Unlike most Witnesses online, my activity is known in my home congregation. This is not due to any forum, which probably will be unknown to them, but to my blog. I have blogged for years. I don’t advertise the fact, but word gets around, and within the year elders have approached me to say that they would like to use me more in the congregation, but is there anything to what they have heard that I engage with apostates?
I at first told them that I did not; however what I did do came close enough to it that it could easily be taken that way and for that reason they probably should not use me in any visible capacity. As long as counsel is what it is, this seems the reasonable course. If there is a blatant example of not following counsel on a point repeatedly made—well, ‘he doesn’t enjoy privileges in the congregation,’ does he? This is not quite fair to me, but it is not about me. I consider it a win-win.
Many times in my writing I have made the point that I am not trying to set an example for others to follow, that I am pure-and-simply a bad boy in this one respect and I don’t try to present myself otherwise—though I will say that it is the only area in which I am a bad boy—I am a good boy in all other respects. I am on excellent terms with all of my elders— all upstanding men whom I respect—and with the congregation as a whole. If a list was ever made as to who is trying or discouraging or toxic or headstrong or aloof or a downer in any respect, I would be the last person to be on it. I am a fine example in every way—except one, and this troubles them.
Anyone visiting my blog can see the book cover for TrueTom vs the Apostates! so its a little hard to say: ‘Don’t know nothing about no apostates here!” One brother on Facebook, who himself writes, when he saw that cover, said, “You’re brave.” I have never made any attempt to hide what I do. I have even written HQ about it, more than once, as to what I am doing and why. They have not responded. I’ve said I don’t expect or require them to, but I will take to heart anything that they do say. Nothing. As for me, the show is not interesting unless there are villains and apostates for me make the perfect villains!—they have tasted the good food and spit it out.
Only about 10-20% of my blog could be described as taking on controversial topics. But blogging itself is not the pathway to popularity within the JW community—some will always give you the fish-eye over it. A visitor I know from HQ spoke at the Kingdom Hall, we engaged in some chit-chat afterward, and I asked him for thoughts about blogging. “Oh, blogging,” he said, as though I had told him that I enjoy farting in the auditorium, and then he migrated into generalities about there being no rules but one must always take into consideration the sensibilities of others, avoid hanging out with bad dudes, and so forth. In the introduction to my 3rd book, I wrote: “Books about Jehovah’s Witnesses authored by Jehovah’s Witnesses are not plentiful. This is a shame, for no outsider, even with the best of intentions, can do justice to the faith as can an insider - they miss the nuances, and in some cases, even the facts. Jehovah’s Witnesses are primarily drawn from the ranks of working people who are not inclined to write books. Pathways of publicizing their faith are already well established. Why write a book when you can and do look people in the eye and tell them what you have to say?” For the most part, the same is true of blogs.
Two elders wanted to speak with me following Sunday’s Watchtower. How did I still feel regarding interaction with apostates after that lesson and similar items in the past? There have been two other discussions—probably spurred on to priority by consideration of Paul’s counsel that certain pernicious sayings “spread like gangrene” (2 Timothy 2:17) so you want to get right on top of it—the counsel to not engage with apostates is pretty clear.
These are good men and I do not doubt for one moment their concern for me. There is no way I am going to get into any sort of confrontation with them. This is a little challenging because if one has engaged with the malcontents—in some cases the scoundrels—then one knows things in detail that they know only vaguely, and in some cases, not at all.
I asked if I could speak candidly. Obviously, this is just a verbal opening to present that I would speak from the heart and not just regurgitate platitudes or ‘what I am supposed to say’—it’s not to suggest that I would be normally lying through my teeth. Of course, they agreed.
The article was of a catch-all nature of several things to watch out for, several unrelated things that could pierce your shield if you didn’t maintain it—materialism, undue anxiety, lies, and discouragement were in the mix. Now, the only one of these that you can actually sink your teeth into as a direct measurement is “lies and distortions.” Do you engage with those who originate them or not? Easy black or white answer. What can one possibly say about materialism? It is much more subjective. “Did you move into that house that has far more space than you need or didn’t you?”—it’s ridiculous! No one is ever going to say that. The best you can do is what the Watchtower did do—point out that while you might easily be able to afford something with money, which you have far more of than your neighbor, that does not mean that you can afford (for use and maintenance of) it with time, which you have no more of than your neighbor.
As a byproduct of these other areas being hard to pin down, the only one that might possibly incur restriction of privileges is dealing with apostates. “There are brothers here and in other Halls that show significant weakness as regards to the other three—materialism, discouragement, and anxiety, and it can be plainly seen in their demeanor in some cases,” I said, “yet no way would their privileges ever be affected by it—only for that involving dealings with opposers.”
