Banned at the Apostate Website!

I got banned at the apostate website! Can you believe it? I was the very personification of respect and good manners. Of course, I was also the very personification of tenacity, but it was still me against a dozen others. Now that I have been muzzled, it may be me against 100. Lloyd—let us call this fellow Lloyd—worked so hard to get me to engage with him and as soon as I did, he tossed me out!

Actually, he wanted me to engage on his podcast, where you shoot from the hip. Again and again, he invited me there. I thought a forum in which you can think out your remarks beforehand was better. I put a human face on an outfit he is trying very hard to demonize. It finally pushed him to his limit. After making six or eight comments on his site, I found this:

Lloyd: “I simply want to present the other point of view,” well, that’s partly true, Tom. You want to present “the other point of view” on your own terms – i.e. by trolling me in comments and tweets. You don’t quite have the guts to come on my YouTube channel for a conversation where you can express “the other point of view” (Watchtower’s point of view, which everyone is already aware of) in front of thousands of people. You’d much rather selectively violate the command to refrain from engaging with apostates as it suits you. Again, I wonder if there are any other commands from your masters “the Slave” regarding which you feel it’s ok to pick and choose? Or is your hypocrisy confined solely to this particular area of Watchtower’s rulebook?”

When I tried to reply, I found I was blocked. There was nothing to do but take it to the Twitter street, where I found the same response:

He: “My point is you are already violating the rules by engaging with me (some would say trolling)....You may as well go the whole hog and come on my YouTube channel for an interview if you have something to say, but I doubt you have the backbone.”

Tom: “I don’t. Better thought-out written remarks than shoot-from-the-hip debate. Did I really just get banned at your site? Despite 2 tries, my last reply to you did not stick. All were polite, respectful, and on-topic. None repeated. (1)

“If that is ‘trolling,’ it is not like the liar who pretended to be GB, even tweeting “Pray for our brothers in Russia” before finally revealing he didn’t give a hoot in hell for “our brothers in Russia.” It was all a ruse to draw in the guileless ones. (2)

“Let me post my blocked remark here and then call it quits for now: “Lloyd, if I am misbehaving, you can toss me, and let persons reflect of the irony of that, since you repeatedly asked to me debate in the first place. ‘Trolling’ is in the eye of the beholder. (3)

“I have not insulted anyone, On the contrary, I have gone out of my way not to on several occasions. For example, when someone here said: ‘Are you calling us liars who exaggerate?’ I made clear that I was not. (4)

“On forums where there is a comment section, I have never blocked anyone that I can recall. I would if someone became an abusive and unrelenting pest, but I have not yet had to. (5)

“In debate classes you are given an argument and assigned to take this side and then that. The clear message is that it is technique over substance. Better to write, where one can compose words with thought. Let both points of view be presented honestly, (6)

“Jesus never debated. In fact, he routinely did things that would infuriate devotees of debate. He used hyperbole. He answered questions with counter-questions. He spun involved parables that he rarely explained as a means of reaching the heart. (7)”

My opponent was not impressed with this exchange: “I’m amazed at your continuing excuses for refusing to come on my channel for a conversation (not debate, necessarily) when the real reason is: you are afraid you will be pulled into the backroom by your elders.”

Tom: “You are young and vigorous. I am older who perhaps must take care that my teeth do not fall out or my cane trip me up. Or like Paul (2 Cor 10:10) whose letters are weighty but whose personal presence is weak. Or slow of speech like Moses. I believe I did not misrepresent anything. (1)

“(2) I disagreed, which is not the same, always respectfully, and stood up for a group that you continually attack without check, and whose similar attacks have resulted in Russian machine guns literally pointed at the heads of some.

“(3) A substantial blow for free speech on a site that purports to celebrate freedom. [I tagged a couple of journalists at this point] Of course, I take no comments on my site either, but in doing so forsake the flood of accolades and attaboys from my chums, which you clearly do not with yours, now as tight as the Russian press.”

He did not take this lying down. There was a flurry of back and forth tweets:

He: “It has nothing to do with free speech. It has to do with you knowingly misrepresenting my views and opinions. You can do that on here [Twitter] as much as you like, but on my website, nope.

“You get only one chance to not misrepresent/twist my words into something other than I meant or intended. You did this at least twice, hence you are blocked from commenting on [my site], so please don’t expect sympathy.”

Did I do that, misrepresent him? He gave two examples, offered here with my own words in quotes: (Let the reader use discernment.)

1) “Lloyd’s outrageous video assertion that elders visit patients in their hospital room to make sure they toe the line on blood policy.” - An oversimplification. I am sure some elders visit patients on compassionate grounds, but that is not the sole thinking behind the HLC system.

2) “Lloyd’s assertion that when persons apply for reinstatement they do so just to reestablish social ties” - I never asserted that people only get reinstated to be reunited. I am sure many do so because, like you, they are simply indoctrinated and know no other way of living.

He didn’t like me tying him in with the Russian persecution, either: “You cannot blame me for what’s going on in Russia, which I have spoken out against unequivocally. Backward regimes have been persecuting religious minorities long before there was Google or YouTube.”

 

I declared war on these guys after the three (now four) incendiary anti-Witness articles in the Philadelphia Inquirer and I learned that the reporter checked in at one such anti-Witness site between articles. It is the only reason I would engage: journalists hang out there. Maybe just one, but who can say? One is enough. So I weighed in to offer such ones context that they will not get otherwise. A journalist wants that. It is an abundance of anecdotal evidence at the anti-Witness site, and anecdotal evidence must always be given context so as to mean anything. There must be context so that you know what you are looking at, and this is what I tried to supply until I was shoved over the trap door. I mean, it’s his site. He can do what he wants with it. But there is reason to hope no reporter will rely on it solely.

Here is the context I offered, all remarks made on his site before the window slammed shut on my fingers, with introduction in brackets. At every comment, a click on my name would link to a short justification for the disfellowshipping arrangement, which will be explored further in chapter 16.

[The subject of his original web post was disfellowshipping. Many of the participants presumably had undergone it. They didn’t like it.]

Tom: “In any forum where participants simply reinforce the prevailing view, matters become skewed over time and therefore inaccurate. So, I add the counterpoint, which I present for consideration and leave it at that. You have been after me for debate since you became aware of my existence, and this is as close as you are going to get. You are correct that Witnesses generally decline debates. Should I debate on your podcast, with all your chums cheering when you land a punch & wincing into damage control when I land one, while my chums don’t go in for that sort of thing in the first place? I don’t think so.

“The GB does not ‘tell’ people to shun family members. Instead, it says that if one has triggered what would cause disfellowshipping, there is no reason to say that because he or she is family, matters are necessarily different. Members apply that counsel as they see fit, but whatever they do, they do not have the sense that someone is telling, much less ordering them, to do so—only that someone alerted them long ago to relevant Bible passages on the subject, after which the Bible passages themselves guide them in what to do, as they consider whatever mitigating circumstances there are in their own family, often finding none, but not inevitably so.

“The idea that Witnesses can turn off love for a family member is incorrect (given that there are variations in families). A separation causes deep pain in those remaining ‘faithful.’ It is not just the departing one who suffers. However, they tell themselves that the family member did bring it on him or herself, that Jesus said his words could cause division in the family, and should that happen, loyalty to God trumps that for even family members. The door that was closed as a last-ditch attempt at discipline was never locked and it is always possible to return.

“It is the notion of Christianity as a movement separate from the world, trying to serve as a beacon to it, pointing to something better, that is under attack, especially when people have gone atheist, all the rage today and a marked divergence from all previous history. The concept of ‘separateness’ from the greater world inevitably brings about situations such as the topic of this thread, yet it is a concept integral to Christianity. It is only by staying ‘clean’ that Christians feel able to lend a helping hand to others. I understand that may come across as self-righteous, but it is not meant that way. Members freely confess that they botch up all the time, but that to the extent they are able to adhere to God’s standards, their lives improve, and their abilities to help others.”

[I apologized subsequently for saying: “Many participants here are thinking people,” which implies that many are not.]

[One participant got ahold of a private elders’ book and waved it as though it was the smoking gun. In fact, it undermined his argument that at the drop of a pin members are dealt with harshly.]

“Though the discipline of the congregation is admittedly rough on those who will not be guided by it (like Saul ‘kicking at the goads’) ones here expand it to make it seem much harsher than it is. Yet when Maxwell actually quotes an elder’s handbook, (presumably giving it his best shot) he reveals something much less harsh than what he represents it as. Elders “counsel and reason,” not exactly the same as “ordering.” In the event that a congregation member does not respond to counsel, he is not thrown on the spit, but he “would not qualify for congregation privileges.” Is that not a big ‘Duh’? If you want to enjoy privileges anywhere, you must toe the line more than if you do not reach out for such privileges. “He would not be dealt with judicially” unless there is “persistent” [not occasional] “spiritual association” [not nuts-and-bolts association] or he “openly” criticizes the disfellowshipping decision, thus undermining the method of governance that he signed on for in the first place.

