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They Surrounded the Hall With Torches!

Guarding the Assembly Hall overnight, the way we used to do, sitting in that guardhouse with hourly walkarounds, it was peaceful and anything but exiting. I checked the logbook of previous shifts, updated hourly.

“All’s quiet”

“Peaceful “

“No problems” and so forth. 

I thought that I would liven things up:

“Building is suddenly surrounded by an angry mob carrying torches, led by priests, threatening to burn it to the ground. Partner & I react quickly, confront & tie in knots mob leaders with selected scriptures, they disperse muttering & scratching heads. Like Saul: “But Saul kept on acquiring power all the more and was confounding the Jews that dwelt in Damascus as he proved logically that this is the Christ.” (Acts 9:22)

I felt bad about it the next day. Had I been too flippant with the ‘sacred records’? It was an assembly day & I stopped by to remove the sacrilege. But the old pages were gone & new blank pages added. Was the old the subject of a Wednesday meeting at HQ?

I might not do it today. But then, we long ago decided not to guard it that way, so the opportunity would not come up.

Would I tease the priests that way, today? Yes, probably, for that was clearly in good fun, but I might be slightly more circumspect....though not decline it altogether—about relating of the minister giving the talk who built his theme around such-and-such material: (turn to the verse and it is one of the blanks)

and then the middle and concluding portions around...(two more verses)

with the immediate result that “some began to believe the things said; others would not believe” (Acts 28:24)

and the long-term result that: “The fact is, some were crying out one thing and others another; for the assembly was in confusion, and the majority of them did not know the reason why they had come.” (Acts 19:32)

That one is clearly an inside joke, and even that one I dial back these days. One not get smug.

We came across a clergyman’s house out in the ministry, attached to the church. I made for it, and a companion wanted to come. “Nah, you’ll get into a fight,” I said. I felt bad and had to dig myself out of it later, but not too much because I know it would have gone down that way. He just likes correcting people. 7F6E3DA4-F1C5-45A6-B28D-202F3212759C

 

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)

"We Are Wise and Learned Adults, Far Too Clever to Be Sold Adam and Eve. What's Next - Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck?

I like the way Paul deliberately dialed back on the ‘wisdom.’ Most of his contemporaries would have had to because they didn’t have it. Not so Paul, who was highly educated, and could have gone toe to toe with these characters. He deliberately chose not to. 

And so I, when I came to you brothers, did not come with an extravagance of speech or of wisdom declaring the sacred secret of God to you. For I decided not to know anything among you except Jesus Christ, and him impaled.  And I came to you in weakness and in fear and with much trembling; and my speech and what I preached were not with persuasive words of wisdom but with a demonstration of spirit and power,  that your faith might be, not in men’s wisdom, but in God’s power. (1 Corinthians 2:2-5)

The upshot is that you treat a highly educated person pretty much like anyone else, with only minor adjustments. They just as much as anyone else, have no clue as to why there is suffering, why people die, what happens when they do, why governments suck & so forth. The explanation for them too will lie in discerning what "Jesus Christ, and him impaled" means in practical terms. People do not understand this. Even religious people, as they say to you "Christ died for our sins" are almost always unable to explain just how and why that works.

Show the high-brow people something about Adam & Eve from Genesis, for example, and there is no reason that you can not present it as a metaphor, its underlying message to be deciphered. Let me tell you, there are many people who will be intrigued, rise to the challenge, and even be flattered that you count them smart enough to figure it out. Whereas if you said from the get-go that it was all literal to people conditioned to reject the idea, you know what the reaction would be: “We are wise and learned adults, far too clever to be sold Adam and Eve. What’s next? Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck?”

Focus on the meaning of the account itself (Genesis 3:1-5) without regard to whether it is literal or not. Sometimes when people see how much sense something makes, they reappraise their initial assumptions. 

For a concise explanation of the subject itself, without regard for whether it is metaphor or not - in fact, taking for granted that it is not - I don't think you can do much better than the short clip presented on the JW website:

 

 

 

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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)

Added Chapters to Dear Mr Putin - JWs Write Russia

The following material will be added soon to Dear Mr. Putin - Jehovah's Witnesses Write Russia. One can do that with an Ebook. I had no intention of adding to it when the book was first released, but there are unexpected developments even more eye-opening than what is in the book.

Strangely, also unanticipated, some new material will be added to TrueTom vs the Apostates! and the new books will even share some common last chapters. In Bob Dylan's words: "The game is the same, it is just up on a different level." Fast breaking events everywhere. 

***~~~***

 

At 6:15 AM on February 15, 2019, Timofei Zhukov and his wife were awakened by furious pounding on the door, as though someone would break it down. They didn’t answer and the pounding ceased. Half an hour later their balcony door was broken down. Several riot police stormed into the room. Zhukov was kicked, cuffed, and his head slammed against the wall—'the blood is still on the wallpaper,’ he later told Kommersant, the business magazine. His wife cried in alarm and was cursed for her trouble.1

It was part of a sting operation that netted 40 of Jehovah’s Witnesses in Surgut, Siberia—a major dark turn of events that nobody had anticipated. It had taken 12 officers to detain two Witnesses walking alongside the street, jumping out of three cars to do so.2

Mr. Zhukov was not tortured at the police station, but he did not escape hearing the screams of those seven Witnesses who were—music turned up loud in an effort to mask the sounds, but there was no masking them. He is a lawyer, as it turns out, who once served as assistant prosecutor in the city, and now is legal advisor to a construction firm. “Please register the exact time. Somebody is being beaten here,” he shouted. An FSB agent entered the room and said, “Don’t worry, they do not beat anyone here”—there was a drug addict within who was screaming his head off, he was told. And the former prosecutor had believed it, only discovering the truth later from his brothers who had been on the other side of the door. He told the magazine that “until recently, he could not believe that law enforcement officers could torture believers.”

Though handcuffed for three hours while his home was searched, and beaten on his legs whenever they were judged to be insufficiently far apart, the cuffs were removed for his escort to the waiting vehicle. “We won’t scare people,” he was told. He answered back that he preferred to wear them, for the neighbors had known him his entire life and were in good position to know whether he was a criminal or not. But off they came, and he was placed into the van—not one that said Police but one that bore the markings ‘Northern Roadway,’ as though off for a friendly commiseration with his former colleagues in law, though his smashed-in apartment balcony must have suggested otherwise.

They must have hoped to have kept it under wraps. They must have hoped to cast a pall upon the Witness community, but otherwise not suffer their deeds to see the light of day. How else can one account for such a hurried and stupid explanation, shortly thereafter, that the Witnesses had beaten themselves up (as only a sect member could do) to thwart the police investigation? “After the arrest and searches, they, under the direction of the lawyers who arrived in Surgut, got together and during the meeting struck each other, which could then be presented as evidence of torture,” one “insider” said, for ura.ru. “Well-known lawyers who specialize in representing the interests of the Jehovists throughout the country are involved in the case. Services each cost 5 million rubles. The main task is to ruin the criminal case, to attract public attention.”3 Of course! They must have figured that they had to say something, and quickly, for the accounts of the victims along with undeniable photo evidence4 were promptly shown throughout the world, and the European Court of Human Rights demanded independent investigation.5

Local hospitals told the released victims that would be treated for their injuries, but that those injuries would not be documented.6 Plainly, they had been leaned upon by someone. Surgut, as determined by a rough atlas survey, is the 67th most populous city in Russia. Perhaps authorities hoped there wouldn’t be much of any support, legal or otherwise, for Witnesses way out there, instead of one of the victims actually being a lawyer. Another victim said one agent had told him: “We had to specifically come from Moscow for this.”7 Why couldn’t he have just stayed in Moscow, where Jehovah’s Witnesses surely are more numerous and are having just as great a challenge coping with the Orwellian law that says you can be a Jehovah’s Witness just so long as you do not do any of the things Jehovah’s Witnesses do, which apparently includes existing? No, to this writer, this episode has the earmarks of a deed meant to be done in a remote corner that unexpectedly turned out to be a world stage, necessitating a hasty (and clumsy) response.

