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A Judgment Message—What’s With That?

That meme floating about the internet that brothers will latch on to in a heartbeat—is it true?

A brother named Hermann who is a bus driver in Central Berlin overheard two passengers talking: "This virus is just the beginning. Something big is going to happen, something extremely worrying. The proof is right in front of us. There are no more Jehovah's Witnesses around. They are usually everywhere, at the train station, walking around, at every public place with their carts and magazines. And now, nothing. Mark my words, something big is coming." 

It’s not impossible that it really happened that way. The Jehovah’s Witness public ministry has been uninterrupted since its inception, so for it to be interrupted now—well, I can easily see how some might latch onto that as significant. On the other hand, our brothers are ever wont to dress up a story to add a pious twist to it. Perhaps what was said was: “Thank God those pain-in-the-neck Witnesses aren’t around anymore!” Time will tell.

At any rate, the JW organization puts forth no effort to make hay out of the pandemic. There is no effort to say: “Here it comes—it’s the Big One! We told you so!” No. Not a bit of it. (probably confounding the anti-cultists) Instead, its lead post is about how to cope with isolation and loneliness, with so many practical links as to win praise from mental health people—for it is mental health that is under assault today.

I don’t know about you, but it suggests for me some things about the ‘judgment message.‘ If you were going to launch an unprovoked ‘judgment message.’ wouldn’t now be a good time to do it, with a pandemic that nobody’s seen the like of for 100 years, that appears out of nowhere, that upends life worldwide, and that may crash the entire worldwide financial system—that greatest of all mountains that nonetheless has thus far proven as resilient as paper mache. Yet there is nothing but helpful pointers on coping with isolation, along with making use of the time to improve (or even begin) one’s spirituality.

The Regional Convention of 2016 made mention of a ‘judgment message.’ In one of the videos, we learned of how so-and-so gave out when he was too chicken to take part in that work. Maybe I hadn’t been paying attention, but for me it was the first specific reference in a long while—maybe ever. And—C’mon! face it—it’s hard to envision it per se. “Nyah Nyah—told ya so!”—no, I cannot picture it:

Good morning, sir. My companion and I have just stopped by to deliver a message of judgement. Brother Silhouette, would you read Revelation 23:5?”

“Yes....um, that’s Revelation 23:5: ‘Your goose is cooked.’”

“Thank you, Brother Silhouette. Now—would you like that goose well-done, medium, or rare?”

No, it just cannot be. There is reference in Revelation to hard-hitting judgements from God. And there is reference to the message that is good news to believers—that same message triggers hostility in non-believers because they take it as judgment. Paul speaks in 2 Corinthians 2:15 of those, himself included, who preach the good news: “For to God we are a sweet fragrance of Christ among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing; to the latter ones an odor of death leading to death, to the former ones a fragrance of life leading to life.” When malcontents went bonkers over the Governing Body’s first update of the pandemic, given in the person of Brother Lett—“How could they object to that?”—I had thought, it is not because they had read judgment into it?—even though that was not the intent of the message.

Maybe the ‘judgment message’ is something like that—reading judgment from the message that is good news for everyone else. But in view of the Regional video that seems to ramp it up a bit, combined with decidedly not going there in times of global plague, economic chaos, and governments hamstrung over how to cope—a scenario presents itself that what judgment message there is will be akin to the Witness organization’s telegram to Hitler: “Your ill- treatment of Jehovah’s witnesses shocks all good people of earth and dishonors God’s name. Refrain from further persecuting Jehovah’s witnesses; otherwise God will destroy you and your national party.”

 Maybe it will be something like that. It is a possibility that presupposes an attack upon those keeping faith, but then the Bible foretells just that scenario.

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On the Southern Tip of Canadice Lake

It was a bright day yesterday, and many were out—out because it was Saturday and out because it was uncharacteristically sunny. Man, what a cold and wet spring it has been! At the foot of Canadice Lake (I had never been there) we met and chatted up a couple of birdwatchers—‘I photograph and he carries my gear,’ Sue told us. 13WHAM has posted some of her photos. There were plenty of birds to photograph that day, flitting all around us as we talked.

Canadice Lake is the smallest of the Finger Lakes and it is a little off the beaten track, unlike the others. The two birdwatchers were both wearing masks, as was my wife, and I said how I half-felt like a a bad boy for not doing so, but it is the great outdoors, after all. Last week they had not worn masks they said, but the course had earned them some dirty looks. It seemed a little silly, Tim said, since people naturally socially distance where there is room to do so, as we were doing at that very moment.

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They allowed that, as a retired couple, their new routine wasn’t that much different than their old one—something I have heard from other retired people—but that they could feel for younger ones, especially those raising families. “How are you holding up anxiety-wise?” I had asked a young woman on the trail the day prior, after a bit of chit-chat, and she responded that she was feeling a fair measure of it. I mentioned to both the jw.org post on coping with isolation and loneliness, the way I try always to do because it is just the ticket today, and if not me, my wife does. Sue entered it into her phone.

Their military son and family had been grumbling about Bill Gates’ proposal to microchip people to indicate if they had COVID antibodies or no—they brought it up, not me—and the son declared that he would refuse to do so. ‘Slippery slope’ is the phrase he used. Sometimes people in think tanks lose touch with the everyday concerns of real people. However, Sue said she wouldn’t make an issue of it—she was getting on in years, her sun waning, not rising as with the young people—but what a world they were facing!

