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If You Suspect That You Are Anointed, You’re Not - and Who Were the Gnostics?

At the meeting yesterday I commented that, with a certain history of anxiety issues in the control tower, if I were to start partaking of the emblems, I would expect people to say, ‘Well, he is a little that way.’ I mean, I wouldn’t expect people to just lap it up. Fortunately, there is no way on God’s green earth that I am ever going to be one of the anointed because it is on God’s green earth that I savor living forever and can’t begin to imagine whatever I would do in the heavenly realm.

Another remark was given of someone from his Bethel days, awoken by a roommate who said he thought he might be anointed. ‘If you only think it, you’re not. Go back to sleep’ was the reply.

I also said that, as a practical matter, I never ever bring the subject of anointed up in the ministry, since it involves so very few people. To do so seems like being one of those policy wonks eternally obsessed over what is going on in Washington, something that they at best have 1/200,000,000 input. Why go there?

Also, though 90% of Bart Ehrman’s remarks are infuriating, because while displaying impressive command of background facts, certain basic concepts seem completely foreign to him (such as ‘worshipping God’)—still, here and there one can spot an insight. One of them was his definition of Gnostics. Now, I had heard of the term, and I knew it had to do with ‘knowledge’ but I didn’t know what sort of knowledge and I had made up for that lack by assuming wrong, thinking of what we today call knowledge—you know, the stuff you acquire in school. Instead, the ‘knowledge’ that Gnostics had was that they didn’t belong in this world—it just didn’t feel right to them—they belonged somewhere else, and if you shared this similar ‘knowledge,’ you were one of them. Tell me if this doesn’t describe almost exactly ones who claim, rightly or wrongly, that they are anointed today.

Too, Bart points out that the Gnostics were not a separate Christian community but they were interspersed in existing congregations, again like anointed today. Of course, this does a little bit fly in the face of the current WT view that all Christians back then were anointed. But it has already been pointed out that the early Christian community very soon exceeded 144K, so that view is not exactly airtight. One easy way to resolve matters is to hold that the heavenly calling was indeed the priority back then, just after the Christ instituted the congregation, but the message still attracted people who sensed that it was the latest worship development from God, that this is where they belonged, and that they would therefore benefit even if every single little thing didn’t dovetail.

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Trump, Covid, JW HQ, and ‘Rex’s Gas n Go’

In any crisis situation it is tremendously socially destructive to continually take shots at whoever is taking the lead. Regardless of who is is, where he came from, or how he came to be—there he is and you’re stuck with him. You cannot make things better but you sure can make them worse. Anyone socially responsible will point to the reassuring fact that the Pres generally allows his advisors to talk him out of rash statements. Though, sometimes he fires them. Just ask Rex Tillerson, once CEO of Exxon, now proprietor of ’Rex’s Gas n Go,’ unable to reclaim his top spot since board members were unfavorably influenced by the President‘s tweet that he was ‘dumb as a rock’ and ‘lazy.’
 
Without a fuss, simply in order to keep things moving, The POTUS signed off on legislation that would ensure that the family business doesn’t get a dime. Since the hospitality industry in general IS eligible for help, it seems to me no more than a matter of spite, but he yielded to it on account of the emergency.
 
Trying to shift blame, the mayor of New Orleans say she would have shut down festivities had only Trump warned her. I’m not so sure. Isn’t she one of those who, when he says anything else, claims he is full of you-know-what? Probably she’s just  trying to cover her own rear end—the oldest trick in the book. No, really—the oldest—since Adam’s response to being called for eating from the tree was “the woman you gave me, she gave me the fruit and I ate.” With the only other two living beings against him—three if you count the devil—what chance had a good ol’ boy like he?
 
Meanwhile, Jehovah’s Witnesses just play along. It makes things so much easier. Direction from HQ (in the United States) is that there be no meetings of more than ten persons, less if local officials decree it, but not more if they do not. Additionally, a letter a read, leaving matters to family heads since every circumstance is different, urged members to take most seriously all government suggestions on social distancing—and if one is in a high-risk group, seriously consider the recommendation to stay in place, not venturing outside at all till this blows over. The two Bible verses to serve as theme texts were ‘love you neighbor as yourself’ and ‘show obedience to the superior authorities.’
 
Will it? Probably. At the liquor store—no, not for my daily run, but looking for Memorial wine—I observed of ‘crazy times that no one saw coming’ that it is ‘almost biblical.’ But the young clerk allowed that to be probably an overstatement and I didn’t press he point—he may be right. But it also is not exactly ‘one of those things,’ since no one in 100 years has seen anything like it.
 
Outside among those who you think you be the most responsible, bickering is the order of the day. Look, it is one thing not to board the lifeboat because you think the ship is not going down. It is another to think that it possibly is, but it is STILL more important to apportion blame first.
 
Now that I think of it, it is also very strange, and no, I am not coming out as a true prophet over it, that 100 years exactly separate the capsizing of the two oceanliners so symbolic of their respective ages, AND almost 100 years exactly separate the two latest significant plagues in modern times: the Spanish flu in 1918, and the ‘Chinese’ virus in 2020.
 
