Previous month:
February 2023
Next month:
April 2023

Which Wins Out? A 6-Month (at least) Pause on AI Development or Boasting Unrestrained? (Adapted to Psalm 75)

You [God] say: “When I set a time, I judge with fairness. When the earth and all its inhabitants were dissolved, It was I who kept its pillars firm.” (Psalm 75: 3-4)

If earth and all its inhabitants are being dissolved now, in what way is God keeping its pillars firm? Might that be adapted to how the earthly organization endeavors to hold fast to His standards despite pressure?

A fine warning not to boast:

I say to the boastful, “Do not boast,” And to the wicked, “Do not exalt your strength. Do not exalt your strength up high Or speak with arrogance.” (vs 4-5)

How do the two thoughts connect? Is “earth and all inhabitants” dissolved when and because its key backers give in to their unrestrained boasting over what they can do?

Below is a fine bit of modesty that generally goes unheeded in human history: Musk/Wozniak/Yang and a panel of others urge a 6-month moratorium on AI development, allowing a little time to figure out what its long-term consequences will be.

From their open letter of March 2023.

“Advanced AI could represent a profound change in the history of life on Earth, and should be planned for and managed with commensurate care and resources. Unfortunately, this level of planning and management is not happening, even though recent months have seen AI labs locked in an out-of-control race to develop and deploy ever more powerful digital minds that no one – not even their creators – can understand, predict, or reliably control.”

“… Should we let machines flood our information channels with propaganda and untruth? Should we automate away all the jobs, including the fulfilling ones? Should we develop nonhuman minds that might eventually outnumber, outsmart, obsolete and replace us? Should we risk loss of control of our civilization?”

Why do I think of that tower of Babel passage:

Then Jehovah went down to see the city and the tower that the sons of men had built. Jehovah then said: “Look! They are one people with one language, and this is what they have started to do. Now there is nothing that they may have in mind to do that will be impossible for them. Come! Let us go down there and confuse their language in order that they may not understand one another’s language.” So Jehovah scattered them from there over the entire face of the earth, and they gradually left off building the city. (Genesis 11:5-8)

It’s as though he says, ‘Whoa! This isn’t supposed to happen so soon. The experiment needs time to play out. Best mess them up a little bit. But as the doomed experiment of human self-rule nears its end, it won’t be that way.’

And back to the psalm:

“[God] puts one man down and exalts another. For there is a cup in Jehovah’s hand; The wine is foaming and is fully mixed. He will surely pour it out, And all the wicked of the earth will drink it, down to the dregs.” But as for me, I will proclaim it forever; I will sing praises to the God of Jacob. For he says: “I will cut off all the strength of the wicked, But the strength of the righteous will be exalted.” (7-10)



******  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 Bashful Guests Want Low-Key but the Hosts Ae Gregarious

Some individuals hang on to their [charismatic church leader’s] every word. It is hard to imagine that these churchgoers could be more excited if Jesus himself were to appear to them!” said the October 2021 article, ‘Hold Fast to the Truth with Strong Conviction’

An unusual bit of satire for the Watchtower, which normally takes the position that satire is the language of you-know-who. It evoked in our congregation some comments of ‘superstar’ preachers of megachurches, even that creepy guy dripping with wealth who explained how Jesus said he needed yet another jet. We may fuss a bit over some of our guys, but nothing comparable to that. Respect for those taking the lead is markedly different from worship.

There is a clip that made the rounds of Sam Herd deboarding an airplane. A dozen or more brothers are there to shake his hand and he moves down the line, shaking each of them. “What disgusting creature worship!” Vomodog groused.

Doesn’t he have a life? Herd’s an old man of many decades’ service to God being greeted by well-wishers. What’s he going to do—tell them to scram? If you know anything about Sam Herd, you know that he is probably muttering under his breath. But if he appeared aloof, you know there would be plenty of beefing about that too. 

It is hard to operate in the flesh. It just is. The ones taking the lead became prominent by attending well to their duties, and now that same prominence becomes a trap. Everyone crossing their path wants a minute of their time, maybe to commend, maybe to suggest, maybe to be noticed by means of a selfie. No wonder I hear tell of council at Bethel that if you cross paths with one of them just content yourself with a nod, if that.

I don’t know what it is with people and ‘celebrities.’ I would love for one of the Governing Body brothers to stay at my house so I could ignore him. He would find it refreshing, I’m sure. I would say, and have said to visitors before, ‘There’s your quarters, feel free to come down and visit, that would be fine, but you’re a busy guy with much to do. If we do not see you at all we will not be the slightest bit offended.’