“So it is not so harsh as portrayed. Moreover, it can be avoided, and once incurred, it can be repaired. The ‘crime,’ then, is the congregation’s desire to fulfill the Christian mandate of staying ‘separate from the world,’ the only position from which it feels able to render assistance to those who feel crushed under the latter’s weight. The book Secular Faith – How Culture Has Trumped Religion in American Politics attempts to reassure its secular audience through examining the changing moral stands of churches on five key issues. The book points out that today’s church members have more in common with atheists than they do with members of their own denominations of decades past. Essentially, the reassurance to those who would mold societal views is: ‘Don’t worry about it. They will come around. They always do. It may take a bit longer, but it is inevitable.’ Jehovah’s Witnesses have thwarted this model by not coming around. The congregation thinks it important to stick to the values that they deliberately selected, and they knew from the start God does not work through democracy. In order to preserve this unchanging model, it is necessary to have practices such as under discussion here, which can be tweaked some, as has happened per previous comment, but cannot be abandoned. No one has been able to ‘hold the line’ through decades of time without them.

“Lloyd writes that he disapproves of Witnesses being arrested and jailed in Russia. I have no doubt that he means it. However, he disapproves in the same sense that the California arsonist disapproves of the state burning to the ground. One of the driving forces of the ban in that country is one Alexander Dvorkin, who pushes the same ‘anti-cult’ narrative Lloyd endorses. He pushes it on many groups, not just Jehovah’s Witnesses, though they have been his prime target. He wants to ‘protect’ people by preventing them from hearing ideas that he thinks are ‘socially destructive,’ a goal not unlike some of the goals expressed here. The only difference is that he has seen it more fully accomplished.

“Acting on his prodding sends a clear ‘open hunting season’ on religious minorities. Various human-rights and law experts convened in France in January 2018, where one of them observed of Mr. Dvorkin: He ‘enjoys disseminating inflammatory narratives and hate speech.’ The reason that Russian Jehovah’s Witnesses have not caved under his mischief (which is added to nationalistic and dominant Church pressures) is that they do not see themselves as followers of ‘eight men,’ the meme relentlessly pushed here, but of the Bible. Acquiescing to the authority of the eight men taking the lead is little more than acquiescing to the authority of the teacher, boss, military leader, coach, parent, or consulted advisor, something that was once routine and unremarkable but is now portrayed as selling out one’s soul.”

[A journalist had ambushed one of our people, who took cover, and I addressed that]

“When a person is unexpectedly accosted by a reporter wanting an answer to something that will take more than a sound bite to answer, everyone knows it is a cheap shot. That is not to say they do not cheer if it is an enemy, but they nonetheless know. People are not AI machines. His mind is a million miles away. Still, his discomfiture is inevitably and dishonestly painted as ‘proof’ that he is a flat-out liar. That is why respected sources content themselves with: ‘So and so was contacted but declined to comment for this article.’”

I don’t know if it was a good idea or not. Like Howard Beale, I just got “mad as hell and couldn’t take it anymore.” After every comment there came a torrent of abuse. I changed no one’s mind and was routinely called a hypocrite, sometimes an a*****e. You have to expect this going in and you cannot take such things to heart. You certainly cannot get into tit for tat, nor should you be so dumb as to say someone does not correctly perceive his or her own experience. How would you know? It is the constant with all anecdotal evidence, which may (not likely) be understated, may be (more likely) overstated, or may occasionally even be made up. You have no way of knowing, so you ought not touch it. You have to realize going in that you will lose.

My engagement was all on account of the journalists, and maybe I just fool myself as to how many hang out there. Who can say? At each comment I was reminded that I am “ordered” not to engage and “not allowed” to be there. It turns out that I truly was “not allowed,” but it was not by my own people. It was by the web host himself after I pasted his ears back a little. Thereafter, do you think he would correct the impression his own readers had that Witness HQ had “ordered” me to cease and desist? “Tell them it was you” I told him. But he said that he didn’t owe me a thing. He likes softballs that he can swat out of the park.

[Someone brought up homosexuality. It is the common view today that if you do not accept another person’s tenets, you must “hate” that person, and I sought to counter that. Every comment was to counter something and to present a side not otherwise seen:]

Tom: “One can sympathize here [with the plight of gay people who were once members]. I don’t know the answer. JWs do not ‘go after’ gays as do many churches. The 2018 Regional Convention devoted about 2 minutes to it in a video (which nonetheless created an uproar) in a program lasting three days. Okay? They don’t crusade. And they certainly don’t do what evangelicals do to maneuver politicians into passing laws forcing gays to live as they do. Nor do they go in for simple-minded and abusive practices as ‘conversion therapy.’

“The meme ‘born that way’ becomes the dominant meme by endless repetition. However, the Wt has acknowledged that genetics might play a role. Alternatively, it might be environment, psych endorsement, discredited Freud-type ideas (discredited mostly because they are unpopular) universal gender-bending hormones/plastics in common use, even epigenetics. Who knows? One thing for sure: sexuality has proven far more fluid than anyone of my day would have thought possible.

“The GB likely feels that they have no choice, given what the Bible, their guide to life, tells them. They take it as wisdom from God, who knows us better than we do ourselves. Gays within our ranks do not swim against the current, nor into it, both recipes for disaster. They are prepared to swim parallel to the shore, likely for a long time, in hopes that their orientation will eventually realign. One could argue that their faith is stronger than most Christians in that they stick to what they believe is right despite the very real testimony of their own bodies. It hardly seems fair, does it? It is why I have the greatest respect for such ones, who will mostly remain anonymous, and ZERO respect for the frothing church types who rail against gays, as they are demanding the latter lift a load the comparison of which they themselves would not be willing to budge with their little finger.”

[In response to someone who said he thought the organization’s days were numbered:]

“Time will tell. The enemies of Jehovah’s Witnesses have succeeded in doing what Witnesses could never have succeeded in doing alone: putting the Cause before the world. Russia persecution triggers international sympathy. Shunning and child abuse cover-up allegations trigger international frowning. All three are diluted by the fact that there are endless atrocities today to compete for people’s limited attention.

“Cover-up allegations and shunning complaints are bad. Invariably they are exaggerated, such as people are wont to do, but they are seldom manufactured. Countering the bad press will be the good things that Jehovah’s Witnesses have to offer, things that are never alluded to here.

“A recent development of the Witness organization is self-guided, online Bible study lessons at their website, addressing such age-old questions as ‘Why does God permit suffering?’ ‘What happens when we die?’ and ‘Is there realistic hope for the future?’ People want such answers. Lloyd says (pityingly) in a video that Witnesses ‘crave certainty.’ Isn’t that a big ‘Duh’? Anyone here enjoy playing Russian Roulette with their finances or health? The more certainty we can lay hold of the better.

“Bible answers are Jehovah’s Witnesses’ strong suit. Christians are directed in the Bible to stay separate from the greater world as they offer it a helping hand. Anything with an upside will have a downside. The downside zeroed in on exclusively on this forum is real, but it does not negate the upside. Therefore, it depends upon where is your focus. ‘Bible education’ is the overall goal of the Witness organization, and ‘preaching the good news.’ As the online study sessions demonstrate, with only some exaggeration, if push comes to shove, the essential components of the Witnesses’ work can be run out a server in someone’s dorm room.

“Meanwhile, going atheist holds some attraction, mostly escaping anyone who would tell you what to do, as though one does not simply put themselves under the ‘control’ of other deep-pocketed parties telling you what to do, be it Trump, Soros, the Russians, Big Defense, Big Pharma, pro or anti climate change, with the enormous economic and lifestyle consequences both bring. Atheism will appeal to some, but never all. The year text presumably agreed upon here is: “Sh*t happens. Get used to it. Maybe we can elect the right politicians to fix it.” How’s that project going, anyway?

“No, that year text will just not cut it for everyone.”

Maybe I should have gone on his podcast, but I figured it might be like the time, long ago, when I filled in for a school bus driver in a very rough district, and one of the deboarding students spit on me, and then he and all his chums assembled to invite me on their ‘podcast’ just outside the bus. I decided to do like Jesus, who was not even driving a bus, when he was spit upon. ‘But they say that he is very nice in person,’ his buddies told me. Doubtless he would pour me Kool-Aid with a smile to quench my thirst. I never entertained the idea, though I did stretch it out for a while:

He: “Welcome back Tom. Is your personal allowance for engaging with apostates online still only limited to Twitter, or will you be able to join me for a recorded chat on Skype?’ [I had come back. I followed him on Twitter in the first place when I discovered he would reliably inform me of things I might want to address. The moment he became aware of me, he wanted me on his show.]

Tom: “As soon as one agrees to a debate, one agrees to the premise that debate is the best way to illuminate things.”

He: “There are lots of ways of illuminating things. Discourse is one way. I had no idea it was a competition.”

Tom: “I have written three books. You have written at least one. Let that be your ‘discourse’ for you.”

He: “I think we both know your reason for declining an interview. It ain’t your books.”

[His chums joined in:]

Chum: “Tom why on earth are you in contact with ‘apostates’? Do you think Jah can’t read twitter...and therefore judge you for it?”

