Previous month:
March 2019
Next month:
May 2019

Pedophiles

It is not for one bombshell to bicker with another as to which packs the most punch. Should not two potent videos in the war against child sexual abuse get along with each other? They should. Ordinarily, they do. Those waging that war are not winning and they need all the bombshells they can get.

If a report in the Moscow Times is taken at face value, Russia is suffering the heaviest losses in that war. “Russian Pedophilia Cases Soared by One-Third in 2014” is the headline of the March 4, 2015 article.1 It probably should not be taken at face value—that large of an increase in a single year strains credulity—something will emerge to explain the anomaly. “The number of children recognized as victims of pedophilia surged by 35.6 percent last year, children’s ombudsman Pavel Astakhov said late Tuesday on Twitter. That increase far outpaced the 7.2 percent rise in the total number of crimes against children, according to Astakhov, who did not provide an explanation for the upticks.”

Anton Chivchalov, the observer of Witness persecution, when specifically asked how Russia deals with child sexual assault, replied: “Rather harsh and speedy. And such criminals are the most despised by their inmates in the prison.”2 In the face of such a staggering reverse, Astakhov would have it yet more harsh and more speedy, in hopes of stemming the tide. Pedophile abusers should not get out of jail before serving their entire terms. They should be monitored for life. And there should be longer statutes of limitations, he says.

No topic is hotter today than pedophilia. No topic sparks more popular outrage. Seemingly, no evil is more firmly entrenched. The organization Invisible Children reports that, in the United States, 1 in 4 girls and 1 in 6 boys will be sexually abused before they turn 18 years old.3 Neutralize one pedophile today and three pop up to take his place. If ancient Greece truly is the cradle of Western civilization, then the sexual abuse of children also is, for it was fundamental to that society, widely practiced and never categorically condemned.

Was Christianity the first significant bulwark against that practice? The first letter to the Corinthians warns: “Do not be deceived; neither fornicators nor idolaters nor adulterers nor boy prostitutes nor sodomites nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor robbers will inherit the kingdom of God. That is what some of you used to be; but now you have had yourselves washed”4 by their newfound faith in God and conformity to his laws. A footnote to the NABRE on ‘boy prostitutes’ and ‘sodomites’ reads: “The Greek word translated as boy prostitutes may refer to catamites, i.e., boys or young men who were kept for purposes of prostitution, a practice not uncommon in the Greco-Roman world. In Greek mythology this was the function of Ganymede, the “cupbearer of the gods,” whose Latin name was Catamitus. The term translated sodomites refers to adult males who indulged in homosexual practices with such boys.”5 They even had a god for it!

In contrast, the practice was exceedingly uncommon among Jews of that same time period, so that Christianity does not appear to be the first significant bulwark, but the second.  A verse from the Sibylline oracles, a collection of oracular utterances written in Greek hexameters ascribed to the [prophetesses] Sibyls,6 claims that only the Jews were free from this impurity. They were “mindful of holy wedlock, and they do not engage in impious intercourse with male children, as do Phoenicians, Egyptians and Romans, spacious Greece and many nations of other, Persians and Galatians and all Asia, transgressing the holy law of immortal God, which they transgressed.”7

“Phoenicians, Egyptians and Romans, Greeks, and many nations of other, and all Asia”—depend upon it; these ones would have the hots for your children. But not the Jews. And since Christianity begins as a sect of the Jews, it can be expected to also be free from “this impurity.” In practice, it will be diluted somewhat because Christians interact with and draw converts from the surrounding nations, some of whom find that the old ways are not vanquished as easily as was hoped; there is some backwash. There really is something to the verse Jehovah’s Witnesses love to quote: “Do not be led astray: “Bad company corrupts good morals.”8

Moderns who embrace the critical thought and emphasis on human reason that was ancient Greece but would shed its degrading habits find the shedding does not come easily. On the other hand, as evidenced by Corinthians, the fundamental structure of Christianity does shed it. Should it rear its ugly head, the justification for chopping it off is unambiguous.

When the world at last wakes up to a moral problem, it wildly overswings. It seeks to criminalize conduct of the past that did not conform to its newly-discovered moral high ground. It has happened with regard to America’s founding fathers. Revered for centuries, they are now reviled because they kept slaves, notwithstanding that every agricultural person of means kept slaves at that time, and with no regard for how they personally conducted themselves on that stage.

It has happened with regard to sexual harassment. In a single 2017 week, a quintessential American film producer of popular repute, fawned over as ‘God’ by a quintessential actress of popular repute,9 fell from top rung to gutter, with scores of female actors alleging rape.10 In the aftermath, dozens of well-known men have been trashed, with nary a distinction between rape, harassment, and what was once called ‘getting fresh’—never welcomed by most women, but also never confused with rape. Who is to say how many prominent men on the planet will not go down eventually, as an uninvited advance is equated to harassment which is equated with rape, the statute of limitations is forever, and the sole proof required is an allegation, whether it be sterling or dubious? There really is a place for a “two-witness” rule.11 But the trend is in the other direction. It is seen in politics, where allegation alone is taken as fact. It is seen in the few seconds of video presented on the media of some seemingly criminal act, and then outrage ensuing when the jury, the only persons privy to the facts, gets it ‘wrong.’ It is seen in Robert Bridge’s complaint, from Russia, that “the West’s ‘guilty until proven innocent’ mantra is wrecking lives and international relations.”12 It is seen in the massive lawsuits announced for diverse causes and the implicit understanding is that the defending lawyer saying the case is “without merit” is lying through his teeth.

It is similar today with the sexual abuse of children. Present protective policy has been quite long in coming. In 1987, Cleveland social workers and pediatricians removed over 100 children from their families suspected of sexual abuse. Public outcry was such, fueled by media cries alleging ‘overzealous’ and ‘intrusive’ agency overreach, that most were promptly returned, despite credible evidence of abuse. Lucy Delap, writing for History and Policy, credits ‘feminist campaigners’ with making the protection of children a priority, and states that “clear guidelines for best practice were not established until the 1990s.” Until that time, “where evidence of sexual assault emerged, the reaction of welfare workers was to limit harm, often by removing a child from an abusive situation. Reporting of abuse and securing convictions was a secondary concern.”13

Days of inaction are long gone. Authorities have generated sex-abuse registries that are so long that they are absolutely useless to law enforcement. Rapists are lumped in with those too free with their hands who are lumped in with those who have viewed porn on the Internet who are lumped in with of-age teens having sex with their underage girlfriends.14 A top cop in Britain recently recommended that persons found with pedophilia porn on their computers not be prosecuted. It pained him to recommend it, but the simple fact is that there are so many of them that police cannot possibly monitor them all. In attempting to do so, they are distracted from keeping tabs on the most dangerous predators.15 Meanwhile, those who must track child sexual abuse online in the course of doing their jobs liken the worst of it to Medusa: one look and it turns you to stone.16

 

The war is being lost due to an inability of the virtuous side to discipline its troops, which work at cross-purposes with each other. They represent a tangled mess of conflicting agendas that cannot put such differences aside so as to adequately cooperate, no matter how dire the situation or sacred the cause. What they can do is build a platform upon which to grandstand. For some of them, that is enough. There is much that starts out with the best of intentions, but in the end resolves into ‘sound and fury, signifying nothing.’

Their actions harm some as they help others. Recently, in New York State, police nabbed a kindergarten teacher with kiddie porn on his computer. It is bad stuff, even for kiddie porn. They grilled him, and he admitted he has fantasized over the children in his charge. They caught him via an international sting operation tracing pedophilia content originating overseas. He has never actually done anything to any of the children he teaches. But he has pinched spare underwear from their backpacks to take home and he’s derived much pleasure in dreaming of what could be.17

He is one sick puppy. No way can you have him teaching kindergarten. Even though he has never touched a child, it is reasonable to think it only a matter of time before he does, for he is feasting on what will only intensify a depraved appetite. Even that assumption one cannot slip past champions of critical thought, since they will demand proof that indulging in such porn does not harmlessly distract from the real thing, but in this case the subject is too gut-wrenching and too visceral. They will not dare open their mouths.

The question to be addressed is: How do you remove this fellow as a teacher? For the sake of the children, it ought to be done discreetly. You say: “Mr. Feely has had to leave and he won’t be coming back. There was an emergency in his family. He wanted to say goodbye but didn’t even have time for that.” Was it handled that way?

Anyone who keeps up the times knows that it was not. Instead, it was (not verbatim): “Mr. Feely Is A Pervert! He Was Teaching Your Children and Just Look at The Disgusting Filth On His Computer! He Even Swiped Janie’s Panties!” It was top news for three days. Thirty children are scarred for life, with the idea now planted that any adult, no matter how seemingly benevolent, might easily be (probably is) trying to molest them. What child does not love his or her kindergarten teacher? What person is trusted more?

Even for the man’s own sake, it might be acknowledged somewhere that he had thus far resisted acting upon what he was feeding himself with. It might be a case of ‘strengthening what remains.’ Instead he is universally denounced as a depraved monster, thus sabotaging any chance of recovery. He might not recover anyway, but why ensure the outcome? He can be arrested and put on the sex registry list without throwing the city into an uproar. He is done so with maximum publicity mainly for entertainment purposes and to allow certain ones to call attention to their guard dog role in safeguarding children.

The only reason authorities started tracking viewers of porn in the first place is because they thought they could thereby cut off the flow. It has not worked out that way.  Child porn has continued to grow unabated.  Users will store the stuff on thumb drives and bury it in their back yards before they will relinquish it. This explains why the British top cop waved the white flag—you cannot have every twentieth person employed in law enforcement.

During 2017, news sources told of a 14-year-old Minnesota girl who sexted an explicit picture of herself to her boyfriend via Snapchat. He spread it about widely. Boys will do things like that and girls should not be dumb. At time of writing, she is looking at 10 years felony jail time for violation of her state’s child-porn law. The ACLU spokesperson defending her says this is a “teachable moment” for parents to inform the girl that her actions have consequences. Tell me about it. It is also a “cautionary tale,” the ACLU adds. Yes. It is cautionary for a 14-year-old trying to live in an insane world handed her by adults that pushes powerful social media tools, a sexually promiscuous culture, and then threatens ten years imprisonment for making use of them.

Besides local media, only RT.com picked this story up, probably in a quest to embarrass the West.18 Meanwhile—it is ‘wisdom from the mouth of babes’—the girl says: “Sexting is common among teens at my school, and we shouldn’t face charges for doing it.” Of course. It is a no-brainer. It is not that what she did wasn’t wrong. It is that her countless cultural mentors should be prosecuted ahead of her. That way, there will be no room left in jail for the stunned child.

In a greater context, the story reiterates the absolute failure of the world to vanquish pedophilia, which it has declared public enemy number one, with its frothing take-no-prisoners, pulling-their-hair out frustration over making barely a dent in the pandemic, and so wildly overswinging to compensate. Again, it is the frenzied carpenter who misses the nail and then furiously hammers five times more, again missing each time. This is how it is with zealots who see their cause and nothing else. The world is full of such people.

The world slaps down perversion on one hand and feeds it with the other. Does anyone think the ‘Law and Order: Special Victims Unit’ television show is not a magnet to draw and feed molesters who fantasize over the world they would love to see? Does anyone think they walk away saying: “Wow! This is bad! I must never do it!”? Can the average person watch one straight through? It is entertainment mostly to vigilantes and pedophiles and pedophiles-in-training.

Meanwhile there is an underage teen placed on the registry for having sex with his girlfriend of 13. This, despite the prevalent teaching that parents should accept the fact that their kids are going to have sex and to give them a shot for HPV and not be so Victorian about it. Another young man is put on the list for having sex with his underage girlfriend who misrepresented herself as above-age.19 In each case a domino effect is started and neither young man is likely to ever fully be restored.

These stories are a dime a dozen. They are collateral damage in a war where zealots say: “We may not be able to do anything about terrorism or suicides or corruption or injustice or drug abuse or job insecurity, but by God! we can do something about perverts fiddling with our kids!” But in fact, they can’t even do that. Writing for a Russian outlet, Konstantin Krylov, who is “the father of four daughters. I think, from this it is clear how I feel about pedophilia and pedophiles,” even suggests “the spread of mass hysteria in society” serves to distract from “real problems,” such as “salaries and prices.”20 “Moral panic” or not, a depraved world cranks out pedophiles as readily as it cranks out radicalized terrorists who go on to shoot up or run down whoever is in sight.

There is a headline story in the New York Times gushing over a ten-year old male model. “His eye makeup is better than yours!” it swoons. Is this a perv site? No. It is the New York Times.21 The boy has over 330,000 followers on social media. What a tale of success! Do you think the paper asks how many of them are pedophiles? Why—it doesn’t occur to them to go there. Soon it will run another blockbuster story exposing the harvest of what it now sows.

This world does everything it can to titillate perversion and then froths with anger when it actually breaks out. Perhaps even with all troops disciplined and ducks lined up, the war against child sexual abuse would be lost, for the entertainment branch of the world feeds and nourishes the depravity that the judicial branch must deal with later.

 

Historically, the relative or family friend too free with his hands was controlled by parents alerting their children to let no one touch them inappropriately, not even Uncle Hands. Since few parents did this, the children were mostly left unprotected. Nobody of fifty years ago would have dreamt how many of those with unhealthy desires were lurking about. Nude swimming at the YMCA swimming pools of my youth in the 1950s was an unremarkable fact. Witness Governing Body member Anthony Morris stated:

“While child abuse has been perpetrated earth-wide in many cultures for thousands of years, it is only in the past forty years or so that the magnitude and extent of the problem has become better known. This is because governmental agencies are now determined to take a more active interest in this problem. Laws were enacted to require medical and other professionals to report cases to authorities when they became aware of them. Prior to that time, many governmental and educational and religious organizations were somewhat naive about the magnitude and the complexity of the situation,”22 and he goes on to discuss the Witness response to the modern plague.23

Today there are tools to help equip in handling the onslaught of evil. The two dueling grenades mentioned at this chapter’s outset are both effective. They both pack solid punches. If I seem to downgrade one, it is only because it was waved in my face as the be-all and end-all, whereas the Watchtower’s effort was childish rigmarole in comparison. There are apostates with a seemingly pathological need to trash anything Witness-originated. Of course it is childish. It is for children and it had better capture their attention. Talking down to them is a sure way to turn them off.

The Watchtower video is entitled Protect Your Children.24 It is an episode of the Caleb and Sophia cartoon series that all Witness children know well. That series is incorporated by most Witness families in training their children. Caleb and Sophia are about five and eight years old, respectively. Anthony Morris was mistaken by one child as their grandfather, since it was he who introduced the series. Children can visit various branch headquarters and have their pictures taken with the tykes. Through JW.org, they romp in every nation except Russia, where they are unfortunately behind bars as extremists.

The other video, the product of a child protective agency, is certainly thorough and is even more specific than ours.25 Specific areas of the body that no one should touch are circled on a child’s body, whereas the Watchtower’s tells the children that Jehovah gave them a conscience and asks what would they do if someone tried to touch them somewhere that made them uncomfortable? In assuming that a child cannot distinguish its rear end from its elbow, is not the agency video a classic example of why so many of them hate school? Who wants to be always talked down to? One almost envisions a child who is touched mentally consulting the chart he has memorized in order to determine if he should feel bad about it or not. No. Caleb’s dad is right. Jehovah gave humans a conscience. If you have not scratched it all to pieces updating it with the enlightened moral thinking of the greater world, it works pretty well.

Protect Your Children captures the imagination of the child and depicts sexual abuse as a monster, for it is monstrous, and any child knows that monsters are malevolent creatures from which to flee. It vaporizes the moment the children tell it: “No. Stop doing that! I’m telling on you!” However, to ensure that no child misses the point, the mother urges: “Even if it someone you know and trust!” and papa adds that they should right away “tell daddy or mommy,” who, in the video, take the news most seriously.

The Watchtower video has the added bonus, completely lacking in that of the agency’s, of instructing parents on how to teach their children and encouraging them to do so. It is thus family-friendly. It is a force for family cohesion. In the end, it is family that will protect a child better than any network of outside agencies, who so often drop the ball.

Whereas the agency video goes on the supposition that everybody—don’t even overlook the parents—are on the list of possible suspects, the Jehovah Witness organization ever teaches Bible principles that nurture and safeguard the entire family. It is a constant theme of the Christian life they embrace. The videos do not stand alone. They are intended as part of a family routine to aid in child training. Parents are encouraged in congregation meetings to use them this way. “The world can be a scary place. But you are never alone with Jehovah,” Daddy says. The other would say: “The world can be a scary place. Watch your back every minute. Any grown-up, no matter how nice they look, might be ready to pounce upon you. Even Mommy and Daddy might be trying to get into your pants! Watch out!”

The Watchtower video does not allow for the possibility that the parents might be the villains. To be sure, that situation has happened, generally with step-parents, but surely, that is beyond the scope of any video. Do you really want to suggest to all children that their parents might be pedophiles? Every Witness child is familiar with the entire cartoon family. Should any poor child be unfortunate enough to be stuck with parents who would sexually abuse their own offspring, they would have already noted that the Caleb and Sophia ideal parents are a far cry from theirs. Essentially the videos each regard one source as the protector of last resort. With the Watchtower, it is family with God as backup. With the greater world it is specialist agencies with overall humanity as backup. But when families dissolve, it is the rare agency that is able to adequately mitigate the damage, however they may nobly try.

Is it even true that the Watchtower video does not allow for villainous parents?  It clearly directs the children to let no one touch them inappropriately. The agency video, on the other hand, specifically says it is okay for a doctor to touch private areas. Recently, the U.S. Olympic team doctor was sentenced to 175 years in prison for molesting the teens in his charge—surely Olympians are America’s cream of the crop. 150 of them testified at his trial. Had they been asked which video do they think would have safeguarded them more, what would have been their reply? The agency video is not bad, save for that one demerit. In fact, it is very good. It can be recommended. But it has nothing on that of the Watchtower’s.

Witnesses worldwide attend annual Regional Conventions, for (usually) three days of instruction based upon Bible laws and principles. During 2017 a section dealing with child sexual abuse was a part of the program.26 Nobody, but nobody, assembles their entire membership as Jehovah’s Witnesses did and reviews detailed scenarios under which abuse might happen so that parents, the first line of defense, can educate their children and themselves.

Especially emphasized was the fact that a perpetrator is likely to be someone a child knows and trusts. If a relative, or friend, or anyone else, seems overly attentive to your child, it is a reason to be watchful, said the program speaker.  If there are tickling sessions, if there are sleepovers, if there are trips alone to the public restroom, if—there were several other scenarios. They are all potential red flags: maybe harmless, but maybe not, and the parent must be aware. “The wise one sees the [potential] calamity approaching and takes action” was the Bible verse repeatedly cited.27

 

In recent years, Jehovah’s Witnesses have made court appearances in multiple countries, but the issues they address are not the noble issues of decades ago involving rights of free speech and assembly. They are more likely to be issues of child sexual abuse in which their policies for battling it are called into question. Rarely are congregation leaders (elders) themselves accused of molestation. What is instead typical is charges that they have learned of or have investigated allegations of child sexual abuse and did not handle them in accord with contemporary practice. In not reporting each known or suspected molester to the police, they have been accused of harboring them and of making the congregations safe havens for abusers.

It is a classic example of getting slammed for doing the right thing and should not be spun any other way. It is a classic example of the leader taking the arrows. It exposes a vulnerable flank that Witnesses alone have for being proactive. All religious groups should have the same flank, but do not due to a neglect of watchfulness and discipline.

Witnesses alone investigate wrong conduct among their membership so as to keep their congregations morally clean, which they believe God expects of them. The recent court cases are fallout from doing what no one else has attempted to do: monitor wrongdoing of all sorts, but here specifically child abuse, so as to accomplish two things, which actually collapse into one. The first objective is to discover abusers so as to administer discipline, up to and including expulsion. The second objective is to keep track of any who have molested children, so that they cannot simply slip out of one congregation and into another, as they can anywhere else.

Identified pedophiles are forever barred from positions of responsibility or trust in any congregation. Plainly, this is to protect children. Memory may serve adequately in the home congregation, but what happens should the person switch congregations? Records must be forwarded. Instances of abuse would never be associated with the organization of Jehovah’s Witnesses in the first place were that organization like the general world of religion, a world which takes little interest in the conduct of its members and considers their conduct none of its business. Preach to them on Sunday and be done with it.

When police apprehend abusers, unless they are clergy, their religion is never reported because few imagine that today’s religions should result in clean people. Few imagine that should be their job. Jehovah’s Witnesses take it upon themselves to insist upon clean people. Few other denominations are as concerned. Few religions have a clue as to what their members are up to.

Whose bright idea was it to track these reprobates anyway? It sure seemed clever at the time, offering an excellent way to protect children. It sure did blow up in their faces. Who would ever imagine the world would attempt to ‘out-righteous’ Christians on this one? From the purely pragmatic point of view of avoiding blame, they would have been far better off to bury their heads in the sand and wail like Sergeant Shultz, “I know nothinnnggg.”28

Whenever the biblical ‘two-witnesses’ policy that applies anywhere else in law is mentioned, it is roundly criticized as inappropriate, as it was recently by an Australian Royal Commission (excerpts to follow). The obvious ‘practical’ solution is to drop the policy and any attempt to look into wrongdoing; even a newly modified policy will not satisfy determines critics.29 Keep your noses out of the business of others, regardless of what the Bible says. Elders will thereby learn of few instances of abuse and the problem is solved from a liability point of view, though not from an actual one.

Preach sermons and let that be the end of it. If members apply it, they apply it. If they don’t, they don’t. Let that be no concern of the pastor. That way, should any turn out to be molesters, the preacher can never be made to look bad for his investigating it because he has never did it. God gets shortchanged that way because he expects a clean people, but who cares? He’s God. Tell him: “What you see is what you get. It’s not my problem. Do you think I want a day in court?”

It is but another attack on religion that would attempt to keep itself without ‘spot from the world.’ It might even be surmised that, at some level, that is the intent of such criticism. Don’t allow a religion to attempt to produce a clean people, for that involves ‘judging’ and lifting ones’ faith above others as “the true one.” Don’t allow it. In essence, it is a turf war. ‘Preach to them if you must’ is the sentiment. ‘But don’t get into morals. We’ll handle wrongs if they commit any, not you,’ says the State. ‘It ought not be your concern.’

Everybody’s clergy gets outed when they do wrong in this regard, but nobody’s membership. Other than Jehovah’s Witnesses, nobody monitors their members, regarding their conduct as not their affair. They thereby can never become the ‘middleman’ and thus can never be called to account for whether or not they handled matters in the way deemed acceptable by authorities today. If Witness elders have ever erred in any investigations, this should not be spun as a negative, for no one else even attempts the job. When the Star Trek spaceship takes a wrong turn, Captain Kirk is cut slack because he is ‘going where no one has gone before.’ Do other faiths have one abuser per thousand, or 100? Nobody knows or wants to know. Only Jehovah’s Witnesses have the courage to stand up to a moral outrage and they should not be maligned for it. They were proactive when no one else was. They were not proactive enough, however, to realize that their investigative role in the congregation would be interpreted by some outside as making them de facto enforcers for the outside justice system.

In 2007, the Watchtower parent organization settled a number of abuse cases. This statement was released to the media at that time: “For the sake of the victims in these cases, we are pleased that a settlement has been reached. Our hearts go out to all those who suffer as a result of child abuse… During the last 100 years, only eleven elders have been sued for child abuse in thirteen lawsuits filed in the US. In seven of these lawsuits against the elders, accusations against the Watchtower Society itself were dismissed by the courts. Of course one victim is one victim too many. However, the incidence of this crime among Jehovah’s Witnesses is rare.”30

There is a missing puzzle piece. The public can learn the stats for abuse among Witness ‘clergy.’ They can learn the stats for abuse among the clergy of others, which in some cases have been shockingly high. But when it comes to membership, they can learn only the stats for Jehovah’s Witnesses. So as not to be comparing apples to oranges, they need to learn the stats for the membership of other faiths, but this knowledge is unavailable because nobody has tracked it. People who know better, along with some who don’t, will continue to equate the membership of Jehovah’s Witnesses with the clergy of other religions. In effect, if you want to get the same ‘catch’ of pedophiles among Jehovah’s Witnesses that you do among the leaders of some faiths, you must expand your net to include, not just clergy, but everybody.

With a missing puzzle piece that will not be supplied, all one can do is extrapolate. If eleven Witness clergy were sued over 100 years, with only four of them stemming from any culpability from the organization, then surely the overall rate among the members will also be low. If it is perceived to be high, then the overall rate among memberships elsewhere will be astronomical.  Of course, people can see that it is; child sexual abuse in the greater world is an absolutely out of control pandemic. As though nurturing a seedling plant through inclement weather, apostates promote the idea that the pedophilia problem is disproportionately a Witness problem. It is just the opposite, as will be presently be seen through examining data uncovered by an Australian Royal Commission.

