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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 https://www.amazon.com/dp/B0CC6DYJRD?tag=namespacebran320-20&linkCode=ogi

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

The Question that Blew up in My Face: Part 1

Q: How much credit do PIMO Jehovah’s Witnesses owe to Zoom for freeing them from attending boring meetings at the Kingdom Hall?

Probably quite a bit, though simply fading would accomplish the same goal, minus the certain element of hypocrisy. Fading works fine for those who wish to leave. As long as one doesn’t go publicly reviling, robbing banks, or killing people, one is fine.

A consistent blackened screen without any participation always suggests to me PIMO as a possibility, save for obvious cases of infirmity, distance, hardship, etc. Nor is anyone fooled in the long run. Witnesses bond so readily with their fellow believers, even from around the world, because 2/3 of what they have in common is their spirituality/love of God. Begin to indicate that 2/3 is not very important to you, and in time relationships, even friendships, will shift.

I mean, I don’t think those meetings are boring at all, but if I did, I not only wouldn’t go but I also wouldn’t use Zoom in an attempt to deceive others into thinking I was.

***

I got into some trouble with this post on FB. Several who use Zoom a lot were indignant, thinking I was calling them luke-warm Christians or worse. One, who has always been a pal, proceeded to tell me off on no uncertain terms. It’s my own fault, as so many things are. Had I made clear from the beginning that the opening question was not mine, it would not have happened. I told this brother that 

“I wasn’t speaking at all about you or any of the situations you mention. I should have stated—and would have were I to do it again—that the Question about ‘boring meetings’ is not mine, but was taken off a social media site (Quora) that pitches out questions for anyone to answer. I decided to answer it, and so the next three paragraphs are mine, but not the question itself. It may be the question was not written by a current Witness at all, but a former one. There are some in that population that openly boast of being PIMO, with the eventual ‘goal’ of being POMO (physically out/mentally out). Many of the friends have never even heard of that terminology, but it is sort of a modern-day ‘Demas has forsaken me because he loved the present system of things.’ It is among the reason that our numbers have been stuck around 8 million for many years now, barely growing at all. I wasn’t in any way speaking of ones like you.”

upon which, he made a graceful reply and all is well again.

On the one hand, I was heartened that so many black screens chewed me out, taking umbrage that I should think them PIMO. On the other hand, I was disheartened that so many had never even heard of the term—not the term itself, really, but the phenomenon. Alas, it does kind of smack (in the case of those who are shepherds) of not knowing the appearance of the flock.

***Then there was one wiseacre who suggested our meetings would not be boring if we had a little more of this:

https://youtu.be/xhyi3H7beEA

It’s not bad. And, say—Isn’t that Howard Hoodwinkel 8 rows back, 4th from the left? 

I hope the brothers don’t harrumph too much over it. It’s not like they could endorse it, but it is possible to say, ‘You know, there’s a place to learn more about this Jehovah.’ What to one person is not being swept along by the fads and vagaries of men is to another just being a bunch of fuddy-duddies.

Okay, okay, I walk that praise back in view of the following comment from someone who “attended 2 mega churches for several years, this type of music is nice to listen to but being in that concert type environment week after week gets old. Knowing what goes on behind the music also makes it out as just a show. Followed up by a regurgitated topical teaching that may use a scripture. And I found most people who go to mega churches are biblically illiterate. Even a pastor once said they were there to entertain people.”

This is like when Mike.e used to drive me bonkers week after week with his attack on the organizational structure of Jehovah’s Witnesses. I responded with some biblical things that they didn’t seem to know about and he replied as above, ‘You must understand that many Christians are biblically illiterate.” “Well, whose fault is that?” I replied. “We manage to keep our people familiar with the menu.”

Then someone told the anecdote where a teacher was asked how he knew a student was looking at his phone when they were being so stealth about it. He said: no one smiles at their crotch. 

It is not an answer that would work today because they have discovered a few genders in recent years where people did just that. 

Another brother told of riding around with teens in the backseat and he wasn’t sure their conversation, to put it mildly, was firmly in line with the program. But they had volunteered to help on a move, he didn’t want to lose his free labor, so he did nothing but say how he appreciated their help. 

This reminded me of Al Kapp, the cartoonist, who stuck to traditional ‘follow the flag’ values. He didn’t think much of his generation’s young people protesting, and lampooned them with the group, S.W.I.N.E. (Students Wildly Indignant about Nearly Everything)  He would appear on campus and tell them off. One of the protesting youths asked the pugnacious fellow whether he thought young people were better than older ones at anything. ‘Yes, they’re better at carrying luggage,’ he replied.

 

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My Meeting Notes, Week of 2/18/24–Psalms 8-10, Acts 6

“When I see your heavens, the works of your fingers, The moon and the stars that you have prepared, What is mortal man that you keep him in mind, And a son of man that you take care of him? You made him a little lower than godlike ones, And you crowned him with glory and splendor. You gave him dominion over the works of your hands; You have put everything under his feet:” (Psalm 8:3-6)

It is a good, appreciative, attitude for life, much better than ‘We pulled ourselves up from our own bootstraps!’ evolution.

Metaphorically, you can probably use it even if you do believe in evolution. After all, it is only ‘origin of life’ [happenstance or created?] at which one must absolutely draw the line. Should developing life incorporate elements of evolution, we can all live with that. Let scientists be scientists and Bible students be Bible students.

The psalmist’s attitude is harder to pull off if you are undergoing Job-like trials. Then again, such an attitude might better enable one to endure them while they last.

