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You don’t wash windows with sleeved wand in one hand and spray bottle in the other!

How do you illustrate poor Asaph, looking in upon “the wicked” and having to stifle a pang of envy? “For I became envious of the boasters, [When] I would see the very peace of wicked people,” says Psalm 73:3.

The trouble with “the wicked” is that “their paunch is fat.” Also, “they are not plagued the same as other men. Therefore haughtiness has served as a necklace to them; Violence envelops them as a garment. Their eye has bulged from fatness; They have exceeded the imaginations of the heart.  They scoff and speak about what is bad; About defrauding they speak in an elevated style.” (Psalm 73:3-8)

“They seemed to have it all​—wealth, a good life, and no anxieties. Their apparent success so discouraged the psalmist that he said: ‘Surely in vain I have kept my heart pure and washed my hands in innocence,’” we all pondered this at the Watchtower study (“Jehovah...Saves Those who are Discouraged,” December 2020)

Asaph figured out his dilemma at the psalm’s end, and therefore so did we, by discerning that their goose was cooked. He didn’t put it that way, of course, but he did put it that they are “on slippery ground,” since “the very ones keeping away from you will perish. You will certainly silence every one immorally leaving you.” (Vs 18, 27)

“To be cured of envy and discouragement, the Levite psalmist needed to see things from Jehovah’s standpoint. On doing so, he was at peace once again, and he was happy,” said the Watchtower. All was well.

But all was not well in the art department. The picture selected to illustrate was that of a fancypants-restaurant window washer gazing with dismay through the window he was washing at “the wicked”—four of them—laughing it up over fine wining and dining (no doubt “scoffing and speaking about what is bad,”) complete with a bow-tied waiter caring for their every whim. “It’s not fair!” you can all but hear our window-washing brother cry.

Instantly all the brothers who have washed windows—and there are quite a few of them, self included—forgot all about the lesson to focus on the picture. You don’t wash windows with sleeved wand in one hand and spray bottle in another! You have a squeegee in that other hand! The spray bottle does the same as the wand—it puts the solution on. What’s going to take it off?

Even during my tweeting the meeting I said this. Of course, I didn’t actually say it during the Watchtower Study itself. I said something to the effect that the window cleaning brother has a life of both challenges and joys, but he doesn’t really know about the braying diners. Maybe they are carefree, but they may also have lives of inner pain and emptiness. I didn’t repeat Sean’s comment, because it was his, and it wasn’t even his—I had heard it before—that “envy is like drinking poison and expecting the other fellow to drop dead.”

No, nobody brought the meeting to a standstill. It went on course and everyone benefited. But afterwards, like a hidden rock ripping out the bottom of the Love Boat, I kept playing with the picture. You don’t wash windows that way! I wouldn’t go so far as to charge “false doctrine,” but...

“Well maybe it was his first job and he’s not yet experienced,” someone said. He looks a little old for it to be his first job. If it is, then maybe I am as doubly wet as his window. Maybe the basic problem is that he is a deadbeat, not that he can’t wash windows.

In no time at all, the meme-makers were at work—we do have some creative people. One labeled the picture, “Pioneers supporting themselves via janitorial work” looking in on “Bethel writers who have never washed a window in their lives.”

But my favorite was submitted by Stephen: “Auxiliary pioneers” looking in on “regular pioneers without an hour requirement.”

Pitch us another one, art department. Give us your best shot.

...

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Tweeting the Meeting—week ending February 21, 2021

Midweek tweets:

The Gershonites, Kohathites, & Mererites were responsible for packing & unpacking furnishings of tabernacle, and I thought of those regulars who used to work in shipping packing and unpacking convention gear.  (Numbers 3)

It was thought a good witness to wear the name badges the week of the District Convention. But I remember a hefty brother, sweaty & in undershirt after loading the equipment truck, nonetheless showing up with badge affixed to belly.

