Holly Folk Speaks to Child Sexual Abuse Among Jehovah’s Witnesses.

Out of nowhere a scholar has appeared who talks dispassionate sense on the subject of child sexual abuse as it relates to Jehovah’s Witnesses and is unswayed by secular jingoism. Are/were you a Jehovah’s Witness who was abused as a child? That is very bad, Holly Folk agrees, but she cautions such ones that they must be on guard not to be abused a second time. It may happen at the hands of those who mostly feign interest in their trauma so as to enlist them in their greater goal of taking down a religion they hate. “All I ask is that you consider, for a moment, that you might be being used again, by people who care little about achieving justice for victims,” she says.

“Both official reports and media often confuse ‘institutional’ abuse in religious settings and abuse happening in families that happen to be religious.” It is a statement as pithy yet complete as anything I have written in several chapters of TrueTom vs the Apostates! She instantly cuts to the chase of the matter, whereas I pussyfoot around forever before arriving at an echo not quite so well put.

She pinpoints the flaw of the ARC’s Case Study 29, which I also attempted, but did not put it so concisely. Every other case was an investigation of institutional abuse within an agency, sometimes religious, sometimes secular. Case Study 29 was the only investigation of a religion itself. It is unique. It was rammed into the ARC agenda mostly at the behest of ex-Witnesses who hounded them relentlessly until they overrode their normal sound judgment. It plainly doesn’t fit into the overall program. JWs have no institutional settings, as did all the other agencies on the hot seat. Next move will be to hold Walmart responsible for abuse that has occurred among their shoppers.

It’s why you don’t sign on to a redress scheme tailor made for situations of institutional abuse that you don’t have. You wait for a redress scheme tailor made for situations of abuse that occur among Walmart’s customers. That you can sign on to it as a reasonable parallel.

In a second article (it is a four-part series) she criticizes the studies of the Netherlands and Belgium. I hadn’t gone there, assuming they would be no more than a rehash of the ARC. They were all that and less, she writes, so slipshod and lacking in any sound methodology of social science that it will be a scandal if they are relied upon for policy. Yet they might be, she opines, goaded on by the sheer noise that comes from Witness detractors, mostly ex-Witnesses settling the score, and given false credibility by the prestige of the Atlantic journal.

As a dispassionate outsider, not a Witness herself, she can do what is very difficult for any Witness to do, self included. She can bypass the reputation of a religion as something immaterial and focus on the greater affront to fight child sexual abuse. It is all diluted, she charges, when ex-members redirect rage against child sexual abuse to a target that is essentially a non-factor. The Witness religion overall does pretty well at fighting the perversion, she writes. I mean, who else [my contribution, not hers] gathers every member in the world (at the 2017 Regional Conventions) to consider detailed scenarios in which child sexual abuse might occur so that parents, obviously the first line of defense, can be on their guard? If there are sleepovers, if there are tickling sessions, if there are unsupervised trips to the restroom, if anyone displays unusual interest in your child—all these things were identified as potential red flags, not conclusive in themselves, but things to keep you eye on.

Witnesses will find her tack hard to copy. Their first response will be violent indignation at these patent efforts to undermine the religious organization they hold in high regard, and in the process, they are likely to come across as tone-deaf to the suffering of victims. But Ms. Folk has no skin in the game, so she can focus directly to how this vendetta of ex-JWs undermines efforts to fight child sexual abuse. She can express indignation that those with an anti-religious agenda squander resources that could be far better employed elsewhere.

Some villain on Twitter accosted me the moment I put the subject out there: “So, NO child is EVER separated from its parent(s) for ANY reason for religious purposes (or within a religious setting) by JWs... is that what you are saying?”

Well, duh—no. But NO child EVER separated is a far cry from ALL children ROUTINELY separated, which is the case with other groups Witnesses are compared to, as though apples to apples. Sunday Schools, youth camps and clubs—alas, they have proved to be breeding grounds for child sexual abuse. Witnesses do not have such settings. What! Do they chain their children at home so that no outside contact is possible? Does any balanced person? Imagine the uproar if they did.

Holly Folk also carries the “advantage” of being a survivor herself. “How would you know what it feels like to be abused?” people can (and have) said to me. I don’t. But she does. It gives her a freeness of speech that no non-victim will possess.

The closest I ever came to abuse was when I was walking up and down auto dealer row prior to my 16th birthday, anticipating the used car I might buy once I had my license. A certain slimeball approached and tried to befriend me. “They keep the really good cars in back,” he told me, eager to go there. Even as I evaded him, it was not due to my street smarts or lack of naïveté. I was as sheltered a lad as ever existed, with no specific knowledge of even what a child abuser was. (an ignorance not uncommon at the time.) I just knew that you don’t put the really good cars in the back—you put them up front where people can see them.

They are very thorough articles that Holly writes. Press on the links:

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

Part 4

I like it also that Holly Folk does not fear to take on the “money tree” that is lawyers. This doesn’t speak for or against victims in itself, of course, just the inherent possibility for abuse of such as system. In my community, there are so less than 7 accident injury firms that constantly advertise. Not to mention about twice that number that advertise over various carcinogens, medical treatments, devices, and of course, sexual abuse claims. Almost always the Catholic Church is targeted, and the Boy Scouts. Sometimes I hear a catch-all of any abuse in any religious setting.

I get it that injured people seek redress. Still, the sheer cacaphony of legal noise will strike most as overkill—a massive societal transfer of funds with lawyers netting a third. Don’t think the profit motive is absent with the Witness situation, Ms. Folk says, just like it is not in any other. It is no different than defense companies cooking up scenarios of peril so as to sell their goods, or pharmaceutical companies overplaying threats to our health for the same reason, or for that matter, any merchandiser doing whatever it must to expand the market for its goods or services.

”My lawyer got me 5 million dollars, 23 times what the insurance company said.” Such are the ads that I hear. What I do not hear is, “My neighbors all celebrated with me. Then they opened their insurance premium bills.” Where does anyone think the money comes from? The insurance company itself? They just pass the cost along. They have to, in order to survive. 

....

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Vic Vomodog’s Blood Pressure Shot to the Sky—They Had to Call NASA

Vic Vomodog’s face got redder and redder. His blood pressure shot to the sky—they had to call NASA.

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I began to worry for him—just like I should have worried for the small-town judge Victor V Blackwell stood up to. Victor had been representing draft-age Witnesses in the volatile WWII years and the petty tyrant would barely allow him to open his mouth. “Another word out of you and I will jail you for contempt!” he roared.

“I looked around and saw lawyers, reporters, and professionals—I knew I wasn’t going to jail,” Brother Blackwell related years later at a Niagara Falls assembly. He told the judge: “Your Honor, if we have reached the place in this country where a lawyer can’t speak for his client, or present his defenses, I may as well be in jail with him.”

From his book, O’er the Ramparts They Watched: “Hot anger blazed from the “judge’s” face. His countenance flushed redder than a beet. The veins in his neck protruded like the swelling in the throat of a chameleon. Everyone in the courtroom waited for him to burst asunder....After some little time, gaining a small measure of composure, he told me and my client to stand up in front of him. We did. Then came the sentence:

“I sentence you to serve five years in a federal prison to be approved by the Attorney General. My only regret, you yellow coward, is that I cannot give your twenty-five years.”

Don’t think neutrality is an easy sell when nationalistic fever runs hot.

The judge died several days later. Townspeople said he had never cooled off from his fit of anger. When Victor next visited that town, the locals told him, “You killed our judge.” “I’m sorry,” he responded, but he later allowed at the Niagara Falls assembly that the bullying fellow had brought it on himself.

Every once in a while Vic Vomodog gets worked up like that. He fires out accusations as with a Gatling gun and I begin to worry that if I answer them it will be detrimental to his health.

Ah, well—if he dies, he dies.

You Jehovah Witnesses are a cult!

