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Earning Salvation and Playing Chess with God

Some stories you just don't forget.

Like this one from Isaac Bashevis Singer (the title of which I forgot) about a man who viewed life as a chess game with God. Accordingly, he knew he'd always be the loser in any situation, eternally in check, and after being toyed with an adequate time, checkmated without mercy. And yet there was an upside. It was a great honor, after all, to play such a worthy opponent; no one wants to waste their time on a third-rate foe. So even as our man got stomped upon time after time, he could reflect in awe on the ingenious tactics of the Master Player.

For example, (the precise details may be slightly off - it was a long time ago that I read it) our main character, a repairman or messenger or whatever, enters the apartment of an absolutely drop-dead beautiful woman. But he falls ill, so the kind woman lets him lie down on her couch. The blazing sunlight is pouring into the room, so she leans over the couch to pull the shade. But she loses her footing and falls on top of our hero! Of course, belt buckles or something lock, and they can not separate! At that very moment, the footsteps of her huge, mean, jealous husband are heard in the hall, the key turning in the door.

Even as our hero thinks of how he's about to be pounded into mush, he can not help but marvel: "Masterful move, God! Awesome!"

What is the nature of a person's relationship to God? Might it even differ from person to person, since God, who is described as having humility (as opposed to modesty, they are not the same) adapts himself to each one, taking into account each unique personality?

Detractors of Jehovah's Witnesses delight in the accusation that Witnesses are trying to earn salvation; that's the reason for their door-to-door activity, they say. The truly uninformed portray them competing with each other for one of the limited (144,000) heavenly slots! The truth of the matter is very different. And yet not so different that it can't be misinterpreted, not just by the casual observer, but even by some Witnesses themselves, who may know and say one thing, but act as if another were true.

The everlasting life that Jehovah's Witnesses look forward to, made possible by Christ's death is described biblically as a gift.

For the wages sin pays is death, but the gift God gives is everlasting life by Christ Jesus our Lord.   Rom 6:23

A free gift, of course, is just that. It is a gift. You can't earn it. Yet you can show appreciation for it. Indeed, anyone who provides a really fine gift, perhaps at great cost to themselves, has to be sorely disappointed if the recipient merely grabs the gift matter-of-factly, without sign of gratitude.

So Jehovah's Witnesses love the giver of this gift, and they show appreciation for it. That's different than trying to earn the gift, and yet the outward manifestations of both attitudes are similar. It is easy to mistake one for another.

My favorite circuit overseer, who we'll call Roger, was known for the expression "just do the best you can." Guys in the organization who like to push, and who, more or less, imply that whatever you are doing is not enough, didn't always appreciate Roger. The Watchtower Society did, however. I noted at the elder training school, where traveling overseers rotated all the teaching parts, that Roger was invariably assigned the really weighty segments. When he "retired" from the circuit work, and settled in one congregation, not everyone welcomed his "just do the best you can" message. They fretted. Would not some start dogging it, they feared? Maybe they would slow down! And sure enough, some did. For a time. But only for a time.

With such a well-known person espousing "just do the best you can," people who were pushing themselves, maybe some out of a sense of guilt or obligation or even "earning," did back off, relieved. But the congregation readjusted. Soon, new ones, and many of the old, were stepping up to the plate, "doing the best they could," and doing so with a purer love of God. The congregation's field service exceeded anything that had come prior.

Matthew 24:14 states that "this good news of the kingdom will be preached in all the inhabited earth for a witness to all the nations; and then the end will come." Who, if not those who believe in it, would one expect to do this preaching?

With regard to earning, a pertinent thought is found at James 5:19-20:

My brothers, if anyone among you is misled from the truth and another turns him back, know that he who turns a sinner back from the error of his way will save his soul from death and will cover a multitude of sins.

The question might be asked: Whose soul is saved and whose multitude of sins covered? The "turner" or the "turnee?" If it is the "turner," well....that's a lot like earning one's salvation, isn't it? Has the Watchtower Society ever interpreted the verse that way?

It has not. It has consistently pointed to the "turnee" who's soul is saved and sins covered, not the "turner."

"The person who reproved him has thus worked toward the covering over, or pardoning, of the erring one’s sins."   (Wt 3/1/83 page 15)

Publishers of the Watchtower, and all of Jehovah's Witnesses, are well aware that life is a free gift, a gift that can be appreciated, but not earned.

