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What I Like About Jehovah’s Organization is That Those With the Highest Education Do Not Assume Takeover Rights

Q: We had a CO visit some time ago and he said that some are getting frustrated with our meetings because they lacked deep food...and explained that the bulk of people responding to the good news were from lands with little education..many struggled with the basics of reading and writing...and our articles were written with them in mind...and told us that for their sake we had to get used to it...and do personal deep study...which is really our own responsibility anyway.

A: I’ll buy it. That’s who responds to the good news. That is the historical pattern. No reason to think it should change:

For you see his calling of you, brothers, that there are not many wise in a fleshly way, not many powerful, not many of noble birth, but God chose the foolish things of the world to put the wise men to shame; and God chose the weak things of the world to put the strong things to shame; and God chose the insignificant things of the world and the things looked down on, the things that are not, to bring to nothing the things that are, so that no one might boast in the sight of God.” (1 Corinthians 1:24-26)

So for those who have more than the norm of education? They can learn to read a few grade levels below them if they are not too full of themselves—it will be good for them, as they “do personal deep study...which is really our own responsibility anyway.”

What I like about the truth is that those with educational background do not assume takeover rights, as they do in the greater world. They either self-discipline or have been disciplined by life not to let their educational advantage become a disadvantage—to not let their education puff them up. They do not patronize with: “Okay, you have done well. Amazingly well, really, considering your lack of education. But now the smart people have arrived. We’ll take it from here, thanks very much.”

They learn their education is a gift that they may bring to the altar, no more valuable than the gifts of others.

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The Personification of God—Part 3

Q: “So I find it difficult to see how that kind of personification [accounts of Jehovah’s anger, jealousy, warfare & so forth] reaches the heart of a Christian.....or any decent human being living today.” (See thread that begins with Part 1)

Well, you can always say it’s Genesis—it is the writing of people immersed in life thousands of years ago. You can compare it with other writings of the time. What should stick is the descriptions of God’s love for his people—even when they are giving Him a run for His money (and he has it all—“if I were hungry, I would not tell it to you,” he says at Ps 50:12). Remember, the particular sin that gets his dander up here is pretty severe—that of so quickly worshipping the golden calf that they have made themselves—so quickly forgetting his commandments on idolatry and all that he has done for them. I think the many expressions of his love is what should remain, all the more so because I see it no where else in those times.

Are there any other ancient religious systems that incorporate love? Taoism, Buddhism, Hinduism, any of the ancient philosophies and myths. Often there is emphasis on ethics and doing what is right, but on love? Not that I am aware of. Not too long ago I finished a Great Courses lecture series on Greek mythology. The gods of mythology don’t love humans—they are indifferent to them, the professor pointed out, notwithstanding that now and again some god gets the hots for a particular bombshell of a woman, and they do tend to be fond of whatever halflings they have conceived with them, but love for humans in general? No. They “find them useful,” the professor kept saying. They like the sacrifices offered, but there is no love in return. As near as I can tell, love (not lust) is uniquely a trait of Jehovah, even if it is a (blisteringly) “tough love” at times.

Maybe the way in which human traits and even emotions are attributed to God as presented in the Bible for our edification, even though whe all know he doesn’t have the physical appendages of humans, and presumably, the emotional ones—Maybe it can be likened to one of those campaign messages: “My name is God, and I approve this message.” That way the message stands as from God even though it reflects the limitations of the writers. Jehovah is “running for office” of sorts. He is running for the office of our approval—that we will choose him over that scoundrel who is running on the Satan ticket. Of course, he doesn’t have to run for office. He doesn’t have to condescend to have any interaction with humans at all. But he does—he indicated immediately after Adam’s transgression that he would—going so far as to give his son a ransom for our buyback.

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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)

“Are You Jehovah?” the Woman Asked.

During one of the early pioneer schools, testing out what we had learned, I had been paired together with one of the other students. Thirty years later I ran across her again, and she recalled our working together.

Upon my ringing the bell, the householder had asked: “Are you Jehovah?” My companion remembered that I had all but recoiled at the question: ”Oh, no,” I modestly replied. “I would never presume to call myself by the name of the Most High God. I am but a lowly servant of his, trying in my own imperfect way to serve him, etc.” Many times she had reviewed it in her hear, and each time she was so impressed at my abject humility.

It never happened! She had worked it over herself. That will be the day that I fall in for such mock piety. Never trust urban legends.

What I had said when the good-natured woman hollered “Are you Jehovah?”—hollering through the screen door from the far-removed kitchen, for she was distracted cooking, was: “Well—no, actually, I am not.” Whereupon she realized just what she had really said and laughed uproariously at the fine joke. 

We did end up having a pretty good discussion, and maybe it is from that circumstance that my companion elevated me to near sainthood. I’m not really all that deserving of it.

I am pretty sure I know how this happened. She is getting me balled up with some brother in a Watchtower account who did say self-effacing things like that—only he wasn’t asked if he was Jehovah, he was asked if he was one of Jehovah’s Witnesses. The Mexican brother was very lowly—of a peasant background—and he was working in an upscale area, an area he would never ever have any business in visiting were it not for the ministry. He manned up for the occasion.

“I try to be sir, it’s hard—to live up to the standards of the Most High God, and to represent His name—it’s hard, but I try.”