It used to be that if you fell under the spell of a charismatic leader, withdrew from society, dressed oddly, did strange things—you just might be a member of a cult. Nowadays just thinking outside the box is enough to trigger the C-word.

Um, did the early Christians falsely declare the Great Day of Almighty God?”

Yes. “While they were listening to these things, he told another illustration, because he was near Jerusalem and they thought that the Kingdom of God was going to appear instantly.” (Luke 19:11)

Did they pretend to be the ‘faithful and discreet slave’?

Yes. “As they traveled on through the cities, they would deliver to them for observance the decrees that had been decided on by the apostles and the elders who were in Jerusalem.” (Acts 16:4)

“Ban Jehovah's Witnesses they prefer seeing people dying than receiving a blood transfusion and this is enough to ban them.”

It is controversial to be sure, but since they do not smoke, do not do illicit drugs, do not drink to excess, do not war, they on balance save far more lives than they cost. Even their stand on blood has sparked development of bloodless techniques and these have probably saved more lives than transfusion refusal has cost.

They’ll use their ban in Russia to feed their persecution complex!”

Probably. This is because of the many verses such as Matthew 5:11‬: “Happy are you when people reproach you and persecute you and lyingly say every sort of wicked thing against you for my sake.  Rejoice and be overjoyed...for in that way they persecuted the prophets prior to you.”‬

As an organisation they have keep silence about abuse amongst their members and the wall of silence regarding child abuse is unforgivable.

Alas, there is no sizable group on earth, religious or not, that has successfully purged all child abuse from its midst. Still, with JWs, it is almost always members’ abuse that leaders are accused of ‘covering up.’ Not good, but better than the pattern elsewhere where leaders are the ones committing the abuse and there is not even a mechanism for discovering abuse among members.

You didn’t sign on to the Australian redress plan. What’s wrong with you?

When a child abuser is nabbed, unless he is a person in authority, is his religious affiliation ever even mentioned? With Jehovah’s Witnesses, abuse committed by leaders is rare. With the other signees, be they religious or not, it is the pattern. Witness cases that have come to attention are nearly always among rank and file members, something the other signees haven’t even a mechanism to track. 

Other signees have structure in which children are systemically separated from parents, such as Sunday School or youth groups. If you sponsor such a program, it stands to reason that you ought be held accountable to provide for their safety. JWs do not have such programs.

The differences are significant enough that JWs have not signe on to a “one size fits all” program, but instead handle cases that arise on an individual basis. Next thing you know, Hyundai will be supposed responsible for abuse situations that arise among its customers.

No one has apostates as dedicated to their crusade as do Jehovah's Witnesses. One could say they validate us. Since they were a huge concern in the first century—no NT writer not dealing with them—if they were not a huge concern today, would one not have to wonder why?‬

“If only the were banned here, like Russia. The only way to make sure they won't come back here is to open the door naked.”

This does not work. A friend of mine, a registered nurse, said to one such person: “You don’t have anything that I haven’t seen before.”

 

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You Can’t Always Get What You Want—Kicking Back at the Villains

When Mark Sanderson speaks of the wisdom of the modest ones and how you don’t jump the gun and assume it is your place to do this or that, I don’t figure that he must be speaking to someone else. I figure maybe he is speaking to me.   

This is because I remember how Brother McPhee at the Circuit Assembly related how he gave counsel to the circuit elders via assembly talks and when he returned he found they had not followed it. When he asked why they told him that they thought he was talking about the brothers in Pennsylvania. He related the experience, repeated the counsel given, and added “No, brothers—I was speaking to you, not those bad brothers in Pennsylvania.” 

They are bad there, however at mention on the mixed website of some within the organization going rogue, I said that sometimes I feel that I am becoming one of them.

I told the elders that I would not get into squabbles with these characters, and I said that so as not to be oblivious to theocratic counsel. Yet here I find myself making sporadic ad hominem attacks—(not many really, but it does happen—sort of like when an elder backed into my car in the drive and said a bad word that I have never heard him say before, and then he apologized, and I said “Don’t worry about it—that’s what bumpers are for)—to a few yo-yos on the the mixed forum. Of course, I don’t beat myself up too much over it—if these characters would work on their ad hominems a bit more, it wouldn’t happen. And it is also true that in the absence of theocratic counsel, I would be much worse. But even so, I am allowing personal exasperation to throw barbs here and there after I said I would not do it.

The initial long response to one thread was okay, of course, because that constitutes as though a letter to the editor. Maybe even the first retort to you-know-who can be overlooked since she is so much the way she is. But the third one was unnecessary and just reflects personal lack of self-control.

“I find, then, this law in my case: When I wish to do what is right, what is bad is present with me....I see in my body another law warring against the law of my mind and leading me captive to sin’s law that is in my body.  Miserable man that I am!” (Romans 7:21-24)

I have to behave better. I said that I would.

But Anna said: 

Judging by the few comments in response there are ones who understand where you are coming from and are even grateful for ones like you, as one of them said: "My study conductor was always unsure about the what to say to the questions I'd bring. So I began looking for jehovah's witnesses that were/are responding and thankfully I found a good few, including yourself ....... and to be honest I'm not 100% certain that I would have continued if I hadn't been able to get answers to questions and honest perspectives on being a Witness" ....So what's the problem, really? In fact the sooner one understands that, the less chance there is of being stumbled or shocked and leaving. [bolding hers]

The problem is that I told the elders I wouldn’t do it. But because I believe what you have just said and from time to time get emails stating the same, I don’t beat myself up when I break my resolve, though I do say “Don’t make it a habit.”

When the elders met with me after the meeting, I had no thought at all of putting the experience online. That occurred to me later

I just came to think I’d let it stand as a real time example of responding to counsel even if I don’t agree with every aspect of it. The only examples of meeting with the elders that ever appear online are those written by unruly persons already on the edge, like Dathan and those rebellious louts, who rail at the attempt at “mind control” and cry ad nauseum over their right to free speech, missing every spiritual point in the process of making their dominant fleshy one: “No one’s telling me what to do!”

I don’t resent the counsel at all. I take it for just what it is—loving oversight.  I both accept and appreciate that Jehovah leads his people via a human agency, and I am grateful that there is something that corresponds to verses such as Hebrews 13:17, to “be obedient to those who are taking the lead among you and be submissive, for they are keeping watch over you as those who will render an account, so that they may do this with joy and not with sighing, for this would be damaging to you.

As such, I accept they have the responsibility to counsel in line with scripture, and I don’t carry on as though my toes are being stepped on or my rights infringed upon. They represent the human link in the divine/human interface, and they do not demand lockstep walking even as they give pointed counsel. I don’t consider myself above them. They are above me as regards authority.

I appreciate their efforts to check me, and as stated, I would be far worse in the absence of godly counsel to not engage with those who show by word or deed that acquiescence to Jehovah’s standards and all that is entailed is repugnant to them. It does me good to be checked by them, for I do believe that we become who we hang out with. We may not become it instantly, but we do so eventually—if not in point of argument then in forfeiting the Christlike manner—and often even in point of argument, as they are almost always based on following the trends of the day.

I would like it if there was a little more organizational pushback on some of the charges leveled against us—you know, take these guys on. I’ve said it many times before. But you can’t always get what you want. You can’t always get what you want. You can’t always get what you want. But if you try sometime, you just might find, you get what you need. 

And I have. I can’t go charging around like an enraged bull. But that kind of conduct can get a guy skewered anyway. It does me well to do what I do under the discipline of conforming to theocratic counsel. Even if in one aspect I am not a stellar example of it. I am in most other aspects.

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The Bridegroom of Blood and Rizpah—Verses to Trip up a Scoundrel

When I wrote the post about deciphering the bridegroom of blood, I didn’t know that those verses were on the program. Thus, it might have seemed that I was making some snarky remark about whatever had been written. I wasn’t. 

My post wasn’t really about Zipporah and Moses, anyway—that is but a side point. The real point is that passages like Exodus 4:24-26 are very hard to explain to people...