Their granddaughter, whom they suspected might be driven too hard in pursuit of good grades, was enjoying the respite. Sue said she initially missed school a little bit, but soon adjusted. “They homeschool?” I asked, but only later did my wife point out that it is not much of a probing question anymore, since everyone does. Still, they knew the expression ‘unschooling,’ which only homeschoolers can be counted upon to know—the term refers to letting the child’s own interest dictate just what they learn and in what order. Assuming there is parental guidance and that the media that would otherwise devour all their time is kept under restraint, there is a place for it. Curriculum need not be jettisoned entirely, but to keep it as structured as it is in school—well, why leave school if you are going to do that? A news article told of how parents were pulling out their hair, feeling like failures themselves and stressing out their children, trying to keep them on schedule with public schooling that has gone online—utilizing apps that were never meant to be all-encompassing, but only supplemental. I made a mental note to ask parents in the congregation about that—you don’t put extra stress on family members—these are extraordinary times.

‘Letchworth angel’ had been one of Sue’s pictures submitted online—I named it that, not she, for the purpose of googling it later. An angel can be seen in the photo of the falls, she told us. However, many were the nasty comments interspersed with the nice ones when she posted it, and so 13WHAM told everyone to behave—disagree without being disagreeable if you can.

Walking back to the cars, she asked just what was our faith. When we said Jehovah’s Witnesses, she stated how mean people are to them. But I said that it was not generally so—it depended on the circumstances of the moment—after all, we come without appointment, something virtually unheard of today—people are usually doing things. I usually thank gracious people on that account—they clearly aren’t obligated to give us any time at all, and yet some do.

As it turned out, both of us had an offspring that had departed from the faith, at some personal cost, though also with their own reasons, of course—and that circumstance drew us to each other, facilitated conversation, made each seem more human to the other. You don’t hide stuff like that—you bring it out in the open. People are people and go every which way.

Next day at the congregation Zoom meeting was read a letter from HQ. Some states were starting to open up from quarantine, largely for economic reasons, and it was for each family head to decide its own response. Each head knew his family’s own circumstances and what was advisable and safe for one family might not be for another. All Kingdom Halls would remain closed, however, as well as all forms of public preaching.

Searching ‘Letchworth angel’ did not turn up any pics as I thought it might, even after I appended ‘13WHAM.’ To be sure, I didn’t devote a lot of time to it. I did otherwise elicit a few photos of the falls at that State park—there are three of them and they are spectacular—but I could not discern angels in any of them. To each his own, however, and probably Sue’s picture evaded me.

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‘Using’ the Pandemic to ‘Recruit’ - Sheesh! What is it With These Nutcases?

It must really confound those who accuse the JW organization of being a cult that few people are behaving better these days, or more reasonably, with more of an eye toward the public good. That #CultExpert tweets about how Jehovah’s Witnesses manipulate people, and I reply that their followers put his to shame for vanquishing COVID. Jehovah’s Witnesses immediately transferred all gatherings to Zoom and issued strong counsel to observe government-recommended social distancing—which our people will observe because they strive to be obedient. But his followers? Some will observe social distancing, no doubt—probably even most, but is his mission statement ‘Freedom of Mind’ really compatible with obedience to secular authority? You don’t think some will use their ‘freedom of mind’ to tell the government to buzz off—‘We’ll party on the beach if we feel like it!?’—thus spreading COVID far and wide?

Doubtless they expected ‘scare-mongering’—‘using’ the present crisis to scare new ones into the fold—and in fact, there have been accusations of that. But you really really have to stretch the point if you go there. The lead post on jw.org is the most socially responsible contribution imaginable, replete with suggestions on how to cope with isolation and resulting loneliness. With people beside themselves with anxiety, unable to cope in many cases, you don’t think that is a valuable contribution, perhaps THE most valuable? After all, if your psyche breaks down, all the physical relief in the world does you no good.

It reminds me of the verse on muzzling the talk of the ignorant ones by doing good. To be sure, hostile ones are still criticizing—but in doing so,  they are also plainly revealing their ignorance, and in some cases, their hate.

In fact, I don’t quite go there with the CultExpert, for some of the groups he monitors really DO seem pretty strange—so I don’t go there, though I do think about it—I almost want to say: “LET them join a cult if it helps them get through this and save their sanity! What are you offering in lieu—that we should put our hope in the next crop of politicians? Haven’t we been down that road countless times before?”

Affirming some cult idiot’s charge that I am ‘using’ the pandemic to ‘recruit,’ (to anyone concerned about that, I reply that on the 200th contact I will ask if they want to convert and then they can say ‘no’—in the meantime, it’s just conversation—don’t worry about it) I have many times tweeted that lead post to persons, sometimes in response to a specific plea like with Mr. Fiend, and sometimes I just throw it out there—with good results in both cases. Sometimes the tweets are retweeted. Unless you are a snarling ‘ain’t-cultist,’ people do not misunderstand—they know that you are trying to help.

