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

IMG_0546

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'

Is it Accurate to Refer to Jehovah’s Witnesses as a ‘Cult’?

Q: Is it accurate to refer to Jehovah's Witnesses as a "cult"? Do they meet the criteria of a true cult?

If it is accurate to call first century Christianity a ‘cult’ then it is also accurate to call Jehovah’s Witnesses a cult.

Take, for example, Paul’s direction that: “Now I urge you, brothers, through the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you should all speak in agreement and that there should be no divisions among you, but that you may be completely united in the same mind and in the same line of thought.” (1 Corinthians 1:10)

You know that would be spun as a ‘cult’ today.

The ‘cult’ label exists to punish anyone who thinks out of the mainstream. Again, the apostle Paul:

“And stop being molded by this system of things, but be transformed by making your mind over, so that you may prove to yourselves the good and acceptable and perfect will of God.” (Romans 12:2)

‘You WILL be molded by it,’ says the anti-cult faction, ‘and if you refuse, we will call you a ‘cult.’

Thing is, there doubtless are some crazy ‘cults’ out there. Yet, if the mainstream managed to deliver the goods (of peace, contentment, justice, meaning in life, etc), non of these groups, Jehovah’s Witnesses included, would succeed in gaining a toehold.

Seemingly, it is new, the non-stop accusations that Jehovah’s Witnesses are a ‘cult.’ Yet, it is just the latest permutation of what has been the case since the founding of Christianity. “Happy are you when people reproach you and persecute you and lyingly say every sort of wicked thing against you for my sake,” said Jesus (Matthew 5:10)

Depend upon it. Christians would be spoken against. So it is that when Paul rolls into town (Rome), he asks the local Jewish leaders whether anyone has been talking trash about him. His answer? “We have not received letters about you from Judea, nor have any of the brothers who came from there reported or spoken anything bad about you. But we think it proper to hear from you what your thoughts are, for truly as regards this sect, we know that it is spoken against everywhere.” (Acts 28: 21-22)

Nothing has changed. It was a ‘sect’ that was ‘spoken against everywhere.’

So why is it they were nowhere in Scripture specifically called a ‘cult’? Because the definition of the word ‘cult’ has been changed to fit them. It used to be that if you fell under the spell of a charismatic leader, separated from society, and began to do weird things, you just might be a cult member. By that traditional definition, Jehovah’s Witnesses are anything but a cult. Charismatic leaders? Many of them are cultivated tastes to listen to. Separate from society? They work and school with everyone else. Practice weird things? Only if you consider speaking about the cause of their faith, as laid out in the Bible, weird.

The old definition doesn’t fit them at all. So a new definition is concocted that does. But it equally fits Christianity as outlined in the Bible. Even the modern notion that Witnesses take advantage of people, rather than benefit them, is countered in Scripture—so the charge was apparently made, even if not couched in modern ‘cult’ jargon: “We have wronged no one, we have corrupted no one, we have taken advantage of no one,” Paul says at 2 Corinthians 7:2.

As far as I’m concerned, you should turn that nonsense on its head, doing what the police did when radicals began calling them PIGS, doubling down when they saw it got under their skin. One innovative officer redefined the acronym as, ‘Pride, Integrity, Guts, Service.’ 

Same here. Call Witnesses a cult? Redefine it: ‘Courage, Unity, Love, Truth.’ In short, you can call Jehovah’s Witnesses a cult if you like—the word means different things to different people—but then you must also call first-century Christianity a cult, because Witnesses do no more than emulate them.

“No, he was talking about guys like you! Your organization perfectly fit the description of the evil slave.”

“Oh yeah? You didn’t mention destroying families, allowing children to bleed to death, allowing child abuse, failed prophecies!”

A: Forty years into all-out societal war against child abuse, you can still throw a stone in any direction and hit ten pedophiles, so how anyone can say the problem is JWs is beyond me. Nevertheless, if there ever was a problem in the JW realm, it has been settled with a study article ensuring all that there is no stigma whatsoever in reporting an abuser to authorities. Details here:

As to blood transfusions, doubtless the JW stand has aided more people that it has harmed. This is because, here and there, courageous doctors have worked to accommodate it and in so doing have made medicine much safer for all. If there was equity, the JW organization would be awarded the Nobel Prize in Medicine for improving treatment. Details here: 

On ‘destroying families,’ that is mostly a matter of individuals insisting upon bringing into the congregation something God forbids, for example, some matter of modern sexual morality, and being disallowed by faithful family members.

As to failed prophesies, these are mostly analogous to misreading the bus schedule and consequently showing up early. This is no more calamitous than if someone showed up early at an actual bus stop. A little embarrassing, but people adjust.

 

******  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'

Why No Theological Terms in Watchtower Publications?

