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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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Deciphering the Code of Life and the Human Immune System: Part 1

There are 3 billion base pairs in human DNA. Each is a rung on the latter of the double helix structure. But it is not as though each rung is a gene. Instead, a collection of them will define a single gene, of which there are over 20,000. The feat of mapping them all was accomplished in 2000. “Today we are learning the language in which God created life," President Clinton said at a White House ceremony celebrating the deed, reported in the New York Times. It is both an echo and update of Galileo’s quote from long ago: “Mathematics is the language in which God has written the universe.” It may be that Clinton’s statement was said for expediency, as Galileo’s certainly was not—the latter meant it. But I like when people are respectful toward God.

At about the same time, beginning with single-celled organisms like bacteria, other researchers were finding identical segments of DNA that didn’t seem to do anything and were interspersed among the segments that did. Says the above New York Times article: “. . . human DNA is full of repetitive sequences—the same run of letters repeated over and over again—and these repetitions baffle the computer algorithms set to assemble the pieces.”

Sean Carroll, in his 2007 book, The Making of the Fittest: DNA and the Ultimate Forensic Record of Evolution, incorrectly called these sequences ‘fossil DNA,’ though he surely knows what they are by now. At almost the exact time of his book’s writing, that DNA was being revealed as anything but ‘fossil.’

Things must be given a snappy acronym for memory’s sake. CRISPR did the trick: “clustered regularly interspersed short palindromic (reads the same backward and forward) repeats.” Now—just what were they, those repetitions that would “baffle the computer algorithms?”

One researcher ran the middle sections of such repeats through a database. He found that they were exactly the same as the DNA segments of attacking viruses!—as though the host ‘remembered’ its attacker. Walter Isaacson uses the analogy of copying and pasting a mug shot. That way, should that virus ever show its ugly mug again, it will immediately be spotted. Without fail it will be spotted, since the mug shot is not just there once at the post office, but interspersed again and again throughout all the DNA corridors!

Adjacent to these clustered regularly interspersed short palindromic repeats (CRISPRs) are enzymes* that not only do the copy and paste, but also the search and destroy. They’ve been dubbed ‘CRISPR-associated enzymes’—‘Cas enzymes’ for short. Since there are several of them, and they all perform different functions, they are numbered: Cas1, Cas2, and so forth.

*Enzymes are proteins that initiate chemical reactions but are not consumed themselves. The Cas enzymes molest an invading virus, one targeting it, one holding it down, one cutting it up into harmless bits, one posting the mug shot for future reference. What all this means, and this with the Cas enzymes only in 2008, is the structure and mechanism of the immune system is revealed!

Now, before progressing to what is annoying, let’s stop and savor the accomplishment, for it is monumental. You don’t have to right away reveal yourself an old codger forever posting signs ‘No turn-arounds in this driveway!!’ It’s proper to savor the accomplishment first. That’s what ‘The Code Breakers’ does, subtitled ‘the Future of the Human Race,’ the Walter Isaacson book completed in 2021. Isaacson has make it his specialty to write biographies of the world’s memorable innovators—even geniuses—such as Leonardo DaVinci, Albert Einstein, Ben Franklin, Steve Jobs, and just now, Elon Musk. The Code Breakers is more of a collaborative story. The names are not as recognizable. Isaacson wrote a similar book on the digital revolution in which most names are not as recognizable. Jennifer Doubna is the main focus of The Code Breakers. She is not the one who gave CRISPR its name, though. That fellow is Francisco Mojica.

It’s all very proper to name names when relating a human play, and Isaacson’s book is a must-read for anyone wishing to be brought up to speed on the topic. Only the Watchtower does not name names, and that is because it is a superhuman play that they follow and relate. You don’t have to know the names of the actors to follow the play; it can even be a distraction if you do. Besides—it is a bit of a self-reinforcing cycle—because they’re not following the human actors, but the play itself, they don’t always know just who the actors are. With just mild exaggeration, Elon Musk reduces to ‘one wealthy businessman,’ Vladimir Putin to ‘one Russian politician.’

But that’s an aside. Isaacson is telling a human story, and he does relate the names and the interplay between them. For an interesting read, you must relate the names. Besides, it’s risky if you don’t. There is no sweeter sound to a person than the sound of his own name. “Libraries and museums owe their richest collections to men who cannot bear to think that their names might perish from the memory of the race,” writes Dale Carnegie in How to Win Friends and Influence People, a book that is largely forgotten today but shouldn’t be. His observation is true enough. I can’t walk though a park without passing benches emblazoned with the names of those contributing to it.

But that’s another aside. The works of the code-breakers are truly momentous. Name them all—not a problem with that. Now—on to what is aggravating:

To be continued:

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Lessons from Leonardo de Vinci: Build Those Tweets into Notebooks

Leonardo da Vinci’s biographer draws lessons from his life, summarized in the final chapter:

“Take notes on paper: five hundred years later, Leonardo’s notebooks are around to astonish and inspire us, Fifty years from now, our own notebooks, if we work up the initiative to start writing them, will be around to astonish and inspire or grandchildren, unlike our tweets and Facebook posts.”

To anyone who has written a few books, as I have, these words go down smooth. Time will tell how much the grandchildren will be wowed but the notion of transforming what is fleeting to what is lasting appeals. It’s good to create things.