Reported Znak.com: “The believers think that all of this was done with just one goal—to beat out ‘evidence necessary to the investigation’ from those who had decided to exercise their right granted by the Russian constitution not to provide evidence against themselves and their associates.” A committee spokesman in the Khanty-Mansi region, Oleg Menshikh, told TASS news agency on February 20 that no law had been violated during the interrogations. “Nobody tortured them,” he said. “There was no physical or psychological pressure on them.”5 But two days later there was an about face, with the same official declaring that the government had decided to probe the claim “given the agitation that has arisen after publication of this information in the media.”8

That’s not entirely promising, a cynic might reply, and many did. Was it not like saying: “Look, if they want an official document saying that we didn’t do it, we can comply with that”? So be it. Whose version of truth will prevail? From within the Nazi death camps, Jehovah’s Witnesses smuggled out detailed diagrams of their layout, and those were published in Watchtower literature.9 They were disbelieved by other media outlets until post-liberation proved them correct in every detail. The Witnesses’ veracity is well established, even by those who don’t like them. On the other hand, stories of abuse, even torture, by Russian police are legion by groups of many different stripes.

Not everything pointed to a quick whitewash. Following an early meeting of the Investigative Committee, Vladimir Ermolaev, a department chief, told Znak.com: "I admit to you that what these people described at the meeting, with these horrible details, all of this shocked me….I cannot describe for you in detail, since nobody has authorized me to do so. But what they said, I registered it all, documented it. I will send all of these materials to the Investigation Department of the S.K.R. for Yugra and to the prosecutor's office of the region.”10 So time will tell.*

When the young boy cries “The emperor has no clothes!” and the latter in response just keeps on strutting his stuff, there’s not much one can do about it other than thoroughly documenting his nakedness and broadcasting it far and wide. This, the organization of Jehovah’s Witnesses have done, most notably through their website. No wonder the urgent need of those who oppose to deprive them of organization.

Jehovah’s Witnesses are regarded by many as the canary in the coal mine. What happens to them may soon happen to others. Two American Mormon missionaries were deported in early March and there were reports that they might be next in line for wider persecution. However, Alexander Verkhovsky, one of the top Russian experts on extremism, xenophobia, nationalism, and human rights, wrote in March 2019, that Witnesses just might become a canary pointing in the other direction. “The growing campaign against Jehovah's Witnesses inspires horror, but it also gives a chance that this time someone will finally catch on and think. [The Witnesses] are too obviously not a threat to security and at the same time they are just as clearly impossible to “eradicate”, since more than 100,000 people cannot be imprisoned or forced out of the country, and Jehovah’s Witnesses have not given up on their faith during difficult times.”11 The situation is too ludicrous, and too unambiguous. The popular mind confuses Muslim groups in a non-Muslim country, so that peaceful Muslim groups are mistaken for groups that have done very bad things. Even Mormons cannot be said to be apolitical—in the United States, they are the most politically polarized of all faiths.12 But Jehovah’s Witnesses have claimed neutrality for their entire existence, and their “pacifist” stance is attested to by all. Just how dangerous can they be? Maybe the recent shocker of torture for a Christian group (Russians are used to it for Muslim activists suspected of “excessive radicalism,” Verkhovsky speculates) will cause the government to recalibrate.

Russian Jehovah’s Witnesses will hope for the best and ever be respectful of government, but they can be forgiven if they become jaded at the speculations of a quick turnaround. They have seen their country sail blithely past many buoys of ludicrousness. Did not Dennis Christensen say that he hoped the judge would be fair, “but he also [knew] what country he lived in?” Did not the country ban a Bible on the basis that it is not a Bible and the entire educated world knows that it is? Did not every interested person in the world see, via the Witness website, video evidence of Russian police in riot gear scaling fences to break down the door of a Kingdom Hall en route to arresting those inside, and the only ones refusing to see it were the ones that had a moral obligation to do so—the Russian Supreme Court? Maybe this buoy will be yet one more left in the wake of the unshamable ship.

Can the Russian authorities be shamed? Possibly not. The ban itself shames them, and they could see it come from miles away but embraced it anyway. The present reality harkens back to what columnist Andrew Sorokowski wrote prior to the ban: “Why would a nation of some 144,000,000 risk its international reputation to persecute a religious sect numbering no more than 175,000 followers?” Nonetheless, trash it they did and it is not so clear when or even if that course will reverse.13

Mr. Verkhovsky takes for granted that Jehovah’s Witnesses will not give up on their faith. How can they? They will recall the verse about paying Caesar’s things to Caesar but God’s things to God. They will think of the verse that says you do not fear the one who can kill the body and afterwards do no more. The one to fear is the one who can take away the soul.14

Though ever a small minority, many have protested the treatment of Jehovah’s Witnesses over the past two years. Atheists have held up banners in support of them. An activist from Kaliningradian scaled a lamppost to hang a sign proclaiming: “Jehovah's Witnesses are banned, they will also ban God.”15 Perhaps he is more accurate than he knows. Nikolai Gordienko, of the Herzen Russian State University in St. Petersburg, once stated “When the experts accuse Jehovah’s Witnesses for their teachings, they do not realize that they are actually making accusations against the Bible.”16 “Of course they are scared,” Yaroslav Sivulskiy tells a source. “But it does not mean that they will cease to be Jehovah's witnesses and do what is important to them…Jehovah's witnesses are good people, but they cannot abandon their faith when the state expects this refusal from them.”17

Just to keep things in perspective—for anyone can be too close to the forest to see the trees—virtually all of Jehovah’s Witnesses were exiled to Siberia during the late 1940s and early 50s. Today, about 200 of them are detained out of a population of 170,000. It is outrageous, of course, and for many there is a sense of waiting for the other shoe to drop. Still, terrible though it may be for those affected individuals, life goes on and most of the Russian Witnesses are not suffering. They are cautious, yes, but they have always been cautious. They know their country. They know their government. They know their police. They've had the potential for trouble for many years and have adjusted. For the vast majority, life goes on as usual: they work, they go to school, they marry, some have children, they visit family both Witnesses and non-Witnesses, they buy groceries, they play in the park.

They know they must be careful, but they have always known it. They note with approval the heightened world and national attention to their faith, even if some individuals endure more than their share of injustice. They strengthen their weak ones. A few have actually stated that the last two years have been good for them because it has strengthened their relationships with each other and with their God.

