Are There Any So Intolerant as the Anti-Cultists?

Few are unaware that the Bible climax depicts the epic battle between good and evil, even if they know it in but inkling form. It is the subject of the final Book of Revelation. Foreglimmers of it appear in several other places.

The contest, to zero in, involves the choice between human rulership and divine rulership of the planet. The former is expressed in the present reality of two hundred eternally squabbling nations. The latter is expressed in the ‘Lord’s prayer,’ as God’s kingdom, which, when it “comes,” results in God’s “will be[ing] done on earth, as it is in heaven.” Human rulership of the earth has not been such a stellar success that those who point to God’s government as the one true hope should be run off the road.

As with the Don McLean song, “the marching band refuses to yield.” Though it involves no human agency, God’s kingdom forcibly is to replace human rulership. It does not wait for “the broken-hearted people living in the world to agree,” for they never will. Daniel 2:44 says it succinctly: “The God of heaven will set up a kingdom that will never be brought to ruin. And the kingdom itself will not be passed on to any other people. It will crush and put an end to all these kingdoms, and it itself will stand to times indefinite.”

This can be dicey to express in literature. Still, it has been expressed as long as there have been persons longing to see a final end of evil. One recent offering is from the book Pure Worship of Jehovah Restored at Last, produced by Jehovah’s Witnesses. The writing gets downright heavy toward the end. For example:

“During the war of Armageddon, Jehovah will execute people, not in a cold, clinical manner, but in a “great rage.” (Read Ezekiel 38:18.) He will direct the explosive force of his anger, not against one army or one nation, but against countless individuals living across the globe. On that day, those slain by Jehovah “will be from one end of the earth clear to the other end of the earth.”​—Jer. 25:29, 33.”

The Bible verses cited are, from Ezekiel:

On that day, the day when Gog invades the land of Israel,’ declares the Sovereign Lord Jehovah, ‘my great rage will flare up. In my zeal, in the fire of my fury, I will speak…all humans on the surface of the earth will tremble, and the mountains will be thrown down, and the cliffs will fall, and every wall will collapse to the ground.’ “‘I will call for a sword against him on all my mountains,’ declares the Sovereign Lord Jehovah. ‘Every man’s sword will be against his own brother. I will bring my judgment against him…”

and from Jeremiah:

“‘You will not go unpunished, for I am calling for a sword against all the inhabitants of the earth,’ declares Jehovah of armies. …“‘And those slain by Jehovah in that day will be from one end of the earth clear to the other end of the earth. They will not be mourned, nor will they be gathered up or buried. They will become like manure on the surface of the ground.’

That’s not very pleasant, is it? Let no one accuse the Bible writers of beating around the bush.

Is it too much? Should the Bible be banned, as it is clearly the fiery source material for such paragraphs as in the Watchtower publication? Ought one side in this epic struggle be allowed a preemptive strike so that the view of the other side be muzzled? Is it the sign of a “cult” not to interpret such passages away?

Should the view that God might be displeased, even outraged, at the present state of the planet be outlawed? Should the only view allowable be that he cheerleads for the present world, having his feelings hurt with each new atrocity, to be sure, but quickly rebounding with the chipper hope that if his creatures but elect the right set of leaders, all will be well? Should only that neutered view of God be allowed to stand, and any view that God might actually do something about the state of the world be consigned to the state of fanaticism, even if ones reprioritize their lives based upon such views?

Taking their place among the most intolerant people on the planet are the “anti-cultists.” Religion they will allow so long as it does not forget that its place is to reinforce the status quo. ‘If religion helps you to be kinder and gentler, so be it,’ they seem to say, ‘but don’t go rocking the boat. Human leadership is where it’s at—if your god can come on board with that, he’s welcome, but only if. There may daily be discouraging checks, but they are not checkmates, and don’t go bringing any nutty religion into it saying that final checkmate looms ahead.’

What’s it to them, anyway? If the verses are to become reality, then Jehovah’s Witnesses offer a fine head’s up and an opportunity to sidestep the trouble. If they are not to become reality, then there is no harm done other than egg on the faces of those announcing it. Jehovah’s Witnesses will take that chance. The Bible is still the most widely distributed book on earth, by a huge margin. Not all will consign it to the dumpster when they hear of such fiery passages. Some will be more like the Hebrew king Josiah of long ago:

“As soon as [Josiah] heard the words of the book of the Law, he ripped his garments apart. Then the king gave this order…. “Go, inquire of Jehovah in my behalf, in behalf of the people, and in behalf of all Judah concerning the words of this book that has been found; for Jehovah’s rage that has been set ablaze against us is great, because our forefathers did not obey the words of this book by observing all that is written concerning us.”

It will ever be the minority view. But only the anti-cultists seek to banish it, so as to keep everyone on the same page of human rulership. For Jehovah’s Witnesses, who unapologetically choose God’s rulership over human rulership, “the wicked” will primarily be those who clearly see both sides and decisively choose human rulership—abysmal track record and all. It will not be those with only a hazy concept of one or both. It will be those who know what they are choosing.

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Building Emotional Health

It was hard not to think of the human immune system at Sunday’s Watchtower. We all have them and if kept strong they are pretty good at warding off all manner of illness. But they are under assault constantly. It is the same with emotional health. It is under assault constantly with pressures described as “strength-sapping” and “emotionally draining.”

Building up emotional health in the congregation will be members who are careful in their speech not to add to someone’s burden but to alleviate it. “Thoughtless speech is like the stabs of a sword, but the tongue of the wise is a healing.” (Prov. 12:18)

Also helping is reflection of the God we serve. “For you became precious in my eyes...and I have loved you....do not be afraid, for I am with you.” (Isaiah 43:4-5) And: “Do not be afraid, for I am with you. Do not be anxious, for I am your God. I will fortify you, yes, I will help you, I will really hold on to you with my right hand of righteousness.  (41:10)

Given the pressures and even atrocities of the day, the ones to be concerned about are those with whom it all runs off like water off a duck's back. One is reminded of Jesus' words that he called upon, not those who do not need a physician, but those who do.

 


The Anti-Cultists are Directly Responsible

The term for a faith-based community of relatively recent origin is “new religious movement.” But if you really dislike that community, you resurrect a word already reviled and apply it to your target—you say it is a “cult.” That way you don’t have to demonstrate that the group is bad. Your label does your work for you.

