All the Better to Control You With, My Dear

Dear TrueTom: There were only EIGHT humans in that Ark and the rest were dumb animals that were controlled by those EIGHT humans. Um how many members of the Governing Body are there ? Oh yes EIGHT.  And who in control of the Org ? Those EIGHT humans. Does make a person wonder exactly what the Governing Body thinks of all the rest in their Ark. 

Sigh.....you see the questions that I have to deal with? Sometimes I think the best thing I can do with my help desk is to chop it into a thousand pieces, toss it into the river, and make all the Israelites drink from it.

 

Dear Person: You may think that you have done fine detective work, but it falls far short. You call yourself astute?

If you would use the head God gave you and focus, you would note that one GB member is eating a lot to be big as an elephant, one is stretching his neck like a giraffe, another growing stripes like a zebra, yet another shrieks like a macaw, and so forth. 

Look, everyone knows this. Why do you come to the table so ill-equipped in knowledge?

”My, what wolflike teeth you have, grandma”

”All the better to control you with, my dear.”

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Sticking Up For “the Unrighteous” in Russia - Psalm 37:29 Pronounced Extremist

Russian scholars—they are awfully smart over there—found extremism in an Old Testament phrase in the course of building a case against Jehovah’s Witnesses. It was not in the New World Translation—that entire work has been declared extremist and is therefore shelved. It is a passage found in any Bible, even the one used by the Russian Orthodox Church.

The offending verse is Psalm 37:29 [36:29 in Eastern Bibles]: “The righteous will inherit the earth and will live in it forever.”

This verse is actually a threat toward “unrighteous persons,” the experts discerned. It is “about dismissiveness (contempt, aggression) toward a group of persons on the basis of religious affiliation.” It furthers the “‘propaganda of inferiority’ on the basis of religious identity.”

In other words, they are sticking up for the unrighteous in that land. “Well—they’re people, too,” is their stroke of wisdom. If the “righteous” are to be favored with inheriting the earth and living there forever, then the unrighteous should be there, too.

It is breathtakingly stupid reasoning, and yet it is the reasoning that carries the day in Russia. But we should not laugh at it, because it is more evil than stupid, and it is the work of opposers who know what they are doing and will do it here when the time is right. The reasoning is the same—it is only more unmasked in Russia than elsewhere, but it ought to serve as a heads-up for elsewhere.

In both places it is the reasoning of those who hate God. They do not hate him so long as He knows His place. If He allows societal trends and critical thinking to carry the day, He is welcome, but only then. If He tries impose upon people His own standards of “righteousness,” He is not. If He allows the will of the people to prevail, He is welcome. If He says, as in John 6:45: “They will all be taught be Jehovah,” He is not—unless He means that the will of the people is the will of Jehovah. He should know that His role is to sit in the back seat and keep His mouth shut.

The entire warfare of opponents denouncing disfellowshipping is a reflection of their frustration at having the window slammed shut on their fingers as they try to break into the house with their new and improved morality—morality that is not God’s. They are livid that they cannot do that, and so they rail against the tool that thwarts them, even trying to declare it illegal.

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. Disfellowshipping—the ability to expel those who refuse to conform to the conduct and speech that they signed on for—is their trump card. It is a last-ditch method of discipline, when all else has failed, to ensure that the Christian congregation remains true to its underpinnings, something that cannot happen without the trump card held in reserve—or at least it never has happened. (See post here)

It is a God-ordained tool from the One who knows humankind better than they do themselves. Actually, humans know it well, too, but they forget it when it stands in their way. If they did not know it, there would be no such thing as advertising—the ultimate manipulative device founded on the premise that humans can be swayed any which way given sufficient propaganda. Corporate interests would not pour billions into advertising if they were not convinced human behavior could be molded. “We made Miller the number two selling brand in the country, and everybody said: ‘Nobody will drink that stuff,’” said Mickey Spillane.

“Righteousness” is an antiquated term for those peddling a new morality and a trashing the traditional one. The term is a threat to them. It is a term that is no longer allowed in Russia, but how far behind can the West be? Acceptable human conduct should be determined by group norm, not imposed by some Bully from above, it increasingly says. The war against disfellowshipping is at root a manisfestion of those who would fight against God.

Says the apostle Peter: “For the time that has passed by is sufficient for you to have worked out the will of the nations when you proceeded in deeds of loose conduct, lusts, excesses with wine, revelries, drinking matches, and illegal idolatries. Because you do not continue running with them in this course to the same low sink of debauchery, they are puzzled and go on speaking abusively of you.” (1 Peter 4:3-4)

They do speak that way. But as the discordant ones accumulate in the “low sink of debauchery,” they finally are emboldened to also say: “Water’s fine here in the low sink! Who are you to judge?” The qualities Peter speaks of are simply not the anathema that they once were. Some are openly embraced.

So “righteousness” as defined by a God is an insult. To speak of a world where righteousness will prevail is extremist in Russia, and therefore illegal. For now, in the West, it is just gauche and small-minded. That is changing. If it truly is that God will allow only the righteous in the new world of his making, then anyone on His side will do whatever can be done to be that way. Opponents today want to make that illegal, or at least they want to make illegal the means to do it.

The climate is not just right for opposers here to declare that the righteous inheriting the earth is extremist, as they have in Russia, but that is what many want to do—and it will likely reach that point one day. Should it happen, it will be a development that is on script, and so thereby can be said to be okay. It will not be unexpected. The miscreants are angling for it now.

Nikolai Gordienko, of the Herzen Russian State University in St. Petersburg, once stated: “When the experts accuse Jehovah’s Witnesses for their teachings, they do not realize that they are actually making accusations against the Bible.” Jehovah’s Witnesses represent it. They practice it as best they can. The gloves have come off in Russia. They came off long ago with regard to human rights, but now they also come off with regard to the intent of Witness persecution there. It is not Witnesses that are opposed. It is God who is opposed—the Witnesses are just the middlemen who represent him.

Gamaliel cautioned religious leaders in the first century regarding Christians: “Do not meddle with these men, but let them alone. For if this scheme or this work is from men, it will be overthrown; but if it is from God, you will not be able to overthrow them. Otherwise, you may even be found fighters against God himself.” That’s exactly who is in the crosshairs of opponents today—who is He to tell us what is righteous? they glower. Banning the Witness organization was not enough for those opponents in Russia. Banning the New World Translation was also not enough, for the same verses hateful to those demanding moral relevance are found in any translation of the Bible.

How far will opponents get in their quest to enlist the world’s sympathy that they got kicked out of a religion for refusing to abide by the rules—in essence, for refusing to be “righteous?” Time will tell, but until the Lord intervenes, the playing field is tilted their way. The individual rights of those who would kick over the traces garners popular support. The individual rights of those who would impose upon themselves a force greater than they to safeguard against their own weaknesses means nothing.

During Soviet times, dissidents stated that the underlying attitude of authorities was that they didn’t really care if you believed their lie or not, so long as you knuckled under to their power to define reality. Declaring the Psalm extremist—“The righteous ones will inherit the earth and they will live in it forever”—is an example of the pattern reasserting itself: “Yes, it is ridiculous, but who cares? It is what we say it is.”

In the West it is still deemed necessary to believe the lie—that the “offenses” of the people who endeavor to represent God are the objection, and not God himself. That can be expected to change. The offenses are blown up and misrepresented, but they are not, in most cases, untrue. They are, however, not the issues to watch. The issues to watch are those relating to God’s purpose to establish an earth in which righteousness prevails.

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Blocking Trolls the Star Trek Way - I Didn’t Want to Do It

I blocked quite a few trolls yesterday. I didn’t really want to block them—it is a first for me—but the nature of trolls everywhere is that they do nothing but insist upon their own view. If answered, they just repackage and run it through again, and they get downright ornery when countered. Soon you find that they have taken over your day, because they will not let your counterview stand—they must demolish it.

They are not even wrong, necessarily, in the basic facts they may present—but they insist upon skewing them and imputing motives, invariably bad ones, to their former friends. It is like that job you left—either you quit or were fired, You are unlikely to speak well of it again, unless it clearly was a stepping stone job or a career change.

All their chums join the fray. In time, you are doing nothing else but countering these characters. They will not be swayed—as trolls never are. In our case, it is the verse: “Taste and see that Jehovah is good.” They have tasted and pronounced him bad. Are you going to turn them around in a few 280-character tweets? I don’t think so.

There is a part of me that will miss them, but they just will not behave. A writer needs a muse, but he also needs a villain. Social media is VillainsRUs, but you soon find that they are taking over your life—plus the neighbors begin to complain. It is like when you change to another genre and find trolls that insist Trump must hang for anything that has happened “on his watch,” and then you switch channels to find those insisting that Obama or Hillary must hang for whatever happened “on their watch.” Who can deal with that vitriol? We will know what is what when the fat lady sings—a reference that I soon will not be able to use due the latest development of political correctness—“fat-shaming”—although I did learn over the weekend that Brother Herd, who may not even know what political correctness is, will never reprove me for it.

When the time came, I cut them down like Captain Kirk used to cut down Romulans. I deliberately mixed up two Star Trek series so that they would tell me how stupid I was to think that Wesley Crusher was Dr. McCoy’s son. It is like when Trump tweets that North Korea has launched its nuclear missels toward the U.S. People of good sense run for the hills. Trolls run to their keyboards to point out that the idiot can’t even spell the word right. Whether they actually did it or not, I will never know—for they had been blocked:

“Space. The final frontier. These are the voyages of the StarShip TrueTom, whose mission is to boldly go where no one has gone before to tell us what’s out there! Report, TrueTom. What have you found in your valiant quest? What’s out there!”

“Roger that, Houston. I am afraid that the report is bad. It is a universe of trolls! Aren’t there any parallel universes around anywhere? They’re everywhere! In the cupboards, in the closets, in the toilets...mostly there. Let’s beam them over to the Klingon ship!”

“You have go-ahead, TrueTom. Use you digression.”

“Got it, Houston. Phasers locked. Fire at will! Mr Solo! Let’s take out the first wave of these vile aliens. Shields, up! There may be a second wave!”

“Captain, the engines—they can’t take it!”

“Suck it up, Scotty. What do you think I pay you for?”

“Mr. Spock, get Roy Romulan on the phone. Let’s patch up our little spat. He’s not such a bad guy after all.”

....

“Jean Luc, Wesley says that you are wuss for not staying to fight the trolls.”

“Tell the young snot to return to the helm. And tell him to try not to graze the side of the Ferengi ship this time. See if you can renew his learner’s permit once again.”

“Captain, are you certain that you should block all these Trolonians, like that hothead McCoy wants? I advise that we preserve some for study.”

“What! Are you, too, a Trolonian? Search and see that no prophet is to be raised up from Trolonia! Blast away, Jim!”

“Captain, one of those vile aliens exploded in my face! Look at all this green goo!”

“Wesley, you young idiot! Did you learn nothing from that “Men in Black” training video? Listen, ride outside on the wing for awhile until the stench wears off! I’ll tell your mom that you went fishing.”

“Captain, it isn’t logical that you should have put up with those trolls all that time.”

“Zip it, Spock! He was going for the StarFleet world record for Troll Endurance. Now that he has it—it came in the mail today—blast away at all those suckers!”

“Captain, the first wave has fallen, but it is as you said: “Kill a fly and 50 come to the funeral!” What can we do?”

