Who Really is a Cult? Part 3

The fifteenth chapter of Acts provides a template for how congregations are governed in the Christian congregation. An issue arose—one that will hardly seem relevant today, and will strike some as downright strange. Suffice it to say that the subject of male circumcision took center stage for a significant time back then. From the days of Moses, it had been the sign of a special relationship with God, and there were those of Jewish background who wanted to extend the one-time requirement to persons of all backgrounds who were swelling the ranks of new-found Christianity:

“And certain men came down from Judea and began to teach the brothers: ‘Unless you get circumcised according to the custom of Moses, you cannot be saved.’ But when there had occurred no little dissension and disputing by Paul and Barnabas with them, they arranged for Paul and Barnabas and some others of them to go up to the apostles and older men in Jerusalem regarding this dispute.” (vs 1-2) It is a passage sure to displease the anti-cultists, for it sends the signal that the latter were going to do something about it. Would they stoop to “brainwashing” and “thought control?”

Governing as though Plato’s philosopher-kings—it is remarkable the similarities (See Chapter 42)—the “apostles and older men” in Jerusalem set policy for the first century congregation. They determined how scripture applied for the rapidly growing Christian faith, much as modern governments apply principles contained within national constitutions. If they did not do so, constitutions would quickly become inapplicable, lost among new developments not explicitly spelled out.

Traveling ministers carried decisions of that early governing body to the ever-increasing congregations, which within decades had spread throughout the Mediterranean world. Acts 16:4-5 relates:

“Now as they traveled on through the cities they would deliver to those there for observance the decrees that had been decided upon by the apostles and older men who were in Jerusalem. Therefore, indeed, the congregations continued to be made firm in the faith and to increase in number from day to day.”

Alas, for those who suppose Christianity ought to be based upon Western democracy! It wasn’t guidelines being delivered. It wasn’t suggestions. It wasn’t proposals to be put to popular vote. It was decrees which were to be observed.

 It’s not just the New World Translation. Nearly all English translations use the terms “decrees” or “decisions.” The New International Version calls them “decisions for the people to obey.” Of the few variations, only the paraphrased Message translation waters the phrase down to “simple guidelines which turned out to be most helpful.” The Amplified Bible uses “regulations,” Moffatts Bible says “resolutions,” and the Good News Bible offers up “rules.”

Isn’t this what one would expect? If God’s ways are really higher than our ways, as Isaiah 55:9 states, and people become Christian converts precisely for that reason, does anyone truly think that God’s ways would be determined by majority vote? If that’s the case, who needs God? The aforementioned apostles and older men governed from Jerusalem as a God-ordained arrangement. They were not ambitious men seizing power. They were Christians with the most experience, men who had introduced the faith to others, and they saw to their own succession.

That 15th chapter of Acts reads like the minutes of that body’s consideration of circumcism. The resulting “decision is not to trouble those from the nations who are turning to God, but to write them to abstain from things polluted by idols and from fornication and from what is strangled and from blood,” and it was relayed throughout the congregations.

The decision was not at once accepted by all, which in itself offers a template for modern-day similar situations. Long after the governing arrangement supposedly settled the matter (49CE, per biblical chronology), its representatives were yet reasoning with those who opposed it, becoming more forceful with the passage of time:

(circa 51CE - 2 years later): “For such freedom Christ set us free. Therefore stand fast, and do not let yourselves be confined again in a yoke of slavery. See! I, Paul, am telling you that if you become circumcised, Christ will be of no benefit to you. Moreover, I bear witness again to every man getting circumcised that he is under obligation to perform the whole Law.”  (Galatians 5:1-3)

(55CE - 6 years later): “Was any man called circumcised? Let him not become uncircumcised. Has any man been called in uncircumcision? Let him not get circumcised. Circumcision does not mean a thing, and uncircumcision means not a thing, but observance of God’s commandments [does].” (1 Corinthians 7:18-20)

