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June 2009
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These Are My People

Time was when those district conventions geared up very slowly.

Sit down.....listen up....take notes....get enough sleep....keep track of your kids....if you were already planning to behave you could just as well skip that first talk, and if you weren't - well, one talk was not going to change things much. Then there might follow an talk-by-talk preview of the program, stretching out 20 minutes or so. Then a few old timers would surface on stage, interviewed for historical flavor. Maybe some pioneers next, and then some others whom life had kicked in the teeth, but who had withstood trial, and credited faith for their win.

Don't get me wrong. I enjoyed hearing from all these folks. The point is, though, that the program kept trotting out appetizer after appetizer, and the main course took a long time to appear.

No more. This year, the first talk hits the ground running. Why Must We "Keep on the Watch," to cite Jesus' counsel. You wouldn't think people would be so spiritually lethargic in a time of cataclysmic events, the type we routinely see on the news. But they are. Events that once would have set folks back on their heels for weeks, they now just shrug off as one of those things and carry on. Just like Jesus' words indicate 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.

Thus, Keep on the watch, therefore, because you do not know on what day your Lord is coming. From this counsel the 2009 convention draws its theme: Keep on the Watch.   (vs 42)

 

Okay, so those laid-back folks might go to Barnes & Noble and pick up a timely paperback. And some others might throw in the towel completely to worship the Dawkins-Harris-Hitchings trinity. But serious searching they don't do. And the message comes right to their house, for crying out loud. But talk about the end of this system, and people take it as a big joke, just like Peter wrote:

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 3:3-4  

sigh

I liked the Sunday morning program, as well - starting with a nine part symposium discussing foretold events from the great tribulation to the end of the 1000 year reign, presented compact and fast-moving. You'd swear, as a building employee did at a prior Raleigh convention (according to visiting Tom Oxgoad) that the convention speakers were well-paid professional speakers, but no; they're all local brothers - unpaid volunteers, as is true with everything else Jehovah's Witnesses do.

That moron in the devil suit was back also, as well as the usual gang of protesters, about a half dozen or so outside the building, though you'd think they were far more, judging by the noise they made. "Why don't you just pop them one?" one of the cops asked an attendant, so said the concluding speaker. Well....we've got a reputation to uphold. But I can sympathize with the cops, who have to double, if not triple their numbers on account of these guys. All morning long they have to listen to these characters screaming about hellfire, the "devil" pretending to wave his disciples into the auditorium. Sheesh! Say what you will about Jehovah's Witnesses....perhaps you're not crazy about their visits....but they will never show up at your door dressed in a devil suit.

Really, of all the doctrines from the fundamentalists, "hellfire" is the easiest to pull apart. With a single exception, all instances of "hell" in English Bibles stem from one of three original language words (sheol, hades, gehenna) Find the meaning of those three words and you've found the meaning of hell. None of them refer to a place of eternal torment. A well known early Witness, Charles Russell was known in his lifetime as the man who "turned the hose on hell and put out the fire."

Then there was Brother Wease. Now, Brother Wease is not a brother in the same sense as Brother Sheepandgoats, Brother Wheatandweeds, or Brother Pearlsandswine. It's a handle. Brother Wease is a local shock jock, modeled after Howard Stern. Unlike Howard, he's not syndicated, so he identifies with the local Rochester community, supports a lot of local causes, and indeed, is quite popular. First day of the convention he called the news department. Can they send someone he can interview on air? They did. Turns out that Wease had been visited by our people a few weeks ago, and he was impressed. His warning that he was the antichrist with no use for religion had not sent them scampering, as he had anticipated. Instead, they stayed, he warmed to them, and found some things he liked. He said nice things about that visit on air, right here. Even some of his on-air chums, who are essentially there to 'bust your chops,' came around - sort of. "These are my people," Wease enthused; he liked the part about Witnesses not going to war. Friday's interview isn't online yet. Go here, and scroll down. It will probably show up eventually

It's convention time. The same program is held worldwide in scores of locations, usually multiples times at each to serve folk from different areas. In the northern hemisphere it runs during 3-day windows in June-September. Then it goes into the southern hemisphere to pick up their summer.

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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)

What We're Allowed to Read

I'm wondering, Tom, if you've even taken the time to read any of these "atheist" books? asked one of my interrogators. Dawkins and crew had come up in conversation.

