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On Reading, Higher Education, and the News.

There is a firm movement under the guise of ‘anti-cultism’ to make religion a decided subset of the state—with all its policies to be reviewable by the state. How strongly Rulf plays into this I cannot say, but I’ll bet it leans that way. You have probably hit the nail on the head.

“Could it be a matter of politics?” someone asked.

Yes. I think so. Someone asked Rush Limbaugh his reaction to the Boy Scout bankruptcy. In answer, he spoke to a radical leftist move to destroy anything standing for traditional family, using their own occasional failures to bring them down. I hadn’t thought of that before, I but think there is a common theme—that JWs are part of, but by no means the whole target of a movement that would remold anything of traditional family or God.

And, no—I don’t listen to Rush 24/7. Unless I am driving somewhere with the radio on, I don’t listen at all. But I did, 30 years ago, record the show and listen each night. I also, before that, listened to Larry King each night—and he is of the opposite politics. In his heyday he had the most interesting show of all. Each night he interviewed an author, each one of a different field of interest. One hour of his own Q & A, followed by 2 hours of call-in questions from the audience. He was so good. He would not let callers ramble on with long-winded speech-making questions—he forced the windbags to be succinct. He kept focus on the guest and made his own comments few. Unfortunately, his show got bought out by some network and they changed the format completely, putting him on only interviews with puff celebrities, and his newsworthy relevance fell off a cliff. 

Before that I would zip through Books on Tape from the library during my mundane work, and only stopped when the library ran out of books other than the bestsellers of the day. “Stupid janitor forgot to leave an extra roll of toilet paper—I’m screwed,” someone tweeted. I tweeted back, “I read 50 of the BBC’s top 100 books of all time via Books on Tape, far more than anyone else on the thread, while working as a janitor. Sorry about the toilet paper.”

Larry King famously did not read the books beforehand of the authors he would interview. He said he did it that way so that he could approach each book with a layman’s curiosity and not his own pre-formed opinion. He was probably just being lazy, but that does not mean that what he said was not true—he could more easily approach topics with honest curiosity and without bias. I find myself doing something similar with books such as Rulf’s, which I may someday read but I am in no hurry. It is in my area of expertise—why should I drop everything to wolf it down? It is someone’s takeaway from their own experiences. I have my own experiences and my own reactions to things he responds to. Why should I assume his are better? Did he go to a fancy-pants school? So did I. I don’t make a big deal over it because it has never done me any good (my fault, not theirs) but if he starts slobbering over ‘higher education’—well, I know that world well. 

None of us are Jesus, of course, but I like the response to his Sermon on the Mount of how people were astounded. “When Jesus finished these sayings, the effect was that the crowds were astounded at his way of teaching. for he was teaching as one having authority and not as their scribes”—the scribes that had nothing original to say but would just expound upon the opinions of each other. Jesus ignored it all to contribute his own (actually God’s) take on things. 

Everybody has a few books in them and if they do not have the wherewithal to write them, that does not make their stories any the less valid or interesting. I may get around to Rulf, but he’ll have to wait his turn. My story is as good. As it is, there is a certain idiot here (he will not have read down this far because he cries foul at any sentence longer than a dozen words) who crows about all that Rulf has “proven” the moment he is aware of the book, without even reading it. I’ll know that I have arrived when I release a book and Billy gushes on about how I have knocked the ball out of the park without having read it.

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Minneapolis Burns—How to Stop the Violence

I proposed (facetiously) in ‘No Fake News but Plenty of Hogwash’ that there be ‘A Shooting Channel.’ Put all shootings on ‘The Shooting Channel’—white on black, white on white, black on white, black on black. Ban shootings on all other channels. Let viewers decide for themselves which ones are horrible and which ones are yawners. Otherwise, the media comes along later and starts a race war.

Beyond question, the current happening is horrible. Still, when it is shown 20 times a day—how can that not be seen as deliberately stoking rage that will result in cascading calamity to totally innocent persons. The tiny Minneapolis businesses burned out in the days following were predominantly minority-owned. I think it is not such a foolish statement to say that those who would stoke this rage are “the enemy of the American people,” extreme that the statement may at first glance appear. The wide-spread rage in Charlotte a few years ago was inflamed by reports of a white police officer shooting a black suspect, Lamont Scott. When it turned out that the cop was, not white, but black, this correction was barely noted—even though its absence ensured widespread violence.

It is an article of faith among the reformers of this system of things that “sunlight is the best disinfectant,” and that “When you shine the spotlight of journalism on this or that evil, the cockroaches disappear.” They may disappear, but that does not mean that they die. They just go elsewhere, and one is faced with the scriptural truth of Ecclesiastes 1:15: “That which is crooked cannot be made straight.“ ‘God’s kingdom come‘ such as Jehovah’s Witnesses proclaim is up to the task, but as for human efforts? The track record is not promising. More often than not, they take a horrible event and make it worse.

