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If You Can Control the Battle With Your Hands Like a Traffic Signal, Don’t You Think People Would Get the Point?

‪They complained against Moses, and Moses said they were really complaining against God‬

‪Q: How to get it through thick heads that God is really working through Moses?‬

‪A: “As long as Moses kept his hands lifted up, the Israelites prevailed, but as soon as he would let down his hands the Amalekites prevailed. When the hands of Moses were heavy, they took a stone and put it under him, and he sat on it. Then Aaron and Hur, one on each side, supported his hands, so that his hands remained steady until the sun set.” (Exodus 17:11-12)

It has to be one of the most vivid object lessons of all time. Moses raises and lower his arms to control battle as though a traffic cop. Why do I think of the Dr. Seuss book ‘Go Dog Go?’ It took those Israelites no time at all to dismiss passing through the Red Sea as “just one of those things.” Maybe it’s because Moses was not the blustering blowhard of Hollywood devising, but like Numbers 12:3 says, “the meekest of all the men on the face of the earth,” not exactly bland, but not the swaggering packaged charisma that folks unquestioningly follow?

Did the object lesson work? Maybe I will start collecting such experiences, seeing that we have entered Exodus in our scheduled weekly reading. I think they cool off in Leviticus but pick up again in Numbers—the Israelites constant bellyaching with Moses, not realizing that it was really with God they were finding fault.

None of these Israelites had a problem with God, they probably would have told you. No—they and God were tight. The problem was with that vanilla upstart, who here and there could pull a miracle out of his hat, that claimed to represent him. Always it is that way—the glitch is the divine/human interface.

“Have him raise his hands and I’ll have his guys win, lower his hands and they’ll lose,” God must have said. “That ought to get it through their thick skulls! Oh, and if his hands get tired—raise them up for him. Got it? It’s not him—it’s me! He can’t even hold his hands up!”

Still, all the time they are castigating Moses, not getting the point that it is Jehovah doing the heavy lifting, not he. Yet, if they don’t get the point, you would think they’d be afraid to cross a guy that could control battle by raising or lowering his arms like a traffic signal. No on that count, as well. Moses raised a fine point when he said to Jehovah, as though tearing out his hair: “What shall I do with these people?” They were real pieces of work.

And yet they differ not so much from people today, who can’t be satisfied on any account. Nor do they differ from those in Jesus’ day, whom he likened to children, posing the question:

Now, to what can I compare the people of this day? They are like children sitting in the marketplace. One group shouts to the other, ‘We played wedding music for you, but you wouldn't dance! We sang funeral songs, but you wouldn't cry!' (Matthew 11:16-17, GNT) You can’t satisfy them.

How ridiculous people must look to the one who created them all—ever spurning his  counsel while  ever demonstrating themselves incapable of devising their own—splintering over ever-expanding grounds for division, hashing out at absurd length the most picayune matters and managing to implement nothing beyond patch over patch over patch. Isn’t this another example of lessons so simple that the huffy people think it not worth their time and separate themselves out? “He’s treating us as though we were children!” they harrumph, oblivious to how the collective record of humanity demonstrates they ought to be treated as children.

This thread will grow, I think—maybe I’ll do something with it someday. I’ll be logging all the instances of when they gave Moses a hard time. I’ll have to start by going back a few chapters, since their grumbling over him has already started. It took no time at all for them to dismiss crossing through the Red Sea as “just one of those things.”

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Things Voltaire Didn’t Say

Here is still another “Everything you thought you knew about such-and-such is wrong” revelation. Voltaire DID NOT say, “I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.” He never said it! 

In fact, it is a double “everything you thought you knew is wrong” revelation for me because I had somehow got it into my head that Patrick Henry was the one who said it. He who said “Give me liberty of give me death!” must surely have said the latter phrase as well—if you would say one, surely you would say the other—throw it on the stack! and somewhere in popular folklore someone did just that. But he didn’t say it. When I went to verify it on the internet, I was re-directed to Voltaire as the true source.

Now I find out that he didn’t say it either! He said a lot of “enlightened” things, and so, here again, some revisionist thought: What is more enlightened than dying for free speech? Throw it on the stack! If he said other enlightened things, who’s not going to believe he said this one as well. He didn’t

The Great Courses professor, (I am on a Great Courses kick these days) says it is the bane of Voltaire schlolars—everyone thinks he said it—it is practically the defining declaration of his to many—and he didn’t. 

This is pretty common—to append statements to famous others whose backgrounds suggest they might have said it because they have said other things like it. Any acerbic, pretension-deflating statement about human nature you can attribute to Mark Twain, for example, since he said a lot of stuff like that. One of my favorites, on how he would relate that when he was 16 his father was so ignorant he could barely stand to have around, but was amazed at 21 on how much the old man had picked up in those few short years—he never said it! Or at least there is no record of him saying it. This a great hazard for me, because I love to quote Mark Twain. Check before you quote.

It is similar to how David Splane said the Watchtower decided to no quote the Mahatma Gandhi line, supposedly made to British Viceroy to India Lord Irwin, that “when your country and mine shall get together on the teachings laid down by Christ in this Sermon on the Mount, we shall have solved the problems not only of our countries but those of the whole world.” It’s a great quote, says Brother Splane—we love it. But we can’t use it because there is no record that the two ever met.

There’s a danger in attributing your lofty thoughts to someone else because you may find that they are not quite lofty enough to think that themselves. Alan Kors, the Great Courses professor, says Voltaire would never say something like that. He’s not going to fight to the death so someone else can say something stupid because he savored his life too much. It’s a pretentious statement—just a little too showy. I’ve always distrusted it. Who’s really going to do that? Let the merits of the fellow’s own argument cause him to rise or sink without dragging others down with him. Now—if you had a heads-up that what was going to be said was truly brilliant it might be another matter. But...

Well, if he didn’t say it, who did? His biographer. Evelyn Beatrice Hall, writing under the pseudonym S. G Tallentyre. She wrote that line herself in ‘The Friends of Voltaire’ (1906) and served it up as an example of what Voltaire would have stood for. She’s drinking too much of her own Kool-Aid, apparently—no way would Voltaire have risked his neck to sponsor the cacaphonous mayhem of Twitter.

The professor does not mention Sturgeon’s Law—that is me who mentions it—but it fits in nicely. “People who say that 90 percent of science fiction is crap are correct, but then 90 percent of anything is crap,” Theodore Sturgeon said. This has been truncated into: “Ninety percent of anything is crap,” but the original quote included a reference to his own profession—that of writing science fiction. I know this, because he was the guest speaker on campus once upon a time, and I heard him say it.