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Tom Irregardless and Me    No Fake News but Plenty of Hogwash

Defending Jehovah’s Witnesses with style from attacks... in Russia, with the ebook ‘Dear Mr. Putin - Jehovah’s Witnesses Write Russia’ (free).... and in the West, with the ebook ‘TrueTom vs the Apostates!’ (free)

The Grumbling Slave

"I never thought I'd ever be this old." The circuit overseer was addressing a circuit assembly. He looked at his hands "I didn't think I'd have wrinkles or my hair would turn gray. I thought this present system of things would long have passed, but isn't it fine that many people have come into God's organization over the last decades?" The notion went over well. People clapped.

It doesn't always go over so well, not with everyone. If there's one thing we know about life today, it is that people are restless. In turmoil. Uneasy. Society has broken down in many areas, be it family life, finances, public health and safety, integrity and trust. People are unsettled. And where is the master? Wasn't he supposed to be here by now?

The master, of course, is the one referred to at Matt 24:48-9. Matt 24 and 25 are the apocalyptic chapters of Matthew. They're concerned with the "last days" of human rule on earth. Matt 25:13, for instance, advises Christians to "keep on the watch, therefore, because you know neither the day nor the hour."

If the day and the hour are out-of-bounds, Jehovah's Witnesses have nonetheless tried to nail the year more than once, most recently in 1975. It's not just them, either. Isaac Newton, the grandpa of science, who wrote more about spiritual matters than math and science combined (to the annoyance of Richard Dawkins, I suspect), decided 2060 was the final year. And even outside Christian circles, didn't the Mayans come up with some date - 2011 - a date rapidly approaching?

And why should people not wonder about such things? Give us a few decades, and we'll all be senile and in diapers. And that amidst an ever-decaying world. Who is so dull as to not be curious about what lies after our 80 years?

We Witnesses learned our "date" lesson for awhile (perhaps) and for some time Armageddon has merely been "soon," even "just around the corner." Armageddon, remember, is not the earth's destruction, but the wiping clean of rebellious society that accompanies Kingdom rule coming to power. Still, that is one heckuva corner.

So some do what Jesus said in 24:48-9:

"But if ever that evil slave should say in his heart, ‘My master is delaying,’ and should start to beat his fellow slaves and should eat and drink with the confirmed drunkards, the master of that slave will come on a day that he does not expect and in an hour that he does not know...." and will not be pleased.

The "master" seems to be "delaying," and so some of his slaves start to beat up on the other slaves, apparently the ones not so concerned about timing. . "I was misled! It's  mind control! They're false prophets!" You hear people say such things about the Witness organization.

No question about it. There are older JWs who literally never thought they'd see old age in this system. Because of that, some have found themselves "out of sync" with practical life, sometimes seriously so.  Undeniably - a great inconvenience for anyone in that boat. (though there's the other type of person who adapts to anything - nothing inconveniences them! Ah. I wish I were more like that. Tom Whitepebble, for example, who's never worried a day in his life. His goal, he tells me, is to take his last dime out of the bank two minutes before he has his final heart attack. Then he will die with a smile on his face!)

But some are like the "evil" slave, beating up their fellows. Other slaves, who may also have gone out on a limb, simply suck it up and move on. That is not necessarily easy and some opportunities, when they pass, never return. Life in this system is smoother, certainly more predictable, if you do things in a certain order. But the Christian faith, after all, holds that this is not the "real life."

Give orders to those who are rich in the present system of things not to be high-minded, and to rest their hope, not on uncertain riches, but on God, who furnishes us all things richly for our enjoyment; to work at good, to be rich in fine works, to be liberal, ready to share, safely treasuring up for themselves a fine foundation for the future, in order that they may get a firm hold on the real life.    1 Tim 6:17-19

Faithful ones can expect to be a bit like Abraham, an alien in a foreign land.

By faith he resided as an alien in the land of the promise as in a foreign land, and dwelt in tents with Isaac and Jacob, the heirs with him of the very same promise. For he was awaiting the city having real foundations, the builder and maker of which [city] is God.    Heb 11:9-10

Have some Witnesses been disappointed with aspects of their personal life? Probably. But only in matters relevant to this system of things, which is not the real life. After all, it's not as if a botched end prophesy is the only grounds for disappointment today. This system of things disappoints people all the time. Ask them about that in Iraq.