Russia is a huge country and not everyone plugs into the news. Many only vaguely know of the ban, many don’t care about it, and some, as seen above, actively don’t support it. Nor do they treat their JW acquaintances any differently because of it. This writer is told of one case where a school boss refused to dismiss a Witness employee, telling his superior that she is the best teacher he has and he would hope for more like her. At a certain meeting location held in a private home, a Witness’s unbelieving husbands says: "Everybody knows that you are not extremists." That’s good to hear, for another aftermath of the Surgut episode is that one father of three, a firefighter, was thereafter fired from his job despite triggering no complaints over 20 years, joining many others of similar experience. “My three kids have been crying ever since the operatives barged down the door,” he said. “Now I have no job, but I am certain my God will show me a way through.”18

Says Sivulskiy: “Law enforcement is making monstrous efforts to find clusters of Jehovah’s Witnesses in their small gatherings”—large assemblies are out of the question.19 But Russia is a monstrous country, and efforts have been sporadic. Will they diminish, level off, or intensify? Witnesses recently reconsidered Revelation 2:10: “Do not be afraid of anything that you are going to suffer. Indeed, the devil will throw some of you into prison into prison, that you may be tested, and you will face an ordeal for ten days.” “Some” does not mean “all,” it was observed, as the Witnesses continue to show resolve amidst adversity. They don’t like what is happening, but they always knew that it might.

 

***~~~***

Every religion has its apostates. The trend now is that their activism is in direct proportion to the degree of firmness exercised within their former faith so as to encourage members to stay on the path that they have chosen. Apostates of the world have even united to wage common war against faiths they perceive as having similar attributes. And nobody has apostates more voracious than those of Jehovah’s Witnesses.

Some members of this avid JW-opposer community gloated over this new development. By far, however, the tactics of torture were condemned by that group. Make no mistake, such condemnation is noted and appreciated. However, it is also substantially watered down by the recognition that the goals of the two parties are the same—that Jehovah’s Witnesses cease being Jehovah’s Witnesses. It is only in methods that they differ.

Spiritually speaking, is it not a situation of good cop/bad cop? They hope for the same outcome. The good cop is likely sincere that he does not want you to fall into the clutches of the bad cop, for he knows how bad that bad cop can be. But they both have the same goal. Physically, of course, Jehovah’s Witnesses will far prefer the good cop. They are not superhuman and nobody wants to be mistreated. Spiritually, however, the good and the bad cop is the same. In fact, the good cop may even be worse. A thug is a thug is a thug. His malice is unmistakable and is on plain display. He doesn’t masquerade as a friend whose only aim is to help you. He doesn’t patronize you with a concocted “us versus them” scenario from which he is trying to free you.

The mutual goal is that Jehovah’s Witnesses should no longer be Jehovah’s Witnesses. The shared goal is that talk about the hope of God’s kingdom should stop, and the grapes already on the vine should wither, and to that end there is an effort to strangle the support organization. To be sure, their methods differ. It is as though one faction says to another: “You’re going about it all wrong!” Yet the two factions are working in tandem, pressing for the same end.

As much as the saying goes that “You can fool some of the people all of the time, and all of the people some of the time, but you can’t fool all of the people all of the time,” sometimes you can get pretty close. The majority can be fooled for the longest time. If it were not so, then the prophets of old would not have had the time that they did—a time which was revisited upon Christians of the first century, and a time which is being revisited on Christians in Russia today:

“What more shall I say?” the Bible writer asks. “I have not time to tell of Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, of David and Samuel and the prophets, who by faith conquered kingdoms, did what was righteous, obtained the promises; they closed the mouths of lions, put out raging fires, escaped the devouring sword; out of weakness they were made powerful, became strong in battle….Some were tortured and would not accept deliverance, in order to obtain a better resurrection. Others endured mockery, scourging, even chains and imprisonment. They were stoned, sawed in two, put to death at sword’s point; they went about in skins of sheep or goats, needy, afflicted, tormented. The world was not worthy of them. They wandered about in deserts and on mountains, in caves and in crevices in the earth.”20

Jehovah’s Witnesses will put the experience off as long as they can, thank you very much, but they do not imagine themselves outsmarting the scripture, nor Jesus’s words that his followers would be hated.

Anton Chivchalov, the individual who covered court proceedings via tweet at five minute intervals, per personal email to this writer, offers a gloomy assessment of how Russians view Jehovah’s Witnesses, notwithstanding that there are some who see right through it. “In Russia there are many myths about Jehovah's Witnesses that 99% people believe,” he writes. “They break up families, take people's property, kill their own children by refusing blood transfusion, American spies, want to overturn the government, etc. This is mostly the cause of the hate.”

“Can it really be that high? what with Putin‘s recent statement of seeming support and at least a certain amount of favorable press? Are the human rights people, supportive journalists, and religious scholars all viewed as rabble-rousers?” I asked.

“Yes,” Chivchalov answered. “They are too few. General public still hates Witnesses and approves of the repressions.21 And many people hate human rights movements too (thinking they work for the US).” Jehovah’s people are not wildly popular anywhere, but it appears that in Russia they face the most unhinged opposition, against which they are standing strong. They have this writer’s undying respect.

Timofei Zhukov, the Jehovah’s Witness hauled down to the police station where fellow congregation members were tortured, had this to say to Kommersant: “I will tell you, not as a believer, but as a lawyer—these investigators and [F.S.B agents] esfesbeshniki simply do not know what they are doing. The did not understand anything—whom they are coming to search. what kind of people these are, what they are accused of. It seems that the authorities told them: “There are bad people live there and they are corrupting the state system. Go and do what you want with them.” Where did they get the idea that Jehovah’s Witnesses are bad people?

After the ordeal, Mr. Zhukov spoke with some of his former colleagues, who encouraged him to desist from “such nonsense.” He told them that Witnesses were doing their work for them to a great extent. “You are investigating crime, but you have a problem with prevention. And I come to people and I say: ‘It is bad to steal. It is bad to lie. It is bad to smoke.’” They are not bad people. They are good people. Jerod Kushner, the U.S. President’s son-in-law, well prior to his political days, said of the Jehovah’s Witnesses from whom he would buy property that they were persons of “high integrity” with whom “a handshake deal meant something.” The journalists of Present Time comment to the director of the Sova Center Alexander Verkhovsky, after hearing his description: “Then they look like perfect citizens.” “You see, they would be ideal citizens in some other country,” is the latter’s reply.22 They are not bad people. They are good people. So from where comes the perception that they are bad people?

It is a question that might well have been asked in the first century. The historian Tacitus writes the following about the persecution of Christians after Nero pinned the blame upon them for burning down Rome: "Therefore, to stop the rumor [that he had set Rome on fire], he [Emperor Nero] falsely charged with guilt, and punished with the most fearful tortures, the persons commonly called Christians, who were hated for their enormities. Christus, the founder of that name, was put to death as a criminal by Pontius Pilate, procurator of Judea, in the reign of Tiberius, but the pernicious superstition - repressed for a time, broke out yet again, not only through Judea, - where the mischief originated, but through the city of Rome also, whither all things horrible and disgraceful flow from all quarters, as to a common receptacle, and where they are encouraged. Accordingly first those were arrested who confessed they were Christians; next on their information, a vast multitude were convicted, not so much on the charge of burning the city, as of "hating the human race." In their very deaths they were made the subjects of sport: for they were covered with the hides of wild beasts, and worried to death by dogs, or nailed to crosses, or set fire to, and when the day waned, burned to serve for the evening lights. Nero offered his own garden players for the spectacle, and exhibited a Circensian game, indiscriminately mingling with the common people in the dress of a charioteer, or else standing in his chariot. For this cause a feeling of compassion arose towards the sufferers, though guilty and deserving of exemplary capital punishment, because they seemed not to be cut off for the public good, but were victims of the ferocity of one man."23

Note the dim view of Christians, fully shared by Tacitus. They were “hated for their enormities.” They were readily thought to be persons “hating the human race.” They were the deluded followers of a “pernicious superstition.” The cruel wrath of Nero unleashed genuine compassion, however they were regarded “guilty and deserving of exemplary capital punishment.” How could this have been perceived of Christ’s followers only 35 years after his death?