Along comes the #CultExpert to lambaste expressed determination to stop the spreading violence as “inciting violence” itself. Is it?

Violence is not a solution!” he said. “Powerful forces from outside the U.S. and from within are deliberately stoking conflict and division. @realDonaldTrump needs to be flagged by Twitter when he advocates violence. FB should change policies ASAP to protect our democracy.

What the POTUS had said that Twitter flagged was: “These THUGS are dishonoring the memory of George Floyd, and I won’t let that happen. Just spoke to Governor Tim Walz and told him that the Military is with him all the way. Any difficulty and we will assume control but, when the looting starts, the shooting starts.” 

Said I to the Cult Expert: “I grant that he could choose his words more carefully—he is very much of a barroom brawler—but when cities are burning and when the small businesses of mostly minority persons are being destroyed, is it realLy “advocating violence” when he says as POTUS he means to restore order? I don’t understand this at all.”

Throughout history, there is scarcely an example of putting down riots with “love,” and the (black) mayor of Atlanta implored people to “go home”—they were “dishonoring the memory of George Floyd. Maybe Jesus could quell one with loving persuasion, but the CultExpert all but gags at his mention. He is a left-wing loon, methinks, and it damages his credibility. This personally works out well for me, because he calls Jehovah’s Witnesses a cult—along with a few score, if not hundreds, of other groups. He shoots his credibility with regard to them all, I think, and in some ways it is a shame, because some of them really do seem “out there.” But it is for them to defend themselves—it is not for me to investigate and do it for them. I might come to the conclusion that it is a lost cause. I only know about us.

But when you expand your definition of “cult” to include half of the country, as he does, it is a pretty good indication that you have drunk too much of the Kool-Aid yourself.

However, back to his tweet. Included in it was: “Powerful forces from outside the U.S. and from within are deliberately stoking conflict and division.” He seems to have got that right. Tweeted Sheryl Atkinson on May 30th: Minnesota officials: "Every person arrested last night was from out of state." Locals: "We don't know these folks." Exactly. But the two disagree on who those “powerful forces” are who are “deliberately stoking conflict.” Steve thinks it included those who want to put out the fires.

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photo from: BusinessInsider.com

Shortly after my post, I was called out on it by one of my own people: “He’s advocating shooting the looters brother. That’s murder.”

When this happens from someone you have regard for—and since she is a spiritual sister, I do—you do not go for the jugular such as is the pattern on social media. You strive to see the other point of view:

“Would the one murdered agree that those looting and burning are his ‘brothers’ honoring his name? I’m not so sure. But these are incendiary times. Other views exist. I said what I said but I would not pursue it online any further. Man doesn’t have the answers and anything done is shooting himself in the foot one way or the other. If people see if differently, I have no problem with that. They may be right. Thanks for your message.”

She: “I hesitated to reply. Didn’t want to publicly. If the police or civilians shoot looters for looting...we’ll that’s murder. The President advocated this on Twitter. There are people who would take this tweet as permission to shoot on sight. Dangerous to say the least. Anyway....I don’t get involved with politics, but pay attention to what is going on. Don’t agree with Hassan often, but he’s right about twitter flagging Trump. IMO.“

Okay. I did say that he might have chosen his words more carefully. Still, it did not occur to me that the tweet might be taken as an invitation to vigilante justice. Maybe it should have. Maybe if I had my sister’s formative background—whatever that might be—it would have.

Jehovah’s Witnesses do this all the time with each other—take a preliminary position and them immediately walk it back when it finds opposition. The reason they can do this so readily is that they realize that this life is not the “real life” of 1 Timothy 6:19. Don’t take it into the Kingdom Hall. Ideally, don’t form views in the first place—“must.stay.neutral” tweeted another brother, implying it would not be a piece of cake for him—but if you are a flesh-and-blood person who takes in information, that is much easier said than done. For that reason, there are many brothers who do not take in information, and I do not criticize them for that. It is far easier to stay neutral that way, though it does compromise your ability to relate in the ministry. It is another reason that I do not append a link to the JW website on any of my social media profiles, something many brothers seem to feel almost obligatory to do. Everyone has his own way of looking at things and even his own quirks—if you link to the website it suggests you got it from them.

Meanwhile, from another quarter entirely, Mr. Admin noted that “the 17-year-old who took the video of George Floyd being suffocated and killed by police on Monday...[who] took the video as proof of police brutality and the pain felt by thousands of people around the country...has been receiving numerous questions about why she didn't fight off police for the duration of the 10 minute video depicting police kneeing Floyd in the neck. In her response, she says that she was scared as a 17-year-old to attempt to fight off any cops or help Floyd.”