“Hmm. What! Solo, you idiot! I said phasers! You have activated the tractor beam! Gasp! Are you a trolonian, too—et tu, Brutus?”

“Captain, the engines!”

”Oh for crying out loud! You are such a pain, Scotty!”

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Skirmish #150819 - The Unreluctant

If this hadn’t ended in a threat, I would have forgotten all about it. Even so, I am not sure that it was worth the effort to put together. Don’t I have other things to do? And didn’t the Librarian (that old hen) once tell me to knock it off when I got into a long squabble with Alan the Juggernaut? “I call all to witness that Tom has not answered my question,” he said. “It’s just you and me, you idiot,” I replied. “What! Do you think that you are Clarence Darrow arguing “Inherit the Wind?”  Nonetheless, I did reassemble the tweets in this instance, which is not easy to do chronologically when they fly back and forth quickly.

What saves me with these trolls  is that I have a body of work stretching back 15 years. It has a way of discouraging them, because eventually it dawns upon them that, though they vent their spleen, they really end up retarding their cause—they submit 30 words, and I, by including a link to something already written, respond with 1000. For the time being, that gives me a leg up, and whenever brothers exchange remarks with these characters without that advantage, they usually get beaten up badly, not just by the villain, but by all his chums who join the fray. I don’t recommend it, and maybe even for me I do not recommend it.

“The Unreluctant” appears out of nowhere to challege the post about the Phoenix New Times article,  but it quickly escalates. He is becoming frustrated with the posts I link to. I mean, these fellows want to drag out some pissy little complaint for a few pages, and you respond with a link that covers that complaint, and much more. Presently, they start to lose it: [Warning: this gets graphic on his part...I have edited as lightly as possible, for the sake of readability. I have added nothing (except a bracketed running commentary) I have deleted a little so as not to be redundant.]

UnR: Although ur writing style is unique so if you are up for some advice, sometimes less said is better. Just being constructive mate.

TTH: It was once thought permissible to make a defense when under accusation.

UnR: Of course it is Tom. Mate do you have a problem with comprehension? You always bring another argument into it I didn’t bring up...straw man much Defend Tom, just learn to be more constructive less arrogance....if you want my brutal honesty.

TTH: It is ever the way with zealots to hone in laser-like on their issue and their issue alone—to the exclusion of all else. Considering context was once thought wise. Today it is raising a straw man argument. Such zealotry is seen in many areas, not just that of religion.

TTH: Don’t tag me in a @jasonwynee reply because he has blocked me, the big wus. Of course, if I was abusive, foul, or harassing, that might be expected, but you well know from our exchanges that I am not. As an example of things misrepresented, here is a post on “mentally diseased.” Most of the rest is you chest-thumping over your hoped-for events.

UnR: Correct they categorised them [he is referring to “apostates”] all as ‘sub-human’ We see such terms being used by the GB as Vermin (exactly what the Nazis stayed) Mentally diseased (removed from the 2013 NWT perversion as it was too damaging to leave in) [that removal is covered in my above link]

TTH: Off the top of my head, I do not know where this is. [only the “mentally diseased was ever in print] But the Bible itself speaks of “animalistic men” and those enthralled with the “teaching of demons” It was probably said [once] in that context. They certainly don’t overdo it.

UnR: That’s right Tom,they didn’t overdo it at all when they copied the Nazi slogan & slaughter 6mio Jews by calling them vermin, and using it in a public setting in 2019! Tom forgive me please,but piss off and pull your head out of Gerrit Losch’s backside. You have now crossed a line

TTH: Uh oh. I think it is you crossing a line, not me. As to the Nazi slaughter of 6 million Jews, by the time it got underway, virtually everyone BUT Jehovah’s Witnesses had a hand in it. They were in the camps for their refusal to go along with Adolf.

TTH: There is also an current account, and I will be unable to back this up because I do not know that the involved parties want publicity, of JWs asking for very accommodating terms in hotel negotiations with a high-priced facility, being dismissed by hotel personnel, who were then countermanded by the manager on the basis that her grandfather was in the Nazi camps and she wouldn’t be here were it not for him. Yes, I have not cited my source, but you know well that I do not lie. Let’s see if you also explode in vitriol at that one.

UnR: Pathetic Tom of how you cross a line and condone the rhetoric and then try to tramp on 6mio lives with 1300 JW’s somehow that because they were allowed to shave an SS Gaurdian somehow means something! Pathetic man you are Tom...you crossed the line with me! The first letter Rutherford wrote you did have a hand in it, you by proxy and your organisation condoned the ideals of the Third Reich. You had your hand in it up to your neck in killing 6mio Jews! It was only when Hitler confiscated the assets did he write second letter. Dont try an rewrite history with me,I know more about your Orgs dirty little secrets than u ever will. Recent talk at the convention given by Geoffrey Jackson states the real reason hitler was killing Jews was to get to the anointed is nothing short of holicaust denial! Pathetic.

[This is so unhinged that I just leave it here without rebutal. There is an early letter (1933) from the Watchtower president to Hitler’s brand-new government to assure it that Witnesses were apolitical and not a thread. It does not avoid certain stereotypes common in that day. Professor Patrick Allitt, an historian at Emory University in Atlanta, speaks in the GreatCourses series of a “low-level anti-semitism” that was near universal in North America, and considerably worse elsewhere leading up till WWII. After that war, with the Holocaust having come to light, it virtually disappeared. I suppose you can make the case that the Wt president could have risen above it—still, that is all that you can say. It is ever the mark of zealots that they extrapolate the standards of the present day into the past to condemn those whom they don’t like.]

UnR: You back up nothing, your blogs are Watchtowers rewritten, a wannabe elder who gets turned down by the CO due to you being ‘odd’ not Elder material, hence you come on twitter to find your calling...am I close Tom, has the nerve been struck my brother? Tom, you so dearly want that position

TTH: I do shake in fury over that—probably you have heard the heavens rumble. [I played with this some more]: Again!! It happened again!! The CO left and he DIDN’T MAKE ME AN ELDER!! What is that—200 times? ARRRGGHHHHH!!!!!!!!!!  [How did he know?]

TTH: Oh, and [besides the post on standing up to Hitler, here is one] on Rutherford, [you may enjoy this] And on the intellectuals that you try to join, here is something appropriate to the Nazi era. ...Please consider adopting a human photo for your profile, so that the reader doesn’t suppose you an adolescent stuck in a fantasy world.

UnR: And there it is, the gas lighting. I kept this whole conversation on a level until you told lies about 6mio Jews and how you had nothing to do with it, yet your organisation condoned it at the highest level and what do you come back with....gas lighting. You crossed the line Tom

TTH: Feel free to cross back. I did not invite you here, you know. Nor did I engage you on your feed. Nor do I even want you here. This is so typical—you enter with remarks that get more & more heated till they outright lose it & burst into profanity. [Isn’t there something in Revelation 12 about ones who “accuse your brothers day and night before God?”]

UnR: You crossed the line and you will pay for it.

TTH: I crossed line and I will pay for it? Will screenshots help [my cause]? I mean, just when I think that you cannot get more abusive, you reach new heights.

[At this point, “NoFucksGiven” felt it appropriate to weigh in for the first time. She reached back into her treasure trove of words and found the same one that she would have found on the front burner]: YOUR FUCKING CULT IS GOING DOWN!!

TTH: Another visitor. Look, if I didn’t block the one that posted a photo of an erect penis, I will not soon block you. Best to let such things hang out there, where they will soon be buried, and until they are they make her look unhinged, not me. As to “going down” try this:

[She responded with a GIF of a dancing turd.]

I haven’t actually blocked anyone yet. I am not adverse to doing it. They do sully up things, they are a distraction, and if I hang with them long enough, I will probably tell my someone to “piss off” and get his head out of whoever’s backside. I mean, there really is something to that verse: “Bad associations spoil useful habits.” It may just be that I’ve not blocked anyone yet because I recall the wise words of Bud: “Kill a fly and 50 come to the funeral.”

It was the threat that decided me: “You have crossed a line and you will pay for it.” What did I do to trigger THAT? Maybe I jumped the gun in charging profanity. Perhaps “pissing off” and urging one to “pull your head out of Gerrit Losch’s backside” is polite dinner banter where he comes from. He plainly drinks too much of his own Kool-Aid, and it sends him into a rage when he is countered.

Maybe I shouldn’t have played around with his theory of a frustrated wannabe elder. I mean, that IS a little like brushing the teeth of a charging Rottweiler. Maybe I shouldn’t have done it. Oh, and perhaps I shouldn’t have asked him to shed his mask, so people would not think he was a pimply comic book-world adolescent. Actually, maybe I had it coming. But, come on! These guys materialize out of nowhere, just like—well, they materialize—and they make all sorts of charges. But give them any pushback, and they lose it. You also can’t call them a name because if you do, you will be complicit with Hitler in killing 6 million Jews. So let me just say for the record that I had a misunderstanding with this gentleman.

It is probably not a real threat. These are the days of 2 Timothy  3, in which people are said to be “without self-control” and “fierce.” It happens all the time on social media. Still, I am a sensitive soul, a “very gentle man, down to my fingertips/the sort who never would, ever could, let an insulting remark escape his lips” (for the most part), and it gave me pause. As long as I was pausing, I thought I’d write it up as a post.

Maybe I can engage JTR, that big-mouthed quasi-brother from the hills who packs a gun—something practically unheard of in JW-land. He will watch my back, and if I get into trouble, he will approach smiling, parting his suit jacket so that UnReluctant will see his holster, at which point he will mumble and slink away. Trouble is, JTR is prone to posting incendiary material of his own. Still, when push comes to shove, he will probably have my back. I think.

Or maybe I should just do it the way of Peter, who, when he pulled out a sword, the Lord told him to put it back.

....

[Edit: JTR was a good egg about this, even if he is a bad egg in some ways. He is a good egg as a driver, too, and he once proved it by turning his vehicle once over easy. At any rate, he said: “Of course I will defend you, TTH. That’s what I do.” 

To acknowledge this, I sent him a “tough-bro” story—he likes that kind of thing and there aren’t that many of them:

”There is a report of someone dear to me, an MS, being similarly threatened by a—I don’t even think that he is a brother, but he attends some meetings. The MS was worried about it, relating to me: “I hope that he does not come after me in the restrooms, because if he does, I will take him down” and he called the different elders as to what he should do. One laughed, as though it were a contest that he would love to see. The COBE got back to him presently, to say that he need not worry if he felt it necessary to “take care of his business.”]

 

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We Should be Proud of our Apostates—Ours Are the Best.

What surprises me as I go through the sequential schedule of Bible reading, now focused on the letters of Paul, is how well they anticipate current “anti-cultist” complaints—about being brainwashed, misled, duped, and so forth. What would appear to be a brand new scenario is just history recycled, today intensified by modern viral methods of communication. Given that the following was said then, when the only communication was word-of-mouth, it is not at all surprising that it would be so prolific today:

“We have wronged no one, we have corrupted no one, we have taken advantage of no one,” says the apostle at 2 Corinthians 7:2, as though the accusation of those things was commonplace.

