“Given the Exact Same Scenario, Spiritually-Minded People Can Make Different Decisions”

Jehovah’s Witnesses immediately transferred all gatherings to Zoom and gave counsel to observe government-recommended COVID social distancing. Now, “often for economic reasons,” some States are opening up.  Does the JW support organization have any direction for its members?

Yes. Their letter was read a week ago. Kingdom Halls themselves would remain closed until further notice. The house-to-house ministry and the ‘cart work’ would also remain suspended. But otherwise, as to resuming normal life at whatever pace, it was for each family head to decide. The letter specifically stated that what was good for one family might not be good for another family. Family heads were best in position to oversee their own—there would be no overriding instruction on that point from the Christian organization.

Almost immediately I saw signs of a “tier-system” opening up. Certain ones began carrying on as though that—yes, there had been a concession to ‘weak’ Christians who preferred to risk life “for economic reasons,” but mature Christians would realize the fallacy of that and continue to hunker down. The adjectives were not used, mind you—‘weak’ and ‘mature’—I am the one who threw them in. The words were not stated—that was just the overall tone.

‘The letter didn’t say that,’ I said to one such person over Zoom. It implied no judgment whatsoever upon anyone following one course or the other—it was strictly a matter of each family head deciding what was in the best interests of his or her family, and his decision was not to be second-guessed. Everyone present had worked at some point in their lives and in every case it was “for economic reasons.” It’s not a dirty word.

This kind of thing drives me nuts. It even prompted a post before on which I didn’t follow through about when something is said to be a ‘conscience matter’—does that mean that it is described that way because it really is? Or does it mean that to God there clearly is a right and a wrong course to take, but he will cut those of weak faith some slack—after all, we don’t all have to reach maturity all at once, and since there is no crime in being ‘weak,’ He will throw them a bone—was it that way? I didn’t follow through on the post because a certain ‘apostate’ idiot immediately jumped in to harangue over who is anyone to say what is a ‘conscience matter’ and what is not—and then I got distracted by something else, but now I come back to it.

I see it developing in all manner of choices—the unstated view, even sometimes when just the opposite has been stated—that there IS a right and a wrong and the difference is that the mature people will choose the right, but God will not hold it against the weak people for choosing the wrong, because that is what weak people do. Really?

When that Watchtower Study article that contained a single paragraph—updating or clarifying or whatever it did—Witness’s attitudes (in the U.S) on beards (they are an unremarkable fact of life in some parts of the world), and I even heard of one congregation that devoted most of the study to that one paragraph—what, were they nuts?—if it’s 1/20th of the article, it should take roughly 1/20th of the time—afterwards a common attitude was: ‘Well, okay, we won’t make a fuss if anyone ‘weak’ has a beard—but they’ll never be appointed!’ The paragraph didn’t say that. That was added by persons of already strong opinion.

For all that is said about the earthly organization being the lightning-speed chariot that zigzags so quickly as to make a quantum particle envious, and the congregations ought to be likewise, at times they are like the supertanker that takes ten miles to alter course. It depends upon what is the issue.

What is it that makes people that way? It has nothing to do with Jehovah’s Witnesses specifically—it is an attribute of persons in groups. Of science, Max Planck said: “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.” Someone rephrased it to: “Science advances one funeral at a time.”

No wonder people get fed up with organization. If it is lightning-like in some areas, it is glacier-like in others. Chalk it up to what Paul said about the Christian ministry. It was a ‘treasure,’ however it was a treasure carried in earthen vessels—us—earthen vessels with many a flaw, as is the nature of ‘earthen’ vessels. You can lodge a complaint to God about it, I suppose. The trouble is that God will reply: “Well, you’re no great shakes yourself. You’ll just have to get along the best you can.” We are social beings—created that way. Therefore, God gives us a social organization to supplement and augment a relationship with Him, which we would be nuts to forsake. But it is not perfect, and those who expect it to be so are inevitably disillusioned.

I see it—a tier system— with regard to Jehovah’s Witnesses stand on blood transfusions.* They decline them. They avoid the four main components of blood—red cells, white cells, platelets, and plasma—since gone are the days where whole bags of blood are suspended over the patient. But science marches on and new treatments are developed in which only the tiniest component of blood exists—fractions, they are called. Is this ‘blood’ or not? HQ figured that different people will see it in different ways—therefore, they were not going to touch it—it is a ‘conscience matter’ as people prioritize principles that do not necessarily harmonize.

I made up my mind in two minutes, based on the following ‘principles,’ which will not be the overriding ones for all:

1) You can’t serve God when you’re dead.

2) When you bleed an animal, not every microscopic drop of blood comes out. 

3) You shouldn’t have to master microbiology to be a faithful Christian. 

4) If they can’t figure it out, neither can I 

5) It’s not a cake until you mix the ingredients.

It works for me. I mean, I’ll talk it out for any proposed treatment that comes down the pipe on an as-needed basis, but in general, these five do it for me.

Now, for the most part, I don’t know what is the stand of other congregation members. Since it a matter of conscience, it is not something that people advertise. But I detect another ‘tier system’ developing—and I could be wrong for lack of data—of ones who consider themselves mature because they would reject the tiniest atom in blood, as they think, ‘Isn’t it nice that Jehovah mercifully cuts the weak ones some slack?’ Again—it drives me nuts. Is it that way or not?

The last circuit assembly went a long long way in answering that nagging question for me—in fact, it put it to bed once and far all. Brother Henry, the C.O was discussing entertainment, and he posed the question of ‘What would you think upon learning that some friends had gone in for some form of entertainment that you had rejected, having judged it morally objectionable?’

He said—and please write this down: “Given the exact same scenario, spiritually minded people can make different decisions, so in this case, you don’t mind ‘minding your own business.’” It was part of a discussion in which the greater context was counsel on how not to use conscience to stumble others—brothers can talk about this subject till the cows come home. Typically, they illustrate it with abstaining from the alcohol you might otherwise consume on account of the new person (or alcoholic) that might be stumbled by it. There are perhaps a dozen other areas in which you wish they might go to apply the verses, but they are all mine fields, and so they are tread on gingerly, if at all.

Maybe it is all these brothers who think it is the bee’s knees to imitate what they do at Bethel. Bethel hardly discourages that view. At times, they recommend it. But they have also stated that the large population of the Bethel ‘family’ in combination with its specialized purpose, makes numerous rules appropriate, far more rules than would be the case for an actual family outside of Bethel—where most families are. Okay, got it. We take whatever they do as a good example, for specialized circumstances, and not as template to be enforced upon every family—though there are many Witnesses that go that way and ‘guilt’ those that do not.