I spoke of the paragraph about discouragement—one of the four sharp arrows. “What discourages me most,” I said, “is that apostates are taking public shots at the God and the community that I hold dear, and they are catching the ear of many who take to heart what is said and sometimes ignore us in our ministry because of it, and I want to provide an answer and defend the truth, but I can’t because I don’t know what they are saying.” It is not true for me—I do know what they are saying—but for most publishers it is true.
I spoke of the hypothetical youngster who cannot resist, whose curiosity or desire to defend the truth leads him to go to where the bad boys hang out, where he hears distortions that he has never heard before and is totally unprepared for and he is stumbled, at which point no one is able to help him because no one here knows in any detail what he has come across. It’s a lose-lose. I did not say (you always think of your best lines too late) that if you leaned on youngsters not to have illicit sex, and yet one did anyway and acquired an STD, you would not stand by and watch him die. You would educate yourself any way that you had to so as to provide backup rescue.
There is only so far you can go with this reasoning because they only understand what they are counseling you about from just one angle—the spiritual angle, which, to be sure, is the most important one, but still it is only one angle, and it is the angle from which there is a huge non-spiritual vulnerability. They hear and acquiesce to all the points made—they may all be facts—but they are like people anywhere in any genre—just because they are facts does not mean they are the overriding facts. They keep coming back to counsel not to engage with apostates. Do they mean engage like a military general confronting the enemy or engage like a man putting a ring on the finger of his future bride? You almost can’t go there, because they themselves maintain such distance from the topic that they can’t readily distinguish between the two and consider it inappropriate to get close enough to try.
The brother taking the lead is very smart, very loving, very much a balm to everyone. I’ve known him for the longest time and there is no one whom I value more. I have no question that he is primarily and genuinely concerned about my spiritual welfare. I feel bad that I should be the cause of he and some brothers before him feeling obliged to buy out time to speak with me over this—they have other things that they could be doing. I know this because for many years I was an elder and I had many things that I could be doing at any given moment—yet he and others have bought out significant time for me. I’m a bit embarrassed over it.
“How has my spirituality been affected?” they ask. Possibly they are anticipating an answer such as might be on a video: “Well, I have to admit, my spirituality is suffering. I’m not finding the joy I used to....etc.” I tell them that my spirituality, as near as I can tell, gets better all the time because I am able to fire when I see the whites of their eyes—and even that my healthy spirituality is plainly reflected in how I conduct myself and how others view me.
“Well, pray on it,” one advises. Gingerly I suggest that what if I have prayed on it and then afterward have decided that it is okay, in fact, just the ticket, to do as I am doing?” Nevertheless, how can one turn down the invitation to pray? Sure, I will pray—and in fact, presently I think of the degree to which they may be right and how I might modify my conduct. As is my M.O, I think best when I am writing. As is my M.O, I write best when I realize I am writing before a varied audience ranging from supportive to apathetic to dismissive to opposed, and imposing the discipline upon myself to choose words that will be as effective as possible to all four.
They say things like how Jehovah has all bases covered. He sees that we have the proper direction when we need it, and so forth. While the things I say may be so, and certainly my actions are well-meaning, what about just being obedient to counsel? There they have me. Because I do believe that Jehovah has all bases covered and I do believe in following the lead of the older men—it is part of the package that I signed on for. I can give them a hard time: “Don’t worry about my spirituality—I’ll be just fine—it’s enough to worry about your own spirituality!” but why would I do that? Is that not almost tempting fate? as in “Let he who is standing beware that he does not fall?” I can tell them to buzz off and mind their own business, but why would I do that? These are the men—all of them friends of mine—who will lay down their life for me should the occasion arise, as in John 15:13, for example. “No one has love greater than this, that someone should surrender his life in behalf of his friends,” Jesus said, and these guys will do it in a clutch.
Not only will they die for me, but they will live for me, and they prove it continually. The right-in-their-own-eyes opposers will not die for me. Even were they inclined to, they live on perches of self-imposed isolation and say, some of them, “Who needs organization?” so that should I get into hot water they will not know of it until they read my obituary. I should give my elders a hard time or interfere with that dynamic of living and dying for me? No.
All they want is for me not to cross swords with apostates. They probably are not crazy about my going there in the first place, but that is not the topic of discussion. If I go there to scope out what the enemy is up to, I set no bad example—nobody knows of it. If I go there to refute, I publicly do what the ones I respect for taking the lead have asked me not to do. How do I know that they are not right? How do I know that I am not like the fellow signing out on the city wall after Hezekiah has told the troops to zip it? If I am ineffective, others come to help me out, against Hezekiah’s counsel. If I am effective, others are inspired to do likewise, against Hezekiah’s counsel. How do I know that they will not end up with an arrow through the head on my account?