Well....um...ah...ahem...that is to say.........(no)

Perhaps in fairness I should read one or two. Moristotle positively used to plead with me to do it. Trouble is, I've read atheist arguments singly, through blogs and so forth, and have not been impressed. Why think that would change were I to read them in orchestral form? I come from that point of view in the first place, or if not from that point of view, at least from the agnostic point of view. I worry these books would exasperate me, since I'd agree with much of them. By all accounts, they expose hypocrisies of religion. I've no problem with that. But it would be "been there....done that." Jehovah's Witnesses were exposing hypocrisies of religion before these guys were born, and doing so when it took guts - that is, before it became trendy. But by trashing religion, these authors think they're trashing God. How are they doing that? When it comes to fraudulent religion, the Bible foretold that development exactly:

For example:

....there will also be false teachers among you. These very ones will quietly bring in destructive sects and will disown even the owner that bought them, bringing speedy destruction upon themselves. Furthermore, many will follow their acts of loose conduct, and on account of these the way of the truth will be spoken of abusively. (2 Pet 2:1-2)

and

They publicly declare they know God, but they disown him by their works, because they are detestable and disobedient and not approved for good work of any sort.  (Titus 1:16)


Furthermore, these atheist books keep calling me a deist. What an idiot word! Wait until they find out I'm a married man. No doubt I will also be called a wifist.

Besides, one can only do so much reading. Alas, the long-suffering wife, Mrs. Sheepandgoats, thinks I read too much as it is, to the detriment of nobler tasks like fixing things around the house! She accuses me of living by the motto "If it ain't broke, don't fix it. If it is broke, don't fix it." Can you imagine such an accusation?!

But that opening question - about reading atheist books - was a trap!! My interlocutor responded:

My question to you was actually a bit loaded, (he never asked me one that wasn't) because the organization that you are a part of would not wanting you reading such things at all. My church, on the other hand, would encourage such reading because we know we have the truth and have nothing to fear.

Actually, I've heard it put more strongly than that. From time to time, you will hear characters, even some who were once Witnesses - carrying on about how they weren't "allowed" to read anything but what was Watchtower-published. I swear, I don't know how grown people can make themselves such children! Who do they think is going to "not allow" you? One might hear counsel that it's well not to waste ones' time on drivel. Is that the same as "not being allowed?" These days, cigarette packs feature the caution: "Surgeon General's Warning: Smoking Causes Lung Cancer, Heart Disease, Emphysema, And May Complicate Pregnancy." Does that mean people aren't allowed to smoke? To make the point, I stated "I assure you, though, that if congregation elders were to pay me a visit and the entire Dawkins-Harris-Hitchings trinity was lying on my coffee table, I would not be in trouble." Some opposing website quoted the line, to howls of disbelief. What is it with these people? It's as if they write Dear Abby, recieve an answer, and obsess that Dear Abby will punish them should they deviate from the "rules" she's laid out!

Oh, I suppose if one of those meddlesome persons is coming around - you know, the sort who delights to put in their two cents on everything - we all know them when we see them - then you might tuck those books out of sight, unless you deliberately want to get a rise out of said persons. And you might do the same if ones whom you respect are coming around, the same way you might silence a CD with smutty lyrics, out of embarrassment, mostly, since you tend to ask yourself "if I'm embarrassed listening to this stuff in their presence, why am I listening to it in the first place? These are purely human factors at work and have nothing to do with "getting in trouble."

Actually, I'm not likely to have those books laying around anyway, on account of 1 Tim.6:20:

O Timothy! Guard what was committed to your trust, avoiding the profane and idle babblings and contradictions of what is falsely called knowledge.

Of course, this counsel was given to Timothy, not me, so it obviously doesn't apply, but I take it to heart anyway. And, lest I offend my atheist friends.....man, do I hate that expression! Some religious blogger speaks about his atheist friends! I don't have any atheist friends. Hard-core atheists, I mean, and not just agnostics. I mean, suppose someone absolutely cannot stand your wife, and never misses an opportunity to trash her....is it possible that person can still be your friend? It's not exactly the same, of course. One can see my wife....indeed, it's hard to takes one's eyes off her....whereas one cannot see God. But it's still close enough. Yes, there are atheists who are decent enough people, with whom I can get along, and for whom I can garner respect, but they don't quite cross that boundary into "friend" territory. It's a special word.