The author of a theodicy consents that his case be tried before the court of reason, and offers to represent the accused by refuting all the accusations of the planitiff.’ — Immanuel Kant. (1704-1804)*

Is that why publications of Jehovah’s Witnesses never use the term theodicy—nor any other theological term? Why submit to trial in a kangaroo court run by rationists, replete with myriad ‘heads I win, tails you lose’ rules, some of which you suspect are specifically designed to ensure that ‘the accused’ is found ‘guilty?’

Witness governing members look to those taking the lead in the first century, men they strive to emulate, men described in the Book of Acts (4:13) as “unlettered and ordinary.” They ask, ‘Would these ones know a theological term if it bit them in the rear end? Taking as self-evident that they answer is no, they say, ‘If it worked for them, it should work for us.’ They hold to the thought expressed by Paul to Timothy. “All Scripture is inspired of God and beneficial for teaching, for reproving, for setting things straight, for disciplining in righteousness, so that the man of God may be fully competent, completely equipped for every good work.” (2 Timothy 3:16-17)

If Scripture really has that effect, that of setting things straight and making the man of God fully competent, then aren’t theologians out of a job? Isn’t in their interests, therefore, to maintain that it doesn’t? They become like the agency head who insists ‘much work remains to be done.’ The moment he says that the work is done, he faces the unemployment line. Those above words of Paul are a threat to the theological machine. So, with regard to Scripture, the theologians make themselves a middleman. ‘It sets things straight’ when we say it does,’ they say. Thus, the Book of Job is not, per them, a record of a man who actually lived. It is the work of a writer presenting his theodicy, perhaps his evolving theodicy. Or, perhaps it is the work of multiple writers presenting multiple theodicies, of which you may take your pick or reject them all.

The Jehovah’s Witness Governing Body will have none of it. ‘Try God’s ways in a human court, will they?’ they say. It is the other way around. You look into a mirror so as to adjust your skewed appearance. You don’t look into that mirror and wonder what is wrong with it for reflecting such an appearance. “As the heavens are higher than the earth, So my ways are higher than your ways And my thoughts than your thoughts,” are the words attributed to God at Isaiah 55:9. Should higher thoughts be tried in the courtroom of lower thoughts?

Dr. James Hall is a theologian setting up such a courtroom. Introducing his Great Courses Lecture series, entitled, Philosophy of Religion, he says, “Let me assure you up front I'm not going to tell you what to think. The real purpose, the real goal of this course, is to encourage you to think, to push you to think and to help you organize your thinking equipment so that you can think more effectively.” Is it worrisome that five variations of ‘think’ are included in this mission statement? All of those thoughts, per Isaiah, will be ‘lower thoughts’—even though enhanced (or lowered still?) by embracing the modern critical thinking. Should such thoughts be the criteria for judging the higher ones?

Exploring the merits of the ontological argument for God—a term that,  once again, you will never hear from Jehovah’s Witnesses, though possibly a Watchtower article somewhere quotes someone uses it and the editors figured it was more trouble than it’s worth to pull it out, Dr Hall cites an earlier philosopher and churchman (Anselm of Lucca) who quoted Scripture: “The fool has said in his heart, there is no God.” He then (incorrectly) repeats the phrase, apparently so his audience can mull it over: “The fool has said, ‘There is no God.’ (dropping the ‘in his heart’) Then, he contrasts ‘God’ and ‘no God.’ From there, he goes on to explore the attribute of ‘existence’ as opposed to non-existence. He holds aloft two identical books with identical attributes, attributes he describes at length, save for one: The one in his right hand “has a counterpart in reality.” The one in his left hand (which holds nothing) does not.

About this time, the unkind reader may think of a certain internet profile which begins with an apology for “not having a PhD in whatever b******t your PhD is in.” Be that as it may, he or she may also note that the only point of significance is how the doctor, seemingly unaware, changed the underlying ‘fact’ of Psalm 14:1. Is the fool saying something in his heart the same as the fool saying it aloud? Or doesn’t the in his heart imply that he doesn’t say it aloud? Were there even people in that ancient Hebrew society who said there was no God? Isn’t the reference, in reality, to those who act as though there is no God—who think they lack accountability to God? You probably don’t want to use that scripture in calling atheists ‘fools’ because that is unlikely to be its intent. Whether they are or not is another matter, but this is not the verse to clinch it either way.

This is the fellow you want running your rationalist courtroom, who passes over what is significant to quibble over word salads of existence and non-existence?  Who can be confident submitting their theodicy before a such a court that may even disbar the defense attorney for failing to take that nonsense seriously, who just wants to focus on what is meaningful? Why would anyone feel obliged to submit their case to it?