One sister in comment underscored the many “I am Jehovahs” in Leviticus & Numbers, which underscored that you don’t want to get too casual about how he says things were to be done.

God leaving his sanctuary, as though “I’m outta here” when it is polluted. It’s not for his sake, but for ours, so must be kept unpoluted. Good for scenarios when we know of contaminated roots & are tempted to say, “Who cares? It was long ago.” (Ezekiel 8:6)

The elderly sister known for zeal had a heart attack. Her believing family fears (correctly) she will be deluged, so directs that NO visits, texts, calls, or cards go to the hospital. They want her to rest. Ha! Word is the sister is trying to thwart them, ...1/2

does not want to be kept of of the loop even for a few days. She is said to be speaking of her faith to everyone....2/2

Weekend tweets:

The Zoom speaker today has his stairwell to upstairs in the background as the most prominent feature. I’ve never seen that before. It is steep with a railing along the wall, but on the other side one might topple over onto the floor on any incautious trip.

Probably a half wall started just out of the Zoom frame, but it was still a half dozen or so unprotected stairs

By stating that his kingdom was no part of this world, Jesus might be said to have abolished “Christendom” before it began—Malcolm Muggeridge. Quoted by the speaker as he read John 6:15 on how people wanted to make Jesus king, and he escaped them

This fellow is quoted sometimes. (search his name) The one I first recalled was, “Posterity will surely be amazed, and I hope vastly amused, that such slipshod and unconvincing theorizing should have so easily captivated 20th-century minds and been so widely & recklessly applied.

It is a downer, that’s for sure. But such reversals of what should be are common in life, even if not as extreme. I like the idea of working at whatever task is at hand. It is a way of salvaging a measure of victory out of what would otherwise be pure defeat. #WatchtowerStudy

“After you have suffered for a little while”...1 Peter 5:10. Yet some suffer “forever.” But sometimes it is a mindset. Find out what you can do and do it, like Joseph in the prison, sometimes makes all the difference.

The envious guy washing the window—if you have sleeve in one hand, you would have squeegee in the other, not a spray bottle. Some writer has not washed enough windows, methinks. #watchtowerstudy

I have washed windows in my day, even commercially. Trust me, no pro is done up like this I wouldn’t go so far as to say ‘false doctrine,’ but...

I think of Jesus’s word of being paid in full. The squeegee bro has challenges and joys, maybe more joys than the “wicked.” But they will reach a point of being “paid in full,” whereas he will find his greatest reward is yet ahead. #watchtowerstudy

She wasn’t called on, but I told my wife to make sure she gets that comment in someday about how her husband would interrupt his routine to change and call on that person “who is never home.” Don’t add how “today, I can’t even get him to put his dirty dishes in the sink.”

....

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Another entertainment discussion—each comment more restrictive than the last.

Another one of those text discussions this evening—the service group does this via Zoom every non-meeting night—about entertainment. There was an article on the topic during the year, and this is the 2nd time it has come up on the rotation

The trouble with this kind of discussion is that it so easily devolves to a competition as to who is the most restrictive, each remark topping the other, as though whoever that is takes the crown as most spiritual. And you can’t go the other way. You can’s say, “Well, brothers, we should be reasonable here,” or “sometimes there is some redeeming value”...or “it’s not that bad,” for fear of being seen as one who advocates we all watch crap. Last time, with little righteous ground not already taken, when it was my turn I all but pledged that if a character so much as proposed a toast, that was enough for me to rip the TV off the wall, and throw it in the trash!

But this time I was ready, Before the same routine could play out as last time, I interjected that a discussion like this need not devolve into a contest of who is the most restrictive, & that person wins, as though he or she must be the most spiritual; it isn’t necessarily so. 

Would you put even a little bit of poison in you?—someone repeated that line. Actually, we would and we do. Fast food is horrible for a person, yet how many swear it off entirely? Even non-fast-food—read the ingredients on the can or box someday. Not all of those chemicals are great stuff. Since our physical diet is not perfect, why think our entertainment diet must be perfect? 