 

***When the nations get too big for their pants, which they are wont to do, the psalmist says,

“Rise up, O Jehovah! Do not let mortal man prevail. May the nations be judged in your presence. Strike them with fear, O Jehovah, Let the nations know that they are only mortal men.” (9:19-

 

***His eyes are watching for an unfortunate victim. He waits in his hiding place like a lion in its lair. He waits to seize the helpless one. . . . The victim is crushed and brought down.” (Psalm 10:8-10)

I don’t know anyone like this. Even of the mechanic who billed me for a new carburetor on my Tesla I didn’t go that far.

The whole psalm is about how the wicked one shakes you like a dog with a rat. This may be why Rosie said when she first read the psalms as a young girl, “Man, this guy sure whines a lot!” 

Could you apply it to machinations of humans, be they political parties, governments, or powers transcending governments who push schemes, sometimes will full knowledge they are making you trouble, doing so for their idea of the ‘greater good.’ That scenario fits the tone of the psalm. It’s not for nothing that the Bible likens governments to ‘the heavens.’ They drench you one moment, scorch you the next, freeze you after that, and there’s not a thing you can do about it.

Verses like #4 suggest it’s the atheists up to no good: “In his haughtiness, the wicked man makes no investigation; All his thoughts are: “There is no God.’” But other verses are to the effect that they acknowledge God but count him as a non-factor: “He says in his heart: “God has forgotten. He has turned away his face. He never notices.” (vs 11)

Besides, here’s a commentator (in connection with ‘the senseless one who says in his heart ‘there is no Jehovah’) who says there were no atheists back then, at least not enough to single out as a class: “It never occurred to any writer of the OT [Hebrew Scriptures] to prove or argue the existence of God. . . .It is not according to the spirit of the ancient world in general to deny the existence of God, or to use arguments to prove it. The belief was one natural to the human mind and common to all men.” Dr. James Hastings, A Dictionary of the Bible.

It matters little to say there is a God. What matters is what attributes you assign him. We diss the ancient peoples who worshipped different gods, but when people hold to radically different views of God, is it not in effect different gods they speak of? Just like you mention Oscar Oxgoad and I say ‘I know that guy!’ But further discussion reveals the attributes and physical qualities don’t line up, so you say, ‘Oh, I guess I don’t know him after all. It’s two people who share the same name.’

Who are these characters that assign him whatever attributes they find convenient? I’ll take the overall lesson of the psalm. They’re cocky as all get-out, but God will set matters straight—an underlying theme of the Bible. Humans insist upon self-rule, the underlying Genesis message of knowing ‘good’ and ‘bad’ God says, ‘Don’t try it—you’ll mess it all up.’ They do so anyway. God says, ‘Alright, I allot you such-and-such an amount of time to make good on your claim. When the time is up, we’ll see what kind of a world you’ve made.’

“[The wicked one] says in his heart: ‘I will never be shaken; For generation after generation I will never see calamity.’” (vs 6)

What says the psalmist of God? “Rise up, O Jehovah. O God, lift up your hand. . . . you do see trouble and distress. You look on and take matters in hand. To you the unfortunate victim turns. . . . Break the arm of the wicked and evil man, So that when you search for his wickedness, You will find it no more.” (vs 12-15)

 

***This is from the previous week, but the idea had to gel and be prompted by a question on Quora:

Q (from Quora): Its odd that 1 out of 9 men in the governing body is a person of color. How does that reflect their constituents?

A: 100% of the American presidency was a person of color for 8 years running. Did that result in a country where blacks and whites get along seamlessly, as with JWs? Pew Research reports that [in the United States] the makeup of Jehovah’s Witnesses is almost exactly 1/3 white, 1/3 black, 1/3 Hispanic, with about 5% Asian, mirroring the national population quite well. It is the biblical values taught that count, not the people who serve as placeholders. One should go for substance, rather than symbolism. As the stats show, Witnesses have all but solved racism.

It is pretty much as in Acts 6, when “the Greek-speaking Jews began complaining against the Hebrew-speaking Jews, because their widows were being overlooked in the daily distribution,” necessary because an annual pilgrimage for the Pentecost celebration unexpectedly turned into an extended stay with the formation of the Christian congregation. The apostles jumped on the problem right away, selecting “seven reputable men . . . full of spirit and wisdom, that we may appoint them over this necessary matter.”

Five of the seven are Greek, judging by their names. (vs 5). Good. The Greek names would build confidence among the Greek persons who were agrieved, no doubt. But the apostles saw no need to change their own makeup, incorporating some Greeks among themselves. It’s the same with the Governing Body themselves. With Branches, the governing arrangements start out heavily foreign but as locals advance spiritually a greater load shifts to them, very much like the appointment of the Greek speaking disciples.

 

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Speaking with Evangelicals

A circuit overseer serving congregations in the Bible Belt (Southern U.S.A) tackled how to respond when people ask, ‘Are you saved?’ ‘Do you accept Jesus as your Lord and Savior?’

If you hesitates in any way, he said, maybe to explain that with us it is not ‘once saved—always saved’—you can lose your ‘saved’ status, or maybe to explain how Jesus is God’s Son, not God himself—or maybe to explain that our individual salvation is not the central issue under all creation, but the sanctification of Gods name is . . . if you hesitate in any way, they take it as a ‘No.’ 

So why do it? Are you saved at present? (Yes) Do you accept Jesus as your Lord and Savior? (Yes). Just because the phrasing is not exactly as you would put it, why make a fuss? Whereupon, he had the congregation repeat in unison several times: ‘I am saved.’

I mean, there is such a thing as building bridges rather than burning them. Why burn when you don’t have to? Even my response to a truly condescending evangelical (a minority among them—few are this way) who said, ‘No thanks, I’m Christian,’ with the unmistakable implication that I was not—even that, I have rethought. I had said at the time, ‘Well, only a genuine Christian would do what I am doing. Frankly, I’m a little surprised you’re not doing it yourself.’ (Fade smug smile—a beautiful sight) But I have rethought it. Even toward those who blatantly deserve it, it amounts to ‘striking back’ and does nothing except satisfy the ego. 