It puts an whole different spin on the picture, doesn’t it? He did say it. The circumstances account for it. He was overwhelmed—far outside his comfort zone—whereas I have been known to take the position that even in my comfort zone I am not necessarily comfortable.

Moreover, I have seen it, too, in congregations where I have served. Ones of the urban poor would check out or be drawn into a territory of downright wealthy neighborhoods.They could duck out, for timidity’s sake, and no one would think the lesser of them for it. But they didn’t. They displayed courage the like of which people are not too commonly called upon to display, in order to bring the good news to ones who were light years above them monetarily, if not the slightest bit spiritually.

I admire them to this day for that.

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)

The Personification of God—Part 2

In the personification of God—giving him hands, a face, eyes, ears, and so forth—and even extending it to the emotions of a family that people can identify with (See Part 1), can one oversimplify Jehovah to the point that it is a turn-off to modern people?
 

Q: “The problem happens when this kind of personification that worked for people thousands of years ago, no longer works for people in our days.”

I think the trick is to make it work. The prime reason NOT to make it work is to give in to the feeling that we are above such “primitive” narrative, that we are more sophisticated, that our predecessors may have been stupid but not us, that we are not to be talked down to as though we were children. 

But we are children. Certainly we are in the eyes of God, but even in the eyes of those not completely drunk on the Kool-Aid of human independence from God’s direction, we are children. Look at how people snipe at each other on social media. Look at how they do it on TV. Look at how they do it on “the news.” They are adults when they do that? No, they are children. Look at the mess of a world they have collectively built and the relatively petty matters they elevate to monumental importance. They are children.

So a bit of humility is in order. You don’t puff yourself up as though you are the smartest people who have ever lived, when you may well be the dumbest. “There is a generation that is pure in its own eyes but has not been cleansed from its filth,” reads Proverbs 30:12. You don’t let the fact that you can make iPads and Teslas blind you to the “alternative fact” that you still can’t answer any of the deep questions of life—as Vermont Royster put it  “In the contemplation of man himself, of his dilemmas, of his place in the universe, we are little further along than when time began. We are still left with questions of who we are and why we are and where we are going.”

Some of the best lines, to my mind, are still to be found in the Truth book of the late 60s: “True, there has been progress in a materialistic way. But is it really progress when men send rockets to the moon, and yet cannot live together in peace on earth?”

Some people think it is. Let them be separated out if they will be so spiritually dense.

I think the language of the Bible simply serves to separate people—to cause them to reveal what is in their heart. Yesterday our Zoom group discussed the daily text: “Whoever trusts in his own heart is stupid”—(Proverbs 28:26), and the focus was on weighing in on matters when we don’t have all the facts. Why would anyone do that?—and yet we do it all the time. These days the TV positively encourages us to do that, presenting a single scene or a single line repeatedly and without context, causing viewers to form instant verdicts.

I can recall Watchtower articles to the effect that when you hear a bad report about a trusted friend, you are inclined to say: “Well, I wasn’t there. Maybe there are things I don’t know.” How that plays out in the morass of current world news I haven’t a clue—apply it however you like—but it certainly is apropos when considering Bible accounts thousands of years old.

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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)

The Personification of God

The question was how did God speak with Moses face-to-face like Exodus 33:11 says he did? The answer on the tip of my tongue was that he didn’t. God doesn’t have a face—it’s personification.

But I didn’t get to say it. Someone else was called on, who gave the answer that Moses talked with God’s representative, not God himself, since “no man can see me and live” (33:20)—and backed it up with the verse from Galatians 3:19, that the Law was transmitted “through angels.” It’s all very nice. It’s all very technical and accurate. But I like exploring the personification better. Speaking with an angel is not a walk in the park either.

Moses speaking face-to-face with God is him permitted to get close but not too close. You burn up if you get too close, like you would taking a stroll on the sun. 

More personification—God has a hand, too. He’s going to use his hand to shield Moses as the rest of him passes by. He says: “When my glory is passing by, I will place you in a crevice of the rock, and I will shield you with my hand until I have passed by. After that I will take my hand away, and you will see my back. But my face may not be seen.” (Exodus 33:22-23)

Exactly what does that mean? I don’t know, but I like it. “Close, but not too close” works for me. I love the personification.

The personification extends to beyond body parts like face and hand into his manners of dealing with people. “Go up to a land flowing with milk and honey,” he tells the people after their festival of the golden calf. “But I will not go in the midst of you, for you are an obstinate people, and I might exterminate you on the way.” 

It’s as though he says: “You people tick me off—I need to give myself a timeout.” I can recall my Dad, driving the car on a trip that seemed endless, when we were trying his patience with a much lesser offense—pestering with “are we there yet?” again and again and again, finally hollering: “If you kids don’t stop your crying back there I’m going to stop this car and give you something to cry about!” That usually made us snap to for a while.

God likes Moses. He’s peeved at most everyone else. You don’t go building yourselves golden calves andpartying over them after He just say he hates idolatry. Aaron’s explanation as to just how that might happen seemed not quite adequate: So I said to them, ‘Whoever has any gold must take it off and give it to me.’ Then I threw it into the fire and out came this calf.” (32:24)

Jehovah said to Moses: “Say to the Israelites, ‘You are an obstinate people. In one moment I could go through the midst of you and exterminate you. So now keep your ornaments off while I consider what to do to you.’” (vs 5) He’s God—he doesn’t need time to consider—it took him two seconds to consider what to do in Eden. This is personification—for their sakes and ours.