Professor G. A. Wells, author of The Jesus Myth, writes that “the context of Tacitus’ remarks itself suggests that he relied on Christian informants.”24 Who could possibly have been their “informants?” They could not have been faithful members, for these would not inform. They could not have been non-members, for these would not have anything to inform about. There is little left to choose from other than former disgruntled members—today (and then) we would call them “apostates.” These came to wish their former faith ill. Perhaps some of them even posed as reformers of that faith, whistleblowers to whatever upset them—particularly if they had been ousted for conduct contrary to tenets of the faith.

The parallels are too blatant to ignore. If it was they in former times, how can it not be they in present times? How else can such a manifestly good people—in the first century and in the present—be so widely portrayed as bad? It is the “apostates” that present that picture of good portrayed as bad. It is the apostates that spark the conflagration with unrelenting and incendiary charges. Any student of human nature knows that if you repeat a charge often enough, no matter how unlikely, it impresses itself on the general populace. Surely advertising teaches us that. The match doesn’t catch everywhere, but in Russia if finds the kindling just right—a government hostile for 100 years to the land in which Witness headquarters is located and at the same time in close union with the dominant house Church—a Church hostile to even traditional Christian faiths. It doesn’t happen everywhere. But the apostates ever light the match to encourage conflagration and sometime the planets align.

The religious enemies of Jesus’ day had to be careful: “Then the chief priests and the elders of the people assembled...and they consulted together to arrest Jesus by treachery and put him to death. But they said: ‘Not during the festival, that there may not be a riot among the people.’”25 They could have done it at the festival had the festival been held in Russia. There wouldn’t have been a riot. There would have been widespread approval. They could have done it at the festival had the festival been held in Rome, too. There was widespread approval back then—such is the change in popular perception wrought by then and now apostates.

Kommersant asked Mr. Zhukov why the government persecutes his people and he told them that he didn’t really know—he could speculate, but he didn’t really know.26 It was the same answer as President Putin himself offered just two months ago—he didn’t really know why Jehovah’s Witnesses are persecuted. Mr. Zhukov did note however, that early Christians, too, were called “sectarians” and that they, too, had been persecuted.

Even the Russian president can’t figure it out! Doug Bandow, senior fellow at the Cato Institute, writes that his “comments are hard to explain other than as an expression of genuine puzzlement over so much effort being expended to eliminate an evidently nonexistent threat.”27 How can it not be the machinations of someone devious? What arguments does that international community of apostates/opposers to the faith make? They are settling the score, largely, in the cases of those who were disfellowshipped, spinning for an irreligious world the myth that Jehovah’s Witnesses break up families, a point of view that was not accepted by the European Court of Human Rights: “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.”28 Many, even most today, will look askance at any scenario in which spiritual considerations can trigger a family divide—no matter from which side it arises, but they will not think it an evil that compares with global terrorism. Families have divided since the beginning of time, often for matters far more fleeting than religion. In the West, it is not uncommon for the elderly to be abandoned in nursing homes, never to be contacted again, for no greater reason that they have become inconvenient. It is not something in which governments typically wish to meddle.

No, it makes no sense, the mass portrayal of Jehovah’s Witnesses as “bad people.” If they refuse blood transfusions, surely it must be acknowledged somewhere along the line that progressive doctors have learned to accommodate their point of view, and in so doing, they have devised medicine that is both safer and more cost-effective.29 And, though it has played no part in Russia, a widespread war against child sexual abuse finds Jehovah’s Witness “clergy” accused of covering up pedophilia. This is an unsavory thing, yet they come off almost as knights in shining armor when compared to religious denominations in general in which the leaders themselves have been the pedophile abusers.30

The “us versus them” scenario avidly advanced by apostates has caught on. Roman Silantyev of Moscow State Linguistic University complains that “this sect promotes external and inner extremism, inciting hatred to those who think and believe in a different way and bullying their own members,” and even hopes that “recognizing this sect as extremist [will give] a possibility to dozens of our citizens to leave this concentration camp.” He has been conditioned to misunderstand everything. Jehovah’s Witnesses will continue to carry out the tenets of their religious beliefs, Bandow writes, “because they are operating out of faith rather than compulsion.”31

Silantyev is “crazy” and yet his craziness has spread to influence those whom you would think would not be crazy to act in crazy ways. Writes Bandow: “Moscow denies that it is persecuting JWs for their beliefs. Rather, explained Vyacheslav Lebedev, chief justice of the Russian Supreme Court, ‘the situation is actually being presented as if these people are being persecuted for their belief and religious activity. Yet the decision, which was made by the Supreme Court amongst others, is unrelated to religion. It is about a violation of the law, which religious organizations have no right to breach.’ The law bans the faith, so punishing them for exercising their faith is merely punishing a violation of the law. This argument is perfectly Orwellian. Translating Lebedev: We declared your religious faith to be extremist, and you are not allowed to be extremists. So we are arresting you for being extremists. But feel free to practice your faith and have a good day.”

This writer would be a wealthy individual indeed if he had a few dollars for every disgruntled ex-Witness who, upon failing to turn the JW ship in the direction of his choosing, went on to torpedo that ship with terminology from George Orwell’s 1984. Witnesses practice “doublethink” and have “thought police” who sniff out ones committing “thoughtcrime,” or even ones who fail to do “goodthink” (thought approved by the party). It is an intensification of a trend seen everywhere: failing to sway the other side and consequently declaring them “arrogant.” Yet the first actual instance of 1984 comes, not from Jehovah’s Witnesses, but from those who oppose them. If memory serves, was not Mr. O’Brien a pleasant and refined man on the surface, posing as Winston’s friend, before revealing his true character and thus combining both good cop and bad cop into a single character?

***~~~***

*In fact, the Russian investigation into torture found, in a very short time, that there was nothing to it at all.32

 

Endnotes:

1…Chernykh, Alexander, “We are the same people as you, but now we are called criminals and extremists,” Kommersant, March 1, 2019, accessed March 15, 2019, https://kommersant.ru/doc/3899000

2…Carroll, Oliver, “Russia’s Jehovah’s Witnesses Allege ‘21’st Century Inquistion’ Amid Claims of Torture,” Independent, February 21, 2019, accessed March 15, 2019, https://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/europe/russia-jehovahs-witness-crackdown-surgut-religion-discrimination-a8790761.html

3…Zavlayov, Dmity, “Source: Jehovah's Witnesses, Khanty-Mansiysk Autonomous Okrug, are trying to ruin a criminal case with accusations against security officials,” Ura.News, February 28, 2019, accessed March 15, 2019, https://ura.news/news/1052374340

4…Pomomarev, Lev, “Read and Watch,” blog post for echo.msk.ru, February 26, 2019, assessed March 15, 2019, https://echo.msk.ru/blog/lev_ponomarev/2378667-echo/

5…“ECHR Imposes Interim Measures in Response to Torture Complaint From Surgut,” jw-russia.org, February 27, 2019