“Nevertheless, you say, I was “crafty” and I caught you “by trickery,” he says again at 2 Corinthians 12:16. For sure, Solomon had a point: “There is nothing new under the sun.” (Eccles 1:9)

Do “apostates” proliferate today, as though something new? It appears to be the oldest game in town. “For there are many—I used to mention them often but now I mention them also with weeping—who are walking as enemies of the torture stake of the Christ. Their end is destruction, and their god is their belly, and their glory is really their shame, and they have their minds on earthly things.” (Philippians 3:18-19)

“Having their mind on earthly things” is where it is at today, and there are endless people who obsess over petty freedoms at the expense of totally missing the real ones. Their “critical thinking” has sold them down the river; they have shipwrecked whatever faith they once had—just like Paul says about two actual malcontents in the first century, when he advised Timothy to “go on waging the fine warfare, holding faith and a good conscience, which some have thrust aside, resulting in the shipwreck of their faith.  Hymenaeus and Alexander are among these, and I have handed them over to Satan so that they may be taught by discipline not to blaspheme.” (1 Timothy 3:18-19)

What exactly is it to be “handed over to Satan?” The only other use of the expression (1 Corinthians 5:5) makes clear that it is expulsion from the congregation. Today Hymenaous’s and Alexander’s counterparts on social media loudly decry that discipline.

They decry another sort of discipline as well. “Just as I encouraged you to stay in Ephesus when I was about to go to Macedonia, so I do now, in order for you to command certain ones not to teach different doctrine, nor to pay attention to false stories and to genealogies. Such things end up in nothing useful but merely give rise to speculations rather than providing anything from God in connection with faith.” Today the ones so “commanded” would hop on social media to rail that you can’t even breathe a word different from the tyrannical men on top to be muzzled at first transgression, and ejected at second.

Jehovah’s Witnesses are a cult if and only if the Bible is a cult manual.

Nobody has apostates like Jehovah’s Witnesses. Nobody has apostates more prolific, more determined, and in some cases, more deranged—I mean, if someone so much as farts at Bethel, there is one of these yo-yos to start a thread on it, and that thread is not ignored, but is joined in by countless persons in sympathy, some of whom are coherent and some of whom are pure loons.

It is as it should be. We should be proud of our apostates. Nobody else has anyone like them. What if they did not exist? Would you not have to wonder why? No writer of the New Testament fails to deal with them. What if there were no mention of them today? Would it not indicate that the faith had strayed so far from its roots, to embrace contemporary thinking, that there was little to apostatize from?

I will admit that the only apostates that interest me are the ones that go atheist, which partly accounts for my take on the 2 Thessalonians “Man of Lawlessness.” Having learned the man-made origins of Trinity and the immortal soul, and having come to appreciate the damage these teachings do to to a close relationship with God, can one really go back to them? Often the “believing” apostates do not—they simply become ambiguous on such doctrines, thinking that they hardly matter—to each his own. Essentially, they want to retain God, but they acquiesce to the greater world molding their thinking as to outlook, goals, and morals. They want to “throw off all restraint” and in no time at all, they have lost whatever unity they once had. When they can be distracted from attacking their former roots on social media, they are to found attacking each other over differences in matters scientific, medical, climate, politics, etc.

 

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“I came to start a fire on the earth, and what more is there for me to wish if it has already been lighted?”

“I came to start a fire on the earth, and what more is there for me to wish if it has already been lighted?”—Luke 12:49

What fire? How did it get lit?

Doesn’t it refer to God’s ways versus the ways of a world estranged from him? That fire was lit long ago. Jesus fans it into fever pitch, introducing a preaching activity that will ultimately put the choice in everyone’s face—is it the kingdom that they want to rule over them, or the present human system of 200 squabbling nations? Jehovah’s Witnesses who speak for him today do nothing to bring that future kingdom about, but they do publicize it:

“And in the days of those kings the God of heaven will set up a kingdom that will never be brought to ruin. And the kingdom itself will not be passed on to any other people. It will crush and put an end to all these kingdoms, and it itself will stand to times indefinite.”—Daniel 2:44

Moreover, those who want and expect that kingdom rule versus those who do not want or expect it assume different priorities in their lives that reflect their desires and expectations. It makes for significant conflicts, even within families. That must be what Jesus meant as he went on to  say:

Do you imagine I came to give peace on the earth? No, indeed, I tell you, but rather division.  For from now on there will be five in one house divided, three against two and two against three. They will be divided, father against son and son against father, mother against daughter and daughter against [her] mother, mother-in-law against [her] daughter-in-law and daughter-in-law against [her] mother-in-law.”—Luke 12:51-53

It manifests itself today in people changing sides—for the allure of both sides are as strong as the are different. In the case of a Witness family that some members depart from, it takes the form of the latter charging that they were misled, manipulated, and so forth. No wonder the apostle seems to anticipate the charge:

“We have wronged no one, we have corrupted no one, we have taken advantage of no one.”—2 Corinthians 7:2

and

“Nevertheless, you say, I was “crafty” and I caught you “by trickery.”—2 Corinthians 12:16.

Jesus doesn’t buy it, either, about being obtuse regarding the end of this system of things approaching:

“Then he went on to say also to the crowds: “When see a cloud rising in western parts, at once you say, ‘A storm is coming,’ and it turns out so.  And when you see that a south wind is blowing, you say, ‘There will be a heat wave,’ and it occurs.  Hypocrites, you know how to examine the outward appearance of earth and sky, but how is it you do not know how to examine this particular time?—Luke 12:54-56

The trick may be to check your “critical thinking” skills at the door, so as to focus on what he next says: “Why do you not judge also for yourselves what is righteous?”—vs 57 God’s kingdom is “righteous.” Human governments, whatever their intent, whatever their ideals, whatever their sporadic successes, are not.

That being the case with God’s kingdom approaching, why make oneself an “adversary of him?”

“For example, when you are going with your adversary at law to a ruler, get to work, while on the way, to rid yourself of the dispute with him, that he may never hale you before the judge, and the judge deliver you to the court officer, and the court officer throw you into prison.”—vs 58

I liked this point as well (most of these verses were considered at the Kingdom Hall meeting this past week, and the ones not will be considered next week):

“But if ever that slave should say in his heart, ‘My master delays coming,’ and should start to beat the menservants and the maidservants, and to eat and drink and get drunk, the master of that slave will come on a day that he is not expecting [him] and in an hour that he does not know, and he will punish him with the greatest severity and assign him a part with the unfaithful ones.”—vs 45-46

Practically speaking, the “slave” that doubts that the master is coming anytime soon (or at all) begins to reappraise all the effort he has put into publicizing that event. What once seemed as natural as breathing air now comes to seem wasted time, in fact, worse than wasted time, since it served to put he/she behind the curve as regards the goals of the greater world. In no time at all, such persons have joined “the unfaithful ones.” They are deriding what they once embraced—in effect, “beating their fellow slaves.” They are almost forced to carry on about how they were misled and manipulated, because the alternative is to explain how they could have been so stupid to go along for so many years with what they now reject. So they frame matters as a “sinister religious corporation” taking advantage of the minions. They are nuts—the only reason members incorporate is so that they can do things legally, such as owning land or publishing, that will not all fall apart with the death of the founders.

Let us visit the parallel verses in the Book of Matthew, noting that the slaves doing business have always been associated with the preaching and disciple-making work. Let us consider it in the satirical Sheepngoats Translation, which is not accepted by all scholars—in fact, most of them assume that the translators must have been smoking something:

“After a long time the master of those slaves came and settled accounts with them.  So the one that had received five talents came forward and brought five additional talents, saying, ‘Master, you committed five talents to me; see, I gained five talents more.’  His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful slave! You were faithful over a few things. I will appoint you over many things. Enter into the joy of your master.’

“Next the one that had received the two talents came forward and said, ‘Master, you committed to me two talents; see, I gained two talents more.’  His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful slave! You were faithful over a few things. I will appoint you over many things. Enter into the joy of your master.’

“Finally the one that had received the one talent came forward and said, ‘Master, I didn’t do squat. I thought about it, but you see, to do business, I would have had to work with the others, and they are all jerks. I also would have had to work with the bankers, and it is all about money with them. And I for sure didn’t want to work with any non-profit organizations who might lean on me to do something I didn’t want to do. I shouldn’t have to put up with that—I have rights. After all, we all know that you reap where you did not sow, and gather where you do not winnow. You want disciples? Then get off your rear end and make them yourself! Don’t foist your corporate agenda on me!’

“In reply his master said to him, ‘Wicked and sluggish slave, you knew, did you, that I reaped where I did not sow and gathered where I did not winnow?  Well, then, you ought to have deposited my silver monies with the bankers, and on my arrival I would be receiving what is mine with interest.’”—Matthew 25:19-25

The master could have worked with that attitude, it appears! Just take it to the bank if you feel that way, he says. Instead, the loutish slave dug in the ground and hid the silver money, (vs 25) working up a sweat so as to thwart the master’s will. it is as opposers do today. They go to considerable effort to thwart the work that they once took part it.

 

 

 

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”Tasting” Apostasy - ‘Yeah, I’ll Have Me Some of That!’

The present policy of God’s organization is not to “taste” apostasy. I would never say that that is wrong. In fact, it is all but required by the Scriptures, such as at Matthew 11:19–they criticize you no matter what you do, so pay them no mind, and press full speed ahead. Or “Let them be. Blind guides is what they are.” That is why I am a bad boy for hanging out where I do.

However, just because a policy is right does not mean that there may not be a downside to it. As it is, many of our young have succumbed to the oldest temptation in the world, going where they have been advised not to, like the cat that curiosity killed. There they find material that they have never seen before. It is material that is mostly misrepresented, but they do not see how—some of it is presented convincingly.  It strikes a chord with some of them.

Ideally, parents or other older ones should be able to show them how it has been misrepresented and what is wrong with it, but they cannot because they don’t know what is there themselves—they have not “tasted” apostasy. That’s why I could see Ann’s point when she said that she kept on top of “apostate” things, lest one fine day her teenage son ask about them and she is not able to do more than say, “Don’t go there!” which the opposers unfailingly spin as evidence of trying to keep the kid in a “cult.”

As it is, last I heard, the kid is happily serving as a regular pioneer, has never displayed any interest in such things, and says: “Mom, what’s with all this weird stuff that you read?” But he is not everyone.

***

The reasons that some will turn aside are plain as day, clearly stated. Sometimes one could wish they were specifically applied to the courses different ones follow:

For there are many, I used to mention them often but now I mention them also with weeping, who are walking as the enemies of the torture stake of the Christ...[who] have their minds upon things on the earth.  (Philippians 3:18-19)

Look out: perhaps there may be someone who will carry you off as his prey through the philosophy and empty deception according to the tradition of men, according to the elementary things of the world and not according to Christ; (Colossians 2:8)

...in order that we should no longer be babes, tossed about as by waves and carried hither and thither by every wind of teaching by means of the trickery of men, by means of cunning in contriving error. Ephesians 4:14

***

Don’t allow these malcontents to raise straw man arguments, [for whom a character in my first book, Tom Irregardless and Me was named ‘Bernard Strawman’] for example, making a huge fuss over JW understandings that have changed over time. To one such grumbler who grumbled over one such understanding, I answered: “They changed that. Where were you? They are very open about it, calling it tacking or light getting brighter. It is only you that try to spin a conspiracy out of it. It is not a piece of cake looking at the future. Look how many climate change predictions have proven wrong.” Such grumbling is but muddying the waters. The fundamental teachings of Jehovahs’s Witnesses have been in place for well over 100 years—from their beginning.

