Cults—Does One Prefer the Broad Road Leading Off to Destruction or the Narrow One?

Everyone in my area recently received a copy of the Epoch Times in the mail, along with an invitation to subscribe. “What is this garbage?!” my liberal followers on Twitter sputtered, outraged at it’s pro-Trump outlook. “I took it straight out to the trash!” So I told them what it was and where it came from. The Epoch Times represents the publishing arm of the Falun Gong religious sect, much as, I suppose, the Christian Science Monitor represents the publishing arm of the Christian Scientists, but not as the Watchtower represents the publishing arm of Jehovah’s Witnesses. The Christian Science Monitor and the Epoch Times are full-scale newspapers with corresponding digital outlet. The Watchtower is a religious journal that rarely even names and of the players on the world stage. 

As for me—naw—I skimmed that Epoch Times some, but no more—the articles were very long and seemed nothing I hadn’t heard before. Not putting my trust in princes, there is a limit to how much I will delve into identifying the good guys vs the bad guys. There all bad guys to one degree or another—all who would advocate rule by man rather than by God.

Now, I know next to nothing about Falun Gong, but those who wish to discredit their newspaper will do so on the basis that they are “weird.” Are they secretive? Are they uncomfortably effective in spreading their message? Do they withdraw from “normal” society? Do they learn to lead “double-lives?” Do they mislead the regular people as to their true mission? Do they have some offbeat (and therefore ‘dark’) beliefs about what the future holds? Do they have members who die because of not embracing all that modern medicine has to offer? Do they even have an elaborate “compound” in New York State? Are they non-violent, but still a cause for concern, since “all cults are non-violent until they are not”—that cute line from the #cultexpert—in his wacko world, the more peaceful people are, the greater the cause for concern.

When I see how Jehovah’s Witnesses are slammed in the media as a “cult,” do I imagine that all the other “cults” are getting a fair shake? 

In TrueTom vs the Apostates! I wrote of the Moonies something to the effect of: Is is possible to lead a fulfilled life as a Moonie? They’ll have to make the case for it, not me. However, if the “mainstream” and “normal” life resulted in happiness, fulfillment, and provided answers to the deep questions that vex people, none of these cults would succeed in people giving them the time of day. Let them deliver a little bit before they condemn everyone else. 

I might even prefer committed religionists to the vanilla people of today because you can “talk shop” with them. You are not faced with, as we are here in the US, people in a panic over discussing a Bible verse, people scared of going off the mainstream of conventional goals for fear of where that might take one, people who do not roll their eyes when you speak of what a verse might mean, and people who do not distrust your explaining a verse by appealing to another one—as though they already indulged you by listening to one, and what more could you possibly want?

As far as I can see, joining one of these “cults” is getting off the “broad road leading to destruction,” in favor of the “narrow road that leads to destruction.” (Matthew 7:13) They both lead to destruction, one no more than the other. I don’t view “cultists” as a threat to people any more than the “normal” life is a threat to people. 

Broad road or narrow road, the one factor that indicates they “lead off to destruction” is their rooting for various leaders of the world to succeed and for other ones to fail. They are part of the world when they do that. The “cramped and narrow road that leads to life” is marked by not being part of the world—not claiming that this or that human is God’s gift to humanity, not claiming that this or that leader must go down, but taking a neutral attitude towards them. “Pray for the king,” Paul writes to Timothy. “That way maybe he’ll keep out of our hair.” That is as “involved” as the religion that is true to God gets with regard to this world’s political structure of good guys and bad guys. Anything else, be it Falun GOne or conventional media, is equally part of the world in my eyes. Your “eyes may be opened” when you leave the Falun Gong, but it is only so they can be blinded by another source rooting for this world.

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With Regard to Religion, if You Know What You’re Talking About, You’re Biased.

The strange dynamic that is reality in “news” today is that if you are a member of a cause, you are biased and thus not reliable as a source. You would think that those with experience would be the first ones consulted, but they are the last. It is a skewed approach that really only applies with regard to religious views—with anything else, membership in a cause does not interfere significantly with their ‘expertise’—but it does with religion.

However, you cannot stay neutral with regard to the “word of God” because it “pierces even to the dividing of soul and spirit, and ...is able to discern thoughts and intentions of the heart,” says Hebrews 4:12. It separates people, either “for” or “against.”

The “for” will be counted as biased under today’s system of news, and thus discounted. The “against” will not get the sense of it—whatever they say will miss the lion’s share of what matters. They will be like the “physical man” of 1 Corinthians 2:14 who “does not accept the things of the spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; and he cannot get to know them, because they are examined spiritually.”

As for the opposite of the physical man who “cannot get to know” things of which he tries to report?—“the spiritual man examines all things, but he himself is not examined by any man.” So the only one who can report accurately is dismissed as biased in favor of the one who can’t possibly come to know what he is talking about. Is that a great system, or what?

