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Dealing With the Anxiety of Our Times

In my “practical wisdom” mode, not my “world is going to hell in a handbasket” mode, I start my door-to-door presentation with an invitation to consider a practical verse like Matthew 6:25.

“Anxiety is a huge concern today. We read about it. We experience it. I want to read you a scripture on that theme, you tell me what you think, and I am out of here. Good idea?”

You can throw in a factoid or two from somewhere, like something here from the New York Times, but I usually pass. You are looking for people with whom the idea resonates, and if it doesn’t, the New York Times will not convince them that it should.

An affirmative answer to my offer will earn the householder the reading of Matthew 6:25.

“On this account I [Jesus] say to you: Stop being anxious about your lives as to what you will eat or what you will drink, or about your bodies as to what you will wear. Does not life mean more than food and the body than clothing?”

“That’s all I wanted to do,” I will say, “to get this notion on the table—that anxiety is something that you might hope to just “stop it.” He doesn’t say, don’t start being anxious. He assumes his listeners already are. He says ‘Stop it.’

The next move is the householder’s, and I tell him that he doesn’t have to make one. “If the subject piques interest, if you have views if you.....” and so forth.

If he doesn’t (and even if he does), I will leave a tract—any of them will do—and call attention to the jw.org website and what is to be found there. If they do, then conversation might go a hundred different ways. Even so, I do not press every moment to stay. Rather, I offer every moment to leave. Even some lengthy conversations I have cut them sort, to the householder’s  protest. “Yes, you say it now,” I observe, “but after I go you will say, “Man! I wanted to get some stuff done today, and then this Bible guy showed up!”

Maybe I have grown sensitive to all the concerns of those who cry over “manipulation,” and so I am determined to not even give the appearance of going there. Of course, the extremists among these ones are babies to whom introducing any idea not mainstream is “manipulation,”—they decry all “brainwashing” except for the brainwashing that is theirs—and there is not much one can do about that, but I try not to attract the charge like a magnet.

I can hear Anthony Morris giving the talk now at the 2016 Regional Convention in Atlanta. I wasn’t there—I was at another convention—but the talk was streamed. “‘Stop it!’ Jesus says. Just ‘stop it!’ as though addressing a child—and that was the idea that he went on to develop, that it was a controllable emotion. It was a meaningful talk for me. Anxiety had proven to be a weakness for me —it afflicts some in the family—and when I was hit with a perfect storm of calamities, I did not blame humans like Jimmy does. I did worse and blamed God.

Believe me, I envy those brothers—I have met a lot of them—who say: “I’ve never worried a day in my life!” To be sure, that envy is tempered by the fact that some of these characters caused plenty of others to worry, and even when it was not so, they had other weaknesses to compensate or even more than compensate. We are all “pieces of work” in one way or another.

I also know quite a few who, by choice, live very close to the wire. They have structured their lives that way. It is deliberate. They have determined to “make use of the world, but not use it to the full.” (1 Corinthians 7:31) They have decided to go light as to material things. The ideal among Jehovah’s Witnesses—which some have attained and some have not—is to acquire a skill that pays well, and then do as little of it as possible so as to have as large a share as possible in the kingdom proclamation work. I am not one of those people, either, but I sort of envy them, as the modern manifestation of Paul, who knew “how to be low on provisions and how to have an abundance. In everything and in all circumstances I have learned the secret of both how to be full and how to hunger, both how to have an abundance and how to do without.” - Philippians 4:12

These ones will crinkle a fender on their car and ask God what to do about it, since there’s no money in the budget for the mishap. What is God going to do about it? Time and again persons I know well have reported such things—they take it to God in prayer—and presently the answer presents itself in totally unanticipated ways, sometimes very unlikely ones. They thereafter attribute it to God’s spirit. Am I going to tell them that they are wrong?

