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Fight With the Army Have, Not the Army You Wish You Had

Like any nation, you must fight with the army you have, not the army you wish you had.

We want our people to be Rhodes Scholars who never misjudge, who hold their own easily among the brightest the university has to offer, whose every utterance sweeps you away for its sheer brilliance.

What we get is a bunch of yahoos who make all the blunders that yahoos have always made. We should not run from this. We should embrace it. It is because Christians are derived from—the very ones taking the lead were described this way—the ‘uneducated and ordinary.’ 

Now when they saw the outspokenness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were uneducated and ordinary men, they were astonished. And they began to realize that they had been with Jesus.” (Acts 4:13) They always remained so, by the standards of greater society.

We should embrace it because that is what God favors—“the uneducated and ordinary.” In the brilliant book ‘Tom Irregardless and Me’ (which, brilliant though it is, cannot touch ‘No Greater Love—How My Family Survived Genocide in Ryanda’) I wrote of how the great ideas of this world’s thinkers

all sounded good – heaven knows one can spin college degrees from them. But when put to the test – when placed under stress – they don’t work.

One might suppose that the architect of ideas that don’t work would be discredited. Bizarrely, the ‘doesn’t work’ caveat doesn’t matter. It is just the fine print at document’s end which nobody reads....Surely it is the fault of the little people below and not the great idea!’....It is that way with the bedrock ideas upon which this world is constructed. Despite being lauded to high heaven, they don’t work. Those who have earned university degrees in them do not sacrifice any prestige on that account. Instead, they go on to master other ideas that don’t work.

God laughs at the wisdom of this world, and in the passage above we see why. He says: “There is a generation that is pure in its own eyes, but has not been cleansed from its filth.” (Proverbs 30:12) Tell those educated ones: “Show us the just world that has resulted from your brilliance, and then maybe we can talk.”

So we ought not run from our ordinariness. We should embrace it. When Celsus ridicules 2nd century Christians for being “labourers, shoemakers, farmers, the most uninformed and clownish of men,” don’t run away from that quote. Don’t try to mitigate it (as do most Christian apologists). Instead, say: “You don’t know the half of it!”

An attribute of much of my writing—which is not appreciated by all Witnesses—is to give away many a fault, particularly faults that will make some look ridiculous, as when Tom Irregardless rattles on for ten minutes in that instruction talk about a woman’s ‘ministerial cycle’ because he has forgotten the word ‘menstrual.’ He recalls only cruder terms that he knows would not be suitable for the platform. (This really happened.) 

There is a joke about the sister who collected $6000 dollars by selling eggs every time her husband gave a bad talk—and brothers collapse upon themselves telling that joke—yet no one will tell it within 300 yards of Tom Irregardless because with him it is no joke—it is reality. You risk hurting his feelings. “Why would anybody ever take that risk? In all your days you will never find a more caring, generous person than Tom Irregardless. If you need help he is there. You can pop in at the Irregardless home anytime; they are delighted to see you. They don’t wonder why you didn’t call first. Tom is an excellent man through and through, but only in Jehovah’s organization would he be a public instructor.”

[Actually, this is not nearly so true as it once was, since in recent years there has been more emphasis on speaker quality and less opportunity for them to mess up]

The point is not to humiliate people. The point is to glorify God. When great things are accomplished and the workers themselves are great, you can say that was the reason. But when great things are accomplished and the workers are just regular unexceptional folk, the glory goes to God. So not only do I not hide embarrassing things—I highlight and even exaggerate them—always with 2 Corinthians 12:9 in mind: 

But he [God] said to me [Paul]: “My undeserved kindness is sufficient for you, for my power is being made perfect in weakness.” Most gladly, then, I will boast about my weaknesses, in order that the power of the Christ may remain over me like a tent. So I take pleasure in weaknesses, in insults, in times of need, in persecutions and difficulties, for Christ. For when I am weak, then I am powerful.

‘Don’t try to be something you’re not’ is the idea to glean. The strategy of admitting faults would have served even with regard to handling cases of child sexual abuse, the plague of the planet. Barely a day goes by that it is not uncovered somewhere, in some new setting. Yesterday I heard one new to me—that of a man suing the newspaper. Decades ago he was a paperboy molested by his supervisor. Young people will not remember, but it was always children delivering the paper back in my day.

Rather than hope for the perception that CSA could never ever occur among a people devoted to God, I wish our people would have said: “Oh, yeah—tell us about it—we’ve had some of those slime balls, too, and let me tell you they are tough to deal with!” It would have all been good. We would not be having opposers who now carry on as though with the mission statement:

“CSA among JWs is very very serious and must be exposed! CSA among the 99.9% that is everywhere else? Stuff happens.”

It would have been better if no one had ever thought it necessary to write that May 2019 article pointing out that the reproach of CSA falls on the abuser and not on the congregation. It’s a great article, and timely, but it would have been better if nobody had ever thought it necessesary.

When I used to be a bad boy and interacted with the malcontents, I would point out that the CSA is not prolific among JWs. They (the more reasonable ones) would not challenge me on this. Instead, they would respond with: “Oh, so now you are saying that you have the same problems as everyone else!” They accepted my premise, that we do abhor it and it is not prolific—it was the perception of self-righteousness—as though imagining selves immune to the problems of everyone else—that got them incensed. It would have been better to have given no cause for that perception, and it would be nice if it is a lesson internalized for future guidance.

It is very very difficult to be the required “no part of the world” and not be perceived as self-righteous, because the world automatically takes offense at non-participation. “If you were part of the world, the world would be fond of what is its own,” says Jesus. “Now because you are no part of the world, the world hates you.” Still, I think we do unnecessarily bring trouble upon ourselves sometimes, and the above is a prime example.

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I agree with your statements in this posting. There seems to be a growing tribalism/arrogance among the members of the organization these days. Any criticism of the organization is responded to by many bro’s and sis’s as an unwarranted attack that needs to be dismissed. I think that approach is a mistake. The orgs culture, like anything and everything else, has deficiencies/issues that we would be smart to recognize and deal with effectively, for our own benefit. As you mentioned, hopefully lessons are learned as mistakes are made, so that we refine ourselves and so that our perspectives on certain issues are tweaked somewhat. But who knows. Also, why do they call it ovaltine? The jar is round, the mug is round. They should call it “round-tine”.

Tom Harley

Andrew, I don’t think it’s ever been otherwise. Nor is it exclusive to Witnesses. Being defensive it the oldest trick in the book. A sense of humor helps to cut through it. But a sense of humor is not a possession of all people.

I’d like to see it mitigate, too, but it is what it is. Some things just have to be accepted as “one of those things.” Like a jar of Ovaltine which, by all rights, should be called Round-tine

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