Mongeville and Big Pharma, with Guest Appearance of Peter Breggin. I Take it All Back What I’ve Said About France

Huh! Here’s something I’ve never seen before. Is it just me? It’s at least everyone in France.

American detective shows are too violent and/or banal to watch, so sometimes we opt for foreign offerings. This is how my wife and I  came to enjoy Manara, an Italian series. It is delightful, witty, empathetic, visually stunning—but with one major caveat. You can forget about any Hebrews 13:4 notion of the marriage bed being undefined. That doesn’t mean you’ll see anything super steamy but the idea is ever-present.

Anyhow, that’s just background. 

The next show up is the French detective show Mongeville, running 8 years, in which a retired judge teams up with a perky woman police officer. So far, no hanky-panky, nor does the tone seem set for any, but there are many episodes to go. We are just at the 4th. Neither of these shows, at least by American standards, are particularly violent. It’s hard to do a murder mystery without someone getting killed, but there’s no gore. It’s just a premise for some cute interaction of characters. Think, in the case of Manara, Jim pining after Pam, as in Office, then Pam pining after Jim, yet miscommunications and mishaps always occur so that they cannot connect.

It is episode 4 of Mongeville season 1 that introduced something new to me. A sub theme of early episodes is that Judge Mongeville’s daughter disappeared long ago and he is trying to track her down. In episode 4, he interviews her old med school teacher. That teacher relates how the girl was brilliant, so brilliant that pharmaceutical recruiters hired her for one of their ‘missionary’ projects. When she saw what was going on there, she was so repulsed and in some way so fearful lest her response bring trouble to her family, that she disappeared into yet another country.

See, pharmaceutical companies test their products, but they test them in developing countries so that “if anything goes wrong” there’s no one to complain about it. The statement is made matter-of-factly by the daughter’s med school teacher, not with the air of being shocking, but with the air that everyone knows about this, companies all do it, and if any of them do not, they quickly fall behind the competitive curve of those who do.

Well, I’d never seen it—such a statement made on a popular TV entertainment show. Shows featuring ‘rouge doctors’ are a dime a dozen. Occasionally even a ‘rouge’ medical company, a bad actor in an otherwise beneficent industry, enters into plot, but never have I seen a show that sets forth the entire industry as villainous. 

It reminded me of something in Peter and Ginger Breggin’s book, COVID-19 and the Global Predators, over the campaign to discredit cheap and effective anti-Covid drugs so that people would have no choice but to pine for a vaccine. He tells of one of the studies embraced as proof the drugs were no good in which patients were administered those drugs at known toxic levels so as to achieve the desired results: 39% died.

“The Brazilian authors of this study must have known they were treading on dangerous territory by purposely causing many deaths. Coming from a poor area of the country, they may have felt they could get away with sacrificing their patients without local reprisals. They simply gave lethal doses of chloroquine to patients to prove that the drug and its derivative hydroxychloroquine were too dangerous to treat COVID-19.”

It was shocking to me read this statement. Not unbelievable, because if you’ve been around the block a few times, few things are unbelievable. But shocking it was, completely new to me. Yet here is Mongeville in effect saying. “So what else is new? It’s just taking what we all know happens to next level.”

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I take back all I have ever said about France. I even take back what my right wing brother said about them during the French Fries / Freedom Fries brouhaha a few decades back, when my globetrotting cousin complained that she could no longer use the word gay because the homosexuals had commandeered it, and I said, ‘She’s just mad that she can no longer refer to Gay Paree.

“Why can’t she?” my right wing brother said. 

I take it all back.

I even forgive (temporally) that France is the birthplace of FECRIS, that government-sponsored anti-cult agency that has greatly expanded the definition of cult to include most anything that is not firmly secular. You know, the agency that doubtless was behind that’s government imposing a 60% tax on Witness donations in a clear attempt to stamp out the faith, reversed with damages only many years later by the European Court of Human Rights. You know, the agency whose Russian vice president has labeled Witnesses extremists in that land of the bear and has caused them to suffer serious harm—even jail time and torture. Jehovah’s Witnesses will not take life under any circumstances—how extremist can they be?

Even, whereas devotees of the Enlightment swooned with ecstasy when the power of the people escalated into the American revolution and representative government, but they cringed when the other result of that Enlightenment, the French Revolution, descended into murderous mayhem consuming even its early supporters for not being ‘dedicated’ enough—I overlook that too.

I overlook all of it on account of the French show exposing the wiles of Big Pharma.

“But don’t forget. ..” Abraham Lincoln related the tearjerker tale of a man on his deathbed making peace with his adversary. “If I get better, that grudge still stands!”

That doesn’t entirely fit but it does give me opportunity to relate a favorite Lincoln anecdote. 

******  The bookstore

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What if Atheists Had Learned Accurate Bible Teachings First? Would They Still Have Gone Atheist?

Q: In Bart Ehrman new book, it seems he ...wants to find a way to believe in the afterlife...most of his writings deal with the exploits of noncanon material or the early church fathers understanding of Hades, Sheol.