Voltaire should throw his life away for 90 percent crap? I don’t think so. If a dolt can’t get his dopey message out, that’s his problem. I may not say: “Look, throw the idiot off the forum, won’t you?” but that’s a far cry from being willing to die so that the world may hear more 90 percent idiocy—there’s enough of it to go around as it is.

Does not the Word celebrate the right of anyone to be heard? Alas, at times the it celebrates shutting people up. “It is necessary to shut their mouths,” Paul says of some, who “keep on subverting entire households by teaching things they should not for the sake of dishonest gain.” Sure. “They want to be teachers of law, but they do not understand either the things they are saying or the things they insist on so strongly,” he says of others. (Titus 1:11, 1 Timothy 1:7)

Those 90 percent people cause a lot of trouble.

 

 

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Henry VIII—“What of His Character”? “Ah”

The three magnificent ships of Henry VIII land ashore and Henry leaps out of the most magnificent in a single bound. He splats in the mud. He landed on his feet, to be sure, but it was his not exactly the grand entrance he had envisioned. It was more like that Far Side cartoon in which the head alien trips and tumbles down the gangway, landing with his nose to earth, and the ones still aboard the ship say, “So much for impressing them with awe and grandeur.”

Deathly silence prevailed among all on show and yet afloat—that’s how ‘A Man for all Seasons’ presents the landing scene. Would Henry erupt in fury at his crew for “botching” the landing? Would he turn his wrath upon the household of Thomas Moore, whose castle he had come to visit? You did not want to cross the king! For seconds that seemed like hours all held their breath.

“Ha Ha!” Henry bellowed out at last, savoring the fine joke that nature had played upon him, and everyone knew it was safe to breath.

He loved it that way—everyone holding their breath awaiting his next move! Bold and larger than life—this portrayal is so much like Henry. At any rate, I instantly assume that the movie has it right. It squares perfectly with the image built up by Dale Hoak, the professor conducting ‘The Age of Henry VIII’ Great Courses series.

When I listen to CDs such as this, I become what they said about Paul at Acts 17:18–that he was a “chatterer.” (babbler—NIV, KJV, know-it-all—CEV, pseudo-intellectual—HCSB, word-sower—Douay, blabbermouth (!)—ISV, ignorant show-off (!!)—CSB) The word literally means “seed-picker,” denoting a bird that picks up a seed here and poops it out there. Only ‘Young’s Literal Translation’ renders it just that way—as seed picker. Accordingly, I drop something in conversation, and people assume that I am as smart as Dale Hoak. They do not realize that I have just said everything I know. Press Dale Hoak for details and he will regale you for hours. Press me for details and I will change the subject to Gilligan’s Island.

The bold portrait of Henry VIII striking a defiant pose that everyone will recall, and if not they will know it when they see it, is not anatomically correct. Body proportions are altered by the artist (Hans Holbein) to heighten the sense of majesty. What was Henry’s purpose on earth? Pretty much to enjoy himself—Professor Hoak infers this but does not outright assert it. His reign over England? Kings of that age ran their domains pretty much as a business. His foreign policy? Whatever made him look good and contributed to his glory—that Professor does assert repeatedly.

Does he not remind me of a certain customer of mine from long ago, a doctor, a fellow I used to describe as a man who expected that the world revolve around him? Upon hearing that description, friends would sympathize with me for how unpleasant it must have been to deal with him. Not at all, I would tell them. As long as the world did revolve around him, he was very pleasant, so I—I was in business, after all—tried to ensure that it did, until one day that it just got to be more trouble than it was worth, and I let a certain hour of decision blow whichever way it would.

Henry was like that—jovial and pleasant as long as the world revolved around him—but the moment it didn’t.... Now, this doctor wasn’t imposing like Henry at all. He was a petty stickler impressed with personalities whose staff poked fun at him behind his back. Spying through the blinds the young couple touring the manor for sale next door, he exclaimed to his wife, “They can’t afford that house! They’re just a bunch of grungy hippies!” However, it turned out that the grungy hippie was a rock star. Afterwards, the doc would tell everyone how he live right next to so-and-so and they were on the chumminess of terms.

But back to Henry:

At first, you almost feel sorry for Dale the Professor having to cover such a lout—it’s like being a celebrity reporter for Inside Edition, only to discover that many celebrities that look so shiny on the outside are in reality not so hot. At first, it really does seem that if you know the Herman’s Hermits song, you know all you need to know about Henry VIII. But sometimes the pivotal moments of history are steered by overbearing louts—they just are. One must get used to it.

Henry’s reign is pivotal because it marks a break from the Church—severing a connection of only 1500 years (!) to found what became known as the Anglican Church. He made the break, popular opinion says, because he wanted a divorce from his first wife and the Pope wouldn’t give him one. Professor Hoak doesn’t declare this nothing—it is a factor, he says, but he advances a greater reason: Henry needed the Church’s money. The Church was fabulously rich, and he had squandered every penny that had come his way. Not just in wartime did he squander it—that was to be expected—but even in peacetime his expenditures bore no restraint. With 50 palaces around the country, all them hosting gala bashes constantly to impress whatever dignitaries might come around, and certainly the one he occupied at the moment—like the Jurassic Park guy who “spared no expense” on anything, he needed the dough. Badly.

Doesn’t it remind one of what Samual told the people in Bible times when they demanded a king?

“Samuel told the people who were asking him for a king all the words of Jehovah.  He said: “This is what the king who rules over you will have the right to demand: He will take your sons and put them in his chariots and make them his horsemen, and some will have to run before his chariots.  And he will appoint for himself chiefs over thousands and chiefs over fifties, and some will do his plowing, reap his harvest, and make his weapons of war and equipment for his chariots. He will take your daughters to be ointment mixers, cooks, and bakers. He will take the best of your fields, your vineyards, and your olive groves, and he will give them to his servants. He will take the tenth of your grainfields and your vineyards, and he will give it to his court officials and his servants. And he will take your male and female servants, your best herds, and your donkeys, and he will use them for his work. He will take the tenth of your flocks, and you will become his servants. The day will come when you will cry out because of the king you have chosen for yourselves, but Jehovah will not answer you in that day.” (1 Samuel 8:10-18)

Yeah. That’s pretty much what Henry did—drained the country dry. You wouldn’t think it possible for one man to cause such cash flow chaos—but there it is. He broke with Rome and dissolved the monasteries. All that was theirs became his.