6…Luxmoore, Matthew, “‘Time Becomes a Blur When You’re Experiencing Great Pain’: Russian Jehovah’s Witness Alleges Police Torture,” RadioFreeEurope/RadioLiberty, February 22, 2019

7…Lemon, Jason, “Jehovah’s Witnesses Tortured With Electric Shocks and Suffocation in Russia, Church Says” Newsweek, February 23, 2019

8…“Russia Says it Will Probe Jehovah’s Witnesses Torture Claim,” apnews.com, February 23, 2019, accessed March 19, 2019, https://apnews.com/f43f396dac9c4159987493f92123a3f9

9… Also, see   Crusade Against Christianity, (Brooklyn: Watchtower Bible and Tract Society of Pennsylvania, 1938) . Regarding this book, the 1965 Watchtower volume, December 1, 1965 issue, recalls on page 733: “Meantime in Germany, the Nazi fury rages and our brothers are exposed to frightful, inhuman persecution, which they withstand even at the cost of their lives. Documented material that reaches our office about such persecution is carefully preserved. Then Brother Rutherford approves publishing a book giving the evidence of the sufferings of Jehovah’s Witnesses in Germany. It appears under the title “Kreuzzug gegen das Christentum in the German language. It is also published in French and Polish.” See some of diagrams at “The Evils of Nazism Exposed,” Awake!, August 22, 1995, 11.

10…”Stories of Surgut "Jehovah's Witnesses" about torture in the TFR shocked the Ugra Ombudsman,” Znak.com, February 25, 2019, accessed March 16, 2019, https://www.znak.com/2019-02-25/rasskazy_surgutskih_svideteley_iegovy_o_pytkah_v_skr_shokirovali_yugorskogo_ombudsmena

11… Verkhovsky, Alexander, “The Fight Against Religious Extremism’ all Widers, Need to be Narrowed Down,” ng.ru, March 5, 2019

12….  Michael Lipka, “U.S. Religious Groups and Their Political Leanings,” Pew Research Center, February 23, 2016, accessed March 9, 2019

13…Andrew Sorokowski, “Witnesses to Persecution,” Religious Information Service of Ukraine, May 5, 2017, accessed March 23, 2018, https://risu.org.ua/article_print.php?id=66964&name=asorokowski_column&_lang=en&

14…Matthew 10:28

15…”They Will Also Ban God,” klops.ru, Mrch 9, 2019, accessed March 11, 2019, https://news.rambler.ru/other/41842016

16…Emily P. Baran, Dissent on the Margins - How Jehovah’s Witnesses Defied Communism and Lived to Preach About It (New York: Oxford University Press, 2014) 240

17…Ryzhova, Anna, "Get Rid of Witnesses," Russian-reporter, February 25, 2019, accessed March 16, 2019, http://expert.ru/russian_reporter/2019/03/izbavitsya-ot-svidetelej/

18…ibid….Carroll, Oliver, “Russia’s Jehovah’s Witnesses Allege ‘21’st Century Inquistion’ Amid Claims of Torture,” Independent, February 21, 2019, accessed March 15, 2019, https://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/europe/russia-jehovahs-witness-crackdown-surgut-religion-discrimination-a8790761.html

19…2nd notice …Ryzhova, Anna, "Get Rid of Witnesses," Russian-reporter, February 25, 2019, accessed March 16, 2019, http://expert.ru/russian_reporter/2019/03/izbavitsya-ot-svidetelej/

20…Hebrews 11:32-38

21…Chivchalov’s comment does not entirely square with remarks I made above (based upon the visits of a personal acquaintance who has traveled in Russia) but I believe it is a case of no one person seeing the entire picture. Plainly the ‘99%’ is hyperbole. The title says it all in this Moscow Times article: “Many Russians Don’t Know the Jehovah’s Witnesses, But They Still Want Them Banned” (themoscowtimes.com, July 13, 2017). Chivchalov himself said at the time that it depends upon how the subject is breached. If it is just a matter of shooing away uninvited callers, most Russians will say yes. But if it is a matter of sending those ones to jail, they will not go that far.

22…www.currenttime.tv/a/Jehovah-witnesses-Russia/29785245.html

23…Tacitus, Annals, 117 c.e.

24….Wells, G. A., The Historical Evidence for Jesus, (Buffalo: Prometheus Books, 1982) 17

25…Mathew 26: 3-5

26… Chernykh, Alexander, “We Are the Same”

27…Bandow, Doug, “Persecutors Pile on Jehovah’s Witnesses, in Russia and Worldwide,” nationalreview.com, March 1, 2019, assessed March 21, 2019, https://www.nationalreview.com/2019/03/jehovahs-witnesses-persecuted-russia-worldwide

28…Fautre, Willie, “Cults and Religious Freedom Around the World,” address to the ICSA Annual International Conference, Montreal Canada, July 5-7, 2012, accessed March 21, 2019, https://www.academia.edu/5201173/Cult_Issues_and_Religous_Freedom

29… “An Act of Faith in the Operating Room,” New Scientist, April 26, 2008

30…See the category https://www.tomsheepandgoats.com/pedophiles (by this author)

31….Bandow, Doug, “Persecutors Pile”

32…”The Examination Found No Signs of Torture in the Follower of “Jehovah’s Witnesses,” RIA Novosti, Moscow, March 21, 2019

 

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A Get Rich Quick Scheme From Genesis - It Works For Me!

Abraham and his household left Ur and traveled via the Fertile Crescent—up the Euphrates and down the east side of the Mediterranean—to reach the land God said would one day belong to his offspring. He overshot his destination for Egypt because there was a famine in the region shortly after arrival. (Did he say even a little: “Some promised land!”? He had had no problem with famine back home.)

When he eventually returned from Egypt, he was a wealthy man. Where did he get his wealth? From Pharoah! Pick up the account at Genesis 12:10

“Now a famine arose in the land, and Abram went down toward Egypt to reside there for a while, because the famine in the land was severe. As he was about to enter Egypt, he said to his wife Sarai: “Please listen! I know what a beautiful woman you are. So when the Egyptians see you, they will surely say, ‘This is his wife.’ Then they will kill me but keep you alive. Please say you are my sister, so that it may go well with me because of you, and my life will be spared.”

I understand this concern because my wife is also drop-dead gorgeous. I mean, heads snap around when cars pass her by—she nearly causes accidents. And being killed on account of men wanting her? I worry about this every time I venture into Walmart.

“As soon as Abram entered Egypt, the Egyptians noticed that the woman was very beautiful. And the princes of Pharaoh also saw her, and they began praising her to Pharaoh, so that the woman was taken to the house of Pharaoh. He treated Abram well because of her, and he acquired sheep, cattle, male and female donkeys, male and female servants, and camels.”

Wow! And she was such a looker, and Abram was so scared of the Egyptians that he figured they would kill him so as to take his wife, as though wife-stealing was something they would never commit, but murder was. (I gave a talk once in which I observed that Abram was then scared for his wife and his life—I liked the rhyming) This, too, only a man like me, whose wife is also a looker, would understand.

“Then Jehovah struck Pharaoh and his household with severe plagues because of Sarai, Abram’s wife. So Pharaoh called Abram and said: “What is this you have done to me? Why did you not tell me that she was your wife? Why did you say, ‘She is my sister, so that I was about to take her as my wife? Here is your wife. Take her and go!” So Pharaoh gave his men orders concerning him, and they sent him away with his wife and all that he had.”