It doesn’t matter what is said, as much as it matters who says it. This rule plays out time and again. From the German concentration camps prior to and during WWII, Jehovah’s Witnesses, who preceded the far more numerous Jews, smuggled out detailed diagrams of those camps. Those diagrams were published in the Watchtower—and dismissed by more respectable outlets as Time Magazine because they were not deemed credible. It turned out that only Jehovah’s Witnesses had “the scoop.”

The rule played out once more when Gunnar Samuelsonn, an evangelistic researcher, published that Jesus had not been put to death on a cross but on an upright stake  He received his 15 minutes of fame—his place in the academic community solidly cemented. Jehovah’s Witnesses have said the same for well over a century, only to be told to shut up since they didn’t go to college—what could they possibly know?

Can the Falun Gong make the same claim—that if the “right people” do not say something, it means nothing? They will have to state their own case—not me. For all I know, they are the nutcakes that people make them out to be, but when I see how the media butchers stories of Jehovah’s Witnesses, I do not assume that other “new religions” are given a fair shake. (“New religion” is the scholarly term for movements a century or two old. The term is preferred to “cult” for being non-incendiary, and those who prefer “cult” reject it for exactly that reason.)

Everyone in my area recently received a copy of the Epoch Times in the mail, along with an invitation to subscribe. “What is this garbage?!” my liberal followers on Twitter sputtered, outraged at it’s pro-Trump outlook. “I took it straight out to the trash!” So I told them what it was and where it came from. As for me—naw—I skimmed a little bit, but no more—the articles were very long and seemed nothing I hadn’t heard before. Not putting my trust in princes, there is a limit to how much I will delve into identifying the good guys vs the bad guys. There all bad guys to one degree or another—all who would advocate rule by man rather than by God.

It may be that members of Jehovah’s Witnesses and Falun Gong are getting to know each other quite well in the remote areas of China. Bitterwinter.org reports:

According to a document issued in 2018 by the government of a locality in Xinjiang, members of three banned religious groups—The Church of Almighty God (CAG), Falun Gong, and Jehovah’s Witnesses—must be sent to transformation through education camps and kept indefinitely until they have been “transformed,” i.e., become atheist. Their release depends on whether they have implemented five musts. These are a written pledge to stop attending religious activities; relinquishment of all religious materials in their possession; public criticism of one’s faith, promising to break up with it; disclosure of information about fellow believers and group’s/church’s affairs; and aiding the government in transforming other believers.”

The two groups are anything but “two peas in a pod.” The Falun Gong are intensely political and hostile to the CCP, whereas the Jehovah’s Witnesses are neither. “Mandatory singing of revolutionary songs was particularly hard on Jehovah’s Witnesses, who practice the so-called political neutrality and refuse to sing national anthems, salute flags, or serve in the army,” the report said.

BitterWinter is a subset of the Center for Studies on New Religions, headquartered in Torino, Italy. It is chaired by Massimo Introvigne, identified as “one of the most well-known scholars of religion internationally.” (I see my chum* George Chrysiddes, who wrote that nice review of my first book under the pseudonym Ivor E. Tower, hangs out here at least sometimes.) His name cropped up repeatedly as I was gathering background for Dear Mr. Putin - Jehovah’s Witnesses Write Russia. Though I did not get it from him (I got it from Joshua Gill), I see he is of the same view as I that a resolute “anti-cult” movement, and not the Russian Orthodox Church, is behind the troubles of Jehovah’s Witnesses in that land. Head ones of the ROC might cheer that ban like children at presents under the tree, but it does not originate with them. The “anti-cult” movement has the same apparent goal of that explicitly stated in BitterWinter—that religious ones should “become atheist”—and the more mainstream faiths are so watered down already that it hardly matters what they believe—they’ll do whatever they are told to do.

If the charge is made that anything harshly critical of the CCP is a production of Fulon Gong—as I have heard—by means of their media arm Epoch Times, that certainly cannot be said of BitterWinter. It’s About page tells of a “network of several hundred correspondents in all Chinese provinces” who work at “high risk for their security – some have been arrested.” To be sure, it “receives some of its reports directly from members of religious minorities and organizations persecuted,” however it would appear that these ones do not call the shots. BitterWinter “is independent of any religious or political organization and is mostly the fruit of volunteer work.” It “does not take positions on political issues [Good!—Like JWs—will Hebrews 4:12 some day go to work on them?] and limits itself to the field of human rights.”

Unfortunately, “human rights” itself may be perceived as political. Invariably they focus on the human rights of individuals, whereas any government will be an attempt at balancing the human rights of individuals with the human rights of groups. With some, the human rights of groups far outweighs those of individuals. Even as Putin says he does not understand why his country persecutes Jehovah’s Witnesses, he qualifies the remark by observing Russia is 90% one religion, and “one cannot throw everything overboard just to please the sects.”