‘Retrospect’ is the title of Professor Hoak’s last lecture, and here he turns pontifical. Maybe you have to do this if you’re an historian—you just can’t say, “the guy’s a jerk.” What was Henry like? “By what criteria, whose criteria should we judge him: yours, mine, his subjects, those who knew him, himself?”—the professor sets the stage for consideration, and first starts out with what he considers the good: He was a “brilliant player of the game of princes, of intelligence taste, training, of record for princely pursuits. A man for the renaissance.” Great.

A short list of his attainments. He cherished music, his compositions are really good, his playing might not have landed him a philharmonic spot, but it was surely good enough “for the Boston Pops.” He was a great athlete, first rate with bow and arrow, tops at tennis, wresting, horseback, feats of arms. He was a great dancer! a master of the “art of conversation!” he could write in several languages. He had fantastic artistic tastes! his tapestry collection “the greatest ever assembled!”

He “understood the requirements of princely magnificence!” He “set a very high standard of princely high conduct! And his war-making! The professor quotes some author who describe renaissance monarchies as “machines for the battlefield,” and in this Henry excelled!*

Got it. He knew how to play the game. Is it only me who wishes to be remembered for things more meaningful than this?

“But what of his character?” the professor says.  “Ah.”

“We must admit that the character of any person ultimately remains unknowable, even enigmatic. But I think it is possible to draw a few tentative generalizations based on what we clearly know of the king’s behavior.”... and with that Dale goes on to mention “the executions of two wives, a cardinal of the Church, a bishop (John Fisher) lord chancellor (that’s Thomas More) a duke, a marquis, two earls, a viscount, a viscountess, four barons, and hundreds of subjects, commoners who resisted his authority.” Well, yes—that might give a clue as to his “character.”

Look, the professor is an historian. He has to do it. His job is not to judge history—it is to relate it. But I kind of miss the Bible accounts that sum up this or that king by saying he was a real rotter. “He did on a grand scale what was bad in Jehovah’s eyes, to offend him,” we read of one. And as to what a person might hope to be remembered for, who can beat the prayer of Nehemiah: “Remember me, O Jehovah, for good”?

...

*Henry is also listed as renowned for his “theology.” Professor Hoak mentions his interchange with the Pope, and I wish he had explored it more thoroughly, but he didn’t. There were other factors involved, but the Pope annulled marriages all the time. If Henry had just asked him to override scripture, he might have done it—he was the Pope, after all. But instead Henry sought to debate scripture (Leviticus 18:16, 20:21—his first marriage was never valid because it violated these two passages) with the Pope—as though he was equally qualified—and you just KNOW that will arise the ire of the latter.

Oh, and Thomas More, the “man for all seasons” from the first paragraph? He lost his head. It was chopped off. Literally. He was supposed to cheerlead for Henry’s break from Rome and he just couldn’t do it.

 

 

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What if Atheists Had Learned Accurate Bible Teachings First? Would They Still Have Gone Atheist?

Q: In Bart Ehrman new book, it seems he ...wants to find a way to believe in the afterlife...most of his writings deal with the exploits of noncanon material or the early church fathers understanding of Hades, Sheol.

Bart comes from an evangelical background. In his blog, he speaks poignantly of the tragedy of losing his faith, something that happened once he began to examine the Bible through “critical thinking.” 

He never had a firm foundation to stand on. I would lose my faith, too, if I had to uphold all the nonsense that is part and parcel of church teaching. One can almost feel sorry for him—but one does not, because he does not feel sorry for himself. He has a good gig going—top selling author, nifty website with a paywall that donates to charity, a reputation that prompts the Great Courses Lecture series to engage him as a professor, chair of a university religion department, where he destroys the faith of his students—but since it was founded mostly on the doctrines of churches, it was barely defensible in the first place. No, he has a good gig. Nobody has asked me to chair a Great Courses series.

If not atheist, he certainly is hard-agnostic, unless he has had a recent change of heart. I often wonder what would have happened if those now atheist had been presented accurate Christian teachings first—would they have gone atheist in that case? A naive me once assumed that the answer would be no. 

Sometimes it has worked that way, but these are crazy times, and if you keep up with atheist writings, you find that they are likely to detest JWs most of all! It does not help that JWs have “accurate” Bible teachings. The allure of breaking free from any “control” is just too enticing to be countered by a fresh look at Bible teachings. There is no way that those on the “cramped and narrow road” are not going to be derided as “cult” members by those on the broad and spacious one. This is so predictable that I kick myself for not having predicted it long before—it is so obvious. 

To break free of “control” holds irresistible appeal today, and the atheists add to the list of who does it (and even put foremost) those who would claim to represent God, as our brothers do, and they lambasted them for “controlling”  people by that means. You might think they would look upon Witnesses with admiration for such things as eliminating racism among their midst, or not engaging in physical violence on any account—least of all that of the government trying to sign them up for the latest war.

Alas, to them, JWs are the worst of the lot, because most churches have watered down “speaking in God’s name” to “God works in mysterious ways,” and have pretty much learned to roll with whatever happens, being content to add a smiley “God” emoji to events. Most have made their peace with the world—they seek to hopefully modify it for the better. Atheists are vested in the world even more so, and think the view of JWs far too extreme—even “murderous”—that God means to replace it. 

From the ranks of atheists come those most likely to present the picture that obedience “to men” is essential if you are a JW, how they are under enormous pressure always from top leaders, and how they terrify children with expectations of Armaggedon. (How about when Newsweek surveys the world scene, and presents the magazine cover “What the *@#! Is Next?” I countered to one of them.)

The “obedience” that JWs are expected to render is no more than following directions of the teacher, the coach, the mentor, the employer, the counselor, the traffic cop—something that was once the most unremarkable thing in the world, but is now presented as selling out one’s soul. JWs have not changed—the world has. One may look no farther than it’s collective response to Covid 19 to see what chaos follows. Mark Benioff, the Salesforce founder, the fellow who purchased Time Magazine, has stated that if everyone had masked up for just three weeks, the virus would have been defeated. Of course, this is what JWs have done, because being obedient to authority is not an issue for them, but the illness is out of control today because the world ridicules obedience and challenges the authority of any who would advance it. The very first sign that this would escalate to disaster occurred very early on—when toilet paper sold out, despite knowledge that the virus doesn’t hit people that way. I told Hassan, the CultExpert, he of the“FreedomofMind” hashtag, that my people have behaved far more responsibly than his—you don’t think some will use their “freedom of mind” to tell the government where they can go with their “rules?”

