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Shocked at Any Time for No Reason at All

When the dog arrived at the house where it knows it can be shocked at any time for absolutely no reason at all, it rushed to see Jen, because it likes Jen. But then it decided it had seen Jen enough and went back into the car, atop it’s bed which had been brought along for the stay. I spilled it off the bed with difficulty when I pulled it from the car and it trotted down the driveway past the spot where it would have been shocked had its collar been on, thus indicating either it had learned nothing at all from the dog restraint system or that it was smarter than anybody might have figured, realizing that absent the collar, it is immune. It kept trotting down the road, as though it would trot all 30 miles home, but my sharp voice, made sharper at the approach of a car, made it pause, reconsider, and reluctantly return with tail shyly wagging.

This is not the usual dog restraint system, where you get too close to the buried wire and get zapped. This is one of the newer 'opposite' models, where you stray too far from the central transmitter and get zapped. Everyone feels bad that the dog is so scared of it and wonders how it happened. There is such as thing as properly acclimating a dog to the system, but it is very hard to believe that my friend would make any mistakes in that regard, because she never does. Maybe there is some quirk about the device itself.

At any rate, he acclimates. I am told he gets better and better. Picking up the dog, my wife and I always ask if it was any trouble. Our daughter’s friends invariably blow off the question as almost too stupid to ask. When I take the dog to the dog park, almost to the person people tell me how good natured he is.

 

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Cross the center line rumble strip and the dog climbs from the back onto the passenger seat. If there is someone sitting there, it sits on his/her lap. If not, it triggers the seat-belt alert. It really shouldn’t climb into the passenger seat. I shouldn’t hit the rumble strip

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The Man Just Likes to Restore Mustangs

What can I say? The man just likes to restore Mustangs.

If you set your price in the thirties, the cousin's husband says, potential buyers beat down your door. But if you build it thoroughly modern and set your price in the fifties, "that slows them down a little." He has shipped one to Germany and two to Australia. The Aussie sent him back a photo of the car with a surfboard strapped on top. This did not set him back at all. "It's his toy. He can do what he wants."

Are unrestored Mustangs common? "They're getting mighty hard to find," he says.

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Who is a Cult? Just About Everybody, it Turns Out (Part 1)

Zealots find it irresistible to expand a negative word so that it will embrace those that they would like to see shamed, discredited, or punished. Often this makes the word all but meaningless. For example, the Economist of August 2009 observes that the current child sex abuser registries that they are so long as to be absolutely useless to law enforcement. They include teenagers who had sex with an underage girlfriends. They include persons who urinated in public, as well those who exposed themselves in public. None of those things are great, of course, but if you include them all on a master list with violent predators, you make it all but impossible to track the violent predators, which is the purpose of the list to begin with. Adding various levels of severity does not remedy things: people are preoccupied and sometimes obtuse, and can only work with uncluttered tools.

It is much the same with the word "cult." Time was when if you fell under the spell of a charismatic leader, withdrew from society, and did peculiar things, you just might be a member of a cult. These days the word is expanded so as to embrace peoples not popular. Just thinking outside of the box is enough to trigger it.

Steve Hassan, who goes by the Twitter handle "cultexpert," as developed what he calls the BITE model to describe the ingredients of a cult. Mr. Hassan used to kidnap those he thought were in cults so as to "deprogram" them. BITE is a model outlining the means by which one party can "control" another, though various techniques, some direct and some subtle. Each letter stands for something. There is Behavioral control, Information control, Thought control, and Emotional control. It is not a silly idea in its concept. It is silly in its overreaching application.

Most families are cults per this new definition, especially those conscious of a family reputation, and God forbid that any should still insist that members live up to a higher standard. “If everyone jumped off a cliff, would you jump off, too?” It was once the statement of everyone’s mother. Now it has become the words of a cult leader. "What’s wrong with ‘everyone else?' Why are you making out as though you are better than they?” And if a family head maintains standards of discipline – that would appear to be a sure red flag. Who is he or she to seek to control persons that way?

Nations are certainly cults by this new definition. Any military organization is. National sacrifice, long thought laudable, is out of the question today by those intent on avoiding the modern cult label. “Ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country,” are the noble words of former U. S. President John F Kennedy. They are the words of a cult leader today.