Better to do, when some evangelical is intent to pick a fight (and if it is not them, it is us), ‘Look, I know you think we’re doing it all wrong. And we think you’re doing it all wrong. You’d steal our sheep in a second and we’d do the same to you. Got it. But the point is, we’re both doing it, and we live in a world where more and more people are not doing it.’ I’ve seen conversation turn on a dime with such remarks. Instantly, an adversary becomes a confidant. Discussion turns to mutual challenges of keeping faith in a faithless world, on the mutual trials of raising a family in one, and not one of ‘Our religion is better than yours.’

You can clear up those things later, if conversation goes that far, and it probably won’t, but it doesn’t anyhow.  Better to depart with a good taste in your mouth and theirs, than with a bad taste.

 

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Midweek Meeting Notes, Wk of 2/11/24, Psalms 5-7)

“For nothing they say can be trusted; Within them is nothing but malice; Their throat is an open grave; They flatter with their tongue.” (Psalm 5:9)

How’s that for an image? We’re bowled over by bad breath. Imagine what a throat like an ‘open grave’ must smell like.

“Return, O Jehovah, and rescue me; Save me for the sake of your loyal love.” (Ps 6:4)

No Witness of Jehovah wants to die. It’s inconvenient and it make people feel bad, though death itself holds know terror for them, since they know what it is. And then there is this: “For in death there is no mention of you; In the Grave, who will praise you?” (vs 5)

“Look at the one who is pregnant with wickedness; He conceives trouble and gives birth to lies.” (Ps 7:14) Another image I like: imagine someone ‘pregnant with wickedness.

“He excavates a pit and digs it deep, But he falls into the very hole he made. The trouble he causes will return on his own head; His violence will fall on the crown of his head.” (vs 15-16)

Exactly right, though it may take a while.

 

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A Watchtower Study to Settle the Faith-Works ‘Debate.’

Reference was made at yesterday’s Watchtower Study about how “For centuries, the relationship between faith and works has been hotly debated in Christendom.” Some insist it is saved by faith, and some insist by works. So the Study explored that topic, and it is a big ‘Duh.’ A child can understand it. Barely any ‘education’ at all is required. It is different ‘works’ in different contexts that Paul and James refer to.

[‘Faith and Works can Lead to Righteousness’—December 2023 issue]

So you begin to wonder why the learned one haven’t been able to settle it “for centuries.” Is it that “debate” is their method of choice, as though the way to settle anything is through triumph of the intellect? One brother pointed to a faulty silver lining in that approach; it enables professional debaters to say that it’s okay never to reach resolution because the Bible writers themselves couldn’t agree! However, said that Watchtower (paragraph 9): “Jehovah inspired both Paul and James to write what they did. (2 Tim. 3:16) So there must be a simple way to harmonize their statements. There is​—by considering their writings in context”—and, without fuss, they did it.

Or is it that God blesses those who put obedience first? As in, ‘obedient ones are blessed with understanding, but the ‘great thinkers’ never figure it out?’ As in, “Look! To obey is better than a sacrifice,” (1 Samuel 15:22) in this case, the ‘sacrifice’ of brainpower. As in, ‘You don’t have to know everything, but act upon what you do know.’

I suspect that’s why the scholars will never be running the show at JW Central. It’s too easy for scholars to take refuge in their scholarship and be unconcerned that no practical application is ever made of it. Said Jesus to the learned of his day: “How can you believe, when you are accepting glory from one another and you are not seeking the glory that is from the only God?” (John 5:44) The first activity interferes with the second—it is a trap scholars can easily fall into. Run with what you have, instead. If you don’t have everything, as you never will, figure it out on the fly.

Or is it some other factor? Is it that the faith people are such because they don’t want to do any works? Or the works people are such because they don’t have much faith, but do like to shine before others? At any rate, it is very strange that the relationship between faith and works can be cleared up in a single Study at the Kingdom Hall (it was just a refresher study anyway, not anything new) whereas the theologians have debated it “for centuries.”

Some of these points came up in field service the day before. ‘Here you are going door-to-door,’ one evangelical man said to us, ‘but don’t you know that salvation is by faith and not by works?’ ‘Yeah, everyone knows that,’ I replied. None of Jehovah’s Witnesses think they’re ‘earning’ anything. It’s just a matter of showing appreciation for a priceless gift. If you receive such a gift and it makes no change whatsoever in your life afterwards, one might justifiably wonder just how much you really do appreciate it.

This fellow also went on and on about the pastor of his church. The pastor will quote this or that from the Bible and then you should not just take his word for it, he would say, but you should check it. ‘Yeah, we’re trying to make all our people pastors,’ is what I would have said had I thought of it in time—our best lines always occur to us too late. Of course, not all our people are pastors—we too have plenty of weak or immature Christians—but the Witness organization doesn’t cater to them by appointing just a single person to serve as the ‘pastor.’ There’s no reason everyone can’t attain to the role. Besides, a pastor is always at risk that his special qualifications and background doesn’t go to his head. Sometimes it does.

 

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What Means Psalm 2:2-3? ‘Let us tear off their shackles And throw off their ropes!’’

Ps 2:2-3: “The kings of the earth take their stand And high officials gather together as one against Jehovah and against his anointed one. They say: ‘Let us tear off their shackles And throw off their ropes!’

The terminology of ‘shackles’ and ‘ropes’ suggests reigning people in. Isn’t that what applied Christianity does? reigning people in from the belligerencies that inevitably lead to wars, reigning people in from the moralities that ignore the monogamous marriage model? Temp is okay. Gay is okay. Hookup is okay. Enough of the shackles and ropes! they say. The ‘kings’ and ‘high officials’ tire of them, particularly when it goes against their priorities.