Are not our times, at least compared with recent centuries, the most materialistic, individualistic, and self-centered ever? That's not to criticize anyone coming under their spell. It's the world we're born into and it permeates our being. It's harder on the younger generation because the backdrop has become more and more pronounced.

When all is said and done, the real question may be the one Jesus raised in Luke 18:8:

"....when the Son of man arrives, will he really find the faith on the earth?”

Frankly, you cannot but have great respect for the JW governing organization. They alone are unafraid to go out on a limb. Everyone else hedges their bets. Everyone else covers their rear end. Everyone else tries to have it both ways. They don't.

It's not as if they personally benefit when timing doesn't turn out. They live in dormitories, for crying out loud! Nice dormitories, to be sure. But dormitories, all the same. Should they decide to leave, they don't walk away with a pension or 401K.

Yes, in hindsight, it might be well if dates had never been given. But they're the watchman. Conditions Jesus foretold have long been upon us. So they peer all the harder for details. Mist and fog can mess up a watchman, interfere with his vision. But what good is a watchman who sounds the alarm only when the bow of the approaching ship is scraping your toes?

Son of man, a watchman is what I have made you to the house of Israel, and you must hear from my mouth speech and you must warn them from me.    Ezek 3:17

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Tom Irregardless and Me     No Fake News but Plenty of Hogwash

Defending Jehovah’s Witnesses with style from attacks... in Russia, with the ebook ‘Dear Mr. Putin - Jehovah’s Witnesses Write Russia’ (free).... and in the West, with the ebook ‘TrueTom vs the Apostates!’ (free)

John T Gatto and Growth without Educators

When did we lose teachers and gain educators? Isn't that new word pretentious? Doesn't it imply that we'd all have empty heads without them?

It's just just the opposite. It's hard to prevent children from learning. Witness their ability to pick up a language. Without any instruction at all, they absorb whatever language is spoken in the home. If two languages are spoken, they absorb two. If three languages are spoken, they absorb three. We read a lot to our children when they were infants and toddlers. Classics like Go Dogs Go! and One Fish Two Fish Red Fish Blue Fish. They picked it right up and were both reading before kindergarten. Beyond pointing to the words we read, we never showed them how. 

If learning is so natural why do so many kids not do it? It's not because we have too few educators. It may be because we have too many.

John Taylor Gatto was named New York City Teacher of the year in 1989 and 1990 and 1991. In 1991, he was named New York State Teacher of the Year. But then he turned on his fellow educators! Yes, he agreed, he was a good teacher. But it was only because he bucked, at every turn, the stifling strait jacket of the school system. The district where he worked twice suspended his license for insubordination. He was too innovative, and the bureaucracy too inflexible to accommodate. In 1991, he quit. Writing to the Wall Street Journal, he declared that he could no longer "hurt kids to make a living."

But might he have waited for "school reform?" He observed: "Socrates foresaw if teaching became a formal profession, something like this would happen. Professional interest is served by making what is easy to do seem hard....School is too vital a jobs-project, contract giver and protector of the social order to allow itself to be "re-formed." [italics mine]

Visit Mr. Gatto's websiteand you'll see he's working on a Ken Burns style documentary about the education industry, The Fourth Purpose. "The time for pussy-foot measures with the forced schooling institution is long past," he says. "....What justice cries out for to break this logjam is shock treatment." It promises to be good.

In the right environment, flowers will grow all by themselves. It's a natural process. They don't need professional "sprouters" to measure and critique every move. Our homeschooled son never went to school, save for a brief stint in the 6th grade. He went through a phase in which he would read for hours on end. Huge tomes, mostly history. My wife, Mrs Sheepandgoats, had some allies in the school system and she went running to the local principal. "I don't know what to do," she pleaded. "He won't do any of his workbooks. He just sits and reads all day!" "He reads? said the principal incredulously. "Don't do anything!" Yet had he been in that principal's school he would not have been allowed to read. They would have made him do those workbooks. Thus a naturally enjoyable experience (learning) would be made hateful.

Our boy entered 6th grade mid-year. It was time to give it a try. Rochester City has an odd system of school assignment. You are usually but not necessarily assigned to your neighborhood school. But since our boy went suddenly, he had no say whatsoever and was assigned to a gritty school with a cross-city bus ride. Never being in school before, how would he fit in? we wondered. Would he be a nerd? Would he be beat up and picked on? Somewhat to our surprise, he had no difficulty whatsoever, turning the "socialization" myth on its head. At the end of the year, he had a choice to continue in school or to homeschool again. He chose to homeschool. "I had no time to read when I was in school," he said.