Now on the road at the lodging place, Jehovah met him and was seeking to put him to death. Finally Zipporah took a flint and circumcised her son and caused his foreskin to touch his feet and said: “It is because you are a bridegroom of blood to me.” So He let him go. At that time she said, “a bridegroom of blood,” because of the circumcision”

...and that one effect of them existing is that they serve to separate persons conscious of their spiritual need from persons who are not. It is as though a forerunner of ‘separating the sheep from the goats.’

Ida mentioned an ‘apostate’ in her family who was impressed with the Dawkins book, The God Delusion, someone who “was inquisitive in all the wrong ways and too smart for his own boots.” These characters get separated out by such passages, and the others mentioned in the post, like the one of God ‘making’ the blind one (Exodus 4:11) and the one of Jesus’ flesh and blood—true food and drink (John 6:55). The ones too “smart for their own boots“ (my wife says it is their pants they are too smart for) either are excited that they now have a chance to prove their intellect by explaining what it tells us about some technical point that is not spiritual and doesn’t really matter, anyway. Or, they are put off by it, declaring it ‘ridiculous’ and ‘not worth their time’—and you almost wonder if it is deliberate on God’s part to trip them up this way. I think it is. 

I take such ‘bridegroom of blood’ verses, and for the most part I shelve them. I play around with them a little bit, but if you take them too seriously they become like that pebble in your shoe that begins to drive you nuts. Yeah—it could mean a lot of things, and there is not enough detail to know. Besides, they are essentially trivia, something that doesn’t interest me all that much, even Bible trivia. Maybe it should, but it doesn’t. If there is not enough to go on, I make a few stabs at it, glean or salvage what I can, and move on.

It’s far more interesting to me how people are separated out over such passages—and it is roughly according to their heart. I used to illustrate it with a secular parallel: “When Trump tweets that North Korea has launched its nuclear missels, people of common sense will run for the hills. People of critical thinking will run to their keyboards to point out that the idiot can’t even spell the word right.”

Unfortunately, the secular situation has grown so toxic that I can barely use that illustration anymore, though I love it. Trump has been under non-stop attack since he began, he has a sizable ego, a background unlike any politician, a crazy set of hurdles to leap, and he has taken to acting so erratically that you don’t know if he is losing it or deliberately goading his enemies—the list of which grows ever longer with each erratic tweet. I don’t even pretend to know what is going on anymore. Heckuva system for running a country, though.

Rizpah offers another example of how sometimes we try to sanitize verses, whereas I almost think it would be better to say, “Hoo, boy!” and move on. Instead, we almost act as though ones like her are as modern-day Witnesses transposed to a different setting, with concerns intact about dress & grooming, and turning in service time. 

With Rizpah, it’s a worse mess than with Zipporah:

“...the daughter of Saul whom she bore to Adriel the son of Barzillai the Meholathite.  Then he handed them over to the Gibeonites, and they hung their dead bodies on the mountain before Jehovah. All seven of them died together; they were put to death in the first days of harvest, at the start of the barley harvest.  Then Rizpah the daughter of Aiah took sackcloth and spread it out on the rock from the start of harvest until rain poured down from the heavens on the bodies; she did not allow the birds of the heavens to land on them by day nor the wild beasts of the field to come near by night. David was told what Saul’s concubine Rizpah the...”

When this was in our CLAM program, the comment was that Rizpah’s great love for God was such that she would not allow the hung bodies to be devoured by the birds overnight because she had such high regard for his law—as though any other woman would have no problem letting the birds devour the remains of her sons. She probably went insane, is my take, and whether she had regard for the law or not hardly seems the point. 

Now, it turns out that I amazed everyone by knowing all about Rizpah—an obscure character that no one else had ever heard of. The reason for this is that there is a book called Rizpah, by Charles Israel, that I read shortly after coming into the truth. The remarkable thing is that it made Rizpah, one of Saul’s concubines, the pivotal character, and told everything though her eyes. And in her eyes, Saul was the hero, David the usurper, and “the dishonest scribes” had rewritten history to reverse what had really taken place. 

All the events in Bible narrative were covered. What was remarkable is that it all made perfect sense as she told it—events could be seen from that point of view. I’ll have to read the book again to see if I still feel that way—it’s sitting on my shelf now—I just got it from eBay. But it was the first in a series of impressions—sometimes they have grown weaker and sometimes stronger—that things can be presented another way, and that we choose the way we look at them because we choose a view that leads somewhere—if you choose Rizpah’s view, all you are left with are endless beefs about how things ‘should’ have been.

For me, this carries over as to how we view ‘apostates.’ Things can be seen from their point of view, but we choose ours because it leads somewhere. We avoid theirs because it doesn’t. Or rather it does, just like Rizpah’s views, but it leads to places we do not want to go because of heart. They do want to go where they go, again because of heart. Head has little to do with it—it is just employed to devise a convincing rationale for what the heart has already chosen.

Our choice: matters of life being decided by Jehovah’s standards. Their choice: “The way of Jehovah is not adjusted right,” and thus they choose man’s rule (we do, too, have the wisdom to direct our own step!—and even if we don’t, no one’s telling us what to do!) or they choose ‘Jehovah-lite’—(let’s not worry about us being a people for his name. Let’s redefine it as he being a God for our name). In either case, the head is charged to spin no end of arguments to “make it so,” as Picard would say.

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‘Using’ the Pandemic to ‘Recruit’ - Sheesh! What is it With These Nutcases?

It must really confound those who accuse the JW organization of being a cult that few people are behaving better these days, or more reasonably, with more of an eye toward the public good. That #CultExpert tweets about how Jehovah’s Witnesses manipulate people, and I reply that their followers put his to shame for vanquishing COVID. Jehovah’s Witnesses immediately transferred all gatherings to Zoom and issued strong counsel to observe government-recommended social distancing—which our people will observe because they strive to be obedient. But his followers? Some will observe social distancing, no doubt—probably even most, but is his mission statement ‘Freedom of Mind’ really compatible with obedience to secular authority? You don’t think some will use their ‘freedom of mind’ to tell the government to buzz off—‘We’ll party on the beach if we feel like it!?’—thus spreading COVID far and wide?

Doubtless they expected ‘scare-mongering’—‘using’ the present crisis to scare new ones into the fold—and in fact, there have been accusations of that. But you really really have to stretch the point if you go there. The lead post on jw.org is the most socially responsible contribution imaginable, replete with suggestions on how to cope with isolation and resulting loneliness. With people beside themselves with anxiety, unable to cope in many cases, you don’t think that is a valuable contribution, perhaps THE most valuable? After all, if your psyche breaks down, all the physical relief in the world does you no good.

It reminds me of the verse on muzzling the talk of the ignorant ones by doing good. To be sure, hostile ones are still criticizing—but in doing so,  they are also plainly revealing their ignorance, and in some cases, their hate.

In fact, I don’t quite go there with the CultExpert, for some of the groups he monitors really DO seem pretty strange—so I don’t go there, though I do think about it—I almost want to say: “LET them join a cult if it helps them get through this and save their sanity! What are you offering in lieu—that we should put our hope in the next crop of politicians? Haven’t we been down that road countless times before?”

Affirming some cult idiot’s charge that I am ‘using’ the pandemic to ‘recruit,’ (to anyone concerned about that, I reply that on the 200th contact I will ask if they want to convert and then they can say ‘no’—in the meantime, it’s just conversation—don’t worry about it) I have many times tweeted that lead post to persons, sometimes in response to a specific plea like with Mr. Fiend, and sometimes I just throw it out there—with good results in both cases. Sometimes the tweets are retweeted. Unless you are a snarling ‘ain’t-cultist,’ people do not misunderstand—they know that you are trying to help.

As always, you tailor your tweet to the person. To persons who appear secular, you say (this one was lamenting a suicide she had read about): “It is a terrible thing. Healthy people struggle when their routine is uprooted, let alone persons unwell to begin with. I sent this to someone who tweeted that he was frankly losing it. There is a spiritual component to it, but it is mostly on combatting isolation and loneliness”—and I attach the link.