Brother Henry nailed it for me, however. I think I will make his statement my year text for the next decade or so: “Given the exact same scenario, spiritually minded people can make different decisions.”

.....

*As to avoidance of transfusion, the best evidence of spiritual justification lies in a statement more than 400 years old. When the first rudimentary blood transfusion experiments were performed, Professor of Anatomy at the University of Copenhagen, Thomas Bartholin (1616-80), objected. His concern was not on scientific grounds but on spiritual:

“Those who drag in the use of human blood for internal remedies of diseases appear to misuse it and to sin gravely,” he wrote. “Cannibals are condemned. Why do we not abhor those who stain their gullet with human blood? Similar is the receiving of alien blood from a cut vein, either through the mouth or by instruments of transfusion. The authors of this operation are held in terror by the divine law, by which the eating of blood is prohibited.”

The only people I know of who still have regard for this aspect of “divine law” are Jehovah’s Witnesses. If there were others, (and judging from Bartholin’s comment, there must have been) they abandoned it when transfusions were adopted by the medical mainstream.

....

The persons who risk being stumbled are described in verse as those who are new, also those who are weak but weak primarily because they are new. You tread carefully on account of those persons, so as not to damage them. I understand that.

They are also unbelievers who will draw wrong conclusions from what we do or do not do, so we modify our activity within reason so as to cater to them.

But sometimes Witnesses apply those verses to situations in which I think you really have to stretch them to apply. They are applied it to persons who have been in the truth forever, who have had plenty of time to grow up, but have not done so, and who stick their noses into other’s people’s business and promptly become offended. Cater to too many people like that and pretty soon you are afraid to do anything for fear of what some opinionated person will think. It is a significant source of the ‘burning within you’ that afflicts some in the congregations.

....

There is nothing more ridiculous (nor a worse witness) than brothers trying to make the internet behave as though it were the congregation. See them warn each other that so-and-so may not be in good standing, or may even be DFed. They don’t realize  how that reads to anyone not a Witness? Once you go outside counsel (given to youths, but the thought is that if it is good for youths, it probably is not bad for adults) to ‘friend’ only those you personally know—which everyone here does—you’re on your own. ‘They’re ALL liars,’ is my opening assumption, until they prove themselves otherwise—and since they are but digital bits, they can never pass that test 100%

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Overlooked by the Religion News Service—How Can That Be?

I visited religionnews.com and found that my religion does not exist. Jehovah’s Witnesses are nowhere listed in their tree of faiths. Everyone else is. Jehovah’s Witnesses are not. Can it be? RNS “strive[s] to inform, illuminate and inspire public discourse on matters relating to belief and convictions,” says their About page. So where are Jehovah’s Witnesses? Few religions have been in the news as much as they, especially with their recent ban in Russia. Is Religion News Service a Russian site? No. Is it their aim to suck up to the Russians? I don’t think so. So where are the Witnesses?

The reason that there is not a Jeopardy clue: “They visit door to door to speak about the Bible” is that the answer is too obvious and would stump no one. In some ways Witnesses are plainly the foremost of religions. “And this good news of the Kingdom will be preached in all the inhabited earth for a witness to all the nations, and then the end will come” (Matthew 24:14), for example. Nobody is known for taking the ‘good news of the Kingdom’ to each and every person like Jehovah’s Witnesses, especially before ‘the end will come.’ Here is a cartoon of how JWs found Osama Bin Laden:

Or what about the verse, ‘beating their swords into plowshares.’ (Isaiah 2:4) It is an inspirational slogan for all. The ones who actually DO it are Jehovah’s Witnesses. They may be the only ones to completely do it, in that, not only will they not participate in wars, but they will not perform civilian work that is clearly designed to support war efforts.

Yet, look through the comprehensive list at the bottom of the religionnews.com website—they do not appear.

The first place you check, of course, is Christianity. There you find four subdivisions: Catholics, Latter Day Saints, Orthodox, and Protestants. If they are in any of the four, it must be Protestants. There you find three subdivisions: Black Protestants, Evangelical, and Mainline. Well, they’re not the first or the third. Since they preach the good news of the Kingdom, could they be the second? Nope. Scroll through the stories in that category. You won’t find them.

Okay, got it. They are not counted as Christian because RNS assumes that one must believe in the Trinity to be Christian—many times we’ve run across this. It makes no sense, but there it is. Most verses used to advance the Trinity teaching are verses that, if they were seen in any other context, would be instantly dismissed as figure of speech. There is no verse that directly states the Trinity, and the one in the King James Version that does (1 John 5:7) has been recognized by all modern scholars as a spurious insertion and thus either removed or footnoted. One almost pictures a scribe reviewing scriptures, getting madder and madder that his favorite doctrine is no where to be found, and slipping it in when no one was looking.

Where else might Jehovah’s Witnesses be if not in the Christian category? Well, maybe the Alternative Faiths category, or the Other Faiths category. Nope. Scroll through the stories on either category. They do not appear.

Is it an oversight? Is it a snub? Is it avoidance because any story about Jehovah’s Witnesses will reliably attract swarms of their virulent ‘apostates’ alarmed at any favorable mention and insistent upon maligning their former faith and so RNS just doesn’t want to deal with it? (See TrueTom vs the Apostates) Dunno. But is certainly is strange.

Now, to be sure, if you enter Jehovah’s Witnesses in the Search box, a few items appear—not many, but a few. One of them is not Even JW per se, but is of someone who wrote a book on how to refute them, along with the Mormons, latching on to key scriptures cites and how to answer back. Bring it on, I say. Any Witness worth his or her salt knows how to answer such things. So there is someone there at RNS that knows that if your textbook is the Bible, if you teach from it, if you have even invented an entirely new non-commercial distribution channel and translated it into overlooked languages of developing countries so that common persons there are not stuck with some 200-year old turkey of a translation that they can neither understand nor afford, you must be a religion. Still, Jehovah’s Witnesses are not listed in the list that includes everyone else.

Do not think that the JW organization will be miffed at not being included in the list. They may even draw satisfaction from it. “Good. Here is a list of the religions ‘of the world’ and we are not on it,” they may say. If there is one verse they take seriously over there at JW HQ, it is John 17:16, where Jesus prays about his followers: “They are no part of the world, just as I am no part of the world.”

For that reason I will not go to the RNS site and holler, “Hey!—what is it with you clowns?!” The site is an offspring of the Missouri School of Journalism. It speaks of the ‘academic experts’ that monitor all. I don’t want to tangle with experts. Maybe they will try to pull rank on that basis. Who knows? Maybe they are right. Maybe I am not part of a religion, even if I do speak of the Bible door to door and keep the peace.

