Previous month:
April 2007
Next month:
June 2007

Revelation and the Congregation Book Study

It does seem like a raw deal.

Here is John, the apostle John, he's summoned to heaven to see how things will turn out.

...look! an opened door in heaven, and the first voice that I heard was as of a trumpet, speaking with me, saying: “Come on up here, and I shall show you the things that must take place.    Rev 4:1

But no sooner does he get there and the door's slammed shut! Or so it seems. The central figure (God) holds a scroll, and the scroll, we all can see, is important. It is key, but it is also sealed securely and no one's around who can unseal it. John is bummed. And he weeps, no less. He's an emotional guy.

And I saw a strong angel proclaiming with a loud voice: “Who is worthy to open the scroll and loose its seals?” But neither in heaven nor upon earth nor underneath the earth was there a single one able to open the scroll or to look into it. And I gave way to a great deal of weeping because no one was found worthy to open the scroll or to look into it.    Rev 5:2-4

In a sense, Jehovah's Witnesses today are like John. Eager to look into the will God's purpose turn out? What will the next move be? Occasionally, even ready to jump the gun, just like the first century disciples:

While they were listening to these things he [Jesus] spoke in addition an illustration, because he was near Jerusalem and they were imagining that the kingdom of God was going to display itself instantly.     Luke 19:11

World conditions have deteriorated beyond what many long-time Witnesses ever thought possible. Routinely, people strap themselves to bombs or stroll into malls with guns and are delighted to die if only they can take a dozen or so with them! And people just adjust! "Oh, well....that's just the way life is," they say. It doesn't cause a spiritual searching, or, if it does, it's only for varieties in which time, effort, and resources remain strictly subservient to the more important things. And, God knows, it can't be anywhere there is any check on doing whatever we want! It is fine to have a faith, we hear, as long as we keep it in it's place. Of course, that means last place.

Does it not call to mind Jesus' words at Matt 24:38-39?

For as they were in those days before the flood, eating and drinking, men marrying and women being given in marriage, until the day that Noah entered into the ark; and they took no note until the flood came and swept them all away, so the presence of the Son of man will be.

So Jehovah's Witnesses do look to the future, as mentioned, and there seems no better place to look than in the book of Revelation, since that is the invitation: "Come on up here, and I shall show you the things that must take place." No, John is not smoking something, as potheads charge, but the book is presented in symbols. Not indecipherable symbols, though, and comparing Revelation with pertinent verses elsewhere in the Bible, as well as considering Christian history, allows an ever more detailed understanding of its meaning.

The book Revelation - Its Grand Climax at Hand (1988, Watchtower) is such a verse -by -verse commentary of Revelation. It's presently being considered, for the fourth time, in the Congregation Book study, a weekly meeting of Jehovah's Witnesses.

It is the latest of a series of Watchtower produced books on the Revelation to John. "The Finished Mystery" appeared in 1917, "Light" in 1930, "Babylon the Great has Fallen!" God's Kingdom Rules! in 1963, and "Then is Finished the Mystery of God" in 1969. And now the latest version. Is it wrong in some respects? Probably. The book acknowledges as much on page 9:

It is not claimed that explanations in this publication are infallible. Like Joseph of old, we say "do not interpretations belong to God?" (Genesis 40:8) At the same time, however, we firmly believe that the explanations set forth herein harmonize with the Bible in its entirety, showing how remarkably divine prophesy has been fulfilled in the world events of our catastrophic times.

Might one quibble, even argue, with this or that interpretation of a given verse? Absolutely, and I know just some persons who would do it endlessly. Yet there is a cohesiveness to the explanations offered, and a chronological order that is impressive. With each new publication released, there is a sense of zeroing in closer and closer to the target. And it avoids those asinine literal interpretations we get from fundamentalists....looking for the guy who literally has "666" emblazoned on his forehead, for example, or the former hysteria at Ronald Wilson Reagan (3 names, each with 6 letters! 666!).

Though John starts bawling like a baby, the initial account  at Rev 5 has a happy ending. They find someone to open the scroll!