In the case of Jehovah’s Witnesses, a group whom the anti-cultists have included in their revised definition, members voluntarily sign on to a program that reinforces goals they have already chosen. Sometimes it is not enough to declare an intention to diet. You must also padlock the fridge. It is not an infringement of freedom to those who have willingly signed aboard. They are always free to diet some place where they do not padlock the fridge if they think that will work for them. Experience shows, however, that not padlocking the fridge results in hefty people. All one need do is ask them.  Not everyone has extraordinary willpower.

If people want to padlock the fridge but they can’t do it because the BITE people say that course is "controlling" and they afterwards pack on the weight that they wanted to avoid, how is that not a violation of their individual rights? The BITE model is based upon a greatly naïve view of human nature, one that is contraindicated at every turn. To switch from food to morality, no group has been able to maintain its deeply-held moral values without members acquiescing to some of the "control" mechanisms that trigger BITE alerts.

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 not come around. Can internal discipline not be a factor? If you have signed on to a model, as Jehovah's Witnesses have, that says Bible counsel works best as guidance in life, you do not want to see it so easily molded by contemporary society. "Tossed about as by waves and carried here and there by the trickery of men," is how Paul puts it at Ephesians 4:14

One tweet from the BITE-man invited all to hear his upcoming podcast, in which he tells how Trump is like a cult leader. When you think half the country has fallen victim to cult manipulation, is it not evidence that you have drunk too much of the Kool-Aid yourself?

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See Part 2 here.

 

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'It's My Party' Plays at the CharBroil Corral

The fellow on the left (stage right) is the driving force of It’s My Party, a recreation of the all-girl groups of the 60’s. Some of the performers (it is an 8 or 9-piece backup band) are high school students, as I’m pretty sure the girl in the middle is. She stood by as I spoke with the one on the right, a college student from out-of-state. Even while working both hands, the drummer beams at the audience for long takes, as though he is P.T. Barnum, so pleased that the audience is enjoying his greatest show on earth. And they did enjoy it. By the end of the show, during which the girls had changed into new outfits (closely resembling a certain sister at the Kingdom Hall), they convincingly transported geezers in the crowd to ‘back in the day.’

 

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The group is thirty years old, and the female performers have been allowed to ‘age out’ several times so as to preserve authenticity. It is a temporary gig, and everyone knows it going in. Hopefully, those who are students get credit for it somewhere, and I said to my wife that they must be drama or music students, but when I spoke to the oldest singer it turned out that she was an economics student. Some of the performers have gone on to professional recognition. They have toured the country, which somehow came as a surprise to me given its local founder and the age of its participants.

Toward the end of the first set, the girls sashay down and invite persons of the audience to dance through a tune with them. Of course, all the guys in the audience remain firmly ensconced in their lawn chairs, for fear of their wives, as did I, but finally one old duffer whose wife had probably died took them up on it. This prompted a few children to join in also, along with their mom.

Later still, the audience was invited onto the dance stage for another number. It was an unusually docile group of bumpkins present. No one responded, save for one awkward couple who essentially leaned on each other for support so that the two-party pile would not collapse in a heap. Therefore, with plenty of space available, I led the lovely Mrs. Harley (don’t kid yourself – the woman’s a looker) up front to do the slow number and then the performers tricked us into remaining by saying they had another one. The other one was much bouncier and that is what we did – bounce. Seldom, in fact probably never, have we had such floor space to show off our moves, and the girls commended us later, I don’t think patronizingly, but you never know.

When they finished the first set and disappeared I predicted that they would emerge with new outfits. My wife took this as a no-brainer. “Oh yeah. Freshen up. Take a potty break. Have a drink. (Atypically for her: “Smoke a joint. I mean, get real.”) But it is hard to think that these girls would know how to smoke a joint if they wanted to, unlike those at the Grateful Dead tribute band that played on another occasion, where it was hard to believe that they would do anything else. Afterwards, I observed to Sienna, the economics student, that it must be strange for them to transport themselves into a much different age. I mean, these are not exactly feminist songs they are rolling out for the crowds. But she said that the music they were performing was from ‘a better time.’ Maybe she was just placating the duffers and the three collapse on each other in laughter afterwards, but it seemed reasonable to suppose that she was sincere in saying it. Even the duffers in the audience rolled their eyes at some of the corn, for they are not immune to contemporary times, even if they have not fully been molded by them.