Why would I do that? How do I know? It is more likely—when you hear such things again and again—that they are right. I do what Mary did, with regard to different experiences: “Mary began to preserve all these sayings, drawing conclusions in her heart.” (Luke 2:19) Maybe they’ll do me some good someday, the same way they did her. Key is the confidence of 1 John 5:14: “And this is the confidence that we have toward him, that no matter what we ask according to his will, he hears us.” For it to work it must be “according to his will.”

It seems that it will be very hard to dictate to someone else just how holy spirit is supposed to work. Almost by definition, you cannot. It is the wind of John 3:8 that you feel but cannot see. It is the angels that the cosmonauts did not see—and so concluded from that experience that there was no God. No, it operates as it operates and is one of those “taste and see” sort of things.

 

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Trump, the Dark Lord, and the Brawling Web Site—Define ‘Trump Derangement Syndrome’

The Dark Lord has made his appearance at the bad & brawling website and people who agree with him in many particulars are keeping an unusually low profile. It is probably because they do not want to inadvertently say something wrong and have him find their lack of faith disturbing.

Case in point is JimmyT. Normally, a mention of climate change will trigger a tirade from him as to how it is a masterful left wing hoax. Normally a negative mention of Trump will unleash torrents of praise for him from his corner. This time, however, not a peep. Well...there is a bit of cheerleading for Trump—you cannot completely erase the spots of a leopard—but he does not pursue it. He and another participant have happily squabbled at great length over both these topics. But he does not do it here with Darth Alan.

Do I blame him for this bit of cowardice? Not at all. He is in his senior years and he wants to live them out. He does not want to be accosted with endless taunts about how stupid he is. He does not want every syllable he utters to be corrected. He does not want to have to open dozens of dialogue boxes to recall just what it was that he said to earn the verdict that he is a moron. He does not want to shake his head in disgust that every other forum participant has learned to use those boxes properly, and only the Dark Lord is too enraptured with his own arguing to constrain himself to quoting just three lines of text that will faithfully reproduce without opening boxes. He looks at another challenger, who has had to triple her blood pressure medication, and decides that he wants no part of it. Who can blame him?

So I will carry his Trump ball for him—not as aptly as he would do it himself, for I am not so vested in it as he—but I will carry it.

In the midst of discussion, the Dark Lord reaches back into his quiver for taunts, chooses a old favorite, and hurls back at me: “Apparently you just make up "news" out of thin air -- just like your idol Trump.”

This is the fifth completely irrelevant reference to Trump since he began participation here, just two or three weeks ago. A moment later, he launches the sixth: “You're doing what ever-Trumpers do very well -- project their own faults onto their opponents.”

Six times he brings Trump into a discussion that has nothing to do with him. Each time it is like ripping a loud one in the concert hall. His audience surely must be among the most apolitical people on earth. Some of them, JW and non-JW alike, think it downright wrong to bring politics into a discussion of spiritual things. The DL knows this. He knows everything. So why can he not restrain himself from continually inserting that which he knows will fall flat with almost everyone and be positively off-putting to some?

It is because he suffers from Trump Derangement Syndrome. I had thought that JimmyT made up the term because he is the only one who has ever used it on the website—another testimony to the apolitical nature of both JWs and many who oppose them—but I see now via internet search that it is not so. DL has that ailment full-blown. He froths over Trump. He obsesses over Trump. He embraces those who every day since before his election experiences orgasm at some new bullet that will supposedly take him out. He inserts references to Trump everywhere, the same way that normal people insert “word whiskers” like “um.”

So what of this taunt that he hurls at me—ME, TrueTomHarley! 

Apparently you just make up "news" out of thin air -- just like your idol Trump.” 

Is he my idol? That depends. Politically, it is not likely to be so. Trump does the Make America Great routine. He pushes for his country, assumes that other national leaders will push for theirs, and if they don’t, it is all the better for him. On the other hand, as a JW, I look forward to “the kingdom”—a government from God that will eliminate national borders. Even now, visit Bethel, observe the huge globe, and take note that there are no national borders to sully it.

So no, politically he is hardly an “idol.” But that does not mean that as a man I cannot learn from him. I try to learn from anyone that comes to my attention—either through personal interaction or by their being in the news a lot. I even strive to learn from the Dark Lord. Nobody can be said to be worthless, for you can always be used as a bad example.