In a relatively new twist, even to teach Bible values, even within the congregation, even to your own children, is viewed as imposing ‘shackles’ and ‘ropes’ on them. After all, the public ministry of Jehovah’s Witnesses can hardly be seen as shackling people; all you have to do is tell them no and they go away. But within the congregation—Psalm 2:3 can also, maybe even primarily, be a reference to anti-cult zealots who say Jehovah’s Witnesses ‘shackle’ their own people. Such ones attempt to divide the Witnesses into two factions and paint an ‘us versus them’ scenario of a manipulative HQ controlling the minions, ‘forbidding’ them all that this world has to offer.

Paul wrote about how Christians “at one time walked according to the system of things of this world, according to the ruler of the authority of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience.” (Ephesians 2:2) The anti-cult contention is that nobody must be denied the ‘right’ to breathe in this air to the full. Stand aside and let the air of this system do its thing! Resistance is futile and only a cult would try it. Thus, in Russia, an anti-cult faction accused the Witness organization of denying its own members their civil rights! 

The situation is not presented as the Witnesses themselves would present it, that they organize in order to get things done, to carry out things they view as core to being a Christian. Instead, it is presented as an oppressive authority that ‘steals’ the time and energy of its members and ‘makes’ them (through brainwashing!) do their own bidding. The public ministry, the building of their own places of worship, the caring of their own in times of disaster—all this is viewed as evidence of ‘enslavement,’ ‘unpaid labor,’ as though only money ought be allowed to make the world go round.

It is just a crazy way of thinking to the Witnesses themselves, and they are slow to get their heads around it. If they want to organize and take some direction from the organization they have formed, why should that be anyone’s concern but theirs? Apparently, Paul had to contend with those playing that same ‘victimization’ card, for he writes to the Corinthians that, ‘we have wronged no one, we have corrupted no one, we have taken advantage of no one,’ as though to counter murmuring that they had. (2 Corinthians 7:2) ‘We are regarded as deceivers and yet we are truthful,’ is how he put it. (2 Corinthians 6:8) Nothing has changed. Follow one path and the people that want you to follow the other will regard you as deceived.

Victimization is a stronger force today than in biblical times, so it ought not be too surprising that some select that for their identity. But, Witnesses are very much in the mode of thinking themselves ‘free agents’ choosing for themselves the path to follow. If that path includes selecting from themselves a tour guide, they don’t see why anyone should get all up in arms over it.

To be sure, people are easily influenced by others. There would not be advertising were this not so. You would almost think the anti-cultists would raise the cry against this ‘manipulative’ practice, since head-over-heels debt has destroyed many a person and relationship. But, as long as the manipulation is in accord with the greater goals of ‘rulership by man’ as opposed to the ‘rulership of ‘God’s kingdom,’ they are generally okay with it. In a sense, those who decry brainwashing are not primarily concerned about brainwashing, but brainwashing that is not theirs.

That people are easily influenced is incorporated into that Ephesians 2:2 verse; the ‘air’ has ‘authority.’ It molds people. For that reason, Christians want to stay away from it, to remain, per Jesus, ‘no part of the world.’ This, however, becomes increasingly challenging. As the greater world gets farther and farther from Christian values, it notices and takes umbrage at those not following suit, those ‘shackling’ and ‘roping’ others even within the congregation they have chosen.

You sons of men, how long will you turn my honor into humiliation?” David says two psalms later. (4:2) It is an honor to align oneself with God and His revealed values, but as the bulk of humanity move farther away, they attempt to portray that honor as humiliation. It is a contest of values. David’s next words to these ones are, How long will you love what is worthless and search for what is false?

 

******  The bookstore

 

 

 

 

 

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

Mahomes! Maauto! Who Leads in the Christian Congregation?

‘Man is a political animal,’ Juan says, ‘and naturally forms and flourishes in societies. And every such society needs leadership that preserves the peace and unity of that society. And the best form of leadership capable of fulfilling that function is a unified head. And the same is true of the Congregation. . . . So if a person has an incorrect notion of the nature and function of civil government, this will make it more difficult to grasp the true nature and function of ecclesial government.’

Yes. Of course. The two are connected, If you have a shaky grasp on one, you may well have a shaky grasp on the other, just as those who had a rotten father may struggle to grasp the concept of a loving heavenly father. How to deal with those who, in an intense age of independence, find even the governing structure of the Christian congregation oppressive? Some go so far as to agree with critics that Jehovah’s Witnesses all but worship their organization and pursue a model of ‘following men.’ How do you answer that?

The Governing Body of Jehovah’s Witnesses might be likened to the coach or the teacher—both of whom may lean into their charges from time to time as a legitimate function of their job. Persons too prickly in our independence-savoring age are inclined to chafe at such legitimate roles. 

‘Who needs a math teacher?’ such persons are wont to say. ‘Just study numbers. I don’t serve a teacher!’ And if the teacher betrays any evidence of being imperfect, they jump on such evidence to justify the surly attitude.

’Who needs a coach?’ they will say. ‘I’m not serving any coach. Just practice football!’ And if the coach betrays any evidence of being imperfect—say, he eats too much, like the Chiefs’ coach, they seize on that circumstance to justify the grumbling.

But anyone with a proper view of civil government has no problem at all acceding to the authority of the teacher or coach. They don’t confuse such relative submission with becoming ‘slaves to men.’ They know full well they are ‘serving’ math and football, not their respective teachers or coaches in such. They know full well the latter exist just to bring out the best in them. Even when the coach seems to flounder a little and thinks it cool that  Kelse should become ‘Maauto’ because it complements ‘Mahomes,’ they just put on that new jersey and continue, albeit maybe with a little grumbling. They may not be so sure about this new light to bundle your home and auto insurance, but they know it’s not worth making a fuss over such minor things.

