Mean Things God Doesn't Do - Part 1

When Katrina flooded New Orleans back in 2005, Pat Robertson promptly announced the reason. It was God. God did it, he declared, because of the city's abortions and homosexuals. This made New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin mad...hopping mad, and he jumped in to set the record straight. God did not destroy New Orleans because of abortions and homosexuals, he stormed.

He destroyed it because of the war in Iraq and disunity among its black residents.

No one thinks, apparently, that locating a coastal city below sea level yet in the path of hurricanes might have anything to do with it. No! It's all God. God destroyed that city for....well....pick your reason. But whatever reason you pick, have no doubt that God did it. Even insurance companies have long acquiesced to the language; natural disasters, they tell us in their policies, are "acts of God," whereas every non-religious person says, quite sensibly, if a bit crudely, that "shit happens." Which is it - "acts of God" or "shit happens"? Moreover, if such calamities are not really caused by God, does not church instruction that they are amount to monstrous slander against him?

Now, I recently came across a religious blogger who says he can accept God smiting New Orleans, or anywhere else, because "God is Sovereign" and thus can do whatever he wants! I swear, it's a wonder we're not all atheists! You don't think it might be nice for God to warn the "non-guilty" so they can clear out before the smiting starts?  And what's so especially wicked about New Orleans? People aren't creampuffs up here in Rochester either, I assure you - why single out Louisiana folk? Atheists may say rotten things about God, but the really nasty things come from those who claim to be his friends! They don't do it on purpose, of course, but they buy into longstanding doctrines - nonsensical and unscriptural doctrines- that unfailingly paint them into moral corners. With friends like these, so the saying goes, who needs enemies?

There is an explanation for disasters. The churches don't offer it, but it is this: If you've voted the Republicans into power, you can't be upset that Democrat policies aren't being carried out (or vice-versa). Everyone knows that. And with only minimal exaggeration, the same reasoning can be applied to spiritual matters. There is a "party" that offers control over natural forces. That party is God's Kingdom, as in "thy Kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven." (Matt 6:10) Alas, last time there was an "election" back in Genesis days, God's rulership was rejected in favor of human rulership - rulership which can't control the weather or the economy or health or peace or very much else.

Control of natural forces? An attribute of God's Kingdom? Why not? Consider the account at Mark 4:37-41:

And on that day, when evening had fallen, he [Jesus] said to them: “Let us cross to the other shore.” So, after they had dismissed the crowd, they took him in the boat, just as he was, and there were other boats with him. Now a great violent windstorm broke out, and the waves kept dashing into the boat, so that the boat was close to being swamped. But he was in the stern, sleeping upon a pillow. So they woke him up and said to him: “Teacher, do you not care that we are about to perish?” With that he roused himself and rebuked the wind and said to the sea: “Hush! Be quiet!” And the wind abated, and a great calm set in. So he said to them: “Why are you fainthearted? Do you not yet have any faith?” But they felt an unusual fear, and they would say to one another: “Who really is this, because even the wind and the sea obey him?” 

Rejecting God's right to rule, as was done in Eden at man's start, has had long-standing, terrible consequences. God has responded by allowing humans to make good on their claim that they can govern themselves without him. He's set aside a block of time during which humans can devise schemes of government, harness the power of science, improvise their own economies, philosophies, moralities, and so forth. When that time runs out, and all such schemes have fallen flat, (aren't they doing that now?) God brings about his own rulership, the same rulership he purposed from the start but which he allowed to be briefly diverted so that humans might carry out their experiment of self-rule. That, in a nutshell, is the Bible's explanation for present abysmal conditions, as outlined here and (for atheists) here.

It's an explanation that makes splendid sense, but accepting it means rejecting some cherished church beliefs, such as the dogma that earth is but a temporary home upon which people prove their fitness for their ultimate destiny in heaven or hell. Unwilling to part with such unscriptural notions, what is there left to church teachers other than to defend each and every natural disaster as part of God's plan? Thus, Katrina, 911, tsunami 2004, earthquake after earthquake - tragedies that haphazardly ruin rich and poor, good and bad, old and young, all such calamities are manifestations of God's will, say his friends! He's Sovereign. He can do what he wants. Don't try to figure it out. His ways are higher than ours. Though such events give not the slightest appearance of wisdom, love, or justice, we're told to accept them as such! (And to think some detractors accuse us of being told what to believe!) Does God really need enemies, with friends that say such things about him?