Time was that if you fell under the spell of a charismatic leader, withdrew from all normal societal contact, and began doing strange things, you just might be part of a cult. Today, the word is expanded to cover those thinking outside of the box that we are not supposed to think outside of.  If the box of popular goals and thinking undeniably led to fulfillment that might not be such a bad thing, but everyone knows that it does not.

Says religion.wikia.com of the term “new religious movement”: “Scholars studying the sociology of religion have almost unanimously adopted this term as a neutral alternative to the word ‘cult.’” How can it not follow that “cult” is therefore not scholarly but more in keeping with those who want to stir up ill will if not hate?

It is akin to yelling “Fire!” in a crowded theater. People may act upon it. They particularly may do so if “cult” is coaxed just a little bit further in the public eye to become “extremist.” Such a thing has happened with regard to Jehovah's Witnesses in Russia under the guidance of “anti-cultists." Many other new religious movements are shaking in their boots that their turn will come.  In that country, Witnesses are officially designated “extremist,” a designation shared only with ISIS.

As the human rights group khpg.org points out, “You can’t claim that people are ‘terrorists’ or ‘extremists’ and then simply knock on their doors to arrest them, though in all cases there is nothing at all to suggest that resistance would have been shown. Instead, there are armed searches, most often by masked men in full military gear, with the suspect hurled to the ground and handcuffed, often in the presence of their distressed and terrified children.” This has become the reality for many Witnesses and it is a direct result of those who expand the definition of “cult” to cover people not covered previously.

Note how this meme plays out in the following event. Note also that it has nothing to do with controversies that have dogged the faith in the West: A mass shooting occurred in Crimea and the shooter’s sole parent, bringing him up by herself, is said to be a Jehovah’s Witness. Let us assume that it is true. This is not a safe assumption, for another Witness was recently denounced by Russian media as having a cache of arms. It turned out that her non-Witness husband had a few rusted and inoperable souvenir grenades from World War II. Nonetheless, we must start somewhere. Let us assume mom was a Witness.

Khpg.org here reports: “Whether or not his mother is, or has ever been a Jehovah’s Witness, there is no proof that Roslyakov had any religious beliefs, or that his mother’s alleged beliefs affected him in any way….the entire ‘story’, as presented, for example, on the Russian state-controlled Vesti.ru, is based solely on value judgements which are presented as though they were facts.

“The Vesti.ru report is entitled ‘The Kerch killer was surrounded by supporters of totalitarian sects’.  It claims that Roslyakov’s mother…’forced her son to live by the rules of the banned organization’.

“It then asserts that people who ‘have pulled themselves away from it’ are sending messages of sympathy to the bereaved families and claiming that ‘all that happened was the result of pseudo-religious upbringing.’

“The supposed ‘expert on religious sects’, Alexander Dvorkin, makes allegations about the Jehovah’s Witnesses’ faith that are seriously questionable, as does the Russian Orthodox priest interviewed. None of the claims are in any way checked or analyzed, nor is the viewer offered anything in the way of an alternative point of view. The Crimean Human Rights Group is surely correct in identifying all of this as hate speech, which can result in crimes being committed against the targets of attack.” 

Note that simply being raised as a Witness is said to account for his crime. He simply snapped amidst an intolerable upbringing. It wouldn’t have happened otherwise. There have never been any other mass shootings. “Oppressive” religion is solely to blame.

He must have snapped substantially, for Jehovah’s Witnesses are one of the few groups on earth whose members categorically reject violence for any reason. Yet they are the ones said to be at fault when a young man does a 180 from his taught values. This ridiculous perception prevails because of “anti-cultists,” whose champion in Russia, Mr. Dvorkin, is soul-mate to anti-cultists here, he even having a French NGO connection.

Some enemies of Witnesses in the West, who hurl the “cult” label liberally, are gleeful over this development, even though, in the case of former Witness anti-cultists, it results in machine guns pointed at the heads of their arrested and shackled former loved ones.  More typically, however, they disapprove of it. Some have denounced it. But their verbiage is directly responsible. Their denunciation is akin to the California arsonist denouncing that the state has burned to the ground. One must not be obtuse. Once you release the hounds of hell, you find that you cannot control just how many they maul.

And what have the Jehovah’s Witnesses done to deserve such an outcome? Do they interpret the Bible differently? Do they publicize the view that this grand experiment of human self-rule will one day end, to be replaced by God’s Kingdom? Surely such a view should be allowed to stand, even if ones adopting it change their life goals accordingly. Not everyone will think that the present world sails proudly upon the high seas, with sharpshooters in the bow ready to blast to smithereens icebergs as they approach. Some will think it more likely that the Titanic will hit one. Must that view be stomped out of existence by bullying anti-cultists?

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Witnessing on the Airplane

I did not take my first commercial flight until I was in my 50's. It was very exciting. Successive flights increasingly became a pain, mostly for things having nothing to do with the plane but for the hassles in boarding. In the old days, you could pull up with 15 minutes to spare, and nobody at all wanted to strip-search you. 

Sometimes, witnessing helps pass the time. I don't always do it  but sometimes I do. Like one flight where I laid the contact card down on the armrest midflight and said to the man traveling next to me: "Everyone has a cause, and this is mine. We don't have to talk about it. We don’t have to talk about anything. On the other hand, there is time to kill, we will never meet again, and if you want to, okay."

It was a while before he said anything, and I began to figure that he would not. However, he presently opened up on the purpose of his trip and on his background. He was a microbiologist at some university in Iowa. He said he liked the power of faith, but of course, he was a scientist. We exchanged some boiler-plate remarks, and somewhere along the line, just so that he would know that he wasn’t talking to some donkey, I mentioned telemeres. He took up the topic but pronounced the word differently. "You mean I've been making a donkey of myself all these years, saying it wrong?" was my response.

It was just idle conversation that ensued, not particularly going anywhere. Then, out of the blue he brings up that his trip has another purpose. He is traveling to get his daughter out of her latest jam. He doesn't know what happened to her. He did his best to bring her up right, but she takes up with one lowlife scoundrel after another and has made a hopeless hash of her life. 