Politics aside, it turns out that I am very grateful for Trump. His election has vaulted 2 Timothy 3:1-5 to the position of the world’s year text—this year and every year. It used to be that if you read how people would be fierce, unreasonable, not open to agreement, backbiting, and so forth, and your householder did not agree that such was the case today more so than in prior times, there wasn’t much you could do about it. Plainly the verse is subjective. It always will be, of course—I expect that should DL ever have the misfortune to be executed by guillotine, he will ignore that unpleasant fact and his head will continue to insult onlookers as it is being carted away in the wheelbarrow—but with ever-Trumpers and never-Trumpers screaming at each other day and night, it becomes a much more difficult verse to deny.

I also take a page from Trump with regard to his communication skills. At first glance, he hasn’t any. Surely he is one of the most ineloquent public figures in history. And don’t come to him for spelling lessons. But at second glance, one comes to see that he is a master at pushing back at his barrage of opponents. After a brief period of supposing opponents would adjust to his presence, he decided that there was no way on earth that they could be placated, and so he redirects his efforts to defeating them. He does it in the most innovative of ways, taking full advantage of their weaknesses. Time and again, he draws them in as with hooks in their jaws, and just as they are ready to pounce, tasting certain victory, he pulls the rug out from under them.

Case in point is the brouhaha over his inauguration. ‘It was the most well-attended inauguration in history!’ he boasts. ‘It wasn’t!’ counter his enemies. He reasserts that it was. They dive into the archives to find photos of other inaugurations. Obama filled the quadrangle. Trump’s crowd is visibly far less. HA!, they shout in victory—surely now that they have caught him in a lie, he will fess up to it. He doesn’t! 

Night after night they run the two photos side by side on national news broadcasts, ignoring everything else. They point to the gaping holes in Trump’s photos that are not there with Obama’s photos. “These are FACTS!” they are close to screaming. “You cannot dispute FACTS!” He does. He doubles down, nearly to the point of saying: “No event in human history has drawn the attendance of my inauguration!”

Tearing their hair out, they invite his advisor on TV—Kellyanne. They rub her nose, and the noses of their viewers, into their two photos. ‘The FACTS show that Obama drew way more than Trump! Right here—look at just this spot! There is just bare ground with Trump and there is shoulder-to-shoulder people with Obama! FACTS are FACTS!

But Kellyanne says that the President is trying to draw attention to alternative facts. He is trying to draw attention to.........’ALTERNATIVE FACTS!! they are apoplectic. ‘THERE IS NO SUCH THING AS AN “ALTERNATIVE” FACT!!! A FACT IS A FACT IS A FACT IS A FACT!! THERE ARE NO “ALTERNATIVE FACTS!!” 

But the Advisor to the President insists that they are, and that the media ignores them. They consist of the fact of popular discontent with the “swamp” that propelled him to victory in the first place. Whatever Trump said to the ignored half of America clearly resonated with them, and it is being ignored by the mainstream media. Today he crows about the economy. Bill Clinton garnered adoration from pundits with his, “It’s the economy, stupid!” Today these same pundits will portray the economy as though an insignificant point.

As for me, I enjoy the spectacle, without taking any position as to whether he makes a good president or not. He may be a terrible one, but I like the way he turns the tables on those seeking to destroy him. I am not even sure that his numerous spelling errors are not deliberate. When he tweets that North Korea has launched its nuclear missels, people of common sense will run to take cover. People of the media will run to their keyboards to point out that the idiot can’t even spell the word right. 

Life is a continued term paper to many of these characters. They did well on term papers in college. They have grades from their professors to prove it. So they launch into the media that only attracts a certain type of people—those who imagine that ‘exposing’ problems is enough to fix them—and assume that life, too, will respect their term paper skills as highly as their professors did. They have little experience in actually doing anything. They are mostly wonks when it comes to government—and the fixes that their type of government can bring is their obsession.

