Things That Drive You Crazy About the Faith—and How to View Them: Part 7
June 10, 2022
This is a multi-part series. See Preface, 2nd Preface, Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5, Part 6, Each part links to the next.
Other downsides of taking current knowledge by revelation? The perennially blaming of Babylon the Great for modern times of persecution, even when Babylon the Great had little to do with it. Often it is the work of secular anticultists. Religionists are largely licking their wounds these days. But Scripture says it is false religion, and so guys like me have to content themselves with statements like: “Well, if religion had done it’s job in teaching the truth about God, maybe those atheist anticultists wouldn’t be proliferating like weeds the way the are.”
Russia’s ban of Jehovah’s Witnesses in 2017–just declared illegal by the European Court of Human Rights, 5 years later. Let no one say justice is quick, nor is it necessarily justice. Few are holding their breath for a quick cessation of persecution. At the time branch headquarters was seized in St Petersburg, Denis Korotkov wrote for fontanka.ru* that it was crazy. Russia would certainly have to give it back when the ECHR ruled against them, which it surely would, he said, and the legal costs, coupled with fines, would exceed the cost of the complex. Who could have foreseen that Russia would simply thumb its nose at the Court and withdraw from the European Union? Not Korotkov. Warring with Ukraine at the moment, the JW matter is relatively small potatoes anyway from the world’s point of view. [photo—Wikipedia Commons]
Did the Russian Orthodox Church originate the ban? Surprisingly, it did not. Not to say its clergy is not delighted (squealing like kids on Christmas morning, some of them), not to say they didn’t collaborate, but they did not originate it. We think they did because the Bible indicates religion makes mischief, but in this case it is a secular anti-religious movement that presses the attack.
‘Present knowledge via revelation’ guides how the Witness organization looks at government too. Scripture indicates that the superior authorities are “God’s minister to you for your good,” only a cause for concern “if you are doing what is bad,” since “it is not without purpose that it bears the sword.” (1 Corinthians 13:7) Therefore anything hinting at a more sinister role of government toward those governed can only be “conspiracy theory” and is dismissed out of hand.
When government declares a Covid 19 crisis that makes door-to-door infeasible, revelation determines how the ministry is carried out thereafter. Revelation indicates letter writing is good. Paul wrote letters. Peter wrote letters. John wrote letters. Face to face communication is obviously good, as was done back then. In times of emergency, telephone witnessing preserves the one on one aspect of face to face. But revelation has nothing to say about the internet. Isn’t that the “outside” where “the dogs and those who practice spiritism and those who are sexually immoral and the murderers and the idolaters and everyone who loves and practices lying” hang out? (Revelation 15:22) Revelation says “bad associations spoil useful habits,” (1 Corinthians 15:33) and it is not swayed by ‘empirical’ evidence that if you have something to advertise the very first thing you do is plan a campaign of interaction on social media.
Revelation indicates that the “things that were written beforehand were written for our instruction, so that through our endurance and through the comfort from the Scriptures we might have hope.” (Romans 15:4) Ignore the elephant in the room, therefore—the elephant that everyone else will see right away—as you cover passages like 1 Samuel 27:9, lauding David’s clever deception of the enemy: “When David would attack [the Geshurites, the Girzites, and the Amalekites], he preserved neither man nor woman alive . . . Achish would ask: “Where did you make a raid today?” David would reply: “Against the south of Judah” or “Against the south of the Jerahmeelites” or “Against the south of the Kenites.” Okay. Got it. Valid point. You don’t have to tell every little bit of truth to those who want your head on a platter. But there are a lot of people in this passage whose deaths are presented as though dodgeball casualties—THAT is what most people will zero in on.
“Consider the example of Dan and Sheila,” another paragraph begins, serving up empirical evidence for something revelation says is true. They applied the Bible counsel under consideration and it turned out just hunky dory for them. What about Joe and Melanie who applied that same counsel and it blew up in their faces? someone thinks. That example remains unmentioned; they must have done it wrong, they must have built their house on sand somehow. It is a presentation of ‘knowledge by revelation.’