Everyone came around to that remark, for it is a little silly when one comment follows another, each more restrictive than the last. Still, it’s not said much, and there was a little squirming, as though I was recommending filth, so I said that I wasn’t. My entertainment diet of any sort is pretty light.

Someone commented on the verse in James. “But each one is tried by being drawn out and enticed by his own desire. Then the desire, when it has become fertile, gives birth to sin; in turn sin, when it has been carried out, brings forth death.” Ah— a chance to redeem myself. “Enticed by his own desire,” are the operating words. Watching a whodunnit and the bad guy is taken out? You have to take them out. That’s what bad guys are for. That’s why God made them. But when you get all pumped up, teeth gnashing, salivating, “Yeah! That’s what I’m talking about!!! And it should have been ME to pull the trigger!!!!”—that’s being enticed by one’s own desire. 

So it didn’t go the way it went last time. I just hope I don’t hear that everyone tuned in to that sicko slasher flik playing later that night: “Brother Harley said it was okay.”

....see Hurry Gwen, They’re Killing People!

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Tweeting the Meeting—week of February 7, 2021

The speaker wove scenarios of taking certain calls (even holding up his own phone to illustrate, with the request, “please don’t call it now”) and letting others slide to voicemail for further review, to make various points about prayer.

Lots of similar illustrations. More than anyone in a long while, he captures Jesus’ technique of using mundane situations of life to illustrate greater spiritual things.

I know this fellow well. He is maybe ten years my junior. I know his disadvantaged background that he has outgrown, “pulling himself up by his own bootstraps,” so to speak.

He might never be a “heavy hitter,” but he has become far more amenable as a general utility, practical, fatherly, and outgoing, with plain intent to help where he can and be faithful no matter what....1/2

More practically useful in the congregation than me, who has become a specialist of limited general value...2/2

He closed with prayer and got choked up. It is allowable, b/c his wife recently became very ill and he has had well-wishing. He and wife “got their start” in this cong, it is like a homecoming, and after meeting he reminisces with many.

The fill-in #Watchtower conductor issued his standard request that comments be under 30 seconds. Good. He is not a Nazi about it. I have seen what happens without that coaxing, how very wordy people almost take over meeting & others give up, thinking wordiness is required.

Hard to livestream during the #watchtowerstudy since I was the reader. “Stand by, brothers—I’m putting something on the internet” will not do. Besides normal participation, you must check ahead, so as not to screw up reading.

Is it only me who sees that smashing picture and thinks of the bathfitter ad? There is something to be said for smashing. Those two guys can’t wait, because the rot has to be smashed for the rebuild—only in the ad the bathfitter guy beat them 2it  Not in reallife #watchtowerstudy

“someone will say: “How are the dead to be raised up? Yes, with what sort of body are they coming?” You unreasonable person!” Why the rebuke for just a question? It is the context of challenging, undermining the resurrection, maybe so as to promote here today gone tomorrow.

Defending Jehovah’s Witnesses with style from attacks... in Russia, with the ebook ‘I Don’t Know Why We Persecute Jehovah’s Witnesses—Searching for the Why’ (free).... and in the West, with the ebook ‘TrueTom vs the Apostates!’ (free)

Holly Folk Speaks to Child Sexual Abuse Among Jehovah’s Witnesses.

Out of nowhere a scholar has appeared who talks dispassionate sense on the subject of child sexual abuse as it relates to Jehovah’s Witnesses and is unswayed by secular jingoism. Are/were you a Jehovah’s Witness who was abused as a child? That is very bad, Holly Folk agrees, but she cautions such ones that they must be on guard not to be abused a second time. It may happen at the hands of those who mostly feign interest in their trauma so as to enlist them in their greater goal of taking down a religion they hate. “All I ask is that you consider, for a moment, that you might be being used again, by people who care little about achieving justice for victims,” she says.