Me: “That strikes me as not a bad answer from a 17 year old. Everyone has a smart phone these days and it is in the culture that if you see something you record it. It is the fellow cops who saw fit to not interfere that you have to wonder about.“

 

 

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Speaking in the Congregation

Q: It may come as a shock to you all..... but how will we keep unity in the faith (one message) if anyone can stand on the stage and add scriptures and give their own interpretations? 

I do agree with this. For several years running I was called upon to give talks in the District Convention. Most of them were family-oriented talks that you looked for a brother with a family to give, even if he wasn’t pioneering, which I wasn’t. They ceased after I turned one down, facing a perfect storm of calamities at the time. During that time, I might cook up my own illustrations, but I would never dream of adding my own scriptures. I knew it was not me that everyone had come to hear.

On the school talks that I give now, sometimes I take small liberties—seldom reading extra verses, but sometimes incorporating excerpts of them in passing. It is all clearly within the pattern of the fine words, done sparingly, and nobody makes a fuss over it. One conductor, though, observed: “You actually didn’t address the theme of the talk” “Oh—I changed that,” I said, and so unexpected was the reply that he almost fell over himself laughing. This was not “adding to doctrine,” or anything—don’t misunderstand—it was merely adding a personal touch to a student talk and everyone understood that. 

I gave a funeral talk in another congregation where one elder, a fine man but known to be a stickler, asked if I was using the Society’s outline, and I said that I wasn’t. He was most concerned because I was neither an elder nor servant, and I hadn’t even known up front whether I would be permitted to give the talk, only the widow had requested me—her husband had been my best man and we had always remained close. After the talk, though, he was content and made no waves. The talk did all that a funeral talk should, plus was personalized as only a best friend might do.

So there might be a few instances where you are the speaker and people wonder how you will handle this or that small part. But they would clearly end at the circuit level, and even at the congregation level, you would be very sparing of what was personal.

There used to be a local speaker in much demand who truly had a gift for speaking. He would twirl the globe he had brought up to the platform, quote Matthew 24:14, “This good news of the kingdom will be preached in all the inhabited earth” and then put his finger down upon this or that spot representing some local king’s sovereignty: “This good news of the kingdom WILL NOT be preached in MY part of the inhabited earth,” with the air of—who do you think is going to prevail?

He was a great speaker, a good man. But I visited his congregation once when he was conducting the Watchtower. He explained all the questions, and so blatantly ‘over-explained’ everything that I wondered how anyone could stand it. ‘Just ask the questions’ is what you should do, and make your own comments very few. There was no bad motive—he had just become a little full of himself—building upon an obvious talent.

Most often it is something more innocuous. There was another conductor who had some mannerisms—I hate mannerisms!—in fact, that’s where ‘Tom Irregardless’ comes from, he says it so much that I named him that—who would throw in after almost every one of his expressions, words to the effect of ‘That’s helpful, isn’t it?’ Once he announced the dates for the upcoming circuit assembly, and added, ‘that’s helpful, isn’t it?’ ‘I guess it is,” I thought.

It’s people. I love people. These days I find I don’t really like them very much unless they are a little quirky. Sometimes people misunderstand it as ridicule. It’s not. I present it in the spirit of Paul trying to rid himself of a ‘thorn in the flesh’ ‘No way!’ God told him, “I look good when you are a clod, because it is evident that no way could you be doing this on your own.”

...

Upon reading of how I take “certain liberties,” a certain yo-yo encourages me to keep venturing “out of the organizational box.” Why? Because he either thinks that by doing so “my eyes will be opened” or someone will lower the boom on me, because “we must walk in lockstep” and so that will “open my eyes.”

These guys are nuts! They are downright squirrelly loony tunes. Because the irresistible bug of being free from all restrictions! bit them, they are convinced it will bite anyone—and they hope with all their hearts that it does.

I know the meaning and value of relative freedoms. Anybody of common sense does. His wet dream may come true of me (or anyone else) jumping ship, but at present it seems not too likely. I know where my home is, I know when to yield, and I know when to press forward. I have written of it before.

 

 
 

 

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A Sign of the Ebook Times—Sloppy Editing

“[Rulf’s] book gives evidence of rushed last-minute organization and some sloppy editing. There is a lot of unnecessary repetition, and a couple of mistakes and typos,” I was told.

This is reassuring to me. My books have suffered from this, too, and one of them positively reeked with errors, which took forever to ferret out. Several times I announced that all corrections had been made, only to find more blips.

Not long ago, I purchased a homeopathy books from someone supposedly renowned. I was amazed as how slipshod was the formatting, and how much beneficial editing could have been done but wasn’t.

