Bernie Madoff and E.T. the Extraterristrial

Poor little E.T! So all alone and very far from home. His mummy and daddy landed their spaceship to explore the strange and beautiful planet earth. Of course, they told little E.T. to stay close, but you know how little boys and girls are, even those from other worlds! Soon E.T. was all turned around and hopelessly lost. All of a sudden, his mummy and daddy started their spaceship and zoomed away. They didn’t know they‘d left their little boy behind! Then, mean atheist grownups tried to catch E.T. and put him in an alien museum! But E.T. made friends with earth children, and the earth children hid him. They carried him on their bicycles to get away. When the grownups made a roadblock, E.T. used space powers to make the bicycles fly, leaving the grownups far below!

What a heartwarming movie! How wholesome! How uplifting! However, in E.T. Returns - the Sequel -didn’t I hear that was on the drawing board? - E.T. returns as a teenager. He’s surly. He’s sullen. He drinks, fights, and swears. Finally, he incinerates all of planet earth, starting with Wall Street!

Director Stephen Spielberg just lost an everloving fortune to Bernie Madoff, the shyster-financier whose legendary investment fund turned out to be no more than a massive Ponzi scheme, run from his non-descript office on Wall Street. Spielberg's not happy about it. In Ponzi schemes, earlier “investors” are paid off with funds taken from latter ones. Ponzi schemes work great until you run out of new investors. Once you do, they collapse. Mr. Madoff’s hadn’t yet reached the point of collapse. His sons had turned him in.

Bernie Madoff’s financial and personal pedigree was impeccable. Cultured, wealthy, refined, active in philanthropic causes - he had sealed his reputation chairing the NAZDAQ stock exchange. Surely he knew how to make investments behave! His sterling credentials attracted funds from the most financially savvy people in the world, themselves international bankers and hedge fund managers. Like shy debutantes, rich folk would sidle up to him at the country club, praying to be noticed, hoping to be invited to invest with him. A handful of his clients got too inquisitive - exactly how did he achieve his rock-steady consistent returns, anyway? - and he threw them out of his fund! This, of course, ensured that his remaining clients would toe the line - you don’t question a genius! Similarly, a handful of others complained about him to the SEC, at least one submitting a detailed analysis showing the man couldn’t possibly be operating the way he said he was. But the SEC, swayed by Madoff’s elegance and reputation, saw nothing amiss and declined to investigate! Their hero-worship cost Spielberg and other clients $50 billion dollars, at last estimate.

Ironically, Mr. Madoff’s clients included many bankers and hedge fund people who had shunned the CDO’s and credit swap instruments which have destroyed the world financial system. They were yet taking their bows for financial acumen and farsightedness, when their trousers dropped and all the world discovered they’d sent their money to Bernie instead, who’d lost every penny of principle! Isn't the Madoff scandal the spinning hubcap, still clattering long after the din of the main wreck has ended? When the racket finally stops, then maybe the whole demolished ruin of finance can be towed to the Obama collision shop, whose proprietor says he can fix it.

Mr. Madoff is Jewish, and the individuals who trusted him were predominantly Jewish. His scheme, therefore, was an example of affinity fraud, says this blogger.  She quotes an WSJ article:

 

The Madoff tale is striking in part because it is like stealing from family. Yet frauds that prey on people who share bonds of religion or ethnicity, who travel in the same circles, are quite common. Two years ago the Securities and Exchange Commission issued a warning about “affinity fraud.” The SEC ticked off a series of examples of schemes that were directed at members of a community: Armenian-Americans, Baptist Church members, Jehovah’s Witnesses, African-American church groups, Korean-Americans. In each case, the perpetrator relied on the fact that being from the same community provided a reason to trust the sales pitch, to believe it was plausible that someone from the same background would give you a deal that, if offered by someone without such ties, would sound too good to be true.

The sense of common heritage, of community, also makes it less seemly to ask hard questions. Pressing a fellow parishioner or club member for hard information is like demanding receipts from your aunt — it just doesn’t feel right. Hucksters know that, they play on it, and they count on our trust to make their confidence games work. The level of affinity and of trust may be especially high among Jews. The Holocaust and generations of anti-Semitic laws and practices around the world made reliance on other Jews, and care for them, a survival instinct. As a result, Jews are often an easy target both for fund-raising appeals and fraud. But affinity plays a role in many groups, making members more trusting of appeals within the group.

I’d never heard the term “affinity fraud,” nor am I aware of specific schemes targeting Jehovah’s Witnesses. I’m sure there have been some. I’ve just not heard of them. Of course, I do know of business deals between brothers going south or sour. You know - say Tom Sowmire invites Tom Oxgoad to go in halves with him to build a shoe horn factory. Surely they’ll make a killing! However, Sowmire - a passable enough Christian, is really not very bright as a businessman, and soon the whole project has gone down the drain. That’s why we get a lot of counsel through our publications to the effect that Christians ought not be stupidly naïve when it comes to business matters: don’t put trust in every word, count the costs, get all details in writing….that sort of thing. Jesus said that “the sons of this system of things are wiser in a practical way toward their own generation than the sons of the light are.” (Luke 16:8) It’s a disquieting observation, but there is truth to it.

Then there was the period about 20 years ago when the friends started to get sucked into multi-level marketing schemes. You know…you sell a line of health products. You persuade some of your customers to also sell your products, which makes you a distributor. They, in turn, persuade some to sell for them, and you get a cut of everything downstream. It’s seductive. The pitch is that you will be helping your friends, providing them with stuff they really need. The glossy advertising shows you and your family lounging around your fancy swimming pool, with your mansion and luxury cars in the background. Ideally, you are thumbing your chest, just like in those innumerable Watchtower pictures decrying materialism. Multi-level outfits love to target close-knit religious communities, like ours. Members of such communities have a lot of friends who are sitting ducks for sales pitches. It got so that everyone could tick off a half dozen or so brothers they knew who were hawking vitamins, or internet plans, or drain plungers - buttonholing all their pals. But one brother observed that if he was going to enthusiastically speak to all about anything, it ought to be about the truth. Since he didn’t do that, it seemed disingenuous to do it for the sake of nose hair clippers.

Anyway, the JW organization endured it for a short while, then starting coming out with articles that you don’t go using “theocratic contacts” for personal gain. Not setting rules, you understand, but by repeated counsel, an atmosphere was established in which you would never dream of pushing your line of deodorants upon spiritual brothers. Now it’s a little like passing gas in public - it’s not that it’s forbidden, but nobody does it.

From a distance, it might seem that Jehovah’s Witnesses are like salesmen - hawking religion. But those who approach their ministry that way are not effective. Me, I enjoy the ministry, but I make a wretched salesman. I’m always thinking about why the other person doesn’t need whatever I‘m offering. Consequently, I’ve stayed away from sales as a career. One time, though, I came across a product that I thought I could sell….a type of insurance. I applied for the job, signed up for training, obtained an insurance license.  Alas, it turned out to be arm-twisting. The supposed people who had already shown interest - so that you would not need to do cold calling - had actually shown interest a long time ago, and had already been bludgeoned a dozen times or so by arm twisters before you got their number. So they weren’t in very good humor. A training video demonstrated how one might overcome sales resistance - the householder involved was reduced to tears (by guilting him) until he finally signed on. The company (whose stock price just hit a 13 year low) considered this a sterling example of salesmanship. How else could you help such a person, it was pointed out. It wasn’t work I could see myself doing, so I dropped out, but to this day I regret not standing up then and there and telling them all how despicable their video was.

Ah well, that’s the business world for you. It is what it is. If you’re not very careful, you’ll find yourself using other people (or being used by them). But thanks to Bernie Madoff and the parade of bankers preceding him, perhaps all that stuff will go down the drain. Nobody has any money anymore.