Imagine: In a list of “the religions of the world,” JWs are not on it. If you were to ask Bethel to describe their faith, very quickly would come up that statement that true Christians “are no part of the world.” Make of it what you will. I don’t make anything of it. I just note it.

....[edit]  Sigh....One person upbraided me for not contacting RNS and finding out why they had dropped us.

Said I: “In this case the answer is not particularly important, nor interesting. The situation prompting the question is what arouses interest. Here is a list of religions ‘of the world.’ Jehovah’s Witnesses, who are ‘no part of the world’ are not on it. Who cares why? I don’t.

“Even so, I did mention three possibilities: 

“Is it an oversight? Is it a snub? Is it avoidance because any story about Jehovah's Witnesses will reliably attract swarms of their virulent "apostates' alarmed at any favorable mention and insistent upon maligning their former faith and so RNS just doesn't want to deal with it?”

“Which one of the three it is doesn’t interest me. It is like when the Die Hard villain finally dies himself, after two hours of mayhem, and you learn in the epilogue that he was also behind in his contributions to the United Way. Who cares?”

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Cliques in the Congregation - I Hate That Stuff!

Through the back channels, I got a report of an elderly sister—new to the congregation, but certainly not new to the faith, who felt she had fallen through the cracks. She felt overlooked, as though the congregation was cliquish and she had not broken into the clique. It wasn’t so much her, actually—she just got depressed, asking herself whether she had done something wrong or whether Jehovah had forgotten her—but it was her non-Witness (though supportive) family who felt she was bypassed.

It is the oldest lament in the book, dating even back to Acts: “Now in those days when the disciples were increasing, the Greek-speaking Jews began complaining against the Hebrew-speaking Jews, because their widows were being overlooked in the daily distribution,” (Acts 6:1) a lament that even has a favoritism by national background theme to it—today it would be called racism.

Now, you don’t overreact to reports like this, but neither do you underreact. Is it true? It almost doesn’t matter. What matters is that someone thinks it is true. We are blind people ascertaining the nature of the elephant by feel, and someone has grabbed hold of a tusk. You go around looking for some butts to kick in case it is true and you seek to console and adjust the complaining one in case it is not true—probably it is some of both. And (gulp) you look at yourself—‘Am I one of the bad boys in the ‘in crowd’ that won’t give anyone else the time of day?’

I like the seven congregations getting their comeuppance in Revelation 2 and 3. The ‘seven’ apparently stands for all of the variety to be seen today in the worldwide congregation. One of those congregations was an out an out clunker—nothing but a cause of rebuke from the Lord. Another was an out and out winner, earning praise, with but one or two tweaks recommended, as though topping off the tank. But the others were mixed bags—each with some good and some bad. Yet they were all congregations. We’re stuck with them. It’s the curse of being human.

There’s a reason that Paul told the brothers to ‘widen out’—too many of them weren’t doing it. (2 Corinthians 6:12-14) There’s a reason that Solomon writes not to take too much to heart what others say or do—by doing so you’re fixating on something you can’t control to the possible neglect of something you can. “Do not take to heart every word that people say; otherwise, you may hear your servant calling down evil on you; for you well know in your heart that many times you yourself have called down evil on others.” (Eccles 7:21-22)

Sometimes people avoid you because you are prickly. Other times it is because you are not a ‘people person’ and they, not being naturally people persons themselves, simply find it easier to hang with those they know well. Sometimes they just have too much on their plate as it is and you are that ‘one more thing’ that they assure themselves someone else will get around to. ‘Going through the motions’ is a charge too easily made of others. I don’t like to go there. Even if one is going through the motions, it is generally a case of ‘fake it till you make it.’

“I’ve learned not to expect too much of other people,” is a tried and true formula long-time faithful ones will cite. Generally those others come through, but if you’re ever left holding the bag, you find that you can weather the storm with that attitude. It is the relationship with God that keeps you going. The people are just thrown in as a freebie. We are social beings—God made us that way—so the congregation is nothing but a boon, but if you come to over-rely on it and under-rely on its originator, you set yourself up for heartbreak should they ever drop the ball.

What I like is that in a godly organization every person looks to themselves for the remedy to any discord. It contrasts so well with the leaders during Covid 19 time, preoccupied with blaming each other. Not for one moment do they look inward. It’s one thing to delay boarding the lifeboat because you don’t think the ship is going down. It’s another to think that it probably is, but it is still more important to affix blame.

It’s like those congregation talks on marriage and family life. At first you use them to educate your mate on what he or she is doing wrong. But in time you use them to educate yourself. You pay attention to what your mama told you ages ago and you used to blow it off as nothing: “Point a finger at someone and there are three pointing at you.” Best to heed the three pointing at you. You can do something about that trinity.

Why, then, do you look at the straw in your brother’s eye but do not notice the rafter in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Allow me to remove the straw from your eye,’ when look! a rafter is in your own eye? Hypocrite! First remove the rafter from your own eye, and then you will see clearly how to remove the straw from your brother’s eye,” says Jesus. (Matthew 7:3-5) For want of applying this counsel, the deeds of ones greater than us unravel. He called them hypocrites—those who would not first look to themselves.

When I was a child, I used to speak as a child, to think as a child, to reason as a child; but now that I have become a man, I have done away with the traits of a child,” says Paul at 1 Corinthians 13:11. Same here. When I was new in the faith, I would gravitate to my buddies after each closing prayer. Now I ignore them and look for ones who seem unengaged. There will be time enough for the good ‘ol boys later.

....

(Someone commented on how she felt just so left out, She was not a people person, she said, moreover she knew that her place was with the friends and she was determined to stay, but she does wish that people would not just walk by her with a quick ‘Hi. How are you?’)

I answered:

Sometimes it is better to reject a certain interpretation of things even if that interpretation seems the most reasonable. 

On the troubles of shy people, I learned more from Garrison Keillor than I ever did from the Bible. Even at the height of his show’s popularity, he was, according to Chet Atkins, painfully shy. ‘You just cannot compliment him,’ Atkins would say. ‘He gets all awkward and walks away.’ He poked fun at his own condition. Made up sponsor for his show, ‘A Prairie Home Companion,’ was Powder Milk Biscuits, the biscuits “that give shy persons the strength to get up and do what needs to be done.” Each ‘ad’ for the ‘product’ he would begin with some narration about shy people, invariably coming to the punch line that Powder Milk Biscuits was just what they needed, before singing the Powder Milk song. He once said that a great aid to shyness was to take pleasure in the company of other people, simply as a spectator. It was almost better that way, for it relieved you of the pressure to think of something to say. Just learn to enjoy being in their midst and watching them.