Intense hospitality actually does pose problems for brothers trying to book rooms for theocratic volunteers such as on build projects. 3B97A285-2DF6-4C6D-A6BF-D5E895C57A18Not all of these brothers are extroverts, and after a hard day’s work some squirm at the interaction they fear may be forced upon them by gregarious friends. Of course, it is the gregarious friends who are most likely to extend hospitality! But I won’t. I’ll ignore them. They’ll like that. (Actually, that unusually puts them at ease and they are more likely to visit. But they don’t have to.)

(photo—Stephan Muller, Flickr)


******  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'

When My Favorite Circuit Overseer Died

Just over the Zoom Watchtower reader’s shoulder hangs the embroidered artwork—“Kindness Matters.” No surprise there. Kindness typified the man who coined the complete expression from which the snippet was taken. It was my favorite circuit overseer, long ago retired, who said, “Some things are black or white. But in all other things, do what is kind. Kindness matters.”

He died recently. Well into his nineties, he had been maintaining circuit overseer hours even in his old age. Perhaps he maintained them even in the nursing home he’d at last entered, for he was studying with one other resident and had seven attending Zoom meetings with him.

A man of empathy, intelligence, and unflinching honesty, he is mentioned several times in Tom Irregardless and Me, although only once by name. He is the only person of the book mentioned by name within his lifetime. Everyone else has been renamed, if not made up. His trademark expression, “just do the best you can” made him an unwavering source of refreshment, though there were a few hard-driving brothers who murmured their fear that some of the friends would “take advantage” and do nothing.

He is the brother who cut me off when I was carrying on about my wonderfulness—not carrying on per se, but decrying those not so wonderful, which amounts to the same thing. Here I was working with him in that city congregation—I worked with him a lot—and I started in about how some with growing families had left the gritty city for the cushier burbs, leaving the local congregation high and dry—but as for me and my household…” “You always do what is best for you family,” he interrupted.

One place he appears in the book unnamed, as “the retired circuit overseer,” is when 77050FB8-36F7-4D43-9FED-1A6876673205we had him over for lunch after the public talk, along with some twenty-somethings. Iron sharpens iron, and so forth—that’s why we did it.

Presently, young Justin approached the fellow:

“So, how long were you in the circuit work?” he asked.

“Thirty years!” came the reply.

“Wow! You must really miss it.”

“Nope!” the C.O. shot back.

“Well . . . um . . . I mean . . . that is,” (this was not the answer he’d expected) “it must have been a big adjustment.”

“I adjusted that afternoon!”

“Look, I don’t want to sound unappreciative,” he told a friend later. “It’s just that a lot of the job is not my first choice. You know me, I’m an outdoors guy. (in his younger days, he’d worked on the railroad) And so what am I doing all day? I’m sitting in meetings! Still, Jehovah apparently has found a use for me, so I stay the course.”

It’s called counting the costs. It’s a good thing to do. Aren’t mid-life crises launched when people don’t count the costs, then are floored when the bill unexpectedly arrives? Be it family, job, responsibilities, goals in life: people go haywire for never having counted the costs. But if you blow off steam as you go, acknowledge this part is good, that part not so much, and adjust accordingly, either deciding to stay the present course or make modifications . . . well, I’ll trust those folks much more quickly than those who have never made introspection.

And Jehovah did have a use for him, apparently. In one of those training schools, where the traveling ministers instruct all the assembled elders and servants, I noticed that the weightiest parts were invariably assigned to him.

He also appears in the chapter ‘The Regional Convention’ in which I speak of how before there were videos, I was assigned a talk and had to choose two pillars of the faith (I chose Howie and Jake) to interview.

We worked several weeks and ran our interview past the circuit overseer in rehearsal. He was ecstatic: “Oh, my! What a wonderful job! How hard you brothers have worked! This is exactly what the organization is looking for. The hours and hours you must have spent! How wonderful that . . . ” he gushed on and on.

“Only,” I looked up from my humble head nod, “a tiny bit on this point here . . . I wonder if that could be tweaked just a little, not much. Just a little, to make it line up even more with what the slave is conveying.”

“Sure,” I replied uneasily, “we could adjust that.”

“Yes, I think that will go a little smoother. Everything else you brothers have worked on (you’ve worked so hard!) is fine. Just fine . . . except . . . this small bit here . . . I’m just thinking . . . we have to consider everyone in the audience . . . And actually . . . I wonder if anyone could possibly miss the point of this line. Hmm. Maybe you could . . . ”

By the time he was done, there was nothing left! In a situation like this, there is only one thing a brother can say, and I said it: “Thank you, Brother Hartman, for your counsel.” Jake interjected: “What do you mean, ‘thank you?’ He messed it all up!” But we worked the part over, and when it was presented at the convention, it fit better. It was more integrated into the overall theme.