This is the third time I have heard the group. The first time, with a different set of singers, was entirely by accident, back when I was working at the group home, and I wrote about it here:

After the meal, we drive over to the Fairport commons area - Liftbridge Park - to hang out a bit. We're in luck. Lots is happening - a classic car show and a live band. I wheel Doug near the band, an all-girl group called It's My Party, who perform songs from the early 60's, and perform them very well. They have matching outfits, just like in the 60's, synchronized gestures, and ... um...some campy 60's dialog between songs. The drummer is their producer, and their website says they have performed for 20 years. How can that be, since the singers themselves are yet high-schoolers? Ah, the producer has been around that long, and maybe some of the backup musicians, of which there are 8 or 9 - are some of them high-schoolers, too? The girl singers have been replaced once or twice.

Many in the audience are older folk - revisiting their youth, one suspects - and after the show, a woman remarks on the lankiest singer's long limbs. "Yeah, it's hard to get clothes," the performer replies. Actually, I thought she said it's hard to get close. That would fit too, for the trio accentuate their songs with 60's cheerleading gestures, arms flailing like windmills.

Doug is captivated by all this. You want to leave? I ask after a few songs. Slight but emphatic shake of the head no. You want to stay? Slight but emphatic shake of the head yes. You want one of their CDs? Yes. So we wait in the lineup, which really isn't wheelchair accessible, and they sign his copy with hugs and kisses - xxooxxoo. Of course, Doug solicits actual hugs and gets them from the girl or two closest to him. Backing out, he keeps it up and gets several more hugs from other girls....you know...girls in the audience, girl friends of the singers, and so forth!

Back at the home I write up a report - they like to keep track of social progress and "if it's not documented, it didn't happen." I tell about all the hugs and conclude with the question: "How does he do that?" I mean, it's not as though anyone offered to hug me. You don’t think I need hugs, too?

Though you cannot see him at all, positioned behind the middle singer as he is, the male guitarist had the most clear voice and playing for covering tunes such ‘Our Last Kiss’ whilst the girl singers wailed accompaniment. Garrison Keillor called such songs ‘teen-age self-pity songs’ and it is not hard to see why:

“The squealing tires, the busting glass, the painful screams that I heard last…

Well, when I woke up the rain was pouring down,

There were people standing all around.

Something warm running in my eyes,

But I found my baby somehow that night.

….She said ‘Hold me darling for a little while,’

I held her tight, I kissed her our last kiss,

I found the love I knew I would miss..”   and so forth.

Keillor responded with his own ‘dad self-pity song’ in which ‘the car slid through the mud, they heard a sickening thud. “Oh, Daryl,” Janie cried, “Is it bad?” “Yes,” he choked back tears, “it is my mom and dad.”

Daryl cradles his dying daddy’s head to hear this last words….and it is the same drivel that the old man said when he was healthy, matters pertaining to going to college and getting a good education, but also matters more mundane, like changing the oil every 3-4000 miles, and ‘when you go into the fridge to pour yourself some milk, don’t open a new container. Pour from the one already opened.’

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Ben Franklin Gets Jilted and Flip-Flopping on the Resurrection

Ben Franklin courted the widow of his good friend, but the woman turned him down flat: ‘I could never be untrue to my husband.’ Then, in a dream, he went to heaven and met his good friend. They exchanged pleasantries until the friend presently said: “You must meet my new wife. She’ll be along soon.” Ben Franklin couldn’t believe it. ‘Your earthly wife is more loyal than you!’ he said. She turned me down cold on your account!’ ‘That’s too bad for you,’ the friend said. ‘She is an excellent woman and I missed her terribly at first, but now it is time to move on.’

As Ben Franklin grumbled, the ‘new’ wife showed up and it was Ben’s own deceased wife! Ben Franklin turned his rebuke on her, but she said: ‘I was a good and loyal wife to you for 50 years. Let that be enough for you!’

