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December 2008
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February 2009

Gradualism and the DTV Changeover

When Jesus comes, it will not be as big an event on TV as the DTV.gov analog to digital changeover. All year they’ve been pummeling me with that stuff! Did even the election get as much hype? It’s been so heavy that Mrs. Sheepandgoats finally broke down and sent away for one of those converter coupons (the government is bailing out the TV viewer, kicking in $40 toward each converter box) Me, I would have waited till the screen went dark, then called the station to complain. Nah, we don’t have cable. I’m old enough to remember when TV was free, so it got locked in my head that TV ought to be free, and I’ve successfully resisted all attempts to make me pay for it. Even the converter box frosts me a little, but since the government is paying the lion’s share, I guess I’ll go along.

Not only are these television folk persistent, but they are brazen as well. They say the switch will happen at a certain day and hour in February. How do they know? It’s risky. Sure, they rely on their calendars and calculations and such, but that can mess you up. What if it doesn’t happen when they say it will? Talk about egg on your face! Why chance it? We all know it’s coming. Better to say it is imminent, coming very soon, just around the corner, and leave it at that.

So much have we heard this message of doom to those trusting in analog….for a solid year now….and its not as if its a hard concept to grasp, all they want is for you to spend some money for a converter box….that one begins to wonder why. Could it be that the television industry fears that analog Americans might actually let the screen go dark, turning to other pursuits? I admit, at first this sounds absurd, since all-evening TV is the American dream. But maybe that’s changing. After all, the mainstay in-the-bag viewers signed up long ago for cable or satellite and therefore won’t be affected by the switchover. It’s the people still getting by with rabbit ears (on their televisions, that is) who just might bolt. Unlike decades ago, there’s lots of alternatives now, mostly the internet (which I use as my unlimited library card). You wouldn’t even have to toss your television in the trash, necessarily. It’s still good for DVD movies from Netflix, Blockbuster, or (I like this) the library.

Fear in the industry seems possible to me. Perhaps there really is fear a of boycott. Many are ambivalent about television today. This blog post, in which I put in my two cents….actually four or five….in the comment section, and continued for a time until I got overpowered by pests, whiners, apostates, and soreheads,  ridicules an Awake! suggestion to avoid immoral or violent TV fare. What is on today that is not immoral or violent, the blogmaster asks incredulously. Exactly. Almost nothing. Of course, we all ignore the Awake! and watch that crap anyway, but we don’t feel good about it afterwards. It’s all somewhat debasing, and even as we lap it up by the hourload, something within us says it’s not so good for our mental, emotional, and spiritual health. So chuck it! Let the screen go dark and turn to something more wholesome.

Television will have done it to itself. For if there is nothing but violence and immorality, that was not always the case. Hereis a post highlighting words of the 81 year old Dick Van Dyke. Yeah, it may have been somewhat prudish to insist upon “one foot upon the floor” in the bedroom scenes of his show, he says, but contrast that with what pours out of the pipe today, to be beamed abroad to culturally conservative countries that see American television as the country’s prime export and so wonder at what a sick country the U.S. must be.

We had a couple from the congregation over for dinner recently. Nice folks, we enjoyed their company and no, we didn’t play any Bible games. But they got antsy as the evening wore on, and as 9PM approached, they all but jumped up and down like kids having to go to the bathroom. They were worried about missing The Unit! (or was it 24?) After they left, I turned on the set to see what the fuss was about. Not thirty seconds into the show, one fellow was holding a knife to another’s eye so as to get him to talk. I turned the set off, but within a week saw the same knife-to-eye trick on some other preview; apparently it’s the rage today. And wasn’t there, just last week, an NPR report on how third-rate terror countries look to Unit-type shows to augment their training?

Now, telling this experience makes me look pious and righteous, and our pals not so good. But don’t you think I have hangups of my own? Do you think? TV watching just doesn’t happen to be one of them. Moreover, I fully realize these shows are addicting. Chances are I too would get hooked were I to see enough of them.

