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The Making of Faith

Tom ‘wanted to believe in God but became disillusioned with religion.’ Studying the Bible led him to hope, he says. How can you not like a guy named Tom?

He is the one who studied for the priesthood, then counseled alcoholic priests, then dropped out entirely to become a ‘question authority’ professor, then came across Jehovah’s Witnesses. The one who studied with him related his intimidation at engaging with such a credentialed fellow, said, ‘I hear you have some questions,’ and Tom dumped a ton of them on his lap. 

Tom was impressed that the answer to each question came straight from the Bible. Isn’t that the telling factor? It accounts for those verses on how God draws some but not others. It just intuitively resonated that the answers he sought should come from God, not men.

It made instant sense to him that a book—which everyone can read, as opposed to someone’s ‘personal revelation,’ which they cannot —would be the way God communicates with us. He had to satisfy himself that the Bible truly was what it claimed to be, of course, but he would have lapped up the evidence, not resisted it. He had had it up to here with vacillating human wisdom.

At the same Kingdom Hall meeting in which that video played, John 8:31 came up. “If you remain in my word, you are really my disciples,” Jesus said. 3FC02E9C-E9D0-4D39-98E8-881F9FF1C7A1Seems a no-brainer for Witnesses (and for Tom). But for much of the world it not only is not a no-brainer, it comes across as reactionary. Steeped in humanistic, evolutionary thinking, they expect religion to fall into step, to ‘move on’ and not to be ‘stuck in the past.’ You should not ‘remain’ anywhere, even in ‘my word’—unless that word says ‘Go with the flow.’

(photo: Pixabay)

Usually Jehovah’s Witnesses think that if they can demonstrate they’re doing something like it was done in the first century, they’re golden. With some, they are. With Tom, they were. But much of the world supposes it pathetic that one hasn’t ‘kept up’ with the times. The pull is between a heartfelt sense that God should call the shots versus a heartfelt sense that humans should call them. Reaction to that ‘remain in my word’ saying of Jesus says it all in a nutshell.

Though, the first of all questions that impressed Tom because it was addressed from the Bible was, ‘How does your organization handle child sexual abuse?’ Okay, ‘got it’ that there is recognition that such issues exist, but does the Bible specifically say anything at all about it?—other than it’s a particularly perverted ‘pornea,’ so throw the bum out (1 Corinthians) but if he snivels long enough in repentance ‘don’t let him become swallowed up with sadness.’ (2 Corinthians). It was necessary to step out from strictly Bible verse to tighten up policies too loose for today’s times.

I wrote something similar in TrueTom vs the Apostates. Opponents will grudgingly acknowledge that Watchtower child abuse policies have improved, particularly with the study article that stipulated the reproach falls upon the abuser, not the congregation, but they will say, ‘It’s because we twisted their arm.’ They will demand ‘credit.’ Give it to them, so far as I am concerned. Everything in life is action/reaction, and here their carrying on did indeed result in better policies.

‘Can anything good come out of Apostareth?’ Now that their efforts have contributed to positive change, will they return to the fold? Maybe—though you know how it is with ‘activists’—they thereafter want to be seen as ‘key players.’ But for the most part not even that. Many are on a mission to destroy. It’s our horror that anyone would willingly leave the truth that leads to an almost superstition over apostates which does not always serve us well. Malcontents are everywhere in every venue. Is it not a little naive to suppose we would not get scads of them too?

******  The bookstore


Defending Jehovah’s Witnesses with style from attacks... in Russia, with the book ‘I Don’t Know Why We Persecute Jehovah’s Witnesses—Searching for the Why’ (free).... and in the West, with the book, 'In the Last of the Last Days: Faith in the Age of Dysfunction'

Who Says There is Not a Reward For All Our Hard Work?—Mephibosheth Strikes Again

Great! Just great! Here I flub up ONE of the seven instances of Mephibosheth in my last reading—and complain about it; who would name their child an unpronounceable name like Mephibosheth?! Even Bro Mallenfont flubbed the name at the regional convention!

So what is my next reading assignment? 1 Chronicles 11:26-47! The passage has about 100 unpronounceable names! It’s one of those ‘phone book’ passages.

FD31BBC6-0496-4B61-B0D6-03B6417C79ADWho says there is not a reward for all our hard work? Who doesn’t get no respect? It’s almost like when my car says on a frigid morning, “I’m not gonna start today! That’ll fix him!”