Bart comes from an evangelical background. In his blog, he speaks poignantly of the tragedy of losing his faith, something that happened once he began to examine the Bible through “critical thinking.” 

He never had a firm foundation to stand on. I would lose my faith, too, if I had to uphold all the nonsense that is part and parcel of church teaching. One can almost feel sorry for him—but one does not, because he does not feel sorry for himself. He has a good gig going—top selling author, nifty website with a paywall that donates to charity, a reputation that prompts the Great Courses Lecture series to engage him as a professor, chair of a university religion department, where he destroys the faith of his students—but since it was founded mostly on the doctrines of churches, it was barely defensible in the first place. No, he has a good gig. Nobody has asked me to chair a Great Courses series.

If not atheist, he certainly is hard-agnostic, unless he has had a recent change of heart. I often wonder what would have happened if those now atheist had been presented accurate Christian teachings first—would they have gone atheist in that case? A naive me once assumed that the answer would be no. 

Sometimes it has worked that way, but these are crazy times, and if you keep up with atheist writings, you find that they are likely to detest JWs most of all! It does not help that JWs have “accurate” Bible teachings. The allure of breaking free from any “control” is just too enticing to be countered by a fresh look at Bible teachings. There is no way that those on the “cramped and narrow road” are not going to be derided as “cult” members by those on the broad and spacious one. This is so predictable that I kick myself for not having predicted it long before—it is so obvious. 

To break free of “control” holds irresistible appeal today, and the atheists add to the list of who does it (and even put foremost) those who would claim to represent God, as our brothers do, and they lambasted them for “controlling”  people by that means. You might think they would look upon Witnesses with admiration for such things as eliminating racism among their midst, or not engaging in physical violence on any account—least of all that of the government trying to sign them up for the latest war.

Alas, to them, JWs are the worst of the lot, because most churches have watered down “speaking in God’s name” to “God works in mysterious ways,” and have pretty much learned to roll with whatever happens, being content to add a smiley “God” emoji to events. Most have made their peace with the world—they seek to hopefully modify it for the better. Atheists are vested in the world even more so, and think the view of JWs far too extreme—even “murderous”—that God means to replace it. 

From the ranks of atheists come those most likely to present the picture that obedience “to men” is essential if you are a JW, how they are under enormous pressure always from top leaders, and how they terrify children with expectations of Armaggedon. (How about when Newsweek surveys the world scene, and presents the magazine cover “What the *@#! Is Next?” I countered to one of them.)

The “obedience” that JWs are expected to render is no more than following directions of the teacher, the coach, the mentor, the employer, the counselor, the traffic cop—something that was once the most unremarkable thing in the world, but is now presented as selling out one’s soul. JWs have not changed—the world has. One may look no farther than it’s collective response to Covid 19 to see what chaos follows. Mark Benioff, the Salesforce founder, the fellow who purchased Time Magazine, has stated that if everyone had masked up for just three weeks, the virus would have been defeated. Of course, this is what JWs have done, because being obedient to authority is not an issue for them, but the illness is out of control today because the world ridicules obedience and challenges the authority of any who would advance it. The very first sign that this would escalate to disaster occurred very early on—when toilet paper sold out, despite knowledge that the virus doesn’t hit people that way. I told Hassan, the CultExpert, he of the“FreedomofMind” hashtag, that my people have behaved far more responsibly than his—you don’t think some will use their “freedom of mind” to tell the government where they can go with their “rules?”

It doesn’t matter if the world’s obsession with “independence” ends in disaster—as it surely will—as it is with Covid 19. As one tweet puts it: “Folks want to believe this pandemic is nearing an end because they’re tired of living in a broken world. But I fear we are just at the beginning, and that we’ve squandered the first six months with our bickering.” You know they will squander the next six months, too—you just know it. That is the way the world works.

To be free of “control” is just too strong a pull for anything to be otherwise. Those on the broad and spacious road—that’s what makes it broad and spacious, ones on it listen to no one but themselves—will invariably present those on the cramped and narrow road as manipulated by a cult. That should have occurred to me long ago.

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American’s Frontline Doctors and the Canceled JW Conventions—Tying Together Two Topics that You Wouldn’t Think Could Be Tied Together At All

When I heard the truncated clip, I was disappointed. It makes our guy look like a religious nut. “It’s a modern-day miracle,” he says, seemingly his lead-off line about the Jehovah’s Witnesses move to present their annual summer conventions online.

It’s not a modern-day miracle. It’s a technological accomplishment—an impressive one, to be sure—after all, it involves 500 languages, done on a crash basis, and broadcast worldwide—but it is not a “miracle.” It is not Jesus walking on water. Forgive me if I admit that when I first saw the clip with that as his lead statement, I supposed that the man was a nut—an over enthusiastic zealot who had drunk too much of his own Kool-Aid.

Yet, do I not come across the entire interview several days later to find it of a completely different flavor? It turns out that he is not that way at all—his remarks were framed to make him sound a fanatic by a media that feels it their duty to do so when dealing with matters of faith, something that is not their forte. He never meant the “miracle” remark literally. It’s a gush of enthusiasm such as anyone will have upon completing an overwhelming project. It is Neil Armstrong saying “one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.” It is a throw-off line of hyperbole that comes 5 minutes into the interview—not the lead-off pronouncement of the truncated version.