It doesn’t matter if the world’s obsession with “independence” ends in disaster—as it surely will—as it is with Covid 19. As one tweet puts it: “Folks want to believe this pandemic is nearing an end because they’re tired of living in a broken world. But I fear we are just at the beginning, and that we’ve squandered the first six months with our bickering.” You know they will squander the next six months, too—you just know it. That is the way the world works.

To be free of “control” is just too strong a pull for anything to be otherwise. Those on the broad and spacious road—that’s what makes it broad and spacious, ones on it listen to no one but themselves—will invariably present those on the cramped and narrow road as manipulated by a cult. That should have occurred to me long ago.

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Cincinnati—Fine Medium-sized City on the Ohio River.

Whenever I am trying to distance us from the 24-hour days-of-creation people, which is not that infrequent because Jehovah’ Witnesses are frequently supposed a “fundamentalist” faith—which they are in some regards, but in others they could not be farther apart—we are not the slightest bit political, for instance, not do we buy into the heaven or hell outcome those dead—“socially conservative” is how Joel Engardio put it—I like to been to point out that “we are not the religionists that put dinosaurs on the Kentucky ark. That is someone else.”

(Sigh—we are the ones who put them in the Bible—not the Bible itself, of course, but a tiny drawing of a dinosaur used to be included in the inside cover NWT artwork. But that was in the green Bible, the one produced in 1961, and it disappeared ages ago. Few will recall it.)

I heard via social media report that the Kentucky ark was suffering a devastating decline in tickets sales due to Covid-19. I responded that this was a problem in the original ark, too—tickets sold out and the counter was shut down after just eight were purchased.

My wife and I once stayed at a Best Western in Cincinnati. It was a last minute change of destination because our original one was beset by hurricane. The next morning in the breakfast room, nearly everyone was headed out for a day at the Ark, 40 miles away, most of them with kids in tow. The thing is even shaped as the storybook ark, and not as essentially a floating box, which is surely what it was.

We did not go, of course, but saw some other sights of the city. Animal-wise, we went to the Cincinnati zoo, where there were no dinosaurs, but I learned that it was the zoo at which a boy fell into the gorilla enclosure, prompting the in-house sharpshooter to shoot the gorilla dead. This triggered much outrage, especially since Harambe had seemed to be nothing but protective of him, as though he was his (her?) own—but the zoo didn’t want to take any chances. They had a little memorial to Harambe there when we strolled by the gorilla enclosure. I am not sure why, but a top ten list for ‘best zoos in the country’ includes three from Ohio—Cincinnati, Columbus, and Toledo. There is something about that state and zoos.

It was just an extended weekend jaunt. The city is of manageable size, and as soon as we discovered that, we took the trolley that does a figure eight through the city—it’s not quite a figure eight because the middle doesn’t quite come together, but there are two loops, one in the north where the historic marketplace is—we left the car there after exploring it—and one in south, where the downtown is. At the bottom lower loop is the riverside area, where you can ride the Ferris wheel, hike the massive bridge into Kentucky, or attend a ball game—whether it be a Reds game (baseball) at the Great American Ballpark, or a Bengals game (football) at the Paul Brown Stadium—they are at opposite ends of the Snale Riverfront Park. The next day the Bengals played their opening game of the season, and if memory serves, they won—but maybe it does not and they lost. The pic on display is taken from the trolley at where the loops almost intersect—paintings on brick as though windows with people looking out.

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Some attractions were closed for renovation during our stay, but we visited an art museum, a science museum, and a luxury hotel (where we didn’t stay—it’s Best Western for us, as mentioned—I’ll bet nobody at the luxury hotel was visiting the Ark Encounter next day) that had to match its name to certain initials because the name originally chosen turned out to be copyrighted by someone else, yet all the embroidery and plate had been stamped with those initials. 

And on the northern loop, driving this time, not taking the trolley, we spotted a small sign pointing to the William H. Taft home, so up the hill (where the family moved to escape the pollution of the old city—a pollution long since gone) we drove to spend a few hours at the childhood home of the 27th President, and for some stupid reason the pictures I posted there—pictures I took myself with my very own iPad, no longer display. If you see them there on the linked post, it means I have fixed the issue. If you don’t, I haven’t.

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Bart Erhman’s Heaven and Hell—Any JW Could Have Written This!

Okay, start by walking it back. They couldn’t. Not all of it. But the gist of it they could, and that is a claim that few others can make.

When I read Bart’s contribution to Time Magazine, it was as though I was reading the Watchtower! The occasion is the release of his latest book Heaven and Hell, (he has over 30!) in which he speaks in absolute agreement about topics that Jehovah’s Witnesses know well—and have known well for over 100 years—topics such as soul, psyche, Sheol, Gehenna, notions of heaven, and notions of hell. 

A very few of his paragraphs wouldn’t fit—mostly the ones that are muddled. But for the most part, the content of his book is very very familiar. It is so familiar that I even begin to float the notion that he keeps up with Watchtower publications—the writers there are far and away the most vocal proponents of the ideas he has picked up on—some might say the only proponents.

Not that he would accept the Watchtower as a source in itself, I don’t think. But what I can easily picture is him keeping abreast of their writing and the explanations that only they have, then tracing it back to original sources, whereupon he verifies it all and presents it as though his own research—which it would be, minus the credit for who put him on the right track in the first place. 

Okay, okay—maybe he’s not ripping off their work. Probably he is not. He is a respected scholar, after all. But in that case, the scholarship of the Watchtower must be elevated, for it is the same—and their critics generally assume that they have none.

Take a few excerpts of Erhman’s article:

Neither Jesus, nor the Hebrew Bible he interpreted, endorsed the view that departed souls go to paradise or everlasting pain.

Unlike most Greeks, ancient Jews traditionally did not believe the soul could exist at all apart from the body. On the contrary, for them, the soul was more like the “breath.” The first human God created, Adam, began as a lump of clay; then God “breathed” life into him (Genesis 2: 7). Adam remained alive until he stopped breathing. Then it was dust to dust, ashes to ashes... When we stop breathing, our breath doesn’t go anywhere. It just stops. So too the “soul” doesn’t continue on outside the body, subject to postmortem pleasure or pain. It doesn’t exist any longer.