And what is this that he’s send them on their way but “not go[ing] in the midst of [them]?” (vs 3) Whatever it is, it worries Moses, and Moses talks him out of it—is that not personification intensified that he presents himself as though that can be done?

Moses said to Jehovah: “See, you are saying to me, ‘Lead this people up,’ but you have not let me know whom you will send with me. Moreover, you have said, ‘I know you by name, and you have also found favor in my eyes.’  Please, if I have found favor in your eyes, make me know your ways, so that I may know you and continue to find favor in your eyes. Consider, too, that this nation is your people.” So he said: “I myself will go with you, and I will give you rest.”  Then Moses said to him: “If you yourself are not going along, do not lead us up from here.  How will it be known that I have found favor in your eyes, I and your people? Is it not by your going along with us, so that I and your people will be distinguished from every other people on the face of the earth?” Jehovah went on to say to Moses: “I will also do this thing that you request, because you have found favor in my eyes and I know you by name.”  

Then he passes by Moses, who wants to know his ways—this even after he has delivered the plagues and led through the Red Sea—if anyone could assume that he is God’s right hand man at this point, Moses could, but he doesn’t—he wants to “know [God] and find favor in [his] eyes.” As he passes by, he shields with his hand, so that Moses does not burn up:

Jehovah was passing before him and declaring: “Jehovah, Jehovah, a God merciful and compassionate, slow to anger and abundant in loyal love and truth, showing loyal love to thousands, pardoning error and transgression and sin, but he will by no means leave the guilty unpunished, bringing punishment for the error of fathers upon sons and upon grandsons, upon the third generation and upon the fourth generation.” (34:6-7) He’s merciful, but don’t push Him. The after-effects of transgression will be felt for generations to come.

Moses returns to the theme. He bows low and says: “If, now, I have found favor in your eyes, O Jehovah, then please, Jehovah, go along with us in our midst, although we are an obstinate people, and forgive our error and our sin, and take us as your own possession.” In turn he said: “Here I am making a covenant: Before all your people, I will do wonderful things that have never been done in all the earth...(34:9-10)

I think of the autistic kid from a prior post who says “it takes one to know one.” Because he is mildly autistic—maybe think Asberger’s—and thus not aware of the normal bounds of decorum, he thinks Abraham might have been too. He thinks this accounts for Abraham dickering with God—and now here is Moses doing the same. As though the dialogue might be: “Don’t you know you can’t go dickering with God?” “Well, no I don’t because I’m autistic.” It’s just a novel way of looking at things—not that it is right. I like his quote from Eli Wiesel, that God grants his servant a stage and takes pleasure in eliciting the right response out of him.`

My guess is that the personification is to reach the heart. Ditto with the analogies to family. My dad was hardly perfect but he was a decent man overall and so using family as a template for God’s dealings with us works for me. We always hear that it takes longer for ones who had no decent dad role model. But there will be some who simply consider themselves too wise for the entire personification device and who will resent being likened to children. On so many levels the Bible works to separate people.

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)

Death of NPOV (Neutral Point of View) at Wikipedia

Mostly I use Wikipedia for details on out-of-the-way topics that you wouldn’t think would be subject to bias—lately it has been to corroborate some background on Voltaire, for instance.

But not always—sometimes I use it as though a base stock, like you would in cooking, to develop a post on some contemporary issue. Others do this, too—pretty routinely—to provide backdrop for arguments they are making. People will develop points on some Internet forum or other, and validate them by appealing to Wikipedia.

It’s an encyclopedia, Wikipedia is—that’s how everyone thinks of it. As such, it is unbiased—that supposedly is its mission statement. Anyone can edit it (I’ve never quite understood how that works—well, I guess I do, but I’ve never been interested enough to attempt it, and the premise is that when anyone can do so the result will be complete and unbiased.) Not so, says co-founder Larry Sanger. Its unbiased ideal went out the window long ago. NPOV (neutral point of view) is a thing of the past. He says it here, on this post from his own blog. Wikipedia is badly biased. 

He doesn’t say his co-creation is not factual. Nor does he say it is not objective. But it is not complete. It clearly sides with particular points-of-view. Larry offers about a dozen examples of clear bias, from politics, to science, to health, to religion in which the minority view is run off the road. They are “embarrassingly easy to find,” he says.

Sigh...this seriously compromises Wikipedia as a base. It is a leftist choir that is preaching there these days, and if you quote the source, which I do all the time, you will be getting a leftist point of view, with other viewpoints either overwhelmed or declared wrong. Disputes among experts such as doctors and scientists are papered over to give the impression that the “victorious” opinion is monolithic. It is not for an encyclopedia to do this, Sanger says. It is supposed to reflect all points of view. It is not to declare a winner. Is “the science settled” on some point or other? Understand that it may have been settled by decree.

One might suppose, given Sanger’s creation, that technology is his chief interest. It is not. (per Wikipedia!) It is philosophy, epistomology, and ethics. He is clearly disappointed in the path his innovation has taken. He didn’t mean it to be that way. In a world supposedly driven by knowledge, what could be better than to have all the details of anything at your fingertips for instant application to anything? He never anticipated that it would be hijacked by any one faction.

