Beards Get the Green Light

My first thought upon hearing the Update was that my on-again, off-again Bible study with Santa Claus might once more be on-again. He was doing so well until he saw that magazine equating a shortening beard to spiritual progress. Now, maybe, just maybe, he will resume his study. Of course, I’ll still have to help him with the holiday thing, but at least the beard thing is no more.

 

If an entire Update dedicated to beards now being okay seems like overkill, one might recall that the Governing Body tried underkill and it didn’t work. From the September 2016 Watchtower: “Does Your Style of Dress Glorify God?”

What about the propriety of brothers wearing a beard? The Mosaic Law required men to wear a beard. However, Christians are not under the Mosaic Law, nor are they obliged to observe it. (Lev. 19:27; 21:5; Gal. 3:24, 25) In some cultures, a neatly trimmed beard may be acceptable and respectable, and it may not detract at all from the Kingdom message. In fact, some appointed brothers have beards. Even so, some brothers might decide not to wear a beard. (1 Cor. 8:9, 13; 10:32) In other cultures or localities, beards are not the custom and are not considered acceptable for Christian ministers. In fact, having one may hinder a brother from bringing glory to God by his dress and grooming and his being irreprehensible.—Rom. 15:1-3; 1 Tim. 3:2, 7.

This paragraph was a big deal at the time, at least in my area. Brothers were talking about it seemingly the day after it was written. When that Watchtower Study finally came, that paragraph was like the elephant in the room that everyone was awaiting, and then Yessss! paragraph 17 finally arrived and you could talk about it. Some congregations spent extra time to ‘explain’ it.

I thought that would be the end of it. I thought at long last the issue had been laid to rest. I thought beards would soon be showing up—at first in publishers and then in MS and elders. Instead, it seemed like congregations doubled-down, as if with the attitude: ‘Well, okay, 'weak' publishers can wear beards if they insist, but no way will they ever be appointed.’ A few publishers grew beards, but beyond that--nothing.

’Look, we don’t have an issue with it,’ is what the GB finally said in this latest Update. It’s not new. It’s what they said 7 years ago only it didn’t take. This time, to make sure it wasn’t another misfire that didn’t take, they made it a big production, brought in bells and whistles, the chariot, and disclaimers for guys who say, ‘It’s about time!’ and for the more rigid guys who drew a line in the sand and are now aghast to see it erased. Old habits die hard. This one certainly did.

For me, it is like when the man who invented autocorrect died. ‘Restaurant in peace’ the obits read, though there were a few harsher ones that said, ‘May he rot in hello.’

 

On the one hand, it all seems pretty silly. The greater world solved this beard issue decades ago:

And the sign said, "Long-haired freaky people, need not apply" So I tucked my hair up under my hat, and I went in to ask him why. He said, "You look like a fine upstandin' young man, I think you'll do" So I took off my hat and said, "Imagine that, Huh, me workin' for you."

There. Done. Settled. Back in 1990. Whereas, we don’t settle it till 2023. But, in fairness, it ought be remembered that the overall world is going down the toilet and Jehovah’s organization is not.

More than once the Bible says that those drawn to the Lord must become like young children. And indeed, they have proved to be that way, not just in the good ways but also the not-so-good. Paul said: “Brothers, do not become young children in your understanding, but be young children as to badness.” (1 Cor 14:20) Why did he say this—because they never became young children in their understanding?

So it has proved today, with issues taking longer to resolve than you might think would be the case. Those the Lord can work with are like ‘young children.’ Those whom he cannot are ones too insistent upon their rights to be molded. They are left to the reward of whatever their discord can produce. In short, “they are having their reward in full.”

 

It was not in the Bible. It never appeared in Watchtower print. (other than many examples of ‘shaving one’s beard’ listed in the changes made on the road to baptism) The reasons for it, association with beatniks and hippies, disappeared decades ago. We’ve had articles to the effect that we don’t do rules, but primarily principles. And yet, no rule was more firmly enforced than the unwritten no-beard rule.

If you want to blame someone, blame God. He’s the one who created the paradigm of ‘We have this treasure in earthen vessels.’ (2 Corinthians 4:7) The treasure is the ministry and the earthen vessels is us, with all of our petty flaws, mild hypocrisies, stubbornnesses, obtusenesses, insensitivities, and idiosyncrasies. Blame Jehovah for arranging it that way and not handing the whole assignment over to angels.

Believe me, I am sensitive to this issue. Years ago, I went to bat for a youngster being drummed out solely for not shaving a beard. I learned later he had a very atypical reason, unknown to me at the time, but all the brothers could see was obstinacy and standing upon ‘his rights.’ ‘Before this is all done, I’m going to grow a beard!’ I told certain elders. ‘It’s one thing to shove around a youngster. Try doing it with an adult.’ Trouble is, I didn’t want one. It’s too easy to get food caught there.

It is fixed now. It’s about time, but it is done. If Jehovah is going to permit earthen vessels to have the treasure, you cannot be shocked if they behave earthenly. It’s his doing. Earthen is as earthen does.

Are the brothers conservative? Things don’t have to conform to my taste. It is absolutely shocking to look around the world and see how people misuse their ‘freedom.’ I’m not a fan of authoritarian countries, but I can see how they might look at what happens in the West when all restraints are removed and say, ‘Whoa! We don’t want any part of that!”

 

The reason for the change came out in the update itself:

A number of branch offices around the world have written to us, indicating that there continues to be question about whether or not it is proper for a brother in an appointed position to wear a beard. . . . The Governing Body has concluded that there is a need for clarification.”

Translation: “There continues to be a question.” There should not be by now. We keep getting letters. We’re tired of it. “There is a need for clarification. Nothing new, here. Just restatement of the old.

“The Governing Body does not have an issue with brothers wearing beards.” Got it? We don’t. To prove it, we’re now pulling out all the stops, employing all the bells and whistles, even hauling out the chariot, because when we first indicated it was a non-issue, no one took us up on it. So now, let us repeat…..(drum roll, please)….. We. Don’t. Care.