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Tom Irregardless and Me      No Fake News but Plenty of Hogwash

 

 

Defending Jehovah’s Witnesses with style from attacks... in Russia, with the ebook ‘I Don’t Know Why We Persecute Jehovah’s Witnesses—Searching for the Why’ (free).... and in the West, with the ebook ‘TrueTom vs the Apostates!’ (free)

Nest Eggs, Fried Eggs, and the Real Life

Twentysomethings are not so distraught by today’s financial crisis as you might think. “All we have to lose is a crummy job,” one of them told me. (He actually said "crappy," but I have cleaned his remark up for the internet.) It’s the older generation’s problem.

Might there even be a certain delight….a certain “payback” to the generation or two that inherited a world of pensions, good pay, and job security…..and left for their kids a boatload of McJobs…low-paying jobs with no security, no health benefits, and little advancement. Even pleasant souls likeRagoth, a grad student presumably not destined for a McJob, seem unconcerned. Yes, it's tragic, he allows. Still, he is yet in school and has his job. Fair’s fair, I guess. There were recessions in both 1974 and 1982, yet a much younger me barely noticed.

But if the kids aren’t really sweating it, many folks my age are devastated. They were planning to retire…some could practically taste it….and now with 401Ks decimated they find they must keep right on working. That’s assuming they have work…..the tougher cases are being laid off just as they've reached this sad conclusion. Worse, some already retired find their secure retirement income isn't so secure as they thought. They may have to return to work (at age 80). Nest eggs changed into fried eggs, as one pundit put it.

Spiritual views must come into play here, because to the extent people bought into this system, adopting the hopes and dreams of a predominantly materialistic, consumer driven society….to that extent they’ve been let down and let down pretty hard. Some have been crushed. As the psychological types constantly remind us, it’s not really what happens to us…..it’s how we feel about what’s happened to us…..that determines our emotional well-being. If you've been yearning for the good life in your later years with all your heart and soul...and it's an easy yearning to develop since the world constantly dangles it in front of us, you may have been let down hard.

Grousers and soreheads of every stripe abound on the internet, (sometimes I think there’s no one else) and Jehovah’s Witnesses, too, have their share of detractors……if not more than their share. They’ll rail against the JW organization, their view of the Bible, their recommended way of life, their worldview. It’s brainwashing, it’s deception, it’s missing out on the marvels and joys that the world promises, they holler. Man, who’s hollering now? It’s Jehovah’s Witnesses who are best protected emotionally, and those who looked to this world for security the least.

Look, don’t misunderstand. I’m not thrilled with what’s happened either. I’ve taken significant hits, along with most others my age. Many have been hurt far worse. But I was going to serve Jehovah throughout my days anyway, and now I still am. Jehovah’s Witnesses never imagined this system to be a source of security. The three words of Jesus with the most impact for the future…..”thy kingdom come.”…..this is what we believe, represent, and look forward to. If latter years turn out a little rougher than we until recently thought, well…..it was only a question of timing. None of us envisioned the success of human rule, and all of us look to God’s Kingdom as the ultimate solution to the planet’s chaos. Much of the world has far more than monetary chaos to worry about.

Paul said:

Give orders to those who are rich in the present system of things not to be high-minded, and to rest their hope, not on uncertain riches, but on God, who furnishes us all things richly for our enjoyment; to work at good, to be rich in fine works, to be liberal, ready to share, safely treasuring up for themselves a fine foundation for the future, in order that they may get a firm hold on the real life.    1 Tim 6:17-19  

It’s not bad counsel, is it? And I don’t mean to imply that no one other than Jehovah’s Witnesses have ever observed it, but it does typify our lifestyle, teachings and organization. It probably is us who take it the most seriously. Cruise the internet and see we are derided for it from various pundits who are keeping score and have discovered that, as a group, Jehovah's Witnesses have less toys and money than many others. But it's largely due to observing the above counsel. Since their inception, Jehovah's Witnesses have deliberately stressed pursuing the simple life that allows time and energy for spiritual things. We hear it constantly: the “real life” is life in the new system, “riches” in this world are most uncertain, “store up treasures in heaven” and so forth. It eventually sinks in.

Give me neither poverty nor riches..... Lest I be full, and deny thee, and say, Who is Jehovah? Or lest I be poor, and steal.    Prov 30:8-9 ASV

Money's not a bad thing, make no mistake. You don't want poverty, for obvious reasons. But neither do "riches" come without risk. In western lands, where Consumer Reports is the Bible, and the mall is the center of worship, plenty of  “full” people have learned to "deny thee, and say, Who is Jehovah?" But riches have not been kind lately to those who trust in them.

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Tom Irregardless and Me     No Fake News but Plenty of Hogwash

Defending Jehovah’s Witnesses with style from attacks... in Russia, with the ebook ‘I Don’t Know Why We Persecute Jehovah’s Witnesses—Searching for the Why’ (free).... and in the West, with the ebook ‘TrueTom vs the Apostates!’ (free)

Liars, Idiots, and Humble Persons

Back in school days, I took a college course on the Gospels. It wasn’t really my cup of tea, but I was curious and you have to have a number of electives, so you choose the ones least egregious. The instructor was some retired Southern Baptist clergyman. He told how the old boys back in seminary would yuck it up over John‘s gospel. It was the “idiot’s gospel,” they said, since its vocabulary is markedly simpler than anywhere else in the Bible.

But sometimes simple statements have all the more power for their simplicity. We regularly drown our audience in verbosity, the purpose of which is, at least in part, to show off. Check this statement of John’s for power:

If anyone makes the statement: “I love God,” and yet is hating his brother, he is a liar. For he who does not love his brother, whom he has seen, cannot be loving God, whom he has not seen.    1 John 4:20

Upon aligning our lives with God’s purpose, we are judged in large measure on the basis of how we get along with each other. Can’t love your brother? Then don’t even pretend that you love God.

To this end, humility is a good thing. It’s a lubricant of human relations. Act high-handed, even to those whom you have authority over, and you invariably bring out the worst in them. Thus Paul advises us to be “doing nothing out of contentiousness or out of egotism, but with lowliness of mind considering that the others are superior to you.”  (Phil 2:3) Practically speaking, how does that work? How can everyone consider everyone else superior?

For the most part we like to think of ourselves in terms of areas in which we excel. And that’s fine…..good for self-esteem and all, but when looking at others it’s good to think differently. Surely they have some qualities in which they outstrip us thoroughly. We’ve very clever, but they’re really more loving than we are. We’re very loving, but they’re really more courageous than we are. We’re very courageous, but they’re really more generous than we are. And so forth.

Another way to see persons as superior is to focus on what they’re doing with what they have.

Jesus spoke of the fellow with 10 talents (a measure) of silver who produced 10 talents more. And the guy with 5 talents who produced 5 talents more. And then the one oaf who had one talent and didn’t do a thing with it….he buried it. We don’t all start equally; we don’t all have the same abilities, backgrounds, dispositions, genes, upbringings, etc. Therein lies a way in which to look at other people.

If so-and-so is putting out 8 talents, assume he was given 8 talents. The person putting out 4 was given 4. Strive to look at people that way. The only fellow we don’t know about for sure is ourself. We were given 5, but are maybe giving back only 4. There’s room for improvement within ourselves, but to the best of our knowledge…..we‘re not empowered to judge, you know….. the other person is doing as much as they can with what they have.

Two suggestions for viewing the other person as superior, and thus smoothing human relations. It’s all in perception. But that doesn’t make it invalid.

Incidentally, John uses that label “liar” a total of 5 times in his letter. The other four are:

If we make the statement: “We have not sinned,” we are making him a liar, and his word is not in us.    1:10

He that says: “I have come to know him,” and yet is not observing his commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in this [person].    2:4

Who is the liar if it is not the one that denies that Jesus is the Christ? This is the antichrist, the one that denies the Father and the Son.     2:22

The [person] putting his faith in the Son of God has the witness given in his own case. The [person] not having faith in God has made him a liar, because he has not put his faith in the witness given, which God as witness has given concerning his Son.   5:10

Yeah, he spoke simply, John did. And he called a spade a spade.