As always, you tailor your tweet to the person. To persons who appear secular, you say (this one was lamenting a suicide she had read about): “It is a terrible thing. Healthy people struggle when their routine is uprooted, let alone persons unwell to begin with. I sent this to someone who tweeted that he was frankly losing it. There is a spiritual component to it, but it is mostly on combatting isolation and loneliness”—and I attach the link.

To someone decidedly irreligious, you might say: “As a suggestion—nothing more—here is a series of posts on how to cope with isolation and loneliness. Upended routines are driving everyone up a tree. My turn is probably next. Like Bob Dylan: ‘The riot squad is restless, they need somewhere to go.’” I like to play the Dylan card—it doesn’t mean that you have to. You also don’t exempt yourself—hence the ‘my turn is probably next,’

My new pinned tweet is: “With #mentalhealth under assault and even balanced people buckling under the stress, I can’t imagine a better read than this one on coping with isolation and loneliness from #JehovahsWitnesses,” as I include a link to the post.

Note the hashtags. Ages ago my daughter said to me: “They’re hashtags, Dad, not crosstags.” Hashtags are fair game on social media, whereas tagging individuals directly is generally considered rude, unless you know full well that they will welcome it. Hashtags will draw in anyone else who monitors the subject—as an experiment, enter a hashtag anything on social media to see what comes up. You can even use it as your own filing system if you choose a hashtag unique enough.

It can, however backfire. If the hashtag is of any controversial topic, it can bring in people who want to argue, even insult. In the case of Jehovah’s Witnesses, there are disgruntled former members—‘apostates’—that can be attracted—in fact, they almost surely will be. “Oh, yeah,” you can mutter. “They’ll come alright. As surely as flies to dung, they will come!” But you should not say this because, while you are comparing apostates to flies, you are also comparing yourself to dung—so you should seek another metaphor.

My #mentalhealth hashtag drew in some mental health people, some of whom expressed great appreciation. But true to warning, my #jehovahswitnesses hashtag drew in some ‘apostates.’

“The rather large elephant in the paragraph [about the comfort JWs offer] is the Jehovah’s Witness shunning policy.”

But I replied (in three tweets):

“There is hardly an issue here. Those who would trigger a ‘shunning policy’ are those for whom, at the present time, the last thing in the world they would want is to abide by the principles of those who wrote the article. Even so, they are welcome to take from it what they will.”

“The thoughts expressed in the article are non-denominational, offered freely to all, even those on the outs at present with JWs. It’s meant as a public service. One need not take it. One can always put trust in the politicians, medical staff, and economists to fix matters.”

I looked at the detractor’s profile and discovered that she was one who was trying to torpedo the JW organization’s status as a charitable religious organization, something that they plainly are:

“In fact, it is an excellent post for consideration of the @CharityComms, though not written for that reason. Look, nobody is everything to everyone. But they will recognize that we are well past the time for nursing grudges—not with C19 threatening the mental health of the planet.”

It shut her up! I couldn’t believe it! It is unheard of! ‘Apostates’ never ever EVER give up—I’ve had to block some—and yet she gave up. There is no finer proof of 1 Peter 2:15 than that: “For it is the will of God that by doing good you may silence the ignorant talk of unreasonable men.”

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“Mr Fiend Wins Fine Language Contest!”

I can’t sleep. Ask me anything,” one person on Twitter said. It is a not unusual complaint these days—there is only so much upending of life that one can take. So I asked him what he thought of the post—the lead jw.org post—on coping with isolation and loneliness. I didn’t hear back.

Other times I have. “Seriously starting to lose my s**t here,” Mr. Fiend said. [**s mine] I sent him the same link. He thanked me, and said he would check it out. It was the second time I had contacted him specifically about the faith. The first was after he said that he didn’t know anymore just what was his place in life—a worrisome remark but by no means an uncommon one these days.

I sent him another link on what had helped me. But he was worried that I was trying to convert him: “Thank you Tom....My parents are both pretty Baptist-esque, though, so I don't feel JW is for me, although I mean absolutely no disrespect by that at all.”

The reply I should have made is: “On my 200th contact, I will ask you to convert, and then you can say ‘no.’ It won’t happen until then. Don’t worry about it,” and then fluff it out a bit to be less abrupt. But what I did say was: “None taken. I wish you the best. These are stressful times for all. Even in the best of times, upending routines is a source of stress.” Our best lines always occur to us too late. Still, the actual sent reply is not bad—it may even be better.

Am I trying to witness to him, or anyone, on Twitter? Not really. That’s not why I started my account. I started it as a platform on which to hawk my books and become rich. That way that ubiquitous drawing in Watchtower publications of a brother thumbing his chest with one hand and gesturing at his possessions with another—fancy home, flashy car, boat even larger than the home, and piles of money, that is not supposed to be an example for anyone—can be one of me. Since my two most recent books—Dear Mr. Putin - Jehovah’s Witnesses Write Russia and TrueTom vs the Apostates! are labors of love and are free, there is a wrinkle in my business plan, but I may in time iron it out.

Naw, I just moved into the Twitter community as I would move into a home—in order to find a place to live—and only afterwards do I interact with the neighbors, occasionally finding an opening to witness, though that is not my primary aim. To someone who asked about my blog I said that it is not really a Witness blog. Rather, it is a writer’s blog. Writing is what I like to do. Since I am a Witness, that will form a large portion of my subject matter, but I don’t blog just for that reason. I wish more brothers did this. Instead, the few blogs I see. by brothers are quite plainly for the purpose of witnessing, with almost nothing thrown in to present a rounded person. I like to tell stories, is all. Most stories will be with some backdrop of the faith, because that’s where I am, but it is the storytelling that motivates me.