Anything done can be done better. The Royal Commission looked at child sexual abuse crimes and policies for all institutions, religious or secular, operating within its jurisdiction. After Witness representatives took their turn in the hot seat, they were issued harsh words for some aspects of their policies. New policies have been enacted in the Witness organization that offer improvement, though likely not enough to satisfy Commission members. Victims in abuse investigations are no longer required to speak in front of judicial committee elders, and sisters may be able to assist the elders in establishing facts. ‘Good!’ most will say, considering the tough spot the two victims were in who testified before the commission. Was it irresponsible not to have done it before? Who can say? There is nothing to compare it to. No other religion attempts what Witnesses attempt—investigating wrongdoing for the sake of meting out discipline and protecting the worldwide congregation and presenting to God “a [clean] people for his name.”

Historically, people have not been in a hurry to air their dirty laundry. Reality TV has changed much of that. Probably also a factor is that family disaster has become commonplace and people have acclimated to it. The very reason there is a phrase called “skeletons in the closet” is that persons once succeeded in keeping them there. Nowadays they stampede them like cattle through Dodge City.  Is it George Bernard Shaw who said “If you cannot get rid of the skeletons in your closet, see if you can make them dance”?

This writer would not challenge that Witnesses have had a greater adjustment than many in learning to let those skeletons roam, since their reputation is that of applying Bible morality and they are reluctant to see that reputation tarnished. It is a continual complaint of their detractors: that there is a ‘culture of complicity.’ It makes little difference to them the plain statements that any congregation member learning of abuse is free to report it to the authorities—the ‘culture’ dictates to them that they will not. The Royal Commission uncovered 1006 allegations of child sexual abuse within Australia Watchtower’s records. None had been reported to outside authorities. Many of these were statistical outliers, as they dated back as far as the 1950s—a time period in which reporting by anyone was a rarity, in which even the authorities one might report to would shrug it off as not their concern. But there were yet hundreds remaining from since the overall world has awakened to the menace of sexual abuse.

It is not great to see Jehovah’s Witnesses mentioned in courts in this connection; there is no positive way this can be spun. If children have been harmed, they do not want to ever have contributed to it. If they are going to be in the courts, they would far rather it be for the noble causes of the U.S Constitution that they have fought over in the past. To a slight degree, the unpleasantry is mitigated by a general cynicism that has taken hold of the judiciary. Yet again Trump and Hillary come to the rescue. The Republican president issues orders and the Democratic judges slap them down. It was once the other way around. For decades a predictable hysteria has prevailed over which president gets to appoint Supreme Court Justices. Each nominee faces intense scrutiny in Congress. The tacit understanding is that they are not impartial. Preexisting philosophical bent will determine their rulings.

In the lower courts some are ‘tough on crime.’ Some are ‘soft on crime.’ Come election day, they are all tough on pedophilia, which is why a Hail Mary Arizona law criminalizing touching the private areas of any child for any reason will not be easily repealed, even though it technically criminalizes parents changing diapers.31 The chance of being branded ‘soft on pedophiles’ in a sound bite just before election day is too great of a risk for any politician to run.

People have become accustomed to seeing lawyers employ every type of legal maneuvering. If it is for a cause they like, they praise them for it. If it is for a cause they do not like, they condemn them for it. There are no legal loopholes in court because if it is legal, it is not a loophole. It is a chaotic and inconsistent system, not of Witnesses’ doing, but they must operate according to whatever flies legally. It is the adversarial judicial system, in which neither side can afford to pursue justice lest the other side beat them over the head with it. Instead, those who put their trust in the system hope that truth will emerge from the referee judge and perhaps jury monitoring the battle of the titans.

Lawyers will tussle as lawyers do. The world today is a lawyer’s playground and if you have any assets to speak of and do not maintain an arsenal of them, expect to be eaten alive in a nebulous and fantastically complex legal world. It is not exactly the 600-law system of Mosaic times, is it? Instead, stratospheric lawyers wrangle arcane laws for purposes both noble and despicable. The law is staggering in its complexity. Cynics will say that it is made so deliberately for the sake of job security and expansion in a high-growth industry. The point is that court rulings don’t necessarily mean much of anything today; you simply have to look at which agenda has won out.

Nor can the impartiality of whoever reports the news be assumed. One such article covering a trial in which Witnesses were involved states as background that individual members are prohibited from reporting child abuse to authorities. Since numerous public statements indicate otherwise and Anthony Morris says it right on the Witness website previously cited, red flags must go up. Had the reporter said that many Witnesses were disinclined to run to authorities, that would be one thing. But he said they are prohibited from doing so. Even if he didn’t believe it, a competent reporter would at least note the discrepancy. Instead, he has been fed a line from an opposer and he repeats it uncritically, without verification, not unlike the Russian expert witness to their Supreme Court who scribbles verbiage off the Internet.

Once integrity is compromised, nothing can be taken at face value. Competency and perhaps motive are open to question. Was the Witness lawyer really rebuked by the judge or was his objection overruled and the proffered reason counted as a rebuke? It is the most inflammatory subject being tried, and it is made inflammatory again as the defendant is a religion some find inflammatory.32   

If there is a silver lining in this mess for the Witness organization, it is that one might extrapolate from present trends and conclude that soon every twentieth person on the planet will be on a pedophile list somewhere. Allegations of sexual impropriety involving prominent persons or those with deep pockets are a staple of life today. If you hate the person, you will agree with the allegation. If you love the person, you will disagree with it. James Carville, Bill Clinton’s campaign manager, defending the then-president accused of sexual misconduct, said: “Drag a hundred-dollar bill through a trailer park, you never know what you’ll find.” Does one believe him? For the most part, it depends upon whether one likes Bill Clinton or not. The same can be said for almost any high-profile figure.

Jehovah’s Witness matters thereby become a tiny drop in the bucket, for it is exceedingly rare for an elder to be the accused perpetrator (though it was so in the above case, where they got stuck in San Diego with a real rotter). Usually they are accused of simply coming across the knowledge of abuse. It is not good—as the 2007 announcement acknowledged, “one victim is one too many.”—but it is a far cry from being perpetrators themselves. Moreover, it would not happen if they had kept their noses out of the conduct of congregation members, as is the pattern elsewhere. God’s perceived interests would suffer, but it would be safer from a liability point of view.

The Witnesses’ weekly meetings unstintingly emphasize the application of Bible morality and principles into one’s life. Over time, most of it rubs off. It is not rocket science, and it has nothing to do with God’s spirit. If one teaches something long enough, the students start to pick up on it. What is God’s spirit is that there exists an organization consistently dedicated to such training. What is God’s spirit is that there exists an organization that has remained impervious to the many memes and fads of today’s world that serve to corrode family values. What is God’s spirit is that families are successfully applying these teachings in the face of a hostile world. They are not 100% successful, because they are people, and they live in the greater world of moral relevance. Suffice it to say, however, that applying Bible principles results in lower rates of anything bad, though one would never claim immunity. In any population of eight million (the current JW membership) one will be able to find many examples of anything.

 

Where it is legally mandated, Witness policy is that any allegation of child sexual abuse be reported to authorities. Nothing tells more about the world’s frothing hysteria over its inability to curb child abuse than its insistence that one must go ‘beyond the law.’ It is the ultimate Hail Mary pass, a sure sign of desperation. If going ‘beyond the law’ is such an imperative, why does not that become the law?

So visceral is the subject of child sexual abuse that no one is immune to a trashed reputation if they are exposed for failing to go ‘beyond the law.’ Joe Paterno was a revered coach of college football for decades. His insistence upon all-around scholarship and character development among the Penn State players he coached was legendary. He was the “man who set the standard for ethical behavior in the tawdry world of college football,” said USA Today. Another source added “He kept the program’s reputation clean—remarkably so for a program that made its home in the national ranking” for all of his 46-year tenure.33

He fell from grace. Paterno heard of an allegation of sexual abuse involving a junior coach. He reported it to his superiors as he was legally obligated to do. He then got on with his job and probably forgot about it, as it seemed unlikely to him that a friend and colleague would do such a thing.34 When the allegation later turned out to be true, his career—and even his life, for he died two years later—was over. His stellar reputation as role model for virtue did not matter. His lifelong philanthropy did not matter. His profound regret and apologies did not matter. He got caught in the crossfire of those whose gold and only standard was to go ‘beyond the law’ and he hadn’t a chance of redeeming his clean reputation.35

In fact, certain persons cannot go ‘beyond the law’ with impunity. A doctor in the U.S. absolutely dare not go beyond the HIPPA law ensuring confidentiality; it is a meticulously enforced law, leading some to wish that more major crimes were so quickly avenged. Three confidential relationships are bedrock to Western law: confidentiality of doctor-patient, lawyer-client and clergy-penitent,36 for none of these relationships can work without the expectation of confidentiality. If law is not written otherwise, it is illegal to go beyond the law in such cases. Without a clear legal mandate, a Witness elder cannot go ‘beyond the law’ because the default law says he cannot violate confidentiality in matters where the wronged individual would prefer it so.

Geoffrey Jackson of the Witness Governing Body three times pleaded for such a consistent mandate across all territories before the Australian Royal Commission to Institutional Responses into Child Sexual Abuse mentioned above. When it was his turn to testify, he said:37

  1. Jackson: “Thank you for the opportunity to explain this. I think very clearly Mr. Toole pointed out that if the Australian Government, in all the States, was to make mandatory reporting, it would make it so much easier for us.” …
  2. Jackson: “The point being, here, another aspect that an elder needs to consider is he does not have the authority to lord it over or take over control of a family arrangement, where a person—let’s say it is a victim who is 24 or 25 years of age—has a right to decide whether or not they will report that incident. They also respect the family arrangement that the appointed guardian, who is not the perpetrator, has a certain right, too. So this is the spiritual dilemma that we have, because at the same time, we want to make sure that children are cared for. So if the government does happen to make mandatory reporting, that will make this dilemma so much easier for us, because we all want the same goal—that children will be cared for properly.” …

Council Assisting (Stewart): “Leaving aside the question of overriding mandatory law from the civil authorities, do you see the possibility within the scriptures as you have identified them for a change in the practice of Jehovah’s Witnesses?  In other words, would it be within the scriptures for the Jehovah’s Witnesses organization to adopt a policy which says that in cases where there are others at risk, a report must be made to the authorities?”

G Jackson: “That is a possible thing for us to consider, and I think, already, the assumption is there, that if any elder was to see that there was some definite risk, that their conscience should move them to do that. But the point I was trying to make, Mr. Stewart, is there are other scriptural factors that maybe make that a little complicated, and it would certainly be a lot easier if we had mandatory laws on that.”

He is pleading for sanity to prevail. Sometimes reporting is mandated. Sometimes it is not mandated, and in such cases, Witness elders run legal, even moral, risks in doing it. Where not mandated, they are not free to override concerns of family members if they choose not to report; yet they are held to account if a victimized one, years later, regrets that decision, and blames, not the family members who made it, but the elders themselves. Sometimes, doing their best to navigate a maze, our people have likely stumbled. Other times, the maze itself has tripped them up. Jackson pleads for an across-the-board policy, with no room for misunderstanding or misapplication, so that it won’t matter if a given family wants to avoid airing its dirty laundry on the 11 PM News. Even today, families do not line up to do that, whether religious or not.

If going beyond the law is so laudable, then that should become the law. With the prioritized, near-sacred quest of protecting children, one would think nothing could be easier. Failure to go ‘beyond the law’ is an invitation to Monday morning quarterbacks assigning motives, invariably bad ones, to parties they don’t like. However, in most things legal, careers are built on complexity. They are all undermined when the course is made simple.

The reader will have noted by now, and may even have been an exasperated by, this author’s disdain of the greater world for being so disunited; it has never presented itself otherwise, he or she might note. When the agency says “United Nations” and even affixes the Isaiah quotation about nations beating swords into plowshares, it is just joking. It is not to be taken seriously. It is just dreaming of an ideal it knows full well is unattainable. This author must be forgiven because he comes from a people who have pulled it off. He comes from where they are not just joking about such things and where the dream has become reality. Unity among Jehovah’s Witnesses is a commonplace and unremarkable fact. It is not in the Witness world that one hand plants the seed which produces the plant that the other will eventually have to uproot.

So the following is admittedly sarcastic—which is risky because Thomas Carlyle said sarcasm is the language of the Devil. Forgive me. The Devil made me do it. Here is my fictionalized hearing with the commissioner, not speaking specifically of Australia, but for the overall world:

 

Lead Commissioner: “Mr. Jackson, I hope that you people will straighten up and fly right and cooperate more fully with what we are trying to do. I emphasize the word “trying,” Mr. Jackson, because we are terrible at it and the overall track record of the world would be laughably bad were it not so tragic. But our hearts are in the right place.

“Mr. Jackson, I am impressed by your humility, your distress at what clearly is a problem, and your overall demeanor. We have so many people strutting their stuff about here and you almost can’t stand them. We appreciate your willingness to work with us and we hope we can further work with you along this line.

“You have pleaded with us, Mr. Jackson, to make our policies the same across all territories, for that would make your job so much easier. It is a reasonable request. Unfortunately, Mr. Jackson, we cannot comply, though we would like to, because we represent squabbling and disunited governing entities that cannot collectively tie their own shoe. You would think it would be the easiest thing in the world to do what you request. Unfortunately, it is impossible.

“And this is just one area. Don’t get me going about international efforts to fight child sexual abuse. Children in many third world countries are routinely abused every day without anyone at all to stand up for them. That’s because there is no money over there, and consequently, no interest. But we do have a lot of money here.

“We have a request for you, Mr. Jackson. I know it’s a bit irregular, but can you take this off our hands for us? I have looked into your organized nature and have concluded that you could do it. Aren’t you the people who set up and take down your buildings of worship almost as easily as our people set up and take down Coleman tents? I know you do not have grandstanding politicians who will push and shove to do whatever will keep them in their jobs, and that you can focus on the real issues, undistracted by personal agendas. I know you can separate the truly worrisome pedophiles from the run-of-the-mill ones, who appear to be almost everyone. I know too, that you care about poor people just as much as you care about well-off people. Listen, we just want to save our kids here, and we think that if we funneled all reports to you, you would be able to handle keeping a centralized list and handle its distribution.  I know it is not your main line, but surely you can devote a committee to it. Ten of your people are worth 10,000 of ours because your people know how to work together and our people do not. The more people we add to our efforts, the more chaotic the overall picture gets.

(in my dreams)

 

Apostates correctly foresaw that the Witness organization would earn a rebuke from the Commission. Like kids on Christmas eve simply besides themselves with joyous anticipation, they worked tirelessly to direct the attention of all Witnesses to it. They had been pumping up anti-Witness diatribes forever, pumping them up with orgasmic fervor as one might pump up basketballs or footballs to the point of explosion, and now it looked like one might actually pay off. Someone masqueraded on Twitter as Geoffrey Jackson himself. “Pray for our brothers in Russia,” he tweeted at one point, trying to gather in the suckers. In time it became clear that he didn’t give a hoot in hell for our brothers in Russia—jail them all as far as he was concerned. It was all a ruse so as to draw in the guileless ones. At any rate, he seemed a bit put out as events leading to the Russian trial gathered steam and made Witnesses the object of international good will, rather than the pariah he had hoped for. That upcoming Supreme Court appearance loomed as an approaching monster for apostates, almost as scary as the pedophilia monster of Caleb and Sophia. They tried to imitate the youngsters in commanding that it be gone, but it did not go anywhere.

In many cases, former Witnesses who are now enemies of the faith and who push this pedophile narrative for all it is worth were once disciplined themselves for one thing or another and are livid over it. It is no more complicated than that. Did I hear that they routinely arrived bright and early each morning, saving all seats at the Australian Commission hearing with pamphlets the moment the janitor unlocked the doors, just like their former friends do at the Regional Conventions?

 

This writer is unwilling to accede the moral high ground to the anti-pedophile zealots. Let them claim some victory before we do that. They have compiled a list of abusers that is so long it is absolutely worthless to law enforcement. Consequently, being put on ‘the list’ is largely a matter of revenge or public shaming. It is not undeserved, but it does nothing to solve the problem of protecting children. To some extent, child protective efforts have devolved into a job machine and a platform for parading politicians to declare how they are tough on pedophiles. It is ever like the zealots of the world to charge about boisterously, point fingers everywhere, punish some, shame others, and then, on the basis of their good intentions alone, declare victory. Let them actually achieve victory before we hail them as modern heroes. Routinely one hears of children abused by persons who were already on the list—why—they lived right down the street! The world chokes on its abusers. For that matter, it ought to put every victim on the list as well, or at least on a watch list, for it is common knowledge that an abused one easily becomes an abuser himself. That is completely unfair, but it makes perfect sense for a world that thinks it can snuff out abuse through pedophile registries.

 

Reporting the sexual abuse of a child to the proper authorities offers no guarantee that the child will be protected. In some cases, it results in just the opposite. A 2016 article in Salon established that, due to a combination of incompetence, turf wars, greed, and deceit, “in family courts throughout the [United States], evidence that one of the parents is sexually or physically abusing a child is routinely rejected. Instead, perpetrators of abuse are often entrusted with unsupervised visits or joint or sole custody of the children they abuse.” The courts readily accepted “dubious theories used to undermine the protective parent’s credibility.” Court records were often sealed, which serves to block outside oversight. The “high cost of litigation throws up a formidable obstacle for most parents fighting to get their children out of harm’s way,” one source citing $100,000 as not an uncommon sum, which has driven protective parents into bankruptcy.” Courts commonly believe the abuser, even one with a conviction record, and disregard the victim.38

Rapists are the ones who should be aggressively punished. No punishment is too great. As to the rest, Caleb and Sophia can handle it, as they are told: “If anybody tries to touch you—even if it is someone you know and trust…and then tell mommy or daddy.” An extended family member committing abuse is not uncommon. A parent doing it is very uncommon, with the exception of a step-parent. The training of every Witness in the world via their regional conventions is a tactic one might suggest for the overall population.

Let the world also come to grips with the causes of pedophilia. If there is one thing that modern times have taught us, it is how amazingly fluid sexuality is. In a world that relentlessly pushes sex into ever expanding frontiers, crossing same-sex lines, encouraging lifestyles of hooking up, acquiescing to the sexual activity of kids at ages ever younger, advertising it on television which pharmaceutical remedies in the event that one’s performance is subpar, it is unlikely to find success declaring every form of sex fine and acceptable except one that will not be tolerated! The best defense will be the continual Bible training at the Kingdom Hall to keep oneself clean of every sort of fleshly defilement—to be had from the one religion training its members to properly integrate sexuality into their personalities, as neither the focus of life nor something to be shied from in its proper context. Ones of that religion should be portrayed as the heroes in this drama, even when flawed, and never the villain.

 

Suicide is the scourge among the young today. USA reports it has increased 70% over ten years.39 Can that not be pinned upon the prior generation, the one that handed them the world that they now wither in? It is a world that routinely fails its children in countless ways: in flooding their minds and hearts with graphic violence and sexual perversion that destroy the family nest they are raised in, in targeting them as objects for merchandising, even with AI toys that spy on them, in saddling them with decades-long debt (in the United States) acquiring the education they are told they need for success—according to Mike Rowe, for jobs that no longer exist. It is a world dangerous enough that they must be under a guardian’s watch 24/7, whereas in my youth they roamed wherever they roamed, with parents neither knowing nor caring where they were at any given time. Older teens hitchhiked, which was once a universally accepted means of getting around; today it is a course bordering on lunacy.

The same society that puts the physical welfare of children on a razor’s edge of alertness sells them down the river in ways spiritual and emotional. The world’s animalistic hostilities are unrestrained and spill over for all to see and pick up upon. During 2017 there were sixty school shootings. Bullying has become routine among children and is intensified by cyber-bullying. Prior American presidents were frequently vulgar and, in some cases, philanderers. Media knew it well but considered the subject off limits, for they said: ‘What if the children are watching?’ ‘To hell with the children!’ they say today, as there is no sexual scandal not related in detail to score someone political points.

Things seen cannot be unseen. Children bullied cannot be unbullied. Online they might see people beheaded. They might see people hanging themselves.40 The world puts powerful media tools into the hands of children with nary a concern over its misuse or effect upon them. A former Facebook boss claimed the social network’s “dopamine-driven feedback loops” were “ripping apart the social fabric.” “God only knows what it’s doing to our children’s brains,” another exec said.41 Not to be discounted is an opioid epidemic manufactured by big business42 which just happened to get out of hand, tearing families apart willy-nilly. Surely nothing is more telling than young people emotionally ascertaining what Hotel World has to offer and deciding to check out. They don’t buy its boasts of materialistic progress. They don’t think such progress outweighs emotional and spiritual ‘demons.’ “The things that used to keep people together and give kids a sense that things were going to be O.K. are just not available today,” said Dr. Michael Roy, director of the adolescent unit at the McCauley Neuropsychiatric Institute at St. Mary’s Hospital in San Francisco.43

If the prior dramatization of the child abuse commission was sarcastic, the following borders on being downright sick. Thomas Carlyle will be spinning in his grave. But it is based upon valid kernels of truth that one might easily break one’s teeth on. Just because a skit is macabre does not mean it is untrue. Skip it if you like. But if you do not, cut this writer slack, for I have temporarily taken leave of my senses, just like Paul did when he pushed back at the superapostles. Let us go into the schoolroom:

 

“Class, I know you are sad that Ashley hung herself yesterday. And last week little Jimmy in the 4th grade got into the opioids and died. He was sad because Travis’s older brother blew his brains out a month ago and so he took the pills to make him feel better. You probably saw Ashley on Facebook. Wasn’t that terrible? Your school loves you and wants to help, so we have asked Miss Postate to address the class. Miss Postate, you have our attention."

Thank you, teacher. Good morning, class. (Good morning, Miss Postate)

I have several charts with me today that shows the world is wonderful. Look at them closely.44 If you do that you will see that most of the bad things are almost gone. Overall global poverty is going down! So is child labor! So is the income spent on food! Also infant mortality! And teen births (though there may be very tiny people who pay the costs for this victory)! More people can read and more go to college! Scientists and educated people did this, not stupid Jehovah’s Witnesses. They’re at the bottom of the Pew List. What good are they? Look to science and education to solve our problems, not God. My charts show the problems are almost gone.

Whatever is wrong with you—killing yourselves the way you do? Stop it right now! Can’t you see? The end of problems is just around the corner. We are so very close. Don’t Give Up. We even have suicide hotlines because we love you. We have powerful anti-depressants for you. What more could you ask for?

I know that you are sad because Taylor was molested by her uncle not long ago. And Logan and Mason and Dixon and Donna and Prancer. These things happen. They are very bad, and we are working hard to stop them. We have sex offender registry lists and half the planet is on them, so we are making fine progress. The thing that I want you to focus on is that some Jehovah’s Witness elders punished Dixon’s uncle, but they didn’t do it the right way. It’s not their job to punish him—it’s our job.

 

Infant mortality is down. Life expectancy is up. Some material progress is undeniable. Would that emotional and spiritual progress—the stuff of life—had kept the pace. Miss Postate should keep her charts to herself. Not everything is on them. And much that is there is irrelevant to children and even adults, for it is known that ‘facts’ are elusive building blocks of uncertain quality that can be fashioned into both palaces and outhouses. Yes, one may acknowledge material progress. Yet the following additional ‘fact’ speaks volumes: from the beginning of time, clowns have delighted children. What kind of a society allows them to be hijacked into symbols of terror, triggering an R.I.P. for Ronald McDonald?45 Speaking of societal division today in the U.S, realized most pointedly in politics, Nate Boyer said: “Simply put, it seems that we just hate each other,” a reality he found almost too painful to put into words.46

 

The P-word is the most vile moniker possible, but it is not the only one Witnesses deal with. Nor should one expect it to be. Jesus said “every sort of wicked thing.” He did not leave it at one.47 It wasn’t left at one in the first century, where Christians were accused of cannibalism48 and of burning down Rome.49 It isn’t left at one today. It is but another manifestation of the Lord’s words: “Blessed are you when they insult you and persecute you and utter every kind of evil against you [falsely] because of me.” Surely, child sexual abuse qualifies as an ‘every kind of evil’ persons might falsely charge. After all, upon what true basis might Christians be accused of evil: “Well…um, they were pushy at the door?” If they are to be accused, it has to be on a false pretext, and the more incendiary the better. One can get no more incendiary than child sexual abuse. 