As observed previously, he had a lot by then. He had cleaned out Pharoah!

Now, I do nothing but study my Bible and I immediately put into practice anything I read. I travel to cities where there are wealthy and powerful men, like Binghamton and Watertown, and introduce my wife to them as my sister. Their eyes bug out of their heads, of course, as soon as they see her, and they lead me to their wall safes on her account, open them up, and tell me to take anything I want. As it turns out, I want quite a bit.

Then they try to put the moves on my wife. She plays it cool, staying just outside of their grasp—we’ve run this scam many times before. Then I manage to let it slip, as though by accident, that she is actually my wife and not my sister at all. They get all nervous thinking that God is going to smite them. Next thing you know, the two of us are on the road, a few million dollars richer, heading to search out another sucker in another city.

Don’t tell me that there is no value in Bible study. Just don’t go there.

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$1.4 Billion. Is THAT all?

The article said 1.4 million, someone pointed out, not 1.4 billion.

I wrote this post in too much haste. I should correct it, I suppose. But 1.4 million is still a lot of dough, and a lot of dough was the point. Besides, it is only a matter of a zero or 3. And what is a zero? Nothing! Why make such a fuss over nothing?

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

You know, it’s all very well that this fellow wins the $1.4 billion Templeton Prize and I don’t. “He’ll be throwing his worthless gold in the street, someday,” I chuckle gleefully. Oh yeah, I am having a wonderful time here.

https://news.yahoo.com/physicist-marcelo-gleiser-science-does-not-kill-god-090100672.html

There’s nothing here that I haven’t said. There’s nothing here that tens of thousands of people haven’t said. “Hee hee, hee,” I mock this poor fellow. “Just wait till he gets his tax bill. nyuk nyuk nyuk.”

Atheism is inconsistent with the scientific method," he told them. “Atheism is a belief in non-belief. So you categorically deny something you have no evidence against."

Everybody who has any sense says that and nobody pays them $1.4 billion.

I'll keep an open mind because I understand that human knowledge is limited," he added. There’s money in them thar open minds.

I mean, he didn’t actually do any work. He just gussied up common sense a little and held out his hand for the payoff.

“The author of five English-language books and hundreds of blog and press articles in the US and Brazil, Gleiser has also explored in depth how science and religion both try to respond to questions on the origins of life and the universe,” the article says. 

Actually, I’ve just written four, not five books, and my blog posts are on many things, not just...oh...wait....the article’s not talking about me. It’s talking about someone with a cool 1.4 billion. I wouldn’t take it if you got down on your knees and begged me.

This fundamental curiosity unites science and religion, though each provides very different answers: science has a methodology, where hypotheses are eliminated.

"Science can give answers to certain questions, up to a point," Gleiser pointed out.

"This has been known for a very long time in philosophy, it's called the problem of the first cause: we get stuck," the physicist, a father of five.”

Maybe that’s where I went wrong. I didn’t have five kids. I should have had more.

"We should have the humility to accept that there's mystery around us,” he says. “He accuses the "new atheists" of doing a disservice to science by making an enemy out of religion: notably British scientist Richard Dawkins.” 

Uh, yeah. Haven’t I said the same thing, like, forever?

It's extremely arrogant from scientists to come down from the ivory towers and make these declarations without understanding the social importance of belief systems.....When you hear very famous scientists making pronouncements like ... cosmology has explained the origin of the universe and the whole, and we don't need God anymore. That's complete nonsense," he added. “Because we have not explained the origin of the universe at all."

Ha ha ha! Wait till he is flooded by “friends” who want a piece of his prize, ‘earned’ by pointing out what any donkey of a believer could have pointed out. Then he’ll be sorry. Then he’ll wish that I had been awarded that prize, and not he.

But it will be too late. He’s stuck with it. Ho Ho Ho. I’ll send him my address just to mess with his mind a little, but I won’t accept his prize, no matter how much he pleads.

Sheesh! 1.4 billion. It’s all in who you know.

Now, hand me that hammer so I can tap the starter on my car, the way you have to do to get it running. “Go get em, Tiger,” I tell myself. They’re running a ‘Buy One Get One’ at WalMart today.

[edit.....The article said 1.4 million, someone pointed out, not billion.

I wrote this post in too much haste. I should correct it, I suppose. It’s still a lot of dough. Besides, it is only a matter of a zero or 3. And what is a zero? Nothing! Why make such a fuss over nothing?

 
 

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Skirmish #200317

Those New Testament epistles reveal abundant energy devoted to countering those who oppose. See how Paul battles with the “superfine apostles” at 2 Corinthians 11, for instance. Why think it would be different today?  

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

I'm not completely sure what this thread is even about. Offhand, it seems like an attempt by the hypercritical people to get the picayune and the righteous-overmuch people going. 

We all know what Jehovah's Witnesses believe. So whatever is seen is Chili either squares with it or it doesn't. 

If it does, then there will be some trickery involved to get people all incensed over it. It may be fraud by photoshop or trespasser sabotage. Or there may be something circumstantial or cultural that we know nothing about..

If it doesn't. then it will be corrected, now or later. It always is. 

Once I came after you with the charge that you had an agenda and you responded with: 'Of course, I have an agenda.' I said to myself: 'The old pork chop is right. He does has one. So do I. So does everyone.' Stay here any length of time and it becomes clear who the players are and what are their agendas. They range in shades of from off-white to downright black. Thus everything anyone offers ought to be seen in this light, and the posts of some ought to be 90% dismissed on this basis alone.

The ideal is what C.T. Russell stated, that he would accept a truth even if it was from the Devil himself. But the reality is, how would you know it is the truth? Far more likely is it that he is just lying like he always does, using abundant tricks of the trade to make you think he is telling you the truth. The tools for lying are legion today, far more than in Russell's time, what with photoshopping and all. Even without photoshopping , we all know the reality of information selectively given without context or in manufactured context in hopes that people will come to false conclusions, so that Wayne finally has to say: 'I'll go down there myself and shake the truth out of those bad brothers (if bad brothers they be).' Obviously that is something few brothers can do, not just on account of resources, nor even on account of time, but on account of best use of time.

And if we get so worked up about reports from those whose agendas are manifestly cockeyed, if not downright foul, in these days of photoshop, what on earth will we do in the days of 'deep fakes', a day that is rapidly dawning? If anyone doesn't know the term, a casual Google search will reveal that it is the manipulation of video evidence, so that any head can be attached to any body and be made to say anything the poster wants? Are you going to lose you're cookies, then, when a GB member appears in skin tight pants smoking weed to recommend that we all start showing a little more sympathy for the Devil? Because you know that day is coming.

(My own prophesy, by the way, is that deep fakes will instantly be turned upon children, as technological advances usually are, for the sake of ratcheting up the bullying that they are already taking their own lives over. Since generating those deep fakes is only possible with an abundance of still photos to feed into generators, any source of those abundant photos is going to be sued off the planet. It will not be enough for social media sites to say that what they did was perfectly legal at the time and was agreed to by their users. Laws will be reinterpreted to say that they have violated them. You think lawsuits today have gotten out of hand?)

So you have to go by someone's manifest agenda. In this regard, Billy’s comments are among the most appropriate, even if he is prickly is his presentation. Witness the modern sanctification of the term 'whistleblower'. Whistleblowers are useful, of course, but they are more useful in blowing the cover off an evil organization. Almost all of the self-styled  'whistleblowers' on this particular thread think  that Jehovah's organization is evil. If you are one, like me, who doesn't think that, then you discount their comments on that basis alone.