Another chum: “Seriously Tom, I’d be bricking it in your shoes! There’s no allowance for chatting with bad sorts (well, Jesus did it, but let’s forget that, and him, eh!).”

[Forgive me if this gets tiresome. Feel free to skip a little, or go right on to the next chapter.  A bit later:]

He: “Me waiting for truetom to accept my offer of an on-camera interview to discuss his views as a believing JW who doesn’t have a problem engaging with apostates on social media.”

He: “BTW Tom, since you’re apparently able to bend the rules by interacting with apostates on social media, are you feeling brave enough to go the full nine yards and join me for an on-camera Skype interview? Or does Jehovah’s judgment kick in once you appear on camera?”

He: “I’m quite happy to have a civilized discussion in which we agree to disagree. We do have at least some common ground in both opposing Russia’s ban of Jehovah’s Witnesses.”

He: “…you’ve already rejected the offer citing some bizarre argument about being an author and not the true reason - that your religion prevents you from conversing with apostates.”

Tom: “Perhaps I am not a good debater.”

He: “It doesn’t need to be a debate, just a conversation.”

Tom: “Unfortunately, I am not even good at conversation. “But I said: ‘Alas, O Sovereign Lord Jehovah! I do not know how to speak, for I am just a boy.’ (Jeremiah 1:6) That’s me.”

He: “You’re not much good at following the rules of the cult for which you are a cheerleader, either.”

Tom: “Many things I am not much good at. More things than not, actually.”

He: “There’s simple mistakes and then there’s straight up hypocrisy. Either it’s “Jehovah’s organization” or it isn’t. If it is, maybe you should do as you’re told and get your acre in paradise.” [Ouch]

Tom: “You say I violate ‘rules’ and yet you would have me violate them further by ‘conversation’? Ha! You just think you can get me into trouble with my own people so that I will sulk and cross over into the Obi-wan Dark Side.”

And now I must face the music from my own side, and there may be some. His continual taunts at being “not allowed” were surely overdone, and it must have made him feel a little silly when I kept coming nonetheless, until he felt compelled to “not allow” me himself. Still, nobody here thinks it is the bee’s knees to engage with these characters, and I may hear about it. And they could be right. Maybe I am the yo-yo on the Jerusalem wall singing out just when Hezekiah is telling the troops to zip it. But I just couldn’t take it anymore.

The Witness organization cannot be expected to defend itself on social media, if on any media. It takes the scriptural view of Jesus at Matthew 11, noting that grumblers slam him no matter what he does, before finally saying, ‘Don’t worry about it,’ “wisdom is proved righteous by its works.” It is like David who kept mum as ‘all day long they muttered against him.’ ‘It is like the plowman who knows that if you look behind while plowing, the furrows get all flaky.’ They don’t do it. The common view of opposers is that the Witness headship is telling members what to do, while it cynically manipulates all from above. That view is wrong. They practice what they preach and they do it themselves. The organization headship cites Hebrews 13:7 about ‘imitating the faith of those who are taking the lead among you.’ They don’t go on social media at all. They prefer a less raucous channel, and content themselves with news releases at the website that inform but do not kick back at the critics.

It is scriptural. It is proper. But there is a downside. By staying mum on specifics, essentially our enemies get to define us to the news media who refer to a cover statement about “abhorring child abuse” as “boiler-plate” and then go to former members who will eagerly fill their ears with accounts that we could counter by adding context but don’t. What’s a reporter to do? He goes to who fills his ears.

It will fall upon the Witness journalist to do it, if it is to be done, and there aren’t many of them. If fourteen years of blogging, not shying from controversial things, does not qualify me to take a shot at it, what does? If you are in a spiritual paradise, or even a vacation paradise, you do not have to concern yourself with removing the trash. It may be even dangerous to do so, because there is broken glass and used syringes. It’s not for everyone, and maybe for no one. But I thought I’d give it a go, and I at last got under this fellow’s skin, the big baby.

https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/917311

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The Serena Williams Child Doesn't Do Birthdays

Few things cause more distress in the world of celebrities than a neglected birthday celebration. Yet Serena Williams presented them exactly that woe with regard to her baby daughter, soon to turn one. “Serena and husband Alexis Ohanian won’t be throwing an over-the-top birthday bash for their baby girl…In fact, they won’t be throwing a party at all, reported Caitlyn Hitt for the Daily Mail. Why?

Serena says: “We’re Jehovah’s Witnesses, so we don’t do that.” She repeats the tack that she took with President Obama, back when she was “excited to see Obama out there doing his thing….[but] I’m a Jehovah’s Witness, so I don’t get involved in politics. We stay neutral. We don’t vote...so I’m not going to necessarily go out and vote for him. I would if it wasn’t for my religion.’’ Let me tell you that she took heat for it from people immersed in civic affairs, not to mention those who dislike Witnesses.

Notwithstanding that the support organization of Jehovah’s Witnesses encourages congregation members to give reasons for their stands and not just say “I do it because I’m a Jehovah’s Witness,” there are times when the latter response is exactly the right thing to say. The actual reason takes a while to explain and people don’t necessarily want to hear it. You have to know your audience. I have come to like Serena Williams more and more. She doesn’t buckle under pressure, mumbling something half apologetic. No. She says: “We don’t do that.” She reminds me very much of a young Witness named Jackie who was hounded at school for her modest way of dress. She threw it right back at them. “I set the style!” she told the would-be bullies. “If you want to be cool, you dress like me.”

Speaking of modest dress, Serena hasn’t exactly done that over the years on the tennis court. Even given that you want freedom of movement in sports, you will hear her criticized for that from time to time, often from people who think they can embarrass Jehovah’s Witnesses on that account. Outspokenly she has thanked Jehovah for her tennis victories, yet how does that work with the flag at the Olympics? Jehovah’s Witnesses are circumspect about the flag of any nation, declining to salute, not for any reason of protest, but because of the second of the Ten Commandments. And didn’t she cuss out that official at a certain match? Ah, well, athletes have been known to do that and people cut them slack. After all, if she was mild-mannered Clark Kent, she would find transition into Superwoman difficult.

So she has sent mixed signals over the years. Why would that be? Ah, here it is in the Caitlyn Hitt article: Last year she told Vogue, “Being a Jehovah’s Witness is important to me, but I’ve never really practiced it and have been wanting to get into it.” Okay. She was brought up in the faith and has made part of it her own but not entirely. Apparently, she is not baptized, a big event for Witnesses. Now, with a child, she means to change some things. The birth of a child will frequently trigger a shift in priorities. Likely, she is conscious of a spiritual need not completely attended to in her own case and she does not want the same for her daughter. Since Jehovah’s Witnesses call each other brother and sister and I am old enough to be her dad, I tweeted: “Knock it out of the park! You go, my daughter.” I’m sure she saw it out of the gazillion tweets she receives each day, many from JW detractors telling her that she is nuts.

Her outspokenness has served her well in another instance. When the man she was dating wished her a Happy Birthday and she responded as she does now for her daughter, the man admired the courage. He “saw this gesture as Serena stepping outside her comfort zone for him and decided immediately that he wanted to marry her.”

It only gets more interesting. He is Reddit founder Alexis Ohanian. He is not a Jehovah’s Witness and was not raised with any religion at all but is reportedly okay with Serena’s faith. Now, it turns out that Reddit is a huge online discussion forum in which topics are hosted for everything under the sun. One of those groups, with thousands of participants, is dedicated to bringing down the organization of Jehovah’s Witnesses. When the Philadelphia Inquirer reporter wrote four incendiary articles about Jehovah’s Witnesses, he used this group as his source of information and between articles checked in with them, as though Trump playing to his base.

It therefore reminds—I mean, it is not a type/antitype kind of thing—but it sure does remind one of Jewish Queen Esther of long ago, married to the wealthy Persian King who had been maneuvered by enemies into decreeing that her people be destroyed. The sentence surely would have been carried out but for Esther’s (putting her life at risk to do it) bold intervention. Yeah, why don’t you go in there to Mr. Ohanian, you Reddit Witness haters, and tell him that his wife is crazy? That sounds like a brilliant plan to me. Tell him that the reporter from the Philly paper is on your side. Just make sure that you read up on Haman before you do it.

Look, it is not parallel in all respects. Nobody is literally threatening to kill anyone, but they are threatening to kill the Christian organization that supports and coordinates the worldwide work that Jehovah’s Witnesses carry out, just as like-minded Witness haters are now doing in Russia. Moreover, Mr. Ohanian cannot be expected to pull the group’s Reddit credentials; he runs a website dedicated to free speech. There is also a pro-JW group on the site, as well as a squirrelly in-between one, seemingly supportive of Witness teachings but unsupportive of the human leadership. Such will always be the sticking point in the divine/human interface.

From the book TrueTom vs the Apostates!

00


Doesn't Do Birthdays. Part 2

No sooner did I liken Serena Williams to Queen Esther for her possible future role of exposing the evildoers, then someone said: “Um, she’s not exactly Queen Esther, you know. Didn’t she appear bare-naked, unmarried, and pregnant on that Vanity Fair cover? And you know that birth is not like the one of Mary.”