During that 6th grade year, his teacher declared pi was 3.14. My son, because of things covered before, knew that 3.14 was a rounded number, and the actual decimal value stretched on forever. He stated such, and the teacher was upset to be contradicted!

Every parent likes to think their kids are naturally bright. We do too. Yet we fear that their brightness may not have been allowed to flourish without homeschooling.

The next time the boy saw a classroom was age 16, at the local community college. They gave him placement tests since they weren't sure how to regard homeschoolers. Consequently, he was assigned remedial math (remedial from a college point of view. In other words, he was age-appropriate) Yet his reading comprehension, they informed us, was "off the charts" They were slow to believe that he had not already had college courses. Interestingly, he never regarded himself as abnormally bright. "I had no idea there were so many stupid people," he said afterwards.

Not everyone will be in position to do as we were able to. Nor was it the answer in every way. I don't mean to suggest that you can't attend public schools and thrive. You can. They hold some advantages over homeschooling. But they're not very flexible. You have to skirt around many shoals.

 

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Tom Irregardless and Me                  No Fake News but Plenty of Hogwash

Defending Jehovah’s Witnesses with style from attacks... in Russia, with the ebook ‘Dear Mr. Putin - Jehovah’s Witnesses Write Russia’ (free).... and in the West, with the ebook ‘TrueTom vs the Apostates!’ (free)

Engardio, Gobitus, and the Flag Salute

As a teenager, Joel Engardio broke his mother's heart. He declined to pursue the Witness faith in which he was raised, diving into journalism, which he imagined could change the world now, not later.

As a young man, he broke it again. He declared he was gay. That’s a problem within JW congregations. Scriptures are scriptures and we're not authorized to change them. We don't go on anti-gay rants and witch hunts, like the fundamentalist groups, but to say we "discourage" homosexual practices would be an understatement.

But as an adult, he's done his mama proud.

Mr. Engardio has written, produced and narrated Knocking, probably the best documentary ever about Jehovah's Witnesses. Others think so, too, not just me.

Best Documentary, Jury Award, 2006 USA Film Festival (Dallas)

Best Documentary, Jury Award, 2006 Trenton Film Festival (New Jersey)

Best Documentary, Audience Award, 2006 Indianapolis International Film Festival

Its website, www.Knocking.org, lists 10 other film awards.

Some aspects of Jehovah's Witnesses, Mr. Engardio relates better than the Witnesses themselves do. For example, while it's well known that the U.S. leads the world in protecting basic freedoms from government abuse - freedom of speech, of press, of assembly, of expression, of worship - the reason is less well known. It is, in large measure, Jehovah's Witnesses.

Towards the end of ensuring freedoms, Jehovah's Witnesses have tried 50 cases before the U.S. Supreme Court. Except for the government itself, no other group has done so more often. The victories they've wrestled trickle down to groups of all stripes, including some with principles quite opposed to those of Jehovah's Witnesses. Such groups owe a large debt to JWs, but instead they take pot shots at our beliefs! Freedoms defined in the U.S. set the standards for other nations as well, particularly emerging ones.

An example of a basic freedom defined:

We all know that there is true patriotism and there is phony patriotism. There is the flag salute that reflects true love of country and the flag salute that is just going through the motions. The symbol means nothing in itself; it’s what the symbol means to a person which is significant. We all know that terrorists, spies, scoundrels, and what-have-you feel no compunction about saluting someone's flag, if only so as to avoid drawing attention to themselves.

All the same, politicians are sometimes satisfied, not with true patriotism, but with the appearance of true patriotism. In the late 1930's, shortly before America's entrance into WWII, "patriots" [real or phony?] thought it a good idea to make all schoolchildren salute the flag. Some communities wrote it into school bylaws. It was to be obeyed upon pain of expulsion. This created a problem for the children of Jehovah's Witnesses, who do not salute any country’s flag. Their reason is religious, not political. It’s based on the Ten Commandments. (1 and 2)

You shall not make for yourself an idol in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below. You shall not bow down to them or worship them…       Ex 20:4,5  (NIV)  Saluting a flag, for them, violates this command.