*as cited in Kraeling, ‘The Book of the Ways of God,’ (1939) p243

To be Continued (maybe)

******  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'

What of All These Changes in Recent Months? Part 3

Q:  “With all of these changes that have happened so fast, are Jehovah's witnesses slowly morphing into mainstream religion?”

No, but they are learning to adapt to a changing world. As long as you can do this without abandoning core principles, you’re okay.

All changes from Part 1 and Part 2 are relatively trivial things. One that is not has to do with discipline policies, which ex-Witnesses seek to portray, with some success, as draconian. For the time being, ‘activist’ woke courts, the type that try to mandate ‘inclusion,’ rule against the Witnesses for their policies to stay ‘no part of the world.’ Higher courts, where the woke mindset has not yet permeated, overturn those rulings.

Already, Jehovah’s Witnesses were, from a review of Joel Engardio’s documentary Knocking, “an excellent example, perhaps our last hope, of how groups with strongly polarized ideas can yet coexist peacefully.” Despite their public visits, Jehovah's Witnesses are a "live and let live" religion. Their "weapons" are ideas only. Tell them "no" and they go away. Sure, they try to be persuasive, but it's still only words. They don't afterward attempt to legislate their beliefs into law, so as to force people to live their way, much less resort to violence.

But now, a world that increasing stresses ‘inclusion,’ the very opposite of the scriptural directive to remain ‘no part of the world’ presents new challenges. JWs must revisit their policies of discipline, as these are now under attack. Can they be tweaked without being gutted? Turns out they can. The result is somethng that both improves the Witnesses and permits them to navigate the greater world’s changing standards.

The judge that ruled against Witnesses in Norway observed that he found it perfectly reasonable that teenage boyfriends and girlfriends are going to have sex with one another. You can be sure his ruling would have been different if he did not find such ‘perfectly reasonable.’ He may still have thought the Witnesses’ discipline policies harsh, but he would not likely have found them illegal. It was once commonplace for parents to be greatly concerned that their teens might be sleeping around. It no longer is. These are the shoals the Witness organization must navigate. Temporarily, with new policies on how to deal with teens veering from the family values, they have found a way to do so.

I like that Knocking quote because it presents Jehovah’s Witnesses as the most progressive of organizations, a description we don’t ordinarily enjoy. They are “perhaps our last hope, of how groups with strongly polarized ideas can yet coexist peacefully.” It is axiomatic in this world that ‘strongly polarized views’ in time results in violence. JWs have disproved this ‘axiom.’ Are they given credit for it? No. But they should be. With recent reports of ISIS taking credit for the horrific attack on that Moscow collosium, I posted that several times in ‘I Don’t Know Why We Persecute Jehovah’s Witnesses; Searching for the Why’ I had observed that one would think ISIS would have taught the Russian government what extremism is.

Far from JWs being the intolerant people who finally received comeuppance in a Norwegian court, as opposers try to present it, they are already bastions of peaceful coexistence who encounter problems with their discipline policies amidst a world that increasingly despises discipline. In the process of adapting, they end up making themselves better.

 

*******  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'

My Meeting Notes: Week of March 25, 2024 - Psalm 22

Just a single psalm for the Bible reading this week: 22. There are verses in this psalm that NT writers later apply to Christ. Read 1 and 8, for example. They sound awfully familiar. 

My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? (1)

And at the ninth hour, Jesus called out with a loud voice: “Eʹli, Eʹli, laʹma sa·bach·thaʹni?” which means, when translated: “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Mark 15:34)

The April 2021 Study Watchtower suggests 7 possible ways that cry might be understood. (Questions from Readers) Click on the Research Guide for Psalm 22:1

****

All those seeing me mock me; They sneer and shake their heads in derision: “He entrusted himself to Jehovah. Let Him rescue him! Let Him save him, for he is so dear to Him! (7-8)

”In the same way also, the chief priests with the scribes and the elders began mocking him, saying: “Others he saved; himself he cannot save! He is King of Israel; let him now come down off the torture stake, and we will believe in him. He has put his trust in God; let Him now rescue him if He wants him, for he said, ‘I am God’s Son.’” (Matthew 27:41-43)

One verse not cited by any NT writer is Pslam 22:16. Almost alone, the New World Translation renders that verse (the last phrase): “Like a lion they are at my hands and feet.” Almost all other translations pick up a corruption of the Septuagint and render that phrase: “they pierced my hands and my feet.” The NWT sticks with the earlier Masoretic version. Frankly, they’d love for it to say ‘pierces my hands and feet’ too—it fits better with the program—but it doesn’t say that originally. It says ‘like a lion they are at my hands and feet.’ This was not brought out at the meeting, but I knew it anyway from when the Lutheran evangelical tried to convert the rabbi.

