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Sympathy for ‘Sympathy for the Devil’

“Sympathy for the Devil? No. I don’t like that fellow. He makes a lot of trouble. I’m not listening to no song that has sympathy for the devil.“

That was my sentiment for 50 years. It will still be my sentiment, but not so much, until my grave—which maybe will not arrive anytime soon, and if I play my cards right and the ducks line up, maybe not at all. Funny how you can live life as though the system may end tomorrow, and also as though it may not end before your natural death. Yikes! Cognitive dissonance! I hate that stuff!

Nah—cognitive dissonance is a topic worthy of a pamphlet, perhaps, but no more. It is what used to be called, ‘Coming to grips with the fact that you don’t know everything.’ People used to be able to do that without their heads shorting out—before ‘critical thinking’ became all the rage.

“You will still dislike the song, but ‘not so much’ Tom?” You going warm and fuzzy on the Devil these days? No. I still don’t like him. But somewhere along the road I came to recognize that ‘Sympathy for the Devil,’ the Rolling Stones song, is not really about sympathy for the Devil. It is about exposure of him.

For years I refused to listen to the song. For years I slapped it down if it reared up on the radio, and later skipped it over if Pandora served it up. I still will, of course, at least if in anyone’s hearing. “Wow, brothers—great song! Sympathy for the Devil! I love it! Let’s give it a listen—right here at the congregation picnic!”—can I picture myself saying that? No. There is stuff that you tuck out of sight when the respectable people come calling. I always did that with the Keith Richards/Mick Jagger song. It’s a little too bad, because if you like rock music, you really can’t do better than The Rolling Stones. On the other hand, there’s a lot of music—you don’t have to chug down everything that comes down the pipe;

The song exposes the works of the Devil nearly as well as the Bible itself—in fact, better—if we are going for specifics and exclusive focus—that is, not being diluted by anything else. The obscenities of history—the Devil’s behind them all. He’s pulling the strings.

A fellow with the handle “Apollyon911” says of the song, that Satan is “implicating humanity for the evil they have committed” and “expresses glee for the crucifixion and other atrocities that he helped orchestrate”—Hitler’s reign, murder of the czar, murder of the Kennedy’s. “He is a ‘man of wealth and taste’...just as the SS had impeccable manners, listened to Wagner and drank fine wine, there is a powerful desire to be impressive...to be admired (or, more to the point, worshipped).”

What is the polar opposite circumstance that triggered for me memories of this song? It was this verse from Isaiah and a subsequent video included in the mid-week JW meetings during June 2020–a video on highlighting God’s name in the countries of Denmark, Norway, and Sweden. “I am Jehovah. That is my name,” says Isaiah 42:8 (NWT). But the King James Version, and the majority of translations, say, “I am the LORD. That is my name.” How can translators be so dense? “The LORD” is a name? What’s with the all-caps?

You don’t translate the tetragrammaton as “The LORD.” The first is clearly a distinctive name—the name God gives himself—a name that makes clear his power to transform: “He causes to become.” The second is no more than a title, gussied up with all-caps, but clearly a title. Sometimes I call people’s attention to Psalm 110:1 to expose this idiocy: “The LORD said to my Lord, ‘Sit at my right hand, until I place your enemies as a tool for your feet.’” Who is talking to who? Why is one Lord all caps and the other not? There is a Charlton Heston movie—I think it is ‘The Ten Commandments’—in which the Israelites are distressed early on because “We don’t even know our God’s name.” Later on, they are as happy as pigs in mud, for they have learned it: it is ‘The LORD’—how much sense does that make?

Even Mick Jagger knows better. “Pleased to meet you—hope you guess my name,” his devil says—and later in the song he gives his name! It is not ‘The DEVIL.”—it is ‘Lucifer!’ Now, as it turns out, ‘Lucifer’ is not a name either; it is a translation of the Hebrew word “hehlel’ and means “shining one.” But the intent is there—Jagger has his head screwed on straight. He knows that if you say Satan has a name, you don’t tell people it is SATAN. And if God has a name, you don’t say it is The LORD. He has put his name in scripture nearly 7,000 times. You don’t think he might be a little peeved that churchmen paper it over, essentially taking it out? Wouldn’t you—if you wrote the most beautiful letter that people sighed in delight over and praised it for its beauty—after crossing out your name, as though it were a putrid thing?