Sometime after I wrote the book, I sent him that chapter. Never one to be anything but frank, he replied that it “didn’t make much sense to him,” a comment especially worrisome to me since he “still thought he had all his marbles,” an he went on to ask about my family. So I said I could take his name out of the ebook for a substitute. But he said he really didn’t care at this point, so I left it as is. I probably should have foreseen it. These are men very much in the tradition of anonymity, bringing attention to God, not the person serving him, same as everything printed by the earthly organization is written anonymously.

Or maybe he thought the book stunk. If so he didn’t say so. It is better for the self-esteem to stick with the first possibility.


******  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'

To the Coarse People I Became Coarse, so as to Pull Their Bacon From the Fire

Just after Christmas comes the rush to return gifts that didn’t hit the bullseye—or even missed it by a mile. It’s like when someone gave me a tee-shirt (though not for Christmas) emblazoned with, “Where’s My Senior Discount?” Trust me on this: It will be a cold day in you-know-where before you see me wearing a shirt that says ‘Where’s My Senior Discount?’ And yet the giver is a great guy who meant well. 

So it is when this giver (me) regifts Bill Shatner’s song to Witness HQ. He means well. They won’t like it for its language. But he means well.

Will one put HQ under a microscope, like the malcontents do? Look for flaws among humans and you will always find some. It is a fool’s game to base judgments on the flaws of those taking the lead anywhere, but it is also the oldest trick in the book. Honing in on the imperfections of the doers will allow you to discredit anything. The only ones not making mistakes are the ones not doing anything (as though that itself is not a mistake).

The Word itself says, ‘we have this treasure [the ministry] in earthen vessels [us—impaired, error-prone humans]. (2 Corinthians 4:7) And since it is the critics, not the friends, who hone in on faults, you know they will multiply several-fold whatever they think they find. It is in the nature of critics.

We’re in weak position to say what ‘should be done’ in directing the Lord’s work. To those who think they do know, consider how Jesus said something that, if any of the Governing Body had said it, they would be blisteringly condemned as irresponsible and wrong.

Why did Jesus say as he did about eating his flesh and drinking his blood? (John 6:53) No clue here. Enemies of the truth would later seize upon it to spread the ill rumor that Christians practiced cannibalism. Early Christians were persecuted and killed, their enemies spurred on by this abominable report that could be traced to Jesus himself. Who would not, if they didn’t know it was Jesus, not quickly condemn whoever said the inflammatory words?

Another reason ‘Has Been’ might not fly as a gift, apart from its courseness, is that being a William Shatner song, one gets sidetracked musing over just how insufferable the guy was supposed to have been. The costars of Star Trek often say that about him, to the point that the modern-day Shatner complains, ‘You’re still obsessing over that?! It was 60 years ago!’ Even if he was insufferable, that doesn’t mean he still is. Many a person learns modesty with passing years. Besides, the guy can make fun of himself. I know that because of a Colombo episode in which he played a mogul whose favorite painting—an oversized portrait of himself, hung prominently on the wall.

Critical factions tend to be topheavy with people who haven’t done squat. The Witness support organization, in contrast, has. You’re supposed to do things if you are a follower of Christ, since ‘faith without works is dead.’ Nothing more multiplies getting things done than organizing for that purpose.

Shortly after my chum entered Bethel in the mid-70s, he reported that whereas Bethel had once been a family where everyone knew each other, its growth made that no longer possible, and that it was becoming more “corporate” [his word] in nature. Most would agree with that assessment. Just how are you going to deal with a ‘family’ consisting of thousands? Who else undertakes the experiment they do.

Who else has coupled the detailed points of religious truth with a worldwide unity—keeping everyone on the same page? How many are in that league? The unity of many religious groups begins and ends at believing in God, and there are some which don’t even get that far. So it’s refreshing to think of the brother in our congregation who related to me how his non-Witness family is nonetheless intrigued that he can go anywhere in the world, as he has in several countries, and instantly find himself among friends. Isn’t that what holds people back from freely traveling—the fear they may find themselves friendless in uncooperative places?

You think I’ll be thanked for dedicating the Shatner song to them? What! Are you nuts? A ‘Put up your dukes’ song that begins, “You talkin' to me? You talkin' to me?You calling me ‘Has been’? I don’t think so. It’s not exactly the mild-tempered spirit, is it? But parts of it fit. The only ones who make no missteps are those who do nothing. So click here if you are bold enough.