Once in a while there appears a student who truly does not need a teacher, and for whom a teacher just gets in the way. Think Gates, Jobs, Einstein, Musk. What then? Do they use their atypical gifts to tear down the need for teachers? Do they carry on that to acquiesce to the teacher’s (or coach’s) authority is to allow that one to ‘lord it over’ them? Unless they are drunk on the contemporary spirit of independence, they do not. At most, Kelse doesn’t don his squirrelly ‘Maauto’ jersey, but neither does he quit the team over it. ‘Ah, well, we need coaches’ he says.

Should he do this, almost for certain, the assignment to become ‘Maauto’ will fall upon some other teammate. That teammate will accept it, maybe with the enthusiasm of being a good organization man. Maybe he’ll even recall the expression, ‘Even if the coach asks something that doesn’t appear to make sense, be obedient.’ Sounds odd, he says, but he does it anyway.  He wouldn’t bump off another player on that authority, but he knows that putting on a jersey is not in that league. Or maybe he says, ‘Maauto! Cool! What a great idea!’ and dons the shirt instantly. Kelse doesn’t try to talk him out of it, even though he declines himself. He knows the Chiefs will make the Super Bowl if he keeps his mouth shut, but they may not if he goes on bellyaching about his enlightened view that you can tell the coach to kiss off.

Sheesh! You’ll hear it all the time from adversaries, about worshipping an organization, to the point where others being to pick it up. Put it to rest. I would never say that brothers or sisters worship the organization. I might say that I have seen some engage in activity that so closely resembles worship that you can confuse the two, yet even here I would couch my words.

Recently my wife and I were invited on a Kingdom Hall remodeling project. At my age and non-skill level, I am not going to be any major player in anything, but I appreciated the invitation and accepted a two-day stint along with my wife.

Safety training is required—a lot of it before you even set foot on the project. For one session online that I was informed might take up to three hours—several videos followed by answering questions off the master safety document—Man, that’s a lot! I thought. I’d better not see God strapped into His chariot for safety. But it did not happen and I could not help but think that the quality of training would be the envy of any construction organization. The way scriptures were interwoven was masterful. Even the verse of the ‘overconfident one who comes to ruin’ was applied to the experienced worker inclined to blow past safety regulations because he is so experienced he thinks himself immune. Nobody blows past anything when it comes to safety, experienced or not. You’re dismissed from the site if you do, but I didn’t see anyone coming even close to grumbling over such rules of safety, which are iron-clad. Zero accidents is the goal.

Not just the training, but the project itself. The people skills on display far outshone what would be found on any secular construction site. The abilities of volunteers, some experienced and some not, was harnessed to an astonishing degree. Always, there was a brother with oversight to accommodate any skill level and to break any task into doable steps—and always with the safety and overall well-being of participants placed even ahead of the job itself. First of all, they are shepherds, I am told—that is incorporated into their training. In short, I’ve never seen anything like it—even if the chariot was not on visible display.

That was just after two days. People are the sum of their experiences. Imagine the one immersed in such an atmosphere continually. Might they not get super-enthused about the theocratic organization that they experience repeatedly and see works so well? Would I not be displaying cynicism were I to say, ‘They worship the organization?’ I would never say it.

I’m not even sure I’m wise not to get more immersed into it. On the exhaustive skills list is ‘Writing’ broken down into several subcategories—creative, historical, technical, etc. I could put something down there. But I’m scared I might be assigned some long and monotonous project that I would choke on. Sort of like how Davey, the brother that everything he touched turned to gold, once told me he he’d been assigned to write an article, as though testing him out, to tentatively appear in Awake. But it was on some generic topic that he just couldn’t work up much enthusiasm for, and he never got around to it.

Or, for the box specifying experience,  I might say, ‘From blogging,’ and then the Build brothers would say, ‘Oh….it’s that yo-yo.’ So I just say that I can pick up sticks and on the above occasion I was called upon to pick up some, plus a few other things.

 

Brother Winder undertook at the 2023 annual meeting to explain how the Governing Body decides things. A question comes up; either they have thought it up themselves or it is posed to them from without. Sometimes they jump on it right away. As often as not, however, it comes to resemble that thorn in their side—due to changing times and circumstances (beards are a perfect example)—that they figure at last the time has come to deal with it. They discuss it at their meeting. They assign it to a committee. That committee researches, among other things, anything that’s been written on the topic before. That committee submits a report, apparently with recommendations, and the Governing Body again puts it on their calendar. When it comes up for consideration again, they hash it out and maybe go along with the recommendations and maybe (per Winder’s talk) they don’t.

It all seems very competent, very thorough, very reassuring. It all seems to optimize the verse about drawing strength from a ‘many advisers.’ (When there is no skillful direction, the people fall, But there is success through many advisers—Proverbs 11:14) But there is nothing blatantly supernatural about it. You can imagine a public utility doing the same. 

Arguably they could have provided this ‘transparency’ before, but this too appears to be an issue whose time has to arrive, and now it is judged that it has—maybe because grumblings have finally reached them that they lack ‘transparency.’ Due to such lack (if that’s what it is), some brothers have all but assumed an angel appears to them at those weekly meetings, setting them straight on what ever needs direction. Now they see it is not that way.

What is also not that way is that the first century governing body of Bible record had men endowed with supernatural power to confirmed their divine authority. Not so today—just regular men who don’t raise the dead, heal the sick, or walk on water.

This bothers some. It may be surprising they should be so bothered since scripture plainly says that such miraculous gifts would pass away. Maybe they had come to think that, in the case of the divine/human interface, they wouldn’t. Surely, there is an angel in that room, they suppose, or some other unmistakable supernatural manifestation that hits all over the head as with a sledgehammer that we’re talking divine authorization here. Nope—it doesn’t happen. I mean, there is prayer, to be sure, but a little more pizzazz is what some would prefer. Anybody can pray.