Maybe I should have picked up on this before—Wiki’s bias. I did, after all, quote Anton Chivchalov complaining* of how the Russian experts relied upon by courts of that land have been known to copy “various public sources about Jehovah’s Witnesses from the Internet, which naturally have an anti-cult bias.” Could Wikipedia have been the prime “public source?” There are a dizzying array of anti-cult Witness pages on that source—every petty little episode or imagined brouhaha is explored in minute detail, with “pro” views drowned out by the “cons.”

Recently, a few dozen scholars released a statement to Russian authorities in support of Jehovah’s Witnesses. Stop the police action against them, they said. They are obviously peaceful, so let them worship in peace. Putin said a year and a half after the ban that “Jehovah’s Witnesses are also Christians, and I don’t really understand why they’re persecuted.” Just a few months after the ban, he publicly praised a family of Jehovah’s Witnesses, the Noviks from Petrozavodsk, calling them a “model family”—apparently without knowing what page he was supposed to be on. Leave the Witnesses be. “We are left with the impression that Jehovah’s Witnesses in Russia are being punished for their success in gaining new adherents,” the statement from the scholars said.*

This is a bit much for the anti-cultists. Is it possible to assassinate the characters of these “scholars”—all associated with prestigious universities from around the world—so as to present them as crackpots? Some of them have been interviewed by jw.org—Christine King, George Chryssides, and Massimo Introvigne, for example.

Enter Wikipedia with its “anti-cult bias.” It tackles Massimo Introvigne.

There  (born June 14, 1955, in Rome) is an Italian sociologist of religion[1] and intellectual property attorney.[2][3] He is a founder and the managing director of the Center for Studies on New Religions (CESNUR), a Turin-based organization which has been described as "the highest profile lobbying and information group for controversial religions".[4] .................In 1972, he joined conservative Catholic group Alleanza Cattolica.[8][better source needed] From 2008 to 2016 he has served as vice-president of the group................. he advocates doctrinaire positions that favour groups like Scientology."[4]  In the mid-1990s, Introvigne testified on behalf of Scientologists in a criminal trial in Lyon.[4]................journalists described Introvigne as a "cult apologist", saying he was tied to the Catholic Alliance and Silvio Berlusconi's then ruling party.[22] Introvigne responded that his scholarly and political activities were not connected................He was the Italian director of the Transylvanian Society of Dracula,............In 1997, J. Gordon Melton and Introvigne organized an event at the Westin Hotel in Los Angeles where 1,500 attendees came dressed as vampires...

Note the guilt by association. This is never okay with the anti-cultists until they do it themselves. He “advocates doctrinaire positions that favour groups like Scientology.” He has even testified on behalf of them. He is a “cult apologist.” (the less incendiary term, rejected by anti-cultists for just that reason, is “new religion.”) He hung out with Silvia Berlusconi, the businessman who committed the unforgivable sin of getting elected though not a politician and showing up that lot. And didn’t he draw a four year sentence for tax fraud? Introvigne responds by saying his scholarly and political activities are not connected, and—wink, wink—we know what that means. He threw a gathering in which guests came dressed as vampires! [a Halloween party, probably]

To be sure, the Introvigne entry (accessed 10/11/20) comes with a couple of “hatchet job” warnings, though not called that. A major contributor to this article appears to have a close connection with its subject,” therefore the article “may require cleanup to comply with Wikipedia's content policies.” Also, it “may rely excessively on sources too closely associated with the subject potentially preventing the article from being verifiable and neutral.” Seeming a note of caution. But if co-founder Sanger’s observation is anything to go by, it is only in need a few like-minded hacks to jump into the fray and repeat the bad opinion.

Certain hot topics continually go back and forth on Wiki. One fellow commented on my blog to the effect that he regularly updated Wiki posts about JWs to keep them “honest”, and he had to do it constantly because opposers would change them right back to their hostile takes on matters. I got the impression that that was his assignment, but I could be wrong—he may just have been an independent defender of the faith. At any rate, he was worried lest I immerse myself into these things too much and that it wear me out, because among these critics are so many slimeballs. But as it turns out, I don’t immerse myself.

“Go to the Reddit site and read up on” whatever volatile accusation had caught Vic Vomodog’s fancy at the moment, he told me, adding “make sure to read all the comments.” But I truthfully replied that I had visited there from time to time—I even have a presence there (that I have tired of)—r/truetomharley, and I tell them to make sure to read all of my comments, and they tell me to...well...they decline my invitation.

But that’s reading. I have read some of their comments—I read a lot, to be sure. But to this day, I don’t think I have ever seen a complete video production, mostly because they are so self-important or tedious or hostile that the first minute is a turnoff—rarely do I get beyond a minute. It is my own bias—one can read in a minute what some smug and insufferable pedant will take 20 to develop via video. 

Wikipedia has its place, but it has long fallen from its unbiased perch. Maybe the best way to appreciate its silly underbelly, which threatens to become the main event, is to look up some historical figure and discover a handful of paragraphs. And then look up a television series and see every single episode written up in endless detail, sometimes each meriting it’s own page. Just how much of Mr. Ed does one need to know?

...