The Hebrew Bible itself assumes that the dead are simply dead—that their body lies in the grave, and there is no consciousness, ever again. It is true that some poetic authors, for example in the Psalms, use the mysterious term “Sheol” to describe a person’s new location. But in most instances Sheol is simply a synonym for “tomb” or “grave.” It’s not a place where someone actually goes.

and later: 

Most people today would be surprised to learn that Jesus believed in a bodily eternal life here on earth, instead of eternal bliss for souls, but even more that he did not believe in hell as a place of eternal torment.

In traditional English versions, he does occasionally seem to speak of “Hell” – for example, in his warnings in the Sermon on the Mount: anyone who calls another a fool, or who allows their right eye or hand to sin, will be cast into “hell” (Matthew 5:22, 29-30). But these passages are not actually referring to “hell.” The word Jesus uses is “Gehenna.” The term does not refer to a place of eternal torment but to a notorious valley just outside the walls of Jerusalem, believed by many Jews at the time to be the most unholy, god-forsaken place on earth. It was where, according to the Old Testament, ancient Israelites practiced child sacrifice to foreign gods. The God of Israel had condemned and forsaken the place.

In the ancient world (whether Greek, Roman, or Jewish), the worst punishment a person could experience after death was to be denied a decent burial. Jesus developed this view into a repugnant scenario: corpses of those excluded from the kingdom would be unceremoniously tossed into the most desecrated dumping ground on the planet. Jesus did not say souls would be tortured there. They simply would no longer exist.”

Anyone who knows anything about Jehovah’s Witnesses knows that these are exactly their views. Is Bart just taking our stuff? No—it can’t be—I wouldn’t make the charge. But I can be forgiven the suspicion. Do a search on any of these terms at JW.org and you will find what he now says. Maybe it is simply basic research that any decent scholar could uncover, as Bart has, but in that case it is all the more damning for the world of churches. Not only do they make no mention of these things, but they consider most of them heresies.

Witnesses were there before he was born. He can’t not know it. When I search his own blog (which I am jealous of—he has a good gig going, and I like the platform), virtually nothing about Jehovah’s Witnesses comes up, apart from a post about the name Jehovah itself, in which he misses entirely the import of God having a name rather than a title, to focus on its Latin letters, and thus declaring it false. I found nothing else beyond a few brief, usually derogatory comments from contributors, to which he typically would answer that he is not very familiar with it.

Nobody espouses on these ‘afterlife’ views of his like Jehovah’s Witnesses, and apart from them almost nobody else does—and yet he never mentions Witnesses. This seems parallel to when Ronald Sider suggests four reforms that he thinks would solve the problems of the evangelical church (that they don’t practice what they preach), stating that nobody implements these reforms, and ignoring completely that Jehovah’s Witnesses do, and that yes, they do go a long way in solving the problem he has identified. 

“Most people today would be surprised to learn that Jesus believed in a bodily eternal life here on earth, instead of eternal bliss for souls, but even more that he did not believe in hell as a place of eternal torment.” says Bart.

We’ve taught this for 100 years and, yes, they are surprised. Why? Because such things were never taught at church. Instead, the near-universal teaching of church Christianity is that when you die, you go to heaven if you were good, and hell if you were bad. That is what just about everyone of church background thought before becoming a Witness. I have said before that, given the universality of the heaven/hell teaching, you would almost expect it to be on every other page of the Bible. Instead, apart from a handful of verses that can be tortured for that meaning, it is never encountered. It is among the reasons that, on becoming Witnesses, people are wont to say that they have “come into the truth.” The explanations are so simple. The Bible comes together and makes sense. After all, if God wanted persons in heaven, why didn’t he put them there in the first place?

There are over two billion Christians in the world, the vast majority of whom believe in heaven and hell. You die and your soul goes either to everlasting bliss or torment (or purgatory en route). ...The vast majority of these people naturally assume this is what Jesus himself taught.” states Bart.

Yes, of course they would assume it. Most church teachings—people simply assume that they are to be found in the Bible—why would the church teach something Jesus did not? For many, the you-know-what hits the fan when they discover that such is in fact the case. From this arises the saying among Witnesses, not heard so often as it once was, that new ones ought to be locked up for six months until their zeal is tempered with common sense.

There was a pesty fellow who used to challenge me a lot on trinity and other church teachings. One day he sent me a video of “4 famous church leaders” hubbubing in conference, in which he said they acknowledged that everlasting life on earth was the actual Bible hope—it wasn’t just JWs who taught it. I couldn’t get far into it—it was just too smarmy. I told him I’d take his word for it. Though these leaders knew and discussed the actual role of the earth as our permanent home, the problem was “Bible illiteracy” among the masses, he said. 

If the problem is Bible literacy among the masses, I replied, why don’t they fix it? Isn’t that their job as leaders? Ones taking the lead in our faith manage to keep people on the same page.

So what to do with Bart? Is he taking our stuff? Nah—I guess not. If the four famous church leaders knew things that they hadn’t bothered to tell the masses, maybe it is out there for Bart to find as well. I have not been especially kind to him in previous posts, and maybe I should walk some of it back. He presents as though an agnostic/atheist in his Great Courses lecture series and annoys me on that account. I’ve written about ten posts, none of them kind, with several more in the hopper that I may or may not ever get to, and I may have to rethink some of them. Fortunately, I have already made it clear that nothing is personal—it is ideas that you squabble with, not the persons who hold them, for they are more-or-less interchangeable placeholders.

But he had better be careful. He joins the ranks of people like Bruce Speiss, Jason Beduhn, Joel Engardio, and Gunnar Samuelson, who write something that squares with JW beliefs, and spend the rest of their days on earth denying that they are one of them. Occasionally, they must even issue statements to the effect of  “Look, I'm not one of Jehovah’s Witnesses. I don’t agree with Jehovah’s Witnesses. I don’t even like Jehovah’s Witnesses.” But it’s too late! The damage has been done! Sigh....what's a scholar to do? Agreeing with Jehovah’s Witnesses is detrimental to one’s career, and yet Jehovah’s Witnesses are right on so many things. And the things they're right about, they have been saying for a long time, so it’s embarrassing for cutting edge scholars to endorse what the JWs, for the most part unscholarly and ordinary folk, have long maintained.