Riding on their armchairs,they dream of wealth and fame.Fear is their companion,Nintendo is their game.Never Done Jack and Two-Thumbs Donand side-kick Don't Say Dickwill laugh at others failuresthough they have not done sh*t.

I admit I get fed up with those who are intensely critical yet offer nothing positive themselves. You may never again think of ‘Has Been’ in the same way realigned to its new cause, and maybe you will never agains see the Witness HQ in the same way. No, they will not thank me. They don’t know just what congregation Bill Shatner attends and they’ll frown at the language. But when they call me on the carpet I will reply that I am just imitating Paul: 

To the Jews I became as a Jew in order to gain Jews; to those under law I became as under law . . . To those without law I became as without law . . . To the weak I became weak, in order to gain the weak. . . . to the course people I became course, so as to pull their bacon out of the fire.” (1 Corinthians 9:20–sort of)


(Photo by 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'

Witnesses on Social Media

If not much is said in Witness land against social media, nothing is said in support of it. So what little is said against is magnified. Intentionally or not? Who can say? Funny how some things can be said 100 times and it will barely be noticed; others just two or three times and it is magnified as though on one of Moses’ two tablets.

There is a KM that said, “It is not necessary for brothers to host their own websites.” I pondered that one and concluded, “Well, I never said mine was necessary. It’s just me pursuing a hobby.”

“Some indiscreet brothers” are setting up shop on the internet, another KM said. They are, I agreed, and I try not to be one of them—and wrote as much in Tom Irregardless and Me.

More recently was their counsel not to post copyrighted material on social media. A variety of scenarios was described, really everything except just plain linking to it.* So some take it a step further and figure you can’t link to it either, especially since linking software will often fetch a preview picture—even though the ‘Fair Use’ clause on copyright law has long recognized that issue and has imprecisely ruled on it.

The concern expressed was copyright and legal matters—items that do not apply to just plain linking. HQ originates the “spiritual food.” It makes sense to me that they should oversee its distribution. I already wasn’t doing any of the other bad things mentioned, things such as posting artwork and so forth. “That which is not expressly permitted is forbidden!” Vic Vomodog used to mutter. Alas, there do appear to be ones who look at the faith that way.

I like to think that Bethel itself in aggregate does not—‘in aggregate,’ because it is made of myriad individuals, some of whom may look at things that way. But one can entertain the view that the final output does not. Rather, they encounter problems when people speak in their name on social media, and so they say, ‘okay, don’t do it this way,’ and ‘don’t do it that way.’ They lay down bouys so one may regard them as such and chart a course through them. ‘Good counsel,’ I say. ‘I’ll make sure not to do that dumb thing.’

Thing is, there are indiscreet brothers. There are those short on proper presentation. I can easily picture Bethel, observing the cat fight that is religionists bickering over social media, saying ‘Oh, man—we want no part of that!’ It’s a point of view easily imagined. But there is omnipresent training to commit less faux pas in the in-person witnessing. Over time it takes hold, especially if one is not overly fussy in judging results. Could the same be done regarding mass media?

Set up a personal presence online that corresponds to your physical presence in your own neighborhood.


Chat on many topics, as you would in your physical neighborhood, and once in a while you get to bring God into the picture. Of course, in order to do this you must follow or friend or comment upon the contribution of those other than Witnesses. Those already leery of social media will not in the main go there.

(Photo: Pixabay)

Nah—no one thinks social media is the bee’s knees. Still, when companies have some fantastic product to advertise (and who has something more fantastic than kingdom good news?) the very first thing they do is to plan a campaign on social media to ‘advertise, advertise, advertise, the product and its maker.’

The shepherd is cautious by nature. It is suspicious of anything new, lest it be a ploy of the devil or a component of the fence that he owns. A friend of mine, 20 years older than myself, regarded skateboards as a sure sign of decadence when he first laid eyes on one. Nothing is new under the sun. They did it in the first century too. They called Peter into the back room:

“So when Peter came up to Jerusalem, the [supporters] of circumcision began to contend with him, saying he had gone into the house of men that were not circumcised and had eaten with them. At this Peter commenced and went on to explain the particulars . . . Now when they heard these things, they acquiesced . . .”  (Acts 11: 2, 18)

Every once in a while—every exceedingly rare once in a while—the brothers acquiesce and say, ‘Oh. Well, I guess we can live with that. Maybe it’s even a good thing.’

*“These Terms clearly say that no one is allowed to ‘post artwork, electronic publications, trademarks, music, photos, videos, or articles from this website on the Internet (any website, file-sharing site, video-sharing site, or social network).’ Why are these rules necessary?”