Um....but we weren't talking about that. We were talking about "the profane and idle babblings and contradictions of what is falsely called knowledge." I might not have put the Dawkins-Harris-Hitchings trinity in that category at one time, as I would now. Once I was searching, and when you're searching you explore many different things.

From time to time, in the ministry you run into those who offer you things to read, just as we might offer them things to read. This, if not a little awkward, is at least not what you would expect. After all, by the time you've mustered up boldness to call upon complete strangers, it's not likely that you're yet searching. When I was searching, I would have read all of that stuff. But I'm not really searching anymore. My search has ended. There's tweaking, exploring, and yet more learning ahead. But the basic framework is intact. It's been tested with much shaking. It holds.

To hear the grousers carry on, you'd think persons new to the faith were bound, gagged and shoved into cloisters. Look, before anyone decides to "join" Jehovah's Witnesses, they go through a period of Bible study, seldom lasting less than a year. They weigh what they're learning. They sift and compare. They consider how it applies. By degrees, they make various changes to align their lives with the Bible. Throughout this time, they function in general society just as they always did - it's not as if they're suspended from daily life. If that's brainwashing, (a common accusation) then so is every other endeavor upon which people may make a stand. (and one new Witness observed that, given today's world, our brains can use a good washing) Should they eventually become Witnesses, they may well decide thereafter to read mostly Watchtower published material, from which they learned Bible teachings in the first place. They trust the source.

In the late 1960’s a newspaper editor in Trenton, Ontario commented on Watchtower literature. “Among the interesting plethora of publications, some come regularly from the Watchtower Bible Society, better known as Jehovah’s Witnesses. This is an organization which, by any man’s standards, must command respect. The magazines are well written, with plenty of research, and quite apart from the special religious theories advanced, with which many may disagree, the society touches on every aspect of human life and the world God gave man. It upholds Biblical principles, and inculcates in its adherents the ideas of honor and purity, good citizenship, and impeccable behavior, which a world rent by the distortions of so-called freedom would do well to read.” It's not bad stuff, and there's no end to it.

Frankly, there is only so much time most people have for reading, and in some cases, only so much interest. So if somebody chooses to read only Watchtower publications - and we do have many people like that - what problem would I have with it? They prioritize reading material as they see fit.

Christian values are poles apart from those of the world in general. Not in shallow surface ways, but in the most basic fundamental of ways. So.....once you decide to diet, why stuff the fridge with ice cream and the cupboards with chips - things that will serve only to undermine your newfound determination? No, I have no problem should someone decide to read mostly JW published material. Some do. Some don't.

What I like about the JW organization is that they're unafraid of verses like 1 Tim 6:20:

O Timothy, guard what is laid up in trust with you, turning away from the empty speeches that violate what is holy and from the contradictions of the falsely called “knowledge.” For making a show of such [knowledge] some have deviated from the faith.

Everyone else embarrassedly pretends those verses don't exist, fearful lest they be seen as narrow and restrictive, the worst of all possible sins in today's world. Watchtower applies them, unconcerned with how the world will react, so long as they discharge their scriptural responsibility to warn against specious reasonings. They want Christians to "attain to the oneness in the faith and in the accurate knowledge of the Son of God.....in order that we should no longer be babes, tossed about as by waves and carried hither and thither by every wind of teaching by means of the trickery of men, by means of cunning in contriving error."  Eph 4:13-14

Specious (defined):

1. Having the ring of truth or plausibility but actually fallacious
2. Deceptively attractive

It's a stand that takes guts, that exposes them to sneering ridicule, or absurd charges that they want to "control" people.

Yes, there is caution about what we read, what we view for entertainment, and so forth. It's GIGO - computereeze for "Garbage "In, Garbage Out." You can find such counsel in Watchtower material. You ought to be able to find it in other religious organizations. Perhaps then they might stand out as separate from a decaying world, rather than an intricate component of it.

But counsel is just that - it's counsel. It's advice. It's not rule, nor law, and it's not presented as if it is.

Now, if you'll excuse me, I have the latest issue of Reader's Digest to plow through. But don't tell anyone. I don't want to get in trouble.