Fortunately (or unfortunately) he veers aside frequently enough so people may not make the mistake. Such as:

“Some thinkers came up with a solution [shortly before Christ] that explained how God would bring about justice... This new idea maintained that there are evil forces in the world aligned against God and determined to afflict his people. Even though God is the ultimate ruler over all, he has temporarily relinquished control of this world for some mysterious reason. But the forces of evil have little time left. God is soon to intervene in earthly affairs to destroy everything and everyone that opposes him and to bring in a new realm for his true followers, a Kingdom of God, a paradise on earth. Most important, this new earthly kingdom will come not only to those alive at the time, but also to those who have died. Indeed, God will breathe life back into the dead, restoring them to an earthly existence.” (italics and bolded text mine. “Some mysterious reason”—he doesn’t know that?! after nailing it on so many other points!)

Not to mention his muddled:

“And God will bring all the dead back to life, not just the righteous. The multitude who had been opposed to God will also be raised, but for a different reason: to see the errors of their ways and be judged. Once they are shocked and filled with regret – but too late — they will permanently be wiped out of existence.” Sigh...it is as Anthony Morris said: “Just stick with publications of the slave, and you will be alright.” The moment he goes “off-script” he comes up with some half-baked “nah nah—told ya so!” diatribe from his born-again days that he grew out of (and they do not look upon him kindly for that reason).

One of my own chums pulled me back from the edge, just as I was about to go apoplectic and accuse Bart of plagiarizing us: “I don't think all of this is that new to Bart Ehrman. I caught some of this on his site. But I had never noticed before, that he now sees Jesus' actual words in pretty much the same sense that JWs believe,” he said. He had spent the few dollars to subscribe to the Bart site for a month, so as to ask a question or two. I read some of the Bart site, and he makes a better impression on me there than he does as Great Courses lecturer.

My chum said of our own work and of Bart’s: “I think that the Watchtower (Bible Students and JWs) have done an enormous service to the religious world by "putting out the fires of hell." It has taken the last 100 years, but I believe that there are a lot of churches where the Watchtower has provided a strong influence so that those churches and their teachers are not so likely to emphasize the teachings that make God seem like a monster. For good or bad Ehrman does have influence, especially on new students, and this last book might even help a bit in opening up some opportunities for our own work.”

Odd “allies” we may yet become.

...

It may be that one should take a new look at Time Magazine, as well. I subscribed to Time a little over two years ago, enticed by an absurdly low rate, with the thought I would cancel when the auto-renewal hit. When it hit, I did cancel, because the magazine—once a powerhouse, but now upstaged amidst the digital revolution, seemed no more than “same-old same-old” to me. Nothing wrong with it, but neither was it unique. My curiosity had been peaked by the low subscription rate. 

I now think super low rate was because a sale was pending, and they wanted to enhance whatever subscriber base they still had to pretty it up for purchase. Mark Benoif has bought it, he who is the Salesforce company founder—a guy worth 6 billion, I am told. He joins Jeff Bezos who bought the Washington Post, and Lourene Jobs (widow of Steve) who bought a majority stake in Atlantic.

Not sure how the new owners will change the brands they bought, however I can’t picture this Ehrman piece in the old Time (or in fact, anywhere). This might be evidence that it is o longer same-old same old.” In an effort to compete, these outlets may be going places that they have never gone before.

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How Many Died in the Great Leap Forward? - 1958-1962

Between Chinese “commiephobes” and “commiephiles” and competing factions in both, estimates range from 4 million all the way up to 38 million. The topic comes up for discussion at enormous length here. Is there a way of getting to the bottom of it? Is there a reason to? Human government of all types is one train wreck after another, and thus those of biblical bent recognize that it is all slated for replacement. In the words of Daniel 2:44:

In the days of [certain then-future] kings the God of heaven will set up a kingdom that will never be destroyed. And this kingdom will not be passed on to any other people. It will crush and put an end to all these kingdoms, and it alone will stand forever.

But as to the machinations that collectively result in a variance of 34 million:

When you see such shenanigans in present human interactions of entirely different spheres, you don’t assume that you are seeing it for the first time ever. Rather, you figure that this is but the latest example of what humans will do in pushing their own point of view. Exaggeration, over-promotion, running the other side off the road, muddying the waters so the other side will give up, outright denial, seeing only what one wants to see: these are the stock in trade tools of humans. Whether right or wrong, to have someone assert it has been put to work in the analysis of Chinese communism, is not shocking.

It doesn’t speak well of our ability to “know” anything. If we may go from this weighty example to one of pop trivia—if there is one fixed star in Dylanography, it is that Bob was booed at the Newport Festival of folk music snobs because he forsook acoustic for electric. Not so, says Pete Seeger, who was there, and who is usually thought the foremost critic. It was because the sound was so garbled nobody could understand him, but the producers refused to fix it, saying “young people like it this way.”

One reason I like the Bible so much is that it doesn’t make nearly the attempt to appeal to the head that it does the heart. Try to appeal to the head and you must compete with liars, frauds, loonies, and zealots. Try to appeal to the heart and it is a straight shot. Those too “educated” for the Bible might reflect on Carl Jung, who not only acknowledged that there is a spiritual side of things, but maintained that the spiritual side is the more genuine, the more real, the more true. The “statements of the conscious mind,” he says, “may easily be snares and delusions, lies, or arbitrary opinions, but this is certainly not true of statements of the soul.” 

When it comes to government, who cannot identify with the Bible analogy of ancient rulership being like the heavens over mankind that might rain on you one moment, bless you will sunshine the next, blow away in a windstorm all you own in yet another moment, and there isn’t a thing you can do about it? For all the material advances in both education and what is called political science, the reality is not so different today—but participatory government better presents the illusion that “we” are in control. Communism makes no bones about saying we’re not. Someone else is. You are cogs in someone else’s machine. You have no say. If you are going to take over someone’s life, you’d better not screw it up. 

For all practical purposes, most people have no say in Western government either, but they do have some. Put in $1000 worth of effort and you may see a $10 return. That’s not a lot, but it is something, and people like the idea of control. Even in situations where communism might produce a $20 return, it will be opposed by many, as it goes against that aspect of human nature.

