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You Can Remain Confident During Uncertain Times

Now that Jehovah’s Witnesses are no longer the ‘counting time’ religion or the ‘no beard’ religion, it is almost as though a rebranding is taking place.

Any time the Watchtower trots out Haggai and Zechariah, as was done in the 1/28/24 study article, ‘You Can Remain Confident During Uncertain Times,’ you know it’s a reinvigorating work going on.

From para 7: ‘Jehovah wants us to focus on the lifesaving work of making disciples. As mentioned in paragraph 7, Haggai urged Jehovah’s people to make a fresh start in their sacred service, as if they were laying the temple’s foundation again.’ [bolding mine]

Clear out some trash, just like the ‘messenger preparing the way did’ long ago, and you can tackle the building work once more. Doesn’t negate what’s been done before, but it is still time for a ‘fresh start.’

Brother Splane asked in the latest Update, ‘Did you ever work a street and nobody is home, then pass by Sunday afternoon and notice a car in every drive?’ Yeah, I did notice that. It used to drive me nuts. Why are we visiting when people aren’t home?

Other publishers in that Update expressed happiness that, ‘Now, all I have to focus on is starting conversations.’ It suggests the question, ‘Well, what did they have to focus on before that they no longer do, a focus that interfered with starting conversations?’ ‘Counting time’ comes to mind. The friends used to have to do it, now they don’t. One reason Sunday after the meeting has long been unpopular for field service is that you can’t count much time that way. Better to go out on a weekday morning where you can generally count much more time. If few people are home—well, at least we got to count more time. 

That’s done. Finished. ‘Now all we have to do is think about starting conversations.’ Maybe an even greater ‘heresy’ will happen later with regard to evening worship, where a half hour of activity can produce more conversations than 2 hours of when people aren’t home. Plus, you reach a different sort of people, often more relaxed because the day is done.

Maybe the end of suggested presentations also factors in. It’s long been stated their use is optional (I kicked them to the curb long ago), but many friends seemed to feel it was all but mandatory to use them, lest you appear to be saying ‘contemptible bread’ of the produced food. 

No more. You can’t focus on those suggested presentations even if you want to. They’re not there.

Tom Whitepebble may be on to something when he suggests the Governing Body must sometimes be aghast at what they have unleashed as regards following men. It’s hard to find just the right emphasis—one person says, ‘Thanks for the new rule!’ while his neighbor says, ‘Huh? Did you say something?’ So, they strive for the right emphasis, but do they always find it?

‘Look, we said facial hair is not an issue,’ they said back in 2017. ‘Nobody listened to us! So now we’ll devote an entire Update, complete with video and chariot, to show we’re serious about it—we don’t care about beards!’

Will we see parallel developments in other areas?


None of the above was the overall focus of the article, though. In the first paragraph was the statement:

“You may be concerned about your family’s safety because of unstable political conditions, persecution, or opposition to the preaching work. Are you facing any of these issues? If so, you will benefit from considering how Jehovah helped the ancient Israelites when they were confronted with similar problems.” The discussion that followed was the challenged of those released from Babylon to rebuild worship in their former home. They got off to a quick start, but then languished, cowed by that day’s counterpart of the above trio.

“Unstable political conditions” is among that trio of woes that cause Christians problems today. In country after country, the political right and left are at each others’ throats to the point that civil war is floated as a possibility.

The world is run by crazy people. Lunatics of whatever side are no longer marginalized but rise to the top. Any time something whacky happens, ‘conspiracy’ is always a possible reason. If sane people ran the world, it would not be so: one of those things would be just ‘one of those things,’ but not with crazy people running the show. I’ve heard people say that, given the lunacy of those in charge, any conspiracy theory will be accepted on sight until proven wrong, an 180 degree reversal from how things have always been.

Whenever you undertake a challenging work, you want to make sure you have good footing. The above trio might suggest our footing is not very solid at all. So I liked the article’s encouragement to stay focused on what truly is good footing, really the mainstays of Christian faith: gathering together, prayer, scripture reading and meditation, and speaking to others of God’s purposes.


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Job 38: At This Point Job has Won His Case But He Doesn’t Know It.

Job files charges against God and God shows up to answer. He doesn’t exactly say, ‘This trial is a witch hunt!’ but he’s not intimidated by it. He skips entirely the opening arguments and launches straight into cross-examination. Just how qualified is his prosecutor to be leveling the charges he has? Turns out that the prosecutor admits he’s not very qualified at all. ‘Um . . . sorry,’ he murmurs. As the saying goes, be careful what you wish for.

At this point Job has won his case but he doesn’t know it. When the verdict is read later, delivered by one accused, no less—you can do such things when you are God—he gets off with but a mild reproof, whereas his three accusers come in for sharp censure. When reparations are made, Job makes off like a bandit. He went from everything to nothing and he goes back to everything.

Not exactly everything. Replacement children are not quite the same as original children. You grow to love those new ones, but they are not the same. Not to mention that the originals take objection to having been bumped off. What of Job’s original 10 offspring—maybe not even meaning a literal ten but just an indication that, when it came to family, Job had it all—and lost it. What about them?

Cut to Job’s hope in a resurrection, which sometimes seems to be intact and sometimes doesn’t. Does he come to nurture that hope again? The comfort of the resurrection is that loved one who have departed have not really departed for good; it is more like they’ve begun a long journey from which they will return. Takes the sting out of death, that does. Here is a Revelation passage from John, penned long after Job’s time, that when God’s kingdom ‘comes’ and his ‘will be done on earth as it is in heaven,’ death will be no more:

“I also saw the holy city, New Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God and prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. With that I heard a loud voice from the throne say: ‘Look! The tent of God is with mankind, and he will reside with them, and they will be his people. And God himself will be with them.’” It’s not mankind ascending to heaven to become angels; it’s ’the tent of God’ descending upon ‘mankind’ where they remain his ‘peoples.’ Jettison some inherited church doctrine that the earth is but a launching pad for an eternity in heaven (for those who are ‘good’) and a lot of mysteries clear up. Just where was that doctrine inherited from?