Frankly, I could wish that BitterWinter was all pro-Western propaganda that could be dismissed on that account, for our people are reported as undergoing some very tough times there—it makes Russia look like a cakewalk. However, the website initially strikes one as a treasure trove of unbiased documentation, exceedingly well-done, and well worth the donations it accepts, and well-worth boning up on.

....

*I don’t want to imply that we’re buddies. He’s a “chum” because he wrote that nice review, but otherwise I do not know him. We traded emails for a time, but fell out of touch. He said chatty things while he was reading the ebook—I appreciated it, and he graciously did not mention quite a few blips and typos that I have since found and removed. I rather wish he had. While I’ve no doubt his review is sincere, he probably discounted the book for not being up to format standards. But then again—he’s a scholar, not an editor.

 

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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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They Are Going to Call it a Cult. You Know They Are. Roll With It.

Let’s have one more go at Brother Glock’s words that good advice from the Witness organization on how to deal with Covid 19 proves that God is working with them. After that, we’ll give it a rest. Enough is enough.

Ida thought maybe it was too over-the-top for him to put it this way. Maybe he should have said: “The advice that the GB are giving is proof that they really apply the scriptures in their life and are allowing...” and so forth. That’s not “proof” either and the same bellyachers that would raise a fuss about the first would raise it no less with the second.

I almost think that “prove” should be stricken from the JW vocabulary. It is one more word that has been redefined to give it a narrow focus that was never before its exclusive definition. “Scientific proof” is all that people think of today—yet if “scientific proof” was the order of the day, the stuff we have, and that of any belief system, would not be called “faith.”

Should Glock be expected to use the word “prove” in the scientific sense? Not hardly. He is a Bible teacher. How does the Bible use the term? The New World Translation uses the word ‘prove’ 46 times. Not one of them is in the scientific sense. Only 2 or 3 is even in the legal sense. Typical are verses like Jesus “sending you out as sheep among wolves; so prove yourselves cautious as serpents and yet innocent as doves, (Matt 10:16)

“On this account, you too prove yourselves ready, because the Son of man is coming at an hour that you do not think to be it.” (Matt 24:44)

“But wanting to prove himself righteous, the man said to Jesus:...” (Luke 10:29)

“My Father is glorified in this, that you keep bearing much fruit and proveyourselves my disciples.” (John 15:8)

In fact, since always we hear that this or that must be “approved,” just what is the etymology of “approve?” Does anyone think it suggests scientific proof? Or does it not denote meeting the standards of someone with recognized stature? It is ridiculous that Brother Glock should be taken to task by narrow-minded sticklers for a single application of the word which will almost certainly not be his, nor be the dominant one of history.

Words change. There is no sense grousing about this. “Why so serious?” the Joker says, as he slits another throat. We may have to change on this as well—or just ignore the wordcrafters and put pedal to the medal!

Sometimes I think we should do that with the word “cult.” The word has changed. Rather than resist it, it may be better to embrace the new meaning. Point to the etymology of the word. It stems from the same root as does the word “agriculture,” which literally means “care of the earth.” Ones who care for “the matters of God” would be an appropriate definition for “cult.” I could live with it.

Look, if there really is a cramped road with narrow gate that people are advised to follow, is there any way those on the broad and spacious one are not going to call it a ‘cult?’

Go in through the narrow gate,” Jesus says, “because broad is the gate and spacious is the road leading off into destruction, and many are going in through it; whereas narrow is the gate and cramped the road leading off into life, and few are finding it.” (Matthew 7:13-14) They are going to call it a “cult.” You know they are. Roll with it.

One might even do what the cops did when the radical students began tormenting them with the epithet “pigs”—doubling down when they saw that it got under their skin. Finally, one innovative officer figured that he would work with it:

P - Pride

I - Integrity

G- Guts

S - Service

Can Witnesses do the same? “To the adolescents I became an adolescent,” Paul said, or would have had he thought of it, since he said plenty that was parallel.

C - Courage

U- Unity

L - Love

T - Truth

One does not want to be like my (non-Witness) cousin, who grumbled till her dying day that she could no longer use the word “gay” because the homosexuals had hijacked it. “I’m no prude,” she would day. “If they want to go AC-DC (would she really wink just then?), that’s all right with me. But why couldn’t they invent their own word? Why did they have to take “gay?” She’d go on and on. I used to set her off just to watch the sparks fly. “Ethel, you know what gets me?” I say, “that we can no longer use the word “gay.” “I know!” she’d crank up, and off she’d go for the next quarter-hour.

“She’s just mad that she can no longer speak of going to ‘gay Paree,’” I said to my right-wing brother. But my right wing brother had still not forgiven the French in the aftermath of the “Freedom Fries” fiasco. “Why  can’t she?” he muttered.