“We thought sending a message 7 years ago was enough:

“What about the propriety of brothers wearing a beard? The Mosaic Law required men to wear a beard. However, Christians are not under the Mosaic Law, nor are they obliged to observe it. (Lev. 19:27; 21:5; Gal. 3:24, 25) In some cultures, a neatly trimmed beard may be acceptable and respectable, and it may not detract at all from the Kingdom message. In fact, some appointed brothers have beards. Even so, some brothers might decide not to wear a beard. (1 Cor. 8:9, 13; 10:32) In other cultures or localities, beards are not the custom and are not considered acceptable for Christian ministers. In fact, having one may hinder a brother from bringing glory to God by his dress and grooming and his being irreprehensible. —Rom. 15:1-3; 1 Tim. 3:2, 7.” (Watchtower, Sept 2016)

“We thought that would do the trick. “In some cultures, a neatly trimmed beard may be acceptable and respectable,” we said. “Near as we can tell, we live in one of those cultures,” we figured elder bodies would say. They didn’t. So now we’re saying it so emphatically that nobody could possibly misunderstand it.”

It may well be that Witnesses back in the day disliked beards but so did everyone else of their time and well after. Look at television shows of that time. Count up the beards. Maynard G Krebs the beatnik had one. Beyond that, nearly zilch. I barely recall seeing any beards at all during by non-Witness youth, certainly not among my parents’ generation.

Witnesses were just the last (by far) to notice the world had moved on from no-beards. They missed it because they were ‘insular,’ a problem more difficult to remedy than one might think because it is the flipside of the ‘no part of the world’ coin. If you are no part of the world, you are almost by definition ‘insular’ to a certain extent. That’s what insulation is—something that keeps two things that should not mix separate.

After that 2016 Watchtower, bodies of elders considered its local applicability. Some began to not fuss over beards for appointed servants, but most continued to. Some of those that did fretted that beards among servants would stumble congregation members, completely missing the point that Paul’s counsel about stumbling (over eating meat) was out of concern for new ones or nonbelievers. In the case of beards, these ones had no issue with it, but only some ‘veterans’ who had made it a virtue in itself to be beardless and who you’d think would have moved on by now. Old habits die hard, especially when you are insular.

At long last, the mess is resolved. It looks a little silly the way it happens, but it is resolved. It comes close on the heels of another irritant being resolved—the matter of ‘counting time’—applicable at one time, but less so with passing years, as it introduces curious and crippling notions of being ‘on duty’ and ‘off duty.’ It was a relic of guys raised from the factory era in which, even when there was nothing to do, you’d better look busy to avoid the boss’s displeasure. Times change. God is not like that. It has been discarded. Two nettlesome things resolved in fairly short order.

It makes for unity to do things like #8. It also looks a little silly to those who have acquiesced to a disunited world, who consider that normal, and who grumble when anyone actually seeks unity not done their way, unity not achieved by waiting for all “the brokenhearted people living in the world [to] agree”—the way that history has demonstrated they never have or will.

JWs in the United States are almost exactly 1/3 white, 1/3 black, and 1/3 Hispanic, says Pew Research, also with about 5% Asian. Meaning? They have solved racism, an issue that tears the greater world apart. Though, at first glance, it seems not the same thing, if you want unity, you have to oil the cogs every once it a while, maybe even give it a good whack with a hammer. and Update 8 is an example of that on a lesser issue that unexpectedly became large.

Any criticism or ridicule of such ‘oiling’ is only valid if it comes from ones who themselves enjoy unity. Otherwise, it is little more than sour grapes. Some have simply acquiesced to a world without unity as ‘normal.’ Their criticisms don’t count. If you have long ago become part of the world, you can’t criticize the travails of those who haven’t.

 

***Xero is “not privy to the GB's private thoughts, but “I can imagine them being frustrated at) some who have the desire to worship the organization,” he says.

He cites a scripture: "...But when the apostles Barnabas and Paul heard of it, they ripped their outer garments and leaped out into the crowd, crying out and saying: 'Men, why are you doing these things? We too are humans having the same infirmities as you have. " Acts 14:8-18

He cites another: "On hearing this, they began to glorify God, but they said to him: 'You see, brother, how many thousands of believers there are among the Jews, and they are all zealous for the Law.'" (Acts 21:20)

Those referred to are Jewish converts to Christianity, yet still devoted to observing the Jewish law (the Mosaic Law). “Even then the customs were including a lot of things which weren't written in the Mosaic Law. Yet they kept doing them. This is why it doesn't surprise me that there are some who see changes in certain areas to be faith shaking because these have equated certain practices of the past to have been unequivocally scriptural, and if the Governing Body ever suggested we should adopt pattern A, rather than pattern B, then that was as good as scripture to these.”

Yes. It is hard to direct a large group of people. One says, ‘Thanks for the new rule!’ whereas his neighbor says, ‘Huh? Did you say something?’

 

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Things that Drive You Crazy About the Faith—and How to View Them: Part 4

This is  a multi-part series. See Preface,  2nd Preface,  Part 1Part 2, Part 3,

In general it is as 1 Corinthians 1:14-15 puts it: “A physical man does not accept the things of the spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; and he cannot get to know them, because they are examined spiritually. However, the spiritual man examines all things, but he himself is not examined by any man.” The spiritual man has a greater grasp than the physical man.

But that doesn’t mean that the physical man has no grasp at all. 833E53A7-9390-44AA-8C18-97F4300F4627 Most of the aggravating disconnects that arise in the Witness world stem from a reliance on ‘knowledge by revelation’ for the short term picture as well as the long. That reliance conveys certain advantages but also disadvantages. Whoever has followed this reasoning up to here—will they find this conclusion as comforting as I do? It means that 100 annoyances are actually just one. And that one, while it can be bamboozling, is not a dealbreaker. It is simply a way of looking at the world. It overall compares favorably with other ways of looking at the world, and where it does not, one can see why and adjust.

I tiptoed around this way of looking at the world in ‘I Don’t Know Why We Persecute Jehovah’s Witnesses—Searching for the Why,’ not at that time fully appreciating just what it was that I was tiptoeing around. I attributed all to staying “no part of the world,” which is a factor but it is not the decisive factor. The decisive factor is ‘knowledge through revelation’—weighing in on almost any situation based upon what can be gleaned from the Bible.

“If [the Governing Body] ever misrepresents the non-Witness world . . . it is because they do not know it intimately themselves. They take their own counsel with regard to association. They have lived their own lives with the lesson of Haggai ever foremost: ‘clean will be contaminated by unclean’, not the reverse, and so they do not go there. Because they do not go there, they know certain things only through the lens of Scripture.