The mighty warriors of the military forces were Asʹa·hel the brother of Joʹab, El·haʹnan the son of Doʹdo of Bethʹle·hem, Shamʹmoth the Haʹro·rite, Heʹlez the Pelʹo·nite, Iʹra the son of Ikʹkesh the Te·koʹite, Abi-eʹzer the Anʹa·thoth·ite, Sibʹbe·cai the Huʹshath·ite, Iʹlai the A·hoʹhite, Maʹha·rai the Ne·tophʹa·thite, Heʹled the son of Baʹa·nah the Ne·tophʹa·thite, Iʹthai the son of Riʹbai of Gibʹe·ah of the Benʹja·min·ites, Be·naiʹah the Pirʹa·thon·ite, Huʹrai of the wadis of Gaʹash, A·biʹel the Arʹbath·ite, Azʹma·veth the Ba·haʹrum·ite, E·liʹah·ba the Sha·alʹbo·nite, the sons of Haʹshem the Giʹzo·nite, Jonʹa·than the son of Shaʹgee the Harʹa·rite, A·hiʹam the son of Saʹcar the Harʹa·rite, E·liʹphal the son of Ur, Heʹpher the Me·cheʹrath·ite, A·hiʹjah the Pelʹo·nite, Hezʹro the Carʹmel·ite, Naʹa·rai the son of Ezʹbai, Joel the brother of Nathan, Mibʹhar the son of Hagʹri, Zeʹlek the Amʹmon·ite, Naʹha·rai the Be·rothʹite, the armor-bearer of Joʹab the son of Ze·ruʹiah; Iʹra the Ithʹrite, Gaʹreb the Ithʹrite, U·riʹah the Hitʹtite, Zaʹbad the son of Ahʹlai, Adʹi·na the son of Shiʹza the Reuʹben·ite, a head of the Reuʹben·ites, and 30 with him; Haʹnan the son of Maʹa·cah, Joshʹa·phat the Mithʹnite, Uz·ziʹa the Ashʹte·rath·ite, Shaʹma and Je·iʹel, the sons of Hoʹtham the A·roʹer·ite; Je·diʹa·el the son of Shimʹri, and Joʹha his brother the Tiʹzite; Eʹli·el the Maʹha·vite, Jerʹi·bai and Josh·a·viʹah the sons of Elʹna·am, and Ithʹmah the Moʹab·ite Eʹli·el, Oʹbed, and Ja·a·siʹel the Me·zoʹba·ite.

(Photo: Pixabay)

******  The bookstore

Defending Jehovah’s Witnesses with style from attacks... in Russia, with the book ‘I Don’t Know Why We Persecute Jehovah’s Witnesses—Searching for the Why’ (free).... and in the West, with the book, 'In the Last of the Last Days: Faith in the Age of Dysfunction'

Do the Trumpet Blasts Wear Thin?

The trumpet blasts and bowls of wrath (Revelation 8) have sat untouched on the shelf for 35 years. You wouldn’t leave a pie to cool that long. Will there be an update someday?

Presenting things chronologically, as in the Revelation Climax book, was all the rage at one time—make the timeline work out. The pieces fit together pretty well, but what to do about the blasts and the bowls?

They must have been ‘fiery’ resolutions and publications from the ones just released from prison who hit the ground running and swarmed like locusts for their numbers. Why in prison? Because their religious work was judged to have run afoul of the U.S. 1917 Espionage and Sedition Act. (The same parallel has happened in Russia, exactly 100 years later!)

Vic Vomodog called those resolutions and publications “nothing but anti-church hate speech from the 1920s!”

Yes, it’s trendy and inclusive to say such things, but it does not do justice to the fact that the dominant religions served as cheerleaders for World War I, which cost millions their lives, and showed every sign of doing it again for World War II. Yet, in the interim, they presumed to slide right back into their comfy chair of representing the Prince of Peace. 

Jehovah’s Witnesses, virtually alone, were not going to let them get away with it. Ought they be lambasted for it? No. Applaud them for their courage. Had those dominant religions taught their members Christ’s ways of peace, insisting upon it when the going got rough, those wars might have fizzled quickly—how can you fight a war when the overwhelming majority of the populace won’t fight? Instead, they acquiesced to the will of ‘the nations.’

It all boils down to religion determined to be an integral part of this system so as to be ‘relevant.’ Determined to fix this world, it ignores or dilutes into impotence Jesus’ direction to be ‘no part of this world.’ He gives that direction because he’s already hung a ‘Condemned’ sign on it. Do you rush into a condemned building to fix it up?

It turns out that Pius XII was not pro-Nazi, even though he’s been called ‘Hitler’s Pope.’ He was a schooled and cultured diplomat who imagined himself solving thorny world issues through diplomacy. He loathed Hitler. He personally shielded thousands of Jews in his Italian realm. But he had German bishops under him who were pro-Nazi. In the end, he made agreements with the German regime because he did not want to see Catholics there consigned to the camps (as were Jehovah’s Witnesses).

So I ran all this past Tom Whitepebble, that Pius was not the bloodthirsty guy that some have thought, and he says, ‘Well—it’s hard to stay clean when you’re a harlot.” The spiritual persons see the big picture and do not get pulled into the minutia, the political wrangling of a world that has already been condemned by the Lord. They know instead it is high time they kept themselves clean from it rather than imagine they are there to fix it.