Not to be critical of earthly organization. Don’t misunderstand. Rather, the goal is to realize why some things are done the way they are done, that can otherwise drive a person crazy. ‘Oh, that’s why they reason this way,’ you can say. Overall the revelatory approach works well. Overall it is acceptable even in the short term. But it does have limitations. Even God, the originator of revelation, sometimes goes down to earth to take a look-see. How else can one account for Genesis 18: 20-21? “Then Jehovah said: ‘The outcry against Sodom and Gomorrah is indeed great, and their sin is very heavy. I will go down to see whether they are acting according to the outcry that has reached me. And if not, I can get to know it.’”
Oh—and one notable excerpt of the ECHR ruling: “Even accepting that the texts [used to prove that Jehovah’s Witnesses were “extremists”] promoted the idea that the religion of Jehovah’s Witnesses was superior to others or that it was better to be a Jehovah’s Witness than a member of another Christian denomination, it is significant that the texts did not insult, hold up to ridicule or slander non-Witnesses; nor did they use abusive terms in respect of them or of matters regarded as sacred by them.” [bolding mine]
That certainly is a result of present knowledge [of how to conduct oneself] via revelation. Jesus says that’s how you treat people, even those who scheme against you. I mean, it clearly is guided by revelation. This is the age of road rage. Normal human conduct when under assault is to do all those unsavory things—insult, ridicule, slander, and abuse. Often those means are used even when not under assault.
*Included in I Don’t Know Why We Persecute Jehovah’s Witnesses: Searching for the Why
****** The bookstore
This post is very interesting. And I appreciate you highlighting the benefits of the “big picture”/“knowledge by revelation” way of doing things as exemplified in the ECHR excerpt. The organization’s approach to discussing human rule v God rule is excellent.
As to the downsides of this approach, I’ve been obsessing over this with regard to the pandemic. For example: corruption, misconduct, and even criminal activity in pharmaceutical companies and CDC and FDA ..is extremely well documented for decades now both legally and in research. Honestly, I’m a grown man, and my feelings were hurt that the organization did not express validation for these very legitimate concerns when it came to pandemic guidance. (Also I’ve personally suffered b/c big pharma “misconduct”. And hasn't every medicine ever pulled from the market always been FDA approved and had studies from pharma that it's "safe and effective?")
I’ve been impatient for how this will all turn out. Will it be like the ECHR excerpt, where I can look back and see the upside to the big picture approach?
Or will it be like for example the approach to social media? "Warning! Warning!" And then someone says “how dare you have a Facebook account. Shame on you. Don't you know the organization doesn't want you to have that?” (I’m exaggerating *slightly* for effect and time) But after a couple of years, the Awake! discusses pros and cons of social media, and a more nuanced approach takes hold.
Which will it be?? Like a friend used to tell me, “You gotta stick around to find out.” Looking forward to the next installment!
[Reply: No friend of Pharma here. Several posts over the years have gone to show that. Like here:
As to legitimate concerns not acknowledged, all I can imagine is that it results from the view of government’s role according to scripture.
As to initial caution that sometimes moderates, I wrote in Tom Irregardless and Me:
“In recent years, the Watchtower organization even offers its own programming through a JW Broadcasting streaming channel, a refreshing alternative to mainstream TV. Members of the Governing Body thus repeat the pattern they are known for with any new technology: They eye it with suspicion. They advise caution. They know that when the thief switches getaway cars, it is the thief you have to watch, not the dazzling features of the new car. They follow the thief for a time. Convinced at last that they still have a bead on him, they examine the car. They circle it warily, kicking the tires. At last satisfied, they jump in with both feet and put it to good uses its inventors could only have dreamed of.”
Thanks for your comments]
Posted by: Cory | June 11, 2022 at 01:13 PM
Can I weigh in on this comment.
“Honestly, I’m a grown man, and my feelings were hurt that the organization did not express validation for these very legitimate concerns when it came to pandemic guidance.”
I feel the same way,,, many people do.
Quite honestly, not to be disrespectful to the org,,, I don’t think it really cares about the downside of pandemic guidance. And remember, it always gives itself an out just in case the guidance turns out to have unintended negative consequences over time.
It puts out there a boiler plate statement,,, like “it’s up to the individual what choice they make regarding vaccines”,,, which of course will be a reflection of the individual members personal feelings about big pharma (degree of knowledge about this sector and personal experience), and then the org pumps out video after video supporting vaccination knowing that it will create a tone/environment in the individual halls that will look down and perhaps outrightly chastise those who decide not to take vaccines.
