their faith. Vic Vomidog, an apostate, repeatedly seeks to hamper their work. Other chapters are about real JW celebrities such as Prince, who is the subject of an entire chapter.

“Despite being light-hearted throughout, Tom Harley raises serious issues such as flag salutes, Darwinism and creationism, theocratic government, the paedophile scandals and the dangers of online grooming of minors, and the accuracy of the New World Translation of the Bible. Tom shows a remarkable breadth of knowledge and reading too – he has by no means exclusively studied Watch Tower publications.

“My favourite part of the book was the parody of Mickey Spillane near the end, where Tom Harley envisages a house-to-house publisher acting like one of Spillane’s macho characters. For those who don’t know, Spillane was a novelist whose books were renowned for their sex and violence, until Spillane converted to become a Jehovah’s Witness in 1951 – a decision that drastically changed his writing style.

“Tom Hartley states that he hopes Tom Irregardless is “entertaining but serious at heart”. This sums up the book well. It’s a good read, while providing valuable insights into life as a JW.”....Ivor E. Tower

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

One Might as Well Collect Hub Caps

If I would leave the book ‘Life—How Did It Get Here? By Evolution or by Creation?’ with the householder, he’d look it over and tell me what he thought of it next week, he told me. I did. When I returned, it was for a pleasant conversation right there on his doorstep—we both listened to each other’s points, and neither of us gave an inch. Toward the end, he asked why it was so important anyway? What difference did it make how we got here?

I answered that if God had really created the earth and the life on it, he just might have some purpose for it. He just might not stand by idly to see it ruined. On the other hand, if life evolved from nothing as simply a natural process, then if there was any hope for the planet, it lay in human efforts—“and they’re not doing so well.” The man’s wife, who hadn’t said a word during the entire exchange, suddenly found her moment. “That’s a good point,” she said. For once, the law that your best lines always occur to you too late did not hold true.

The line was incomplete, though. If you trash the Genesis account of Adam and Eve—the first three chapters of the book—you discard more than a chance to see light at the end of the tunnel. You lose almost everything of consequence. You lose any possibility of understanding why it is that humans die. You lose any possibility of understanding why a “loving” God would permit suffering and evil. You lose any possibility of understanding just how the death of Christ could benefit you or anyone else—all that remains is a vague and syrupy, “Jesus died because he loves us.” It doesn’t quite cut it for logic, does it?

There used to be a permanent diorama at the local museum of natural history and science entitled Cabinets of Curiosities. Long ago the place expanded and replaced it with dinosaurs—dinosaurs are snazzy, but who doesn’t have them? Cabinets was much more modest in scale, but what it lacked in size it made up for in insight. The exhibit was a collection of stuffed birds, insects, mammals, shells, minerals, plants, leaves, rocks, and so forth. Explaining it all was a sign:

“Throughout the first half of the nineteenth century, Nature was seen as evidence of God’s work and people believed that studying it would bring them closer to the Creator. Darwin’s evolutionary theory, which replaced God’s role in creating species with natural selection, shook society to it’s foundations.”

So people collected these things. They showed them off. They studied them. They were part of the Book of Nature; they revealed things about God. Prominent scientists of that previous age, Newton, Kepler, Faraday, and Hertz, to name a few, thought of their work in much the same light, as bringing to light how God operated. But people gradually adjusted to Darwinian thinking. Little by little, natural things lost their appeal. One might as well collect hub caps.

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

A JW Connection With Perry Mason?

Look at how State Prosecutor Hamilton Berger (center) pouts like a little kid when Perry Mason outmaneuvers him, which he always does, because it is his show. Here Hamburger has raised an objection, Perry objected to it, and the judge overruled him. Flustered, isn’t he?

317DFE21-DD4D-4134-B484-EECE787AA5BF

But after the case—he loses every single time—sometimes he will reconnoiter with Perry in the latter’s swank office as though old friends. He will even drop his prosecution mid-trial when Perry’s tightening net prods some poor cornered rat in the gallery to jump his feet—“I did it! I killed him! He had it coming! He cheated at Scrabble all the time!”