“Both official reports and media often confuse ‘institutional’ abuse in religious settings and abuse happening in families that happen to be religious.” It is a statement as pithy yet complete as anything I have written in several chapters of TrueTom vs the Apostates! She instantly cuts to the chase of the matter, whereas I pussyfoot around forever before arriving at an echo not quite so well put.

She pinpoints the flaw of the ARC’s Case Study 29, which I also attempted, but did not put it so concisely. Every other case was an investigation of institutional abuse within an agency, sometimes religious, sometimes secular. Case Study 29 was the only investigation of a religion itself. It is unique. It was rammed into the ARC agenda mostly at the behest of ex-Witnesses who hounded them relentlessly until they overrode their normal sound judgment. It plainly doesn’t fit into the overall program. JWs have no institutional settings, as did all the other agencies on the hot seat. Next move will be to hold Walmart responsible for abuse that has occurred among their shoppers.

It’s why you don’t sign on to a redress scheme tailor made for situations of institutional abuse that you don’t have. You wait for a redress scheme tailor made for situations of abuse that occur among Walmart’s customers. That you can sign on to it as a reasonable parallel.

In a second article (it is a four-part series) she criticizes the studies of the Netherlands and Belgium. I hadn’t gone there, assuming they would be no more than a rehash of the ARC. They were all that and less, she writes, so slipshod and lacking in any sound methodology of social science that it will be a scandal if they are relied upon for policy. Yet they might be, she opines, goaded on by the sheer noise that comes from Witness detractors, mostly ex-Witnesses settling the score, and given false credibility by the prestige of the Atlantic journal.

As a dispassionate outsider, not a Witness herself, she can do what is very difficult for any Witness to do, self included. She can bypass the reputation of a religion as something immaterial and focus on the greater affront to fight child sexual abuse. It is all diluted, she charges, when ex-members redirect rage against child sexual abuse to a target that is essentially a non-factor. The Witness religion overall does pretty well at fighting the perversion, she writes. I mean, who else [my contribution, not hers] gathers every member in the world (at the 2017 Regional Conventions) to consider detailed scenarios in which child sexual abuse might occur so that parents, obviously the first line of defense, can be on their guard? If there are sleepovers, if there are tickling sessions, if there are unsupervised trips to the restroom, if anyone displays unusual interest in your child—all these things were identified as potential red flags, not conclusive in themselves, but things to keep you eye on.

Witnesses will find her tack hard to copy. Their first response will be violent indignation at these patent efforts to undermine the religious organization they hold in high regard, and in the process, they are likely to come across as tone-deaf to the suffering of victims. But Ms. Folk has no skin in the game, so she can focus directly to how this vendetta of ex-JWs undermines efforts to fight child sexual abuse. She can express indignation that those with an anti-religious agenda squander resources that could be far better employed elsewhere.

Some villain on Twitter accosted me the moment I put the subject out there: “So, NO child is EVER separated from its parent(s) for ANY reason for religious purposes (or within a religious setting) by JWs... is that what you are saying?”

Well, duh—no. But NO child EVER separated is a far cry from ALL children ROUTINELY separated, which is the case with other groups Witnesses are compared to, as though apples to apples. Sunday Schools, youth camps and clubs—alas, they have proved to be breeding grounds for child sexual abuse. Witnesses do not have such settings. What! Do they chain their children at home so that no outside contact is possible? Does any balanced person? Imagine the uproar if they did.

Holly Folk also carries the “advantage” of being a survivor herself. “How would you know what it feels like to be abused?” people can (and have) said to me. I don’t. But she does. It gives her a freeness of speech that no non-victim will possess.

The closest I ever came to abuse was when I was walking up and down auto dealer row prior to my 16th birthday, anticipating the used car I might buy once I had my license. A certain slimeball approached and tried to befriend me. “They keep the really good cars in back,” he told me, eager to go there. Even as I evaded him, it was not due to my street smarts or lack of naïveté. I was as sheltered a lad as ever existed, with no specific knowledge of even what a child abuser was. (an ignorance not uncommon at the time.) I just knew that you don’t put the really good cars in the back—you put them up front where people can see them.