This is why it is the “unlettered and ordinary” who take the lead in the modern Christian work. This is why, when the “educated people” come along and say, “You’ve done very well. We’ll take it from here and smooth out your rough edges,” they do not yield. The educated people think of ways to accommodate sensibilities of this system. They are forever backing off and reevaluating. The unlettered and ordinary get the work done.

In that period between the two world wars, the 1937 book Enemies denounced ‘false’ religion as “a great enemy, always working injury to mankind,” it’s adherents “agents of the Devil, whether they are aware of that fact or not.” How’s that for ‘fiery?’ “You will notice that its cover is tan, and we will tan the old lady’s hide with it,” Judge Rutherford said in releasing it.

It’s not the prime focus today. Why kick the old lady while she is down? Witnesses kicked her while she was up—and arguably brought her down. The goal was only to dent credibility enough to loosen her iron grip on parishioners. These days every wuss of an atheist, who would pee his pants if called upon to confront the dominant religions when they had real power, as Witnesses routinely did, are kicking her now that the role is so much easier.

What to make of those trumpet blasts? Maybe it’s “that Jehovah gave each generation something to be busy with and a few prophecies to help them through their own times.” It was all the rage for a time to go verse by verse sequentially into the prophetic books, ‘unlocking’ each one and applying it to specific events wherever feasible. While not abandoning that approach completely, these days passages are as likely to be bunched up with recognition of their thematic content, and not necessarily taken apart verse by verse. The 2018 Pure Worship Restored commentary on Ezekiel takes this more current approach. 

‘It flies at the time’ is all that really matters. Some thought it a stretch even then for those trumpets and bowls to be associated with specific early conventions and the resolutions then given. But the rest of the Revelation Climax book was (and still is) so spot on that I did what the Monty Python monk does—“Skip a bit, brother.” 

For all the complaining heard about the brothers not being “transparent,” when they are transparent there’s complaining about that too. Hitting the Research Guide in connection with those Revelation 8 verses will still take you back to the Revelation Climax book explanations, but it’s been decades since I’ve heard any talk incorporating those explanations (if I ever have). No problem here in saying that we floated the idea for a time but no longer do. You can still find it though. Nothing is hidden.

BE4147FB-3F4D-4183-BAAF-B4429F1A8815It’s better to focus on what has endured, which is the bulk of it, not on what has died a ‘pocket veto’ by never being referred to again.


******  The bookstore

Defending Jehovah’s Witnesses with style from attacks... in Russia, with the book ‘I Don’t Know Why We Persecute Jehovah’s Witnesses—Searching for the Why’ (free).... and in the West, with the book, 'In the Last of the Last Days: Faith in the Age of Dysfunction'

A Time to Speak and a Time to Be Still—also ‘The Best (Wt) Article on Prayer I Have Ever Read.”)

I inquired of Jehovah, and he answered me, And out of all my frights he delivered me.” (Ps 34:4)

Just how did the do this? Any takers? (David wrote this when he played crazyman before Achish, [successfully] trying to get himself out of a spot)

It wasn’t exactly an answer, but someone posted “the best article on prayer I’ve ever read.” It was to me, as well—and it was way back in 1958. ‘Your prayers tell on you. Explains how God answers queries and petitions.’

It includes one remarkable excerpt: “So by listening to the Holy Scriptures the words of the prophets, the thoughts of the apostles and the wisdom of Jesus Christ all flow through the mind, refreshing it and building it up. In this way one can spend all night in prayer with God and hardly say a word. When you listen you learn. When we listen to the words of the Scriptures we show ourselves learners of God.” (Italics mine)

Imagine—spending all night in prayer with God and hardly saying a word! It’s an observation that hasn’t been repeated, to my knowledge. Did some HQ technician reclassify the ‘listening’ part as ‘meditation,’ thereby collapsing the total prayer length to only that which you can ‘count time’ for—the time that you are talking? Dunno, but the idea of giving a one-sided speech lasting all night is not the easiest idea to put into practice. It sure works for me if you listen up to near 100% when the occasion warrants it. 

Though, to be sure, as judged by my own verbosity, I don’t come across as someone who listens 100% of the time, do I?

“For the true God is in the heavens but you are on the earth. That is why your words should be few.” (Ecclesiastes 5:2) ‘It ain’t be, babe.’ Should it be?

It’s like the commentary (week of December 19, 2022) on 222AEF81-235C-4F64-8E15-8CD255D63564Hezekiah under threat from Rabshakeh. As is the case in the modern day, the assault on Jehovah is cloaked in an assault on the ones taking the lead: ‘You’re going to listen to Hezekiah?’ he taunts in effect to the Jews on the wall. ‘What have you been smoking?’ (2 Kings 18: 19-35)

(Photo: Chuck Gremmit—Wikimedia)

Says the commentary: “Wisely, the people did not try to respond to the slanderous propaganda, a course often followed by Jehovah’s servants in our day.” (italics mine)

One can almost read (a bit disconcertingly) the words between the lines: ‘It would be ‘always followed’ were it not for that idiot Tom Harley and ones like him!’