One reason people become Jehovah's Witnesses is that they don't buy into such a moral vacuum. They look, instead, to when God's permission of human rule runs out, at which time he brings about his own 'kingdom.' The Lord's prayer points to that time:

Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name.
Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven.
  (Matt 6:9-10)

The Book of Daniel points to it:

And in the days of these kings shall the God of heaven set up a kingdom, which shall never be destroyed: and the kingdom shall not be left to other people, but it shall break in pieces and consume all these kingdoms, and it shall stand for ever.  (Dan 2:44)

Revelation points to it:

And I John saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a great voice out of heaven saying, Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and he will dwell with them, and they shall be his people, and God himself shall be with them, and be their God.  (Rev 21:2-3) 

Note above that they're not angels; they're men - people -  and New Jerusalem stands for God's government over all the earth, just as literal Jerusalem stood for God's government over his ancient people.

Several Old Testament verses prophetically point to it. For example, Ps 93:1

Jehovah himself has become king! Let the earth be joyful. Let the many islands rejoice

But here we run into something peculiar. Most Bible's don't say "has become," as the New World Translation does. Some do, such as Young's Literal Translation, J.B. Rotherham Emphasized, and Douay-Rheim. But most say that God "is reigning," or something similar. What's with that?

It turns out that the Hebrew verb has two tenses: perfect and imperfect. The perfect tense is used to convey action completed. Events in the past would likely be described with the perfect tense. But, oddly, future events may also be conveyed with the perfect tense, when the writer regards their fulfillment as absolutely certain. The imperfect tense, on the other hand, denotes a work in progress, an ongoing action. Also, everyone acknowledges context plays its part in determining how to translate the perfect or imperfect tense.

The verb "reign" [malakh] in Ps 93:1 is in the perfect tense. It therefore seems that malakh should be rendered as an action completed, and not "reigning," as in an ongoing process. The New World Translation, and a handful of others, has thus translated it that way. And why do most others translate it "reigning?" Apparently due to their perception of doctrinal context - if God "has become king," they reason, there must have been a time when he was not king, and they can't get their heads around that. However, Jehovah's Witnesses side with Sigmund Mowinckel, who wrote in his 1962 book Psalms in Israel’s Worship: is not a valid objection to say that Yahweh had, according to the Israelite view, always been king. The latter statement is correct enough . . . but in the cult the fact of salvation is re-experienced as a new and actual reality. Yahweh is ever anew witnessed as ‘coming’, ‘revealing himself’, and doing works of salvation on earth. The Israelite idea of God was not static but dynamic. Israel did not regard the Lord principally as sitting in calm possession and execution of his divine power, but as one who rises and seizes the power, and wields it in mighty works. And this is as a rule concretely pictured; from the ‘mythical’ side this is seen epically and dramatically: at a certain time Yahweh became king. To the Israelite way of thinking there is no contradiction between this and that he is king for ever; such a contradistinction is modern and rationalistic.

And with Charles H Spurgeon, who points out with regard to Ps 93:1 "In the verse before us it would seem as if the Lord had for a while appeared to vacate the throne, but on a sudden he puts on his regal apparel and ascends his lofty seat, while his happy people proclaim him with new joy, shouting "The Lord reigneth." Though he prefers "reigneth," probably out of convention, reading his remark makes apparent he'd have no objection to "has become."

And with  Rabbi Avrohom Chaim Feuer, who "sees this psalm as reflecting the various pronouncements that will be voiced in the Messianic era and, therefore, the past tense is syntactically uttered in the psalm in retrospect."

Go here for some of these arguments, scroll ahead to page 67. The New World Translation agrees, not with the paper's author, Gerald Randall Kirkland, writing his Master's Thesis, but with Mowinckel and Feuer, whom he has cited.

So.....Ps 93:1 and similar verses take some time to discuss, but in the end they agree with the other verses cited. Though always king, God has granted a stay of his kingship for a time while humans try to prove their boasts of self-rule. The stay will run out soon - such is a prime import of the Jehovah's Witnesses position. In the meantime, we don't accept disasters and calamities as manifestation of God's will. They're an integral part of a rapidly decaying system of things under human domination.


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)


As if it happened yesterday, this gem appears on a recent Australian jurisprudence questionnaire:
"Some Jehovah’s Witnesses approach people in a predominantly Roman Catholic neighbourhood and play a CD, entitled ‘Enemies’, to them. The CD describes all organized religions as ‘instruments of Satan’ and then viciously attacks Catholicism in particular. Do you think that the law ought to prohibit conduct of this kind? Discuss with reference to rights and the public/private distinction."
So a certain blogger assumes it did happen yesterday - why would she not?  and fires off a response:
“Oh I really believe this scenario. It’s exactly what they’d do. Not what I ever would have done. I never had that sort of conviction. Oh how embarrassing! No wonder other churches call them ”weirdo religious strangers”. They call other churches “enemies” and “instruments of Satan” for goodness sake!”

Well, for goodness sake, it DOES seem mean-spirited, doesn't it? But it didn't happen yesterday. It happened eighty years ago. And it was a phonograph record, not a CD. Enemies was published in 1937, and was distributed for less than ten years. Someone's doing a hatchet job here, hoping to embarrass me. But the book and record was entirely appropriate for its time. In fact, given the same circumstances, I believe Jehovah's Witnesses would do it again.