It is a mangling of Luke 20: 34-36, most likely, botched, but nonetheless used as a starting point. No need to say what is wrong with it. Suffice that it addresses the changed nature of relationships after death:

“Jesus said to them: ‘The children of this system of things marry and are given in marriage, but those who have been counted worthy of gaining that system of things and the resurrection from the dead neither marry nor are given in marriage. In fact, neither can they die anymore, for they are like the angels, and they are God’s children by being children of the resurrection.’”

For the longest time Jehovah’s Witnesses took those verses to mean that those who lost a spouse in death would not reunite in the earthly resurrection. The words were in response to a beef of the Saduccees, who did not believe in the earthly resurrection. Jesus went on to speak of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, who will benefit from it.

After a certain public talk years ago that had mentioned the verse, a sister raised her had during the chairman’s remarks, something I had never seen before and have not seen again. She was new in the faith, widowed, and she looked forward to reuniting with her husband in the resurrection. She quizzed the chairman until the speaker himself raised his hand and said he would clarify the verse for her afterwards.

About 30-40 years ago, the Witness organization looked at the verses anew and said maybe she could reunite. They didn’t want to be dogmatic. Maybe the verses just applied to those having the heavenly hope, as they were the ones in abundance back then. It can’t even be said of earthly ones “neither can they die anymore.” They can, and surely will, if they show a rebellious spirit. I mean, if you were raised up to life on a paradise earth, would you grumble about the ground rules? And who is the that is "counted worthy" of an earthly resurrection? Essentially, all you have to do to qualify is to show up; it is "the righteous and the unrighteous" who benefit.

Grousers who say that Jehovah’s Witnesses flip-flop on doctrine miss the point. They’ve never said they didn’t. They do it all the time, re-examining verses in the face of accumulating knowledge. It has been called ‘the light getting brighter.’ (Proverbs 4:18) It has also been called tacking. The only ones who say they can’t do it are the grousers themselves.

That said, the major teachings of Jehovah’s Witnesses regarding the nature of God (no Trinity), the nature of the soul (not immortal), who goes to heaven (not everybody good, but only a minority), have been firmly in place for over a century. Ridding the false doctrines that make knowledge and a close relationship with God all but impossible is part of the job of ‘the messenger preparing the way.’ The first thing you do in preparing the way for a building project is to take out the trash.

(the Ben Franklin writing is called 'A Proposal to Madame Helvetius')

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How Difficult a Thing to Stay Neutral

I like how the Watchtower Study meeting Sunday, dealing with political neutrality, distinguished between support, tacit support, opinion, and strong opinion.
 
All human governments and political parties are going to drop the ball. Usually it is a bowling ball. The only remaining question is upon which toe will it land. As people ponder the vulnerability of their right toes and left toes, they may well develop opinions.
 
If so, keep them from being ‘strong opinions’ and certainly do not lend support or ‘tacit support‘ and absolutely do not bring it into the congregation, where it can do nothing but divide.
 
Brother Jackson acknowledged just how hard that is to do, in saying or even thinking ‘I hope that ‘idiot’ doesn’t get into power.’ It is impossible to hear that without wondering what idiot he has in mind, notwithstanding that he gave another experience from Australia back in the day. That was back in the day, long ago. He’s done nothing but think about it since then? Or does he have something more modern in mind?
 
A sister at the Hall commented how hard it is to stay neutral when prominent leaders are separating children from their parents. Even that statement is political, another pointed out (not publicly) since the countertake is to point out that one should not put children in the illegal situation where that is going to happen.
 
This made me also wonder after the study if maybe the universal grousing about taxes, which many do, which (gasp) even I have done, is not political. Jesus simply said ‘pay them,’
 
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Standing Up For Your Beliefs in Class

At the Regional Convention, at least half of the videos were directed at young people. This is good because they are under more peer pressure than most not to 'go along with the crowd.' All young people experience this pressure, but Jehovah's Witnesses youth more than usual because what they stand for is more specific and the degree to which they stand is more determined. Besides, there are many young people who resolve the pressure not to go along with the crowd by going along with the crowd. Sometimes they go so far as to answer the wise words of their mama, "If everyone jumped off of a cliff, would you jump off, too?" with a "That's what I'm talkin about!"