It’s like what I wrote in TrueTom vs the Apostates. Is responding to the propaganda of apostates is a good thing? Doing so is the premise of the entire book—in part, to aid whoever has been stumbled by them, for an application of that ancient drama plays out in real time. However, maybe doing so is to assume the role of the yo-yo singing out on the wall just as Hezekiah has ordered the troops to zip it. 

******  The bookstore

Defending Jehovah’s Witnesses with style from attacks... in Russia, with the book ‘I Don’t Know Why We Persecute Jehovah’s Witnesses—Searching for the Why’ (free).... and in the West, with the book, 'In the Last of the Last Days: Faith in the Age of Dysfunction'

Why You Cannot Use the N-Word: Observations from ‘Kill ‘Em and Leave’ re James Brown

If you read James McBride and you are white, it may dawn on you why you cannot say the n-word and Blacks can—at least it did on this northern white boy as he was turning through the pages of ‘Kill em and Leave,’ a James Brown biography. They do it freely—at least some will. You cannot. ‘What gives with that?’ many a white person has said.

You’ll muck it up is why. It’s like the power saw your dad would use with ease but he wouldn’t let you touch it. It cuts unpredictably. He knew. You didn’t. He had experience you did not. So it is with the n-word. Best to just accept it as the way it is. Blacks can say it. You can’t. You haven’t had the same experiences as they. You’ll muck it up. They won’t.

It’s like when I called door to door and a woman told me to return at end of day if I could because her husband loved to talk Bible. So I did. The black man, just returned from work, still in his work clothes, ushered me into to his living room. Assorted Bibles and commentaries lined his bookcase. The man was instantly likable, a serious student of the Word who was not wound up too tight, did not embrace dogmatism, did not take himself too seriously, and had a kindly way about him—but that doesn’t mean he would be any pushover. Differences of interpretation soon emerged. He directed me to such and such a passage, but when it dawned on him that I meant to read it aloud, he exclaimed in mock-panic,  good-naturedly chuckling at his predicament, “No. Don’t you be the one to read it. You’ll muck it up!” He had intended to emphasize different words.

Same with the n-word. You’ll muck it up if you say it. They won’t. You won’t appreciate the James Brown who moves north “where the white man’s foot was off your neck” but later returns south where “I know who I’m dealing with.” It’s like when Leroy White raises his hand at the Watchtower study and unselfconsciously recalls before the 50/50 congregation when he was “working for the white man” back in Mississippi—naw, you won’t understand all the nuances, but it doesn’t matter to him.

Leroy White—the man who I hoped might give my funeral talk had he not pre-deceased me, because I knew it would be a beaut: “Hee-hee-hee—that Tom Harley was a good ‘ol boy,” he would boom in his deep voice, “but he’d deeaaad now—D-E-A-D!” Leroy White, who his son confirmed at his funeral, passed up an invitation to tour with B.B. King, because he knew it would be detrimental to family and spirituality—just like James Brown’s friend Leon didn’t know it but came to find out, thankfully in time to not derail his stable life. Leroy White, who would jam guitar with congregation brothers of both races young enough to be his grandchildren.

It’s also like when I worked in the ministry with Alma and she told me of her early days as a Witness. As a return visit was wrapping up, the householder asked if she would mind taking the trash to the curb on her way out. ‘Oh sure!’ she starts to bristle inside, ‘look right at me, the black woman, and ask me to take out the trash!’ Knowing she might explode, her white companion grabbed that trash and took off with it. ‘What would Jesus do?’ she said later.

‘I dunno,’ my wife said later at the nervy request. ‘It could have been that way but I can think of many clueless people asking it oblivious to racial concerns.’ That’s the trouble. You don’t know. The boorish white person who assigns a menial task to me, I don’t think of race for a second, but if I were black—then I would. I haven’t been there. That’s why I can’t say the n-word. Fortunately, I don’t feel a need to—notwithstanding how I feed my Civil War book into Word dictation and it stars out the n-word—not only the n-word, but also ‘Negro’—not only ‘Negro’ but also dix (Ft Dix), hooker (General Hooker), and Fanny (a once-common woman’s name. Political correctness anyone? Never mind if it thwarts comprehension. Blacks can say any of those words, including the n-word. But you cannot say the latter. You’ll muck it up.

Jehovah’s Witnesses have essentially solved racial prejudice. More than any other atmosphere I have even experienced, they have solved it—by instilling such passages as Acts 10:34-35, taking for granted the reality there taught: “At this Peter began to speak, and he said: ‘Now I truly understand that God is not partial, but in every nation the man who fears him and does what is right is acceptable to him.’” It’s like when one of those Bethel brothers—I forget who—was chewed out by some social activist for not taking a more active role in social affairs. ‘Why should we?’ he retorted. ‘We have solved most of the problems that you are yet grappling with. Why should we trade the superior for the inferior?’

But it’s not perfect. In the all-white suburbs you might find a youngster uttering something none to racially sensitive, particularly if they heard such remarks in a religiously divided home. They wouldn’t say it in front of my daughter, however.