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Tom Irregardless and Me      No Fake News but Plenty of Hogwash

Defending Jehovah’s Witnesses with style from attacks... in Russia, with the ebook ‘I Don’t Know Why We Persecute Jehovah’s Witnesses—Searching for the Why’ (free).... and in the West, with the ebook ‘TrueTom vs the Apostates!’ (free)

Show Me Your Oddballs

When Paul arrived in Rome to plead his legal case before Caesar, he first met with Jewish leaders. Probably you’ve heard about me, he said. I’ve been in the news back home [his presence in Jerusalem’s temple had sparked a riot]……

the Jews from Asia on beholding him in the temple began to throw all the crowd into confusion, and they laid their hands upon him, crying out: “Men of Israel, help! This is the man that teaches everybody everywhere against the people and the Law and this place and, what is more, he even brought Greeks into the temple and has defiled this holy place.”…..And the whole city was set in an uproar, and a running together of the people occurred; and they laid hold of Paul and dragged him outside the temple. And immediately the doors were closed. And while they were seeking to kill him, information came up to the commander of the band that all Jerusalem was in confusion; and he at once took soldiers and army officers and ran down to them.     Acts 21:27-32

….I’m also under arrest, which might cause you concern. So I thought I’d stop by and explain myself and answer any questions you may have.

But Rome is a long ways from Jerusalem. The Jews there hadn’t heard a thing about Paul. They sure knew about what he represented, though:

They said to him: “Neither have we received letters concerning you from Judea, nor has anyone of the brothers that has arrived reported or spoken anything wicked about you. But we think it proper to hear from you what your thoughts are, for truly as regards this sect it is known to us that everywhere it is spoken against."   Acts 28:21-22

That’s about the best Jehovah’s Witnesses can hope for today. It’s a given that the Christian faith will be “everywhere spoken against,” but as for us personally, no letters will have been received nor does anyone have anything wicked to say about us [ideally]. When you strive to apply Bible principles in your life, as JWs do, over time it makes you a better person.

However, people don’t all have the same start in life. Health varies, physical and mental. So does inherited disposition. Some folk are smarter than others. Or calmer. Or sturdier. How you were brought up as a kid may have helped or handicapped you. So you have to look at people in terms of how far they’ve come, not just where they are now.

It’s difficult to quantify the term “oddball” or determine just how pejorative the word should be. Worldwide, prisons are loaded up with murderous and conniving thugs, yet most of them would not be categorized as “oddballs.” Violence and slickness are enshrined values today…..these hapless jailbirds went too far, that’s all, they stepped over the line, but the direction itself is not out of harmony with contemporary values. In contrast, we may have some “oddballs,” yet they wouldn’t harm a fly.

I’ve even heard the charge made that Jehovah’s Witnesses suffer mental illness in greater proportion than general society. But I’m not sure how accurate that is. Isn’t it just a charge that soreheads make who don’t like us ("everywhere spoken against," like they said to Paul)?  Drive by the psych ward….it's always full....they’re not ALL our people in there. Usually no one at all, occasionally one or two. Besides, an astounding percentage of Americans today are on some sort of prescribed antidepression or mood-altering medication. Are they all mentally ill, or have many just been sold a bill of goods by pharmaceutical companies? Moreover, the world today suffers global warming, terrorism, family breakup, moral disintegration, economic abyss, and so forth. Perhaps the one who readily adjusts to these evils is the one with true mental illness! Isn’t there something wrong with a person who can readily take this stuff in stride, as if it were the most normal thing in the world?

A truly close-knit organization will seem to have more oddballs then one in which people stay at arm’s length. It’s for the same reason that our own extended family members seem odder than people in general. They’re not, of course [usually], it’s just that we know them better.  One way to think you’re living amidst cool people is to not get to know them very well.

But I will grant one point. Christ’s message is of love and hospitality. The demeanor of the Christian congregation reflects that attitude. You can expect troubled persons to be drawn to such an environment. After all, how many groups will readily take them into their midsts? But among Christians they find a welcoming home and, over time, become less odd (though not always).

In fact, perhaps we should make that a test for true Christianity. For any group that claims to follow Christ, we should insist on seeing their oddballs. If they don’t have any....say, if all their people are cool, or if their oddballs are not of truly high calibre, well then I guess that group can’t be true Christians, can they? Odd as it may seem, you have to have oddballs if you're really following Christ.

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Tom Irregardless and Me           No Fake News but Plenty of Hogwash

Defending Jehovah’s Witnesses with style from attacks... in Russia, with the ebook ‘I Don’t Know Why We Persecute Jehovah’s Witnesses—Searching for the Why’ (free).... and in the West, with the ebook ‘TrueTom vs the Apostates!’ (free)

Beijing and Real World Unity

As the $40 billion dollar Beijing Olympics romped through closing ceremonies, NBC commentator Cris Collinsworth gushed with emotion. Two weeks of persons from all corners of the earth mingling, smiling, and learning about each other’s cultures! No battling, save only that of sports, and that done amidst mutual respect and good will. Maybe….maybe….I mean, it’s probably pie-in-the-sky, he conceded, but maybe…..if they could do it for two weeks, then what about three weeks? And then  what about a month? And then a year? And….oh, utopian dream come true!….why should the party ever stop? Can’t we all just get along?

Of course, kids can also behave pretty well for the two weeks prior to Santa's Christmas arrival, or at least, I was generally able to manage it. It is pie-in-the-sky Cris…..but then, he knows it…..everyone was moneyed and pampered and well-fed for those two weeks. Stress-free, really. And weren’t they all pretty upper crust? Excepting perhaps the poor relations of some of the athletes, and these must have seemed to be in material fairyland for those 17 days.

Still, a glimpse of unity is real impressive, even if it’s temporary, even if it’s artificial. It speaks to a yearning deep within most of us. Is not the world breaking into more and more independent factions, all of whom resist cooperation with anybody else? So every once in a while there will be some circumstance to evoke a contrasting taste of unity (sometimes the circumstances are those of tragedy) and people like Cris wax poetic. It always makes me scratch my head because seven million Jehovah’s Witnesses enjoy such unity daily, as a matter of course. In all circumstances, our people of all races, nationalities, socioeconomic classes, and educational levels mingle freely and without strife. Wars, riots, and social upheavals do nothing to mar the peace. We tell people of this unity…doubtless we’ve told Cris…but by and large they want no part of it. Peace and unity….yeah, that’s great, it’s what they want….but not at the price of adopting a screwy religion like Jehovah’s Witnesses!

But it only seems screwy because JWs have renounced attitudes that make unity impossible and embraced those that facilitate it. This the general world has failed to do. Alas, it is not just a few teeny tiny tweaks that need be made so as to achieve unity. No, but a massive overhaul of thinking and behaving is required, and Jehovah’s Witnesses have done that. But that revised viewpoint makes us seem very strange to general society and not especially palatable. Nonetheless, surely it is beliefs that will get to the crux of why people can or cannot get along, and what institution in life is credited with molding a person’s beliefs? Where does morality come from? Surely it’s not found in higher education. If we’re SOBs, going to college usually just makes us smart SOBs, but it’s through spiritual growth that a person’s conduct can change for the better.

The peace and unity typifying Jehovah’s Witnesses is so well attested that even detractors….we have quite a few of them…..don’t deny it. Instead, they sometimes attribute it to (gasp!) LANDRU.

……………………………….................

Captain James T. Kirk and the Star Trek boys came across the Landru clanwhen they were way, way out there, on the very fringe of the galaxy. (Was it only me who was disappointed that, no matter how far they traveled, whatever aliens they found looked just like us, save for raised eyebrows, different skin color, pointy ears, peculiar dress and grooming, etc? Where are the evolutionists when you need them?)  This was a nauseating race of folk with syrupy smiles who carried on trancelike and greeted each other with slogans like May you have peace…Joy to you, friend, and…Landru gives blessings, and so forth. Tranquility prevailed, but none of them could really think for themselves. Kirk couldn’t stand them, but then he found out why they were the way they were. Boss man Landru had brainwashed them and stolen their souls! He’d come across them when their world was about to self-destruct and given them peace though mind-control! Now….all was joy!  And Landru wasn’t even a person, but a machine (that should please the evolutionists) which the aging Landru had designed (that should displease them) to carry on after he died. And above all things, you were not  to step out of line. If you did, why….there were enforcers to zap you into oblivion. The Enterprise crew was so distressed at this society that they violated their Prime Directive [Mind Your Own Business] to short circuit the computer and free the people. Having done so, they cruised on, leaving the citizens raping and pillaging like in the good old days.