Such talks at the convention would feature some Bible character doing something that took guts, and then the modern video application have some young person taking a bold stand based upon consideration of it. I don't remember the specific talk, but I do remember the specific video of a high school girl saying how she was really quite shy but got into the habit of, right from the start, at school's opening intro 'show and tell' session, reveal that she was one of Jehovah's Witnesses and thereafter let it be known, when all the kids are quizzing each other as to what they did on the weekend, that she engages in spiritual activity during much of that time. That is all she did.

"People started coming to me with their problems," she relates. Upon establishing herself as a member of something she thinks works better, all she has to do is be nice, cooperative, friendly, and it is easier for her to stand firm when peer pressure to do something she thinks wrong comes her way. People approached her, she said, and to the extent they did, she was ready to discuss what she had and how she found it had worked for her. Let me tell you, it works way better than haranquing people over religious doctrine, which few in the West care much about anyway, and the ones that do are inclined to do nothing but argue over it.

The Watchtower Study Sunday furthered that basic youth-supporting theme, with paragraphs discussing various situations. When another student approaches her teacher, and you know it is a science teacher because of the ascending apelike creatures on the chart in the background, she does not have to convince him to turn the whole troupe around and march them back into the slime from whence they came; he is not going to do that. All she has to do is tell him that she doesn't buy it. It is undermining to her faith and it is not sufficiently logical to be allowed to do that. To overturn the common sense model seen everywhere else that anything made has a maker and the more complicated the made thing is the smarter the maker must be will take proof more conclusive than what is offered.

Even the teacher, though he may mutter a bit, may be able to live with this because Watchtower publications speak of the six days of creation being "epochs" and the period prior to their commencement being "aeons." Jehovah's Witnesses are not young-earth creationists.

When the Watchtower wants to suggest a biology teacher, always the ascending ape chart is in the background; that's how it is done. It probably is done everywhere, not just in the Watchtower, for that one chart instantly conveys the idea as nothing else does. Icons are everywhere. Sometimes they are not even accurate. When a scientist was impressed with a discussion between he and I and wanted to reproduce it on his own blog, he represented himself with a double-helix. I got stuck with a cross! So I told him Jehovah's Witnesses do not believe that Jesus died on a cross but on an upright stake. "I knew that, actually," he said, "but an upright stake makes a ridiculous looking icon." What could I say? I had to bear my cross.

Several videos (back to the Regional Convention) feature Witness youths being put down, sometimes even by the teacher, and thereafter mustering up boldness to ask to address the whole class, always (in the cases shown) winning respect from students and teachers alike.

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Let us Appreciate Brother Lett

From the final chapter of Tom Irregardless and Me, the chapter in which I try to tie up many loose ends, I threw in this little snippet: "Brother Lett gave a talk in the Ministry School and was given a ‘W’ (work) for gestures. Surely if he applies himself he can learn to be more expressive!”


It is almost like what they said about Jesus, though not with the same degree of admiration: “Never has another man spoken like this.” As one brother put it: "Let no one ever think that Jehovah's organization uses paid actors.”


Witnesses love this guy. He KNOWS he is nutty and he builds upon it as a strength rather get all bashful over it. If I had any doubt about that, it was erased at the behind-the-scenes broadcast that explained how such broadcasts are produced. As he is beaming in the chair and assistants are dabbing him with make-up, the voice-over (his) says that the final step is to apply make-up to the host so that he “looks his best!” He knows he is a nut. A guy that knows how not to take himself too seriously is a precious guy to have around. There are far too many people who do not suffer fools gladly – and a fool is anyone who disagrees with him.


That Lett is not one of them affords him huge respect in my eyes. It’s not so much where you are but how far you have come. When a Christian Life and Ministry program suggested that we think of brothers we appreciate, I picked two not commonly recognized. They are both from a pronounced socially awkward background, and they both have overcome it to serve capably in roles that anyone would have previously thought were forevermore beyond them. They are not “heavy hitters,” in my view, and probably never will be, but they are solid and respected. In an age where elders seldom have to give talks but just use discernment in applying Q&A sessions and though personal interactions, it is enough.


What does Jesus three times tell Peter, recently returned from one of the greatest failures in history? “Feed my little sheep.” It is not your stellar brilliance that is going to make you most effective in doing that. It is the love that you show, and Lett shows it in spades.