In the wake of World War I, the mainline churches had proved themselves enemies of God, of Christ, and of man. They had, on both sides, stoked and cheered the conflict which would claim 16 million lives, and an additional 21 million wounded. With another world war approaching, they showed every sign of resuming that role. Yet in the interim, they presumed to slide right back into that cozy seat of representing the Prince of Peace, claiming to speak in his name. And, showing their break with the Bible was complete, after the first war - dubbed the Great War, until it was dwarfed by an even greater World War II - they abandoned all pretense of God's Kingdom and trumpeted the man-made world government substitute, the League of Nations, hailing it as the "political expression of the Kingdom of God on earth."Of course, it wasn't, and the League went down twenty years after it's birth, trampled by that second world war. Yes, the religious leaders of Christendom were the enemies that record referred to.
Eighty years later, it's hard to appreciate how enthusiastic church leaders were for the war, how they worked as cheerleaders for both sides. It doesn't seem believable. Surely, there must be an exaggeration. But, reflecting back, British brigadier general Frank Crozier stated: “The Christian Churches are the finest blood-lust creators which we have and of them we made free use."

A few more quotes of the day, in all cases by high-ranking clergymen, not lone renegades:

Bishop of London A. F. Winnington-Ingram urged the English people: “Kill Germans—do kill them; not for the sake of killing, but to save the world, to kill the good as well as the bad, to kill the young as well as the old, to kill those who have shown kindness to our wounded as well as those fiends . . . As I have said a thousand times [!], I look upon it as a war for purity, I look upon everyone who died in it as a martyr."   (Perspective (a Journal of Pittsburgh Theological Seminary), Vol. X, No. 1, Spring 1969, p. 78)

And from the other side? The archbishop of Cologne, Germany, said the following to German soldiers: “Beloved people of our Fatherland, God is with us in this fight for righteousness where we have been drawn in against our wish. We command you in the name of God, to fight to the last drop of your blood for the honor and glory of the country. In his wisdom and justice, God knows that we are on the side of righteousness and he will give us the victory.”   (La Dernière Heure, January 7, 1967 (Belgian newspaper)).

In America? An editorial in the Christian Register says it all: “As Christians, of course, we say Christ approves [of the war]. But would he fight and kill? . . . There is not an opportunity to deal death to the enemy that he would shirk from or delay in seizing! He would take bayonet and grenade and bomb and rifle and do the work of deadliness against that which is the most deadly enemy of his Father’s kingdom in a thousand years.” (The Christian Register, Vol. 97, No. 33 (Aug. 15, 1918), p. 775. (Quoted in Preachers Present Arms, Ray H Abrams, p. 68.))

Sure, such fighting words might come from a general. And in the midst of war fever, from a statesman, or a patriot, or a businessman, or the average citizen. But from the church, the institution claiming Christian leadership, asserting they and they alone speak for Christ? It's not a tad at odds with Christ's own words? “By this all will know that you are my disciples, if you have love among yourselves.” (John 13:35) If you don't prove discipleship when it counts, during wartime, just when do you prove it? And after the war, should those clergy sweep their bloodthirsty record under the rug, and once again presume to speak in Jesus' name? Jehovah's Witnesses didn't think so. If Enemies seems mean-spirited today, it wasn't a fraction as mean-spirited as the catalyst that prompted it.

Now, you gotta admit, it would take GUTS to distribute that book and play that record. Nowadays, every wussy milquetoast of an atheist takes swipes at religion on his anonymous blog, but Jehovah's Witnesses went eyeball to eyeball with those enemies, in person, and what's more, they went to members of their flocks. Introducing Enemies to a convention audience in Columbus Ohio, Watchtower President Rutherford declared: “You will notice that its cover is tan, and we will tan the old lady’s hide with it!” So I don't want to hear Sam Harris the Atheist whining about how moderate "good" churches don't condemn their more belligerent brethren - and how they refuse to "call a spade a spade." We did it before he was in diapers, and did it with a courage that he could never match.

From the 1975 Yearbook of Jehovah's Witnesses:


The phonograph work was not carried on without opposition. Ernest Jansma tells us: “There were cases of some having their phonographs literally and viciously smashed right before their eyes. Others had them ruthlessly thrown off porches. One brother in the Middle West stood by and watched an angry farmer blow his machine into oblivion with a shotgun, then heard pellets whine past his auto as he left the scene. They were vicious and religiously fanatical in those days.” Amelia and Elizabeth Losch tell of an occasion when the recording “Enemies” was played for a crowd on the porch of a certain home. After the talk ended, one woman took the record off the machine and broke it, saying, “You can’t talk about my pope like that!”
Today, the influence of the clergy is insignificant compared to what it was then.  I mean, they're respected so long as they stay in their place, but their place is much reduced from what it once was. In the days of Enemies, their place was anywhere they wanted. They kept a stranglehold upon popular thought. Catholics, in particular, as you may have heard your great-grandparents say, were not allowed to read the Bible. That's what the priest was for, and he would explain it as he saw fit, in accordance with church doctrine. In town after town, Jehovah's Witnesses would place literature with interested persons, and clergy would follow and demand it back. Such was the command they enjoyed, that they often got it.
Frankly, if Christendom's influence is a ghost of what it once was, Jehovah's Witnesses get the credit, in my view. The Enemies campaign was but one of many back in those days. See again that previous post for another. Look, Wilbur and Orville Wright are credited with inventing the airplane. That doesn't mean we wouldn't have planes had they never been born. Someone else would have invented them. But they were the first. They had the foresight and guts to persevere with a notion everyone else thought was rubbish.
Some, taking the opposite view of the blogger quoted in the third paragraph, grouse that Jehovah's Witnesses have become too cordial with other religions, that they have made their peace, that they have wimped out. But there's no point in kicking the 'old lady' while she's down. We kicked her while she was up. Nowadays, everybody kicks her. So why should we? Whatever account she must render is with God, not us. All we ever wanted to do was loosen her hold on people, so they would not be afraid to listen to new ideas. That was accomplished decades ago.


More early history here.


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)

Floods in Our Enlightened Age

Let's face it, Noah and the flood and the ark and the animals boarding two by two is hard for people to swallow. So, sure enough, after I posted I Don't do Floods this email landed on my desk:

I truly wish I understood the mind that can accept, on faith and believe them to be factual events, such tales as a World-Wide flood not more than a few thousand years ago. I read the Little Red Book, God's Word or Man's and found it amazing that in this enlightened age, it could be taken seriously. Sticking strictly to the Old Testament, I asked a Jewish friend of mine how the Jews dealt with such stories as that of the flood. She mostly, just smiled.
Speaking of science in connection with the Bible, I use the following quote from one of my all-time favorite writers. "Pure science is necessarily godless. It is incapable of worship. There is no harmony between religion and science. When science was a child, religion sought to strangle it in the cradle. Reason, Observation and Experience, the Holy Trinity of Science have taught us that happiness is the only good; that the time to be happy is now, and the way to be happy is to make others happy."
Dear Person:
“I truly wish I understood the mind that can accept, on faith and believe them to be factual events, such tales as a World-Wide flood “
It’s because we approach the subject from two different vantage points. If I am cruising on the freeway at 60MPH, I’m not sure why I should be especially concerned about the scientist on the radio telling me my car doesn’t run. But if my car is up on blocks, I’ll pay him more attention.
Put another way, if my multi-piece puzzle is fully assembled and I’ve reproduced that vista on the box cover, I may not pay too much attention to news reports that the product’s been recalled, the manufacturers jailed as hucksters. But if I’ve worked for weeks and can’t get any of the pieces to fit, I will turn up the volume and say “so that‘s why the damn thing won‘t come together!”
And so if I am to answer your question, I must launch into another discussion of why I think Jehovah’s Witnesses have the truth and other religions don’t. And you will hate it, or at least you have hated it when I’ve ventured there in the past. But it’s the only answer to your question I can give; I’ve conceded more than once that current scientific consensus is not on my side. If I am to overlook such consensus, I have to give you a reason. You would take me to task if I did not.
From prior discussions, I know we agree on the hellfire doctrine being nonsense. Punishment ought to fit the crime. To wit: putting a vile person to death does no injury to our sense of justice. Most human governments have seen fit to do that. But to torture someone forever for a few decades of wrongdoing? It’s vengeful and repulsive; we all know that. Issac Asimov observed that hell was "the drooling dream of a sadist" crudely affixed to an all-merciful God; if even human governments were willing to curtail cruel and unusual punishments, he muses, why would punishment in the afterlife not be restricted to a limited term.Of course, JWs have never taught hell. Most other faiths have; many still do.
If there is a God who cares for us, you would hope that he would make himself knowable. The Trinity doctrine makes him absolutely incomprehensible. Father and Son being two separate beings, which we maintain, squares perfectly with our common sense. Jehovah’s Witnesses have never taught a trinity. Most churches have and do. Specifically, a trinity doctrine makes Christ’s sacrifice for humankind’s sins an unfathomable, syrupy mess. But if God caused his Son to be born a perfect man, and his life course counterbalances that of the only other perfect man, Adam, and thus he can buy back, or redeem, what Adam lost - listen, I’m not saying you have to believe it, but you must admit there is some internal logic there, and not just some gooey “God died to show how much he loves us.”
Moreover, if God wants us in heaven, as all religions except for Jehovah’s Witnesses believe, why didn’t he put us there in the first place, for crying out loud??! What’s with this shell game of a stepping stone earth, from which we get promoted to heaven or sink to hell? How does that make any sense? But a promise that, under the proper government of God’s Kingdom, humans may live on earth forever ….well, that sure does square with his original act to start humans on earth with instructions to be fruitful, multiply, and fill the place. If God suspends this purpose temporarily while he works out the bugs  - bugs introduced through Adam’s rebellion - well, that’s not too hard to understand. We all know about working out bugs.
The foregoing points have an internal logic to them…..the pieces fit together, much like a completed jigsaw puzzle. I realize that completing a puzzle does not prove the puzzle is genuine, but it sure is more impressive than not completing it. That’s what the churches are stuck with - a mess of ill-fitting pieces that you can’t do much with, so that you either sweep them into the wastebasket or say “ah, well, I’ll just believe it anyway.” Only a certain type of person can take the latter course. Jehovah's Witnesses don’t have to.
So that’s why I’m not as influenced by the conclusions of our current "enlightened age" (is it really that enlightened?) as you may think I ought to be. We have a strong counterweight. Religions in general have no such counterweight, so their adherents are more easily toppled. You quoted your favorite writing on science. Here’s mine, from Max Planck the physicist: 