Oddly, the topic of child sexual abuse never arose in connection to Russia’s current battle with Jehovah’s Witnesses. It has arisen in many battlefields, but not this one—so far. Only months after the ban did the Russian Embassy push back with a tweet. It reproduced a headline somewhere linking Jehovah’s Witnesses to child abuse. I tweeted back that if there was anything to it, it would have been part of the trial. Technically that was not true, for no sustainable reasons, barely any reasons at all, were part of the trial. Instead, the Witness organization was found guilty as charged on all counts and the docket was cleared for the next case.

 

The Australian Royal Commission (ARC) left no stone unturned in its four-year investigation into child sexual abuse. Apostates had sought online to convey the impression that the sole purpose of the Commission was to expose Jehovah’s Witnesses. Rather, all institutions operating in the country, for which data was obtainable, were subject to inspection with an eye toward systemic problems that might be addressed. Altogether, the ARC was able to review 57 different case studies.

Case Study 29, published in October of 2016, relates to Jehovah’s Witnesses in the country. There, the 1006 allegations of child sexual abuse from Watchtower Australia’s own files, dating back into the 1950s, occasioned harsh words as to the alleged inadequacy of internal handling. The Commission was blistering in its assertion that all such allegations should have been immediately relayed to outside authorities, and that the Watchtower organization had acted as though oblivious to such concerns.50 Many have picked up the refrain, not just Witness detractors, but also the casual reader, who may conclude that the strange religion must play host to a den of perversion.

There is a colloquial saying of one who “can’t see the forest for the sake of the trees.” It denotes a party analyzing the small picture quite correctly, yet in doing so missing entirely an overall picture of far greater significance. Can this be charged of the Commission? Not of members themselves. They did their job nobly, with obvious concern over combatting a worldwide pandemic. But the saying might be said with regard to the focus of the Commission itself. What it looked into was procedures for handling abuse cases that have occurred. It was not their mission to look at prevention of abuse. Yet this is by far the more important picture.

The Watchtower did what no one else was proactive enough to do, and they get slammed for it. It is the epitome of the saying: “No good deed goes unpunished.” It is not that findings of the court are invalid. Doubtless, the Witness organization will take them to heart and be instructed by them.51 However, with all other denominations, except for clergy, crimes of child sexual abuse are discovered independently by authorities, and no connection is ever made with whatever religion they profess. Other denominations did not know or want to know whether members actually applied Bible teachings or not. Through neglect of what turns out to be a most serious problem, they produced no record for the ARC or anyone else to hold hearings on. The 55 non-Witness case studies that the ARC investigated were institutions of various sorts: social, government or schools, that were responsible enough to track child sexual abuse. Religious organizations on the whole stayed far away from such things.

The finding that should be spotlighted, though it was not because the mission was something else, is that children appear to be far safer in the Witness community than in the general Australian population. Case Study 54 is a follow-up to Study 29. It sheds light on the situation that will surprise some.52 Study 54 looked at the 17 instances of child abuse from the Witness organization that had occurred in the interim, from August 2015 to January 2017. Nine were historical cases and none involved an elder. All occurred in a familial setting. Of the seventeen, two had refused to report to secular authorities, as they were adult survivors and it was their right not to report. The number of Witnesses in all Australia at the time was 67,418.53

A revealing comparison becomes possible with a pool size large enough to be significant. Out of a total national Australian population of 23,968,973,54 the Australian Institute of Family Studies reported 355,925 notifications of child abuse stemming from 225,487 children (2015-2016). 12% of that number was determined to be child sexual abuse, and so the 225,487 becomes 27,058.55 From the Jehovah’s Witnesses figures, seventeen notifications of abuse over seventeen months is one per month. Let us therefore call it twelve, so that time periods of all figures equalize. Twelve abuse incidents were reported among the 67,418 Witnesses in Australia during the same one-year period that 27,058 child sexual abuse cases were reported among the entire Australian population of 23,968,973.

The figures to be used for comparative purposes are: Greater Australia:  27,058 / 23,968,973, which represents .1129% vs Jehovah’s Witnesses in Australia:  12 / 67,418, which represents .0178% From these figures it would appear that a child in the Witness community is six times safer than a child in the greater Australian community. From them the conclusion can be drawn that if greater Australia had experienced child sexual abuse in the same proportion as that of Jehovah’s Witnesses, it would have experienced but 4,510 incidences of child sexual abuse, not the 27,058 it actually did experience. Thus, there were 22,458 annual incidences of child sexual abuse that would not have occurred had the entire country had the abuse prevention record of Jehovah’s Witnesses.

The ARC focused on 1006 JW reports of abuse over a 60-year period. They could not be expected to focus on the 22,458 reports in one year. That was not their job. They focused on the 1006 reports over 60 years, which was their job. They were not able to look at any other entire denominations because none of them tracked abuse among their parishioners. They themselves tracked no record of perpetrator by religion, unless that figure was supplied by the religion itself, to be handed over upon demand. There is thus ‘negligence’ on two counts: one, of religious organizations keeping no record of abuse among their parishioners, as though none had ever occurred, and two: of Australian authorities themselves who failed to ascertain religious affiliation of perpetrators. One or the other should have happened for them to condemn the one faith proactive enough to maintain the records that show, upon number-crunching, that they were preventing child sexual abuse six times better. In many settings, negligence is a punishable offense. In this setting, negligence is rewarded and proactiveness is punished.

There is only so far you can go with the ‘six times better’ figure. It should not be relied upon as dogma. It is processed notifications into varying levels of severity on one side versus unprocessed notifications on the other. It is most likely that the 17 notifications from the Witness camp will break down similarly to stats overall, but this cannot be guaranteed. Small variations alter the results dramatically and large variations make it all but meaningless.  It is good only for a ballpark figure, the best that can be hoped for given that the ones who should have put their talents to work in ascertaining truth chose instead to bury theirs in the ground. It will have to do for now. Adjusted results from data clarification doesn’t have to work against Witnesses. It could work in their favor. If notifications in the greater Australian figures outnumbered victims, that could be true in the Witness figures as well. Maybe even all 17 reports stem from a single rotter like that fellow in San Diego. Kneecap that scoundrel and the record is perfect. We live in a world of buzzwords and catchphrases, few of which will endure rigorous shaking. It is enough to employ our ‘six times better’ figure as a starting bid and concede that further bids might alter the picture in either direction. Therefore, from henceforth, we will merely state that the Witness record of prevention is ‘significantly above’ that of the general population.

Addressing an instance of child sexual abuse ‘properly’ does not mean that it did not occur. It suggests the grief counselors dispatched to the school after a school shooting. Adults reassure themselves that they have addressed the situation properly. However, any student in the school will instantly say it would have been far superior had there been no need for grief counselors in the first place. The transcending lesson to take away from this hearing is not the 1006 abuse victims whose cases were not handled properly in the eyes of Australian authorities. It is the likely 22,458 cases of abuse nationwide (in a single year) that would not have happened were greater society able to imitate the record of Jehovah’s Witnesses.

It is so very typical of this world to relentlessly focus on post-disaster clean-up and completely ignore prevention. Is it not because prevention involves some limits placed upon free expression and some judgements made about morality? Even so, prevention is what should be given priority. ‘Handling child sexual abuse cases correctly’ essentially amounts to securing the barn door after the cows have fled. It is not unproductive to do this, but it is far better for them not to flee in the first place, and the Jehovah’s Witness record on this is significantly better than non-Witnesses. There may be more of these investigations to come. Those who despise Jehovah’s Witnesses are determined that their child sexual abuse policy will headline every one of them. The ‘star’ of Witness policy not aligning with policy of the greater world will continue to burn bright for such ones, but over time the rising star of the superior Witnesses’ overall prevention rate will burn brighter.

One can and should empathize with the two sexual abuse survivors of Witness background interviewed by the Commission. Their testimony is distressing, though no more so than the thousands of abuse cases the ARC heard in all settings. Yet somewhere along the line it ought to be acknowledged that there are far fewer abuse cases among Jehovah’s Witnesses than elsewhere due to their immersion in a culture where Bible principles were emphasized. Put simply, the Australian Royal Commission found much fault with how Witnesses handled cases of child sexual abuse. But they missed entirely the fact that there were 83% less of them to handle, per the Case 54 figures. Doubtless, the overall moral climate prevailing among Jehovah’s Witnesses accounts for the difference. Had the ARC not missed this fact, they might even have recommended that all persons in Australia become Jehovah’s Witnesses. And they might have awarded Jehovah’s Witnesses a Family Glory award, just like Putin did to the Russian Witness family.

Will the greater world really condemn the ones who prevented child sexual abuse several times better than anyone else, but failed to prevent it completely, over allegations that they neglected to report instances to the authorities who oversaw a record several times worse? It makes no sense to me, and I cannot escape the suspicion that the overall intent is to divert from the preaching of the good news, for that is plainly the effect. This is not to say that everyone so involved, or even most, is deliberately pursuing this agenda, for the flashpoint is not imaginary, the subject is gut-wrenching, and it is easy to get caught up in a cause. In no other area is one’s viewpoint so assuredly influenced, if not determined, by their experience. Even an ARC Justice appeared clearly hostile during one session. But as with the Russian ban itself, where allegations of child sexual abuse played absolutely no role, there are entities desperate to stop the spread of Jesus’ message.

Opponents of Jehovah’s Witnesses have been trying to take them out since their inception, and here is the latest front. Paradoxically, were they to succeed in their goal, they would be proving themselves friends of child sexual abuse. How can it be otherwise? Eliminating those most successful in prevention would surely expose more children to danger. They need instead to allow Jehovah’s Witnesses to set up their literature carts right within their lobbies, for the latter has found something that works in combatting this evil. With regard to reporting, to insist that the doers were doing it wrong, yet not acknowledge that they were the sole doers, is surely to miss the mark. When Starfleet Command finds it necessary to discipline Captain Kirk, they nonetheless take into account that he was boldly going where no one had gone before.

It is quite clear that the Governing Body can do no more. Geoffrey Jackson pleaded for mandatory reporting laws across the board in all territories. Why has that not been done? That way elders can run roughshod over any family member who, for whatever reason, does not want to report abuse they have suffered or know of to outside authorities. As was stated about the two from case 54, “they were adult survivors and it was their right not to report.” Strip them of that right. Make it mandatory that everyone report everything.

If the greater authorities are as serious about preventing child sexual abuse as they purport to be, seemingly no policy change could be simpler. Then there would be no swiping at people for not ‘going beyond the law.’ Make it the law if it is so crucial. If they refuse or neglect to enact that most basic proactive measure, yet they would still issue blistering criticism of Jehovah’s Witnesses, what does that tell you? Something more than Capernaum is here.

Commission members were not doing their job wrong. Their mission was not to consider the factors that would mitigate occurrence. It was only after-incident clean-up efforts that they were interested in. It was not their job to weigh the likelihood of child sexual abuse in any given setting. They made no judgements in that regard. Commission members did their job nobly, but nonetheless managed to convey the impression that one of the cleanest organizations on earth was one of the foulest.

From the book Dear Mr. Putin - Jehovah's Witnesses Write Russia     (see also safe version)

Endnotes

  1. “Russian Pedophilia Cases Soared by One-Third in 2014,” The Moscow Times, March 4, 2015, accessed March 27, 2018, https://themoscowtimes.com/news/russian-pedophilia-cases-soared-by-one-third-in-2014-44477
  2. Per private email
  3. “Child Abuse Statistics and the Best Resources,” Invisible Children, accessed April 2, 2018, http://www.invisiblechildren.org/2017/12/29/child-abuse-statistics-the-best-resources/
  4. 1 Corinthians 6:9-11
  5. See NABRE script notes for verse 1 Corinthians 6:9, accessed March 28, 2011, https://www.bible.com/bible/463/1CO.6.nabre
  6. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sibylline_Oracles
  7. James H Charlesworth, Old Testament Pseudepigrapha (Peabody Massachusetts: Hendrickson Publishers, 1983) 375
  8. 1 Corinthians 15:33
  9. Catherine Shoard, “They Know Him as God, But You Can Call Him Harvey Weinstein,” The Guardian, February 23, 2012, accessed March 27, 2018, https://www.theguardian.com/film/2012/feb/23/harvey-weinstein-oscars-as-god
  10. Janice Williams, “Meryl Streep Once Called Harvey Weinstein a ‘God,’ Now Actress is Calling Him ‘Disgraceful,’ Newsweek, October 9, 2107, accessed March 27, 2018, http://www.newsweek.com/meryl-streep-harvey-weinstein-harrassment-680643
  11. The “two-witness rule” is taken from the Torah (Deuteronomy 19:15) and is reaffirmed in the New Testament. (2 Corinthians 13:1, 1 Timothy 5:19, Mathew 18:15-17) It has long been fundamental to Western law. As a side note, the verse itself was cited before the Russian Supreme court to point out that even the Russian synodal translation does not support the Trinity teaching.
  12. Robert Bridge, “The West’s ‘Guilty Until Proven Innocent’ Mantra is Wrecking Lives & International Relations,” RT.com, March 24, 2018, accessed March 27, 2018, https://www.rt.com/op-ed/422206-russia-skripal-courts-metoo
  13. Policy Papers: Lucy Delap, “Child Welfare, Child Protection and Sexual Abuse, 1918-1990,” History and Policy, accessed March 28, 2018, http://www.historyandpolicy.org/policy-papers/papers/child-welfare-child-protection-and-sexual-abuse-1918-1990
  14. “America’s Unjust Sex Laws,” also “Unjust and Ineffective,” The Economist, August 6, 2009
  15. Niamh Harris, Child Porn So Widespread In UK- Police Can’t Prosecute Everyone,” yournewswire.com, October 25, 2017, accessed March 27, 2018, http://yournewswire.com/child-porn-so-widespread-in-uk-police-cant-prosecute-everyone/
  16. Peter Foster, “Anonymous Hackers Turn Fire on Global Paedophile Menace,” The Telegraph, January 23, 2015, accessed March 27, 2018, http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/northamerica/usa/11363303/Anonymous-hackers-turn-fire-on-global-paedophile-menace.html
  17. Kaja Whitehouse, “Kindergarten Teacher Busted for Child Porn, Stealing Kids’ Undies,” New York Post, November 22, 2017, accessed March 27, 2018, https://nypost.com/2017/11/22/kindergarten-teacher-busted-for-child-porn-stealing-kids-undies/
  18. “Teen Girl’s ‘Sexting’ Prosecuted as Felony Child Porn, ACLU Fights Charges,” RT.com, December 23, 2017, accessed March 27, 2018, https://www.RT.com/usa/414031-aclu-girl-selfie-child-porn/
  19. Emanuella Grinberg, “No Longer a Registered Sex Offender, But the Stigma Remains,” CNN, February 11, 2010, accessed March 27, 2018, http://www.cnn.com/2010/CRIME/02/11/oklahoma.teen.sex.offender/index.html
  20. Konstantin Krylov, “Everything You Wanted to Know About Pedophilia, But Were Afraid to Ask,” The Agency of Political News, September 27, 2016, accessed March 27, 2018, http://www.apn.ru/index.php?newsid=35505
  21. Bee Shapiro, “His Eye Makeup is Way Better Than Yours,” New York Times, November 22, 2107, accessed March 27, 2018, https://www.nytimes.com/2017/11/22/style/his-eye-makeup-is-way-better-than-yours.html
  22. “Anthony Morris III: We Protect Our Children,” Jehovah’s Witnesses Broadcasting, accessed March 27, 2018, https://tv.jw.org/#en/mediaitems/pub-jwban_201507_2_VIDEO
  23. “Jehovah’s Witnesses Educate Parents and Children to Protect Against Sexual Predators,” accessed March 28, 2018, https://www.jw.org/en/jehovahs-witnesses/activities/help-community/safeguarding-children-sexual-abuse
  24. “Protect Your Children,” Jehovah’s Witnesses Broadcasting, accessed March 27, 2018, https://tv.jw.org/#en/mediaitems/ChildrenFeatured/pub-pk_17_VIDEO
  25. “Safe Touch / Unsafe Touch,” as part of ‘Fight Child Abuse’ series of videos, Barbara Sinatra Children’s Center, accessed March 27, 2018, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zNTUMNKSNwk It is an organization “dedicated to ensuring every child's right to a normal, healthy and secure childhood” which has produced several excellent videos, including the one featured here, with but a single blemish.
  26. This was presented during the morning session on the 2nd day of the ‘2017 ‘Don't Give Up’ Regional Convention of Jehovah's Witnesses. The talk was part of the symposium entitled “Build a House That Will Endure,” and was itself entitled: Safeguard Your Children From “What is Evil.”
  27. Proverbs 22:3
  28. An American sitcom broadcast from 1965 to 1971. Only 20 years after the horrors of the Holocaust, it was seen as a fit topic of comedy. Officers of its setting, Stalag 13, were portrayed as lovable doofuses, whereas the officers from outside were portrayed as sinister doofuses, and all specifics were avoided.
  29. Downloadable Information Packets, “Jehovah's Witnesses Scripturally Based Position on Child Protection,” JW.org, https://www.jw.org/en/news/legal/legal-resources/information/packet-jw-scripturally-based-position-child-protection/#?insight[search_id]=57169fc4-5c00-44ee-8f2d-51f09f6cca70&insight[search_result_index]=5
  30. Press Release: Jehovah's Witnesses Office of Public Information, November 21, 2007, http://web.archive.org/web/20071124024433/http://www.jw-media.org/region/global/english/releases/beliefs_practices/071121.htm

November 21, 2007

  1. Jacob Sullum, “Federal Judge Says Molestation Law Criminalizing Diaper Changes Violates Due Processs,” Reason, April 7, 2017, accessed March 27, 2018, https://reason.com/blog/2017/04/07/federal-judge-says-arizona-molestation-l
  2. Dorian Hargrove, “Judge Orders Jehovah’s Witnesses to Release Molestation Files,” San Diego Reader, August 30, 2017, accessed March 27, 2018, https://www.sandiegoreader.com/news/2017/aug/30/citylights-judge-orders-jehovahs-witness-release/?page=1&
  3. The specific quotes have disappeared online. One must obtain the paper originals. The words are best captured online as quoted by others, such as on my own blog: http://www.tomsheepandgoats.com/2011/11/the-firing-of-joepa.html, November 11, 2011.
  4. “Joe Paterno, 85, Dies in State College,” ESPN, January 23, 2012, accessed March 27, 2018, http://www.espn.com/college-football/story/_/id/7489238/joe-paterno-ex-penn-state-nittany-lions-coach-dies-85-2-month-cancer-fight. ESPN includes a quote exactly reflecting Anthony Morris’ statement about not initially recognizing the scope of the problem. Of the unspecific allegation of child sexual abuse relayed to him, Paterno said: “You know, (McQueary) didn’t want to get specific. And to be frank with you I don’t know that it would have done any good, because I never heard of, of, rape and a man. So I just did what I thought was best. I talked to people that I thought would be, if there was a problem, that would be following up on it.”
  5. See also a blistering defense of Paterno by Marc Rubin at http://tominpaine.blogspot.com/2011/11/why-joe-paterno-should-sue-for-libel.html, where it is contended that Paterno did fulfill even his “moral” obligation by reporting to campus police, who fully are police.
  6. Jason Cheung, “What is a Privileged Conversation?” Law Library, legalmatch.com, October 8, 2014, accessed March 27, 2018, https://www.legalmatch.com/law-library/article/privilege-communication-lawyers.html
  7. Transcript of Day 155 downloadable at: “Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse” August 14, 2015, 15965, or search (CNTR + F) keyword ‘mandatory’, accessed March 27, 2018, https://www.childabuseroyalcommission.gov.au/case-studies/case-study-29-jehovahs-witnesses.
  8. Laurie Udesky, 100 Reporters, “Custody in Crisis: How Family Courts Nationwide Put Children in Danger,’ Salon, November 12, 2016, accessed March 14, 2018, https://www.salon.com/2016/12/11/custody-in-crisis-how-family-courts-nationwide-put-children-in-danger/
  9. Jayne O’Donnell and Anne Saker, “Teen Suicide is Soaring. Do Spotty Mental Health and Addiction Treatment Share Blame” USA Today, March 19, 2018, accessed March 21, 2018, https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/politics/2018/03/19/teen-suicide-soaring-do-spotty-mental-health-and-addiction-treatment-share-blame/428148002/
  10. Jessica Guynn, “Facebook Takes Steps to Stop Suicides on Live,” USA TODAY, accessed March 27, 2018, https://www.usatoday.com/story/tech/news/2017/03/01/facebook-live-suicide-prevention/98546584/
  11. James Vincent, “Former Facebook Exec Says Social Media is Ripping Apart Society,” theverge.com, December 11, 2017, accessed March 27, 2018, https://www.theverge.com/2017/12/11/16761016/former-facebook-exec-ripping-apart-society
  12. Ken Hall, “Has Big Pharma Made America a Country of Opioid Drug Addicts? Newsweek, August 9, 2017, accessed March 27, 2018, http://www.newsweek.com/has-big-pharma-made-america-country-opioid-drug-addicts-648480
  13. James Barron, “Suicide Rates of Teen-agers: Are Their Lives Harder to Live,” New York Times, April 15, 1987, accessed March 27, 2018, http://www.nytimes.com/1987/04/15/garden/suicide-rates-of-teen-agers-are-their-lives-harder-to-live.html?pagewanted=all
  14. Peter Diamandis, “Why the World is Better Than You Think in 10 Powerful Charts,” singularityhub.com, June 27, 2016, accessed March 27, 2018, https://singularityhub.com/2016/06/27/why-the-world-is-better-than-you-think-in-10-powerful-charts/
  15. Elle Hunt, “Clown Sightings: Ronald McDonald Keeps Low Profile Amid Creepy Craze,” theguardian.com, October 11, 2016, accessed March 27, 2018, https://www.theguardian.com/culture/2016/oct/12/clown-sightings-ronald-mcdonald-keeps-low-profile-amid-creepy-craze
  16. Nate Boyer, “Ex-Green Beret Nate Boyer writes open letter to Trump, Kaepernick, NFL and America,” ESPN, October 13, 2017, accessed March 27, 2018, http://www.espn.com/nfl/story/_/id/21003968/nfl-2017-ex-green-beret-nate-boyer-writes-open-letter-president-donald-trump-colin-kaepernick-nfl-united-states-americaUSA TODAY Published 6:03 a.m. ET March 1, 2017
  17. Matthew 5:11
  18. “Why Early Christians Were Despised,” Christianity.com, April 28, 2010, accessed March 27, 2018, https://www.christianity.com/church/church-history/timeline/1-300/why-early-christians-were-despised-11629610.html
  19. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Great_Fire_of_Rome
  20. Case Study 29 - Jehovah’s Witnesses, Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse, March 2017, accessed March 27, 2018, https://www.childabuseroyalcommission.gov.au/case-studies, select Case Study 29
  21. Responding to a letter from the ARC post- Case Study 29, the Watchtower acknowledged they had “reviewed, clarified, refined and consolidated their policies and procedures on child abuse. For example: Victims of child abuse are never required to confront their abuser. Child abuse victims who make an allegation may be accompanied by a confidant of either gender for moral support during the investigation by the elders or, if the victim wishes to be present, at a subsequent judicial hearing of allegations of child abuse. … In all cases, the victim and his/her parents have the absolute right to report an allegation to the authorities.” The commission went on to express dissatisfaction that the foregoing did not sufficiently mirror recommendations that they themselves had made. See ‘Attachments’ at Case Study 54 Exhibits. Search for WBTS letter of November 4, 2016, accessed March 16, 2018, https://www.childabuseroyalcommission.gov.au/exhibits-case-study-54
  22. Case Study 54: Institutional review of the Jehovah’s Witnesses, Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse, March 2017, accessed March 27, 2018, https://www.childabuseroyalcommission.gov.au/case-studies, select Case Study 54
  23. 217 Yearbook of Jehovah’s Witnesses, “Country and Territory Reports – Australia”
  24. http://www.worldometers.info/world-population/australia-population This ‘live’ reading can be expected to increase, but not soon significantly enough to affect the calculation.
  25. Child Abuse and Neglect Statistics, CFCA Resource Sheet - June 2017, Australian Government Australian Institute of Family Studies, accessed March 27, 2018, https://aifs.gov.au/cfca/publications/child-abuse-and-neglect-statistics

 

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)

Education

Two of the four Witnesses who testified at the April 20th Moscow trial were highly educated. Probably they were selected for just that reason. If the world understands nothing but education, give it to them in spades. But the 50/50 mix at the trial is atypical. For every college trained person among the Witnesses, there are ten who are not. Some say it is that way by design—that the Witness organization wants people to remain uneducated and thereby be easier to influence.