This is so infuriating, but also so typical. Everyone will say something in the course of 15 minutes that can be misconstrued by those of another agenda—who simply can’t get their heads around a different point of view or may even be trying to deliberately sabotage it—to make the person look like a nut.

I almost wonder if something similar is now at work with the doctor from Cameroon recommending the hydroxychloroquine drug for Covid 19. There were ten doctors who banded together for a public statement before the steps of the Supreme Court, but because this one (Stella Immanuel) has made remarks in her past about demons, and the others presumably have not, she becomes the sole media focus to discredit the lot of them. The other nine are sent out to pasture.

I don’t often speak on my blog of demons, nor of the devil. Much of my target audience chokes at mention of God, so should I really send them into orbit with posts of the devil? Besides, humans are perfectly capable of doing evil things all on their own—a line of demarcation is hard to draw.

But neither do I think someone should be pilloried for bringing up the topic, much less when it has nothing to do with the story at hand. If anything, I am the expedient chicken, not her. Anyone who knows anything about Africa knows that belief in interaction with the spirits is well-nigh universal. She is to be expected not to pick up on it? Let the thinkers today get a handle on evil—even eradicate it a little bit—before they go ridiculing those who go off their materialistic script.

At root, though the doctor and our guy may be poles apart, the reason to trash them is the same, or at least it is a kissing cousin: they are both serious about things not endorsed by today’s prevailing atheistic materialistic view. In her case, there may be more to the story—something that is deliberately discredited. In our case, there certainly is. Us first:

Robert Hendricks, spokesperson for Jehovah’s Witnesses, speaks of how both the door-to-door ministry and the annual conventions have been suspended for the first time in history. The reasons are telling—that of “respect for life” and “love of neighbor.” Probably no one has more potential to spread the Covid 19 virus than Jehovah’s Witnesses in their old model. Not only do they routinely approach people, but their organization is the largest convention-holding one in the world—people converge sometimes by the tens of thousands for events held in stadiums. We just couldn’t see ourselves doing that this year, Hendricks said. With a lead-in time of only about a month, Witnesses put the entire event online to be streamed worldwide.

Their organization had gone into lockdown even before governments began to require it. “Just because you can drive 75 mph in some areas doesn’t mean that you should,” he stated. I told the CultExpert, he of the #freedomofmind hashtag, that “our” people were more responsible than his. Our people promptly and without fuss laid low—Covid 19 would be long gone by now if all were like them—but “his” people? You don’t think many of them will use their “freedom of mind” to tell the government what it can do with its rules?

Frankly, since media jumps all over churches that defy “science” by gathering, you would think they would praise to the heavens one that has set the example for being proactive. Yet, even when trying to compliment, they are hamstrung by a mindset that pronounces religion outmoded. Even as the New York Times covers the socially responsible move, (that of suspending the door-to-door ministry, not that of the conventions, which came later), they take for granted that it is done only for the sake of appearances. The decision “followed anguished discussions at Watchtower headquarters with leaders deciding March 20 that knocking on doors would leave the impression that members were disregarding the safety of those they hoped to convert,” as though the safety itself doesn’t mean a hill of beans to them. “Members are called on to share scriptures in person with nonmembers,” it wrote. Well, in fact they are called to do it, but it is by the scriptures themselves, and not the commands of HQ, as they like to frame it. “Now if I am declaring the good news, it is no reason for me to boast, for necessity is laid upon me. Really, woe to me if I do not declare the good news!” writes the apostle at 1 Corinthians 9:16. Why do these materialistic ones not just say that the Bible itself is a “cult manual” and be done with it?

As to the 500 languages (1000 in print): the interview branched into this as the newsman asked some questions—it turns out that his mom is a Witness, and he thanked Hendricks for keeping her safe. The languages feat can be done because there is no profit motive, Hendricks said. That’s why no one else even comes close—Google, Apple, Amazon—no one. “There’s no end to what can be done if there is not a profit motive,” he said.

A cynical me says that he will probably be fired for going so far “off-script.” Naw—I don’t really think he will be, but if it is like the Cameroon doctor, he could be. She and her fellow doctors were promptly muzzled on social media for “spreading misinformation.” Will the News13 reporter be accused of “enabling” it as well?

Her turn: A major study of the Henry Ford Healthcare System in Detroit finds that the drug hydroxychloroquine is extremely effective. Why it is trashed as it is, I will never know. But since it is dirt cheap, and since the President has recommended it, it is hard not to think that either or both or these facts suggest possible reasons. 

By the time, the Henry Ford study was released, media had already reached the verdict that the drug was no good. This was based upon an earlier study published in Lancet that said hydroxychloroquine was ineffective, and in fact, even dangerous. However, Lancet later retracted their article. The reason they retracted it is that it was of a study that had not been submitted to peer review. The reason it had not been submitted to peer review is that it would have failed—it was a very sloppy study, sabotaged in numerous ways. The reason it was taken up by the media anyway, despite being so sloppy, is that it discredited Trump, who first said he liked the stuff and later that he even took it. Everything is politicized today—everyone gets into the fray of battling over who will rule the world.