“If the Bible says, in effect, that the “world will chew you up and spit you out,” they assume that it does. If they find someone who says it in exactly those words, they eat it right up and broadcast it. And who is to say the words are untrue? Some get chewed up and spit out so promptly and decisively that no one would ever deny it, but with others? Who is to say the scriptures are wrong on that point? It may just take a longer time to get chewed up and spit out. Many seniors have encountered calamity, even contrived calamity, and have seen everything they had worked for drained away at their end. Even the powerful are not immune as their strength and faculties wane.

“The Governing Body chugs along, deferring to what the Scriptures say. They go wherever the Bible indicates to them that they should go. If it gets them in a jam with some component of the present world, they are content that God will somehow get them out of it. They are like the leaders of the first century who were loath to abandon teaching of the word so as to wait on tables. That’s what helpers are for. Should they shoot themselves in the foot, as low-key as possible they extract the bullet with a grimace at their own mistake, and carry on. They will refine and shift and ultimately something will come down through congregation channels and this writer will say, “Yep, it must work, or there would not be the 1,000 languages [standing for the success of their efforts to get the uncontaminated gospel message out there, 1,000 languages far exceeding what even the most innovative tech or media company has come up with].”

To be continued…

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

Great scriptures and reasoning to some one who is anti witness,” she told me. “I did write up some things and then I thought….oh blow it…I’ll back him up…all the way!!!”

Make no mistake. It is a concious choice. I could easily attach a “But what about such and such…” addendum to some paragraph in nearly every Watchtower if I wanted to. Some nettlesome point will stick in my craw, but then I will ask myself should I obsess over it? Wouldn’t that be like the pundit who reads that North Korea has launched all its nuclear missills? D00D607B-D550-4B2B-88ED-210705B7C079 People with sense will run for the hills. He runs to his keyboard to point out that the idiot can’t even spell the word right. Isn’t that called ‘losing sight of the big picture?’ Why would anyone want to do that? (Photo: Janes.com)

The fact is (so says me, so take it for what it’s worth) that Jehovah’s Witnesses have it right in all the important things, but there’s a lot of minor aggravations. What to make of these? Is it because we’re all jammed together in close proximity whereas in the greater world you just put distance between those with whom who don’t readily mesh? Partly. I’ve heard two circuit overseers describe us in the past few years as “one large, united, happy, somewhat dysfunctional family,” a phrase I suspect is not in the outline.

Too, I’ve heard tell from young ones who’ve flown the coop that they don’t miss the “drama.” Yes, just pulling the Abraham/Lot stunt goes a long way in alleviating tension: “So Abram said to Lot: ‘Please, there should be no quarreling between me and you …  separate from me. If you go to the left, then I will go to the right; but if you go to the right, then I will go to the left.’” (Genesis 13: 8-9) We don’t do that. We stick together and with mixed success try to apply Bible counsel to lessen “drama.’

But if scrunching up is hard on us, what is to be said of the world in general? That’s why I gave Vomodog the answer I did when he tried to undermine 2 Timothy 3:1-5. “Humanity is no better or worse than in past centuries,” said he. “The scenography has changed and other global changes have taken place, but the nature of man is constant.”

“It hardly matters, does it?” I told him. “You can fart all you want and as along as there is plenty of space between you and your neighbor, there are no real consequences. But when population, technology, and competition for resources brings people shoulder to shoulder, your unpleasant ways provoke strong reaction.” We’re cramped and it’s inconvenient. They’re cramped and it brings chaos to entire planet. But if you’re just one person, you can sort of just live in your own bubble and ignore all that, at least most times you can ignore it, at least you can until you can’t.

These days I’m like Richard Kimble replying to Sam Gerard. “That’s right—I’m not trying to solve puzzles here,” Sam says. Richard replies that he is “and I just found a big piece.” Same here. I knew those Great Courses lectures would do more than prepare me to hold my own should that obnoxious know-it-all Alan F ever show his nasty persona here again. He was getting seriously up there in years and it could be he has died, but I think not because the birds in heaven have not all broken out in song. When he does die no doubt his headstone will call the cemetery caretaker an ignoramus for supposing the surrounding flowers and trees were created by God

Those Great Courses lectures produced something valuable in their own right. And totally unanticipated. No way did I see it coming. And helpful? Tell me about it. More helpful than even the brother who had the odd mannerism of ending sentences with, ‘It’s helpful to know that, don’t you think?’ I mean, he was a wonderful brother, he really was, I went to visit him when he was ill, but that mannerism wore. One time he announced the date of the upcoming circuit assembly, adding, ‘It’s helpful to know that, don’t you think?’ I had to admit that it was.

What I found through the Great Courses professors is even more helpful. It will better enable me to weather all the minor aggravations of earthly organization, because they all boil down to the same thing. And that same thing, while it can be trying, is anything but a dealbreaker.

To be continued…

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Women Must Keep Silent in the Congregation?—How are You Going to Put Lipstick on THAT One?

Women were lightly valued in the ancient Greco-Roman and yes—even the Jewish world. So God goes out of his way to highly value them.

The testimony of a woman was considered near-worthless back then. So God arranges that the two most important newsflashes in history be given to women.

The news that Jesus is the promised Messiah? First given to a woman:

I know that Messiah is coming, who is called Christ. Whenever that one comes, he will declare all things to us openly.”  Jesus said to her: “I am he, the one speaking to you.” (John 4: 25-26) Even the disciples had to jump through hoops for that one. 

Jesus raised from the dead? That bit of intelligence also first given to women:

Why are you looking for the living one among the dead?” the angel asked the women. “He is not here, but has been raised up. Recall how he spoke to you while he was yet in Galilee, saying that the Son of man must be handed over to sinful men and be executed on the stake and on the third day rise.” Then they remembered his words, and they returned from the tomb and reported all these things to the Eleven and to all the rest. They were Mary Magdalene, Joanna, and Mary the mother of James. Also, the rest of the women with them were telling these things to the apostles. However, these sayings seemed like nonsense to them, and they would not believe the women.(Luke 24:5-11)

They didn’t believe them! Because the testimony of a woman was worthless? The angel doesn’t even bother to correct the men. They’d figure it out eventually, the clods.

And don’t get me going about Jael in the Old Testament, who had the privilege of pounding a tent pin through Sisera’s head! Sometimes guys need that. (Judges 4:25)

So who do you think is assigned the talk explaining the apostle Paul’s words at 1 Corinthians 14:34? Me, that’s who! It’s not the easiest assignment in the world. Just listen to what Paul wrote:

Let the women keep silent in the congregations, for it is not permitted for them to speak. Rather, let them be in subjection, as the Law also says.  If they want to learn something, let them ask their husbands at home, for it is disgraceful for a woman to speak in the congregation.