Well, I actually hadn’t thought of that, if I ever even knew it in the first place. Still, it changes nothing. She openly acknowledges she likes the faith but has not practiced it. Now she means to. Is it a bad thing when she has, in the past, called herself a Jehovah’s Witness?

I think not. People love celebrities and will usually concede that they live in a world of their own, facing unique pressures. For better or for worse, nobody makes a big deal of sex before marriage anymore. I don’t even think the news writer of the article that her child won’t do birthdays thought to mention it, or maybe she did and it didn’t register with me. That people do not make a big deal of it is ‘for worse,’ usually, because the Word says that they should, but in this case, it is ‘for better.’

Totally without evidence, based only upon a feel for the way people are, I think that many of her most vocal critics are ones who dislike Jehovah’s Witnesses, who spot the disparity of past conduct and want to slam us with it. Few others care.

Has she lived up to the faith in the past? She says very openly that she has not. Now she reaches a point where she says she will. I think it is a very good thing. Okay, okay, so she is no Queen Esther. Queen Esther did not play tennis. Call Serena the Samaritan woman by the well if you like, a woman who also fell short of the mark, yet lived to be a powerful witness for the Lord.

Do we have a woman who is a mixed bag, having done things both fine and unfine, and who now wants to make them all fine? I’ll take it every time. It is in the spirit of Jesus, I think, who came to save persons ill who had become aware of their spiritual need. She will straighten out all those things before baptism, of course, should she continue on the path she now says she was to pursue more single-mindedly. Love hopes all things and believes all things. Sometimes it is shown up as wrong in a given case. But it keeps on hoping and believing

Moreover, to go back to the point of a prior chapter, this Reddit group has done Witnesses huge mischief. The Philly reporter used it as his source to write four incendiary anti-JW articles in a row to damn them in a seeming scandal without the context that illuminates it.

This group is trying with all its might to equate Jehovah’s Witnesses with the sins of the Catholic church. It is a stretch, because abusers in the Church are clergy. Even after making adjustments for size, if you want to get the same ‘catch’ among Jehovah’s Witnesses, you must broaden your net to include, not just ‘clergy,’ but everybody. That doesn’t mean that some are not diligently trying to do it, as they strive to equate some non-reporting to authorities in previous years to being actual perpetrators of child abuse. They are up to no good, and the alleged sin in such cases is generally “failing to go beyond the law” in reporting such cases to police. I continually make the point that if it is so crucial to ‘go beyond the law’ then that should become the law, the same point that Geoffrey Jackson, a member of the Witnesses’ Governing Body, made to a recent inquiry.

If Serena was to prompt her husband, the Reddit founder, to weigh in on that group in our favor and expose them for what they are—renegades from religion who longed for greater immediate freedom with lesser immediate consequences and who nurse no end of complaints, most quite petty, but some with substance—she would be forgiven ‘a multitude of sins,’ even if she never did manage to get it all together in her own life as she seems to want to do. In fact, in the event of that outcome, and to bring matters full circle, that would be an example of something else Mordecai said to his niece. If salvation does not come through spotless Esther, it will come through some other source. Either way, I’ll take it, say ‘Thank you’ to the Lord, and look around for more ammunition.

From the book TrueTom vs the Apostates!

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Doesn't Do Birthdays. Part 3

No sooner did Serena Williams make herself a minor figure of controversy through a birthday brouhaha than she made herself a major one through cussing out a second judge at the 2018 U.S. Open, which cost her the match—and for her converting a physical loss into a moral win. It depends upon who you talk to. If you disliked her before, you will dislike her more. If you liked her before you will like her more. I’ll take the latter.

The U.S. Open chair referee penalized her three times, only the second of which was without controversy. When you’re hot, you’re hot, and she blew up at him. Not at first she didn’t, when she said: “We don’t have any code and I know you don’t know that and I understand why you may have thought that was coaching [on the part of her coach allegedly sending an illegal signal] but I’m telling you it’s not. I don’t cheat to win, I’d rather lose. I’m just letting you know.” Her coach said later that he had indeed done the deed, but that it happens all the time, and he does it less than most. It was a point on which sportswriters agreed.

If she didn’t blast the referee then, she sure did blast him after missing a shot and mashing her racket (which also is common): “You owe me an apology,” she shouted. “I have never cheated in my life, I have a daughter and I stand what’s right for her!” See what motivates her these days? See what she had been stewing about, that perhaps caused her to botch the serve? It is her daughter and the example she sets for her—the same daughter that does not do birthdays.

She went on to call the referee a “thief” for taking away the point that presaged her meltdown, and that accusation also counted against her. Some observed that men retort “F**k you!” to the umpire all the time without consequence, so many agreed with her heated contention that she had indeed caught extra flack on account of being a woman.

With Serena forfeiting multiple points, her opponent, Naomi Osaka, won the match, but everyone booed at how it had transpired. As soon as Serena noticed her upset and tears, she ran and embraced her and told the crowd not to boo, even through her own tears: “I don’t want to be rude. I don’t want to interrupt and I don’t want to do questions. I just want to tell you guys she played well and this is her first grand slam,” at which point everyone cheered.

It is so like the Bible admonition to “keep an eye, not on your own interests, but on those of the other person’s” that one wonders if she did not absorb it from her Witness upbringing. Or maybe it is just her and has nothing to do with the Bible. Either way, it means she will make a fine Witness someday should she get everything together. She enjoys a high reputation. Sportswriter Jeff Eisenband tweeted “…people who hate on Serena Williams’ ‘character’ obviously don’t follower her off the court. She’s a competitor between the lines, but a role model off the court as a person and a celebrity.”

Immediately after Serena shot into ex-JW attention through the birthday announcement regarding her daughter, they were on the story, smelling opportunity. What if they could get her to say: “I’ve looked at this more closely and now I denounce Jehovah’s Witnesses! They won’t let women be elders! In this day and age!” Let me tell you some of these characters sent themselves into orbit, as they pressed her on whether Witness “misogyny” really squared with the good works she did off the court. They pressed her on the sacrifices Witnesses make with regard to their religion, and how they are less almost anywhere else.

Honestly, how people can be so obtuse? She believes in God. Most of those on the Reddit forum do not. She is not going to be knocked off her feet as they blow out of proportion negatives, losing sight completely of the positives. And they think that she is going to cry about sacrifice? She is the least likely to cry about that. She is among the star athletes of our time and she well knows that nothing worthwhile comes without hard work. “Exert yourself vigorously to get in through the narrow gate,” Jesus advises. She will be the last one to wail that it should be as broad as a barn door so as to make it easy.

One can never say with any given individual, but even if they should get her going with their complaints, she will likely say that congregation justice may not be perfect, but it sure is head and shoulders over the justice of the outside world. It is a lawyer’s playground out there, with massive transfers of funds in all directions for every conceivable wrong, with barristers the only consistent beneficiaries. Some congregation members, even ones who have been wronged, will prefer to put their trust in 1 Timothy: “The sins of some men are publicly known, leading directly to judgment, but those of other men become evident later.” It’s not perfect. But it beats the greater world’s justice which so frequently falls down of the job.

One can even picture Serena retiring at this point. Not that I would will it, necessarily, but it could happen. She is now a mom with suddenly another life to care for, a common turning point in a woman’s life. There are things about Jehovah’s Witnesses and pro sports that are not entirely compatible, such as providing temptation to blow one’s top at the misogynistic referee. The two courses are not absolutely incompatible, but they do pose a challenge.

From the book TrueTom vs the Apostates!

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Did the Watchtower Give Women Bad Advice?

It is ever the pitfall of zealots that they are so eager to prove a point that, in their haste, they will grab something that proves just the opposite, yet continue to gloat as though have found the smoking gun. Such was the case when advocates at an atheist website tore their hair out over “some truly horrific advice to women in abusive relationships” from the December 2018 Watchtower magazine. They were to stay in them no matter what!

Well, that does sound truly horrific, and there were many who immediately condemned the scoundrels who would give such a vile command. Others went to the article first, where they discovered that it said nothing of the sort.

Isn’t this just Witness opponents depriving women of the right to choose? It is ironic because they generally claim to be champions of that right. The article makes clear that a woman always has a choice, that she need not be railroaded into an action just because it is societally popular.

Some leave amidst very trying circumstances. Some stay. Either action works from the congregation’s point of view. They have the right to choose. How is that the Watchtower urging them to stay with an abusive mate no matter what, the accusation of the atheists? If a woman wants to try to salvage a marriage, what business is that of theirs? It may be an unwise decision or it may be the best decision she ever made, but either way, it is her decision.

Given the staggering cost of family breakup, emotional, mental, financial, and long-lasting damage to the children, if a woman decides to stick it out more than opponents approve, with a view towards salvage, who is to say that she is crazy? Possibly reading this chapter are veterans of two, three, four, or more failed relationships who wish they had put more effort into a given one. If she pulls it off, she has gained something very good.