JWs have a mindset that enables them to adjust and cope. If the Covid is the Spanish flu updated, well—then an easy explanation present itself. But if it is not—if it is triggering a huge overreaction as some maintain, and the edifice of human financial world should crash—well, how telling that something seemingly so mighty should prove so fragile. Everybody throws in their two cents and you have to ignore the meddlers because there is never an end to them. Otherwise, shelter in place to the degree possible, which is almost 100% for me. An overreaction? Maybe, but if so it is just one more nail in the coffin of those who think human governments have the wisdom to rule
 
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Ecclesiastes 10:20 - ‘Do Not Speak Ill of the King’ JWs and Politics in the Age of Trump

I pay attention to politics and most Jehovah’s Witnesses do not. Witnesses are politically neutral. They don’t do politics. Most of them feel it is best to go light on the topic for fear of being drawn in, taking sides in a dispute not really theirs—we should be ‘preaching the kingdom.’ The apostle Paul even calls Christians ambassadors for Christ (2 Corinthians 5:20) and by extension for God’s Kingdom that he heads. Everyone knows that ambassadors for one kingdom do not show up at voting booth of another kingdom. A fair number of our people even think it downright wrong to take an interest in politics for this reason. “Jehovah’s Witnesses ARE NOT interested in politics!” one firebrand brother tweeted. “Actually, sometimes they are,” I pointed out. “I think what you mean is that they do not PARTICIPATE in politics.” (2nd caps mine, but first his). But he repeated his tweet and blocked me!

Got it. We’re neutral. So when I post something that shows some knowledge of politics, I get slammed by some of my own people. Yes, I can explain how it is possible to follow something merely as an example of human interaction without choosing this side or that, and it sort of registers, but with some, the aversion to the political schemings of man is just too strong and I cannot break through. Nor do I particularly care to—they criticize me, not me them. It surely is irrelevant to the Kingdom, slated for eventual replacement by God (not us), and it is light years from having “plenty to do in the work of the Lord.” (1 Corinthians 15:58) Got it. Not a problem.

And yet—and yet—these same brothers upbraiding me will post (or more typically retweet) content that presents the President as a doofus, spotlighting rash, crass, or insensitive things, with an air of: “Get a load of this idiot.” This is a far worse indiscretion, it seems to me. “Even in your thoughts, do not curse the king,” my wife quotes the verse (Ecclesiastes 10:20)—my wife who has almost no interest in politics—she is a quite typical JW in that regard, and what she does know is mainly due to me. Whereas there is NO Bible injunction of speaking favorably of him—at worst it is ‘getting into politics,’ a red flag for a people who strive to be ‘no part of the world,’ but otherwise the idea of praising someone, king or otherwise, plays far better with the scriptures than does putting one down. In my more surly moments, I get fed up with this ‘hypocrisy.’

It is not hypocrisy. It plays that way, but it is not. It is simply brothers who do not think a thing through, and they do not do it because the thing to be thought of is that of ‘human rule’—slated for the wrecking ball. The upshot is simply that, if you avoid praising the king, you certainly have to avoid ridiculing him, for there IS a direct scriptural condemnation of THAT, whereas there is not about speaking well of someone.

The foible is facilitated by a disinterest of the topic, because it means our people plug into the news very little—maybe just the network evening news where reporters almost universally hate the current President. 90-95% of news media personnel vote Democrat, so how likely is it that they will be non-biased toward the side they don’t like? But our people don’t see that—they’re not following closely enough, there being no cause to—and when the networks label him a powermad nutcase they assume that it must be so. This accounts for why one brother—a circuit overseer! advised the pioneers on how they must stay neutral and how hard that was, because “we all know that Trump is crazy, but...” One sister looked at another and said: “I know that my Dad is a good man, and he voted for Trump.”

I understand the temptation to take a shot or two, because he has to be one of the most ineloquent men in all history. I’ve had a field day skewering both him and those who oppose him. I’ve done past presidents, too. I have said that I wish Dwight D Eisenhower had not hidden his JW upbringing because I would love to have portrayed he and his wife standing in front of the White House holding up the Watchtower and Awake magazines featuring the article: ‘Can Presidents Bring Peace?’ Oh, yeah! Trust me, I would know what to do with that one.

It is tremendously destructive in any crisis to take shots—whether warranted or not—at whoever is running the show. Whatever you have, you’re stuck with it, and you’d better learn to work with it. Being like Absalom is no good:

Absalom would say to him: “See, your claims are right and proper, but there is no one from the king to hear your case.” [He] would say: “If only I were appointed judge in the land! Then every man who has a legal case or judgment could come to me, and I would see that he receives justice.”.... so Absalom kept stealing the hearts of the men of Israel.”

It doesn’t work when you are supposed to be pulling together in crisis. In principle, it is not all that different from why the Governing Body is so relentless in their counsel to avoid ‘apostasy’—there are people who just live to undercut their authority, and to yield to them damages not so much them, but the program they represent—which is usually the overall goal in the first place.