As for me, I take note that if there is any new meme guaranteed to undermine traditional family life, these characters are all over it. If there is any new meme that will bend gender distinctions, for example, these characters are all over it. Gayle King dutifully appended the Q on LGBTQ before she even knew what it meant—I heard her say it. Did it mean ‘queer?’ Did it mean ‘questioning?’ She didn’t know. But she didn’t dare leave it out once the gods of media popularity told her to insert it. With this track record, anyone who can get these characters incensed cannot be all bad.

 

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)

Dear TrueTom: Mental Illness, Attrition, Spiritual Progress

Dear TrueTomHarley:

“What would explain the jehovahs witnesses having the highest rate of mental illness out of all Christian religions?”

To the extent it is true, and I am not sure what extent that is, Luke 5:31 is what would explain it:

“In reply Jesus said to them: “Those who are healthy do not need a physician, but those who are ill do.”

Do you think he is speaking of cancer? Or is mental distress, such as might accompany anguish over the atrocities of this world and the blame assigned to God for it more to the point? To my mind, the ones you should worry about are those who are not greatly troubled by the stressors of life today—those who sail blithely through the horrors and cruelties without a care.

 

“If you looked into the 'turnover' within the JW faith, I think you would find one of the biggest turnovers of all religions. Explain that one.”

It is easily offset by the high participation rate of those who stick. After all, with many faiths, people might not actually leave, but how would you know if they did?

It is also explained by the fact that there is a substantial cost to being a Witness—to be a minister of Christ is to be self-sacrificing and to make numerous changes in one’s conduct. Why bother leaving a faith that asks very little of you?

Seen, it that light, it is remarkable that the “turnover” you speak of isn’t much higher than it is.

 

“How is the JW organization moving forward SPIRITUALLY ?...I'm not talking about physical things...I'm talking about purely spiritual matters.”

I would say the numerous schools that exist now that did not 50 years ago fits the bill. For elders, ministerial servants, traveling reps, etc. Intense and reoccurring instruction lasting anywhere from a weekend to a few weeks. 

I have attended some of these schools. Almost all content is on imitating Jesus’ manner of dealing with the flock, dealing with those in the ministry, showing tenderness, not lording it over, leading by example, and so forth. Very little is on what would be called ‘doctrinal.’

I remember in particular one instructor leading around a string on a table with forefinger firmly applied to one end. “See how the rest of the string follows so nicely?” he asked. He then reversed course and tried to “push” the string. “See how it bunches up when I do that?” he said. “It’s really not too smart of me to do it that way, is it?” The lesson, of course, was to lead by example, and not by being “pushy.”

These schools have a cumulative effect of refining those exercising any authority. That they are needed can be inferred from Jesus’ dealings with those to whom he granted the greatest authority. Even on the eve of his death he interceded in an argument they were having as to which one of them was the greatest, the same as you might do with children. (Luke 22:24)

Take that into account for anyone carrying on about how inspired, unerring, and pure the leaders were back then and by extension ought be today. Grown men are capable of behaving like children. It happened then, it happens today. Refresher course training in which students will focus on scores  of scriptures—and if they prepare as the ought—hundreds of scriptures, go a long way towards training those in authority to lead and shepherd as Christ did.

And, far from the GB dreaming up a school that they ride above and apply to everyone else, when such a school is formulated, they put themselves through it first. They do not imagine that they cannot benefit from intense review of how Jesus dealt with people.

      “How did you come by the name TrueTomHarley?”
 
When I began on social media, I sought out TomHarley as a username, but it was already taken. RealTomHarley sounded too much like Trump, so I settled on TrueTomHarley. I never intended the moral implications of the name, though I confess, it is sort of a hoot for me when malcontents get all exorcised over it.
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 Diversification of the Governing Body

Your governing body is ruling right now, 8 mainly American men, with American thoughts and personalities.” 