Get to the meetings ahead of time and don’t leave immediately afterwards. Sometimes just take your seat, and sometimes just stand watching the others. Try to have some tidbit in mind from the current Bible reading or the program that has nothing to do with yourself so that should you be called upon for conversation, you will have something to say. No need to leave should you get teary, I would not think, unless you are outright bawling, and maybe even then it is best to tough it out. It is very important not to blame anyone. Don’t blame yourself and don’t blame others. It is what it is. Maybe it will change. Maybe it will not. Try to learn to be comfortable in their midst, whether people speak with you or not. Years later you may come to have insight or reflections on the social environment. Don’t push those reflections to come just now.

....

“Well, has your family tried them, Powder Milk?
Yes, has your family tried them, Powder Milk?
Well, if your family’s tried them, you know you’ve satisfied them.
There’s a real hot item, Powder Milk”
 

...I just threw in the ditty at the end because I remember Keillor singing it in every show. It is hardly necessary, but maybe in some way that I cannot define myself, it brings something to the table.

......

To counsel that the above person should “step outside her comfort zone”:

When they push me to step outside of my comfort zone I reply that I am not even completely comfortable IN my comfort zone, so I’m in no hurry to step outside it. No, I would not in any way increase the onus on yourself. It is likely to result in feelings of guilt and failure. 

For whatever it is worth, I don’t think people are very good at being ‘people persons’ today, and that is true of Americans in particular. I don’t know why that is. I suspect vast media consumption has something to do with it. Conversation is an art and if you binge-watch a season of Monk or Bull or whatever at a time—well, that is time that you do not have to improve your conversation skills—and perhaps more importantly, your desire to communicate. Probably materialism plays a part. If you have stuff, it is just too easy to fall back on it for comfort, and thereby fail to advance in conversation ability.

This is among the reasons, hardly the sole ones, that the organization says keep entertainment and material things in their place. Frankly, you would think that the friends as a whole would be making better progress in being ‘people persons’ than they are. Quite a few people are rather hard to converse with. I am easily able to hold back and listen, even draw out people, but with some you end up doing all the talking—they simply hold back, for whatever reason, and let you carry the ball. I confess these ones tend to wear me out, but I recharge elsewhere and give them another shot.

Don’t try to figure it out. Put yourself where you need to be and do not judge yourself harshly. Keep that same attitude with regard to others in the congregation—don’t judge them harshly. Satan is pouring sand in the gearbox and it slows down the works. Do the things that you can, and be patient with what you cannot. Do the serenity prayer if you like. Ask to make changes with what you can, endure what you cannot, and recognize what components predominate in each.. 

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Dealing With the Anxiety of Our Times

In my “practical wisdom” mode, not my “world is going to hell in a handbasket” mode, I start my door-to-door presentation with an invitation to consider a practical verse like Matthew 6:25.

“Anxiety is a huge concern today. We read about it. We experience it. I want to read you a scripture on that theme, you tell me what you think, and I am out of here. Good idea?”

You can throw in a factoid or two from somewhere, like something here from the New York Times, but I usually pass. You are looking for people with whom the idea resonates, and if it doesn’t, the New York Times will not convince them that it should.

An affirmative answer to my offer will earn the householder the reading of Matthew 6:25.

“On this account I [Jesus] say to you: Stop being anxious about your lives as to what you will eat or what you will drink, or about your bodies as to what you will wear. Does not life mean more than food and the body than clothing?”

“That’s all I wanted to do,” I will say, “to get this notion on the table—that anxiety is something that you might hope to just “stop it.” He doesn’t say, don’t start being anxious. He assumes his listeners already are. He says ‘Stop it.’

The next move is the householder’s, and I tell him that he doesn’t have to make one. “If the subject piques interest, if you have views if you.....” and so forth.

If he doesn’t (and even if he does), I will leave a tract—any of them will do—and call attention to the jw.org website and what is to be found there. If they do, then conversation might go a hundred different ways. Even so, I do not press every moment to stay. Rather, I offer every moment to leave. Even some lengthy conversations I have cut them sort, to the householder’s  protest. “Yes, you say it now,” I observe, “but after I go you will say, “Man! I wanted to get some stuff done today, and then this Bible guy showed up!”

Maybe I have grown sensitive to all the concerns of those who cry over “manipulation,” and so I am determined to not even give the appearance of going there. Of course, the extremists among these ones are babies to whom introducing any idea not mainstream is “manipulation,”—they decry all “brainwashing” except for the brainwashing that is theirs—and there is not much one can do about that, but I try not to attract the charge like a magnet.

I can hear Anthony Morris giving the talk now at the 2016 Regional Convention in Atlanta. I wasn’t there—I was at another convention—but the talk was streamed. “‘Stop it!’ Jesus says. Just ‘stop it!’ as though addressing a child—and that was the idea that he went on to develop, that it was a controllable emotion. It was a meaningful talk for me. Anxiety had proven to be a weakness for me —it afflicts some in the family—and when I was hit with a perfect storm of calamities, I did not blame humans like Jimmy does. I did worse and blamed God.

Believe me, I envy those brothers—I have met a lot of them—who say: “I’ve never worried a day in my life!” To be sure, that envy is tempered by the fact that some of these characters caused plenty of others to worry, and even when it was not so, they had other weaknesses to compensate or even more than compensate. We are all “pieces of work” in one way or another.

I also know quite a few who, by choice, live very close to the wire. They have structured their lives that way. It is deliberate. They have determined to “make use of the world, but not use it to the full.” (1 Corinthians 7:31) They have decided to go light as to material things. The ideal among Jehovah’s Witnesses—which some have attained and some have not—is to acquire a skill that pays well, and then do as little of it as possible so as to have as large a share as possible in the kingdom proclamation work. I am not one of those people, either, but I sort of envy them, as the modern manifestation of Paul, who knew “how to be low on provisions and how to have an abundance. In everything and in all circumstances I have learned the secret of both how to be full and how to hunger, both how to have an abundance and how to do without.” - Philippians 4:12

These ones will crinkle a fender on their car and ask God what to do about it, since there’s no money in the budget for the mishap. What is God going to do about it? Time and again persons I know well have reported such things—they take it to God in prayer—and presently the answer presents itself in totally unanticipated ways, sometimes very unlikely ones. They thereafter attribute it to God’s spirit. Am I going to tell them that they are wrong?

Why would I do that? How do I know? It is more likely—when you hear such things again and again—that they are right. I do what Mary did, with regard to different experiences: “Mary began to preserve all these sayings, drawing conclusions in her heart.” (Luke 2:19) Maybe they’ll do me some good someday, the same way they did her. Key is the confidence of 1 John 5:14: “And this is the confidence that we have toward him, that no matter what we ask according to his will, he hears us.” For it to work it must be “according to his will.”

