Rolf’s New Mustang
All You Need to Know about Naaman—Questions from readers: (2 Kings 5)

“A Man Can Only Stand So Much Religion”—the Social Media Conundrum

One of the most uncouth persons I have known, long since deceased, obviously not a pillar, though a brother accepted by all—that’s what I like about Witnesses, if you love God and conform to a reasonable degree to group norms, you are accepted—offered me his advice that, “A man can only stand so much religion!” I never thought I’d make use of that ‘gem,’ but here arises an opportunity.

The problem with social media is that if I clog up my feed with one controversial subject, the neighbors start to complain. So I respond on my own blog, where people can visit or not as interested. Among those who follow me on social media are some who don’t care about religion one way or the other—and it is not the only interest I have—so I don’t want to deluge them in religious disputes. It is the same thing with anyone’s personal trials. Put them somewhere that people can read or not as their interest holds. It started with OJ (Simpson), I think: the world has devolved into a place where everyone feels an obligation to monitor the trials of everyone else. Plainly, human finiteness makes that course impracticable. Plus, though the squeaky wheel may get the oil, if you convey the notion that there are nothing but squeaky wheels, you have not represented truth well. So I put my response here instead:

***As regards cross and Christmas [a topic that had come up with a certain one airing beefs], everyone knows Witnesses once did these things. At any rate, they make no effort to hide it. As with any subject anywhere, as they learned, they adapted. They correspond to Phillip asking ‘Do you know what you are reading?’ the answer to which was ‘How could I ever do so without someone to guide me?’ (Acts 8:31-32) Most people believe cross and Christmas to this day.

Without the work the Witness organization did, I would still be bamboozled over trinity, fretting over heaven & hell, wondering why God permits evil, wondering whether the kingdom means anything more than ‘being good,’ etc. They gain from me a certain loyalty on that account, flawed though they may be due to being human. Nobody else assumed that detailed work of  illumination. 

Pray to God for relief and he says, ‘I have people to handle that.’ Tell him that some of those people are a bit rough,’ and he says, ‘Well, you’re no creampuff yourself—do you have any idea how much you try me? You’ll just have to work it out somehow.’ Isn’t that the meaning of the Matthew 18 slave who was forgiven much yet would not forgive his fellow slave? There is a certain mindset that says the Witness headship should be an like an infallible pope, an exact replica of Jesus, only in the flesh. I’ve never looked upon it that way. I think few do—though some have, and they respond not well to evidence of imperfection.

Like any system of justice, congregation justice can misfire. It is, after all, a function of humans. At it’s worst, it is far less egregious than secular justice misfiring; secular justice entails physical incarceration and sometimes directly puts people to death. Still, ones have been wronged by congregation justice, sometimes exacerbated by their response to it, sometimes not, and a pent-up desire for ‘payback’ emerges. It’s not hard to understand why. My hopes are that the overall preaching and teaching work is not thwarted by infighting among those of age and stature, thus pleasing those who hate the Bible’s guts, those who say ‘the sooner it disappears the better.’ I suspect God will be less interested in who was right and who was wrong than in, ‘Were those who claim to be Mine able to unite and get my work done?’ “If these ones remain silent,” Jesus said, “the stones would cry out!” but they will have a hard time doing that while flying through the air as projectiles by persons insistent on having their own way.

 

***I keep a certain distance even from friends on social media. People change. If someone was to be disfellowshipped, would they tell me? If I were to be, would I tell them? It would set up a ridiculous blizzard among those who think the internet can be made into a congregation. I’ve seen people try to enforce congregation discipline online, seemingly oblivious that they are on a worldwide stage and look crazy to the average passerby. The internet is not the congregation and cannot be made to act like one.

So I don’t want to act as though part of an online brotherhood SWAT team. If a brother goes bad at the official site, they just yank him for one who remains faithful. But what if an individual social media figure goes bad? Best not to form close ties with those you don’t personally know.

For a related reason, I display no link to the Jw.org website on my blog, much as I respect it. I suspect (without any evidence other than common sense) that they don’t want you to link there, as though deputizing yourself with a badge. Everyone has idiosyncrasies. If I link to the HQ site, people assume that’s where I acquired them.