The thing is, I have used Leonardo in introductory material for the talk, ‘Can You Live Forever? Will You?’ one of the public’s talks in the JW rotation. There’s probably upwards of 200, including special talks that enter the mix.

IMG_1006I would briefly highlight the fantastic contributions Leonardo made to diverse fields—all way ahead of his time, some of them not duplicated to this day. Yet, drawing on a National Geographic quote, toward the end of his life he supposedly begged God’s forgiveness for not using to the full all his resources and art. The underlying idea is how such ones would not be put off by ‘everlasting life,’ as though it were a sentence to repetitive boredom. Instead, they would embrace it.

Do you think I could track down that quote a couple decades later when I wanted it? Or even the Geographic article? It’s somewhere, but I didn’t want to spend all day searching. Yet, Walter Isaacson, in a final chapter, highlights not those exact words but ones showing the same same sentiment and the same regret. “Did any of it get done?” Leonardo lamented again and again over his many sketches, schemes, and projects that never got off the drawing board—and never did, not because they were no good, but because Leonardo was easily distracted; he’d leave a project undone to tackle what next caught his attention.

This included the Mona Lisa. Francesco del Giocondo, a silk merchant, commissioned Leonardo to paint his wife, Lisa. Why Leonardo even accepted the commission is a mystery, for he could barely be bothered to pick up a paint brush in those days—he’d moved on to other things—but he did accept it. Thereafter, he fussed with the painting for 16 years, eternally perfecting it one tiny stroke at a time, incorporating the minutest adjustment of how light reflected or how human anatomy displayed itself in the smallest detail.  The painting was in his studio upon his death; del Giocondo never took delivery of it. Of another masterpiece, the Last Supper, this one completed in a blistering five years, Isaacson writes: "Leonardo would sometimes stare at the work for an hour, finally make one small stroke, and then leave."

Isaacson the biographer overall takes this as a plus. He reverses the normal mantra, ‘Don’t let the perfect become an enemy of the good’ into ‘Don’t let the good become the enemy to the perfect.’ Leonardo released nothing that was not perfect and consequently, released little, including major paintings. He’d work on them awhile, set them aside, and work on something else. He liked the process more than the finish, says Isaacson.

Alas, I could use a bit more of this philosophy myself. I release a lot of drivel in my writing, cranked out to meet a self-imposed schedule before adequate development. By the time it hits book stage, it’s much better, but even there I have been known to withdraw entire books for rewrite. Not to worry. Like George Harrison, “with every mistake we must surely be learning.” And that gently weeping guitar in the background that nags we are not? Fugeddabudit!

The tweets come in handy, though. Especially back when there was a 140, then 280. character limit, they served to make the windbags concise, including me. There are numerous passages in my books that began as tweets. Then, feedback can add a conversational quality not to be had in just essay alone.

 

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

In the Last of the Last Days: Faith in the Age of Dysfunction

The new book is now out. Available in print and digital at Amazon. Soon to follow is Apple, Barnes and Noble, others. From the book’s metadata:

“Those of the Enlightenment laud the “human experiment” that is democracy, Jehovah’s Witnesses laud the human experiment that is worldwide family. Theirs is John Lennon’s brotherhood of man not rejoicing that there is above us only skybut instead seeking direction from that sky. A family all but solving racism, a family uniting nationalities and social classes. Who wouldn’t want a double-shot of it? But even a recent circuit overseer likened it to “one big, united, happy, somewhat dysfunctional family,” a phrase I suspect is not in any outline.

Witnesses are ordinary folk, with all the foibles of ordinary folk, and maybe a few extra thrown in since “They that are whole have no need of a physician, but they that are ill do: I [Jesus] came not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.”

What makes the Witnesses tick? Examine the pressures facing these ordinary folk who star in a world-stage role that is alternately noble and strange. Some pressure is external: “A large door that leads to activity has been opened to me, but there are many opposers.” Some pressure is internal: “We have this treasure [of the ministry] in earthen vessels.” Translation: “We have met the enemy and he is us.”

Either way, “Do not be puzzled at the burning among you . . . as though a strange thing were befalling you,” says Peter. Don‘t be puzzled. Tackle it head-on. Start with the pure bonus, ‘Things that drive you crazy about the faith--and how to view them,’ for the goal is to endure: “When the Son of man arrives, will he really find the faith on the earth?” says Jesus. ‘Not if we have anything to do with it,’ reply ever increasing enemies.

"If errors were what you watch, O Jah, O Jehovah, who could stand?” asks the psalm. Is watching errors not the mission statement of today’s culture, typified in its media? Nobody stands as their enemies magnify, enhance, and even concoct evil reports—see it play out on the internet with any public figure, “admiring personalities,” until they destroy them. Ought Christians play that game?

"Who is weak, and I am not weak? Who is stumbled, and I am not incensed? If I must boast, I will boast of the things that show my weakness,” says Paul. Three times the apostle entreated God to remove a “thorn in his flesh” Nothing doing, God said. I look better when you are flawed. If brilliant people achieve brilliant things, it’s easy to see why. But when flawed people do it . . .”