They are very thorough articles that Holly writes. Press on the links:

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

Part 4

I like it also that Holly Folk does not fear to take on the “money tree” that is lawyers. This doesn’t speak for or against victims in itself, of course, just the inherent possibility for abuse of such as system. In my community, there are so less than 7 accident injury firms that constantly advertise. Not to mention about twice that number that advertise over various carcinogens, medical treatments, devices, and of course, sexual abuse claims. Almost always the Catholic Church is targeted, and the Boy Scouts. Sometimes I hear a catch-all of any abuse in any religious setting.

I get it that injured people seek redress. Still, the sheer cacaphony of legal noise will strike most as overkill—a massive societal transfer of funds with lawyers netting a third. Don’t think the profit motive is absent with the Witness situation, Ms. Folk says, just like it is not in any other. It is no different than defense companies cooking up scenarios of peril so as to sell their goods, or pharmaceutical companies overplaying threats to our health for the same reason, or for that matter, any merchandiser doing whatever it must to expand the market for its goods or services.

”My lawyer got me 5 million dollars, 23 times what the insurance company said.” Such are the ads that I hear. What I do not hear is, “My neighbors all celebrated with me. Then they opened their insurance premium bills.” Where does anyone think the money comes from? The insurance company itself? They just pass the cost along. They have to, in order to survive. 

....

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Tweeting the Watchtower Study

Zoom meetings make possible things that you could not do at the physical Kingdom Hall meeting. Such as tweeting your comments. Conductor didn’t call on me? So be it. I’ll tweet it to the world. Even if he did call on me I’ll do that. You can only get two or three comments in at any given congregation meeting—there are other people there, too.

Also, other comments made by other people—those that strike my fancy I can tweet them out too. Is this going to be a thing? It may be.

The Watchtower Study Sunday was from the study article, “The Resurrection—A Sure Hope.” It took a look at 1 Corinthians 15, which is largely devoted to that topic. It’s actually a form of both taking notes and advertising the kingdom at the same time when you tweet out remarks. And to think that I railed at Twitter’s decision to expand 140 character into 280. “No! Force the windbags to be concise!” I said. Now I use up every one of those 280 characters and sometimes issue multi-tweet threads.

So here are the tweets that went out Sunday, remarks on various paragraphs. Brackets if I am just fluffing it out now for the blog:

Every so often a brother will say that the Christian life is so good, even were it not true it would still be worth pursuing. Paul said no. If there is no resurrection(& what it entails)one’s faith is useless. (1 Cor 15:17) Might as well use the world to its full #watchtowerstudy”

“Paul was so sure that Jesus had been raised from the dead that he was willing to die defending his belief.” The reason for undercutting the resurrection hope is so he will not do that, so he will cut and run when difficulty presents. #watchtowerstudy [Yeah! It may not always be the human one, but it is always the superhuman one. Undercut the resurrection hope so that you can manipulate people to do horrible things.]

“There is an expression ‘sold down the river.’ It has ugly origin from the days of slavery. But it fits with Adam. Once you have been sold down the river, you do not claw your way back on your own. You need repurchase out of slavery. #watchtowerstudy”

“I have hope . . . that there is going to be a resurrection of both the righteous and the unrighteous.” Acts 24:15, [This is an] indication of an earthly resurrection, since the “unrighteous” are not heaven-bound. Joe made the comparison of the rabble crashing the pearly gates...1/2

of the Capitol building as a foreglimmer of what it would be for the “unrighteous” attempting to crash the actual pearly gates of heaven. [That scene the TV never tires of replaying—with the painty-faced horned guy and his cohorts ecstatic at having invaded the building—I can just picture same in heaven.]  He can always be depended upon to come up with something unique....2/2

You can even tweet the non-study material, such as announcement at the end, using good judgment, of course, but I have that in spades. Such as:

“The Witness organization affirms that neither blood or fraction is a component of Covid vaccines to date, a universal point of interest for JWs. Otherwise, it states that, “Medical care is a personal matter. We do not attempt to make choices for others.”