“Dad, it’s not like I remember you ever giving any speeches about it,” she said. “It’s just in how you treated people—you treated everyone the same.” When told her friends in those all-white suburbs would caution each other not to inadvertently say anything derogative because Robin was particularly sensitive to it, she’d erupt, ‘Forget me! What about Jehovah?!”

I’d like to say it’s due to my training as a Witness. And I’m sure it is. 9A4D2315-12A8-4168-9870-43CA68334840But it is also no doubt due to my being the grand nephew (through marriage) to the black heavyweight fighter Joe Jennette—the fighter who routinely fought Jack Johnson until the latter captured the formerly-reserved-for-whites World Heavyweight Title, and thereafter he also would not face black opponents. Doubtless due to my folks witnessing his troubles—the mixed marriage made our entire extended family “the disgrace of the neighborhood,” said my dad—I grew up in a home where prejudicial remarks were never heard. I was slow to imagine that any white family might be different. 

Joe even has a chapter named after him in ‘Go Where Tom Goes.’ I had gone to Union City, to spy out his old gym and three apartments, which during the depression once housed all my relatives. It still stands. But nobody was home as I knocked on all the doors. The Joe Jennette plaque was encased in an opaque stainless steel box, probably to protect against vandalism. The street crossing guard just a few yards from me knew nothing of the building’s history nor Joe.

Even the white police detective with a side interest in boxing, the one who wrote about Joe Jennette, was nowhere to be found. I roamed the area and in time spotted his name, Joe Botti, on a plaque for the ‘Union City Boxing Club’ affixed to the police station. But when I made to enter the police station, a huge building that seemed to comprise an entire city block, I found it was abandoned and locked. Down the street, however, was a ‘Police Command Station’ trailer. I opened the door, expecting a lobby area, and instead found myself interrupting a three-person conference in a tiny room

With some embarrassment, I asked about Botti. ‘Oh, he retired ages ago,’ one of the officers told me. ‘Sometimes the guys stop in to visit after they retire, but we don’t see him at all,’ a circumstance he allowed might have something to do with the fellow’s contented life and a new girlfriend. As to the police station, “the city condemned that long ago. That’s why were here in this trailer.”

I read Botti’s book, parts of it. It delves into my great uncle’s boxing life in commendable detail, and his personal life as well—but it makes the odd blunder of writing as though it were Joe himself writing in the first person. My cousin, the family historian, says she isn’t crazy about the book. It puts all sorts of progressive words in his mouth that don’t ring true to those few still alive who knew him. “Unkie would never had said that!” my cousin fumes.

That’s why Joe Botti also should not say the n-word. He too, will muck it up. Even writing in what he thinks is a supportive stance, he’ll muck it up.


******  The bookstore

Defending Jehovah’s Witnesses with style from attacks... in Russia, with the book ‘I Don’t Know Why We Persecute Jehovah’s Witnesses—Searching for the Why’ (free).... and in the West, with the book, 'In the Last of the Last Days: Faith in the Age of Dysfunction'

Halloween Witnessing

“Theologians Confirm 'Thou Shalt Not Steal' Doesn't Apply To Your Kids' Halloween Candy” reads the Babylon Bee headline. The accompanying photo is one of mom and dad raiding their kid’s candy stash.

Mine did not do that. Believe me, I would have known. The day after Halloween, I would dump my catch on the carpet, apportion it out and figure it might last three months. Invariably, it was gone in a week—and it wasn’t my parents’ fault.

Fast forward a few decades and a religion change later. A householder opened the door to me, the day after Halloweeen. Eyeing the porch jack-o-lantern, I told him I was half a mind to introduce myself as a trick or treater, my costume being a Jehovah’s Witness. 

It proved an icebreaker. I asked him if he had many trick or treaters the night before. He had, he told me, about 100. I have never had one, nor my neighbors, but that’s because we live on an unlit, unsidewalked street not conducive to kids. His neighborhood—I looked over my shoulder to spy a house with plastic blow-up ghouls almost the height of the house itself—teemed with kids. When I told the man my candy was devoured within the week, he expressed surprise it had lasted that long.

No sense in being a spoilsport. Some of our people go into overdrive dissing the macabre holiday—all of the holidays, for that matter. It works as a research project, if you’re into that sort of thing. But it’s not a witnessing project. It’s always good when you witness not to lead with a list of things you don’t do.

It’s a like when my Scrabble-cheating brother talks back to the state ‘Get Vaccinated’ campaign. They’re just tireless at it, pounding away at the mantra to ‘Get vaccinated.’ My brother, who is vaccinated against Covid but who drew the line at the frequent boosters, said, “Sheesh, you’d think they’d get it through their heads that if people haven’t taken the shot by now, they’re not going to.”

