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Education, the Ministry, and Supporting Oneself Decently

After connivers brought down Enron in 2001, tanking pensions and lives, business education courses slapped a quick coat of ethics onto their lesson plans. That this was no more than a quick coat became apparent seven years later, when connivers nearly brought down the entire worldwide economic system, causing its greatest reversal since the Great Depression.

As chance would have it, I took a business course during that year of rediscovered ethics. Our text had a newly inserted ethics chapter stuffed full with banalities about looking deep within oneself, listening to your inner voice, and so forth. The subject was distilled into four main points. Points three and four were ridiculous enough to sear permanently into my memory:

 3 - does this or that prospective move make you feel good about yourself, and
 4)  can you live with your decision.

Sheesh! That's it?! Those 911 terrorists, en route to incinerate the World Trade Center felt real good about themselves. Strictly speaking, though, they were not able to live with their decision.

Is it all internal? - that is, are qualities of ethics and morality to be found by looking "deep within ourselves?" Or, put another way, is man "naturally" good (as opposed to naturally bad)?  This question has long occupied philosophers, but in recent decades it has become axiomatic that "naturally good" is how we are to view matters. Thus, look deep within oneself is the cure-all for any ill. Also, "poor communication" time and again spoils our good intentions, so we can't have any of that. Oh...and if we're naturally good, there certainly is no need for restrictions, hence the contemporary loathing for any agency that would even suggest them, much less attempt to impose them.

 All this is not to say that Jehovah's Witnesses take the opposite view - that humans are "naturally" bad. We are created in God's image, after all, and those good qualities of ethics resonate deep within us. But we are also flawed, victims of inherited sin, inclined to do wrong despite our best intentions otherwise. We benefit, therefore, from counsel from a higher source, and who is higher, better qualified, than our Maker? Or, as the familiar illustration goes, who better to direct you in care for your new Ford than Ford?

All this helps to explain the JW attitude toward higher education, and why we don't push our kids to pursue it. Believe me, we take a lot of heat for it. For all practical purposes, our view is heresy to a world that worships higher education and presents it as the surefire cure for almost anything. But that "naturally good" philosophy (JWs might call it "worldly thinking") permeates higher education today. Does higher education deliver the goods? With few exceptions, national and world leaders are highly educated. Yet we all know how world conditions are, and we know in which direction they are heading. The educated world would have more to show for itself if their "brand" of education worked.

Yes, well....maybe the world is screwed up not because so many leaders have a secular education, someone says. Maybe it's because so many of them are religious or greedy or some other factor. Exactly. So why should not education address suchlike factors, which would also include belligerence, lack of love, pride, selfishness, and so forth? Instead, the focus is exclusively on intelligence, with the apparent assumption that these other items will take care of themselves. But as history shows, they don't. Frankly, if people are hateful, selfish, greedy, etc, you're almost better off not educating them. They're in position to do less damage that way. If plumbers and janitors had run the worldwide financial system, they might have found a way to beat the taxpayers out of a day's wage. But it was MBAs who ran the worldwide financial system, and they found a way to bring financial ruin upon us all.

Or maybe they didn't find a way. They tell me a highlight of Michael Moore's I Love Capitalism is his interviews with various economic "experts," who trip over their tongues trying in vain to analyze what went wrong. So maybe the analogy that fits better is that of your kids playing with nitroglycerin. "What's the problem, Pop?" they say. "Chill. We know what we're doing. Besides, we're doing very well for ourselves."

Jehovah's Witnesses tend to be very specific when it comes to education. Watchtower literature frequently speaks of a person's need to "support oneself decently." For some youngsters, as a family decision, that may include college courses, for others technical training of some sort, certificate, or vocational. We don't accept the inevitability of higher education, as might be recommended by education officials simply on the basis of grades, or these days, merely on the basis of easy money in loans or grants. We're pragmatic. We use "the world's" education to acquire skills to make a living. But as to acquiring wisdom from that source, we're not keen on it. Within our congregations, we defer to training which addresses the more important moral concerns. For us, that goal is achieved in the context of Bible training.

"Yeah, you just don't want your religious views subjected to critical analysis", I can hear the sneering now. Well....yeah...I suppose....I mean, nobody wants their heartfelt beliefs automatically trashed. But the reason they are trashed is largely one of philosophy, not "critical analysis." Our beliefs run contrary to the "man is naturally good" mantra of modern times. They run contrary to other firmly entrenched mantras as well - that humans have the answers, for example, and that this system of things will endure forever, and that religion is no more than a product of human evolution.