*These points developed more fully in ‘Dear Mr. Putin—Jehovah’s Witnesses Write Russia.”

 

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Complaints over the Farmers-to-Families Program—Part 3

(See Part 2)

If the counter.org story is right, It sounds like the Watchtower was one of the few organizations meeting the USDA Farmers-to-Families program requirements. The story charges that outfits accepted the food boxes but were unwilling to take on the costs of distribution. Instead, they had food distributions in their parking lots—you had to fetch the food quickly before it rotted, and run through a gauntlet of prayer services or ‘soul-salvations’ in the process. Some never intended to comply with program requirements, charges the story. Not so here.

The plan was called "truck-to-trunk." The companies were supposed to take their food boxes directly to local food bank distribution points and drop the boxes into the trunks of waiting cars.” Witnesses did better than that. They delivered it directly to homes. What if someone doesn’t have a “waiting car?” Really poor people do not.

However, the Witness organization does something that will also get thecounter.org people going. They operate with Galatians 6:10 in mind: “Let us work what is good toward all, but especially toward those related to us in the faith.” Recipients of their aid will fall on the “poor spectrum.” Since Witnesses are in aggregate the faith with the lowest average income—and when aid is sent to the neediest of them with the proviso that if they think someone needs it more they can take it there—that is all but guaranteed. But what of those who aren’t keen on God? Are they as likely to be on the Witnesses’s radar as those who aren’t? Probably not.

Frankly, I don’t see what’s so horrendous about even the “abuses” the article attributes to some church groups. Even if I find those abuses distasteful, still food is distributed to anyone who comes to fetch it. The counter.org article just reflects jealousy, in my view, that people of faith will do more to solve ills than do secular people, who are more apt to address it through massive agencies and then spend the rest of their lives on lawyers prosecuting the abuses and corruption that inevitably occurs. If people of faith want to call attention to what implants the generous spirit within them, why should the humanists not be able to live with that? They just don’t like God. Sometimes I think they would rather let people starve than to see them exposed to religion. Must we bend over backwards to see that no humanist is offended by mention of God?

However, this post begins with the proviso: “If the counter.org story is right.” I am willing to entertain that it is not. The counter.org is a humanist organization, and as such I can readily believe it would pass over without comment any faith-based organization doing the work, by its definition, “properly”—keeping their mouths shut about God. Even the Watchtower, with its firm stand on God’s kingdom as the ultimate answer, will say things of the greater world like: “True, some good has been accomplished, but....” However, the counter.org article highlights nothing but what it thinks is bad. So maybe there are some faith groups who are helping fix the world’s broken distribution system without mention of God, activity that would meet the conditions of thecounter.org.

Still, can we all agree that since Jehovah’s Witnesses comprise .01% of the world’s population, what they do or do not do will not make a difference to the world’s self-repair efforts? If they did nothing but offer flowers to passerby on street corners, they would not spoil the world’s efforts to save itself.

In my lifetime I have seen “taking care of one’s own” go from being a laudable trait to a cult-like offense bordering on criminal. Let us rip Galatians 6:10 out of our Bibles, for it is selfish to actually do it: “let us work what is good toward all, but especially toward those related to us in the faith.”

Let us entertain the critics for a just moment and speculate that Jehovah’s Witnesses really are selfish for operating with this verse in mind. Isn’t it the fault of God, who says here that Christians should begin aid with their own? What really can be the beef over this? Aren’t faith-based organizations the ideal distribution channels? And humanists will not be left out of the equation, for if there is anything to their leaving God by the curb, surely they will be able to devise something at least equal, if not better.

Witnesses don’t know how to fix the world’s broken system. People without Bible principles tend not to get along. We don’t know how to help them succeed in the absence of Bible principles, and that is why Jehovah’s Witnesses are primarily a Bible teaching organization. They follow the ‘teach a man to fish’ model, so you will not have to keep giving them fish till the end of time, because we see repeatedly how that model breaks down under stress—and all it has to do is break down once for calamity to ensue. What Witnesses can do is set an example for others to follow—religious or secular—in “caring for their own.” That way, if every one does, and especially when they go the extra mile as do the Witnesses, everyone’s needs will be cared for. There will be no poor unattended.

Anyone can apply for this program. All you have to do is be willing to work for others and have your act together sufficiently enough to package and distribute. If Witnesses take the government up on their generous program, truly an instance—they are not all that common, of when government does things right—why would anyone object to it? Anyone is invited. Grumbling over this reflects exactly the same jealousy that has been manifested at the JW disaster relief program,* on the basis that it doesn’t attempt to restore everybody, but operates with Galatians 6:10 in mind.

Now, I personally have no issue with those who operate otherwise. When I pass a soup kitchen I do not mutter bad things about it. I say good things about it. I say that they are focusing on a specific good thing that we are not, and so how can you criticize that? I do not. I may observe that it is a stopgap measure, but that certainly does not make it unpraiseworthy. 

There is in my neck of the woods such an agency called the House of Mercy. It is run by a nun, or maybe a former-nun. I have nothing but praise for it. She shakes down whoever she must to procure supplies and help those who are truly down and out with feeding and lodging. Recently she was worried that a gigundous shipment of canned goods that she has come to rely upon, supplied by the Latter Day Saints church in Salt Lake City, might not come this year. And then it did. Will one praise the Mormons? I will in this instance. It is a very good deed they do. (Besides, I have a thing for Mormons.) However they are also the most political of faiths—the most consistently Republican as rated by the same Pew organization that ranks the Witnesses as the most apolitical, they have a lot of beliefs that take time to get ones head around, and there are those who will deride them as a cult almost to the extent they will deride JWs as one.