Probably because miscreants come along, take the own material out of context, put it in a new malicious context, and beat them over the head with 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'

The ‘Sister’ who Trades Bit Coin.

Maria followed me on Twitter one fine day and she was drop-dead gorgeous. No, I did not follow her back for that reason. Trust me on this: drop dead gorgeous women throw themselves at me all the time; it is a great nuisance because all I want to do is think about God.

In fact, I didn’t follow her back at all, not even for the reassuring profile photo she displayed, consisting solely of “Jehovah” in gold-embossed letters. However, I did scroll her timeline and found a suitable place to leave a comment. She soon replied that she had just texted me.

Sorry, I told her, I don’t do DM. I stay on the public side of Twitter. “Why?” she wanted to know. “Because if I do so I am immersed in dozens of private chats and I can’t keep up,” said I. She responded that, in that case, I could contact her on WhatsApp. I didn’t reply to that one.

Next thing you know she has disappeared and all her notifications with her! I searched out her username: “Account suspended for violation of Twitter rules.” Hmm. I searched for the name on Facebook. It links to a certain bit-coin trader, also drop-dead gorgeous.

No, Maria, my dear, I have all the bit-coin I need, thank you very much—even though you are drop-dead gorgeous, even though your profile does say ‘Jehovah’ so I know you are one of us, probably belonging to the congregation right next door. I’ve no doubt she has a separate profile that says Jesus, another that says Buddha, Dagon, Moroni, Baal, and a dozen others.

It is called ‘Affinity Fraud,’ winning someone’s confidence through feigned common roots. It factors into the making of E.T—The Sequel, a movie you may not have seen. In the original, cute, adorable, toddler E.T. charms all who are pure enough to let him into their hearts. But in E.T.—the Sequel, he returns as a surly teenager. He curses, spits, brawls, swears, and in the end destroys the earth with his white-hot power beam, starting with Wall Street.

Steven Spielberg, the movie’s creator, had just lost an ever-loving fortune to the Bernie Madoff Ponzi scheme. Both were Jews. Virtually all of Madoff’s victims were Jews. It was affinity fraud. Not that Maria’s scheme is a fraud, necessarily, but her means of contact certainly was. She’s probably not even drop-dead gorgeous. She’s probably an old hen. And even if she is not, so what? Is not Mrs. Harley also drop-dead gorgeous?


******  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'

Discipline on the Ropes—Psalms 69 and 70

The talk Sunday, one of about 150 in rotation, not counting special talks, was entitled, “Your View of Authority Matters to God.” It is one of the hottest topics of our time. People aren’t keen on authority, lest it be abused, as it certainly will be if put it into the hands of humans. Yet, whose else’s hands is it going to be put into? You’re stuck with humans. Anarchy is worse.

The speaker came to the congregation via Zoom, unusual since the post-COVID 19 resumption of in-person meetings. He didn’t make the mistake of shutting down his camera immediately upon conclusion of his talk. It’s tempting to do that because otherwise, with no seat to return to, you risk looking like a deer caught in the headlights. But if you shut down the camera, your name blazes across the screen, as though rolling the credits for the star of the show.

People are touchy on authority, especially in the West. It’s in the air. One prior speaker spun it as if alerting another to his tire low on air. “Oh, yeah? Well, you’re car has a dented fender!” comes the retort.

The talk broke authority down into three areas: with regard to family, with regard to government, and with regard to congregation. Most people are familiar with family and government authority. Jehovah’s Witnesses know the added concept of authority in the congregation.

It is a concept all but incomprehensible to even much of the church world. Ronald J. Sider’s book, The Scandal of the Evangelical Conscience, quotes Haddon Robinson on the current church climate, a climate he calls ‘consumerism:’

Too often now when people join a church, they do so as consumers. If they like the product, they stay. If they do not, they leave. They can no more imagine a church disciplining them than they could a store that sells goods disciplining them. It is not the place of the seller to discipline the consumer. In our churches, we have a consumer mentality.”

It once not this way. Sider writes: “Church discipline used to be a significant, accepted part of most evangelical traditions, whether Reformed, Methodist, Baptist, or Anabaptist . . . In the second half of the twentieth century, however, it has largely disappeared.”

But in the world of Jehovah’s Witnesses, it has not. Moreover, it is hard not to connect retaining authority with how Witnesses have stayed the course on many moral issues over which mainstream religion long ago threw in the towel.