I didn't say: "Too bad she is not a Jehovah's Witness. Then all of her troubles would be over." I mostly just listened and asked a few questions to draw him out. Who doesn't like to be reminded what can happen to kids in the absence of Bible principles and sometimes even with Bible principles? But he didn’t know me from a bag of beans, and yet he turns to me as though I was Father Confessor. It was likely because he had NO spiritual component to his life, and when he at last came across one, the dam burst.

The time flew with the plane and we landed in no time at all. I'll never see him again, most likely. But you never know. Perhaps he will be like the man who accepted a few magazines, but eventually told me he would do so no more because his wife was allergic to newsprint. 'Look, just tell me if you don't like them,' I said to myself. 'What a stupid excuse!' Years later I met them at a convention, both baptized.

Aeroplane-aircraft-airplane-46148

 


Is It Time for Jehovah's Witnesses to Apologize? Part 4

See this series' beginning here.

The Old Testament tells some very strange tales and one of them is told at 2 Samuel. David, the Israelite king, on the ropes because he is facing an armed insurrection from his own son, enters a town where loyalty is not assured. He and his men are received hospitably, but there is one man decidedly not hospitable. The account reads:

“...a man…came out shouting curses as he approached. He was throwing stones at David and at all the servants of King David, as well as at all the people and the mighty men on his right and on his left. Shimei said as he cursed: “Get out, get out, you bloodguilty man! You worthless man!”

“…Then Abishai the son of Zeruiahm said to the king: “Why should this dead dog curse my lord the king? Let me go over, please, and take off his head.” But the king said: “…Let him curse me, for Jehovah has said to him, ‘Curse David!’ …Here my own son, who came from my own body, is seeking my life… Leave him alone so that he may curse me, for Jehovah told him to! …With that David and his men kept going down the road while Shimei was walking alongside the mountain abreast of him, shouting curses and throwing stones and a lot of dust.”  (16:5-19)

Imagine! David is not too hung up on himself, is he? The fellow curses him, throws stones at him, shouting he is bloodguilty and worthless. And David as much as says: ‘Well, maybe he has a point. I mean, if God is letting it happen, who am I to smash in his head?’

The passage is included in the midweek meeting study material for October 15, 2018. That program also incorporated a passage at Matthew chapter 11, in which Jesus said of his detractors that they criticize you no matter what you do, so the best recourse is to go full speed ahead and let 'wisdom be proved righteous by its works.’ Meetings of Jehovah’s Witnesses are essentially Bible studies that one can prepare for, organized around themes suggested by current needs and the pre-determined schedule of Bible reading that members have observed for 100 years—work your way through Revelation, and start in again at Genesis.

Nothing gets in the program without the okay, if not the direct insertion, of Witness governing members, who serve on various supervisory committees. The Matthew verse demonstrates how they respond to public criticism. They like Psalm 38:13 as well, another verse of David, about how he determined to muzzle his mouth as his adversaries kept “muttering all day long” about him. Luke 9:62 is also a favorite. That one records Jesus saying: “No man that has put his hand to a plow and looks at the things behind is well fitted for the Kingdom of God.” They press ever forward. They content themselves with a Newsroom tab on their public website that does not get into specific complaints, much as one would not expect to find a citing from the building inspector on the restaurant menu.

It is a program that October week on how Jesus set the pattern for those who would follow him, not specifically concerned with how to answer criticism, but also not avoiding the topic, particularly in the final half-hour segment. And Shimei’s tirade is right in there, with David conscious of the abuse he is receiving, and acquiescing to receiving it, as though it were discipline of sorts, as though he says “Well, maybe I had it coming,” even as he expresses hope that perhaps “Jehovah will see…and will actually restore me to goodness instead of his malediction this day.” (vs 12)

Do not think that the Witness Governing Body, as they are teaching others by means of the scriptures, do not also teach themselves. ‘If David was subjected to it, I guess we will be too,’ they seem to say. One should not think that they will not reflect on just how they got into this predicament in the first place, as David surely must have, with stones bouncing off his helmet. They will remedy it to the extent they can, but it will not be at the expense of betraying their prime directive of leading through Bible principles, and they have been loath to pull rank on family heads, reporting abuse which is sometimes entirely within a family, usually a step-family as was the case in Montana, and assume their responsibility or prerogative.

Likely they will say of these courtroom battles as they did of Russia banning the entire organization within its borders, that it is an area of “concern,” but not “worry.” They don’t get overly attached to things, even things of their own devising. They put it all on the line routinely as they do their best to advance kingdom interests, not cowering before their enemies. They plow where they plow as they apply their view of the Bible, unconcerned, sometimes unaware of the quicksand that may get them into, confident that, should that happen, God will somehow get them out of it. They do not deliberately court opposition, but they do expect it. The king makes a law and Daniel is thrown into the lion’s den. Another king makes another law and his friends are thrown into the furnace. Still another king makes another law and the entire nation of Jews faces extermination until Esther the queen opens his eyes to the sinister scheme he has been maneuvered into. It happens to their spiritual descendants to this day and the Witness organization expects no less. They are ‘insular,’ separate from the world, and the latter finds no end of reasons to oppose them for it.

They have really stepped in it this time, or at least it has been made to appear that way. It is not like last year, when Russia banned them, declared the Bible they favor illegal, and confiscated their property, doing so for completely separate reasons that never even mentioned child sexual abuse. It is not like Jehovah’s Witnesses of decades past, trying issue before first amendment issue before the U.S. Supreme Court, nobody engaging more frequently other than the government itself, so that Justice Harlan Fiske Stone wrote: “The Jehovah’s Witnesses ought to have an endowment in view of the aid which they give in solving the legal problems of civil liberties.” No. This time it is the unsavory subject of child sexual abuse, and the question that cannot be answered: If they did not go ‘beyond the law,’ why didn’t they?

Is it to be included as among the “wicked things that they will lyingly say against you?” that Jesus speaks of? (Matthew 5:11) Nobody can ever say that the charge is not wicked, on the same level as first-century charges that Christians were cannibals who burned down Rome. Just possibly it takes their breath away, as it is a legitimate bad that they never saw coming. With Shimei’s stones knocking on their helmet, just possibly the drop to their knees like Hezekiah besieged by an enraged enemy. Just possibly they look to outsiders like deer caught in the headlights while they are doing so. Just possibly they are like Adrian Monk, a good and upright man who nonetheless finds himself both outside of his normal element and in a pickle because he cannot choose which chair in which to sit until Natalie gently pushes him down on whatever one he hovers over at the moment.