Tips on the ministry within. How did Witnesses fare in the face of COVID-19? How to regard ever-present conspiracy theories that ripple through society? And what about those overlapping generations? How long can they overlap? What is at stake? What facts on the ground identify the times? Venturing to the edge of the universe, rewriting the textbooks, and dressing down the god of good luck is all in a day's work. Meet Mephibosheth, that faithful man of old whom nobody can pronounce his name at the New System Dinner Table. A bad boy turns over a new leaf, a theodicy that works, and my favorite circuit overseer finish up the offerings.”

 https://www.amazon.com/dp/B0CC6DYJRD?tag=namespacebran320-20&linkCode=ogi

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

A Review of ‘Judging Jehovah’s Witnesses:’ Part 2 (Resolving Matters the Next Time Around)

(See Part 1)

How does an eight to one Supreme Court decision go six to three the other way in just the scan of three years? Did the justices who switched sides have their Acts 9:3 road to Damascus revelation?—“Hey! Why are you guys opposing me? Knock it off!”

The book Judging Jehovah’s Witnesses, by Shawn Francis Peters, examines their later admissions. They were cowed that first time around! They were bullied! They were ‘manipulated!’ Where are the anti-cultists when you need them?

The three ‘flipflopping’ justices were bowled away by the stature of then Chief Justice Felix Frankfurter, who wrote the majority opinion in Minersville School District vs Gobitas: ‘Make those Witness students salute the flag! Kick them out of school if they do not! Oh—and don’t worry about misspelling Gobitis’s name (Court records have it has ‘Gobitas’) Who cares?’

They dared not cross him. “Felix mesmerized us . . . [he] was passionate about the flag and what it meant to him,” one of those justices recalled. Felix was the justice who would walk the corridors of the Supreme Court merrily whistling ‘Stars and Stripes Forvever. (Pg 52) The other three were newbies—scared to take him on!

Moreover, Justice Douglass laments, the powerful dissent of Harlan Stone, author of the minority opinion that later became the majority—he had not yet made that opinion known. When he did, these guys felt it was too late to switch sides. They could have been ‘manipulated’ the other way! Where are the anti-cultists when you need them?

They fretted about it. Coming down to the wire, too chicken to change their vote, Peters’ book quotes Justice Black murmuring, “What are we going to do? Stone is right. . . . But we were wiped out by Felix emotional appeal.”  (P237)  “We decided to redress the wrong the next time around.”

CD5269F9-47F3-4089-AE6C-C0DAE4B3B55FThis calls to mind Parkinson’s Law, that book by C. Northcote Parkinson that undertakes to express “laws” of business and human nature in mathematical terms. Illustrating the law that the time devoted to an item varies inversely to its expense, the author presents a board meeting considering its first item on the agenda, whether to approve construction of an atomic reactor. The item passes almost instantly because few know much about atomic reactors—some don’t even know what one is—but nobody wants to confess their ignorance before their peers. They approve it. However, they do so with many a private misgiving Members inwardly feel that they haven’t pulled their weight. They resolve to make up for that deficiency with the next item.

The next item is whether to construct a bicycle shed for the employees. They discuss at great length, since they didn’t do much on the previous item. However, the ‘great length’ at which they discuss this item is nothing compared with the length of the final item on the agenda—whether to switch brands of coffee for break times.

And so the cowed Justices resolved to “redress the wrong the next time around.”

Don’t think the intent here is to villainize those three, nor even the Justice who wrote the disastrous-for-Witnesses majority opinion. Why disastrous? Because it unleashed a wave of savage persecution against them from the general populace. Estimates range of about 1500 incidences of mob-violence during this period, with beatings a staple, sometimes escalating to tar-and-and feathering, and even the occasional maiming, castration, shooting, and hanging. It was a wrong ripe for “redress the next time around.” Still, I know what it’s like to be newbie on a body. I know what it’s like to be swayed by long-time seniors. Probably everyone does, barring those who are naturally truculent. It happens.

‘Don’t let a bully carry the day’ is the tone of current training for elder bodies. ‘Discuss it thoroughly. Draw out the reticent ones. Don’t just run them down.’ It’s human nature for that to happen. Try to counteract it.

If there’s another lesson to take away, it might be, ‘Don’t be awed by great ones.’ They’re men (in the case of those who are.) They put their pants on one leg at a time (in the case of those who do). Check your reverence for them. Sort of like the Psalm says:

Do not put your trust in princes Nor in a son of man, who cannot bring salvation. His spirit goes out, he returns to the ground; On that very day his thoughts perish.” (146:4-5)

Jehovah’s Witnesses love that scripture. They like the one about a king’s heart being flexible, too, the way it proved to be with the flipflopping three. “A king’s heart is like streams of water in Jehovah’s hand. He directs it wherever He pleases.” (Proverbs 21:1)

I’m still waiting for that to play out with Putin. I’m still waiting that he will look into the banning of the Jehovah’s Witness organization in his country and reverse it. He’s a ‘king’, but he’s also a man with a heart. Now—I’m not holding my breath. But it worked with Ahasuerus, tricked by that day’s opponents to throttle the Jews. Why not he?

To be continued…here

 

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

Things That Drive You Crazy About the Faith—and How to View Them: Part 1

This will be a multi-part series. See Preface  2nd Preface.

