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There Was Not a Moment to Lose

"At the home of Victor Vomidog, an alarm panel light pulsed red. Victor read the incoming feed. It was serious. Someone was saying nice things about Jehovah’s Witnesses. Instantly, he swung into action. There was not a moment to lose. He opened his door and whistled. The media came running. “Witnesses are selfish!” he cried. “They only think of themselves! Why don’t they help everyone? Why do they just do their own people?” That evening, media ran the headline: “WHY DON’T THEY HELP EVERYONE?”

"But they had asked the wrong question. The headline they should have run, but didn’t, because they didn’t want to deal with the answer, was: “WHY AREN’T OTHERS DOING THE SAME?” The answer to the first question is obvious: Witness efforts consist of volunteers using their vacation time. Just how much time is the boss going to grant?"

(from Tom Irregardless and Me)

Of course, it is about opposers' efforts to denigrate the disaster recovery work Witnesses are known for.

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Alexis Olympia Ohanian Doesn't Do Birthdays. This Gets Interestinger and Interestinger

Few things cause more distress in the world of celebrities than a neglected birthday celebration. Yet Serena Williams presented them exactly that scenario with regard to her baby daughter, soon to turn one. “Serena and husband Alexis Ohanian won’t be throwing an over-the-top birthday bash for their baby girl…In fact, they won’t be throwing a party at all,” reported Caitlyn Hitt for the DailyMail. Why?

Serena says: ‘We’re Jehovah’s Witnesses, so we don’t do that.’ She repeats the tactic that she took with President Obama, back when she was “excited to see Obama out there doing his thing….[but] I'm a Jehovah's Witness, so I don't get involved in politics. We stay neutral. We don't vote...so I'm not going to necessarily go out and vote for him. I would if it wasn't for my religion.'' Let me tell you that she took heat for it from people immersed in civic affairs, not to mention those who dislike Witnesses.

Notwithstanding that the support organization of Jehovah’s Witnesses encourages congregation members to give reasons for their stands and not just say “I do it because I’m a Jehovah’s Witness,” there are times when the latter response is exactly the thing to say. The actual reason takes a while to explain and people don’t necessarily want to hear it. You have to know your audience. I begin to like Serena Williams more and more. She doesn’t buckle under pressure, mumbling something incomprehensible. No. She says "We don’t do that.” She reminds me very much of a sister named Jackie who was ribbed at school for her modest way of dress. She threw it right back at them. “I set the style,” she told the would-be bullies. “If you want to be cool, you dress like me.”

Speaking of modest dress, Serena hasn’t exactly done that over the years on the tennis court. Even given that you want freedom of movement, every so often you will hear her criticized for that, primarily from people who think they can embarrass Jehovah’s Witnesses on that account. Outspokenly she has thanked Jehovah for her tennis victories, yet how does that work with the flag at the Olympics? Jehovah’s Witnesses are circumspect about the flag of any nation, declining to salute, not for any reason of protest, but because of the second of the Ten Commandments. And didn’t she cuss out that official at a certain match? Ah, well, athletes have been known to do that and people cut them slack. After all, if she was mild-mannered Clark Kent, she would find transition into Superwoman difficult.

So she has sent mixed signals over the years. Why would that be? Ah, here it is in the Caitlyn Hitt article: Last year she told Vogue, “Being a Jehovah’s Witness is important to me, but I’ve never really practiced it and have been wanting to get into it.” Okay. She was brought up in the faith and has made part of it her own but not entirely. Apparently, she is not baptized, a big deal for Witnesses. Now, with the birth of a child, she means to change some things. The birth of a child will frequently trigger a shift in priorities. Likely, she is conscious of a spiritual need not completely attended to in her own case and she does not want the same for her daughter. Since Jehovah’s Witnesses call each other brother and sister and I am old enough to be her dad, I tweeted: ‘Knock it out of the park! You go, my daughter.' I’m sure she saw it out of the gazillion tweets she receives each day, many from JW detractors telling her that she is nuts.