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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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Minneapolis Burns—How to Stop the Violence

I proposed (facetiously) in ‘No Fake News but Plenty of Hogwash’ that there be ‘A Shooting Channel.’ Put all shootings on ‘The Shooting Channel’—white on black, white on white, black on white, black on black. Ban shootings on all other channels. Let viewers decide for themselves which ones are horrible and which ones are yawners. Otherwise, the media comes along later and starts a race war.

Beyond question, the current happening is horrible. Still, when it is shown 20 times a day—how can that not be seen as deliberately stoking rage that will result in cascading calamity to totally innocent persons. The tiny Minneapolis businesses burned out in the days following were predominantly minority-owned. I think it is not such a foolish statement to say that those who would stoke this rage are “the enemy of the American people,” extreme that the statement may at first glance appear. The wide-spread rage in Charlotte a few years ago was inflamed by reports of a white police officer shooting a black suspect, Lamont Scott. When it turned out that the cop was, not white, but black, this correction was barely noted—even though its absence ensured widespread violence.

It is an article of faith among the reformers of this system of things that “sunlight is the best disinfectant,” and that “When you shine the spotlight of journalism on this or that evil, the cockroaches disappear.” They may disappear, but that does not mean that they die. They just go elsewhere, and one is faced with the scriptural truth of Ecclesiastes 1:15: “That which is crooked cannot be made straight.“ ‘God’s kingdom come‘ such as Jehovah’s Witnesses proclaim is up to the task, but as for human efforts? The track record is not promising. More often than not, they take a horrible event and make it worse.

Along comes the #CultExpert to lambaste expressed determination to stop the spreading violence as “inciting violence” itself. Is it?

Violence is not a solution!” he said. “Powerful forces from outside the U.S. and from within are deliberately stoking conflict and division. @realDonaldTrump needs to be flagged by Twitter when he advocates violence. FB should change policies ASAP to protect our democracy.

What the POTUS had said that Twitter flagged was: “These THUGS are dishonoring the memory of George Floyd, and I won’t let that happen. Just spoke to Governor Tim Walz and told him that the Military is with him all the way. Any difficulty and we will assume control but, when the looting starts, the shooting starts.” 

Said I to the Cult Expert: “I grant that he could choose his words more carefully—he is very much of a barroom brawler—but when cities are burning and when the small businesses of mostly minority persons are being destroyed, is it realLy “advocating violence” when he says as POTUS he means to restore order? I don’t understand this at all.”

Throughout history, there is scarcely an example of putting down riots with “love,” and the (black) mayor of Atlanta implored people to “go home”—they were “dishonoring the memory of George Floyd. Maybe Jesus could quell one with loving persuasion, but the CultExpert all but gags at his mention. He is a left-wing loon, methinks, and it damages his credibility. This personally works out well for me, because he calls Jehovah’s Witnesses a cult—along with a few score, if not hundreds, of other groups. He shoots his credibility with regard to them all, I think, and in some ways it is a shame, because some of them really do seem “out there.” But it is for them to defend themselves—it is not for me to investigate and do it for them. I might come to the conclusion that it is a lost cause. I only know about us.

But when you expand your definition of “cult” to include half of the country, as he does, it is a pretty good indication that you have drunk too much of the Kool-Aid yourself.

However, back to his tweet. Included in it was: “Powerful forces from outside the U.S. and from within are deliberately stoking conflict and division.” He seems to have got that right. Tweeted Sheryl Atkinson on May 30th: Minnesota officials: "Every person arrested last night was from out of state." Locals: "We don't know these folks." Exactly. But the two disagree on who those “powerful forces” are who are “deliberately stoking conflict.” Steve thinks it included those who want to put out the fires.

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photo from: BusinessInsider.com

Shortly after my post, I was called out on it by one of my own people: “He’s advocating shooting the looters brother. That’s murder.”

When this happens from someone you have regard for—and since she is a spiritual sister, I do—you do not go for the jugular such as is the pattern on social media. You strive to see the other point of view:

“Would the one murdered agree that those looting and burning are his ‘brothers’ honoring his name? I’m not so sure. But these are incendiary times. Other views exist. I said what I said but I would not pursue it online any further. Man doesn’t have the answers and anything done is shooting himself in the foot one way or the other. If people see if differently, I have no problem with that. They may be right. Thanks for your message.”

She: “I hesitated to reply. Didn’t want to publicly. If the police or civilians shoot looters for looting...we’ll that’s murder. The President advocated this on Twitter. There are people who would take this tweet as permission to shoot on sight. Dangerous to say the least. Anyway....I don’t get involved with politics, but pay attention to what is going on. Don’t agree with Hassan often, but he’s right about twitter flagging Trump. IMO.“

Okay. I did say that he might have chosen his words more carefully. Still, it did not occur to me that the tweet might be taken as an invitation to vigilante justice. Maybe it should have. Maybe if I had my sister’s formative background—whatever that might be—it would have.

