On top of Gotham, way way up there on that crazy high tower, Batman confronts his nemesis. “Now I’m going to kill you!” he snarls. “You’re going to kill me? You made me!” the Joker screams. But Batman is not to be outdone. That young punk who became the Joker murdered his parents long ago—gunned them down in cold blood before the impressionable lad’s eyes, plunging him forevermore into a twisted life of crusading revenge. “I made you? You made me!” he growls. Jack Nicholson does an aside: “I say he made me. He says I made him. How childish!” he mimics, before taking a punch that flattens his face.
I’m with Batman. My own nemesis, the sinister Admin, turned my life and me into a freak show. I was a happy Bible Student, crossing every ‘t’ and dotting every ‘i,’ the way that they do. I stumbled upon three apostates beating up on my friend Job. I lurked in the background like Elihu, where I got madder and madder. Finally, I destroyed them all through sheer verbiage. God beamed approval from the heavens when Elihu did it. He had something darker in mind for me. Or at least he kept his cards to himself.
I mulled what my sorry life had become as I spit those same words to Admin: “You made me!” I hurled him over the parapet to his certain death, just like the Joker had hurled Kim Bassinger. I expected to hear a terrified and fading “Ahhhhhhhhhh!” followed by a faint but satisfying “Splat!” Instead, there was only silence. Kim had saved herself by grabbing onto a ledge. Admin had saved himself by grabbing onto the fact that it was all digital. I’ve never met him in person. It didn’t happen.
When Admin saw how I had beaten up those apostates he assigned me to headline a thread entitled ‘TrueTom Versus the Apostates.’ I protested. I didn’t want the job. I don’t go out of my way to pick fights with these characters. My protest fell upon deaf ears. So I warmed to the idea and went after them with such ferocity that the same Admin who put me on the thread pulled me off it, threw both me and the thread into the abyss, and slapped me with an ‘A’ for abuse. I think the final straw came when I posted that my foes, although united in apostasy, probably would not be able to stand one another in person, drawing upon some unpleasant idiosyncrasies they had revealed. I wore my ‘A’ with shame, like Hester Prynne of long ago. In time, it ceased to be a drawback and became an honor, also like with Hester Prynne of long ago. ‘Presto’ was formed my new identity, both a blessing and a curse.
I had gradually acquiesced to my new role. But then, as though it were not enough to ruin my old life, he tried to ruin my new one—the one he had assigned me. “Hey, knock it off there!” he shouted, as I was trading barbs with villains and semi-villains, saints and semi-saints. I don’t think it was just me he was mad at. It wasn’t even mainly me, and maybe not me at all—but the story is just so much better if you make the facts work for you rather than suffer them to be your master.
From his pontifical post he thundered: “I would just like to state for the record that as the owner of this website, I do not like pejorative labels. ‘Label’ and ‘Kill’ seems to be the way most groups continue to operate nowadays. I realize that all you different religions are free to exercise what you believe in, however I would like to push my own point of thought that we all should try to stop using labels on people. I keep seeing different religions on here use the pejorative label “apostate.” Why does anyone in 2018 still subscribe to this antiquated way of thinking?
“And IF by chance you still do subscribe to this religious mentality, please realize that the rest of the world doesn’t care about how you label others.
“They have MOVED ON.
“Try to keep up, people.
“This technology alone is proving far superior to any fear-based religion. Both pro and anti-religious groups should try to avoid labels and stick to facts.
“- End of rant.”
It’s over when I say it’s over. I fired back:
“Why does anyone in 2018 still subscribe to this antiquated way of thinking?” Because it is a significant sub-theme of the New Testament. There is no New Testament writer that does not deal with it. Two entire chapters are devoted to it. Jude was about to write a bland letter that would have entered the dustbin of canon history, but:
“I found it necessary to write you to urge you to put up a hard fight for the faith 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 and who prove false to...” and so forth.
“They have MOVED ON. Try to keep up people.”