Hydroxychloroquine has been around forever, a mainstay of treatment for several ills. It would have been run off the road long ago were it so dangerous. It is extremely cheap—another reason to attack it from an entirely different quarter—Remdesivir, a competing treatment, costs $1000 per dose! Does the cheaper drug have side effects? Just listen to the side effects of drugs relentlessly hawked on TV today—it is enough to scare your socks off. Cardiologist Dr. William O’Neill, medical director at the Henry Ford Health System in Detroit, Michigan, director of the Detroit study said: “I've never seen science [so] politicized in 40 years of practice.”

 

 

 

 

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Brother Glock and the Woo Factor - Part 2

For those who don’t know, ‘woo’ is a derisive term originated by the scientist/philosopher/atheist/cheerleaders. It refers to how they, the intelligent people, will run something past the dummies that the latter can’t understand and so attribute to the supernatural. “Woooo,” they exclaim. There is some overlap of scientists with scientist/philosopher/atheist/cheerleaders but the two are not the same. Plenty of scientists just go about doing science and see no contradiction with believing in God. Science is a tool for understanding, but it is not the tool for understanding.
 
The scientist/philosopher/atheist/cheerleaders kid themselves in their supposed enlightenment—just like the intrepid explorer did when he suddenly found himself surrounded by primitive cannibals! He pulled a lighter from his pocket, flicked it, and a low flame emerged. The astonished natives gasped ‘Woo! Woo!’ and fell back. “MAGIC!!” the explorer said in a deep voice. “It must be,” the chief said. “That’s the first time we’ve ever seen one light on the first try!”

So Vomodog thinks he has “won” with the admission that the Covid update (#4) is just good human advice? He thinks that it proves his case somehow—to win an admission that the Governing Body is not drawing on woo? I never thought that they were in this instance. Nor, I doubt, did many. Nor, as likely as not, did Brother Glock, who gave the talk that started this ball rolling.

Here is a statement from Harry Cheadle, in NewRepublic.com: “The current moment [of responding to Covid 19] is demonstrating just how far away we are from being able to come together to solve a planetary crisis. The pandemic is a test, and we’re failing it.

Why is his statement true? Because you can’t get people to agree on anything. Propose a course, and find yourself lambasted by those advocating just the opposite. The Governing Body is the only entity that can issue an update of Covid 19 without my saying, “What is their real motive here?” 

There is a public talk on making sound decisions that recognizes it is often not so crucial that you have made this or that decision, but it is crucial that you follow through on whatever you decide. This the greater world is unable to do. It is the paralysis of everyone challenging everyone else that collectively delivers the Cheadle verdict that “we’re failing the crisis.”

Jehovah’s Witnesses aren’t failing it, and it is because of completely human factors that they enjoy and the greater world does not. Witnesses have the ability to yield. They don’t insist on their own way. They do not have to “question authority” on every piddly thing. They trust leadership. They see that direction given obviously has their interests at heart, that it is not too onerous, that it allows for individual family headship. It allows that the circumstances of one family will not be that of another, and doesn’t try to tell them all what to do, even as it sets a greater overall theme of caution. In contrast, the direction of human leaders during these Covid days has ranged from draconian to complete laissez faire.

“Well, that’s just good sound thinking,” Vomodog says, “based upon Bible verses that show good sound thinking. We could have done that.” But the fact is that he didn’t. And in fact, he can’t—because he has sided among those with a societal inability to agree, a societal inability to compromise, and a societal inability to endure delayed gratification. Return to the fold, and he will find it again, but it’s not to be found in the greater world that he has chosen.

In fact, I have no problem if Brother Glock does think that a woo factor is at work, nor would I ever rule out that there might be—it is just that you can’t “prove” it in the scientific sense. But the fact is, you can discard all the woo, and still have the greater argument. You still have Vic Vomodog swimming in a chaotic cesspool of argument, indecision, and waffling. You still have him, like an insane Jeremiah, at the bottom of a miry cistern, trying to persuade Ebed-Melech to come down and join him. You still have him trying to sell you the bill of goods that your life would improve if you would just step over to the morass that is his.

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“Do We Really Need a Hashtag #DontKillGrandma?” Said the CBS Doctor.

The reason that the Governing Body can say “follow the direction of secular authority” and still have that count as spiritual guidance is that (with some exaggeration) Jehovah’s Witnesses can do it, and non-believers cannot. It’s not monolithic, of course, but as a system of proportions the above  can be said, as long as you qualify it an admission of exaggerating. It becomes hyperbole—the most effective of literary innovations—Jesus used them all the time—its effectiveness inferred with the observation that people of common sense get the point and people without do not.