Mind controlled zombies! Just like under Landru! That’s why Jehovah’s Witnesses are so peaceful, charge guys like Tom Barfendogsand Tom Sowmire! But their unity is really not so weird or hard to understand. It just seems that way because that quality is unheard of in today’s world.

Jehovah’s Witnesses share a common vision and purpose. Moreover, they defer to God Jehovah as their lawgiver. That’s really all there is to it. They’ve voluntarily made the choice, and so encounter a Christian formula for achieving practical unity. They find the Bible’s way of life to be not oppressive, but rather like a highway with guardrails. Nobody gripes about the guardrails in real traffic….they serve a purpose. Everyone knows that. Moreover, they neither infringe meaningfully on your freedom nor stifle your personality. On the contrary, they help you become all you can be. Just like in chess. Once you decide to abide by the rules you can do amazing things on the board, but you can’t do any of them until you follow how the game is played.

One of the public talk outlines currently in circulation spends considerable time contrasting unified and uniform. They’re not the same. Human organizations tend to squeeze persons into common molds, stifling individuality, often literally slipping them into uniforms. But unity based upon observing Bible standards is different. The apostle Paul likened it to the human body:

For the body, indeed, is not one member, but many. If the foot should say: “Because I am not a hand, I am no part of the body,” it is not for this reason no part of the body. And if the ear should say: “Because I am not an eye, I am no part of the body,” it is not for this reason no part of the body. If the whole body were an eye, where would the [sense of] hearing be? If it were all hearing, where would the smelling be? But now God has set the members in the body, each one of them, just as he pleased. If they were all one member, where would the body be? But now they are many members, yet one body.             1 Cor 12:14-20

Note that the eye, ear, hand, foot, and so forth cooperate seamlessly and yet do so without sacrificing any individuality or uniqueness. They don’t all become the same. Rather, they each bring their own contributions, for the benefit of the entire body. It’s much the same with Jehovah’s Witnesses. They are fully individuals, with unique likes and dislikes, strengths and weaknesses, assets and liabilities. You will like some of them; others may not be your cup of tea, just like anywhere else. In cooperating towards a common theme, they lose none of what makes them unique, but they carry on free from the endless divisiveness that characterizes the world today. It’s a very appealing aspect of JW society which newcomers tend to recognize quickly. Not like Landru at all!

There! Another ill report disposed of! And now….

May…you…have….peace …friend.    Joy….blessings….and tranquility!

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Tom Irregardless and Me     No Fake News but Plenty of Hogwash

Defending Jehovah’s Witnesses with style from attacks... in Russia, with the ebook ‘I Don’t Know Why We Persecute Jehovah’s Witnesses—Searching for the Why’ (free).... and in the West, with the ebook ‘TrueTom vs the Apostates!’ (free)

Pedophiles, Priests, and Jehovah's Witnesses

People thought he’d sweep it under the rug. After all, he’s not supposed to be a touchy feely guy. Don’t they call him “God’s Rottweiler?” And the sordid mess didn’t even happen on his watch….why should he take the heat?

Instead, Pope Benedict tackled it head-on. While still en route for his April 2008 U.S.A. visit, he told reporters he was deeply ashamed for all the pedophile priests. ''It is difficult for me to understand how it was possible that priests betray in this way their mission ... I am deeply ashamed and we will do what is possible so this cannot happen again in the future…..We will do everything possible to heal this wound.''

It was a true Oprah moment, the time that Americans love best. A rending apology [preferably with tears] from the top guy. Now, at last, Americans can “put it behind us,” “come together,” and “move on.” They love to do all these things….but only after Oprah moments…..and perhaps not so readily in matters involving religion, which is under the looking glass today.

Benedict won the highest praise that can be bestowed upon anyone in this country: "Basically, he seems like a nice guy, said John Allen Jr., a senior correspondent with the National Catholic Reporter. The man whose Jehovah’s Witness cousin remembers as a “naughty boy,” who was “everywhere he shouldn't [have] been….when I think today of what we did, it's a wonder that [we are] alive," was, at age 81, in the eyes of American Catholics, at exactly the right place at the right time. A childhood prankster no more.

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For there is nothing hidden that will not become manifest, neither anything carefully concealed that will never become known and never come into the open.    Luke 8:17

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Twenty years ago could anybody have foreseen the upcoming child sex abuse scandal among priests? Who would have imagined such a thing? Yet, a 2003 report from the John Jay College of Criminal Justice concluded that .2% of all U.S. priests had been proven abusers…..less than the popular imagination has it, no doubt, but still one heck of a lot of priests, considering the influence each has (4% of all priests have been accused, but not proven). Heightening the furor was the revelation that church authorities knew about the perversion, but did little to stop it. Instead, accused priests were transferred parish to parish, sometimes with brief periods of counseling. In the new parish they’d carry on as before, among a new batch of unsuspecting children.

But the real shocker for me was the accusation, several years later, that Jehovah’s Witnesses, too, harbored pedophiles! Nobody wants to be accused of that, and nothing in my 20 year experience with the faith gave credence to the accusation.  Could it possibly be true, or was it just dreamt up and kept alive by soreheads upset with JWs for other reasons? You wanted to flat out deny that such things could ever happen among our people. Unfortunately, we are people, and one can’t quite go that far.

If there’s one thing we’ve learned in the last 30 years, it’s that child sexual abuse is rampant in society, eclipsing anything anyone could have envisioned. Everywhere kids are, sexual abuse exists. Scouting organizations. Schools. Neighbors. All the time we read of respected persons in the community, even leaders of various sorts, caught with computers bursting with child-porn. Child molesters especially abound in the extended family and the step-family. It’s a sick world, as the slightest glance at the newspaper ought to daily convince anyone. Jehovah’s Witnesses don’t claim to be immune to perverse influences. In general, though, applying Christian teachings equip us to resist those influences to a greater degree than run of the mill society.

In the United States there are currently 80,000+ elders serving in over 12,000 congregations. In the past 100 years, only eleven of them have been sued for child abuse in thirteen lawsuits. In seven of those lawsuits, accusations against the Watchtower Society itself were dismissed by the courts. Is this to say no other lawsuits have been filed naming Jehovah’s Witnesses? No. But it’s this figure that must be used if one wishes to compare their organization with large churches in which pedophilia has been shown to be rampant among the clergy. It’s plain that there is no comparison.

Doubtless, additional lawsuits have involved ministerial servants, roughly the equivalent of deacons. All remaining lawsuits pertain to congregation members or their family, not “clergy,” and the lawsuits attempt to hold the parent organization accountable. No other religious organization, to my knowledge, has been subjected to the same scrutiny. Most of these case also have been dismissed. Some appear to be largely efforts to malign the Watchtower organization. This one, for example. Some cases, however, have been settled. Even one instance is shameful, make no mistake. But in an organization of several million people you will find many instances of almost anything.

Some of the criticism stems from a policy which you would think would be a good thing. Jehovah’s Witnesses police themselves. Elders in every congregation are prepared to hear disputes among congregation members that they themselves have not been able to resolve. They also hear allegations of wrongdoing and are authorized to impose various forms of discipline up to, and including expulsion from the congregation. “Church discipline” used to be practiced by many organizations….it is not unique to us. Many decades ago, however, church members tired of being disciplined, so most churches gave it up. Not so Jehovah’s Witnesses. However, critics contend that makes them “insular.”