It is a sign of the ebook times, and I am reassured that even Rulf the scholar is afflicted with it. Ideally, you proof a work with professionals, but that is pricey and with ebooks being so cheap, with no guarantee of sales, either you do it yourself or ask well-meaning (but essentially hobbyist) friends to help you out. It is a far more daunting task than it first appears to do it yourself, because you tend to read, not what is there, but what you recall being there. You can do tolerably well for a short article, but if we are speaking of an entire book—good l**k on that!

I even face an additional challenge. If I ask brothers who might be in position to help me out to do so, many will be unconfortable with the material and duck out. It’s frustrating. If I wrote a book about how the Easter Bunny was pagan, they would be lined up 5-deep to proof it, but if I confine myself to what seems more interesting, it is not that way.

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Trying in Vain to Reassemble the Three Amigos

Imagine my rotten l**k. Here I had almost succeeded in the reappearance of the three amigos—Wilma, Annabelle, and Gumee—the original three of the thread the Old Hen assigned to me, ‘TrueTom vs the Apostates,’ which I resisted because i didn’t want the job, but when my resistance proved futile, I warmed to the task and went after them with such ferocity that the same Old Hen that put me on it took me off—and many months later it became inspiration for my fourth book, ‘TrueTom vs the Apostates!

Annabel suddenly reappears and what happens? Gumee disappears to do penance! Gumee, who never was apostate in many ways but who so closely resembled one that I couldn’t tell the difference. He’s gone!—only days before the story breaks that may or may not fit so nicely into ‘TrueTom vs the Apostates—Round 2’ should such a book come about.

Annabelle OMaly, who is herself my inspiration of Top Cat O’Malihan—an alias I trotted out to mess with that pretentious buffoon Alistaire Strawman—Annabelle herself appears as Gumee disappears. I tell you, it is not right.

Incidentally, the cat in Top Cat’s profile photo is dead. It was my cat but when I took my daughter’s dog in because she was moving away as a need-greater—well, the dog has a thing about chasing cats. So I took the cat to my Dad’s house, who was just coming down with dementia and in time I stayed with him for a few months. He figured that it was one of the barn cats that he grew up with and kept leaving it saucers of milk around the house, just as he had done in his boyhood with the other barn cats. “Great, Pop!” I would mutter. “Here I want to pour myself a bowl of cereal and I can’t because you have put all the milk out in a dozen bowls for the cat—who never touches it!”

The cat was old by the time I took it to my Dad’s. It was a great comfort for him and would sit on his lap. He was looking for it one day and I knew he would not find it. It had crawled under the basement workbench, a place that it had never been before, to die. There really is something to the expression, ‘Crawl under a rock and die.”

.... All this talk about Top Cat O’Malihan got his attention:

Did I hear my name? Well well well! Annabelle Omaly! I am told I am named after her! Hmmm, Tom.....I’m not sure that I like her. She’s not like that blowhard Alistaire Strawman, is she? What a piece of work he was! Not like us, at all, hey Tom (or at least, me)?


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Photo: Sarah Finucane

Defending Jehovah’s Witnesses with style from attacks... in Russia, with the ebook ‘Dear Mr. Putin - Jehovah’s Witnesses Write Russia’ (free).... and in the West, with the ebook ‘TrueTom vs the Apostates!’ (free)

A Book Review from Top Cat O’Malihan

What I loved best about one of Tom Harley’s books—they’re all so good—is his recall of a squabble between Amy and he over a child abuse video. He was favoring the ‘Protect Your Children’ video of Jehovah’s Witnesses and she was skewering it for not dealing the the possibility that mommy and daddy might be the abusers. She favored a video from the Sinatra foundation, featuring circled areas of a child’s body which were no-touch zones, suggesting both that a child wouldn’t know its ass from its elbow, and also that it would need mentally consult the diagram in order to determine whether it felt bad about a touch or not. 

“I remember how Tom pointed out how the JW video spoke of a child having a conscience, and in fact, it did deal indirectly with her scenario, as one of the parents said ‘Let no one touch you inappropriately’—whereas the agency video specifically said that it was okay for a doctor to touch private places. ‘Ask the young women of the U.S. Olympic team which video they think would have better protected them,’ he said.”

....

Tom responds: Much as I appreciate this review from Top Cat, in fact the account has been edited out of ‘Dear Mr. Putin - Jehovah’s Witnesses Write Russia’ and has not been inserted elsewhere.

I had a ‘pedophile’ chapter in Dear Mr. Putin and I later edited it out because such charges never once arose in a Russian context. The chapter had been there in the first place is because I was mounting a defense of charges made anywhere and I threw in everything but the kitchen sink. On and on the chapter went, and it began to feel—even to me—a little defensive; of course, that is by definition the nature of a defense, but even so..... I also didn’t know at the time that I would be writing ‘TrueTom vs the Apostates!’ about charges in Western lands, where the accusation does fit. But the deleted chapter still hasn’t found a home, save for on my blog.