I was happy to hear Brother Winder’s explanation. It calls to mind what weird Mike used to say, a person with issues as long as anyone’s arm, who had a knack for simplifying the obscure. ‘Everyone of Jehovah’s Witnesses studies their Bible constantly,’ he would say, a bit too naively. ‘The Governing Body studies it all the time. Eventually, a point dawns on them. They discuss it thoroughly. When they have reached agreement, that point appears in a subsequent Watchtower.’ He didn’t for one instant expect miraculous light in the GB meeting room, as though in the Holy of Holies.

’Now, the thing is,’ he would continue. ‘In your personal Bible study, you may have noticed that point, too—maybe before they do.’ “And if this was Christendom, you’d run out and start your own religion over it!” But because it is not, you wait on divinely appointed authority to take the lead. Mike was ever so enthused about the unity of Jehovah’s Witnesses. Everyone fresh from the world of religion is, really, even of irreligion; everyone is impressed with that. I had another friend whose formulative experience was to visit several far-removed Kingdom Halls to asked detailed biblical questions. The identical answers from persons who did not know each other impressed upon him that he had found the truth.

But, in time, some begin to take such unity for granted, as though it would exist without any coordinating governing body. Others begin to look askance at such unity, acceding to the contemporary view that it represents the thinking of a cult. Times change, and the question is asked online: “Is JW.org considered a cult site by some formerJehovah's Witnesses? What are their reasons for this belief?”

Yes, I think so. We live in unprecedented and intensely independent times. Paul’s counsel that we should all speak in agreement minus any divisions (1 Corinthians 1:10) has historically been wise Christian counsel. Today it reads as though an invitation to cult-thinking. We should not read the situation as Jehovah’s Witnesses having gone crazy. We should read it as this world has gone crazy and Jehovah’s Witnesses are holding the line of sanity.

The modern anti-cult lunacy can be seen in all fields, not just that of religion. ‘Ask not what your country can do for you. Ask what you can do for your country,’ were the noble words of a statesman (JFK) years ago. Today, they would be the words a a cult leader.

It also bothers some that all persons known today holding a position of Governing Body are self-professed. They lay claim to be anointed, but how is anyone to verify that claim? Might a fraud or a loon slip in and pull the wool over everyone’s eyes?

They may be self-professed as to being anointed, but they are also field-tested—field tested for a long long time, serving full-time in circumstances at times quite lowly, lowlier than those of most whom they will later lead. It’s more than enough time to screen out anyone not genuine. Nothing is more taboo among Jehovah’s Witnesses than ‘partaking unworthily.’ (“whoever eats the loaf or drinks the cup of the Lord unworthily will be guilty respecting the body and the blood of the Lord.”—1 Corinthians 11:27) Nobody is going to do that and if they do, nobody is going to keep up that pretense a for lifetime, both prerequisites to be invited to serve on the Governing Body.

That’s why I like the clarification a few years back that the ‘faithful and discreet slave’ consists of the Governing Body only, not just the entire population of those anointed. Of course. Anointed is an indication, for the most part, of a future assignment. Does it take 10,000 anointed ones to lead the present congregation today? Moreover, the clarification tends to weed out any person mistaken, maybe persons not well-balanced, not to mention any frauds or loons. In case any of these should become overly fond of authority or influence they imagine they ought to have now, this adjustment tends to nudge them into proper position. Serve faithfully under the present arrangement, and then upon death or the new system, their role as priests and kings will be exercised—or not, in case they truly were mistaken. At any rate, it’s no one’s problem until the new system and then it falls into the hands of those who can handle it.

Of course, in this skeptical age, some may begin to question the concept of anointing itself. Either they think it an experience common to all Christians or to none. But, by the time they have descended to that view, there really is no point in even calling themselves Jehovah’s Witnesses and they are best served by ‘running off and starting their own religion.’

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Commentaries on Job: 1957, 1942, 1929

I was lamenting at the Kingdom Hall that there is no overall Watchtower commentary on the Book of Job. The elder I was speaking to said there was. ‘I almost fell out of the truth when I read it!’ he quipped. All sorts of understandings, including types and antitypes that we don’t do anymore. He said how he has not seen any of that material in modern times. ‘I don’t think they’re proud of that one,’ he said.

I thought he was speaking of some articles in the 60s that some of the Eliphaz, Bilday, & Zophar remarks link to in the Research Guide, items that come across today as peculiar, though one person in the Kingdom Hall spotted them and commented how ‘deep’ they were. But it turned out it was not them at all referred to. It was a 42-paragraph article in the Sept 1, 1957 Watchtower. It being brought to my attention, I went there. 

1957 is not too long after WWII and the article framed the organizational War experiences of the anointed in terms of Job. (Carl Jung, in 1952, showed how much WWII, specifically the Holocaust, had impacted him when we wrote ‘Answer to Job’—wherein he altogether trashed the God who does nothing but carry on about his almightiness in the face of Job’s great suffering—as though that is the last thing the suffering man needed, whereas the Book of Job itself indicates it is the first.) Job foreshadows Jesus in this 1957 article, since Job’s name means “object of hostility,” and on earth Jesus Christ was the principal object of Satan’s hostility. 

Then, of course, just as Job was persecuted for showing integrity through thick and thin, so was the anointed remnant for showing such integrity during the period of the World Wars, calling out the church clergy for being such ardent cheerleaders of those wars. The Eli, Bill, Zop trio become the clergy continually mean-mouthing and denying the remnant’s supposed integrity towards God, insisting that their lowly circumstances and legal woes meant exactly as outward appearances suggested—that they were losers and frauds. Then, the anointed remnant enters in again as Elihu, who speaks truth about God to counteract the fathheaded and God-dishonoring false doctrines of the clergy, and of Eli, Bill, and Zop.