Same thing with Halloween. 1343C28C-715A-49F9-AE66-A9FD95736AB3Sure, point out its unsavory origin, but understand that nobody cares. If people haven’t trashed the day by now, they’re not going to. ‘It’s fun for the kids’ is what trumps all. You risk looking picayune and sanctimonious if you harp on it as a plan of action. Confine it to your own research. The holidays are among the trash carted to the curb a century ago by the ‘messenger preparing the way.’ You don’t obsess over the trash in real life. Why do it here? Move on as to what you’ve saved and what you’ve accumulated, not what you’ve thrown out. 

If there’s a party going on, children will want to be a part of it. Still, growing up, there were all sorts of celebrations Jewish kids would not take part in. (though I never heard Halloween was one of them). Nobody ever said they were deprived. It was assumed they had stuff in their own background to compensate. I don’t recall my kids raising a fuss over Halloween. If they did, it was minor. We tried to do things to compensate.

It certainly was nothing like the phony ‘Witness’ kids of the Clint Eastwood movie, A Perfect World. The Witness mother in the film—they made her out to be like a puritanical Amish— squelched the complaints of her two kids, upset that they could not do Halloween trick or treating, with the pious platitude, “We have a higher calling.” No Witness in a thousand years is going to say “We have a higher calling”—they just don’t talk that way. So I knew that Clint probably didn’t know anything about Jehovah’s Witnesses and probably didn’t have it in for them in particular; he just wanted a premise for a good movie.

And now it’s time to wrap this post up and raid the fridge for lunch. “I have a higher calling.”

******  The bookstore

Defending Jehovah’s Witnesses with style from attacks... in Russia, with the book ‘I Don’t Know Why We Persecute Jehovah’s Witnesses—Searching for the Why’ (free).... and in the West, with the book, 'In the Last of the Last Days: Faith in the Age of Dysfunction'

An organization that says “there is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor freeman, there is neither male nor female” (Galatians 3:28) might not feel compelled to include a member of each in order to prove their ‘diversity’ to an irreve

Then there was Morristotle—where is he now anyway?—who scanned the photos on the JW website and said, ‘Where’s the women?’ He was put out by it.

Morristotle—who used to pitch to me the virtues of atheism and I would throw it back in his face. What spectacular rows we used to have! Like that time he pitched to me some Ancient Greek reputed to be the world’s first atheist and I did an online search to reveal what a knave the fellow was.

It is a near universal sentiment today: if different roles are assigned to different groups, then one group must be oppressing the other. Lord forbid they could be cooperating seamlessly. It doesn’t happen in their own world so they assume it cannot happen. If they see it, they don’t trust it. 

But I want you to know that the head of every man is the Christ; in turn, the head of a woman is the man; in turn, the head of the Christ is God.” (1 Corinthians 11:3) Doesn’t work for these guys, who take it as a formula for oppression.

A similar sentiment prevails with nationality and race, which holds if you are not a member of that nationality or race, it can only be that you are exploiting it. Doesn’t this come from the survival of the fittest ‘scientific’ mindset in which everyone puts themselves first? It is the world they have bought into. They presume it is universal. “Have love for the whole association of brothers,” be they of whatever nationality, race, class, or economic status? No, they say. It is every man for himself.

Diversity is all the rage today and unless you are diverse you must be stepping upon those not included in your headship ranks, the same as men must be stepping on women if they are abiding by the above 1 Corinthians 11:3 verse. 

The Jehovah’s Witness's headship catches some flak when judged by this contemporary norm, an ‘American white boys’ club, grumbles Vic Vomodog (with whom I used to pull shoulder to shoulder in the work!—Vic Vomodog, the Wily E Coyote saboteur of Tom Irregardless and Me!

He forgets that David Splane hails from the exotic land of Canada. And what of that Aussie Geoff Jackson? Don’t get me started on Gerrit Lousch, working Eastern Europe back in the day. And Mark Sanderson speaks of his missionary history in the islands. He speaks Russian. If he is white, he also gets around. Then there is tough old bird Sam Herd, son of a black mule driver, who has said he wants to retire, but the others “won’t let him.” Admittedly, Kenneth Cook, who comports himself well, nonetheless gives credence to the feeling that he was snatched up because it was convenient—he from nearby Pennsylvania. “It's who you know" that counts, Vic muttered at that one.

Ah, well. The trick is not to sanitize the present.  It is to desanitize the past. There was no ‘it’s who you know’ club like there was in Jesus’ time,  when so many of his disciples were related to one another. But these days diversity is all the rage. Individual branches invariably reflect it. And even the harshest JW critic will concede that racial tension is all but non-existent in the worldwide brotherhood. Will the earthly organization headship cave into the modern demand for ‘diversity’ someday, a demand that insists you can only represent a group if you have some of that group within your midst? (Sheesh—the latest insistence of the acting crowd is that you cannot even act the role of a minority unless you are of that minority, lest you cross the ‘razor thin’ line from appreciation to commit the crime of cultural approbation!)

An organization that says “there is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor freeman, there is neither male nor female” (Galatians 3:28) might not feel compelled to include a member of each in order to prove their ‘diversity’ to an irreverent world. It would be a way to defang those who complain about Witnesses being an ‘American religion,’ though.