In the August broadcast, he gives one of the most ridiculously over-the-top illustration that I have ever heard, in which volunteers are supplied 2-inch brushes to paint the Kingdom Hall and everyone knows that is a crazy way to do it. On and on he goes about some grumbling that 4-inch brushes would make more sense, even six inch brushes, even rollers. And why not go all the way and rent a spray painter? Or hire a contractor? And, come to think of it, someone else grouses, the Kingdom Hall doesn’t need painting in the first place. Furthermore, Lett almost makes this the central issue before all creation, with God potentially saddened because the friends are bickering over the tiny brushes and the Devil is jumping for joy at their disunity, as though neither one of them really has much to do up there in heaven. (a brother at an assembly applied the analogy, a bit more fittingly, to Satan being unhappy about the decision baptismal candidates had made to dedicate their lives to God. But don’t worry about it, he went on to say, “He’s not usually happy.”)


Tempering this verdict of the illustration being ‘ridiculous’ is that Brother Lett admits from the start that it is over-the-top. It is an hyperbole, and the man himself is an hyperbole. And come to think of it, anyone familiar with the gospels knows that Jesus uses hyperbole all the time. Through their exaggeration, they have the advantage that anyone of common sense and unhardened heart instantly gets the point.


They also have the advantage that anyone ‘wise in their own eyes’ and too enamored with ‘critical thinking’ does not, and thus these people are sifted out. I begin to think that hyperbole is a tool in the toolbox that serves to fulfill Jesus’ words at Matthew 11, on how God has “hidden these things from the wise and intellectual ones and revealed them to babes,” and is even a way in which he “catches the wise in their own cunning,” the “wisdom of this world” being “foolishness” in his eyes. I mean, if the stuff is so great, show me the peaceful world it has collectively produced. Real wisdom should enable diverse people to overcome divisions and work smoothly together, and that is a sub-theme of Lett’s illustration.


You should have heard how some of these latter ones savaged him! ‘Classic JW thinking. So typically black and white.’ But just because there is black and white thinking does not mean some things are not black and white, and not long ago, a car group of sisters was rear-ended by a cop in an actual black and white because he was not single-mindedly focused upon his driving. It is possible to overthink things.


Though these are NOT the people that those of critical thinking pay any attention to, most persons in the world are quite simple, and thus so are Jehovah’s Witnesses, who draw disproportionately from this pool. One out of six persons in the world today cannot read. Do the wise ones of this system of things even know these people exist? The Watchtower produces simplified versions of material already written simply so as to reach them.


There is an apocryphal story that one of the Governing Body told Lett to “stop acting like an idiot.” It is impossible to know with apocryphal stories what are true and what are concocted. That said, as I close my eyes, I can see it, for the two are vastly different in presentation. Even that ‘mystery’ serves to beneficially separate people, as some dismiss it with a ‘who cares?’ and some obsess over it. It is not unlike when Rex Tillerson supposedly called Trump a moron and news media suspended all other activity to find out whether he really did or not, a quest that continued even after Tillerson himself called a news conference to say: “Back where I come from, we don’t have time for that nonsense.”


That is another way in which people are separated today. One person’s nonsense is another person’s manna.

[Edit: It turns out that Brother Lett has grappled with Bell's palsy, which paralizes facial muscles on the affected side, and as part of rehab, he got into the habit of exagerated facial movements, a habit that stuck, or is perhaps even still advisable. The elder telling me this said, when I pressed him, that he had it "on good authority." Knowing him, I rate it as probably a 90% chance. So you never know. You just don't. All the people saying nasty things about him are no doubt hanging their heads in shame just about now. Imagine! Calling such a man a nut! Who would ever do such a slanderous thing?]

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They Kick the Tires

I follow some malcontents on Twitter because they reliably inform me of developments I may want to address. If they wise up, I simply follow others, as there are many. But they don't wise up. In fact, many of them live to herald their "good news," almost as though they are JWs themselves

I don't do it for the purpose of engaging with them (though it has happened) and I don't consider myself above general counsel to not go there. I am chastened by such counsel and would be much worse without it.