(circa 61CE - 12 years later): “Look out for the dogs, look out for the workers of injury, look out for those who mutilate the flesh. For we are those with the real circumcision, who are rendering sacred service by God’s spirit and have our boasting in Christ Jesus and do not have our confidence in the flesh.”   (Philippians 3:2-3)

(circa 63CE - 14 years later): “For there are many unruly men, profitless talkers, and deceivers of the mind, especially those men who adhere to the circumcision. It is necessary to shut the mouths of these, as these very men keep on subverting entire households by teaching things they ought not for the sake of dishonest gain.” (Titus 1:10-11)

Did such resisters eventually find themselves ousted from the congregation? It seems likely, in view of such directives as: “As for a man that promotes a sect, reject him after a first and a second admonition; knowing that such a man has been turned out of the way and is sinning, he being self-condemned.” (Titus 3:10-11)

Anti-cultists will go into convulsions at the behavioral, informational, thought, and emotional control mechanisms indicated by the above. There can be little question that the Bible itself must be a cult-manual in the eyes of these ones. They should not bother with middlemen such as Jehovah’s Witnesses—those who endeavor to live by the Book—but go after the source itself, thereby revealing their intolerance to all.

Who are these big babies, terrified of what some visiting factory worker or even janitor trudging up their driveway might say? Are they really the same ones who carry on about their newfound freedom, their keen intellect, and their powerful self-determination? They are the shallowest of people masquerading as the deepest, the narrowest masquerading as the broadest. The existence of God cannot be proven by the standards modern anti-cultists accept as proof. However, neither can it be disproven. It can be shown to be reasonable, that’s all, but to those whose reason is forged in another hearth, it cannot be. As regards being narrow, they will say the same of Witnesses. It is fair game. Let the great issue be put squarely before all. Is it government by men that will save us all or government by God?

What a pathetic view of human nature these anti-cultists have. Just how much mileage can one get out of playing the victim card? Are we all truly but putty, ever at the mercy of some passerby with new ideas? You should hear how some of these ones carry on about how Jehovah’s Witnesses show up at doors to “convert” people underhandedly. Witnesses ought to state that goal up front, they demand. It is all they can do not to insist upon a notarized statement.

It is nonsense. Nobody converts another. People convert themselves, based upon processing and trying on new ideas for size. If you were to tell a visiting Jehovah’s Witness point blank that you wanted to convert, you would not be able to. You would commence on a period of study and preparation, seldom lasting under a year in these parts, (United States) 95% of the time in familiar surroundings, with full option to say “no thanks” at every juncture. It is a situation far less controlling than higher education, where one may be cut off from previous surroundings almost completely, and the barriers to discontinuance may be high, involving finance or expectations.

It is so juvenile to maintain, as the anti-cultists do, that Witnesses are out to “recruit” new members. It is icing on the cake for them should that happen, but hardly the cake itself. With the supposed goal of conversion at least a year away, one can be sure that the visiting Witness does not even think of it for many months to come. The object is simply to share information, or even to shed new light on what is already known, irrespective of what one may do with it at a later date. Most people do nothing with it. “This good news of the kingdom will be preached in all the inhabited earth,” says Matthew 24:14. It says nothing about conversion, leaving that possibility open for another occasion.

Enough of this cult nonsense. Everything is misrepresented. The legal Trinity is missing two legs. “Truth” is not enough—there must also be “the whole truth and nothing but the truth.” It’s high time to respond to these overgrown adolescents as the police did years ago to the overgrown adolescents of the 60s. When student radicals began calling them ‘pigs,’—doubling down when they saw that it got under their skin—one resourceful cop responded: ‘PIGS—Pride, Integrity, Guts, Service.’ Yeah! Same here. Do enemies think that they can get under Witnesses’ skin, swinging around the ‘Cult’ truncheon, when everyone knows the word means something else? Very well. Let Witnesses wear the moniker proudly: ‘CULT—Courage, Unity, Love, Truth.’ At some point, one must kick back at this nonsense.