These are not short-term hook-ups that we are speaking of, latching on to some loser that you cut loose as soon as you see what he is. These are marriages of years or decades’ duration. In some cases, they never used to be abusive, but they have become so due to who knows what factors? Dignify the woman as having the judgement to decide, based upon history, pressures affecting her man, and factors only she might know, as to whether he should be jettisoned or not.  If the lout has to go, he goes. Just don’t let some third party push you into it. The choice is always hers.

It is as though the grumblers cheer at the breakup of a marriage, oblivious to the damage left in its wake. It is as though they would prevent a woman from trying to repair hers. Let her try if she wants to, or even put up with one far from ideal, if that be her choice. Sometimes when you are between a rock and a hard place, you don’t assume or let the opponents tell you that the hard place is really a bed of roses. It isn’t always that way. I mean, it is not exactly as though they will be around to repair the damage, is it?

Granted, they like marriage over there in the Jehovah’s Witness world. Until fairly recently, everybody did, and considered family the foundation of society. Witnesses consider it a divine institution. That doesn’t mean others have to, but surely it means Witness women should be allowed to. They let their view be bound by biblical injunctions. Adultery is the one acceptable ground for ending a marriage, but even then, it does not necessitate it; it is always possible for the innocent mate to exercise his or her right of choice and forgiveness.

Several decades ago the Witness organization took note, as did most of society, of the increasingly visible ne’er-do-wells who, while they might not be unfaithful, were nonetheless ugly to live with. It took another look at 1 Corinthians 7, a chapter that deals with marital matters—sometimes people are surprised at how it says a husband and wife both owe each other sex (no, not “on demand” – don’t even go there) and should not be depriving the other of it. Specifically, it looked at verses 12 and 13: “If any brother has an unbelieving wife and she is agreeable to staying with him, let him not leave her; and if a woman has an unbelieving husband and he is agreeable to staying with her, let her not leave her husband.” “Maybe a marriage mate’s conduct says he is ‘not agreeable,’ regardless of what his words say,” they reasoned.

For some time, therefore, the guidance for women (or men) in not-so-hot marriages is that there are three conditions that any one of which might justify separation: if there is extreme physical abuse, if there is willful non-support, or if there is absolute endangerment of spirituality. It is at once apparent that much in is the eye of the beholder, so from time to time Watchtower publications revisit the subject, so that congregation members are guided by what they signed on for in the first place and not unduly influenced by what is all the rage elsewhere. If the bad egg must be fried, let him fry. A woman always has that right. But she needn’t feel railroaded into that choice by a flood of outside pressure.

Any Witness woman knows this, because she has read and considered the entire article, not just a cherry-picked paragraph, and she has taken into account how it fits into her overall framework of knowledge. You almost begin to think what causes the steam to emit from the ears of opponents is another possible benefit of the woman’s forsaking her right to leave: maybe the ‘unbelieving’ husband will become a believing one. How is that a bad thing?  If the guy makes it as a Jehovah’s Witness, he will have made significant inroads against what makes him such a loser in the first place.

From the book TrueTom vs the Apostates!

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About Women. Part 1

Daily my adversary hammers at the door of women’s rights groups, hoping that they will cooperate with him in his efforts to make trouble for his former religion. He calls it a vigil, tweeting every 24 hours that yet one more day has passed since The Watchtower (December 2018) published advice harmful to women’s interests. This strikes me as an extraordinarily disrespectful thing to do: to bludgeon them each day, as though he understands their cause better than they. If they don’t take the bait, they don’t take it.

Lately he modifies his approach and says that he “respectfully asks” that they give attention to his beef. He changes tactics because so many of his own people began to accuse him of “man-bashing” that he took to blocking them. When I read what he was doing, I thought it was because of me. However, I had been behaving myself lately, so I returned to investigate, and I saw that it was some of his own people kicking back.

I think it will turn out as when the ever-capable female British intelligence officer commented to Foyle, of the television show Foyle’s War, about the full-of-himself male officer that she, for the time-being, had to play second fiddle to: that he was overconfident and not really too smart. He would overreach and fall of his own weight. She had seen it before. Am I not at least as much in tune with women’s interests as is my adversary? Have I not several times written: “The question to ask in any discipline is not: ‘Can women do it better than men?’ It is ‘How can they do it worse?’”

It is a single paragraph that he takes issue with, a paragraph that deals with woman finding themselves in abusive relationships. As he puts it: “In a section discussing marriages between Witness women and ‘unbelieving’ husbands, the magazine urges the women not to get a divorce under any circumstances partly because they could influence their husbands to convert. Apparently, that possibility is supposed to carry them through any and all problems in the relationship, including physical abuse.” The reason he uses the word “apparently” is that the article does not say what he wants it to. With an ‘apparently,’ all things are possible. He is “obviously appalled” at his own interpretation of the Watchtower article and hopes the women’s rights groups will be, too.

If the background facts were as he represents, one might concede that he has a point. But the background facts have been misrepresented in almost every case. I wrote up a reply and also sent it to these groups, though not every day. Even Jehovah’s Witnesses do not call every single day. The jury is still out as to which version they will prefer. Possibly they will say, “If we never hear again from either one of these two clowns, it will be not soon enough.” We may never know. After 52 days of pummeling, he discontinued.

The Bible that he now derides shows unusual respect for women, relative to its time of writing. Two examples follow. Both involve Jesus’s relationships with women. In themselves they are not decisive; one could easily say that they do not go far enough. However, in the context of the times, they are monumental. The Lord did not stamp out every injustice he encountered during his brief time on earth. Little would remain if he had. He mostly worked within the existing world as the laid down principles that would facilitate a better reality to come.

The Samaritan “woman at the well” that Jesus spoke with was the first person to which he entrusted directly the news that he was God’s chosen Messiah. Even his disciples had to jump through hoops to gather that bit of intelligence. From a Christian’s point of view, it the most significant announcement of all time. He told it to a woman (John 4:26). Moreover, she was not a woman with society’s stamp of approval. She was a woman who was “living in sin.” Woman’s groups today may disagree with definitions and values of that time, but they will nonetheless accede that Jesus first gave the most important news of all to a woman of “ill repute” but underlying fine heart that only he could detect.

The second example is found with the angel that announces Jesus’s resurrection. Who does he entrust this second most important announcement of all to? Again, it is a woman. (Luke 24:4-11) At the time, the testimony of a woman was considered worthless in that male-dominated Greek, Roman, and yes, even Jewish world. Didn’t the angel show contempt for that male-dominated society by completely skirting it? Even Jesus’s disciples, immersed in that culture, did not believe the women. That was of no consequence to the angel; they’d figure it out in time, the big dopes.

Update to the present. The intent of detractors today is to paint Jehovah’s Witnesses as obsessed with the “submission” women are supposed to show to men. To the extent the religion, or the Bible, speaks of submission, it is essentially to acknowledge that in any ship, there is a captain. In the Christian model, God has assigned roles as best suited for the stability of the family, which for the most part, means the stability of the human race. There is no tolerance made for abuse. That is not to say that abuse has not occurred, but it occurs no less in places wanting nothing to do with Bible principles. Unless I am very mistaken, Harvey Weinstein did not go door-to-door telling people about “God’s magnificent purposes.”

It is a spiritual or family-based arrangement only. More women than not in the women’s groups mentioned will say that it is antiquated and that they have moved on from it for the best. Point taken. Let it be said, however, that in Watchtower facilities it is an absolutely unremarkable fact of life that women will exercise authority over men in any areas where one may have better aptitude, for example, in design, computers, medicine, and law. If the men working under them ‘cop an attitude’ (which has happened) they will hear about it. Men are ever inclined anywhere to parlay their usually superior physical strength into attempted domination. Watchtower headquarters will not let them get away with it. Detractors will catch wind of a woman working in the furtherance of JW purposes, maybe law, and write of how she can endure in the midst of domineering men. She doesn’t have to. They submit to her in these pragmatic areas where competence is all that counts, and “submission” is completely irrelevant, being merely a spiritual or family matter of organization.

Women are not seething with discontent over there in Witness-land, as their enemies seek to portray them. Neither are there weak women whom tyrant men play like a fiddle. Of course, there are some weak women, but there are also weak men. On balance, they are about equal in numbers.

From the book TrueTom vs the Apostates!

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About Women. Part 2

When I used the capable female British Intelligence officer’s prediction to Chief Inspector Foyle that her swaggering male superior would overreach and fall of his own volition as a prediction that my enemy would do likewise, I missed the most important question from the standpoint of women’s groups, and everybody knows that I missed it. It is: Why did she have to play second fiddle to him if she was so capable and he was so inept? Why didn’t he have to play second fiddle to her? Why indeed? We both know the answer. She was consigned to play second fiddle because she was a woman.

Back in the days when all were more given to modesty, often was heard the expression: “Behind every great man, there is a great woman.” Women’s groups will second this motion in a heartbeat, but they will also add to it. If she was so great, then why wasn’t she out in the forefront and the overrated bozo back home scrubbing the bathtub?