Jehovah’s Witnesses do this all the time with each other—take a preliminary position and them immediately walk it back when it finds opposition. The reason they can do this so readily is that they realize that this life is not the “real life” of 1 Timothy 6:19. Don’t take it into the Kingdom Hall. Ideally, don’t form views in the first place—“must.stay.neutral” tweeted another brother, implying it would not be a piece of cake for him—but if you are a flesh-and-blood person who takes in information, that is much easier said than done. For that reason, there are many brothers who do not take in information, and I do not criticize them for that. It is far easier to stay neutral that way, though it does compromise your ability to relate in the ministry. It is another reason that I do not append a link to the JW website on any of my social media profiles, something many brothers seem to feel almost obligatory to do. Everyone has his own way of looking at things and even his own quirks—if you link to the website it suggests you got it from them.

Meanwhile, from another quarter entirely, Mr. Admin noted that “the 17-year-old who took the video of George Floyd being suffocated and killed by police on Monday...[who] took the video as proof of police brutality and the pain felt by thousands of people around the country...has been receiving numerous questions about why she didn't fight off police for the duration of the 10 minute video depicting police kneeing Floyd in the neck. In her response, she says that she was scared as a 17-year-old to attempt to fight off any cops or help Floyd.”

Me: “That strikes me as not a bad answer from a 17 year old. Everyone has a smart phone these days and it is in the culture that if you see something you record it. It is the fellow cops who saw fit to not interfere that you have to wonder about.“

 

 

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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.”

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Dave McClure—the CO Beaten up as a Child, and the Reversal of Freedomofmind

When the U.S. Supreme Court ruled (1940) that children MUST salute WHEN told to do so, with NO excuses, the phrase “freedom of the human mind” defended the minority, Jehovah’s Witnesses. The words were employed in the Court’s minority opinion. Today, the phrase “freedom of mind” is used to attack them! along with other ‘cults.’ It is an amazing reversal—from defending the rights of the minority from majority assault, to defending the rights of the majority from minority assault!

How does the minority pull off such a threatening stunt? Through ‘mind control’ and “brainwashing!’ It is an incredible charge and an 180 reversal of history! Freedomofmind.com is the url of the “cultexpert,” the founder of the BITE model, the means through which the nefarious minority manipulates members of the majority—through Behavioral control, Informational control, Thought control, and Emotional control. It is always someone else’s fault with these ‘anti-cultists’—its founder has progressed to calling half the country a victim of political mind-control! He’s not drunk too much of the Kool-Aid himself?

THAT is the takeaway point to be gleaned from the following article. It is not the point I had in mind when I initially wrote it. But it is the point that best endures:

....

Dave McClure

I worked with Dave McClure the circuit overseer—I used to stick to those guys like glue—one fine morning in the 1980’s. “We’re just calling on our neighbors in order to....” he began. The householder glanced at the Michigan plates on his car—it didn’t exactly suggest to a New Yorker that the man was a neighbor. “Neighbor?” he said. But Dave was never ever at a loss for words. “Well, I’ve got to fly the flag!’ was his chipper comeback.

It was a perfect comeback. Michigan plates that year featured the most colorful backdrop of numerals against a flag that I have ever seen. Brother McClure was newly assigned to our circuit and hadn’t yet switched over his plates—you’re allowed a certain time interval to do so, I believe. I mean, it can’t be a requirement from the moment you cross the state line.

But it was a perfect comeback for another reason. When he was a boy, Dave McClure routinely got beat up by classmates for not flying the flag, or at least not saluting it. He told his experiences at a special assembly in Niagara Falls, New York. As only Brother McClure could do, he made getting beat up almost sound like fun—I mean, this is the fellow who, when in the presence of friends and confronted with something unexpected, would repeatedly and furiously move his hand from breastbone to abdomen and back again. He was just “staking himself,” taking no chances, as he would explain, 

In 1940, the Minerville School District v Gobitis U.S. Supreme Court ruling held that Witness children could be compelled to salute the flag. Walter Gobitus was a Jehovah’s Witness whose child did not. Witnesses view declining the flag salute in any nation as a matter of avoiding idolatry. They connect the salute with God’s words to Moses that “you must not make for yourself...a form like anything that is in the heavens above or on the earth below or in the waters under the earth. You must not bow down to them...for I, Jehovah your God, am a God who requires exclusive devotion...”

Walter, then 10, had told the local school authorities: ''I do not salute the flag not because I do not love my country. I love my country, but I love God more, and must obey his commandments.'' Didn’t cut it with the Supreme Court.