In time, the Witnesses’ rare breed of authority becomes the special target of a world intent on embracing new mores. It becomes the special target even of former members who want to bring those new mores into the congregation so as to keep up with the times. Do it too insistently and they can find themselves disfellowshipped by a congregational authority that aids members to stay true to what they signed up for.

That human authority ultimately traces up to the Jehovah’s Witness Governing Body. It thereby becomes the focus of special criticism. Sometimes it becomes the focus of outright attack through ‘framing mischief by decree.’ (Psalm 94:20) In the eyes of their burgeoning critics, its member become sinister cult ‘manipulators’ intent on ‘controlling’ people. An industry of ‘anticult’ activists plots their downfall.

Completely lost is that if they are a cult, it is because the Bible is a cult manual. The Witness Governing Body is but an authority holding to traditional Christian discipline, which Sider states was once common, but is now scarce.

The Witness Governing Body is scrutinized for misstep or evidence of human frailty. Should they show any, they are promptly pilloried over it. Even when they don’t, it is reinterpreted that they do. In such a climate, how can they not look inwardly and hope that any flaw on their part, or any perceived flaw, does not become the rationale for stumbling people?

It is impossible for me to think that Psalm 69:5-6, when applied to the modern day, is not primarily about them:

O God, you are aware of my foolishness, And my guilt is not hidden from you. May those hoping in you not be put to shame because of me, O Sovereign Lord, Jehovah of armies.  May those seeking you not be humiliated because of me, O God of Israel.”

Many verses of Psalm 69 are prophetic of Jesus. See, for example, verses 4, 7, 8, 9, and especially 21. Sometimes the connections are made by the New Testament writers themselves. Sometimes they are just so plain that few Bible commentators fail to pick up on them.

But verses 5-6 falter when applied to Jesus.  What “guilt” did that one have? What blunders did he commit so that he might worry ones be “put to shame” or “humiliated because of me?” Paul specifically calls him “innocent, undefiled, separated from the sinners.” (Hebrews 7:26) Of course, he was found “guilty” in Pilate’s court of law, such as it was, and his ‘guilt’ was used to shame and humiliate his followers, not to mention discourage others from becoming such, but none of that was due to his own “foolishness.” Our Lord was a victim of slander.

But drop a notch down and the verses can readily be applied to his apostles and to those spearheading the work he launched, that of proclaiming the gospel worldwide. And if so in the first century, why not today as well? These undershepherds will be the “earthen vessels” in which we have the “treasure” that is the ministry. (2 Corinthians 4:7) These ones, particularly when put under the microscope, will continually provide pretext for slander, for followers to be “put to shame” or “humiliated.” All humans will. It’s part of the definition of being human.

This application of verses 5-6 to the Governing Body is nothing that body has ever made to itself, to my knowledge. It is mine. Its members will frequently apply such verses to the Christian congregation as a whole, but not specifically to themselves. They are not out there crying, ‘Poor me.’ And of course, the beauty of the Scriptures is that they can be widely applied to persons in all sorts of difficulties, whether of there own making or not.

But I think the first application is to them. After all, there is a limit to how many people most of us can cause to be “put to shame” or “humiliated.” Most don’t get around enough for that to happen. “Ah, well, we always knew Harley is a yo-yo,” a few can say, as only a handful of others dumb enough to hang onto his every word will be distressed. But every word of the Governing Body is carefully measured. Every word or action can come back to bite them. It’s tricky enough to live in a fishbowl. To live in a fishbowl where enemies hope to break the glass is trickier still.

In a world hyper-sensitive to authority, they must wonder as to how to present themselves. They must wonder whether they are doing so too forcefully or not forceful enough. They are the shepherd, insofar as that term devolves to humans. The trouble with shepherding a multitude of people is that one will say, “Thanks for the new rule!” whereas his fellow will say, “Huh? Did you say something?” They don’t want be overbearing, but neither do they want to find themselves in the shoes of Lot, whose sons-in-law thought he was joking.

They can and do identify themselves with the 2 Corinthians 1:24 verse of being “not masters over your faith but fellow workers for your joy.” Nonetheless, there will be plenty of people to take their word almost as though the word of God. It’s how people are. Does that distress them? Or do they say, “Well, they’ll grow eventually. Meantime, that’s not an unsafe place to be.” Or, has their harshest critics allege, do they say, ‘hee hee hee—we hope to keep them that was forever?

And why can’t you skip over to the next psalm, psalm 70, and also apply it to those taking the lead in the worldwide congregation? Here, verse two, “May those seeking to take my life be put to shame and disgraced. May those who delight in my calamity retreat in humiliation,” is qualified by verse four, “But let those who are seeking you exult and rejoice in you. May those who love your acts of salvation always say: “May God be magnified!”—so you know that everything is in the context of worship. It’s not just the boilerplate Machiavellian scheming characteristic of many elements societal elements.