Granted, not everyone interprets those verses as we do, yet it is clear that JWs’ not saluting the flag has nothing to do with love of country. It’s a religious stand, based on avoiding "idolatry."

Their motives made no difference to a certain Pennsylvania school board. With World War II threatening to draw in the United States, they wanted patriotism, or at least the appearance thereof. Further, they imagined that forcing students to salute the flag would instill the real variety. Religious conscience was of no concern to them. There was the flag - salute it! Two Witness children, William and Lillian Gobitus, would not. They were 12 and 10 years old, respectively. They stood their ground, and were expelled from public school. Through their father, they took the matter to court.

Early court decisions went in favor of the Gobitus children. Two lower courts ruled in their favor. The second wrote into its decision the words of a certain Colonel Moss, who had authored several WWI training manuals:

"Another form that false patriotism frequently takes is so-called Flag-worship - blind and excessive adulation of the Flag as an emblem or image - super-punctiliousness and meticulosity in displaying and saluting the Flag - without intelligent and sincere understanding and appreciation of the ideals and institutions it symbolizes. This of course is but a form of idolatry - a sort of "glorified idolatry," so to speak. When patriotism assumes this form it is nonsensical and makes the "patriot" ridiculous."

"The court also noted that "there are schools all over the United States in which the pupils have to go through  the ceremony of pledging allegiance to the flag every school day. It would be hard to devise a means more effective for dulling patriotic sentiment than that. This routine repetition makes the flag-saluting ceremony perfunctory and so devoid of feeling; and once this feeling has been lost it is hard to recapture it for the "high moments" of life."

Nonetheless, those who wanted the appearance of patriotism appealed each victory. The case reached the United States Supreme Court, which reversed the lower court decisions by an 8:1 vote.  [!]  "...We live by symbols," the Supreme Court declared. "The flag is the symbol of our national unity..." The school board could indeed compel students to salute the flag. Get over it, they seemed to say to minorities. Religious (or any other) conscience, though it harmed nobody, was stomped upon so as to please the majority.  Justice Harlan Fiske Stone, the only one who voted against the decision, wrote the dissenting opinion. Three years later that dissent would become the majority opinion. 

The year was 1940, and war fever ran high, a mood hard to imagine today. Any action thought to be snubbing the flag brought public vengeance,  and everyone knew by then that Jehovah's Witnesses would not salute it. The Court decision lit a fire of intolerance. Mobs formed, waving the flag and demanding Witnesses salute it. When they would not, they were attacked and beaten, even into unconsciousness. Their homes, automobiles and meeting places were torched or wrecked. In small towns run by the “good ‘ol boys,” some were rounded up and jailed without charge. In four years over 2500 mob-related incidents occurred.

The Solicitor General of the United States took to the NBC airwaves:

“Jehovah's Witnesses have repeatedly been set upon and beaten. They have committed no crime; but the mob adjudged that they had, and meted out punishment The Attorney General has ordered an immediate investigation of these outrages.

“The people must be alert and watchful, and above all, cool and sane. Since mob violence will make the government's task infinitely more difficult, it will not be tolerated. We shall not defeat the Nazi evil by emulating its methods.”

First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt echoed the plea of the Attorney General. The ACLU also spoke out:

“It is high time we came to our senses regarding this matter of flag-saluting. Jehovah’s Witnesses are not disloyal Americans….They are not given to law-breaking in general, but lead decent, orderly lives, contributing their share to the common good.”

Was it this vigilante atmosphere that led three of the justices to declare, in another case, that they believed Gobitus had been wrongly decided? Yet another two justices retired, and they were replaced by ones thought to be more on the side of individual liberty. If compulsory flag salute was presented anew to the Supreme Court, would the decision be the same?

The children of Walter Barnette, Paul Stull and Lucy McLure, in West Virginia were expelled from school for non-salute, and their parents were threatened with prosecution for raising delinquents. In response, they filed suit, just as the Gobitus children had done three years prior. The first court to hear the case, the United States District Court for the Southern District of West Virginia - has this ever happened before? - refused to follow the precedent of the Supreme Court decision and ruled in favor of the Witness children!