“Following the direction of secular authority” in this case, entails putting up with delayed gratification. Those within the Christian congregation are better at that than those without. It entails the willingness to obey. Those within the Christian congregation are better at that than those without. It entails the ability to put love of neighbor above self-interest. Those within the Christian congregation are better at that than those without. “Do we really need to have a hashtag, #DontKillGrandma? said the CBS medical doctor recently. Yes—they do, if present trends are anything to go by. Witnesses don’t, but they do. This “proves” that the Witness organization has done well imparting Bible principles into its members, since there are plenty of churches today fingered as spreaders of the virus. 

Jehovah’s Witnesses have put themselves among company in which peer-pressure is going to nudge them in the safer direction. Non-Witnesses, many of them, have put themselves in a place where their peer-pressure will nudge them in just the opposite way. Do not think that peer-pressure is nothing. It is the reason that we look at our photos of yesteryear and marvel at how we ever could have thought those dorky styles did anything for us.

I even told the CultExpert, the one with the hashtag #FreedomOfMind, that my people are, by and large, more responsible than his. You don’t think that some will use their “freedom of mind” to tell the government what it can do with its regulations? 

Vic Vomodog called on me the other day, trying once again to entice me into his sinister cause. I protested that he was wearing no mask, but he laughed at me! I told him how foolhardy he was, but he said that the danger is past—our state is one in which the rates peaked long ago, and are in steady decline. I pleaded with him, yet he waved me down with derisive hand gestures, just like opposers do in the dramas. However, the moment he stepped onto the public sidewalk, a truck loaded with emergency Covid 19 supplies bound for Texas jumped the curb and knocked him into the trees! And I can’t even visit him in the hospital—they’re not permitting that yet.

 

 

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“Just Another Proof that Jehovah is With the Governing Body”

“The good guidance from Jehovah”s Organization during this pandemic is just another proof that Jehovah is with the Governing Body,” said Brother Glockentin. But Vic Vomodog, that perennial apostate, wailed about ‘proof’—how does Glock know what it proves?

Change ‘proof’ to ‘another indication’ and the whole problem goes away. This is much ado about nothing.

As a result of the Governing Body’s direction, Witnesses are all skewed to be COVID 19-cautious. I don’t know what it “proves” but it sure doesn’t prove that they don’t know what they’re doing. The counsel given reflects the wisest balance: ‘Each family head is responsible for his or her own family’ they say, ‘and what is good for one family may not be good for another’. So they are ‘not telling anyone what to do.’ Yet by their own 3-fold advice cord of 1) love of neighbor, 2) obey secular authorities, and 3) don’t be casual about this virus, they nudge all in the direction of the greatest preservation of life.

I don’t know how serious the virus is in the greater scheme of things, and it seems that it will be impossible to tell. Every source spins the data their own way to fit their own cause. I had my annual physical (“Blood pressure’s a little high—you haven’t been on the internet arguing with fatheads, have you?”) and asked the doctor how he and his practice were holding up. “They should have never shut down,” he muttered about New York State. “They didn’t follow the science.” Following the science has now become a buzzword phrase that anyone uses to lambaste the other side. Only the Governing Body can make an announcement about Covid without my saying: “I wonder what their real motive is.”

The counsel becomes more important than the disease itself, for it gives uniform guidance to sail through uncharted and turbulent waters. If Brother Glock want to say that ewents prove God’s backing, I can say, “Well, ‘indicate’ might have been more scientifically precise,” but otherwise I do not lose my cookies over it.

The counsel may prove increasing providential. Pressures from Covid spill over into ever more indications of societal breakdown. Big businesses are saved, as the small fry is wiped out—the economic forces unleashed by Covid 19 will have more repercussions than Covid itself. Ditto for the chaotic unrest unleashed in the wake of BLM protests. No matter who is elected in November, the other side will not accept it. The world is a powder keg ready to blow—and those who think that Brother Glock’s use of ‘prove’ is the REAL issue will think it right down to when the earth swallows them up. 

It may just be that we are soon to experience another application of “Go, my people, enter your inner rooms, and shut your doors behind you...until the wrath has passed by.” And should that be the case, I won’t be upset at anything that Brother Glock says it ‘proves.’ I’ll just be glad I took his counsel and cancelled my subscription to The Grousing Times.

...See Part 2: “Do We Really Need a Hashtag, #DontKillGrandma?

Defending Jehovah’s Witnesses with style from attacks... in Russia, with the book ‘I Don’t Know Why We Persecute Jehovah’s Witnesses—Searching for the Why’ (free).... and in the West, with the book, 'In the Last of the Last Days: Faith in the Age of Dysfunction'

Woodstock and the Pandemic—Were We Crazy Then or Are We Crazy Now?

If you are a baby-boomer and you come across an article about Woodstock, you drop everything and you devour it. You swoon and sigh about the ‘summer of love.’ You lament that life somehow veered off that wonderful path—so full of promise. This is all very frustrating to me because I don’t think it is that way at all, but it is what it is. The tea kettle will boil dry and the metal turn white-hot while you are transported back to the day.