“I have hope toward God,’ Paul declared to Roman authorities, ‘which hope these men [his religious persecutors] also look forward to, that there is going to be a resurrection of both the righteous and the unrighteous.’ How much of this hope did Job also entertain, many centuries prior? Unclear—but possibly he did, particularly as he would get used to his formerly ravaged life being restored. God never does address the suppositions of Job’s persecuting trio, and seemingly Job himself, that he caused the children’s death. Did he, was it ‘wrong place at the wrong time,’ or was it something even more? Turns out with Job that it was something even more, but the man never got a clue as to the heavenly challenge in which he played a starring role.

Job’s fortune and reputation is restored following this appearance of God, so, Duh—he must have passed some sort of test, but to his dieing day he never knows just what that test was. Do you think maybe God, as he ends his cross-questions—which satisfies Job though it doesn’t address his withdrawn challenge, allowing G. K. Chesterton to say much later, ‘The riddles of God are more satisfying than the solutions of man’—do you think that Jehovah could have then revealed the contest between He and Satan and how Job’s course had proved Satan a liar? How come it’s not tacked on at the end of his long speech, tying together all the loose ends?

Hmm. Wouldn’t such an ending be a little cheesy, as though a celestial Game Show Host exclaiming, ‘You’re on Candid Camera!’ Wouldn’t such an ending, such as you might expect in a movie, encourage everyone going through hard times forever after to if they, too, are subjects of a wager in heaven?

Nah—better to leave it as it is, with an ending that isn’t at all conventional, doesn’t check the boxes that one might expect checked, and leaves each participant full range to reconcile their own trials with Elihu’s words at 37:23: ‘Understanding the Almighty is beyond our reach; He is great in power, And he never violates his justice and abundant righteousness.’ Even should they get it wrong under duress, they generally have opportunity to get back on track after the dust settles. Knowing Job’s course and outcome, however, may help them to not get it wrong should their time come. ‘You have heard of the endurance of Job and have seen the outcome Jehovah gave, that Jehovah is very tender in affection and merciful,’ says the apostle James. (James 5:11)


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“The Future’s so Bright I Gotta Wear Shades”—Why?

“Let us hold firmly the public declaration of our hope without wavering, for the one who promised is faithful,” says Hebrews 10.

Some have wavered to such an extent that they all but sing of this world, ‘The future’s so bright I gotta wear shades!’—even though the songwriters themselves meant it’s so bright as to require shades on account of likely nukes!

Wikipedia: “Contrary to popular belief, [the song intended] a "grim" outlook. While not saying so directly, he hinted at the idea that the bright future was in fact due to impending nuclear holocaust. The "job waiting" after graduation signified the demand for nuclear scientists to facilitate such events.“'s_So_Bright,_I_Gotta_Wear_Shades

Everywhere people are dismayed at the basket case that is today’s world. Everywhere they have a sense of waiting for the other shoe to drop. Only some ‘escapees’ from the faith say in all seriousness, ‘the future’s so bright I gotta wear shades.’ So strong is the urge to kick over the traces. So strong is their newfound confidence in human rule apart from God. Sheesh.

‘Why do you Jehovah’s Witnesses always have to believe things are getting worse?’ one wiseacre said to me. ‘What is it about that view that does it for you?’

‘It helps me to explain why the Doomsday Clock reads 90 seconds to midnight and not 10:30 AM,’ I answered.

It’s like a bad accident,’ a neighbor said about the news. ‘You know you should look away but you can’t.’

******  The bookstore

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The End of Counting Time in the Ministry

On the final month of reporting time, I reported 50,000 hours to the congregation secretary. Might as well go out with a bang. 50K in a month not physically possible, you say? “Go to the ant, you lazy one.”

The guys that made the model for counting time in the ministry came from a factory era in which, when there was nothing to do, you’d better nonetheless look busy in case the boss happened along. This being the model for work, it seemed natural that it might be applied to ‘working for the Lord,’ and so they did apply it. It would take a future generation, raised under different circumstances, to say, ‘Jehovah doesn’t work that way.’

It is an explanation I’ve heard to account for how we (Jehovah’s Witnesses) once counted time and now we don’t. It’s as good as any. At any rate, I never saw the change coming. But there at 2023 the annual meeting was discussed how it’s not for anyone, whether an elder from HQ or not, to monitor another’s service to God; that’s a matter between the individual and God. It is obviously so. But I never saw it coming. Nor did anyone else I spoke to, and I know a lot of people.

Any time you change any practice with a hundred year history, it takes some guts. Counting time worked well enough for the longest while. In the days of print-only, it was well to know how many of this or that item was placed so you could print up more. You’d get an overall view of how the ministry was going in this or that area, important if you were trying to live up to the commission that ‘this good news of the kingdom will be preached into all the inhabited earth for a witness to all nations, and then the end will come.’ (Matt 24:14) But what will you do when someone shows an online digital video? Does that mean it is used up and you have to make another one?

Any model wears out in time. What will the new one mean? For starters, it will aid informal witnessing. And if removes once and for all any notion of being ‘on duty’ or ‘off duty.’ It also completely obliterates the instinct to compare one’s service to that of another’s. Nate Nazi used to grumble about the type of service he phrased as ‘driving around all day avoiding people.’ This type service used to rankle those who preferred more bang for the buck, boots on the ground, maximize those contacted per hour. Now it doesn’t matter. Let each do as he/she sees fit and/or is more comfortable with. Certainly there is nothing wrong with spending much time in the company of the friends, mixing service with socializing, even with errands, and with searching for ‘long shot’ return visits. It just used to rankle those who all but supposed efficiency was a fruitage of the spirit and who’d rather devote their non-contact time to other activities. ‘Always work at the pace of the slowest publisher,’ one CO advised, apparently wanting to accommodate the greatest number in the public ministry. Alas, one can worry he has no idea how slow we can go. Now it doesn’t matter. Let the fast ones work fast, the slow ones slow. Let each team up with like-minded and/or like-abled sometimes, polar opposites other times, without fretting about how it affects one’s field service report.