Ordinarily we would feel constrained to follow an unreversed decision of the Supreme Court of the United States, whether we agreed with it or not.... the developments with respect to the Gobitus case, however, are such that we do not feel it is incumbent upon us to accept is as binding authority....The tyranny of majorities over the rights of individuals or helpless minorities , has always been recognized as one of the great dangers of popular government. The fathers sought to guard against this danger by  writing into the Constitution a bill of rights guaranteeing to every individual certain fundamental liberties....We are clearly of opinion that the regulation of the Board requiring that school children salute the flag is void insofar as it applies to children having conscientious scruples against giving such salute...

The issue was again appealed up to the Supreme Court, and this time that body reversed itself! By at 6:3 majority, the Court ruled that compulsory flag salute was unconstitutional. Their verdict was announced on June 14, 1943 - flag day!

In writing the dissenting opinion, Justice Frankfurter grumbled: “As has been true in the past, the Court will from time to time reverse its position. But I believe that never before these Jehovah’s Witnesses cases [there were several more besides those concerning flag salute] …..has this Court overruled decisions so as to restrict the powers of democratic government.”

Yes, that’s how it is with these governments, democratic or not. They want more power. They don’t want to give it up. A certain amount is necessary, of course, so as to maintain public order and safety. We cede it to them willingly and render obedience. But when they grab for yet more - the consciences and souls of their citizens, someone has to call them on it. And that someone has often been Jehovah’s Witnesses.

………………………………............

Knocking concludes with the observation that Jehovah's Witnesses are, at present, litigating 400 human rights cases worldwide.

 

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More on Knocking here

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Tom Irregardless and Me     No Fake News but Plenty of Hogwash

Defending Jehovah’s Witnesses with style from attacks... in Russia, with the ebook ‘Dear Mr. Putin - Jehovah’s Witnesses Write Russia’ (free).... and in the West, with the ebook ‘TrueTom vs the Apostates!’ (free)

Cashing in on Safety

When life hands you lemons, make vinegar!

Many people do that. I used to do it myself, but at long last, I've seen the light. Now I make lemonade. This stems from contemplating the experience of a former associate, Tom Whitepebble.

It came about years ago in an unusual way. Whitepebble was assembling a 6 shelf wood cabinet for his wife, Mrs. Whitepebble, when he came across the chilling instruction that he had to do such and such just so. If he didn't the unit might tip over, causing injury or death! (He showed me the instructions - the caution was highlighted.)

This scared the ever-loving daylights out of him. He called a state-certified carpenter right away. While the carpenter assembled the cabinet (doing exactly what Whitepebble had been doing) Tom watched from a safe distance, in a nearby chair with hard hat on and seat belt fastened. He was safe, and this truly was lemonade. But then the carpenter handed him the bill. It was more than the cost of the cabinet! That was vinegar. And yet it stimulated some soul-searching.

It must be admitted that we don't pay a lot at the Carriertom Into-Wishen Research Institute. Our associates scrape by any way they can.  So Whitepebble, for a time, delivered newspapers. Now the scripture is true:

Have you beheld a man skillful in his work? Before kings is where he will station himself; he will not station himself before commonplace men.     Prov 22:29

Because Tom worked hard at his craft, he became an internationally known newspaper carrier, which surprised all of us. He was followed everywhere by the paparazzi. While you might imagine this would bring him satisfaction, he reports it was a pain in the neck. Checking into the Hyatt or someplace, he dreaded being recognized by staff, because invariably they would pester him to deliver the courtesy newspapers. But he didn't want to deliver courtesy papers. He wanted to sleep in late with his pretty wife, Mrs. Whitepebble.

But his cabinet experience and the current safety obsession got him thinking, and he launched Safe Courtesy, Inc, the billion dollar enterprise, which you have no doubt heard of and are jealous over. No?  Well, is it Whitepebble's fault that you don't keep up?

You see, these same hotel people that he used to hide from, he now approached aggressively,  just as if he were in the ministry! They were crazy to deliver courtesy papers themselves! Did they have any idea how dangerous it could be? Suppose you tripped climbing the stairs. Suppose the newspapers caught fire! That could easily be curtains for you. His sales pitch caught on. He would ensure safe delivery of  the courtesy papers! Tom scoured the very earth for expert carriers, certified triple-80, each one of them. (80 decibel payload on the storm door, at 80 paces, with 80% accuracy)  It is fair to say that he has the courtesy delivery field wrapped up, and now, when he (infrequently) visits the Institute, he does nothing but brag about his money. He then proceeded to buy up the Carriertom Into-Wishen Research Institute and rename it the Whitepebble Institute!