I don’t have a problem with someone trying to make this world’s broken distribution system work. However, I will not go so far as to hurl stones at the people who have invented an entirely new channel that does work. The Watchtower has published an apt illustration of parents who hire a babysitter to care for their children, and on returning home, they find the children not cared for, as the babysitter is busy painting the house. Even though the house needed painting, they are not happy. Tending to the children was the assigned task. If the babysitter wants to paint the house AND care for the children, that works fine, but that good work cannot be done INSTEAD of caring for the children.

I personally had mixed feelings when I heard this illustration because I had been saying something very similar for a long time and I thought maybe they had stolen it from me. Of course, they are welcome to it, and indeed, it is an obvious enough comparison that it might well occur simultaneously to different people. It actually improved upon mine because mine didn’t involve people. Mine involved hiring a contractor to reroof the house and later find that he has painted it instead. Theirs involves people, which is better, but it is also worse, because hiring a babysitter is always associated with caring for the kids physically. The parents do not hope for the babysitter to care for them spiritually, and usually are relieved to find that he/she hasn’t made that attempt.

The JW organization puts emphasis on caring for ones spiritually, so that in applying Bible principles they will correspond to the man who has learned how to fish. Of course, giving a man a fish also has a place, and as stated, I  am not one to criticize it. But if you only give them fish you make them dependent upon yourself for life, and the first time you fall down on “your” job, they blame you for it. Better teach them Bible principles that will enable them to fish, and the best foundation for Bible principles to stick is to fortify them with accurate knowledge about God.

And if I feared that the organization has stolen my illustration, it is not so bad as a recent speaker who related how at another Hall he had laid a $20 bill on the speaker stand along with his outline because he meant to use it as an illustration of how counterfeit is so hard to distinguish from real, and that the fact that there is much counterfeit money does not prove that there is no such thing as real money. However, the chairman, upon spotting the bill, removed it to Lost and Found, so that when the speaker took the stand, he could not use his analogy. “He literally stole my illustration,” he told us.

...

The following excerpt is from Tom Irregardless and Me, an ebook I wrote three years ago:

At the home of Victor Vomodog, an alarm panel light pulsed red. Victor read the incoming feed. It was serious. Someone was saying nice things about Jehovah’s Witnesses. Instantly, he swung into action. There was not a moment to lose. He opened his door and whistled. The media came running. “Witnesses are selfish!” he cried. “They only think of themselves! Why don’t they help everyone? Why do they just do their own people?” That evening, media ran the headline: “WHY DON’T THEY HELP EVERYONE?”

But they had asked the wrong question. The headline they should have run, but didn’t, because they didn’t want to deal with the answer, was: “WHY AREN’T OTHERS DOING THE SAME?” The answer to the first question is obvious: Witness efforts consist of volunteers using their vacation time. Just how much time is the boss going to grant?

So do it yourself, Victor! Organize your own new chums! Or send your money to some mega-agency where they think Bible education is for fools. Be content to see monies frittered away on salaries, hotels, travel, retirement, health care benefits, and God knows what else! Be content to see much of what remains squandered! It’s the best you can do—embrace it! Or at least shut up about the one organization that has its act together.

The obvious solution, when it comes to disaster relief, is for others to do as Jehovah’s Witnesses do. Why have they not? There are hundreds of religions. There are atheists…aren’t you tight with them now, Victor?  Organize them, why don’t you? They all claim to be veritable gifts to freedom and humankind. Surely they can see human suffering. Why don’t they step up to the plate themselves?

They can’t. They are vested in a selfish model that runs a selfish world. Let them become Jehovah’s Witnesses and benefit from the Bible education overseen by the Governing Body, Plato’s and Sider’s dream brought to life. But if they stay where they are, they must look to their own organization or lack thereof. There’s no excuse that they should not be able to copy Witnesses. They have far more resources to draw upon. We’re not big enough to do everyone for free, and we don’t know how to run a for-pay model; we’ve no experience in that. Instead, other groups must learn how to put love into action, as we did long ago.

C’mon, Victor! If all the world needs is to ‘come together,’ then see to it! We don’t know how to do that. People without Bible education tend not to get along. You make them do it! You don’t want to, or can’t, do large-scale relief, yet you want to shoot down those who do! What a liar!

.

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Complaints over the USDA Farmers to Families Program—Part 2

It took a while, but one day Heather intercepted a food package delivered to her JW grandma. Heather used to be a Witness, but says she no longer is. There were potatoes, onions, apples, and a cauliflower inside, but Heather smelled only a rat. She contacted the Counter.org people, who specialize in “food journalism that goes beyond the gustatory to uncover the money, power, and politics behind our plate.” They, it turns out, had been grumbling for some time about the USDA Farmers to Families program, and they launched an article critical of it. My faith group was in the headline, though for the most part it was about other groups, so I took time to write a response to it. I had posted on the topic once before.
 