Regular pioneers continue to count their time. They are now likened, as are special pioneers, COs, build servants, etc, to the Nazarites who voluntarily took on a special vow.

Informal witnessing, the way we are being encouraged to do it today, calls for restraint. Toss the ball of conversation; see whether they toss it back to you. If they do, advance it by a degree. If they don’t, move on. Like with Jesus at the well, you do not lead off with a question—that makes it ‘weird.’ Instead, you throw a spiritual statement into the mundane mix and see if you get a response. In short, ‘You got to know when to hold em, know when to fold em, know when to walk away’—and if you do it right, ideally you will never have to ‘run.’ However, when people are ‘on the clock,’ they tend to not be content with just a statement, for they must give a ‘thorough witness.’ They push beyond that point—must not cheat God, after all, who is monitoring the clock—and end up having to ‘run’ when their imposed-upon non-interested party finally gets fed up. 

I like the end of counting time—it better enables informal witnessing, which is becoming more and more of a ‘thing.’ It even anticipates should the door-to-door ministry one day become illegal; ‘anti-cult’ loons try to spin it as ‘taking advantage’ of people. 

And, once and for all it puts a lid on people who insisted Witnesses had a model indicating they thought they were ‘earning’ salvation. Put it in the same category of ones insisting that the literature distribution was commercial (and therefore taxable); So to make clear it was not, it was stated that from then on literature would be distributed at no cost.

The brothers have operated in accord with this snippet from a recent daily text commentary: “Spiritual goals give our life direction and purpose.” For men who overwhelming come from the work-a-day world where you get paid for work by the hour, it couldn’t have seemed a draconian goal to ask for 10 hour activity per month when the workday model they were raised in called for 40 hours per week at a minimum. They’re rethinking it, something I thought would never happen. Maybe they’re cracking open the door to whether congregation members need go in the organized preaching activity at all. The former door-to-door in this area isn’t what it once was.  Is it yielding to another model? Probably not, but maybe to some extent.

Want to criticize them retroactively, as though they should have changed the model long ago? I don’t play that game. The game I play is to say that the people who brought the truth to me were the people who counted their time. The people who didn’t count their time also didn’t bring the truth to me. In fact, they could not have, because they were yet steeped (and still are) with trinity, immortal soul, God & Country, and so forth. And in case anyone says, ‘You don’t need any people; you just need Jesus,’ I will say that the people Jesus used to bring the truth to me were those who counted their time,’ etc. I’m just happy over the change, that it was recognized as an idea whose time has come. I’m not inclined to say, ‘What took them so long?’ By playing that game, you can be dissatisfied with everything. You find fault with headship both before and after revision. After all, there are plenty of scriptures that fit the old model, such as the Master sending workers into the vineyard.

So, if it was stated again and again at that annual meeting, which went on to consider other things, ‘We must not be dogmatic,’ does that mean they were dogmatic before? It is another game I don’t play. The ‘too dogmatic’ people brought the truth to me. The ‘laid back, reasonable’ ones did not. People are a product of their times. To be sure, when my favorite circuit overseer commented on the separation of the Watchtower into private and study edition years ago, he say, ‘It should have been done a long time ago.’ But he said this only to me, plus whatever one or two others were in the car group with me.


******  The bookstore

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Job 36-37: Elihu Continues. More Lessens to be Drawn

As to the suffering humans go through from time to time: “But if they are bound in shackles And caught in ropes of affliction, He reveals to them what they have done, Their transgressions caused by their pride. He opens their ears to correction.” (Job 36:8-10)

Sometimes he ‘reveals to them what they have done’ by incapacitating them for so long that their thoughts at last roll around to the subject. It may be a long long time, for we are a dense lot. It may even be after the trial has passed and we reflect upon whether any lessons can be drawn from it or not, and at last conclude they can. However:

“The godless at heart will harbor resentment. They do not cry for help even when he binds them.” (36:13) Sure. They just bellyache forever about being wronged. Alas, who isn’t wronged by something or someone at one time or another? How will one respond to it?

“They die while still young, Spending their life among male temple prostitutes.” (vs 14) Let’s just politely pass over this one as something that may have been time-sensitive.

“But God rescues the afflicted during their affliction; He opens their ear when they are oppressed.” (vs 15) Ditto the above remarks on vs 8-10. Then afterward, “he draws you away from the brink of distress To a broad space, free of restriction, With rich food on your table as consolation. (16)

He is pretty powerful, God is:

“For he says to the snow, ‘Fall to the earth,’ And to the downpour of rain, ‘Pour down mightily.’ God puts a stop to all human activity So that every mortal man will know His work.” (Job 37:6-7)

Yeah—like the Bills game he put a stop to—postponed due to snow. The wind blows west to east across the Great Lakes and God help you if you have build a stadium on the eastern end. Not only that, but Elon has to cancel his rockets every other day due to sucky weather. Many things more serious happen, too. Sometimes I think that’s why equatorial regions generally tail the developed world—it’s too hot to want to do anything there. Nor are people sitting too pretty after God has been saying, ‘Pour down mightily’ to the rain for any length of time. How pretty can you be as your house slides into the ravine?

“The storm wind blows from its chamber, And the cold comes from the north winds. . . .[backtracking] The wild animals go into their dens And remain in their lairs.”(8-9)

In my part of the world, they go to Florida as “sunbirds.” Though, sometimes they go to Florida, are dismayed at the heat, and come halfway back to settle in Virginia or area of similar latitude to become “halfbacks.” But if they stay in Florida, they must learn that if you miss a turn, you do not just turn around in a driveway to correct your course. You must drive all the way around a massive block, five to ten miles or so, to finish the job. Traffic is an abomination and few roads that go anywhere have less than six packed lanes.

“[Humans] cannot even see the light, Though it is bright in the sky, Until a wind passes by and clears away the clouds.” (Job 37:21)

Yeah, it doesn’t take much to kneecap them, does it? It’s an object lesson drawing on physical realities to show how humans are not in the best position to tell God how to run the universe.

