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At the Wilkes-Barre “Love Never Fails” Regional Convention

We took supper at a Red Robin after the first day of the “Love Never Fails” Regional Convention in Wilkes-Barre. At the table just behind me, a child—about 5 years of age (and not one of ours)—began raising a horrible ruckus, screaming at the top of his lungs. His mother took him out, but when she returned he started up anew. I turned around and asked the parents if everything was okay.

I admit that I was looking for signs of endangerment. Maybe one “parent” or the other would look shifty. Maybe the child would act as though they were not his parents. It is a sign of the times that I should do this, but I saw nothing alarming.

There was a time not too long ago when most parents would respond in a certain way to such a tantrum, but that way is likely to land them in jail today. Jehovah’s Witnesses work with many refugee groups. Almost always, they encounter ones whose flight has turned their lives upside-down, and one of the most bewildering things they confront is that child-rearing customs that were absolutely routine and unremarkable back home are taboo in their new home. Do not misunderstand. I make no argument for its return. That said, it is by no means clear that today’s children are better adjusted for its disappearance.

My turning around put the parents even more on notice that they were disrupting the entire restaurant. They could hardly have not known it before, but here was a fresh reminder. The father became heated, threatening no TV for a week and the like. Upon leaving, I said to him: “Don’t worry about it. Whatever you do, stay calm. I’ve been there. They’re kids. It happens.”

Taking in the convention program over three days, I began to wish that silly reporter from the Phoenix New Times would have accepted the offer from the attendants (whom she seemed to regard as wardens) to be seated. With her anti-JW story already written, she could hardly run it during the day of their convention without at least having briefly been there, and it is plain she comes with that rationale.  She looks around hastily, notices that people are paying attention, and writes that “attendees listened rapturously.”

Of course, she is not silly. What she latches onto for her story is certainly not nothing. She will forgive my grumbling on the basis that she is young enough to be my daughter. For all I know, she is the daughter of some friend of mine. Reporters are not silly, or if they are, they are no more so than anyone else. They are typically concerned with injustice. They sometimes put their safety on the line in confronting it. Nobody is silly who does this. They have faith that shining the bright light of journalism on something will cause the cockroaches to disappear. Usually, however, they just go somewhere else—and failure to recognize that circumstance is what triggers the charge of silliness.

Though her focus is certainly not nothing, neither is it everything. She entirely misses the big picture. She would have benefitted from the program that she cited as “three days of music-video presentations, prayers, songs, addresses, symposiums, and dramatic readings from the Bible” on the theme of “Love Never Fails.” The public address of that convention (the program is identical at all locations—only the speaker differs, and not even that for every talk, since portions of that Phoenix “international” convention, so-named for the foreign delegates attending, were streamed into other locations, such as Wilkes-Barre) opened with a truth as self-evident as are the truths Thomas Jefferson addressed in the Declaration of Independence.

In this case, it is that all instances of injustice occur and are cultivated due to a lack of love. That being so, and obvious, the question becomes: “Just who will teach love?” Will it be the university? That is not its job. It focuses on training the intellect, with the apparent assumption that the moral qualities such as love will take care of themselves. As even the sloppiest purview of world headlines reveals, they do not. So who will teach it? Will it be agencies that are guided in training from the university that does not teach it? Is the quality so innate that it not need be taught? Again, a review of news headlines reveals the fallacy of such a notion. So who?

Training that takes its cue from humankind’s Creator has traditionally played that role. “God is love,” states 1 John 4:8. Such training appears under attack from the Phoenix reporter, though she has nothing to replace it with. In the case of Bible training, Witnesses will say that it is a “treasure,” but it is a “treasure” carried in “earthen vessels”—that is, us, as flawed humans—just as Paul states at 2 Corinthians 4:7. Humans are capable of error, poor judgment, and even villainy. But that doesn’t mean that the training from God is no good, and the reporter should have sat through it.

When she cites the Pew report that reveals Jehovah’s Witnesses have the lowest rate of retention of all faiths, why does she not also cite what appears on the same page? “Jehovah’s Witnesses are among the most racially and ethnically diverse religious groups in America,” it says. Nobody is concerned about racial prejudice more than reporters, and here Pew makes a statement to indicate that the Witnesses have solved it to a remarkable degree. All she had to do was look around and see for herself the harmonious diversity that she will not soon see again. But she does not notice it. She is caught up in an agenda pushed by the faith’s opponents. She is interested in the child sexual abuse angle—an angle that is seemingly shared by every group of persons on the planet. Pedophiles are a pernicious lot that nobody has succeeded in vanquishing, and the Boy Scouts of America, who taught generations of boys responsibility, self included, are at risk of going under because of it.

In New York State, where I have lived and still keep up, a new law eliminates the statute of limitations for child sexual abuse. Law firms have flooded the media in search of plaintiffs. Hundreds of new lawsuits are being filed, and the challenge may soon be to find somebody NOT being sued, as lawyers preside over a massive transfer of wealth that amounts to a tax on everyone else. Businesses raise prices. Governments raise taxes. Insurance rates of all sort skyrocket at a time when overall inflation is quite low.

In fact, had I detected abuse at the Red Robin restaurant, and had I reported it, and had the police and child protective authorities arrived and confirmed that it was indeed abuse, and had they removed the child on that account, I still would not have been sure that I had done the right thing. Among those squarely in the crosshairs of child sexual abuse lawsuits are many agencies dedicated to placing them in “protected” settings, but who have put them into settings no better and sometimes worse than where they were before. The world is a shell game of persons wanting to “do something” who, though well-intentioned, are likely to simply shift the evil from one place to another.

In contrast, Jehovah’s Witnesses, during their 2017 Regional Conventions, considered detailed scenarios in which child sexual abuse has been known to occur—if there are sleepovers, if there are unsupervised trips to the restroom, if there are tickling sessions, if someone is showing unusual interest in your child, for example—so that parents, who are obviously the first line of defense, can be vigilant. Nobody, but nobody, gathers their entire worldwide membership for such training with the aim of protecting children from harm.

It is certainly not wrong for the reporter to report on the Witness connection with child sexual abuse. Much as they would love to say that they have vanquished the crime, such is plainly not the case. But neither has it been the case for anyone else. In some ways, Jehovah’s Witnesses have created a unique legal vulnerability for themselves, for unlike most faiths that were content to preach to the flock weekly and thereafter take no interest in whether religious training was actually applied or not, Witnesses attempt to “police their own,” and thus did become aware of sordid things.

Yet she was right there at the three day convention focusing on all aspects and applications of love. (And an international convention of 40,000 must make a greater impression than a Wilkes-Barre convention of 3500) Had she paid attention, she would have heard from the Cherokee man who grew up embittered because the white man had stolen the lands of his people. He was embittered again when he was required to fight their war for them (Vietnam). When his wife began studying with two Witness women, he was sullen and unwelcoming—the last thing he wanted was the religion of the white man. When she reached the point of wanting to be baptized, he declared that he would not come. When asked who would watch his baby during the baptism, he declared that maybe he had better come on that account. There, he observed the atmosphere for four days (conventions used to be longer) and his already softened attitude toward the Witnesses softened further. The reporter could have taken in that atmosphere, too, had she not had a deadline to meet.

(Jehovah’s Witnesses is not a “come down and be saved” faith. The process of learning and trying Bible teachings on for size seldom (in this area) lasts less than a year. Throughout that time, persons are grounded in their own familiar routine and environment. College is more “manipulative” than is anything having to do with the Witnesses, for there young people are typically cut off almost 24/7 from all that once stabilized them, be it family, friends, and general environment—a classic tool of those who brainwash)

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