I mean, how are you going to put lipstick on that one? How are you going to account for how they speak all the time in today’s Kingdom Hall meetings? The guy doesn’t even try to be politically correct—that’s Paul’s problem! From this verse stem the modern complaints that he didn’t like women and that he was misogynistic.

Well, for a guy who doesn’t like women, he sure applauded enough of them. There is Phoebe, who has proved to be a defender of many, including me.” (Rom 16:1-2) There is Euodia and Syntyche, who “have striven side by side with me for the good news” (Phil 4:2-3) And when Lydia “just made us come,” she didn’t interject, “Not you Paul—you’re a misogynist.” (Acts 16:15)

Women weren’t the only ones told to keep silent in that 1 Corinthians chapter. Men were, too, so that it appears to be a matter of special circumstances. Of gifts of the spirit that were destined to fade away but hadn’t yet in those days of Christianity’s infancy, congregation members who would speak in tongues when no one was around to interpret were to keep silent—what good is a tongue if nobody is around to understand it? (vs 28)

If someone was exercising the gift of prophesy and another started doing the same, one or the other was to keep silent. That way “all things take place for building up,” (vs 26) appropriate since “God is a God not of disorder but of peace.” (vs 33)

Always you have to figure in context for any item of scripture. It appears that the women who were to keep silent in 1 Corinthians 14 were also those of special circumstances. Maybe they were speaking just any old time out of order. Maybe they were challenging congregation teachers—male as a matter of spiritual headship. Maybe they were angling to be teachers themselves. It is not a verse that precludes commenting in the orderly Q & A structure of how meetings are carried on today, the same as men are to do.

So I ran all these points past the congregation in my talk. Afterwards, no women gave me dirty looks. At least, no more than normal.

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I Knew the Punchline

The circuit overseer related how one couple divorced after 60 years marriage—or was it an anecdote he related? It hardly matters, for it served not to illustrate marriage, but to distinguish between faithful and loyal. The two partners in marriage had been faithful, but they had not been loyal.

I knew the punch line before he arrived at it. I knew it because many years ago Garrison Keillor had told the story on A Prairie Home Companion.

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An elderly couple appears before judge to say they want a divorce. He’s 95. She’s 89. “Why do you want a divorce?” the judge says. “Because we don’t like each other. We have never gotten along. It has always been awful.”  “My.gracious!” the judge asks in astonishment, “Why did you ever wait so long?”

“Well—we had to wait for the children to die. The shock would have killed them,” is the reply.

So it was with the circuit overseer’s story—they had to wait for the children to die. Keillor played it for laughs, not the tragedy it really would be. His ‘Tales from Lake Wobegon’ monologue series was immensely popular in the 80s, poking gentle fun at the people of his fictional Minnesotan home-town. One of their attributes was that they would do their duty even if it killed them.

The show’s popularity landed him on the cover of Time Magazine (leading him to write the song Mr. Coverboy). Did the divorce story filter down from Garrison to the C.O, or did both of them pick it up from an actual experience? In a country of 300 million people, it has probably happened many times.

The circuit overseer wasn’t talking about marriage—not that he hasn’t done so many times before, but he was not this time. He was speaking of loyalty to God. The word loyalty has a sticking connotation to it, he said, as he displayed a photo of foxtail barley along side one of barnacles. Both stick, but the first dislodge fairly easily. The second you cannot get off if your life depends upon it. So, with regard to sticking with God, the second is the one to go for.

It is one of those scenarios in which creation provides something that humans allow themselves to be instructed by without crediting the creator. I love posting about this and have done so before. In this case it is how scientists research the ingredients of barnacle glue so as to make better glue themselves. There are four ingredients to loyalty, the circuit overseer identified—appreciation, self-control, love, and faith—and he went on to analyze each one.

Appreciation took him to Psalm 116, the first eleven verses containing more or less eleven reasons, some overlapping, to be appreciative. This was followed up with the rhetorical verse 12 question, “What shall I repay to Jehovah for all his benefits to me?” The CO’s own take was that appreciation unexpressed was like a present wrapped but not given.

Self-control launched into controlling one’s thoughts, speech, and actions. It begins with thoughts. Thus, 2 Corinthians 10:5 came into play, that “we are bringing every thought into captivity to make it obedient to the Christ.” We are the landlords of our minds, he said, the one who decides with thought stay and which ones are evicted. Why would you ever view entertainment that plants thoughts in your mind to make that job more difficult?

Love was next, the “perfect bond of union,” according to Colossians 3:14. “Keep seeking not own advantage, but that of the other person, (1 Corinthians 10:24) does wonders for that quality, in this case the “other person” being God.

Faith was the last of four discussed. It triggered discussion of faithful, and that led into the opening anecdote of the couple seeking divorce after so many years.

It is a special week of activity when the circuit overseer hits town. Besides the ministry, he gives three talks, one of his own devising and two from Bethel. To fit two of them in on Sunday, the Watchtower Study is cut in two, and the paragraphs are not read. COs hardly ever sit though a full-length Watchtower Study. One COs wife told of a time she did that she thought it would never end.

Garrison even made mention of Jehovah’s Witnesses on his show. Reflecting the confidence you gain after you have acted in an opera, he said: “When Jehovah’s Witnesses come around, you don’t just hide. You go out and talk to them.”

 

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My 50-Year Battle with the Daily Text

For years I ignored the daily text. I didn’t oppose it. I just focused on other things. It was sort of bite-sized, too insubstantial to make such a fuss over, or so it seemed.

This avoidance did not change even when I was assigned the text at a convention. “You know that time when people read the back of the breakfast cereal box?” I asked my participant. “That’s when we read the text.” To be sure, with the children, either my wife or I did cover a daily text, my wife more so than me. My work schedule was squirrelly back in the day. But I always downplayed it.

I even implied a certain derision of the text with John Wheatandweeds, who (in the Tom Irregardless and Me review of Ivor E Tower), “hinders members from their door to door ministry by spending inordinate amounts of time discussing the text of the day.” How well I remember old-timers rattling on about the text before field service. Sometimes they went on for so long that you didn’t feel like service any longer by the time they were done. Tom Irregardless and Me showcases a “battle” between Bethel and John Wheatandweeds to shorten up that morning discussion to seven minutes—a battle that eventually ended in a draw. He doesn’t get them out in seven minutes, but neither is it all day. And sometimes the time saved inside is squandered away in the parking lot.