The accusation misses the point. If it is that way with education, it has always been that way with Christianity as portrayed in the Bible. It is even deliberately that way on God’s part, and it can be taken as a taunt at the world’s collective wisdom that has so blatantly failed to provide peace, security, and well-being. “For the wisdom of this world is foolishness in the eyes of God, for it is written ‘He catches the wise in their own ruses,’ and again ‘The Lord knows the thoughts of the wise, that they are vain,’” say the verses.1 Is there anywhere that wisdom is to be found more than in in its system of higher education? Surely that system must take ownership of the world it has collectively produced.

Celsus, a philosopher of the second century, made great sport of ridiculing Christians. They were “labourers, shoemakers, farmers, the most uninformed and clownish of men.”2 The apostle Paul would not have been embarrassed by this. On the contrary, he agrees: “Not many of you were wise by human standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth. Rather, God chose the foolish of the world to shame the wise, and God chose the weak of the world to shame the strong.”3 Jesus passes it off as almost a grand trick to those who are too full of themselves to notice: “I give praise to you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, for although you have hidden these things from the wise and the learned you have revealed them to the childlike. Yes, Father, such has been your gracious will.”4

Many modern writers seemingly are embarrassed by these humble beginnings and will gloss over the unpleasantness, as though to say “Okay, they may have started lowly, but look how they pulled themselves up!” They strive to qualify the uneducated roots. They are embarrassed about them. For example, Edward D. Andrews explains it away by writing: “Celsus was an enemy of Christianity … what Celsus observed is only within the sphere of his personal experiences. How many Christians could he have known out of almost a million at the times of his writing?” [italics mine]5 Do not these remarks reflect a cultural bias that it is the educated people who most matter? You do not want to be portrayed as a religion of dumbbells. You must leave such humiliating circumstances behind if you are to rise in popular esteem.

First-century Christianity primarily drew from the lower rungs of society. In time, it apostatized and thereby made itself more attractive to the more elevated rungs, but it has not been that way from the beginning. The “uneducated” and “ordinary” men who formed the very leadership of the new faith ever remain uneducated and ordinary.6 Christianity is a ‘working-class’ religion. It thrives on humility. The more education of this world a person has, the greater the assault on that quality, and the more likely such ones will accept only a modified version of the faith that will fit their terms. Jehovah’s Witnesses are nothing if not ones who hold to the original model. Celsus’ words should not be shied away from. They should be embraced as the template that would forever define true Christianity. If God had wanted to cater to the ‘accomplished’ crowd back then, he would have arranged that his Son be born at the Jerusalem Hyatt instead of the Bethlehem Manger. The fact that he didn’t demonstrates that he doesn’t just ‘put up’ with the ‘lower rungs’—he “chooses” them over the higher ones.

Can the higher rungs really be that high?  Would not the world they have collectively built be much more livable if they were? Pure academic muscle carries little weight with God, much less the credentials that the world defers to. The twelve were decidedly not intellectuals. They were “workmen” who had learned to handle the Word aright.7 Paul had intellectual credibility, with advanced education for his time, but he took direction from the workmen. His lasting stature is not that he was an in-house thinker. He was primarily a doer, whereas the “superapostles” who were always trying to thwart him, boasting of their own credentials, were not.8

It is unfair to say that the Christian congregation has contempt for contemporary education, a charge sometimes made. But it is fair to say it doesn’t allow itself to be shoved around by it. The offerings of human wisdom are ever inconstant, ever arguable, and occasionally downright stupid. The organization of Jehovah’s Witnesses looks to Scripture for basic training in life. “All scripture is inspired by God and is useful for teaching, for refutation, for correction, and for training in righteousness, so that one who belongs to God may be competent, equipped for every good work” is their mission statement with regard to education.9

Surely it is fair to demand proof that this world’s educational system delivers the goods it advertises.  If its end result is a planet tearing itself apart at the seams, with extinction an acknowledged possibility, must one not ask of its driving education model: What good is it? Jehovah’s Witnesses unify, dignify, pacify, and harness the activity of persons from every background of race, nationality, social and financial strata. Should this world’s education not produce comparable results before it is hailed as the be-all and end-all? If the swirling mass of humanity should disappear down the giant flush of a washbasin, it will hardly matter how educated each individual imagines himself to be.

Jehovah’s Witnesses do not neglect education. They redefine it. The general model of this world’s education is to focus on training of the intellect, with the apparent assumption that moral qualities will take care of themselves. Of course, history testifies that they do not, and their absence results in the undoing or even the turning to harm much of what its education brings about. Frankly, unless people have proved themselves to be of good heart, you are frequently better off not educating them—they can do less damage that way. If janitors and car wash attendants had run the financial world back in 2007, they might have figured out a way to beat the taxpayers out of a day’s wage. As it was, highly educated MBAs ran it and they found a way to sink all future generations into intractable debt.

It is surprising that so little attention is payed to moral training in the greater education models of the world. One can only suppose it is because those who mold it can agree on no common foundation upon what to base it upon. Jehovah’s Witnesses take it as a given that the Bible fulfills that role. They focus on the moral training to be found in that textbook from the Creator. By doing so, they are not filling in the gaps of education. They are providing its underpinnings. The lessons of the heart are those that are essential. The lessons of the head can be added on an as-needed basis. Bible education alone will not teach you the practical skills required for specific tasks, of course. There, Jehovah’s Witnesses look to offerings in the world’s educational system, which they cherry-pick.

Bible curriculum forms the core of a Witness’s moral training. The great ideas of this world are but footnotes for them—electives. Peruse them if you wish, but they are hardly requirements. After all, if the Greeks form the cradle of civilization, for Western nations, they also form the cradle of pedophilia. The grooming of young boys for sexual purposes was an enshrined component of that society.10 One wonders how today’s rationalists—adoring the ancient Greeks, but abhorring child sexual abuse—will ultimately resolve this bit of cognitive dissonance. Will they finally excuse the sexual abuse as just ‘one of those things,’ or will they haul the Greek perverts, the very heroes of critical thinking, off into infamy? Historian Robin Osborne has acknowledged that “historical discussion of paiderastia is complicated by 21st-century moral standards.”11 Indeed it is.

When Jehovah’s Witnesses look to Scripture for “training in righteousness,” they do no more than recognize that God made us, not we ourselves. If you want to best maintain your fine new vehicle, you read the new vehicle’s owner’s manual. The Witness organization does no more than disseminate the owner’s manual for the vehicle that is us. Take too much to heart of the higher education owners’ manual and you risk prematurely ruining the car. Four years or more of such education will reliably both plant and nurture thinking corrosive to Christianity. Students, over time, are conditioned to look to humans for the answers, as the only ones having it within their power to fix things. They learn of myriad government models to select from, and myriad philosophes. Also, they learn of myriad business, science, and cultural models. Surely something will work if we can just find the right blend. They are influenced to think of God as a human construct. Serious belief is unfashionable. Bland belief is permissible, the sort that repackages human thinking as religion, though even that is looked at askance. ‘The concept of God evolved because the dregs of any clan must be kept in check,’ they say. However, the dregs fight back at any human check, creating societal disharmony, so a superhuman check—a God with whom you can’t fight—is evolutionarily preferable.12

Students are conditioned that man is naturally good. If you can but isolate the cream of human wisdom you cannot go wrong. They are influenced to absorb the intoxicating air of independence along with its corollary that almost the most foolish thing people can do is to let someone else direct them; loyalty to any group of persons is suspect. Authority is problematic. Question it. Acquiesce to nothing until it can answer every question. Personal fulfillment will likely be lauded as the highest goal. Career will come first. Family will be what you choose to make it. Marriage will be a relic of the past. Should you choose to enter it, certainly do not be cowed into thinking it is permanent.

The prime teachings of the greater world’s education are deleterious to Christianity, yet they constitute the air breathed at universities today. Details may vary from country to country, as does the local degree air and water pollution, but they are the essence of the liberal arts woven into most curricula. Should Jehovah’s Witnesses be eager to throw their offspring under the bus of such education? The world is a tortured mass of cognitive dissonance, ever struggling to reconcile its cherished teachings of life with the chaotic mess they have collectively produced. ‘Why shovel our kids into the maw of that monster?’ Witnesses reason. Direct them somewhere with happier outcome.

One might even turn the tables and call the higher education route a route of brainwashing, a charge that has been made against the Witnesses themselves. Does one really become a Witness through brainwashing? If so, there are far better examples, and college is foremost among them. Students are separated nearly 24/7 on campus from all that once stabilized them—a classic time-tested tool of brainwashing. The phrase says it all: a college student is “in college”—living  in the dormitory, in the dining hall, in the social haunts, and in the classrooms on campus, in a setting atypical and unacquainted.

Such brainwashing, if we should call it that, is all the more effective because its nature is veiled. Pursuing college education is no more controversial than pursuing regular health care. It is a thoroughly conventional course of action, portrayed almost as a rite of passage into adulthood. In contrast, persons who study the Bible with Jehovah’s Witnesses know full well that they are straying off the beaten path. They do it because they perceive that the beaten path is leading nowhere, but they invariably know they are going atypical. Still, even as they do it, they are grounded 95% of the time in their familiar routine and surroundings, as opposed to college life, where everything is new and unfamiliar. If one must bandy about the ‘brainwashing’ label, the trick is not to deny that Jehovah’s Witnesses do it. The trick is to point out that the world’s education does it to a far greater degree and with some ideas that are far more deleterious.

What persons who accuse Jehovah’s Witnesses of brainwashing find most objectionable is something that has nothing to do with brainwashing. It is the conclusions Witnesses come to that rankle, not their process of coming to them. The process is straightforward, plainly labeled, and more easily discontinued in the event of second thoughts than is college, since the latter has often taken great financial commitment and generated social expectations. However, those who would style themselves as thinkers today pride themselves on never shutting down ideas, for that would be to show themselves intolerant. They feel it better to cloak attacks of their ideas as attacks on the ‘unfair’ process of reaching them. If you dislike the kingdom message, you will dislike the organization that facilitates its spread. It is no more complicated than that.

Few things in this world are less tricky than choosing to become a Witness. One cannot do so without a lengthy period of voluntary study, seldom lasting less than a year in the U.S. It is not a religion where one can impulsively ‘come down and be saved.’ The one who studies the Bible with Jehovah’s Witnesses remains always in familiar routine, save for a personal home Bible study, congregation meetings and a social gathering or two. One is always in control of one’s destiny.

 

As an example of a deleterious idea that will be planted in most systems of higher education, consider the foundation upon which children have historically been raised—that of monogamous marriage. Surely the nurture of children is a foundation of humanity. The Bible zealously advertises and guards marriage as the institution to build life around. The higher education of this world is unafraid to experiment with it and is apt to recommend jettisoning it altogether. “We struggle with monogamy—is it time to abandon it altogether?” postulates New Scientist.13 “Monogamy evolved to keep baby-killers away,” pitches another article,14 and now it works against us. “Women only stay with men for security, and men only stay with women for sex. It’s a cynical view of human relationships, but researchers now say it is the driving force behind the evolution of monogamy—and women started it. By offering sex all the time, females in monogamous species disguise whether they are fertile and trick males into sticking around.”15

Is this the reason people cannot hold together a marriage to save their lives? Is it evolution that, long ago, coerced the women to play a mean trick on the men? If so, it is time to move on, these writers for New Scientist seem to argue. There are no longer predators to eat our children—at least not in the literal sense. Why behave as though they were? Why feel guilty when it is time to ‘move on’? That’s just religion trying to guilt us with its evolutionary manmade gods. We do not want to feel bad about ourselves—it is bad for self-esteem. We want to feel good about ourselves, for man is ‘naturally good’ and should not be made to feel bad unnecessarily. Make no mistake: there is a strong emotional appeal to such news ideas, which lies entirely apart from their scientific merit. And how are the children to fare? They’ll adjust, is the apparent afterthought. Seen in this light, Russia’s Order of Family Glory is a quaint relic of the past and will eventually be phased out.

This new branch of science, called evolutionary psychology, purports to explain how men came to prefer physically attractive women in the first place. A low waist-hip ratio—say .70 or so—is associated with good health and thereby fertility.16 One can almost picture such favored creatures as having convenient shelves upon which to balance many babies, without which she is prone to drop and kill them all. It helps in the struggle for survival to have such a figure, and that it how preference for it came to be encoded in the very DNA of men. It is the very reason male eyes and heads snap about in the presence of a pretty woman. They wouldn’t be perceived as pretty were it not for the dictates of human survival.

Is there really any proof for this or is it not merely the biblical equivalent of “fables fit for old women?”17 Only an Internet search will convince the person of common sense that the above models are real and not mere joking on the part of this writer—for here is offered nary a hint of the scientific method that we all learned in school was the very hallmark of science. As pure speculation, the biblical equivalent of which the Witness organization advises members against getting too caught up in, it may be tolerable. But it is taken as cutting-edge science. Your children will learn the underpinnings, if not the specific teaching, amidst their diet of higher learning. They may even be subject to written exams, where they have to spit the nonsense back to the professor.

From time to time in Watchtower literature one can read that the Bible does not disagree with “true science.” Plainly, Witnesses do not regard the above as “true science.” They regard it as the fraudulent kind, as indeed they do the all-encompassing framework of evolution. But that is not to say they reject every aspect of it. The typical Witness parent sees that evolution chart and wants to turn that parade of ascending ape-like creatures about and march them right back into the slime from whence they came. But he must take care. We are not the religionists who put dinosaurs on the Kentucky ark.18

Watchtower publications speak of the days of creation as [redacted] and the time preceding as [redacted] since Scripture does not insist upon “day” being the 24-hour variety.19 Witnesses refrain from instructing scientists on their own turf. A lot can happen in epochs and aeons. If God churned out living creatures as an assembly line churns out automobiles—well, that he could easily do in a 24-hour day. So what is the point of the epochs and aeons? In 2006, Awake Magazine interviewed scientist and author Michael Behe, who accepts evolution in the main, but stipulates that it has limits.20 They would not have done that if the two hated each other’s guts, would they?

No one is being dogmatic, here. Science is accommodated to the maximum extent without ignoring Scripture, which Jehovah’s Witnesses consider the most reliable guide to life. The 2010 brochure Was Life Created? states [redacted]21 Thus the Witnesses’ current view allows for what is described as micro-evolution (within a kind) but not macro-evolution (outside of a kind). But ‘implies’ is not an ironclad word, is it? The point is, for the Christian, if the time element for developing life is indeed epochs and aeons, you need not squabble much with scientists who describe them. Let scientists be scientists and Bible teachers be Bible teachers. Vast areas of conflict disappear, though certainly not all. Resolve your ‘cognitive dissonance’ by saying ‘I don’t have to know everything just now.’

Jehovah’s Witnesses call theirs ‘divine education.’ Their Governing Body is ever dubious of the latest offerings from the intellectuals, since they know much of it will prove to be the “every wind of teaching arising from human trickery” of Bible verse. It will be “profane babbling and the absurdities of so-called knowledge” that “by professing it, some people have deviated from the faith.” It will be the waterless clouds and the cisterns that leak. It will be the pit that the blind lead the blind into—for ideas have repercussions. It will be things of atheism, of self-determination, of moral experimentation, and of amoral evolution.22 It will be the things furthering the cause of nationalism. It is not Jehovah’s Witnesses who feed the war machine with millions of their young, thereby ensuring there will never be peace. Neither is it Jehovah’s Witnesses whose values result in millions of lives lost to drug abuse, tobacco deaths, or overdrinking; their education safeguards against such things. For every quality-of-life ‘glitch’ that exists among Jehovah’s Witnesses, the greater world has fifty.

‘We hold these truths to be self-evident,’ begins the American Declaration of Independence, ‘that all men are created equal.’ But to those raised on a diet of evolutionist rationalist thinking, it is not at all self-evident. What is self-evident is the chief ape of ‘2001 – A Space Odyssey’ realizing that it can wield a club and wallop the daylights out of the other apes. What is self-evident is the children’s game King of the Mountain, in which the victor shoves rivals aside so as to take their place.

In contrast to current educational models, it is the Bible that makes equality self-evident. “He made from one the whole human race to dwell on the entire surface of the earth,” it says, “and he fixed the ordered seasons and the boundaries of their regions, so that people might seek God, even perhaps grope for him and find him.”23 If there is one thing that even the most ferocious opponents of Jehovah’s Witnesses will agree upon, it is that the faith has proved successful in realizing equality among members. The non-Witness world enjoys little success in this regard. It ought not be surprising. The Witnesses’ prime education model makes clear that all are equal. Outside the Witness world is an evolutionistic origin-of-life view that makes clear that they are not. Why should not Christians focus on the former rather than the latter?

 

Bible knowledge was long deemed indispensable to a well-rounded life. That has changed only in recent decades, as persons have redefined ‘well-rounded’ and have divorced themselves from their historical roots. The range of human knowledge today becomes exceptionally broad but correspondingly shallow. Typical, and a foremost example, of the past is Abraham Lincoln, who peppered his speeches and papers with biblical references. To his son questioning, as any reasonable child can be expected to do, why he needed go to Sunday School, he said: “‘Every educated person should know something about the Bible and the Bible stories, Tad.”24

Historian Michael Nelson wrote: “For all his mockery, Lincoln was consumed by religion as a subject, as well as by the Bible, a book that all of his biographers agree he had read and studied assiduously since his youth. Although disdainful of Christianity in its cruder, frontier forms, Lincoln seems to have been open to, even seeking, an account of the faith that rang true on grounds of reason and justice.”25

The farmer does not begin hoeing out the weeds until the harvest-time. Even Abraham Lincoln was not able to make things out; he was ahead of the curve. He had great respect for the Word, but incomplete understanding. The time was not yet right. Persons were not yet roving about. To a friend, Lincoln gave the best advice he could: “Take all of this book upon reason that you can and the balance on faith, and you will live and die a happier and better man.”26 27  

The theme of John 3:16 has ever reverberated through history: “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but might have eternal life.” Even though persons could not explain just how that worked, they knew the verse nonetheless. Few did, and do, know ‘just how that works’—church doctrine is so convoluted that most reasonable persons give up searching and acquiesce to a science-absorbed world that declares it is all nonsense.

One of the benefits of Jehovah’s Witnesses is that they do know ‘just how that works’ and they are ever ready to explain it, sometimes to people’s dismay as they see them yet again traipsing up the driveway. There was once a saying among Witnesses that new ones ought to be locked up for six months until their zeal was tempered by common sense. It is not to their credit that they know what they know. They simply live in the right time period and have accepted the invitation to explore words “kept secret and sealed until the end time.”28

In a nutshell, Paul’s letter to the Corinthians says it all: “So, too, it is written, ‘The first man, Adam has become a living being,’ the last Adam a life-giving spirit…The first man was from the earth, earthly; the second man, from heaven.” Per the model that is Bible teaching, Adam pulled the plug on himself when he disobeyed God, and the blades of a fan disconnected slow down. He and all his offspring lost out on life which could have been to time indefinite. No succeeding man can undo the damage, for they have not the perfect status that Adam forfeited. Only if another perfect man comes upon the scene and acts as Adam might have does it become possible to repair the damage. That man is Jesus, the ‘last Adam,’ who exactly counterbalances the first. To ones putting faith in God’s ‘swap,’ the hope of life indefinite can yet be attained, after all the other consequences of Adamic rebellion are undone.29

This makes the sense only if one discards the Trinity doctrine. If Jesus is equated to God, and not a perfect man, it all becomes an incomprehensible muddle. Fortunately, discarding the Trinity doctrine is not hard to do scripturally, though politically, it is next to impossible. The doctrine lives only by taking certain phrases, which in any other context would instantly be recognized as figure of speech, literally.30 Among those of the Orthodox Church, the ban of Jehovah’s Witnesses is greatly welcomed—though they seek to clarify that they did not instigate it—due to the Witness’s rejection of the Trinity doctrine. For example, Church Metropolitan Hilarion said of the Witnesses that “they deform Christ’s teaching and falsely interpret the Gospel. Their doctrine contains many lies: they do not believe in Jesus Christ as God and Savior [he is correct on the first but incorrect on the second], they do not recognize the doctrine of the Holy Trinity, and therefore cannot be called Christians.”31 (brackets mine) Most churches would reiterate his statement, though not necessarily with his venom—that is how central the Trinity doctrine is. Jehovah’s Witnesses reject it with an understanding that it is impossible to draw close to God with that as a default belief.

Hampered by doctrines that made little sense, the Trinity being but one, when scientists began calling into question the existence of God—in contrast to Galileo, Kepler, and Newton, who thought their discoveries glorified God by uncovering his ‘handiwork’32—churches had little to fight back with. They did not wish to miss this latest wind of intellectual thought, so the mainline churches acquiesced to whatever scientists said they must. Manifestly, the teaching of human evolution makes the explanation of a first and second Adam nonsense. What is gained by the embrace of such teaching is a certain esteem in the eyes of contemporary educated ones. What is lost is the key to the meaning of life.

 

A certain Watchtower article considered for congregation study spotlights a ‘flying scroll’ that Zechariah saw in vision.33 It consists of a condemnation of theft on one side and of perjury on the other. Immediately beneath the Watchtower paragraph is a photo of a teen looking shifty at a boutique, as though she is about to pocket an item. One critic disdains this literal and mundane application of a vision sent all the way from heaven, and so quickly seeks to shift it to a ‘higher’ one that one suspects she steals from boutiques herself. In fact, it does seem a trivial application; most would agree. However, it fits well with the context of the paragraph, which is a discussion of the “spiritual paradise” that Jehovah’s Witnesses say they enjoy. To that end, it offers a practical example of theft that young people especially will identify with. It does not take much to destroy a paradise. One sicko inserted one razor blade in one apple and the celebration of Halloween changed forever.

At the Regional Convention I can drop my wallet and with near certainty know it will turn up at the lost and found. Can I do that outside of the spiritual paradise? There is a reasonable chance that the wallet will come back to me. But with the money intact? Unlikely. It may happen. But I will not hold my breath. My wallet did come back when I dropped it during a visit to Canada. (It is no picnic getting back across the border without it.) Someone took the trouble to contact me upon my return in the States and arrange its return. I appreciated it. But when I asked about the money within, he said: “What money?”

Teaching not to steal at a very mundane level is the very stuff of Christianity. It is what makes all the rest of it work. I both admire the Governing Body and suspect they are somewhat naive in that they teach what needs to be taught without regard for self-appointed experts who will invariably seize upon their material and beat them over the head with it. They need better public relations: PR. Or maybe they don't. Maybe it is just me who thinks they do. Jesus didn’t seem too concerned about public relations, either. Maybe it should just be taken for granted that they will fare no better than did their counterparts in the first century, representing a “sect” which was “denounced everywhere.”

Besides, they might not even know that detractors make mincemeat of their lessons. They take their own counsel, which is the Bible’s counsel; they don’t go there to check out what the detractors have to say. They are like Jesus, who observed one set of scoundrels slandering him one way and another set slandering him just the opposite way. ‘Don’t worry about it,’ is his advice. “Wisdom is vindicated by her works.” He is like David. All day long they would mutter evil things about him, and he just kept his mouth shut, declining to answer.34

Others would be embarrassed to teach such a childlike lesson of theft at a meeting primarily attended by adults, for Jehovah’s Witnesses do not separate their children into Sunday Schools. But the lesson is not beneath the grown-ups. Adults are ever inclined to dismiss the childish application so as to conduct sophisticated debate over a greater application—and then they pinch a scarf or tie clasp from the boutique on their way home.

 

At another congregation meeting is featured another lesson so basic that few would call it education. Yet for lack of application of it and a few dozen other spiritual themes, so much of the world’s education results in naught. It allows a glimpse into brilliant possibilities and then torpedoes it because its participants cannot get along.

The video shown was entitled Remove the Rafter.35 It featured a disgruntled member who thought most of his congregation a bunch of sheltered oddities. Even if they were, he came to realize in the end that the only one he could change was himself. As the Bible verse he was considering, in order to give his assigned student talk, faded onscreen, two words remained a split second longer than the others: ‘splinter’ and ‘beam.’ This happened three times, and on the third, the word ‘hypocrite’ also remained. It is Jesus’ words he considers: “Why do you notice the splinter in your brother’s eye, but do not perceive the wooden beam in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me remove that splinter from your eye,’ while the wooden beam is in your eye? You hypocrite, remove the wooden beam from your eye first; then you will see clearly to remove the splinter from your brother’s eye.”36

At first glance, it is a slick move from the Watchtower video directors. But it is meant to illustrate a slick move upon the heart. The reason those two words remained, and then three, is that his heart was yet soft enough for them to register—having benefited from previous divine education. A hardened person would not have responded that way. The brother allowed the scripture to mold him. This is how God trains in the congregation, but it would all have been lost upon one who’s heart was molded primarily by this world’s education. Imagine how differently history might read if this verse was a staple of education, and not just a dreamy footnote. With Jehovah’s Witnesses, it is a staple.