“Understanding the Almighty is beyond our reach.” (vs 23)

This is a little less so than when the verse was written; some of His gimmicks we have figured out—but still basically it is true. It is rather like when Newton, Kepler, Galileo and others described physical laws of the universe. Far from thinking they were burying God, they supposed they were glorifying him by revealing just the orderly manner in which he worked. But they still only scratched the surface towards ‘understanding the Almighty.’ Later scientists would uncover major disorder in the subatomic universe and yet still somehow God makes it all work.

Here and there, Elihu draws in material unknown in his day, even without the help of Newton, Kepler, and Galileo. “He draws up the drops of water; They condense into rain from his mist; Then the clouds pour it down; They shower down upon mankind,” he casually lets drop at 36:27-28, describing the water cycle and giving full credence to ones insisting that the Bible’s real author disseminates such tidbits well beyond the science of its day.

“Listen to this, Job; Stop and consider carefully the wonderful works of God.” (37:14) . . . “Understanding the Almighty is beyond our reach; He is great in power, And he never violates his justice and abundant righteousness.” (23) It will work out if you hang in there and hang in there as long as it takes. And even if you don’t, maybe you can make it all good later.

“Therefore, people should fear him. For he does not favor any who think that they are wise.” (24)

If he doesn’t, then I won’t either. Few things are more insufferable than the wise instructing the great unwashed in the principles of sound reasoning, always with the assumption that it goes without saying they themselves are in full compliance.

And with these final words of Elihu, the opening act for God’s appearance is complete. There will be an ever-so-brief intermission during which time you may sip drinks and use the restrooms. Do not say as I did to my newly-betrothed wife who didn’t yet fully understand my sense or humor during intermission at the Shaw Festival where everyone was dressed the nines: “Here’s people we don’t hang out with often—‘the wicked!” drawing upon Psalm 73. I know, I know. Completely unfair. No doubt most of them were nice. My newly-betrothed wife looked at me oddly.


******  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'

Drinking in Derision Like Water—Job 34

Elihu is now rolling with his single speech that spans 6 chapters. What are we to make of Job 34:7?

What other man is like Job, Who drinks up derision like water?

At first glance, it might just seem an acknowledgment that Job suffers a lot. But ‘suffering’ is not the word used. It is ‘derision’: criticism, mockery, ridicule. But he is not just experiencing derision, as though a helpless victim drowning in the stuff. He is drinking it up. 

The expression, ‘You can lead a horse to water but you can’t make it drink,’ may help. In Job’s case, he has not only been led to water, but he is ‘drinking it up’—avidly.

Who derides him? His three assailants, who had originally come to comfort him. When does it happen? Whenever he starts carrying on about his fine conduct before God. The implication is that if he kept his mouth shut, it wouldn’t happen. The three thugs would soon get bored and go away.

Seen in this light, might we revisit Elihu’s prior words (“Speak, for I want to prove you right” at 33:32) as though meaning: ‘I want to prove you right but you are making it difficult! Knock it off with ‘drinking down derision,’ already!’ The fellow really is a good opening act for God, who, by restoration of his former station and fortune, really does convey the verdict that Job is ‘right.’

Elihu isn’t the gem with critics that he is within the Jehovah’s Witness world. Says the Watchtower (10/1/57): “Modern critics call Elihu ‘loquacious’ and say his speeches were ‘longwinded,’ because he spoke so extendedly, presenting the material that is contained in chapters 32 through 37 in the book of Job.” (A ‘pompous little windbag,’ another has called him. “But Elihu saw that the vindicating of Jehovah God was more important than the vindicating of any man,” the Watchtower continues. So it’s okay. Sky’s the limit if you’re going to do that, they say.

Elihu’s reproof of Job has huge ramifications for me, though I probably won’t be instructed by it. Keep an argument going forever and you are, in effect, drinking up derision. Your opponent does not give up. As often as not, several of his allies join in to tell you what a dope you are.

Now, a few caveats. One, it’s not as though Job has anything else to do. Why not kick back at his opponents? As long as he realizes it’s not going anywhere, what’s the harm? Trouble is, he does think it should go somewhere and it causes him major angst when it does not. It’s his own fault, Elihu says. Zip his own mouth and it won’t happen.

As a second caveat, to a certain degree, I already have learned from this principle. I don’t keep disputes going anything like I once did. State a few point as cogently as I can, and then retire. Twitter (X) helped me enormously in this, with its character limit that forced the windbags to be concise. Usually, one must give an opponent the last word, because no way is he ever going to accede that to you—unless you want to squabble to your dying day, you grant the final word to him. For the most part, it is the position any Christian finds himself in with relation to the greater world. Previously, I have said such things as, ‘The key to such discussion is to know that you will lose. Opponents must have their day in the sun before the Great Arguer puts an end to matters once and for all, turning defeat into victory.

A third caveat—I dunno, is it really a caveat, or is it a corollary?—It dovetails quite nicely with current counsel not to ‘engage’ with ‘apostates’—even if I suspect that counsel is taken to an excessive degree. When you do so ‘engage,’ as often as not, you end up ‘drinking in derision as water,’ because you will find they do not give up. I think this is because ‘genuine’ apostasy (as opposed to the ‘wild talk’ of someone who has been hurt) is a matter of the heart, and as such, is poorly addressed by reason, a product of the head. ‘Taste and see that Jehovah is good,’ the Psalm says. What if someone has tasted and seen He is bad? Will you be able to reason with him that his tastebuds are off?

End of caveats. Back to Job’s ‘drinking in derision like water.’ He shouldn’t do it, is apparently Elihu’s point. Apart from whether he should do it or not (for few have done it as much as me, even if I have mellowed some), it ought to be apparent that it never gets one anywhere, that is, if ‘getting anywhere’ means persuading the other person. (If it means, sharpening your own cogency, that is a different matter.) In all the time I have spent online, going on many years, rarely does one see anyone change at all with regard to core positions. Might this be because matters of the heart are handled as though they are matters of the head?

