‘Born Into the Faith’

The one area where detractors have some validity is in saying that the children of Jehovah’s Witnesses did not make the same choice as did their parents. The parents searched, sometimes for decades. They weighed both paths carefully before choosing the pathway of serving God over the pathway of pursuing the common goals of the world. Their children have never made this search—they were ‘born into the truth’—something we portray as a great asset, and yet something that contains the same drawbacks as being born into wealth. We probably are naive to think that ‘born into the truth’ does not make one vulnerable in some respects. 

The first generation makes the wealth and is thereafter grounded in life. The second generation inherits it, and deprived of that values-forming experience, becomes insufferable, unappreciative, profligate, isolated from the common people—some combination of the foregoing. It doesn’t have to work that way, but it does often enough for the pattern to become a stereotype. 

What’s a wealthy person to do? Cast his son out to live in the refrigerator box until he earns his own wealth? Obviously not. Better to be born into wealth than into poverty. Better to be born into a spiritual paradise than into a spiritual dessert. But the wealthy parent that has any sense makes his son experience what he did himself to the degree possible—makes the kid start on the factory floor as a regular worker, for example—makes the kid earn privileges, doesn’t just hand him things—makes him work his way into his inheritance. 

The Witness parent who simply expects the offspring to ‘make the truth your own’ without allowing him a glimpse into the other side—well, couldn’t that be likened to the wealthy parent who expects his offspring to ‘make the family wealth your own’ without allowing the character-building and adversity-overcoming experiences that were instrumental in his own formation?

It is a matter of degree as to how that is done—I would not suggest that nobody is doing it—and each family must find its own way. Since the beginning of time, parents have endeavored to bring their children up in principles they have convinced themselves are true. Since the Industrial Age at least, general society has tried to pull those children away into its own chosen paths. There certainly is no educational reason that children should be schooled away from their parents at ages as young as 4. It is for societal reasons that compulsory public schooling began. Children ought be separated from the pernicious influence and prejudices of their parents, the thinking went, to make them more compliant to the greater aims of the greater world.

So Witnesses are going to train their children in godly principles—that is only to be expected. It is not the case that if you leave children untrained, they will grow up free, unencumbered, and when of age, with choose their own values from the rich cornucopia of life’s offerings. No. All it means is that someone else will train them. The anti-JW activists are only bellyaching because they want to themselves be those trainers—they do not raise the same protest with regard to the children of anyone else.

 

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If You’re Going to Bewail Manipulation, Bewail it Where it Counts

The speaker’s wife gave one of the first comments at the Watchtower Study—on the very first paragraph. It sort of fit, since the theme was on making wise decisions and following through. Still, she ‘shoehorned’ it in a bit—it wasn’t a perfect fit. She said how she had not been manipulated to become one of Jehovah’s Witnesses—it had been her own choice and one that she did not regret.

Well, who said that she had been manipulated?—that’s why the comment had an artificial flavor to it—the paragraph itself contained no hint of it. Furthermore, pushing the limits of the 30-second goal for comments, put in place so that no one loquacious person steals the show, she found it the stupidest notion in the world for anyone to suggest that. Manipulation? How ridiculous.

Plainly, someone had thrust that idea at her recently, maybe some sorehead that she had run across at work or among the neighbors—that it is no more than manipulation with Jehovah’s Witnesses—that’s why they believe and act as they do. It is the classic technique of the mainstream bully—to assert that one couldn’t possibly depart from the ordinary unless they had been manipulated to do so, and “unfairly” manipulated at that—had the “manipulation” been in that bully’s direction, there would be no problem with it.

You can apply this to anything. The reason you bought a Chevy is that you were manipulated by their ads. The reason you cheered for the 49ers is that you were manipulated by San Francisco. The reason you went to college is that you were manipulated by the guidance counselor. The reason that you died for your country is that you were manipulated by that country to think the cause noble—nobody of any other country thought so.

Really, Jehovah’s Witnesses least fit the accusation of manipulation, because they, unlike the above examples, represent persons who were actively searching—they were anything but moldable pieces of dough. They were dissatisfied with the status quo, dissatisfied with where life was heading, dissatisfied with the goals society set before them, and they took upwards of a year looking over a new model, weighing and trying it on for size, before committing to it. All this was done in familiar surroundings without leaving trusted routine—as opposed to the above examples of college and military, in which one is immersed 24/7 in unfamiliar settings, a classic tool of manipulators.