And you can tweet asides that you would never actually say at the meeting. Such as (from the midweek meeting):

“HEY, WHO POSTED THAT EZEKIEL CREATURE WITH A HEAD OF A WARTHOG, A DONKEY, A SKUNK, AND MY FACE? THAT’S NOT FUNNY!! TAKE IT DOWN RIGHT NOW!!!”

It’s like that Superman climactic scene when the Man of Steel squares off against some equally powerful SuperVillain. “This is gonna be good!” one of the regulars says as he runs for cover.

.....

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Dam! Dam! Dam! Dam! They’ve Grown Accustomed to My Face (spelling intentional)

grumble grumble...The daily text for today (February 7) quoted Emily Baran’s book about withstanding persecution in Russia. It didn’t quote mine. The reason it didn’t quote mine is that mine is rubbish, but even so... Mine is of the more intense time period. Hers (Dissent on the Margins) covers Witnesses standing up to Russian oppressors from the mid-1900s to her book’s 2014 date of publication. Mine more or less picks up where hers leaves off. Her time period is no slouch, but mine is where the real action is.

Dear Mr. Putin - Jehovah’s Witnesses Write Russia may be rubbish but its rewrite will not be. I took it down, it was so bad, and I’m embarrassed I ever released it. The rewrite is not too far off now—even if when I say “two months” it actually means four at the very least. The same narrative is told in 2/3 the words, showcasing what survives to more powerful effect. Plus, it updates with the darker turn of current events. Let’s face it, even if the ebook was any good, the whimsical cover of a child writing Putin seems remote from the current “fight to the finish” tone of Mark Nourmair. It needs a new title and new cover. It will have both.

“Dam, dam, dam, dam! They’ve grown accustomed to my face,” to quote Rex Harrison. (The dam is spelled the friendly beaver way, for the sake of the friends. I would spell it otherwise were it not for them. But dam gets the job done. Everyone knows beavers are highly educated—graduates of Dam U, every one of them. The two forms can substitute for each other) The point is—how am I going to advance a new book as genius when I have firmly planted the notion that I originate rubbish? I’ll think of something. But someone should have told me the ebook needed work so as to make the present salvage unnecessary. That’s the trouble with the friends—they’re either too polite to tell you that your work stinks, or they have such a low bar of approval, happy to read anything complimentary, that they don’t think it does.

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Never again will I write a book after the fashion of Dear Mr. Putin. You’re supposed to start with an outline, and then progressively write to fill it out. You’re not supposed to start with hundreds of individual conversations and then shake everything you have until it all falls into one of many categories, then call each category a chapter. What a hare-brained way to write a book! My other books aren’t this way. This book made for trouble for me by far than my other four put together!

Because of this basic structural flaw, it probably won’t be possible to redeem it 100%. But I can come pretty close. And I do have advantages. One is that I know my people inside and out. Another is that I am a pretty good storyteller. Most of what “witnessing” I do will be in the form of storytelling—just relating my conversations and experiences in field service to illustrate this point or that. Another advantage is that there is NO competition. Even in it flawed form, it is the only comprehensive record of Witness trials and integrity in the face of the Russian bear. Then too, the ebook version (maybe not Amazon—is it even possible with them?) remains free, a labor of love. Alas, I wish I had charged $300 for Dear Mr. Putin so no one would have bought it.

On the weakness side, I can’t approach Emily Baran for scholarship. I have a disclaimer on that in Dear Mr. P, and it will probably survive into the new book. Nor did I actually travel to Russia (I wouldn’t dare now) to interview people, as she has. Nor do I have any blessing from Russia Bethel, as I think she did—it does seem they rendered her some assistance. On the other hand, I have Chivchalov, who says anything he puts out can be made use of and who answers my various questions, and I have very complete updates from several human rights and academic sources.