To someone decidedly irreligious, you might say: “As a suggestion—nothing more—here is a series of posts on how to cope with isolation and loneliness. Upended routines are driving everyone up a tree. My turn is probably next. Like Bob Dylan: ‘The riot squad is restless, they need somewhere to go.’” I like to play the Dylan card—it doesn’t mean that you have to. You also don’t exempt yourself—hence the ‘my turn is probably next,’

My new pinned tweet is: “With #mentalhealth under assault and even balanced people buckling under the stress, I can’t imagine a better read than this one on coping with isolation and loneliness from #JehovahsWitnesses,” as I include a link to the post.

Note the hashtags. Ages ago my daughter said to me: “They’re hashtags, Dad, not crosstags.” Hashtags are fair game on social media, whereas tagging individuals directly is generally considered rude, unless you know full well that they will welcome it. Hashtags will draw in anyone else who monitors the subject—as an experiment, enter a hashtag anything on social media to see what comes up. You can even use it as your own filing system if you choose a hashtag unique enough.

It can, however backfire. If the hashtag is of any controversial topic, it can bring in people who want to argue, even insult. In the case of Jehovah’s Witnesses, there are disgruntled former members—‘apostates’—that can be attracted—in fact, they almost surely will be. “Oh, yeah,” you can mutter. “They’ll come alright. As surely as flies to dung, they will come!” But you should not say this because, while you are comparing apostates to flies, you are also comparing yourself to dung—so you should seek another metaphor.

My #mentalhealth hashtag drew in some mental health people, some of whom expressed great appreciation. But true to warning, my #jehovahswitnesses hashtag drew in some ‘apostates.’

“The rather large elephant in the paragraph [about the comfort JWs offer] is the Jehovah’s Witness shunning policy.”

But I replied (in three tweets):

“There is hardly an issue here. Those who would trigger a ‘shunning policy’ are those for whom, at the present time, the last thing in the world they would want is to abide by the principles of those who wrote the article. Even so, they are welcome to take from it what they will.”

“The thoughts expressed in the article are non-denominational, offered freely to all, even those on the outs at present with JWs. It’s meant as a public service. One need not take it. One can always put trust in the politicians, medical staff, and economists to fix matters.”

I looked at the detractor’s profile and discovered that she was one who was trying to torpedo the JW organization’s status as a charitable religious organization, something that they plainly are:

“In fact, it is an excellent post for consideration of the @CharityComms, though not written for that reason. Look, nobody is everything to everyone. But they will recognize that we are well past the time for nursing grudges—not with C19 threatening the mental health of the planet.”

It shut her up! I couldn’t believe it! It is unheard of! ‘Apostates’ never ever EVER give up—I’ve had to block some—and yet she gave up. There is no finer proof of 1 Peter 2:15 than that: “For it is the will of God that by doing good you may silence the ignorant talk of unreasonable men.”

Defending Jehovah’s Witnesses with style from attacks... in Russia, with the ebook ‘I Don’t Know Why We Persecute Jehovah’s Witnesses—Searching for the Why’ (free).... and in the West, with the ebook ‘TrueTom vs the Apostates!’ (free)

They Didn’t Sensationalize this Virus Even a Little Bit, Much Less Use it to Scare People

There are faithful sisters (and brothers, too) who must cope with opposed, sometimes even apostate, mates. One of those mates posted:

“I told my wife that maybe there will never again be meetings as before. I hope the JWs will wake up and start to examine the scriptures seriously and search what all this could lead to.”

In fact, it looks like meetings are pretty much going on with barely a hiccup. They have simply switched to conference-call software, with telephone tie-in for any not up to speed on this. Rather than take his self-predicted five years—he has styled himself as sort of a prophet, unusual for today’s ‘apostates, who mostly go atheist—to make himself even more insightful and pure than he already is, maybe he should repent if possible and try to get into that new format with his wife rather than being a drag that she must contend with.

Our congregation will start with the conference calls at this mid-week meeting, Zoom in our case. (We will meet in Zoom Rooms—who would have thunk it?) Over the weekend we streamed it from apparently one of the Bethels. I could not help but think how the contents would have been disappointing to any ‘anti-cultist’ because there was not a bit of alarmism and everyone treated the virus threat as just one more run-of-the-mill challenge to adapt to. Referred to several times in comments, it wasn’t even called the ‘Chinese virus.’ They didn’t get into any squabbles as to whether they should be able to describe it that way or not—since it gets some all incensed, they avoided the term, and just said virus or Covid 19 or Corona or whatever. It is so much like this world to ‘taunt’ the other side, deliberately getting them going usually for the sake of put down, if not ridicule, but they didn’t stoop to that for a moment. It almost made me ashamed that I do stoop to it (but probably not ashamed enough to stop), though I am trying to restrain myself, not always easily.

They didn’t sensationalize this virus even a little bit, much less use it to ‘scare’ people. It easily could be used that way. They didn’t. Not even a hint of it. So I will—just in a speculative bent, you understand, no more.

For the longest time we have said our preaching will end someday. What if this turns out to be it? It’s not impossible, though no one suggests it. I expect this to blow over and normal preaching and activities will resume, but there is no reason to accept that as a foregone conclusion. What if the world leaders who just assume you can shut down the entire world economy and start it up again are wrong, and instead another worldwide Great Depression ensues? Then deaths then will dwarf anything that the virus itself brings on, including many a suicide. Will people endure it as resolutely as they did 90 years ago? I wouldn’t hold my breath, not with the belligerence and non-cooperation that defines the overall culture today. And wouldn’t that be a decisive verdict to the facades men have erected? The worldwide financial bedrock system, that everyone depends upon and have taken for granted will endure no matter what—dissolving so easily in the face of what might well be an overreaction to a virus only two or three times more nasty than the regular flu—bad, to be sure, but not nearly as bad as the devastation triggered in the all-out war to contain it, a war that leaders can only hope will be won but do not know. As that mighty structure crumbles, who knows what efforts nations may resort to in their desire to shore it up?

Then all these ones on the outside lambasting the Witness organization every time one of them so much as farts may begin to feel less comfortable. For the Witness brotherhood appears to be holding up pretty well, and it is holding up well independent of material assets. If worse comes to worse, you can run the whole program from a server in Brother Lett’s dorm room. It might even be that conditions could devolve to Acts 2 mode, in which Christians are physically caring for the needs of others. If you have kept yourself plugged into the brotherhood that, with all its flaws, is one run on love, you will be able to weather whatever shaking of the world is going on. Those who were there but have deliberately put themselves outside it and are united in nothing other than finding fault—of them I am not so sure.

A speaker quoted from Numbers 12 recently. “Face to face I speak with [Moses], and not in riddles. Why then, did you not fear to speak against him?” Yes, I know, I know—those taking the lead today are not Moses, but I am not so unfearful to declare they are not filling exactly the modern role that he did the ancient. Yes, they are not Moses, but then Moses was not Moses in the eyes of his critics. What were they murmuring about? His Hittite wives. He really did have Hittite wives. It was not an invalid complaint. God accepted him anyway and struck down those who would rise up against him.

I can easily extrapolate, based on the snarling hate expressed by some for the theocratic organization, and current events showing that opposition shifting into high gear, most notably in Russia—I can envision that attack on the city ‘existing without bars’ and ‘the city that seems open to plunder’—I can easily envision it—not as a slam-dunk gonna-happen-now, but certainly as a possibility. Will religions in general hold onto their own as JWs hold on to theirs? Time will time, but I’m dubious. How many will so easily switch to new methods of keeping in touch? How many are so organized into not just congregations, but groups within congregations, so that no one other than those who willfully keep their distance is overlooked?