Trump is not eloquent, but eloquence is over-rated—its correlation with effectiveness is slight. It may even be inverse. He should have someone more eloquent as a spokesperson, but the media would never allow that. Now, eloquence is great stuff—pour me a double shot of it. But it can have a downside of making people think they are far more insightful than they really are.

’Classism’ is at work. Reporters value eloquence highly, and dismiss those without it. Is it that they wrote good term papers in college and and tend to look at life itself as a term paper? Political malice is only a part of why they misportray him. Social malice also plays a part. They are eloquent (whether full of poppycock or not is irrelevant) & he is not. That triggers very displeasing displays of ‘superiority.’ I don’t care about politics as for getting partisan over it. But social divisions and put-downs on that account always get my interest, and Trump is put down a lot by a class that thinks itself better educated and thereby smarter. Maybe it is because Jehovah’s Witnesses are also put down by a class that thinks itself better educated and thereby smarter that I spot not just that but many parallels. I mean, there certainly is an ‘everyman’ quality to him, selling himself as one who stands up for ones typically ignored.

He is no more dangerous than any political leader. That is not to say that things might not blow up in his face, but probably no more so than with anyone. It may be that ‘He is the one!’ but Oscar Oxgoad’s ancient Dad has said that about every president since Truman. Humans don’t have the answers, but it is very hard identifying individual villains. Trump is skewered by pundits who highlight his more outrageous statements, usually taking care to divorce them from elucidating context, and some of our indiscreet brothers retweet those ill reports. The only consolation to those who are alarmed is that most of his ‘lies’ are actually overly-vague statements, wishful thinking, hyperbole, even taunts to his many enemies—techniques that Witnesses forsake (though me...sigh....not always). He usually is persuaded by his advisors, like Dr. Fauci, before he actually follows through on what might be rash. Though, on occasion, he fires them. Just ask Rex Tillerson, once chairman of Exxon, now probably the proprietor of a small gas station somewhere out in the boonies—‘Rex’s Gas n Go.’

I have said it way too many times, but to me Trump’s election is a godsend, and it has nothing to do with politics. It used to be that if you read that long list of derogatory traits said to characterize people of the last days and your householder did not agree that they apply, there wasn’t much you could do about it. Plainly, the verses are subjective. But in the aftermath of Trump’s election, people are screaming at each other day and night, and it is very hard to ask: “What was Paul smoking when he wrote THAT?”

It can’t that bad to stay abreast of politics. If we are said to keep aware of world affairs with an eye on ‘keeping on the watch,’ which we are—well, it is the interaction of politics that drives those world events. Examined for that reason, they can aid one in being discerning. I mean, there is hardly any shame in being clueless on these things, but neither is it any great virtue. It enables you to speak in what to many people is their ‘language of the heart.’ Draw a parallel to cars. You don’t have to know anything about what’s under the hood in order to drive. But there are always a few that must know the workings and interplay of each component therein and they are never criticized for it. Sometimes we just get incurious and then pass it off as ‘holiness.’ 

It’s so hard to stay neutral. I recall one woman in our congregation explaining how people just assume what her politics must be as a member of a socially conservative religion, forcing her to continually explain that it is not so. No wonder Brother Jackson cautions to keep the stuff at a distance. He points out how it is especially hard when one side or the other favors something that will personally benefit you. He speaks of resisting the inner voice that says: “I hope that idiot doesn’t get into power!” Is it only me who says: “I wonder what idiot he has in mind?”

Okay. That’s it. No more politics! (I wish)

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Moses Addressing the Israelites - Trump-Style

And the sons of Israel proceeded to come out of the Red Sea. They congregated and Moses addressed them:

“We came out of the Red Sea. It was very red and very wet. Nobody else could have done what we did. Egypt tried and they got wet, very wet, wet like no one ever saw. But we did not get wet because we are great, very very great, the greatest country that the world has ever seen. And I am the leader. You are not. Nobody else could have done what I did. Everybody on my team is doing a great job. Others are doing great jobs, too, very many others, but we are doing a great great job.

“It is hot in the desert where we are walking. Very hot. Incredibly hot, hot like no one ever saw, but it is not too hot for us, even though it is very very hot. And later we will cross the Jordan River and it will be better, better like no one ever saw. Very, very much better, and everyone is doing a great job and they will do a great job later, too. Now I’ll take some questions:

“Okay, Abiram—you first. Yes, yes, okay, yes. No, no, not at all. What is the place called where we are? Yes. Sinai. So we are crossing the Sinai Desert. It is not racist at all.

“Okay, Dathan?

“Yes, yes—‘What would I tell the Israelite people?’ What do you think I have called this conference for? You are a very bad reporter, a very bad one. Bad. You write bad things about me and I want you to tell the truth, but you write bad things, very bad. And it is not good that you do this.

“You, Korah?

“Yes, yes. Yes, we are prepared. Very very prepared and we are getting more prepared all the time. It’s incredible. And medical supplies—yes they are pouring in, just pouring, like nobody ever saw. And we have Dr. Luke—very very great doctor. He is almost here and just checked in at the Four Gospel hotel. When will he be here? Very soon. Very very soon. And then it will all be great. Then it will.....”