Why don’t I just wait for the organization to put out a complete record? They probably will one of these days, just as the 2008 Yearbook featured a history of Jehovah’s people in that land up till that date. I guess I write for the same reason Baran did. Anything the brothers come out with will be spiritually on the money, but secularly maybe not so much. It will be “one world leader said,” “one human rights organization reported,” “one academic professor agreed,” without much sense of the interplay between them.

Alas, I also don’t have the support system Baran had. Baran’s is published on the academic press. Mine will be self-published. There are hoops of quality control that must be leapt for the commercial press, some are imposed upon you whether you like it or not, and it is all too easy to not leap them for self-publishing.

I am here in the world of the friends, half of whom will think, “Oh, you’re writing of the brothers? That makes it spiritual food. Is it your place to do that?” and the majority aren’t too bookish to begin with. If I start spreading the word that I’m looking for collaboration, someone will surely come along to suspect that I am pushing ahead or trying to make a name for myself. It is as I write in Dear Mr Putin:

“Books about Jehovah’s Witnesses authored by Jehovah’s Witnesses are not plentiful. This is a shame, for no outsider, even with the best of intentions, can do justice to the faith as can a Witness—they miss the nuances, and in some cases, even the facts. Three reasons account for this drought. Jehovah’s Witnesses are primarily drawn from the ranks of working people, who are not inclined to write books. Pathways of publicizing their faith are already well established and few think to go beyond them—why write a book when you can and do look people in the eye and tell them what you have to say? There is also a sense of not wanting to compete with an official channel.”

Ah well, it is what it is. I don’t want to be one of the whiners, always blaming my problems on someone else. I could work to overcome these deficiencies if I put my back into it. The fact is, even without Covid, I am a bit of a loner who doesn’t excel at networking. With Covid, I have unchained my inner hermit, and he is doing just fine, but it doesn’t make for an especially good support system. Nor am I envious of Baran, much less in competition with her. I swapped emails with her a few times. She’s very nice. She probably rolled her eyes at Dear Mr. Putin. She dropped out of sight for a time so as to be a mom, but now I see she has contributed anew in the press.

Oh—and her quote from the daily text? “Commenting on Jehovah’s Witnesses in the former Soviet Union, historian Emily B. Baran said: ‘When the state told believers that they could not evangelize their faith to others, Witnesses chatted [with] their neighbors, coworkers, and friends. When these actions landed them in labor camps, Witnesses sought out converts among their fellow prisoners.’ Despite the ban, our brothers there did not stop preaching. May you have that same determination!” 

Notice how she is an “historian” and I’m not? And yet, the description is plainly correct. It reminds me of Ray, a former brother who would go around telling people he was an historian. “How do you know that?” a householder would say and he would reply it was because he was an historian. Finally I told him to knock it off. He was a history buff, not an historian. An historian is when others recognize your expertise, not just you yourself.

I acknowledge Baran’s work in an early passage that will also survive the cut into the rewrite: “I will draw upon her book heavily for background. This particular chapter could not be written without it, and other chapters are spared many obtuse statements because of it.” I also discussed how she took vigorous exception to one reviewer’s charge (just one, out of many favorable reviews) that hers was a hagiography, heightened to “gagiography,” which is not a word. I suspected it was someone expressing personal distaste of the subject, as though it made him gag. She was inclined to think it was just a typo. Either way she was steamed about it, since it alleges lack of objectivity, the worst of all possible sins for an historian.

She is not among those who “miss the nuances, and sometimes even the facts.” Her work is detailed and admirable. She sidesteps the red herrings. It is not easy to write of Jehovah’s Witnesses because the subject either draws or repels—strict neutrality is very hard. It is Hebrews 4:12 at work: “For the word of God is alive and exerts power and is sharper than any two-edged sword and pierces even to the dividing of soul and spirit, and of joints and [their] marrow, and [is] able to discern thoughts and intentions of [the] heart.” She thanks one mentor in her foreword for never asking, “Why Jehovah’s Witnesses?” I added, “If he didn’t have to know, then neither do I. We don’t have to know everything.”