The one individual who probably did our family the kindest turn of all was a woman who co-owned a dental lab. My teenage daughter suffered a snowboarding accident that broke off half her front teeth—there they were embedded in the snowboard. This followed on the heels of my son’s accident and led me to vow to my wife that we should produce another child for spare parts. It also caught us at a time of financial embarrassment, and this businesswoman, a family friend who had taken a liking to my daughter, said she would make her dental replacements at no cost. She did so, and she worked as closely with our family dentist as he would allow. “It is important to install them in such and such a way,” she urged him, “so that there will not be a barely perceptible line of discoloration at the baseline.” Alas, it turned out as she feared. “I’m not going to let any technician tell me how to operate!” he exploded, and now my daughter has a barely perceptible line of discoloration at the baseline. “I worked so hard not to offend the little man,” she told me later.

Women, no matter how capable, had long had it rough in society. They have long had to put up with a lot. They are at last erupting, as the MeToo movement makes clear. The first female executive in the music recording business, Dorothy Carvello, recently wrote of her early days at Atlantic Records. As a new employee, ages ago, “one executive walked past my office every day and said, ‘Blow me.’ I hadn’t even met him…. [Another] grabbed my ass constantly. I hated it.” She put up with it though. She needed the job and she loved hobnobbing with celebrity clients. She credits the Catholic nuns from high school days with teaching her to hold her own and conduct herself with dignity under the circumstances, as she writes of 25 years in a “circus mixed with an orgy.” “I once went to a lawyer, who advised me that if I sued for harassment, I’d lose my job. Worse than that, I knew I’d be blackballed from the entire business,” so she never did sue for harassment and only wrote her account in 2018.

When the greater world at last wakes up to a problem, as it has with sexual harassment, it overswings. Sexual liaisons, involving various degrees of coercion and sobriety, are reinterpreted as rape. Harassment, and what was once called “getting fresh,” are equated with rape. Complementing a woman’s appearance is even interpreted as harassment by some. How will it resolve? It is too soon to tell. Suffice it to say that the Witness environment is one of the few environments on earth where men can be expected to behave. They will hear about it if they don’t. It is a result of their education at the Kingdom Hall. The occasional miscreant can expect serious chastisement.

That said, do Jehovah’s Witnesses help women to advance in their careers? It is a question not especially relevant. The women of Jehovah’s Witnesses are seldom career-oriented, but that is also true of the men. Both are far more likely to have a job, and not a career. Both feel that their overall career is their service to God. It is an odd view, by today’s standards, but hardly a destructive one.

An activist group becomes aware of an injustice and throws all its weight into correcting it. It grabs the wheel and jerks it around sharply. Those braced beforehand do fine. Nearly everyone else is swept off their feet. “How many women head departments over there in JW headquarters?” one detractor taunted me. Look, they are not activists over there, but they do try to keep up. I cited a few female attorneys, with the observation that those under them had better behave. Woe to any brother who tries to pull rank based upon gender; he will promptly be set straight from on high.

I know one of these female attorneys. On a forum devoted to complaining, some were carrying on about how women lawyers at Watchtower must suffer almost impossibly, ever having to kowtow to their male superiors. However, one of them recalled a woman named Jane from his Bethel days, and threw in his two cents that it could not have been that way with her—“she would not put up with that nonsense for one second.” “So he does know Jane,” I smiled to myself.

Jane showed up for her shepherding call long ago and she intimidated me. I recovered, of course, but I recall the feeling. She didn’t do it knowingly, I am sure. But—it has only happened three or four times in my life—sometimes you run across someone who is so stunningly capable that, well—it takes one’s breath away. The idea at the time was that everyone should receive a shepherding call, not just the ones who “needed” one. That way nobody would think they were in for corrective counsel should elders approach them. Share a few scriptures of mutual encouragement, and so forth—that was the intent.

As congregation secretary, I later drafted Jane’s letter of introduction to Bethel after she had applied. It was unusual for a single sister to apply for Bethel service at the time, where the work focused on heavy machine operation and farming. But they were getting away from that in the then-new age of computers. I felt the need to address undercurrents that I knew existed among some brothers to the effect that Jane (not her real name of course) had made progress in “working under the oversight of brothers less capable than she,” or something to that effect. I was annoyed to think it advisable to insert that, but I did so, nonetheless. Was it necessary? I’ll never know. The circuit overseer, before he ever met me or read my letter, pointed out that capable single sisters are always a gain at Bethel, so perhaps it was not.

She is a gifted woman, not merely a capable one. And she will not like the attention, probably. Of course, there are weak women within the ranks of Jehovah’s Witnesses, too, but no more so than there are weak men, and no more so than there are plenty of both in general society. If she was ever discontent over any male bias within the Christian society, she never gave any sign of it, but then, I might not be the one to know. When she visited our home for a gathering of friends, she said: “If I’m invited to the Harley home, I know it’s going to be a spiritually good time,” probably using words not quite so pious. Though no one in her family was a slouch, it was probably her influence that propelled the family business to million-dollar concern at a time that such status was rare among work-a-day Jehovah’s Witnesses.

They are not activists at Bethel headquarters, but they do, hopefully, skim the residual benefits from any reform movement. With regards to woman’s rights, they have let themselves be corrected whenever discovering that a prior practice was, not primarily biblical, as they may have thought at one time, but more cultural in origin. They don’t put themselves on the cutting edge of culture, but neither do they wish to be on the trailing edge, unless there is good scriptural reason to be.

From the book TrueTom vs the Apostates!

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Who Really is a Cult? Part 2

When you release suddenly the compressed spring, it bounds wildly, delirious at its new freedom, caring not where it lands, for any landing is better than where it was. It is that way with those who become apostate. You would think the world is the most paradisiac place imaginable to hear them carry on, with nothing but boundless opportunities ahead. Yes, there are niggling problems here and there, but not at all things to fret over—just think of the new freedom gained! It is a description of the world that few others will recognize.

The things that once caught their attention and led to their embracing the Witness faith in the first place are completely forgotten. The mourning and disgust over how “man has dominated man to his injury”—gone. The dismay that God catches the blame when humans use their free will to choose the course that he advised them not to choose—no longer a concern. The futility that twenty years growing up, forty gaining experience, and then, just when you think you have begun to figure things out, your body starts to betray you—“Cool beans!” they say. Let them say it. When you negate the plusses, all that remains to speak of are the minuses.

The consideration of the deeper questions of life that first led them to study the Bible with Jehovah’s Witnesses have seemingly vanished, replaced by chasing the baubles of the present life, convinced that they are not baubles at all, but the true gems. Stack them both side by side—the upside of the Witness way of life and the downside. Those who act upon the downside and jump ship rarely ever mention the upside again. Let the general audience weigh both. Some will choose one stack. Some another. Put the choice out there. It is what tolerance is all about.

At first glance, Jehovah’s Witnesses might seem the most intrusive people on earth, trucking straight up your driveway to give you their version of truth, whether you asked them to or not—and almost always, you didn’t. Upon reflection, however, they are the least. Tell them ‘no’ and they go away. They do not afterwards lean on the politicians or lawyers to force their way of life upon you, as do most others. Few bully more than the anti-cultists. Few disagree more with the Chief Justice who said, in a decision favoring Jehovah’s Witnesses: “If there is any fixed star in our constitutional constellation, it is that no official, high or petty, can prescribe what shall be orthodox in politics, nationalism, religion, or other matters of opinion…If there are any circumstances which permit an exception, they do not now occur to us.” It is as though the anti-cultists say: “One has occurred to us. They pursue goals we don’t want them to pursue. They dream dreams that are not our dreams. We don’t like them.”

Sly in their techniques, they present themselves as the people’s protector. One way to “protect” troops on the opposing side is to kill off their generals. That way, being disorganized, maybe you can in time persuade them to fight on your side. That slyness is seen now in the suspicion cast upon “religious corporations” that “abuse people.” Jehovah’s Witnesses would be better off without one, the argument goes. Then they would not be “abused” and would fall into place with conventional goals.

It sounds noble at first listen, but it is readily punctured at second. The only reason that religious people form corporations is so that they may exist and do things such as owning property. To restrict the rights of a religious corporation is no different than restricting the rights of a nation’s chosen government, such as is attempted in times of war. It is to say that Canadians, for example, are fine people, in fact, excellent people, but they must not be permitted to choose a government. Anti-cultists ought not be so coy. They are warring against the Witness religion and those members who have chosen it. They ought not paint themselves as taking the high road, as Alexander Dvorkin in Russia does. In advocating the Witness organization be outlawed in Russia, he said that he was protecting the civil rights of the individual Witnesses, as though he was their friend. Eliminate their infrastructure and—why, you may better absorb them into the course you wish them to take.

The intent of the apostates is to thrust the downside of Witness life into the spotlight, and thereby, both embarrass them and undermine their message. It changes nothing. The game is the same. It’s just up on another level. Want to examine the price tag first? It is how many people shop. Jesus says count the costs before you commit, and he plainly has in mind that you count the benefits first, but if some want to reverse the order, we can all live with that.