And the clouds parted and a voice was heard: “Oh, for crying out loud! I thought I appointed Aaron as a spokesman for this fellow. Will somebody PLEASE unmute his mike?”

 

.... “Then Jehovah’s anger blazed against Moses, and he said: “What about your brother Aaron the Levite? I know that he can speak....So you must speak to him and put the words in his mouth...and he will be your spokesman” (Exodus 4:14-16)

You never know where some themes may crop up, nor how accurately they may fit.

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Jacob Pulls a Fast One on Esau - Twice! (Fool Me Once, Shame on You. Fool Me Twice, Shame on Me)

Thoughts gleaned from Genesis 27:

Am I right on this or does Isaac seem more of a placeholder than a factor in himself? Abraham & Jacob are good stuff. But Isaac slobbering over Esau, for the game he could bring in? He doesn’t really come across as all that spiritual as a character. Rebekah knows that once you put a good meal in his belly you can talk him into doing anything. That’s not to say he is non-spiritual—no. He is probably rock-solid. But it is not his strong suit—he is given with matters more ordinary.

Okay, okay, Jacob is a good guy. Got it. But let no one say he was not an opportunist. I mean, he certainly didn’t say of Esau: ‘My brother’s making a dumb move. I’d better see he comes to no harm because of it.’ Twice he chiseled the older brother out of a good deal: “At this he said: “Is he not rightly named Jacob, that he might supplant me these two times? My birthright he has already taken, and now he has taken my blessing!” Esau rages. (Gen 27:36)

I gave up long ago on trying to explain these guys or put them out there for everyone to emulate. There is not a one of them without dozens of skeletons in the closet. The ancient world is one strange place with customs and ways not easy to get one’s head around.

Even the idea of seeking a blessing from Dad—what’s that about? My Dad’s blessing was a hope that I would stay out of the hoosegow, which fortunately I have managed to do. The whole concept of firstborn falls pretty flat today in American culture, though it still holds sway in some places.

In the annoying moments of our people—though they are not so bad as many believers—they sanctify these characters after the fact, putting favorable spin on things that read pretty dubious straight off the page. In their absolute worst moments, they present them as modern-day JWs themselves but in an ancient setting, concerns intact about dress and grooming and such things.

But overall they say that, ‘Look, the Bible is history. Nobody is saying that because it is in the Bible, even as the deeds of one of the ‘good guys,’ it is the wonderful thing for you to copy. The Bible is human history—and where is the following quote made?—history of events when persons and nations worshiped Jehovah, history of events when they knew of Him but did not, and history of those peoples who never knew anything about him—and all the while, amidst this backdrop, the promised Seed is being developed and nurtured.’

I remember one ‘All in the Family’ scene in which someone reads some clearly sordid verse in the Bible. “That’s terrible!” Gloria exclaims, and Archie quickly intercedes with, “It’s beautiful—it’s in the Bible.” No, it’s really terrible. But as one modern brother put it, when the younger brothers started squabbling over something: “It’s amazing what Jehovah can do considering what he has to work with.” It is a better take than that of a more cynical brother—someone who did not remain faithful: “The truth is such a beautiful thing—it’s a shame God had to waste it on people” That doesn’t fly. You have to cultivate a love of people in order to survive.

Meantime, I entertain my own ideas of the basic nature of people, different constitutions of different areas of emphasis—most notably the ‘air—water—earth—fire’ pinwheels that people are said to fall on. The descriptions keep popping up in psychology, in ancient thinking, in diverse cultures—and they are not necessarily presented the same, but they can overlap. Carl Jung went big into this kind of thing, but the ideas far precede him. Those Myers-Briggs tests of 16 different personality types stem from the same undercurrents.

I like especially the contrast between air and earth. The ‘air’ personality is obsessed with ‘airy’ thoughts. Such persons are quick to entertain the spiritual—‘head in the clouds’—not practical at all at their worst—‘so spiritual that they are no earthly good’ is one blunt way to say it. At their very worst, they are so much of the air that their feet lose contact with the ground and they are lost in worlds of their own making.

The ‘earth’ person is just the opposite. Always grounded, always completely comfortable on earth. There is no way an earth person becomes seasick, or if they do, they either master it quickly or forevermore avoid the sea—“Not coming near that stuff, again!” they say, so disconcerting is it to have ‘earth’ interrupted. An earth person absolutely loves a good meal and will carry on about it forever—whereas an ‘air’ person barely notices it and practically begrudges the time it takes to prepare and consume. They are rock-solid, capable, practical, certainly capable of solid spirituality, but it is not their specialty, and at worst they can forget about it completely as they hone in on things physical.