But one of the elders says to me: “Stop weeping. Look! The Lion that is of the tribe of Judah, the root of David, has conquered so as to open the scroll and its seven seals....And he went and at once took [it] out of the right hand of the One seated on the throne.   vs 5,7

to this accompaniment:

You are worthy to take the scroll and open its seals, because you were slaughtered and with your blood you bought persons for God out of every tribe and tongue and people and nation, and you made them to be a kingdom and priests to our God, and they are to rule as kings over the earth.    vs 9,10

It's not hard to recognize the recipient as the resurrected Christ. Christ is, for sure, the one qualified to reveal details of God's purpose toward heaven, earth, and mankind. Jehovah's Witnesses recognize that Christ leads the congregation, doing so through an arrangement that the Bible described as the faithful and discreet slave:

Who really is the faithful and discreet slave whom his master appointed over his domestics, to give them their food at the proper time? Happy is that slave if his master on arriving finds him doing so. Truly I say to you, He will appoint him over all his belongings.     Matt 24:45-47

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'

Homeschooling and Manny Rivera

When Mrs Sheepandgoats and I decided to homeschool our 2 kids, 21 years ago, some challenged us. How could we expect to do better than professional educators? they wanted to know. We looked at it differently.

How could we do worse?

To be sure, had we lived in one of the suburbs, we might have been less confident. But we didn't. We lived in the City School District, which last year achieved a graduation rate of 39%. Yet I'm glad we lived there. Not only did our kids' homeschool education surpass what a suburban school would have offered, but they became "streetsmart," and learned to mingle freely with persons of all ages, levels, and cultures.

My daughter carries herself well. At her workplace, a spa that caters to the well-to-do, co-workers ask her where she was raised. "We lived on a side street off Hudson," she says. "Oh...," they murmur in confusion. (Hudson is in a poor area) But then they brighten... the street ends in more upscale Irondequoit. "You mean the part in Irondequoit," they say knowingly. "No," she replies, and leaves them scratching their heads. 

But she would not likely have had such poise had she actually attended the Hudson Ave schools. Superintendent of those schools, Dr. Manny Rivera is just leaving, headed for greener pastures, taking an education job with the Spitzer administration. City! newspaper interviewed him on his tenure with the District. What had he learned?

"I learned that we couldn't do it alone," he says. "It's too big a problem to think we can handle it by ourselves. We needed our college and university partners." Also the "unions." Also the "business community."

We all want "higher performance," he says. "but you have to have systems in place to get there." The trouble is  [when speaking with the mayor] "we didn't get to a strategy for implementation.....If this community can come together and embrace key strategies, Rochester would get the results everybody wants to see."

We need "systems," "our partners," our "key strategies." Not only our key strategies, but we have to "implement" those key strategies, and to do that we need to "come together!" Fine words. How can one not be enthused? Yet the skilled interpreter of Educatese can without difficulty detect the underlying message: don't expect any changes in your lifetime.

Trouble is, this is the same baloney we heard back in 1986 from Rivera's predecessor. Had we entrusted our kids to them back then, I wonder just where they would be today.




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'

The Divine Name and the Old Testament

When you are translating your Old Testament from the original Hebrew to English, it's perfectly acceptable to render the Divine Name as "Jehovah." Nobody who knows anything will give you any grief over this. All you have to do is translate the four-consonant tetragrammaton, and there it is, over 6000 times, in the original writings. You don't think if someone puts their name in a document 6000 times that they want it known?

Even translations that decline to render the name as a name do so for reasons philosophical, not technical. They simply don't want to do it. So they usually render the tetragrammaton as (the title, not name) LORD, in all caps to distinguish it from the actual word Lord. It can make for odd reading, such as at Ps 110:1.

The LORD says to my Lord: "Sit at my right hand, till I make your enemies your footstool?  RVS

Who is speaking to whom? Obviously, there's a difference in the two original language terms rendered Lord.

It's a bit clunky, too, when context indicates a name:

Let then know that thou alone, whose name is the LORD, art the Most High over all the earth.    Ps 83:18

Hi, my name's "the LORD." Doesn't that just roll off the tongue? Or take those ancient Israelites in Charlton Heston's "The Ten Commandments." There they are whining and crying in the movie's first half: they don't even know their God's name. Even the Egyptians taunt them about this. Later on, they do know: it's "the LORD." Everybody's happy.