Mr. Fiend I began to follow for his crazy combination of attributes—really, you can almost not imagine them all in a single person. He is a lawyer—a support one, not a high-flying litigator—and he describes the work as a bit of a grind. He is a pianist who tutors students of all ages and who play Chopin—he has even been giving nightly concerts during COVID days. And he swears like a mobster—it is just so uncalled for and over the top that I am drawn in—it doesn’t mean that you have to be. I even called him on it once—‘it’s a shame he speaks so crudely because it spoils an otherwise appealing personality.’ Most people on Twitter will tell you to f**k off if you do this, but he said something to the effect of, ‘Yeah, I know—it’s just that the injustices and hypocrisies get me going.’ That’s an honest answer, I thought, and I stayed with him.

I throw quips about his salty language right back at him, pretending, for example, for him to have submitted one of his outrageous notes to a client by error, having mixed it up with his official reply. It is a fine exercise in creativity, building off what he has tweeted. For example:

He (recently): “Every morning, you know that *something* in the news is going to come right out of left field.  You just don't know what it's going to be until it happens.  It's completely and utterly unpredictable.”

My reply: “TOP STORY: MR FIEND WINS TOP PRIZE FOR FINE LANGUAGE CONTEST!”

His name isn’t actually Fiend. It is a part of his moniker and I latched onto it. Perhaps his real name is found in the rest of his moniker or perhaps not. One idiot ‘apostate’ thought he could use his real name, highlight some unflattering JW story that I supposedly stood by, and cause Mr. Fiend to upbraid me! What yo-yos these people are! Mr Fiend didn’t take the bait. He tweeted that such and such is a problem everywhere, not the exclusive property of any one domain, as this fellow would have had him believe.

You know, I was going elsewhere with this post, but I got sidetracked. Ah, well. I’ll get back on track tomorrow, or at least some time.

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The Riot Squad is Restless, They Need Somewhere to Go—Witnessing When You Can’t

At a Zoom meeting for field service I admitted that I probably wasn’t going in service at all and, that being the case, I felt a little silly attending, but I did so anyway because that is what Jehovah’s Witnesses do. Every so often certain squirrelly things come up that everyone knows about, but they hesitate to state the obvious. With a squirrelly reputation is already firmly in place, I thought I’d have a go at it. It’s a little tricky to say because it you don’t want to down anyone’s ministry. Fortunately for me, I struck a chord. Others were where I was.

Now, letter-writing is fine—phone calls, too, I guess. Long ago I started a Bible study through a telephone call to someone in that apartment complex we couldn’t get into. I’m okay with both of them. But neither was ever intended to be the main ministry. Both were good for shut-ins—not for the prime ministry of able-bodied ones who might dabble in them but not jump in whole hog.

A pioneer sister said elsewhere—as soon as I heard her say it, I said ‘This is my kind of sister!’ that maybe it makes her a bad pioneer, but she’s not about to go into letters and phone calls 70 hours. I liked her almost as much as I did the candid sister trying to get people to go out with her in service after the Sunday meeting said to me: ‘It’s like pulling teeth!’ and I had to laugh, not only because it is, but also because only one person in 200 would have said it—my wife and I usually go out on Sunday but were not able to that particular day.

Sunday after the meeting is not a well-supported time in our area—too bad, really, because the organization used to try to pump up the day for the longest time by recalling how Supreme Court cases were fought to assure us that right, but times have changed. The congregation, by and large, chooses other days for the ministry. It is what it is, and the organization gave up—or at least it is not stressed as before, though when the CO was here he made a big deal of it and over 50 were out then, but the next week it was two—some Sundays it is nobody. Now that we are on COVID Zoom time, there is yet a local call for Sunday service but there is hardly any point to it anymore. The day used to be unique because you could find people home—now you can find them home any old time—and it doesn’t matter because we don’t go to their homes anyhow.

Her husband told her not to worry about it—that sister who wasn’t doing 70 hours of letters. That’s what the organization has said, too. Still, you never know when some local firebrand of a brother is going to lean on everyone else to ‘get with the new program.’ I see the calamity coming along and try to conceal myself. I’m not doing phone calls—oh, I may do a few here and there, even a few letters—but these days it is the friends to focus on. People don’t answer their phone anyways unless they recognize the number. At least I don’t—if you do, scammers will eat you alive. As for letters—look, they’re okay, but would I pay 55 cents per door to visit each householder in person? I would not. I want door-to-door and cart witnessing, and I can’t do them! Even were the green light given to resume the tried and true methods, householders would take offense, as though you had just stopped by to infect them so as to bump them off.

Bob Dylan sung: “The riot squad is restless, they need somewhere to go.” He could just as well have been singing it about Jehovah’s Witnesses. We need somewhere to go! Letter-writing and phone calls should become my bread and butter? Look, if someone wants to do that—and some do—I have no problem with it—go for it, especially for shut-ins who already were. I just don’t want it to become one of those things where if you don’t do it you’re deemed not very spiritual. I don’t think that will happen, but you never know. It’s hard to give it the personal touch. You can witness by text as well, and there are some possibilities there, but it still falls far short of the personal touch that I have grown to love.