***If this was a matter of my choosing, I would wish that we had a bit of training in social media, for it is not the same as interacting with individual flesh and blood persons. I would wish that we not regard it as the fence the devil owns, as it often seems to me we do. We interact oddly on social media when we make use of it—slamming religion, for example, when there is no reason to do so. Everyone knows we stand for something different—it’s not necessary to continually search for an underbelly at which to stab.

I’m amazed at the sniping there is today over headship (though this could be a function of what I monitor)—you never hear a whiff of it at any Kingdom Hall I’ve ever been to—opponents make as much noise as Gideon, hoping ot create the same impression as he—that his forces were overwhelming in number, when in fact they were small. My comment on the last Watchtower Study’s paragraph 9, the one about Hannah, was that scripture plainly says we have this treasure in earthen vessels. Earthen vessels are not crystal vessels, nor gold vessels, nor silver vessels. They’re earthen. So it’s best not to focus on the vessels but on the treasure.

Hannah surely did. Eli was an earthen vessel nearly to the point of being unusable—didn’t rebuke his rotten kids, but did rebuke Hannah harshly, misinterpreting something right before his eyes. Yet Hannah’s regard for the treasure did not waver.

It gets to the point with some malcontents (the considerable number that go atheist) that they seem unaware that there even is a treasure, or ever was one—as though the ‘treasure’ was just a scheme to defraud them from pursuing the ‘good’ things in life—be that personal fulfillment, career, living the fun life—whatever. When you give up on everlasting life, you necessarily default to ‘this life is all there is.’

Faced with their onslaught, brothers deputize themselves to come to the defense. Sometimes they become unreasonable. A pardonable error? “I have become unreasonable,” says Paul. “You compelled me to, for I ought to have been recommended by you. For I did not prove to be inferior to your superfine apostles in a single thing, even if I am nothing.” (2 Corinthians 12:11) If modern Witnesses have stepped into it, it’s not as though the ancients didn’t as well! And the bone of contention is the same—headship! The ‘superfine apostles’ of Paul’s day wanted his recognition, though not necessarily his work.

Throw this one at today’s ‘anti-cultists:’ “For I am seeking, not your possessions, but you.”* just as surely as “Uncle Sam wants YOU!’ (2 Corinthians 12:14) Do detractors, with their new definition, call you a cult? Point out that, by that same revised definition, that’s exactly what first century Christianity was. If they keep it up, do what the cops did when the college-educated bunch started calling them ‘pigs’, doubling down when they saw it got under their skin. One innovative officer decided to wear the badge proudly: PIGS: Pride, Integrity, Guts, Service. If need be, do the same yourself: CULT: Courage, Unity, Love, Truth.

 

*Yes, it is even worse than is feared. The Christian congregation seeks, not your possessions, but you. “This is what Jehovah says, your Repurchaser, the Holy One of Israel: “I, Jehovah, am your God, The One teaching you to benefit yourself, The One guiding you in the way you should walk. If only you would pay attention to my commandments! Then your peace would become just like a river And your righteousness like the waves of the sea.” (Isaiah 48:17-18) He wants to repurchase you by means of a price that has been paid, that of his Son.

It’s like when 81CFEF61-4571-47DB-93EF-6463AECFF526the wary householder cleaning out his boat said, ‘What’s up? Who are you guys with?’ I told him I wasn’t a politician—that with the election just days behind, half of those guys are licking their wounds and the other half are doing champagne and oysters. What I was, I told him, was even worse—I thought that I had a read on this guy, and I was not mistaken.

At an offer to read a scripture, hear what he thinks, and then vanish, the boat cleaner declined even that. You Jehovah’s Witnesses have your own interpretation of the Bible, he said, and we have ours. It did not work to take my ‘common ground’ tack: ‘got it’ that our interpretations of the Bible differ, but we live in a world in which the majority interpretation of the Bible is that it is hogwash: consequently, we could focus on common ground, not scorched earth.

It didn’t work with this fellow. He stayed scorched earth. Though there have been plenty of times when that has been our ground, a style that does little good. Better to look for common ground instead.

******  The bookstore

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