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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 Pundits, Michael Jackson, and Joe

After his 2003 acquittal on molestation charges, it barely mattered which pundit you read - the verdict was the same: Michael Jackson was all washed up. Yes, his flamboyant lawyer may have gotten him off, those pundits conceded. But the public knew better, and they were fed up. From now on, it was asserted, Michael was a has-been - a footnote, a freak. He was tabloid entertainment, and nothing more. His career was wasted, his relevance was long gone. When he died some eventual day, would anyone even notice or care?

But now it's clear that the only ones irrelevant - the only ones out of touch - were those pundits themselves. One week after Michael Jackson's death, an L.A. police official anticipates his funeral: "We are preparing for an event of historic proportions," he says. When the news first broke, Google had to shut down access to the story, so numerous were the inquiries. I've seen everyone except the governing body doing Michael Jackson moonwalk steps on YouTube!

Those pundits had him convicted on that molestation charge, even if the courts had not. They'd presented him to the world guilty as sin, rescued only by legal spin. But it ought to be manifest by now that the public didn't buy it. That's not to say he wasn't eccentric, if not downright strange, but you don't go to jail for being strange. At least, not usually. As for me, I recalled the prosecutor's star witness was a kid who's family had brought similar charges against others in the past, and had been well paid for it. Now....when you're going into a fight, you lead off with your best punch, and if a veteran paid victim was the best punch they could muster......well, I just figured Michael was the target of overzealous prosecution.

This is not the first time we've seen pundits living on a different planet. Lee Chugg used to marvel how Awake! magazine could capture the real concerns of whatever 3rd world people they were covering, whereas Time or Newsweek could not. The latter would descend as if from a different world - overeducated and privileged beyond words compared to their subjects. So confident that their priorities - that of human, and usually government, solutions - must also be the priorities of their interviewees. So subtlety dismissive of anything smacking of tradition, superstition, or religion. The local folk knew they were dealing with a different, self-aggrandizing breed....and would tell them whatever they wanted to hear. Awake's people, on the other hand, were neighbors - cut from the same cloth - not above or beneath in rank, and they'd come away with the real picture.

Who are these pundits, anyway? From where do they come? Don't they stem from that obnoxious kid in school who was always going to "tell?" None of us could stand that kid. Even though things sometimes went down that really needed telling - still we knew, or at least suspected, that kid had ulterior motives. He just liked to get others in trouble and/or elevate his own importance. And when that kid graduated, he (or she) became a journalist. Oh, they're not all like that, I suppose, but enough of them are that even the genuine ones come under suspicion.

The same pundits who once told us Michael was washed up, now tirelessly tell us that, while his mama was a saintly Jehovah's Witness, his father was an over-controlling tyrant who beat his kids - thus accounting for the singer's woes. Well.....maybe.....but I'm certainly not buying it on their say-so. Frankly, two or three generations ago everybody beat their kids, if by beating you mean spanking and such forms of corporal punishment. It was thought to be an element of discipline. The first to give it up was the strata from which came most journalists, and after passage of time had sufficiently distanced them from the practice, they proceeded to browbeat everyone else over it. Black families were among the last to give it up, and now the practice is regarded as near (sometimes actually) criminal. It's an amazing turnaround in a relatively short time. I'm not arguing to bring it back, mind you, but it's by no means clear that its abandonment has given us a more secure, well-adjusted crop of kids. So no, I don't necessarily buy that about Joe. It's too easy for those on their high horse to cherry pick past events, ignore extenuating circumstances, and portray flaws as if they were absolutely normal routine. Can any of these pundits really identify with raising nine kids in the inner city? In an age where men walk away from large families and responsibility, Joe recognized and nurtured the charismatic talent his youngsters' possessed. Were it not for Joe's "over-controlling," none of those now-idolizing pundits would ever had heard of Michael Jackson.

And as for the "saintly JW mama".....well....of course...aren't we all? Saintly, I mean.

Back when I used to banter with Nate Dredge the Mormon, (oh oh. He's fallen off the wagon, I see - his last post almost 4 months ago) we used to compare our respective 70's child superstars. Mormons had Donny Osmond. We had Michael Jackson. Alas, our guy flew a lot higher than theirs, but as is now clear, it was at great personal cost. I used to imagine he might one day return to the faith from which he had veered. But it wasn't to be. Publications of Jehovah's Witnesses frequently caution that fame in this world is not without price - that the world stands ever-ready to devour those it glorifies. Who would ever think that the most striking example would come someone once within our own ranks?

 

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)