Her outspokenness served her well in another instance. When the man she was dating wished her a ‘Happy Birthday’ and she responded as she now does for her daughter, the man admired the courage. He “saw this gesture as Serena stepping outside her comfort zone for him and decided immediately that he wanted to marry her.”

It only gets more interesting. He is Reddit founder Alexis Ohanian. He is not a Jehovah’s Witness, and was not raised with any religion at all, but is reportedly okay with Serena’s faith. Now, it turns out that Reddit is a huge online discussion forum in which topics are hosted for everything under the sun. One of those groups, with thousands of participants, is dedicated to bringing down the organization of Jehovah’s Witnesses. When Philadelphia Inquirer reporter David Gambacorta wrote (so far) four incendiary articles about Jehovah’s Witnesses, he used this group as his source of information and between articles checked in with them, as though Trump playing to his base.

It therefore reminds – I mean, it is not a type/antitype kind of thing, but it sure does remind one of Jewish Queen Esther of long ago, married to the wealthy Persian King who had been maneuvered by enemies into decreeing that her people be destroyed, and the sentence surely would have been carried out but for Esther’s (putting her life at risk to do it) bold intervention. Yeah, why don't you go in there to Mr. Ohanian, you Reddit Witness haters, and tell him that his wife is crazy? That sounds like a brilliant plan to me. Tell him that Mr. Gambacorta is on your side. Just make sure that you read up on Haman before you do it. (See the entire short Book of Esther)

Look, it is not parallel in all respects. Nobody is literally threatening to kill anyone, but they are threatening to kill the Christian organization that supports and coordinates the worldwide work that Jehovah’s Witnesses do, just as like-minded ones are now doing in Russia. Moreover, Mr. Ohanian cannot be expected to pull the group’s Reddit credentials; he runs a website dedicated to free speech. There is also a pro-JW group on the site, as well as a squirrelly in-between one, supposedly supportive of Witness teachings but unsupportive of the human leadership. Such will always be the sticking point in the divine/human interface. It was even true with Judas. He and God were tight. There were no problems there. But that yoyo claiming to represent him was just too much, not at all what Judas wanted to see. And those bumpkins he was attracting! Don’t even go there.

No, it is possibly not history repeating itself. Mark Twain [allegedly} said that does not happen. History does not repeat, he said, but it does rhyme a little.

"I am stronger than you. I bless Heaven for it," said Miss Pross to the wicked foreign woman trying to destroy her Loved One, resisting her "with the vigorous tenacity of love, always so much stronger than hate." 

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When Putin Opens My Letter

When Putin opens my letter, he will be disheartened. He will see several paragraphs. He will want with all his heart to read it, but he has several million other letters to get through. He will toss the letter.

He will then open the next letter and discover, as he suspected from the envelope, that it is from a child. It includes drawings, one of a sad little girl because Putin is being mean to her nice friends, and one from a happy little girl, because he has had a change of heart. Putin will smile faintly, for everyone loves children. He will put this letter aside. Possibly he will show it to his grandchildren someday.

He will open the next letter. It will also be from me—not the same letter but worded and reasoned anew. He will roll his eyes. “Another letter from that windbag Harley,” he will mutter, and toss it in the trash.

(from 2017)

 


Diedre Wins a Skirmish

The overnight tech is tired, overweight, underpaid, overworked, as she would tell you, (likely omitting the 2nd item) and perhaps it is so. Her rough treatment of those in her charge has hurt some of them and they dread disturbing her. They hold off until absolutely necessary. Only Diedre, recuperating from a fractured shoulder and hip, determines within her heart to win her over, as she tells us later, with a twinkle in her eye.

When my wife calls the nursing home, she is told that Diedre is not available because she is doing rehab in her room. ‘How long will it be?’ she asks. ‘Oh, I don’t know,’ comes the answer. ‘I think they just go in there to visit; she is so nice.’

She is. We all know it. Camping with us and the kids long ago, we would say about those in the neighboring cabin: ‘Diedre, go find out about those people.’ Off she would go with a disarming ‘hi.’ Fifteen minutes later she would return with their entire life stories.