My form of witnessing has come into its own, yet I can only say it gingerly, lest some jump in to warn me about the ‘dangers of the internet.’ Man, I wish we weren’t so timid about it. Say that you enjoy witnessing on social media and it is sort of like saying that you enjoy farting at the Hall. Nobody has ever said that you can’t do it. But ‘social media’ is never ever included in those articles about the many paths open to witnessing. Couple that with frequent caution about the internet being where the liars hang out—well, I just zip my mouth.

It can be done but you can’t be clumsy. You can’t do it directly. There is nothing that corresponds to ringing someone’s doorbell. There is nothing that corresponds to cart work. Sometimes brothers think that they can throw witnessing tweets just out there in the mix for passerby to pick up on, but if they follow counsel to friend only those they personally know, or at least those who seem just like those they know, they end up preaching to the choir. Then one of those who ‘seems like those they know’ turns out to be not what he seems and presents raring for a fight.

The analogy that best fits is where you move into a community—you buy or rent a residence. When you do such a move, you do not do so in order to witness to the neighbors—you do it because you need a place to live. Once you have settled in, however, you interact to a reasonable degree with the general community and in doing so, opportunities for informal witnessing arise.

All is not lost for traditional people-to-people witnessing. Walking the dog the way I do, I ran across a retired couple heading in the opposite direction.  Engaged in a little chit-chat, and presently asked how were they holding up anxiety-wise, crazy world and all. As it turned out, they were holding up just fine, but they still heard me out when I said “Everyone has a cause and so do I. Lately I’ve been calling attention to a website with a lead post on how to cope with isolation—a big concern for many.” The man allowed that mental health was a huge deal, and I added how with some it was not too good to begin with, and now this. ‘Jw.org,’ I said, if you should ever want to check it out—just two letters, easy to remember.

I didn’t even hand him a card, which might have had cooties on it.

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This Has to Be One of the Stupidest Charts I Have Ever Seen — On Evil and Suffering

This has to be one of the stupidest charts that I have ever seen. Since it transfers freely from its source to all social media outlets, I am assuming I can put it here on my Typepad blog with credit given.

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Note how it assumes that God is like a Santa Claus who must shower presents regardless of naughty or nice. Note how the bottom-left two boxes present a point akin to: “Can God make a mountain he cannot move?”—namely, “Can God make a world in which there is free will and yet ensure that no one will use their free will to the detriment of others?” Note how those who present this chart would have you believe that they know how to think—presenting this ‘gotcha’ as though proof they have knocked the ball out of the park. 

Throw back at these idiots the dilemma of how the lead runner in any race can never be overtaken, since to do so the pursuing runner would have to close half the distance first, and then half that remaining distance, and then half that remaining distance, and then half that remaining distance, and then half that remaining distance. Since you can draw that challenge out forever, it is clear that the second runner cannot overtake the first. Then lead these yo-yos to a foot race where exactly that thing happens—where the second runner does overtake the first. Let him declare that it is impossible, since his critical thinking proves it cannot happen.

Sometimes the bigger people are, the dumber they are. What you notice right off about those who insist that ‘critical thinking’ will save day is that they generally assume they themselves have a lock on the stuff. That alone makes their urging suspect. Let them argue with each other their points of critical thinking. Let them argue themselves right off the deck of the Titanic before it reaches Port NewSystem.

 

There are a few other ridiculous fallacies in the chart, each of them a result of the artist’s assumption of what God must be like and his rigid inability to conceive of Him being any other way. How many of them can you find?

Completely absent from the chart is any conception that evil might be temporarily permitted to achieve a certain higher and lasting aim. Thus it is a chart presented from the standpoint of a child—who knows what he wants and does not care to know anything else.

Let your finger go down the flow chart until it reaches the box: “Then why is there evil?” Note the three ridiculous choices supplied—ridiculous not in themselves but ridiculous in the artist’s assumption that he has covered all bases. They are:

1) If god is all knowing, he would know what we would do when tested, so there is no need to test us.

Note how this takes all the dignity out of being human. Some people cherish the opportunity to prove their loyalty to a cause greater than they. They will not be satisfied with a test tube result that predicts their loyalty, and so in that event, let the good times roll!—since that is the only times that they can imagine of any use.

2) An all-powerful, all-knowing, all-loving God could and would destroy Satan.

Note the assumption that if he “could” and “would” do it, he can and must do it NOW. Again, it is the reasoning of a child who expects presents under the tree ON Christmas Day, and not one minute later.

3) Could God have created a universe without these?

This choice leads to the dilemma already mentioned, akin to: ‘Can God make a mountain that he cannot move?’ Maybe these guys can feast on this as ‘wisdom,’ but it doesn’t quite cut it for me. Does this not all validate such verses as 1 Corinthians 1:19-20?

For it is written: “I will make the wisdom of the wise men perish, and the intelligence of the intellectuals I will reject.” Where is the wise man? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this system of things? Has not God made the wisdom of the world foolish? For since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not get to know God through its wisdom, God was pleased through the foolishness of what is preached to save those believing.... Because a foolish thing of God is wiser than men, and a weak thing of God is stronger than men.”