Drive this sucker to the Supreme Court, if need be. If they decide to hear it, it will be case number 50-something that Witnesses have tried before that body, more than any other group besides the government itself. Let it be resolved once and for all when the time is right. Many person are being sued over child sexual abuse these days, and it is generally the same scenario. Though groups as the Boy Scouts manifestly benefit children in ways not readily duplicated, their deep pockets permit a pummeling such as cannot be visited on unorganized society, though it be every bit as accommodating to child sexual abuse, only minus the benefits. It will be so with groups that instill religious values into youth, as well.

Don’t be put off by the sordid backdrop. The world wallows in sordidness these days and is accustomed to everyone being accused of everything. The Week Magazine reports (09/03/2018) that referrals of child abuse online images have increased seven-fold over five years. On average, one child in every primary school classroom has received nude or semi-nude pictures from an adult. They respond not always well: “A girl from my primary [was] sending half-naked pictures because it’s what everyone does,” said one. Don’t let this be painted as a Witness pandemic or even a pandemic of any religion. What! It is only where there are deep pockets that child sexual abuse occurs? It is only taxpayer-funded schools, scouting organizations, or faith groups that suffer child sexual abuse? The origins don’t line up. Christianity, where it remains true to its roots, is an offshoot of Judaism, where pedophilia was exceedingly uncommon in Bible times A verse from the Sibylline oracles, a collection of oracular utterances written in Greek hexameters ascribed to the [prophetesses] Sibyls, claims that only the Jews were free from this impurity. They were “mindful of holy wedlock, and they do not engage in impious intercourse with male children, as do Phoenicians, Egyptians and Romans, spacious Greece and many nations of other, Persians and Galatians and all Asia, transgressing the holy law of immortal God, which they transgressed.” 

And where does the mainstream educated world find its underpinnings? Is it not the world of ancient Greece, the cradle of democracy? It is also the cradle of pedophilia, a societally accepted practice no where condemned. The only condemnation to be found is from Christians who withdrew and became insular as regards that world, and it is found in 1 Corinthians 6:9: “Do not be deceived; neither fornicators nor idolaters nor adulterers nor boy prostitutes nor sodomites nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor robbers will inherit the kingdom of God.” (NABRE) A footnote to the New American Bible – Revised Edition on ‘boy prostitutes’ and ‘sodomites’ reads: “The Greek word translated as boy prostitutes may refer to catamites, i.e., boys or young men who were kept for purposes of prostitution, a practice not uncommon in the Greco-Roman world. In Greek mythology this was the function of Ganymede, the “cupbearer of the gods,” whose Latin name was Catamitus. The term translated sodomites refers to adult males who indulged in homosexual practices with such boys.” They even had a god for it! 

Montana law being what it appears to be, it is hard to imagine this could not be appealed successfully. The Montana court’s greatest mistake may have been the excessive punitive damages, clearing indicating they felt the Witness organization was trying to violate law. If it can be shown that they made every conscientious effort to follow law, everything might reverse. Whether they are insular or not should not factor in. Separateness from the overall world is not yet a crime. It may factor into public opinion, but not yet that of law.

What would be the repercussions in the event of a higher court reversal? Not necessarily positive for Jehovah’s Witnesses, who always sought, perhaps to a fault, not to ‘sully God’s name.’ It’s a little late to worry about that now. Or maybe it is not. A higher court reversal of the Montana verdict may cause the average person who learns of it to say: “It’s unbelievable! The Court says it’s okay for Jehovah’s Witnesses to abuse children!” But if there was a sincere expression of regret in the interim, for children truly have been harmed, they might say, “Oh. I understand. They did bollox things but now I see how it happened.”

People, by and large, are fair, even when they don’t especially care for Witnesses. They don’t buy for a minute that Jehovah’s Witnesses, Latter Day Saints, Boy Scouts, and taxpayer-backed institutions are the only settings in which child sexual abuse occurs. They understand that these parties have deep pockets, and there is no sense in going after anyone who does not. Yes. A higher court victory giving opportunity to ‘come clean’ as to how the whole mess began may well clean up that Name Witnesses are so concerned about.

Let it be framed as it is. An attack on separate religion, in which child abuse matters are employed as a righteous smokescreen. It is not merely Jehovah’s Witnesses under the gun. It is religion in general and the more determined it is to resist mainstream thinking the more of a target it becomes. Prejudice against the Jehovah’s Witness faith runs deeper than most, and it is a very real child abuse tragedy that enables it to be disguised as justifiable outrage. But the attack on religious freedom ought be the subject of focus.


Is It Time for Jehovah's Witnesses to Apologize? Part 3

(To work one's way through the entire thread, start here.)

A former elder quits his faith and posts his reason here. It is the JW child abuse policy. Yes, he shines as a pillar of conscience. Point taken. Got it.

He chose to leave and there were “many reasons for his decision,” which he does not go into. Abuse policy is not his only reason, though at first glance it might appear that way. He could have reported any abuse allegations to police as he became aware of them. True, he would have to step down as an elder, because one holding office in anything must carry out the policies of those making them. But it is all volunteer service anyway. He could have taken his place as a regular congregation member and not thrown everything away with regard to his belief system.

Instead, it appears that he did throw it all away in order to become a warrior for a cause. He has thrown in his lot with the ones crusading against this one grievous wrong, who appear, for the moment, to be enjoying greater success in the war. Or are they? They are undeniably good at outing and punishing perpetrators of child sexual abuse, but are they proving any good at stemming the evil itself? Thirty-plus years of all-out war has produced little result; you can still throw a stone in any direction and hit five molesters. In contrast, there is good reason to believe that the Witness organization overall has significant success in prevention. 

What of the reasons that he became a Witness in the first place—the clear answer as to why God allows suffering, the knowledge of what happens to people when they die, and even the reason that they die? He has forgotten all about it. What of the Bible principles that have succeeded in producing one group, and practically only one group, that has not been molded by changing tides of morality, sexual and otherwise? Not worth the bother, his course suggests. What of the effort to educate ones the world over in knowledge of God’s purposes and the one true hope that conditions will not always be as they are now? It no longer interests him. What of the work to make known God’s name known and defend it against those who would malign it? None of it seems to be a concern any longer. If he remembers God at all, he will address him as ‘The LORD,’ since the rule elsewhere is to bury God’s name.