It was our circuit overseer this week. In showing a video, he was all excited that when Jade says ‘Oh, I get it!’ in the coffee shop setting, at that same moment the cash register bell goes off. ‘Ka-Ching’ and he is convinced it is deliberate. Ha! It probably is. I can see it being slipped in as a cute little joke, as though to see how long it would take for anyone to pick up on it. Who would have thought it? Maybe, Governing Body members themselves don’t know about it.

Next day, I told him that, for his talk, I and some others had brought little bells that we would ring every time he made a point that we understood.

Then, there was Transgender Visibiltiy Day, proclaimed by the President for that Sunday—Easter Sunday. Now, Witnesses don’t do Easter, and there was no mention of either Easter or the Visibility Day, but you should have heard the uproar on social media! Carrying on about the desecration of a sacred holiday and all.

Ah, well. Doesn’t it proves that it is not possible to dress up a pig?

As any Witness knows, Easter is an example of slapping a Christian label on a pre-existing sordid holiday, in this the celebration of the goddess Ashtarte—always coinciding with the rebirth of the earth every springtime, once again the explosion of life, and so carried out with orgies and fertility rites. Hence, the bunnies and eggs which clearly have nothing to do with Jesus. Then along come the church fathers much later, hoping to hijack and redirect an already-wildly popular holiday by pasting a Christian label on it!

Witnesses seem to never tire of revealing the unsavory roots of holidays such a Christmas, Halloween, and Easter. My response is to say, ‘Give it a rest already. Nobody cares. If people haven’t given them up by now, they’re not going to.’ It’s like what my brother, who is vaccinated against Covid-19 but drew the line at the frequent boosters, said about the State’s incessant vaccine ads; ‘Sheesh! You’d think they’d realize that if people haven’t gotten it by now, they’re not going to.’

But, in this case, those Witnesses are right on the money and I am wrong. Transgender Visibility Day (as though they were invisible before) is no more than the holiday reverting closer to its origin. I mean, there have been people misgendered at birth. Occasionally, sexual organs are not distinct. Yet, we all know that when small children are queried at school or the pediatricians office as to whether they are really a boy or a girl (as happened with a young mother in our congregation)—question that perhaps they were ‘assigned’ the wrong sex—something is seriously out of whack.

As to the rededication of the day to celebrate Christ’s resurrection, good as it is, Jesus never said to celebrate it. Same with his birth. It’s a good thing, plainly, but Jesus never said to celebrate it. Churches celebrate both. The one event Christ did say to celebrate, the commemoration of his death, they do not do—at least not in the way we typical celebrate great events, as an annual occurrence. Instead, they attach a level of mystery to it and do it routinely so that nobody knows just what it is they are doing. I mean, the Lord’s evening meal, the first memorial of his death, was held on Passover night, Jesus giving it new significance. You would think that fact would dictate how often the Memorial was to be celebrated. “For even Christ our passover is sacrificed for us,” Paul says. (1 Corinthians 5:7)

 

*******  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'

What of all these Changes in Recent Months? Part 2

See Part 1:

Vomodog’s crew are beside themselves with, ‘These guys are afraid to tie their shoe unless their organization gives them permission!’ That’s how they’re responding to new changes—which changes should smooth out Witness life going forward, but it is not the draw to prior Witnesses that some in the congregation seem to think it is.

Then again, nothing ever will be. For the most part, Vic and chums have gone on full ‘Search and Destroy’ mode, not to be placated even were there to be apologies for changes not made before. Not saying that any are in the works, or ought be. Brother Winder had it right. You don’t have to apologize for previous understandings made in good conscience. It may even blow up In your face if you do (my point, not his). Apologies these days are taken as admissions of guilt, to be made use of in future campaigns. I think of how President Obama, in the early days of his presidency, went on a campaign of what was roundly ridiculed as his ‘Apology Tours.’

Still, will no good come of it among the ex-Witnesses at all? They are crazy as can be over on the ex places I have seen, woke to the nines, many giving the impression that they think the world is a near-paradise and all would know it were it not for JWs with their ‘scare tactics.’ I mean, someone over there must have both oars in the water! Maybe some of them will appreciate the bigger picture.

I don’t think the Witnesses’ governing body particularly likes saying, ‘Okay, now you can do this or that.’ But apparently they have come to feel sheeplike people need that from time to time. In 2017, they said beards are fine where local norms don’t get in the way. I think they were dismayed that so few took them up on it. I think it is with a certain annoyance that they did a later GB update, complete with bells, whistles, video history, and chariot, to say, “Look! We have no issue with beards!

