(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!
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.
“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.
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.
The downloadable research guide is going to add much to the current cycle of Bible reading.
Already with Genesis 1:1 are links to articles observing that there is no reason to quarrel about the age of the earth. Scientists say 4 billion years? Let them. There is no objection, since “in the beginning” is BEFORE the creative days begin.
Nor is there any objection to a ‘big bang’ as a means to which God created the cosmos. Let scientists be scientists and Bible teachers be Bible teachers. Don’t manufacture conflicts until there are some.
Genesis 1:3 I have always loved: “and God’s active force [spirit] was moving about over the surface of the waters”—as though saying, “okay—ready, here—gimme something to do.”
“The riot squad is restless; they need somewhere to go.” - Bob Dylan. Nah, it doesn’t really fit, but I do like Bob Dylan.
And, technially, my prediction that the system should have ended yesterday since JWs have reached the end of their multi-year Bible reading cycle and it would be too inconveiniest to make them start all over again still holds, since I know of no mid-week meetings that falls on Monday.
[Edit: Within a half hour of this post, two persons contacted me to say they new of some Monday meetings. Rats. So much for home-baked prophesy.]
The following represents my taking my eye off the ball, to be sure, but not to worry—it’s my blog and I will not forget what it is about: My quote of Dylan recalled to mind some history.
My all time peak in internet hits came in response to a review of a Bob Dylan concert at Gordon Field House linked to above—some Dylan site picked it up & I had 1000+ hits in a day—nothing for some people I follow but a big deal for me. For a post or two, Morristotle and I played with idea of whether we could make lightening strike twice, and we sprinkled in Dylan references where they had no conceivable place. The lightning never did strike again, and we both resumed normal activity.
“What would explain the jehovahs witnesses having the highest rate of mental illness out of all Christian religions?”
To the extent it is true, and I am not sure what extent that is, Luke 5:31 is what would explain it:
“In reply Jesus said to them: “Those who are healthy do not need a physician, but those who are ill do.”
Do you think he is speaking of cancer? Or is mental distress, such as might accompany anguish over the atrocities of this world and the blame assigned to God for it more to the point? To my mind, the ones you should worry about are those who are not greatly troubled by the stressors of life today—those who sail blithely through the horrors and cruelties without a care.
“If you looked into the 'turnover' within the JW faith, I think you would find one of the biggest turnovers of all religions. Explain that one.”
It is easily offset by the high participation rate of those who stick. After all, with many faiths, people might not actually leave, but how would you know if they did?
It is also explained by the fact that there is a substantial cost to being a Witness—to be a minister of Christ is to be self-sacrificing and to make numerous changes in one’s conduct. Why bother leaving a faith that asks very little of you?
Seen, it that light, it is remarkable that the “turnover” you speak of isn’t much higher than it is.
“How is the JW organization moving forward SPIRITUALLY ?...I'm not talking about physical things...I'm talking about purely spiritual matters.”
I would say the numerous schools that exist now that did not 50 years ago fits the bill. For elders, ministerial servants, traveling reps, etc. Intense and reoccurring instruction lasting anywhere from a weekend to a few weeks.
I have attended some of these schools. Almost all content is on imitating Jesus’ manner of dealing with the flock, dealing with those in the ministry, showing tenderness, not lording it over, leading by example, and so forth. Very little is on what would be called ‘doctrinal.’
I remember in particular one instructor leading around a string on a table with forefinger firmly applied to one end. “See how the rest of the string follows so nicely?” he asked. He then reversed course and tried to “push” the string. “See how it bunches up when I do that?” he said. “It’s really not too smart of me to do it that way, is it?” The lesson, of course, was to lead by example, and not by being “pushy.”
These schools have a cumulative effect of refining those exercising any authority. That they are needed can be inferred from Jesus’ dealings with those to whom he granted the greatest authority. Even on the eve of his death he interceded in an argument they were having as to which one of them was the greatest, the same as you might do with children. (Luke 22:24)
Take that into account for anyone carrying on about how inspired, unerring, and pure the leaders were back then and by extension ought be today. Grown men are capable of behaving like children. It happened then, it happens today. Refresher course training in which students will focus on scores of scriptures—and if they prepare as the ought—hundreds of scriptures, go a long way towards training those in authority to lead and shepherd as Christ did.
And, far from the GB dreaming up a school that they ride above and apply to everyone else, when such a school is formulated, they put themselves through it first. They do not imagine that they cannot benefit from intense review of how Jesus dealt with people.
If Hymenaeus and Alexander go bad on you, to be sure, it is a downer, but it does not destroy faith and a good conscience.
I think he means that with Jehovah’s Witnesses there is a combination of pure teachings that are found no where else. Some of them are individually, but the combination is not. They involve such things as the Name, the kingdom, no immortality of the soul, no Trinity, the reason for suffering, the preaching work, the need to keep watchful, transformed personalities, and so forth. The Christian ministry is a treasure, however it is a treasure carried in “earthen vessels”—that is, people, who are not unflawed. “However, we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the power beyond what is normal may be God’s and not that out of ourselves,” Paul says at 2 Corinthians 4:7. Context reveals that he is speaking of the ministry, which he regards as a “treasure.”