Then too, though usually married, few of organizational headship will have been parents. Not to worry. It is consistent with the main mission—putting the evangelizing work first. Still, I was sorry to see Guy Pierce go. He had children. The only other one who has raised kids is Anthony Morris.

79619468-F0F7-4B6E-9364-EF1CDD6B4629Yeah, load up these guys with a few teenagers apiece!’ said my prevailed-upon buddy, whose kids continually sought to outmaneuver him—but most have stuck and are doing well. ‘Then we’ll see if they keep singing the same tune.’

(Pixabay photo)


******  The bookstore

Defending Jehovah’s Witnesses with style from attacks... in Russia, with the book ‘I Don’t Know Why We Persecute Jehovah’s Witnesses—Searching for the Why’ (free).... and in the West, with the book, 'In the Last of the Last Days: Faith in the Age of Dysfunction'

Go Where Tom Goes—a Road Travelogue for Those Who Aren’t Fussy

Travel is like a box of chocolates,” Forrest Gump would have said had he thought of it. “You never know what you’ll get.” A road-guide for those who aren't fussy on range or who love the people, places, and things of New York, PA, and a smattering of elsewheres. Chat up new people, see new things, explore new paths, think new thoughts, and spin new stories. Do history, concerts, and car shows.

See what's to be seen and hear what's to be heard in Binghampton, Buffalo, Dryden, Honeoye, Ithaca, Jerusalem, Kinderhook, Lake Placid, Little Falls, Lowville, Norwich, Onieda, Perry, Rochester, Saranac Lake, Smyrna, Syracuse, Trumansburg, Tryon

in PA, Gettysburg, Hershey, Jim Thorpe, Wilkes-Barre

Cincinnati and Toledo, Ohio

In New Jersey, Morristown and Union City

Harpers Ferry, WV Charleston and Hilton Head in South Carolina Savannah, Georgia

Download here.


Sigh—as always, it took some time to get the bugs out. As always, I said, ‘There! Perfect!’ only to find it was far from perfect.

But now it is—not ‘perfect’ as in perfect, of course, but perfect as in error-free, assuming you’re not some picayune anal person who lives to ferret out blips. These days it’s rare to find even a professional work without a typo or two. It’s possible you won’t find any, though. If you do, I don’t want to hear about it.

You could even call it a guide to informal witnessing. Few chapters are without reference to spiritual things, in the way I wish there was more of—seamlessly weaving the secular with the spiritual, rather than speaking, as it were, in two separate modes, ‘normal talk’ and ‘witnessing talk’—almost as though two languages.

It is also the first book that I can freely gift to friends without fear any reactionary ones will suppose I am ‘trying to make a name for myself.’ It is the first book entirely non-controversial. Only TTvtA is actually controversial, to my mind, but to some of our people even a defense of Jehovah’s people is suspect because it admits to criticisms against them—other than the ‘safe’ ones we acknowledge: rebuffing the holidays, denying the trinity, and abstaining from blood. CD9727D1-B024-4470-83B8-C3CF40FDA51E

None of it here. Go Where Tom Goes is just the pure pleasure of going to new places, seeing new things, and chatting up new people. I even dropped the subheading, ‘Think What Tom Thinks’ You don’t have to. The book even has a shameless lie. Since it is a compilation of spruced up posts spanning several years, the introduction admits you might go to a given destination and find things not just so. However, they would doubtless be minor points—a new building here, an out-of-business enterprise there. Instead, my southernmost chapter, Fort Myers Beach, barely exists today. The wharf my wife and I strolled several times was completely demolished by Hurricane Ian.


******  The bookstore

Defending Jehovah’s Witnesses with style from attacks... in Russia, with the book ‘I Don’t Know Why We Persecute Jehovah’s Witnesses—Searching for the Why’ (free).... and in the West, with the book, 'In the Last of the Last Days: Faith in the Age of Dysfunction'

The Changing Face of the Public Ministry

As much as one likes the idea of cart witnessing—let people look you over and approach as interested—if you do it too much it can mess you up—make you rusty at conversation. It’s great as a spice, not so much as a main course. 

It’s a little like when I worked help desk for a startup DSL.* Nothing about the service worked. The goal was to have no one on hold more than 30 seconds. The first day it was almost 3 hours. Eventually, if was discovered that a handful of questions could be answered very quickly, and so if you had a gatekeeper to answer these quickies, sending others into the endless queue, it would overall speed up things.

I volunteered to be the gatekeeper. I’d ask callers upfront whether their problem was easy or hard—did it fall into certain categories. If is was easy, I’d answer it. If they tried to sneak a hard one in the fast lane, I’d say, ‘No can do,’ and toss them into purgatory. 

The upside was that it worked. The downside was gradual but insidious—I forgot how to do the hard questions! So watch out if specializing in carts. They’re fine as an alternative ministry. But when they become the mainstay, you forget how to speak—or at least I would. Probably you will not.