 A new truth does not establish itself by opponents seeing the light. Rather, the opponents eventually die, and a new generation arises who is familiar with the idea [paraphrased] People run in herd mentality, be they scientists or laymen.


I’ll even add to that flood post a little. One commenter spoke of an ancient flood in Africa, and I responded with another example and the observation that there are probably many. In fact, as I’ve since read, there are; geologists find evidence of scores of massive ancient floods. Is it really so great a stretch to link them together? Another comment spoke of a possible fallacy in current (biological) dating methods. Now, assigning, from our time, the dates of eons-ago events is intriguing, to be sure, but I sometimes wonder if it is not like swinging a baseball bat while gripping only the sixteenth of an inch on the end. Are we really so adept at it as we think we are? Or might some new view come along someday to sweep all our current understandings away? It’s not as if such things haven’t happened before. Lastly, accounts of a worldwide flood abound in the legends of many peoples, which is not proof, I understand, but not bad corroborating evidence.


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)

The League of Nations and Jehovah's Witnesses

After the first World War, weary nations hoped world war would never ever happen again, though it did 20 years later. They proposed a League of Nations -  an international forum - that would hash out problems before they reached the boilover point. They even included Germany. Alas, the same Treaty of Versailles that proposed the League also decreed that Germany pay the full cost of the war just ended. Of course, Germany couldn't, and the resulting economic strain created chaos (compounded by the Great Depression) from which Hitler emerged, appealing to national pride and a sense of victimization. World War II started, and the League of Nations collapsed.

After the second World War, the League was resurrected in principle, and rechristened the United Nations. Jehovah's Witnesses have pointed to it as the beast of Rev 17:8 -

The wild beast that you saw was, but is not, and yet is about to ascend out of the abyss, and it is to go off into destruction.

It "was," prior to World War II. It "is not," during that war, and it "ascends out of the abyss" (as the U.N.) after that war. It is also described as (Revelation 13:14-15) the "image of the beast," since it reflects the qualities of its component nations. Since the most prominent of these component creates it, they are said to have "breathed life" into it. Beasts are frequently used in the Bible as symbols of human governments, likely for the way they rip and tear and devour each other, and even their own peoples.

Detailed explanations of these verses, and indeed of all of Revelation, are found in the book Revelation - It's Grand Climax at Hand, available from Jehovah's Witnesses. I've previously referred to it here and probably some other places as well.

Now, offhand, a League of Nations - an international forum for peace and security - seems like a good idea. Let nations talk it out, not fight it out, and so forth. And no one has any gripe at all with the humanitarian good such agency has accomplished. The organization is, however, the exact opposite of what the Bible proposes. For the Bible advocates world government by God - God's Kingdom - which is to replace human rulership. It is described here, as God's answer after a long torrent of failed human efforts:

And in the days of those kings the God of heaven will set up a kingdom that will never be brought to ruin. And the kingdom itself will not be passed on to any other people. It will crush and put an end to all these kingdoms, and it itself will stand to times indefinite.    Dan 2:44

This is the same government of the "Lord's prayer," named here in Matt 6: 9-10   (NIV):

Father in heaven, hallowed be your name,
your kingdom come, your will be done
on earth as it is in heaven.

People repeat this prayer, usually by rote, and it becomes like the Pledge of Allegiance. They have no idea what it means.

The League of Nations, noble though the idea sounds, advocates world government by man, and this puts it at odds with the Bible. President Woodrow Wilson lead in birthing the new organization. Ironically, he couldn't talk the U. S. Congress into joining. Europe was a long ways away. The oceans had always afforded good isolation, and hopefully, with WWI in the past, they would continue to do so. Let Europe attend to their own squabbling.