Jehovah’s Witness stand for an alternative way of life, no question about it. As one of many “new religions,”—the scholarly term—there was no reason to extend the “cult” word to them. Coin a new word. “Cult” has been around forever, and it reliably evokes prejudice, if not hate. For that reason, enemies of Jehovah’s Witnesses embrace it. They eschew what is dignified so as to go for the jugular, as they smell blood in the water.

From the book TrueTom vs the Apostates!

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A Thirty-Three Tweet Review of Stephen King's On Writing

I don’t do horror, so I have read little @StephenKing, but he knows how to write as I would like to. Listening to ‘On Writing.’ Love the encouragement given him by his hardscrabble Mom. Did she live to enjoy fruits of his success? Alas, at this early stage it seems she did not.

The reason I don’t do horror is that for the longest time I worked alone at night in huge and creaky office/warehouse complexes. You wouldn’t do horror either after one night working there.

Chastened by his grade-school teacher for ‘writing trash,’ @StephenKing (much) later came to reflect that there has probably never been a writer/painter/sculptor/inventor who was not, at one time or another, charged with wasting his ‘God-given talent.’

Mr. Gould at the paper, King’s first writing job, arranged by the school to keep him out of written mischief, said he removed only the few bad parts of @StephenKing’s second newspaper article, and said overall, its pretty good. 'I know', Stephen said about both, and he was forever grateful for the instruction and encouragement.

Who would have thought? One of the most compact accounts of self-denial, late recognition & recovery from substance abuse & cutting through the facades of those in the grip of it, is found in @StephenKing's On Writing

I wonder if @StephenKing ever met Dodie, the mercilessly tormented frumpy schoolgirl who came back from college looking sharp, and was the inspiration for Carrie? Read on.

Oh. She died. The townspeople said ‘post-partum depression’. @StephenKing thought ‘high school hangover’ might have also had something to do with it. He did not like his fictional Carrie or her classmates. But he felt sorry for them all. He had once been one of them.

Now I reach the nitty-gritty of @StephenKing’s On Writing. Hmm. I have long imagined myself a serviceable writer, though sloppy when in haste, but I might be shooting myself in the foot in certain areas. Will I identify them?

I am not reading On Writing, but rather listening on CD. Absorbing involved points is not so easy as merely rereading a sentence or paragraph.

Commas trip me up and are early consequences of editing, usually in favor of taking them out. (except for the Oxford comma) Clear explanation from @StephenKing on why to remove: ‘I want it said in one breath.’

He carries around two books (always unabridged) at all times. @StephenKing has a print book to read during moments of waiting, and a CD book for driving. Not necessarily good books. Crap will do. The latter teach one what to avoid.

John Grisholm’s books are among my favorites, I have read almost all of them, and did not know that the critics sniffed at them. I like @StephenKing‘s take on the ‘lawyers in distress’ genre: Do the same with what you know. Scout out the enemy territory where you have admittance. Bring back a report.

[At this point, there is an aside with other Twitter acquaintances: Hey! This means @EnglishElective could write a ‘teachers in distress’ book. Just like #JohnGrisholm! Yes, honest & noble teachers besieged by evil teachers under the sinister mind-control of Admiral Ass. #UpTheDownStaircase

Admiral Ass was the dean of the high school, a bully who after signing his name to correspondence, appended ‘Adm Asst,’ for Administrative Assistant. I especially remember the aloof and air-headed principal of the novel, who in communications, never used an adjective uncoupled with another adjective meaning exactly the same thing. A further aside begins at this point about how I remember to this day how to spell school principal vs principle: the former is your ‘pal.’]

Uh oh. If you are a writer, get used to it that people will think you rude, @StephenKing says. Too much reading and writing serves to make one inattentive to the outer world. (Better hide this tweet so that my wife does not see it.) His is an easy read because he is not pretentious. Neither is he syrupy, spouting such goo as: ‘There is no such thing as a bad writer.’ There are plenty of them, he says.