The Witnesses’ description “that the boxes came from Jehovah—instead of taxpayers—represents a significant departure from standard operating procedure for federal food aid,” the Counter wrote. Well—okay, people of faith are kind of like that, ever describing good things as blessings from God, not unlike how secular people will say “If you can read, thank a teacher.” My two kids read voraciously, yet save for the 6th grade they have never seen the inside of a school. They read because their parents read. We read to them, but otherwise didn’t “teach” them too much. They learned by doing. Could you not even say “If you can read, thank God” for making our brains spongelike?
 
If there was anything hush-hush about the USDA program from the Witnesses point of view, as the article states, that never reached my ears nor those of my immediate circle. Within a few days I had posted on my own blog of it, a post that comprises Part 1 of this series. In our congregation sub-group, when an elderly woman remarked on how “the brothers” had bought this food, the one with oversight told her that it was not they—they were just distributing—it was a government program that they had signed on to.
 
I do get the concern expressed within the Counter article that maybe there is someone who needs the food more. And that certainly could be. The part where Robert Hendricks of the Witnesses says that they advised those who received packages not to turn them down, and later presents the rationale that they will be inclined to underestimate their own burden—“downplaying any private struggles with food insecurity”—I can see that, too. (My wife and I are not destitute, but we are retired and we do live off social security—we have lived modestly as Witnesses generally do, so that the stipend is far from huge) I responded the same way that Hendricks suggested some might respond: there will be others who need it more—and we were told that if that is the case, we could share with neighbors and others. I know of ones who have done this. How many? No idea. People of faith tend to take to heart Jesus’ counsel to not let the right hand know what the left is doing and to not to blow a trumpet in front of them whenever they give. (Matthew 6:2) At some point you have to put faith in the “little people” to do what is right.
 
The Pew Research Foundation has released studies to indicate that Jehovah’s Witnesses are the lowest income group of all faiths. Thus, even if aid to them went no further than they and their immediate associates, it would hardly be a travesty. But, as indicated, they were encouraged to share if they felt there were others who could benefit more. 
 
The trick is finding these ones. The solution of leaving it up to the individual to share with cases of need that he/she personally knows of is probably as efficient as any, and it may be the most efficient of all. If you are poor, you will likely live in a poor neighborhood, and will know of serious cases of need. If you are a Witness not poor, you will know of some who are, because Witnesses are a tightly knit community, and can find out about such hard cases through them in the event that none are in your immediate area.
 
Though ostensibly about Jehovah’s Witnesses, the tone of the article is irreligious in general, and whatever potential abuses of USDA rules it describes are not those of Jehovah’s Witnesses, even of such lesser charges as swapping the government logo for a religious one. The box we received plainly said ‘Farmers to Families—USDA.’ and I am glad a photo of it appears in my linked post, because Heather may have forgotten to mention it.
 
Those church outfits will have to speak for themselves, and I noticed that some had no comment, in contrast to Hendricks, who did. Still, doesn’t jealousy account for much of the article’s tone—that communities of faith are motivated to have effective distribution channels that easily outstrip those of non-faith, those purely secular? Says the article: “Many food banks and other nonprofits have complained that they’re incurring significant, unexpected expenses related to storage and last-mile delivery.” Not to be unfeeling, but whose fault is that? 
 
Faith, love of brother, and love of neighbor has moved ones of the JW organization to overcome these “unexpected expenses related to storage and last-mile delivery.” The packages I’ve received have been delivered directly to my door, and I have indeed shared some with others who were not recipients. Jehovah’s Witnesses thus set an example showing secular outfits how it can be done. All those outfits need to do is find similar selfless people.
 
Of course, they do have some. I’ve nothing but praise for secular food relief organizations. But they don’t have such selfless ones in anywhere near the abundance as does the Witness faith-based community, and that is why massive lines have accompanied some distributions—one wonders if in some cases the aid received is not offset by the cost of gasoline in retrieving it. 
 
In the early days of the pandemic, before monitory relief came from the government that would temporarily take the pressure off some, I wrote a check to one of these food banks. I don’t like the idea of people going hungry. I wanted to give and I did so. Yet, as I did so, I had to come to grips with the certain knowledge that inefficiencies built into such programs would dilute my contribution. It pains me that this is the case. I wish it were not. I wish they could draw upon enough people in the overall community to solve distribution issues—it’s produce, after all—it can’t sit around forever.
 
At heart, the issue is that non-faith does not move people to be selfless to the same extent as does faith, and the article seems to me an expression of jealousy that such is the case. Is it so shocking that that when people of faith give they want to call attention to what implanted that generous spirit within them? The article appears even to have even political overtones, complaining at the perceived shortfalls of a Trump administration program.
 
Of course, if there are abuses of the system, then someone ought lower the boom on whoever is committing them. “Saving” people in the parking lot, soliciting donations for the program, offering prayer sessions as a condition, things that Witnesses do not do, does sound as though it might violate the spirit or even letter of the program. And are parishioners low income to start with, as JWs in the aggregate are, or are some well-off? All proper matters to look at, it seems. But at present, this looks to me like another article—I have seen many—that highlights the abuses of some churches and by headline suggests that Jehovah’s Witnesses are the worst of the lot, even though Witnesses steer clear of such shenanigans.
 