There is also the ‘fire’ and the ‘water’ person, but these attributes seemed not to be so developed, or perhaps they did not resonate so much with me. They strike me as modifying influences on the ‘air’ and ‘ground’ but it may be they should be taken as orientations in themselves. ‘Fire’ is, not surprisingly, associated with impulsiveness, zeal, ‘hot-headedness.’ ‘Water’ is cooling, and is partly so by being flexible, able to quickly wrap around any situation and squelch trouble. It strikes me as these are probably persons who can bring opposing camps together—a task not always easy. When ideas are too far apart, by even explaining one side to the other you are accused of pushing that idea. No, it is not easy. But if there is anyone who can do it, it is a ‘water’ person.

Isaac was earth. Jacob was air. Esau was earth. It’s the way I look at it, anyway.

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They Didn’t Sensationalize this Virus Even a Little Bit, Much Less Use it to Scare People

There are faithful sisters (and brothers, too) who must cope with opposed, sometimes even apostate, mates. One of those mates posted:

“I told my wife that maybe there will never again be meetings as before. I hope the JWs will wake up and start to examine the scriptures seriously and search what all this could lead to.”

In fact, it looks like meetings are pretty much going on with barely a hiccup. They have simply switched to conference-call software, with telephone tie-in for any not up to speed on this. Rather than take his self-predicted five years—he has styled himself as sort of a prophet, unusual for today’s ‘apostates, who mostly go atheist—to make himself even more insightful and pure than he already is, maybe he should repent if possible and try to get into that new format with his wife rather than being a drag that she must contend with.

Our congregation will start with the conference calls at this mid-week meeting, Zoom in our case. (We will meet in Zoom Rooms—who would have thunk it?) Over the weekend we streamed it from apparently one of the Bethels. I could not help but think how the contents would have been disappointing to any ‘anti-cultist’ because there was not a bit of alarmism and everyone treated the virus threat as just one more run-of-the-mill challenge to adapt to. Referred to several times in comments, it wasn’t even called the ‘Chinese virus.’ They didn’t get into any squabbles as to whether they should be able to describe it that way or not—since it gets some all incensed, they avoided the term, and just said virus or Covid 19 or Corona or whatever. It is so much like this world to ‘taunt’ the other side, deliberately getting them going usually for the sake of put down, if not ridicule, but they didn’t stoop to that for a moment. It almost made me ashamed that I do stoop to it (but probably not ashamed enough to stop), though I am trying to restrain myself, not always easily.

They didn’t sensationalize this virus even a little bit, much less use it to ‘scare’ people. It easily could be used that way. They didn’t. Not even a hint of it. So I will—just in a speculative bent, you understand, no more.

For the longest time we have said our preaching will end someday. What if this turns out to be it? It’s not impossible, though no one suggests it. I expect this to blow over and normal preaching and activities will resume, but there is no reason to accept that as a foregone conclusion. What if the world leaders who just assume you can shut down the entire world economy and start it up again are wrong, and instead another worldwide Great Depression ensues? Then deaths then will dwarf anything that the virus itself brings on, including many a suicide. Will people endure it as resolutely as they did 90 years ago? I wouldn’t hold my breath, not with the belligerence and non-cooperation that defines the overall culture today. And wouldn’t that be a decisive verdict to the facades men have erected? The worldwide financial bedrock system, that everyone depends upon and have taken for granted will endure no matter what—dissolving so easily in the face of what might well be an overreaction to a virus only two or three times more nasty than the regular flu—bad, to be sure, but not nearly as bad as the devastation triggered in the all-out war to contain it, a war that leaders can only hope will be won but do not know. As that mighty structure crumbles, who knows what efforts nations may resort to in their desire to shore it up?

Then all these ones on the outside lambasting the Witness organization every time one of them so much as farts may begin to feel less comfortable. For the Witness brotherhood appears to be holding up pretty well, and it is holding up well independent of material assets. If worse comes to worse, you can run the whole program from a server in Brother Lett’s dorm room. It might even be that conditions could devolve to Acts 2 mode, in which Christians are physically caring for the needs of others. If you have kept yourself plugged into the brotherhood that, with all its flaws, is one run on love, you will be able to weather whatever shaking of the world is going on. Those who were there but have deliberately put themselves outside it and are united in nothing other than finding fault—of them I am not so sure.

A speaker quoted from Numbers 12 recently. “Face to face I speak with [Moses], and not in riddles. Why then, did you not fear to speak against him?” Yes, I know, I know—those taking the lead today are not Moses, but I am not so unfearful to declare they are not filling exactly the modern role that he did the ancient. Yes, they are not Moses, but then Moses was not Moses in the eyes of his critics. What were they murmuring about? His Hittite wives. He really did have Hittite wives. It was not an invalid complaint. God accepted him anyway and struck down those who would rise up against him.

I can easily extrapolate, based on the snarling hate expressed by some for the theocratic organization, and current events showing that opposition shifting into high gear, most notably in Russia—I can envision that attack on the city ‘existing without bars’ and ‘the city that seems open to plunder’—I can easily envision it—not as a slam-dunk gonna-happen-now, but certainly as a possibility. Will religions in general hold onto their own as JWs hold on to theirs? Time will time, but I’m dubious. How many will so easily switch to new methods of keeping in touch? How many are so organized into not just congregations, but groups within congregations, so that no one other than those who willfully keep their distance is overlooked?