It was Andy Laguna the circuit overseer….was it during the 1980’s?….speaking about gradualism. We’d never go directly from Gunsmoke to today’s sadism….we just wouldn’t tolerate it…. but nobody tries to take us there directly. Instead, it is one tiny step at a time, a journey of many decades which you have to have been around for long enough (trust me, I have) to appreciate.  As a kid, the Twilight Zone used to scare the everlovin daylights out of me. Now I work with a young mother who plunks her two-year old in front of Chucky movies. (I think I’ve persuaded her it’s not such a hot idea.) The change in what we tolerate came not directly, but through gradualism. Mack Campbell got everyone applauding for that talk….unusual because this was a mid-week talk, and they’re not typically applauded.

So maybe…finally….TV has got itself so perverse that…….Uh ohhhh! As I write this over the course of several days, I just heard it announced (1/7/09) that the government has run out of funds for converter coupons! There will be blood in the streets if they don’t print some more. (coupons or money or both) This could be the event that triggers Armageddon!

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Jim and Pam and Ray Goth

 

Deep within the comment section of a certain prior post, whilst I’m being pummeled from the right by religionist whining, and from the left with atheist blather, comes a plea from Ray Goth, an occasional correspondent. I’m to help him salvage his love life!

Hey Tom,

This really has nothing to do with this post, so...yeah...but, I figure you're older and wiser [he got the first one right] than me; and we've had some fairly in-depth conversations, so, why not?

I'm in a pretty messed up situation with this girl. Morally, ethically, whatever...yeah...it's just bad. But, it's so right, and I know that we're really right for one another, in a way that I've never felt in any of my previous relationships. Like, all those cheesy 80's and early 90's romantic comedies...for the rest of my life, if nothing works out with this girl, I'll think to myself "There goes my wife..."

But it's a really messed up situation...What do you do? I mean, I guess I'm asking from the point of view of not having you say "Wait and pray about it," because, I feel like that's where I'm at anyway. Just...how do you go about your life when you know something is so right, that you want to be with someone for the rest of your life and are so completely happy and comfortable with them and being so unsure that it's ever going to work out for entirely external factors?

Thanks,

Ray Goth

I get this kind of request all the time and, frankly, it’s a great distraction from my important work here at the Whitepebble Religious Institute. Moreover, helping out with someone’s relationship difficulties is foreign territory for me since my life with Mrs. Sheepandgoats has never been anything but 24/7 marital bliss. Time was when I would fob a query like this off on an assistant, perhaps Tom Pearlsandswine. But Pearlsandswine recently read an article critical of Charles Russell, and he has defected, saying “how can this be the truth?!” I met him at the Institute door and tried to reason with him but he told me: “Go to hell!”

So now he believes that, too. Very well, Ray. I’ll do what I can in person to help.

You have to pay attention to the chemistry between Jim and Pam of The Office, particularly during seasons one and two. In the first season, Jim pines away every episode for an unavailable Pam. In the second season, it’s exactly the opposite. The writers of that show are not just funny; they are astute, and have a good grasp of how men and women respond to each other.

Season 1: Jim loves Pam. He cutsies up to her all season, horsing around, playing tricks on the co-workers, and so forth. He probably wouldn’t even be at this silly job were it not that he wants to see her. Pam likes him a lot. Does she love him? It sure seems so, but she’s engaged to Roy. Now, Roy is an inconsiderate lout - we all know it. He probably does love her, but he takes her absolutely for granted - one possession among many, and runner-up to drinking buddies, car and sports. How many years has he stretched out this engagement? She deserves better - why did she ever agree to marry this clod? Most likely, (strictly my guess) her dad is just like him. A woman (and vice versa) will often be drawn to someone like her father because that’s the pattern she’s seen all her life - it’s the only type of man she can relate to, warts and all.

Having strung us along all season, Jim tells Pam he loves her madly in the final episode. Well, it’s about time, you weak-kneed idiot! Now, surely, all will be well. But no! Pam is disquieted and confused. She’s not admitted to herself any feelings for Jim. What’s the point, since she’s not available? She’s got to marry Roy.

Season 2: “It’s over,” Jim says to himself. He put his cards on the table. She said no. There’s nothing more to be done, so he leaves town, taking that job in Connecticut. Guys do things like that, especially guys that make inordinate fuss about facts and logic.

Fact: He said he loved her.

Fact: She said no.

Conclusion: Case closed. Leave town.

But - the moron - anyone with the slightest understanding of women knows the case is not closed. Pam simply needs time to adjust to the idea, that’s all. Throughout the second season, she pines away for Jim, who doesn’t have a clue - even though he’s been transferred back to the original office - because, in his mind, the matter is settled. He’s even got himself a new girlfriend - might as well move on in life, he reasons. Meanwhile Roy self-destructs, as we all knew he would.