She wins a skirmish. Coming to her side at 2AM for pain, the tech says, ‘I hate to see you suffering like this. You really are a good patient.’ ‘So she is coming around, just a little bit,’ Diedre smiles and chalks up the win.

[Edit: I spoke with Diedre after this post was written. She referred to that tech as "the sweetest little thing," before clarifying that she really wasn't little. I had just thrown that in on a hunch that she was overweight. I really didn't know. When Diedre left after several weeks recuperation, some of the patients cried. The staff begged her to visit, adding that many former patients say they will, but never do. They do not know that, with Diedre, it is a certainty.

Does she 'witness?' No, not particularly, though she is always ready should something come up. Rather, she is one of Jehovah's Witnesses, it quickly comes into conversation naturally, as when a person mentions what they do for a living, and thereafter everything she does or says becomes a witness.

When she attends to the hospital stays of her own children (who unfortunately, have had a few) she quickly is on a first name basis with every tech, nurse, and doctor in sight, who all look forward to exchanging a few words with her. She doesn't look at each person as 'an opportunity to give a witness.' Instead she looks at them as an opportunity to make a human connection. Sometimes that leads to a verbal witness. It always leads to a nonverbal one.]

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The Lake Placid Triathlon

We arrived at Lake Placid and there were so many Russians running around that I thought about hiding the election. However, it turned out that they were not Russian at all, but Serbian - here in the U.S. on a work visa. They comprised the majority help at several hospitality/dining establishments. I asked my waiter how many hours he worked and he said last week he had worked 85, he not having it so bad as Serbs who could not yet speak English. They worked as many hours washing dishes or the like. He slept with other students 8 to a room (or was it suite?). “They’re nice kids,” said our non-Serbian hotel clerk. I told the waiter about my son, who has been there, and says they are the best people in the world. He liked that. You have to be very careful accepting their hospitality, my son points out, because they will give you what they need themselves.

The first thing we did after checking in was to stroll down to the public beach. A few dozen bicyclists were they, obviously preparing for some sort of competition, and I spoke with the young man who had a solid disk rather than a back wheel. He assured me that spoke drag was a big deal and the more aerodynamic you could be the better off you were. Since he was the first person I spoke to, I told him that my money was on him for his triathlon, to commence with each competitor swimming to a buoy and back.

Next day my wife and I went swimming and he was there. He had a family with him which he introduced (while they were afar) as “thing one,” “thing two,” and “thing three.” I thought this a little odd, but you can’t keep up with every permutation of slang, and maybe this is all the rage somewhere. Overall, my opinion of him improved, even with the “things,” and it had never been poor to begin with. I had just assumed that he was a zealot, and here he shows up as a family man.

I asked him how it went with the triathlon and he told me, matter-of-factly as you please, that he won. It means I won, since I had spoken to him first.

Driving home through the Adirondacks we came across this map of the watersheds. I'm not even sure people knew what watersheds were when I was a kid; you never heard of them. But it is an idea I am drawn to, areas that drain into a given body of water, and it awakens an unconscious urge to unfurl a contour map to figure out the demarcations between them. In the mountains you can expect to encounter many of them, as rivers have their headwaters there. All watersheds are obviously subsets of greater ones, with the entire terrestrial earth being the greatest one of all, draining into the connected oceans.

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The Trump Card of Christian Discipline

As an ultimate trump card of congregation discipline, to be applied when lesser measures have failed, is disfellowshipping cruel? It certainly could be, and increasingly is, argued that way. Undeniably it triggers pain to those who refuse to yield to it, “kicking against the goads,” as was told Paul.  That said, suffice it to say that no group has been able maintain its deeply-held moral principles over decades of time without it.

I vividly remember circuit ministers of my faith saying: “Fifty years ago, the difference between Jehovah’s Witnesses and people in general was doctrinal. Conduct on moral matters, sexual or  otherwise, was pretty much the same.” Today the chasm is huge. Can internal discipline not be a factor?