“Possibly they have moved on, but the overall state of the world does not make clear that having “moved on” is for the best. Gadgets have improved, granted, and people do have to clean up after their dogs today, but an overall sense of well-being? Whether “keeping up” in the sense you mean is a good thing is highly debatable. Furthermore, if you think this is so horrible, show me the civility in the greater political world. Be sure not to miss the ‘gentleman’s disagreement’ involving the Supreme Court Kavanaugh nomination today. Show me the love-in between GOP and DEMS, or medical vs alternative, or atheist vs religious person, or scientist vs metaphysics. And make sure to tell me how the Russians and Chinese are allegedly hacking into Western computers so that say a friendly ‘hello.’
“It could be argued that you are missing the most significant development of all time, as you lambaste those debating issues of eternity in favor of those squabbling over matters that will only be personally relevant for a few decades until they die.
“End of rant.
“Having said that, I can easily see how this could drive a guy nuts. Just for the record, I think some participants here are barely sane. I won’t say that I have never used the word “apostate’’ but I have tried to be sparing with it, in favor of such words as ‘opposer’ or ‘detractor’ And I deliberately try to defuse super-intense threads with what I hope passes for humor. I stay primarily because I benefit by testing out lines that I know will be thrown back in my face. I get to refine my own writing thereby, like a scientist studying data. I’ve been able to write an absolutely unique book in this manner. A writer not only needs a muse. He also needs a villain, and here there are villains galore.
“It is pretty rough on those who don’t speak the lingo, though. I do appreciate that. I hope that you take it in the right spirit when I jokingly put you entering the annual Conference of Internet Magnificents, casually mentioning your traffic so as to impress the big boys, only to be told ‘Big Deal. They’re all religious nuts. Come back when you have people who know where the ground is.’”
Apostates and loyal ones unite! At last we have found common cause! Let us band together and beat up on Admin, who presumes to break up our riotous party! If we want to ruin his website, what’s that to him? I will even be gracious and concede that you fellows won a round. You correctly predicted that he would ‘lose it’ on a weekend. I could have sworn it would have been on a weekday.
Like the spoken word of God in the New Testament, the spoken word of Admin is rare on this religious portion of his website, which is presided over by another. I can recall only one other time that he spoke from on high, even coming down on the side of the good guys. “Geez, you guys are a piece of work!” he thundered from above. “If Watchtower legal wanted me to take down their copyrighted artwork, I would do it in two seconds.” The occasion was that Watchtower had written just that concern, and certain malcontents used to putting their work in different context and beating them over the head with it were screaming to high heaven about “free speech.”
Probably Admin knows that not one Witness he sees here on his website is a typical Witness. They are all rogue to one degree of another, self included. They all have their own individual reasons for being here. None of them are heeding the Witness organizations’ preference not to engage in disputes with determined opposers.
Witnesses are encouraged by their organization not to dispute. Whatever one may think about Jehovah’s Witnesses, one must concede that they endeavor to present their message with dignity, be it door-to-door, their website, or the recent innovation of cart witnessing. The dignity disintegrates when they come online to brawl, which is why the organization prefers that they not do it. Debate doesn’t work well, anyway. Jesus routinely resorted to tactics that would infuriate any devotee of debate, answering questions with counter-questions, raising straw man arguments, spinning complex parables that he rarely explained—let the heart figure it out. Put your version of truth out there, and if they reject it, they reject it.
What! Is it cheap entertainment we are speaking of? Jesus said religious truth would be “the pearl of great price” that you must “exert yourself vigorously” to lay hold of. He didn’t say it was a fine thing to tilt back the easy chair and wait for the winner of a debate to toss it to you. Debate focuses attention, not on the merits of any given idea, but on the skill of the debater. In debate school, one is taught to argue both sides of a given argument. That fact ought to suffice to assess “debate” as a way to arrive at truth.
You would never know it from online forums, but the best way to uncover how most Witnesses feel about their governing arrangement is to attend a Regional Convention. The line that invariably brings down the house with applause is: “Would you like to send your greetings to the brothers in Bethel?” But as I was chewing out Admin for trying to salvage his own website, a villain by the name of John was listening! He chimed in: “Yes, it’s all puppet fashion and tradition. It is so corny. It is the expected thing, so they have to do it.”
