On Scholars—Part 1
On ‘Activism Journalism’

If You Stop to Kick Every Dog That Barks, You’ll Never Get Very Far—On Scholaship, Part 2

(See Part 1)

Q: “There is a rumor that the WTS does not care too much about its past but keeps its focus on the future.” The topic of Rolf’s new book lurks in the background.

I have heard that this is true, yet one quote from Russell that has been faithfully preserved since his death is, “If you stop to kick every dog that barks at you, you’ll never get very far.”

Granted, if someone barks, they may be quick to assume that such person must be a dog—but you would have to excel in scholarship to know otherwise, and as stated, that is not their strong suit, nor should it be. The second thing (the first thing is here) that ‘scholars’ do—I’ve seen plenty of it from people who think themselves learned—is to start quibbling over the Name—this pronunciation is better than that one and since that is the case, maybe it should not be used at all. Scholars reason this way. But if I go to another country and start ragging on the locals every time they botch my name, nobody says, “Whoa! That brother is scholarly!” They say, “What a pin-headed idiot!”

Because the HQ brothers are not scholarly, they are inclined to accept that what is done is done, and what is written is written. Once in awhile someone like Brother Splane comes along, looks it all over, and says, “We’re not doing anti-types anymore!—it’s enough to say ‘this reminds us of that”—maybe because too many have blown up in his face, but for the most part, the past is assumed to be stable past that can be built upon. It’s too bad they’ve tossed aside anti-types because I have a doozy for them. You think it is nothing that Dennis Christensen’s surname points to the one he follows, and his very profession is the same? They are going to twiddle their thumbs on thatone, putting equal significance on the second Russian imprisoned for the faith—Mgoyahen Bloggabodidillyvich? Not to worry, though—some wannabe prophet will pick up and run with it.

I can’t believe how many seem to take for granted that the devil’s gameboard is not rigged, or that his rules of ‘critical thinking‘ should carry the day. They do not see for a moment how flawed the tool is—or perhaps more to the point—how sharp it is on the points for which it has merit, too sharp for its staunch advocates to handle without cutting themselves. It is the words of the prophet Tom Cruise: “You can’t handle the truth!” 

The notion that we are rational creatures is a joke. Of course we aren’t! The heart decides what it want and then entrusts the head to devise a convincing rationale for it. For the most part, people read mainly so as to confirm what they already believe. It is amazing on social media how few are the people who change their minds on anything. Accordingly, for every verse in the Bible about the head, there are ten about the heart. Few of Jesus’ parables would stand up to rigorous critical thought—some of them barely make sense. But they target the heart, which is his goal. 

I also can’t believe how many may be stumbled over what Rulf or any fellow scholar will say—or even what complainers will say. “Well, we could be wrong on that,” I say to almost all of it, and move on. Do they in any case, speak to the fundamental reason that I was attracted to Jehovah’s Witnesses in the first place? “Finally—a religion where the people at the helm are smart and can be counted upon to say nothing wrong!” Did I say that? Does anyone? Of course not! There was religious truth found no where else, and we soon enough discovered (few did not know it already) that it was carried in earthen vessels. There was a humility found in in few places, not to mention a united brotherhood where the byword was love. This is why whenever persons are ‘stumbled’ over something like Rolf’s input, they are simply seizing on something to justify a decision already made in their heart. Why can’t they just say, “I’m like Demas—I prefer the present system of things?’ Why can’t they say as with from John, “I’m leaving because—I gave it a good whirl—but I’m just not one of their sort?” 

I also note that Rolf has not left the faith, and that he does not declare he intends to. Nor do I take for granted that he will be given the boot, even though he seems think it a foregone conclusion. Maybe—I certainly won’t be shocked if it goes that way—but I’ll take it as a done deal only when it is done.

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It looks like you are writing about a book that I recently skimmed through. One chapter in that book really made me mad. It was about how the members of the congregation used to own their kingdom halls and now the organization took that away from them.