The Court decision signaled open hunting season on Jehovah’s Witnesses. Mobs surrounded them in their public preaching work. Many were accosted. Some were tarred and feathered, some were forced to drink castor oil. At least one was lynched. They were rounded up in their ministry and crammed into local jails, sometimes without charge—they were contemptible enough in the eyes of respectable society so as to be denied the rights afforded everyone else. One brother tells of how he would always carry a toothbrush with him in the ministry so as not to be unprepared should he spend the night in the hoosegow.

Note the majority Supreme Court opinion of Justice Felix Frankfurter: “National unity is the basis of national security. To deny the legislature the right to select appropriate means for its attainment presents a totally different order of problem from that of the propriety of subordinating the possible ugliness of littered streets to the free expression opinion through handbills.” Note his contempt for the “possible ugliness of littered streets” from handbills, such as Witnesses were known for.

Justice Harlan Stone was the lone dissenter. He wrote that “the guarantees of civil liberty are but guarantees of freedom of the human mind and spirit and of reasonable freedom and opportunity to express them .” Note how “guarantees of freedom of the human mind and spirit” were presumed defenses for those who would think outside of the mainstream; note today how ‘anti-cultists’ have turned that logic on its head so that a ‘cult’ taking ones outside of the mainstream constitutes a violation of “the freedom of the human mind and spirit.”

Shortly thereafter, probably aghast at the violence they had unleashed, the Court had a change of heart. Three members signaled their changed views. Two others retired and were replaced by those thought more attuned to individual liberties. The matter came up for review again, wending its way though lesser courts until it ascended to the top Court. The plaintiffs in the case were named Barnett, Stull, and Lucy McClure. Dave was the young son of Lucy.

The decision reversed. The new majority opinion (released on June 3rd, Flag Day, 1943):

''If there is any fixed star in our constitutional constellation, it is that no official, high or petty, can prescribe what shall be orthodox in politics, nationalism, religion, or other matters of opinion or force citizens to confess by word or act their faith therein,'' Justice Robert H. Jackson wrote.

The new minority opinion , written by the former winner, now the loser, Felix Frankfurter, included the grumbling:

“As has been true in the past, the Court will from time to time reverse its position. But I believe that never before these Jehovah’s Witnesses cases (there were many more besides those concerning flag salute) …..has this Court overruled decisions so as to restrict the powers of democratic government.”

Yes, that’s how it is with governments, democratic or not. They want more power. They don’t want to give it up. A certain amount is necessary, of course, so as to maintain public order and safety. Witnesses cede it to them willingly and render obedience. But when they grab for yet more - the consciences and souls of their citizens, someone has to call them on it. And that someone has often been Jehovah’s Witnesses.

The topic came up 45 years later. The first George Bush thought it a fine idea for teachers to lead their classes in mandatory flag salute. His electioneering opponent, Michael Dukakis, did not. The New York Times reviewed the JW items of decades past and even tracked down some of the original participants. “Mr. Gobitis,” it wrote, “now a 62-year-old piano tuner in Belgium, Wis., has followed the 1988 salute debate closely, and a bit disgustedly. ‘It's hard to comprehend why they're raising this issue again,’ he said. ‘They're ignoring our constitutional development and history.’ It reminded him, he said, of a passage in Chapter 16 of the Book of Revelations. ‘To Jehovah's Witnesses,’ he said, ‘all this political fanfare boils down to is 'the croaking of frogs and expressions inspired by demons.’”

And you know, I just can’t get over the reversed use of that phrase, “guarantees of freedom of the human mind and spirit and of reasonable freedom.” Then it was used to protect the minority from the majority. Today anti-cultists use it to protect the majority from the minority, lest ones of that minority ‘deceive’ them by ‘manipulation’ and ‘mind control.’

As for Dave McClure, my old Circuit Overseer, if he ever had thoughts about the 1988 brouhaha, he never shared them with me. But then, he would have moved on by then to another assignment—he served our circuit just around 1980. He passed away in Florida several years ago.

 

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Anti-Cultists Jump on the JW Video Encouraging Brothers to Hold Steady During the Virus Time

It took no time at all for the anti-cult crowd to latch on to that recent Stephen Lett video about how the brothers are doing worldwide in the face of Covid 19. (6 have died in Italy). Of course, he made remarks about being ‘deep in the last days’—and they were all over that. He was declared ‘oppontunistic’ and exploitive of current events so as to maintain control over members. Sheesh!

Now, Stephen Lett is a very unusual figure—Witnesses love this guy—but there is no one who over-emotes like this fellow. Sometimes I think a spokesman less ‘polarizing’ in his mannerism would be better suited, but who can say? He shows love for the friends, and maybe that overrides all else. I wrote up a post on him previously.

At any rate, I posted a few tweets of my own to kick back at some of these accusations—if that be what they are. As to the ringleader of the anti-cultists, who does not specialize in Jehovah’s Witnesses but also does not exclude them, I do not treat him as an enemy, and I am neutral as to his overall mission. To the extent he notices me, he doesn’t treat me as an enemy either, and if he does I take no offense. Mutual respect works here.