Well, if you are going to talk manipulation, talk it with something that counts. That’s why I liked Mark Sanderson kicking back at the petty application of manipulation with a major one. In his annual meeting talk about not being fearful, he quoted Hebrews 2:15, that “through [Jesus’] death [God] might bring to nothing the one having the means to cause death, that is, the Devil, and that he might set free all those who were held in slavery all their lives by their fear of death.”

Sanderson cited the Nuremberg trials, in which various Nazis who had committed unspeakable atrocities were asked the simple question, “How could you do those terrible things?” “What did they say?” he asked, and then related the answer they had given: “We had no choice. If we didn’t obey they would put us to death.”

“Those people could be manipulated,” Sanderson said. “They could be controlled. They could be made to do the most wicked things because they were afraid.” Exactly! If you are going to bandy about words as “manipulate” and “control,” don’t trivialize the terms—do it with an example that matters! Don’t do it with an example of choosing this life course or that life course, neither of which will extend beyond 80 years. Do it with the example of control and manipulation that will gain you the reputation of a mass murderer to last throughout all time. Maybe that’s why the resurrection of the dead was one of the first Christian teachings to come under attack, even during the time of the apostles; the teaching thwarted the goal to keep people afraid so that you can make them do what you want.

Was it coincidence for Sanderson to speak as he did or did it represent kicking back at these petty people who put all their stock in the here and now, equating acting by faith as “control” and “manipulation?” I don’t know, but I wouldn’t mind seeing more of it.

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An Entirely Unexpected Gift of Politics—Revelation of the BITE Man

Steven Hassan is the David Splane of anti-cultists. He is the Great Explainer who works tirelessly in their behalf. He is the originator of the BITE model of “mind control”—Behavioral, Informational, Thought, and Emotional Control! He is the man who, as a youth, was naive enough to join the Moonies—the robe-dressing, flower-hawking Moonies! and now, having quit them, he insists that even the most intelligent people [such as himself] can be misled into a cult. 

Of course, there are only so many Moonies in the world. Mr Hassan expands the C-word into ever more frontiers, and one of them is Jehovah’s Witnesses. You would think that it is the only one, to hear JW detractors carry on, but it is but one of an ever-growing stable. I have witnessed JW opponents on social media counseling each other as to the most effective way to conduct themselves, referring back to the BITE model of Hassan as a guide, as though he was a cult leader of himself.

His horizon’s continue to expand. His current book is: “The Cult of Trump—A Leading Cult Expert Explains How the President Uses Mind-Control.” A review of it begins with: “Can’t understand why a loved one would vote for Donald Trump? Let the experts who spend their lives studying cults help break it down.” Of course! A vote for Trump is completely inexplicable otherwise! Only cult delusion can account for it. When you think that half the country has fallen victim to cult influence and mind-control, it is strong evidence that you have drunk too much of the Kool-Aid yourself.

So he comes out of the closet. He reveals himself. He is a leftist—nothing more. He is of the victimization society. I’m glad to see it, for it undermines his alleged expertise elsewhere—like with JWs, for example. Up to the point of his new book on Trump, one can begin to suspect that maybe, just maybe, Jehovah’s Witnesses are like a cult. They pay far more attention to their Governing Body than other groups do to their leaders. They certainly take their faith much more seriously than do others, and they deviate from the accepted goals of society in fundamental ways. 

Yes, you can just begin to envision it—and then Hassan, who got the ball rolling in the first place, comes along and says half the country is under the spell of a cult leader! Okay. That it says it all. He is just “out there” himself, just upset that his candidate did not win, and that recognition qualifies whatever he has said about Jehovah’s Witnesses or anyone else.

It’s not that the idea of influencing people is ridiculous. It is the over-application of the idea that is. No meaningful outfit does not incorporate some application of “behavioral, informational, thought, and emotional control”—the most striking example is that of the family. Is it really brainwashing that he objects to—or is it just brainwashing that is not his? Read him as he carries on about Trump and realize that the spillover will taint his mission with regard to anything else.

Leaving the sects that were his bread and butter far behind, he tweets: 

We need to have a fundamentally NEW conversation about how we interact with Trump supporters.  Online arguing doesn’t work. When we label Trump supporters as “dumb” or “evil”, it only reinforces their own image that they are persecuted and cuts off any chance of them changing.”

“Though I know it’s hard to do when they say such vitriolic things, we need to imagine they are stuck inside a religious cult. How would we try to get them out?  At first, we would make sure to avoid argument and really try to CONNECT. This may take a while but is vital.”

“After we’ve established some trust and rapport, we need to be delicate. We don’t rush to talk about Trump (they will still be defensive and unmovable).  We need to find a subject that has parallels to their situation but doesn’t feel personal (i.e. Chinese Communist Brainwashing)”

“Using that example, we can highlight examples of behavior control, information control, thought control, and emotional control.  Very delicately, we can ask them questions about their beliefs and reflexively listen to the answers without ANY judgment.”