It seems that it will be very hard to dictate to someone else just how holy spirit is supposed to work. Almost by definition, you cannot. It is the wind of John 3:8 that you feel but cannot see. It is the angels that the cosmonauts did not see—and so concluded from that experience that there was no God. No, it operates as it operates and is one of those “taste and see” sort of things.

 

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An Advocate for Singleness - Francis Bacon, #90 on the Influential Persons List

Was it only me who was surprised to see specific counsel about sex in the Bible?

Let the husband render to [his] wife her due; but let the wife also do likewise to [her] husband.  The wife does not exercise authority over her own body, but her husband does; likewise, also, the husband does not exercise authority over his own body, but his wife does.  Do not be depriving each other [of it], except by mutual consent for an appointed time, that you may devote time to prayer and may come together again, that Satan may not keep tempting you for your lack of self-regulation.” (1 Corinthians 7:3-5)

I just didn’t expect to see it there—maybe I should have—and it cemented my opinion that the Bible was a very practical book.

The apostle Paul, who was not married, recommended singleness as a way of life: “It is well for a man not to touch a woman;  yet, because of prevalence of fornication, let each man have his own wife and each woman have her own husband....However, I say this by way of concession, not in the way of a command.  But I wish all men were as I myself am. (1 Corinthians 7:1-7)

In the single state, one can more readily give “constant attendance upon the Lord without distraction,” he wrote at vs 35.

So from time to time, the Witness organization dutifully recommends singleness as a way of life. Few take them up on it—perhaps because those doing the recommending are almost always married themselves. Instead, they employ the “escape clause” at verse 36: “But if anyone thinks he is behaving improperly toward his virginity, if that is past the bloom of youth, and this is the way it should take place, let him do what he wants; he does not sin. Let them marry.” They even push the “bloom of youth” phrase to almost mean two minutes past the bloom of youth. Many of our people go in for marriage when quite young. Many of these later come to say that they entered marriage too young.

Is there anyone other than the apostle Paul who gives such advice? To my surprise, there is—and he is a big name by historical standards—Francis Bacon, a philosopher of the 16th century who advocated for scientific investigation, recognizing its potential to change the world. From Aristotle’s time, science had been mostly based on deduction. Bacon changed it to be based on induction. Rather than ‘downloading’ ‘settled science’ and deducing from it, he advanced the notion of ‘uploading’ observations and experiments, and using that to modify existing science, so that it should never become like calcified religious dogma. Michael Hart ranks him #90 on this list of the 100 most influential persons who have ever lived. (Paul is #6)

His preference of singleness (though, like most who ‘recommend’ singleness today, he was married) is for the same reason as Paul’s: one can do more in that state: He that hath wife and children hath given hostages to fortune; for they are impediments to great enterprises, either of virtue or mischief. Certainly the best works, and of greatest merit for the public, have proceeded from the unmarried or childless men; which both in affection and means have married and endowed the public.”

This is not necessarily true of the unmarried—that they make great contributions (“Some there are, who though they lead a single life, yet their thoughts do end with themselves, and account future times impertinences”)—but it could be more readily true of them, by reason of having fewer distractions.

Watch out the traps of marriage!—and I am not sure here whether he is lampooning those who run from it simply for the sake of self-centeredness, or if he advocating forsaking it for the contributions one can thereby more easily make to humankind: “But the most ordinary cause of a single life is liberty, especially in certain self-pleasing and humorous minds, which are so sensible of every restraint, as they will go near to think their girdles and garters to be bonds and shackles. Unmarried men are best friends, best masters, best servants; but not always best subjects; for they are light to run away; and almost all fuginves are of that condition.”

He even agrees with Paul’s specific application for remaining unmarried: “Single life doth well with churchmen; for charity will hardly water the ground were it must first fill a pool.” How well that ties in with Paul’s: “The unmarried man is anxious for the things of the Lord, how he may gain the Lord’s approval.  But the married man is anxious for the things of the world, how he may gain the approval of his wife, and he is divided” (Vs 32-34)

That is not to say that either Francis or Paul did not concede the tempering effect of marriage on personality: “Certainly wife and children are a kind of discipline of humanity; and single men, though they may be many times more charitable, because their means are less exhaust, yet, on the other side, they are more cruel and hard-hearted (good to make severe inquisitors), because their tenderness is not so oft called upon.”

Still, all things considered, Bacon refers to “one of the wise men, that made answer to the question, when an man should marry—A young man, not yet, and elder man not at all.

Who knew? C4DD0E19-880B-432F-AC49-BA17DECABA87

 

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In Defense of Shunning

As the ultimate trump card of congregation discipline, to be applied when lesser measures have failed, is disfellowshipping cruel? It certainly could be, and increasingly is, argued that way. Undeniably it triggers pain to those who refuse to yield to it, “kicking against the goads,” as was said to Paul.  That said, suffice it to say that no group has been able maintain consistent moral principles through decades of time without it. I vividly recall circuit ministers of my faith saying: “Fifty years ago, the difference between Jehovah’s Witnesses and people in general was doctrinal. Conduct on moral matters, sexual or otherwise, was largely the same.” Today the chasm is huge. Can internal discipline not be a factor?

The book Secular Faith - How Culture Has Trumped Religion in American Politics attempts to reassure its secular audience through examining the changing moral stands of churches on five key issues. The book points out that today's church members have more in common with atheists than they do with members of their own denominations from decades past. Essentially, the reassurance to those who would mold societal views is: 'Don't worry about it. They will come around. They always do. It may take a bit longer, but it is inevitable.' Jehovah's Witnesses have thwarted this model by not coming around. Can internal discipline not be a factor?

In the case of Jehovah’s Witnesses, members voluntarily sign on to a program that reinforces goals they have chosen. Sometimes it is not enough to say that you want to diet. You must also padlock the fridge. It is not an infringement of freedom to those who have willingly signed aboard. They are always free to attempt their diet some place where they do not padlock the fridge. Experience shows, however, that not padlocking the fridge results in hefty people, for not everyone has extraordinary willpower.

If people want to padlock the fridge but they can’t do it because anti-cultists forbid that course, and they get hefty, as in the United States, for example, where the level of obesity is staggering, how is that not a violation of their individual rights? It is all a difference of view over the basic nature of people and what makes them tick. It is the individualists of today who would hold that you can’t even padlock your own fridge. No. Full freedom of choice must always be in front of each one of us, they say, notwithstanding that history demonstrates we easily toss with the waves in the absence of a firm anchor.