The water was long-gone, but my tea kettle had only reached red-hot when I came across a remarkable fact about Woodstock, from an article in the New York Post. It was held in the midst of a pandemic!—during the in-between lull, the type we are said to be in now with COVID19. The first wave had died down, and the second was yet to come. Before it was all over, H3N2, the ‘Hong Kong flu’ would take 100,000 lives in the United States and from one to four million worldwide. Yet the Woodstock show went on. It is described by an attendee who spent 4 days covered with mud and dreamed most of all of taking a hot shower.

The article is entitled, “Why American life went on as normal during the killer pandemic of 1969.” The New York Times described that illness as “one of the worst in the nation’s history.” So it was not a nothing-burger. From the article:

“Both [COVID19 and H3N2] viruses spread quickly and cause upper respiratory symptoms including fever, cough and shortness of breath. They infect mostly adults over 65 or those with underlying medical conditions....During both pandemics, horror stories abounded — from the bodies stored in refrigerated trucks in New York last month to corpses stored in subway tunnels in Germany during the H3N2 outbreak. Those who had H3N2 and survived describe a health battle that sounds eerily similar to COVID. “The coughing and difficulty breathing were the worst but it was the lethargy that kept me in bed,” said one person who survived it.

A few schools shut down for lack of teachers, but otherwise—“It was like the pandemic hadn’t even happened if you look for it in history books,” [one person recalls]. “I am still shocked at how differently people addressed — or maybe even ignored it — in 1968 compared to 2020.” The virus rarely made front page news then, whereas all other news has been suspended today for coverage of COVID 19.

Now, what are we to make of this? Were we crazy then, or are we crazy now? Did we drive the economy over a cliff for nothing? Or should we have driven it over a cliff back then?

“Fact-checking” is in vogue today. USAToday did that and pronounced the story true:

“The Woodstock festival of 1969 did occur amid a global pandemic and no stay at home orders were enforced. However, (1) the concept of social distancing was not yet accepted practice among public health experts and (2) the 1968 flu pandemic was not as deadly as other diseases. (3) Lawmakers also did not face serious public pressure to slow the virus, as (4) the nation's attention was focussed elsewhere. We rate this claim TRUE because it is supported by our research.” [inserted numerals mine]

It is possible to surmise that human wisdom today has enforced a cure that is far worse than the disease. Item 2 remains to be seen—thus far, COVID has claimed about 300,000 lives, and H3N2 up to 4 million—but it is not over yet and measures taken have undoubtedly reduced the spread. Items 1 and 3 might  turn out to be ludicrous examples of ‘human wisdom’ gone awry, inept as it is unyielding, and item 4 might have been a good thing—a circumstance that ensured worldwide economic depression did not occur in 1969 but had to wait until our time. Remember, economic depression is a serious matter in the Western world, but it mows them down like grass in the developing world.

The COVID disease is bad, but is the cure worse? Either scenario fits in with the Jehovah’s Witness narrative, but the second fits even better. Is COVID the deadliest plague since the Spanish flu of 100 years ago? Well, that certainly fits in with Luke 21:10-11, doesn’t it?

“Then he said to them: ‘Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be great earthquakes, and in one place after another food shortages and pestilences; and there will be fearful sights and from heaven great signs.’” Got it. The nations battle mightily and with all the tools of science, but even so they cannot halt the great woe. The scenario  ‘works’—in fits in with the end-time prophesy.

But the second scenario ‘works’ to a far greater degree: The nations guided by their human wisdom and veneration of ‘science’ might have taken a bad situation and made it twenty times worse, crashing down the facade of competent self-rule upon their heads. At least Sampson knew what he was doing—he wanted the grand house to crash upon him.

What is the play that we are watching today? What is the reason that God did not destroy the rebels of Eden? Every Witness of Jehovah knows it—He allowed them time to make good on their claim that independence from Him would turn out well. It is like the JW organization’s video of the snotty kid who insists he has a better way. The teacher hands him the chalk. The more spectacularly that kid fails, the more convincing the answer to his taunt. Thus it is that when Jehovah declares an end to the grand experiment of human self-rule, he need not indulge the next rebel who knows it all. “Distress will not rise up a second time,” the verse says.

As for Jehovah’s people, they are “those making use of the world [but] not using it to the full; for the scene of this world is changing.” They go light on what the world offers. They have simplified their lives. If some offerings are taken off the table, well—they can adapt because they never put their trust there to begin with. But those of the greater world are beside themselves as they see everything they have worked for and trusted in being stripped away. They are not “all in this together” because it affects some greatly and others hardly at all.

Much boils down to trust in leaders and there is little of it in the greater world. There is the expression ‘Never waste a crisis’ It is the suspicion that various parties are trying to bring in permanent societal changes under the guise of fighting a temporary woe that gets people riled. What amazes me is how people ‘are not open to any agreement,’ as the verse says, and the damage done by COVID may be done not so much by the virus itself but by the furor it unleashes as to how best deal with it.