The churches, whom you might think would side with world government by God, fell all over themselves to embrace world government by man. The National Council of the Churches of Christ in America lost no time declaring "such a League is not a mere political expedient; it is rather the political expression of the Kingdom of God on earth...." If Congress didn't want to sign up, it wasn't for the churches' lack of effort; 14,450 leading clergymen signed a petition urging the Senate to get onboard with the rest of the League supporters. The Pope, too, pleaded for the League’s adoption. All this in 1919.

Seemingly, the only ones not buying into the hoopla were Jehovah’s Witnesses, then known as the International Bible Students. That same year - 1919 - addressing a convention in Cedar Point, Ohio, J. F. Rutherford, Watch Tower Society president asserted that "the Lord’s displeasure is certain to be visited upon the League . . . because the clergy—Catholic and Protestant—claiming to be God’s representatives, have abandoned his plan and endorsed the League of Nations, hailing it as a political expression of Christ’s kingdom on earth.”

Jehovah’s Witnesses would not abandon “his plan,” even if all the rest of Christendom did. Three years later, discerning that the actual Christ’s kingdom had been established in heaven in 1914, (written about here and here) Rutherford urged conventioneers (it’s an oft-reported speech that all Jehovah’s Witnesses have heard about) to “advertise, advertise, advertise the king and his kingdom” - which is what Witnesses have done ever since.

Thus, establishment of the League of Nations represents a fork in the road. The churches, almost without exception, publicly embraced world government by man. At the same time, Jehovah’s organization publicly took the opposite path, advocating world government by God, in acknowledgement that God’s Kingdom does not come through any consensus of manmade governments. This explains Jehovah's Witnesses' neutrality toward this world’s governments. The churches, meanwhile, are ever convinced that God uses whatever national government they live under, to accomplish his aims. They are forever meddling in political affairs, trying to sway governments to write their own views into law. The actual Kingdom of God means little to them. Their goal is to put a smiley face on existing human governments.

Recommending world government by man or world government by God - this was among the chief differences between the churches and Jehovah's Witnesses back then. It is also so today.


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.


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


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… are they to know which party is truthful? The secular authorities would have been stymied by the same thing until very recently… 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.


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."



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.


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)

Bounced out of Heaven?

I used to work with a young woman who’d been brought up without religion. She knew God’s name was Jehovah because she’d seen Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom. And from Dogma, she knew that God’s original purpose was for humans to live on earth forever; our planet was never a launch pad to heaven or trap door to hell. And that angels were a separate creation; they weren’t former "good people" enjoying their reward for being good.

From two movies she had more Bible knowledge than 90% of church folk who’ve spent a lifetime butts glued to pews! If you don’t approach the book determined to read in teachings that aren’t there, it becomes much easier to understand.

For instance, just try to reconcile the heaven/hell dogma with John chapter 11, which relates a resurrection Jesus performed:

He [Jesus] said these things, and after this he said to them: “Lazarus our friend has gone to rest, but I am journeying there to awaken him from sleep.” Therefore the disciples said to him: “Lord, if he has gone to rest, he will get well.” Jesus had spoken, however, about his death. But they imagined he was speaking about taking rest in sleep. At that time, therefore, Jesus said to them outspokenly: “Lazarus has died, ……


Consequently when Jesus arrived, he found he had already been four days in the memorial tomb. …….


Hence Jesus, after groaning again within himself, came to the memorial tomb. It was, in fact, a cave, and a stone was lying against it. said: “Take the stone away.” Martha, the sister of the deceased, said to him: “Lord, by now he must smell, for it is four days.” Jesus said to her: “Did I not tell you that if you would believe you would see the glory of God?” Therefore they took the stone away. Now Jesus raised his eyes heavenward and said: “Father, I thank you that you have heard me. True, I knew that you always hear me; but on account of the crowd standing around I spoke, in order that they might believe that you sent me forth.” And when he had said these things, he cried out with a loud voice: “Lazarus, come on out!” The [man] that had been dead came out with his feet and hands bound with wrappings, and his countenance was bound about with a cloth. Jesus said to them: “Loose him and let him go.”  John 11:11-44

He’d been dead for four days. Where was he during this time?

You don’t think if he’d been in heaven he would have said something upon being dragged back to earth? When Johnny Cash had a near-death experience during surgery and imagined he’d seen heaven, he was steamed to wake up again in the hospital. Even with his sweetheart June around. Yet Lazarus had been there four days, long enough to check out his room and settle in, if it really is so that the good all go to heaven.

For non-judgmental types, let us allow that even if he’d not gone to heaven, but spent those four days in hell, and Jesus still brought him back, letting bygones be bygones, Lazarus still did not mention a thing. And he didn't right away run for a bucket of water to sit in, as you can be sure I would have done.