You smile as @StephenKing relates his early drafts of Misery even as you say to yourself: ‘You sick bastard.’ But then he mentions two more tales, Insomnia and Deloris Clayborne, both of which movies I saw & liked, and now I should maybe read the books.

An author told @kingsthings how sometimes his characters surprised him. Larry was impressed & asked each successive author: ‘Do your characters ever write themselves?’ He kept doing so even after one hard-boiled author said: ‘Of course not! What a stupid question! They’re not real people. They do what I tell them to. It was not @StephenKing , though. He would have agreed with the first author. Characters do write themselves.

Ayn Rand is the example @StephenKing uses for success due to great storytelling despite wooden characters. Correct, but I would have used Isaac Asimov. Another great storyteller. If only he could have drawn people convincingly.

Yes! ‘Don’t tell them when you can show them,’ @StephenKing says, through dialogue. I add, though I’m sure he will get to it, ‘don’t tell the moral when you can demonstrate it via story.’

After @StephenKing’s character tear-gassed the vicious dog in the eyes & kicked it to death, he was deluged with protest letters. He pointed out that the dog was fictional, that the character was fictional, and that he himself is kind to dogs. He did suggest the action, though, didn’t he?

Every week, @StephenKing says, he gets letters from those who accuse him of racism, homophobia, psychopathy, or just plain being foul-mouthed. Uh oh. Didn’t I call him a ‘sick bastard’ a while back?

If you notice a quirk, @StephenKing says, ‘it does you no good unless you can work it into a character. Say you notice that someone picks his nose when he thinks nobody is looking....’ HEY! WHAT THE HELL IS THAT SICK BASTARD DOING PEERING IN MY WINDOW?!!!

Why am I exploring @StephenKing #OnWriting when my oldest follower and followee himself specializes in the craft? @Underdogsbiteup. We followed each other back when Mr. Twitter was yet in diapers.

You’ll be in stitches as @StephenKing narrates the horrendously trite writing he wants you to avoid. It is ‘pretty as a picture’ And what of the yo-yo who was so unpleasant that nobody could stomach him, thus he never heard dialogue, and to his credit, avoided writing it?

After @StephenKing sneaks yet another sideways glance at his wife to see if she appreciates his draft, which is allowable because he knows she has not noticed, she snaps, ‘Keep your eyes on the road! You’ll kill us both! Stop being so g*****n needy!’

The rejection form letters piled up for teenaged @StephenKing, but then one included the scribbling: ‘Not bad, but puffy. You need to work on length. Formula: ‘2nd draft = 1rst draft minus 10%.’ He took it to heart began to condense on the second draft, rather than add as he had been doing.

When you do research, don’t show off, says @StephenKing. Keep it in the background. Hmm. Like Victor Hugo? An entire chapter of Hunchback of Notre Dame is devoted to the infrastructure of 13th century Paris. It sure wouldn’t wash today.

Did @StephenKing do it for the money? He says no, not one word. He did it for self-expression, the buzz, the pure joy of it. It is like what a fellow Jehovah’s Witness, who knew the person, said about Prince, that he simply had to have his creative outlet. “Maybe he needed it to survive,” she told the papers.

So far as I know, the most extensive account of Prince’s JW life as related in media sources is in my own ebook: Tom Irregardless and Me, where it comprises the entire first chapter.

Whoa! @StephenKing just got hit by a van. (18 years ago) He didn’t see that one coming. Nor did I. On his desk, unfinished, is On Writing. He had better recover, because I want to finish it. The EMT told him at the scene that he would live, but after all was done told him over the phone, ‘I didn’t think you had a chance.’

@Stephen King atypically names the driver who hit him. He names him several times. As though deferring to ying and yang, he also names the doctor who pieced him together, a doctor or great skill, whom he calls ‘formidable.’ I forget the descriptive words King used, but he described his smashed leg somewhat akin to beans in a beanbag. At the accident scene, he was initially concerned to find his lap 90 degrees askew from normal.