There is also an Apostasy chapter in ‘Dear Mr. Putin.’ That remains because it does fit—apostates played a prominent role in exposing some of their former brothers to arrest and jail. But even there, about a dozen paragraphs with no Russian context whatsoever—they were just more pet indulgences on my part—have been deleted. Some of them appear in the latter book.

Top Cat included his photo. I wouldn’t want to meet him in a dark alley:726F6A0D-1538-4621-BB4A-CCEA9C0967F9

Defending Jehovah’s Witnesses with style from attacks... in Russia, with the ebook ‘Dear Mr. Putin - Jehovah’s Witnesses Write Russia’ (free).... and in the West, with the ebook ‘TrueTom vs the Apostates!’ (free)

Produce From the U.S.D.A—Isn’t That Nice?

Well well well. A 22lbs produce pack from the USDA—carrots, oranges, apples, broccoli, mushrooms, onions, potatoes, yams, and celery. Apparently all non-profits received a large supply to distribute. I’m very grateful. Elders distributed to the congregation members. But will this become a—gasp!— ‘Go to Donald’ type of thing?“

No sooner had I posted the above when my nemesis posted:

HOW IT WORKS:

https://www.ams.usda.gov/publications/content/farmers-families-food-box-program-faqs

It was a helpful link from someone who never ever posts a helpful link, and so when she does you wonder what she is up to. Wilma never posts things just to be helpful. In every case, she posts to denigrate her rivals the GB and to assure all that she can do things better. So why does she post this helpful link here?

Everyone knows her M.O. She is in a panic that the JW organization might get credit for this generosity and she wants to make sure that they don’t. She wants to make clear that this is a GOVERNMENT program, NOT a Jehovahs Witness program, and that people SHOULD NOT credit her rivals with generosity. 

Chill, you old battle axe, don’t worry about it. I plainly said that it was a USDA program for which I was grateful. USDA is government. Relax. I wasn’t giving your rivals the credit. I even said it represented a “Go to Donald” moment. The only credit I gave to the elders was for distributing the items.

But does this prompt distribution not show the value of organization, organization that she says ‘Who needs it?’ Why does the USDA do it this way—distribute to non-profits? Because they have a ton of aid to distribute and if they do it all at government facilities the lines will be two miles long. They also face the challenge of letting potential recipients know that aid is available. So they distribute to non-profits, taking advantage of the communication and distribution channels that they know will exist there.

Will everyone agree here that NOBODY will do this more effectively than Jehovah’s Witnesses? There may be some to do it AS effectively, but nobody will beat them at it. Organizations where all members are known and readily found and where there exist messengers to quickly deliver foodstuffs to each and every one of them cannot be an everyday thing.

My wife and I received a package Saturday around 2PM, after hearing reports of such a program that morning. I had volunteered to help as soon as I heard the reports, but there appeared to be no need of further help. I can well imagine that there were churches whose members learned of it Sunday morning at services, assuming that they happened to be there, and if they weren’t—too bad. It is not my aim to put them down—frankly I think we do far too much of putting church people down—It is only to point out that the attention of the JW organization to each member is not replicated everywhere. Even where the will exists, the means may not—you have to have volunteers to quickly distribute. There will be some outfits, I have no doubt, that are attentive to those in need and will connect promptly to bring aid. But it will not be universal, and in some cases It will break down completely since it was never built up.

It’s produce. It can’t sit around for days. It has to be handed out to each individual promptly. Members of the Witness community are broken down into service meeting groups, each under the oversight of one or more shepherds, who will know of any among them who is especially needy, and can therefore be prioritized. Apparently, there was plenty for all this time, but that may not always be so, and the elders will know how to best apportion. They are prepared to organize internal relief as was done in the 2nd chapter of Acts—coordinate members sharing with members—so that nobody is overlooked. In this case, the aid came from outside—a provision of Caesar (probably not replicated in too many of his domains)—and all there was to do was to distribute it promptly. I am very grateful to the government that is attentive to physical needs. Nonetheless, much of it would fall flat without proper expedition.

And Wilma says ‘Who needs organization?’ Is she nuts? This is why you need it. This is where, not only it is needed, but you draw yourself as close to it as possible so that there will be no question that you are a part of it. You become one of the embers that knows enough to pull toward the main fire so as to remain an ember. You don’t pull away from the fire so that, in time, nobody, including yourself, really knows if you are an ember or not.

“Be sure to tune in to the WomanfromtheHills broadcast at 2 PM on Facebook for a discussion which will be the same as last week's discussion—how my rivals are doing it all wrong and I can do better. Oh—and are you physically hungry? I think there is a government center somewhere in your area where they are handing out food. Get in queue. The line is only two hours in the sun. It may be that you will get some produce before it wilts and you can still be back in time to hear my address on how the Great Eight are good for nothing.”