Revelation presents scenarios of people ‘warring against God’ and one can’t help but wonder: ‘Who would be stupid enough to do that?’ Now some scenarios emerge. ‘Do not meddle with these men so that you may not be found actually fighters against God,’ Gamaliel said. It was enough to dissuade the Sanhedrin. ‘Forget that!’ enemies say today as they go in for what they imagine is the kill.

The view of the humanists is that human solutions must prevail, and they are livid that any would look to another source. They are livid that any would put their trust in anything else. They attack and put the most ridiculous interpretation on Letts’ words about what doesn’t bother him at all, because they can’t stand what he looks to for salvation. To one of these characters ranting about how Lett uses calamity to ‘exploit’ members with fear so as to keep them in line, I said that ‘the entire premise of the faith is that we are living in the last days of this system of things in which difficult times will prevail. To point to evidence of that does not frighten them; it strengthens them—it validates their faith.’

Defending Jehovah’s Witnesses with style from attacks... in Russia, with the ebook ‘I Don’t Know Why We Persecute Jehovah’s Witnesses—Searching for the Why’ (free).... and in the West, with the ebook ‘TrueTom vs the Apostates!’ (free)

Persecution of Jehovah’s Witnesses in Russia—and Identification of Those Who Instigate It.

The New York Times today reports the torture of a member of Jehovah’s Witnesses in the Russian campaign to eliminate the faith. It is the second such instance of torture coming to light. [edit—several more came within a few days] Arrests are commonplace. More commonplace are raids with the confiscation of personal property. 200 Jehovah’s Witnesses were recently place of the federal list of extremists, which means that bank accounts are frozen and they can no longer transact routine financial business.

With an active and prolific critical, at times hate, campaign being waged against Jehovah’s Witnesses online, it is reasonable to think that it indirectly instigates persecution of them in Russia. It is reasonable to think that it indirectly instigates the torching of two Kingdom Halls in the United States during 2019, both of which burned to the ground.

Many groups are harassed in Russia, but it is Jehovah’s Witnesses who are head-and-shoulders the primary target. Why? It boils down to Jesus’ words: “If you were part of the world, the world would be fond of what is its own. Now because you are no part of the world...for this reason the world hates you.” (John 15:19) It is no more complicated than that. Hatred against Witnesses may be cloaked as reports from a “whistleblower” or complaints of those who would advocate freedom from “mind control,” but at root the motivation is simply disturbance that ones should choose to be “no part of the world.” No villain on TV ever says, “I am the villain.” Instead, he paints himself the wronged one with a merited score to settle—and the program director strives so that we all see his point of view. We must not be obtuse.

From TrueTom vs the Apostates!—“The book Secular Faith - How Culture Has Trumped Religion in American Politics attempts to reassure its secular audience through examining the changing moral stands of churches on five key issues. The book points out that today’s church members have more in common with atheists than they do with members of their own denominations from decades past. Essentially, the reassurance to those who would mold societal views is: ‘Don’t worry about it. They will come around. They always do. It may take a bit longer, but it is inevitable.’ Jehovah’s Witnesses have thwarted this model by not coming around.”

What Secular Faith is saying is that churches have in many respects ceased being “no part of the world”—and having done such, are not hated, since “the world is fond of what is its own.” Jehovah’s Witnesses, and almost they alone, are yet remaining “no part of the world”—and that is why they are hated. That is why they have “apostates” who are off the charts in expressing vitriol. “Apostates” (within the Christian context) can be expected to proliferate in direct proportion to how the main body stays separate from the world. As such, Jehovah’s Witnesses should almost be proud of theirs, for in them they are validated. A religion that has made its peace on the “five key issues” of Secular Faith—what’s to apostatize from?

Anti-Witnesses scream “Cult!” like patrons scream ‘Fire!’ in a crowded theater. Are Jehovah’s Witnesses a cult? To the extent they are, it is because the Bible is a cult manual. The behavioral, informational, thought, and emotional “control” that anti-Witness activists complain about can be found in the urgings of the New Testament writers themselves. The words indicate no more than people living by the Bible, living peaceably in this world while they look to the righteous new one to come with the arrival of the kingdom Jesus taught his followers to pray for, the one the Bible describes as “the real life.” (1 Timothy 6:19) The agenda of the virulent Witness detractors is simply that no one should think in such an “impractical” way. 

A faith that remains “no part of the world” is thought socially backward, even socially harmful by some. But that hardly means it ought not be allowed to exist, particularly since it dovetails with Jesus’ words. “There has only been one Christian,” Mark Twain too cynically remarked. “They caught and killed him—early.”

I am not even sure that Witnesses should run from the word. It may be well instead to highlight its origin. It is the same origin as ‘cultivate’—which denotes ‘caring for something’—and in a religious sense it refers to ‘caring for the matters of the gods.’ Okay. I’ll take it. Jehovah’s Witnesses ‘care for the matters’ of God. They trigger opposition from ones who don’t want them to do that. They trigger opposition from those who have crossed over to embrace various aspects of the world—the world that Jesus says not to be part of.

This is clear in the testimony of one witness testifying for the prosecution in the Russian trial that would ban the JW organization. She complained of “complete and total control of life by the Administrative Center.” Asked to give an example of this, she reported her expulsion from the congregations after she “began her close, but not officially registered, relations with a man.” In other words, she wants to violate, within the congregation, the Bible sanction of ‘sex only within marriage.’ The Witness organization does not allow it, and she spins it as “complete and total control of life,” hoping to get the Russian Justices riled up.

Look, it is fine to adopt the standards of the world so long as one goes there to do it—don’t bring it into the congregation. She signed on for such Bible-based standards, now she wants to change them—and when thwarted in that attempt, she seeks to get the organization that got in her way banned at the Russian Supreme Court! It is no more than revenge. It is no more than insisting the standards of the greater world be accommodated in the Christian congregation.

Disfellowshipping itself is a last-ditch attempt at discipline, when all else has failed, to ensure that a member not bring standards of the world, no matter how commonly accepted elsewhere, into the congregation. Is it harsh? It certainly can be spun that way, but as ought to be clear by considering Secular Faith, no denomination has succeeded in obeying Jesus’ direction to remain “no part of the world” without it.

History testifies that among the reasons Christians were viciously persecuted in the first century was that their rituals were said to include cannibalism. Obviously Jesus’ followers did not do this, but from where might the charge originate? Might one look to the following passage in the sixth chapter of John, which begins by quoting Jesus?

I am the bread of life. Your forefathers ate the manna in the wilderness and yet they died. This is the bread that comes down from heaven, so that anyone may eat of it and not die. I am the living bread that came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread he will live forever; and for a fact, the bread that I will give is my flesh in behalf of the life of the world.

Then the Jews began to argue with one another, saying: “How can this man give us his flesh to eat?” So Jesus said to them: “Most truly I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of man and drink his blood, you have no life in yourselves. Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood has everlasting life, and I will resurrect him on the last day.”

When they heard this, many of his disciples said: “This speech is shocking; who can listen to it?”...Because of this, many of his disciples went off to the things behind and would no longer walk with him. So Jesus said to the Twelve: “You do not want to go also, do you?” Simon Peter answered him: “Lord, whom shall we go away to? You have sayings of everlasting life. We have believed and have come to know that you are the Holy One of God.”  (6:48-69)

What of the ones who did not “come to know” that Jesus was the Holy One of God? What of the ones who “went to the things behind and would no longer walk with him”? Did they thereafter leave their former co-disciples to worship in peace? Or did some of them draw from these words proof that Jesus would recommend cannibalism to his followers? And if some advanced the notion, might there not have arisen ones in the congregation who pinned the blame on Jesus himself for saying the words that got the persecution ball rolling; ‘What a blunder!’—I can imagine some saying (though not in his presence).