In such a climate, a case of child sexual abuse might be brought before local elders, instead of secular authorities, and the elders might be stymied by the matter being one person’s word against another…..how are they to know which party is truthful? The secular authorities would have been stymied by the same thing until very recently…..in any contest between a child and an adult, the adult’s word was generally accepted, and children were hushed up, even by parents too shocked to consider the implications of sexual abuse. But within a few short years, child sexual abuse captured popular attention. It jumped from something you never heard about to something you heard about constantly. Surely people my age remember how sudden was the change of consciousness. “One person’s word against another” was no longer enough……after all, how likely were there to be witnesses? Ones accused of molestation were suddenly confronted with those who specialized in the field, who probed thoroughly, and who often came up with corroborating evidence.

Might there have been real victims who went to congregation elders, rather than police, who later regretted not doing it the other way around? It's possible. Some have claimed those circumstances and have became embittered….it’s not too hard to understand. Others who don’t like Jehovah’s Witnesses for philosophical and other reasons take up the complaints as if they were their own. Most states have laws now decreeing that any allegation of sexual abuse be reported to the police. Congregation elders comply with these laws, but in the early days such laws did not exist, and people did the best they could based on current, not later, thinking.

                                        From the blogs:

 

The written policy of Jehovah’s Witnesses is that a known child molester convicted may never be appointed to any position of oversight in any congregation. In this country, many states require that allegations of child sexual abuse be reported to police. Elders comply with this law. However, in addition to whatever consequences may come from police involvement, committees within the congregation themselves investigate. Penalties within the congregation can range up to disfellowshjpping (shunning). I’m not sure what more can be done to demonstrate seriousness on this issue. It is more than most religions do. You can’t shoot abusers.

“The policy of Jehovah’s Witnesses is that a known child molester convicted may never be appointed to any position of oversight in any congregation.”

That’s all?! Shunning–at least! He should never be allowed near your church again and in any country he should be reported to the police! The right thing is to denounce all such behavior sharply! Otherwise people are unaware of his tendencies and he victimizes someone else. (Which is what the school systems have been doing with molesting teachers, in many places, I’m sorry to say–just getting rid of them and not telling anyone and he or she goes elsewhere and starts over there. With the same behavior.)

“Shunning–at least! He should never be allowed near your church again and in any country he should be reported to the police! The right thing is to denounce all such behavior sharply!”…..Isn’t that what I just said? Shunning-yes, it happens. (and who else takes such measures?) And reporting to the police - yes, it happens. After which the full might of the law is thrown at such a person. About 20 years ago, police notification began to be required for all allegations of child sexual abuse from anyone in position to learn of it….health workers, school personnel, clergy. Without police involvement it was feared that such conduct might be too easily swept under the rug. If the law is notified and fails to convict, it is slander to publicly label a person as a child molester. But in the congregation (the only place our words have any meaning) you can still warn persons so they are protected.

"He should never be allowed near your church again." As you know, you legally cannot do that with any public place. What you can do is warn persons. Isn’t that among the effects of shunning? Depending on circumstances such ones may be publicly reproved. Again, it’s a policy that serves to notify all of the need for caution around such ones.

But I repeat, this conduct is very unusual among Jehovah’s Witnesses. Yes, if you scour the globe and bring all allegations together in one place - both substantiated and unsubstantiated, ranging from rape to touching a child’s knee - not just per annum, but all cases that have ever existed down through the years - yes, if you do all that, they accumulate, I grant you. But the broad picture is that child abuse is exceedingly uncommon among our people when compared to the world at large.

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Tom Irregardless and Me      No Fake News but Plenty of Hogwash

Defending Jehovah’s Witnesses with style from attacks... in Russia, with the ebook ‘I Don’t Know Why We Persecute Jehovah’s Witnesses—Searching for the Why’ (free).... and in the West, with the ebook ‘TrueTom vs the Apostates!’ (free)

Salvation by Grace, Trinity, Hell, and so forth...

When I first began blogging about two years ago, I imagined that from whatever posts I wrote with a spiritual theme, about half would be directed toward the skeptic crowd and half aimed at the religionists. Like our Lord impaled between two thieves, Jehovah’s Witnesses are caught between two unsavory types. On the one side are the atheists who don’t like us because we are theists (an annoying word…..would you call a married man a wifeist?). On the other hand are the churches who also don’t like us because we fail to line up with their favorite doctrines.

In spite of my noble 50/50 intentions, I find myself writing 90/10 in response to a powerful Carolina force who’s name I will not mention but whose initials are Moristotle. A prolific commenter with boundless energy, he not only writes his blog but he also writes mine in that he plants ideas in my head - they swirl around, and gel into some post geared to something he’s brought up.

Now, this is not disagreeable to me, for I tire very quickly of fisticuffs with the religionists. Squabbling with someone over the trinity, for example, brings to mind that Monty Python scene with the Black Knight. You take off one arm; they keep charging you. You take off another; they don’t notice it. Take off a leg and it doesn’t faze them. Another leg and they keep on arguing, confident they’ve trapped you. You take your leave in disgust and they taunt you for being a coward. Look…almost all scriptures proving the Trinity are wordings that would instantly be recognized as metaphor or illustrative device in any other context, and you have to painstakingly go through every blasted one of them with the Trinitarian and then start at the first and do it all over again since nothing you said in the first place registered. Some people enjoy the exercise. More power to them. The field is theirs. As for me, if for some reason I’ve kept a car group waiting, upon my return I may say “I don’t believe I couldn’t get that person to see that Jesus and God are not the same.” You can see veins standing out on the necks of those waiting. “You kept us waiting all that time for the Trinity!?” they seem to be fuming.

Still, in an effort to respect my original Mission, here’s a few tidbits either from my blog or from exchanges I’ve had on other blogs. They've accumulated. They're too good for the dumpster yet too meager to merit a post of their own. So I'll present several together as a casserole. Perhaps I'll expand on some later.

One religious blogger takes issue with our stand on holidays. Most  holidays Jehovah’s Witness refrain from. Does that not border on child abuse? she suggests, recalling how eagerly she anticipated Santa. Yet in the next breath she worries that, deviating from Truth in this or that doctrinal way, surely I and mine are all apt to go to hell. There is not some incongruity here? Refraining from holidays is intolerable cruelty, but she has no problem with an all-powerful God who would hand someone over to be tortured forever and ever!

With a single exception, all instances of "hell" in English Bibles stem from one of three original language words (sheol, hades, gehenna) Find the meaning of those three words and you've found the meaning of hell. None of them refer to a place of eternal torment. A well known early Witness, Charles Russell was known in his lifetime as the man who "turned the hose on hell and put out the fire."

 

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Salvation is by Grace, sir...that's the point. Religion cannot save, only Jesus does.

Well, of course, everyone knows that.

If "everyone knows" that salvation is by Grace, why does JW preach that you earn salvation by good works?

They don't. I think this accusation originates with people who do little or nothing in appreciation for Christ's free gift of life, yet want to feel morally superior to those who do. "Works" that Jehovah's Witnesses perform are in appreciation for that gift, and in obedience to Christ's command to "go and make disciples." (Matt 28:19) They do not imagine for one minute that they are "earning" everlasting life. The importance of Christian activity is supported by James 2:26: “For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also.” KJV

Only 144,000 are going to heaven, huh? No wonder you knock on so many doors! There are 7 million of you! That’s a lot of people to beat out so as to grab one of the heavenly spots.

Well....the premise is wrong here.

Jehovah's Witnesses are unique among Christian groups in that they entertain no hope of future heavenly life. Instead, they look forward to everlasting life on this earth when it is ruled over by God's Kingdom, the same Kingdom people familiarly know from the Lord's Prayer. Should we die before that Kingdom comes, our hope is to be resurrected to that paradise earth. God first put humans on earth. He didn't put them there because he wanted them somewhere else. Life on earth is not "second class." to us. It is God's original purpose for humans.

Kingdom rule over earth is not too far away, in our view, and Revelation 7:9-17 is now taking place. This passage tells of a great crowd of persons gathered from all "nations, tribes, peoples, and tongues" who would survive the "great tribulation" and live on into the "new order," life under Kingdom rule. Almost all of Jehovah's Witnesses claim to belong to this group. I do.