Revelation presents scenarios of people ‘warring against God’ and one can’t help but wonder: ‘Who would be stupid enough to do that?’ Now some scenarios emerge. ‘Do not meddle with these men so that you may not be found actually fighters against God,’ Gamaliel said. It was enough to dissuade the Sanhedrin. ‘Forget that!’ enemies say today as they go in for what they imagine is the kill.

The view of the humanists is that human solutions must prevail, and they are livid that any would look to another source. They are livid that any would put their trust in anything else. They attack and put the most ridiculous interpretation on Letts’ words about what doesn’t bother him at all, because they can’t stand what he looks to for salvation. To one of these characters ranting about how Lett uses calamity to ‘exploit’ members with fear so as to keep them in line, I said that ‘the entire premise of the faith is that we are living in the last days of this system of things in which difficult times will prevail. To point to evidence of that does not frighten them; it strengthens them—it validates their faith.’

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Social Distancing in Genesis

Social distancing’—a term unheard of two weeks ago—today deemed as vital as breathing air. Read Genesis to see examples of it. Having a whole bunch of animals seems to be all you need to do the trick.

Now Lot, who was traveling with Abram, also owned sheep, cattle, and tents. So the land did not allow for all of them to stay in the same place; their goods had become so many that they could no longer dwell together. As a result, a quarrel arose between the herders of Abram’s livestock and the herders of Lot’s livestock....So Aʹbram said to Lot: “Please, there should be no quarreling between me and you and between my herdsmen and your herdsmen, for we are brothers. Is not the whole land available to you? Please, separate from me. If you go to the left, then I will go to the right; but if you go to the right, then I will go to the left.” (Genesis 13:5-9)

Today it would be called social distancing. You do it by having so many animals that your neighbor can’t stand to be around you.

Suppose he can stand it. How do you get him to move on in that case? You shut off his water:

The man [Isaac] became wealthy, and he continued to prosper until he became very wealthy. He acquired flocks of sheep and herds of cattle and a large body of servants, and the Philistines began to envy him. So the Philistines took soil and stopped up all the wells that his father’s servants had dug in the days of Abraham. Abimelech then said to Isaac: “Move from our neighborhood, for you have grown far stronger than we are.” So Isaac moved from there and encamped in the valley of Gerar and began dwelling there. And Isaac again dug the wells that had been dug in the days of his father Abraham but that the Philistines had stopped up after Abraham’s death, and he called them by the names that his father had given them.” (Genesis 26: 13-18)

But what happens if you haven’t moved away far enough? Then you argue over the pipes, and even name them:

When the servants of Isaac were digging in the valley, they found a well of fresh water. And the shepherds of Gerar began quarreling with the shepherds of Isaac, saying: “The water is ours!” So he named the well Esek, because they had quarreled with him.”  (vs 19-20)

Esek means ‘contention.’ It is the definition of the Hebrew word.

And they started digging another well, and they began quarreling over it also. So he named it Sitnah.” (21)

Sitnah means ‘accusation.’

Later he moved away from there and dug another well, but they did not quarrel over it. So he named it Rehoboth and said: “It is because now Jehovah has given us ample room and has made us fruitful in the land.”  (22)

Reboboth means ‘broad places.’ Ahh—at last—enough room between you and the scoundrels.

Imagine—naming the wells! We don’t name faucets, yet they named wells. It was that important—water. What causes social distancing in this case, besides loads of animals? Water. We really are ‘people of the dirt,’ aren’t we? Not to mention ‘people of the water.’

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Anti-Cultists Jump on the JW Video Encouraging Brothers to Hold Steady During the Virus Time

It took no time at all for the anti-cult crowd to latch on to that recent Stephen Lett video about how the brothers are doing worldwide in the face of Covid 19. (6 have died in Italy). Of course, he made remarks about being ‘deep in the last days’—and they were all over that. He was declared ‘oppontunistic’ and exploitive of current events so as to maintain control over members. Sheesh!

Now, Stephen Lett is a very unusual figure—Witnesses love this guy—but there is no one who over-emotes like this fellow. Sometimes I think a spokesman less ‘polarizing’ in his mannerism would be better suited, but who can say? He shows love for the friends, and maybe that overrides all else. I wrote up a post on him previously.

At any rate, I posted a few tweets of my own to kick back at some of these accusations—if that be what they are. As to the ringleader of the anti-cultists, who does not specialize in Jehovah’s Witnesses but also does not exclude them, I do not treat him as an enemy, and I am neutral as to his overall mission. To the extent he notices me, he doesn’t treat me as an enemy either, and if he does I take no offense. Mutual respect works here.