It makes me think of the uproar raised over child sexual abuse within Jehovah’s Witnesses today. They are comparatively successful at preventing it—nobody, but nobody, has gathered every single member on earth (at the 2017 Regional Conventions) to consider detailed scenarios in which child sexual abuse might take place so that parents, obviously the first line of defense, can remain vigilant. But the world has little success at preventing CSA, so it focuses on punishing it after the fact, securing the barn door after the cows have fled. Routinely, we read of individuals arrested over CSA allegations. Unless the arrest is of a member of the clergy, the one detail that never accompanies such reports is that of the individual’s religious affiliation or lack thereof. Yet with Jehovah’s Witnesses, that detail is never lacking. Why? 

Plainly, it is that the Witness organization attempted to do something about child sexual abuse—they did not just close their eyes to it—and now detractors are trying to spin it as though they love the stuff. Jehovah’s Witnesses are well-known as a religion that “polices its own.” It is an attribute once viewed favorably, but now in the eyes of critics, it is spun as intolerable “control.” Those taking the lead in the Witness organization thereby came to know of individuals accused of CSA, and their “crime,” if it be one, is in leaving it up to affected ones themselves to report rather than “going beyond the law” to do it themselves. Time will tell how vile that sin is found to be, but it plainly falls far short of actually committing the CSA themselves, which is the pattern elsewhere. 

As with Jesus and his remarks that can, in the scheming of dishonest ones, be spun into encouragement of cannibalism, so the JW policy on CSA is spun by similarly dishonest ones to indicate that the organization is determined to nurture and protect it, whereas nothing could be further from the truth. Three times before the Australian Royal Commission, Geoffrey Jackson of the Witnesses’s Governing Body pleaded for universal, mandatory reporting laws, with no exceptions—if that could only be done, it would make the job of the Witness organization in policing its own without raising the ire of those outside the congregation “so much easier.”

Continuing his cross-examination, Justice Angus Stewart said: “Leaving aside the question of overriding mandatory law from the civil authorities...” I almost wish that Brother Jackson would have interjected at this point, “I wish you would not leave it aside, for it would solve the problem.” The greater world cannot make a dent in preventing childhood sexual abuse, and so it puts the onus on those who are trying to do something about it. Alas, our best lines invariably occur to us too late—had Brother Jackson picked up my line, it probably just would have got their backs up—and then (gulp) he would have looked at me with displeasure.

More on the Russian connection here.
Defending Jehovah’s Witnesses with style from attacks... in Russia, with the ebook ‘I Don’t Know Why We Persecute Jehovah’s Witnesses—Searching for the Why’ (free).... and in the West, with the ebook ‘TrueTom vs the Apostates!’ (free)

You Almost Wish There Would be Some Kickback—Part 2

I don’t follow any Twitter villain as a matter of routine—once in a while I peek—because if I do so I am tempted to respond and if I do that he is nothing but taunting and contemptuous. It is not as though I cannot hold my own & even make inroads but there is hardly any point to it. It is a been there/done that. Besides, I told the elders that I will not do that anymore (not regarding him specifically) and if they ask me again I don’t want to be tempted to lie. Should I cave a time or two, I will readily forgive myself—not to worry on that score—but I would rather not cave by putting the temptation before myself constantly. “Some people just needs killin” says you-know-who, but that doesn’t mean you ought to appoint yourself the one to do it. It has a way of sucking out large chunks of time that can better be used elsewhere.

Today detractors charge what they do before a worldwide audience—the very people whom we are trying to reach, and they at least can be expected to mull it over because there is nothing to counter it. Granted, there are so many other horrific things to monitor in the world that it is hard for anti-JW activists to put their ‘good news’ on the front burner, but it would be silly to say that it has no effect. It wouldn’t take much to counter it. Even a talk parallel to what Bro Losch just gave at the annual meeting regarding dates that failed to come true might do the trick. Once a matter is spoken or written about, you can keep referring back to it. 

The idea is not to silence opposers, for that cannot be done. The idea is to give some who may be swayed by them, even some of our own, something to offset their charges. The organization may choose to do that someday. Or maybe not—time will tell. It certainly is not the ‘whatever is righteous, whatever is chaste, true, lovable,’ etc where we like to remain, so that is good reason to avoid it. But there may be some who feel some sort of defense would come in handy.

Opposers will always have limits to their efforts because they have nothing to replace what they would take away—most people became Witnesses in the first place because they felt exploring the world that is yourself only goes so far as a guide to life.  Still, I have seen people gleefully saw off the branch on which they are sitting and laugh uproariously as they crashed to the ground, like the Dr. Strangelove cowboy who rides the nuke down to destruction, whooping and waving his hat as he drops—some people’s heads would laugh at you from the wheelbarrow carting them away from the guillotine—so some generalized pushback might be in order to prevent that whenever possible. Nasty people usually overplay their hand and in so doing torpedo their own case—never before their followers, of course, but before anyone of sense, it happens. But, still...

I’m not suggesting anyone get into a play-by-play scenario with the ‘good news‘ of those who oppose. I was struck by how, after the first Montana verdict, there were persons who wanted to rub my nose line by line into that first verdict so as to point out how the courts ruled JWs violated law! and then after reversal of that verdict, they said, ‘well, what do you expect? Witnesses follow the law—it’s the law that is not written right.’ People like to follow play-by-play in ongoing court trials these days to the extent that I almost say, ”Well, send the jury home, then—they don’t want to be there anyway. Put it all on social media and decide the matter by ‘likes’”. I never weigh in on developing matters—it is nothing more that common sense modesty to realize that since you can see but 1% of what the judge or jury sees, it is a fool’s mission to go there.

I’m not speaking of anything detailed as a defense, because details will not be constant from one situation to another. They represent non-repeatable human idiosyncrasies, and I have no problem accepting that people can and do say wrong or dumb things. No. Just something like the generalized facts I outlined in the post, so that if anyone wants to research our stand on matters, they will have more to research than a statement that we “abhor child sexual abuse.”

I am usually shouted down when I bring up one sister’s example—the kumbaya site practically chased me out with pitchforks (though not everyone)—but her example strikes me as a very sensible one—to familiarize herself with “apostate” ideas, so that, in the event her teenage son stumbles across them one fine day and is unsettled, she is able to help him. It is only icing on the cake that the kid is now an adult, has apparently never wobbled, and wonders why is mom is spending so much time with those crazies on the internet. If there were a few resident experts at each Kingdom Hall, people who knew how to keep tabs on what is bad and knew that doing so you does not require you to watch every Jerry Springer episode on the topic—you don’t want to do that because if you immerse yourself in what is sordid in any subject it affects your well-being—you know, balanced people—that it would be a good thing, not a bad thing, because then you might be able to help ones stumbled.

You don’t want to encourage people to go there, just like you don’t want to encourage people to go anywhere that toxic people hang out. These days, pop psychologists win approval by telling you do dump friends and even family members who are “toxic” in favor or those who are not. But to all but forbid people to go produces a strange effect of fleeing from the apostate as one would flee from the bogeyman. You have scenarios like that played out in the drama where the Russian brother inquires of his old friend only to hear that the old friend succumbed to reading literature critical of the organization and is no longer serving Jehovah—as though that’s all it takes to derail decades of service to God!—read a few brochures and you are toast. It’s ridiculous. Better to say, in my view, ‘go there if you must and be on the lookout for the unforgiving slave, for Demas, for the ones who went out because they are not of our sort, for the one fixated on the straws in others’ eyes, for the slave that buried the talent because his master was harsh, effectively saying ”You want disciples? Go out and make them yourself! I’ve got things to do!” Any drama is better, easier to follow, and easier to appreciate, when there are bad guys in the plot.

But won’t some go there and decide the ‘bad guys’ are actually the good guys? Probably. But I suspect no more than when we counsel so strongly not to even glance in a certain direction, and by so doing we appear exactly like a cult to people brought up in its modern definition. Drop down a notch to ‘investigate with caution if you must’ and the perception disappears. Amber Scorah has “her eyes opened” only when she goes into missionary work in China and begins correspondence with an “apostate” for whom it appears that she later dumped her husband in order to run off with? She should have had “her eyes opened” a long time ago, and if she had, that ridiculous phrase would have disappeared from the vocabulary by now. She herself would not be saying that she had her eyes opened—she would be saying that she went off because, like Demas, she prefers the world that JWs have fled—that JWs allowed her to see both plainly, and she chose the pathway that they did not.