There's money to be made in today's safety craze. It's not vinegar. It's lemonade. Drink up!

 

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Tom Irregardless and Me               No Fake News but Plenty of Hogwash

Defending Jehovah’s Witnesses with style from attacks... in Russia, with the ebook ‘Dear Mr. Putin - Jehovah’s Witnesses Write Russia’ (free).... and in the West, with the ebook ‘TrueTom vs the Apostates!’ (free)

Good Evangelicals, Bad Evangelicals

When soreheads charge that Jehovah's Witnessses are mean, they offer as proof that JW congregations tell their people what to do. As proof of that, they point out that congregations impose discipline upon members ranging from mild reproof to strong reproof to even expulsion for individuals who persistantly and purposefully deviate from core beliefs and practices. Doesn't that prove JWs are mean? Doesn't that prove they are a manmade organization of rules, not love? Doesn't that prove members are slaves to a governing body comprised of old men on a power trip?

No, it does not. The discipline now practiced by Jehovah's Witnesses was practiced in most Protestant denominations until less than 100 years ago - and was based on the same scriptures upon which we base ours. But when it became unpopular, they gave it up. As a result, the morals and lifestyle of today's evangelical church members are indistinguishable from that of the general population. That might be okay if the general population was a storehouse of virtue, but newspapers remind us daily that it's not. And scripture is clear that the Christian congregation is not supposed to be a mirror image of today's morally bankrupt society. It is supposed to be an oasis.

Such is the conclusion of Ronald Sider, author of The Scandal of the Evangelical Conscience - Why Are Christians Living Just Like the Rest of the World? (2005) Mr. Sider is well respected within evangelical circles. He publishes PRISM magazine and serves as contributing editor to Christianity Today and Sojourners. He is professor of theology, holistic ministry, and public policy, as well as director of the Sider Center on Ministry and Public Policy at Eastern Baptist Theological Seminary, and some other accolades. He is not happy to reach his conclusion, and you cannot but admire the man for his frankness. One doesn't readily air one's dirty laundry in public, yet Sider does so out of moral outrage and shame for the evangelical community. He points to attitudes on sex, money, racsim, and personal self-fulfillment. Evangelicals live no differently than the rest of the world, he laments.

I vividly recall circuit overseers and their ilk pointing out that "50 years ago the difference between Jehovah's Witnesses and churchgoers in general was doctrinal, not moral." Time was when there was little difference between the two groups as regards conduct. Today the chasm is huge. Can internal discipline not be a factor?

"Church discipline used to be a significant, accepted part of most evangelical traditions, whether Reformed, Methodist, Baptist, or Anabaptist," Sider writes. ".....In the second half of the twentieth century, however, it has largely disappeared." He then quotes Haddon Robinson on the current church climate, a climate he calls consumerism:

"Too often now when people join a church, they do so as consumers. If they like the product, they stay. If they do not, they leave. They can no more imagine a church disciplining them than they could a store that sells goods disciplining them. It is not the place of the seller to discipline the consumer. In our churches we have a consumer mentality."

They do. And because the church promotes it, caters to it, does whatever it must to swell its ranks, its people cannot be told apart from general society. Of course, some can. I personally know ones who, like Mr Sider himself, take living by Bible standards seriously. But the evangelical label apparantly means nothing as regards lifestyle. It points to a people who can argue Trinity and hellfire till your ears fall off, but who otherwise live no differently than anyone else. The ones who actually apply Christianity are left unreinforced, in some ways even challenged, by their own church.

Doesn't it remind you of that endless list of negative qualities that people are said to have in the "last days?" Paul writes "But mark this: There will be terrible times in the last days. People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God..."

As Paul winds down his list, he observes that such people, far from being atheist or agnostics, are "having a form of godliness but denying its power. Have nothing to do with them."   2 Tim 3:1-5   (NIV)

What to make of Sider's book? I don't really know. A few upright evangelicals I know, such as in my own family (or are they just born-agains?) make me skeptical of the book's conclusions. Can it really be that all churches have sold out? But if I think of those evangelicals who picket our conventions, I believe every word. Such an unruly looking bunch you've never seen.