"Look out: perhaps there may be someone who will carry you off as his prey through the philosophy and empty deception according to the tradition of men, according to the elementary things of the world and not according to Christ," says Paul. We take his words seriously.   Col 2:8

Repeat anything often enough, with enough vehemence, and it eventually sinks in. Alas, it would be nice if we were not built that way, but we are. Thus, some god-awful hideous style emerges and within a few years we're all wearing it, thinking how cool we are, and wondering how we ever could have imagined the dorky-looking styles of the 80's did anything for us. Even I am almost at the beginning of perhaps tolerating, within sharply drawn narrow limits, certain forms of rap - a prospect I find frightening indeed. If only our "follow the herd" instinct applied only to trivial matters like style. It's tempting....it's intellectually flattering (and is there anything we like more than to be flattered intellectually?) to think it does. We love to think that styles and fads are one thing, but when it comes to important matters, our razor-sharp intellect cuts allows us to assess matters according to their true worth. Sigh...it's so flattering, but it's such nonsense. We run with the herd in matters great and small. And these days the herd, with higher education in the driver's seat, is running in a way Christians don't want to go. JWs aren't in a hurry to throw inexperienced kids into it's path.

Look, we're ministers. Not ministers in the modern sense, in which you pay your money, go to theological college, pocket your degree, and pound the pavements till you are hired by some church to teach their congregation. No, we are ministers in the first-century biblical sense, in which every Christian is a minister and has a ministry. It's not a job, and you don't get paid - none of Jehovah's Witnesses at any level do - so it's generally necessary to find work to "support oneself decently." But when we do that, it's our goal to streamline. We don't seek out work so engrossing, so demanding, that we can't do some justice to our ministry. Or, as goes the old joke about job flexibility at Microsoft: "You can work any 18-hour shift you want."

No, you don't go building a career in this system, a not-so-subtle goal of higher education. This system's transitory. Through the vicissitudes of this system of things, our people end up everywhere. No doubt there's plenty at Microsoft. But we don't from the get-go "aim for the stars." Or, I guess we do, but we value different stars. We look for work that allows our ministry maximum freedom.

.......................

Addtional material  here

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

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)

A Willowbrook Story, Part 2, with Geraldo Rivera

Director:

This month Chrstopher Batton turns 50 years of age, old enough to qualify for AARP membership. Our house staff plan to throw him a party. Christopher is a Willowbrook alumni. He would (I believe) like to invite Geraldo Rivera to his party.

Initiative Inc owes a lot to Geraldo, perhaps its very existence. Is not Geraldo, through his investigative reporting, grandfather to the entire group home movement in New York? Moreover, news reports assure us that New York State is in a budgetary crisis. Surely there will be pressure on all social agencies, including those that care for the disabled, to do more with less. A Geraldo visit might be a good thing. He could highlight the good that has been done in the last few decades as regards our vulnerable population.

A good itinerary might be to invite him to Christopher’s party, which would be informal, unannounced, and mostly, perhaps totally, house only. Next day he might be able to meet with Initiative execs and public relations people and say some things; maybe make public statements on the importance of our work, etc.

As for Geraldo, he is no doubt a busy guy, and probably can’t come. But he might….especially if we leave the timing up to him. Surely he must look upon the “liberation” of the disabled as a crowning achievement of his career. He might relish revisiting that time.

It seems like a good idea to me, but there will likely be corporate concerns with regards to family, privacy, publicity, and so forth. Yet by keeping Christopher’s party and all subsequent Initiative activities entirely separate, perhaps those concerns can be allayed. Should corporate agree to it, we’ll track him down.

 

Sincerely,

 

Tom Whitepebble [a colleague of mine....Sheepandgoats]

……………………………….......

Usually a guy’s crowning achievement comes at the end of his career. But with Geraldo Rivera, one might argue it came at its beginning. To thousands of developmentally disabled children….now adults….Geraldo looms as the singular most influential person for good in their lives. Alas, mentally disabled as they are, they’re not aware of it. But those who advocate for them are, and owe Mr. Rivera a debt of gratitude. In fact, most of those advocates only exist because of Mr. Rivera.