The book 'Secular Faith - How Culture Has Trumped Religion in American Politics' attempts to reassure its secular audience through examining the changing moral stands of churches on five key issues. The book points out that today's church members have more in common with atheists than they do with members of their own denominations of decades past. Essentially, the reassurance to those who would mold societal views is: 'Don't worry about it. They will come around. They always do. It may take a bit longer, but it is inevitable.' Jehovah's Witnesses have thwarted this model by not coming around. Can internal discipline not be a factor?

In the case of Jehovah’s Witnesses, members voluntarily sign on to a program that reinforces goals they have already chosen. Sometimes it is not enough to say that you want to diet. You must padlock the fridge. It is not an infringement of freedom to those who have willingly signed aboard. They are always free to attempt to diet some place where they do not padlock the fridge. Experience shows, however, that not padlocking the fridge results in overweight people, for not everyone has extraordinary willpower.

If people want to padlock the fridge but they can’t do it because malcontents forbid that course and they get big and fat, as in the United States, for example, where the level of obesity is breathtaking, how is that not a violation of their individual rights? It is all a difference over the basic nature of people and what makes them tick. It is the individualists of today who would hold that you can’t even padlock your own fridge. No. Full freedom of choice must always be in front of each one of us, they say, notwithstanding that history demonstrates we do nothing but sway with the wind in the absence of a firm anchor.

 

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He Enjoys Disseminating Inflammatory Narratives and Hate Speech

I tweeted, with photo included, that all Regional Conventions had witnessed scenes of Russian police breaking up Christian meetings.

Instantly, the tweet was liked from three entirely separate parts of the world, none of them in English. There is nothing like the worldwide brotherhood. Admittedly, three is not a million, but the diverse background of the likers partly offsets this.

A prominent human rights person, frequently quoted in the media, picked up the tweet and retweeted it.

If you spend any time on the music video section of JW.org—not the choir part, but the convention interludes and original songs, you cannot but be struck by the international flavor, so different from the general world which too often views anyone significantly different as one of “those people.” For some odd reason, I almost prefer lyrics sung in languages I don’t understand. It adds to the appeal of unity despite differences. Can you view such videos, ranging from small groups to international conventions, and view participants as addled victims of a cult? You have to work at it. You really do.

Online is an enemy that I keep tabs on because he reliably informs me of things I might like to address. To say ‘enemy’ might seems a little mean. I have no doubt that he has to his credit some good qualities, as do most people. But spiritually speaking, we are at 180 degree opposite poles, and it is not through any miscommunication. It is through deliberate choice on both of our parts.

The spiritual component of a person comprises two thirds, at least, of his or her total makeup. Everything else is but so much window-dressing. It is why I wrote of Prince: “I would have enjoyed jamming with Prince. Not musically, of course - I can’t play guitar – but spiritually, in the ministry. We would have been seamless together; we’re on the same page – all Witnesses are. But it wasn’t to be in this system of things. Prince was always busy. And I was – well, no – I would have found the time.”

We would have instantly hit it off. It may be that I might have discovered differences in preferences, it almost certainly would have happened, even on matters of substance, but it wouldn’t have mattered. All Witnesses know how to keep such matters in their place and not allow them to disrupt the peace of the congregation.

My online enemy hears of Russian punishment of Jehovah’s Witnesses for being Jehovah’s Witnesses, this week’s arrest including persons in their 70s, as reported in Newsweek, and feigns sympathy. He does more than ‘feign’ it. I have no doubt he genuinely disapproves of it. But as a dedicated “anti-cultist,” he is sorry for it in the same sense that the arsonist is sorry to see California burning to the ground. We must not be obtuse. Once you release the hounds of hell, you find that you cannot control just how many they maul.