Although a certain malcontent fights so much and so bitterly with the bus driver that I can’t imagine why he doesn’t just leave—it would make the driver happier, the bus company happier, the passengers happier, and one would think, him happier—yet he does not do it, probably for the above reasons. (except for the ministry, and the nearness of the end, which he doesn’t seem to think is so)
People are a collection of their experiences, both those that have happened to them, and those they have manufactured. I have called him a loon. Maybe he is not, but he so closely resembles one that I cannot tell the difference. My bad.
As much as he carries on about worshipping the GB, he cannot seem able to understand that it is factors in the first paragraph that form a Witness’s faith, and following the direction of the GB is no more than not fighting with the traffic cop or the coach or the mentor.
Let us humor him for a moment. Let us grant his dream come true, that malfeasance will someday be uncovered ....gasp!’....high up in the ranks. So? It would hardly affect one’s faith. They are men—everyone knows that. There have been many times in the past when the earthly organization was shaken practically into rubble—in America during WWI, in Axis countries during WWII, in Russia now—and as soon as the heat is off, God’s people rebuild like ants, because their faith was never in human arrangements—those just exist to facilitate and enhance spiritual things—their faith was in the spiritual things themselves.
Many times in the past brothers in responsible positions have proven unfaithful, sometimes even duplicitous, hiding who they are, and when discovered, have been removed and replaced. So says 1 Timothy 5:24: “The sins of some men are publicly manifest, leading directly to judgment, but as for other men [their sins] also become manifest later.” Sometimes it is now. Sometimes it is “later.” Still, I would have to see some evidence before buying in. The fact that opposers “accuse them day and night before our God” (Revelation 12:10) does not count, for that has never not been the case.
It happens. Even GB members have been removed—sometimes with fanfare and sometimes not. Faith itself continues. It was never in human arrangements. It was in spiritual things. Enemies of the faith make the same mistake here that they do in Russia. Failing to grasp spiritual things, they imagine that if the shut down the earthly coordinating organization, the faith will collapse. Instead, it is like stomping on the anthill. The ants run for cover, but almost immediately they commence rebuilding. Their faith was never in the anthill—that was just their to magnify their ant-life.
The Bible reading last week in 1 Timothy 1:18 encourages ones (Timothy) to hold “faith and a good conscience, which some have thrust aside, resulting in the shipwreck of their faith. Hymenaeus and Alexander are among these, and I have handed them over to Satan so that they may be taught by discipline not to blaspheme.” As long as you hold faith and a good conscience, you are fine—and the faith is with regard to God and his Son, as accurately represented by the factors of the opening paragraph
If Hymenaeus and Alexander go bad on you, to be sure, it is a downer, but it does not destroy faith and a good conscience.
Likely they will say of these courtroom battles, as they did of Russia banning the entire organization within its borders, that it is an area of “concern” but not “worry.” They don’t get overly attached to things, even things of their own construction. They put it all on the line routinely as they do their best to advance kingdom interests, not cowering before their enemies. They plow where they plow as they apply their view of the Bible, unconcerned, sometimes unaware, of the quicksand that may get them into, confident that, should that happen, God will somehow get them out of it.
They do not deliberately court opposition, but they do expect it. The king makes a law and Daniel is thrown into the lion’s den. He makes another law and his friends are thrown into the furnace. Another king makes another law and the entire nation of Jews faces extermination until Esther the queen opens his eyes to the murderous scheme he has been maneuvered into. It happens to their spiritual descendants to this day. The modern Witness organization expects no less. They are “insular,” separate from the world, and the latter finds no end of reasons to oppose them for it.
From “TrueTom vs the Apostates!”
“I came to start a fire on the earth, and what more is there for me to wish if it has already been lighted?”
“I came to start a fire on the earth, and what more is there for me to wish if it has already been lighted?”—Luke 12:49
What fire? How did it get lit?