It is the divine/human interface that is always going to be the problem. This was even true with Judas. He and God were tight. There were no problems there! But this upstart who claimed to be the Messiah—he was not to Judas’ liking at all. And those bumpkins that he was attracting—don’t even go there. None of the respectable people at all were buying into Jesus. “Not one of the rulers or of the Pharisees has put faith in him, has he?” said the Pharisees. “But this crowd that does not know the Law are accursed people.” (John 7:48-49)

Nicodemus tried to stick up for him, but he got shot down: “Our law does not judge a man unless first it has heard from him and come to know what he is doing, does it?” he asked. “In answer they said to him: ‘You are not also out of Galilee, are you? Search and see that no prophet is to be raised up out of Galilee.’” It is a slur. Galilee was out in the sticks, where all but one of Jesus’ twelve disciples came from. Only Judas was from cosmopolitan Jerusalem.”

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Confrontation Atop Gotham Tower

On top of Gotham, way way up there on that crazy high tower, Batman confronts his nemesis. “Now I’m going to kill you!” he snarls. “You’re going to kill me? You made me!” the Joker screams. But Batman is not to be outdone. That young punk who became the Joker murdered his parents long ago—gunned them down in cold blood before the impressionable lad’s eyes, plunging him forevermore into a twisted life of crusading revenge. “I made you? You made me!” he growls. Jack Nicholson does an aside: “I say he made me. He says I made him. How childish!” he mimics, before taking a punch that flattens his face.

I’m with Batman. My own nemesis, the sinister Admin, turned my life and me into a freak show. I was a happy Bible Student, crossing every ‘t’ and dotting every ‘i,’ the way that they do. I stumbled upon three apostates beating up on my friend Job. I lurked in the background like Elihu, where I got madder and madder. Finally, I destroyed them all through sheer verbiage. God beamed approval from the heavens when Elihu did it. He had something darker in mind for me. Or at least he kept his cards to himself.

I mulled what my sorry life had become as I spit those same words to Admin: “You made me!” I hurled him over the parapet to his certain death, just like the Joker had hurled Kim Bassinger. I expected to hear a terrified and fading “Ahhhhhhhhhh!” followed by a faint but satisfying “Splat!” Instead, there was only silence. Kim had saved herself by grabbing onto a ledge. Admin had saved himself by grabbing onto the fact that it was all digital. I’ve never met him in person. It didn’t happen.

When Admin saw how I had beaten up those apostates he assigned me to headline a thread entitled ‘TrueTom Versus the Apostates.’ I protested. I didn’t want the job. I don’t go out of my way to pick fights with these characters. My protest fell upon deaf ears. So I warmed to the idea and went after them with such ferocity that the same Admin who put me on the thread pulled me off it, threw both me and the thread into the abyss, and slapped me with an ‘A’ for abuse. I think the final straw came when I posted that my foes, although united in apostasy, probably would not be able to stand one another in person, drawing upon some unpleasant idiosyncrasies they had revealed. I wore my ‘A’ with shame, like Hester Prynne of long ago. In time, it ceased to be a drawback and became an honor, also like with Hester Prynne of long ago. ‘Presto’ was formed my new identity, both a blessing and a curse.

I had gradually acquiesced to my new role. But then, as though it were not enough to ruin my old life, he tried to ruin my new one—the one he had assigned me. “Hey, knock it off there!” he shouted, as I was trading barbs with villains and semi-villains, saints and semi-saints. I don’t think it was just me he was mad at. It wasn’t even mainly me, and maybe not me at all—but the story is just so much better if you make the facts work for you rather than suffer them to be your master.

From his pontifical post he thundered: “I would just like to state for the record that as the owner of this website, I do not like pejorative labels. ‘Label’ and ‘Kill’ seems to be the way most groups continue to operate nowadays. I realize that all you different religions are free to exercise what you believe in, however I would like to push my own point of thought that we all should try to stop using labels on people. I keep seeing different religions on here use the pejorative label “apostate.” Why does anyone in 2018 still subscribe to this antiquated way of thinking?

“And IF by chance you still do subscribe to this religious mentality, please realize that the rest of the world doesn’t care about how you label others.

“They have MOVED ON.

“Try to keep up, people.

“This technology alone is proving far superior to any fear-based religion. Both pro and anti-religious groups should try to avoid labels and stick to facts.

“- End of rant.”

It’s over when I say it’s over. I fired back:

“Why does anyone in 2018 still subscribe to this antiquated way of thinking?” Because it is a significant sub-theme of the New Testament. There is no New Testament writer that does not deal with it. Two entire chapters are devoted to it. Jude was about to write a bland letter that would have entered the dustbin of canon history, but:

“I found it necessary to write you to urge you to put up a hard fight for the faith that was once for all time delivered to the holy ones. My reason is that certain men have slipped in among you who were long ago appointed to this judgment by the Scriptures; they are ungodly men who turn the undeserved kindness of our God into an excuse for brazen conduct and who prove false to...” and so forth.

 

“They have MOVED ON. Try to keep up people.”

“Possibly they have moved on, but the overall state of the world does not make clear that having “moved on” is for the best. Gadgets have improved, granted, and people do have to clean up after their dogs today, but an overall sense of well-being? Whether “keeping up” in the sense you mean is a good thing is highly debatable. Furthermore, if you think this is so horrible, show me the civility in the greater political world. Be sure not to miss the ‘gentleman’s disagreement’ involving the Supreme Court Kavanaugh nomination today. Show me the love-in between GOP and DEMS, or medical vs alternative, or atheist vs religious person, or scientist vs metaphysics. And make sure to tell me how the Russians and Chinese are allegedly hacking into Western computers so that say a friendly ‘hello.’

“It could be argued that you are missing the most significant development of all time, as you lambaste those debating issues of eternity in favor of those squabbling over matters that will only be personally relevant for a few decades until they die.

“End of rant.

“Having said that, I can easily see how this could drive a guy nuts. Just for the record, I think some participants here are barely sane. I won’t say that I have never used the word “apostate’’ but I have tried to be sparing with it, in favor of such words as ‘opposer’ or ‘detractor’ And I deliberately try to defuse super-intense threads with what I hope passes for humor. I stay primarily because I benefit by testing out lines that I know will be thrown back in my face. I get to refine my own writing thereby, like a scientist studying data. I’ve been able to write an absolutely unique book in this manner. A writer not only needs a muse. He also needs a villain, and here there are villains galore.

“It is pretty rough on those who don’t speak the lingo, though. I do appreciate that. I hope that you take it in the right spirit when I jokingly put you entering the annual Conference of Internet Magnificents, casually mentioning your traffic so as to impress the big boys, only to be told ‘Big Deal. They’re all religious nuts. Come back when you have people who know where the ground is.’”

 

***~~~***

 

Apostates and loyal ones unite! At last we have found common cause! Let us band together and beat up on Admin, who presumes to break up our riotous party! If we want to ruin his website, what’s that to him? I will even be gracious and concede that you fellows won a round. You correctly predicted that he would ‘lose it’ on a weekend. I could have sworn it would have been on a weekday.

Like the spoken word of God in the New Testament, the spoken word of Admin is rare on this religious portion of his website, which is presided over by another. I can recall only one other time that he spoke from on high, even coming down on the side of the good guys. “Geez, you guys are a piece of work!” he thundered from above. “If Watchtower legal wanted me to take down their copyrighted artwork, I would do it in two seconds.” The occasion was that Watchtower had written just that concern, and certain malcontents used to putting their work in different context and beating them over the head with it were screaming to high heaven about “free speech.”

Probably Admin knows that not one Witness he sees here on his website is a typical Witness. They are all rogue to one degree of another, self included. They all have their own individual reasons for being here. None of them are heeding the Witness organizations’ preference not to engage in disputes with determined opposers.

Witnesses are encouraged by their organization not to dispute. Whatever one may think about Jehovah’s Witnesses, one must concede that they endeavor to present their message with dignity, be it door-to-door, their website, or the recent innovation of cart witnessing. The dignity disintegrates when they come online to brawl, which is why the organization prefers that they not do it. Debate doesn’t work well, anyway. Jesus routinely resorted to tactics that would infuriate any devotee of debate, answering questions with counter-questions, raising straw man arguments, spinning complex parables that he rarely explained—let the heart figure it out. Put your version of truth out there, and if they reject it, they reject it.

What! Is it cheap entertainment we are speaking of? Jesus said religious truth would be “the pearl of great price” that you must “exert yourself vigorously” to lay hold of. He didn’t say it was a fine thing to tilt back the easy chair and wait for the winner of a debate to toss it to you. Debate focuses attention, not on the merits of any given idea, but on the skill of the debater. In debate school, one is taught to argue both sides of a given argument. That fact ought to suffice to assess “debate” as a way to arrive at truth.

You would never know it from online forums, but the best way to uncover how most Witnesses feel about their governing arrangement is to attend a Regional Convention. The line that invariably brings down the house with applause is: “Would you like to send your greetings to the brothers in Bethel?” But as I was chewing out Admin for trying to salvage his own website, a villain by the name of John was listening! He chimed in: “Yes, it’s all puppet fashion and tradition. It is so corny. It is the expected thing, so they have to do it.”

I reflected upon this: “You know, you may have a point. I have looked closely at these times and I can tell that they don’t want to applaud. They really really don’t want to applaud. But then they notice an elder glowering at them and sweat breaks out on their brow. In some cases, they wet their pants. In the end, even though they hate the thought, they clap and clap and clap. Sometimes their hands turn to mush and the paramedics have to haul them away for first aid. Sheesh. I mean, it is possible to overplay the paranoia card. They applaud because they liked the program and appreciate the work of those that put it together.”

Lest Admin chew us out again for not displaying mutual love, I addressed his prior: “LABEL and KILL seems to be the way most groups continue to operate nowadays:”

“When you cite Jehovah’s Witnesses, you are citing almost the only example you could cite that disproves your point. Categorically, they will not kill or be maneuvered by the national king into killing. How bad can they be?”

I even took him up on his: “This technology alone is proving far superior to any fear-based religion:”

“Is it? I’ll even call you on this. The general reality is that social media is more apt to spread hate than resolution. Religion, however, at its best, will spread love in a way that your technology could not even dream of.

“And what is this about ‘fear-based religion?’ How often in Scripture is the expression ‘Fear God’ or ‘Fear Jehovah?’ Almost 40. I counted. It is ‘fear’ in the same sense children used to routinely fear their parents, out of love and respect—fear of displeasing them—with punishment only a background concern.

“Increasingly the ones to be feared are the “anti-cultists” who expand the definition of a pejorative word so as to cover people they don’t like. Under the guise of protecting them from ideas they don’t want heard, their Russian soul-brothers have gone so far as to arrest them and steal all their property. A fine way to protect the civil rights of the enemy soldiers is to kill off their generals. That way you can absorb them.”

The reckless appellation of the C-word is essentially hate speech. It is above and beyond any specific arguments for or against Witnesses, which is always fair game to be countered or acceded to. It has inspired violence not only in Russia, but also in the United States. During 2018, several arson attacks were launched against Kingdom Halls in Washington state. Two burned to the ground. Arguments are one thing, but screaming ‘cult’ whips the crazies into a lather. Anti-cultists will howl in a heartbeat if the political party they favor is the target of perceived hate speech from the other side. But when it comes to their own hate speech, they become obtuse. Everyone knows what a cult is, and everyone knows that Jehovah’s Witnesses are not it, regardless of how strenuously the champions of conformity try to rewrite the dictionary to make it appear so.