From film reviewer Dave Kehr:

'IN THE '50S, YOU DIDN'T KEEP them at home. You sent them away. Your family told you to. The priest told you to."

They were the developmentally disabled, and as one woman interviewed in Jack Fisher's documentary "Unforgotten: Twenty-five Years After Willowbrook" recalls, they weren't allowed to be seen or heard.

Instead, they were shipped off to institutions such as the one operated by the State of New York on Staten Island.

As if that policy weren't destructive enough, funding was drained from these institutions in the '60s, leading to severe reductions of staff and appalling conditions.

Robert Kennedy is seen describing Willowbrook as "a situation that borders on a snake pit" following a 1965 tour. Things had not improved six years later, when Geraldo Rivera entered Willowbrook with a stolen key and filmed residents writhing on the floor, starving, covered with filth and howling in pain.

Geraldo’s reporting provoked nationwide soul-searching. Consciences prodded. Laws passed. Policy redefined. The current policy of integrating the developmentally disabled into general society to the extent possible and placing them in small residential group homes is largely traceable to Mr. Rivera’s work. The movement began in New York, but has long since spread to other states and even countries.

Most people know Geraldo as a flamboyant news and showperson….alas, even having somewhat seedy overtones…..after all, one of his raucous talk show guests broke his nose with a thrown chair…..but I like to think of him as a Janis Joplin type: a talented & charismatic character launched by the big business people into the stratosphere, for which he was initially ill-equipped and so he careened wildly both professionally and personally. But he’s repented of the really outlandish stuff, no longer hosting shows with themes like "Wanted: Elvis! Dead or Alive," "Drag Queens on Parade," "Exploring Satan's Black Market," "Sexual Secrets … To Tell or Not to Tell," and "Teen Lesbians and Their Moms."

From Atlantic magazine(June, 2005):

"I was sick of it," Rivera said recently of his decision in 1997 to leave the daytime talk-show format. "Maury Povich was my neighbor [in New Jersey], and he and his wife, Connie Chung, are two of the nicest people you'd ever want to meet. I saw his show just a couple of days ago, and it was all paternity tests and lie-detector tests, all stuff that I pioneered, and I look at that stuff now, and I know how smart Maury is, how sensitive he is, and for him to still be doing that—humiliating all those poor trailer-trash and mostly black people, Hispanic people—I don't know how you do that, how you bear that. I could not do that no matter how much you pay me.

[They paid him a lot]

He’s signed on with Fox Network these days, a liberal balancing their prevailing conservatives. And he’s a war correspondent whenever he gets the chance, a sort of daredevil one:

"That's why I said [the CNN anchor] Aaron Brown would

[ahem] shit in his pants if he had been in some of the places I was. That's true. That's absolutely true. It's the same way about all of them—every one of those Geraldo detractors. How many times have you been shot? How many times has your car been blown up? How many times have you ever been winged? How many times have you gone into it, taken a gulp, and stepped out of the airport?"

That almost reminds you of Paul, doesn’t it? Note how Paul responds to the pompous pansies of his day who wanted his title but not his work:

Are they ministers of Christ? I reply like a madman, I am more outstandingly one: in labors more plentifully, in prisons more plentifully, in blows to an excess, in near-deaths often. By Jews I five times received forty strokes less one, three times I was beaten with rods, once I was stoned, three times I experienced shipwreck, a night and a day I have spent in the deep;

and so forth. 2 Cor 11:23-25

The showmanship remains: When Fox took him aboard, he pledged to personally kill Osama bin Laden and bring his head back to the United States to be bronzed. Sheesh!

"That's the story,”

he tells Atlantic. “I can't tell you how many caves we crawled into looking for that sucker."

Um….there is that cartoon showing Jehovah’s Witnesses having located bin Laden through their door to door ministry. Ought there to be some teamwork?

Actually, that Atlantic magazine offers a good synopsis of his career. I admit he is much more larger than life than I had thought….I don’t really keep up. Would it really be a good idea to invite him to Christopher’s party? Dunno. Frankly, I can’t quite picture him sharing ranch dressing and milk cocktails with Carolyn, or flipping through all the channels roulette fashion with Doug, but perhaps I am selling him short. At any rate, we’re all grateful to him. Few persons have positively impacted a population as Geraldo has benefited the country’s developmentally disabled. He sparked a culture shift toward compassionate treatment. Were it not for him, perhaps they would yet be in dungeons like Willowbrook.