It is his fellow ‘anti-cultists’ who have driven the model to cast Jehovah’s Witnesses in such a bad light before the Russian Supreme Court (in combination with some nationalistic factors), with even some former members of the faith giving testimony, knowing that, if acted upon, innocent people would go to jail. My enemy’s allies push and push the narrative that Jehovah’s Witnesses manipulate people and break up families. Religion writer Joshua Gill has outlined how a French NGO dedicated to protecting people from ideas considered socially destructive by the NGO sent a well-known emissary to Russia who spread that view with missionary zeal, maximizing his existing status with the Russian Orthodox Church.

It worth noting that the European Court of Human Rights didn't buy either charge. It wrote in 2010: “It is the resistance and unwillingness of non-religious family members to accept and to respect their religious relative’s freedom to manifest and practice his or her religion that is the source of conflict.”

As to a charge of "mind control," it wrote: “The Court finds it remarkable that the [Russian] courts did not cite the name of a single individual whose right to freedom of conscience had allegedly been violated by means of those techniques.”

The Russian Supreme Court in 2017 was not chastened by this rebuke and saw no need to cite a name for the April 20th trial, either. They did, however, find every need to not hear representatives of foreign embassies who might, for all they knew, have sided with the European Court.

The NGO itself has come in for censure more recently, in that it “has benefitted from abusive grants that they have used to disseminate hate speech targeting some minority religious groups in the countries of the European Union and beyond.” The occasion was a side event to the Universal Periodic Review of France in Geneva (January 15th, 2018) where several NGOs and an international law expert called upon President Emmanuel Macron and his Prime Minister to revise the financing of the NGO that sends a clear “open hunting season” on religious minorities. 

Of the emissary, a Mr. Dvorkin, it is written that he “enjoys disseminating inflammatory narratives and hate speech. Last year, in the capital city of India, Hindus have held a demonstration outside the Russian embassy to protest against the persecution of their religion and burnt an effigy of Dvorkin.” Nonetheless, his views have carried the day in Russia, the same as they do with my enemy closer to home.

 

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No Direct Mention of the 144,000

The new online Bible study lessons on JW.org does not directly mention the 144,000. Instead, it says of God’s kingdom with Christ as King: "God also selects others to be associate rulers with Jesus" and adds that "anyone who obeys its laws can be a citizen."

Good. The 144,000 is a yawner. Nobody cares. I never go there.

To clarify a little, some care, but it is analogous to the wonks on media absolutely obsessed over the doings of government and all its machinations, imagining that they reflect the interest of the ordinary people whose greatest hope towards government is that it will pave the roads, jail the bad guys, keep a few of its promises, and otherwise stay out of their hair.

A handful throughout history go on to rule with Christ in heaven. Good. It means the heavenly government has more of a feel for humanity than it would otherwise, first indicated by the fact that the King himself did time as a human.

That's all anyone really cares about, as they envision how God's Kingdom will bring relief from the incessant woes and travesties they suffer on earth. I barely go further with the 144,000 unless someone insists on it.

It is even now as one might explain ‘the Lord’s prayer’: “Thy Kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.” ‘Sure, God’s will is done in heaven,’ one might point out. ‘I mean, I assume he’s got everything running smoothly up there. But it is ‘on earth’ where we hope to see God’s will be done, as it will be when his Kingdom comes.’

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One Step Closer to Dear Mr. Putin Print Version - Learning the Tricks of Sectioning

It took me the longest time to figure out how to make headings different in each section. That's not to say I have worked on it throughout since I last griped about it. No. I have only worked on it sporadically because I couldn't stand the aggravation.

Even the person I consulted that has made her living off the use of Word didn't seem to know and suggested that if I hit the 'reveal' key to see all format instructions, I would be able to figure it out. I did so and It didn't help.

The Section command in Word provides that each section you make can contain repeating formatting that does not spill over into all other sections. If for some reason, you want an entire bunch of paragraphs to go landscape and have different margins from the rest of the document, you simply section it off, hit a 'break link' to previous section key, and you are golden

But the headers and footers toolbar is a different provision and it is not isolated from section to section in the usual way. This is presumably because you may want page numbers, for example, or book title to appear throughout all sections, even as you want chapter titles to change from section to section.