It is but the same age-old drama seen through a new lens. Everything with significant upside will have a downside. Let people focus where ever they will. Some will choose the product. Some will choose the price. “Exert yourselves vigorously to get in through the narrow gate,” says Jesus. If the anti-cultists would focus on the narrow gate rather than the reason to pass through it, so be it. “If in this life only we have hoped in Christ, we are of all men most to be pitied,” says Paul, signaling agreement that paying the price is foolish if there truly is no Christ. “When the Son of man arrives, will he really find the faith on the earth?” says Jesus. (Luke 18:8) Let it all play out, as people weigh the product with the price.

The treasure is the “pearl of high price” for which its buyer sells everything else. (Matthew 13:46) Do the anti-cultists wish to focus on the “everything else?” That’s okay. That’s fair. Nobody in the Christian world would say that there is not a cost. Paul took the loss of all things and counted it as “a lot of refuse.” (Philippians 3:8) Should present-day opposers call him a fool, that is a value judgement that they are entitled to make. It is the same reality but seen through a different lens.

When apostates hope that persons will see the downside of Witness life and weigh it as more substantial than the upside, they are, in a sense, helping Jehovah’s Witnesses get their message out. They are hoping that people will learn of a downside and say: “Look, spiritual things are only so important. Who needs this kind of drama?” and steer clear. How is that any different from Jesus’ own words that one must exert oneself vigorously to squeeze in through the narrow gate and be prepared to jettison the extra-wide trailer that smashes against the gate posts? Let them do it. The Christian life will not appeal to all people. It separates one from the overall world—the one going down like the Titanic in the Witnesses’ eyes. But if you think that world is floating high and pretty, with armed crewmen on the bow poised to smash to smithereens icebergs as they approach, you will hate it. Kicking over the traces of anything produces an incomparable rush. Only much later is it revealed whether it was a good idea or not.

The restrictions of a Witness life are overblown, but nobody would say that they are nothing. Are they roadblocks to individual fulfillment or are they guardrails that one would be crazy to crash through? Beyond question, there are two very different views of the world. However, should someone sing: “Step out of line, the men come to take you away,” it is evidence of not having the most balanced personality—it’s not that restrictive. Nobody would say that Witnesses step any old place they like, but that is hardly the same as not stepping at all. Many of Jehovah’s Witnesses disagree with this or that aspect of “theocracy.” But they also keep it in perspective. They know that in any organized arrangement, there will be some things that do not go your way. And they are modest enough to consider that maybe it is they themselves who are in need of correction. After all, they have confidence that they are being “taught by Jehovah,” and they accepted from Day 1 that his chosen means of governing is not democracy. They know that slavish acquiescence is not required; it is enough to refrain from shouting from the rooftops that those taking the lead are doing it all wrong when the going gets rough.

They made their peace from the outset that separating from the greater world would trigger the latter’s disapproval. “For the time that has passed by is sufficient for you to have worked out the will of the nations, when you proceeded in deeds of loose conduct, lusts, excesses with wine, revelries, drinking matches, and illegal idolatries. Because you do not continue running with them in this same low sink of debauchery, they are puzzled and go on speaking abusively of you,” says Peter. As the divide grows between the former and the latter, the latter object: “What’s wrong with the ‘low sink?’ What are you trying to say about us?” In a super-sensitive world, one’s very existence is taken as judgmental of whatever one avoids. We must all “come together” is the mantra of our time.

To the extent that the anti-cultists lean atheistic, and most of the vociferous ones do, they seemingly are eager to trash things that are, not just JW, but of Judeo/Christian origin. The two-witness rule that Jehovah’s Witnesses retain in congregation matters, was, until recently, fundamental to Western law. You can’t just hurl out an accusation and allow your personal conviction to carry the day; you have to prove it. These days that Judeo/Christian model is being replaced with a new one that says accusation is enough, and it is up to the accused to prove that it is not so. It represents a 180-degree reversal in justice, and one wonders whether the ‘old’ standard is rejected by a new atheistic world simply because its origin is religion. The reason one does not quickly shed “two-witness” policies emerges each time someone is exonerated after having served decades in prison, convicted over less strenuous “proof.”

The “crime” of Jehovah’s Witnesses is that of taking the Bible too seriously. Anti-cultists don’t want them to do it. The situation reverts right back to certain clergy of decades ago who attempted to dissuade church members from Bible reading on the grounds that it would “make them crazy.” Those adhering to the ancient Book find themselves in a crazy world determined to stamp out injustice but not what causes it. No one can agree on the latter, and if they could they would be unable to launch coordinated action. It is the fundamental weakness of a world typified by those within being “not open to agreement.” Therefore, injustices are pandemic, and those subjected to enough of them become like Humpty Dumpty, who topples so severely as to not be made whole again—yet no complaint will ever be dropped until that unreachable goal is attained. People are damaged goods today. Those who become Jehovah’s Witnesses are also that way, but they put themselves in a setting they feel most conducive to healing. It is as a former prisoner of war told me ages ago—a man then studying the Bible—that at the Kingdom Hall he felt peace.

The prevailing winds of the day blow against religious people. Religion is simply not a force worth getting all worked up over, its enemies charge. Its strengths are supposed irrelevant, if not but fiction. The age-old perception that it is a healing power has changed, replaced with a new one that it is a destructive power.

From the book TrueTom vs the Apostates!

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Who Really is a Cult? Part 3

The fifteenth chapter of Acts provides a template for how congregations are governed in the Christian congregation. An issue arose—one that will hardly seem relevant today, and will strike some as downright strange. Suffice it to say that the subject of male circumcision took center stage for a significant time back then. From the days of Moses, it had been the sign of a special relationship with God, and there were those of Jewish background who wanted to extend the one-time requirement to persons of all backgrounds who were swelling the ranks of new-found Christianity.

“And certain men came down from Judea and began to teach the brothers: ‘Unless you get circumcised according to the custom of Moses, you cannot be saved.’ But when there had occurred no little dissension and disputing by Paul and Barnabas with them, they arranged for Paul and Barnabas and some others of them to go up to the apostles and older men in Jerusalem regarding this dispute.” (vs 1-2) It is a passage sure to displease the anti-cultists, for it sends the signal that the latter were going to do something about it. Would they stoop to “brainwashing” and “thought control?”

Governing as though Plato’s philosopher-kings—it is remarkable the similarities (See Chapter 42)—the “apostles and older men” in Jerusalem set policy for the first century congregation. They determined how scripture applied for the rapidly growing Christian faith, much as modern governments apply principles contained within national constitutions. If they did not do so, constitutions would quickly become inapplicable, lost among new developments not explicitly spelled out.

Traveling ministers carried decisions of that early governing body to the ever-increasing congregations, which within decades had spread throughout the Mediterranean world. Acts 16:4-5 reports:

“Now as they traveled on through the cities they would deliver to those there for observance the decrees that had been decided upon by the apostles and older men who were in Jerusalem. Therefore, indeed, the congregations continued to be made firm in the faith and to increase in number from day to day.”

Alas, for those who suppose Christianity ought to be based upon Western democracy! It wasn’t guidelines being delivered. It wasn’t suggestions. It wasn’t proposals to be put to popular vote. It was decrees which were to be observed.

 It’s not just the New World Translation. Nearly all English translations use the terms “decrees” or “decisions.” The New International Version calls them “decisions for the people to obey.” Of the few variations, only the paraphrased Message translation waters the phrase down to “simple guidelines which turned out to be most helpful.” The Amplified Bible uses “regulations,” Moffatts Bible says “resolutions,” and the Good News Bible offers up “rules.”

Isn’t this what one would expect? If God’s ways are really higher than our ways, as Isaiah 55:9 states, and people become Christian converts precisely for that reason, does anyone truly think that God’s ways would be determined by majority vote? If that’s the case, who needs God? The aforementioned apostles and older men governed from Jerusalem as a God-ordained arrangement. They were not ambitious men seizing power. They were Christians with the most experience, men who had introduced the faith to others, and they saw to their own succession.

That 15th chapter of Acts reads like the minutes of that body’s consideration of circumcism. The resulting “decision is not to trouble those from the nations who are turning to God, but to write them to abstain from things polluted by idols and from fornication and from what is strangled and from blood,” and it was relayed throughout the congregations.

The decision was not at once accepted by all, which in itself offers a template for modern-day similar situations. Long after the governing arrangement supposedly settled the matter (49CE, per biblical chronology), its representatives were yet reasoning with those who opposed it, becoming more forceful with the passage of time:

(circa 51CE - 2 years later): “For such freedom Christ set us free. Therefore stand fast, and do not let yourselves be confined again in a yoke of slavery. See! I, Paul, am telling you that if you become circumcised, Christ will be of no benefit to you. Moreover, I bear witness again to every man getting circumcised that he is under obligation to perform the whole Law.”  (Galatians 5:1-3)

(55CE - 6 years later): “Was any man called circumcised? Let him not become uncircumcised. Has any man been called in uncircumcision? Let him not get circumcised. Circumcision does not mean a thing, and uncircumcision means not a thing, but observance of God’s commandments [does].” (1 Corinthians 7:18-20)

(circa 61CE - 12 years later): “Look out for the dogs, look out for the workers of injury, look out for those who mutilate the flesh. For we are those with the real circumcision, who are rendering sacred service by God’s spirit and have our boasting in Christ Jesus and do not have our confidence in the flesh.”   (Philippians 3:2-3)

(circa 63CE - 14 years later): “For there are many unruly men, profitless talkers, and deceivers of the mind, especially those men who adhere to the circumcision. It is necessary to shut the mouths of these, as these very men keep on subverting entire households by teaching things they ought not for the sake of dishonest gain.” (Titus 1:10-11)

Did such resisters eventually find themselves ousted from the congregation? It seems likely, in view of such directives as: “As for a man that promotes a sect, reject him after a first and a second admonition; knowing that such a man has been turned out of the way and is sinning, he being self-condemned.” (Titus 3:10-11)

Anti-cultists will go into convulsions at the behavioral, informational, thought, and emotional control mechanisms indicated by the above. There can be little question that the Bible itself must be a cult-manual in the eyes of these ones. They should not bother with middlemen such as Jehovah’s Witnesses—those who endeavor to live by the Book—but go after the source itself, thereby revealing their intolerance to all.