 

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Defending Jehovah’s Witnesses with style from attacks... in Russia, with the book ‘I Don’t Know Why We Persecute Jehovah’s Witnesses—Searching for the Why’ (free).... and in the West, with the book, 'In the Last of the Last Days: Faith in the Age of Dysfunction'

Stardate 45836: Insulting Citizens via Billboard

‪“Captain’s Log, Stardate 45836: We have landed on this really strange planet, where public officials use technology to identify persons with ‘perfect faces for radio’ as they approach on the highway, and insult them through digital billboards”.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What is it that makes people that way? It has nothing to do with Jehovah’s Witnesses specifically—it is an attribute of persons in groups. Of science, Max Planck said: “A new scientific truth does not triumph by convincing its opponents and making them see the light, but rather because its opponents eventually die, and a new generation grows up that is familiar with it.” Someone rephrased it to: “Science advances one funeral at a time.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

.....

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

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

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

....

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

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

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

....

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

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A Judgment Message—What’s With That?

That meme floating about the internet that brothers will latch on to in a heartbeat—is it true?

A brother named Hermann who is a bus driver in Central Berlin overheard two passengers talking: "This virus is just the beginning. Something big is going to happen, something extremely worrying. The proof is right in front of us. There are no more Jehovah's Witnesses around. They are usually everywhere, at the train station, walking around, at every public place with their carts and magazines. And now, nothing. Mark my words, something big is coming." 

It’s not impossible that it really happened that way. The Jehovah’s Witness public ministry has been uninterrupted since its inception, so for it to be interrupted now—well, I can easily see how some might latch onto that as significant. On the other hand, our brothers are ever wont to dress up a story to add a pious twist to it. Perhaps what was said was: “Thank God those pain-in-the-neck Witnesses aren’t around anymore!” Time will tell.

At any rate, the JW organization puts forth no effort to make hay out of the pandemic. There is no effort to say: “Here it comes—it’s the Big One! We told you so!” No. Not a bit of it. (probably confounding the anti-cultists) Instead, its lead post is about how to cope with isolation and loneliness, with so many practical links as to win praise from mental health people—for it is mental health that is under assault today.

I don’t know about you, but it suggests for me some things about the ‘judgment message.‘ If you were going to launch an unprovoked ‘judgment message.’ wouldn’t now be a good time to do it, with a pandemic that nobody’s seen the like of for 100 years, that appears out of nowhere, that upends life worldwide, and that may crash the entire worldwide financial system—that greatest of all mountains that nonetheless has thus far proven as resilient as paper mache. Yet there is nothing but helpful pointers on coping with isolation, along with making use of the time to improve (or even begin) one’s spirituality.

The Regional Convention of 2016 made mention of a ‘judgment message.’ In one of the videos, we learned of how so-and-so gave out when he was too chicken to take part in that work. Maybe I hadn’t been paying attention, but for me it was the first specific reference in a long while—maybe ever. And—C’mon! face it—it’s hard to envision it per se. “Nyah Nyah—told ya so!”—no, I cannot picture it:

Good morning, sir. My companion and I have just stopped by to deliver a message of judgement. Brother Silhouette, would you read Revelation 23:5?”

“Yes....um, that’s Revelation 23:5: ‘Your goose is cooked.’”

“Thank you, Brother Silhouette. Now—would you like that goose well-done, medium, or rare?”

No, it just cannot be. There is reference in Revelation to hard-hitting judgements from God. And there is reference to the message that is good news to believers—that same message triggers hostility in non-believers because they take it as judgment. Paul speaks in 2 Corinthians 2:15 of those, himself included, who preach the good news: “For to God we are a sweet fragrance of Christ among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing; to the latter ones an odor of death leading to death, to the former ones a fragrance of life leading to life.” When malcontents went bonkers over the Governing Body’s first update of the pandemic, given in the person of Brother Lett—“How could they object to that?”—I had thought, it is not because they had read judgment into it?—even though that was not the intent of the message.

Maybe the ‘judgment message’ is something like that—reading judgment from the message that is good news for everyone else. But in view of the Regional video that seems to ramp it up a bit, combined with decidedly not going there in times of global plague, economic chaos, and governments hamstrung over how to cope—a scenario presents itself that what judgment message there is will be akin to the Witness organization’s telegram to Hitler: “Your ill- treatment of Jehovah’s witnesses shocks all good people of earth and dishonors God’s name. Refrain from further persecuting Jehovah’s witnesses; otherwise God will destroy you and your national party.”

 Maybe it will be something like that. It is a possibility that presupposes an attack upon those keeping faith, but then the Bible foretells just that scenario.

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‘Using’ the Pandemic to ‘Recruit’ - Sheesh! What is it With These Nutcases?

It must really confound those who accuse the JW organization of being a cult that few people are behaving better these days, or more reasonably, with more of an eye toward the public good. That #CultExpert tweets about how Jehovah’s Witnesses manipulate people, and I reply that their followers put his to shame for vanquishing COVID. Jehovah’s Witnesses immediately transferred all gatherings to Zoom and issued strong counsel to observe government-recommended social distancing—which our people will observe because they strive to be obedient. But his followers? Some will observe social distancing, no doubt—probably even most, but is his mission statement ‘Freedom of Mind’ really compatible with obedience to secular authority? You don’t think some will use their ‘freedom of mind’ to tell the government to buzz off—‘We’ll party on the beach if we feel like it!?’—thus spreading COVID far and wide?