The reason that this change of tactics will happen only by small degrees, if it happens at all, is due to what the scriptures say about those taking the lead. They are like the loyal shepherd who sees the wolf climbing the fence and holds the sheep out of harm’s way. They are like the farmer who knows that when you look behind, your plowing goes awry and the rows get all funny. They are like the strategist who says that they will slam you no matter what you do, so ignore them and press the pedal to the metal. They are like the doctor who says to keep away from what will raise your blood pressure and knot your stomach in favor of what is soothing to the soul. They are like the pop psychologist who says you should dump those toxic relationships. They are like the nursing mother who treats the flock tenderly and with protectiveness. They are not like the mom who says, “Alright, lean on that hot stove—see if I care! HA! Burned yourself, ya little snot? That’ll teach ya!” And they certainly are not like the brainwasher who says don’t go there, —‘all the better for me to control you, my dear, hehehe:))))))’ even though that is the only way opposers, and to an increasingly strong degree, the overall world sees it. Why play into their hands? Why go out of our way to prove Jesus’ words that the sons of this system know which way the secular wind blows but the sons of the light wouldn’t even know how to tie the laces of a secular shoe if you gave them one?

Defending Jehovah’s Witnesses with style from attacks... in Russia, with the ebook ‘I Don’t Know Why We Persecute Jehovah’s Witnesses—Searching for the Why’ (free).... and in the West, with the ebook ‘TrueTom vs the Apostates!’ (free)

A Bad Boy Turns Over a New Leaf

Unlike most Witnesses online, my activity is known in my home congregation. This is not due to any forum, which probably will be unknown to them, but to my blog. I have blogged for years. I don’t advertise the fact, but word gets around, and within the year elders have approached me to say that they would like to use me more in the congregation, but is there anything to what they have heard that I engage with apostates?

I at first told them that I did not; however what I did do came close enough to it that it could easily be taken that way and for that reason they probably should not use me in any visible capacity. As long as counsel is what it is, this seems the reasonable course. If there is a blatant example of not following counsel on a point repeatedly made—well, ‘he doesn’t enjoy privileges in the congregation,’ does he? This is not quite fair to me, but it is not about me. I consider it a win-win.

Many times in my writing I have made the point that I am not trying to set an example for others to follow, that I am pure-and-simply a bad boy in this one respect and I don’t try to present myself otherwise—though I will say that it is the only area in which I am a bad boy—I am a good boy in all other respects. I am on excellent terms with all of my elders— all upstanding men whom I respect—and with the congregation as a whole. If a list was ever made as to who is trying or discouraging or toxic or headstrong or aloof or a downer in any respect, I would be the last person to be on it. I am a fine example in every way—except one, and this troubles them.

Anyone visiting my blog can see the book cover for TrueTom vs the Apostates! so its a little hard to say: ‘Don’t know nothing about no apostates here!” One brother on Facebook, who himself writes, when he saw that cover, said, “You’re brave.” I have never made any attempt to hide what I do. I have even written HQ about it, more than once, as to what I am doing and why. They have not responded. I’ve said I don’t expect or require them to, but I will take to heart anything that they do say. Nothing. As for me, the show is not interesting unless there are villains and apostates for me make the perfect villains!—they have tasted the good food and spit it out.

Only about 10-20% of my blog could be described as taking on controversial topics. But blogging itself is not the pathway to popularity within the JW community—some will always give you the fish-eye over it. A visitor I know from HQ spoke at the Kingdom Hall, we engaged in some chit-chat afterward, and I asked him for thoughts about blogging. “Oh, blogging,” he said, as though I had told him that I enjoy farting in the auditorium, and then he migrated into generalities about there being no rules but one must always take into consideration the sensibilities of others, avoid hanging out with bad dudes, and so forth. In the introduction to my 3rd book, I wrote: “Books about Jehovah’s Witnesses authored by Jehovah’s Witnesses are not plentiful. This is a shame, for no outsider, even with the best of intentions, can do justice to the faith as can an insider - they miss the nuances, and in some cases, even the facts. Jehovah’s Witnesses are primarily drawn from the ranks of working people who are not inclined to write books. Pathways of publicizing their faith are already well established. Why write a book when you can and do look people in the eye and tell them what you have to say?” For the most part, the same is true of blogs. 

Two elders wanted to speak with me following Sunday’s Watchtower. How did I still feel regarding interaction with apostates after that lesson and similar items in the past? There have been two other discussions—probably spurred on to priority by consideration of Paul’s counsel that certain pernicious sayings “spread like gangrene” (2 Timothy 2:17) so you want to get right on top of it—the counsel to not engage with apostates is pretty clear.

These are good men and I do not doubt for one moment their concern for me. There is no way I am going to get into any sort of confrontation with them. This is a little challenging because if one has engaged with the malcontents—in some cases the scoundrels—then one knows things in detail that they know only vaguely, and in some cases, not at all.

I asked if I could speak candidly. Obviously, this is just a verbal opening to present that I would speak from the heart and not just regurgitate platitudes or ‘what I am supposed to say’—it’s not to suggest that I would be normally lying through my teeth. Of course, they agreed.

The article was of a catch-all nature of several things to watch out for, several unrelated things that could pierce your shield if you didn’t maintain it—materialism, undue anxiety, lies, and discouragement were in the mix. Now, the only one of these that you can actually sink your teeth into as a direct measurement is “lies and distortions.” Do you engage with those who originate them or not? Easy black or white answer. What can one possibly say about materialism? It is much more subjective. “Did you move into that house that has far more space than you need or didn’t you?”—it’s ridiculous! No one is ever going to say that. The best you can do is what the Watchtower did do—point out that while you might easily be able to afford something with money, which you have far more of than your neighbor, that does not mean that you can afford (for use and maintenance of) it with time, which you have no more of than your neighbor. 

As a byproduct of these other areas being hard to pin down, the only one that might possibly incur restriction of privileges is dealing with apostates. “There are brothers here and in other Halls that show significant weakness as regards to the other three—materialism, discouragement, and anxiety, and it can be plainly seen in their demeanor in some cases,” I said, “yet no way would their privileges ever be affected by it—only for that involving dealings with opposers.”

I spoke of the paragraph about discouragement—one of the four sharp arrows. “What discourages me most,” I said, “is that apostates are taking public shots at the God and the community that I hold dear, and they are catching the ear of many who take to heart what is said and sometimes ignore us in our ministry because of it, and I want to provide an answer and defend the truth, but I can’t because I don’t know what they are saying.” It is not true for me—I do know what they are saying—but for most publishers it is true.

I spoke of the hypothetical youngster who cannot resist, whose curiosity or desire to defend the truth leads him to go to where the bad boys hang out, where he hears distortions that he has never heard before and is totally unprepared for and he is stumbled, at which point no one is able to help him because no one here knows in any detail what he has come across. It’s a lose-lose. I did not say (you always think of your best lines too late) that if you leaned on youngsters not to have illicit sex, and yet one did anyway and acquired an STD, you would not stand by and watch him die. You would educate yourself any way that you had to so as to provide backup rescue.

There is only so far you can go with this reasoning because they only understand what they are counseling you about from just one angle—the spiritual angle, which, to be sure, is the most important one, but still it is only one angle, and it is the angle from which there is a huge non-spiritual vulnerability. They hear and acquiesce to all the points made—they may all be facts—but they are like people anywhere in any genre—just because they are facts does not mean they are the overriding facts. They keep coming back to counsel not to engage with apostates. Do they mean engage like a military general confronting the enemy or engage like a man putting a ring on the finger of his future bride? You almost can’t go there, because they themselves maintain such distance from the topic that they can’t readily distinguish between the two and consider it inappropriate to get close enough to try.