On the surface, this might seem a valid objection to the present Governing Body—why aren’t they more diversified? I could be wrong, but I think 3 of the 8 are not American—Losch (German—maybe Austrian), Jackson (Australian), and Splane (Canadian)—still I understand the supposed imbalance. It is based on a questionable assumption, though, that Eskimos (to take an example) cannot possibly be adequately governed unless there are Eskimos on the Governing Body. Is it really that way?

First of all, I submit that the “imbalance” is not so dire as is suggested. If we were speaking of 8 mainly American businessmen, all educated in American universities, all wealthy as large corporate businessmen usually are, all “insulated” socially from the working-class people, then I would say that he raises a good point. But it is not that way with the Witness Governing Body.

Your GB are ruling right now, 8 mainly American men, with American thoughts and personalities.”

Why don’t you ask the military generals or the national politicians just how “American” their thoughts and personalities are? The fact is that nobody has been able to overcome nationalism—or racism, classism, or social and educational differences, like Jehovah’s Witnesses, and everyone knows it.

Sam Herd is the son of a mule-driver. Think that puts him out of touch with the regular people? Both Sanderson and Jackson have served as missionaries in developing countries, doing work not as lowly, but more lowly, than those of most of those that they will later lead. Call that being out of touch? Didn’t Losch operate behind the iron curtain? Call that typical? As for the others, I am not sure of their backgrounds, but I know that all of them have worked full-time service, probably for a lifetime, where the emphasis is on working with the lowly people and even taking direction from them. I mean, these are not blue bloods by any stretch. Previous GB members have spent years as missionaries—humble door to door calling and interacting with the common people—in varied foreign assignments; Lloyd Barry in Japan comes to mind, but there are many others. So they are hardly so “white” and “American” as you suppose. 

I am in the US. A few decades ago, the question was asked: ‘How come there are not more black brothers in positions of authority?’ The answer was that, due to social injustices, most black brothers were disadvantaged in various ways—plus the number of JWs themselves was quite small—they only hit 2 million in ....what ....1980 or so? and they were only 75,000 worldwide heading into WWII, and that, with time and growth and societal rebalancing of some grievances, we could expect to see more black brothers in “higher” positions. 

That has proved to be the case. Black brothers have “risen the ranks” and, to my mind, bring unique gifts to the table that whites lack. It is a black brother that gave the streamed Memorial talk one year (streaming is quite new) and the streamed special talk the next. I have spent most of my life working in congregations with about a 50/50 mix of white/black in the rank and file and the servant body. It is with congregation things as it is with music—things are more interesting and have more “life” once blacks are involved. Jazz, rock n roll, the interesting developments of American music, all come only from the contribution of blacks.

A friend in Myanmar tells me this inbalance of resources that once held American blacks back is duplicated where he lives with native brothers. Those in the positions of highest oversight are usually “needgreaters” of various nationalities, and locals are not heavily represented. The reason? Poverty is so extreme that most locals cannot afford the nominal transportation costs to travel to any destination that isn’t absolutely essential to hold together life and limb. It is not the Governing Body’s fault that the world is all screwed up. It is enough for them to spearhead the message of how it will be fixed.

Will there be a Japanese GB member someday, or a Brazilian GB member, or a Mexican one? It could be, as those countries catch up (and even outstrip) US and European lands where the organization first took root. It is unlikely to be an Indian member, a Middle Eastern member, a Myanmmarese member, because the preaching is yet thinly represented there. But it could be one of the former, though I wouldn’t hold my breath. The end is “right around the corner.” It has proven to be one heck of a corner—but still, the end is right around it. I wouldn’t mind seeing it, but it is hardly a big deal.

No, even as is, international interests are well-represented by the GB, given their unique backgrounds, worldwide unity, and lowly origins. Besides, this insistence that only Brazilians can represent Brazilians is largely a contrived political concern. President Obama is black and yet his background is not at all like those of any but a tiny minority of black Americans. He is mostly a product of large universities run by white blue bloods and infused with their philosophies for building a better world. Poor urban blacks will complain that he didn’t do a thing for them. Nothing changed for them with him eight years at the helm.

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)