That is even more the case with the huge new pandemic-started push toward letter writing. They’re okay, but do it too much . . . Many during the pandemic wrote letter after letter and never received a single reply. It doesn’t work for me. I need feedback. So, drawbacks and all, I explored what could be done on social media where you get instant feedback.

 Things change. Even in things I like, things change. There’s no sense in saying ‘Why are the old days better than the present ones?’ That only marks you as an old buzzard. Get in the spirit of the new. Alas, I find it a little hard to team up with someone who prefers solid door-to-door uninterrupted by breaks. Everyone knows the experience of showing up for service and, for various reasons, getting not too much accomplished. I get jealous of my time as I get older—and I am starting to get up there. I want as much bang for the buck as I can get. One CO, understandably trying to encourage those whose strength is waning, said, “Always work at the pace of the slowest publisher.” “Brother CO,” I did not say but thought of it, “you have no idea how slow we can go!”

I’ve team up with a brother my age and we do two hours of straight door to door. He’s different from me but we work well together. We will do what the Watchtower says about offering encouragement to our companion. “Try not to screw this one up like you did that last door,” he says to me or I to him. He’s chatty, often triggers, ‘Get to the point!’ warnings, which have little effect on him, until he at last gets to the point with, “Would you like to live forever?” I steel myself, yet he’s doing essentially what we’re encouraged to do, asking such open ended questions. If he makes it past that steel moment, he does well. People gauge him and decide he is harmless, friendly, certainly well-meaning, and nice conversations take place.

If you don’t like those steel moments where you don’t know if you will get over the hump or not—not at all a concern for extroverts but very much a concern for introverts like me, you devise such a method as I have here:

It works well for me. What’s as important, it eliminates awkwardness. Do you think I can get anyone to adopt it? Publishers continue to ask total strangers, point blank, if they would like to live forever. It’s like at a pioneer school when the circuit overseer observed that inserting the question ‘How do you feel about the Bible’ made for a good transition. Most used it just that way, as a transition once conversation was rolling. But a few asked people point blank, “How do you feel about the Bible?” 

In this la-di-dah area we’ve been working, C86ED98F-97F7-491D-8F52-8A1756E77B59
we pass strollers on the public sidewalk. They see us two miles off and steal themselves to barge through as though a linebacker. My chum tries to waylay them in chat they were hoping to avoid. Sometimes if I’m in the lead I head him off, saying “You look like people who want to talk about the Bible!” So plain is it that they do not want this that they sometimes burst out laughing, and then you know if you can go anywhere or not.

(Photo: Yale linebacker Rodney Thomas II.jpg Wikipedia)

Again, you don’t cry that things are not as they used to be. You’re doing scripture with that advice: ‘Do not say, “Why were the former days better than these?’ for it is not out of wisdom that you ask this.” (Ecclesiastes 7:10)

Okay. I won’t carry on about how back in my day, if we wanted to talk to someone we called the common phone number and asked for whom we wanted. And don’t get me going on how if we wanted to change the channel, we didn’t just push the remote—we walked to that set, even if it was clear across the room! (“What’s a channel?” Oscar Oxgoad’s twirpy kid says, who streams everything off the internet.)

Who can say why they have changed or if that change is for better or worse? One reason duties ‘lighten’ for regular pioneers to 90 hours, then 70, then 30 for auxiliary during certain months (‘I’m holding out for 10’ I tell people) then (for regular again) whatever you want, then just conversing with people is enough, irrespective of jamming in Bible texts, evidently with the presumption of ‘out of the heart’s abundance, the mouth will speak’—is that the brothers don’t want to pile on the pressure. Life for most is much more stressful than prior days. The brothers express appreciation for what the friends do and try to go the way that Rehoboam was advised to go but didn’t.


**I was granted unusual freeness of speech at that help desk. Or at least I took it and no one ever called me on it. When one woman threatened to quit the service I told her she might have to. It’s a new technology, I told her, it’s all driven by Wall Street. They want to see long subscriber lists. “That’s why when you tell of service that doesn’t work, they throw in free additional months of service [that also won’t work].” I left out only the bracketed part.

The job burned me out in fairly short order, even though I was the first one to succeed in getting a caller through his ‘self-install’ problem. He, a lawyer, was amazed (and so was I) when he followed my instruction and the service began working. Months later, he called back and I recognized his voice and situation. ‘Oh, you’re the lawyer,’ I said. ‘Well, I’m a lawyer,’ he replied, as he must have wondered just how many customers we had.

I’m always nice to phone support people, no matter how frustrating is communication with them. It’s a holdover of my own support days, which didn’t last too long.

******  The bookstore

Defending Jehovah’s Witnesses with style from attacks... in Russia, with the book ‘I Don’t Know Why We Persecute Jehovah’s Witnesses—Searching for the Why’ (free).... and in the West, with the book, 'In the Last of the Last Days: Faith in the Age of Dysfunction'