The Bible also speaks of a "sacred secret," (Colossians 1:26) a "secret" first made known to the early Christian congregation, that there would be some from humankind, a comparatively tiny number, who would share in this heavenly government. Their ultimate destiny would be in heaven, not on earth. Since this "secret" was made known shortly after Christ's resurrection, and there are only 144,000 of these who will serve as "kings and priests," very few of them are on earth today. Most, we maintain, have long since lived their lives and been resurrected to heavenly life.

I'd like to know where in the Bible it says to keep files on your members, or how about where it says that child abuse should only be reported to elders not the police, and while on that note, where does it say again that you should not support your country? I'm also certain the Bible doesn't tell us there is no hell or that Jesus should not be worshiped. And where exactly does it say that God is not a trinity? I'm really curious where the scripture is that backs up these rules.

 

I'd like to know where in the Bible it says to keep files on your members  [I’m not exactly sure what “files” this writer was referring to, but I took a stab, in view of the point she brought up next]

The policy of Jehovah's Witnesses is that a known child molester may never be appointed to any position of oversight. Plainly for such a policy to succeed, someone has to keep track, otherwise simply changing congregations would be enough to thwart it. Jehovah's Witnesses should not be criticized for this. Rather, you should criticize churches who do not care enough about protecting children to have done the same. A simple police background check is not enough. Many known molesters have never been convicted. Nor are police records necessarily reliable. A report from Toronto last week laments that, due to loopholes, only half of the province's convicted sex offenders appear on the national list.

or how about where it says that child abuse should only be reported to elders not the police

There is nothing to say congregation members can't call the police in cases of child abuse. Where do you get this from? If they choose to contact the elders first, or instead of, then the elders contact the police as required by law in New York, and I think all of the United States.

and while on that note, where does it say again that you should not support your country?

I'm not sure what the author means by that remark. Jehovah's Witnesses scrupulously obey laws, they diligently pay taxes, they stand for family values. Do those things not count as supporting your country? Or is he speaking of attitudes toward military ventures? At present this country is sharply divided over military policy. Does he feel one side or the other is not supporting the country? If so, which side?

I'm also certain the Bible doesn't tell us there is no hell

I've already answered this in my comment about the three original language words from which the English word hell is translated. None of them refer to a place of fiery torment. When you translate a word, you have to translate it according to its meaning, not according to what simply fits into your belief structure.

or that Jesus should not be worshiped. And where exactly does it say that God is not a trinity?

Since the Trinity goes against common sense, one would not expect the Bible to expressly deny it, any more than one would expect it to deny that the ground is really green cheese. Exactly the opposite. If the Trinity is true, one would expect the Bible to explicitly and unambiguously state it. It doesn't. The only verse that directly states the Trinity is found at 1 Jn 5:7 in the King James Bible. Virtually all modern Bibles have either removed or footnoted the verse, since it appears in no ancient manuscripts prior to the 6th century. In other words, it was inserted into the text, [!] most likely by someone intent on proving what the Bible otherwise does not say.

I'm really curious where the scripture is that backs up these rules.

There’s quite a few grousers who like to portray Jehovah’s Witnesses as an organization of rules “enslaving” people. Two thoughts on this. First, there’s no question that we do adhere to standards as close as we can approximate to that of the first century Christians. No apology for this.   

But where someone presents a list of JW rules, and some of them seem too petty to believe, in general, they should not be believed. They are usually the result of some discussion in the Watchtower or Awake, sometimes decades old, sometimes mentioned only once, with no intention of proposing rules, but only food for thought. To be sure, we have some folks who take every suggestion found anywhere as a rule, as acknowedged in the July 1 1994 Watchtower:

An elder could think that in order to be theocratic, the brothers should obey all sorts of rules. Some elders have made rules out of suggestions given from time to time by “the faithful and discreet slave.”

Don’t such folk exist anywhere? From time to time, these ones are readjusted.

For example, from the Aug 1 1994 Watchtower:

Responsible brothers today are equally interested in reaching hearts. Thus, they avoid laying down arbitrary, inflexible rules or turning their personal viewpoints and opinions into law. (Compare Daniel 6:7-16.) From time to time, kindly reminders on such matters as dress and grooming may be appropriate and timely, but an elder may jeopardize his reputation as a reasonable man if he harps on such matters or tries to impose what are primarily reflections of his personal taste. Really, all in the congregation should avoid trying to control others.—Compare 2 Corinthians 1:24; Philippians 2:12.   (page 18)

Or from the Sept 1, 1996 Watchtower (page 23):

We can have faith that Jehovah God by means of his holy spirit will influence the hearts of true worshipers. Thus, mature Christians appeal to the hearts of their brothers, entreating them, as did the apostle Paul. (2 Corinthians 8:8; 10:1; Philemon 8, 9) Paul knew that it is mainly the unrighteous, not the righteous, who need detailed laws to keep them in line. (1 Timothy 1:9) He expressed, not suspicion or distrust, but faith in his brothers. To one congregation he wrote: “We have confidence in the Lord regarding you.” (2 Thessalonians 3:4) Paul’s faith, trust, and confidence surely did much to motivate those Christians. Elders and traveling overseers today have similar aims. How refreshing these faithful men are, as they lovingly shepherd the flock of God!

There! Now back to those pesky atheists.

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Tom Irregardless and Me     No Fake News but Plenty of Hogwash

Defending Jehovah’s Witnesses with style from attacks... in Russia, with the ebook ‘I Don’t Know Why We Persecute Jehovah’s Witnesses—Searching for the Why’ (free).... and in the West, with the ebook ‘TrueTom vs the Apostates!’ (free)

Ruining Those who Ruin the Earth

When I was a kid, you never knew when the Russians were going to launch an air strike, maybe with nukes. So several times a semester grownups made us do air raid drills. We'd crouch under our desks with hands clasped behind our necks, a safeguard against flying glass. I envisioned sinister glass flying about at will, as if with wings, searching for young children to harm. In later years, when we were too big to fit under the desks, we'd file into the hallways and lean against our lockers.

Nuclear attack was a very real fear in the years following World War II. Nor was it only the United States who had to be wary of the Russians. Intoxicated with the decisive end to that great war brought by Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombings, General McArthur thought it well to pepper the Soviet Union with 50 of the new bombs - a pre-emptive strike that would have made Iraq look like a schoolyard brawl. President Truman, though, wouldn’t let him.

During the 1960s, with both superpowers pointing God knows how many missiles at each other, nuclear annihilation - not just attack - fired the popular imagination. Remember how Ray Bradbury's character in the Martian Chronicles trains his telescope on earth just in time to see it's final mushroom cloud? And who can forget Charlton Heston in Planet of the Apes, encountering the half-buried Statue of Liberty and suddenly realizing just what planet he was on? ("They blew it up! Damn them! Damn them to hell!!") Not to mention the Twilight Zone in which that fellow goes into the bank vault to read, only to have the world end while he is so occupied. Far from being put out, he is delighted, since he can now read free from the eternal nagging of his boss and wife. Unfortunately, he breaks his glasses.

So when I became one of Jehovah's Witnesses in the 1970s and came across that scripture telling how God would "bring to ruin those ruining the earth," (Rev 11:18) I read it in terms of nuclear ruining. It was really the only means of ruining the earth that anyone could envision back then. Sure, they closed polluted Durand Beach in the early 60s, which only recently reopened, but nobody saw such things as a threat to the entire earth. These days an endless list leaps to mind, most some variant of man-made pollution. Taking first place has to be global warming, but through the years we've also learned to fret about global dimming, species destruction, air and water pollution, acid rain, deforestation, contamination of the food supply, and so forth. Wasn't there just some study detailing how pharmaceuticals have found their way into the water supply? In minute concentrations, of course, yet over time, and given the fact that such chemicals are designed to interact with living tissue, isn't it another "ruining the earth" scenario?

So there are several new avenues through which humans threaten to ruin the earth, and would surely do so, without the intervention of God's Kingdom. Not to mention that the first, the nuclear threat, has hardly gone away. Some think that threat greater than ever since there are more nuclear powers than before, and they are nuttier and more unstable.