No, the account suggests that Lazarus was nowhere during those four days; he was DEAD, non-existent, not conscious of a thing. Didn’t Jesus suggest as much when he likened the man to being asleep and not conscious in some other realm?

Jehovah’s Witnesses are unique among Judeo-Christian groups in not buying into the heaven/hell routine. For them, a future resurrection (foreshadowed in places like the above passage) is the hope for all who have died, or nearly all. In the meantime, dead people really are dead; they don’t exist; they’ve gone back to the dust from which they came.

Once we get this through our heads, so many scriptures make instant sense. Like this one about John the Baptist, one of the nicest people around, in fact, the fellow who baptized Jesus:

Truly I [Jesus] say to you people, Among those born of women there has not been raised up a greater than John the Baptist; but a person that is a lesser one in the kingdom of the heavens is greater than he is.   Matt 11:11

No one of humans better than John. Yet the janitor in heaven is higher up than he. So John didn’t go to heaven. And if he didn’t, being top of the heap, no one else did, either.

Or this one about David:

It is allowable to speak with freeness of speech to you concerning the family head David, that he both deceased and was buried and his tomb is among us to this day…..Actually David did not ascend to the heavens….. Acts 2:30-34

Or this one:

All that your hand finds to do, do with your very power, for there is no work nor devising nor knowledge nor wisdom in Sheol, the place to which you are going.   Eccles 9:10 

Many Bible translations render sheol in this passage as “the grave;” but the New World Translation simply transliterates the original Hebrew word, for which the Greek equivalent is hades. Although sheol and hades are two of the three wordsoften rendered into English as “hell,” their actual meaning is “place of the dead“, without reference to being good or bad during life.

All basic scriptural teachings, which you could have learned by staying out of church and going to the movies.


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.


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)

The Tidy Dogs of Ellicottville

Although most quality of life measures have declined duirng the past few decades, there are a few bright spots. For instance, people today have to clean up after their dogs.

This was not always the case. Dogs were once permitted to let loose any place they pleased, and few people my age escaped the experience of sliding headlong through a pile of you-know-what, say, in pursuit of a fly ball. Let me assure younger readers - there is no experience quite like it. But now folks follow around their dogs with inside-out plastic bags, ready to pounce at the first sign of nature.  How can this not be a good thing?

It's in this light that we must view modern efforts to tax or sue industries that deal with hazardous and/or sinful products - cigarettes, gambling, alcohol, asbestos, lead, guns, pollutants of all types, even piping hot Mickey D coffee. To varying degrees, all these items exact a social cost. Why not have the makers clean up their messes, just like we do with our dogs?

But has the pendulum swung too far? Driving into Ellicottville (about 100 miles to the southwest of Rochester), one encounters a sign informing that unnattended, defecating dogs will not be tolerated, and then adding "dog waste is unsanitary and harmful to our children." It's not the prohibition that forces a double-take; it's the preaching.

Ellicottville was once one of those tranquil backwater towns where homes were mobile but the five vehicles in the yard were not, where hogs roamed freely in the streets and houses, where "yeppur" was the pleasantry most frequently heard, a town that then-campaigning Eliot Spitzer included in his observation that upstate New York reminded him of Appalachia.

Ellicottville differs from neighboring towns, however. It sports a ski resort: Holiday Valley. In recent years the trendy people have discovered E-ville and have decided to make it their own. It used to be that for the price of a postage stamp you once could buy any property in town, now land prices are out of sight. And, of course, the high-brow folk bring their wisdom with them. Like the aforementioned sign. Dogs have been pooping in the woods since the beginning of time, yet the outsiders just have to lecture "did you know that s**t smells?" with every confidence that the local dimwits will be dutifully grateful and wonder how they ever managed on their own.

Incidentally, we all know what s**t stands for. So why not say it? The truth is that I'm trying to clean up my rating.

Have we come too far in our quest for safety and sanitation? Tom Whitepebble has already opined that today's obsession with safety is itself a fallback positionfor people unable to change things that really matter, so they redirect energy to hassling all the rest of us with more and more "safety" rules. And in the September 17, 2007 Wall Street Journal, reporter Cynthia Crossen points out that we've been down this road before. Almost 100 years ago began another safety campaign in the United States, a campaign progressive for its time, yet the palest shadow of what gets pushed today.  Syracuse NY, only 90 miles east of here, slapped "Safety First" warnings on sidewalks, utility poles, restaurant menus and theater programs. "No one in Syracuse can get away from the sign of 'Safety First,'" boasted the local newspaper. Somewhere else in the state, a Museum of Safety opened, and the theme echoed throughout the country.

But in time there was a backlash: wasn't America becoming a nation of wimps? "Life must be lived as an adventure if it is to be worth carrying on," said someone from the National Bureau of Casualty and Surety Underwriters in 1923. And Francis Greenwood Peabody, a Harvard theologian agreed: "What an undiscouraged and expectant person wants is not 'safety first' anymore than a sailor wants to lie safely in harbor."