I posted:

A worldwide plague and concurrent financial collapse JWs do not dismiss as ‘one of those things,’ but their end-time words long precede this. Plus, they are nothing but cooperating with gov’t authorities in trying to contain virus

It is irrelevant to general society if it is accompanied by complete cooperation with govt authorities as they try to contain such, which is the case with JWs. After all, it is not them partying on the Fla beach.....1/2

Also, people cannot be buffeted about by such calamities as world plague & financial collapse and just shrug it off. An ‘end-time’ view is as good as any to cope. Few cooperate with gov’t containment efforts as JWs do. They promptly calledoff their door2door & are not the problem...2/2

The trick is to allow other viewpoints to exist besides your own. Tolerance. JWs in no way undermine govt efforts to control virus. Besides, until all chips in, who are you to say they are wrong? It has to be a ‘wait and see.’

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Updates on ‘Dear Mr. Putin - Jehovah’s Witnesses Write Russia’

I probably go off on too many tangents and even a few meanderings. Still, ‘Dear Mr. Putin - Jehovah’s Witnesses Write Russia’ is the best of its kind, if for no other reason than it is the only of its kind. There is no other complete record of JW events that have broken in Russia over the past few years. It is a labor of love on my part, released free in ebook version. Alas, there were quite a few typos and punctuation bloopers in the original but they were cleaned up long ago. I’m a one-man show here. Even many of my own people will think I ought not go into Part 2 as I do, for it puts the machinations on the table, if only to gut them.

I have made some revisions. The original consisted of Part 1, a collation of news reports regarding events leading up the ban, then the ban of the New World Translation, then the appeal, then the confiscation of property. Since the underlying reasons for opposing the Witnesses were not spelled out in court proceedings, I decided to spell them out myself in Part 2, along with how they ought be defended. (Not everyone knows that the word ‘defense’ derives from the Greek word ‘apologia,’ today more readily identified with ‘apology’ as though to say, ‘I’m sorry.’ Apologia means not that at all.)  Part 3 is more of what we would call a ‘witness.’ To the extent possible for a Westerner, all topics are considered in a Russian context.

There is now a Part 4, which covers significant developments of the last two years—updates. Some are almost comical, such as when Russian ‘experts’ declared Ps 37:29 (“The righteous will inherit the land”) ‘extremist’—extremist in any Bible (JWs had taken to using others when the NWT was banned), since it promotes the ‘doctrine of superiority based upon religious belief.’ I spun it that they are sticking up for the unrighteous in that land. Other updates are decidedly not comical—such as how ones arrested are invariably arrested by SWAT teams; if a group is “extremist,” you can hardly detain them as though a cop writing a speeding ticket, for that cheapens the word. And how—no way are we talking persecution like in Roman times, still, there are reports of torture, beatings, and personal belongings are invariably confiscated even when no arrests result.

I have also dropped the chapter on child sexual abuse that was in Part 2. It never belonged there. Allegations of this sordid topic never arose in any Russian context.

If it never belonged, why was it there in the first place? It is because when I wrote that book on opposition to Jehovah’s Witnesses in the East I did not then envision that I would be writing one on opposition to them in the West, and so when it came to apologia, I threw in everything but the kitchen sink. That latter book, ‘TrueTom vs the Apostates!’ deals with the topic extensively, for it certainly does fit in Western context. The only mention I make of the subject in Dear Mr. Putin is a few paragraphs at the end of Chapter 18:

It makes this writer think of the uproar raised over child sexual abuse within Jehovah’s Witnesses today. It is a controversy that played no part in Russia’s efforts to ban the Witness organization—the topic never came up—but it is huge in the West. Jehovah’s Witnesses are comparatively successful at preventing it—nobody, but nobody, has gathered every single member on earth (at their 2017 Regional Conventions) to consider detailed scenarios in which child sexual abuse might take place so that parents, obviously the first line of defense, can remain vigilant. But the world has little success at preventing child sexual abuse, so it focuses on punishing it after the fact, securing the barn door after the cows have fled. Routinely, we read of individuals arrested over pedophilia-related allegations. Unless the arrest is of a member of the clergy, the one detail that never accompanies such reports is that of the individual’s religious affiliation or lack thereof. Yet with Jehovah’s Witnesses, that detail is never lacking. Why?

The reason is that the Witness organization attempted to do something about child sexual abuse—they did not just close their eyes to it—and now detractors are trying to spin it as though they love the stuff. Jehovah’s Witnesses are well-known as a religion that “polices its own.” It is an attribute once viewed favorably, but now in the eyes of critics it is spun as intolerable “control.” In the course of such self-policing those taking the lead in the Witness organization came to know of individuals accused of child sexual abuse, and their “crime,” if it be one, is in leaving it up to affected ones themselves to report rather than “going beyond the law” to do it themselves. Time will tell how vile that sin is found to be, but it plainly falls far short of actually committing the abuse themselves, which is the pattern elsewhere, there being no mechanism for discovery elsewhere.

As with Jesus’ remarks in the sixth chapter of John that can, in the scheming of dishonest ones, be spun into encouragement of cannibalism, so the Witness policy on child sexual abuse is spun by similarly dishonest ones to indicate that the organization is determined to nurture and protect it, whereas nothing could be further from the truth. Three times before the Australian Royal Commission, Geoffrey Jackson of the Witness’s Governing Body pleaded for universal, mandatory reporting laws, with no exceptions—if that could only be done, it would make the job of the Witness organization in policing its own without raising the ire of those outside the congregation “so much easier.”