So here I am years later in Zoom Covid days, days that nobody could have anticipated, and the congregation service groups launch into discussions of the daily text, and it has become a highlight of the day! It only took 50 years. Gasp! Have I become one of those old-timers?

That convention text discussion was the 2nd time I had been assigned a part. The prior year was my first, and I had been told to report at the chairman’s office where I would be escorted to the platform at the proper time. So for the second year, my participant and I hung out at the chairman’s office waiting for our escort. What I did not know was the prior year’s procedure was specific to that chairman’s organization.

“Shouldn’t I be escorted to the platform by now?” I asked at the desk as the opening song began to play. I got the fastest escort in theocratic history. The brother opening the program looked not too comfortable—his eyes scanning the crowd for his successor to show up. I have told the story in No Fake News but Plenty of Hogwash.

I don’t know for sure, but I think it would not happen today. There is value in standardization.

....

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Complaints over the Farmers-to-Families Program—Part 3

(See Part 2)

If the counter.org story is right, It sounds like the Watchtower was one of the few organizations meeting the USDA Farmers-to-Families program requirements. The story charges that outfits accepted the food boxes but were unwilling to take on the costs of distribution. Instead, they had food distributions in their parking lots—you had to fetch the food quickly before it rotted, and run through a gauntlet of prayer services or ‘soul-salvations’ in the process. Some never intended to comply with program requirements, charges the story. Not so here.

The plan was called "truck-to-trunk." The companies were supposed to take their food boxes directly to local food bank distribution points and drop the boxes into the trunks of waiting cars.” Witnesses did better than that. They delivered it directly to homes. What if someone doesn’t have a “waiting car?” Really poor people do not.

However, the Witness organization does something that will also get thecounter.org people going. They operate with Galatians 6:10 in mind: “Let us work what is good toward all, but especially toward those related to us in the faith.” Recipients of their aid will fall on the “poor spectrum.” Since Witnesses are in aggregate the faith with the lowest average income—and when aid is sent to the neediest of them with the proviso that if they think someone needs it more they can take it there—that is all but guaranteed. But what of those who aren’t keen on God? Are they as likely to be on the Witnesses’s radar as those who aren’t? Probably not.

Frankly, I don’t see what’s so horrendous about even the “abuses” the article attributes to some church groups. Even if I find those abuses distasteful, still food is distributed to anyone who comes to fetch it. The counter.org article just reflects jealousy, in my view, that people of faith will do more to solve ills than do secular people, who are more apt to address it through massive agencies and then spend the rest of their lives on lawyers prosecuting the abuses and corruption that inevitably occurs. If people of faith want to call attention to what implants the generous spirit within them, why should the humanists not be able to live with that? They just don’t like God. Sometimes I think they would rather let people starve than to see them exposed to religion. Must we bend over backwards to see that no humanist is offended by mention of God?

However, this post begins with the proviso: “If the counter.org story is right.” I am willing to entertain that it is not. The counter.org is a humanist organization, and as such I can readily believe it would pass over without comment any faith-based organization doing the work, by its definition, “properly”—keeping their mouths shut about God. Even the Watchtower, with its firm stand on God’s kingdom as the ultimate answer, will say things of the greater world like: “True, some good has been accomplished, but....” However, the counter.org article highlights nothing but what it thinks is bad. So maybe there are some faith groups who are helping fix the world’s broken distribution system without mention of God, activity that would meet the conditions of thecounter.org.

Still, can we all agree that since Jehovah’s Witnesses comprise .01% of the world’s population, what they do or do not do will not make a difference to the world’s self-repair efforts? If they did nothing but offer flowers to passerby on street corners, they would not spoil the world’s efforts to save itself.

In my lifetime I have seen “taking care of one’s own” go from being a laudable trait to a cult-like offense bordering on criminal. Let us rip Galatians 6:10 out of our Bibles, for it is selfish to actually do it: “let us work what is good toward all, but especially toward those related to us in the faith.”

Let us entertain the critics for a just moment and speculate that Jehovah’s Witnesses really are selfish for operating with this verse in mind. Isn’t it the fault of God, who says here that Christians should begin aid with their own? What really can be the beef over this? Aren’t faith-based organizations the ideal distribution channels? And humanists will not be left out of the equation, for if there is anything to their leaving God by the curb, surely they will be able to devise something at least equal, if not better.

Witnesses don’t know how to fix the world’s broken system. People without Bible principles tend not to get along. We don’t know how to help them succeed in the absence of Bible principles, and that is why Jehovah’s Witnesses are primarily a Bible teaching organization. They follow the ‘teach a man to fish’ model, so you will not have to keep giving them fish till the end of time, because we see repeatedly how that model breaks down under stress—and all it has to do is break down once for calamity to ensue. What Witnesses can do is set an example for others to follow—religious or secular—in “caring for their own.” That way, if every one does, and especially when they go the extra mile as do the Witnesses, everyone’s needs will be cared for. There will be no poor unattended.

Anyone can apply for this program. All you have to do is be willing to work for others and have your act together sufficiently enough to package and distribute. If Witnesses take the government up on their generous program, truly an instance—they are not all that common, of when government does things right—why would anyone object to it? Anyone is invited. Grumbling over this reflects exactly the same jealousy that has been manifested at the JW disaster relief program,* on the basis that it doesn’t attempt to restore everybody, but operates with Galatians 6:10 in mind.

Now, I personally have no issue with those who operate otherwise. When I pass a soup kitchen I do not mutter bad things about it. I say good things about it. I say that they are focusing on a specific good thing that we are not, and so how can you criticize that? I do not. I may observe that it is a stopgap measure, but that certainly does not make it unpraiseworthy. 

There is in my neck of the woods such an agency called the House of Mercy. It is run by a nun, or maybe a former-nun. I have nothing but praise for it. She shakes down whoever she must to procure supplies and help those who are truly down and out with feeding and lodging. Recently she was worried that a gigundous shipment of canned goods that she has come to rely upon, supplied by the Latter Day Saints church in Salt Lake City, might not come this year. And then it did. Will one praise the Mormons? I will in this instance. It is a very good deed they do. (Besides, I have a thing for Mormons.) However they are also the most political of faiths—the most consistently Republican as rated by the same Pew organization that ranks the Witnesses as the most apolitical, they have a lot of beliefs that take time to get ones head around, and there are those who will deride them as a cult almost to the extent they will deride JWs as one.