“Doesn’t Hamilton tire of getting his clock cleaned every episode?” someone asked William Talman, the actor who played him—he called his record “the longest losing streak in history.” Of course not! he answered. Justice was served—what more could a prosecuting attorney ask for? Overriding ambition with this guy? I think not.

Hamburger disappeared from the show in the 1960s because Talman was arrested for “lewd conduct” and smoking grass at a party. CBS suspended and then fired him, even after a judge threw out the charges! These days a tawdry reputation does nothing to hamper an actor’s career—it may even enhance it—but Perry Mason was from the days of squeaky clean TV. The show endured a series of dud replacements for Prosecuting Attorney before a deluge of letters made CBS hire him back.

Now look at how Hamilton’s right hand man, Lieutenant Tragg, beams with pleasure at the prospect of messing Perry up, here by arresting his client. He disapproves of the crime, I suppose, but it is compensated for by being able to stick it to Perry. He, too, loses every time. He, too, never holds a grudge. He, too, sometimes hashes out the details afterwards in Perry’s swank office.

A8DF7C8C-17CF-44FB-9336-4D5A94983091

Ray Collins was the actor that played Tragg. He took on the role in his late 60s, and it would be his final role. With fading health and memory, he filmed his last Perry Mason in early 1964. Everyone knew he would not be returning, but the producer knew he watched the show every night and kept his name in the opening title sequence so as not to make him feel bad. That, too, like Talman getting fired, is not something that I think would happen today. Is this another bookends of a different age scenario—one bookend in seemly times and its mate in one unseemly?

My wife and I have rediscovered Perry during Covid 19 time, maybe even before. We like a good whodunnit, of course—who doesn’t? But the trouble with a whodunnit is that somebody has always dunnit, and these days they do with with blood splashing the screen. Murders in Perry Mason are kinder, gentler, friendly killings—they just drop without undue fuss. Half the time you don’t even see the killing—they’re already dead when Tragg or someone comes across them. It is another seemly-unseemly contrast.

Is it true that Jehovah’s Witnesses HQ gets a nickel each time you watch a Perry Mason episode? Maybe. Erle Stanley Gardner, the show’s creator, married his long time secretary after his first wife died. That secretary is supposedly the inspiration for Della Street, Perry’s super-capable TV secretary, who was always taking on extra missions to save the day. The real-life secretary was a Witness—just when she became one is hard to track down. She survived Erle and at age 88 was still administering his estate, which included a huge archive. When she died at 102, did she leave anything to her charity of choice? I’ve heard she did.

But it is hard to track down. Actually, I used to be able to, but an article that flat-out stated the connection has disappeared—is it behind a paywall? Dunno. It is for someone else to tease out if they are so inclined. I’m pretty sure it is so—I’m not usually wrong on these things except for when I am mistaken. At any rate, you can’t count your time watching the show, so don’t even ask.

Ray Collins died of emphysema at age 75. William Talman was 53 when he died of lung cancer in 1968. It was nothing to see any actor of the day lighting up a cigarette. Talman was the first Hollywood actor to film an antismoking public service announcement, not to be aired until after his death. He was by then pretty sure he would lose his battle with cancer. “Take some advice about smoking and losing from someone who’s been doing both for years... If you don’t smoke, don’t start. If you do smoke, quit!” I am reminded of how the JW organization in 1973, persuaded by the growing evidence that tobacco use was one of those 2 Corinthians 7:1 defilements of flesh, decreed it unacceptable for Witnesses who wished to remain in good standing. Just how many lives did they save in doing that?

Perry Mason the series ran eight years, from 1957 - 1965. I remember it, but I was too young to take much interest. My wife remembers that her mom never missed an episode. Netflix users as late as 2014 still rate Raymond Burr, who played Perry, as their favorite actor.

Roughly speaking, Matlock is the equivalent of Perry Mason. It is a legal drama of 20 years later with an equally engaging star—Andy Griffith. It is just as entertaining and the murders are also, if not friendly, at least not uber-grisly. So why do my wife and I watch Perry reruns and not Matlock? It’s because of the cars—memorable in Perry’s day, but toasters in Matlock’s. In last night’s exciting episode, Perry impales the escaping villain on the tail fin of his Cadillac.

9B3EDDC6-5ADB-4FA0-9B58-65B85CD8E71B

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