I wonder what he would say today if he tried to scale a modern store-bought stepladder, with dire warnings at every step, turning to absolute panic as one nears the top. Yes, we really have become a nation of crybabies. Ah, but for the good old days where dogs pooped anywhere and nobody gave a sh.....well, I mean, people just adjusted.


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)

Reining in the Parachurch

I knew he’d have a field day with this, but I didn’t know when that day would start. The ink wasn't dry on that September Kingdom Ministry when Vic Vomodog was peppering my blog with comments, haranguing me. It’s a good thing I can screen comments. Otherwise, he’d write on my blog more than I do.

“Did ya see it, Tommy? Hah, did ya? It’s right there in the question box, Tommy! Did ya see it?”

There was an article about some of our people grouping together to explore deeply this or that spiritual topic, delving where no one had delved before. They’d done extra research, released their own extra findings, to augment material coming from the existing JW organization. They’d held conferences, published books, and hosted web sites where collaborators from all over could contribute their own research. The faithful and discreet slave didn’t like the idea….didn’t like it at all, and strongly discouraged it. They cited a few scriptures, such as:

Now I exhort you, brothers, through the name of our Lord Jesus Christ that you should all speak in agreement, and that there should not be divisions among you, but that you may be fitly united in the same mind and in the same line of thought.      1 Cor 1:10

Might not independent research groups pose a danger to the unity Paul spoke of? In fact, there were some lone rangers back in the first century, which produced the following results:

For the disclosure was made to me about you, my brothers, by those of [the house of] Chloe, that dissensions exist among you. What I mean is this, that each one of you says: “I belong to Paul,” “But I to Apollos,” “But I to Cephas,” “But I to Christ.” The Christ exists divided. Paul was not impaled for you, was he? Or were you baptized in the name of Paul? I am thankful I baptized none of you except Crispus and Gaius, so that no one may say that you were baptized in my name.      vs. 11-15

Barfendogs likes the scriptures well enough, but not ones that get in his way. “It’s mind control, Tommy! A cult! ‘Don’t’ think for yourself; we’ll tell you what to think!’ That’s what they’re saying, Tommy! When’re you going to wake up?! When’re you going to free your head?! Better shut down this blog, Tommy, before they catch you! You‘re not allowed on the internet!” And I admit, even Tom Pearlsenswine seemed a little put out. He read the article over and over, grumbling as he read. I’m starting to worry about Pearlsenswine. You don’t think he’ll be the next to go bad, do you? With a name like Pearlsenswine, one never knows. He’s been engaged in top-secret Trinity research for years now. It seemed straightforwardand clear-cut at one time, but it just drags on and on.     (1 Jn 5:6,7)

Western society puts such a premium on independence, even to the point of belligerence, that any notion seen as “pulling in the reins” seems suspect, as if motivated by megalomania. But consider Ronald Sider’s observations about the evangelical community, a community which, he laments, makes a shambles of living the faith, though they do well at talking the faith. What causes does he identify?

Two are relevant. The first is today’s nirvana of independence, so prized by Barfendogs. It is anathema to the Christian congregation: “The notion - and practice - of an independent congregation with no structures of accountability to the larger body of Christ is simply heretical,” Sider writes in his book The Scandal of the Evangelical Conscience. “How can an independent “Bible church” claim to be biblical when its very refusal to submit to a larger church structure of accountability defies the essence of a biblical understanding of being the church?     Pg 111

Doesn’t that dovetail with Watchtower’s discouragement of meetings, literature, or web sites which are not produced or organized under its own oversight?

The second is what Sider calls “parachurch” organizations, groups like the Billy Graham Crusade, the Youth for Christ, groups that transcend established church organization. They accomplish a lot of good, Sider feels, but they have no accountability, and thus provide an umbrella for the scandalous conduct Sider says is endemic in the evangelical community. “Frankly, I do not know how to solve this problem,” he admits.  Pg 112

The faithful and discreet slave does. But it takes guts to implement, and it earns them taunts and abuse from soreheads like Barfendogs. Are there even some evangelicals who join in with the catcalls?

So the Christian congregation adjusts to oversight from the parent Watchtower organization, which steps on the toes of a few (ouch!) whose motives not only are not bad but are often noble, yet whose unchecked projects might, over time, lead to the mess Mr. Sider describes. But now they are being checked. Nobody is saying not to do research. But there is a clear distinction regarding plain old research and organized efforts to augment the direction given congregations today. Even this (gulp) blog comes in for soul-searching. But at present, the author consoles himself that it’s contents do not match what is being discouraged. This blog is not a collaborating spot for Witnesses, there’s no “new truths” being unearthed, and posts that touch on religion are essentially no different than what the author might say in person were he to show up on your doorstep. (which he someday might do) Alas, there may be some overlap, however.


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)