I don’t have a problem with someone trying to make this world’s broken distribution system work. However, I will not go so far as to hurl stones at the people who have invented an entirely new channel that does work. The Watchtower has published an apt illustration of parents who hire a babysitter to care for their children, and on returning home, they find the children not cared for, as the babysitter is busy painting the house. Even though the house needed painting, they are not happy. Tending to the children was the assigned task. If the babysitter wants to paint the house AND care for the children, that works fine, but that good work cannot be done INSTEAD of caring for the children.

I personally had mixed feelings when I heard this illustration because I had been saying something very similar for a long time and I thought maybe they had stolen it from me. Of course, they are welcome to it, and indeed, it is an obvious enough comparison that it might well occur simultaneously to different people. It actually improved upon mine because mine didn’t involve people. Mine involved hiring a contractor to reroof the house and later find that he has painted it instead. Theirs involves people, which is better, but it is also worse, because hiring a babysitter is always associated with caring for the kids physically. The parents do not hope for the babysitter to care for them spiritually, and usually are relieved to find that he/she hasn’t made that attempt.

The JW organization puts emphasis on caring for ones spiritually, so that in applying Bible principles they will correspond to the man who has learned how to fish. Of course, giving a man a fish also has a place, and as stated, I  am not one to criticize it. But if you only give them fish you make them dependent upon yourself for life, and the first time you fall down on “your” job, they blame you for it. Better teach them Bible principles that will enable them to fish, and the best foundation for Bible principles to stick is to fortify them with accurate knowledge about God.

And if I feared that the organization has stolen my illustration, it is not so bad as a recent speaker who related how at another Hall he had laid a $20 bill on the speaker stand along with his outline because he meant to use it as an illustration of how counterfeit is so hard to distinguish from real, and that the fact that there is much counterfeit money does not prove that there is no such thing as real money. However, the chairman, upon spotting the bill, removed it to Lost and Found, so that when the speaker took the stand, he could not use his analogy. “He literally stole my illustration,” he told us.

...

The following excerpt is from Tom Irregardless and Me, an ebook I wrote three years ago:

At the home of Victor Vomodog, an alarm panel light pulsed red. Victor read the incoming feed. It was serious. Someone was saying nice things about Jehovah’s Witnesses. Instantly, he swung into action. There was not a moment to lose. He opened his door and whistled. The media came running. “Witnesses are selfish!” he cried. “They only think of themselves! Why don’t they help everyone? Why do they just do their own people?” That evening, media ran the headline: “WHY DON’T THEY HELP EVERYONE?”

But they had asked the wrong question. The headline they should have run, but didn’t, because they didn’t want to deal with the answer, was: “WHY AREN’T OTHERS DOING THE SAME?” The answer to the first question is obvious: Witness efforts consist of volunteers using their vacation time. Just how much time is the boss going to grant?

So do it yourself, Victor! Organize your own new chums! Or send your money to some mega-agency where they think Bible education is for fools. Be content to see monies frittered away on salaries, hotels, travel, retirement, health care benefits, and God knows what else! Be content to see much of what remains squandered! It’s the best you can do—embrace it! Or at least shut up about the one organization that has its act together.

The obvious solution, when it comes to disaster relief, is for others to do as Jehovah’s Witnesses do. Why have they not? There are hundreds of religions. There are atheists…aren’t you tight with them now, Victor?  Organize them, why don’t you? They all claim to be veritable gifts to freedom and humankind. Surely they can see human suffering. Why don’t they step up to the plate themselves?

They can’t. They are vested in a selfish model that runs a selfish world. Let them become Jehovah’s Witnesses and benefit from the Bible education overseen by the Governing Body, Plato’s and Sider’s dream brought to life. But if they stay where they are, they must look to their own organization or lack thereof. There’s no excuse that they should not be able to copy Witnesses. They have far more resources to draw upon. We’re not big enough to do everyone for free, and we don’t know how to run a for-pay model; we’ve no experience in that. Instead, other groups must learn how to put love into action, as we did long ago.

C’mon, Victor! If all the world needs is to ‘come together,’ then see to it! We don’t know how to do that. People without Bible education tend not to get along. You make them do it! You don’t want to, or can’t, do large-scale relief, yet you want to shoot down those who do! What a liar!

.

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Complaints over the USDA Farmers to Families Program—Part 2

It took a while, but one day Heather intercepted a food package delivered to her JW grandma. Heather used to be a Witness, but says she no longer is. There were potatoes, onions, apples, and a cauliflower inside, but Heather smelled only a rat. She contacted the Counter.org people, who specialize in “food journalism that goes beyond the gustatory to uncover the money, power, and politics behind our plate.” They, it turns out, had been grumbling for some time about the USDA Farmers to Families program, and they launched an article critical of it. My faith group was in the headline, though for the most part it was about other groups, so I took time to write a response to it. I had posted on the topic once before.
 
The Witnesses’ description “that the boxes came from Jehovah—instead of taxpayers—represents a significant departure from standard operating procedure for federal food aid,” the Counter wrote. Well—okay, people of faith are kind of like that, ever describing good things as blessings from God, not unlike how secular people will say “If you can read, thank a teacher.” My two kids read voraciously, yet save for the 6th grade they have never seen the inside of a school. They read because their parents read. We read to them, but otherwise didn’t “teach” them too much. They learned by doing. Could you not even say “If you can read, thank God” for making our brains spongelike?
 
If there was anything hush-hush about the USDA program from the Witnesses point of view, as the article states, that never reached my ears nor those of my immediate circle. Within a few days I had posted on my own blog of it, a post that comprises Part 1 of this series. In our congregation sub-group, when an elderly woman remarked on how “the brothers” had bought this food, the one with oversight told her that it was not they—they were just distributing—it was a government program that they had signed on to.
 
I do get the concern expressed within the Counter article that maybe there is someone who needs the food more. And that certainly could be. The part where Robert Hendricks of the Witnesses says that they advised those who received packages not to turn them down, and later presents the rationale that they will be inclined to underestimate their own burden—“downplaying any private struggles with food insecurity”—I can see that, too. (My wife and I are not destitute, but we are retired and we do live off social security—we have lived modestly as Witnesses generally do, so that the stipend is far from huge) I responded the same way that Hendricks suggested some might respond: there will be others who need it more—and we were told that if that is the case, we could share with neighbors and others. I know of ones who have done this. How many? No idea. People of faith tend to take to heart Jesus’ counsel to not let the right hand know what the left is doing and to not to blow a trumpet in front of them whenever they give. (Matthew 6:2) At some point you have to put faith in the “little people” to do what is right.
 