He throws it all away to become a foot soldier in a cause. The cause is certainly not nothing, but neither is it everything. Every notion he once had about God taking a separate people for his name appears to have vanished. Christianity should not be separate from the world, in his apparent revised eyes. It should jump in and help fix it, even if most of the tools it offers will be scorned. If the world scorns them, perhaps it has a point, he seems to suggest. His new course says it loud and clear: Elders should put aside concerns of safeguarding the congregation, and should become agents of the state, so as to do their part in safeguarding the whole world.

He has bought completely into his new role. It is not enough for him that elders, at present, leave it to parents and victims as a personal matter whether they will seek help from outside counselors. He is upset that they do not encourage it. Seemingly he would hold them accountable even if they did encourage it, which they do at present with regard to authorities, and the parents/victims yet declined. They did not encourage it enough, he would maintain. Too, he is concerned that an offender might go door to door as a Witness in search of new victims. Well, nothing is impossible, but it seems an extraordinarily difficult way to go about it. The house to house ministry is a challenge even when done for the right reasons. Privately, some Witnesses grumble about how difficult it is to find people home today, at least at the most customary times to call. How many of them are going to be unsupervised children? How many of those children are going to be trusting of strangers? It’s ridiculous, but the former elder has swallowed it all. Why not simply hang out where children are? Volunteer at a children’s camp. Coach youth sports. Drive a school bus.

He could have just relinquished his office and reported whatever allegations that he became aware of. Instead, he has flushed everything away to focus on the popular crusade. If he remains religious, he will probably lean right. If he has gone atheist, he will probably lean left. They mostly do. Nor should it be a surprise. If you go atheist, you put your full trust in human self-rule. Obviously, nations have to band together for this to be successful, so any populist movement is counterproductive. The question reverts right back to that of 1919, when the Bible Students chose God’s kingdom as the true hope for all mankind, and their opponents, throwing in their lot with human efforts, chose the League of Nations.

All of this said, the former elder prefaces his diatribe by his having seen “the extent that the organization would go to in order to defend their position.” It is a point that merits addressing.

Those brothers most eager to not air dirty laundry in an attempt not to sully God’s name appear to have succeeded in sullying it, albeit unintentionally, more than if the authorities were called the instant any congregation member so much as hiccupped. The very reason there is an expression ‘skeletons in the closet’ is the universal instinct to keep them there, and that universal tendency is exacerbated in direct proportion to consciousness of reputation. Few are more conscious of reputation than the Witness organization, even as though drawing support from a 1 Corinthians 6:7 mission statement.

It is not hard to understand how this can happen, yielding to the instinct to not air dirty laundry. But it is not useful here, and any hint that one is concerned with reputation as more than an insignificant footnote will incur the wrath of those focused on one and one thing only. They will say ‘If you really do abhor child sexual abuse why do you even think for a moment about reputation?’ It is a very difficult road to traverse.

Everyone except those in Bethel watches the television show Bull today, and there they learn that playing to the jury on the jury’s own terms is critical. Does the Watchtower attorney in Montana do that? Or does he give evidence of being ‘insular,’ quoting Bible verse a couple of times when it is not necessary to do so, when a more contemporary argument might have better resounded? He is a fine brother, I am sure, with a monumental job, but I suspect the verses hurt more than help with a jury composed of persons who simply do not hold scripture in the same esteem as was once the case. They might even reckon it an attempt to schmaltz them and pull the wool over their eyes. Might his explanation fall flat that the ‘regular Montana folk’ who are Witnesses call ‘because they love you,’ and since ‘many of you are Bible readers,’ they will recognize that Jesus followed just that course? How many people are regular Bible readers these days? He misses completely the political nuances of the expression ‘fake news’ that few of them will miss, and he spins a folksy story of the caught fish that gets bigger with each telling to suggest, fair enough but it plays a little tone deaf, as though suggesting boasting as a motive, that abuse victims might exaggerate with the passage of time. He covers all the right points but with a backdrop that will suggest to some that he just doesn’t ‘get it’ as regards the pain of those who have suffered abuse. Courthouse proceedings are not therapy sessions and one can only be so therapeutic with plaintiffs seeking millions, thereby clearly indicating their chosen means of comfort. But more putting oneself into their shoes can hardly be a bad thing. 

He commits these lapses, if lapses they be, because he comes from a faith described as insular. ‘Insularity’ is not a crime (yet) but it does here present obstacles to heart to heart communication. His talk would play well indeed to persons on the same page as he, such as he might find in a Kingdom Hall, but to a public conditioned by events to be skeptical as to whether Jehovah’s Witnesses truly do ‘abhor child abuse,’ as they say they do, it seems to show stress cracks.

The ones who appear to be mainly interested in reputation have been caught in their own righteous trap and it is being played out in plain sight before all the world. The only thing that takes away from their detractors’ efforts to make maximum hay out of this debacle is that there are so many atrocities to compete for attention today, many of which are far worse, that it is a challenge to keep the spotlight focused on where they want it. 

Rather than try to maintain the illusion that ungodly deeds could never have occurred among true Christians, these Witnesses might have let the chips fall wherever they might and trust that a relative scarcity of abuse will be enough in a world where one out of every five children suffers molestation before age 18. Instead, their insularity made them miss the determination and progress of outside authorities to stamp out child sexual abuse, slow to acknowledge the cause when they did hear of it, and thus they are readily framed by their detractors to make it seem that they oppose it.

It could have been me. I am not better than these ones. I, too, might have become distressed when the media did not seem to notice the elephant in the room. Will the greater world enjoy success when it embraces every permutation of sexual interaction as fine and good, except for one that will not be tolerated? The world today nurtures the pedophilia with one hand that it seeks to eliminate with the other, and even the New York Times swoons over a child model in an 11/22/2017 article. “His eye makeup is better than yours,” it says, and gushes that he has 330,000 Instagram followers. How many of them are pedophiles? Why, the Times does not think of going there. And what of this story, showing that there are clear limits in fighting child sexual abuse. It is not so bad if it is customary where you come from, a Finnish court finds.