Only one other group comes to mind that has not forsaken church discipline: Mormons. Is it just coincidence that they, like Jehovah's Witnesses, carry a reputation for both honesty and family values and maintain a policy of internal discipline? Evangelicals, though, at least those on the web, deride both them and us as "cults," and rail against both for imposing rules of conduct on members. Yet discipline, even imperfectly applied (which is all you can expect of imperfect humans) has succeeded in preserving a people who can be identified by their conduct - a conduct which stands apart from the world at large.

God is treating you as sons. For what son is not disciplined by his father? If you are not disciplined (and everyone undergoes discipline), then you are illegitimate children and not true sons. Moreover, we have all had human fathers who disciplined us and we respected them for it. How much more should we submit to the Father of our spirits and live! Our fathers disciplined us for a little while as they thought best; but God disciplines us for our good, that we may share in his holiness. No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.     Heb 12:7-11   (NIV)

 

More here, here, and I suppose even here

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Getting Rid of Jehovah's Witnesses

Why is it people don't understand why we call? Is it because we don't explain it? Or does the need for evasive action so occupy them that it doesn't register? Or both? I'm not really sure.

At any rate, you always hear of folks in a panic because the same JWs keep coming back and they don't want them to. How did those Witnesses get it in their heads that they should keep visiting this or that home? How do you get rid of them?

Tom Wheatandweeds got such a letter from a householder who almost felt stalked! Why do they keep coming back, she fretted. I mean, sure, that first visit was kind of fun. "I went to religious schools as a kid and I'm familair with the Bible," she said, "though I don't believe it. That first chat was interesting, but I never meant for them to come back again and again and again. Help! I've explained to them that religion is very personal to me and I've told them that I would never convert. It makes no difference! They keep coming back. Maybe I'll have to move!"

Wheatandweeds, nice fellow that he is, wrote back. With his inside knowledge he knows how to get rid of them. He knows what works and what doesn't work. Barfendogs also knows how to get rid of them, but his suggestions are crass and rude, and most people have too much class to use them.

Dear Besieged:

Don't speak to them about religion being too personal. That strikes them as an un-reason and they can't get their head around it. They think of Jesus and the disciples talking to anyone under the sun about religion, none of whom said it was too personal. Seemingly, that's all they did back then.

Don't speak to them about converting or not converting. That is not their goal at this point. It may be months down the road, but it is not now. Now (from their point of view) they want you to build a base of Bible knowledge, and they think they can help you do that. Only when that is done can a person make any reasoned decision, yes or no, about converting. Most people who study the Bible with Jehovah's Witnesses do not convert. They know this (or should) and it doesn't matter to them. They are happy just to teach the Bible, viewing that as their ministry.

Look, if you don't want it, you don't want it. Several visits is enough to say you've looked at something fairly. You don't even owe them an explanation. You might choose to give them one, out of courtesy or whatever, but you don't owe them one. Your time is yours. They are misreading the situation. Maybe because you are sending mixed signals. Maybe because they are not very discerning. Probably a little of both. Explain how you feel. Showing them your letter might help, if you choose. Why not?

On the other hand, knowing their m.o. might allow you to take advantage of what they offer, if you want. Tell them, not only do you not want to convert, but you will be absolutely furious if they ask you to do that months down the road. With that understanding, yes, you will study the Bible with them for a limited period just for your own gratification. 3 months, 6 months - you set the time period. And then it's done. They have a book, they must have shown you, entitled What Does the Bible Really Teach? that they use in studying. They are pussyfooting around trying to ease you into such a study. Tell them to stop pussyfooting and get down to it. One chapter a week. (two weeks at most) That way you cover ground and aren't wasting time. You can always reassess at the end of the time period if you like.

Studying the Bible with them will show some things in a different light. You mentioned you became familiar with the Bible from Christian schools but don't believe it. A reason for this is that most church teachings are not found in the Bible. It is the attempt to read them in that causes confusion and makes people discard it all as nonsense. You may not agree with things JWs say. But it will be different from anything you have learned in the past.

So there. That's what you should do. Either cut loose completely and don't waffle, or take them up on a study for a limited period. But do one or the other and end this frustration. No need to think about moving! You probably like your place.

Defending Jehovah’s Witnesses with style from attacks... in Russia, with the ebook ‘Dear Mr. Putin - Jehovah’s Witnesses Write Russia’ (free).... and in the West, with the ebook ‘TrueTom vs the Apostates!’ (free)