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Defending Jehovah’s Witnesses with style from attacks... in Russia, with the ebook ‘I Don’t Know Why We Persecute Jehovah’s Witnesses—Searching for the Why’ (free).... and in the West, with the ebook ‘TrueTom vs the Apostates!’ (free)

Building Street Cred in the Ministry

Jehovah’s Witnesses, over much time, have built up street credibility. They do the work. They log the time. Some will hear them out on that account alone. Their course is no more remarkable to them than putting the lamp on the lampstand. “It is only because someone is “making” them do it,” detractors may say. If they say it to me, I invite them to look around and identify that person.

Not only should speaking with Jehovah’s Witnesses be permitted—one might say (with hyperbole) that it should be a requirement. Jehovah’s Witnesses offer a safe setting in which one can talk about matters that are off the grid of daily life: matters not mundane, matters spiritual. Witnesses are not out to defraud anyone. They are not out for any sordid purpose. If you tell them no, they go away.

The greater world distrusts becoming too serious about the Bible, for fear the ones so affected may run a bit crazy, forgetting completely the goals that have been laid out for them. The fear is that they may develop other goals, goals leading off the charted path. I know this because my own mother was advised by one of her friends, the mom of my peer, “Get him out of there!” when I was expressing interest in Bible study with the Witnesses. The peer and I were not that close. I don’t know what became of him. However, I have since run across some peers who were close and I do not regret at all where life has taken me versus they.

It is a parent’s worst fear that his or her youngster may be drawn into something radical, something that purports to offer answers to questions that they, the parents, have not figured out and have come to expect no more, even supposing it dangerous to pursue such answers. Have they given up on exploring deep questions of life such as Why is there suffering? What is the overall purpose of life? What happens at death? What is the nature of God? They may reason, Is it not necessary to give up on such nebulous things so as to devote oneself to the practical matters of life? But they are unsure that their offspring will likewise give up, for they themselves at one time did not.

Jehovah’s Witnesses offer a safe setting to explore unconventional ideas with regular people. The worst you can do is to get stuck with somebody awkward or boorish. This can happen, as they are just regular people. But even at their worst, they want nothing from anyone. They are not out “recruiting,” or if they are it is an outcome so far removed as to be a non-factor. Sometimes, when I am speaking with persons concerned about this, I will say: “If it helps, let us both agree that there is no way on God’s green earth that you are going to become a Witness. You know it. I know it. So we can take it off the table.” 

Converting is so extraordinarily improbable with any given person—it would take up to a year of discussion were one to join up—that no Witness seriously entertains that prospect in their ordinary contacts. One cannot participate in a Bible discussion without knowing something of the Bible, and Witness visits are made solely with that immediate goal.

One can get stuck with a pest. But one will never get stuck with a menace. At worst it will be someone overeager for a cause and imperceptive. The news is good news, not bad news, and so the temptation is to over-present. Even so, it will be good training for a teen on how to deal with the tangle that is humanity today. It represents “training wheels” for later in life when one will run across scoundrels who are up to no good and one may not know just how to deal with them. Having briefly conversed with an adolescent who was the sole person at home, I took my leave and headed down the driveway. The boy’s mother pulled up in her car. I told her that I had asked a brief question to her child and he had answered intelligently. “You should be proud of him,” I said.

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Visit Smashwords bookstore.  Also available at Amazon & other ebook retailers

Defending Jehovah’s Witnesses with style from attacks... in Russia, with the ebook ‘I Don’t Know Why We Persecute Jehovah’s Witnesses—Searching for the Why’ (free).... and in the West, with the ebook ‘TrueTom vs the Apostates!’ (free)