Where to go to find an explanation for why God would permit evil?

Here is one I wrote for Bible-believersIt is notable for being a true story—it actually happened—and it was a hoot while it was happening, let me tell you—even though it gave me a splitting headache.

Here is one I wrote for agnostics and atheistsThis one was written because Moristotle gagged on the first. In it I seek to present the Bible’s creation account as a metaphor, its meaning to be discerned without regard to whether it really happened or not.

Here is one off JW.org, presented as a series of online lessons:

Note that all of them involve Adam and Eve. Note that this will make it a non-starter for many people today. Note that you should not let it be so with you. Treat it as though it were the cover of a jigsaw puzzle that you assemble for the pure satisfaction of assembling it. Only afterwards do you consider whether the scene actually exists or not.

 

 

 

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Zoom and Jehovah’s Witnesses

In a service group Zoom meeting on the ministry, one sister said how we ought not “put people in boxes.” I agreed with this remark as I gazed upon ten boxes of people on my computer screen. The gray boxes suddenly appear with name only. It is like a drum roll announcing the appearance of yet another friend. Then the video comes online, as though the cymbal crash. I can get used to this. There are some aspects of it I even prefer—such as wearing my slippers.

With very little fuss at all Jehovah’s Witnesses adopted the Zoom conferencing software and now conduct all meetings this way. Doesn’t it provide case-in-point to those talks about how Jehovah considers people individually important? There were other church groups that also adopted Zoom—Witnesses were not alone—but because their normal program structure doesn’t incorporate congregation participation, there were remarks that the result just seemed too irrelevant and inadequate for the times. Some of those churches indeed had additional social groups, chat rooms, but that was just it—they were for chat, with no spiritual component built into it.

Then there were also some churches that blew past social distance strictures as a scheme to subvert religion and held their services as usual, enraging everyone else for being so ‘irresponsible,’ even defiant of public policy.

How much ‘credit’ will Jehovah’s organization get their for quick cooperation with the new social distancing policies at no spiritual detriment to believers? When the CultExpert tweets that cult members are putty in the hands of their leaders ordering them to ignore science and convene as usual, I append that there is at least one “cult” that does not. When he says that cults fall into line with the prompts of his new nemesis, the Supreme Cult Leader Trump, I tell him that there is at least one “cult” that is universally known to be apolitical—and not involved in such controversies at all. I mean,  in some many ways, Jehovah’s Witnesses are the polar opposite of his cult model, and as so I can’t help but think, even though I know better, that he will one day halt his ridiculous efforts to categorize them as such. I think I told him somewhere along the line that if all persons were ‘cult’ members like Jehovah’s Witnesses, COVID-19 would have moved on by now—it’s not OUR people that were partying on the beach, but it likely included some of his, whose distinguishing feature is ‘independence’ and ‘forming their own mind.’ That’s a recipe for cooperating with government recommendations? I don’t think so.

The Zoom company wondered why so many of those using their app identified as Jehovah’s Witnesses—this was related to us by a brother in our service meeting group. Zoom had served as a tool for his huge family reunion just after the Memorial, bringing together ones who had not crossed paths in some time, and some of them had Warwick connections. Warwick brothers got to witness to the Zoom team, they related. Six Zoomer leaders attended a meeting, and three of those stayed on till the end.

Now, our brothers will unfailingly put a spiritual face on doings that may be completely non-spiritual. But surely the core of the story will be true. They will spin it that these Zoomers are on the cusp of Bible study themselves, when doubtless their first motive will be to see how their product is being used and provide customer support. That does not mean a spiritual component is non-existent. Time will tell. Meanwhile, unless I am very much mistaken (how likely is THAT?) Jehovah’s Witnesses worldwide are giving their product its most rigorous workout ever, ensuring that each member is connected to the coordinating organization—and this cannot help but put the cause to the front of their consciousness. Just like Putin never saw anything like every Witness in the world writing him on behalf of their brothers, so Zoom never saw anything like the efforts to keep every Witness in the world unified in Bible teachings.

Zoom was not ready for the explosion of interest in their product—nobody would be. It is as though you open a restaurant and everyone in the country shows up to order a hamburger. Some security issues came to the fore and the Zoom people scrambled to patch them, like the kid sticking his fingers in the dike. Two weeks ago our elders mentioned having received an 8-page letter from our own HQ on how to effectively yet safely use the product. All elders in the world got up to speed on Zoom—and there will be among them a huge number, no doubt, with very shaky grasp of technology to begin with.

Now you know—you just know—how the brothers would have been in interacting with Zoom personnel. They would have been respectful, patient, and even helpful, as the creators of what one Italian IT firm called the “world’s best website” (mentioned in one of the Yearbooks—I think, 2017). Contrast that with the typical customer, who might well not be that way at all—screaming when something goes wrong, some of them. Faith and its resulting qualities are not the possession of all people.

It seems a perfect time to kick back at some of those naysayers—you know who you are (oh....they will mostly be on the open forum, not here. Ah, well...tough) —who have said, “Who needs organization?” People are going stir-crazy in the greater world, but it is not so with Jehovah’s people. Just ‘Jesus and me?’—that’s enough? I think not. It is the bottom line, of course. You need a relationship with the father and with the son. But as a gimme, God throws in a network of united worshippers—a brotherhood. Anyone would be crazy to pass that by. We are social beings. We’re built that way. The brotherhood has come to the fore with its quick adaptation of technology.