Continuing his cross-examination, Justice Angus Stewart said: “Leaving aside the question of overriding mandatory law from the civil authorities...” I almost wish that Brother Jackson would have interjected at this point, “I wish you would not leave it aside, for it would solve the problem.” The greater world cannot make a dent in preventing childhood sexual abuse, and so it puts the onus on those who are trying to do something about it. Alas, our best lines invariably occur to us too late—had Brother Jackson picked up my line, it probably just would have got their backs up—and then (gulp) he would have looked at me with displeasure.

It’s not everything. But it is exhaustive enough for this book.

There is otherwise only a single mention of the topic that never came up in Russia. Afterwards, the Russian embassy had apparently been reading Western headlines. It occasioned the following paragraph:

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.”

Download it quick. Now is not too soon. The price is right. Remember: in thesedays of self-quarantine, experts who truly know anything, expect there to be a run on materials to read.

Download the book here.

Russia-safe version, with all ‘extremist’ quotes redacted: here.

 

 

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Can You Really Just Bring Up ‘Jesus’ Out of the Blue?

It’s a little dicey to bring up Jesus straight out of the blue, yet that’s what my #3 talk assignment has me doing. On the other hand, everyone has heard the name and everyone holds him in good light, even those not religious. Mark Twain was well-known to be atheist. His writings savage churches and Christian teachings. “There is one notable thing about our Christianity: bad, bloody, merciless, money-grabbing and predatory … ours is a terrible religion,” he says.

Yet he never had an unkind word to say about Jesus. Quite the opposite. “If Christ were here, there is one thing he would not be – a Christian,” he wrote, so that it becomes plain that he has no beef with Jesus, maybe not even with God, but with those who claim to follow Jesus. They don’t do it very well. “There has only been one true Christian,” he also writes. “They caught and killed him—early.”

So he’s not likely to disagree with Bible verses acknowledging that people are exactly that way, such as Titus 1:16–

They publicly declare that they know God, but they disown him by their works, because they are detestable and disobedient and not approved for good work of any sort.”

or that it should intensify during the “last days” when “critical times hard to deal with” will be here. After that horrendously long list of negative attributes said to characterize people of the woeful time, Paul adds that they “have a form of godly devotion, but prove false to its power.” (2 Timothy 3:1-5) Pious though they may be, it doesn’t translate into good conduct.

The point is that with the right introduction you ought to be able to talk about Jesus even to those turned off by religion. So I work up the following, of which the first few lines are more or less word for word:

After a brief greeting, “it’s not for me to stay but a minute or two—you’ve got things to do. People don’t get along very well with each other today. Life would be better if they did. I want to read you a Bible verse on that theme—you tell me what you think—and I’m gone. Good idea?” It’s surprising how many people will say yes to that—I mean, it’s very clear that you’re not going to stay more than a moment or so. You cannot renege on that pledge.

If they say no, then I leave with them a tract linking to the website—any of them will do, since it is the website that is the featured object. Most will take it. Some don’t. I even like to point to how the drop-down box will fetch that site into 1000 different languages and that if one is serious about declaring the Bible message worldwide, of course they will have such a tool—it would almost be negligence not to.

When the person agrees to hear a verse, I will choose any that furthers that aim—of teaching people to get along. Almost anything from the Sermon on the Mount will do, for example. In this case, my assignment sticks me with a verse that would normally not be my go-to verse: Matthew 16:16, on how Peter identifies Jesus as the Messiah. Hopefully I can make it work. It’s important to recognize that people aren’t paying overly close attention to your specific words anyway—they are trying to figure out whether you are too weird to talk to or whether it might be safe to converse a little bit.

I read the verse, with maybe a sentence or two afterwards as to why I chose it, and then observe that is all I wanted to do—to put that thought on the table. “The next move is up to you, and you don’t have to make one.” If he doesn’t, I take my leave. I never act as though it will be hard to make me leave. I act as though it will be hard to make me stay.

If he indicates he’s open to entertaining the thought a little, often I start up a video for him. I never ask to do it. I tell him as it starts that he doesn’t have to listen to it all—“if it gets boring, just say so and I’ll shut it down.” Asking to do it is almost like asking to read a scripture—why would anyone do that? Some householders interpret that as a major escalation, whereas it is no more an escalation than a mechanic pulling out a wrench. Would you be shocked it one did that?

But I can’t play my video in the assigned talk—it’s not in the script. I also have to “respond to an objection common in our territory.” Hmm. I wrack my brain.

Are there any? Have I ever heard of one? For a while they were calling these “viewpoints” and not “objections,” but now, for whatever reason, they have gone back to “objections.” Maybe people objected to viewpoints.

Finally after hours and hours of thought, I come up with one. The householder can say that he has his own religion! Yes! That has happened. Why did I not think of that before? I model the rest of the talk from a recent experience of an evangelical who raised exactly that—um—viewpoint.

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