Christians are mandated to “imitate the Christ,” both individually and collectively. Given human imperfection, this can be done only with group-accepted tools of discipline to back up good intentions as needed. If anti-cultists would deny them these tools under the guise of protecting their individual rights, then what we are looking at is an attempt to outlaw Christianity true to its roots and enforce rule by the popular crowd. 

Disfellowshipping is unpleasant and some are so shocked to find themselves put out from their community of choice that they determine once and for all to mend whatever caused them to be ousted so as to regain entrance. But they do not all do that, and with the passing of time, these latter ones accumulate. Some continue on in life with a “been there, done that” mentality. But others expend considerable energy in settling the score with the organization that ousted them. One businessman in Canada even sued at being disfellowshipped—his customer base consisted mostly of Jehovah's Witnesses and most of them took their business elsewhere. A lower court agreed with him that those running his religion had “told” parishioners not to associate with the ex-member. But the Supreme Court decided that—did they really want to rule on biblical interpretation or on who had to hang out with whom?

The most disingenuous of disfellowshipped ones later frame their ousting as though it were over mere matters of disagreement. It was not their conduct that caused the trouble, they maintain, but it was simply disagreement over something, for example, the contention that leaving a spouse for another should trigger congregation sanctions. This was true of a prosecution witness at the Russian Supreme Court trial which resulted in banning the Jehovah's Witness faith. Responding to a request from the judge to cite instances of "control," [she] “reported that an example was her expulsion from the congregations after she ‘began her close, but not officially registered, relations with a man.’”

Other times it truly is over matters of disagreement with regard to interpretation or policy, and opposers try to frame things as did the Buffalo Springfield—that with Jehovah's Witnesses, it is "step out of line, the men come and take you away." Some of them present themselves almost as though freedom fighters. They came across something, perhaps, that they thought would entitle them to drive the bus. They left when they discovered that they would not be allowed grab the wheel. In some cases, they were caught red-handed trying to hotwire the bus. The “bus,” of course, is the Witness organization itself. In the end it is a too high opinion of oneself and one’s importance that sinks one. The worship and deeds of Jehovah’s Witnesses are magnified by their organized quality, and they either appeal to the heart or they don’t. If they don’t, then one magnifies disproportionately matters of individual rights.

The spirit of the times today far elevates rights over responsibilities. With Jehovah’s Witnesses, as with many religious people, it is the opposite. The responsibilities Christians feel is toward their spiritual kin. “Slave” for one another, the verse says, and many translations soften "slave" to "serve," but the root word at Galatians 5:13 undeniably indicates "slave” as the correct choice. Even before that, however, there is a responsibility toward God. The Governing Body of Jehovah’s Witnesses dares not meddle with the disfellowshipping policy overmuch because they know it serves to keep the congregation "clean" so as to present to God what he insists upon: "a [clean] people for his name." (Acts 15:14)

A book by evangelical author Ronald J. Sider, The Scandal of the Evangelical Conscience, highlights on the cover the question: ‘Why are Christians Living Just Like the Rest of the World?’ The author cites verse after verse of how Christian standards are “higher” than those of the greater world, and then example after example of how they are not with those claiming Christianity today. He concludes that it is largely a matter of church discipline. “Church discipline used to be a significant, accepted part of most evangelical traditions, whether Reformed, Methodist, Baptist, or Anabaptist,” he writes. “In the second half of the twentieth century, however, it has largely disappeared.” He goes on to quote Haddon Robinson on the current church climate, a climate he calls consumerism:

“Too often now when people join a church, they do so as consumers. If they like the product, they stay. If they do not, they leave. They can no more imagine a church disciplining them than they could a store that sells goods disciplining them. It is not the place of the seller to discipline the consumer. In our churches, we have a consumer mentality.”

Christians have a mandate to follow the Christ as best they can in speech and conduct. Consumerism makes that mandate effectively impossible. Yet it is the only model that today’s anti-cultists will permit. Anything veering toward discipline they paint as an intolerable affront to human rights. We must not be naïve. Theirs is no more than an attempt to stamp out biblical Christianity, veiled as though they are the very protectors of humanity.

The notion of protecting one’s values, through disciplinary action if need be, extends beyond Christianity. Was Tevye a cult member, he of the film Fiddler on a Roof? If so, no one has breathed a word of it until very recently. The third daughter of his Russian Jewish family was shunned for marrying outside of the faith. It is an action that would not trigger shunning in the Jehovah’s Witness community, though it would gain no praises. After all, if God is truly one’s best friend, ought one really make one’s second-best friend a person who is indifferent, perhaps even opposed, to the first? Only the atheistic anti-cultists will be blind to the logic of this, and that only because they would consider any god-concept an unsuitable friend.

Citing Tevye to a certain ex-Witness nearly blew up in my face. At the movie’s end, he mutters to himself, as his daughter and new husband depart for another continent,“and let God be with you,” as though he should have been expected to shout: “May you rot in hell.” I was told that the movie teaches forgiveness, acceptance, and unconditional love rather than a stubborn cleaving to tradition and the past.” Could he really have once been one of Jehovah’s Witnesses? The entire premise of the faith, and that of many Christian denominations, is that, assuming the “traditions” are biblical and not man-made, the old ideas are solid and the new ideas are tenuous, with sometimes deleterious after-effects. In fact, forgiveness, acceptance, and love are not mutually exclusive. One can forgive without accepting disapproved conduct. One can also love without accepting it. “Tough love” was the phrase of yesterday. Today it is “unconditional love.” Tomorrow who knows what it will be? The scene of this world is changing.

It is not uncommon for children of Jehovah's Witnesses to be baptized at ages as young as ten. Witness detractors argue that this is far too early to make such a consequential decision. Many offer themselves as a case in point. Some of them were Witnesses and were baptized at an early age. They later changed their mind. Some of these eventually found themselves disfellowshipped and will push to their dying day that they escaped from a cult whose members were ordered to reject their own children. Some have gone on television with that charge where they persuade viewer without too much effort that only the most “brainwashed” of people would disown their own children and that whoever did the “brainwashing” must be punished.

It is an example of "truth" that is not "the whole truth and nothing but the truth." They are not children. In Witness literature the distinction is consistently made between those who are actual children and those who are young adults capable of following through on choices they have made through word or conduct. When disfellowshipping happens in the case of minors, it may result in a somewhat strained family life in which all components except the spiritual continue as before, usually with the added condition that the disfellowshipped one should still sit in on the family Bible study. When disfellowshipping happens in the case of the latter, such ones may be told that it is time to leave the nest. They are not outright abandoned, though there is variability in people and one should never say that it has not occurred. One father I know secured a job with his large employer for his departing son and let him know that he would be there if truly needed. Another, in a family business arrangement, divvied up resources so that his young adult son could have a decent start outside the congregation. This was misrepresented as though he had thrown him out with nothing but the clothes on his back, and the father for a time became a community pariah, but eventually matters came out that he had actually been quite generous, whereby much of the reputational damage was restored.