I returned to Admin: “If you must carry on about ‘this technology,’ consider this paragraph from Tom Irregardless and Me as to how the Witness organization uses it:

“In recent years, the Watchtower organization even offers its own programming through a JW Broadcasting streaming channel, a refreshing and most unusual alternative to mainstream TV. Members of the Governing Body thus repeat the pattern they are known for with any new technology: They eye it with suspicion. They advise caution. They know that when the thief switches getaway cars, it is the thief you have to watch, not the dazzling features of the new car. They follow the thief for a time. Convinced at last that they still have a bead on him, they examine the car. They circle it warily, kicking the tires. At last satisfied, they jump in with both feet and put it to good uses its inventors could only have dreamed of.”    

Whoa! John took advantage of my distraction to post: “I have been there and done all of that. It’s hype. They are conditioned to “like the program.” We were all expected to applaud.”

Once again, I acquiesced. I am that sort of a guy:

“I will go further to confess what I have never confessed before. Our body of elders used to rent a prison bus to round up the publishers and make them go to the convention. They made me drive. I didn’t want to, but they made me, using mind-control. The friends didn’t want to go. None of them did. They used to hide in the bushes when they saw me pulling up in the prison bus. But the elders had ordered me to stuff them in nice clothes by force if necessary. Oh, how my conscience torments me now.”

John: “The kids are ordered to answer up in Watchtower studies and made to pre-study for hours and write down long answers, which in truth they don’t even understand. They just answer parrot fashion.”

“That’s nothing!” I shot back. “I have seen children actually confined in oversized parrot cages until they finished studying their lessons, at which time, if they were lucky, they might be given a cracker.”

I thought that I heard Admin weeping at this point, and I felt sorry for him. Even I thought it was getting to be a bit much. I had chosen not to respond to his “Geez, you guys are a piece of work.” What could I have told him—that we’re not?

It is high time that we proceed to examine the adversary.

From the book TrueTom vs the Apostates!

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Who Are the Apostates?

Nobody has apostates like Jehovah’s Witnesses. Theirs are the best. Nobody has apostates more determined. Nobody has apostates more prolific. It is almost as though I am proud of them. I very nearly am. If they flourished in the first century, they should flourish now. If they didn’t flourish now, one would have to wonder why.

They certainly did flourish back then. There is no writer of the New Testament that does not feel obliged to come to grips with them. “I know that…from among you yourselves men will rise and speak twisted things to draw away the disciples after themselves,” warns the faithful apostle at Acts 20: 29-30. “For there will be a period of time when they will not put up with the healthful teaching, but in accord with their own desires, they will accumulate teachers for themselves to have their ears tickled, and they will turn their ears away from the truth,” he repeats at 2 Timothy 4:3.

If Christianity is among the greatest themes of all time, then combatting apostates is one of the greatest subthemes of all time. Every religion has them, but especially those with Judeo-Christian underpinnings, in which context the word is specifically defined. The Greek verb form means “to stand away from.” The noun form has the sense of “desertion, abandonment, or rebellion.” It is those who have ‘been there and done that.’ If one has not been there and done that, one cannot be an apostate, no matter how much one may dislike a religion.

If there was to be “a period of time when they will not put up with the healthful teaching, but in accord with their own desires, they will accumulate teachers for themselves to have their ears tickled, and they will turn their ears away from the truth,” it stands to reason that such a period would have commenced long ago, with the end product the cacophony of religious offerings that exist today. Let another book written by another author deal with who’s who. I will focus my attention on Jehovah’s Witnesses, the Christian denomination with the fiercest apostates. One can even make the case that the more namby-pamby the apostates, the more they are that way because they have already chalked up major wins. Where they are the most virulent, it is because they have yet to make significant dent in the core and are tearing out their hair in the unrelenting effort.

Apostasy is said to be a “mystery” in scripture. It might well seem so to the outsider looking in, for it involves persons attacking those who were once their closest friends with a ferocity that is breathtaking. “Why don’t they just move on in life?” the typical observer will say. The reasons behind the apostasy themselves are less a mystery. Most are covered with but a few simple Bible passages. The apostates are like Demas, who forsook Paul because “he loved the present system of things.” Though they tested the waters, they “went out from us” because “they were not of our sort.” Their former friends became misled fools to them when “the Master kept delaying.” They were stumbled, and woe to the one stumbling them. Nonetheless, the psalm that would have helped them is: “Abundant peace belongs to those loving your law, and for them there is no stumbling block.” (2 Timothy 4:10, 1 John 2:19, Matthew 24:48, Mark 9:42, Psalm 119:165)

The law they were to love, and once did, is “God’s law.” It is not the law of human government. Suffice it to say that Jehovah’s Witnesses put no stock in human government. All human governments will drop the ball. Usually it is a bowling ball, and the only pertinent question that remains is upon which toe will it land. As people ponder the vulnerability of their right and left toes, thus is decided their politics. Jehovah’s Witnesses discard it all as secondary, and they do not let such differences disrupt the peace of the congregation.

They obey the governments under which they live. If one considers how little cost they put upon agencies of law enforcement or tax collection, they are the most loyal citizens of any nation. They do what they are told, not because they are weaklings, but because they consider it but a secondary point. In every country they say to the ‘king:’ “Tell us your rules for maintaining public order and we will follow them.” It is a different matter when the law of the king conflicts with the law of God, but that situation is relatively rare. Usually one can “render Caesar’s things to Caesar and God’s things to God” without undue fuss.

Jehovah’s Witnesses put their stock in what they would term “divine government,” rather than that of humans. As a practical matter, that is expressed though a human agency they refer to at present as their Governing Body. They consider these ones charged with applying the Bible to modern times, just as in the United States and most other lands, a Supreme Court is charged with applying a Constitution to modern times. Governing Body members are not infallible. They strive to lead by example, and there is a scene I will not quickly forget of a representative, for illustrative purposes, pulling a string on a table by a finger placed firmly atop one end. “See how the rest of it nicely follows?” he points out. “What happens if I try to push the string?” and upon doing so, it wads up. “It really isn’t very smart of me to do it this way, is it?” he says.

The most likely area for apostasy to surface is at the divine/human interface. It was even true with Judas. He and God were tight. There were absolutely no problems there! But that character masquerading as the Messiah—why, he wasn’t at all what Judas had expected. And those yokels he was attracting? Don’t even go there.

It becomes quickly apparent that a religion with which the year text is “Anything goes” will produce few apostates. What would they apostatize from? Repeatedly we read in scripture that apostates “despise authority.” How does that become a problem unless there is authority? They love “lawlessness.” How does that become a problem unless there is law? They favor acts of “brazen conduct.” They have “eyes full of adultery,” and they are “unable to desist from sin.” How does that become a problem unless there is someone to tell that they cannot carry on that way? Not only is the nature of apostates revealed in the above verses of Jude and 2 Peter 2, but also the nature of the Christian organization. A faith too bland to produce quality apostates is too bland to be given the time of day.

When offering testimony about whatever faith they have apostatized from, their testimony cannot be relied upon exclusively, but must be corroborated by independent sources. The bias they reveal may be considerable, as Lonnie D. Kliever, Ph.D., Professor of Religious Studies, Southern Methodist University, writes:

“There is no denying that these dedicated and diehard opponents of the new religions present a distorted view of the new religions to the public, the academy, and the courts by virtue of their ready availability and eagerness to testify against their former religious associations and activities. Such apostates always act out of a scenario that vindicates themselves by shifting responsibility for their actions to the religious group. Indeed, the various brainwashing scenarios so often invoked against the new religious movements have been overwhelmingly repudiated by social scientists and religion scholars as nothing more than calculated efforts to discredit the beliefs and practices of unconventional religions in the eyes of governmental agencies and public opinion. Such apostates can hardly be regarded as reliable informants by responsible journalists, scholars, or jurists. Even the accounts of voluntary defectors with no grudges to bear must be used with caution since they interpret their past religious experience in the light of present efforts to re-establish their own self-identity and self-esteem.”

It doesn’t mean they must be ignored. It just means they must always be taken with a substantial grain of salt. John Gordon Melton, an American religious scholar cautions “that hostile ex-members would invariably shade the truth and blow out of proportion minor incidents, turning them into major incidents.”

When they leave a “new religion,” the current non-prejudicial term for those founded within the last century or two, less incendiary than the newly-expanded term “cult,” they have a lot of explaining to do. It is not as though they have switched from Chevrolet to Ford. They have abandoned goals and practices perhaps followed for decades to embrace ones that in many respects represent the very opposite. How best to account for such a flip-flop without suggesting that they were dupes? What could be better than lodging a “brainwashing” claim, asserting that they were “misled,” that, really, they are no more stupid than you—if it happened to them, it could have just as easily happened to anyone? It is an irresistible ploy.

Professor David Bromley, author of The Politics of Religious Apostasy: The Role of Apostates in the Transformation of Religious Movement, “explained how individuals who elect to leave a chosen faith must then become critical of their religion in order to justify their departure…Others may ask, if the group is as transparently evil as he now contends, why did he espouse its cause in the first place? In the process of trying to explain his own seduction and to confirm the worst fears about the group, the apostate is likely to paint a caricature of the group that is shaped more by his current role as apostate than by his actual experience in the group.”

Of course! If one leaves a group that truly is “no part of the world,” as Jesus said his followers would be, to pursue a course fully part of that world, there is a lot of catching up to do. There has been a lot of falling behind the curve, and there is a lot of time to be made up. Particularly if one has given up the faith for atheism, then there is only a short time left, and previous years comprising the majority of one’s life may appear to have been wasted. The temptation to resort to a thought-control defense is irresistible.

Apostates of the world have managed to unite under an anti-cult common umbrella. They come from many different faiths, and find that they have much in common. All of their former faiths were cults—they are smarting from their wounds—that did them great damage by deflecting from the truly fine goals of life. A prominent one, let us call him Steve, spent his early days as a ‘Moonie,’ the common name for those of the Unification Church. He now spends his time helping people to escape cults, and he has expanded the definition well beyond Moonies.

I know little about the Moonies, per se, and have nothing specifically against them. I share the common perception that they drop out of society, dress strangely, and used to interact with the public primarily to sell them things, such as flowers. Even this must be put into context, for there were plenty of Steve’s generation who became actual “flower children” of the sixties. They turned on, tuned in, and dropped out of contemporary society, and to this day they are not criticized for it, even when they enhanced their experience with mind-altering drugs.

A generation or two before them there were the hoboes, often educated men, who dropped out of society, roaming the country via railroad boxcars, which were not hard to surreptitiously board. “Stay away from the hoboes,” Gram told my Dad when he has a boy. Of course, he went right down to the woods to hang out with the hoboes, and he says they generally were the most gentle and peaceable folk you might ever hope to meet. When one came into town, he might ask for a meal. When there was extra in the pantry, a resident might feed them. They would sit on the porch nice as you please eating their meal, and upon leaving, would make a mark on the house so that other hoboes would know a free meal could be had there. If you left things lying about, they would steal you blind, but only take what they needed for their immediate future.