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Joseph the Dreamer

When I am captain of the dodge ball team, choosing up players, my first choice will be Joseph. Just look at his stats:

From the time [Potiphar] appointed him over his house and in charge of all that was his, Jehovah kept blessing the house of the Egyptian because of Joseph, and Jehovah’s blessing came to be on all that he had in the house and in the field. He eventually left everything that was his in Joseph’s care, and he gave no thought to anything except the food he was eating. (Genesis 39:5-6)

So the chief officer of the prison put Joseph in charge of all the prisoners in the prison, and everything that they were doing there, he was the one having it done. The chief officer of the prison was looking after absolutely nothing that was in Joseph’s care, for Jehovah was with Joseph and Jehovah made whatever he did successful.” (Genesis 39:22-23)

Pharaoh further said to Joseph: “I am Pharaoh, but without your authorization, no man may do a single thing in all the land of Egypt.” ...The people began to cry to Pharaoh for bread. Then Pharaoh said to all the Egyptians: “Go to Joseph, and do whatever he tells you.” ...People of all the earth came to Egypt to buy from Joseph, because the famine had a strong grip on all the earth.” (Genesis 41:44, 55-57)

The bolded words say it all. He was a really good player. Were he on my team, he would soon be doing it all. We wouldn’t have to suffer being smashed with a ball and tagged out—that hurts!—we would voluntarily tag ourselves out and sit on the sidelines drinking Gatorade while he singlehandedly won the game.

He had dreams, too. Cool dreams. Not the type of dreams that I have, like how I  am sitting in the stands and suddenly remember that I have the next talk, only I have forgotten to wear my pants this day, and—come to think of it—the talk itself had slipped my mind so I haven’t prepared, but I might possibly be able to ad lib my way through—still, it would have been better had I remembered my pants...

No. Joseph’s dreams were about the rise and fall of peoples. At first, they got him into trouble, but later in life they got him out of trouble and landed him in some hotshot jobs, like being savior of the earth. (41:57) I did at around the turn of the year have a prophetic dream that the end would come prior to January because we had reached the end of our current Bible reading schedule and it would be too inconvenient to make everyone start all over again at Genesis, but it proved unreliable. Joseph gets all the cool dreams and I have all the duds.

He wasn’t full of himself, though. After interpreting Pharoah’s dream about how seven years of plenty will be followed by seven years of want, he says: “So now let Pharaoh look for a man who is discreet and wise and place him over the land of Egypt.” He doesn’t add—after he had just interpreted the dream that no one else could!—“Ahem...and I’m your man.” But it goes that way anyhow because he just interpreted the dream that no one else could. Isn’t there some verse somewhere about how it is better for other people to praise you than it is to jump the gun and do it yourself?

“Let someone else praise you, and not your own mouth; Others, and not your own lips.” (Proverbs 27:2)

I like too how he customarily showed interest in others. Here he is in a prison hole greeting his mates with: “Why are your faces gloomy today?” (40:7) Turns out that they were gloomy because they’d each had a dream that they couldn’t figure out, and so Joseph did it for them. It ended up springing him from the hoosegow—so it couldn’t have been too much a waste of time for him to show fellow-feeling.

Genesis 41:46 is relevant, too: “Joseph was 30 years old when he stood before Pharaoh king of Egypt” [to be granted his new role as administrator]. 30—same as was David when he began to rule and Jesus when he began his ministry.

Now, as it turns out, I was married on my thirtieth birthday. When elders sneak up the way they do trying to make it hot for me with my birthday cake, I always turn the table on them and send them away frustrated by pointing out that it is an anniversary cake. However, this fact of a significant phase of my life starting at 30 like with other worthies—does it mean that I, too, am a hotshot? Does it mean that I, too, should be listened to? Too bad for me if that is so because nobody is.

With all the blogging I have done for 15 years, Maybe I ought to be an in-house theologian by now. Naw—the earthly organization isn’t enthralled with bloggers and maybe this post serves to remind why. Sure, I’m loyal now—but what if I park on the lawn and the elders tell me not to and I point out that I live in America so I can do anything I want and I decide to settle the score on my own blog—well, what then? If a brother goes bad at Bethel, they simply yank him and throw in another, but what will they do when I go bad? No wonder blogging doesn’t do it for them.

.....

It is a light post, but the part about Joseph taking interest in others even in the prison hole is a lesson for the ages. Same with how, even when he suffered serious reversals, Jehovah was always with him, as is stated at 39:2 and 39:21. Life may suck at the moment—it doesn’t mean that Jehovah is not with one, and it doesn’t mean that it can’t turn on a dime.

....

Well well well. A 22lbs produce pack from the USDA. Apparantly all non-profits received a large supply to distribute. I’m very grateful. Elders distributed to the congregation members. But will this become a—gasp!— ‘Go to Donald’ type of thing?