‘That’s it?’ detractors will ask. ‘That’s your education?’ That, and the flying Zechariah scroll? Yes. It is part of the foundation and it ensures that anything resting upon it will enjoy success. It is the reason Jehovah’s Witnesses get along and thereby can accomplish things that the general world cannot. It is no credit to them. It is Miss Daisy telling her grown but illiterate chauffer that, as a teacher, she taught some of the dumbest children God ever put on his green earth, yet they could all read by the time she was finished with them.37 It is purely a result of absorbing one’s education. It is the same happenstance as “they will beat their spears into plowshares,” the Isaiah passage adorning the U.N. building. It translates into a way of life for Jehovah’s Witnesses, rather than mere rousing words.

Do opponents of Jehovah’s Witnesses recognize the value of such Bible teachings as the splinter and the beam? No. They assume the organization is using it as ‘mind control,’ an encouragement to ‘overlook whatever sinister things we may be up to—we’ll party while you slave!’ One wonders how adults can become so adolescent. When the Witness Governing Body presents Bible teachings, they expose themselves to it first. They not only recognize it as training from God; they also recognize that they themselves are the ones who need it most, since their actions affect the most people.

The selected articles in the study edition of the Watchtower Magazine used for weekly study of the Bible are more than an outline but less than a complete article. In a pinch, they can stand as one. In fact, they certainly will, for they will take their place in the accumulated volume. But they are not primarily intended that way. Their first use is to facilitate congregation discussion of whatever spiritual theme is under consideration. They could be likened to flour, which does not become a cake until you mix in the other ingredients—the individual comments of congregation members. Afterwards, their work done, the articles are absorbed into the archives, where they may seem curiously abridged. Their primary value was realized at the congregation meeting. There they served to train the hearts which ultimately drive the heads.

 

Scientists identify four fundamental forces of nature: the strong and weak nuclear force, gravity, and the electromagnetic force. For 99.9% of the earth’s population, these are irrelevant and there is only a fifth that must be understood: the force of sexual attraction. God didn’t want to revisit Adam and Eve after a few hundred years, discover them on a barren planet, and hear them say “Oh, we were supposed to do that? I guess we plumb forgot. Sorry.” Sexual attraction is the most crucial force to understand, even if it is not of the Four. Pursue the four if you like—and it is good for human knowledge that some do. However, the typical youngster will never approach a black hole of outer space to see the four forces interact. He or she will approach the black hole of sexual attraction that his seemingly overcautious parents have probably told him about. Intrigued by an awakening of desire, he gingerly approaches. All seems inviting, tantalizing—what is this fuss that the old people have carried on about? He edges closer and closer until its sudden irresistible pull grabs and stretches him into a two-mile strand of spaghetti.

A force so strong and capable of bringing so much joy must be understood and harnessed, for it can easily be misused and cause misery. It is underappreciated how sexual attraction has been a major driver of history. Understanding the interaction of the sexes should not be a footnote to education, as it usually is today, but should be among its centerpieces; let the four brainy forces be the footnotes for interested ones to pursue if they like. Jehovah’s Witnesses are among the minority of religions holding that sexual relations should be reserved for married persons. For the sake of the general world, this writer will concede that it can be more-or-less managed where there are stable monogamous relationships. However, depend upon higher education to undermine even this stabilizing model. Wish ‘good luck’ to the world enforcing its new outrage over sexual harassment while overall continuing to hype sex at every opportunity via a hookup culture in which it is recreation absent commitment—it will need it.

When the greater world finally wakes up to a moral problem, as it has with sexual harassment, it wildly overacts. Sexual liaisons, involving various degrees of coercion and sobriety, are reinterpreted as rape. Harassment and what was once called ‘getting fresh’ are equated with rape. Complementing a woman’s appearance is even interpreted as harassment by some.38 How will it resolve? It is too soon to tell. Suffice it to say that the Witness environment is one of the few environments where men can be expected to behave. They will hear about it if they don’t. It is a result of their education. The occasional miscreant can expect serious chastisement.

Less than two years ago I wrote a book entitled Tom Irregardless and Me, in which I speculated facetiously: “AI robots and VR porn promise sex so steamy that it’s feared people will lose interest in the real thing. Is the world to end with a fizzle, and not a bang, as its inhabitants neglect procreation?” The ‘prediction’ becomes less facetious by the minute. Since then, the robotic sex doll industry has exploded. Robots of both male and female anatomy can easily ‘outperform’ their human counterparts. In a world that neglects to teach men and women how to relate with one another—its mainstream education simply doesn’t go there—many can be expected to forget all about the real thing and take refuge in robots. No matter how whacky the Revelation scenarios become of humans threatening to destroy the planet, modern humanity can always manage to top them.

It is better to stick with the Bible teaching that marriage is a divine institution and listen to its counsel on how to hold it together through thick and thin. You don’t follow your ‘inner caveman’ and move on periodically, even though evolution ‘says’ you can.39 The mainline sophisticated church, with occasional exception, is ready to accommodate the latest wind of thinking—sometimes eventually, sometimes immediately. Evolution they dare not defy, for they do not want to lose more credibility than they already have with this world’s educated people. While not (in most cases) declaring marriage invalid, they adopt popular ways of thinking that make it all but untenable for the long haul. By dereliction of duty, the Church ensures the unhappiness of young people. It virtually ensures they will neither find nor remain with a marriage partner. ‘Let us see how we can incorporate this or that bold new enlightenment,’ it frequently says, rather than toting it out straightaway to the curb where it often belongs.

 

The world does not make it easy for its education to be had a la carte, as Witnesses prefer. It does not want to give just the diamonds one needs. It wants to mix them with the turds of corrosive teachings that have collectively sunk the overall world. Jehovah’s Witnesses do their best to cherry-pick. Sometimes they cherry-pick at the college and sometimes they do so elsewhere. Why not simply accept it all in a package of higher education? Why not just spit out the turds of corrosive teachings later? Alas, we are not built that way. We absorb the atmosphere in which we are immersed. Not so if we are in it for but a brief time. But if it becomes our environment for years at a stretch, then absorb it we do. At seventeen, one is still but a child, with values that are far from stabilized.

Unless your grades are in the toilet, the school apparatus is unlikely to bless your plans not to roll over a 12th year of schooling into an automatic 13th, for they fear you may fall off the rails of career and never remount. Believe me, Witnesses know about this. Their organization, in contrast, unabashedly invites youngsters into full-time service to God as an activity right as rain, often directly out of high school. Youthful activity in the ministry can run concurrently with continued education and complement it. The general encouragement is to view the Christian ministry as one’s vocation and the requisite skills to support oneself in it an avocation. Are you, as a youngster, averse to instructing ones two or three times your age? Share what you know in the ministry and let them share with you whatever they wish. You will know what is poisonous and what is not. If you are unsure, take it in sips.

People and families differ. Not all take up the Watchtower’s invitation for a full ministry straight from high school. Families with a tradition of college often continue in that model; some circumvent the 24/7 pitfalls of higher education by commuting from home. Furthermore, academic offerings, requirements, and environments vary from place to place. Nothing is cast in stone regarding Witnesses and overall education. Sometimes after an interval, Witness adults will return to college with a specific goal in mind. But seldom is it the goal of a Witness family of lesser means to send their first child ever to college so as to lay hold of a life that was closed to the parents. Frequently it is the goal to have that child pioneer. Telling and preparing persons for the ‘true life’40 is the main goal of Jehovah’s Witnesses. The secular education that they choose seldom disregards that overall purpose.

‘A la carte’ can come in the mysterious ways that God is sometimes said (not by Witnesses) to work himself. This writer stumbled across a BBC list of the top 100 important books of all time. I discovered that I had read over half. No other commenter had read more. Is it boasting to slip this into the book? Hardly. Take it as an invitation to be a janitor, for it is while so employed that I ‘read’ most of them via the Books on Tape service. On Twitter, I came across a CEO who grumbled: “Stupid janitor forgot to leave an extra roll of toilet paper – I’m screwed.” I tweeted back: “I read 54 of the BBC’s top 100 books as a janitor via Books on Tape. Sorry about the toilet paper.” There are even people who deliberately choose menial work so as to not turn their minds over to ‘The Man’—corporate or government interests. The Man may reward you materially, but he does not do so without demanding your soul. One can always read the great works, if one has a desire to, on one’s own, free from the indoctrination of the world’s educational system.

They wouldn’t let my homeschooled son read when he briefly forayed into public schooling; it was ever workbooks for him. When he later entered community college, they declared his math skills age-appropriate and his reading skills “off the charts.” “I had no idea that there were so many stupid people,” he innocently remarked later. How can they not be stupid? The intellectual diet of this system of things is one of pop culture, transitory trends, and video games. He had never been denied those things; he had simply been directed to keep them in their place. And nobody on the homeschool front gave two hoots about workbooks. He could read all day if he wanted to and sometimes he did. “He reads?” exclaimed a local educator, an ally, to my wife who had asked what she should do. He then ventured: “Don’t do anything.” Do not mess up that formula.”

The notion of Witnesses ‘redefining’ education does not come unchallenged in a world long used to another model. The Bible describes life under God’s kingdom rule as ‘the life that is true life.’ What does that say as to this life? Take the Bible too seriously and one will assuredly experience kickback from the model that holds that this life is all there is. A 2017 National Public Radio report was entitled ‘Lack of Education Leads To Lost Dreams And Low Income For Many Jehovah’s Witnesses.’41 The writers had found former Witnesses who lamented that they had not gone to college while they were in the faith; their parents and most in the congregation had discouraged it. Some had attended after leaving the Witness religion, but they got a late start and were upset that they were behind the curve. I dutifully read the article, but I didn’t need to; the headline says it all: just where does one look for fulfillment of dreams? Witness orientation is to look to ‘the true life.’

The NPR story is not inaccurate, but it is incomplete. Witness parents will often encourage their youngsters to train for work as high-paying as possible, then do as little of it as possible, so as to focus on the Christian ministry, for that they regard as the most important activity in this present world. This is likely to put you on the lower rungs of the income latter, though not for the reasons NPR stipulates.

University education represents to Witnesses an invitation to trash the faith of their child, for humans are not immune to their surroundings. Thus, some hideous new style appears and within ten years it is widely adopted by ones who wonder how they ever could have imagined those peculiar styles of yesteryear did anything for them. Peer pressure unfailingly works with such trivial matters. It also works with matters substantial. Witness parents wish for their children to avoid an anti-religious minefield that embraces the assumption is that humans have the answers, that embraces throwing off restraints, that portrays obedience as bordering on the pathetic. They regard such education as intensely indoctrinate and ever harping on trendy issues. The foregoing is a generalization. Some subjects involve less traipsing through the minefield than do others, technology or engineering, for example. There are some times in life when a person does choose to enter a minefield. But they don’t go waltzing through it. They think long and hard before they do it at all.

“To be fair, one should compare the satisfaction statistics of ones who have chosen the college route,” one commenter (me) appended to the article. In pursuit of dreams, if they are in this system of things, surely it must be factored in what is the cost of those dreams, for they are far from free in the United States. And what is the likelihood of achieving them? The job market in most places is hardly stellar. Chart wrongly in the U.S, and one can easily end up with a mundane job, or no job at all due to being ‘overqualified,’ but saddled with tens of thousands of dollars of debt that cannot be discharged under current law. Higher education (in the U.S.) offers an uncertain ticket into a high-priced unstable job market that it itself has created. A six or even eight-year degree is the minimum requirement for most high-flying careers of today.  Mike Rowe, in testimony to Congress, stated that education in the trades offers by far the most secure route to a well-paying job.42 That sort of education can often be had free. Sometimes high schools offer it.

Jehovah’s Witnesses are nothing if not eminently practical, and they do not salivate over an education model that has become dysfunctional. They seek practical skills that pay well, are easily transferable, and don’t sap time and energy that is more profitably directed towards God and family. It does happen that a Witness youngster steered away from college may later come to regret it. Since the beginning of time parents have steered their children. Since the beginning of time some children, as adults, wish they had been steered differently. But surely it must factored into the overall equation the many more youngsters who were steered into college by the school system, taking on enormous debt, and came to wish they had listened to someone like Mike Rowe instead.

 

The world does well to take ownership—‘hold itself accountable,’ to use the current buzzword—of all that its system of education has produced before insisting every student drink his or her fill. If higher education was worth the price of admission it would have resulted in a far better world by now. Jehovah’s Witnesses are willing to bypass it all as something superfluous. Should one touch upon it, do so as a hobby. Don’t imagine it is the stuff of life. Beyond some gadgets made by Bill Gates and Steve Jobs, two men who dropped out of college, (does that account for their groundbreaking success?) where is the evidence that it is indispensable? To some extent, this parallels the prodding of the contemporary feminist herstory movement; prove that your version actually works before you carry on too much about your history.

Since Jehovah’s Witnesses go light on college education, the Pew Foundation unsurprisingly reports them the least educated of all faiths.43 So be it. Their relative shunning of college is deliberate, as they redefine what it means to be educated. They focus on moral training so basic as ‘getting along with each other,’ which would enable the world to do something with its education were it able to embrace it. “A day of divine education is worth a thousand years of college,”44 one (me again) might say, who has seen both, and who admittedly likes hyperbole. Focus on the moral qualities. You can always run out and get secular education piecemeal when you need it. Don’t let them tell you their education is a prerequisite to life. Embrace their lauded Greek heritage, and you embrace whatever is today’s moral counterpart of pedophilia and misogyny.

Embrace Bible education instead and tell the Pew Foundation to take a hike. They don’t care anyway. They just measure things. But opponents of Witnesses grab hold of their charts and cry to the heavens at how stupid Witnesses must be. Don’t be intimidated by them. The most basic invention of the West is the toilet. It, combined with some other lifestyle and drug innovations, predictably contributes to constipation over time, for squatting best suits the anatomy, as any toddler knows and as the uneducated still do.45 Nobody’s thinking is as constipated as that of the Western critical rationalists. See them demolish each other online as they argue topics to the death. Sometimes one wishes they could just learn to let go.

Woe to those who pride themselves on their critical analysis, as though no other means of communication exists. Jesus has little use for it. He speaks at length in the gospels, yet very little of what he says would satisfy today’s disciples of argument and reason. He spins involved parables which he rarely explains; let the heart figure it out. He diverts from hostile questions by asking counter-questions that reveal motive. He even resorts to ad hominem attacks of a sort: a major no-no to today’s devotees of reason—though he always connects it with a reason, so that it is not really ad hominem but more like courtroom character cross-examination. Nowhere does he patiently reason on the ‘facts’ with his steadfast opponents because he knows their only relevant fact is that they want him dead.46 He says: “Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him on the last day.”47 He lost many disciples that day. What a stupid thing to say if his main concern is to persuade devotees of ‘facts’!  But if his prime concern is, not heads, but hearts, then it is flawless. Persons of heart hung around, waiting for elucidation. People without heart departed; their time was too valuable to waste unraveling riddles.  If the heart is pure, one can work with whatever mind accompanies it. If it is not, the mind is a mixed blessing at best and at times a downright curse.

 

To translate the Bible into 200 languages, a website into 900 languages,48 and printed material into even more, using exclusively volunteer labor, is truly a colossal, one might say unbelievable, achievement—where is Baran’s hagiography critic when you need to show him something? Yet it is typical of the organization of Jehovah’s Witnesses. It is not done through ‘college power.’ Whenever intellectuals insist that insufficient university training can be found among Witness volunteer translators, they miss the point that they should come to us, not the reverse, since Witnesses have done what they can only talk about. They are correct that there is little higher education to be found among the countless translators. Any specialized training has come a la carte, and most has been produced in-house, by persons who do not horde their knowledge or sell it but make it freely available as needed.

It is ‘talking’—how hard can it be? A child brought up in a dual language household effortlessly picks up both. In a tri-lingual household, he picks up all three. The sticking point is not the intellectual work; it is assembling, motivating, and empowering qualified volunteers—volunteers, so that the end result is affordable. These factors are the strengths of Jehovah’s Witnesses; their education has trained them to be that way. Granted, the translating of ancient language adds a challenge, but this is a factor only for producing a master text. Master compilations of the Greek, Hebrew, and Aramaic scriptures are readily available, and the Witness organization has over eight million members, some of whom will be linguistic experts and who won’t insist that their name appears in spotlights because they have dedicated their lives in service to God. One expert among the Witnesses is worth fifty in the greater world, because they don’t fight. They don’t engage in turf wars. They know how to share. They know how to cooperate and bring their “gift to the altar.” They display the wisdom of the ants, not that of the big dumb male animals that ram each other with antlers.

Our people produce a straight-forward master text in English. All the volunteers worldwide are schooled in translation techniques. They are all encouraged to ask questions about specific problems or verses, and when they do, the answers become part of a database accessible to all. A significant number of translators are young people who know both English and their native tongue—their parents know only the native tongue. Could these plainly qualified persons ever be used on any sizable commercial project? Not on your life. Without a university degree, they would not be allowed within 100 yards of it. The final translation product is affordable due to the volunteer workers. It is made affordable again by not having to rely upon this world’s for-profit distribution channel.

The free transfer of intellectual knowledge is key to making this work. The greater world will not do this. Knowledge is passed along, but only for a significant fee. One must pay the significant, even exorbitant, cost of higher education in order to be entrusted with anything of significance. Even after that, knowledge transfers only on a for-pay basis. None of this blockage occurs in the Watchtower organization. Witnesses are also well known for freely sharing physical abilities in other venues; Watchtower is the largest construction outfit in the world and the Witnesses’ mobilization for disaster relief is the envy of government. Freely sharing intellectual abilities is just as important, and it makes things like the ‘900 languages’ a matter of routine.49

A Nepalese man quoted in the Watchtower magazine expresses appreciation for the New World Translation in his language. In English, there are many readable translations—the New World Translation is far from the only one. But in Nepalese the choice is meager. Nobody cares about the Nepalese man because he does not have any money. He is stuck with some 200-year-old turkey of a translation that he cannot understand and likely cannot afford anyway, until the New World Translation comes along to meet his needs, a situation that is repeated in many lands.

Why has not the greater church world seen fit to equip him with an understandable and affordable Bible? It has far more resources to draw upon. Can it be for any other reason than that they do not consider his spiritual needs important? Even if they should, they are beholden to a profit-driven commercial channel of book distribution that does not consider his monetary means important and therefore does not bother. Dare we say it? “Those people” do not count when it comes to spiritual things. Only those with money count. With Jehovah’s organization, they do count. In fact, they are often given priority, since it is the ones of lesser means who have ever responded to Bible truth more readily than those well-off. One sixth of the world’s population today cannot read, a byproduct of an educational system skewed toward the privileged. How many even know that these people exist? Only Jehovah’s organization produces simplified versions of materials already written simply so as to reach them.

If you are serious about proclaiming ‘this gospel of the kingdom in all the inhabited earth,’ then naturally, you will have such a website with 900 languages. In an ill-advised (in my opinion) suggested magazine presentation, a Witness calls attention to the website, and then asks the householder: “Do you know why we do it?” “What—do you think I’m a trained chimp?” one actual person found in the ministry responded, “of course I know why you do it! You want to reach people!”

When your car needs repair, do you take it to the shop that has equipped itself with every modern tool? Or do you take it to the shop content to operate with hammer, vice grips, WD-40, and duct tape? Shouldn’t anyone serious about carrying out Christ’s commission to preach be so well-equipped? Aren’t they inept at best and frauds at worst if they have not equipped themselves in such a way? There is no excuse to be so negligent. They show either that they don’t care about Christ’s commission to proclaim his kingdom or that they are incapable of the cooperation needed to get the job done. Cooperation, love, humility, coupled with reasonable intelligence, will trump the results of this world’s system of education every time.

Human institutions universally look to higher education for leadership. Successful entrepreneurs are even awarded honorary degrees after the fact, a tactic that serves to maintain the illusion that only college people can amount to anything. For the most part, respectable religions of this world have followed this model. Its clergy must also have advanced post-secondary degrees. It may be that Paul took direction from fishermen, but that will never repeat on their watch. The Watchtower organization is strikingly unique. It is true to the first-century pattern. It does not look to the greater world’s repository of degrees for authorization to lead. Members of their Governing Body are yet fishermen at heart. They don’t pretend to take the lead though brains. They take it though heart.

The Governing Body of Jehovah’s Witnesses has no specialized knowledge of anything, generally speaking, but they know where to find it when they need it. They know how to coordinate it. They know how to put it to use for the benefit of others. How obscenely wasteful and discriminatory is the world’s system for disseminating knowledge. Knowledge for them is a commodity monetized and sold amorally. It is a business. It prices its knowledge out of the reach of much of the population. It is not the fault of any individual within the system. It is the fault of the selfish model that they make their home.

The trick is to not copy Sam Gerard’s ‘The Fugitive’ colleague and say “Well, we’re smart, too,” thus trying to play catch-up with another education that even he considers superior. The trick is to say that you have an education model that leaves theirs in the dust. Without the prerequisite moral training imparted by Bible education, the world does not know what to do with the knowledge it accumulates and is as likely to turn it to harm as to good. Moreover, some of the knowledge it gathers and dispenses in its colleges will turn out to be of the variety Mark Twain derided: knowledge that “ain’t so.”

They are smarter than us, for the most part—the university-trained crowd. It is no good pretending otherwise. But most of their plans will come to naught because they are not able to cooperate. A foremost example presents itself in the aftermath of a Florida school shooting in which 17 children died. Such shootings have become commonplace in the United States. Two arguably effective solutions have been proposed. Either ban rapid-fire assault guns or allow armed veterans, who would love the idea of protecting children, to roam the school corridors. Neither will be adopted soon because neither side will tolerate yielding to the other.

The Witness organization does not let the world bully it into its own mold of education. It has come up with something better. Jehovah’s Witnesses with knowledge are generous with it. They don’t hoard it. Free from petty competitiveness and jealousy, they give it away and thereby accomplish good that a hamstrung world cannot. The educated world is dismayed to find the persons they look down upon outstripping them in practical deed. Those who are noble strive to get their heads around it and examine a model unfamiliar. Those who are not noble stand on their favorite paradigm of university superiority and ridicule the accomplishments they did not produce. Those who are really not noble try to run the competition off the road.