I took a public speaking course in college in which the professor coincidentally was a huge advocate of participatory government. With student elections coming up—who will run the Student Council of campus affairs—he relentlessly pushed for getting out the vote, and I got fed up. When it was my turn to prepare and present my speech, I chose the topic, “Why we shouldn’t vote.” (This was before I knew anything about Jehovah’s Witnesses) I developed three reasons not to vote: 1) candidates lie, saying whatever they must to get elected. 2) Candidates “grow”—they reassess their views afterward—maybe for good or maybe for ill, but independent of your wishes. 3) Candidates may earnestly try to deliver, but find themselves outmaneuvered by those of opposite view. The upshot the three points is that it is just not worth it sinking that much time into politics—there are plenty of other things that offer better payoff. The professor was sporting about it, muttering that he didn’t agree but that I had raised solid points. He didn’t flunk me.

Q: (from an apologist for the Great Leap Forward): But the success of the Chinese economy in years to come shows that not all its lessons [of the Great Leap Forward] were wasted.

I doubt it shows that at all. The success is more likely due to the Chinese people better capturing the spirit of Proverbs 6:6: “Go to the ant, you lazy one, consider its ways, and become wise.” Substitute only “cooperative” for “lazy” and you have a perfect fit. China had an “industrial revolution” that precedes that of the West by almost 1000 years—Mao had nothing to do with it.

“In the State of Wu of China, steel was first made, preceding the Europeans by over 1,000 years. The Song dynasty saw intensive industry in steel production, and coal mining. No other premodern state advanced nearly as close to starting an industrial revolution as the Southern Song,” says Wikipedia. Only lack of a middle class, Wiki speculates, prevented that early revolution from catching on, something that makes a hero of Henry Ford, for realizing that without someone to buy his products, he could only go so far.

One author I came across raised the point of Chinese cooperation due to long-ingrained Confucian value system that  emphasizes responsibly and holds that the group is more important than the individual—and asks whether that isn’t the very antithesis of Thomas Jefferson’s Declaration of Independence, that holds as “self-evident” the individual’s right to pursue life, liberty, and happiness. The point is well-taken. The only trouble with too much “group-think” is that it becomes to easy for either visionary or scoundrel to himself at the head and direct the body any which way.

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Observations on PBS’s China—Power and Prosperity: Treatment of Uyghurs & Social Credit Systems

Q: By now, most people have heard about the Uyghurs issues in China. There are supposedly concentration camps, torture camps,...thousands imprisoned, etc. When someone changed thousands to "for all we know, there might even be millions" the new number changed to "millions" without Western media even batting an eyelash. 

A: I saw a PBS show, China—Power and Prosperity not long ago. The unedited version of this runs almost two hours and is divided into seven or eight topics. The segment about the Uyghurs (toward the end) seems to back reports of harsh treatment—but is it thousands or “millions?” Several witnesses who lived through it are interviewed—ones now in “self-imposed exile” in Istanbul. One man tells of massive detention centers where he saw ones interrogated with “unbearable brutality,” one woman of her block mates taken for interrogation 15 at a time, and would reemerge “bruised and swollen.”

Q: my sense of right and wrong was outraged when I heard that they take children away from parents and re-train them in boarding schools where state propaganda is spoon-fed day and night.  

A: They testified as to this, too. They all assert that state video of helpful retraining is “staged and scripted.” The justification for all of it is some terrorist attacks from that ethnicity. It seemed convincing to me. Easy to find, if you have not seen it. Google the topic and bring up some YouTubes. The government spokesman who denies it all wonders “who is paying them?”

...There is something about a PBS offering, or any offering from ones of similar background. How to put it?

Q: they are forced to comply at peril of their life or a system that can take all their social credit away in one swoop.  This new social credit system is terrible and may soon come to the west

A: Interviewing one Chinese company spokesperson about this, the interviewer asks: “Does it work?” that is—does the system of incentives and disincentives serve to change people’s conduct? The woman seems flustered at this, and mumbles that “Of course it works,” before breaking away. “Something about our question disconcerted the hosts, who suspended the interview and withdrew,” says the narrator, “but our mics were still on and recorded what they next said privately” (not exact quote, but close).

The first thing the woman said privately to some cohorts was: (in the full version, not the edited one) “What kind of a question was that?” That had been my impression, too. What was disconnecting about the question was the sheer stupidity of it. Do incentives and disincentives serve to mold behavior? Of course they do! There is something so naive about persons who have been raised with “enlightened” views of discipline. The next backstage remarks are of how they can’t really refuse an interview, but they want to take care not to criticize the party, and of course, this is what the program seizes upon, as though their dopey question served to expose the underbelly of the beast. 

If a stove is red-hot, and people know it is red hot, will they touch it? Only in the West will moral revisionists question this, extrapolating the few who will indeed touch it anyway into the many. The truth is more in accord with Mark Twain’s observation that “a cat that sits on a hot stove will never sit on a hot stove again. Nor will it sit on a cold one—for they all look hot.”

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Scholar-Lite—Nothing Infuriates More Those Who Assume Takeover Rights

When the scholars weigh in—after peering and peering the way they do, and don’t present Watchtower history as Watchtower does itself, what to make of this? It is a combination of several reasons, is my guess. de Vienne advances one when she lands such a work on their doorstep and it is met with silence—that they may be just be “incurious as to their own history.” They are doers more than contemplators of the past. They put their eye to the rows and they don’t look back, because the furrows get squirrelly when you do that. There is a plank devoted to such things of history, but it is not the rudder that steers the ship. “No man who has put his hand to a plow and looks at the things behind is well-suited for the Kingdom of God,” says the Lord.

Another person advances another reason—that to a certain degree, history is unknowable, written by the victors, modified over the years by those of myriad agendas, and much of the original data is lost forever. Thus, because they are doers more than thinkers, at Bethel they research the past, come up with what seems tight enough, and say (as one local sportscaster used to say) “that’s my story and I’m sticking to it.” To do otherwise is to yield to thinkers who will not engage in doing if you light a stick of dynamite under them. “God gives his holy spirit to those doing his will,” the verse says, and not so much with those just writing about it. 

It is a scholar-light approach that infuriates scholars too caught up in the supposed ascendancy of their own discipline—scholars who simply assume takeover rights by reason of their being scholars. They get those rights in many venues—and the greater world offers testimony as to what happens when the world’s scholarship runs the show—you would think that would be taken into account by those who carry on about how essential higher education is—but they do not get them in Jehovah’s organization. Once in awhile they even get sent to the doghouse, but only when they howl too much. 