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Woodstock and the Pandemic—Were We Crazy Then or Are We Crazy Now?

If you are a baby-boomer and you come across an article about Woodstock, you drop everything and you devour it. You swoon and sigh about the ‘summer of love.’ You lament that life somehow veered off that wonderful path—so full of promise. This is all very frustrating to me because I don’t think it is that way at all, but it is what it is. The tea kettle will boil dry and the metal turn white-hot while you are transported back to the day.

The water was long-gone, but my tea kettle had only reached red-hot when I came across a remarkable fact about Woodstock, from an article in the New York Post. It was held in the midst of a pandemic!—during the in-between lull, the type we are said to be in now with COVID19. The first wave had died down, and the second was yet to come. Before it was all over, H3N2, the ‘Hong Kong flu’ would take 100,000 lives in the United States and from one to four million worldwide. Yet the Woodstock show went on. It is described by an attendee who spent 4 days covered with mud and dreamed most of all of taking a hot shower.

The article is entitled, “Why American life went on as normal during the killer pandemic of 1969.” The New York Times described that illness as “one of the worst in the nation’s history.” So it was not a nothing-burger. From the article:

“Both [COVID19 and H3N2] viruses spread quickly and cause upper respiratory symptoms including fever, cough and shortness of breath. They infect mostly adults over 65 or those with underlying medical conditions....During both pandemics, horror stories abounded — from the bodies stored in refrigerated trucks in New York last month to corpses stored in subway tunnels in Germany during the H3N2 outbreak. Those who had H3N2 and survived describe a health battle that sounds eerily similar to COVID. “The coughing and difficulty breathing were the worst but it was the lethargy that kept me in bed,” said one person who survived it.

A few schools shut down for lack of teachers, but otherwise—“It was like the pandemic hadn’t even happened if you look for it in history books,” [one person recalls]. “I am still shocked at how differently people addressed — or maybe even ignored it — in 1968 compared to 2020.” The virus rarely made front page news then, whereas all other news has been suspended today for coverage of COVID 19.

Now, what are we to make of this? Were we crazy then, or are we crazy now? Did we drive the economy over a cliff for nothing? Or should we have driven it over a cliff back then?

“Fact-checking” is in vogue today. USAToday did that and pronounced the story true:

“The Woodstock festival of 1969 did occur amid a global pandemic and no stay at home orders were enforced. However, (1) the concept of social distancing was not yet accepted practice among public health experts and (2) the 1968 flu pandemic was not as deadly as other diseases. (3) Lawmakers also did not face serious public pressure to slow the virus, as (4) the nation's attention was focussed elsewhere. We rate this claim TRUE because it is supported by our research.” [inserted numerals mine]

It is possible to surmise that human wisdom today has enforced a cure that is far worse than the disease. Item 2 remains to be seen—thus far, COVID has claimed about 300,000 lives, and H3N2 up to 4 million—but it is not over yet and measures taken have undoubtedly reduced the spread. Items 1 and 3 might  turn out to be ludicrous examples of ‘human wisdom’ gone awry, inept as it is unyielding, and item 4 might have been a good thing—a circumstance that ensured worldwide economic depression did not occur in 1969 but had to wait until our time. Remember, economic depression is a serious matter in the Western world, but it mows them down like grass in the developing world.

The COVID disease is bad, but is the cure worse? Either scenario fits in with the Jehovah’s Witness narrative, but the second fits even better. Is COVID the deadliest plague since the Spanish flu of 100 years ago? Well, that certainly fits in with Luke 21:10-11, doesn’t it?

“Then he said to them: ‘Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be great earthquakes, and in one place after another food shortages and pestilences; and there will be fearful sights and from heaven great signs.’” Got it. The nations battle mightily and with all the tools of science, but even so they cannot halt the great woe. The scenario  ‘works’—in fits in with the end-time prophesy.

But the second scenario ‘works’ to a far greater degree: The nations guided by their human wisdom and veneration of ‘science’ might have taken a bad situation and made it twenty times worse, crashing down the facade of competent self-rule upon their heads. At least Sampson knew what he was doing—he wanted the grand house to crash upon him.

What is the play that we are watching today? What is the reason that God did not destroy the rebels of Eden? Every Witness of Jehovah knows it—He allowed them time to make good on their claim that independence from Him would turn out well. It is like the JW organization’s video of the snotty kid who insists he has a better way. The teacher hands him the chalk. The more spectacularly that kid fails, the more convincing the answer to his taunt. Thus it is that when Jehovah declares an end to the grand experiment of human self-rule, he need not indulge the next rebel who knows it all. “Distress will not rise up a second time,” the verse says.