Richards and Jagger are more on to matters of truth than they know. Sign them up for the Kingdom Hall! Of course, they’ll have to clean up their acts first. They can’t quite carry on the way they do, can they? But having declared a “been there, done that—time to move on,” let them do one of the ‘original songs.’ Why—with their background, let them even do two! Seriously. Prince did this—cleaned up his act—whereupon they let him do an original song. Well—they didn’t, actually, they slapped his hand when he tried to rework their own—but they would have today. I wrote up a nice chapter on Prince. It heads the book ‘Tom Irregardless and Me’ and is even in the free preview section. You don’t think that I would do the same for Mick and Keith if only they would behave a bit more?

These guys are on to something with their ‘Sympathy for the Devil,’ even if they don’t nail every little detail. They do better than Apollyon911–he has a little too much ‘churchiness’ in him. The reason I had to quote excerpts from him and not the entirety is that he screws it up in part—whereas the Stone’s song I can let stand untouched. Apollyon says in full:

While Satan is clearly implicating humanity for the evil they have committed, he is not absolving himself. He expresses glee for the crucifixion and other atrocities that he helped orchestrate (not realizing, until it was too late, that Christ’s Crucifixion – and Resurrection, were all part of God’s Plan).

He is a ‘man of wealth and taste’. This does not simply mean he is sophisticated. He does not deny his evil but, just as the SS had impeccable manners, listened to Wagner and drank fine wine, there is a powerful desire to be impressive (and perhaps, in the case of humans, to deny the evil they commit). He wants to be admired (or, more to the point, worshipped).

Satan or, as he prefers to be called, Lucifer, his pre-Fall name, is also warning mankind to treat him with respect or he will destroy us. As Martin Luther (the Reformer) noted: ‘Satan cannot bear to be mocked’.

Satan is not denying he is the author of evil. He is merely implicating mankind and also emphasizing his power.

Satan, the Devil, is the Father of Lies and this is implied when he talks about ‘lay[ing] your soul to waste’. Satan does not have full authority over mankind. Only what is allowed by God (his Creator). But, Satan wants us to believe he has all power.

Well, maybe it’s not so bad. But isn’t it a little too glib on how things like the Holocaust is “part of God’s Plan?” (capitalized, no less, though it includes the Holocaust!) It reminds me of the time I passed the church billboard that read “‘Don’t Worry, I’m in Charge’—God” Two days later planes flew into the twin towers in New York City, and I began to wonder if that stupid sign was still there. I returned to read the modified version: “God Bless America.” Had the priest swapped the letters at 3 AM, hoping no one would see him? Even the new didn’t fit. Would you have carried on about God’s blessing in the big city at the time?

What Apollyon downplays is that Satan, not God, is described as the “ruler of this system of this world.” Satan is the one who is “blinding the minds of the unbelievers.” Satan is the one who is “misleading the entire inhabited earth”—that covers a lot of territory!—so it seems that Apollyon might expound at least a little on how Satan has managed to hijack the world God created. He doesn’t do this because he doesn’t know—all he can do is offer up some muddled alteration: “‘Don’t worry (much), I’m in charge, even if it seems I am sleeping at the switch’—God.” No. It won’t do. Satan is the “ruler of this world,” says the Bible repeatedly. (John 12:31, 14:30, 16:11, 2 Corinthians 4:4, Revelation 12:9)

Jagger and Richards nail it, but they don’t go far enough. Jesus has come to “break up the works of the Devil,” 1 John 3:8 says. The first thing you do in breaking up the works of the Devil is to expose them. If they went far enough they would come to the indictment of Babylon the Great, the party identified by Jehovah’s Witnesses as “the world empire of false religion.” “Yes, in her was found the blood of prophets and of holy ones and of all those who have been slaughtered on the earth.” (Revelation 18:24) Of all those? Yes, for it is not just the acts of commission we speak of, but it is far more for the acts of omission. Had religion trained its members to be peaceable, as Jehovah’s Witnesses do theirs, they would have held their ground when the king tried enlist them in his latest war; they would have “paid Caesar’s things to Caesar, but God’s things to God”—they would have told Hitler to take a hike, as Jehovah’s Witnesses in Axis lands did. That Babylon the Great has been so negligent is why it can be fingered for the blood of all.