Drop outs are not uncommon. There have always been drop-outs. They are even a romanticized segment of society. But let there be a God component to it and all hell breaks loose. Isn’t that all the Moonies are guilty of, throwing an interpretation of God into the mix? Steve came to be upset with them, for they ‘stole’ his early life. But there really aren’t that many of them. Like a growth industry, he began to target other groups who, unlike the Moonies, did not drop out of society, in fact, they often improved their role significantly in it, such as by overcoming addictions. These new targets mixed in with regular society just fine, often better than before, as some of them dropped the criminal activity they had once engaged in. But they looked to a different source for direction. Let us be blunt. The modern anti-cult movement is an effort to stop them from doing that. It is an attempt to put persons on the same page and prevent them departing from script.

Think twice before you do it. Dr. Asseem Malhotra states: “We all have to realize that society has been manufactured in a way where we simply give up our own mind to someone else, who has been given theirs by someone else...from birth, we are programmed to think a certain way by somebody else.” Dr. Malhotra is a cardiologist and he is referring to standard regimens of health, but the principles apply widely. If the prevailing mindset was so productive and healthful, surely you could expect the world thus built to reflect that. Think twice before you shut down pathways to explore and perhaps even reject the status quo.

Jehovah’s Witnesses don’t cotton to the status quo of human rulership. They like what they would characterize as “God’s rulership.” Their assessment of history is that of Ecclesiastes 8:9—that “man has dominated man to his injury.” They agree with Jeremiah, the Old Testament prophet, that “to earthling man his way does not belong. It does not belong to man who is walking even to direct his step.” Human government is a disaster, they say, and they align their lives with “divine rulership” and the human organization they think best represents it, that unitedly spearheads the telling of the “good news of God’s kingdom” the world over.

Because the religion is consequential, it is resisted by the anti-cultists. Because under its influence people make decisions they would not make otherwise—and in some cases later come to reassess—the anti-cultists would like to stamp it out. If it confined its role to supporting the customary goals of society, they would have no problem with it. It is as Jesus says: “If you were part of the world, the world would be fond of what is its own.”

The more that a religion stands for things in contrast to the prevailing thinking, the more it will produce apostates. The more that it maintains a separateness from the greater world, the more it will produce apostates. Ones who cross the chasm from faith to anti-faith may hope that former relationships will not suffer, but they invariably will. It is a chasm they have crossed, not a dotted line. Anything with a significant upside will have a downside, and if one negates the upside, there remains nothing to focus upon but the downside—a point particularly applicable to those former members who have opted for atheism.

The outrage that some of these apostates express initially sets one back on one’s heels. However, outrage is the new normal today, and one must expect that going in. Following the commentary on world news for a week or so will dispel any doubt that outrage is the name of the game today. A Pew survey released during August 2018 revealed that, pertaining to the politics of the two major parties, not only can Americans not agree on how to act in light of the facts, but they cannot even agree on what the facts are. With no agreement on the facts there can be no starting point for discussion. If it is true of two parties which both occupy the here and now, how much more so of two parties, one whose view of the future is eternity, the other is that the next few decades. How much more so of two parties, one of which dismisses the “pearl of high price” as a ‘been there done that?’ Just what will there be to talk about?

“If a man dies, can he live again?” is the question at Job 14:14. “Of course,” says the Witness. “No way,” says the ex-Witness. The former looks at any sacrifices of the present life as but delayed gratification, the sort that does a person’s character nothing but good, the sort that is integral to any raising of a child. The latter looks upon it as foolishness on steroids, for ‘this life is all there is.’ Just what will there be to talk about?

They lie as submerged rocks poised to rip out whatever floats your boat. The lie they tell is more subtle than many of them know—in fact, it is a lie only in the eye of the beholder. It is the same as the first lie told in Genesis: “You certainly will not die. God knows that in the very day you eat from it, your eyes will be opened and you will be like God, knowing good and bad.” Take the verse symbolically. Take it literally. Either way the lesson is the same. Not only is the first woman told a lie, but more significantly, it is a lie told with a bad motive. “He is trying to deprive you of freedom and independence,” the charge goes, but “don’t let Him fool you. You don’t need Him. You can decide for yourselves what is good and what is bad.”

What of the ‘facts’ apostates may want to bring to the faithful one’s attention, ones they say that caused them to jump ship? Proverbs 21:2 is useful to consider: “Every way of a man is upright in his own eyes, but Jehovah is making an estimate of hearts.” Of course! Everyone is right in his own eyes. Everyone tells facts that are true. Nobody tells facts that are not true. It is how those facts are organized and prioritized that counts, and that is a matter of heart, which Jehovah assesses. The bare facts they present are often accurate, but they are entirely misrepresented and put into a context either untrue or highly subjective.

They revel in their new found “freedom.” No longer will they suffer traveling on the “cramped and narrow” road that Jesus spoke about. (Matthew 7:14) He must have been crazy. He was just trying to suppress human freedom with his “mind-control.” No more! Now the road is broad and spacious and deliriously exciting.

I don’t like them, and they don’t like me. If someone positively loathes my best friend—what if it were my wife?—are they going to be my chum? I don’t think so. Yes, yes, my wife is an actual person that can be seen, (indeed, it is hard to take one’s eyes off her) whereas God is a spirit, but it is close enough. I I may come to respect them but I am not their pal.  They seek to draw others into their course. “While they are promising them freedom, they themselves are slaves of corruption; for if anyone is overcome by someone, he is his slave,” says 2 Peter 2. In the case of those that have followed the path of atheism, if the only freedom you can offer expires in a few decades, just how much freedom do you truly have to offer?

“Certainly, if after escaping from the defilements of the world by an accurate knowledge of the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, they get involved again with these very things and are overcome, their final state has become worse for them than the first. It would have been better for them not to have accurately known the path of righteousness than after knowing it to turn away from the holy commandment they had received,” says the apostle Peter. (vs 19-21) “Leave them be” is the counsel. Send them packing should they come around. “Look out that no one takes you captive by means of the philosophy and empty deception according to human tradition, according to the elementary things of the world and not according to the Christ,” says Paul at Colossians 2:8. “Keep your eye on those who cause divisions and occasions for stumbling contrary  to the teaching that you have learned, and avoid them,” he says again at Romans 16:17. “If anyone comes to you and does not bring this teaching [of the Christ], never receive him into your homes or say a greeting,” says John.

For the one holding the course, the situation is no more complicated than for the one who, having determined that he has taken in altogether too much junk food over the years, and that it has done him much harm, resolves to diet. The last thing in the world that person wants is someone stuffing his pantry with cupcakes, cookies, and chips, his fridge with ice cream, and urging him to relax his ridiculous diet so as to “enjoy life” and “live a little.”—nothing is so delicious as ice cream! Our healthy dieter just doesn’t need to have that person around. He will almost wish he could dig a moat around the house so as not to let him in.

He has determined, upon examination, that the cruise ship is going down. He has boarded the lifeboat, where it is not so luxurious as on the main ship. He doesn’t need those who have swum back to re-board crowing about the fine wining, dining and dancing that they have resumed. It is fine, as well, to avoid the companionship of those who gripe and complain about the cramped quarters on the lifeboat. And when determined to quit smoking, one does well to avoid the company of ones who do so like chimneys. The principle is well understood and can be illustrated through numerous examples. Only when spirituality is thrown into the mix do some suddenly go obtuse, but the underlying logic is no different.

As a nation looks to its constitution, so does the Witness organization to the Bible. The counsel will be to avoid its apostates. “Taste and see that Jehovah is good,” says the psalm. They have tasted and “seen” that he is bad. What is there to talk about? There will be no persuading them, for they have deliberately crossed the chasm. The only possible outcome is they may attain their goal and persuade the one yet holding the course—the reverse will not happen, because it already has happened and they tired of it. “Did you know that your people are not perfect? Did you know that they have made mistakes? Did you know that they have been inconsistent?” they ask—all of which the Christian does know, if not specifically, then certainly in principle. The final Bible Book of Revelation describes, in chapters 2 and 3, several congregations meant to symbolically stand for the whole. Some of them are veritable basket cases, with problems quite serious. But that does not mean that they are not congregations.

The counsel to avoid apostates is good. It is biblical. One could hardly argue otherwise, scripturally. Yet there is a downside. Any military general realizes that he must know what the scoundrels across the divide are up to. Become too insular, and the apostate almost becomes the “bogeyman” of mysterious powers—the mere exposure to his words is enough to thwart years of alignment to God. It is a mystery status that they do not deserve. There is nothing mysterious about them. Their reasons for departure are un-mysteriously human, though they may be not readily reversible. They have cast aside what they once embraced for the thoroughly understandable and human reasons outlined previously.

It really doesn’t take that much to get one’s head around the opposition. They write and speak prolifically, but it’s quite repetitive. They make noise far disproportionate to their size—but that does not mean that there are not many of them. Are they truly a myriad, or have they managed to inflate their numbers, like Gideon’s 300 troops that convinced the enemy they numbered in the tens of thousands? It is not easy to tell. In a world of several billion people one can find countless examples of anything. Assemble them in one place and, why—it would seem that no other cause must exist.

There are people who will not do something until you tell them that they should not. “Stay away from the hoboes,” Gram told Dad, so he went right down there to hang with them. It is a universal law of human nature, and it is not usually wise to give in to it. It is why the curious cat needs every one of its nine lives. At times our own young people, wondering what all the fuss is about, goaded on that only a wus is afraid even to look here or there, succumbs to that universal law and launches his or her own investigation. Sometimes they are floored to find what they never expected to find. Arguably, they might have benefited from prior “vaccination”—exposure to just a little bit of the malady so that they might have worked up an immunity for it.

As an adult, even as a young adult, one is in position to leave childhood roots. Many choose to do so. But is the course wise while one is yet in one’s teenage years? It smacks too much of Mark Twain’s supposed saying: “When I was a boy of 14, my father was so ignorant I could hardly stand to have the old man around. But when I got to be 21, I was astonished at how much the old man had learned in seven years.”

Perhaps this writer can help some of these “bad” boys and girls, for alas—he too is being bad. Let us not spin it any other way. He is being a bad boy, pure and simple, sailing past godly counsel as though Odysseus thumbing his nose at Poseidon. “Battle not with the monsters, lest ye become a monster,” writes one of the apostate’s own prophets, for “if you gaze long enough into the abyss, the abyss gazes back.” Does this writer observe that good sense? He heedlessly hollers down the abyss: “Yo! Anybody down there?!” for the sake of a hopefully good read.

But if he is a bad boy in this one area, he is a good boy in all others, universally liked in his circuit because he is a peacemaker who is not wound up too tight. He steers clear of the six Proverbs things that God hates, a list that magically expand to seven, including “feet that in are in a hurry to run to badness, a false witness that launches forth lies, and anyone sending forth contentions among brothers.” His feet stay planted on terra firma, he launches nothing but rectitude, and he soothes contentions away.

In battling the “apostates” on the pages to come, one name will pop up more than all others combined—unfortunately suggesting that I have it in for this one personally. This is not the case. Many do what he does. I just happened to latch onto him first. It could have been one of many people. A writer needs not only a muse. He also needs a villain, and I frequented where I knew there were villains galore. In the unlikely event that he should feel picked on, (I suspect he will welcome the publicity) I offer my apology. More likely he will feel honored, and he should.  He and his have succeeded advancing the game to another level, and that must be respected. But it is the same game. It simply requires an adaptation in response. To some extent, it is a shame to name anyone, hero or villain, because it is not about individuals. It is about the ideas they represent. Still, if an idea can be personalized, it makes for more a interesting read. We are all people persons, after all.