The reason why this makes me mad? Twenty years ago I spent one year and half helping building kingdom halls in another European country. There were five halls where I invested hundreds of hours (professional hours as engineer not just peeling potatoes or something (Nothing against potatoe peelers)) . In none of these halls did I ever sit even for one meeting. And now he wants to tell me that I offered my time and resources so that some people can own a building? Or is he saying that in Norway the congregation members are doing all the work for their hall themselves and no one else is helping? My time was certainly not spent for this kind of stuff.

And he goes on with having to pay 13.000$ for a meeting in an assembly hall and how much more this is than the amount spent on electricity and water used (He left out the cost for the toilet paper;). What he doesn't get: there is so much more cost hidden in running such a building than electricity and water (and toilet paper) that he seemingly doesn't know the first thing about. Wear and tear requires quite a lot of work each week or else the hall would look very shabby after a year or two. Updating the hardware requires money too. P.e. when we got the new video equipment several years ago, no one was asked to pay a single penny. But it required a new electricity line that had to be paid for. And I'm sure you don't get a video system in this quality for some hundreds dollars, it would cost ten thousands if not more than 100,000.

And he really proposes that the brothers in Africa and elsewhere should meet in mud huts (hyperbole!) so that brothers in Norway can have "their own" kingdom hall and don't have to share cars to get to the meetings or have to fuse their congregation to another one. Often the reason for this fusing is that half a century ago they build a lot of kingdom halls and now there are less Witnesses than they used to be in that region and the upkeep of the halls takes more than it is worth. And there were places where rich congregations had their own hall each so that everyone could have their sunday meeting at 10:00.

Many of the halls I helped building are in a region where people are now moving out of. There probably will be a point in the future when they will have to close down one or more of those halls. Will I ask for my money back then? Surely not.

That is not the spirit of a world wide brotherhood that I love about Jehovah's witnesses. Texts like Acts 4:32-35, James 2:1-4, 14-17 and Revelation 3:17 come to mind.

And after reading that I couldn't be bothered to read the rest, even if he had some sensible points to make about something or another. A scholar should really make sure that he knows what he talks about. If he writes a book just about airing his frustrations that even rich Norwegians (and Norway is a rich land by everyone's standards outside Arabia) are touched by the world problems (even if only by not having their own halls anymore) then I'm not really touched. Get over it. I'm happy that brothers in different countries get decent halls. And if we have to sell one hall, that I helped building even the better. I can contribute to their needs in this way (even if indirectly) by not clinging to my work and wanting to have it for me and my glory (I don't have any, because no one sees the engineer drawing the plans;) but being happy to let it be used in a sensible way.

You see that I get quite emotional about this. So I will stop now.

[Tom answers: I do see it. If you’ve worked on 5 different Halls then you would come to have an emotional stake in them. As for changes of ownership—from local to Branch—sure, there’s plenty of room for people to get their feelings hurt if their particularly vested in ‘their’ Hall—and if they built and paid for it (and take for granted the volunteer efforts from brothers like you), then I can certainly see why they would view it as theirs. The trick is to think of it as one large worldwide congregation rather than a collection of thousands, and of KHs as pretty much shells to be placed over publishers wherever they happen to move. As you say, they don’t always increase in numbers. Sometimes they decrease, and I think it would be foolish to think that the non-stop efforts of those who oppose has not had an effect.

If you’ve contributed engineering skills for five of them, then you are my man. Every time I sit down and the ceiling does not crash on me, I think of you—or at least your American counterpart. Each of us if “bringing their gift to the altar.” The time for thinking that each congregation should be its own altar has long since passed.

I haven’t read Rolf’s book yet, and I tend to not quickly get around to things like that—my experience is as good as his—notwithstanding that I have a ‘Rolf’ category on my blog that I will be adding to. Indeed, I may never get around to it. On the other hand, I may.

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