At the same time, the non-stop Bible counsel fed us on how to get along with family and spouse in forbearance and love—you want to try to tell me that hasn’t come in handy? There are many people for whom the worst possible stressor is to sentence them to open-ended ‘prison terms’ with their family—cooped up in the same house! but it is not so for Jehovah’s people. Again, the godly organization has kept that counsel before us incessantly and never has the payoff been more apparent than now.

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Dave McClure - Part 2

As for Dave McClure, my old Circuit Overseer, if he ever had thoughts about the 1988 brouhaha, he never shared them with me. But then, he would have moved on by then to another assignment—he served our circuit just around 1980. He passed away in Florida several years ago.

The guy was a hoot, ever quick-witted with a sharp sense of humor. His wife was the same and they would tease back and forth at each other all day. The small town that Dave came from was so small, Betty would say, that its greatest tragedy was the day the library burned to the ground. Both books were destroyed and one of them hadn’t even been colored yet.

He got tired in the afternoon—he was diabetic—and ceded the driving of his huge Chrysler to me. He sat in as I conducted an afternoon Bible study with Alex, nodded off, and his book hit the floor—the thud immediately woke him again. I later brought him to another’s home and that person asked him the procedure for Bible studies with a circuit overseer around—would he conduct them or would the regular congregation member conduct them? ‘Well,’ he explained, ‘I usually ask beforehand and if the publisher wants me to conduct, then I do, but if he says that he would rather conduct, then I just nod....”

He asked me as the chauffeur one afternoon to stop by the Photomat and pick up his pictures—vacation pictures—they were probably developed by now. I pulled ahead just a little so that he in the back seat could go one on one with the attendant. The girl couldn’t find them. She explained that they must have gotten lost, that she was so sorry, and offered him a free roll of film.

”I’m not going to be satisfied with a free roll of film,” he shot back, in a manner that you couldn’t really tell—or at least, I couldn’t—just how nettled he really was. “Unless you want to take me on another vacation—then I’ll be satisfied—but otherwise”—he employed a hillbilly expression that I had never heard before, “there’s going to be blood in the sun lessen you don’t find my pictures.” He had that attendant tear apart her entire booth searching every nook and cranny for them.

Driving away without his film—the developed ones were not found and I think he spurned the free roll—he seemed a little sheepish to have shown himself so nettled. It wasn’t plain to me that he had been, but that girl had turned her booth upside down. “I understand that mistakes will happen,” he groused. “It’s just that cavalier attitude that I should be happy with a free roll of film that gets under my skin.” There is an art to human relations.

And as for his quick wit itself, it is yet another example of how people develop it as a defense mechanism, a compensation for times in which they were bullied as a child.

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Dave McClure—the CO Beaten up as a Child, and the Reversal of Freedomofmind

When the U.S. Supreme Court ruled (1940) that children MUST salute WHEN told to do so, with NO excuses, the phrase “freedom of the human mind” defended the minority, Jehovah’s Witnesses. The words were employed in the Court’s minority opinion. Today, the phrase “freedom of mind” is used to attack them! along with other ‘cults.’ It is an amazing reversal—from defending the rights of the minority from majority assault, to defending the rights of the majority from minority assault!

How does the minority pull off such a threatening stunt? Through ‘mind control’ and “brainwashing!’ It is an incredible charge and an 180 reversal of history! Freedomofmind.com is the url of the “cultexpert,” the founder of the BITE model, the means through which the nefarious minority manipulates members of the majority—through Behavioral control, Informational control, Thought control, and Emotional control. It is always someone else’s fault with these ‘anti-cultists’—its founder has progressed to calling half the country a victim of political mind-control! He’s not drunk too much of the Kool-Aid himself?

THAT is the takeaway point to be gleaned from the following article. It is not the point I had in mind when I initially wrote it. But it is the point that best endures:

....

Dave McClure

I worked with Dave McClure the circuit overseer—I used to stick to those guys like glue—one fine morning in the 1980’s. “We’re just calling on our neighbors in order to....” he began. The householder glanced at the Michigan plates on his car—it didn’t exactly suggest to a New Yorker that the man was a neighbor. “Neighbor?” he said. But Dave was never ever at a loss for words. “Well, I’ve got to fly the flag!’ was his chipper comeback.

It was a perfect comeback. Michigan plates that year featured the most colorful backdrop of numerals against a flag that I have ever seen. Brother McClure was newly assigned to our circuit and hadn’t yet switched over his plates—you’re allowed a certain time interval to do so, I believe. I mean, it can’t be a requirement from the moment you cross the state line.

But it was a perfect comeback for another reason. When he was a boy, Dave McClure routinely got beat up by classmates for not flying the flag, or at least not saluting it. He told his experiences at a special assembly in Niagara Falls, New York. As only Brother McClure could do, he made getting beat up almost sound like fun—I mean, this is the fellow who, when in the presence of friends and confronted with something unexpected, would repeatedly and furiously move his hand from breastbone to abdomen and back again. He was just “staking himself,” taking no chances, as he would explain, 

In 1940, the Minerville School District v Gobitis U.S. Supreme Court ruling held that Witness children could be compelled to salute the flag. Walter Gobitus was a Jehovah’s Witness whose child did not. Witnesses view declining the flag salute in any nation as a matter of avoiding idolatry. They connect the salute with God’s words to Moses that “you must not make for yourself...a form like anything that is in the heavens above or on the earth below or in the waters under the earth. You must not bow down to them...for I, Jehovah your God, am a God who requires exclusive devotion...”