Who are these big babies, terrified of what some visiting factory worker or even janitor trudging up their driveway might say? Are they really the same ones who carry on about their newfound freedom, their keen intellect, and their powerful self-determination? They are the shallowest of people masquerading as the deepest, the narrowest masquerading as the broadest. The existence of God cannot be proven by the standards modern anti-cultists accept as proof. However, neither can it be disproven. It can be shown to be reasonable, that’s all, but to those whose reason is forged in another hearth, it cannot be. As regards being narrow, they will say the same of Witnesses. It is fair game. Let the great issue be put squarely before all. Is it government by men that will save us all or government by God?

What a pathetic view of human nature these anti-cultists have. Just how much mileage can one get out of playing the victim card? Are we all truly but putty, ever at the mercy of some passerby with new ideas? You should hear how some of these carry on about how Jehovah’s Witnesses show up at doors to “convert” people underhandedly. Witnesses ought to state that goal up front, they demand. It is all they can do not to insist upon a notarized statement.

It is nonsense. Nobody converts another. People convert themselves, based upon processing and trying on new ideas for size. If you were to tell a visiting Jehovah’s Witness point blank that you wanted to convert, you would not be permitted to. You would commence on a period of study and preparation, seldom lasting under a year in these parts, (United States) 95% of the time in familiar surroundings, with full option to say “no thanks” at every juncture. It is a situation far less controlling than higher education, where one may be cut off from previous surroundings almost completely, and the barriers to discontinuance may be high, involving finance or expectations.

It is so juvenile to maintain, as the anti-cultists do, that Witnesses are out to “recruit” new members. It is icing on the cake for them should that happen, but hardly the cake itself. With the supposed goal of conversion at least a year away, one can be sure that the visiting Witness does not even think of it for many months to come. The object is simply to share information, or even to shed new light on what is already known, irrespective of what one may do with it at a later date. Most people do nothing with it. “This good news of the kingdom will be preached in all the inhabited earth,” says Matthew 24:14. It says nothing about conversion, leaving that possibility open for another occasion.

Enough of this cult nonsense. Everything is misrepresented. The legal Trinity is missing two legs. “Truth” is not enough—there must also be “the whole truth and nothing but the truth.” It’s high time to respond to these overgrown adolescents as the police did years ago to the overgrown adolescents of the 60s. When student radicals began calling them ‘pigs,’—doubling down when they saw that it got under their skin—one resourceful cop responded: ‘PIGS—Pride, Integrity, Guts, Service.’ Yeah! Same here. Do enemies think that they can get under Witnesses’ skin, swinging around the ‘Cult’ truncheon, when everyone knows the word means something else? Very well. Let Witnesses wear the moniker proudly: ‘CULT—Courage, Unity, Love, Truth.’ At some point, one must kick back at this nonsense.

Jehovah’s Witness stand for an alternative way of life, no question about it. As one of many “new religions,”—the scholarly term—there was no reason to extend the “cult” word to them. Coin a new word. “Cult” has been around forever, and it reliably evokes prejudice, if not hate. For that reason, enemies of Jehovah’s Witnesses embrace it. They eschew what is dignified so as to go for the jugular, as they smell blood in the water.

From the book TrueTom vs the Apostates!

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Hey Guys, Sorry About That Mother of all Lies

One fine day monitoring the malcontents online I came across this gem:

“Hey guys, please read the correction below. Really sorry this slipped through, and we’ll tighten our process to make sure we don’t repeat it. Again, apologies everyone.”

It was from a fellow whom we will call Covie, ones of Lloyd’s friends. Well—probably no big deal, and after all, he did apologize. Let’s see what this is all about. His friend says of his previous report:

“Thanks so much for the kind comments. We really enjoyed putting this episode together and I’m glad many of you seem to be finding it helpful and informative. Unfortunately, I need to offer an apology and a retraction. A trusted source passed on information to us that got included in the show notes but later proved to be incorrect. Specifically, the schedule of talks from which I was reading (including themes having to do with reduction and ‘centralization’ of branches) was apparently written by an ex-JW and was purely speculative and/or intended for satire [author’s edit—it was a lie] Though we can see the funny side, we also take the accuracy and truthfulness of our work extremely seriously so I have edited out the relevant parts (edits may take a while to process and we are taking a close look at how we can more thoroughly vet our sources in the future. I can only apologize to the thousands of you who have already heard the incorrect information. The last thing we want to do is remotely contribute to affirming the “lying apostate” stereotype by passing on spurious information and we will certainly learn our lesson here. Thank you for your understanding on this.”

Of course! I understood perfectly, and I instantly dismissed it all as just one of those things. I did this even though it was the apostate lie heard around the world, and if you had tapped their phones and been listening in to some of them, you would have thought they were having sex in there, so loud were the orgasms. What was causing the “reduction and centralization of branches,” according to the retracted report, was the fantastic news that the Watchtower was on the ropes financially and just a few more successful lawsuits would topple them for good. This is the stated goal of many of them, to litigate their former religious organization out of existence, and this glorious bit of “news” was more welcome to them than if their team had, not only won the Super Bowl, but had been conceded the championship for the next hundred years.

Ever responsible, however, the webmaster says he does not “remotely want to contribute to the ‘lying apostate’ stereotype,” as though he is genuinely amazed that anybody could ever think such a thing, but just to be sure, he will take action to eliminate this mother of all lies that he swallowed hook, line, and sinker because he liked the sound of it, and he will not repeat it again. I hope you understand. After all, it was from a “trusted source.”

Look, if they ever succeeded in their stated goal of litigating the Watchtower out of existence, they would be proving themselves friends of child sexual abuse. There is good reason to think that Jehovah’s Witnesses enjoy considerable success in preventing it within their ranks, though with InvisibleChildren.org reporting that one out of five American children will be suffer molestation before 18, they clearly are not going to ever snuff it out. If they have enjoyed some success, then spread around whatever they have, and others will enjoy some success. It is not rocket science. It is not even “God’s spirit.” If you hammer away at anything long enough, some of it sinks in. Relentlessly they teach family values over there in Witness-land, and they are the only organization on earth to have gathered each and every member via their 2017 summer convention and there consider detailed scenarios in which child abuse might occur, to encourage parents, the obvious first line of defense, to be vigilant. Moreover, since so much child sexual abuse occurs in settings of youth groups, surely it helps that Jehovah’s Witnesses have no such segregation. They don’t even do Sunday School.

Just about the time of this monster lie, congregations of Jehovah’s Witnesses considered at meeting the August 2018 Watchtower article, ‘Do You Have the Facts?’ Much damage is done when accuracy is lacking, it was discussed. Ten timid spies dissuaded the entire nation of Israel from its course—crying that the enemy was strong and would surely prevail in battle. As another example, David treated Mephibosheth unjustly based upon listening to falsehood, necessitating an about-face when a true report corrected the lie. “When anyone replies to a matter before he hears the facts, it is foolish and humiliating,” was the Proverbs 18:13 theme scripture. Beyond all question, the Witness organization tries to shield members from the attacks of the enemy, who sometimes relate truth, sometimes relate untruth, and always frame matters in a way hostile to the faith.

The webmaster’s sincerity in ferreting out an obvious lie is genuine, most likely, but the enthusiasm of those hearing that their former religion was on the ropes was unmistakable. He is dumbfounded at the moniker ‘lying apostate.’ How could anyone think that? He is offended should anyone connect him with the atrocities against religious people in Russia, primarily Jehovah’s Witnesses, since they alone are under ban and declared extremists, a label they share only with ISIS. No! He will not be accused. Why, he has spoken out against it. But of his anti-cultist-in-spirit, one Alexander Dvorkin, who aggressively pushes there what others of his kind push here, a human-rights expert has stated: “He enjoys disseminating inflammatory narratives and hate speech.” It is no different with this local bunch. When you spew hate speech, hurling the C-word willy-nilly, eventually there arise people who act upon it. And what will he say then?

“Hey guys, just want to let you know that we released the hounds of hell and they did more damage than we ever intended. Sorry.”

From the book TrueTom vs the Apostates!

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photo: Air Combat Command