Meanwhile, the organization that teaches family values from the Bible, that specifically warns about child sexual abuse, that doesn’t settle for merely punishing the wrong, but significantly prevents it as compared to the overall world—what of that organization? That is the organization on the hot seat, tried by those dubious of it and a few that outright despise it. However ill it plays today, one can understand a reluctance to broadcast shortfalls believed to be comparatively scarce—a lot of them, to be sure, but proportionately much less than in the greater world. But that reluctance serves nobody well in this instance.

Are Jehovah’s Witnesses insular? Try these words of Jesus on for insularity: “If the world hates you, you know that it has hated me before it has hated you. 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, but I have chosen you out of the world, on this account the world hates you.” (John 15: 18-19)Christianity as defined in the Bible is insular. It is not part of the world. It is separate from the world, and from there it tries to extend a helping hand to individuals therein. To the extent contemporary variations of it are not insular, it is due to compromise over time so as to conform to whatever might be disapproved by overall society, something Jehovah’s Witnesses do not do. One will have to ban the Bible itself to forestall insularity and there are plenty in an irreligious age who would like to do just that. No longer is it the legal climate of decades ago, when the Watchtower lawyer could cite his Bible and the judge would follow along, nodding thoughtfully. Even Hayden Covington, a Witness attorney of the 1940’s, renowned for his ability to sass Supreme Court Justices and get away with it, would be hard pressed today.

The Australian government has just issued an apology in the wake of a Royal Commission looking into child sexual abuse, an investigation that spanned several years. That apology is lauded as the example for everyone to follow, but it is worth noting that the victims did not accept it. Prior to that victims of child sexual abuse from the Boy Scouts did not accept an apology from that organization. Now, the Boy Scouts take you camping and teach you how to tie knots. Jehovah's Witnesses take you out of your normal routines and wake you when you are sleeping in late. Will they be forgiven when the Australian government and the Boy Scouts were not.

Many of victims of child sexual abuse will never accept any apology. What they will only accept is for their abuse never to have happened—something that surely speaks well as regards prevention being the prime focus.

Detractors are chagrined that Jehovah’s Witnesses are not specifically mentioned in the apology, but it may be because for most institutions investigated, the leaders were the perpetrators. With Jehovah’s Witnesses that was rarely the case. Their ‘wrong’ was to investigate first, and in so doing, fail to coordinate with outside authorities. Seeming frustrated, one Witness opponent tweets: 

‘So sick of Watchtower apologists trying to say that it's OK to protect pedophiles & for child sexual abuse to go unchecked & unpunished.  I wonder if now they will use the same defenses to support the Catholic Church & its mishandling of child sexual abuse?’

I answered that one: ‘They have made their own bed & must lie in it. Unlike JWs, where leaders were seldom the perpetrators, theirs exclusively were. Heaven help us if the members are ever looked at, as with JWs. Still, to the extent faith in God is destroyed, it is a tragedy even greater than that which triggers it.’

End of Part 3. Part 4 to begin here.

 


Traversing the Tug Hill Plateau

From Boonville New York, we pressed on toward Lowville, through the Tug Hill Plateau. I told the man at the co-op that I had never before been in Lowville, saying it with a long ‘o’ immediately before hearing the radio announcer say it with a short ‘o.’ T

hey never seem to get around to changing the signs in the small towns. With patience you can still find Texaco signs and Esso signs. Here is the iconic Maytag repairman sign. The poor fellow is bored out of his mind because the machines are so reliable that he has nothing to do. Unfortunately, he is breaking his back these days because the company was subsequently sold and the current products are no different than anyone else's.

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Does the Tug Hill plateau area resemble a plateau because I already know the name, or does it actually resemble a plateau? It is a hardscrabble place that looks mighty wind-beaten. Many homes exposed to the elements are the worse for wear. The name Tug Hill pops up from time to time whenever local weatherman points out that, once again, the area has been buried in snow, and aren't you glad you don’t live there. The westerly wintery winds traverse the lake lengthwise and those living on the plateau at the eastern end haven’t a snowball's chance in tug hell. 

Where does that name come from anyhow – Tug Hill? It is a strange one, to say the least. Somehow it is not surprising to encounter more than the usual number of windmills on the roads from Lowville to Pulaski. They are generating power, and as such, they are good, I guess, but they sure do evoke an image from War of the Worlds. The land is not good for farming and it is not even a true plateau. It is a cuesta, composed of sedimentary rock that tips up on one edge, rising from 350 feet on the west to 2000 feet on the east. Winter snowfalls have been described as among “the most intense storms in the world,” per a Syracuse.com source. 

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There is a State Park just south of Lowville, the Whetstone Gulf State Park. I had never heard of this one, and although it was closed for the season, we drove the road just to see what we had missed. There is a creek that rounds a bend and a beach for swimming is on its outer bank. And there are a few hiking trails, the kiosk sign informing that no one is to start on them after 3PM. This is a warning I have not seen elsewhere, and it was as though to say that the untamed Tug Hill might easily swallow one alive and it would be far too dangerous to send in a rescue party after dusk.

As darkness fell, we lost interest in exploring. We had to get back to Rochester that evening to pick up the dog from my daughter’s friends who were watching it. We grabbed a meal at a fajita restaurant while passing through Oswego, dining with the college kids, and when we arrived home, the dogsitters told us the mutt had grabbed half a banana bread perched high on the counter, but not high enough, and had devoured it, tin foil and all.

 

 


A Thirty-Three Tweet Review of Stephen King's On Writing

I don’t do horror, so I have read little @StephenKing, but he knows how to write as I would like to. Listening to ‘On Writing.’ Love the encouragement given him by his hardscrabble Mom. Did she live to enjoy fruits of his success? Alas, at this early stage it seems she did not.

The reason I don’t do horror is that for the longest time I worked alone at night in huge and creaky office/warehouse complexes. You wouldn’t do horror either after one night working there.

Chastened by his grade-school teacher for ‘writing trash,’ @StephenKing (much) later came to reflect that there has probably never been a writer/painter/sculptor/inventor who was not, at one time or another, charged with wasting his ‘God-given talent.’