Translations that pull the name often do so without a trace, and you have to reason on Ps 110:1 (above) to show there is a difference in the original language. Other translations pull it in all but a few places. Thus, the King James Version leaves the name intact in four locations, Ps 83:18 being one of these. Still other translations pull it entirely, but explain why in their prefaces. The Revised Standard Version (RSV) is one of these:

"For two reasons the [translation] Committee has returned to the more familiar usage of the King James Version [rendering YHWH as LORD]: (1) the word "Jehovah" does not accurately represent any form of the Name ever used in Hebrew; and (2) the use of any proper name for the one and only God, as though there were other gods from whom He had to be distinguished, was discontinued in Judaism before the Christian era and is entirely inappropriate for the universal faith of the Christian Church."

Note the philosophical, not technical, basis. Neither argument holds water.

1. Okay, okay, so "Jehovah" is not the Hebrew pronunciation. Neither is Jesus, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, indeed, most names from the OT. We all know names change when we cross languages. In Ecuador, they call me "Tomas." You think I don't answer? If you want to be so picky, then render the name "Yahweh." We could live with that. But removing the name entirely in order to slap in a title betrays a callous attitude toward the Book's author.

2. It is? Inappropriate? What about 1 Cor. 8:5?

For though there be that are called gods, whether in heaven or in earth, (as there be gods many, and lords many,) But to us there is but one God, the Father, of whom are all things, and we in him; and one Lord Jesus Christ, by whom are all things, and we by him.    (KJV)

We've all experienced cases of mistaken identity. We speak with someone of a name we both know, yet the attributes don't line up. We soon realize we're speaking of two different persons who share a common name. It's that way with "God." The God who would torture people forever and ever in hellfire is entirely different from our God [Jehovah] who would never dream of such a thing. (Jer 2:35)

You're safe, therefore, putting "Jehovah" in the Old Testament. You ought to do it, in fact, rather than presume to hide his name. Putting it in the New Testament is another matter. It's a move readily justified, yet it is bolder, not without controversy. A future post will deal with the subject.


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'

Hal and the Astronaut Farmer

The name of the rocket was Dreamer. It's builder was a dreamer.

With "The Astronaut Farmer," my wife and I knew we were in for a quirky film straight from the opening scene, a blend of two American icons. There he is on horseback, riding alone on the deserted plain. But wait! Zoom in steadily and we see he's not a cowboy at all, but an astronaut, or at least a guy in a spacesuit.

It's an irresistible movie. Part endearing family tale, part reckless pursuit of a dream, part good guys vs bad guys, part fantasy. Fantasy, because clearly, the plot could never happen. If you're one of those picayune people who huff over improbabilities, stay away. Everyone else gets a green light. Billy Bob Thorton plays Charles Farmer, an ex NASA rancher determined to pilot a rocket from his barn, with his family's help. It's a homeschool project, no less. Billy Bob has that eternal optimism, that unshakable good nature, and most importantly, that absolute inability to see when his goose is cooked that makes him unstoppable. In real life these guys make invincible salesmen. In movie life, they orbit the earth.

Each time we see a movie, I read internet reviews afterwards so I can tell my wife if I liked the film or not, a habit which drives her nuts. Reviews of Astronaut Farmer were mixed. The deciding factor, I discern, is whether you can imagine and appreciate a kook like Farmer. I can. Take Hal, for instance.

Hal enjoyed the same combination of qualities. Incurable optimism, unyielding good nature, bedrock decency. And absolutely oblivious to obstacles. People loved Hal. True to calling, he was a salesman. You'd sooner get his customers to bump off their mothers than buy from a rival. If only I had half his nature.

In the congregation, Hal was fully capable of off-the-wall remarks, as unpredictable as they were nutty, like how you could forget the resurrection if you died on an amusement park ride since you had deliberately risked life and limb. Fortunately no one took him seriously. "That's just Hal," they would say. The secret of human relations is to appreciate folks for their fine points, and cut them slack on the rest.