That’s the plan. It increases the probability of the outcome the org wants (vaccination that allows things to get back to normal worship wise) as a result of peer pressure and passive aggressive statements, but also gives the org an out in case things go south,,,the ability to say “it was your choice” if things don’t pan out in the long run and the vaccines prove to be more harmful over time,,, more downside than upside.
It’s kind of heartbreaking. In the end, witnesses are like everybody else, dogmatic (over things they shouldn’t be dogmatic about), tribal and petty. A set of qualities that can be capitalized on/taken advantage of to achieve a desired outcome. I personally believe,,, with all the good the org has done in these last days,,, we will look back at this period/issue and cringe. The tactics used and the approaches embraced will not age well.
The org believes that if we just push aside personal opinions and preferences we will experience an increased unity,,, not thinking for a second of the potential cost,,, will the way in which you try to achieve that unity really be worth it in the end? Will you end up opening a can of worms? Will you create more disunity as a result? The unintended consequences of people who underestimate the complexity of things.
Here’s what true unity looks like scripturally, we all believe and are dogmatic about the fundamental axioms/tenets of true Christianity. We focus on those truths and accept that we feel differently about other things. We accept those differences and don’t try to take each other out at the knees. We don’t mock or marginalize each other because of those differences in opinion. You can’t force unity. It just doesn’t work. The more you try, the more fractured things become.
But as this series has brought to the fore,,, this should not be a surprise. It’s a result of a specific mode of thinking/mode of being. A result of a lack of appreciation of the complexity/nuances of scripture. It’s a result of not heeding the caution of not going beyond what is written,,, guidance given to us by our creator that knows that we simply cannot navigate certain waters effectively. Best not to sail into them in the first place. But it seems that few can resist that urge. Short sightedness with serious long term consequences.
But again,,, still better than the church of Satan.
[Reply: “I don’t think it really cares about the downside of pandemic guidance.”
I don’t think it really knows. You have to dig deep beyond the headlines to do that—and they are Bible people. Explaining the Bible is their specialty, not uncovering the machinations of those who are “God’s minister for your good.” If that minister recommends certain measures—well, that is their God-ordained role according to scripture, and so I think it is assumed they are carrying out that role as they ought. Therefore, to go contrary must be to be pulled in by “conspiracy theory.”
As to vaccines, well, the idea of vaccination has been around for awhile, long enough to be thought unremarkable. So if a new vaccine is developed for a pandemic, how can that not be a good thing? I don’t think they specialize enough in the non-biblical to delve deeply (or at all) with the nuances that make the present ones different from forerunners.
Like you, I am surprised at how this has gone done, but it remains so right up to the present. I consolidated all related posts into a single long entry under the Covid-19 category, so as to not be banging on and on over what is not our main concern.]
Posted by: APB | June 12, 2022 at 11:20 AM
To me,,, and I’m not saying I’m correct,,, there seems to be lack of awareness of the implications of certain modes of thinking/being that are being promoted to the bros and sis.
The way that I conceptualize it,,, the bible presents a defined value hierarchy that is integrated into the systems of worship Jehovah uses. It is even present in patriarchal law. Gradually it is honed and more precisely articulated as Jehovahs purpose progresses. However, the systems of worship Jehovah uses always seem to stray from that value hierarchy in the end, with sad consequences. Maybe it’s unavoidable?
It feels like we are not currently learning from the past. Feels like we are really straying at the moment. And when things like the pandemic come along, we really seem to loose sight of things. Attempts to shore up unity and to “get on the same page” seem to backfire. More tension and disunity seem to result, and in the end, are we worse off for these efforts to strengthen unity than we were before? Maybe. I personally think so.
Again, not the worst thing in the world, but frustrating nonetheless. Feels like many people are frustrated. Maybe it’s the changing demographics of the org. Many younger people,,, I’d say under 40,,, while enjoying the association of the bros and sis and seeing the utility the org offers, do not like the conformist tone that runs through the material these days. It seems to drive them further away. Doesn’t seem like a good long term plan. The optionality that true Christianity offers is what makes it sustainable and enjoyable for the individual worshipper.