Walter, then 10, had told the local school authorities: ''I do not salute the flag not because I do not love my country. I love my country, but I love God more, and must obey his commandments.'' Didn’t cut it with the Supreme Court.

The Court decision signaled open hunting season on Jehovah’s Witnesses. Mobs surrounded them in their public preaching work. Many were accosted. Some were tarred and feathered, some were forced to drink castor oil. At least one was lynched. They were rounded up in their ministry and crammed into local jails, sometimes without charge—they were contemptible enough in the eyes of respectable society so as to be denied the rights afforded everyone else. One brother tells of how he would always carry a toothbrush with him in the ministry so as not to be unprepared should he spend the night in the hoosegow.

Note the majority Supreme Court opinion of Justice Felix Frankfurter: “National unity is the basis of national security. To deny the legislature the right to select appropriate means for its attainment presents a totally different order of problem from that of the propriety of subordinating the possible ugliness of littered streets to the free expression opinion through handbills.” Note his contempt for the “possible ugliness of littered streets” from handbills, such as Witnesses were known for.

Justice Harlan Stone was the lone dissenter. He wrote that “the guarantees of civil liberty are but guarantees of freedom of the human mind and spirit and of reasonable freedom and opportunity to express them .” Note how “guarantees of freedom of the human mind and spirit” were presumed defenses for those who would think outside of the mainstream; note today how ‘anti-cultists’ have turned that logic on its head so that a ‘cult’ taking ones outside of the mainstream constitutes a violation of “the freedom of the human mind and spirit.”

Shortly thereafter, probably aghast at the violence they had unleashed, the Court had a change of heart. Three members signaled their changed views. Two others retired and were replaced by those thought more attuned to individual liberties. The matter came up for review again, wending its way though lesser courts until it ascended to the top Court. The plaintiffs in the case were named Barnett, Stull, and Lucy McClure. Dave was the young son of Lucy.

The decision reversed. The new majority opinion (released on June 3rd, Flag Day, 1943):

''If there is any fixed star in our constitutional constellation, it is that no official, high or petty, can prescribe what shall be orthodox in politics, nationalism, religion, or other matters of opinion or force citizens to confess by word or act their faith therein,'' Justice Robert H. Jackson wrote.

The new minority opinion , written by the former winner, now the loser, Felix Frankfurter, included the grumbling:

“As has been true in the past, the Court will from time to time reverse its position. But I believe that never before these Jehovah’s Witnesses cases (there were many more besides those concerning flag salute) …..has this Court overruled decisions so as to restrict the powers of democratic government.”

Yes, that’s how it is with governments, democratic or not. They want more power. They don’t want to give it up. A certain amount is necessary, of course, so as to maintain public order and safety. Witnesses cede it to them willingly and render obedience. But when they grab for yet more - the consciences and souls of their citizens, someone has to call them on it. And that someone has often been Jehovah’s Witnesses.

The topic came up 45 years later. The first George Bush thought it a fine idea for teachers to lead their classes in mandatory flag salute. His electioneering opponent, Michael Dukakis, did not. The New York Times reviewed the JW items of decades past and even tracked down some of the original participants. “Mr. Gobitis,” it wrote, “now a 62-year-old piano tuner in Belgium, Wis., has followed the 1988 salute debate closely, and a bit disgustedly. ‘It's hard to comprehend why they're raising this issue again,’ he said. ‘They're ignoring our constitutional development and history.’ It reminded him, he said, of a passage in Chapter 16 of the Book of Revelations. ‘To Jehovah's Witnesses,’ he said, ‘all this political fanfare boils down to is 'the croaking of frogs and expressions inspired by demons.’”

And you know, I just can’t get over the reversed use of that phrase, “guarantees of freedom of the human mind and spirit and of reasonable freedom.” Then it was used to protect the minority from the majority. Today anti-cultists use it to protect the majority from the minority, lest ones of that minority ‘deceive’ them by ‘manipulation’ and ‘mind control.’

As for Dave McClure, my old Circuit Overseer, if he ever had thoughts about the 1988 brouhaha, he never shared them with me. But then, he would have moved on by then to another assignment—he served our circuit just around 1980. He passed away in Florida several years ago.

 

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Electric Aunt

Electric Aunt was a game played on the Game of Life board. A friend and I invented it back in adolescence days. Inspired by the square ‘Eccentric Aunt dies and leaves you 50 cats. Pay $10,000 to get rid of them.’ The electric aunt was an old TV tube—all TVs had many tubes, before the days of transistors, let alone semiconductors. The aunt took its own turn, after that of the regular players. It could move independently and zap anyone in a radius equal to its height. Today, due to sensitivity toward cats and maybe even aunts, that square was long ago renamed and you must pay $10,000 for some other reason.

‘Care to play a game of Electric Aunt?’ I asked my brother, after the cheating snot whomped me once again at Scrabble?

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