Mr. Gould at the paper, King’s first writing job, arranged by the school to keep him out of written mischief, said he removed only the few bad parts of @StephenKing’s second newspaper article, and said overall, its pretty good. 'I know', Stephen said about both, and he was forever grateful for the instruction and encouragement.

Who would have thought? One of the most compact accounts of self-denial, late recognition & recovery from substance abuse & cutting through the facades of those in the grip of it, is found in @StephenKing's On Writing

I wonder if @StephenKing ever met Dodie, the mercilessly tormented frumpy schoolgirl who came back from college looking sharp, and was the inspiration for Carrie? Read on.

Oh. She died. The townspeople said ‘post-partum depression’. @StephenKing thought ‘high school hangover’ might have also had something to do with it. He did not like his fictional Carrie or her classmates. But he felt sorry for them all. He had once been one of them.

Now I reach the nitty-gritty of @StephenKing’s On Writing. Hmm. I have long imagined myself a serviceable writer, though sloppy when in haste, but I might be shooting myself in the foot in certain areas. Will I identify them?

I am not reading On Writing, but rather listening on CD. Absorbing involved points is not so easy as merely rereading a sentence or paragraph.

Commas trip me up and are early consequences of editing, usually in favor of taking them out. (except for the Oxford comma) Clear explanation from @StephenKing on why to remove: ‘I want it said in one breath.’

He carries around two books (always unabridged) at all times. @StephenKing has a print book to read during moments of waiting, and a CD book for driving. Not necessarily good books. Crap will do. The latter teach one what to avoid.

John Grisholm’s books are among my favorites, I have read almost all of them, and did not know that the critics sniffed at them. I like @StephenKing‘s take on the ‘lawyers in distress’ genre: Do the same with what you know. Scout out the enemy territory where you have admittance. Bring back a report.

[At this point, there is an aside with other Twitter acquaintances: Hey! This means @EnglishElective could write a ‘teachers in distress’ book. Just like #JohnGrisholm! Yes, honest & noble teachers besieged by evil teachers under the sinister mind-control of Admiral Ass. #UpTheDownStaircase

Admiral Ass was the dean of the high school, a bully who after signing his name to correspondence, appended ‘Adm Asst,’ for Administrative Assistant. I especially remember the aloof and air-headed principal of the novel, who in communications, never used an adjective uncoupled with another adjective meaning exactly the same thing. A further aside begins at this point about how I remember to this day how to spell school principal vs principle: the former is your ‘pal.’]

Uh oh. If you are a writer, get used to it that people will think you rude, @StephenKing says. Too much reading and writing serves to make one inattentive to the outer world. (Better hide this tweet so that my wife does not see it.) His is an easy read because he is not pretentious. Neither is he syrupy, spouting such goo as: ‘There is no such thing as a bad writer.’ There are plenty of them, he says.

You smile as @StephenKing relates his early drafts of Misery even as you say to yourself: ‘You sick bastard.’ But then he mentions two more tales, Insomnia and Deloris Clayborne, both of which movies I saw & liked, and now I should maybe read the books.

An author told @kingsthings how sometimes his characters surprised him. Larry was impressed & asked each successive author: ‘Do your characters ever write themselves?’ He kept doing so even after one hard-boiled author said: ‘Of course not! What a stupid question! They’re not real people. They do what I tell them to. It was not @StephenKing , though. He would have agreed with the first author. Characters do write themselves.

Ayn Rand is the example @StephenKing uses for success due to great storytelling despite wooden characters. Correct, but I would have used Isaac Asimov. Another great storyteller. If only he could have drawn people convincingly.

Yes! ‘Don’t tell them when you can show them,’ @StephenKing says, through dialogue. I add, though I’m sure he will get to it, ‘don’t tell the moral when you can demonstrate it via story.’

After @StephenKing’s character tear-gassed the vicious dog in the eyes & kicked it to death, he was deluged with protest letters. He pointed out that the dog was fictional, that the character was fictional, and that he himself is kind to dogs. He did suggest the action, though, didn’t he?

Every week, @StephenKing says, he gets letters from those who accuse him of racism, homophobia, psychopathy, or just plain being foul-mouthed. Uh oh. Didn’t I call him a ‘sick bastard’ a while back?

If you notice a quirk, @StephenKing says, ‘it does you no good unless you can work it into a character. Say you notice that someone picks his nose when he thinks nobody is looking....’ HEY! WHAT THE HELL IS THAT SICK BASTARD DOING PEERING IN MY WINDOW?!!!

Why am I exploring @StephenKing #OnWriting when my oldest follower and followee himself specializes in the craft? @Underdogsbiteup. We followed each other back when Mr. Twitter was yet in diapers.

You’ll be in stitches as @StephenKing narrates the horrendously trite writing he wants you to avoid. It is ‘pretty as a picture’ And what of the yo-yo who was so unpleasant that nobody could stomach him, thus he never heard dialogue, and to his credit, avoided writing it?

After @StephenKing sneaks yet another sideways glance at his wife to see if she appreciates his draft, which is allowable because he knows she has not noticed, she snaps, ‘Keep your eyes on the road! You’ll kill us both! Stop being so g*****n needy!’

The rejection form letters piled up for teenaged @StephenKing, but then one included the scribbling: ‘Not bad, but puffy. You need to work on length. Formula: ‘2nd draft = 1rst draft minus 10%.’ He took it to heart began to condense on the second draft, rather than add as he had been doing.

When you do research, don’t show off, says @StephenKing. Keep it in the background. Hmm. Like Victor Hugo? An entire chapter of Hunchback of Notre Dame is devoted to the infrastructure of 13th century Paris. It sure wouldn’t wash today.

Did @StephenKing do it for the money? He says no, not one word. He did it for self-expression, the buzz, the pure joy of it. It is like what a fellow Jehovah’s Witness, who knew the person, said about Prince, that he simply had to have his creative outlet. “Maybe he needed it to survive,” she told the papers.

So far as I know, the most extensive account of Prince’s JW life as related in media sources is in my own ebook: Tom Irregardless and Me, where it comprises the entire first chapter.

Whoa! @StephenKing just got hit by a van. (18 years ago) He didn’t see that one coming. Nor did I. On his desk, unfinished, is On Writing. He had better recover, because I want to finish it. The EMT told him at the scene that he would live, but after all was done told him over the phone, ‘I didn’t think you had a chance.’