The point, Ray, that you have to be persistent. And patient. Just because she doesn’t come around immediately doesn’t mean she never will. Men and women process thought and events differently. Not only must you be persistent, you must be willing and able to hear her out, to make her concerns yours. That does not mean you have to fix them! Men are always thinking they have to get in there and fix things, but understanding a situation and her feelings is better than fixing it. Women often want listening more than fixing. Of course, if she’s tied to the railroad tracks with the train approaching, you might want to fix that. But in general, listening is your best move. And whatever you do, don’t show yourself obsessed over sex! Women - for the life of me, I don’t know where they get this from - often think that men “are only after one thing.” If this is truly Miss Right, you must rise above the instinct. Sex does not make faulty relationships well.

Actually, Jehovah’s Witnesses, you likely know, are among that vanishing breed that reserves sex for marriage, and considers it off-limits elsewhere. We needn’t go into that here, only to say that sex relations creates an enormous emotional bond, which muddies the waters as to seeing the other person clearly, and is a source of major frustration if a person is not prepared to follow through with continued commitment. Even if one imagines they are doing it just for sport, that is no guarantee the other thinks that, or that one or both party might change at any time. As the ad used to say: “it’s not nice to fool Mother Nature.”

And, as the geezers from the old country will still say (to their daughters): “why buy the cow when you can have the milk for free?” But this is a vanishing lifestyle these days. Once it was the norm, even if it was not always strictly adhered to. But, in our day, Jehovah’s Witnesses and a handful of others are pretty much the only ones still attempting to live thus.

Now, a couple of caveats to the Jim and Pam scenario:

1.) When I tell you to be persistent, I am taking you at your word (and my general impression) that you are a good guy, an attitudinal cousin of Jim. If you were a lummox like Roy, “be persistent” is the worst advice I could give. Miss Right would justifiably hate me for it. But guys like Roy seldom ask for such advice. They are already convinced they are God’s gift to women, and they are unmercifully persistent, much to any sensible woman’s disgust.

2.) There is a bell curve for men and a bell curve for women. When I say that “women are this” or “men are that,” it is understood that there is great variety in individuals and that they might rest anywhere on their bell curve, even to the point of reversing roles in some areas where both persons sit toward the edges of their overlappinng curves. For the bell curves, while they may overlap some, are not the same. They are different, and it is the averages I have described. There really is a “men from Mars, women from Venus” phenomenon.

3.) Jim and Pam are storybook characters. Yes, the writers are astute, but it is still fiction. Are you really the kind of guy Jim is? Could I even depend upon you to take Miss Right to the Kingdom Hall regularly? (wait….strike that….that’s for another post)

Worrisomely, you admit to having messed up morally, ethically, and whatever. I mean, it’s good you admit to it, but worrisome you have done it. Of course, we are all human, and who hasn’t, to some extent, shot themselves in the foot before? What are we to make of your confession? Typical man! huffs Mrs. Sheepandgoats: he gives no details and just expects you to read his mind! (Note: I am not prying here. cl took a similar statement of mine as an invitation to dump a busload of anti-Russell, anti-NWT tripe on me!) You have messed up. So you have some fixing to do - not of her, but of yourself - and you must persuade her that the fixing is genuine. And it must really be genuine. Are you ready for a permanent relationship? Alas, I have no way of knowing from here.

Relationships take work. Ideally, you start off with someone close enough to your heart that real love can develop. But that will not negate the need for work, self-examination, and ongoing communication to keep the relationship growing and healthy. Unfortunately, we live in a quick gratification society in which, instead of working through problems, people are inclined to conclude that the relationship was “not meant to be” and run off looking for the perfect soul-mate, who they once thought was the person at hand, but no longer do. My guess is that atheists would be especially susceptable to this kind of reasoning, since for them the clock is always ticking, the end draws near, and this life is all there is.

Ray, I hope within this mass of words there is something you can run with. As for me, though ours is a culture obsessed with youth, I’m sort of glad to have reached the age in which personal dramas are all sorted out, in which one has come to know oneself - who he is and who he isn’t - and perhaps offer something to another generation (who won’t listen). Not to say that all things have gone swimmingly in my life; some have, whereas others have sort of fizzled, but the point is that it is done, and one can move on to another stage of life.

