Predestination and the Last Days
Virginia Tech and the Blame Game

Organization and the Internet

Much as Sheepandgoats appreciates the internet and uses it as his unlimited library card, it is an destructive force to organization of any stripe....religious, business, or political. Isn't there some UTube video floating around that shows John Edwards obsessively primping his hair? Does it really matter now what the man stands for? The primped hair jets through cyberspace at lightning speed. No longer will we focus on the man's positions (because that's hard). Instead, we'll zero in only on the ridicule (because that's easy). Who knows if he wasn't just hamming it up for pals?

All of us have full potential to say/do something asinine or inconsistent. With the internet, we can now be assured that the gaffe will be transmitted instantly to everyone and that they'll all draw snap conclusions at gut level. The truth of anything requires thought. Some find thought foreign. Some simply don't have the time. But all can drink in a quick byte of so-and-so making an ass of himself.

Is there any example anywhere of organization that has been aided by the internet? Maybe some fledgling politician, someone too small to be noticed by traditional means, and also too small for the internet to rip him apart as it's built him up. Finding instances where the internet has built up organization is a challenge. Finding instances where it tears apart we can do in our sleep. With even a horrible organization it's usually well to have a viable replacement before you tear the existing order apart. Ask them about that in Iraq.

If Christianity were simply some do-what-feels-good-at-the-moment movement, then it might be aided by the internet. But it's not. Christianity's predicated on the belief that we need guidance from a source beyond ourselves and that there is a specific channel through which that guidance comes.

Just as most everything today is desperately flawed and on life support, there are some who try to sell me on the notion that Watchtower, too, is overdue for change and that the powerful internet is just the means for such change, at long last giving "little people," a voice, and so forth. I doubt it.

In the same vein it's mentioned that letters are deluging Brooklyn for greater change. Well, I suppose they are. But when have they not? Is today's generation the first to know how to write letters? I suspect back in the days when Watchtower was constantly before the Supreme Court, letters (proportionate to population) poured in more than today. Are we to assume that the Society simply carted all letters to the dumpster until today, when their sheer weight demands attention? I don't think so. Letters from individuals have never been the primary driver of Christian policy. But neither have they ever been merely ignored. They are a source of feedback and always have been.

The Society was more regimented in days past when people were more regimented. For whatever reason, people in past generations were less fragile than they are today and enjoyed greater self-esteem. You could give your counsel blunt without their falling apart. They could take, not just the good, but also the bad without undue complaining. People are different today. Probably due to decaying society, individuals are much less secure. So an added emphasison "principles not rules, love not punishment, flexibility not unreasonableness" comes into being to meet changing times. And I'm glad to see it. But does it all come about only because Watchtower hardliners are being outmaneuvered by progressive new people with "subversive" ideas? Hogwash! Every new person brings something unique to the table, obviously, and old timers never lose sight of the tried and true. But the only model today's world can imagine is "power struggle among unyielding titans." It does not fit the Witness organization.

Because we live in a democracy and prevailing mindset is that democracy tops everything else, we get used to the idea that we should have a say in things. And as people become more individualistic, we become more insistent that our say should be heeded. But the Christian congregation is not organized that way, as it was not in it's first century beginning. The apostles sought to maintain unity and to forestall the endless sects and divisions that were to come. Thus, the Bible mentions the necessity of an older man to "reprove those who contradict" [Titus 1:9] and deal with those "wanting to be teachers of law, but not perceiving either the things they are saying or the things about which they are making strong assertions."  (1 Tim 1:7) Lots of people make "strong assertions" today and lots of people "contradict." It's a function of the unsettled times we live in, and is aided by the internet.

Not all of Jehovah's Witnesses today are 100% behind the program. Many are puzzled over this or that aspect of theocracy and many entertain their own pet ideas of how more of this, less of that, modification of this tactic, and so forth, would be beneficial. Some make suggestions via letter or traveling overseers. There's nothing new, earthshaking, or unnatural about that. It's not evidence that the organization is at some unprecedented crossroads. But in the final analysis we realize that the burden of directing things does not rest with us, but with a non-democratic channel which God has provided. We're not presumptuous. We cooperate as best we can.

The first century apostles lost that battle to maintain Christian unity. The "wheat" was oversown with "weeds," as Jesus foretold. (Matt 13:24-30) It would have happened much sooner had the internet existed back then.

As many know, Jehovah's Witnesses maintain we are in the last days of human rulership. God's rulership over the earth is soon to come, preceded by a public preaching campaign to that effect. Not everyone agrees, I realize. But looking at the state of affairs today, it clearly is not laughable that God might find human rulership lacking. Watchtower is doing their best to maintain Christian unity in the face of a increasing divisive world. And they're doing well, despite overwhelming forces to the contrary. They contrast with most churches, where unity is generally slight and rough and tumble politics is the order of the day.