Ah. Good. His wife fluffs up a pillow for him and he writes again. He is ‘monogamous by nature,’ he says, and he must be closing in on his 50th anniversary. Regularly he inserts nice words about her into his narrative.

A slightly syrupy ending for On Writing, I thought, but I would have to read it to be sure. Recorded Books saw fit to fade in the music at book’s end, and that dopey decision might have skewed my judgement. If the lines truly are syrupy it will be @stephenking’s first, so they are probably not

Stephen-king-collection

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Ben Franklin Gets Jilted and Flip-Flopping on the Resurrection

Ben Franklin courted the widow of his good friend, but the woman turned him down flat: ‘I could never be untrue to my husband.’ Then, in a dream, he went to heaven and met his good friend. They exchanged pleasantries until the friend presently said: “You must meet my new wife. She’ll be along soon.” Ben Franklin couldn’t believe it. ‘Your earthly wife is more loyal than you!’ he said. She turned me down cold on your account!’ ‘That’s too bad for you,’ the friend said. ‘She is an excellent woman and I missed her terribly at first, but now it is time to move on.’

As Ben Franklin grumbled, the ‘new’ wife showed up and it was Ben’s own deceased wife! Ben Franklin turned his rebuke on her, but she said: ‘I was a good and loyal wife to you for 50 years. Let that be enough for you!’

It is a mangling of Luke 20: 34-36, most likely, botched, but nonetheless used as a starting point. No need to say what is wrong with it. Suffice that it addresses the changed nature of relationships after death:

“Jesus said to them: ‘The children of this system of things marry and are given in marriage, but those who have been counted worthy of gaining that system of things and the resurrection from the dead neither marry nor are given in marriage. In fact, neither can they die anymore, for they are like the angels, and they are God’s children by being children of the resurrection.’”

For the longest time Jehovah’s Witnesses took those verses to mean that those who lost a spouse in death would not reunite in the earthly resurrection. The words were in response to a beef of the Saduccees, who did not believe in the earthly resurrection. Jesus went on to speak of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, who will benefit from it.

After a certain public talk years ago that had mentioned the verse, a sister raised her had during the chairman’s remarks, something I had never seen before and have not seen again. She was new in the faith, widowed, and she looked forward to reuniting with her husband in the resurrection. She quizzed the chairman until the speaker himself raised his hand and said he would clarify the verse for her afterwards.

About 30-40 years ago, the Witness organization looked at the verses anew and said maybe she could reunite. They didn’t want to be dogmatic. Maybe the verses just applied to those having the heavenly hope, as they were the ones in abundance back then. It can’t even be said of earthly ones “neither can they die anymore.” They can, and surely will, if they show a rebellious spirit. I mean, if you were raised up to life on a paradise earth, would you grumble about the ground rules? And who is the that is "counted worthy" of an earthly resurrection? Essentially, all you have to do to qualify is to show up; it is "the righteous and the unrighteous" who benefit.

Grousers who say that Jehovah’s Witnesses flip-flop on doctrine miss the point. They’ve never said they didn’t. They do it all the time, re-examining verses in the face of accumulating knowledge. It has been called ‘the light getting brighter.’ (Proverbs 4:18) It has also been called tacking. The only ones who say they can’t do it are the grousers themselves.

That said, the major teachings of Jehovah’s Witnesses regarding the nature of God (no Trinity), the nature of the soul (not immortal), who goes to heaven (not everybody good, but only a minority), have been firmly in place for over a century. Ridding the false doctrines that make knowledge and a close relationship with God all but impossible is part of the job of ‘the messenger preparing the way.’ The first thing you do in preparing the way for a building project is to take out the trash.

(the Ben Franklin writing is called 'A Proposal to Madame Helvetius')

Franklin-Benjamin-LOC-head

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