‘Annoyance’ might be too strong a word. How can you be annoyed at the characteristics of the animal God has selected to represent those he favors? If annoyance is the word, they may be annoyance at themselves, for not having realized and adjusted to it long ago, annoyance that they allowed pesky matters to build up so until it looks like an ‘Old-JW Going out of Business Sale’ when done all at once. It may be annoyance that they didn’t defuse these things more gradually, and instead, postponed them for so long that, when they finally tackle the job, Vomodog paints them as jailers easing up on their charges.

Humans overswing in nearly everything. Eventually, the consequences of overswing comes back to bite. This prompts them to modify that swing. To take a trivial matter first, why did Witnesses hold on to ties and dresses as long as they did? There was a time when everyone wore ties and dresses to attend church. Even going downtown shopping was an occasion for men to don a tie and women to wear a dress.

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'

My Meeting Notes: Week of March 17, 2024. Psalm 19 and the Origin of Simony

Psalm 19 was the one to focus on this week. 20 and 21 were also included in the week’s assigned material. They’re fine, but 19 is where its at.

You can almost divide the psalm into two parts: 1-6 is of Jehovah’s created works: “The heavens are declaring the glory of God.” 7-14 is how He turns his attention toward humans, putting those works at his disposal. It is almost like a ‘What is mortal man that you keep him in mind?’ (Psalm 8, also of David) scenario.

For example, (vs 6) “It [the sun] emerges from one end of the heavens, And it circles to their other end; And nothing is concealed from its heat.” A pinhead sized piece of it—you’d still have to stand 90 miles away so as not to fry, the speaker said. And then, He uses that power, that nothing can be concealed from, to examine humans—don’t think you can keep any secrets from him. But his purpose is not to grill anyone—give them the third degree. It is to benefit with laws and reminders far beyond what they might come up with on their own—as though providing an owner’s manual for the product that is us:

The commandment of Jehovah is clean, making the eyes shine. The fear of Jehovah is pure, lasting forever. The judgments of Jehovah are true, altogether righteous. They are more desirable than gold, Than much fine gold, And sweeter than honey, the honey that drips from the combs. By them your servant has been warned; In keeping them, there is a large reward.” (8-11)

Back up to 3-4 about the heavens which “night after night declare knowledge:’ “There is no speech, and there are no words; Their voice is not heard. But into all the earth their sound has gone out,” How can one not like the imagery of Psalm 19? “The skies above proclaim the work of his hands.”

Speaking of imagery, get a load of this one, depicting the power of the rising sun: “It is like a bridegroom emerging from the bridal chamber.” Anyone recall how that guy feels?

Then, there was the study from the Book of Acts. This week the focus was on Simon, the sorcerer who tried to buy the miraculous gifts that turned out to be free to people of right heart: 

Now when Simon saw that the spirit was given through the laying on of the hands of the apostles, he offered them money, saying: “Give me this authority also, so that anyone on whom I lay my hands may receive holy spirit.” But Peter said to him: “May your silver perish with you, because you thought you could acquire the free gift of God with money. You have neither part nor share in this matter, for your heart is not straight in the sight of God. So repent of this badness of yours, and supplicate Jehovah that, if possible, the wicked intention of your heart may be forgiven you; for I see you are a bitter poison and a slave of unrighteousness.” In answer Simon said to them: “Make supplication for me to Jehovah that none of the things you have said may come upon me.” (Acts 8: 18-24)

The conductor, a man of kindness and empathy, spoke of how sometimes you have to give counsel, “even when it is difficult.” I dunno—it doesn’t look like Peter found it all that difficult. He roasted the fellow!

There was a paragraph that pointed out how Simon has become a word, simony, stemming from this account—trying to buy ecclesiastical things with money. My remark was that the account reminded me of the saying, ‘Don’t ever say a person is worthless. They can always be used as a bad example.’ Not that Simon was a worthless—he turned out okay, but there was a moment . . . I mean, his recovery wasn’t a slam dunk. Supplicate Jehovah that, if possible, this sin may be forgiven you, Peter said. 

In a way, he got what he wanted. Had he succeeded in buying miraculous gifts, he would have been one one many and nobody would recall him today. But because he flirted with being ‘worthless,’ he got a word named after him and thus lives on forever!

The conductor ended up saying how he wasn’t a bad man; his thinking just got screwy and had to be corrected. It happens today. There will be brothers who aren’t bad people, but their thinking gets askew over this point or that and must be readjusted.  The conductor is a good guy.

Then, there was that 3-minute part assigned to me on inviting someone to the Memorial. This I already wrote about here.

 

****  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'

What of All These Changes in Recent Months? - Part 1

What of all these changes in recent months? 

Jehovah’s Witnesses have counted their time in the ministry for 100 years. Now they don’t do it any more.