“I have no problem with this,” I say, once I get over the problem I have with it—for I come from a world of ideas, readers, and books. Still, I notice that those ideas don’t add up to much when they are poured into the world vat, and may collectively even bring that world to its knees. I yield to Someone whose ways just might be higher than mine. He gives his spirit to those obeying him as leader. “And we are witnesses of these matters, and so is the holy spirit, which God has given to those obeying him as ruler,” says Acts 5:32. It is the doing that counts.

In general, when I hear any viewpoint of challenge, I look for deeds at least as much as ideas. Frequently, there are none, and the remarks can largely be dismissed on that account. That is my take on what Paul says on the prospect of confronting the self-styled superfine apostles of his day—‘when I see them, I will get to know not just their words—anyone has words and many have a staggering number of them—but I want to get to know their power—their deeds. (1 Corinthians 4:19)

The saying goes that ‘if you can do something, you do it. If you can’t, you critique it.‘ Absent someone’s “power”—their good deeds, their honest track record—why should they be taken too seriously? They are critiquing—and the reason just may be that they are capable of nothing else—they are like inside-the-beltway wonks who majored in “political science”—as though that were scientific. At least Rolf has a track record—how hot it is and what has been allowed to go stone cold was my first initial question about his book—which may not be answerable until I go talk to him.

The saying is often escalated to a usually (though not always) unnecessarily cynical, “and if you REALLY can’t do it, you teach it.” Here we come to Dr. Gene Hwang, who did not fit the pattern. He taught at Cornell, and was for years, among the most published authorities on statistics. His work provides mathematical support for scientists who study gene function. He became a Witness in the late 1990’s.

I speculate in ‘Tom Irregardless and Me’ that after a dozen years or so, when he has proved himself stable, he or someone like him is invited to look over Watchtower’s science offerings and contribute an update if he sees fit. Many brothers seem to think that at Bethel, they assign such material to the Witness who did really well in high-school science, straight A’s!—he or she holed up In the Bethel library for a few weeks, and “out came this book!” on creation that blows the cover off evolution. 

No. Plainly it will be someone like Brother Hwang “bringing his gift to the altar” upon invitation. However, will his work silence the critics? You know it won’t. The writings of evolutionists versus those who favor intelligent design would fill multiple libraries. So they take Gene Hwang’s book at Bethel—he is a heavy-hitter—and say: “That’s our story and we’re sticking to it,”—same as they do with history. Do other “scholars” debate their own competing version? “Yeah—well—we’ll see,” they say at Bethel, as they envision a headline in the paper that they have seen so many times before: “Everything You Thought You Knew About Such-and-Such is Wrong!”

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They Are Going to Call it a Cult. You Know They Are. Roll With It.

Let’s have one more go at Brother Glock’s words that good advice from the Witness organization on how to deal with Covid 19 proves that God is working with them. After that, we’ll give it a rest. Enough is enough.

Ida thought maybe it was too over-the-top for him to put it this way. Maybe he should have said: “The advice that the GB are giving is proof that they really apply the scriptures in their life and are allowing...” and so forth. That’s not “proof” either and the same bellyachers that would raise a fuss about the first would raise it no less with the second.

I almost think that “prove” should be stricken from the JW vocabulary. It is one more word that has been redefined to give it a narrow focus that was never before its exclusive definition. “Scientific proof” is all that people think of today—yet if “scientific proof” was the order of the day, the stuff we have, and that of any belief system, would not be called “faith.”

Should Glock be expected to use the word “prove” in the scientific sense? Not hardly. He is a Bible teacher. How does the Bible use the term? The New World Translation uses the word ‘prove’ 46 times. Not one of them is in the scientific sense. Only 2 or 3 is even in the legal sense. Typical are verses like Jesus “sending you out as sheep among wolves; so prove yourselves cautious as serpents and yet innocent as doves, (Matt 10:16)

“On this account, you too prove yourselves ready, because the Son of man is coming at an hour that you do not think to be it.” (Matt 24:44)

“But wanting to prove himself righteous, the man said to Jesus:...” (Luke 10:29)

“My Father is glorified in this, that you keep bearing much fruit and proveyourselves my disciples.” (John 15:8)

In fact, since always we hear that this or that must be “approved,” just what is the etymology of “approve?” Does anyone think it suggests scientific proof? Or does it not denote meeting the standards of someone with recognized stature? It is ridiculous that Brother Glock should be taken to task by narrow-minded sticklers for a single application of the word which will almost certainly not be his, nor be the dominant one of history.

Words change. There is no sense grousing about this. “Why so serious?” the Joker says, as he slits another throat. We may have to change on this as well—or just ignore the wordcrafters and put pedal to the medal!

Sometimes I think we should do that with the word “cult.” The word has changed. Rather than resist it, it may be better to embrace the new meaning. Point to the etymology of the word. It stems from the same root as does the word “agriculture,” which literally means “care of the earth.” Ones who care for “the matters of God” would be an appropriate definition for “cult.” I could live with it.

Look, if there really is a cramped road with narrow gate that people are advised to follow, is there any way those on the broad and spacious one are not going to call it a ‘cult?’

Go in through the narrow gate,” Jesus says, “because broad is the gate and spacious is the road leading off into destruction, and many are going in through it; whereas narrow is the gate and cramped the road leading off into life, and few are finding it.” (Matthew 7:13-14) They are going to call it a “cult.” You know they are. Roll with it.

One might even do what the cops did when the radical students began tormenting them with the epithet “pigs”—doubling down when they saw that it got under their skin. Finally, one innovative officer figured that he would work with it:

P - Pride

I - Integrity

G- Guts

S - Service

Can Witnesses do the same? “To the adolescents I became an adolescent,” Paul said, or would have had he thought of it, since he said plenty that was parallel.

C - Courage

U- Unity

L - Love

T - Truth

One does not want to be like my (non-Witness) cousin, who grumbled till her dying day that she could no longer use the word “gay” because the homosexuals had hijacked it. “I’m no prude,” she would day. “If they want to go AC-DC (would she really wink just then?), that’s all right with me. But why couldn’t they invent their own word? Why did they have to take “gay?” She’d go on and on. I used to set her off just to watch the sparks fly. “Ethel, you know what gets me?” I say, “that we can no longer use the word “gay.” “I know!” she’d crank up, and off she’d go for the next quarter-hour.

“She’s just mad that she can no longer speak of going to ‘gay Paree,’” I said to my right-wing brother. But my right wing brother had still not forgiven the French in the aftermath of the “Freedom Fries” fiasco. “Why  can’t she?” he muttered.

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