He'd be offered oversight of this or that department at the circuit or district level. Of course, he'd accept. Never turn down a privilege. They'd dig up some assistants for him. The assistants would putz along, confident in Hal's sure hand and direction. But two thirds of the way through they'd realize, to their horror, that Hal had absolutely no idea what he was doing. So they'd work their tails off, doubletime, tripletime, and as a consequence, all would turn out well. "You see?" Hal would chime in, "Jehovah provides!"

And who's to say that's not leadership? The assignments got done. Those assistants developed skills they never thought possible. In fact, I believe Hal attracted a corps of young Ministerial Servants eager for the challenge.

But I wasn't one of them. We both served for a time on a committee looking into a Kingdom Hall build. Hal was enthralled with those then-new fold down baby changing tables. "We have to get one of those," he'd gush. "Put it right there in the men's room! Why should it be only the sisters who change babies? Times are changing! Not just the wives, but also the husbands should share!" On and on he'd go, so enthused.

For crying out loud, we hadn't even located land yet!


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'

Maria Muldaur and the New York State Bush

It was a proud day for Rochester. Our own purple bush, the lilac, was designated New York's official state bush! Actually, the deed was signed into law last year, but only now are they getting around to setting up a plaque or something in Highland Park, home of 1200 lilac bushes and the annual Lilac Festival, which started May 11.

Of course, these heady days were not just for us. Somewhere in the state, someone is hoohawing over the new state reptile (snapping turtle) and state saltwater fish, (striped bass) which join the already established state flower (rose), tree (maple), insect (ladybird), and bird (bluebird, though it ought to be robin).

Only the Whitepebble Religious Institute was less than ecstatic. Its very own Tom Pearlsandswine was named state religious nut. Former member Tom Barfendogs was named state sorehead. Is this a great place to live or what?

It actually is a great place to live, notwithstanding local cynics who so ridiculed city officials' slogan "Rochester: Made for Living," substituting "leaving" for "living," that said officials had to dream up a new slogan. Still, Rochester ranks high among metropolitan areas for quality of life. Some thinktank in Virginia just gave our town 6th overall place. (Pittsburgh was #1) The job picture is distressed and the weather is an abomination, but other areas look good.

Each year the Lilac Festival heralds, if not the beginning of summer, at least the day when you can, with reasonable confidence, put away the snow shovel. It's been around as long as I can remember and each year becomes more popular. Highland Drive bisects the park into one area Img_0531_2devoted to lilacs, gardens, and the reservoir, and a second devoted to concerts, food tents and vendors.Img_0498  It's really too early weatherwise for an outdoor festival, but since it's tied to the lilacs, what can you do? You can pray all you want, but you can't tell them when to bloom.

This year the weather has been glorious, and as always, I've made it down there for some of the concerts. Different musicians are featured all day long, from high school talent on the weekdays, to upcoming local talent and national acts on evenings and  weekends. Herman's Hermits appeared a couple years ago, Teddy Geiger last year, John Sebastian and Sally Taylor (talented offspring of James Taylor and Carly Simon) in years before that.

So far this year, the highlight for me is Maria Muldaur. Ms Muldaur is seen on the Bob Dylan DVD "No Direction Home" as a much younger performer in Greenwich Village, where Bob also hung out. She plays with some sort of washboard band, her hair parted in two absurdly long braids. I later discovered she was the artist behind "Midnight at the Oasis." (1974)

If you imagined she was a one-hit wonder, well....that makes two of us. But it turns out she has cut 31 albums since. And her "hit" is not typical of her overall music, it's bland in comparison. Most of her material, at least what she played at the Festival,  is more bluesy and vaudeville. Img_0563I swear that woman knocked birds out of the trees with some high notes. She knows how to entertain. She wallops out a blues number that just wouldn't end, interrupting herself for asides, for audience chit chat, for banter with the other band members, (great performers, all, the Scintillating Papas) in a performance bringing the audience to its feet. "I don't know if you could tell, but I milked that one a little," she conceded afterwards.

Yes, these are pleasant days in Rochester. It's not such a bad place after all.Img_0540 

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'

1935 and the Anointed

Barfendogs is doing his best to get everyone stirred up. But it's not just Barfendogs. Many of Jehovah's Witnesses thought this system would have ended long ago. What are they to think of the 1935 adjustment? Is it a big deal or not? Should we expect a flurry of new anointed ones?