Next, it was beards. Jehovah’s Witnesses have been beardless since Russell days. Suddenly they start sprouting them.

Then it is changes on how disfellowshipped ones are treated should they return to the Kingdom Hall. And also a newer, softer, way of treating minors who veer from the straight paths in which they were raised.

And then—knock me over with a feather!—ties at meetings and in the ministry are placed on the chopping block. Forget about them if you want to! Look, I’ve seen photos of our brothers striding through the jungle with ties affixed!—and suddenly they’re optional! (A few shed them both at the next meeting and occasion for field service, but most did not.)

And then, sisters may choose to wear slacks. Again, a few did. Most didn’t.

I mean, that elder I love to tease—I told him I had expected him to show up in a Steelers sweatshirt! (which he did not)

More on the horizon? I’ve got my eye on that slick two-seater sports car, just in case. I also might fix the starred out L-word in Tom Irregardless and Me: “L*ck.” Wine glasses filled up (with Coke) just awaiting people to toast.

It’s even a bit surreal how fast things are changing. 

Vic Vomodog (we used to pull together in the work!) contacted me recently. He thinks that with all these changes, now he can:

Give me a second . . . . yeah, it is a little crazy. But it still works well.

These days, a long-time favorite quote of mine is coming into play again: “It is remarkable that persons who speculate the most boldly often conform with the most perfect quietude to the external regulations of society.” (Nathaniel Hawthorne—The Scarlet Letter)

I instantly thought of Witnesses upon reading that quote. Nobody ‘speculates’ more boldly than Jehovah’s Witnesses, They turn established paradigms of religious, philosophical, and secular life upon their head. At the same time, with what they regard as petty—matters of style, and so forth—they “conform with the most perfect quietude to the external regulations of [their] society.”

It just makes life easier when people don’t go kicking against the goads over every silly little thing. And so, few of Jehovah’s Witnesses do. They save their kicking for things important. For trivial things, they go with the flow.

However, this can result in silly situations in which people resist innocuous trends of the greater world because nobody wants to be the first to make an issue over something minor—and the first to do so is frowned upon by the others. We’re clearing out a lot of baggage now that might have been cleared out long ago but for our ‘sheeplike’ nature. It is a little embarrassing, because it does leave you open to sneering from Vic and his buddies, who have opted for a more independent model, but—well, sheep is the animal God chooses to represent those people he favors—not cats that cannot be herded.

Times change. If you can change with them without sacrificing any core principles, that’s the thing to do. It makes life easier. You find yourself not taking a hard stand over things that don’t matter. Such things have built up over the years. They’re being cleared out now.

To be continued here.

****  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'

Invite a Telemarketer to the Memorial

A sister at our Sunday meeting said she invites all telephone solicitors to the Memorial. She thereby resolved a minor crisis for me.

I have been assigned the 3 minute talk this week. Invite someone to the Memorial and show them how to locate a meeting in his area via the website. The implication is that this is not door-to-door. If it was, the matter of locating a meeting would not come up. Just go where the tract says.

So, the assignment calls for me to do something I would never do in real life. I’m all for ‘Jesus at the well’ conversations, but it would be a very unusual circumstance for it to escalate to a Memorial invitation in such a short span. Not saying some can’t do it. It’s just not my M.O. I figured I’d probably end up doing it the door-to-door way, meeting a person who will be out of town that day.

But then, viola! that sister’s comment. I told my householder to push an extended car warranty (his choice of scams) for all it was worth. Return to the subject at least twice, but on the third time, let me carry the ball. Point out then that he really would like to go but how? It is not as though he is in my area.

I’ll write it out here to get it in my head better. I’ll rehearse briefly with my householder this afternoon over the phone. Word for word is not necessary; a dry run to get in the spirit of things is all I’m after.

Hello, is this Mr. TrueTom?”

”This is he.” [You don’t say ‘yes’ because some of these liars use a recorded ‘yes’ in your voice to work other mischief. In fact, I had some reservations about enacting this at all. These people are very good at what they do. But in the end, I thought it was worth it to get a ‘G’ Besides, now that there is Chat GBT, they can do what they want with or without your cooperation.]

I’m calling about your car warranty. It’s about to run out. I want to extend it for you so you will be protected from unexpected repair costs.

”I almost never answer the phone from unrecognized numbers. Do you know why I did it today?”

Um—well, no.”

”It turns out there is a big event coming up. We’re inviting people. We do it every year. I’m doing it this year. It is the memorial of Christ’s death, which will be celebrated this Sunday. I’m inviting you. If you and your family are able to attend, we’d love to have you.”

But, Mr. Truetom, do you know the average cost of auto repairs now is almost $1000? And if it comes up unexpectedly, all at once, it is a crushing burden! With an extended warranty, you can manage future costs and protect your family.”