To the extent this is true, I am highly suspicious of new-fangled terms that have to do with refining the intellect—‘critical thinking’, ‘confirmation bias’, and maybe to top it all, the ‘Dunning-Kruger effect,’ which means the dumber people are, the more they think they are in the know. As often as not, the one most insistent on ‘critical thinking’ assumes he has a lock on the stuff. The one who hammers us about ‘confirmation bias’ is blind to his own. Invoking ‘Dunning-Kruger’ is just a means of insulting one’s opponents, who are ‘arrogant’—if they weren’t arrogant, they would fall into line and stop opposing. It is all school-yard bullying couched in intellectual terms.

If it really is so that God is looking into hearts, not heads, then even ChatGBT represents a giant step in leading humanity towards the dead-end of supposing heart matters can be settled by the head. It’s sort of like G K Chesterton commenting on science, that gold-standard of those who trust in the head—saying something to the effect of, ‘Science is at its best when you can tell it where to go.’ As a tool of discovery, it’s great. As the be-all and end-all, it falls laughably short. Better to simply accede to the Bible’s ‘be reasonable,’ and to tell oneself that we don’t have to know everything. At any rate, we can’t know everything, so it is better for the health to acknowledge we don’t have to. 

Keep science in its place and it is fine. But use it with an overreliance on ‘critical thinking,’ freedom from ‘confirmation bias’ and self-assurance that Dunning-Kruger applies to those people, not you, and it is like the dolt fine-tuning his old Chevy for that cross-country trip, when anyone with half a brain knows its the new Ford he should take. The old Chevy will probably collapse. But the old Chevy looks better—he likes the styling—and he want’s to impress his friends.

Job says, (31:35): “If only someone would listen to me! I would sign my name to what I have said. Let the Almighty answer me!” Elihu (later) replies, “Your legal case is before him, so you should wait anxiously for him.” (35:14)

God shows up for the court summons Job has issued! Let no one say He is not humble; if the gerbils issued you a court summons, would you show up? But when he does, it is to cross-examine Job, not be questioned by him. In the end, he never does answer Job’s questions, and yet Job is satisfied. Chesterton’s take? “The riddles of God are more satisfying than the solutions of man.”

There is a limit to the answers we can demand of God. I think of Anthony Morris relating to the convention how he began to sweat when his house didn’t sell, yet he desperately needed the money for some soon-to-occur obligation. ‘It’s getting a little tight here,’ he related, looking upward, but then gave the aside, ‘He’s God—he can do what he wants.’ In the end, his house sold with minutes to spare. He streamlined a few procedures. ‘It isn’t usually done that way,’ the buyer observed. ‘It is today,’ he shot back. 

Get a few experiences like that under your belt and it is the making of strong faith—but it’s nothing you can prove to another person. If someone says God had nothing to do with it, you certainly can’t reason him out of it. ‘Let each one be convinced in his own mind.’

Better to focus on qualities of the heart—you know, those qualities recommended so much that they are considered prerequisites for appointment to Christian oversight. How does God feel about qualities of the head? Beyond that of being ‘reasonable,’ are there even any of such qualities on the list? I mean, if you think you have such qualities of the head, by all means, bring your gift to the altar. But don’t for one moment think they are as valuable as qualities of the heart. Use your gift to support, to buttress, to frame in public relations terms what it seems the heart people have neglected to adequately frame. That is far better, to my mind, and hopefully far more pleasing to God, than to insinuate, to undermine, to thrust forth your solution as the solution that your less intellectually-endowed brothers ought to follow.

In the end, the things of God are elusive. You just can’t shake Him down to spill, and certainly not by means of your intellect. He’ll do what he does and you won’t know until he does it; surely, that is among the lessons of Job.  Elihu’s reproof of Job stands, buttressed later by God himself. There are some places you just don’t go—such as Job’s demand that God explain himself. It is not so much that he can’t be forgiven for going there. He can and he is. It is that going there does him no good. He just ends up harming himself. God will explain when he explains. In the meantime, you’d best go easy on your fellow slaves, because, ‘to his own master he stands or falls,’ not to you. 


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Job’s Anecdotal Evidence: A Court Summons to God

Job supplies his ‘anecdotal evidence’ in Chapter 31, his testimony. “Let God weigh me with accurate scales; Then he will recognize my integrity,” he says. (Job 31:6)

His life course is one of integrity toward God. If it was not, downfall would be justified, he believes, but it has been.

If my footsteps deviate from the way Or my heart has followed after my eyes Or my hands have been defiled, … If my heart has been enticed by a woman And I have lain in wait at my neighbor’s door, … If I denied justice to my male or female servants When they had a complaint against me, … If I refused to give the poor what they desired Or saddened the eyes of the widow; If I ate my portion of food alone Without sharing it with the orphans;… If I saw anyone perishing for lack of clothing Or a poor man with nothing to cover himself; … If I shook my fist against the orphan When he needed my assistance in the city gate; … If I put my confidence in gold Or said to fine gold, ‘You are my security!’ If I found my joy in my great wealth Because of the many possessions I acquired;” (31: 7-25)

All those things would be bad, meriting God’s disfavor, he believes, but he never did any of them!

Have I ever rejoiced over the destruction of my enemy Or gloated because evil befell him?  I never allowed my mouth to sin. . . Have the men of my tent not said, ‘Who can find anyone who has not been satisfied with his food?’ No stranger had to spend the night outside; I opened my doors to the traveler. Have I ever tried to cover over my transgressions, like other men, By hiding my error in the pocket of my garment?” Have I been in fear of the reaction of the multitude, Or have I been terrified by the contempt of other families, Making me silent and afraid to go outside?”  (29-34) No, his life is not characterized by any of those things.

It is his testimony. He has always been upright. He’s ready to sign it: “I would sign my name to what I have said. Let the Almighty answer me!” (31:35) It is like a court summons to God! And God shows up! Let no one say God is not humble. If gerbils sent you a court summons, would you show up?