The Bible uses the term "earth" in yet another way. It doesn't always refer to the physical planet. It can refer to the society living upon it. If we broaden our definition of earth in this way, we, as a consequence, add new social ways in which humans ruin the earth. In fact, when God gave his reason for bringing a flood in Noah's time, he declared that the earth was ruined, not by air pollution or global warming, but by human violence.

And the earth came to be ruined in the sight of the [true] God and the earth became filled with violence. So God saw the earth and, look! it was ruined, because all flesh had ruined its way on the earth.      Gen 6:11-12

Surely violence "ruins" the earth today. Imagine hatred so intense that people delight to die if only they can take a dozen or so with them! Violence considered unspeakable even in the 70s, enhanced with torture, becomes more and more routine. Television positively wallows in it. Even Moristotle, a gentle soul who will nonetheless disagree with most aspects of this post, will not disagree on the mushrooming of violence. Deep in the comment section of this recent posthe refers to UNC-Chapel Hill (his employer, I think) Student Body President Eve Carson, whose "ATM card and car--and life--were stolen a couple of weeks ago by two young thugs." The reference has absolutely nothing to do with the rest of his comment, but is typical of how we respond to random violence....it crowds out everything else....we just half to highlight it. For this young woman, and loved ones, and the entire campus in proportion to how well they knew here, violence has "ruined the earth."

And can you not add economic concerns to matters that are ruining the earth? Costs of fuel and food have risen dramatically in recent months, incomes have not, and plenty of folk were stretched tight to begin with.

Of course, such things aren't really unexpected and are just partof the accumulating "sign" that human rulership is unfit and that God is fully justified in bringing its end, to be replaced with his own Kingdom rule. Only then will the earth really be free of injustices.

All the same, trialsome conditions are trialsome conditions. Jehovah's people may see light at the end of the tunnel, but it's a tunnel nonetheless. Sometimes people give up on the light and instead focus on the tunnel - some worrying about it, some trying to patch it up, some exploring it. It's easy to do. If Paul could speak of those who had experienced "shipwreck concerning their faith" (1 Tim 1:19) in his day, much more do his words apply in our day as the whole earth wobbles insanely and we all feel its effects. Doubtless that is why Jehovah's organization lays so much stress on "staples" such as meetings, service, prayer, and Bible study. These are the avenues...really, the only avenues...through which Christians can focus on the big picture of God's deliverance.

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"A farmer went out to sow his seed. As he was scattering the seed, some fell along the path; it was trampled on, and the birds of the air ate it up. Some fell on rock, and when it came up, the plants withered because they had no moisture. Other seed fell among thorns, which grew up with it and choked the plants. Still other seed fell on good soil. It came up and yielded a crop, a hundred times more than was sown."
When he said this, he called out, "He who has ears to hear, let him hear."

His disciples asked him what this parable meant. He said, "The knowledge of the secrets of the kingdom of God has been given to you, but to others I speak in parables, so that,
" 'though seeing, they may not see;
though hearing, they may not understand.'
[Isa 6:9]

"This is the meaning of the parable: The seed is the word of God. Those along the path are the ones who hear, and then the devil comes and takes away the word from their hearts, so that they may not believe and be saved. Those on the rock are the ones who receive the word with joy when they hear it, but they have no root. They believe for a while, but in the time of testing they fall away. The seed that fell among thorns stands for those who hear, but as they go on their way they are choked by life's worries, riches and pleasures, and they do not mature. But the seed on good soil stands for those with a noble and good heart, who hear the word, retain it, and by persevering produce a crop.

Luke 8:5-15   NIV

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More here

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Tom Irregardless and Me      No Fake News but Plenty of Hardship

Defending Jehovah’s Witnesses with style from attacks... in Russia, with the ebook ‘I Don’t Know Why We Persecute Jehovah’s Witnesses—Searching for the Why’ (free).... and in the West, with the ebook ‘TrueTom vs the Apostates!’ (free)

Plato and the Governing Body of Jehovah's Witnesses

In general, Jehovah's Witnesses don't know a whole lot when it comes to ancient Greek society. We are happy when the visiting speaker pronounces Socrates with three syllables, and not "So crates." Oh, the Greeks are back there in our school days somewhere. After all, they lived in a window of time in which civilization got its act together long enough for some privileged persons to think deep thoughts and record them for our benefit. But we don't consider knowledge of them indispensable for enriched life. The rapidly ascending Chinese and Indian populations most likely are completely ignorant of Greece....the root of Western civilization, but not theirs....and don't bemoan the loss.

Nonetheless, there is this atheist fellow I've been conversing with lately who throws Greeks at me right and left. He's even assumed a Greek moniker....Moristotle....and he's prompted me to consider changing my own name to Tom Sheepandgoaticus so as to win some respect. So it behooves me to read up on those Greeks. What do we find, for example, when we do some research on Plato?

Plato put into writing his concepts of ideal government. He advocated rule by "philosopher-kings." Several times in Moristotle's blog I've read the term. (If his blog has a search feature, I'd provide links. C'mon, Moristotle, get with it!) Plato favored monarchy, but not hereditary monarchy. Instead, his rulers were to be selected (by already existing rulers) on the basis of merit. This would follow a lengthy period of education designed to separate the wheat from the chaff.....so lengthy that it seems nobody under age 50 would be eligible for consideration.

Consider this excerpt from The 100, an intriguing book by Michael Hart, which undertakes to rate the one hundred most influential persons of history: (Plato is #40)

Only those persons who show that they can apply their book learning to the real world should be admitted into the guardian class. Moreover, only those persons who clearly demonstrate that they are primarily interested in the public welfare are to become guardians.

Membership in the guardian class would not appeal to all persons. The guardians are not to be wealthy. They should be permitted only a minimal amount of personal property, and no land or private homes. They are to receive a fixed (and not very large) salary, and may not own either gold or silver. Members of the guardian class should not be permitted to have separate families, but are to eat together, and are to have mates in common. The compensation of these philosopher -kings should not be material wealth, but rather the satisfaction of public service.

Anyone familiar with Jehovah's Witnesses will realize at once that this description almost exactly describes their "governing body," the agency that governs members of the faith. Only the "mates in common" does not apply.

Compare Plato's dream government with this depiction of the Watchtower organization, submitted by a reader to the Gary Halbert letter(which appears to be a Kiplinger-style newsletter, and which may include some sort of a sales pitch....I'm not familiar with it):

They are the most non-profit of non-profit organizations I've ever seen. All of their workers are voluntary. *All* of them. From the top down, the way the entity is structured, even the executives of the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society in Brooklyn, NY (headquarters of their worldwide organization) donate their time in exchange for very modest room and board. I've toured a few of their facilities in the Brooklyn, Wallkill and Patterson, NJ areas. I've seen it with my own eyes.

Everyone who works at their printing facilities (where they print bibles and bible literature for their worldwide bible education work) works for room and board and they get a very small allowance (somewhere around $120/mo.) for personal items. This entire organization is supported by means of voluntary donations. And it's amazing......I mean, these people are not driving around in fancy cars and getting rich pocketing donations by any means.

They spend their money on maintaining their printing facilities, printing bible literature, housing & feeding their voluntary workers (who all live in an apartment-like community maintained by the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society), supporting voluntary missionaries around the world, language and reading programs (where they teach illiterate people to read), DISASTER RELIEF....I could go on.

But the bottom line is that NONE of their money is used to line pockets of greedy execs. *

This organization is duplicated in the one hundred or so branch organizations that exist around the world.

Of course, one may object: Plato's recommendation is for the government of nations. Jehovah's Witnesses are a religion. But the similarities are more striking than the differences. Worldwide, Jehovah's Witnesses number between seven and seventeen million, depending on the criteria you use in counting. That's more than the population of a great many nations. Moreover, Jehovah's Witnesses are correctly viewed as a moral, decent, and law-abiding people. This is no mere accident, nor is it explained solely by their belief in the Bible as the source of divine instruction. It is also the result of effective administration, governing if you will, since there are ever so many groups who claim to follow the Bible but whose lifestyles beliethat claim. Jehovah's Witnesses are unified in a common goal and purpose, as the above letter points out. They would appear to be Plato's dream come true.