From Dear Mr. Putin - Jehovah's Witnesses Write Russia  (see also safe version)

Endnotes

  1. 1 Corinthians 3:19-20
  2. August Neander, The History of the Christian Religion and Church: During the First Three Centuries (London: Rivington. Collection Robarts; Toronto. Digitizing sponsor MSN. Contributor Robarts - University of Toronto, 1843) 41
  3. Matthew 11:25.
  4. 1 Corinthians 1:26
  5. Edward D. Andrews, Your Guide for Defending the Bible: Self-Education of the Bible Make Easy (Christian Publishing House 2016) 242-243
  6. Acts 4:13
  7. 2 Timothy 2:15
  8. 2 Corinthians 11:23
  9. 1 Timothy 3:16
  10. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pederasty_in_ancient_Greece
  11. Robin Osborne, Greek History (Routledge, 2004), 12 online and 21.
  12. Alix Spiegel, “Is Believing in God Evolutionarily Advantageous?” All Things Considered, August 30, 2010, accessed March 25, 2018, https://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=129528196
  13. Jessica Bond, “We Struggle With Monogamy – Is It Time to Abandon it Altogether?” New Scientist, November 29, 2017, accessed March 25, 2018, https://www.newscientist.com/article-topic/monogamy/
  14. Mairi Macleod, “Monogamy Evolved to Keep Baby-killers Away,” New Scientist, July 30, 2013, accessed March 25, 2018, https://www.newscientist.com/article/dn23959-monogamy-evolved-to-keep-baby-killers-away/
  15. Joanna Marchant, “Sex, Lies and Monogamy,” New Scientist, April 28, 2001, accessed March 25, 2018, https://www.newscientist.com/article/mg17022880-300-sex-lies-and-monogamy/
  16. Nathan H. Lents, “Beastly Behavior - The Relationship Between Waist-Hip Ratio and Fertility, Psychology Today, June 19, 2007, accessed March 25, 2018, https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/beastly-behavior/201706/the-relationship-between-waist-hip-ratio-and-fertility
  17. 1 Timothy 4:7. NABRE here reads “silly myths” but most translations connect it with “old women,” often reading “old wives’ tales.” NWT says “false stories, like those told by old women.” Expect “silly myths” to catch on more and more, as translators imitate NABRE and endeavor to avoid being gender specific.
  18. Laurie Goodstein, “A Noah’s Ark in Kentucky, Dinosaurs Included,” New York Times, June 26, 2016, accessed March 26, 2018, https://www.nytimes.com/2016/06/26/us/noahs-ark-creationism-ken-ham.html
  19. “Holy Spirit – at Work in Creation,” The Watchtower – study edition, February 15, 2011, 8
  20. “How Did We Get Here,” Awake! May 8, 1997
  21. Was Life Created? (Brooklyn: Watchtower Bible and Tract Society of Pennsylvania, 2010), 26
  22. See: Ephesians 4:14, 1 Timothy 6:20, Jude 1:12, Jeremiah 2:13, and Matthew 15:14
  23. Acts 17:26-27
  24. “Abraham Lincoln and the Bible,” Lehman Institute Presents: Abraham Lincoln’s Classroom, http://www.abrahamlincolnsclassroom.org/abraham-lincoln-in-depth/abraham-lincoln-and-the-bible/
  25. Ibid.
  26. Ibid
  27. Matthew 13:30, Daniel 12:4
  28. Daniel 12:9
  29. 1 Corinthians 15:45
  30. For example, see Should You Believe in the Trinity? (Brooklyn: Watchtower Bible and Tract Society of Pennsylvania, 1989)
  31. “Russian Orthodox Against Jehovah’s Witnesses,” AsiaNews, May 4, 2017, accessed March 13, 2018, http://www.asianews.it/news-en/Russian-Orthodox-against-Jehovahs-Witnesses-40640.html
  32. Morris Kline, Mathematics and the Search for Knowledge (New York: Oxford University Press, 1985) 213
  33. “Visions of Zechariah - How They Affect You,” The Watchtower - study edition, October 2017, 23
  34. Matthew 11:19, Psalm 38:13
  35. “Remove the Rafter,” JW Broadcasting, accessed March 26, 2018, https://tv.jw.org/#en/mediaitems/VODBiblePrinciples/pub-jwbai_201603_1_VIDEO
  36. Matthew 7:3-5
  37. from the 1989 movie: Driving Miss Daisy
  38. ‘Data Team’: “Over-friendly, or Sexual Harassment? It Depends Partly on Whom You Ask, The Economist, November 17, 2017, March 26, 2018, https://www.economist.com/blogs/graphicdetail/2017/11/daily-chart-14?fsrc=scn/tw/te/bl/ed/
  39. Robert Wright, “Infidelity—It may be in our genes. Our Cheating Hearts,” Time Magazine, August 15, 1994, accessed March 26, 2018, https://canadiancrc.com/Newspaper_Articles/Time_Magazine_infidelity_in_genes_15AUG94.aspx
  40. 1 Timothy 6:19
  41. Luke Vander Ploeg, “Lack Of Education Leads To Lost Dreams And Low Income For Many Jehovah’s Witnesses,” All Things Considered, February 19, 2017, accessed March 26, 2018, https://www.npr.org/2017/02/19/510585965/poor-education-leads-to-lost-dreams-and-low-income-for-many-jehovahs-witnesses
  42. Dylan Love, “Instant MBA: America Needs Plumbers More Than It Needs You, businessinsider, May 17, 2011, accessed March 26, 2018, http://www.businessinsider.com/instant-mba-america-needs-plumbers-more-than-it-needs-you-2011-5
  43. Caryle Murphy, “The Most and Least Educated U.S. Religious Groups,” Pew Research, November 4, 2016, accessed March 26, 2018, http://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2016/11/04/the-most-and-least-educated-u-s-religious-groups/
  44. a reference to Psalm 84:10
  45. Eliza Barclay, “For Best Toilet Health: Squat Or Sit?” NPR – Health, September 28, 2012, accessed March 26, 2018, https://www.npr.org/sections/health-shots/2012/09/20/161501413/for-best-toilet-health-squat-or-sit
  46. For example, see Matthew 15:1-20 in which Jesus answers a question from opposers only in his own time and to his own disciples – after those opposers have taken offense, stormed off, and are no longer around to hear the answer they demanded.
  47. John 6:54-66
  48. See the drop-down language menu at upper right corner of JW.org.
  49. “Remote Translation Offices Help Spread the Kingdom News,” JW Broadcasting – Video on Demand, accessed March 26, 2018, https://tv.jw.org/#en/mediaitems/VODActivitiesTranslation/pub-jwbrd_201505_6_VIDEO

000

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)

He Has Blocked Me. I Think That Says it All

Mark is still carrying on about efforts of congregation elders to meet with him, and broadcasting it to everyone under the sun, (they certainly have been determined, assuming his account is accurate, which I have no reason to question), so I put together a few tweets for the sake of perspective:

It was once the most non-controversial thing in the world for one holding authority to request, even summon to, a meeting—be it teacher/student, coach/athlete, union steward/member, team leader/team, and countless others scenarios. JWs are undeniably a religion...1/4

that recognizes authority, which everyone knew from Day 1. Until relatively recently, all religions recognized some governing authority. This is no more than an attempt to eviscerate religion into an ineffectual movement of feel-good sloganeering. If one...2/4

hasn’t formally withdrawn membership, one naturally is still regarded as a member. If one aligns oneself with those calling the faith “cult” day and night, one must not be flabbergasted at an allegation of “causing divisions.” Having said that, nobody can say that these...3/4

ones have not been...um...thorough in their efforts to meet. We, and they, will see how it plays out....4/4

but when I sought to append it, not for his sake, but for the sake of those he advertises to - lo! I am blocked.

I have never blocked anyone in my life (one I did block, but then unblocked). That is not to say I would not do it if need be. I came pretty close with one opposer who expressed herself by tweeting a couple photos of an erect penis, but I figured correctly that it would stop & be quickly buried.

This is so like this group to plead with PIMIs to engage with them, yet as soon as one does, out he goes with the trash. What they want is ones inexperienced with social media that they can score easy points with, and most of our people are.

I have never done more than counter his view. Never abusively. Never accusingly. (Never much, either. Have I even tweeted him except for yesterday?) Even with Lloyd I have rarely been short, though I’ve had a torrent of abuse from him. I think blocking under such circumstances says it all. They like their own voice. They don’t like those of others,  and more importantly, they don’t want that voice to be heard.

See the ebook TrueTom vs the Apostates!

C5D0E0F9-F117-4C49-AC2D-D3F4F310AD64

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)

With a Little Help From You Chumps (sung to the tune of With a Little Help From My Friends)

Fleas, fleas, fleas….

What would you do if I swallowed your cat?
Would you stand up and walk out on me.
Give me a break; he was juicy and fat.
You should take it not so personally.

Oh I get by with a little help from you chumps
Please understand when I bark you should jump.
Here is a shovel – go pick up my dumps.

"How do you feel when you’re left by yourself?"
Don’t worry about it, I’ll be fine.
"What do you see on the counter or shelf?"
I can’t tell you but I know its mine.

Oh I get by with a little help from you chumps
Please understand when I bark you should jump.
Here is a shovel – go pick up my dumps.

"Do you need anybody?"
I just need someone naïve.
"Could it be anybody?"
So long as he is naïve.

"Would you believe they'll catch on to your tricks?"
No, I’m certain that won’t happen anytime.
"Can you conceive they will give you the slip?"
No, they're stupid, and their hearts are mine.

Oh I get by with a little help from you chumps
Please understand when I bark you should jump.
Here is a shovel – go pick up my dumps.

(And kindly chill if another dog I should hump)

Yes, I get by with a little help from you chuh -
with a little help from you CHUH HUH HUH HUH HUH HUH HUH HUH HUH HUH HUMPS!!*

(*You can sing it non-profit but just remember where it came from. It is not yours)

000 

***

AA3BA0B8-A822-43C5-B93B-50C046760BFC

 

We arrived home to find the dog on the phone to the animal rights people, who took its side and wrote me a blistering letter.

”It is an intolerable violation of my rights to banish me from the kitchen!” it complained. “I like macadamia nuts. It’s not my fault that he leaves them in a cupboard that I’ve learned to open. What do I care if he drops a few hundred at the vet? He can’t take it with him!”

 

 

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)

Life

I came across a person through reading who spent all his time playing Second Life.1 It is a popular online game in which a player, represented by an avatar, interacts with other players who are represented by their avatars. There are hundreds of thousands of players of this game, and together they make up an online world, which they may occupy more than the real world. You can do everything in Second Life that you can in the real world, and a lot more, since you are unrestrained by inconveniences as family responsibilities, financial hardship, health or age infirmities, physical distance, or social inhibition. It is a dinosaur of a game in digital life—its heyday is past—but it is still played by many.

The man featured in the article I read was almost sixty years old. He discovered Second Life while recuperating from surgery. He plays it virtually every waking moment—as many as fourteen hours a day, said the article—pausing only for bathroom breaks. His avatar is a twenty-something muscular hunk, a vicarious representation of his actual sixty-year-old self. He develops shopping malls and creates designer clothes (in real life, the sixty-year-old works at a help desk). He is idolized by all his employees and when he logs on after a long absence, his workers all welcome him back and earnestly inquire as to his health. (I haven’t yet figured out why anyone would play Second Life and be an employee rather than a boss.) He has an online wife, a pretty avatar he met some time ago. They set up house, they work together, shop together, and do everything a married couple might be expected to do. In real life, he’s never met the woman and has no intention of doing so. In Second Life, they are inseparable.

Now, this fellow has a wife in the real world, and she’s not happy. “Leave this loser,” her kids urge her. It is the second marriage for both of them. But she sticks with her man, if he can really be called hers. He is a good man at heart, she maintains, who has been sucked into an online addiction. Someday he will wake to find he has squandered his whole life in a make-believe world. She brings him breakfast while he’s tapping away at the keyboard. Hours later she returns. “You didn’t touch your breakfast,” she says. “Oh, sorry. I didn’t notice it.” (This writer’s wife would dump his breakfast over his head at this point.)

Imagine—an online world so engrossing that some prefer it to the real world! Next to Second Life, Risk and Monopoly are mere—well, board games. Yet without too great a leap in creative thinking, one may view this life as though it were a second life, which would relegate the online Second Life to Third Life. For the Bible makes clear that this life is not the “true” life. Sickness and death are not part of God’s purpose for humankind. Rather, everlasting life is. An earth brought close to ruin by human activity is likewise not his purpose; a paradise earth, much like the Eden of Genesis, which literally means ‘garden,’ or ‘paradise,’ is. Neither is happiness marred by evil and suffering part of God’s purpose, but instead unsullied life under Kingdom rule is. We limp along as best we can in this system of things. Some find success and overcome obstacles better than others, but in the end, there is little difference between us. A mere few decades pass and all of us are senile and in diapers, en route to the grave. That is why Paul encouraged Timothy to: “Tell the rich in the present age not to be proud and not to rely on so uncertain a thing as wealth but rather on God, who richly provides us with all things for our enjoyment. Tell them to do good, to be rich in good works, to be generous, ready to share, thus accumulating as treasure a good foundation for the future, so as to win the life that is true life.”2

How meaningful can life be in a system where ISIS, dementia, cancer, or simple human greed can snuff it out in a second? “Sayonara!” your longtime employer sings out, as he packs up for overseas. “Dust off that resume, why don’t you?  And those family and financial obligations you have? Fugedaboudit!” It is as Solomon says: he has seen footmen on horses and princes slogging through the mud. It is certainly possible to get satisfaction from life today, and most have to some degree. But many find it is like chomping down hard on cotton candy. Though it looked substantial, they ultimately find that there was never much there.

How short-sighted to throw off restraint and run to a place where no one can tell you what to do. There is nothing to stop one from doing so, but it’s a poor trade-off over the ‘restrictions’ of a godly life, which amount to little more than guardrails on a treacherous highway. Manipulation through human scheming in the form of Big Government, Big Business or contemporary philosophy ultimately take a toll far greater than any restrictions of the Christian life.

There is some basis in viewing this life, uncertain in every aspect except its ultimate end, as a Second Life, and your real self as an avatar. And perhaps some advantage. The joys of this life one can experience fully, if the character of our article is any guide. But the hardships that this life throws at you, things not within your power to fix, you may be better able to handle with an “aw hell, it’s just an avatar” attitude, which will be good for mental health. Like any board game or online game, this life comes to an end. You may have hotels on every square or you may go directly to jail—‘Do not pass Go’—but the game does end decisively for all. The true life, however, does not. Jehovah’s Witnesses live as happily as they can manage in this life. But it is the true life to which they look forward.

 

They asked popular author and futurist Robert Jastrow about living forever, and specifically: would that be a blessing or a curse? He said that it all depends: “It would be a blessing to those who have curious minds and an endless appetite for learning. The thought that they have forever to absorb knowledge would be very comforting for them. But for others who feel they have learned all there is to learn and whose minds are closed, it would be a dreadful curse. They’d have no way to fill their time.”

Dr. Jastrow is a thinker, and so he focused on learning. There is an apocryphal story about a Witness chancing upon him in the ministry, observing that he is quoted in the book Life – How did it Get Here? By Creation or Evolution, and leaving it with him on that basis. But things besides knowledge are boundless, too, such as our capacity to create and our capacity to love.

Over the last forty years or so, however, pop culture has been selling death as though it were a benefit. It is probably the atheists. They are increasing in number and buying into their thinking means settling for a final death sentence perhaps not too many years away. Pay attention and you will see the ‘death is beautiful’ notion a lot. For example, it surfaced in a Dr. Who episode entitled: The Lazarus Experiment.

The episode name itself is a giveaway, because Lazarus is a biblical character resurrected by Jesus, related in the eleventh chapter of John. The television Lazarus has invented a machine to make him youthful again; he steps in old and he walks out young, to the amazement of the high-brow folk invited to his gala bash. But Dr. Who, who must have crashed the party, smells something amiss. He follows the newly minted youngster, and sure enough, the machine has malfunctioned and doomed Lazarus to transforming back and forth from human to monster! (They like monsters on that show.) See, in setting back his DNA, the machine has selected ancient mutations long-ago rejected by evolution, and the result is instability. (Hmmm…yes…indeed, plausible, nod all the atheists watching the show, whereas if you mentioned anything about God, they’d throw up).

Dr. Who, a ‘time lord,’ lectures Lazarus before the show is done on what a curse everlasting life really is, and what a foolish, greedy thing it was for him to reach out for it. For when life drags on forever and ever and ever, you will get so tired of it. You will have been everywhere, done everything. Living will have become an endless, pointless trek to nowhere. You will long for it to end, but (fool that you were for choosing everlasting life) it will not end but will go on and on and on. Oh, the monotony! See, without death, it is impossible to savor life—and so forth.

Please. Spare me and Dr. Jastrow. This is atheist tripe. It all depends upon whether you see life as futile or not. If you do, then sure, you would want it to end. But as Dr. Jastrow stated, life is only futile if you have made it so. Of course, baked into this system of things are various ingredients to encourage that view—for example, old age and frailty, but if they could be vanquished, a much different longing would emerge.

A prime attraction of Rochester, New York, where this writer has resided, is the George Eastman House. Mr. Eastman, who invented photography for the masses and who founded the Eastman Kodak Company, turned philanthropist once he had made his fortune and built half the city; testimony to his generosity is everywhere.  His mansion on East Avenue showcases his life, his inventions, his contributions to society, and serves as the nucleus for all things photographic right up to the present. When he decided the center lounge area of his domicile was too small, he had the house cut in two, rolled apart, and a fine new addition built to link them again. Does his determination emerge from this picture? He was unstoppable. But research thoroughly and you will discover that he shot himself in the head at age 78. In the throes of old age, his health failing, one by one he saw his friends going senile, bedridden or wheelchair-bound. He left behind a note: “To my friends: My work is done. Why wait?”3

Q: Why did George Eastman take his life?

  1. A) His work was done. Why wait?
  2. B) He longed for the blessed release of death to finally end a futile life that had dragged on and on for far too long.
  3. C) His health was failing and he, a lifelong bachelor, dreaded the indignities of old age with its dependence upon others.

Does anybody honestly think that, with health and youth, George Eastman would not have found more work in which to engross himself? Surely, he would not have longed for life to end. In this, Mr. Eastman is much like Leonardo da Vinci, the man who painted one of the most enduring portraits of all time—the Mona Lisa. Leonardo made his mark not only as an artist. He also contributed hugely in areas as diverse as geometry, anatomy, astronomy, architecture, and flight. Some of his sketches have been used as blueprints for devices in use today. He was a ‘Renaissance man’—his life embodies the term. Yet toward the end of his life, he reportedly sought God’s forgiveness for not using all the resources of his spirit and art.

Eastman and da Vinci: two men that typify Dr. Jastrow’s statement. And they would be joined by just about everyone else, were we not sucked into a morass of drudgery, duty, debt, injustice and hardship. Sure, you might well long for death if you can envision only more of that. The same goes for the frailness that comes with old age. When I attended a funeral of an older friend who had been happy, content, and productive throughout life, his widow nonetheless assured me that he was quite ready to die, since he’d grown “so tired of being sick.”

Faced with the skyrocketing cost of a medical regimen, equal to her entire fixed income, one person reported on in the American Association of Retired Persons publication laments that: “I’m faced with some hard decisions about whether to stay on the drug. I still have a lot of things I want to do with my life.” One is tempted to ask: At one point will she say: “Okay, I’ve done it all. Death can come any time, now.” I think she will never say it unless and until she finally acknowledges that the scoundrels have outmaneuvered her. The hucksters are having a field day with her, gleefully seizing upon missteps to further subjugate her in some way. The doctors are sucking her dry of resources, yet she is not getting better. The young people who ought to thank her as a font of wisdom have been sold a bill of good by self-serving interests and wonder when the old fogey will finally move on. The politicians have continually made her promises that have not panned out.

It is not always pricey drugs. The U.S. is unique in the hardship it imposes over healthcare, but there is always some problematic thing, and often it is more onerous than missing out on a drug. But if the villains of life did not, at some point, succeed in their relentless attack, the woman would never reach the point of saying ‘that’s enough.’ She would always be up for more delicious life. That is why the Bible’s promise of everlasting life on a paradise earth is so appealing. It is Robert Jastrow’s dream come true: unlimited time to grow, minus the very real liabilities that eventually cause most of us to tire of life. Perfect health is promised, and an economic system will be in place so that people do not feel they are toiling for nothing. Isaiah describes life under God’s kingdom rule, illustrating the prayer “thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven: “They shall build houses and live in them, they shall plant vineyards and eat their fruit; They shall not build and others live there; they shall not plant and others eat. As the years of a tree, so the years of my people; and my chosen ones shall long enjoy the work of their hands. They shall not toil in vain, nor beget children for sudden destruction; For they shall be a people blessed by the LORD and their descendants with them.”4

Many things I would like to do. I have done a few of them. But for the most part, I have merely scratched the surface. I’ve spent a fair amount of time battling the iniquities of life while not accomplishing much at all. Everlasting life, should I find myself there, will not be a bad thing. Not at all. It will be a good thing.

When the world embraces atheism, many paradigms shift. All concept of waiting for God to work out his will vanishes. What counts is the here and now. Tribulation that Revelation calls ‘ten days’ becomes ‘forever.’5 Even the perception of congregation discipline changes. Expulsion from the congregation for unrequited unchristian conduct becomes a permanent ‘breaking up of families.’ To the Christian, expulsion is the ultimate trump card of discipline which may move the one so chastised thereby to mend his ways and return to the fold, for the door that was closed was never locked. The trek towards everlasting life can resume. In going atheist, however, the departing one no longer worries about living forever on earth or anywhere else. He or she has gone atheistic and has reconstrued the remaining few decades as a great bargain, with no sense of being cheated from all eternity. Sigh—if they believe it, they believe it. But it hardly seems something to celebrate. Is it not a little like the fellow who loses millions in the stock market? Undeterred, he celebrates the five thousand dollars he still has left and says: ‘Well, they were only paper gains anyway.’ If the fellow has come to view life that way after being expelled from the congregation, his exile has become in his eyes something from which he will not return. It has become permanent.

 

There are many swirls and back eddies. Certainly, one can find flaws in the visible Christian organization. Some persons have been heavy-handed. Some have blundered. But the overall flow of events is in accord with what Jehovah’s Witnesses have long said. The visibility of the kingdom message expands. World conditions worsen. Not all the ducks are lined up. There are yet a few stragglers. The fat lady has not yet sung. But she is clearing her throat. It is time to mend fences for anyone who has left. Everyone knows a large project needs organization, which requires leadership, and with leadership a given policy or decision can go against you. It is good not to hold on to resentment.

The older generation of the West will sometimes paint the younger as spoiled brats—overprivileged babies who lack appreciation and do little but whine. The Witness organization does not feel that way about any who have left. You never blame the younger generation for problems encountered growing up in the soil you supplied. Had you not let outside scoundrels contaminate the soil or even tainted it yourself it might not have happened. Says a tweet from a self-described “resident scholar” at the American Institute and former philosophy teacher: “Dear kids: I’m a Baby Boomer. We are getting old. But at least we had sex, drugs and rock & roll. Seems like millennials have moral panics, workshops, and grievance circles.” Does not the first largely explain the second? One is supposed to pass on values that the young can build upon. What is her advice? “Time to rebel!”6 Witness parents sought to shield their kids from such influences. Some pulled too hard in the opposite direction. Some simply found the allure of those things to their offspring too great to countermand.

There is a public talk on the Watchtower’s revolving list of talk outlines entitled: Acquiring a Heart of Wisdom. It is a challenging talk to give and not all speakers handle it well, for it invites exposing the flaws of faithful persons, past and present, and not all speakers are comfortable doing that. Past is okay, but not so much the present. Back in the day, when I would give the talk myself, I used to lead off with the by-now-trite illustration of how treasure-seekers dig through the dirt to find the tiniest speck of diamonds and how foolish it would be to reverse the process—dig through the diamonds to find the tiniest speck of dirt. Nevertheless, I stated, we would be doing exactly that for the next 45 minutes. With any time in the faith, you are going to come across some dirt, and if you are not prepared, you will be floored, for it is the one place you did not expect to find any.

Having set those ground rules, I then reveled in tearing things apart for the talk’s duration, dredging up wrongs from both the Hebrew and Greek scriptures. I hit my stride with the second and third chapters of Revelation, considering absolute basket cases of congregations, in which were found every sort of nasty deed (read the chapters yourself) and yet they were still congregations. The point is, if wrong things happened then, one needn’t be shocked if they have happened today. The trick is not to sanitize the present. It is to de-sanitize the past. It is to say: “Look at those outrageous characters back then! Yet somehow God managed to pull a rabbit out the hat even with them carrying on as they did.”

 

Russia has been lately dealing with an avalanche of accusations—from meddling in Western democratic process, to invading foreign states, to cheating in the Olympics. It is a non-stop hate campaign of absurd charges, fumes Robert Bridge, the RT.com correspondent. He warns that the bear may only take it for so long before it responds with a bite, not just a growl.7 I know it when I see it: non-stop hate and absurd charges. We experience it ourselves. If only the kings could get along Jehovah’s Witnesses might not get caught in the cross-fire between them. Actually, that was my response from the sole pedophile Russian mention, that tweet from the Embassy relaying a defamatory headline. I replied: “One would think that a country that roundly condemns slander directed against it would not so immediately swallow it when it is directed at someone else.”

Three times in the modern age has Russia saved the day, averting nuclear war: Arkhipov, Petrov, and Khrushchev via letter to Kennedy. The bear growls that the U.S. bombs more countries than Russia, and yet the bear is painted as the aggressor. The bear growls that Western profit-driven corporations, not it, stir up major mayhem in an unending quest to expand markets. The bear growls and even yipes that its athletes alone are expelled from the Olympics. Who cannot feel for Russia?

Then, just at reaching that moment of sympathy, it does something to suggest it is all true and then some, that perhaps what is visible is but the tip of the iceberg. You can’t just confiscate foreign-owned property worth millions—just take it—without shooting yourself in the foot image-wise. You cannot just ban a Bible—a perfectly viable Bible and everyone knows it—without suggesting that you are a nation of goons. You can’t rely upon a high school math teacher scribbling verbiage off the Internet as your expert witness without suggesting that you don’t really have anyone who knows anything over there. You can’t chase and harass and bully people known the world over as perfectly respectable without painting yourself a nation of thugs. Why shoot oneself in the foot that way? Jehovah’s Witnesses may strike some as annoying—more people would say yes than no to that—but extremist? Everybody knows what extremism is and they know that Jehovah’s Witnesses are not it. Come now. It is a pretty dull life you live if they fulfill your definition of extremism.