Six times the Great Courses professor (Alan Charles Kors) spoke about “ideas which had stood the test of time.” It took every one of those times for the words to sink in. It wasn’t just my obtuseness. The concept is hard to get your head around. But once you do, all is a breeze, like when you learned to ride a bike.

Francis Bacon is #90 in the book by Michael Hart, The 100, a book that ranks the 100 most influential persons in history. Plato is #40. Many times I’ve written how his famous ‘philosopher-kings’ method of good government almost exactly parallels the governing body structure of Jehovah’s Witnesses. Even allowing for how my perennial return visit Bernard Strawman (who continues to make fine progress!) calls our guys ‘janitor-plumbers,’ not ‘philosopher kings,’ the parallels are striking.

Now, with Francis Bacon—what great deed did he do to be rated 90th most important person who ever lived? He advanced what is known as “the empirical method of inquiry.” Hart explains: “To understand the world one must first observe it, first collect the facts, then draw conclusions from these facts by means of inductive reasoning.”

You’re kidding me! That’s it?! If you want to figure out something, you should look at it first?! He’s ranked #90 in the whole world for that big duh?! C’mon! Who doesn’t do that?! 2866AF9F-884A-43C8-BCB6-0F7C1190AC59

For most of human history, people did not. For most of human history it was, ‘if you want to figure out something, go to what has been revealed about it.’ That was Scripture—information given from on high, information revered because it “had stood the test of time.”

To be continued:

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Gain-of-Function Research. Evolutionist Assumptions to Kill us All.

Gain-of-function research is a euphemism for taking something harmless in nature and making it harmful, maybe in order to make a bio weapon, maybe to make a vaccine against one, or maybe for who-can-say what reasons. Newsweek, back in April 2020, reported on U.S—China collaboration over such research. Peter Breggin, a doctor better known as an advocate of psychiatric drug reform, traced it back still further. U.S. government agencies denied it. Dr. Fauci, head of the National Institute for Allergy and Infectious Diseases, even did so before Congress. But recently the National Institutes of Health acknowledged it. “‘I told you so,’ doesn’t even begin to cover it,” said the Senator who had first made the charge.

Dr. Breggin has recently branched out from psychiatric reform to tackle the question of just how the pandemic arose. “How do researchers determine if a virus found in nature can become a pathogen, i.e., “bind to human cells?” The laboratory scientists engineer it into a pathogen and use their success to claim it could also emerge naturally from nature—a conclusion which makes no sense,” he says in his book Covid 19 and the Global Predators

Why does it make no sense to him?

Engineering a benign virus into a lethal one is a complex time-consuming, highly technical process, thereby making an accidental change of that sort in nature extremely unlikely.” he says.

It makes no sense to me, either. Next paragraph of his book, he repackages and runs the claim through again: “When the researchers…believe they have made coronaviruses capable of producing a Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) in humans…they absurdly claim that natural selection is likely to do the same thing! and use that claim to scare us into giving them further amounts of our taxes to support their dangerous Frankenstein-like activities.

It is dumb as dumb can be. But are these researchers disingenuous in suggesting that natural evolution might do what they could do only with the most painstaking effort? Or do they really believe it? Breggin seems convinced they are disingenuous. I think they really believe it.

The reason I think they really believe it is found in a Watchtower publication, The Origin of Life—Five Questions Worth Asking. Evolutionists who think the living cell arose spontaneously through natural selection try to test their theory by building one themselves.  Only ‘Five Questions’ has the common sense to observe:

Similarly, if scientists ever did construct a cell, they would accomplish something truly amazing —but would they prove that the cell could be made by accident? If anything, they would prove the very opposite, would they not?”

Evolutionists think it here too! If they can design it, that must mean it could come through evolution! It is also, as Breggin says, “a conclusion which makes no sense.” It is the reason one must always go easy putting faith in science. In the midst of genuine research comes an assumption so blindingly dumb as to contaminate whatever follows! Moreover, in Watchtower’s brochure, the assumption just puts egg on the face of the scientists. In the current gain-of-function application, it threatens to kill us all!

To sum up: “The work entailed risks that worried even seasoned researchers. More than 200 scientists called for the work to be halted….[since] it increased the likelihood that a pandemic would occur through a laboratory,” per the Newsweek article. Obama banned it. Trump, after initially permitting it, also banned it—probably the only thing the two have ever agreed upon! What emboldens researchers to do end runs around the bans of two presidents and perform the risky research anyway? Their overarching belief in evolution.

Senator Paul made the point as to its dangers, he who tweeted ‘I told you so’ about the gain-of-function admission. It’s not so much that government health agencies were lying, he says. Rather: “Right now we have a virus where the whole world has been turned on its head, it has a 1% mortality. Can you imagine if they create something in a lab that has a 15% mortality or 50% mortality? Some of the viruses they have been experimenting with in Wuhan have 50% mortality.” Evolutionists threaten all humanity when they act on their assumptions.

Interestingly, the NIH letter admitting to gain-of-function research did not use the term, “though the work he described matches its commonplace definition precisely,” says the National Review writer. Of course! It is like when I was asked if nighttime employees really sleep on the job. I replied I had never seen one do that. However I had seen them engage in activity that so closely resembled sleep that it was impossible to tell the difference.