Before God does, however, Job’s testimony is all peremptorily denied by his three interrogators: 

Eliphaz: Is [your suffering] not because your own wickedness is so great And there is no end to your errors? For you seize a pledge from your brothers for no reason, And you strip people of their garments, leaving them naked. You do not give the tired one a drink of water, And you hold back food from the hungry. The land belongs to the powerful man, And the favored one dwells in it. But you sent away widows empty-handed, And you crushed the arms of fatherless children. That is why you are surrounded by traps, And sudden terrors frighten you;  (Job 22:5-10)

Why does he reject Job’s testimony, instead charging just the opposite? Because it conflicts with his own ‘theology:’ “What I have seen,” Eliphaz says previously, “is that those who plow what is harmful And those who sow trouble will reap the same. By the breath of God they perish, And through a blast of his anger they come to an end. . . . Even the teeth of strong lions are broken.”  (Job 4:8-10)

His pre-formed—faulty, as it turns out—theology tells him Job must have been ‘plowing what is harmful’ for him to be suffering now. Job, who otherwise might have agreed with that theology, undergoes the worst of spiritual crises to accompany his crisis on all other fronts, because he knows he has not been ‘plowing what is harmful’—quite the contrary. So he works out his angst by blaming God for being both cruel and unfair. This further inflames Eliphaz and crew, already riled that Job is resisting their ‘correction.’ Now they read  false positive for apostasy and figure they must attack Job for that reason, too. Presently they are all but hurling epithets at the poor fellow.

Before chalking up the above to the oddities of religious people, reflect that all of society is that way. If you have benefited from acupuncture, say, and want to tell the world about it, you will find yourself derided among the materialist crowd for advocating ‘pseudoscience.’ What about your own beneficial experience, you will ask. ‘It will be attributed to ‘anecdotal evidence,’ inherently unreliable. It doesn’t matter how many like testimonies you can gather; it will all be attributed to ‘anecdotal evidence’ by those whose scientific ‘theology’ admits to no other view—they can’t replicate your experience in their test tubes, so they assume you are either deluded or lying. Mechanisms may differ, but the overall pattern is no different than Job’s ‘anecdotal evidence’ rejected by those of a different theology.

You can go along with the airy dismissal of ‘anecdotal evidence.’ Then one day you find it is your evidence they are trying to dismiss and you wonder how people can be so high-handed and stubborn.


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The Catholic at the Door

The man answered the door and said he was Catholic. He also said he very much respected Jehovah’s Witnesses and the work they did. But he was Catholic, 4th generation Catholic, very involved, and so there was no way he would ever change. “Fortunately for you,” I said, “we’re not recruiting. It’s just conversation.” Whereupon, he added that he was also busy.

I thought of Dave McClure, the circuit overseer from ages ago, who had said how you could “pre-empty” certain objections by anticipating them up front. “We’re calling on busy people today” he would say to illustrate. What are they going to say—they’re busy? You could even do two. “We’re calling on busy people who have their own religion, and . . .. ” But there was a limit. You really couldn’t do three. “We’re calling on busy people who have their own religion and who aren’t interested, and . . . ” No. It doesn’t fly.

This man really was busy. He and his wife were soon to depart for a medical appointment. But apparently not that soon, for he then went on to say some nice things and even asked a few questions. When they do this, it means that, while yes, they are somewhat busy, they also have learned their lesson from when Oscar Oxgoad called on them a few years back, saying he would be brief. To their dismay, they discovered that ‘brief’ to Oxgoad meant he’ll stay there all day if he possibly can!

When you make it clear that you really do intend to be brief, miracles can happen. This you do by saying something like, ‘The world’s crazy. We think the Bible helps—telling why it is that way, what can we expect for the future, and how to live in the meantime. I want to read you a verse, you tell me what you think, and then we’re on our way. Good idea?” It is not as though someone is going to tell you to get to the point. This man agreed to it.

For him, the verse selected was one he would surely recognize, the Our Father segment of Matthew 6:9 which goes, “thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.” Yes, God’s will is done in heaven; surely he has his act together up there. But it sure isn’t done on earth; at least, it does not predominate—and it will not, says the prayer, until “thy kingdom comes”—so just what is that kingdom?

You can go so many ways upon reading this verse. After explaining why you selected it, as above, invite the householder to participate if he likes, or not if he doesn’t like, or not if the time is not right. This is the point where this man said he was Catholic and busy, but then engaged us with a few observations of his own.

These days, Jehovah’s Witnesses are departing from those clunky silhouette presentations once offered up at meetings for a more conversational approach. Of course, there isn’t there isn’t that much difference. They always strived to be conversational. But there is a limit. If you call on someone formally, you cannot just say, “Anything you want to talk about?” You have to provide a reason for your call, and that was the whole idea behind the silhouette suggestions. Alas, any such offering can be committed to memory, after which it comes across as ‘canned.’ Just be conversational, is the new guidance that is not really new.

It is a very challenging task undertaken. Take persons who are just as “uneducated and ordinary” as were the first-century apostles and send them to people who, in some cases, are educated and are not ordinary—some of whom take much pride in those circumstances. Some will be hospitable, but some will look down their noses at the disparity; it is just the way people are. The congregation doesn’t really “send them”—their own understanding of the Bible does. “This good news of the Kingdom will be preached in all the inhabited earth for a witness to all the nations, and then the end will come,” says the Word. Who’s going to preach it—those who don’t believe it? So the congregation does not send them, but they do support and coordinate them.

Though not suddenly becoming unbusy, the man was growing more comfortable and somewhere along the line mentioned that his aunt had died in the Holocaust. “Was your aunt of the Jewish faith?” my companion asked. Jehovah’s Witnesses will almost always do this, and why not?—there is nothing like bonding over a horrific experience jointly suffered. Jehovah’s Witnesses, with their stand of neutrality, were among the very first concentration camp inmates, even preceding the far-more-numerous Jews. Sometimes you can even point out that Jehovah’s Witnesses were more than victims in the Holocaust; they were martyrs, for they alone had power to write their tickets out. All they had to do was renounce their faith and agree to work with the Nazi regime.  