It may suffice simply to show Miss Right this post. That may solve all your woes. Or she might break the laptop over your head - it’s a tough prediction from here. Or she might dump you altogether and try to schmooze up to me! But it won’t do her any good. I am married to the gracious, lama-loving, blog-tolerating Mrs. Sheepandgoats. Besides, I am older than your Miss Right by half an ice age.

*************************

Tom Irregardless and Me               No Fake News but Plenty of Hogwash

 

 

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The Fight to Stamp Out HBB

Years ago I knew a fellow whose dealings would, from time to time, invite scrutiny from the state tax authorities. Whether those dealings were legal or not, I had no idea, but they certainly were slick. At any rate, this was long before the days of computers, and I no longer recall the specifics.

What I do recall was how he dealt with challenges from the tax people. He’d write several letters to them, each one contradicting the other. ‘Your goal is to get them to pull the file,’ he told me. ‘Once they pull it, they’ll lose it.’ He swore by this system.

It’s called muddying the waters. Politicians do it a lot. It accounts for much of negative campaigning. Say there is something about your position that is unpalatable, or even stinks to high heaven. Rather than explain it….perhaps the only realistic explanation is that you are a greedy and conniving so-and-so…..it’s better to divert attention from it. So you say nasty things about your opponent, or grandiose things that, while true, have nothing to do with the issue at hand, though they are phrased so that their irrelevance is not immediately obvious. Eventually the average citizen, who has much on his plate and is not obsessed with your issue in the first place, will throw up his hands and say ‘oh, the hell with it! They’re all liars, anyway.’ Once they‘ve done that, you can do whatever you want, reasonably free from scrutiny.

Does muddying the waters also account for HBB? Holy Book Belief (7th comment),says Dave from the Freethinker blog, is the phenomenon that other people have their own holy books…..it’s not just the Bible….which they look to as their authority. Therefore the whole concept of religion must be bogus.

Does it really work that way? To demolish a position, does it suffice merely to point to some who have concluded otherwise? Would that all life were so simple. You can’t get two people to agree on politics, either, or economics, government or philosophy.  Should everyone give up on these topics, then, and conclude they’re all nonsense? Or are we just attempting to rationalize being intellectually lazy (or disinterested)?

Look, ‘disinterested’ is one thing. But let’s not try to couch it as though it were a clinical syndrome. Dave might have gone further. He might have pointed out that, within each holy book, there are sects and divisions. So? All of life is like that. It the subject interests you, you search it through. If it doesn't, you don’t. Time was when the plethora of religions and beliefs would prompt searching, rather than giving up. Among our people, you constantly run across those who say they searched long and hard before finally finding a home here. One of our publications is entitled Mankind’s Search for God. So what are we to make of the fact that others, too, say they have searched, and they have arrived somewhere else as their truth?

I don’t know why we have to make anything out of it. Let God sort it out. If we think that Jehovah’s Witnesses have found the way of truth, then we act in harmony with it. I don’t lose my cookies should I find that others have concluded differently. People don’t agree on anything. Why should it be different when it comes to religion? Different faiths have characteristics appealing to different personalities, perhaps. Often, it’s just a matter of convenience, espousing the path one was born into.

The real issue is, or should be, the amount of disruption a given faith exacts upon society. If everybody propagated their ideas as Jehovah’s Witnesses do theirs, this would be a very peaceful world. Sure, their visits might be viewed as pesky, yet if you disagree with them, they go away. Is that not less obtrusive than what most religions (or atheists) try to do: use the political process to write one’s views into law so that people are forced into them? Some groups don’t stop there: they even resort to violent means. But our weapons are words only. To those who don’t know what they believe, who lack confidence in their beliefs, or who don’t want to believe anything (but don’t quite care to admit it), our visits might seem a bit awkward. But to anyone who knows where they stand and knows how to live and let live, they are no big deal, even when they don’t agree with us.