No, it's not a big deal. It's been said before that there would be post-1935 partakers. For example, the book United in Worship of the True God said "Does this mean that none are now being called by God for heavenly life? Until the final sealing is done, it is possible that some few [anointed] .... may prove unfaithful, and others will have to be chosen to take their place. But it seems reasonable that this would be a rare occurrence." But to hear Barfendogs put it, anyone who's partaken of the emblems in the last 30 years has now been validated. Moreover, they were cheated of their true status all these years! Rubbish.

Anyone partaking in the last few decades, if their anointing was genuine, would have had no difficulty cooperating with the Christian organization. After all, were it not for the organization, they wouldn't even know what anointing is or what it entails. If they truly are anointed to be kings, they would have no problem should anyone doubt their's not as if a brother of Christ can only be so if others validate him. And if truly anointed, they would be Christlike, that is they would know how to conduct themselves as a lesser one, how to be modest, how to wait for Jehovah's time, as did Christ and (before him) David, Moses, and Joseph. They might be discouraged, or even offended. But they'd be able to endure.

A politician today would never be able to do that. They must be respected and have others recognize their authority. But anointed ones are not politicians. They are Christlike.

A few (less than 10K among 6 million) have partaken of the emblems in recent years, and many of those not partaking scratched their heads over it. But so long as these ones kept working shoulder to shoulder, you just chalked it up as one of those things. If they tried to undercut the authority of the existing arrangement, to recruit, to establish themselves as a special light in the organization, or as Paul states: 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, well....that could make waves. (Tim :1:7) But a true brother of Christ would not behave this way.'s asked: "would God have ever allowed that there not be sufficient light on this subject? And would the Slave not recognize one of his brothers?"

How would I know? That's looking into heavenly things. But why should anyone think that, while on earth, the anointed must somehow all be linked together Landru-like?

One partaking of the emblems is giving evidence of a future assignment. If asked to be one of the Governing Body, it becomes a present assignment. But barring that, a newly anointed one has no special status in this system of things, only in the next. In this system, he or she cooperates with the existing arrangement and doesn't assert himself as a special authority in the congregation.

During the 1990's, there were three new partakers in Wheatandweeds' congregation. This was very unusual.  I'm not sure if there were any more in the entire circuit. None of the three really met the criteria of what we'd been led to expect. None of them were servants with decades of faithful service; their pasts were all a little rocky. Yet, none of them were crazies. Wheatandweeds liked all of them. So did I. All three had dominant personalities; two of them were ever ready to give advice. One of them qualified as an elder a year or two before he began partaking, yet the CO commented to the rest of the body "he's not the most humble person I've ever met." In the years after he partook, he began counseling people more and more, very dogmatically, and some reported being "creeped out." He got worse over time. He moved to another congregation and in time I heard he'd been disfellowshipped.

The second, a sister, likewise made much of her anointed status. She sided with the brother and became bitter with the organization. She made statements more and more challenging. She likened the "new" anointed ones to David, and the "old-line" anointed to Saul, who were striving to suppress the upstarts! She eventually left her husband to move closer to (with?) the disfellowshipped brother.

The third partaker was also a sister. She too had a dominant personality but she kept it in check. If you visited her, you knew you were in for a discussion of the scriptures, which you would enjoy, but without her "pulling rank." She told me once that she no longer associated with the other sister, as that one had become so negative. Of the three, her actions seemed to Wheatandweeds and me most consistent with an anointed one.

This third sister became ill and died. Her son asked Wheatandweeds to give the memorial talk. In planning his remarks, the son (newly baptized) mentioned he thought his mom's heavenly hope should be made prominent. But Wheatandweeds told him he didn't feel he could do that. Rather, he could talk about the sister's qualities &  the general condition & hope for the dead. And he could put his heart into it, since he thought highly of this sister.

Wheatandweeds explained to the son all the organization had said regarding anointing and 1935 and the possible need for an occasional substitute. Could they be wrong? Sure. It had happened before. New light. The organization adjusts. The sister had supposed that would indeed happen some day, and she was willing to wait.