”I’m sure it’s a very fine product, but—C’mon! It can’t be as important as Christ’s death. I’ll go back to not answering calls next week, but this week I . . .”

$150. an hour! That’s what AutoNerd.com says is the labor rate today for auto mechanics! You don’t want to find yourself without  . . .”

”Yeah, I don’t want it.”

No? But why would you not want  . . “

”I dunno, I just don’t. I do want to celebrate the Memorial, though. Jesus actually said, ‘Keep doing this in remembrance of me until I come.” So Jehovah’s Witnesses do. Every year. It begins with a talk that explains just how his death benefits us. Seriously—I’d like you to come if you can.”

I’m not a Christian.”

”You don’t have to be. It turns out that his death can benefit people whether they’re Christian or not. That’s why there’s a talk first—so you can see if it makes sense to you.”

Well, it really does sound interesting to me, but I’m not in your area.”

“Again, it doesn’t matter. You can find one online. Can you remember two letters? J W? You know, Jehovah’s Witnesses—J W. Just go to JW.org. Scroll to the bottom. You’ll find a link to ‘Memorial’. Click on that. Then you’ll find a link to ‘Find a Memorial.’ Please come. I think you would like it.”

“I may. Thank you. You’re not posting this on your blog, though, are you?”

*****  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'

My Quora Answers: Part 2

Q:Are Jehovah's Witness cult members anti-politics and anti-military because of their organizations failed attempt to join the United Nations?

A: They are not ‘anti’ either. They are simply non-participants, recognizing neither as the path through which God’s kingdom will ‘come’ and his will be done ’on earth as it is in heaven.’ Nor did they ever try to join the UN, though they did once register as an NGO out of someone’s bright idea that such gave them better access to documents and library materials. That person has been confined to the Bethel basement peeling potatoes for decades now.

A: The ‘superstition’ has benefited far more people than it has harmed. This is because courageous doctors have sought to accomodate it and in doing so have recognized risks and vastly reduced ‘unnecessary’ transfusions that amount to little more than ‘topping of the tank.’ It is the only conclusion one can come to upon reading sources such as New Scientist’s article, ‘An Act of Faith in the Operating Room,’ in which the act of faith is not withholding a transfusion; it is giving one.

https://www.tomsheepandgoats.com/2008/05/new-scientist-a.html
 
 
A: They haven’t changed or removed one, save for a few that all modern scholars have agreed are spurious—ones that do not appear in the oldest of manuscripts.
 

A: Some of them will use such questions in the way politicians do. Ignore it and just use it as a platform to say whatever they want to on the topic. This is especially so if the question is ridiculous.

JWs are among the very few faiths that will not pick up arms (weapons) for any reason. They have solved racism (JWs in the U.S. are almost exactly 1/3 white, 1/3 black, and 1/3 Hispanic). Everyone should be as ‘evil’ and ‘abusive’ as they. Then this world might have more of a future than it does.

You should get treatment for your OCD.

 

A: “That they may know that thou alone, whose name is Jehovah, Art the Most High over all the earth.” (Psalm 83:18, ASV)

Do you think there is an angel recognized as “the Most High over all the earth?” Or do you think it is God revealing his name?

 
A: Yes. Because as a people, they are trustworthy.
 
 
Q: Do JW churches not have clocks or windows inside? If this is true, what is the reasoning behind it?

A: They have both clocks and windows. The clocks are so people can tell what time it is. The windows are to look through and let in natural light. If there are fewer windows than one might expect it is because vandals have been known to break windows.

 

Q: What is your opinion of Serena William’s decision to leave Jehovah’s Witnesses?

A: I’m not aware that she did. In view of a series of posts I wrote about her, I rather doubt she did. Since those posts were written she went on to get baptized: https://www.tomsheepandgoats.com/2019/01/the-serena-williams-child-doesnt-do-birthdays.html

A: Some tire of the message that God’s kingdom is the only answer to man’s distress. Some begin think the politicians will yet pull off a solution, or if they don’t, we’ll all go down together. Some become like Demas, who left ‘because he loved the present system of things.’ Some fixate on the flaws, real or perceived, of their fellows and lose sight that JW is a system of worshipping God. Some decide there is no God. Some are unforgiving. ‘If errors were watch you watch, O God, who could stand?’ says the psalm. Errors are what people watch for today—society is geared that way—and for such people, nobody stands.

Some do have regrets and some return.

 
A: Within a family they generally do.
 

A: There was once a time when writing to only those persons relevant was not interpreted as attempting to pull the wool over the eyes of everyone else.