People's veracity should be judged by always keeping in mind their overall agenda.

It is like a WT article that dealt with those occasional Bible accounts that are downright strange and even paint God in a bad light. 'All we see is a little snippet,' it said. 'What do you do with a close friend who has had your back and earned your trust over time and you know him through and through, but then you hear a bad report about him? Do you say: "YEAH! I knew it! He is a rat!" ?

Unfortunately, it is a crazy age we live in in which loyalty is seen as the mark of a chump, and there are many people who are that way.

It is like when I pointed out that the Geoffrey Jackson on Twitter was not the real Geoffrey Jackson and Wilma took a breather from bludgeoning everyone with irrelevant scriptures to say 'How do you know that it is not him?' It has his picture, doesn't it? 'He' even said pray for our brothers in Russia.

Duh. You know it is not him because she says that it is. Presently it was revealed that ‘he’ didn't give a hoot in hell for 'our brothers is Russia.' - kill them all as far as he is concerned. It was all a ruse so as to capture the attention of naïve brothers and redirect it to unflattering reports elsewhere.

Oh, yeah. Sure. He’s going to start up a Twitter account. After all he’s said about social media. Look, if they ever did do some amazing about face and start giving updates on Twitter, it would be a dramatic change in method of communication. There would be ample notice on trusted channels that such change was about to happen.

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

These are the problems I see when witnesses from a free society don’t understand the prospects of other countries. They think they can instill western values in areas that reject them.”

Exactly 

“Therefore, the only ones worthy of accommodating the brotherhood in Chile, are Chilean Brothers, no one else.”

Exactly.

When Billy is hot, he’s hot.

It is not unlike the situation described at Acts 21:20

“and they said to him: “You behold, brother, how many thousands of believers there are among the Jews; and they are all zealous for the Law.  But they have heard it rumored about you that you have been teaching all the Jews among the nations an apostasy from Moses, telling them neither to circumcise their children nor to walk in the [solemn] customs.  What, then, is to be done about it? In any case they are going to hear you have arrived.  Therefore do this which we tell you: We have four men with a vow upon themselves.  Take these men along and cleanse yourself ceremonially with them and take care of their expenses, that they may have their heads shaved. And so everybody will know that there is nothing to the rumors they were told about you, but that you are walking orderly, you yourself also keeping the Law.”

The governing arrangement back then assumed authority to do such things, even telling Paul to act differently from what he would otherwise do, so as to counteract hurtful reports and reassure others.

They were not to be second-guessed in such decisions. They “girded themselves as men” and directed a course of action that easily could have been criticized by ones having inadequate knowledge of the culture and circumstances.

In fact, on ancientsocialmedia.com back then, they did take a lot of heat for it.

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

My throat got dry on the trail the other day so I stopped in at the saloon for a brew. I grabbed my mug, threaded my way through the floozies after telling the barkeep to keep those drinks coming, and settled in for some serious contemplation of the vicissitudes of life.

”Join us for some poker, pardner?” came a friendly voice from the next table. A Chilean flag flew over that table on some days, but not others. Why not indulge him? I took the chair offered and the dealer shot out the cards. The friendly stranger took a quick peak at his then put them face down on the table.

Presently, looking sly as could be, he picked his cards up again and slowly fanned them face side out, and I was surprised to see that he had a full house. I heard some tittering from the floozies, and I weighed his hand against mine with an inward smile. I would hand this gringo his head on a platter.

But then my conscience started to beat me. This was going to be too easy, like taking candy from a baby, and I don’t cotton to beating up on babies. “Say stranger,” I said. “Did you know that you are doing it all backwards?” 

”Don’t worry,” he replied. “I know what I’m doing. The public has a right to know.”

”Maybe some good will come out of it,” he spoke up again. “The name’s Wayne, by the way. Pleased to meet you. Maybe we’ll have the pleasure to meet again someday ,” he said chattily as I raked in every dollar he had laid down.

How’s that for admiring him, Billy. Out here on the trail everything is relative.

“Admirin’s got nothing to do with it.” 

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Here is a Picture of My Scrabble-Cheating Brother BEFORE Donning His Halloween Costume

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I don’t believe it! My brother won ANOTHER Scrabble game? How? Through his usual method, of course. Through cheating! Here is a picture of my brother BEFORE he put on his Halloween costume: 27D604A6-C047-427A-8957-E74518E943EB

He always cheats. He cheats and cheats and cheats. And whenever he wins a game in that way (through cheating), he will climb atop a slide or something and taunt me!

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This is a photo of my mother taking my brother and I probably to church, where we would supposedly learn to be moral,upright, and honest. She succeeded beyond her wildest dreams with me of course. But my brother grew up to be a notorious ne’er do well, known far and wide for Scrabble cheating.

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Do I never win? Yes, sometimes I do. Sometimes all the cheating in the world, even his extra stash of letters, does not help him. And when I do win, do you think he is a good sport about it? Does he look cute to you in these photos? Well, JUST LOOK at how he changed the paint job on my Datsun pickup!

7EC88657-2DB1-484D-BB72-D08BFAF0A62D

photo: (final photo) SilverElephant

.........

Dishonestly, my brother took an early lead of 30 points. Valiantly, I closed the gap and pulled ahead by 10. It was not to be. The skunk edged me out, 317 to 311. 

You should have heard him holler about my drawing the Q, Z, and X. But he had BOTH blanks (to match his blank skull)

966B9CCF-E768-4E6A-90C6-741B90B6DEA9

 

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

Can you believe that my brother challenged “ai?” It’s a 3-toed sloth! Duh.

And if there can be one, there can also be many—to reach the triple word score, which I did my next turn.

He had started by dishonestly scrabbling with “weaning” but later I did the same with “panamas” and beat the cheater by 50 points.

........

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I Scrabbled to make “longers,” but my brother challenged it: “Use it in a sentence!” he taunted.

“I see some longers,” I said. (the big baby)

I made other cool words, too, and he STILL beat me: 379 to 351.

He is very good. (and he cheats)

.......

 

I used my blank to #Scrabble by making “berriet” but my brother screamed that there was no such word!

Check it, I told him. “And if you don’t find it, try ‘berries.’”

The big baby.

I won, but it was not easy. He’s very good.

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A Successful Program of Alternative Civilian Service in Taiwan

In modern times, some governments have proved progressive (and some haven’t)—willing to substitute neutral civilian service for military service. Taiwan instituted such a program in 2000. Kou-Enn Lin, director general of the program, recommends it to other nations during an interview with a Witness representative. Approved applicants to the system are assigned sites such as hospitals, government offices, nursing homes; there are sixteen possible venues. It’s not “very light work,” Kou-Enn makes clear, because the purpose is to substitute for, not exempt from, military service. It is a win-win, he maintains, and he cites figures to indicate a satisfaction rate of 90-97% among the agencies to which applicants are assigned. The greater goals of religious people are to serve, he says. They fit right in and need no discipline; they attack their work with enthusiasm. “At one time we had a situation where there were people with religious conscience in jail and people with little conscience outside of jail. Resolving this contradiction shows our respect for human rights.”

He concludes with: “It’s good to have a system in parallel with regular military service as an alternative. That’s the solution. The results and benefits exceeded what we expected. Human rights, religious suppression; all of these things can be resolved. I really hope other counties will come and draw lessons from our experience.”