But it was not for him, Wheatandweeds, to suggest that the organization was wrong, even were he to think it. By endorsing the sister's hope, the clear implication would be that Jehovah's organization needed to be put up to date [and that he was the one to do it!]. It doesn't matter that he would not mention the then-current people would know what it was. How would the friends respond? Wouldn't many of them read a defiant tone into the sister's memorial talk? That is the last thing she would have wanted!  She always wanted the Christian message, not herself, to be prominent!

Toward the end of the talk Wheatandweeds mentioned that the sister had entertained the heavenly hope. And that some in the audience might wonder how that could be? And that the obvious answer there, in the new system, and you will find out. We don't have to know everything.

There's nothing significantly new in the 1935 Questions from Readers article. The United in Worship book quoted above acknowledged there would be a few here and there. Nobody is suggesting the floodgates have been opened.

Besides, there's something fishy about thousands of new partakers when the number is expected to dwindle. There is too much air of self-promotion with most that I have come across. It's too much in keeping with the spirit of our times, in which the rights of the individual are paramount, and cooperation is almost seen as a weakness. People are quick to read conspiracy into every new development, but I think the more likely analogy for today's strife in some quarters is the Israelites griping when it looked like they were boxed in at the Red Sea [Exodus 14:11,12], or the sour slave beating up on his fellows because he thinks the master is delaying. [Matt 24:48]

It doesn't really affect our role as Christians nor the greater framework of the truth. Moreover, there is danger of being distracted from the bigger picture.... a world in which depravity and barbarity become commonplace & what that signifies. You don't quibble over who's anointed and who's not, since it makes no difference anyway in this system. You focus on the more important things.

For you know this first, that in the last days there will come ridiculers with their ridicule, proceeding according to their own desires and saying: “Where is this promised presence of his? Why, from the day our forefathers fell asleep [in death], all things are continuing exactly as from creation’s beginning.”  2 Pet 3:3

Jehovah's Witnesses do not think that today "all things are continuing exactly as from creation’s beginning.

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'

Carriertom Solves Identity Theft

Howard Slickbottom, Transportation Security Administration employee, was lounging around at Starbucks when he got up to use the restroom. Upon returning, his laptop was gone. On it was every conceivable bit of information of 100,000 TSA employees.

Perhaps it didn't happen just that way or even close, but it did happen. Didn't his brother Elmodo the same dumb thing last year?

And it happens a lot. T J Maxx, the big retailer without a single Slickbottom employee that I know of, lost up to 200 million credit card numbers to high tech thieves a couple years ago. That's the record so far. But what about their own advanced security? Shouldn't that have stopped the bad guys? Nah, you probably have better security on your home network, said the Wall Street Journal (5/4/07).

Of course, it's not that way anymore! The company has beefed up their system. And the TSA director Kip Hawley not only apologized; he profoundly apologized!

"We profoundly apologize for any inconvenience and concern that this incident has caused you."

Even with such apologies, Congress vows to investigate. But it seems clear with all these breaches that serious measures must be taken and so authorities turned to the Carriertom Into-Wishin Research Institute for recommendations on how affected persons could safeguard themselves against identity theft. As usual, the Institute completed its report in no time flat.

Spokesman for the Whitepebble Religious Institute, Tom Whitepebble, held a news conference to outline his top two recommendations.

1. Have lousy credit.

2. Have a police record for child sexual abuse. Then, if you fear your identity has been stolen, phone the cops and report “yourself.” A week later, go visit “yourself” at the lockup.

Of course, with regard to the second recommendation, you don’t want to have earned your record the traditional way. That’s why the business wing of the ever-agile Institute, for a reasonable fee, will forge such documents into the public record.

When reporters pointed out that such a record would be of benefit only if one’s identity was stolen, whereas otherwise it would be an absolute liability, Whitepebble bristled. You know how he is.

Rome, he correctly pointed out, wasn’t built in a day. All great ideas have a few bugs initially. And if the doom-and-gloom media couldn’t find anything nice to say, then he‘d thank them not to say anything at all.

It may be that Pophad it right all along. He still pays cash for most things, the old sage. Cash on the barrelhead! he says.