Doubtless they expected ‘scare-mongering’—‘using’ the present crisis to scare new ones into the fold—and in fact, there have been accusations of that. But you really really have to stretch the point if you go there. The lead post on jw.org is the most socially responsible contribution imaginable, replete with suggestions on how to cope with isolation and resulting loneliness. With people beside themselves with anxiety, unable to cope in many cases, you don’t think that is a valuable contribution, perhaps THE most valuable? After all, if your psyche breaks down, all the physical relief in the world does you no good.

It reminds me of the verse on muzzling the talk of the ignorant ones by doing good. To be sure, hostile ones are still criticizing—but in doing so,  they are also plainly revealing their ignorance, and in some cases, their hate.

In fact, I don’t quite go there with the CultExpert, for some of the groups he monitors really DO seem pretty strange—so I don’t go there, though I do think about it—I almost want to say: “LET them join a cult if it helps them get through this and save their sanity! What are you offering in lieu—that we should put our hope in the next crop of politicians? Haven’t we been down that road countless times before?”

Affirming some cult idiot’s charge that I am ‘using’ the pandemic to ‘recruit,’ (to anyone concerned about that, I reply that on the 200th contact I will ask if they want to convert and then they can say ‘no’—in the meantime, it’s just conversation—don’t worry about it) I have many times tweeted that lead post to persons, sometimes in response to a specific plea like with Mr. Fiend, and sometimes I just throw it out there—with good results in both cases. Sometimes the tweets are retweeted. Unless you are a snarling ‘ain’t-cultist,’ people do not misunderstand—they know that you are trying to help.

As always, you tailor your tweet to the person. To persons who appear secular, you say (this one was lamenting a suicide she had read about): “It is a terrible thing. Healthy people struggle when their routine is uprooted, let alone persons unwell to begin with. I sent this to someone who tweeted that he was frankly losing it. There is a spiritual component to it, but it is mostly on combatting isolation and loneliness”—and I attach the link.

To someone decidedly irreligious, you might say: “As a suggestion—nothing more—here is a series of posts on how to cope with isolation and loneliness. Upended routines are driving everyone up a tree. My turn is probably next. Like Bob Dylan: ‘The riot squad is restless, they need somewhere to go.’” I like to play the Dylan card—it doesn’t mean that you have to. You also don’t exempt yourself—hence the ‘my turn is probably next,’

My new pinned tweet is: “With #mentalhealth under assault and even balanced people buckling under the stress, I can’t imagine a better read than this one on coping with isolation and loneliness from #JehovahsWitnesses,” as I include a link to the post.

Note the hashtags. Ages ago my daughter said to me: “They’re hashtags, Dad, not crosstags.” Hashtags are fair game on social media, whereas tagging individuals directly is generally considered rude, unless you know full well that they will welcome it. Hashtags will draw in anyone else who monitors the subject—as an experiment, enter a hashtag anything on social media to see what comes up. You can even use it as your own filing system if you choose a hashtag unique enough.

It can, however backfire. If the hashtag is of any controversial topic, it can bring in people who want to argue, even insult. In the case of Jehovah’s Witnesses, there are disgruntled former members—‘apostates’—that can be attracted—in fact, they almost surely will be. “Oh, yeah,” you can mutter. “They’ll come alright. As surely as flies to dung, they will come!” But you should not say this because, while you are comparing apostates to flies, you are also comparing yourself to dung—so you should seek another metaphor.

My #mentalhealth hashtag drew in some mental health people, some of whom expressed great appreciation. But true to warning, my #jehovahswitnesses hashtag drew in some ‘apostates.’

“The rather large elephant in the paragraph [about the comfort JWs offer] is the Jehovah’s Witness shunning policy.”

But I replied (in three tweets):

“There is hardly an issue here. Those who would trigger a ‘shunning policy’ are those for whom, at the present time, the last thing in the world they would want is to abide by the principles of those who wrote the article. Even so, they are welcome to take from it what they will.”

“The thoughts expressed in the article are non-denominational, offered freely to all, even those on the outs at present with JWs. It’s meant as a public service. One need not take it. One can always put trust in the politicians, medical staff, and economists to fix matters.”

I looked at the detractor’s profile and discovered that she was one who was trying to torpedo the JW organization’s status as a charitable religious organization, something that they plainly are:

“In fact, it is an excellent post for consideration of the @CharityComms, though not written for that reason. Look, nobody is everything to everyone. But they will recognize that we are well past the time for nursing grudges—not with C19 threatening the mental health of the planet.”

It shut her up! I couldn’t believe it! It is unheard of! ‘Apostates’ never ever EVER give up—I’ve had to block some—and yet she gave up. There is no finer proof of 1 Peter 2:15 than that: “For it is the will of God that by doing good you may silence the ignorant talk of unreasonable men.”

Defending Jehovah’s Witnesses with style from attacks... in Russia, with the book ‘I Don’t Know Why We Persecute Jehovah’s Witnesses—Searching for the Why’ (free).... and in the West, with the book, 'In the Last of the Last Days: Faith in the Age of Dysfunction'