See: “A Successful Program of Alternative Civilian Service in TaiwanJW Broadcasting, August, 11, 2017

From chapter 6 of Dear Mr. Putin – Jehovah’s Witnesses Write Russia

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A Class Action Suit in Quebec

“Citing a hierarchy that ‘encourages a culture of silence,’ a Quebec Superior Court judge has authorized a class-action lawsuit for current or former Jehovah’s Witnesses in Quebec who were sexually abused by other members as minors....[The plaintiff] alleges she was repeatedly sexually abused and assaulted by her brother, 13 years older, beginning when she was only 10 months old.”

Do I understand this correctly? One child abuses another within a family, and it is the fault of the congregation elders?

The Canadian judge stated that: “The organization of Jehovah's Witnesses is very hierarchical, led by men, and encourages a culture of silence.”

Take the organization out of the picture for a moment. Are we to imagine that the mom and dad of this family would have otherwise marched their kids straight down to the police station to make sure that proper punishment was meted out?

There is a part of me that thinks what really gets in sticks in the craw of this judge is that Jehovah’s Witnesses are “hierarchical,” as though any other organization is not, and that they are “led by men,” as though anything less than a free-for-all ought to be taboo. Perhaps she even implies that men are inherently evil, so that the greatest travesty of all is to be led by them.

However, says my nemesis: “My guess is that it's not what happened within the family. It was the coverup within the Congregation.”

Well—it is not possible to mishandle what you never attempted to handle in the first place.

The clear implication of rulings such as this is that religious organizations ought not to look into the conduct of its members, for it is only by doing so that they can find themselves in such a spot as this. “Be like the mainline churches,” the ruling says in effect. “Preach to them on Sunday and be done with it. It’s none of your business whether they apply it or not.”

However, the verse Christians feel obligated to follow says that it is their business. “You, the one preaching, “Do not steal,” do you steal?  You, the one saying, “Do not commit adultery,” do you commit adultery?” (Romans 2:21) If you claim that your teachings improve the overall moral fiber, you must have mechanisms in place to ensure that that is in fact the case, especially if your view of God is that he insists on a “clean” people, as free of misconduct as possible.

Framed in this way, the ruling is a state attempt to regulate religion, and could be argued on that basis.

Plus, such thinking completely ignores the far superior role of prevention of child sexual abuse, in order to zero in exclusively on meting out punishment when it occurs, as though that is the means by which the problem will be solved. How’s that project going, anyhow? Thirty years into the all-out war against child sexual abuse, is it just about snuffed out? Or is it only the tip of the iceberg that has been revealed?

I’ll take the kids, Caleb and Sophia, video any day, for teaching parents how to protect their children. I’ll take the 2017 Regional Conventions any day, in which every Witness in the world was assembled to hear detailed scenarios in which child sexual abuse might take place, so that parents, the obvious first line of defense, can be vigilant. Who else assembles all its members and then trains them so?

***~~~***

 

“Jehovah’s Witnesses have a serious problem of child sexual abuse in their midst?”

 There are two ways of looking at this.

1.) They do not.

2.) They do, but the situation is far worse everywhere else.

One must look no farther than who is being outed as perpetrators. If you want to find deviants in most places, you look no further than the leaders. If you want the same ‘catch’ among Jehovah’s Witnesses, you must broaden your search to include, not just leaders, but everyone. A Jehovah’s Witness leader committing child sexual abuse is rare. Not unheard of, but rare. Elsewhere, it is the pattern.

Okay, if the leaders are not committing the child sexual abuse, are they nonetheless "hiding it?" How do they compare with other groups? It is a little hard to say. Nobody else has ever found any. They looked the other way, taking no interest in looking at wrongdoing within their midst. Thus, when child sexual abuse was found, it was a.) found entirely independent of religious affiliation, and b.) it was found that the leaders themselves were the abusers. How would members fare in comparison? There is no data. Nobody ever bothered to look.

Courts will go where courts will go. Will they take the above into account? Time will tell. There are few organizations with pockets--it doesn’t matter if they are religious or not--that are not being flooded with lawsuits today. In New York State, my own state, the governor has just signed into law a bill greatly lengthening the statute of limitations for child sexual abuse. Out of nowhere has appeared a major sponsor of programming I watch--a legal firm seeking to sign up clients. The ads briefly eclipsed other legal firms of accident litigation running non-stop ads of how “[So and So law firm] got me $3 million dollars, 15 times what the insurance company offered!” Put together, lawyers have become by far the premier sponsors of television. Can a society really endure that way?

Make no mistake. No one is saying that it is wrong to sue for grievances. But one must sometimes ask whether there will be any organized group on earth left standing when the suing is done. Of course, there will be some. Governments can just raise taxes to recoup legal payouts. Businesses can raise prices. But groups like the Boy Scouts, investigating bankruptcy at last report, are out of luck. One wonders how other voluntary organizations will fare.

The typical person congratulates the client who has come into an extraordinary bonanza via lawsuit. Then he opens his insurance premium bill. It calls to mind, as a rough parallel, the statement of Alexander Fraser that democracy can only endure until “the majority discovers it can vote itself largess out of the public treasury.” The world has become a lawyers’ playground, with massive transfers of money flowing in all directions--the barristers netting a third, they being the only consistent beneficiaries.

When the rules of the game change, you can hardly blame the small players for adjusting to accommodate them. There was a time, those my age will remember, when nothing was so crass as for lawyers to advertise. It was against their universal code of conduct, possibly even against the law. It explains the phrase “ambulance chaser”—you actually had to chase an ambulance to sign up a client before another lawyer could. You couldn’t just broadcast to the whole wide world that you were scouring the earth for clients.

Someone dear to me was sued several times with regard to property, in another matter that had a very long statute of limitations. When what proved to be the final lawsuit came in, the person sought to make defense through his insurance lawyer, but that one attempted contact several times and could not get a response from the firm bringing suit. Finally, that firm admitted that they were having a hard time locating their client. Seemingly, they had left no stone unturned in seeking business and had finally found “aggrieved” ones whose cases were so tenuous that they couldn’t even be bothered to show up and make them.

I wonder, too, whether the popular demand for public apologies isn’t largely just a PR event, or even worse, an encouraged legal strategy to secure a clear admission of guilt, thereafter better enabling future lawsuits. Few things are done for the noble ‘window-dressing’ reasons that are given. At any rate, it is worth noting that when the government of Australia apologized for decades of child sexual abuse, and opposers praised that apology to the heavens because they thought they could thereby embarrass Jehovah’s Witnesses, the victims nonetheless rejected it as ‘too little, too late.’ Better than any apology is prevention. Of course, it is good to call in the grief counselors in the aftermath of a school shooting. But it is far better not to need them in the first place.

The situation is a far cry from the Quebec of 70 years ago, during which 400 Jehovah's Witnesses generated 1600 arrests, on charges as minor as peddling without a license but as major as sedition. A key case involving sedition was lost before the Supreme Court of Canada, but was overturned on a rarely-used provision of "rehearing," at which the Court acknowledged that Witness literature and ministry included nothing that incited to violence--a necessary ingredient of sedition--but only contained that which made a powerful faction squirm. The situation is much different today, with altogether different charges, and the game is barely recognizable. But deep within, is the underlying intent not nonetheless the same, cloaked behind a veneer of righteous indignation?

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To be added to TrueTom vs the Apostates!

 

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)