I posted:

A worldwide plague and concurrent financial collapse JWs do not dismiss as ‘one of those things,’ but their end-time words long precede this. Plus, they are nothing but cooperating with gov’t authorities in trying to contain virus

It is irrelevant to general society if it is accompanied by complete cooperation with govt authorities as they try to contain such, which is the case with JWs. After all, it is not them partying on the Fla beach.....1/2

Also, people cannot be buffeted about by such calamities as world plague & financial collapse and just shrug it off. An ‘end-time’ view is as good as any to cope. Few cooperate with gov’t containment efforts as JWs do. They promptly calledoff their door2door & are not the problem...2/2

The trick is to allow other viewpoints to exist besides your own. Tolerance. JWs in no way undermine govt efforts to control virus. Besides, until all chips in, who are you to say they are wrong? It has to be a ‘wait and see.’

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Persecution of Jehovah’s Witnesses in Russia—and Identification of Those Who Instigate It.

The New York Times today reports the torture of a member of Jehovah’s Witnesses in the Russian campaign to eliminate the faith. It is the second such instance of torture coming to light. [edit—several more came within a few days] Arrests are commonplace. More commonplace are raids with the confiscation of personal property. 200 Jehovah’s Witnesses were recently place of the federal list of extremists, which means that bank accounts are frozen and they can no longer transact routine financial business.

With an active and prolific critical, at times hate, campaign being waged against Jehovah’s Witnesses online, it is reasonable to think that it indirectly instigates persecution of them in Russia. It is reasonable to think that it indirectly instigates the torching of two Kingdom Halls in the United States during 2019, both of which burned to the ground.

Many groups are harassed in Russia, but it is Jehovah’s Witnesses who are head-and-shoulders the primary target. Why? It boils down to Jesus’ words: “If you were part of the world, the world would be fond of what is its own. Now because you are no part of the world...for this reason the world hates you.” (John 15:19) It is no more complicated than that. Hatred against Witnesses may be cloaked as reports from a “whistleblower” or complaints of those who would advocate freedom from “mind control,” but at root the motivation is simply disturbance that ones should choose to be “no part of the world.” No villain on TV ever says, “I am the villain.” Instead, he paints himself the wronged one with a merited score to settle—and the program director strives so that we all see his point of view. We must not be obtuse.

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

What Secular Faith is saying is that churches have in many respects ceased being “no part of the world”—and having done such, are not hated, since “the world is fond of what is its own.” Jehovah’s Witnesses, and almost they alone, are yet remaining “no part of the world”—and that is why they are hated. That is why they have “apostates” who are off the charts in expressing vitriol. “Apostates” (within the Christian context) can be expected to proliferate in direct proportion to how the main body stays separate from the world. As such, Jehovah’s Witnesses should almost be proud of theirs, for in them they are validated. A religion that has made its peace on the “five key issues” of Secular Faith—what’s to apostatize from?

Anti-Witnesses scream “Cult!” like patrons scream ‘Fire!’ in a crowded theater. Are Jehovah’s Witnesses a cult? To the extent they are, it is because the Bible is a cult manual. The behavioral, informational, thought, and emotional “control” that anti-Witness activists complain about can be found in the urgings of the New Testament writers themselves. The words indicate no more than people living by the Bible, living peaceably in this world while they look to the righteous new one to come with the arrival of the kingdom Jesus taught his followers to pray for, the one the Bible describes as “the real life.” (1 Timothy 6:19) The agenda of the virulent Witness detractors is simply that no one should think in such an “impractical” way. 

A faith that remains “no part of the world” is thought socially backward, even socially harmful by some. But that hardly means it ought not be allowed to exist, particularly since it dovetails with Jesus’ words. “There has only been one Christian,” Mark Twain too cynically remarked. “They caught and killed him—early.”

I am not even sure that Witnesses should run from the word. It may be well instead to highlight its origin. It is the same origin as ‘cultivate’—which denotes ‘caring for something’—and in a religious sense it refers to ‘caring for the matters of the gods.’ Okay. I’ll take it. Jehovah’s Witnesses ‘care for the matters’ of God. They trigger opposition from ones who don’t want them to do that. They trigger opposition from those who have crossed over to embrace various aspects of the world—the world that Jesus says not to be part of.

This is clear in the testimony of one witness testifying for the prosecution in the Russian trial that would ban the JW organization. She complained of “complete and total control of life by the Administrative Center.” Asked to give an example of this, she reported her expulsion from the congregations after she “began her close, but not officially registered, relations with a man.” In other words, she wants to violate, within the congregation, the Bible sanction of ‘sex only within marriage.’ The Witness organization does not allow it, and she spins it as “complete and total control of life,” hoping to get the Russian Justices riled up.