What of this taking “delight in my calamity?” Who does that? I have suffered some calamity in life, as have most people. Nobody took delight in it. They all felt bad. At worst, they shrugged it off as, ‘Well, that’s his problem, not mine.’ But I nobody piled on. People just aren’t that way unless they have a serious score to settle. Even then, they often aren’t. They know their turn to suffer “calamity” will also come some day.

But the Christian headship that has authority to discipline and even to expel? Oh yeah! In a previous age, people allowed discipline to do its work. “You need to endure as part of your discipline,” says Hebrews 12:7. “God is treating you as sons. For what son is not disciplined by his father?” Quite a few of them, these days. It’s not the slam-dunk rhetorical question it once was.

Nor is the verse 9 statement, “Furthermore, our human fathers used to discipline us, and we gave them respect.” Neither discipline nor respect are the staples they once were. So, the statement of verse 11 is lost upon many: “True, no discipline seems for the present to be joyous, but it is painful; yet afterward, it yields the peaceable fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.” An individualistic world fumes at the notion of being “trained” by another and looks for opportunities to kick back at the source.

5AB66E4F-3708-4B34-ABDC-DF30D9E2A48AIt is well to yield to discipline, even knowing it will be called incorrectly from time to time. Every so often, the sports ref makes a clunker of a call and there you are in the penalty box for a dumb reason. Nobody quits the game on that account. And when they drag out the instant replay equipment, sometimes it reveals that the ref had a point after all.

(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'

Psalm 15–On Gaining God’s Friendship

I liked the song derived from Psalm 15 (#217–Gaining Jehovah’s Friendship) as much if not more than the psalm itself. It adds rhyme, memorable tune, and tested my range even at the time, to say nothing of now. Alas, it did not survive the cut into the revised songbook.

The psalm:

1 Jehovah, who will be a guest in your tent? Who will reside in your holy mountain?

2 He who is walking faultlessly and practicing righteousness And speaking the truth in his heart.

3 He has not slandered with his tongue. To his companion he has done nothing bad, And no reproach has he taken up against his intimate acquaintance.

4 In his eyes anyone contemptible is certainly rejected, But those fearing Jehovah he honors. He has sworn to what is bad [for himself], and yet he does not alter.

5 His money he has not given out on interest, And a bribe against the innocent one he has not taken. He that is doing these things will never be made to totter.


The song (first stanza): (verses 1-3) Note the triple rhyme bolded at the end of the stanza.

Who will, Jehovah God, your loyal friendship gain?

Who in your tent as guest will you forever let remain?

’Tis he who faultlessly

does serve God fearlessly,

Yes, he who’s pure in heart and speaks and acts most truthfully.

To whom, Jehovah God, do you your friendship give?

Who will in your great holy mountain with you really live?

The one whose speech reflects

that he e’er checks

his neighbor never to vex.

 Jehovah, may we be your friends eternally.


The second stanza: (verse 4 and 5)


O who, Jehovah God, will with you e’er reside?

Who can become your friend, the one with whom you will abide?

Yes, he who keeps his word,

despite all pains incurred,

In love does walk uprightly, and with truth his loins will gird.

We do, Jehovah God, your friendship so desire.

Your Word informs and clearly states what you of us require.

We must our ways now mend,

your rules ne’er bend

so as to keep you as Friend.

Jehovah, may we be your friends eternally.


The third stanza is sort a summary and expansion:


With you, Jehovah God, we ever want to dwell.

Your peace surpasses ev’rything; all thought it does excel.

Through Jesus Christ, our Lord,

you have to us restored

Your true pure worship. Hence by multitudes you’re now adored.

And so, our God Most High, we lovingly will guard

Your precious friendship and thus keep our very lives unmarred.

As one united band,

we take our stand

on your high mountain so grand.

Jehovah, may we be your friends eternally.


The first verses are just plain good principles to live by: walk faultlessly, practice righteousness, speak truth, don’t slander, don’t sabotage, don’t backbite. Don’t hang out with lowlife. Stay true to your word. Don’t hustle people. Don’t take bribes. 2D8280B5-5B98-4B83-AF3E-5AE2531528EA

Sandwiched in is an element of loyalty: “But those fearing Jehovah he honors,” (verse 4) since God is the source of those qualities—implanted through conscience and reinforced through instruction.

(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'

Mongeville and Big Pharma, with Guest Appearance of Peter Breggin. I Take it All Back What I’ve Said About France

Huh! Here’s something I’ve never seen before. Is it just me? It’s at least everyone in France.