As for Jehovah’s people, they are “those making use of the world [but] not using it to the full; for the scene of this world is changing.” They go light on what the world offers. They have simplified their lives. If some offerings are taken off the table, well—they can adapt because they never put their trust there to begin with. But those of the greater world are beside themselves as they see everything they have worked for and trusted in being stripped away. They are not “all in this together” because it affects some greatly and others hardly at all.

Much boils down to trust in leaders and there is little of it in the greater world. There is the expression ‘Never waste a crisis’ It is the suspicion that various parties are trying to bring in permanent societal changes under the guise of fighting a temporary woe that gets people riled. What amazes me is how people ‘are not open to any agreement,’ as the verse says, and the damage done by COVID may be done not so much by the virus itself but by the furor it unleashes as to how best deal with it.

 

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NOT Omnipresent, NOT Omnisciencient, and NOT Omnipotent

Q: People make assumptions because they are well rooted in the belief also that God is Omnipresent, which is false. With this idea in mind, they conjure up the notion of God being everywhere, so he should have been able to prevent this or that...

A: Yes. Simply quote one of those verses in which God says he is going to go down and check something out so as to see if it is so—such as the complaint made about Sodom.

Then Jehovah said: “The outcry against Sodom and Gomorrah is indeed great, and their sin is very heavy.  I will go down to see whether they are acting according to the outcry that has reached me. And if not, I can get to know it.” (Genesis 18:20-21) 

He wasn’t there. He didn’t know. I love the personification. So he is not omnipresent. And he is not omniscient. 

The third member of this normal ‘trinity’ is omnipotent. Note how the chart has dropped ‘omnipresent’ to substitute ‘all-loving.’ That way the chartist can harp on anything that isn’t going well and blame it on God—as though God’s role is to bless the doings of a society founded on rebellion against him, or prevent the inevitable bad consequences of such rebellion from occurring. 

Thus, every assumption skeptics make about God is wrong. No wonder their conclusions are so cock-eyed. Now, to be sure, those cock-eyed conclusions might remain even if they had begun with accurate assumptions—the pull away from God is far more rooted in emotion than in reason. The emotional pull is the urge to kick over the traces—to break free from anyone or anything that would tell you what to do. In their insistence upon pursuing the petty freedoms that this world has to offer, chafing at anyone who would seem to restrict them, they end up overlooking the substantial freedoms that spirituality offers.

What can you do with people like that? In the case of those who once believed in God and abandoned it for atheism, you could liken them to the fellow who loses millions in the stock market. Undeterred, he celebrates the $10K that he still has left, reasoning about the rest: “They were just paper gains, anyway.”

M. D. Craven—‘Master Driver’ Craven, he used to tell his employer, Greyhound Bus, for the had the Banger to Boston run for many years, and they would say, “Who gave you that title?” to which he would respond with, “Nobody did—I self-assumed it” (his real first name was Merrill, not Master), whose driving skills fell off precipitously in his older years, and who used to say when his car was on the fritz, “Tom, can I borrow your car?” and whom I just KNEW was going to wrap it around a tree, yet he had been so good to me that had he said: “Tom, can I borrow your car? I want to wrap it around a tree,” I would have felt obliged to hand him the keys—used to love the verse:

Come now, and let us reason together, saith the LORD: though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool,” for the appeal from God to reconcile, with the benefit of relieving some heavy matters that might weigh upon one’s conscience. “Come now, and let us reason together,” I can still hear him say, quoting the words from the King James Version of the Bible.

But it is not actually a good rendering of the verse. If you ‘reason’ with God, it will mean that you will take notes. You will not be telling him how to run heaven. It will sort of be like reasoning with Ford about your new Mustang. You will take notes at their owner’s manual that you should run it ‘shiny side up and greasy side down.’ You won’t expect them to be enthralled at how you intend to do it just the reverse.

The New World Translation, which didn’t come upon the scene until the 1960’s, well after M. D. Craven’s hay day, and so he still spoke from the KJV, corrects this faux pas, as do most modern translations. It renders Isaiah 1:18 as: “Let us set matters straight between us.” That’s better. It is the same warm appeal, the same alleviating benefits, but absent any sense that we will be instructing God. He will hear us out, to be sure, but it is not as though he will be benefiting from the pointers we may offer him.

It is like the Zoom prayer the other day to close out a small group meeting, and the one saying it was just a little too obvious in disguising his own narrative to the group and prayer to God. He wove in, as evidence of the stressful times we live in as we try to adapt to Covid, his comment about the lines that stretched from (he named the far-apart streets) as people lined up for free masks. I said to my wife:  “It’s as though he imagines Jehovah saying, “Oh, I didn’t know that.  Backed up that far? Wow. Things are really getting tight down there.”

And the only reason I shoot down ‘omnipotent’ (all-powerful) is because if I don’t, some idiot will be sure to come along, patting himself on the back, with the question, “Can God make a mountain he can’t move?” Sigh...I suppose that he can’t do that.

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