...................................

Read about life in a group home 35 years later here.

And perhaps even here.

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)

Mean Things God Doesn't Do - Part 1

When Katrina flooded New Orleans back in 2005, Pat Robertson promptly announced the reason. It was God. God did it, he declared, because of the city's abortions and homosexuals. This made New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin mad...hopping mad, and he jumped in to set the record straight. God did not destroy New Orleans because of abortions and homosexuals, he stormed.

He destroyed it because of the war in Iraq and disunity among its black residents.

No one thinks, apparently, that locating a coastal city below sea level yet in the path of hurricanes might have anything to do with it. No! It's all God. God destroyed that city for....well....pick your reason. But whatever reason you pick, have no doubt that God did it. Even insurance companies have long acquiesced to the language; natural disasters, they tell us in their policies, are "acts of God," whereas every non-religious person says, quite sensibly, if a bit crudely, that "shit happens." Which is it - "acts of God" or "shit happens"? Moreover, if such calamities are not really caused by God, does not church instruction that they are amount to monstrous slander against him?

Now, I recently came across a religious blogger who says he can accept God smiting New Orleans, or anywhere else, because "God is Sovereign" and thus can do whatever he wants! I swear, it's a wonder we're not all atheists! You don't think it might be nice for God to warn the "non-guilty" so they can clear out before the smiting starts?  And what's so especially wicked about New Orleans? People aren't creampuffs up here in Rochester either, I assure you - why single out Louisiana folk? Atheists may say rotten things about God, but the really nasty things come from those who claim to be his friends! They don't do it on purpose, of course, but they buy into longstanding doctrines - nonsensical and unscriptural doctrines- that unfailingly paint them into moral corners. With friends like these, so the saying goes, who needs enemies?

There is an explanation for disasters. The churches don't offer it, but it is this: If you've voted the Republicans into power, you can't be upset that Democrat policies aren't being carried out (or vice-versa). Everyone knows that. And with only minimal exaggeration, the same reasoning can be applied to spiritual matters. There is a "party" that offers control over natural forces. That party is God's Kingdom, as in "thy Kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven." (Matt 6:10) Alas, last time there was an "election" back in Genesis days, God's rulership was rejected in favor of human rulership - rulership which can't control the weather or the economy or health or peace or very much else.

Control of natural forces? An attribute of God's Kingdom? Why not? Consider the account at Mark 4:37-41:

And on that day, when evening had fallen, he [Jesus] said to them: “Let us cross to the other shore.” So, after they had dismissed the crowd, they took him in the boat, just as he was, and there were other boats with him. Now a great violent windstorm broke out, and the waves kept dashing into the boat, so that the boat was close to being swamped. But he was in the stern, sleeping upon a pillow. So they woke him up and said to him: “Teacher, do you not care that we are about to perish?” With that he roused himself and rebuked the wind and said to the sea: “Hush! Be quiet!” And the wind abated, and a great calm set in. So he said to them: “Why are you fainthearted? Do you not yet have any faith?” But they felt an unusual fear, and they would say to one another: “Who really is this, because even the wind and the sea obey him?” 

Rejecting God's right to rule, as was done in Eden at man's start, has had long-standing, terrible consequences. God has responded by allowing humans to make good on their claim that they can govern themselves without him. He's set aside a block of time during which humans can devise schemes of government, harness the power of science, improvise their own economies, philosophies, moralities, and so forth. When that time runs out, and all such schemes have fallen flat, (aren't they doing that now?) God brings about his own rulership, the same rulership he purposed from the start but which he allowed to be briefly diverted so that humans might carry out their experiment of self-rule. That, in a nutshell, is the Bible's explanation for present abysmal conditions, as outlined here and (for atheists) here.


It's an explanation that makes splendid sense, but accepting it means rejecting some cherished church beliefs, such as the dogma that earth is but a temporary home upon which people prove their fitness for their ultimate destiny in heaven or hell. Unwilling to part with such unscriptural notions, what is there left to church teachers other than to defend each and every natural disaster as part of God's plan? Thus, Katrina, 911, tsunami 2004, earthquake after earthquake - tragedies that haphazardly ruin rich and poor, good and bad, old and young, all such calamities are manifestations of God's will, say his friends! He's Sovereign. He can do what he wants. Don't try to figure it out. His ways are higher than ours. Though such events give not the slightest appearance of wisdom, love, or justice, we're told to accept them as such! (And to think some detractors accuse us of being told what to believe!) Does God really need enemies, with friends that say such things about him?