Some disfellowshipped teens have run away from home, in a biblical twist of a drama as old as time. Such a dramatized case was presented in a short video at Regional Conventions of Jehovah's Witnesses during 2017. A young woman had been disfellowshipped over sexual immorality, having sailed past all lesser forms of discipline unmoved. When she later called the home she had left—for she did run away in this case, against her folks’ wishes—her mom did not answer the phone, an action that the young woman later describes as crucial to her turnaround and reinstatement; if mom had extended just a little bit of fellowship, she recalls that it would have been enough for her to continue in her "headstrong" course.

This will go down hard with non-Witnesses today. "You would make all this fuss over sex?" they will say, aghast. "Get them vaccinated for HPV and accept that they will do what they do." Yet, it is a matter of adhering to the standards of the oldest book of time. Family feuds are the stuff of legend, often started over matters far more petty, such as taking sides in the disputes of another family member. It is common today that old ones are dropped off in nursing homes, never to be visited again, for reasons no more substantial than that they became inconvenient. One would never say that it is routine for divisions in family to occur, but they are by no means unheard of.

The Witness organization has said that it does not instruct parents not to associate with their disfellowshipped children. But they have produced the video cited above of specific circumstances in which a parent ignores a phone call from one of them. What to make of this? Detractors will say that they are lying through their teeth with the first statement. I think not. I think they should be taken at their word—parents will reach their own decisions the on degree of contact they choose to maintain, since they can best assess extenuating circumstances. It becomes their decision—whether they find some or none at all. Specifically, what the Witness publications do is point out that there is no reason per se that normal counsel to avoid contact with those disfellowshipped is negated simply because there are family connections. That is not the same as “telling” families to break contact. It may seem like splitting hairs, but the difference is important.

That statement finds further support in the many Witnesses who have departed and subsequently report that, though they were never disfellowshipped, they still find themselves estranged from the family mix. Effectively, they are "shunned" without any announcement at all, evidence that a "cult" is not telling parents what to do, but it is their appreciation for Bible counsel that triggers that course. The specific mechanics of avoiding associations with those who have spun 180-degrees on prior spiritual convictions may be arguable, but the general principle is not. When no verbal direction is given, Witnesses defer to the general principle, so it becomes plain that it was the general principle all along, rather than the commands of eight tyrannical men at headquarters. “What harmony is there between Christ and Belial?” says Paul, referring to two polar-opposite worlds and those who would choose between them.

It is the "choice" that defines. Some family members fail to follow through on their decided course as Jehovah's Witnesses, but they do not turn against it. Family relations may cool, but do not typically discontinue. It is only by making a choice that relations tank. Is it so hard to understand, given that spiritual things are important to Jehovah's Witnesses? It is well-understood in matters of nations, where visiting an unfriendly country brings no sanction but turning traitorous against one's own does. In politics it is understood, too. When comedian Kathy Griffin holds aloft the mock severed head of the American president, does anyone think that her Republican dad (if he is) says: "That's my lass! She speaks her mind. It won't affect Thanksgiving dinner, though?” Of course it will.

The word ‘disfellowship’ has not been heard in congregation announcements for perhaps a dozen years now—not that it has been purged from Witness vocabulary, but it is not explicitly stated. From time to time, an announcement is made that such and such "is no longer one of Jehovah's Witnesses." It is never made of one who has merely fallen inactive, but only of those who have departed from the faith through deed or word. Though, to my knowledge, no announcement has ever been made that such is the equivalent of disfellowshipping, people mostly treat it that way. Some of whom that announcement is made are shocked into regret and turning around. Others say "You got that right" as they turn the page and go on to another chapter of life. If it is said of someone who rejects the tenets of a religion that they are therefore no longer a part of it, what are they going to say—that they are? Few would challenge the statement.

Few would argue that youngsters have not the same maturity at age ten that they will have at twice that age. Ought they not be allowed to commit to the course they have come to believe is right, on the basis that they may later change their minds? It is not a good solution for Witnesses, though it be a great one for the anti-cultists, as it permits the latter more time to sway them. However, children will always do better when permitted to identify with their choices. John Holt, an education pioneer, maintained that a prime cause of juvenile delinquency is that children are shut out of the adult world—an unanticipated effect of child labor laws enacted to protect them. For children, the solution will not be to forbid them to act upon what they have come to believe. The solution will be to cut them slack when they, through inexperience, stumble along the way. Most likely, that is being done today, for Jehovah's Witnesses, like everyone else, dearly love their children and want them to succeed.

As it turns out, I know a youngster who was disfellowshipped for a period of several months and was subsequently reinstated. He was a minor and he lived at the family home throughout the time. Months before he was disfellowshipped he had been reproved. Since I had a rapport with him, I afterwards approached to say that, while it was none of my business and I was not curious, still, if he ever wanted to discuss things, I would be available. Maybe, I allowed, he had come across some anti-Witness literature and had been intrigued. Maybe he had wanted to go to college and his parents had poured cold water on the idea. “Look, if you’ve gone gay on us—it doesn’t matter,” I said. “The point is that I have been around forever, I have seen everything, and I am not wound up too tight.” He was silent for a moment and then started telling me about this girl in another congregation. “Oh, girls are nothing but trouble!” I told him in an anticlimactic spirit. His woes were boiler-plate. Maybe he will marry the girl someday.

I had known him most of his life. As a young boy, he surfaces in my first book, Tom Irregardless and Me, as Willie, the lad who protested my introducing him at each door, so I responded that he could introduce me instead. That is how it had gone all morning, save for one or two awkward situations that I had handled. The householder would look at me in expectation and I would say “Sorry, I’m too bashful. It’s his turn.” As long as he had been comfortable, it had remained his turn. Hard on the householders? Probably not. Probably it was better for them to focus on the lad—I can become wearing over time.

He also surfaces as Dietrich in the second book, No Fake News but Plenty of Hogwash. I only know two Dietrichs, and the younger is named after the older, a trustworthy man whom I almost gave a heart attack when I showed up to give the first talk at the District Convention, relieving him as chairman, with only seconds to spare—there he was with songbook in hand looking anxiously through the audience. I had been in the Chairman’s Office awaiting my escort, assuming that the current year’s procedure would be the same as the prior one’s. It wasn’t. Today it would be. Everyone ‘did what was right in his own eyes’ back them. Even in small matters, there is a value in organization.