Changing definitions can get you out of many a jam. Even Xi Jinping insists that the government he heads in China is democratic. All you need to do is change your definition of democratic to see it that way. And don’t get me started on how the C-word has changed over the years to target unpopular groups. It once was the case that if you fell under the spell of a charismatic leader, withdrew from society, and began doing strange things, you just might be a member of a cult. These days, simply following Jesus in being “no part of the world” is enough to trigger the hated word.

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

I Don’t Know Why We Persecute Jehovah’s Witnesses: Searching for the Why

Searching for the why—at first glance, what could be easier? Just read the charges. But when Putin says, “Jehovah’s Witnesses are Christians, too. I really don’t understand why they are persecuted”—there appears more to it than meets the eye. When Human Rights Watch says, “Russia’s religious persecution focuses almost exclusively on Jehovah’s Witnesses,” the plot thickens.
 
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Like Luke to Theophilus, here is a book that “traces everything from the start with accuracy.” Like Luke to Theophilus, here is a book that tells it from the believer’s point of view. Stripped of the red herrings that plagued Dear Mr. Putin—Jehovah’s Witnesses Write Russia, updated to the February 2021 present, and ever respectful towards the land of the bear, in most ebook forms it continues to be free, a labor of love.

Here are presented the modern-day Acts of Russia with regard to worship, the acts of believers and of those who oppose them. The acts of Russia have taken a dark and perplexing turn, puzzling even Putin. Can it be? The wizard who runs Oz doesn’t know how his contraption works? Here is a book that picks up where Baran’s Dissent on the Margins (2014) leaves off. The tale has not yet ended. But then, neither had the tale ended when Luke completed the first century Book of Acts.

Early in 2017, every Jehovah’s Witness in the world was invited to write letters to designated Russian officials, urging that justice be done in their case. I wrote one. Here is my expanded version.
Defending Jehovah’s Witnesses with style from attacks... in Russia, with the book ‘I Don’t Know Why We Persecute Jehovah’s Witnesses—Searching for the Why’ (free).... and in the West, with the book, 'In the Last of the Last Days: Faith in the Age of Dysfunction'

The Graduate Author Who Ran from Success—Where Have You Gone, Mrs Robinson?

The guy who wrote The Graduate—the book, not the movie—gave away all the money he made from writing it. He bought a house with his one-time movie rights. He gave it away within weeks—he would give three away during his lifetime—a lifetime that ended July 2020, He was 81.

The movie ‘The Graduate’ was a sensation—the highest grossing film of 1967, with seven academy award nominations. It is fussed over to this day for capturing the “alienation of modern youth”—though they are not so modern anymore, have long since put their alienation behind them, and many have done quite well for themselves, thank you very much. Many ultimately chose the life of plastic that the Graduate protagonist rejected.

But not author Charles Webb and his wife. Several times they came into money, and each time they would give it away. The Graduate movie is ranked the 17th greatest American film of all time by the American Film Institute; the “coming of age story is indeed one for the ages,” gushes Rotten Tomatoes. Webb didn’t make a dime off it and didn’t want to. He wouldn’t even do book signings—they were “a sin against decency.”

What kind of a guy does this? Many times he received windfalls. Each time he gave it away. “Mercifully I wasn’t written into [the Graduate movie] deal,” he told the AP. “Nobody understands why I felt so relieved, but I count my longevity to not being swept into that. My wife and I have done a lot of things we wouldn’t have done if we were rich people. ... I would have been counting my money instead of educating my children.”

He’s not kidding about educating his children. He and his wife Fred—she took that name so as to identify with a group of men named Fred afflicted with low self-esteem (your guess is as good as mine)—pulled their two children from school. They homeschooled. This resonates with me because I did the same, only mine were not pulled out—they never saw the inside of a school other than an experimental 6th grade, after which both chose to homeschool again.

Homeschooling wasn’t legal when Webbs did it. It was when we did, even if a little dicey—there were always unpredictable hoops to jump through. Once, the school district turned down my curriculum plan on the basis of, of all things, a weak music curriculum. The kids were enrolled in Suzuki violin, for crying out loud! I went to the library, copied and submitted some gobbledygook from a music textbook, and they were as happy as pigs in mud.

A set of older friends in another jurisdiction were constantly harassed over their homeschooling—much more so than us. Yet my pal later reflected on his younger kids that were homeschooled vs his older ones that were not, and observed that the those of the first batch were far better at interacting with all factions of the community. Pretty much the same experience here—not that we had the contrast but we did have the experience of kids who readily mixed with all ages—whereas when I was in grade school, those kids in even one grade up might have been on another planet, to say nothing of adults. “I had no idea that there were so many stupid people,” said my son in complete innocence after he enrolled in the community college at age 16 and began his second experience in the classroom.

The Webbs moved around a lot, sometimes camping, sometimes living out of a Volkswagen bus. Oldest son John called that part of his education “unschooling.” I know what unschooling is, too. We did it at times. It is simply a less rigid homeschooling, with more forbearance for letting youngsters pursue their own interests. I’d love to speak with these two kids—now adults. How did they turn out? “Not a lot of people picked up on it, but the title of ‘The Graduate’ was supposed to convey it was about education,” Webb told some reporter in 2006. He wasn’t keen on the mainstream model.