The 1957 article referred to two books of the Rutherford era, The New World (1942) and Life (1929), each of which devoted many chapters to Job. They were both on eBay, still up for bidding, and not too pricey. I topped the going bid for both of them, then immediately felt (potential) buyer’s remorse—who cares about ancient organizational history? I told myself—it is ‘been there, done that.’ I resolved not to bid anymore. But—no need to—I won both bids and now the books are sitting on my shelf. Yes, I will be going through them, maybe not with a fine tooth comb (or maybe I will) but I will see what they have to say.

That elder who told me of the 1957 article said it doesn’t bother him when interpretations and viewpoints are changed. Part of the ‘light getting brighter’ and all; he had no problem with it. I told him neither did I, however with the caveat that any future revisions I also view as tentative, things that may or may not endure. 

 

Chapter 4 of the book The New World, published in 1942, begins:

“In the critical year of 1942 the developments of the great conflict for world domination drew our attention to the neighborhood of the ancient home of Job, the land of Uz. The inspired record becomes alive with meaning today. It reads: ‘There was a man in the land of Uz, whose name was Job’ (Job 1:1) The record concerning Job is no mere bit of dead ancient history to be pushed aside because of urgent conditions that grimly face us at present. Job was involved in an important way in the chief issue confronting all heaven and earth, and which issue shall be settled in this ‘the day of Jehovah.’ The issue is UNIVERSAL DOMINATION.” [caps theirs, reflecting the still-present recognition that they main issue today is, ‘Who will rule? Will it me human rulership, furthering that claim in Eden that men could be ‘like God, knowing good and bad’—that is, setting their own standards for what is good and what is bad?]

Not “to be pushed aside because of urgent conditions that grimly face us at [1942] present?” Of course not. Job gave meaning to those suffering near-parallel conditions, in some ways worse than those of Job. For nearly a decade by then, there were Witnesses interned in Nazi concentration camps, paying the huge price for what they sporadically still must pay for today—the cost of remaining strictly neutral in national affairs.. They were among the very first so consigned, preceding the far-more-numerous Jews. It’s also well known that once in the camps, they were the only inmates with opportunity to get themselves out; Nazi policy was that if they renounced their faith and pledged allegiance to the regime they could go free. Only a handful took advantage of the offer. Thus, they were not victims of Nazi persecutions so much as martyrs in the face of it.

So, of course they, as serious Bible students striving to keep the faith, would see themselves in terms of Job’s trials. Job’s “true life experience was [like theirs] a prophetic drama which exposes the war hotly waged by religion against Jehovah’s Witnesses from and after Abel, the first martyr slain by a religionist.” Religious unity, as demonstrated by the two largest German faiths, Lutherans and Catholics, had blown sky-high just then, as it had 20 years previously during WWI, necessitating worldwide members of those faiths to rise and stop their fellow church-members who had demonstrated readiness to rise up and blow their fellow ‘brothers’ heads off with a gun if some man with authority would tell them to.

Jehovah’s Witnesses, almost alone, had a logically consistent ‘out’ as to non-participation. If some mama grieved the loss of her son in the European war, well that was a terrible thing, but at least it was not one of Jehovah’s Witnesses who killed him.

 

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You Can Remain Confident During Uncertain Times

Now that Jehovah’s Witnesses are no longer the ‘counting time’ religion or the ‘no beard’ religion, it is almost as though a rebranding is taking place.

Any time the Watchtower trots out Haggai and Zechariah, as was done in the 1/28/24 study article, ‘You Can Remain Confident During Uncertain Times,’ you know it’s a reinvigorating work going on.

From para 7: ‘Jehovah wants us to focus on the lifesaving work of making disciples. As mentioned in paragraph 7, Haggai urged Jehovah’s people to make a fresh start in their sacred service, as if they were laying the temple’s foundation again.’ [bolding mine]

Clear out some trash, just like the ‘messenger preparing the way did’ long ago, and you can tackle the building work once more. Doesn’t negate what’s been done before, but it is still time for a ‘fresh start.’

Brother Splane asked in the latest Update, ‘Did you ever work a street and nobody is home, then pass by Sunday afternoon and notice a car in every drive?’ Yeah, I did notice that. It used to drive me nuts. Why are we visiting when people aren’t home?

Other publishers in that Update expressed happiness that, ‘Now, all I have to focus on is starting conversations.’ It suggests the question, ‘Well, what did they have to focus on before that they no longer do, a focus that interfered with starting conversations?’ ‘Counting time’ comes to mind. The friends used to have to do it, now they don’t. One reason Sunday after the meeting has long been unpopular for field service is that you can’t count much time that way. Better to go out on a weekday morning where you can generally count much more time. If few people are home—well, at least we got to count more time. 

That’s done. Finished. ‘Now all we have to do is think about starting conversations.’ Maybe an even greater ‘heresy’ will happen later with regard to evening worship, where a half hour of activity can produce more conversations than 2 hours of when people aren’t home. Plus, you reach a different sort of people, often more relaxed because the day is done.

Maybe the end of suggested presentations also factors in. It’s long been stated their use is optional (I kicked them to the curb long ago), but many friends seemed to feel it was all but mandatory to use them, lest you appear to be saying ‘contemptible bread’ of the produced food. 

No more. You can’t focus on those suggested presentations even if you want to. They’re not there.

Tom Whitepebble may be on to something when he suggests the Governing Body must sometimes be aghast at what they have unleashed as regards following men. It’s hard to find just the right emphasis—one person says, ‘Thanks for the new rule!’ while his neighbor says, ‘Huh? Did you say something?’ So, they strive for the right emphasis, but do they always find it?