Author Hart actually allows for a religious setting when discussing the application of Plato's ideal. He suggests "there is a striking similarity between the position of the Catholic Church in medieval Europe and that of Plato's guardian class." I assume he is referring to the Church before the Inquisition. Otherwise, Hart acknowledges, Plato's ideals have never been adopted by any human government.

Oh, this is too rich! Here is Plato, poster boy of the modern atheist rationalists, devising a system of government which none of them have come close to reproducing, but which is adopted, without fanfare, by a group they can't stand, Jehovah's Witnesses! The reason, of course, is that Plato's system depends on persons who are neither ambitious nor materialistic nor overly proud. It's not that such persons can't be found among the general population. It's that the values of this world are such that these persons can't rise to the top. Indeed, they are often dismissed as impractical nuts (as with Jehovah‘s Witnesses).

By the way, what happens when atheists themselves try to adopt Plato's ways? Hart continues: "The role of the Communist party in the Soviet Union has also been compared with that of the guardian class in Plato's ideal republic. Here, too, we see a self-perpetuating elite whose members have all been trained in an official philosophy."

Aren't communist systems atheist, indeed the only governments officially atheist? Yes....and when the atheists try to implement Plato, their creations are hijacked by bullies and mass-murderers: Stalin, Mao, Pol Pot, Kim Jong-il, and so forth. Look at these guys crossways and you do ten years hard labor.

No, those atheists are unable to implement the ideals of their hero. Jehovah's Witnesses, on the other hand, have done so. Okay, I guess it is too much of a stretch to suggest that if Plato were somehow to appear today on the world stage he would become one of Jehovah’s Witnesses, so I don’t suggest it. But I can picture the highly educated “wise-in-their-own-eyes” elite rushing to embrace him as one of their own, and he, upon accessing how they have failed to implement any of his ideals, wanting nothing to do with them. Meanwhile, he could not help but be appreciative toward the one sizable organization on earth that has managed to transform his dream into reality.

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Tom Wheatandweeds of the Whitepebble Institute submitted the above item. I told him not to gloat, it's not becoming.....I strictly warned him....but he could not resist. His communication included the following, which I have deleted from my published edition:

"Ha ha ha ha ha ho ho ho haw haw ho ho ho ho ho yiiiiii....THUD!

ow...........(he he)"

He never had an ounce of dignity, that Wheatandweeds. That's why I'm the blogmaster, not him.

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*It should be noted that the writer to the Halbert letter incorrectly recommends that one may donate to the Watchtower as an efficient way of providing disaster relief to post-Katrina New Orleans. In fact, JW disaster relief is a sideline, aimed mostly at getting their own people on their feet again so that they may resume normal Christian activity. The disaster relief teams are almost entirely individual JWs using vacation time or taking unpaid leaves of absence. They are not in position to do a general rebuild of the city and have never represented themselves that way.

 

More on Governing Body here.

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Tom Irregardless and Me     No Fake News but Plenty of Hogwash

Defending Jehovah’s Witnesses with style from attacks... in Russia, with the ebook ‘I Don’t Know Why We Persecute Jehovah’s Witnesses—Searching for the Why’ (free).... and in the West, with the ebook ‘TrueTom vs the Apostates!’ (free)

Four Suggestions to Clean up the Evangelicals

Just as Daniel apologized for his countrymen, though he himself had little share, so Ronald J. Sider bemoans America’s evangelicals, saying it all in his 2005 book The Scandal of the Evangelical Conscience. Sure, they believe the Bible, as they are quick to tell you. But they don’t practice the Bible. They don’t apply it in their personal lives. Some do, of course. Some are upright, but no greater a percentage than is true of people in general.

It wasn’t supposed to be that way, a point which chapter two, The Biblical Vision, makes painfully clear. That chapter is as concise and comprehensive a discussion of the subject as you will see anywhere. Taking each NT book in succession, Mr. Sider highlights scripture after scripture to show that Christians were (and are) expected to live under Christ’s law, and that doing so would produce a people who lived so decently that their lives, not just their words, would be a drawing card for the faith.

Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us.         1 Peter 2:12    NIV

Here is Paul at Gal 5:19-21:  The acts of the sinful nature are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God.

“If Paul is even close to being right about what it means to be a Christian, one can only weep at he scandalous behavior of Christians today,” Mr. Sider states. “….How many preachers today speak that clearly about the sins of greed, adultery, and slander?”

He cites Peter as well: For you have spent enough time in the past doing what pagans choose to do—living in debauchery, lust, drunkenness, orgies, carousing and detestable idolatry. They think it strange that you do not plunge with them into the same flood of dissipation, and they heap abuse on you.      1 Pet 4:3-4

Apparently, the countercultural lifestyle of these early Christians was obvious to outsiders, notes Mr. Sider. Not so today among the evangelical community. “Our disobedient lifestyles crucify our Lord anew.”   Pg 96

After reviewing the evidence, “we have seen the stunning contrast between what Jesus and the early church said and did and what so many evangelicals do today. Hopefully that contrast will drive us to our knees, first to repent and then to ask God to help us understand the causes of this scandalous failure and the steps we can take to correct it.”  (pg 53) Mr. Sider has done just that and offers some remedies. You cannot read these remedies without noting they are the very building blocks integral to the organization of Jehovah’s Witnesses. And they do, to a considerable degree, solve the woes Mr. Sider describes. Alas, they earn us ridicule, particularly the ones having to do with obedience and submission. Don't many evangelicals join in the ridicule?

First, says Mr. Sider, the Western world’s obsession with independence must end, to be replaced with recognition that Christians are a community belonging to, and having responsibility for, each other. Paul goes so far as to say Christians ought to be slaves to one another.  Galatians 5:13 literally reads “be slaves to each other,” yet most popular translations, Mr. Sider notes, dilute the verse to a more independence-savoring “serve one another in love.” (but not so the New World Translation, used by Jehovah’s Witnesses. It reads “through love slave for one another.”)

Many churches today trumpet that they are “independent Bible believing,” yet the very notion is “heretical,” says Mr. Sider. To be part of the body of Christ, a church must align itself with a larger structure to give “guidance, supervision, direction, and accountability.”

Jehovah’s Witnesses have exactly such a structure in their governing body. Soreheads and malcontents rail against such organization as “mind control.”

Second, Mr. Sider suggests, any congregation with over fifty members ought to arrange its people into small groups, where oversight and encouragement can more effectively be offered.

They’re called book studies. Since as long as anyone can remember, perhaps from their outset, Witness congregations have made use of such small groups.

Make it harder to join, is a third suggestion. Evangelical Conscience points to early Anabaptists and Wesleyans, as if no modern examples existed. These groups took their time in admitting new members, ensuring that their conduct as well as words lined up with Christ’s teachings. They did not just settle for the silly and surface “confess the Lord and be saved.” Jehovah’s Witnesses are well known for requiring an extensive period of Bible study as a prerequisite to baptism..

Lastly, “parachurch” organizations, groups like Youth for Christ that transcend the larger church structure, have, by definition, no accountability to anybody. “Many of the worst, most disgraceful actions that embarrass and discredit the evangelical world come from this radical autonomy,” says Evangelical Conscience. Somehow such groups have to be brought into tow, though the author admits that he has no clue as to how to accomplish this.

Jehovah’s Witnesses do. They strongly discourage any such activity not under the oversight of the central governing body. You should hear guys like Barfendogs carry onabout such “strong-arm” methods! But one can’t help feeling Mr. Sider would approve.      

To be sure, Mr. Sider and Jehovah's Witnesses are poles apart doctrinally, yet organizationally we are his dream come true - a peculiar irony, if ever there was one.

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Tom Irregardless and Me     No Fake News but Plenty of Hogwash

Defending Jehovah’s Witnesses with style from attacks... in Russia, with the ebook ‘I Don’t Know Why We Persecute Jehovah’s Witnesses—Searching for the Why’ (free).... and in the West, with the ebook ‘TrueTom vs the Apostates!’ (free)