God lays “Jerusalem a heavy stone for all peoples” down and Russia picks it up. The prophetic reference is to the ‘New Jerusalem’ of Revelation 21 that descends from heaven to rule, the anti-type of another Jerusalem of long ago. It is a heavy stone. The nations and their advocates want human efforts to work. The want optimistic reassurance. They want to be told that success is at hand, or at least within reach. They don’t want Bible people coming around to tell them it is all for naught and that only God’s kingdom will deliver. What a tiresome heavy stone that is.

Nevertheless, “all who attempt to lift it will injure themselves badly, though all the nations of the earth will gather against it.” Russia is among those first to try, and it takes hits to its reputation. It makes no sense. A great country is shoved around by anti-cult zealots. It is maneuvered into harassing a perfectly harmless people. It is sad to behold. People are not always deterred by slanderous reports. Sometimes they are drawn. “It makes no sense to slam the Witnesses,” some will say, “they’re nice people.”8

Russia bans a Bible that everyone knows is a Bible. It confiscates a property, and everyone knows is theft. Someone will be the new occupants of the Witness Administrative Center. Will they be smitten with hemorrhoids, as happened long ago when a treasure was taken from its rightful owners and given to strangers? It is what happened when the Philistines hijacked the ark. Well—I wouldn’t hold my breath. The ark is hardly the same as the branch, but one can always imagine. The one conceivably valid reason for banning the New World Translation in Russia (I thought) is that it employs the word “piles.” What in the world are piles? It is in no other translation that I can see. It is hardly that the New World Translation avoids unpleasantries elsewhere—the translation favors the literal. It was not easy to fathom. The revised New American Bible, employed for this book, says God smote them with “tumours.” The King James Version says “emerods.” Darby says “hemorrhoids.” The old Wycliffe Bible removes all doubt: “Forsooth the hand of the LORD was made grievous upon [the] men of Ashdod, and he destroyed them, and he smote Ashdod and the coasts thereof in the privier part of [the] buttocks/in the more privy part of their tail ends.” Alas, the last laugh is on me, for it turns out that piles is a colloquial term for hemorrhoids and I was simply not aware of it.9

Wish Dennis Christensen well, the first Witness jailed post-ban, a Danish citizen in jail for close to a year and trial may just be finally getting underway, if nothing else intervenes. The Ministry of Justice insists he is a dangerous criminal. He is indignant to clear his name. Can the government truly pass him off as an extremist? He—the carpenter who built a playground for the children and cleaned up the park? Wasn’t there another carpenter of long ago who also ran afoul of the government? His profession is even the same. His name is even similar! It’s a good thing Witnesses no longer do types and anti-types because somebody would find latching on to this one irresistible. Pray that his God is with him as he squares off against Goliath. Pray that he downs the brute as David did his. He even must do it as did David, with limited armor. The court restricted the time his attorneys could spend reviewing the materials for his criminal case.10

It is common for politicians in the West to accuse their adversaries of launching fake news, even denouncing them as ‘hit jobs.’ They should view a certain video report on RT.com to see how it is done. Albeit that it has a point of view, RT.com seems to me an overall credible source, capable of fine journalism when it puts its mind to it. But it plainly did not put its mind to it on this occasion.

The three-minute 2009 video clip is entitled Jehovah and Out and the host is interviewing Audrey Zolovov of Russia Profile Magazine.11 The host asks why Jehovah’s Witnesses are targeted for possible ban because, after all, Russia is “pretty tolerant toward religion, isn’t it? I mean, the Hare Krisnas are operating on the streets of Moscow” and his guest says that ‘Well, he doesn’t really know.’ He agrees with the host that Witnesses are “annoying,” but also agrees that should hardly suffice as a reason. They do oppose blood transfusions, and that is very bad, but many fringe sects have similar disagreeable drawbacks. Maybe it is because they have a “very good organization.” After all, they are a “worldwide phenomenon,” he opines, as though expounding upon motive at a crime scene. He gives an example: several years ago, his wife went to a manicurist and he thinks that the manicurist must have been a “very important asset for that group because she had this captive audience for 40 minutes or so, while she was telling them about their religion. Of course, my wife stopped going to that manicurist as soon as she found out that she is being preached.” Of course! What loyal citizen would not? 

Is it possible that RT.com can celebrate grownups behaving as such babies? Even if the Witness woman was tactless, something which is not alleged, an adult learns over time that there are many of such people encountered in life, and that you can handle them by making polite banter and if they become overly insistent, by telling them to shut up. You don’t send your husband to RT.com where he can relate how you escaped, only by the skin of your teeth, from an encounter with a scary monster like the one that would devour Caleb and Sophia. The Witnesses not only spoke to his wife while she was “captive,” but they also do “lots of these things.” As though conscious that his own complaint is silly, he further explains that the Witnesses have “a very very bad image, both in the media and among the public in general.”

In seeming determination to further that “very very bad image” and even add another “very” to it, the conversation takes place against a backdrop of crazies doing the most whacky things—bizarre cultish rites, pugilistic bare-chested fighting scenes, children in lock-step: very very weird scenes that have nothing whatsoever to do with the interview. Nor do they have anything to do with Jehovah’s Witnesses, as their most virulent critics, indeed, anyone who knows anything about them, will instantly attest. Will RT.com really treat its audience with such contempt? Are they working to cultivate stupidity among ones they seem to regard as a herd for them to direct? Or did they give no pre-thought to it? Is it an anomaly, and the producer merely said to an underling: “Hey, we’re doing a story on the Jehovah’s Witnesses. Run down to the lunatic bin in the storeroom and fetch some footage for me. Anything will do.” And will the Russian government outlet really treat the name of God with such contempt: “Jehovah and Out,” as in “Over and out?”

The temptation for the writer based in the West is to paint Putin the villain: the instigator of the Witness persecution. To the extent one thinks of Harry Truman’s utterance, “the buck stops here,” that should be understandable. But let us not go there. There is nothing to paint Putin the mastermind. It is always a challenge to get the attention of the one at the top, for he has much to occupy his time. The Persian King Ahasuerus was set up to preside over the Jews’ annihilation, buying into the slander that they were a menace.  It was for Queen Esther to show him the evil scheme that was underfoot.12

Most likely Putin is like Pilate, who knew Jesus was innocent but also wanted to placate the religious powers-that-be, if for nothing else than to keep them out of his hair. It is a bad sign for Witnesses that Putin hails from a communist background that has no use for religion, let alone one that is unconventional. But it is a good sign that he is a man of unpretentious upbringing. As a young man, he knocked at the door of KBG Recruiting, an unlikely means of entrance, and thereafter worked his way up through the ranks. He spent his early years “working in a gloomy office filled with aging staffers,” where he was “pushing papers at work and still living at home with his parents without a room of his own.”13 Like a Governing Body member himself, he did not start at the top. He started at the bottom.

 

There may be a partial flattening of the anti-cult wave on which Mr. Dvorkin surfs. On the occasion of the 70th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, France was questioned over its sponsorship of the NGO European Federation of Centers of Research and Information on Cults and Sects (FECRIS), as that NGO “has benefitted from abusive grants that they have used to disseminate hate speech targeting some minority religious groups in the countries of the European Union and beyond.” The occasion was a side event to the Universal Periodic Review of France in Geneva (January 15th, 2018) where several NGOs and an international law expert called upon President Emmanuel Macron and his Prime Minister to revise the financing of the NGO that sends a clear “open hunting season” on religious minorities.14 It is the same NGO whose role in the Witness ban was discussed in chapter 3. Alexander Dvorkin was cited by these human rights people as a prime instigator of abuse in Russia. In addition to “the ban of Jehovah’s Witnesses and peaceful apolitical Muslim movements as well as the imprisonment of several Scientologists [that are] part of this religious purification strategy,” he “enjoys disseminating inflammatory narratives and hate speech. Last year, in the capital city of India, Hindus held a demonstration outside the Russian embassy to protest against the persecution of their religion and burnt an effigy of Dvorkin.”

Should France, which Mr. Eric Roux of the European Interreligious Forum for Religious Freedom (EIFRF) called “the cradle of human rights” really be sponsoring NGOs that would so blatantly violate those rights with regard to religious minorities? Surely such hate sends a signal so that “other countries in the world may think that it is therefore legitimate to follow suit and they usually do worse.” FECRIS is simply a hate group itself, in that it targets “any religious minority or spiritual movement not ‘usually considered a religion’ and view[s] the conversion to such beliefs as a psychological subjection, a ‘capture of souls’ and a violation of human dignity,” says the law expert Patricia Duval. Its modus operandi is to “view the conversion to such beliefs as a psychological subjection, a ‘capture of souls’ and a violation of human dignity, collect testimonies of families or parents of converts to new religious movements who disagree with their choice to accuse such groups of destroying families, [and] compile data based on rumors, prejudices and suspicion that they use to stigmatize the concerned groups.”

Look, it might be okay for Stalin to carry on in this way, but 2018 France? Mr. Thierry Valle, representing the French NGO Coordination des Associations et des Individus pour la Liberté de Conscience, urged France to stop sponsoring this sort of activit[y],” noting “the human consequences which are often dramatic for the members of these minorities.” All these other groups mentioned: Evangelicals, Pentecostals, Baptists, Adventists, the Salvation Army, Mormons, Falun Gong practitioners, Scientologists, Muslums and Hindus—we disagree with them all, and they with us. But we would compete with them in the marketplace of ideas, not attempt to eliminate them with harassment or bans. If there is any eliminating to be done, let God do it, not any human organization. If the dominant religious status quo Dvorkin is so zealous to protect actually addressed the serious questions of life, none of these groups, Jehovah’s Witnesses included, would succeed in gaining a foothold. Will this be another occasion in which the biblical ‘earth’ comes to the rescue of the biblical ‘woman?’

Enough of this ‘cult’ nonsense. We will wear out the word. The word once had actual meaning. If you have fallen under the spell of a charismatic leader and have withdrawn from normal life, you just might be part of a cult. These days simply thinking outside of the box suffices, and the definition expands to include ‘people we don’t like.’ When I actually gave that answer: “people we don’t like,” in response to an anti-cult tweet, my comment was roundly condemned as being almost too stupid to acknowledge. I backed off and apologized, for they were right, and I had gone too far. I was thinking only about Witnesses and had lost sight of the very real cults who used to be the sole designates of that word. Yet these days they would include Jehovah’s Witnesses in their definition, retaining the original word, in hopes that the negative connotations will be applied to the new target.

You can overdo it with cults. The resident “cult expert,” as he bills himself, invites his audience to view an “interview where I discuss how Trump exhibits characteristics of a cult leader.”15 He thinks the current President is like a cult leader? Doesn’t that pretty much blow his credibility? When you think half the country has fallen victim to cult manipulation, it is an indication that you have drunk too much of the Kool Aid yourself. When I made this observation on an associated tweet account, I was blocked, something that has never happened to me, and I cannot even get back in there to create a proper endnote. That says it all as to how the anti-cultists process other viewpoints. And no, I wasn’t abusive. I did no more than say what I have said here. The reader who has followed up to this point is in position to testify. Haven’t I behaved myself? I always do.

 

Russian Witnesses engaging in the ministry these days will more accurately catch the flavor of Jesus’ instructions from the first meeting for field service. From time to time, Watchtower publications have pointed to the 10th chapter of Matthew as being just that meeting. Note the overwhelming tone to the effect that the Christian message would not be well-received. It would be vigorously resisted. It would even cause contention within families. The NABRE online commentary, which is extensive, passes right over this bit of unpleasantness without remark, thus revealing that its translators are not overly sensitive to the preaching nature of the Christian ministry. They join and strengthen the predominate church opinion that Christ’s message will find a welcome home in this world, and will, ever so gently, transform it over time. Nothing could be further from the truth.  Let us consider a few segments of Jesus’ instructions (in italics) at that meeting:16

“As you enter a house, wish it peace. If the house is worthy, let your peace come upon it; if not, let your peace return to you. Whoever will not receive you or listen to your words—go outside that house or town and shake the dust from your feet.” (vs 12-13, Be pleasant. Don’t fight. If people insist upon arguing, simply take your leave without judging, for that is not your prerogative.)

“Behold, I am sending you like sheep in the midst of wolves; so be shrewd as serpents and simple as doves. But beware of people, for they will hand you over to courts and scourge you in their synagogues, and you will be led before governors and kings for my sake as a witness before them and the pagans.” (16-18, It is a very real possibility these days in Russia.)

“Brother will hand over brother to death, and the father his child; children will rise up against parents and have them put to death. You will be hated by all because of my name, but whoever endures to the end will be saved.” (vs 21-22, It is another unpleasant fact that has, at times, played out in modern settings.)

“When they persecute you in one town, flee to another. Amen, I say to you, you will not finish the towns of Israel before the Son of Man comes.” (vs 23, You’re not going to get it all done. Persecution may cause you to flee with work yet remaining. Don’t worry about it. Will some Russian Witnesses seek asylum in other lands? Some have. The Witness whose house was burned to the ground shortly after the ban was imposed, did so.17)

“No disciple is above his teacher, no slave above his master… If they have called the master of the house Beelzebub, how much more those of his household!” (vs 24-25, They didn’t like Jesus. They won’t like you.)

“Therefore do not be afraid of them. Nothing is concealed that will not be revealed, nor secret that will not be known. What I say to you in the darkness, speak in the light; what you hear whispered, proclaim on the housetops. And do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul; rather, be afraid of the one who can destroy both soul and body in Gehenna.” (vs 26-28, Man up where you have to. Be courageous. Even should the enemy kill you, that is all they can do. They cannot interfere with the ‘true life.’)

“Are not two sparrows sold for a small coin? Yet not one of them falls to the ground without your Father’s knowledge. Even all the hairs of your head are counted. So do not be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows. Everyone who acknowledges me before others I will acknowledge before my heavenly Father.” (vs 29-32, You will not be forgotten by your heavenly father, nor by those loyal to him.)

“And whoever gives only a cup of cold water to one of these little ones to drink because he is a disciple—amen, I say to you, he will surely not lose his reward.” (vs 42, You will enjoy some positive response. It will come predominantly by persons of modest means, since they are in position to offer only some water and do not wine and dine you.)

Does the next chapter of Matthew still describe that first meeting for field service? Such an interpretation is pushing it, since the first verse of chapter 11 explicitly states that the Lord sent them out. But let us imagine them hanging about in the parking lot for a while, as Jehovah’s Witnesses are wont to do today, much to the Governing Body’s chagrin:18

Jesus continues: “To what shall I compare this generation? It is like children who sit in marketplaces and call to one another, ‘We played the flute for you, but you did not dance, we sang a dirge but you did not mourn.’ For John came neither eating nor drinking, and they said, ‘He is possessed by a demon.’ The Son of Man came eating and drinking and they said, ‘Look, he is a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners.’” (vs 16-19, In other words, you can’t please them all. They’ll find fault no matter what you do. Don’t worry about it.)

“But wisdom is vindicated by her works.” (vs 19, It comes right back to the Christian organization’s reluctance to engage with those who would argue. Don’t do it. Critical persons will argue until the cows come home. Some of them seem positively to live to argue. Don’t play that game. Demonstrate the works that will speak louder than games of the head.)19 

 

Minus any words, and through only music steadily rising to crescendo, the video starts out as in a dream. A barefoot man in casual tunic walks along the beach and his attention is caught by something afar off down the shore. Another group is picnicking on the sand. The scenes cut to vistas of the earth in all its splendor and persons climbing, exploring, building, and savoring it. They are all people seen before, meeting various trials of faith, featured in separate videos at the 2016 Regional Conventions, hosted around the globe.20

“You won’t understand all of this, but that’s okay,” I told one man on a return visit. “Just give me your general impression.” He was especially enthused when I suggested he try writing a screenplay for it. He was the young atheist man who’d agreed that Megan could return and discuss her Bible themes at length. She had invited me to come along. Surely, the man must have assumed she’d summoned one of the big guns from the church.

He invited the two of us in and parried cautiously, unsure as to what he’d gotten himself into. “Now, just to be sure, if I should ask you to leave, you will go, right?” he queried hesitantly. Somehow I felt I had a read on this fellow and I told him that he’d be lucky to be rid of us by midnight. It was enough to break the ice and an uneasy tension was no more. I asked him how much time he had had in mind. He said an hour—longer than we had planned to stay in the first place.

I barely spoke during the first fifteen minutes. Megan said that the Bible was a scientific book and I winced inwardly because it isn’t. What she meant was that when the book happens to touch on matters of science it does so accurately, but Sean heard only what she had said, not what she had meant, and he seemed taken aback. Presently he brought up something about Nebuchadnezzar, and I knew he had prepped for how to speak with Witnesses, for—let let us be honest—who cares about Nebuchadnezzar in this day and age? After we had jumped around into three topics, I suggested maybe we should go back to the first one, and discuss it thoroughly, before moving on. He agreed. After exploring that first topic, he lost all interest in Nebuchadnezzar and we both sent him off grazing to whatever pasture he had come from.21

“The greatest enemies of God are not to be found in the ranks of the atheists,” I had mentioned to him. “They’re to be found in the ranks of those who claim to be his friends. In fact, that’s why some atheists become atheists; they have grown so thoroughly disgusted at the conduct and teachings of religious people.” He liked that remark. I have been back a few times since.

“It is a lot of family scenes,” he puzzled out about the video, “and they’re wearing very simple, khaki-like clothing. And it’s a great ending, the son runs into the arms of his dad—a big reunion. They apparently haven’t seen each other in a while.” No, they hadn’t. The boy had died in an automobile accident, presented in a movie at that convention, and the reunion scene was one of resurrection from the dead. The entire video, shown the last hour at that convention, was of life on the other side of the great tribulation, and—wasn’t that Sergey playing the violin or one like it that the Russian guard had smashed but now his wife had retrieved for him in the new system? Without mentioning the verse—for it contains no words—the video was Revelation 21:3-4 realized:

“I also saw the holy city, a new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, ‘Behold, God’s dwelling is with the human race. He will dwell with them and they will be his people and God himself will always be with them [as their God]. He will wipe every tear from their eyes, and there shall be no more death or mourning, wailing or pain, [for] the old order has passed away.’”

After thousands of years have elapsed from humankinds’ start, God removes the chaos of the Devil-inspired experiment of human self–rule, after all but the most obstinate can see that it has been an utter failure. He brings about what he was going to bring about in the first place but delayed for a time so that a moral challenge could be answered.22 Ones who have sought him out in this system of things are the first to realize the fruitage of his rule in the new one, as is portrayed in the video’s title: Jehovah Will Treat his Loyal One in a Special Way.

One way of countering oppressors is to outlive them. There is only so much time they have to strut about on the world stage and then they must die. Of course, you must die too, perhaps even before they. But the Witness article of faith that I have never heard anyone among them doubt is that of a resurrection on the transformed paradise earth. Witnesses may dicker about this minor point or that, agitated like particles of Brownian motion, but I have never found one having trouble with the resurrection. It affords them major staying power, and it may be for that reason that it has historically come under virulent attack. It is not merely a human game that is being played. The chief priests bribed the guards to report Jesus’ disciples had stolen his body and that he had not been resurrected at all.23 A relentless attempt to water down resurrection of the dead from ‘actual’ to ‘virtual’ was a major apostasy of the first century. Some had “deviated from the truth by saying that [the] resurrection has already taken place and are upsetting the faith of some.”24 And Caecilius of the 2nd century argues with ferocity against Octavius’ simple faith in the resurrection, which seems to particularly get under his skin.25

The video is not intended as a tool for the ministry and it cannot be used that way—I have tried. A Witness knows the story-line and is apt to get choked up. The video portrays the culmination of every Witness’ Bible-based hope. What! Does anyone think Russian Witnesses will trade it for some twaddle about breaking free of ‘manipulation’—from persons who simply want to ensure that religion knows its place in today’s world?

It does know its place, and that is first place. Some Russian brothers will give up, most likely, just as “Demas, enamored of the present world, deserted me and went to Thessalonica,” but for every Demas, there will be the “ten people from nations of every language [who] will take hold, yes, will take hold of the cloak of every Judahite and say, ‘Let us go with you, for we have heard that God is with you.’”26 It is perhaps a process that the Russian authorities have speeded up, forcing the world to confront the question: What is there about the Christian message so objectionable that it must be condemned? Some will conclude: Nothing at all. It is this chaotic mess of a world that should be condemned. If history is any guide, the work may lull a bit in Russia, only to return with a vengeance at a later date.

Jehovah Will Treat his Loyal One in a Special Way is but the beginning of Revelation 22, the last Bible chapter, in which water sparkling as crystal flows out from the throne of God and of the Lamb; it works as medicine for the nations. As Jehovah’s Witnesses announce now, it is: “’Come.’ Let the hearer say, ‘Come.’ Let the one who thirsts come forward, and the one who wants it receive the gift of life-giving water.” Though the video has no words, it effectively ends with the words of the Bible: “The one who gives this testimony says, ‘Yes, I am coming soon.’ Amen! Come, Lord Jesus!”27

In the ministry one evening in upstate New York, I approached a man about to launch his hobbyist drone. I told him I had never seen one up close and he invited me to watch. It took off. He guided it up and over the street, over the rooftop of the neighbor’s house, and I saw in his viewfinder what the drone saw. Yes! There it was! As he suspected, his first mini-drone had come down over the house and was stuck in the gutter. “It’s just a cheap little thing,” he said finally of the lost drone. He decided to let it remain just where it was. How would he retrieve it anyway? Perhaps his neighbor would be peeved at his flying a drone overhead, as though spying. He guided his big drone back and it landed obediently at his feet. I hadn’t said a word as to who I was, and he hadn’t asked. With mother drone safe and sound, and only a chick lost in the neighbor’s gutter, he said to me: “You’re a Jehovah’s Witness, right? They’re fine people. I never met one I didn’t like.” I thought I’d leave things just the way they were, like his baby drone left in the gutter. What could I have added? He had nailed it. We are fine people. When searching the field of religion, look for those who are collectively maligned but individually praised.

(From the book Dear Mr. Putin - Jehovah's Witnesses Write Russia, in safe and unsafe version)

  1. Alexandra Alter, “Is This Man Cheating on His Wife?” Wall Street Journal, August 10, 2007, accessed March 28, 2018, https://www.wsj.com/articles/SB118670164592393622
  2. 1 Timothy 6:17-19
  3. The note is on display at the George Eastman House in Rochester N.Y. The account of separating the house by rollers to insert a midsection is related by any tour guide.
  4. Isaiah 65:21-23
  5. Revelation 2:10
  6. Christina Sommers, Twitter feed, February 14, 2018, accessed March 28, 2018, https://twitter.com/chsommers/status/963975848540954625?lang=en
  7. This is not the exact quote, which I have misplaced, but it is just as apropo. He writes the complaint frequently. See, for example, https://www.facebook.com/story.php?story_fbid=10213630677134011&id=1016253912. Contact him via Twitter and ask. Take note of his banner, which inspired a certain plebian (me) to say “it really puts the ‘ass’ into astronaut. He told me they were not astronauts, but female fighter ACES. Yeah…whatever.
  8. Zechariah 12:3
  9. 1 Samuel 5:6
  10. “The Court Restricted Dennis Christensen’s Right to Become Acquainted With the Case Materials,” Jehovah’s Witnesses in Russia, December 19, 2017 accessed March 28, 2018, https://www.jw-russia.org/news/17121911-277.html The Court relented on this restriction two months later: http://www2.stetson.edu/~psteeves/relnews/180228a.html
  11. The interview survives only as a YouTube submission, uploaded April 26, 2012, by JW Brothers, accessed March 21, 2018, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ldybL1foBE0. I would prefer the source be more precise, but it dovetails well with contemporary print RT.com articles, such as “Will Jehovah's Witnesses be Banned in Russia?” RT.com, August 11, 2010, accessed March 19, 2018, https://www.rt.com/news/will-jehovah-s-witnesses-be-banned-in-russia/
  12. Esther 7:1-6
  13. Steven Lee Myers, The New Tsar: The Rise and Reign of Vladimir Putin (New York: Knoph, 2014) 24
  14. “LAÏCITÉ and Religious Freedom: A Coalition of NGOs Questions France at the United Nations,” Human Rights Without Frontiers, January 16, 2018, accessed March 28, 2018, http://hrwf.eu/laicite-and-religious-freedom-a-coalition-of-ngos-questions-france-at-the-united-nations
  15. See tweet of March 7, 2018, by Stephen Hassan, accessed March 21, 2018, https://twitter.com/CultExpert/status/971553486080040960
  16. Matthew 10:5-42
  17. Platon Prohorov, “When God is Ridnessed,” Religiopolis, May 10, 2017, accessed March 27, 2018, http://www.religiopolis.org/news/11474-togda-bog-otvorachivaetsya.html. For English translation, see https://www2.stetson.edu/~psteeves/relnews/170510e.html
  18. A parody of such is portrayed in an ebook by this author: Tom Irregardless and Me (smashwords.com Search: Tom Harley, 2016) Chapter 12
  19. Matthew 11:16-19
  20. “Jehovah Will Treat His Loyal One in a Special Way,” Jehovah’s Witnesses Broadcasting, 2016, accessed March 28, 2018, https://tv.jw.org/#en/mediaitems/pub-jwbcov_201605_11_VIDEO
  21. Daniel 4:33 This chapter of Daniel figures prominently in Bible chronology and Witness detractors sometimes seek to undermine it on that account. There is debate among secular sources as to the date of fulfillment of this verse.
  22. What Does the Bible Really Teach? (Wallkill: Watchtower Bible and Tract Society of Pennsylvania, 2014) 106
  23. Matthew 28:13
  24. 2 Timothy 2:18
  25. The Octavius of Minucius Felix, Roberts-Donaldson English [from Greek] Translation, c160-250 A.D, chapters VIII, XI, XII, compiled by Peter Kirby, accessed March 28, 2018, http://www.earlychristianwritings.com/octavius.html.
  26. Zechariah 8:23
  27. Revelation 22:20-21

00

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)

“Should He Be Disfellowshipped?”