The aunt, it turned out, was not Jewish. She was Catholic. She had resisted Hitler’s policies and was incarcerated. 

Talk about what they want, not what you want. As Dale Carnegie said, ‘Who cares what you want?’ Once in a while you may luck out the way that geeky reporter did, with Bruce Wayne telling Alfred to write him a grant just because he asked for one. For the most part, though, you’d better build a bridge and you always start with a genuine—not contrived—interest in the other person. Talk what they want to talk about.

The Catholic Church has a long tradition, I offered him, and they’ve done a lot of good. They have problems, some quite serious, but they have done a lot of good. I even told him about the Pope who arguably saved the word. I thought the man would not know about it because nobody does. It is all but the most closely guarded secret of our time. I only blundered upon it myself by sheer accident. During a time when the world teetered on the brink of nuclear war, John F. Kennedy and Nikita Khrushchev, respective heads of the two superpowers, struck up a friendship. It was a friendship not without strain, mostly because both were surrounded by warmongers who were sure the two were daftly naive, even traitorous. But, though the world teetered on the brink in the days before, during, and after the Cuban Missile crisis, the two managed to pull it back. And the man who served as catalyst, bringing the two together: Pope John XXIII. Who would have thought?

It’s purely a function of a determination to fix the world as opposed to being no part of it. But in this case, it bought the ‘ol globe some time under its present rulership.

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The Book of Job: Do the Birds Fret About What They Must Have Done Wrong?

Early on, Kushner draws on the real-life example that his wife feeds the birds but every so often she forgets. When she does and the birds arrive to find nothing where they have always found abundance, do they fret about what they must have done wrong to merit such a calamity? This little parable speaks to us because my wife also feeds the birds but every so often she forgets. When she remembers, you can hear the creatures chatter: “She did it! That nice lady filled up the feeders again with scrumptious seed! Come, fellow birds, eat up!”

But what do they think when either wife forgets? I’ve never thought to ask the question. Kushner has. He doesn’t know for sure, he says, but he doesn’t think they fret much. Probably, they just fly off to find another stash of food. It is only humans who say, ‘What did I do wrong?’ Thus is set up a central premise in Job.

‘Nothing,’ Job says, ‘I did nothing wrong at all.’ ‘Of course you did!’ his comforters say, pounding as with sledgehammers the point that he must have done something wrong to be punished the way he plainly seems to be. Just like that post I wrote long ago about the New Orleans preachers: They all agreed post-Katrina that the city must have done something wrong, disagreeing only on what that something was.

Had Job’s three comforters pondered a book yet to be written, the Book of Ecclesiastes, they might have come to realize that “time and unexpected events overtake them all.” It’s no one’s fault. That is why “the swift do not always win the race, nor do the mighty win the battle, nor do the wise always have the food, nor do the intelligent always have the riches, nor do those with knowledge always have success.” (Ecclesiastes 9:11) Wrong place at the wrong time is all.

Of course, had the comforters access to Ecclesiastes and been swayed by it, they still would have been wrong. How were they to know, or anyone, the heavenly drama unfolding in the first two chapters of Job whereby the man became a test case for keeping integrity under adversity? With Job, it is not just boilerplate, ‘Just as fish are caught in an evil net and birds are caught in a trap, so the sons of men are ensnared in a time of disaster, when it suddenly overtakes them.’ It is targeted ‘Just as fish are caught in an evil net and birds are caught in a trap, so the sons of men are ensnared in a time of disaster, when it suddenly overtakes them.’ (Ecclesiastes 9:12)


Jehovah’s Witnesses break ranks with nearly the entire church world, in fact, nearly the entire religious world, for saying that, at death, one lapses into nothingness. Humans do not have souls. They are souls. When they die, their soul dies. Any hope of future life lies in an also-future resurrection. In the meantime, death is the end—a belief that flies in the face of almost all religion.

If the church model holds true than when someone dies they don’t really die because their soul lives on, you’d almost expect that to be on every page of the Bible—it being part of the continuum of life. ‘So and so died, and up to heaven he went. Another fine person died and also ascended. But this lout passed, and down went his soul to the inferno.’ Instead, you never see it, save for a few brief snippets that bear all the earmarks of allegory—you really have to stretch the point to take them as literal. If you are determined to do it nonetheless, then demand to see the bush every time someone says you must not beat around it.

Nowhere is the ‘death is the end of all things’ model more explicit than in the Book of Ecclesiastes. “Whatever your hand finds to do, do with all your might, for there is no work nor planning nor knowledge nor wisdom in the Grave, where you are going.” (9:10) The lesson to be drawn? There is nothing in the Grave but nothing. “For the living know that they will die, but the dead know nothing at all, nor do they have any more reward, because all memory of them is forgotten.” (9:5)

‘Yeah, well,’ said an evangelical to me, circling the wagons to protect his immortal soul belief, ‘Solomon was bummed when he wrote that,—he was down on life.’ I admit, that is something I never thought of, as though his 700 wives had driven him to distraction to the point where (were the thought not sacrilegious) he wished he were gay. My own Bible student had encountered women problems but assured me that he had “stopped well short of 700.”

‘No wisdom in the Grave’ says Ecclesiastes 9:10. Grave is capitalized in the New World Translation because it is the common grave of humankind, not just an individual grave. The original Hebrew word is Sheol. When the Hebrew Scriptures were translated into Greek, (the Septuagint) Hades was selected as the proper rendering of Sheol. (Compare Psalm 16:10 to Acts 2:31, where Sheol in the first becomes Hades in the second.)

Modern English Bibles sow confusion when they translate original language words into their equivalent English meanings. It makes sense that they would do that, particularly when cultures unfamiliar with Judeo-Christian terminology are apt to read Sheol or Hades and figure it must be references to some place of geography, such as Seaol or Hanoi. But it becomes harder thereby to discern the origin of certain nonbiblical doctrines. Both Sheol and Hades have often been translated as ‘hell.’