American detective shows are too violent and/or banal to watch, so sometimes we opt for foreign offerings. This is how my wife and I  came to enjoy Manara, an Italian series. It is delightful, witty, empathetic, visually stunning—but with one major caveat. You can forget about any Hebrews 13:4 notion of the marriage bed being undefined. That doesn’t mean you’ll see anything super steamy but the idea is ever-present.

Anyhow, that’s just background. 

The next show up is the French detective show Mongeville, running 8 years, in which a retired judge teams up with a perky woman police officer. So far, no hanky-panky, nor does the tone seem set for any, but there are many episodes to go. We are just at the 4th. Neither of these shows, at least by American standards, are particularly violent. It’s hard to do a murder mystery without someone getting killed, but there’s no gore. It’s just a premise for some cute interaction of characters. Think, in the case of Manara, Jim pining after Pam, as in Office, then Pam pining after Jim, yet miscommunications and mishaps always occur so that they cannot connect.

It is episode 4 of Mongeville season 1 that introduced something new to me. A sub theme of early episodes is that Judge Mongeville’s daughter disappeared long ago and he is trying to track her down. In episode 4, he interviews her old med school teacher. That teacher relates how the girl was brilliant, so brilliant that pharmaceutical recruiters hired her for one of their ‘missionary’ projects. When she saw what was going on there, she was so repulsed and in some way so fearful lest her response bring trouble to her family, that she disappeared into yet another country.

See, pharmaceutical companies test their products, but they test them in developing countries so that “if anything goes wrong” there’s no one to complain about it. The statement is made matter-of-factly by the daughter’s med school teacher, not with the air of being shocking, but with the air that everyone knows about this, companies all do it, and if any of them do not, they quickly fall behind the competitive curve of those who do.

Well, I’d never seen it—such a statement made on a popular TV entertainment show. Shows featuring ‘rouge doctors’ are a dime a dozen. Occasionally even a ‘rouge’ medical company, a bad actor in an otherwise beneficent industry, enters into plot, but never have I seen a show that sets forth the entire industry as villainous. 

It reminded me of something in Peter and Ginger Breggin’s book, COVID-19 and the Global Predators, over the campaign to discredit cheap and effective anti-Covid drugs so that people would have no choice but to pine for a vaccine. He tells of one of the studies embraced as proof the drugs were no good in which patients were administered those drugs at known toxic levels so as to achieve the desired results: 39% died.

“The Brazilian authors of this study must have known they were treading on dangerous territory by purposely causing many deaths. Coming from a poor area of the country, they may have felt they could get away with sacrificing their patients without local reprisals. They simply gave lethal doses of chloroquine to patients to prove that the drug and its derivative hydroxychloroquine were too dangerous to treat COVID-19.”

It was shocking to me read this statement. Not unbelievable, because if you’ve been around the block a few times, few things are unbelievable. But shocking it was, completely new to me. Yet here is Mongeville in effect saying. “So what else is new? It’s just taking what we all know happens to next level.”


I take back all I have ever said about France. I even take back what my right wing brother said about them during the French Fries / Freedom Fries brouhaha a few decades back, when my globetrotting cousin complained that she could no longer use the word gay because the homosexuals had commandeered it, and I said, ‘She’s just mad that she can no longer refer to Gay Paree.

“Why can’t she?” my right wing brother said. 

I take it all back.

I even forgive (temporally) that France is the birthplace of FECRIS, that government-sponsored anti-cult agency that has greatly expanded the definition of cult to include most anything that is not firmly secular. You know, the agency that doubtless was behind that’s government imposing a 60% tax on Witness donations in a clear attempt to stamp out the faith, reversed with damages only many years later by the European Court of Human Rights. You know, the agency whose Russian vice president has labeled Witnesses extremists in that land of the bear and has caused them to suffer serious harm—even jail time and torture. Jehovah’s Witnesses will not take life under any circumstances—how extremist can they be?

Even, whereas devotees of the Enlightment swooned with ecstasy when the power of the people escalated into the American revolution and representative government, but they cringed when the other result of that Enlightenment, the French Revolution, descended into murderous mayhem consuming even its early supporters for not being ‘dedicated’ enough—I overlook that too.

I overlook all of it on account of the French show exposing the wiles of Big Pharma.

“But don’t forget. ..” Abraham Lincoln related the tearjerker tale of a man on his deathbed making peace with his adversary. “If I get better, that grudge still stands!”

That doesn’t entirely fit but it does give me opportunity to relate a favorite Lincoln anecdote. 

******  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'