The Daily Text under consideration for Friday, June 26, was John 16:2. “The hour is coming when everyone who kills you will think he has offered a sacred service to God.​.” The commentary included: “How ironic that in committing such evil crimes as murder, religious fanatics violate the very laws of the One whom they claim to worship! Clearly, their consciences are treacherous guides! How can we prevent our conscience from becoming ineffective? The laws and principles contained in God’s Word are “beneficial for teaching, for reproving, for setting things straight, for disciplining in righteousness.” (2 Tim. 3:16) Therefore, by diligently studying the Bible, meditating on what it says, and applying it in our lives, we can train our conscience to be more sensitive to God’s thinking, and it can thus serve as a reliable guide.”

We hear the remark all the time that so and so will be guided by his or her conscience—and it sounds good, it plays well—how can anyone go wrong if he listens to his conscience? But as history demonstrates time and time again, the local king and the prevailing mindset is more than a match for any conscience. That conscience must be trained by God’s thinking—otherwise it will be trained by Satan’s. We ought not be as “children, tossed about as by waves and carried here and there by every wind of teaching by means of the trickery of men, by means of cunning in deceptive schemes.” (Ephesians 4:14) It requires training in God’s thinking to stand firm. Had religion not so quickly bent over for the sake of anything claiming to be “science,” it might still be able to draw upon Genesis as a credible source to explain some of the deeper questions that science cannot touch. Had religion held fast to its core, it would not find itself acquiescing, to various degrees,—sometimes only partially, and sometimes completely—to the humanist and Satanic lie that humans are capable of self-rule.

Mick and Keith are on to it—they even nail the too-frequent reversal of roles, with their, “Just as every cop is a criminal, and all the sinners saints”—but they still haven’t gone far enough. They even nail the “refinement” of those under Satan’s influence, who may very well be men “of wealth and taste”—but they still don’t go far enough. They still deserve an honorable mention, not me burning their record. I’ll burn it anyway, for—let’s face it—‘Sympathy for the Devil’ is not really a kingdom song, is it? But they deserve better. Ah, well—there are greater injustices. There are bigger fish to fry. I’ll stick with the other songs on the Martin Scorsese movie ‘Shine a Light’—which is the Stones in concert—and I’ll reaffirm my favorite scene: that of Buddy Guy standing like a mountain while two of the scrawny Stones buzz around him like gnats, blown away by his fierce guitar work.

 

Please allow me to introduce myself

I'm a man of wealth and taste

I've been around for a long, long year

Stole many a man's soul to waste

And I was 'round when Jesus Christ

Had his moment of doubt and pain

Made damn sure that Pilate

Washed his hands and sealed his fate

Pleased to meet you

Hope you guess my name

But what's puzzling you

Is the nature of my game

I stuck around St. Petersburg

When I saw it was a time for a change

Killed the czar and his ministers

Anastasia screamed in vain

I rode a tank

Held a general's rank

When the blitzkrieg raged

And the bodies stank

Pleased to meet you

Hope you guess my name, oh yeah

Ah, what's puzzling you

Is the nature of my game, oh yeah

I watched with glee

While your kings and queens

Fought for ten decades

For the gods they made

I shouted out

Who killed the Kennedys?

When after all

It was you and me

Let me please introduce myself

I'm a man of wealth and taste

And I laid traps for troubadours

Who get killed before they reached Bombay

Pleased to meet you

Hope you guessed my name, oh yeah

But what's puzzling you

Is the nature of my game, oh yeah, get down, baby

Pleased to meet you

Hope you guessed my name, oh yeah

But what's confusing you

Is just the nature of my game, mm yeah

Just as every cop is a criminal

And all the sinners saints

As heads is tails

Just call me Lucifer

'Cause I'm in need of some restraint

So if you meet me

Have some courtesy

Have some sympathy, and some taste

Use all your well-learned politesse

Or I'll lay your soul to waste, mm yeah

Pleased to meet you

Hope you guessed my name, mm yeah

But what's puzzling you

Is the nature of my game, mm mean it, get down

Oh yeah, get on down

Oh yeah

Oh yeah

Tell me baby, what's my name

Tell me honey, can ya guess my name

Tell me baby, what's my name

I tell you one time, you're to blame

Oh, right

What's my name

Tell me, baby, what's my name

Tell me, sweetie, what's my name

 

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