For purposes of this book, this oft referred to chieftain replaces a fellow we shall call Danny, a former Witness turned sour, a man who came to have an extraordinary reach. If anyone posted anything anywhere about Jehovah’s Witnesses and there was room to comment, his was one of the first. Always his contribution was malicious and almost always it was irrelevant to the post. Visiting his own site, I noted that he billed himself as an expert witness in the case of custody lawsuits where one parent or the other was a Jehovah’s Witness and an expert witness in lawsuits against manufacturers of anti-depressants, apparently not realizing that each claim undercut his credibility for the other. I remember him for posting an almost maniacal laugh that he was getting the ultimate revenge on his former religion, because his retorts were everywhere, and they would last forever! He forgot to mention that they would also quickly be buried in the digital avalanche that is the Internet. Today he is unheard of. Witnesses ought not gloat about this, however, for he has been replaced by a legion of others.

“The first man to state his case is right, but then his opponent searches him through,” says the Proverb. Let us do exactly that. “However, here are some ground rules, TrueTom,” I tell myself: Don’t be goaded. Never make it personal. Remember that everyone has the right to interpret his or her own experience. Accept going in that you will be excoriated. Don’t expect to get in the last word. The key to staying dispassionate lies in knowing that you are going to lose the battle. The enemies will have their day in the sun before it all turns around.

From the book TrueTom vs the Apostates!

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Banned at the Apostate Website!

I got banned at the apostate website! Can you believe it? I was the very personification of respect and good manners. Of course, I was also the very personification of tenacity, but it was still me against a dozen others. Now that I have been muzzled, it may be me against 100. Lloyd—let us call this fellow Lloyd—worked so hard to get me to engage with him and as soon as I did, he tossed me out!

Actually, he wanted me to engage on his podcast, where you shoot from the hip. Again and again, he invited me there. I thought a forum in which you can think out your remarks beforehand was better. I put a human face on an outfit he is trying very hard to demonize. It finally pushed him to his limit. After making six or eight comments on his site, I found this:

Lloyd: “I simply want to present the other point of view,” well, that’s partly true, Tom. You want to present “the other point of view” on your own terms – i.e. by trolling me in comments and tweets. You don’t quite have the guts to come on my YouTube channel for a conversation where you can express “the other point of view” (Watchtower’s point of view, which everyone is already aware of) in front of thousands of people. You’d much rather selectively violate the command to refrain from engaging with apostates as it suits you. Again, I wonder if there are any other commands from your masters “the Slave” regarding which you feel it’s ok to pick and choose? Or is your hypocrisy confined solely to this particular area of Watchtower’s rulebook?”

When I tried to reply, I found I was blocked. There was nothing to do but take it to the Twitter street, where I found the same response:

He: “My point is you are already violating the rules by engaging with me (some would say trolling)....You may as well go the whole hog and come on my YouTube channel for an interview if you have something to say, but I doubt you have the backbone.”

Tom: “I don’t. Better thought-out written remarks than shoot-from-the-hip debate. Did I really just get banned at your site? Despite 2 tries, my last reply to you did not stick. All were polite, respectful, and on-topic. None repeated. (1)

“If that is ‘trolling,’ it is not like the liar who pretended to be GB, even tweeting “Pray for our brothers in Russia” before finally revealing he didn’t give a hoot in hell for “our brothers in Russia.” It was all a ruse to draw in the guileless ones. (2)

“Let me post my blocked remark here and then call it quits for now: “Lloyd, if I am misbehaving, you can toss me, and let persons reflect of the irony of that, since you repeatedly asked to me debate in the first place. ‘Trolling’ is in the eye of the beholder. (3)

“I have not insulted anyone, On the contrary, I have gone out of my way not to on several occasions. For example, when someone here said: ‘Are you calling us liars who exaggerate?’ I made clear that I was not. (4)

“On forums where there is a comment section, I have never blocked anyone that I can recall. I would if someone became an abusive and unrelenting pest, but I have not yet had to. (5)

“In debate classes you are given an argument and assigned to take this side and then that. The clear message is that it is technique over substance. Better to write, where one can compose words with thought. Let both points of view be presented honestly, (6)

“Jesus never debated. In fact, he routinely did things that would infuriate devotees of debate. He used hyperbole. He answered questions with counter-questions. He spun involved parables that he rarely explained as a means of reaching the heart. (7)”

My opponent was not impressed with this exchange: “I’m amazed at your continuing excuses for refusing to come on my channel for a conversation (not debate, necessarily) when the real reason is: you are afraid you will be pulled into the backroom by your elders.”

Tom: “You are young and vigorous. I am older who perhaps must take care that my teeth do not fall out or my cane trip me up. Or like Paul (2 Cor 10:10) whose letters are weighty but whose personal presence is weak. Or slow of speech like Moses. I believe I did not misrepresent anything. (1)

“(2) I disagreed, which is not the same, always respectfully, and stood up for a group that you continually attack without check, and whose similar attacks have resulted in Russian machine guns literally pointed at the heads of some.

“(3) A substantial blow for free speech on a site that purports to celebrate freedom. [I tagged a couple of journalists at this point] Of course, I take no comments on my site either, but in doing so forsake the flood of accolades and attaboys from my chums, which you clearly do not with yours, now as tight as the Russian press.”

He did not take this lying down. There was a flurry of back and forth tweets:

He: “It has nothing to do with free speech. It has to do with you knowingly misrepresenting my views and opinions. You can do that on here [Twitter] as much as you like, but on my website, nope.

“You get only one chance to not misrepresent/twist my words into something other than I meant or intended. You did this at least twice, hence you are blocked from commenting on [my site], so please don’t expect sympathy.”

Did I do that, misrepresent him? He gave two examples, offered here with my own words in quotes: (Let the reader use discernment.)

1) “Lloyd’s outrageous video assertion that elders visit patients in their hospital room to make sure they toe the line on blood policy.” - An oversimplification. I am sure some elders visit patients on compassionate grounds, but that is not the sole thinking behind the HLC system.

2) “Lloyd’s assertion that when persons apply for reinstatement they do so just to reestablish social ties” - I never asserted that people only get reinstated to be reunited. I am sure many do so because, like you, they are simply indoctrinated and know no other way of living.

He didn’t like me tying him in with the Russian persecution, either: “You cannot blame me for what’s going on in Russia, which I have spoken out against unequivocally. Backward regimes have been persecuting religious minorities long before there was Google or YouTube.”

 

I declared war on these guys after the three (now four) incendiary anti-Witness articles in the Philadelphia Inquirer and I learned that the reporter checked in at one such anti-Witness site between articles. It is the only reason I would engage: journalists hang out there. Maybe just one, but who can say? One is enough. So I weighed in to offer such ones context that they will not get otherwise. A journalist wants that. It is an abundance of anecdotal evidence at the anti-Witness site, and anecdotal evidence must always be given context so as to mean anything. There must be context so that you know what you are looking at, and this is what I tried to supply until I was shoved over the trap door. I mean, it’s his site. He can do what he wants with it. But there is reason to hope no reporter will rely on it solely.

Here is the context I offered, all remarks made on his site before the window slammed shut on my fingers, with introduction in brackets. At every comment, a click on my name would link to a short justification for the disfellowshipping arrangement, which will be explored further in chapter 16.

[The subject of his original web post was disfellowshipping. Many of the participants presumably had undergone it. They didn’t like it.]

Tom: “In any forum where participants simply reinforce the prevailing view, matters become skewed over time and therefore inaccurate. So, I add the counterpoint, which I present for consideration and leave it at that. You have been after me for debate since you became aware of my existence, and this is as close as you are going to get. You are correct that Witnesses generally decline debates. Should I debate on your podcast, with all your chums cheering when you land a punch & wincing into damage control when I land one, while my chums don’t go in for that sort of thing in the first place? I don’t think so.

“The GB does not ‘tell’ people to shun family members. Instead, it says that if one has triggered what would cause disfellowshipping, there is no reason to say that because he or she is family, matters are necessarily different. Members apply that counsel as they see fit, but whatever they do, they do not have the sense that someone is telling, much less ordering them, to do so—only that someone alerted them long ago to relevant Bible passages on the subject, after which the Bible passages themselves guide them in what to do, as they consider whatever mitigating circumstances there are in their own family, often finding none, but not inevitably so.

“The idea that Witnesses can turn off love for a family member is incorrect (given that there are variations in families). A separation causes deep pain in those remaining ‘faithful.’ It is not just the departing one who suffers. However, they tell themselves that the family member did bring it on him or herself, that Jesus said his words could cause division in the family, and should that happen, loyalty to God trumps that for even family members. The door that was closed as a last-ditch attempt at discipline was never locked and it is always possible to return.

“It is the notion of Christianity as a movement separate from the world, trying to serve as a beacon to it, pointing to something better, that is under attack, especially when people have gone atheist, all the rage today and a marked divergence from all previous history. The concept of ‘separateness’ from the greater world inevitably brings about situations such as the topic of this thread, yet it is a concept integral to Christianity. It is only by staying ‘clean’ that Christians feel able to lend a helping hand to others. I understand that may come across as self-righteous, but it is not meant that way. Members freely confess that they botch up all the time, but that to the extent they are able to adhere to God’s standards, their lives improve, and their abilities to help others.”

[I apologized subsequently for saying: “Many participants here are thinking people,” which implies that many are not.]

[One participant got ahold of a private elders’ book and waved it as though it was the smoking gun. In fact, it undermined his argument that at the drop of a pin members are dealt with harshly.]

“Though the discipline of the congregation is admittedly rough on those who will not be guided by it (like Saul ‘kicking at the goads’) ones here expand it to make it seem much harsher than it is. Yet when Maxwell actually quotes an elder’s handbook, (presumably giving it his best shot) he reveals something much less harsh than what he represents it as. Elders “counsel and reason,” not exactly the same as “ordering.” In the event that a congregation member does not respond to counsel, he is not thrown on the spit, but he “would not qualify for congregation privileges.” Is that not a big ‘Duh’? If you want to enjoy privileges anywhere, you must toe the line more than if you do not reach out for such privileges. “He would not be dealt with judicially” unless there is “persistent” [not occasional] “spiritual association” [not nuts-and-bolts association] or he “openly” criticizes the disfellowshipping decision, thus undermining the method of governance that he signed on for in the first place.

“So it is not so harsh as portrayed. Moreover, it can be avoided, and once incurred, it can be repaired. The ‘crime,’ then, is the congregation’s desire to fulfill the Christian mandate of staying ‘separate from the world,’ the only position from which it feels able to render assistance to those who feel crushed under the latter’s weight. 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 of 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. The congregation thinks it important to stick to the values that they deliberately selected, and they knew from the start God does not work through democracy. In order to preserve this unchanging model, it is necessary to have practices such as under discussion here, which can be tweaked some, as has happened per previous comment, but cannot be abandoned. No one has been able to ‘hold the line’ through decades of time without them.

“Lloyd writes that he disapproves of Witnesses being arrested and jailed in Russia. I have no doubt that he means it. However, he disapproves in the same sense that the California arsonist disapproves of the state burning to the ground. One of the driving forces of the ban in that country is one Alexander Dvorkin, who pushes the same ‘anti-cult’ narrative Lloyd endorses. He pushes it on many groups, not just Jehovah’s Witnesses, though they have been his prime target. He wants to ‘protect’ people by preventing them from hearing ideas that he thinks are ‘socially destructive,’ a goal not unlike some of the goals expressed here. The only difference is that he has seen it more fully accomplished.