Look, it is fine to adopt the standards of the world so long as one goes there to do it—don’t bring it into the congregation. She signed on for such Bible-based standards, now she wants to change them—and when thwarted in that attempt, she seeks to get the organization that got in her way banned at the Russian Supreme Court! It is no more than revenge. It is no more than insisting the standards of the greater world be accommodated in the Christian congregation.

Disfellowshipping itself is a last-ditch attempt at discipline, when all else has failed, to ensure that a member not bring standards of the world, no matter how commonly accepted elsewhere, into the congregation. Is it harsh? It certainly can be spun that way, but as ought to be clear by considering Secular Faith, no denomination has succeeded in obeying Jesus’ direction to remain “no part of the world” without it.

History testifies that among the reasons Christians were viciously persecuted in the first century was that their rituals were said to include cannibalism. Obviously Jesus’ followers did not do this, but from where might the charge originate? Might one look to the following passage in the sixth chapter of John, which begins by quoting Jesus?

I am the bread of life. Your forefathers ate the manna in the wilderness and yet they died. This is the bread that comes down from heaven, so that anyone may eat of it and not die. I am the living bread that came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread he will live forever; and for a fact, the bread that I will give is my flesh in behalf of the life of the world.

Then the Jews began to argue with one another, saying: “How can this man give us his flesh to eat?” So Jesus said to them: “Most truly I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of man and drink his blood, you have no life in yourselves. Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood has everlasting life, and I will resurrect him on the last day.”

When they heard this, many of his disciples said: “This speech is shocking; who can listen to it?”...Because of this, many of his disciples went off to the things behind and would no longer walk with him. So Jesus said to the Twelve: “You do not want to go also, do you?” Simon Peter answered him: “Lord, whom shall we go away to? You have sayings of everlasting life. We have believed and have come to know that you are the Holy One of God.”  (6:48-69)

What of the ones who did not “come to know” that Jesus was the Holy One of God? What of the ones who “went to the things behind and would no longer walk with him”? Did they thereafter leave their former co-disciples to worship in peace? Or did some of them draw from these words proof that Jesus would recommend cannibalism to his followers? And if some advanced the notion, might there not have arisen ones in the congregation who pinned the blame on Jesus himself for saying the words that got the persecution ball rolling; ‘What a blunder!’—I can imagine some saying (though not in his presence).

It makes me think of the uproar raised over child sexual abuse within Jehovah’s Witnesses today. They are comparatively successful at preventing it—nobody, but nobody, has gathered every single member on earth (at the 2017 Regional Conventions) to consider detailed scenarios in which child sexual abuse might take place so that parents, obviously the first line of defense, can remain vigilant. But the world has little success at preventing CSA, so it focuses on punishing it after the fact, securing the barn door after the cows have fled. Routinely, we read of individuals arrested over CSA allegations. Unless the arrest is of a member of the clergy, the one detail that never accompanies such reports is that of the individual’s religious affiliation or lack thereof. Yet with Jehovah’s Witnesses, that detail is never lacking. Why? 

Plainly, it is that the Witness organization attempted to do something about child sexual abuse—they did not just close their eyes to it—and now detractors are trying to spin it as though they love the stuff. Jehovah’s Witnesses are well-known as a religion that “polices its own.” It is an attribute once viewed favorably, but now in the eyes of critics, it is spun as intolerable “control.” Those taking the lead in the Witness organization thereby came to know of individuals accused of CSA, and their “crime,” if it be one, is in leaving it up to affected ones themselves to report rather than “going beyond the law” to do it themselves. Time will tell how vile that sin is found to be, but it plainly falls far short of actually committing the CSA themselves, which is the pattern elsewhere. 

As with Jesus and his remarks that can, in the scheming of dishonest ones, be spun into encouragement of cannibalism, so the JW policy on CSA is spun by similarly dishonest ones to indicate that the organization is determined to nurture and protect it, whereas nothing could be further from the truth. Three times before the Australian Royal Commission, Geoffrey Jackson of the Witnesses’s Governing Body pleaded for universal, mandatory reporting laws, with no exceptions—if that could only be done, it would make the job of the Witness organization in policing its own without raising the ire of those outside the congregation “so much easier.”

Continuing his cross-examination, Justice Angus Stewart said: “Leaving aside the question of overriding mandatory law from the civil authorities...” I almost wish that Brother Jackson would have interjected at this point, “I wish you would not leave it aside, for it would solve the problem.” The greater world cannot make a dent in preventing childhood sexual abuse, and so it puts the onus on those who are trying to do something about it. Alas, our best lines invariably occur to us too late—had Brother Jackson picked up my line, it probably just would have got their backs up—and then (gulp) he would have looked at me with displeasure.

More on the Russian connection here.
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