The Pew Research Foundation has released studies to indicate that Jehovah’s Witnesses are the lowest income group of all faiths. Thus, even if aid to them went no further than they and their immediate associates, it would hardly be a travesty. But, as indicated, they were encouraged to share if they felt there were others who could benefit more. 
 
The trick is finding these ones. The solution of leaving it up to the individual to share with cases of need that he/she personally knows of is probably as efficient as any, and it may be the most efficient of all. If you are poor, you will likely live in a poor neighborhood, and will know of serious cases of need. If you are a Witness not poor, you will know of some who are, because Witnesses are a tightly knit community, and can find out about such hard cases through them in the event that none are in your immediate area.
 
Though ostensibly about Jehovah’s Witnesses, the tone of the article is irreligious in general, and whatever potential abuses of USDA rules it describes are not those of Jehovah’s Witnesses, even of such lesser charges as swapping the government logo for a religious one. The box we received plainly said ‘Farmers to Families—USDA.’ and I am glad a photo of it appears in my linked post, because Heather may have forgotten to mention it.
 
Those church outfits will have to speak for themselves, and I noticed that some had no comment, in contrast to Hendricks, who did. Still, doesn’t jealousy account for much of the article’s tone—that communities of faith are motivated to have effective distribution channels that easily outstrip those of non-faith, those purely secular? Says the article: “Many food banks and other nonprofits have complained that they’re incurring significant, unexpected expenses related to storage and last-mile delivery.” Not to be unfeeling, but whose fault is that? 
 
Faith, love of brother, and love of neighbor has moved ones of the JW organization to overcome these “unexpected expenses related to storage and last-mile delivery.” The packages I’ve received have been delivered directly to my door, and I have indeed shared some with others who were not recipients. Jehovah’s Witnesses thus set an example showing secular outfits how it can be done. All those outfits need to do is find similar selfless people.
 
Of course, they do have some. I’ve nothing but praise for secular food relief organizations. But they don’t have such selfless ones in anywhere near the abundance as does the Witness faith-based community, and that is why massive lines have accompanied some distributions—one wonders if in some cases the aid received is not offset by the cost of gasoline in retrieving it. 
 
In the early days of the pandemic, before monitory relief came from the government that would temporarily take the pressure off some, I wrote a check to one of these food banks. I don’t like the idea of people going hungry. I wanted to give and I did so. Yet, as I did so, I had to come to grips with the certain knowledge that inefficiencies built into such programs would dilute my contribution. It pains me that this is the case. I wish it were not. I wish they could draw upon enough people in the overall community to solve distribution issues—it’s produce, after all—it can’t sit around forever.
 
At heart, the issue is that non-faith does not move people to be selfless to the same extent as does faith, and the article seems to me an expression of jealousy that such is the case. Is it so shocking that that when people of faith give they want to call attention to what implanted that generous spirit within them? The article appears even to have even political overtones, complaining at the perceived shortfalls of a Trump administration program.
 
Of course, if there are abuses of the system, then someone ought lower the boom on whoever is committing them. “Saving” people in the parking lot, soliciting donations for the program, offering prayer sessions as a condition, things that Witnesses do not do, does sound as though it might violate the spirit or even letter of the program. And are parishioners low income to start with, as JWs in the aggregate are, or are some well-off? All proper matters to look at, it seems. But at present, this looks to me like another article—I have seen many—that highlights the abuses of some churches and by headline suggests that Jehovah’s Witnesses are the worst of the lot, even though Witnesses steer clear of such shenanigans.
 

I wouldn’t know just what is the case with “Heather,” whose complaint triggered this article. But I reflect back upon when I was working in a group home that hired a new assistant manager. In short order, I began to feel some heat, and in time I went to the house manager about it. “For some reason, I think she is trying to get me fired,” I told her. The manager thought that unlikely. She asked me why that would be, and I truthfully told her I didn’t know. But I then mentioned that, as it turns out, she and I know hundreds of people in common, for she was once a member of my faith. “Oh,” the manager said, and instantly her tone changed. She said no more, I said no more, and I heard no more, until a week or two later that that asst manager had been discharged. The hostility of some ex-JWs is hard to fathom.

 
See Part 3 to follow.
 
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Who is “Jehovah’s Mouthpiece,” Who is “Inspired,” and Who is “Spirit-Directed?”

Q: The Governing Body doesn’t directly write what becomes the spiritual food, does it? Doesn’t the Writing Committee originate it, and they merely put their stamp of approval on it?

A: The defining word here is “merely.”

If my roof caves in tomorrow and I decide that it’s God’s fault, or if I park on the Kingdom Hall lawn, the elders tell me not to, and I say, “Oh yeah?! Well I show you in my next post!”—if I do it at Bethel, the GB will “merely” decline to put their stamp of approval on my rant—they will put me on potato-peeling detail in the kitchen instead, and call up someone from the bullpen less deranged. But if I am a loose cannon on my own blog—there is nothing anyone can do when I go haywire. That’s why I don’t ever expect to be acknowledged for my self-appointed role as an apologist, much less commended for it. Even the real apologists of the early centuries have not fared will at the hands of the writing committee, that tends to focus on things they got wrong.

No, the “merely” is a big deal. It makes for constancy and consistency. Call it a “think tank” at Bethel if you will. It is a concentration of gray hairs and experience, of meeting trials, of knowing they are to be judged for their actions (or inaction), of following up on having brought understanding of the sacred writings to begin with. 

I can just shoot my mouth off here, say whatever pops into my head, insult Vic Vomodog whenever he deserves it (which is almost always), praise the Benoit Blanc movie* even though there is crude language—and perhaps I have never faced a care in the world. But they can’t. 

What are my morals? I could (to borrow from Bob Dylan) “be respectably married—or running a whorehouse in Buenos Aries.” Nobody knows. But the Bethel writers are vetted, not just for being good writers, but for being good Christians. They take it for granted there that if your conduct is sullied, somehow that will come out in your guidance, even if it doesn’t seem to at first glance.