A: The movement hails from the late 19th century, is seen to be a return to first-century Christianity, and they were originally just called ‘Bible Students.’ Charles Russell, a Pittsburgh businessman, played a role in gathering a small group together. To understand any unfamiliar Bible verse, they would look up and compare all other verses dealing with that topic, writing down the result, in this way letting the Bible interpret itself.

 
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'

My Meeting Notes: Week of 3/10/24–Psalm 18

Just one psalm for the weekly Bible reading this week. 18. It is longer than most. Following are a few aspects commented on: 

First, the visual: “flash floods of worthless men” (Psalm 18:4) Imagine getting caught up in one of them! David, the psalmist, was, and it “terrified” him. It would me, too.

He was also worried about “the faultfinding of the people.” (vs 43) He had to be rescued from it.   They are bad news, always with ‘You didn’t do this right! You didn’t do that right! Why isn’t this such-and-such? What about . .  Sheesh.

Then there is that long visual of Jehovah “bending the heavens” to descend and save the day, with “thick gloom was beneath his feet.” (vs 9) You science brothers can be forgiven for thinking of Einstein, who also bends heavens.

Those “flash floods of worthless men” have been encircling the loyal ones with whom God himself will act loyally (vs 25), to deliver from “ropes of death, (vs 4) “ropes of the Grave,” and “snares of death.” They call to Jehovah and he heeds them.

It’s all but target practice then. Thick gloom is beneath his feet as he descends, but he lights it up with “his lightning” to throw “them into confusion.” (vs 14) Things covered are uncovered: “The streambeds became visible; The foundations of the land were exposed by your rebuke. (vs 15) Things (like the psalmist) in danger of being covered over are uncovered: “He reached down from on high; He took hold of me and pulled me from deep waters,” like pulling a Floridian from Hurricane Ian. (the storm that destroyed Ft Myers Beach, where my relatives had a time share and we used to visit from time to time.)

Upon which, the psalmist is thankful. Would you not be too? “[Jehovah] rescues me from my angry enemies; You lift me high above those who attack me; You save me from the man of violence. That is why I will glorify you among the nations, O Jehovah, And to your name I will sing praises.” (48-49)

Only a minority of translations render Psalm 18:4 as “flash floods of worthless men.” Most don’t add any human element at all—a common rendering is “torrents of destruction.” But the fact that some do suggests to me that the ones that don’t are chickening out. Maybe they succumb to the modern trend that it’s okay to judge actions but not people, like the psalmist seems to do—so they soften it. “Rivers of wickedness” is a common choice, as though rivers themselves can be wicked.

Floods “of ungodliness” or of “ungodly men” is the better choice of some. It’s like the Watchtower’s explanation that “the knowledge of Jehovah” being widespread throughout the earth is something that does not affect zebras and bears. Rather, it is a reference of humans who once lived as animals. While the Isaiah 11 prophesy of “the lion shall lay down with the lamb” may well find fulfillment in animals getting along, the real fulfillment lies in how persons who once ripped and devoured each other like wild beasts will no longer do so.

Similarly, waves don’t get ungodly all by themselves, but waves “of the worthless” (YLT) do.

***five of the Biblegateway translations had significantly different readings. NABRE is an example, which renders 18:4 as: ”Praised be the Lord, I exclaim! I have been delivered from my enemies.” There’s a note somewhere that it is a Masoritic correction. I have to research it further. It does have in common with the others that the trouble is with humans—enemies—and not just with some vague ‘forces of destruction,’ or ‘perdition’ as some translations say. 

***

Then there was the Watchtower Study article, “Conquer fear by trusting in Jehovah.” (January 2024 issue) At first glance, it doesn’t look like much. It’s like a recipe, that doesn’t look like much just to see it in print. But when you cook it, that is a different thing. The study itself at the Kingdom Hall amounts to “cooking it.” Most study articles are not designed to stand alone—they must be “cooked” with audience participation. 

Reference was made (paragraph 14) to a 2014 regional convention  which depicted how we might meditate on our hope. A father discussed with his family how 2 Timothy 3:1-5 might be worded differently if those verses foretold what it would be like in Paradise: “In the new world the happiest of times will be here. For men will be lovers of others, lovers of spiritual treasures, modest, humble, praisers of God, obedient to parents, thankful, loyal, having great affection for their families, open to agreement, always speaking well of others, self-controlled, mild, lovers of goodness, trustworthy, yielding, lowly in mind, lovers of God rather than lovers of pleasures, motivated by genuine godly devotion; and to these people stick closely.” 

Reversing the 19 negative attributes of 2 Timothy 3:1-5. I had not thought of that. But I raised my hand to comment that, for the most part, that reversal characterized the brotherhood today. It’s not flawless, people fall short, are imperfect, but in the main it is that way. That’s why they call it a “spiritual paradise.”

 

******  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'