Come now. You know that this [“shunning” or “avoiding”] has already happened, unless he has been secretive as to his activities and intent. Social media is full of complaints of those saying that they have been “shunned” though no DFing has ever occurred—it is but their separation and subsequent activities that congregation members react to. Nobody tells them what to do. They tell themselves, based on their understanding of Bible principles, what to do.

That is why it would have been better had he remained part of the congregation throughout. Relations would have become tense, probably, but that is always the case with someone who presents himself as a ‘reformer’ or ‘whistleblower.’ Instead, he separates and aligns himself with a community that continually derides JWs as a “cult”—a perception that none of them will share—so they are unlikely to conclude that he has anything in mind other than sinking them, using an unsavory subject as a wedge, since many of that community have expressly stated that is their goal.

“Do you feel that what Mark has done merits a judicial committee and DF'ing?” From afar, one does not weigh in on this, with only a tiny percentage of the facts available. It is irresponsible to ask, just as it is irresponsible to try to get people to weigh in pre-trial on O.J, Michael Jackson, Paul Manifort, or anyone else. How would I know?

JWs are not a “cult”—the whole concept is silly, and the incendiary word has been expanded to include them only in the last 20-30 years or so. They are a faith that meaningfully applies scripture IN THEIR OWN LIVES ONLY, even as they recommend it to others—a point continually misrepresented by “anti-cultists.”

Is it only your community that complains of being “manipulated?” JWs are a community of believers who wish to avoid being “manipulated” by overall societal trends, and for this reason they have voluntarily signed on to tools, up to and including DFing, that facilitates this end. The reason we look at 30-year-old photos of ourselves and wonder how we ever imagined those dorky styles did anything for us reveals a basic law of human nature. Would that that principle applied only to small things like style. But It doesn’t. Humans run with the herd on matters small and big. To deny a faith the tools to self-control is no more than an attack on the free expression of one’s faith.

Since the Watchtower organization has stated that they do not tell family members to shun others in the family, there is no reason not to take them up on this. Family members will shun or not shun based upon whether they think there is any reason general policy on avoiding those who oppose should not apply simply because one is family. (“Shunning,” by the way, is not the best term, since it implies permanence. Disfellowshipping does not.)

If Mark’s work is no more than an extension of what has been plainly stated—that anyone who knows of CSA in the JW congregation has every right to go to authorities and doing so brings no reproach upon anyone other than the perpetrator, then he has nothing to be concerned about. https://www.tomsheepandgoats.com/2019/02/the-reproach-of-child-sexual-abuse-falls-on-the-abu.html.  I don’t even accede to your conclusion as to why the two congregation elders call. It could be that way, but you have by no means demonstrated it.

From Chivchalov’s blog, in Russia, since all ties together:

“Few people know that back in 2010, the European Court of Human Rights considered all the most popular accusations against Jehovah's Witnesses in Russia: breaking families, stealing real estate, failure to perform civil duties, refusal of military service, risk to health due to bloodless treatment, and even "mind control". Russian anti-cultists badly wanted to prove these allegations. The result: each of them was found to be unfounded and unsubstantiated. Here are some details in Russian: http://chivchalov.blogspot.com/2012/02/blog-post_13.htmlBut the Russian media don't care about the courts, facts and evidence. Over the past 9 years, these accusations continue to be heavily exploited by the media and presented as widely known and accepted facts. What doesn't work in court rooms due to the lack of evidence, works perfectly in the media that know how to invent any evidence and present it at the right angle. By the way, the Russian authorities learned a lesson: now what they say on TV, they don't say in court. In the Supreme and other courts, all these accusations were no longer mentioned. There was only one new accusation: "extremism," which is understood as the belief in the truth of one's religion.”

Most things take more than a sound byte to answer, which is why I put my reply on this platform, rather than a long series of tweets that will get all mixed up & out of order. On “cult” accusations: https://www.tomsheepandgoats.com/2019/02/who-really-is-a-cult-part-1.html

On “shunning” accusations: https://www.tomsheepandgoats.com/2019/01/in-defense-of-shunning.html

On all other accusations, see the free ebook TrueTom vs the Apostates! 

I have reproduced your tweets below, Javi, along with my reply that preceded them:

“See, this is where you often lose me. If Mark is disfellowshipped, he will be more than "avoided". he will be shunned by his entire family and lifelong friends. Cut off from his entire social environment. Check out Kip William's research williams.socialpsychology.org (1/3)

The effects of ostracism are on par with physical pain as far as the human brain is concerned. Aside from that, as Mark alluded in the article. Speaking out has already come at much personal and financial cost. These men could just leave him be and NOBODY in their congregation (2/3)

would be affected. Mark could proceed with his work, retain a semblance of a relationship with his elderly kin. But, it appears they're insisting on the visits. I'd argue that they are the aggressors; Do you feel that what Mark has done merits a judicial committee and DF'ing?” (3/3)

My prior tweets:

If you say someone lied, usually you say what the lie was. Also, if he presents himself as whistleblower who cares about his PIMI friends and family, he could have attended all congregation meetings both before ....1/3

and after. Relationships would strain, to be sure, but at no time would he need be concerned about being accosted physically. That cannot be said of the two men he named publicly before an audience mostly hostile to what ....2/3

they stand for. For that reason, it is usually thought extraordinarily vindictive to name private persons on the internet.....3/3

 

.....And since Mark has tagged everyone under the sun, so will I.

 

 

 

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)

An Advocate for Singleness - Francis Bacon, #90 on the Influential Persons List

Was it only me who was surprised to see specific counsel about sex in the Bible?

Let the husband render to [his] wife her due; but let the wife also do likewise to [her] husband.  The wife does not exercise authority over her own body, but her husband does; likewise, also, the husband does not exercise authority over his own body, but his wife does.  Do not be depriving each other [of it], except by mutual consent for an appointed time, that you may devote time to prayer and may come together again, that Satan may not keep tempting you for your lack of self-regulation.” (1 Corinthians 7:3-5)

I just didn’t expect to see it there—maybe I should have—and it cemented my opinion that the Bible was a very practical book.

The apostle Paul, who was not married, recommended singleness as a way of life: “It is well for a man not to touch a woman;  yet, because of prevalence of fornication, let each man have his own wife and each woman have her own husband....However, I say this by way of concession, not in the way of a command.  But I wish all men were as I myself am. (1 Corinthians 7:1-7)

In the single state, one can more readily give “constant attendance upon the Lord without distraction,” he wrote at vs 35.

So from time to time, the Witness organization dutifully recommends singleness as a way of life. Few take them up on it—perhaps because those doing the recommending are almost always married themselves. Instead, they employ the “escape clause” at verse 36: “But if anyone thinks he is behaving improperly toward his virginity, if that is past the bloom of youth, and this is the way it should take place, let him do what he wants; he does not sin. Let them marry.” They even push the “bloom of youth” phrase to almost mean two minutes past the bloom of youth. Many of our people go in for marriage when quite young. Many of these later come to say that they entered marriage too young.

Is there anyone other than the apostle Paul who gives such advice? To my surprise, there is—and he is a big name by historical standards—Francis Bacon, a philosopher of the 16th century who advocated for scientific investigation, recognizing its potential to change the world. From Aristotle’s time, science had been mostly based on deduction. Bacon changed it to be based on induction. Rather than ‘downloading’ ‘settled science’ and deducing from it, he advanced the notion of ‘uploading’ observations and experiments, and using that to modify existing science, so that it should never become like calcified religious dogma. Michael Hart ranks him #90 on this list of the 100 most influential persons who have ever lived. (Paul is #6)

His preference of singleness (though, like most who ‘recommend’ singleness today, he was married) is for the same reason as Paul’s: one can do more in that state: He that hath wife and children hath given hostages to fortune; for they are impediments to great enterprises, either of virtue or mischief. Certainly the best works, and of greatest merit for the public, have proceeded from the unmarried or childless men; which both in affection and means have married and endowed the public.”

This is not necessarily true of the unmarried—that they make great contributions (“Some there are, who though they lead a single life, yet their thoughts do end with themselves, and account future times impertinences”)—but it could be more readily true of them, by reason of having fewer distractions.

Watch out the traps of marriage!—and I am not sure here whether he is lampooning those who run from it simply for the sake of self-centeredness, or if he advocating forsaking it for the contributions one can thereby more easily make to humankind: “But the most ordinary cause of a single life is liberty, especially in certain self-pleasing and humorous minds, which are so sensible of every restraint, as they will go near to think their girdles and garters to be bonds and shackles. Unmarried men are best friends, best masters, best servants; but not always best subjects; for they are light to run away; and almost all fuginves are of that condition.”

He even agrees with Paul’s specific application for remaining unmarried: “Single life doth well with churchmen; for charity will hardly water the ground were it must first fill a pool.” How well that ties in with Paul’s: “The unmarried man is anxious for the things of the Lord, how he may gain the Lord’s approval.  But the married man is anxious for the things of the world, how he may gain the approval of his wife, and he is divided” (Vs 32-34)

That is not to say that either Francis or Paul did not concede the tempering effect of marriage on personality: “Certainly wife and children are a kind of discipline of humanity; and single men, though they may be many times more charitable, because their means are less exhaust, yet, on the other side, they are more cruel and hard-hearted (good to make severe inquisitors), because their tenderness is not so oft called upon.”

Still, all things considered, Bacon refers to “one of the wise men, that made answer to the question, when an man should marry—A young man, not yet, and elder man not at all.

Who knew? C4DD0E19-880B-432F-AC49-BA17DECABA87

 

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)

You Always Use the Tongs in the Cafeteria

Playing the discontent card, like Bruce the timeshare salesperson did, does not work with me or with anyone who has learned the secret of the apostle—how to be content with much and with little. The line “My kids do not stay at the Hampton” is likely to evoke even an wiseacre response, and when we arrived back at our hotel I texted to him a selfie of my wife and I in the long Hampton corridor—window and exit sign in the rear—and captioned it “Livin the good life.” I attached a smiley sign so that he would know it was simply a good-natured quip and not mockery.

58C4C369-7C6C-4BC6-BF26-039A7CDD80CCPhoto: Blake Handley

He would not have taken it wrong anyway, I don’t think. Introducing himself with many particulars, so that we would do the same and thus reveal how he might best sell us, he said that he was a retired detective from the Bronx. ‘This is a perfect job for a retired detective,’ I thought, and when I jokingly brought up his former occupation once again, he said “You think I’m not reading you right now?” I did think that. I liked this guy. Of course any experienced Witness ought to be able to do the same.

I asked him whether real detectives rolled their eyes when they watched the TV detectives and he said that they did not. The show writers have real detectives for consultants and they mostly just spiff up actual cases to make them suitable for television—make the policewomen drop-dead gorgeous, for example. NYPD and Hill Street Blues were his favorites, he said.

7AEE7B79-C1BF-4A83-9713-D379AAF99886Photo: Andre Gustavo Stumpf

The shows are so ubiquitous that it will be hard never to have seen one, but they were never staples for me, with the exception of when I worked with Gwen overnights at the group home and it turned out that she loved those shows, and the TV was in the central room like a shrine, virtually unavoidable, and so at length I figured ‘why be righteous overmuch?’ and I joined her in watching some. The joke became that the reason God created bad people was so he could have them killed on TV.

 

The red wood rocking chairs are placed just outside the shops at Harbortown and the nearby lighthouse on television yesterday because the Heritage golf tournament was then being played on Hilton Head Island, and this is where all the fancy people hang out. Of the chairs, my wife said that it was no doubt done so that the men could there cool their heels while the women shopped, perhaps taking a cue from the statue of the kid reading.

F4F3447E-6630-41A5-9317-C727E1FE4074

It was a good theory that I wanted to buy into, but it wasn’t confirmed by what I saw. As I gazed upon the moored yachts it occurred to me that, like snowflakes, no two are alike. It next occurred to me that my first occurrence was ridiculous—it must be possible to pick out models, same as with cars. In time, I managed to do so. The accessories and accoutrements were different, of course, but the basic boat was recognizable.

E4A9BB9E-5340-42E9-B97D-4C08F314D57E 3806039D-66DE-4492-82D8-180295F530B4

At the next hotel, this time a Clarion in Savannah, as I was reaching for bread to make toast, I heard a tapping. I looked up and it was the matronly breakfast attendant, who glanced at the tongs I had not used, and all but said: “Your mama raised you better than that!”—even though I had had a clear shot at the bread and was (probably) going to be touching only the slice I was after. She was right. My mama had taught me better. And she would have given me the same scolding, only not so gently. That is something that’s not going to happen in your snooty timeshare, is it, Bruce?

10EB72A9-37EE-4D59-9EDF-1DDF5F72A434

The next day we hunted up a Kingdom Hall and in attendance I sat behind a teenager who looked like he might not be paying rapt attention. So after the meeting, I broke the ice by apologizing to him. See, I was sitting right behind him, so he must have caught my singing full blast and that had to have been a trying experience. I asked him if I would be happy moving to Savannah, as some had suggested, but he said ‘Nah. It’s not all that great here.’ Trying to diffuse any tension that might have arisen by my being so much older, I told him how the hotel lunchlady had chastened me. He said that it was my own fault—I should have known better—you never reach for things with your fingers. You’re supposed to use the tongs. His mama had taught him that.

49AB2E92-3E2A-4547-86B1-965E9BB02200

There was not undue pressure on the timeshare tour, assuming one is not averse to sales. There only one rude moment, and that only for an instant, when the third closer abruptly wished us a good day and vanished, as though turning down her final reasonable offer was so gauche and unappreciative that it was really all a sensitive person could take, and perhaps knowing we had caused her offense and were about to let the deal of the lifetime slip through our fingers we would quickly call her back. We didn’t. I wasn’t scared of her at all. It was the lunchlady in Savannah that I was scared of.

 

 

 

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)

Inventing the News in Russia - to Jehovah’s Witnesses’ Detriment, But Maybe Everyone Else’s as Well

Okay, I get it. Religion is not a core concern with Russian State-controlled media, except for that of the Russian Orthodox Church—it perceives that its task is to guard “House Church” interests and to shoot down the “competition.” It is therefore okay to misrepresent, even to lie about, the other pathways of seeking God—especially those of the “new religions.” It does not harm the overall reputation of State-controlled media, so the thinking apparently goes, to deliberately cook up untruths about these groups and pass then off as “journalism.” I wonder.

The school guidebooks used by Jehovah’s Witnesses contain counsel points on ‘accuracy of statement.’ If you are speaking, and you make an error about even what is periphery to your point, someone will be sure to think: “Huh! He doesn’t know that?” From there it is only a tiny hop to “Maybe he doesn’t know anything else, either.” And here we are speaking only of a misstatement. We are  not speaking at all of a deliberate lie.

If you are a media outlet and you make a deliberate lie, doesn’t it call into question everything else you say about any other subject? Every so often there will be some report of a Christian refusing an instruction from his employer to lie, and getting away with it by pointing out: “If I will not lie for you, neither will I lie to you.” It is the same principle with faulty Russian reporting, I think. If they lie about such-and-such, who is to say that they will not lie about any topic they examine?

Russian State media—RT.com—told a whopper of a lie regarding Jehovah’s Witnesses some years ago. An RT journalist that I follow on Twitter encouraged me to select some stories more balanced, insisting that there were some. I turned down the offer. If you are trying to establish that Russian media is unreliable, it does not help your cause to point out that once in a while they do tell the truth on your topic.

Here is the example. I included it in the ebook Dear Mr. Putin - Jehovah’s Witnesses Write Russia:  See also the ‘safe’ version)

The three-minute 2009 video clip is entitled Jehovah and Out and the host is interviewing Audrey Zolovov of Russia Profile Magazine.11 The host asks why Jehovah’s Witnesses are targeted for possible ban because, after all, Russia is “pretty tolerant toward religion, isn’t it? I mean, the Hare Krisnas are operating on the streets of Moscow” and his guest says that ‘Well, he doesn’t really know.’ He agrees with the host that Witnesses are “annoying,” but also agrees that should hardly suffice as a reason. They do oppose blood transfusions, and that is very bad, but many fringe sects have similar disagreeable drawbacks. Maybe it is because they have a “very good organization.” After all, they are a “worldwide phenomenon,” he opines, as though expounding upon motive at a crime scene. He gives an example: several years ago, his wife went to a manicurist and he thinks that the manicurist must have been a “very important asset for that group because she had this captive audience for 40 minutes or so, while she was telling them about their religion. Of course, my wife stopped going to that manicurist as soon as she found out that she is being preached.” Of course! What loyal citizen would not?

Is it possible that RT.com can celebrate grownups behaving as such babies? Even if the Witness woman was tactless, something which is not alleged, an adult learns over time that there are many of such people encountered in life, and that you can handle them by making polite banter and if they become overly insistent, by telling them to shut up. You don’t send your husband to RT.com where he can relate how you escaped, only by the skin of your teeth, from an encounter with a scary monster like the one that would devour Caleb and Sophia. The Witnesses not only spoke to his wife while she was “captive,” but they also do “lots of these things.” As though conscious that his own complaint is silly, he further explains that the Witnesses have “a very very bad image, both in the media and among the public in general.”

In seeming determination to further that “very very bad image” and even add another “very” to it, the conversation takes place against a backdrop of crazies doing the most whacky things—bizarre cultish rites, pugilistic bare-chested fighting scenes, children in lock-step: very very weird scenes that have nothing whatsoever to do with the interview. Nor do they have anything to do with Jehovah’s Witnesses, as their most virulent critics, indeed, anyone who knows anything about them, will instantly attest. Will RT.com really treat its audience with such contempt? Are they working to cultivate stupidity among ones they seem to regard as a herd for them to direct? Or did they give no pre-thought to it. Is it an anomaly, and the producer merely said to an underling: “Hey, we’re doing a story on the Jehovah’s Witnesses. Run down to the lunatic bin in the storeroom and fetch some footage for me. Anything will do.” And will the Russian government outlet really treat the name of God with such contempt: “Jehovah and Out,” as in “Over and out?”

Ah well. It was some time ago. Maybe they have learned their lesson. Sigh...no.

ERR News is the English-language service of Estonian Public Broadcasting, run by a fully independent editorial team. On April 12, 2019, they told of “two employees of state-owned Russian TV channel Russia-1, entering Estonia on French and Italian Schengen visas, [and using] hidden cameras to gather material they then used to ridicule and demonise Jehovah's Witnesses. The Estonian Ministry of the Interior reacted by issuing a five-year entry ban....”

Furthermore, “trying to influence society by means of harassing different minorities is an integral part of the Kremlin's playbook. Jehovah's Witnesses are "persecuted and outlawed in Russia....The Russian state media occasionally make efforts to come up with an explanation for this fact. This typically includes reports where members of this religious minority are taunted, ridiculed and demonised.”

The clandestine reporters “entered a gathering of Jehovah's Witnesses in Tallinn without telling them who they are, and what they are planning to do. The material they gained at this gathering as well as at another, similar one in Finland was then used for Russia-1's news programme, Vesti, and aired on 29 November 2018.”

So Estonia kicked them out of the country for five years. That is what you do with liars. Good for them! They know what sanity is. The AP and the Washington Post picked up on and ran the story the next day.

I admit to not being expert on what media is state controlled and what isn’t, and what is the overlap. RT.com is state controlled. There are also others. This example caught by Estonia is apparently one of the others. I also get it that this is for local consumption only, not international consumption. Such shoddy “journalism” is instantly recognized for what it is internationally, but State media appears to feel it has every right to manipulate the gullible local public.

Will that happen with impunity? Time will tell. It may backfire on them. It morally should. It’s too bad. This writer finds RT.com to offer a refreshing contrast to Western media, which so often runs in a herd. But if they bend the truth so readily on their non-core concerns, who is to say they will not bend it on the core ones? One would think that if they want to safeguard their reputation, not only would these two journalists be fired, but more importantly, whoever put them up to it, as well—and the chain of command apparently reaches pretty high.

It is little wonder that Russia seeks to disconnect its internet from that of the rest of the world. Among the advantages to them will be to keep such slippery deeds hidden. However, does not that step alone disqualify it as a credible journalistic source?

https://news.err.ee/929589/iss-ministry-issued-schengen-entry-ban-against-russia-1-employees

E691B443-9C82-4140-823D-9F314D7A0292

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)

The 22 Town Squares of Savannah

A cotton grower in the 1800s had to wait 6 months to get paid. Export markets were in Europe, sailing ships were slow, and few growers could afford to wait so long as 6 months. A handful of financiers who came to be known as the ‘cotton factors’ loaned the money to tie them over, and took their cut from the final purchase price. For a time, those men were the richest persons in the world.

C35BD967-B4BF-433F-AFE4-0A0803A51C57

They perched atop the foot bridges and peered at the product in wagons below. Based upon what they saw, they made payment. They effectively set the worldwide price for cotton. Today it is Dubai that sets the price.

The back—or is it the front?—of the above buildings face the Savannah River and they were once warehouses for cotton. Today there are restaurants and shops, and tourism is the city’s #2 industry.

78F93A9F-AA4D-4FBC-A9A7-22ADEE1E2239

Original Savannah is laid out in a grid pattern featuring 22 public squares, named after local or even national heroes. Washington Square is named after President George Washington. Madison Square is named after President James Madison.

FE8A40EC-2015-4AB4-A9A0-CAE04A2F3C5F

Lincoln Ave, however, is not named after Abraham Lincoln—nothing in the south is named after Abraham Lincoln, the guide told us—it is named after Benjamin Lincoln, Washington’s Secretary of War (sanitized to ‘Secretary of Defense’ today). Gnarly 400-year-old oak trees in the squares radiate limbs in a corkscrew pattern. Draped with Spanish Moss, it contributes to an eerie atmosphere at night.

84A8C953-AA0B-4768-9EF4-CEE9A7410A18

Calhoun Square is named after John C Calhoun, who never was president, but did serve as Vice-President to both Andrew Jackson and John Quincey Adams. It is unique among the squares in that, if you were to remove all cars crawling around it, the scene would be exactly the same as two centuries ago—that’s how well Savannah preserves its old homes. There were several other squares—even most of them, actually—that seemed to share that attribute to the untrained eye; Washington Square, for example, with a Federal style home dating to the early 1800s on one side of the square and an exact replica (dated 1989) on the other side.

BEDEB34A-2C04-4A20-9895-DCE76472EA8A

The statue of Stanilov Casmir, for some strange reason, is not in Casmir Square, but in Monterrey Square.

Colonial Cemetery might, at first glance, seem one of the squares, though a much enlarged one, but it is not counted as one. It has not even been a complete cemetery since Civil War times, because the Union soldiers camping out one cold overnight took to burrowing into the tombs for warmth and threw all the remains outside.

294FE0C9-7304-4D56-A478-4CE391A8501A

Savannah has been the setting for many battles through the years. It is described somewhere as a “necropolis”—a city built over the dead. The guide told us of one church in which the preacher preached long to the Confederate troops, and then the following Sunday, the very same sermon to the Union troops who had killed off the Confederate ones during the intervening week.

Take a trolley tour if that is in the budget. You learn much that way, and can visit individual attractions later. The day after we toured Savannah, Tiger Woods won the Masters in neighboring Augusta—a very good thing since everyone loves a story of redemption. The next day, however, Notre Dame Cathedral burned and its tall spire collapsed into the main structure—a very bad thing, since it had stood for 1100 years.

 

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)