I reflected upon this: “You know, you may have a point. I have looked closely at these times and I can tell that they don’t want to applaud. They really really don’t want to applaud. But then they notice an elder glowering at them and sweat breaks out on their brow. In some cases, they wet their pants. In the end, even though they hate the thought, they clap and clap and clap. Sometimes their hands turn to mush and the paramedics have to haul them away for first aid. Sheesh. I mean, it is possible to overplay the paranoia card. They applaud because they liked the program and appreciate the work of those that put it together.”
Lest Admin chew us out again for not displaying mutual love, I addressed his prior: “LABEL and KILL seems to be the way most groups continue to operate nowadays:”
“When you cite Jehovah’s Witnesses, you are citing almost the only example you could cite that disproves your point. Categorically, they will not kill or be maneuvered by the national king into killing. How bad can they be?”
I even took him up on his: “This technology alone is proving far superior to any fear-based religion:”
“Is it? I’ll even call you on this. The general reality is that social media is more apt to spread hate than resolution. Religion, however, at its best, will spread love in a way that your technology could not even dream of.
“And what is this about ‘fear-based religion?’ How often in Scripture is the expression ‘Fear God’ or ‘Fear Jehovah?’ Almost 40. I counted. It is ‘fear’ in the same sense children used to routinely fear their parents, out of love and respect—fear of displeasing them—with punishment only a background concern.
“Increasingly the ones to be feared are the “anti-cultists” who expand the definition of a pejorative word so as to cover people they don’t like. Under the guise of protecting them from ideas they don’t want heard, their Russian soul-brothers have gone so far as to arrest them and steal all their property. A fine way to protect the civil rights of the enemy soldiers is to kill off their generals. That way you can absorb them.”
The reckless appellation of the C-word is essentially hate speech. It is above and beyond any specific arguments for or against Witnesses, which is always fair game to be countered or acceded to. It has inspired violence not only in Russia, but also in the United States. During 2018, several arson attacks were launched against Kingdom Halls in Washington state. Two burned to the ground. Arguments are one thing, but screaming ‘cult’ whips the crazies into a lather. Anti-cultists will howl in a heartbeat if the political party they favor is the target of perceived hate speech from the other side. But when it comes to their own hate speech, they become obtuse. Everyone knows what a cult is, and everyone knows that Jehovah’s Witnesses are not it, regardless of how strenuously the champions of conformity try to rewrite the dictionary to make it appear so.
I returned to Admin: “If you must carry on about ‘this technology,’ consider this paragraph from Tom Irregardless and Me as to how the Witness organization uses it:
“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.”
Whoa! John took advantage of my distraction to post: “I have been there and done all of that. It’s hype. They are conditioned to “like the program.” We were all expected to applaud.”
Once again, I acquiesced. I am that sort of a guy:
“I will go further to confess what I have never confessed before. Our body of elders used to rent a prison bus to round up the publishers and make them go to the convention. They made me drive. I didn’t want to, but they made me, using mind-control. The friends didn’t want to go. None of them did. They used to hide in the bushes when they saw me pulling up in the prison bus. But the elders had ordered me to stuff them in nice clothes by force if necessary. Oh, how my conscience torments me now.”
John: “The kids are ordered to answer up in Watchtower studies and made to pre-study for hours and write down long answers, which in truth they don’t even understand. They just answer parrot fashion.”
“That’s nothing!” I shot back. “I have seen children actually confined in oversized parrot cages until they finished studying their lessons, at which time, if they were lucky, they might be given a cracker.”
I thought that I heard Admin weeping at this point, and I felt sorry for him. Even I thought it was getting to be a bit much. I had chosen not to respond to his “Geez, you guys are a piece of work.” What could I have told him—that we’re not?
It is high time that we proceed to examine the adversary.
From the book TrueTom vs the Apostates!