And, while I agree with you that these issues are features/realities of knowledge by revelation,,, if this knowledge,,, or the conceptualization/application of it can be problematic at times,,, you would think we would tread more cautiously.
Again, really enjoying this series of posts.
[Reply: I like how Abraham Lincoln put it about the Bible: ‘accept as much of this as you can on reason, the rest on faith, and you will live and die a happier man.’ (substance of) Drop down a notch, since the treasure is carried in ‘earthen vessels,’ and it works pretty well with how to regard human leadership that represents the human/divine interface. You’ll never know just what part is human and what part divine. If you can’t get your head fully around something, don’t. Seldom is it that you have to. It is a view that has worked for me.]
Posted by: APB | June 12, 2022 at 09:48 PM
Replying to APB's 6/12 comment "Maybe it’s unavoidable?" and Tom's reply "If you can’t get your head fully around something, don’t. Seldom is it that you have to."
This has me thinking about "expectations." A quick example: raising your children in the truth in the late 80's thru the 90's. I've heard comments from several of us of that generation and some of our parents that the organization's guidance on raising children today is vastly superior to what it was in the early 90's. It seems that the direction back then was starting to go in an unhelpful direction, and some wonder if their children would have fared better nowadays. I have no idea what led to the refinements, but the guidance is so much better now!
Is this unavoidable, especially during times of great change or novel developments like the pandemic? And when one sees refinement in one area, is it reasonable to expect refinements in other areas or is it reasonable to expect a refined approach to the next novel development in the world? Or is Jehovah pleased to have us repeatedly work through these kinds of things?
I've read Job twice during all this, and I thought how his wife and friends fell far below expectations. Could Job *fully* get his head around what was happening? I don't think so, and he didn't have to. And Jehovah had full confidence in him even if he did let rip some wild talk.
Back to the title of the series...I personally really want to feel less of the "Drive You Crazy" and more of the "How to View Them" haha!
[Reply: Don’t we all?
I think if that Luke 18:8 verse: “when the Son of man arrives, will he really find this faith on the earth?” I’d hate to think the answer would be ‘no’ over strictly human factors.
God uses humans, earthen vessels though they are. Pray that God handle this situation or that, and he says he has people to take care of it. Tell him that some of those people are a bit rough, and he responds, ‘well—you’re no creampuff yourself. Do you have any idea how much you try me? You just have to learn to get along.’
Rugged individualism is not the Bible way. Rather, ‘forgive each other freely’ and ‘consider the other person superior’ and ‘conduct yourself as a lesser one’ are. To the degree we’re influenced by ‘rugged individualism’ it adds to the challenge of maintaining faith among imperfect people.]
Posted by: Cory | June 14, 2022 at 12:05 PM
Great points that you guys make.
I guess I would sum up my view in this way.
The biblical narrative shines a light on how imperfect people participate in an autonomous culture with their creator. Jehovah gives us free will, a defined value hierarchy and guidance and hopes we use that free will wisely. Sometimes we do. Sometimes we don’t. I feel we sometimes underestimate the downside of using that free will, either as individuals, or a group of people (what I would define as organizational culture), poorly.
It’s easy (and accurate) when things go astray, or at least seem to, to say “well, we are all imperfect”, “earthen vessels”. Absolutely true. No one would deny that. That knowledge helps a person to understand why things go astray/poorly at times. But it doesn’t actually improve anything. The tendency/trend that I notice is to lean back heavily into that mode of thinking instead of making meaningful changes to improve things. A general feeling that acknowledging imperfections is the same as doing something about them. It leads to a state where nothing really improves and a I believe a serious price is paid over time for that way of doing things.
[Reply: Maybe. But the trouble with ‘doing something’ about imperfections is that people will differ on just should be done. Hence there is all this emphasis on decisions being unanimous, not just trampling the other with one’s point of view, but hashing it out in the spirit of considering oneself the lesser one, and the other person superior to oneself. It is Bible counsel on how faithful brothers are to interact. It may be the best of all possible worlds for now and the friction of human annoyance is best solved by ‘we are all imperfect,’ ‘earthen vessels’ and so forth. Plus maybe a recognition of how ‘knowledge of the present via revelation’ affects policy.]
Posted by: APB | June 18, 2022 at 07:16 AM