You can isolate the headers and footers of sections, just not in the normal way. This is nowhere clearly explained that I can see, and it took me the longest time to figure it out. So finally, all chapters show their individual titles on what will be the odd-numbered pages, while keeping the same book title across all even numbered pages. Now I have to work on pagination, which hopefully will be a slam-dunk and not another nightmare.

And no, I do not want that lying phony Microsoft support team to contact me and offer to help if I will but sign my computer over to them, and when you google the phone number they supply, you are told it is a fraud, Microsoft itself saying it will never provide a phone number to call.

It is another step in getting Dear Mr. Putin - Jehovah's Witnesses Write Russia into print, after which I will work on the other two.

Decyphering the vagarities of Word proved so infuriating that I devoted the better part of a chapter to relating my angst in No Fake News but Plenty of Hogwash. This is not to say it is their fault, necessarily. It is more likely mine. But that is not to say that I cannot grouse about it, speaking in behalf of the billions of people who do not live and breathe for technology.

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Thomas Jefferson - "How Cheap a Price for the Good Will of Another."

“I have mentioned good humor as one of the preservatives of our peace and tranquility. It is among the most effectual, and its effect is so well imitated and aided, artificially, by politeness that this also becomes an acquisition of first-rate value. In truth, politeness is artificial good humor; it covers the natural want of it, and ends by rendering habitual a substitute nearly equivalent to the real virtue. It is the practice of sacrificing to those whom we meet in society all the little conveniences and preferences which will gratify them, and deprive us of nothing worth a moment's consideration; it is the giving a pleasing and flattering turn to our expressions, which will conciliate others and make them pleased with us as well as themselves. How cheap a price for the good will of another! When this is in return for a rude thing said by another, it brings him to his senses, it mortifies and corrects him in the most salutory way, and places him at the feet of your good nature in the eyes of the company. 

"But in stating prudential rules for our government in society I must not omit the important one of never entering into dispute or argument with another. I never saw an instance of one of two disputants convincing the other by argument. I have seen many, on their getting warm, becoming rude, and shooting one another. Conviction is the effect of our own dispassionate reasoning, either in solitude or weighing within ourselves, idspassionately, what we hear from others, made Doctor Franklin the most amiable of men in society "never to contradict anybody." If he was urged to announce an opinion, he did it rather by asking questions, as if for information, or by suggesting doubts. When I hear another express an opinion which is not mine, I say to myself, he has a right to his opinion, as I to mine; why should I question it? His error does me no injury, and shall I become a Don Quixote, to bring all men by force of argument to one opinion? If a fact be misstated, it is probable he is gratified by a belief in it, and I have no right to deprive him of the gratification. If he wants information, he will ask for it, and then I will give it in measured terms; but if he still believes his own story, and shows a desire to dispute the fact with me, I hear him and say nothing. It is his affair, not mine, if he prefers error.

"There are two classes of disputants most frequently to be met with among us. The first is of young students, just entered the threshold of science, with a first view of its outlines, not yet filled up with the details and modifications which a further progress would bring to their knowledge. The other consists of the ill-tempered & rude men in society, who have taken up a passion for politics. (Good humor and politeness never introduce into mixt society a question on which they foresee there will be a difference of opinion.) From both of those classes of diputants, my dear Jefferson, keep aloof as your owuld from the infected subjects of yellow fever or pestilence. Consider yourself, when with them, as among the patients of Bedlam, needing medical more than moral counsel. Be a listener only, keep within yourself, and endeavor to establish with yourself the habit of silence, especially on politics. In the fevered state of our country, no good can ever result from any attempt to set one of these fiery zealots to rights, either in fact or principle. They are determined as to the facts they will believe, and the opinions on which they will act. Get by them, therefore, as you would by an angry bull; it is not for a man of sense to dispute the road with such an animal.”

The Futility of Disputes (from a letter to Thomas Jefferson Randolph, dated Washington November 24, 1808) - Thomas Jefferson

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