Doesn’t it refer to God’s ways versus the ways of a world estranged from him? That fire was lit long ago. Jesus fans it into fever pitch, introducing a preaching activity that will ultimately put the choice in everyone’s face—is it the kingdom that they want to rule over them, or the present human system of 200 squabbling nations? Jehovah’s Witnesses who speak for him today do nothing to bring that future kingdom about, but they do publicize it:
“And in the days of those kings the God of heaven will set up a kingdom that will never be brought to ruin. And the kingdom itself will not be passed on to any other people. It will crush and put an end to all these kingdoms, and it itself will stand to times indefinite.”—Daniel 2:44
Moreover, those who want and expect that kingdom rule versus those who do not want or expect it assume different priorities in their lives that reflect their desires and expectations. It makes for significant conflicts, even within families. That must be what Jesus meant as he went on to say:
Do you imagine I came to give peace on the earth? No, indeed, I tell you, but rather division. For from now on there will be five in one house divided, three against two and two against three. They will be divided, father against son and son against father, mother against daughter and daughter against [her] mother, mother-in-law against [her] daughter-in-law and daughter-in-law against [her] mother-in-law.”—Luke 12:51-53
It manifests itself today in people changing sides—for the allure of both sides are as strong as the are different. In the case of a Witness family that some members depart from, it takes the form of the latter charging that they were misled, manipulated, and so forth. No wonder the apostle seems to anticipate the charge:
“We have wronged no one, we have corrupted no one, we have taken advantage of no one.”—2 Corinthians 7:2
“Nevertheless, you say, I was “crafty” and I caught you “by trickery.”—2 Corinthians 12:16.
Jesus doesn’t buy it, either, about being obtuse regarding the end of this system of things approaching:
“Then he went on to say also to the crowds: “When see a cloud rising in western parts, at once you say, ‘A storm is coming,’ and it turns out so. And when you see that a south wind is blowing, you say, ‘There will be a heat wave,’ and it occurs. Hypocrites, you know how to examine the outward appearance of earth and sky, but how is it you do not know how to examine this particular time?—Luke 12:54-56
The trick may be to check your “critical thinking” skills at the door, so as to focus on what he next says: “Why do you not judge also for yourselves what is righteous?”—vs 57 God’s kingdom is “righteous.” Human governments, whatever their intent, whatever their ideals, whatever their sporadic successes, are not.
That being the case with God’s kingdom approaching, why make oneself an “adversary of him?”
“For example, when you are going with your adversary at law to a ruler, get to work, while on the way, to rid yourself of the dispute with him, that he may never hale you before the judge, and the judge deliver you to the court officer, and the court officer throw you into prison.”—vs 58
I liked this point as well (most of these verses were considered at the Kingdom Hall meeting this past week, and the ones not will be considered next week):
“But if ever that slave should say in his heart, ‘My master delays coming,’ and should start to beat the menservants and the maidservants, and to eat and drink and get drunk, the master of that slave will come on a day that he is not expecting [him] and in an hour that he does not know, and he will punish him with the greatest severity and assign him a part with the unfaithful ones.”—vs 45-46
Practically speaking, the “slave” that doubts that the master is coming anytime soon (or at all) begins to reappraise all the effort he has put into publicizing that event. What once seemed as natural as breathing air now comes to seem wasted time, in fact, worse than wasted time, since it served to put he/she behind the curve as regards the goals of the greater world. In no time at all, such persons have joined “the unfaithful ones.” They are deriding what they once embraced—in effect, “beating their fellow slaves.” They are almost forced to carry on about how they were misled and manipulated, because the alternative is to explain how they could have been so stupid to go along for so many years with what they now reject. So they frame matters as a “sinister religious corporation” taking advantage of the minions. They are nuts—the only reason members incorporate is so that they can do things legally, such as owning land or publishing, that will not all fall apart with the death of the founders.
Let us visit the parallel verses in the Book of Matthew, noting that the slaves doing business have always been associated with the preaching and disciple-making work. Let us consider it in the satirical Sheepngoats Translation, which is not accepted by all scholars—in fact, most of them assume that the translators must have been smoking something:
“After a long time the master of those slaves came and settled accounts with them. So the one that had received five talents came forward and brought five additional talents, saying, ‘Master, you committed five talents to me; see, I gained five talents more.’ His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful slave! You were faithful over a few things. I will appoint you over many things. Enter into the joy of your master.’
“Next the one that had received the two talents came forward and said, ‘Master, you committed to me two talents; see, I gained two talents more.’ His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful slave! You were faithful over a few things. I will appoint you over many things. Enter into the joy of your master.’
“Finally the one that had received the one talent came forward and said, ‘Master, I didn’t do squat. I thought about it, but you see, to do business, I would have had to work with the others, and they are all jerks. I also would have had to work with the bankers, and it is all about money with them. And I for sure didn’t want to work with any non-profit organizations who might lean on me to do something I didn’t want to do. I shouldn’t have to put up with that—I have rights. After all, we all know that you reap where you did not sow, and gather where you do not winnow. You want disciples? Then get off your rear end and make them yourself! Don’t foist your corporate agenda on me!’
“In reply his master said to him, ‘Wicked and sluggish slave, you knew, did you, that I reaped where I did not sow and gathered where I did not winnow? Well, then, you ought to have deposited my silver monies with the bankers, and on my arrival I would be receiving what is mine with interest.’”—Matthew 25:19-25
The master could have worked with that attitude, it appears! Just take it to the bank if you feel that way, he says. Instead, the loutish slave dug in the ground and hid the silver money, (vs 25) working up a sweat so as to thwart the master’s will. it is as opposers do today. They go to considerable effort to thwart the work that they once took part it.