The brother taking the lead is very smart, very loving, very much a balm to everyone. I’ve known him for the longest time and there is no one whom I value more. I have no question that he is primarily and genuinely concerned about my spiritual welfare. I feel bad that I should be the cause of he and some brothers before him feeling obliged to buy out time to speak with me over this—they have other things that they could be doing. I know this because for many years I was an elder and I had many things that I could be doing at any given moment—yet he and others have bought out significant time for me. I’m a bit embarrassed over it.

“How has my spirituality been affected?” they ask. Possibly they are anticipating an answer such as might be on a video: “Well, I have to admit, my spirituality is suffering. I’m not finding the joy I used to....etc.” I tell them that my spirituality, as near as I can tell, gets better all the time because I am able to fire when I see the whites of their eyes—and even that my healthy spirituality is plainly reflected in how I conduct myself and how others view me. 

“Well, pray on it,” one advises. Gingerly I suggest that what if I have prayed on it and then afterward have decided that it is okay, in fact, just the ticket, to do as I am doing?” Nevertheless, how can one turn down the invitation to pray? Sure, I will pray—and in fact, presently I think of the degree to which they may be right and how I might modify my conduct. As is my M.O, I think best when I am writing. As is my M.O, I write best when I realize I am writing before a varied audience ranging from supportive to apathetic to dismissive to opposed, and imposing the discipline upon myself to choose words that will be as effective as possible to all four.

They say things like how Jehovah has all bases covered. He sees that we have the proper direction when we need it, and so forth. While the things I say may be so, and certainly my actions are well-meaning, what about just being obedient to counsel? There they have me. Because I do believe that Jehovah has all bases covered and I do believe in following the lead of the older men—it is part of the package that I signed on for. I can give them a hard time: “Don’t worry about my spirituality—I’ll be just fine—it’s enough to worry about your own spirituality!” but why would I do that? Is that not almost tempting fate? as in “Let he who is standing beware that he does not fall?” I can tell them to buzz off and mind their own business, but why would I do that? These are the men—all of them friends of mine—who will lay down their life for me should the occasion arise, as in John 15:13, for example. “No one has love greater than this, that someone should surrender his life in behalf of his friends,” Jesus said, and these guys will do it in a clutch.

Not only will they die for me, but they will live for me, and they prove it continually. The right-in-their-own-eyes opposers will not die for me. Even were they inclined to, they live on perches of self-imposed isolation and say, some of them, “Who needs organization?” so that should I get into hot water they will not know of it until they read my obituary. I should give my elders a hard time or interfere with that dynamic of living and dying for me? No.

All they want is for me not to cross swords with apostates. They probably are not crazy about my going there in the first place, but that is not the topic of discussion. If I go there to scope out what the enemy is up to, I set no bad example—nobody knows of it. If I go there to refute, I publicly do what the ones I respect for taking the lead have asked me not to do. How do I know that they are not right? How do I know that I am not like the fellow signing out on the city wall after Hezekiah has told the troops to zip it? If I am ineffective, others come to help me out, against Hezekiah’s counsel. If I am effective, others are inspired to do likewise, against Hezekiah’s counsel. How do I know that they will not end up with an arrow through the head on my account? 

What am I doing when I am answering back the malcontents on the forum? I am having a ball is what I am doing! But is it affecting my spirituality as the brothers asked? Well, no—for the most part—that has grown stronger. On the other hand—someone speaks of OCD and she ought to be speaking of it to me—sometimes I come on board with a certain eagerness looking for “apostates” to beat up on. When one or another flames out, like Matthew4 5784 did a few weeks ago and reveals himself pure hate on two legs as respects Jehovah’s people, dropping all pretense of being here to help out, I paint an A on my fuselage and pump my fist! But is it good for me? I do get to hone my writing skills, which is why I started in the first place, but is that enough to override other matters? I am not exactly doing a “May Jehovah rebuke you!” am I? I am not exactly imitating Jesus in saying “leave them be—blind guides is what they are,” am I? Moreover, others come along for the first time, not knowing the history, read my retorts, and say, “Man, that brother is brutal! Can he really be a brother?”

I’m going to turn over a new leaf with regard to interacting with these guys. It doesn’t mean I won’t still be online and it doesn’t mean I won’t still interact with those who strike me as on our team—even if I question their judgment sometimes. I’ll probably renege from time to time, and if I do, I will forgive myself, but the effort will be to follow through on my resolve. If need be, I will write a reply to this or that fathead and then not send it—I’ll incorporate it elsewhere or just stick it in the file. “How’s that for praying about it and waiting to see what comes out of it?” I’ll tell someone someday.

Then, too—and I’m almost ashamed to put this last, since it should be first—though not necessarily from the reader’s point of view, which is why I place it where I do—my wife is far more conventional than me and has long been troubled by my online activity. She doesn’t for one second worry about my loyalty, but she does in some undefined way worry that maybe I will yet come to harm somehow. I’ll modify my approach for her sake as well.

Are the brothers “brainwashed”—the ones who counseled me about a matter that they do not understand themselves from a fleshly point of view—the only point of view that is of concern to the greater world? Well, I would have to say that on this point they are—with the important caveat that there is barely anyone anywhere who is not “brainwashed” in some regard on the roads that they travel. Max Planck’s saying with regard to science does not hold true with regard to science alone; it holds true—admittedly it is hyperbole, so it does not literally hold true, but it sure does point in a direction—“A new scientific truth does not triumph by convincing its opponents and making them see the light, but rather because its opponents eventually die, and a new generation grows up that is familiar with it.” It applies anywhere there are people. It applies to me. We do not turn on a dime even when hit over the head with proof-positive reasoning.

Follow the flag and get your head blown off in consequence, and only some of your countrymen will think your death noble—everyone else in the world will consider your death in vain. It doesn’t take some brainwashing to buy into that? Follow unquestioningly the overall goals of this system to ‘get a good education so that you may get a good job’—not a tad of brainwashing there that that is the path to happiness? When my wife worked as a nurse with the geriatric community, she said the most common thing in the world was for bewildered elderly persons to look around them in their waning years and say, “is this all there is?” These were not “losers” in life, for the most part. These were persons who had enjoyed careers and loving family. But there was an aching emptiness at the end for many of them, a certain vague but overpowering sense of betrayal by life. It’s the result of being brainwashed by mainstream thinking, so far as I can see.

Steve Hassan is not wrong when he says that humans are easily influenced by others. Humans are just that way. That is why some god-awful style comes upon the scene and within ten years we’re all wearing it, wondering how we ever could have imagined that those dorky styles of yesterday did anything for us. Where Steve is wrong in my view is that he gives a free pass to his side—the mainstream. He reads unfairness into certain types of persuasion, whereas it is all unfair. His side features persuasion that is just more subtle than the other so he doesn’t see it. Champions of science do not notice when money trumps their science. Attendees of university do not notice that they have been manipulated into a 24/7 environment isolating them from former stabilizing influences of community and family—a classic tool of those who would brainwash. He sees it where he wants to see it and dismisses it elsewhere.

I have said before that it is not brainwashing that he objects to—it is brainwashing that is not his. Just because he was naive enough to be sucked into the Moonies, what is it to him if people want to explore non-traditional paths? Of course there may be pitfalls along the way, but there are pitfalls anywhere. Among the most harmful examples of manipulation is advertising, whereby people ruin themselves buying expensive things they do not need with money they do not have to keep up with people they do not like. Why doesn’t he go there? If the mainstream he embraces successfully answered all the burning questions of life, he wouldn’t have to worry at all about “cults” People would reflect upon how the present life and traditional goal rewards fully in happiness and life satisfaction, and reject those “cults” upon in a heartbeat.

Defending Jehovah’s Witnesses with style from attacks... in Russia, with the ebook ‘I Don’t Know Why We Persecute Jehovah’s Witnesses—Searching for the Why’ (free).... and in the West, with the ebook ‘TrueTom vs the Apostates!’ (free)