One reason people become Jehovah's Witnesses is that they don't buy into such a moral vacuum. They look, instead, to when God's permission of human rule runs out, at which time he brings about his own 'kingdom.' The Lord's prayer points to that time:


Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name.
Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven.
  (Matt 6:9-10)

The Book of Daniel points to it:

And in the days of these kings shall the God of heaven set up a kingdom, which shall never be destroyed: and the kingdom shall not be left to other people, but it shall break in pieces and consume all these kingdoms, and it shall stand for ever.  (Dan 2:44)

Revelation points to it:

And I John saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a great voice out of heaven saying, Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and he will dwell with them, and they shall be his people, and God himself shall be with them, and be their God.  (Rev 21:2-3) 

Note above that they're not angels; they're men - people -  and New Jerusalem stands for God's government over all the earth, just as literal Jerusalem stood for God's government over his ancient people.

Several Old Testament verses prophetically point to it. For example, Ps 93:1

Jehovah himself has become king! Let the earth be joyful. Let the many islands rejoice

But here we run into something peculiar. Most Bible's don't say "has become," as the New World Translation does. Some do, such as Young's Literal Translation, J.B. Rotherham Emphasized, and Douay-Rheim. But most say that God "is reigning," or something similar. What's with that?

It turns out that the Hebrew verb has two tenses: perfect and imperfect. The perfect tense is used to convey action completed. Events in the past would likely be described with the perfect tense. But, oddly, future events may also be conveyed with the perfect tense, when the writer regards their fulfillment as absolutely certain. The imperfect tense, on the other hand, denotes a work in progress, an ongoing action. Also, everyone acknowledges context plays its part in determining how to translate the perfect or imperfect tense.

The verb "reign" [malakh] in Ps 93:1 is in the perfect tense. It therefore seems that malakh should be rendered as an action completed, and not "reigning," as in an ongoing process. The New World Translation, and a handful of others, has thus translated it that way. And why do most others translate it "reigning?" Apparently due to their perception of doctrinal context - if God "has become king," they reason, there must have been a time when he was not king, and they can't get their heads around that. However, Jehovah's Witnesses side with Sigmund Mowinckel, who wrote in his 1962 book Psalms in Israel’s Worship:

 ...it is not a valid objection to say that Yahweh had, according to the Israelite view, always been king. The latter statement is correct enough . . . but in the cult the fact of salvation is re-experienced as a new and actual reality. Yahweh is ever anew witnessed as ‘coming’, ‘revealing himself’, and doing works of salvation on earth. The Israelite idea of God was not static but dynamic. Israel did not regard the Lord principally as sitting in calm possession and execution of his divine power, but as one who rises and seizes the power, and wields it in mighty works. And this is as a rule concretely pictured; from the ‘mythical’ side this is seen epically and dramatically: at a certain time Yahweh became king. To the Israelite way of thinking there is no contradiction between this and that he is king for ever; such a contradistinction is modern and rationalistic.

And with Charles H Spurgeon, who points out with regard to Ps 93:1 "In the verse before us it would seem as if the Lord had for a while appeared to vacate the throne, but on a sudden he puts on his regal apparel and ascends his lofty seat, while his happy people proclaim him with new joy, shouting "The Lord reigneth." Though he prefers "reigneth," probably out of convention, reading his remark makes apparent he'd have no objection to "has become."

And with  Rabbi Avrohom Chaim Feuer, who "sees this psalm as reflecting the various pronouncements that will be voiced in the Messianic era and, therefore, the past tense is syntactically uttered in the psalm in retrospect."

Go here for some of these arguments, scroll ahead to page 67. The New World Translation agrees, not with the paper's author, Gerald Randall Kirkland, writing his Master's Thesis, but with Mowinckel and Feuer, whom he has cited.

So.....Ps 93:1 and similar verses take some time to discuss, but in the end they agree with the other verses cited. Though always king, God has granted a stay of his kingship for a time while humans try to prove their boasts of self-rule. The stay will run out soon - such is a prime import of the Jehovah's Witnesses position. In the meantime, we don't accept disasters and calamities as manifestation of God's will. They're an integral part of a rapidly decaying system of things under human domination.

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

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)