I followed the course with Willie and Dietrich that all Witnesses know and respect—I didn’t speak to him at all during his disfellowshipped time, save for only an instance or two that I could not resist. On a frigid day he dropped family members off at the door, parked, and strode toward the Kingdom Hall without a coat. Breaking all decorum, I said: “Look, I know there’s no contact and all, but did they even have to take your coat?” He liked that one. In time he was reinstated, and I later told him that there was a silver lining to be found in his experience—he would forever be an example of how discipline produces its intended effect in the Christian community. Actually, the word "shun" is never heard in the Witness community, just as the word "cult" is not, save for its age-old definition. It is unnecessarily harsh. Disfellowshipping is reversible and always the hoped-for outcome. "Shunning" does not convey that nuance.

Always there will those of the opposite persuasion--not like Dietrich at all: persons disfellowshipped who aren’t too happy about it. Find a few of them, work up the narrative to make it as heart wrenching as possible, and it is hard to see how it cannot be a media grand slam every time. Hide the purpose of it and present it as petty vengeance—it is a view that will sell today. Paint those doing it as deprived of humanity—it flies. Paint as dictatorial the organization holding the course—that interpretation positively soars with some. This is the age of the individual, not the group that they have individually chosen. The view that carries the day with regard to any organization is—it may as well be the year text—"power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely.” If there are people in charge, they must be corrupt. To an irreligious crowd, whatever the offenses for which ones were disfellowshipped is all but judgmental religious nonsense anyway. We should have moved on from it long ago. The emotional component is strong and such narratives carry the day.

Beyond all question, Jehovah’s Witnesses march to a different drumbeat. They willingly yield to the influence of those who have chosen the same drumbeat, rather than those who pound the drums of the status-quo world. They can be easily be portrayed the very embodiment of a cult under the new updated definition, and the Bible itself a cult manual. It is because they are a religion that purports to be meaningful, rather than a religion that merely puts a smiley softening face on the quest for the status quo, that they run into anti-cultist opposition.

To the congregation in Corinth, the apostle Paul writes: "For I am jealous over you with a godly jealousy, for I personally promised you in marriage to one husband that I might present you as a chaste virgin to the Christ." Plainly, this concern is of no consequence to departing ones who have embraced atheism. Almost necessarily they must focus on individual rights, since what triggers a sense of responsibility among their former spiritual kin has become a non-factor to them. No, it will not be easy selling the idea of shunning to these ones.

 

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Are We Looking at Insurance Fraud? Part 3

The following excerpt is from Tom Irregardless and Me, written by yours truly.

At the home of Victor Vomidog, 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 we do. Why have they not? There are hundreds of religions. There are atheists…aren’t you tight with Hemant now, Victor?  Organize them, why don’t you? They all claim to be unGod’s gift to 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 us. 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!

See Part 1

See Part 2


Tom Irregardless (3)

 

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There Was Not a Moment to Lose

"At the home of Victor Vomidog, 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?"

(from Tom Irregardless and Me)

Of course, it is about opposers' efforts to denigrate the disaster recovery work Witnesses are known for.

Heavy_rain_disaster_in_Hiroshima-20140823_181654

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Who Doesn't Need Encouragement?

In that Watchtower Study about encouragement, it turns out that everyone can use it and everyone can give it. When it came to the paragraph on elders as recipients, the congregation we visited showered them with quite a few nice remarks. ‘I think we’re going to stay on this paragraph for the rest of the meeting,’ the conductor quipped.

Yeah. If they are shelter from the wind, the rainstorm, or the roasting sun, then they need a coat of varnish now and then - maintenance, the same as you would maintain any barrier. It turns out that they don’t need much; they are mostly self-maintaining. A little bit of encouragement will do, especially coupled with cooperation and acquiescing to the lead they take, not unlike how Hebrews 13:17 puts it:

“Be obedient to those taking the lead among you and be submissive, for they are keeping watch over you as those who will render an account, so that they may do this with joy and not with sighing, for that would be damaging to you.”

When it came to encouragement that anyone might give anyone, a verse cited was Philippians 2:3; do it “with humility, consider the other superior to you.” This led someone to observe ‘How can that be? How can two persons each regard the other as superior?’ The trick is to look for the one or more things in the other person at which they are better than you …there will always be something…and then hone in on that quality. Failing that, the trap will be that someone gives encouragement in a looking-down way, or a patronizing way, undermining its intended effect.

How many people really give encouragement, anyway? It certainly is not the pattern outside of the congregation. Look at social media and it would appear to be a scarce commodity indeed. It is good to surround oneself with people with whom encouragement replaces ‘cutting’ as a M.O.

Then there was that part about Paul needing encouragement, and even rescue “from the unbelievers in Judea,” as though they actually came after him, and were not just the apathetic persons Christians typically encounter. One begins to wonder if he is not speaking of unbelievers in the congregation making trouble, for battling apostasy is a steady theme in the Greek Scriptures; there is not an NT writer who does not deal with it.

Defending Jehovah’s Witnesses with style from attacks... in Russia, with the ebook ‘Dear Mr. Putin - Jehovah’s Witnesses Write Russia’ (free).... and in the West, with the ebook ‘TrueTom vs the Apostates!’ (free)

Who We Are, Why We Are, and Where are We Going

I used to love it when Watchtower publications would run that Vermont Royster quote. After remarking on how far we have come science-wise, he added: “Yet here is a curious thing. In the contemplation of man himself, of his dilemmas, of his place in the universe, we are little further along than when time began. We are still left with questions of who we are and why we are and where we are going.”

It is pretty obvious why Jehovah’s Witnesses would love those words; they make clear that a shallow world of materialism will not do. You can even think those words every time a Kate Spade or Anthony Bourdain takes his life. Or anyone else. Suicide is all the rage today. People decide that ‘Hotel World’ has not that much to offer, and they line up at the counter to check out.

Isn't it a little missing the point when people look for the one factor, maybe social media, that is tipping people over the edge? Or suggest that it is all a matter of better mental health care? 

“For over half a century, as a journalist, author, and teacher, Vermont Royster illuminated the political and economic life of our times. His common sense exploded the pretensions of "expert opinion," and his compelling eloquence warned of the evils of society loosed from its moorings in faith,” read the citation when he was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1986.

There are few things I enjoy more than exploding the pretensions of "expert opinions."

Defending Jehovah’s Witnesses with style from attacks... in Russia, with the ebook ‘Dear Mr. Putin - Jehovah’s Witnesses Write Russia’ (free).... and in the West, with the ebook ‘TrueTom vs the Apostates!’ (free)