Meanwhile, he and/or his artist wife did stints at KMart, picked fruit, cleaned houses. “When you run out of money, it’s a purifying experience,” he said. Besides the VW bus, they lived in motels, trailer parks, even a nudist colony—they managed that place during their tenure. They named their dog ‘Mrs. Robinson.’

Now, these two were not Jehovah’s Witnesses. I don’t want to imply that they were. (Have JWs ever preached in a nudist colony?) Yet we have so many people who have renounced financial comfort so as to “have a greater share in the ministry” that when I see it elsewhere, it resonates no less than the homeschooling. I count as a friend today someone whose pursuit of a full-time ministry within Jehovah’s Witnesses triggered estrangement from his unbelieving oil baron family. “Look, Eric! Texas tea!” I call his attention to any gas station that we pass.

The book that became the movie is not autobiographical. “I got interested in the wife of a good friend of my parents and ... [realized] it might be better to write about it than to do it,” he told the online publication Thoughtcat in 2006. Yet much of it was his life—his remoteness from his wealthy connected parents, for example, along with their world that he found so superficial. His relationship with his heart specialist dad was “reasonably bad,” he said, and with his socialite mom, he “was always looking for crumbs of approval.” He had figured he might get a considerable number of those crumbs with the publication of his book, for she was an avid reader who might boast “My son is an author!” but he didn’t—probably the skewering of her lifestyle had something to do with it.

Still, whether you give up every dime or not—you don’t have to do it just for the sake of doing it. The ministry of the apostle Paul caused him to know both “how to have an abundance and how to do without.” (Philippians 4:12) He knew and was comfortable in both places. This fellow was good at doing without, but he seems to have panicked at having an abundance. Sometimes you have to renounce your past. Sometimes in doing so, you swing too far the other way.

Maybe it was a starving artist kind of thing. He even made a cliche over it: “The penniless author has always been the stereotype that works for me. . . . When in doubt, be down and out.” But not for any romantic reason—he pushed back at that notion. “We hope to make the point that the creative process is really a defense mechanism on the part of artists — that creativity is not a romantic notion.” It’s not like he would recommend it to others, or maybe even to himself. It is more like he felt driven to it, half against his will. I think of how so many comedians developed and honed their comedy as a means of defendIng themselves from school-age bullies. There is even a video that suggests that.

A character from one of his other books—he wrote eight—an alcoholic painter, says: “What’s important for me is that I keep doing it, keep painting, and hold on to that feeling which goes along with putting the paint on the canvas,” he wrote. “It’s all I have and all I need.” This, too, resonates with me, a fellow who imagines himself a writer—and inherits the pluses along with the minuses.

“Lots of people momentarily embrace the idea of leaving the rat race, like the characters in The Graduate,” said one obit writer. “Mr. Webb [and his wife] did it, with all the consequences it entailed. If they regretted the choice, they did not say so.” And, “Webb has such an easygoing charm about him, such a friendly and sincere presence,” another wrote years prior. This also resonates with me, who is just as pleasant as—no, that is going too far. In the dog park I constantly have to apologize for my dog, who has become grouchy in his old age toward other dogs, “just like me,” I say.

As though to get in the final word, the condensed obituary in TheWeek Magazine read: “The Graduate author who ran from success” Did he? Or is it that they can only imagine their own definition of success there at TheWeek?

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

Sticking up for Pilate, and Battling the Trolls

I always felt a little bad for Pilate. He tried to free Jesus. He really did—the four Gospel accounts make that very clear—declining only to fall on his own sword for him. For a military leader that’s not bad. It is not promising that when he says (and displays) that he is washing his hands of the blood of Jesus, the enemies of the Lord shout: “Let his blood come upon us and upon our children.” (Matthew 27:25)

Partly to divert attention from the actions of those religious leaders, who after all, have descendants, history has cranked up the volume on Pilate’s (who does not) vileness. In time, it became almost politically incorrect to connect Jesus’ death with those leaders. However, when Mel Gibson, director of the gory film The Passion—which I have never seen, though it was almost required viewing for evangelicals, I am told (I can take the Gospel’s word for it that it was gory) was asked whether it was the Jews (not really them, but their leaders at the time) who killed Jesus, he replied: “Well, it wasn’t the Scandinavians.”

There was a book long ago recommended to me by an older sister in the congregation—a historical novel titled simply ‘Pontus Pilate.’ It followed Pilate’s exploits through life. It presented everything from his point of view. It made him not unlikable at all, and its portrayal of Jesus was completely believable, though when it later moved on to consider reports of Paul, it presented him as a loony fanatic that many would not be able to stand for too long—it wasn’t as I picture him at all. Now I spot a review of that book here:

Anyway, along comes someone on Twitter named Lee to challenge me over Pilate’s actions per the Bible accounts Naw, Pilate wouldn’t have done that, he says, because he was rotten as can be without a shred of decency—a tyrant who ruled with an iron fist. Besides, the Gospel accounts are hooey, and the Watchtower scholarship is nil—full of insults this fellow is. Presently, he reveals that his source is Bart Ehrman.

Now, Bart exists for the purpose of destroying people’s faith—or at best, transferring it from faith in God to faith in man. That’s not in his job description, of course, but it is the effect of him doing his job. He sits at some university chairing the Religious Studies department, and students sign up for his courses thinking they will increase their knowledge of the Bible—how can that be a bad thing? He teaches them that it is—that is, if they regard the book a source of faith. If they just regard it critically, that is fine with him, but if they think they can extract faith from it, he works to disabuse them of that notion.