What am I doing when I am answering back the malcontents on the forum? I am having a ball is what I am doing! But is it affecting my spirituality as the brothers asked? Well, no—for the most part—that has grown stronger. On the other hand—someone speaks of OCD and she ought to be speaking of it to me—sometimes I come on board with a certain eagerness looking for “apostates” to beat up on. When one or another flames out, like Matthew4 5784 did a few weeks ago and reveals himself pure hate on two legs as respects Jehovah’s people, dropping all pretense of being here to help out, I paint an A on my fuselage and pump my fist! But is it good for me? I do get to hone my writing skills, which is why I started in the first place, but is that enough to override other matters? I am not exactly doing a, “May Jehovah rebuke you!” am I? I am not exactly imitating Jesus in saying “leave them be—blind guides is what they are,” am I? Moreover, others come along for the first time, not knowing the history, read my retorts, and say, “Man, that brother is brutal! Can he really be a brother?”
I’m going to turn over a new leaf with regard to interacting with these guys. It doesn’t mean I won’t still be online and it doesn’t mean I won’t still interact with those who strike me as on our team—even if I question their judgment sometimes. I’ll probably renege from time to time, and if I do, I will forgive myself, but the effort will be to follow through on my resolve. If need be, I will write a reply to this or that fathead and then not send it—I’ll incorporate it elsewhere or just stick it in the file. “How’s that for praying about it and waiting to see what comes out of it?” I’ll tell someone someday.
Then, too—and I’m almost ashamed to put this last, since it should be first—though not necessarily from the reader’s point of view, which is why I place it where I do—my wife is far more conventional than me and has long been troubled by my online activity. She doesn’t for one second worry about my loyalty, but she does in some undefined way worry that maybe I will yet come to harm somehow. I’ll modify my approach for her sake as well.
Are the brothers “brainwashed”—the ones who counseled me about a matter that they do not understand themselves from a fleshly point of view—the only point of view that is of concern to the greater world? Well, I would have to say that on this point they are—with the important caveat that there is barely anyone anywhere who is not “brainwashed” in some regard on the roads that they travel. Max Planck’s saying with regard to science does not hold true with regard to science alone; it holds true—admittedly it is hyperbole, so it does not literally hold true, but it sure does point in a direction—“A new scientific truth does not triumph by convincing its opponents and making them see the light, but rather because its opponents eventually die, and a new generation grows up that is familiar with it.” It applies anywhere there are people. It applies to me. We do not turn on a dime even when hit over the head with proof-positive reasoning.
Follow the flag and get your head blown off in consequence, and only some of your countrymen will think your death noble—everyone else in the world will consider your death in vain. It doesn’t take some brainwashing to buy into that? Follow unquestioningly the overall goals of this system to ‘get a good education so that you may get a good job’—not a tad of brainwashing there that that is the path to happiness? When my wife worked as a nurse with the geriatric community, she said the most common thing in the world was for bewildered elderly persons to look around them in their waning years and say, “is this all there is?” These were not “losers” in life, for the most part. These were persons who had enjoyed careers and loving family. But there was an aching emptiness at the end for many of them, a certain vague but overpowering sense of betrayal by life. It’s the result of being brainwashed by mainstream thinking, so far as I can see.
Steve Hassan is not wrong when he says that humans are easily influenced by others. Humans are just that way. That is why some god-awful style comes upon the scene and within ten years we’re all wearing it, wondering how we ever could have imagined that those dorky styles of yesterday did anything for us. Where Steve is wrong in my view is that he gives a free pass to his side—the mainstream. He reads unfairness into certain types of persuasion, whereas it is all unfair. His side features persuasion that is just more subtle than the other so he doesn’t see it. Champions of science do not notice when money trumps their science. Attendees of university do not notice that they have been manipulated into a 24/7 environment isolating them from former stabilizing influences of community and family—a classic tool of those who would brainwash. He sees it where he wants to see it and dismisses it elsewhere.
I have said before that it is not brainwashing that he objects to—it is brainwashing that is not his. Just because he was naive enough to be sucked into the Moonies, what is it to him if people want to explore non-traditional paths? Of course there may be pitfalls along the way, but there are pitfalls anywhere. Among the most harmful examples of manipulation is advertising, whereby people ruin themselves buying expensive things they do not need with money they do not have to keep up with people they do not like. Why doesn’t he go there? If the mainstream he embraces successfully answered all the burning questions of life, he wouldn’t have to worry at all about “cults” People would reflect upon how the present life and traditional goal rewards fully in happiness and life satisfaction, and reject those “cults” upon in a heartbeat.