I wouldn’t know just what is the case with “Heather,” whose complaint triggered this article. But I reflect back upon when I was working in a group home that hired a new assistant manager. In short order, I began to feel some heat, and in time I went to the house manager about it. “For some reason, I think she is trying to get me fired,” I told her. The manager thought that unlikely. She asked me why that would be, and I truthfully told her I didn’t know. But I then mentioned that, as it turns out, she and I know hundreds of people in common, for she was once a member of my faith. “Oh,” the manager said, and instantly her tone changed. She said no more, I said no more, and I heard no more, until a week or two later that that asst manager had been discharged. The hostility of some ex-JWs is hard to fathom.

 
See Part 3 to follow.
 
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You Can’t Always Get What You Want—Kicking Back at the Villains

When Mark Sanderson speaks of the wisdom of the modest ones and how you don’t jump the gun and assume it is your place to do this or that, I don’t figure that he must be speaking to someone else. I figure maybe he is speaking to me.   

This is because I remember how Brother McPhee at the Circuit Assembly related how he gave counsel to the circuit elders via assembly talks and when he returned he found they had not followed it. When he asked why they told him that they thought he was talking about the brothers in Pennsylvania. He related the experience, repeated the counsel given, and added “No, brothers—I was speaking to you, not those bad brothers in Pennsylvania.” 

They are bad there, however at mention on the mixed website of some within the organization going rogue, I said that sometimes I feel that I am becoming one of them.

I told the elders that I would not get into squabbles with these characters, and I said that so as not to be oblivious to theocratic counsel. Yet here I find myself making sporadic ad hominem attacks—(not many really, but it does happen—sort of like when an elder backed into my car in the drive and said a bad word that I have never heard him say before, and then he apologized, and I said “Don’t worry about it—that’s what bumpers are for)—to a few yo-yos on the the mixed forum. Of course, I don’t beat myself up too much over it—if these characters would work on their ad hominems a bit more, it wouldn’t happen. And it is also true that in the absence of theocratic counsel, I would be much worse. But even so, I am allowing personal exasperation to throw barbs here and there after I said I would not do it.

The initial long response to one thread was okay, of course, because that constitutes as though a letter to the editor. Maybe even the first retort to you-know-who can be overlooked since she is so much the way she is. But the third one was unnecessary and just reflects personal lack of self-control.

“I find, then, this law in my case: When I wish to do what is right, what is bad is present with me....I see in my body another law warring against the law of my mind and leading me captive to sin’s law that is in my body.  Miserable man that I am!” (Romans 7:21-24)

I have to behave better. I said that I would.

But Anna said: 

Judging by the few comments in response there are ones who understand where you are coming from and are even grateful for ones like you, as one of them said: "My study conductor was always unsure about the what to say to the questions I'd bring. So I began looking for jehovah's witnesses that were/are responding and thankfully I found a good few, including yourself ....... and to be honest I'm not 100% certain that I would have continued if I hadn't been able to get answers to questions and honest perspectives on being a Witness" ....So what's the problem, really? In fact the sooner one understands that, the less chance there is of being stumbled or shocked and leaving. [bolding hers]

The problem is that I told the elders I wouldn’t do it. But because I believe what you have just said and from time to time get emails stating the same, I don’t beat myself up when I break my resolve, though I do say “Don’t make it a habit.”

When the elders met with me after the meeting, I had no thought at all of putting the experience online. That occurred to me later

I just came to think I’d let it stand as a real time example of responding to counsel even if I don’t agree with every aspect of it. The only examples of meeting with the elders that ever appear online are those written by unruly persons already on the edge, like Dathan and those rebellious louts, who rail at the attempt at “mind control” and cry ad nauseum over their right to free speech, missing every spiritual point in the process of making their dominant fleshy one: “No one’s telling me what to do!”

I don’t resent the counsel at all. I take it for just what it is—loving oversight.  I both accept and appreciate that Jehovah leads his people via a human agency, and I am grateful that there is something that corresponds to verses such as Hebrews 13:17, to “be obedient to those who are taking the lead among you and be submissive, for they are keeping watch over you as those who will render an account, so that they may do this with joy and not with sighing, for this would be damaging to you.

As such, I accept they have the responsibility to counsel in line with scripture, and I don’t carry on as though my toes are being stepped on or my rights infringed upon. They represent the human link in the divine/human interface, and they do not demand lockstep walking even as they give pointed counsel. I don’t consider myself above them. They are above me as regards authority.

I appreciate their efforts to check me, and as stated, I would be far worse in the absence of godly counsel to not engage with those who show by word or deed that acquiescence to Jehovah’s standards and all that is entailed is repugnant to them. It does me good to be checked by them, for I do believe that we become who we hang out with. We may not become it instantly, but we do so eventually—if not in point of argument then in forfeiting the Christlike manner—and often even in point of argument, as they are almost always based on following the trends of the day.

I would like it if there was a little more organizational pushback on some of the charges leveled against us—you know, take these guys on. I’ve said it many times before. But you can’t always get what you want. You can’t always get what you want. You can’t always get what you want. But if you try sometime, you just might find, you get what you need. 

And I have. I can’t go charging around like an enraged bull. But that kind of conduct can get a guy skewered anyway. It does me well to do what I do under the discipline of conforming to theocratic counsel. Even if in one aspect I am not a stellar example of it. I am in most other aspects.

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)