I made the above remarks to some fellow who replied that he indeed understood how groups wishing to control information flow like [insert sarcasm] the Communist and the fundamentalist middle east governments wished the internet didn't exist.

Yes, that is how many think today: tyrants have abused authority so the answer is to eliminate authority. Fire all cops. Fire all teachers. Let us all live on love and self-discovery.


Tom Irregardless and Me    No Fake News but Plenty of Hogwash

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'



Tom, isn't your "we can now be assured that the gaffe will be transmitted instantly to everyone and that they'll all draw snap conclusions at gut level" rather a gut-level conclusion? Surely not "everyone" will see the transmission (in the first place), and surely some of those who do see it will NOT draw snap conclusions.

And surely you know this. Are you cutting corners for polemical purposes? If so, you need to be less obvious, for such PLAIN tomfoolery can be counterproductive.

If I'm being harsh with you, understand it's because I know from your well-ritten comments on MY blog that you can write better than this on YOUR OWN....

tom sheepandgoats

Moristotle, I've told you a million times that....oh...well, maybe not a MILLION.

Valid point.

"Everyone" will not see it and not "all" will draw snap conclusions. There is some exaggeration, to be sure.

tom sheepandgoats


The writing is all my own (I didn't pick up on your caps before and am still not sure of your meaning) but much of it was originally written as part of an exchange with someone else. I sometimes edit such conversations and use them as posts, removing personally identifying information. Probably not as natural as something written exclusively for the blog, but it sure does save work!


I enjoyed your thought on the divisive influence of the internet. To be sure, I agree with the premise. Additional details that I wonder about:

1) Is it more divisive because people can find like-minded individuals to commiserate with? In the past, if someone disagreed with an organization, it may not have been easy to find someone who agreed with them, so that they may have been more inclined to keep quiet. With the internet, it is very easy to find like-minded individuals, for better or worse. Try typing in a point of view into the google search engine, then search out it's opposite. You'll see my point.

2) Now that people have more freedom of information, are we focusing on intellectual development? Not everyone. It appears that a large portion of people (maybe not the majority, though I believe it may be) use the internet for entertainment (pornography, gambling, watching YouTube videos of people getting hurt (my guilty pleasure)).

3) Has society become better off because of the internet? I'm sorry, but that's up in the air. To me, the things on the internet that are useful and beneficial to humanity are not necessarily the driving force for scientific and cultural advancement. What I'm seeing is the internet being used for the advancement of large commercial interests. I'm not too happy with their track record. What happened to the predictions that some genius in a poor African community would come up with a physics solution to allow faster-than-light travel? Or the shut-in who finds a community of people who love them on the internet, and are inspired to lose weight and rejoin humanity? I don't see a level playing field for people involved in politics because of the internet. As with anything, more money means more exposure, so it isn't exactly leveling the playing field.

Ok, ok, I know I'm using the internet right now. I'm not saying that we should tax, regulate, or otherwise get rid of the internet. I just think it is important for people in general to be realistic about it. It is only a tool. As with any tool, it can and will be misused. It is up to each of us to decide how to use it.

tom sheepandgoats

I read an article once that made the point that praising someone or something is so bland. "Nice, fine, loving, upbuilding...." There's just so much you can do with your words to show off. On the other hand, ripping something apart, you can show your acid sarcasm in all its cutting power. In short, it's just so much more fun to tear down than to build up.

Then too, belligerance is the order of the day, not cooperation. Surely we see this at every level of society. The 2 Tim 3 description of people applies: "lovers of themselves.... haughty....unthankful, disloyal, having no natural affection, not open to any agreement, slanderers, without self-control, fierce, without love of goodness, betrayers, headstrong, puffed up [with pride]" It fits society today, far more than previous generations.

The internet simply makes it possible to advance that trend. It is a tool, as you say. And I use it all the time. A tool can be used for good. Most often this one is not.


I too rework stuff from other things I've written, and no doubt I've let some of my own original sloppiness splash over.

And of course I'm capable of being sloppy in stuff originally written for my blog anyway! And why pretend that I can halfway write to start with?

By capitalizing "PLAIN" I think I was trying to emphasize that (to careful readers, at least--and who wants any other kind?) we should, as careful writers, assume that our sloppiness will not pass notice (so, as self-respecting writers as well, we ought to be careful to be careful, so to speak).