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'

Mormons and Jehovah's Witneses on TV

Dear WXXI:

I am writing with regard to the Independent Lens documentary Knocking, which reviews the contributions to society of Jehovah's Witnesses. I had long supposed it would appear, in time, on WXXI.

Tuesday I watched and enjoyed the excellent film The Mormons, and my memory of Knocking was jarred. But it does not appear that WXXI has scheduled the film, at least not for it's national airing date of May 22. That's too bad.

Jehovah's Witnesses' District Conventions fill the Blue Cross Arena for three or four three-day weekends each summer. JWs are thus an active part of the Greater Rochester community and would like to hear their story told. Among the film's contents, I understand, is a review of 46 Supreme Court appearances by Jehovah's Witnesses over the years which have clarified rights of free speech and assembly with benefit to all. No other group has appeared more often before the Court. Knocking sports a long list of awards, highlighted at it's website

I urge you to schedule the film, if not in time for its national airing, then at least during the rerun season.

Off topic a bit, you may care to know how we used WXXI while raising our kids. Like many parents, we were concerned with the corrosive effects of TV on children. We gave an allowance of  "TV tickets" to the kids. Using them as they saw fit, they could view a maximum of two hours per week of commercial TV. WXXI, however, was unlimited.

Very truly yours,

Mr & Mrs Tom Sheepandgoats


I admit I've long had a soft spot for Mormons. Fundamentally, of course, we're poles apart, Jehovah's Witnesses rely on the Bible; Mormons have a sacred book absolutely unique to them. Jehovah's Witnesses are politically neutral; Mormons are deeply involved in politics....both a Presidential candidate (Mitt Romney) and Senate majority leader (Harry Reid) are Mormons. Jehovah's Witnesses stress living simply; Mormons (I think this is fair to say) stress career advancement. This may account for the fact that half of all Mormons live in the United States, the mecca of career advancement, whereas only one sixth of Jehovah's Witnesses do so.

Yet on a surface level there are many similarities, and they are good similarities. Mormons are upright and honest. They are the only group besides us in which religious affiliation alone is enough to convey trust. Sure, you can find the occasional clunkerin both groups, but they are clearly anomalies. And honest people can be found throughout the world's religions, without question, yet religious affiliation alone does not guarantee it.

Both groups trace modern day roots to the 19th century United States, Both faiths enjoy unity. Neither faith has paid clergy. Both have highly organized and completely volunteer disaster relief functions; both were in New Orleans after Katrina and repaired homes, generally those of their own people, in no time flat, whereas federal and private agencies whose charter purpose is disaster relief are still fumbling around almost two year later.

Both groups have a public ministry. Both will remove individuals who persistently and unrepentantly violate key tenets of the faith. Membership is about the same; Mormons count 12 million worldwide to our 6 million, yet we count as members only those with active public ministries. Our most heavily attended meeting, the Memorial of Christ's death, last year attracted 17 million.

Both groups present their beliefs as the truth. This, in an era where most faiths have learned to offer beliefs al a carte; take them or spit them out according to your own tastes. This saves hassles. People don't accuse you of dogmatism. Instead, they praise you for enlightenment. But, at the same time, doesn't this stand place your beliefs on the level of pop psychology?

Both Mormons and Jehovah's Witnesses even had a child superstar of the 1970's! Mormons had Donny Osmond. We had Michael Jackson. Alas, our guy got weirder and weirder, not like Prince, and in time, left the faith. But maybe he'll come back some day. I'd like that. He never really had a childhood. I always thought the child molestation charges against him unlikely. I mean, when you're going to court, you lead off with your most credible witness. The government used a kid whose family had made false allegations in the past, shaking people down for money.

But in Rochester, at least for the present time, those Mormons got "their" documentary on TV, and we didn't get "ours!" PBS affiliates are all independent, I'm told. They pick and choose. Only 75% have scheduled Knocking.


From the website

Anderson Cooper, CNN --
"Riveting and illuminating. KNOCKING takes us inside the world of Jehovah's Witnesses in a way that is utterly surprising and moving.

Lynn Schofield Clark, Director, Estlow International Center for Journalism and New Media, University of Denver --
"Throughout the film, viewers are challenged to think about the relationship of religion, government, discrimination, family life, and civil liberties in unconventional and surprisingly human ways. This film will be useful for classes on freedom of expression, civic engagement and religion. Students will be surprised that Jehovah's Witnesses have played such a key role in establishing and guarding many of the civil liberties we enjoy in the U.S. today."