I don't (somewhat) follow such counsel not to go there because I am afraid of men. I do it because I think it is good counsel. If you are determined to lose weight, you do not spend inordinate amounts of time with people who stuff their fridge with candy, cake and ice cream

Ever since inception, Christians have accepted, even embraced, the idea that theirs is a course of self-sacrifice and setting aside immediate desires in temporary pursuit of more urgent concerns. Along come some malcontents in a world that has cast off discipline (and suffered for it, imo)  who say: “Yikes! This involves self-sacrifice and setting aside immediate desires! Who wants that?”

I say, “bring it on.” It is a new front in the age-old war. It is no more than Paul saying in Philippians: “True, some are preaching the Christ out of envy and rivalry, but others out of goodwill. The latter are proclaiming the Christ out of love, for they know that I have been appointed to defend the good news; but the former do it out of contentiousness, not with a pure motive, for they are intending to create trouble for me in my prison bonds. With what result? Only that in every way, whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is being proclaimed, and I rejoice over this.”

I will concede that our people are behind the curve on this. Moreover, perhaps 'behind the curve' is exactly the place to be. The general counsel is to be like Jesus in Matthew 11, who noted that people lambasted him no matter what he did and responded by saying: Full speed ahead! ‘Wisdom is proved righteous by its works.’ I worry about being seen as a bad example, for looking back on the furrows. However, if the headship of Jehovah’s Witnesses ever puts their efforts into it, they will do what they have done with the Internet and what I wrote about in Tom Irregardless and Me:

“In recent years, the Watchtower organization even offers its own programming through a JW Broadcasting streaming channel, a refreshing and most unusual alternative to mainstream TV. Members of the Governing Body thus repeat the pattern they are known for with any new technology: They eye it with suspicion. They advise caution. They know that when the thief switches getaway cars, it is the thief you have to watch, not the dazzling features of the new car. They follow the thief for a time. Convinced at last that they still have a bead on him, they examine the car. They circle it warily, kicking the tires. At last satisfied, they jump in with both feet and put it to good uses its inventors could only have dreamed of.” 

At present, they don't go there with opposers and they certainly will not ever go there in the main. There are too many verses to advise them to keep doing just what they are doing. When the elders said that they would like to use me once more, but - did I argue with apostates? I told them that I did not. However, what I do is close enough that it could easily be misconstrued that way, and so I advised that they really ought not use me in any actual privilege. Look, this is a no-brainer. If you would represent any organization in an appointed capacity, you must adhere to its standards more closely than if you do not represent them in an appointed capacity.

In fact, I may be just kidding myself. If the counsel to teenagers at the circuit assembly is applied to adults, then I am indeed 'arguing' with them. Now, counsel to teenagers is not obligatory for adults. In fact, it is not even obligatory for teenagers, or to their parents who exercise headship. Disobey it flagrantly and you will be thought not a fine example, but it is not obligatory. Disobey it flagrantly and it may head you into ruin, which is the point of the counsel to begin with, but it is not obligatory. The counsel addresses just one more form of porn to stay away from.

Once in a while, though, you spot three malcontents mugging your friend Job, and you try to be like Elihu and take them out - in one grand speech, not through give and take chitchat. Ideally, the heavens will roar approval and some angelic creature will descend to kick them in their behinds. But other times, they glance down from their newspapers, rustle the pages to change the picture, and resume. You don't know until you know. You don't get smart-alecky with the king and say: "Your fire won't singe us." You say: "If it to be our God can deliver us out of your hand, you big jerk." [last three words mine] Time will tell.

And every once in a while David comes along and says: "Look, I took out the bear. I did serious damage to the lion. I'm pretty sure I can take out this big lout taunting the battle lines of the living God."

Christianity is among the greatest themes of all time. Battling 'apostates' is one of the greatest themes within Christianity. There is not a New Testament writer who does not deal with it, even devoting entire chapters to it, and in Jude's case, a whole book. He was just be-bopping along, writing another dull letter that would have settled into the dustbin of Christian history, when:

"although I was making every effort to write you about the salvation we hold in common, I found it necessary to write you to urge you to put up a hard fight for the faithe that was once for all time delivered to the holy ones. My reason is that certain men have slipped in among you who were long ago appointed to this judgment by the Scriptures; they are ungodly men who turn the undeserved kindness of our God into an excuse for brazen conduct."