Says the book, ‘The Truth that Leads to Eternal Life,’ In the Hebrew Scriptures of the Bible the word “hell” is translated from the Hebrew word sheolʹ. This word occurs 65 times in all. The King James Version of the Bible, however, translates sheolʹ 31 times as “hell,” 31 times as “grave,” and 3 times as “pit.” The Catholic Douay Version of the Bible translates sheolʹ as “hell” 63 times and as “pit” once and as “death” once. In the Christian Greek Scriptures the word “hell” is sometimes translated from the Greek word hádes. Both the King James and Douay versions translate hádes as “hell” in each of its ten occurrences.’

They’ll translate Sheol and Hades every which way, and this is with old Bibles. Newer Bibles are far worse, far more apt to translate Sheol as Grave. They are better for conveying meaning but worse for conveying origin.


It’s an aside. I digress. But Job’s visitors and Job himself might have been adjusted by Ecclesiastes. If I digress, it is in the same manner that G K Chesterton would digress. He would review an author and take the occasion to say whatever he wanted to say. He gave the author no short shrift in doing so. He commentaries on Dickens (Charles Dickens: A Critical Study (1906) are considered among the finest ever written and, in fact, revived the author from the obscurity he might otherwise have fallen in to.


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The Kennedy-Khrushchev Rapport and the Man to Uncover JFK’s Assassination: Part 3

For complete context, see Part 1.

Q: Who first pointed out that there were both clean and unclean animals on the ark, packed in together by necessity in order to ride out the flood, so they had better learn to get along? Who first cited that bit of Genesis scripture as a model that communist and capitalist nations would do well to follow, since with the advent of mutually annihilative nuclear weapons, they were pretty much both in the same—um—boat?

Unless you have been tipped off, I guarantee you will not get this. Who first said it?

It was Nikita Khrushchev, third Premier of the Soviet Union, that hothead of my youth who pounded his U.N. desktop with removed shoe and on another occasion, hollered, ‘We will bury you!’ Nikita Khrushchev, torchbearer of the communist world, who quoted the above Genesis story, quoting it for American President John F. Kennedy, who said he appreciated it—and the two went on to forge, via letter exchange, an unexpected and, to this day, mostly unknown friendship that would serve to stabilize the world. The Cuban Missile crisis almost blew it up. Both operated among the deep distrust of their own military advisors, who regarded their respective heads as naive, even traitorous, for consorting with the enemy. Kennedy arguably paid for it with his life.* Khrushchev paid for it with his career—he was shortly thereafter deposed.

Now, how did Khrushchev, peasant-born, atheist-indoctrinated, and throughly communist, learn of clean and unclean animals on the ark? I didn’t know that factoid myself until I became a Jehovah’s Witness. At Sunday school I had learned that ‘two-by-two, they entered the ark,’ that storybook vessel with happy bow and stern, whereas the Genesis description is little more than a floating box.

Did Khrushchev’s illustration come about through contacts with Pope John XXIII, who took a great interest in world affairs and, as leader of the Catholic Church, figured he had a role to play? He sent emissaries to Russia who were received by Khrushchev. Whatever was his role as catalyst, he too ‘paid’ with his life, but he paid as we all do—as a consequence of Adam. He died shortly thereafter of cancer. “[Kennedy, Khrushchev, and John XXIII] had a profound respect for one another all understood the extent to which their combined role was historically necessary, however diverse or contradictory their backgrounds. For a brief period their candle burned brightly. Then very quickly, the trio was lost to history,” writes Norman Cousins in his book, ‘The Improbable Triumverate: An Asterisk to the History of a Hopeful Year.’ Doesn’t the subtitle say it all? A hopeful year is all you get under the current system of human rule; then the candle is quickly snuffed out.

Nonetheless, even that hopeful year I knew nothing about. Cousin’s 1972 book, along with another book, from 2008, ‘JFK and the Unspeakable’ completely overturned my view of both Kennedy and Khrushchev. I was raised in a conservative home in which, during holidays, my even more conservative grandpa dominated dinner conversation. It took me the longest time to realize that my dad never really cared about politics; he simply didn’t have the wherewithal to tell his wife’s dad to zip it. Touring with my dad many years later through one of the tiny towns in upstate New York memorializing the war dead in the central square, he was troubled. “They shouldn’t do this,” he said. “It just glorifies it.”

In such a home where people didn’t have the energy to challenge grandpa and figured he was probably right anyway, more or less, John F. Kennedy was persona non grata. Nixon was our guy—Nixon, who was ‘tough on communism,’ the great evil of my youth. But he lost the 1960 election to Kennedy, lost because he sweated like a pig, we are told, on new-fangled television, whereas Kennedy adapted effortlessly to new medium of debate, poised and cool.

To be sure, Kennedy was also packaged as tough on communism—you had to so package anyone you wanted to sell back then, but how was anyone to know that he was really tough on communism? Grandpa would grouse. Maybe he would go weak-kneed—and it seemed like he did early on. “He beat the hell out of me!” he summarized after his first meeting with Khrushchev.

Kennedy was the first Roman Catholic U.S President. It was a significant concern at the time. Protestants were dubious of Catholics, fearing they might be subject to dictation from the Pope. Kennedy commented on the pre-election brouhaha that he didn’t know why there was such a fuss over him being Catholic since, “It’s not as though I’m a very good one.” His affairs were numerous, though this would not be known for a very long time; media back then hushed such things up. James W. Douglas, The Catholic author of ‘JFK and the Unspeakable,’ is plainly a devout man; repeatedly qualifies his glowing coverage of JFK with remarks that ‘he was no saint.’

He credits him, though, along with Khrushchev, for averting nuclear war—against the hostile and contemptuous advice of the military hard-liners long used to running the show. These hawks had calculated the odds of winning a nuclear war. They were willing, if need be, to give it a shot—and the bar for ‘need be’ was not very high. Pope John XXIII brought the two world leaders to understand the point of view of each other, at a time when to understand the enemy’s viewpoint was deemed all but traitorous. Had Kennedy not been Catholic it might not have happened. ‘Tell the Pope to mind his own business,’ President WASP would have said.

to be continued: 

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