@Stephen King atypically names the driver who hit him. He names him several times. As though deferring to ying and yang, he also names the doctor who pieced him together, a doctor or great skill, whom he calls ‘formidable.’ I forget the descriptive words King used, but he described his smashed leg somewhat akin to beans in a beanbag. At the accident scene, he was initially concerned to find his lap 90 degrees askew from normal.

Ah. Good. His wife fluffs up a pillow for him and he writes again. He is ‘monogamous by nature,’ he says, and he must be closing in on his 50th anniversary. Regularly he inserts nice words about her into his narrative.

A slightly syrupy ending for On Writing, I thought, but I would have to read it to be sure. Recorded Books saw fit to fade in the music at book’s end, and that dopey decision might have skewed my judgement. If the lines truly are syrupy it will be @stephenking’s first, so they are probably not

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One Thing We Know About Jesus: He Does Not Go Through Channels

 

It took the religious leaders of Jesus' day no time at all to hate his guts and to put out schemes to kill him. John chapter 11 is very frank as to why. Starting with vs 47:

So the chief priests and the Pharisees gathered the Sanhedrin together and said: “What are we to do, for this man performs many signs? If we let him go on this way, they will all put faith in him, and the Romans will come and take away both our place and our nation.” [Protecting their turf is what is was all about with these guys.]

But one of them, Caiaphas, who was high priest that year, said to them: “You do not know anything at all, and you have not reasoned that it is to your benefit for one man to let one man die in behalf of the people rather than for the whole nation to be destroyed.” [He's a contemptuous character, isn't he?] 

He did not say this, however, of his own originality, but because he was high priest that year, he prophesied that Jesus was to die for the nation, and not only for the nation but also to gather together into one the children of God who were scattered about. [And he's a schemer.]

So from that day on they conspired to kill him.

Imagine! Issuing his own prophesy that Jesus will "die for the nation and gather the children of God, yada yada yada," so that when he killed him, he could put a happy face on it.

During that time, the high priest was not installed in the usual way that the Torah says it should be done. It was a political appointment from the governing authorities. He was serving as high priest "that year." You are not supposed to do it that way because you forget all about God and instead focus on covering your rear end. That is why you don't want a 'house church,' under government control.

For (prime) example, there is the house church in Russia, the Orthodox Church, snuggling up to national leadership and that leadership in return granting it exclusive status. And isn't the result more or less the same as it was back then: the ones closely reading, studying, and applying God's word of instruction and counsel, find themselves, from an organizational point of view, killed?

I like how one of those leaders broke ranks, having come to Jesus previously by night, as covered in John chapter 3:

There was a man of the Pharisees named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews. This one came to him in the night and said to him: “Rabbi, we know that you have come from God as a teacher, for no one can perform these signs that you perform unless God is with him.”

He's not exactly of the same heart with his buddies, is he, and he sticks up for Jesus later on (to no avail).

In response Jesus said to him: “Most truly I say to you, unless anyone is born again, he cannot see the Kingdom of God.” Nicodemus said to him: “How can a man be born when he is old? He cannot enter into the womb of his mother a second time and be born, can he?” Jesus answered: “Most truly I say to you, unless anyone is born from water and spirit, he cannot enter into the Kingdom of God. What has been born from the flesh is flesh, and what has been born from the spirit is spirit. Do not be amazed because I told you: You people must be born again. The wind blows where it wants to, and you hear the sound of it, but you do not know where it comes from and where it is going. So it is with everyone who has been born from the spirit.”

Now you know, you just know, that Caiaphas and the boys would have snapped: "What is it with these riddles? I don't have time for this nonsense!" But Nicodemus said: “How can these things be?” and he even suffers through a little reproof from Jesus as the latter replies:

“Are you a teacher of Israel and yet do not know these things? Most truly I say to you, what we know we speak, and what we have seen we bear witness to, but you do not receive the witness we give. If I have told you earthly things and you still do not believe, how will you believe if I tell you heavenly things? Moreover, no man has ascended into heaven but the one who descended from heaven, the Son of man. And just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so the Son of man must be lifted up, so that everyone believing in him may have everlasting life.

He is speaking awfully plain now (for him) and he goes on to reveal to the unpretentious ruler the most compact, though complete, statement yet of just how God adapts his purpose to the present and future, a purpose he revealed long ago, when he says:

For God loved the world so much that he gave his only-begotten Son, so that everyone exercising faith in him might not be destroyed but have everlasting life. (vs 16)

It is too cool. He doesn't go 'through channels' because if he did, he would have run this by Caiaphas first (who would have told him to zip it). He never goes though channels. Always he goes over the heads of the pompous ones and speaks straight to the ordinary ones. And this next bit is certainly true (skipping only a verse or two):

Now this is the basis for judgment: that the light has come into the world, but men have loved the darkness rather than the light, for their works were wicked.

And what about this beaut that follows? 

For whoever practices vile things hates the light and does not come to the light, so that his works may not be reproved.

Nobody wants to be reproved and a fine way to reach that end is to shut down any channel that might do it.

Nicodemus doesn't fare well (John 7:51) when he tries to defend Jesus before his co-rulers: “Our Law does not judge a man unless it first hears from him and learns what he is doing, does it?” he says.

But they tell him: “You are not also out of Galilee, are you?"

Yep. Rural, backwards Galilee, home of the bumpkins, far from the sophisticated city that they hail from. Galilee, the armpit of the world, and Jesus probably smells like one, too, even if he does raise some lowlife people from the dead every now and again.

 

 

 


Jesus Dragged His Feet for Two Days

Martha sent for Jesus. She knew where he was. He dragged his feet for two days before coming (John 11:6) and her brother Lazurus died.

Martha knew it was Jesus‘ ‘fault‘. She said ‘Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.’

Wouldn’t a more ordinary Martha have said ‘What in God's name took you so long?!’

Instead, she said: “Yet even now I know that whatever you ask God for, God will give you.”

John 11 is the go-to place if you are trying to explain the condition of the dead and the resurrection. I like that you can read a long passage and discuss it as you go; you don’t have to cherrypick here and there. It is always better if you don't have to hop around.

I learn something more each time I read the chapter, and I never noticed this little item about both Martha’s temperament and faith before.