Rather than the common sense view that the four gospels are written by four credible sources covering the same events more or less like four newspapers might cover the same events, each supplying details that the others leave out, he presents them as warring factions each trying to repackage Jesus after their own image. I remember decades ago giving the public talk ‘The Harmony of the Gospels’ and remarking how well it is that Matthew supplements Mark, because otherwise you might think that the first time Peter and John ever laid eyes on Jesus, they dropped everything to follow him after just a single sentence, which makes no sense at all. Matthew’s account makes clear they already knew each other well, and so Jesus’ saying “Come be my follower,” is just an invitation into a more intensive ministry.

Bart presents Mark’s version as though they really do abandon everything first time they see him!—how can anyone be so stupid? I’ll know I’ve arrived as a minister when I can invite people to study the Bible as Witnesses do, and they say as though in a trance “Must...follow...Tom” as they leave home and hearth, with their lawn mower still running! Bart thinks that according to Mark it actually happened that way!—since he thinks Mark’s purpose is to present Jesus as the mesmerizing miracle worker. You know, it would help if he hadn’t had come from an evangelical background where they believe all sorts of things that make little sense, so if he pats himself on the back at breaking free from that—well, who can blame him? If only his Bible knowledge had been well grounded in the first place.

So Lee has read Bart, and he thinks he thereby knows more than anyone else. He says: “As far as I know there are no non-Biblical accounts of this practice (freeing a prisoner, such as Pilate offered with Barabbas) and the Romans tended not to free insurrectionists to go round causing trouble all over again. I find it interesting that Barabbas means "son of the father" which is a good description of Jesus. A natural conclusion to draw is that this is a literary device and not reporting of real events.

I replied: “It is also a good description of anyone. Who can say? The account is specific enough and (atypically) in all four gospels. I see no need to blow it off as an invention. Maybe it was one of those deals that politicians are wont to pull every four years—releasing a few prisoners sometimes because they deserve it and/or sometimes because it makes them look good.”

He tipped his hand more, and this time revealed that his source was Bart—linking to a post Bart had written on the topic, along with his own: “Why look for chinks of light to defend a sectarian interpretation rather than look to the most reasonable explanation of available evidence?

It’s time to reveal to this character that I, too, know of the great, educated, and all-knowing Bart. I replied:

“Bart says that our sources for Pilate are almost nil, yet it is still enough for him to know Pilate through and through!? I think my take is more reasonable. Leaders throw out a bone or two today. Why not then? Maybe Barabbas was old and toothless by then, all the fight out of him. As to Bart’s recent book, Heaven and Hell, I have written that any JW could have written the bulk of it.

He responded in a flurry of tweets. When that happens, and if you want to continue, don’t respond to each one. Just because he thinks in a muddle, it does not mean you have to. Pick just one. He bombarded me with (I’ll number them—they all came at once:

1. Given that little time was spent prior to execution, if the Barabbas character was old and wrinkly that doesn't seem to have stopped his sedition and would not prevent his execution.

2. Yes, from what I've heard of Bart discussing it, I also noted how similar to JW's a lot of his position is. It seemed odd when he was attacked without being named in the March 2020 JW broadcast. [not that I noticed, but then if he was not named, who can say?]

3. I'm not sure where you get the idea he's been cribbing JW teachings. An annihilationist hell has been a feature of some Christian denominations for hundreds of years. Martin Luther and Tyndale for example. It is also common among Millerite offshoots including the JW's.

4. "the scholarship of the Watchtower must be elevated . . .  their critics generally assume that they have none." No, just largely only carried out at Bethel whilst the rank and file are asked not to dig too deeply into the secular scholarship the writing department accesses.

5. JW writing department treatment of scholarship is more to give a partial presentation to fit pre-conceived theology, not to ignore scholarship altogether.

6. JW writing department treatment of scholarship is more to give a partial presentation to fit pre-conceived theology, not to ignore scholarship altogether.

I was tempted to respond to #3. What is anannihilationist hell” other than no hell at all?—which is what Jehovah’s Witnesses teach, and almost nobody else! People just make up terms they hope you don’t know to make themselves look smart.

Instead, I decided to ignore this point, along with his other insults, and stay on topic—his appeal to Bart for authority: I replied: “Bart has only two sources regarding Pilate [Philo and Josephus], both Jewish upper class intellectuals, both with every reason to deeply resent occupying Rome. Why does it not occur to you or Bart that they just might not be unbiased sources? The Gospel account is probably more unbiased and true.

He shifted into high gear spinning theological terms: “Did you adopt this view of Johanine neutrality and historicity after a careful meta-analysis of scholarly work or after adopting a position of Biblical infallibility without such a scholarly exercise?”

“Come, come,” said I. “Your argument is weak. Don’t just keep flailing away nor “pull rank” with PhDs as though only they can think. Lots of Trump people are smart, too. Will you trust two of them to give an honest appraisel of Biden? Or vice versa? The gospel writers are more reliable, and infinitely more detailed. Brilliant and learned as your two sources may be, they wrote exceedingly little, not just on Pilate, but on the entire Christian movement.”