Anyone familiar with Jehovah’s Witnesses knows that, for many decades, we have anticipated a time when the world’s governments would turn upon religion, based upon our interpretation of this verse:

And the ten horns that you saw, and the wild beast, these will hate the harlot and will make her devastated and naked, and will eat up her fleshy parts and will completely burn her with fire. For God put [it] into their hearts to carry out his thought, even to carry out [their] one thought by giving their kingdom to the wild beast, until the words of God will have been accomplished.       Rev 17:16-17

From time to time, there is speculation as to just what will transpire so as to trigger these dramatic events. Religion has been so disruptive for so long to world peace and unity that plausible theories are never lacking. But my bet is that this generation’s new militant atheists will have something to do with it.

*******************

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)

More than Thrilled to Take a Look at it

“If any religious person can present non-circular reasoning and scientific evidence to be examined I am sure the scientific community would be more than thrilled to take a look at it.”

Thus goes a typical in-your-face challenge should you enter discussion with one of those atheistic Dawkins disciples. Someone threw it at me not too long ago.

What is demanded is that you put on coke-bottle glasses, pick up chalk, and fill the board with equations proving God’s existence. Why should any of Jehovah’s Witnesses play that game? Make them play ours. After all, the challenge cuts both ways:

If any person of science can demonstrate how our universal urge to war can be allayed, I’m sure Jehovah’s Witnesses would be more than thrilled to take a look at it.

If any person of science can demonstrate how disaster relief can be accomplished promptly and effectively, without greed or profiteering, I’m sure Jehovah’s Witnesses would be more than thrilled to take a look at it.

If any person of science can demonstrate how racism can be eliminated, I’m sure Jehovah’s Witnesses would be more than thrilled to take a look at it.

The preceding points play into well-known strengths of Jehovah’s Witnesses (expanded upon hereand here) which even detractors do not deny, though they sometimes attribute it to sinister brainwashing.

If any person of science can supply a satisfying answer to why we grow old and die, and why there is evil and suffering, I’m sure Jehovah’s Witnesses would be more than thrilled to take a look at it.

If any person of science can provide a nurturing model for raising the next generation (marriage being of religious origin, don‘t scientists favor the “four year itch“ theory?),I’m sure Jehovah’s Witnesses would be more than thrilled to take a look at it.

And so forth.

Why acquiesce to scientists as the final arbiters of how we are to live? How have they earned that status? And if I’m cruising down the highway at 60mph, I’m not sure why I should be overly concerned about the scientist on the radio telling me that my car doesn’t run. No one is saying to ignore science, of course, but must it be the value that trumps all else? Is all of life to be seen through Mr. Spock’s eyes? And is the only alternativeKirkthe obnoxious Dr. McCoy? Or can’t one live the balanced combination embodied in otherwise silly James Kirk?

There is enough common ground between the Bible and science that the two can reasonably coexist as is by “fudging” both sides a little. For example, no one in the JW camp has any beef with “microevolution”…..you know, the animal husbandry, Darwin beaks, feathers and feet type, and that is far-and-away the most well-supported aspect of evolutionary theory. All the thinking behind mutations and what they can accomplish….we have no problem accepting this as the likely mechanism through which such changes within a “kind” (the unspecific Genesis word) come about. Plus, Jehovah’s Witnesses are not among the religionists who insist on creation happening in 24 hour days. “Day” is an unspecific term as used in everyday life and even in the scriptures. We can live with “day” representing a very long time.

There are various other lines of evidence which JWs accept and, along with the foregoing, they are sufficient to convince them of the authority of the Scriptures. Numerous prophesies…some a bit vague, but others quite specific…..scientific facts presented in the Bible that were otherwise unknown at the time, the candor of Bible writers…..who frequently admit, even highlight, their own weaknesses….something most unusual in ancient histories, accuracy of detail…..for example Luke 3:1

In the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar, when Pontius Pilate was governor of Judea, and Herod was district ruler of Galilee, but Philip his brother was district ruler of the country of Ituraea and Trachonitis, and Lysanias was district ruler of Abilene, in the days of chief priest Annas and of Caiaphas, God’s declaration came to John the son of Zechariah in the wilderness.

Do fairy tales or myths ever include such accuracy?

Not to mention that Jehovah’s Witnesses come to feel a genuine love for the Bible’s author. If you love your wife, do you really need some Dawkins scientific atheist coming around telling you that you shouldn’t?

Plus, the opposite of God seems so absurd, as expanded upon...oh, say here.

Does the Bible and science agree on all counts? No. But there is enough overlap and scientists are imperfect enough and revise their positions often enough that I can live with both sides, not feeling either rules out the other.

 

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)