“Acting on his prodding sends a clear ‘open hunting season’ on religious minorities. Various human-rights and law experts convened in France in January 2018, where one of them observed of Mr. Dvorkin: He ‘enjoys disseminating inflammatory narratives and hate speech.’ The reason that Russian Jehovah’s Witnesses have not caved under his mischief (which is added to nationalistic and dominant Church pressures) is that they do not see themselves as followers of ‘eight men,’ the meme relentlessly pushed here, but of the Bible. Acquiescing to the authority of the eight men taking the lead is little more than acquiescing to the authority of the teacher, boss, military leader, coach, parent, or consulted advisor, something that was once routine and unremarkable but is now portrayed as selling out one’s soul.”

[A journalist had ambushed one of our people, who took cover, and I addressed that]

“When a person is unexpectedly accosted by a reporter wanting an answer to something that will take more than a sound bite to answer, everyone knows it is a cheap shot. That is not to say they do not cheer if it is an enemy, but they nonetheless know. People are not AI machines. His mind is a million miles away. Still, his discomfiture is inevitably and dishonestly painted as ‘proof’ that he is a flat-out liar. That is why respected sources content themselves with: ‘So and so was contacted but declined to comment for this article.’”

I don’t know if it was a good idea or not. Like Howard Beale, I just got “mad as hell and couldn’t take it anymore.” After every comment there came a torrent of abuse. I changed no one’s mind and was routinely called a hypocrite, sometimes an a*****e. You have to expect this going in and you cannot take such things to heart. You certainly cannot get into tit for tat, nor should you be so dumb as to say someone does not correctly perceive his or her own experience. How would you know? It is the constant with all anecdotal evidence, which may (not likely) be understated, may be (more likely) overstated, or may occasionally even be made up. You have no way of knowing, so you ought not touch it. You have to realize going in that you will lose.

My engagement was all on account of the journalists, and maybe I just fool myself as to how many hang out there. Who can say? At each comment I was reminded that I am “ordered” not to engage and “not allowed” to be there. It turns out that I truly was “not allowed,” but it was not by my own people. It was by the web host himself after I pasted his ears back a little. Thereafter, do you think he would correct the impression his own readers had that Witness HQ had “ordered” me to cease and desist? “Tell them it was you” I told him. But he said that he didn’t owe me a thing. He likes softballs that he can swat out of the park.

[Someone brought up homosexuality. It is the common view today that if you do not accept another person’s tenets, you must “hate” that person, and I sought to counter that. Every comment was to counter something and to present a side not otherwise seen:]

Tom: “One can sympathize here [with the plight of gay people who were once members]. I don’t know the answer. JWs do not ‘go after’ gays as do many churches. The 2018 Regional Convention devoted about 2 minutes to it in a video (which nonetheless created an uproar) in a program lasting three days. Okay? They don’t crusade. And they certainly don’t do what evangelicals do to maneuver politicians into passing laws forcing gays to live as they do. Nor do they go in for simple-minded and abusive practices as ‘conversion therapy.’

“The meme ‘born that way’ becomes the dominant meme by endless repetition. However, the Wt has acknowledged that genetics might play a role. Alternatively, it might be environment, psych endorsement, discredited Freud-type ideas (discredited mostly because they are unpopular) universal gender-bending hormones/plastics in common use, even epigenetics. Who knows? One thing for sure: sexuality has proven far more fluid than anyone of my day would have thought possible.

“The GB likely feels that they have no choice, given what the Bible, their guide to life, tells them. They take it as wisdom from God, who knows us better than we do ourselves. Gays within our ranks do not swim against the current, nor into it, both recipes for disaster. They are prepared to swim parallel to the shore, likely for a long time, in hopes that their orientation will eventually realign. One could argue that their faith is stronger than most Christians in that they stick to what they believe is right despite the very real testimony of their own bodies. It hardly seems fair, does it? It is why I have the greatest respect for such ones, who will mostly remain anonymous, and ZERO respect for the frothing church types who rail against gays, as they are demanding the latter lift a load the comparison of which they themselves would not be willing to budge with their little finger.”

[In response to someone who said he thought the organization’s days were numbered:]

“Time will tell. The enemies of Jehovah’s Witnesses have succeeded in doing what Witnesses could never have succeeded in doing alone: putting the Cause before the world. Russia persecution triggers international sympathy. Shunning and child abuse cover-up allegations trigger international frowning. All three are diluted by the fact that there are endless atrocities today to compete for people’s limited attention.

“Cover-up allegations and shunning complaints are bad. Invariably they are exaggerated, such as people are wont to do, but they are seldom manufactured. Countering the bad press will be the good things that Jehovah’s Witnesses have to offer, things that are never alluded to here.

“A recent development of the Witness organization is self-guided, online Bible study lessons at their website, addressing such age-old questions as ‘Why does God permit suffering?’ ‘What happens when we die?’ and ‘Is there realistic hope for the future?’ People want such answers. Lloyd says (pityingly) in a video that Witnesses ‘crave certainty.’ Isn’t that a big ‘Duh’? Anyone here enjoy playing Russian Roulette with their finances or health? The more certainty we can lay hold of the better.

“Bible answers are Jehovah’s Witnesses’ strong suit. Christians are directed in the Bible to stay separate from the greater world as they offer it a helping hand. Anything with an upside will have a downside. The downside zeroed in on exclusively on this forum is real, but it does not negate the upside. Therefore, it depends upon where is your focus. ‘Bible education’ is the overall goal of the Witness organization, and ‘preaching the good news.’ As the online study sessions demonstrate, with only some exaggeration, if push comes to shove, the essential components of the Witnesses’ work can be run out a server in someone’s dorm room.

“Meanwhile, going atheist holds some attraction, mostly escaping anyone who would tell you what to do, as though one does not simply put themselves under the ‘control’ of other deep-pocketed parties telling you what to do, be it Trump, Soros, the Russians, Big Defense, Big Pharma, pro or anti climate change, with the enormous economic and lifestyle consequences both bring. Atheism will appeal to some, but never all. The year text presumably agreed upon here is: “Sh*t happens. Get used to it. Maybe we can elect the right politicians to fix it.” How’s that project going, anyway?

“No, that year text will just not cut it for everyone.”

Maybe I should have gone on his podcast, but I figured it might be like the time, long ago, when I filled in for a school bus driver in a very rough district, and one of the deboarding students spit on me, and then he and all his chums assembled to invite me on their ‘podcast’ just outside the bus. I decided to do like Jesus, who was not even driving a bus, when he was spit upon. ‘But they say that he is very nice in person,’ his buddies told me. Doubtless he would pour me Kool-Aid with a smile to quench my thirst. I never entertained the idea, though I did stretch it out for a while:

He: “Welcome back Tom. Is your personal allowance for engaging with apostates online still only limited to Twitter, or will you be able to join me for a recorded chat on Skype?’ [I had come back. I followed him on Twitter in the first place when I discovered he would reliably inform me of things I might want to address. The moment he became aware of me, he wanted me on his show.]

Tom: “As soon as one agrees to a debate, one agrees to the premise that debate is the best way to illuminate things.”

He: “There are lots of ways of illuminating things. Discourse is one way. I had no idea it was a competition.”

Tom: “I have written three books. You have written at least one. Let that be your ‘discourse’ for you.”

He: “I think we both know your reason for declining an interview. It ain’t your books.”

[His chums joined in:]

Chum: “Tom why on earth are you in contact with ‘apostates’? Do you think Jah can’t read twitter...and therefore judge you for it?”

Another chum: “Seriously Tom, I’d be bricking it in your shoes! There’s no allowance for chatting with bad sorts (well, Jesus did it, but let’s forget that, and him, eh!).”

[Forgive me if this gets tiresome. Feel free to skip a little, or go right on to the next chapter.  A bit later:]

He: “Me waiting for truetom to accept my offer of an on-camera interview to discuss his views as a believing JW who doesn’t have a problem engaging with apostates on social media.”

He: “BTW Tom, since you’re apparently able to bend the rules by interacting with apostates on social media, are you feeling brave enough to go the full nine yards and join me for an on-camera Skype interview? Or does Jehovah’s judgment kick in once you appear on camera?”

He: “I’m quite happy to have a civilized discussion in which we agree to disagree. We do have at least some common ground in both opposing Russia’s ban of Jehovah’s Witnesses.”

He: “…you’ve already rejected the offer citing some bizarre argument about being an author and not the true reason - that your religion prevents you from conversing with apostates.”

Tom: “Perhaps I am not a good debater.”

He: “It doesn’t need to be a debate, just a conversation.”

Tom: “Unfortunately, I am not even good at conversation. “But I said: ‘Alas, O Sovereign Lord Jehovah! I do not know how to speak, for I am just a boy.’ (Jeremiah 1:6) That’s me.”

He: “You’re not much good at following the rules of the cult for which you are a cheerleader, either.”

Tom: “Many things I am not much good at. More things than not, actually.”

He: “There’s simple mistakes and then there’s straight up hypocrisy. Either it’s “Jehovah’s organization” or it isn’t. If it is, maybe you should do as you’re told and get your acre in paradise.” [Ouch]

Tom: “You say I violate ‘rules’ and yet you would have me violate them further by ‘conversation’? Ha! You just think you can get me into trouble with my own people so that I will sulk and cross over into the Obi-wan Dark Side.”

And now I must face the music from my own side, and there may be some. His continual taunts at being “not allowed” were surely overdone, and it must have made him feel a little silly when I kept coming nonetheless, until he felt compelled to “not allow” me himself. Still, nobody here thinks it is the bee’s knees to engage with these characters, and I may hear about it. And they could be right. Maybe I am the yo-yo on the Jerusalem wall singing out just when Hezekiah is telling the troops to zip it. But I just couldn’t take it anymore.

The Witness organization cannot be expected to defend itself on social media, if on any media. It takes the scriptural view of Jesus at Matthew 11, noting that grumblers slam him no matter what he does, before finally saying, ‘Don’t worry about it,’ “wisdom is proved righteous by its works.” It is like David who kept mum as ‘all day long they muttered against him.’ ‘It is like the plowman who knows that if you look behind while plowing, the furrows get all flaky.’ They don’t do it. The common view of opposers is that the Witness headship is telling members what to do, while it cynically manipulates all from above. That view is wrong. They practice what they preach and they do it themselves. The organization headship cites Hebrews 13:7 about ‘imitating the faith of those who are taking the lead among you.’ They don’t go on social media at all. They prefer a less raucous channel, and content themselves with news releases at the website that inform but do not kick back at the critics.

It is scriptural. It is proper. But there is a downside. By staying mum on specifics, essentially our enemies get to define us to the news media who refer to a cover statement about “abhorring child abuse” as “boiler-plate” and then go to former members who will eagerly fill their ears with accounts that we could counter by adding context but don’t. What’s a reporter to do? He goes to who fills his ears.

It will fall upon the Witness journalist to do it, if it is to be done, and there aren’t many of them. If fourteen years of blogging, not shying from controversial things, does not qualify me to take a shot at it, what does? If you are in a spiritual paradise, or even a vacation paradise, you do not have to concern yourself with removing the trash. It may be even dangerous to do so, because there is broken glass and used syringes. It’s not for everyone, and maybe for no one. But I thought I’d give it a go, and I at last got under this fellow’s skin, the big baby.

https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/917311

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