Arthur Caplan, Chair, Department of Medical Ethics, University of Pennsylvania --
"KNOCKING contains a wonderful surprise: It shows how science and religion, with worldviews that rarely overlap, can reach a common goal - the use of less blood in medicine - even if for very different reasons."

KNOCKING was produced by Joel Engardio and Tom Shepard.

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'

Resume Padding at MIT

MIT Dean Admissions Marilee Jones got pretty good at spotting applicants who had padded their resumes. Nevertheless, the school fired her (April 27). She had padded hers!

Padded it quite a bit, actually. She'd claimed BS and MS degrees from Union College, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute and Albany Medical College. That's how she'd landed her first job 28 years ago. But she'd only studied at Rensselaer for a year and had never graduated anywhere.

They caught someone in Rochester doing that too. She had been director of the Urban League. Alas, I cannot recall her name. Turned out she'd fudged everything. The lawyers, I heard, were going to have a field day, retrying every case in which she had testified!

Sheepandgoats, righteous as he is, could never countenance lying. I suppose you have to kick these people to the curb without mercy. But amidst all the indignant blather, one fact should not be ignored. These two had proved themselves excellent at their jobs!

Frankly, you cannot read Marilee Jones without liking her. She wrote an editorial for USA Today (1/5/03) in which she related a note she'd received from an applicant's dad: It read "You rejected my son. He's devastated. See you in court."

The next day came a note from the applicant himself: "Thank you for not admitting me to MIT. This is the best day of my life."

In an era where hard-driving, ambition-blinded parents can push their more have-a-life offspring to the point of suicide, Ms. Jones offered unheard of nurturing and common sense: lay off on the self-stress, enjoy life, stay healthy, stop trying to be perfect. MIT officials, even as they canned her, were universal in their praise. "She's really been a leader in the profession," said her predecessor Michael Behnke. Her peers concurred. Ms. Jones was "one of those people who was trying to bring sanity back to the whole admissions world. She's spoken persuasively and thoughtfully both to parents and admissions deans about restoring the humanity to this process and taking some pressure off kids," said a fellow dean of admissions Bruce Poch. But now she's gone and insanity can reassert itself.

The surface lesson here has to do with always-tell-the-truth and so forth. But the real lesson I've not yet heard anyone state: what a load of horse manure all these "credentials" really are. They exist for two reasons, neither of them noble.

1. They make hiring easier, since you can cart two thirds of all resumes to the trash, unread.

2.  They inflate the education industry, ever eager to dream up new areas of expertise, for which they can teach and write outrageously overpriced textbooks.

The process serves to eliminate the creative and innovative folks in favor of the plodders and the dull.

My wife, Mrs Sheepandgoats, and I ran up against this mindset when we set out to homeschool our kids, many years ago. There were plenty of educators who huffed at our not being certified teachers. It led us to uncover the truth that certified teachers taught absolutely no better than uncertified ones. (yet they cost far more) Catholic schools rarely use certified teachers, yet achieve results as good or better than public schools!

It's in this light that we can understand the recent Democrat and Chronicle headline: "Computer Workers May Have to Report Child Abuse." (5/2/07) Lawmakers in two states think this is a good idea, and it's hard to resist a notion like this, since anyone who does obviously thinks pedophilia is a good thing. Apparently, the technician at Best Buy and even the shop two doors down now, should this become law, will have to alert the cops when they spot something unsavory on your hard drive. I suspect most of them already do, just on the basis of being decent people

Michael Wendy, spokesman for a the Computing Technology Industry Association, based in Illinois, offered some common sense hedging. Sure, technicians want to help out, he said, but they're concerned about liability should they miss something.

As well they should be. Lawyers, undoubtedly, will love this new proposal. As will insurance people. Technicians will have to load up on liability insurance. Repairs will be so expensive that no one will'll just junk your machine and buy another. And repairmen will need a Master's Degree to touch your machine, with advanced courses in sociology and human sexuality.

Educators will like that.



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'