‘Look, we said facial hair is not an issue,’ they said back in 2017. ‘Nobody listened to us! So now we’ll devote an entire Update, complete with video and chariot, to show we’re serious about it—we don’t care about beards!’

Will we see parallel developments in other areas?

 

None of the above was the overall focus of the article, though. In the first paragraph was the statement:

“You may be concerned about your family’s safety because of unstable political conditions, persecution, or opposition to the preaching work. Are you facing any of these issues? If so, you will benefit from considering how Jehovah helped the ancient Israelites when they were confronted with similar problems.” The discussion that followed was the challenged of those released from Babylon to rebuild worship in their former home. They got off to a quick start, but then languished, cowed by that day’s counterpart of the above trio.

“Unstable political conditions” is among that trio of woes that cause Christians problems today. In country after country, the political right and left are at each others’ throats to the point that civil war is floated as a possibility.

The world is run by crazy people. Lunatics of whatever side are no longer marginalized but rise to the top. Any time something whacky happens, ‘conspiracy’ is always a possible reason. If sane people ran the world, it would not be so: one of those things would be just ‘one of those things,’ but not with crazy people running the show. I’ve heard people say that, given the lunacy of those in charge, any conspiracy theory will be accepted on sight until proven wrong, an 180 degree reversal from how things have always been.

Whenever you undertake a challenging work, you want to make sure you have good footing. The above trio might suggest our footing is not very solid at all. So I liked the article’s encouragement to stay focused on what truly is good footing, really the mainstays of Christian faith: gathering together, prayer, scripture reading and meditation, and speaking to others of God’s purposes.

 

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

Job 38: At This Point Job has Won His Case But He Doesn’t Know It.

Job files charges against God and God shows up to answer. He doesn’t exactly say, ‘This trial is a witch hunt!’ but he’s not intimidated by it. He skips entirely the opening arguments and launches straight into cross-examination. Just how qualified is his prosecutor to be leveling the charges he has? Turns out that the prosecutor admits he’s not very qualified at all. ‘Um . . . sorry,’ he murmurs. As the saying goes, be careful what you wish for.

At this point Job has won his case but he doesn’t know it. When the verdict is read later, delivered by one accused, no less—you can do such things when you are God—he gets off with but a mild reproof, whereas his three accusers come in for sharp censure. When reparations are made, Job makes off like a bandit. He went from everything to nothing and he goes back to everything.

Not exactly everything. Replacement children are not quite the same as original children. You grow to love those new ones, but they are not the same. Not to mention that the originals take objection to having been bumped off. What of Job’s original 10 offspring—maybe not even meaning a literal ten but just an indication that, when it came to family, Job had it all—and lost it. What about them?

Cut to Job’s hope in a resurrection, which sometimes seems to be intact and sometimes doesn’t. Does he come to nurture that hope again? The comfort of the resurrection is that loved one who have departed have not really departed for good; it is more like they’ve begun a long journey from which they will return. Takes the sting out of death, that does. Here is a Revelation passage from John, penned long after Job’s time, that when God’s kingdom ‘comes’ and his ‘will be done on earth as it is in heaven,’ death will be no more:

“I also saw the holy city, New Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God and prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. With that I heard a loud voice from the throne say: ‘Look! The tent of God is with mankind, and he will reside with them, and they will be his people. And God himself will be with them.’” It’s not mankind ascending to heaven to become angels; it’s ’the tent of God’ descending upon ‘mankind’ where they remain his ‘peoples.’ Jettison some inherited church doctrine that the earth is but a launching pad for an eternity in heaven (for those who are ‘good’) and a lot of mysteries clear up. Just where was that doctrine inherited from?

“I have hope toward God,’ Paul declared to Roman authorities, ‘which hope these men [his religious persecutors] also look forward to, that there is going to be a resurrection of both the righteous and the unrighteous.’ How much of this hope did Job also entertain, many centuries prior? Unclear—but possibly he did, particularly as he would get used to his formerly ravaged life being restored. God never does address the suppositions of Job’s persecuting trio, and seemingly Job himself, that he caused the children’s death. Did he, was it ‘wrong place at the wrong time,’ or was it something even more? Turns out with Job that it was something even more, but the man never got a clue as to the heavenly challenge in which he played a starring role.

Job’s fortune and reputation is restored following this appearance of God, so, Duh—he must have passed some sort of test, but to his dieing day he never knows just what that test was. Do you think maybe God, as he ends his cross-questions—which satisfies Job though it doesn’t address his withdrawn challenge, allowing G. K. Chesterton to say much later, ‘The riddles of God are more satisfying than the solutions of man’—do you think that Jehovah could have then revealed the contest between He and Satan and how Job’s course had proved Satan a liar? How come it’s not tacked on at the end of his long speech, tying together all the loose ends?

Hmm. Wouldn’t such an ending be a little cheesy, as though a celestial Game Show Host exclaiming, ‘You’re on Candid Camera!’ Wouldn’t such an ending, such as you might expect in a movie, encourage everyone going through hard times forever after to if they, too, are subjects of a wager in heaven?

Nah—better to leave it as it is, with an ending that isn’t at all conventional, doesn’t check the boxes that one might expect checked, and leaves each participant full range to reconcile their own trials with Elihu’s words at 37:23: ‘Understanding the Almighty is beyond our reach; He is great in power, And he never violates his justice and abundant righteousness.’ Even should they get it wrong under duress, they generally have opportunity to get back on track after the dust settles. Knowing Job’s course and outcome, however, may help them to not get it wrong should their time come. ‘You have heard of the endurance of Job and have seen the outcome Jehovah gave, that Jehovah is very tender in affection and merciful,’ says the apostle James. (James 5:11)

 

******  The bookstore

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