Admin is embarrassed that there are so many religious nuts on his forum. He wants them to remain, of course, because traffic means recognition and, ultimately, money, but just post on more learned things so that he can hold his head high among the Internet titans that he wants to hang out with. In fact, he should tell the Internet titans to go jump in the lake. By looking down upon the corporate agendas of faithful Christians, which they will invariably have the moment they move out from their parents' basement, he is missing out on the greatest drama of all time.

As Sherlock says: "It's Game On!"

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Touring the Martin Van Buren Home

“I Martin Van Buren, of the town of Kinderhook, county of Columbia, state of New York, once governor of the state, more recently president of the United States, but for the last and happiest years, farmer of my native town…” Thus begins the will of Martin Van Buren, and I thought well of the man for having his priorities straight.


I confess I didn’t know much about Martin Van Buren till a recent tour of his home in upstate New York, near the Hudson. More or less, I had assigned him to the list of ‘duds’ who were presidents from Andrew Jackson up to Abraham Lincoln. Upon my excepting Van Buren, the guide let my observation about duds stand, with the observation that no president served more than one term during those years, since “the challenges leading up to Civil War were thought to be unaddressed by those presidents.” It is not for a National Park Service Department of the Interior tour guide to suggest that former chiefs-in-state were duds, and I was content to not be dismissed altogether, for I really don’t know much. As it was, Van Buren lost his bid for a second term to a dud. A depression allowed his enemies to characterize him, a tavern owner’s son educated in a one-room schoolhouse, as the aristocratic high-rolling “Martin Van Ruin,” to his political ruin. However, the dud lived only 30 days before succumbing to pneumonia, which is, in fairness, a little too soon to definitively label him a dud, but his Vice President successor (whose identity escapes me—someone else will have to get on it) was a fellow who was never imagined for the Presidency and is more aptly considered a genuine dud.


The opening film they show you at the visitor center of the Van Buren home is among the most compact language-wise that I have seen, with every line conveying a solid and interesting fact. He was the eighth president of the United States, and the first to be actually born in the country. He was the founder of the first political party, which in time became the Democratic Party. Until then, it was expected that men would come and go as independent gentlemen and would settle their differences unbuttressed by political ‘party.’ In fact, some of them settled their differences through duel, a favorite technique of Andrew Jackson, whom Van Buren served under as Vice President before running for the chief office himself. Aaron Burr famously plugged Alexander Hamilton in a duel, and the guide confirmed as probably true what I had heard—that Hamilton loathed the idea of taking a man’s life and so fired into the air, a strategy not employed by his rival.


The house has a curiously cobbled feel to it, notwithstanding what my cousin (the one who restores original Mustangs) matter-of-factly observed, that there are only so many ways in which you can add rooms to a house. The house did indeed undergo major expansion under the direction of a Van Buren son, and the by-that-time former president writes that he is amused to see what his heir will do with it. Perhaps the feature most ‘clunky’ is the major dining room, which accommodates 18 chairs, and more closely resembles a widened hallway, with no windows, with exterior lighting only on one end and sometimes on the other if the door is opened. There is a chandelier overhead and the guide explained that she would normally have activated it, but an employee had accidentally taken the remote home recently and it had not yet returned. This led me to do my bit for history and suggest that Van Buren would never have allowed use of the remote to prevent just that catastrophe. The cobbled look dissipates once you go to the top floor, where massive bedrooms surround a spacious common area. One room had strewn on the floor toys of the era, which added to the impression that Van Buren did indeed many enjoy his latter enjoyable days in his large home, surrounded with children and grandchildren.


Though the man had once been President, the 1850 census listed his occupation as farmer. There was some sort of a survey form one could fill out at the end for critiquing the tour. I don’t bother with that sort of nonsense when it is business, since most often they are trying to ascertain just how little service they can get away with until customers scream or, more to the point, leave. This one I filled out gladly, however, and dropped it in the mail. I gave it high marks.

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Defending Jehovah’s Witnesses with style from attacks... in Russia, with the ebook ‘I Don’t Know Why We Persecute Jehovah’s Witnesses—Searching for the Why’ (free).... and in the West, with the ebook ‘TrueTom vs the Apostates!’ (free)