He next revealed that he had no idea what he was talking about, and didn’t really care. He just thought he could score a few points:

He: “I've no idea what Philo said about the Christian movement and doubt Josephus wrote what is attributed to him. How do you judge the reliability of NT writers accounts of miracles?”

See how he sweeps aside the fact that he doesn’t really know anything, and presses on with the fight anyway. It’s not happening on my watch. He already knows how I feel about the reliability of NT writers because he knows I am one of Jehovah’s Witnesses—he just wants to start a fight after awing me with credentials he does not have. There are only four brief “real time” mentions of first-century Christianity apart from the Bible itself. He had mentioned two—Josephus and Philo. I asked him if he knew the other, too. [They are Tacitus and Pliny the Younger] Of course, he did not—or at any rate I never heard from him again.

I thus never got the opportunity to point out that the reason there are only four extremely brief contemporary mentions of first-century Christianity outside of the New Testament itself is that the movement was (and is) one of the common people—who are ever beneath the notice of the “educated” class.

 

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

A Review of the Jack London Short Story ‘Moon Face’—They’re Always Throwing Goodness at You, but With a Little Bit of Luck a Man Can Duck.

Sometimes—a certain person is so consistently annoying that you just feel you have no choice but to bump him off. Of course, you don’t do that—it’s not right. The rules don’t allow for it. You make your mind over, like the Word says, and you learn to think of the other person as superior to you—also what the Bible says at Phillipians 2:3. You look for the one area—there has to be at least one—in which he or she clearly is superior and then you hone in on that quality like a laser beam. It really does work when applied.

But—in the words of Alfred P. Doolittle: “They’re always throwing goodness at you. But with a little bit of luck a man can duck!” What if you could duck?

Enter Jack London, the writer. If there is one thing about London’s work that sticks with the reader, it is his portrayal of natures’ unforgiving harshness. Make a mistake, and you will pay for it with your life. The trait of mercy does not exist in his novels. Who can forget his short story ‘To Build a Fire’ in which the sub-zero Alaskan wanderer’s life depends upon his building a fire—and how he at last gets one going, searing his numb and frozen fingers which were beyond handling individual matches so he could only light the whole box at once—somehow clenching it in his teeth, if memory serves (it may not), and then he holds it in place amidst the storm, holding it as long as he must—smelling his burning flesh—because if this fire fails to take hold he will freeze to death for sure.

It does take hold. He adds wood to it—more and more—the fire begins to roar—its heat begins to thaw him and he feels he has beat nature—he will survive after all. And then—the snow in the boughs of the tree he had foolishly built his fire under—yes, it had sheltered him from the wind, but it would also spell his doom—loosens with the heat and comes crashing down, snuffing out his fire in an instant—after which he runs off into the wilds and freezes to death.

That is a Jack London story. They are all like that—stark and unforgiving—at least the ones I remember. Many are set in the gold-rush days.

Could Jack London write a comedic short story? No way. Inconceivable. And yet there is one—only one, so far as I know—and it is all the more comedic because it incorporates his standard themes of hardness and absolutely no mercy. Can you really write a comedy from that?

London’s protagonist has a neighbor that he cannot stand for his incessant optimism and good cheer. Even his face and surname grates on his nerves. His booming laugh—no matter what atrocious thing has happened (and the protagonist knows, because he deliberately causes some just so to wipe this inane smile off his face—setting fire to his barn, for example, and causing his house to be foreclosed on) drives London’s character into rabid fury, and he finally reaches the point where he cannot live until that idiot dies! (I can think of a person now—a non-JW—who has that effect on me) He devises the most clever and untraceable scheme to do him in—which does succeed.

Were it any other novelist, the story would end with his apprehension by the long arm of the law—that, or the crushing torment of his conscience. But this is a Jack London story. It concludes with: “My days are peaceful now, and my night's sleep deep.” It is a very short read—not too taxing and entertaining throughout, You should go there.

 

Sigh—you can’t bump them off like that. They’re always throwing goodness at you, and you can’t duck. You keep stripping off the old personality and keep putting on the new. You do become a better person for it. But you sure do have to endure some pieces of work along the way.

The daily text yesterday was “Show yourselves thankful,” from Colossians 3:15. The commentary included mention of the ten lepers who were healed by Jesus and yet only one turned back to give thanks. “Its good to develop a thankful attitude,” was my contribution to the Zoom group. Even when life sucks, see if you can’t look at ways in which the glass is half-full rather than ways in which it is half (or almost all)-empty. It’s healthier to do it that way.

Always rejoice! Always be thankful! Always be...but one can go too far. One can become like one of those plastic weighted clowns that you knock down, but then it bobs up again, it’s grinning face bobbing into yours.

After that thought, I recalled that Jack London story I read decades ago and never forgot. I had misremembered it as ‘Moonbeam’ whereas it was actually ‘Moon Face,’ but AI search had enough to go on and promptly pulled up the story for me.

You know, true to the daily text, Moon Face’s eternal optimism did serve him well emotionally. Unfortunately, it also drove his neighbor, Jack’s friend, to kill him—and then proclaim: “No more does his infernal laugh go echoing among the hills, and no more does his fat moon-face rise up to vex me.”

 

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