By capitalizing "MY [blog]" and "YOUR OWN [blog]," I meant to note the apparent irony that you seem to have been more careful commenting on another person's blog than you may have been posting to your own blog.

tom sheepandgoats

Most of what passes for "persuasive" speech is really just preaching to the choir. I remember reading that somewhere. Most political speech. Most talk radio. Most editorials. The affect is virtually assured when we employ our biting sarcasm. Yes, our buddies think we're great, but the real test is whether those who think differently do so. Sarcasm, said Thomas Carlyle, is the language of the devil. It usually fails to convince opponents.

Alas, I am far from having learned my lesson. But it is a point well worth noting. Thank you, Moristotle


Tom, I had to smile at my knee-jerk response to your remark about "preaching to the choir"--I wonder whether anyone in the world reads approvingly your essays on Jehovah's Witnessing...besides other Jehovah's Witnesses.

tom sheepandgoats

Dunno, Moristotle, honestly I dunno.

Having said that, I should add that my goal here is not especially preaching, though I confess, there is some overlap. Like all bloggers, I write about things that are interesting to me. I have been one of Jehovah's Witnesses for many years. Issues involving them are interesting to me. If I write about current events, I tend to see them in the light of JW explanations, which make sense to me.

When I engage in that house to house ministry JW's are known for, that, I acknowledge, is "preaching." Not so the blog, or at least not primarily.


Good on you, Tom, earnest laborer in God's garden.


Organizations have always been challenged by, and in some ways benefited from, advances in communication.

The internet is not new in that regard. Over time, society will adjust and figure out how to deal with it. People will learn how to be more careful about accepting what they read. Posts on UTube will no longer have the same effect, etc.

But why is it a problem that the internet gives more people a voice? Why are increased channels for lateral communication bad? Isn't it primarily power-hungry organizations that feel threatened by better communication among members?

Such organizations reflect the viewpoint that to preserve a society you must strictly control it. And it certainly is possible to have the society you want through utter force - at least for a time.

However, with respect to a spiritual society, I do not believe that God wants or needs to have such control. Any religious organization that goes that route makes the same mistakes as the Pharisees whom Jesus chastized for their endless rules and regulations, and shows a lack of faith in God’s ability to move people though His spirit. It produces a people who, for the most part, go through the motions of whatever criteria the organization has set up to define spirituality, yet inside are no more spiritually advanced than anyone outside of that organization.

Instead of controlling people’s spiritual paths, Brother Russell originally sought to provide assistance to people who were searching for God. That, to me, is a Christian approach.

tom sheepandgoats

It's easy to misportray Jehovah's organization today as a bunch of heavies, who thrive only when they can stifle people's speech. But it's a cheap shot. The same points can be made regarding Christian organization in the first century. For example:

 But shun empty speeches that violate what is holy; for they will advance to more and more ungodliness, and their word will spread like gangrene. Hymenaeus and Philetus are of that number. These very [men] have deviated from the truth, saying that the resurrection has already occurred; and they are subverting the faith of some 2 Tim 2:16-16

For an overseer must be both to exhort by the teaching that is healthful and to reprove those who contradict. 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.....keep on reproving them with severity, that they may be healthy in the faith Titus 1:7-13

Everyone that pushes ahead and does not remain in the teaching of the Christ does not have God. He that does remain in this teaching is the one that has both the Father and the Son. If anyone comes to you and does not bring this teaching, never receive him into your homes or say a greeting to him. For he that says a greeting to him is a sharer in his wicked works 2 Jn 9

Alexander the coppersmith did me many injuries—Jehovah will repay him according to his deeds— and you too be on guard against him, for he resisted our words to an excessive degree 2 Tim 4:14

Looking at these scriptures and only these scriptures, one might conclude that the early Christian apostles were admirers of the Gestapo. But of course, nobody does that. We read these verses in context. The same should be done with Jehovah's organization today.

To cite from the above, there are today many persons whose "words spread like gangrene," who have "deviated from the truth," who are "subverting the faith of some," who "push ahead," who "do not remain in this teaching," who "do many injuries." Should these ones separate and go their own way, that's fine. But should they be intent on undermining the authority of Christian organization, the scriptural answer was to recognize "their word will spread like gangrene," to "shut the mouths of these," to "reprove them with severity," to "never recieve him into your homes or say a greeting."
These scriptures merely confirm common sense. When everyone with a gripe, real or imagined, big or small, has a free stage, it poses a challenge to organization. Any organization, not just mean ones.

I haven't called for a ban on the internet...keep things in context. I use it all the time. [yes, he does! He should get a life.....his wife] People will adapt, to be sure. But it does pose a challenge to organization, which was the point of my article.

As to Pastor Russell, that was 100 years ago. He began many....ten? persons, and finally reached....maybe 10,000? in the whole world! It's certainly conceivable that he would be more concerned with "spreading seed," than with "weeding." Still, I doubt that he totally ignored internal discipline. To whatever extent he did, he had yet to apply the pattern of the apostles.

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