I had a friend that, eccentric though he was, had a gift of making complex things simple—even oversimplifying to drive the point home.  I can still hear him recounting to someone just how it works in Jehovah’s organization: “At Bethel, the Governing Body study their Bibles. An idea will occur to one of them. They will discuss it among themselves and when they all come to agreement, it will appear in print.”

“Now, the thing is,” he continued, “you also study your Bible. The same idea might have occurred to you, maybe even before it occurred to them. ‘And if this were Christendom, you’d run out and start your own religion over it.’  But because you know it is not a free-for-all, and you know that Jehovah is a God of order, you wait for material to come through the appointed channel.”

So if they have called themselves “Jehovah’s mouthpiece” in the past, I can live with that. They have the greatest think tank collection of gray hairs that, per the scriptures, denotes wisdom, of experience in Christian works, in safeguarding and extending the king’s belongings, in knowing the will be held accountable before God. They have the  greatest sense of direction and following up on momentum. One must not do a Miriam and say—“does not Jehovah speak through all of us?” I am happy to have a thought that makes sense—I don’t go thinking I am God’s gift to the brotherhood for it.

The trouble is that there are so many literalists who see the expression “crocodile tears” and take it as proof that the one shedding them is a crocodile. There are so many literalists who do not strive to think of how phrases like “Jehovah’s mouthpiece” might apply, but they strive to think of how they don’t. It is the same with “being led by spirit.” It is almost too explosive a phrase to use because of the literalists—if you go to the bathroom—well—how can you be guided by spirit? since holy spirit would never do THAT!

It’s the same with elders and servants being “appointed by holy spirit.” How do you know they are? To my mind it is because the qualifications are in the Book inspired by holy spirit, and the judgment as to how persons measure up is made by a (small) “think tank” of holy spirit, and seconded by a traveling minister patterned after scripture—another repository of holy spirit. It works for me. But there will be some who think that if an appointee ever goes bad afterwards it must be that they were not appointed by holy spirit. I think not. Any of these terms must necessarily be “watered down” some when put in the context of humans, “in whose heart the inclination to do bad” is ingrained from his youth up.

I think of certain brother appointed upon the recommendation of the BOE. The circuit overseer, an older and very experienced man, okayed the recommendation, with the observation: “He’s not the most humble brother in the world.” He didn’t have to be. All he had to do was to meet each of the qualifications to an acceptable degree. Alas, the CO should have listened to his gut, for the man in time went apostate. He was the one who was a history buff and used to impress the householder by answering, “Because I’m an historian,” when asked how he knew this or that about the past. Once I said to him, “Will you knock it off?! You are a history buff. A historian is when other people acknowledge you, not just you yourself!”

I could be wrong, but I bet the GB has learned to be very leery of such phrases and terms as “mouthpiece” and “inspired” and “spirit-directed”—not just for all the literalists, but for all the critics (who are often the same).  Some things if they say just once, it is magnified 100 times. Other things they say 100 times, only to find it ignored. “Don’t save seats for everyone you know,” they would say about the Regionals, “think of the elderly.” Finally, they gave up, and said to let the elderly in early, and everyone else only after the oldsters were seated. Innumerable directives went unheeded. Yet if they speak just once about “forums,” their words are enshrined for all time. I alluded to this in Tom Irregardless and Me. The organization would say that the Governing Body does not endorse such and such, and the friends would accordingly have a helpful sense of priority and focus. And then Oscar or someone would be found doing it, and Tom Pearlandswine would descend to tell him that the Governing Body DOES NOT ENDORSE!!! such and such. You never know what quote will be magnified and what will be forgotten, but I bet they are advancing on the learning curve.

.....

*Aw, shut up, with your Kentucky-fried Foghorn Leghorn drawl!” the villain says to Benoit Blanc. it’s about time someone said it to me. (Someone just had.) If you see the movie ‘Knives Out’—it is free on Amazon Prime—you must be prepared for a bit of language. It is by no means filthy, by today’s standards—I don’t recall a single f-bomb—but no way is it pristine like in the Kingdom Hall. It is an Hercule Poirot parody, with Daniel Craig playing the Christie-like eccentric, brilliant, and world-renowned sleuth, Benoit Blanc. There is nothing funnier, to my mind, then when he opens his mouth to speak an overbearing combination of French/Southern Redneck accent. He routinely says things that, at first glance are profound, but at second are just plain stupid.

 
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On Scholars—Part 1

“I think that some persons get overly involved in trying to make them out to be great Christians, when they never knew them, and only see through their own eyes "vicariously" through the books those men authored.” The conversation was about Rolf and his new book.

I think we suck up to scholars altogether too much. There is nothing scholarly about the “unlearned and ordinary” men taking the lead in the first century, and there is no indication that they regarded their “ignorance” as a condition from which they ought pull themselves up by their own bootstraps. When the “scholars” began having their day in the sun, the first thing they did is to infuse long pre-existing philosophies into Christianity, making it all but unrecognizable.

God gives his Holy Spirit to those obeying him as ruler, says Acts 5:32. It says nothing about their ‘scholarship,’ and one of the first things ‘scholars‘ do is refuse to obey. We should kiss up the them? I think not. “Okay, you did well, Peter and John—amazingly well considering how uneducated you are. Good job! But we smart people are here now, so shove aside and let us show you how to do it.” No.

In the overall world of scholarship, any ‘scholar’ believing the Bible makes a mockery of the word. The first thing ‘scholars’ do is to declare Adam and Eve a ludicrous tale for primitive peoples, thereby gutting the means to understand anything of importance—why death? why suffering? It all goes out the window. People are left clueless on the most important questions of life as they imagine themselves smarter than anyone else.

Not to put it down too much, of course. It is a gift that some will bring to the altar. But if those at the altar decline to spin that altar like the ‘Wheel of Fortune’ dial, hopefully the relatively few scholars that are JW scholars will be able to hold their peace. It is one component of Christianity—not nothing, but also not overriding. “Everything You Thought You Knew About Such-and-Such is Wrong!” is a headline that experienced ones have seen all too often.

As for me, I can’t believe how many pig-headed scholars have not come around to my point of view. I do have George Chrysiddes who wrote some nice things about Tom Irregardless and Me, and I ignored all my ‘stupid’ friends for a month when he bestowed his great favor. I am waiting on Rolf to join in with effusive praise. But other than that, these guys who squabble no less than we ordinary mortals have mostly not come around.

(Part 2:)

 
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'