What if they bring up the economy?” I interjected. It worked for Bill Clinton—“It’s the economy, stupid” instantly trounced all other considerations and won him the election. I follow Mr. Hassan on Twitter. When he returned the follow, I promised that I would take no cheap shots. I find this promise hard to keep these days, since his new horizons strikes me as no less absurd than his old. But I have, more or less, kept it.

Incredibly, he answered me privately, though DM. He recommended that I read his book! Nobody answers privately on Twitter, yet that’s what he did. My only explanation is that he saw my Twitter banner, which suggests that I am a Witness—it’s an advertisement of Dear Mr. Putin - Jehovah’s Witnesses Write Russia—and he simply assumed that if he gently gave me opportunity, not publicly where I would not dare respond lest my OVERSEERS take note, but in private, like Jesus pulled aside the deaf man so as not to put him on the spot, that I would gratefully let him take me by the hand so as to escape from the JW cult!

I don’t troll the guy. Everyone has a right to prevail on their own feed. I am not disrespectful when I reply and I don’t do it often. The next time he advised me, this time publicly, to read his book, I responded that I had a book, too. A third party to the thread tweeted that he had no book. “Get off your duff and write one!” I replied with a smiley emoji. “It is apparently the price of admission.”

Hassan stays at it—keeping on the watch:

Has everyone seen this video of Donald Trump?  Senior cabinet members grovel in the exact same way Scientologists do with Miscavage.  Does this LOOK like a healthy organization to you? This is not normal.  This is cult behavior.”

“He has actually said just the opposite,” I replied, “that his advisors do not have to agree with him and he likes the mix they bring to the table. To be sure, not many of them last too long.”

He says often what he thinks people want him to say or what he is told to say, but actions are what count!”

“I don’t see it, Steve,” I wrote. “To get a job, you must convey that you are a “team player” Try putting on your resume that your talent lies in challenging or broadening out the boss. Most bosses want a cohesive team that will recognize who leads. Have other presidents not done this also?”

Of course! Trump does bully on his feed, but the Presidency has been called the “bully pulpit,” after all. It is just that he is better at it than others that gets into Steve’s craw. If he bullied on Steve’s side, I can’t imagine him having any problem with it. It’s not mind-control that bothers him. It is the mind-control that is not that from his side. I barely restrain myself from playing devil’s advocate far more than the little bit that I do. There are genuine reasons to dislike Trump, and plenty of people take up those reasons.  You cannot really call him a bull in a china shop, because to do so you must accept the premise that government as usual is a china shop. Junkyard dog in a junkyard may work, though. But this additional “mind control” charge strikes me as pure looniness. It’s not my cause anyway, being a Witness, but I do appreciate how the Trump presidency has served to flush out the BITE-man.

How is it that SO MANY people in this country are STILL under the spell of Donald Trump?” he tweets.

“Though most of us throw our arms up in disgust or confusion, the answer to this question is actually quite simple:”

“Trump, the Republican Party and the right-wing media industrial complex are manipulating the public. They are employing the same techniques advertisers and public relations professionals use but have done so in an even more potent way.”

“They harness fear.  They repeat messages over and over again.  They disorient with conflicting messages.  They wage war on detractors.”

It is not that they don’t do it. It is that everyone else doesn’t do it as well.

We somehow think that “mind control” and “brainwashing” only exist in Hollywood movies but they are very REAL phenomena and through the relatively new medium of the internet, we are seeing mind control like we’ve never seen in human history.”

“The only remedy is knowledge. We need to educate ourselves so we can educate others.  If you want to understand more, let me know,” thus taking for granted his role in disseminating true knowledge. 

Still, I want to take his message to heart. There is on the big bad forum where I sometimes hang out an unabashed Trump advocate. Can I help him break free from his cult? Mr. Hassan sets the goal:

At EVERY point in this process (and I’ve been doing this for 40+ years for people lost in cults) we want to be gentle and caring. Arguing or TELLING them they are wrong will accomplish nothing.  We want them to have their OWN “Aha!” moment.  We never force it.”

Okay. I will try with this fellow James. Let’s see if I can help him to have his own “AHA!” moment. It won’t be easy because he is a blockhead. But I owe it to him to try.

Hello James. Have I told you lately that I feel love for you, just like Jesus felt love for the rich young ruler? I only want to help you—you must believe me. I do not want to take your trump-trump away. No.

But I have noticed—I say this only because I love and respect you—that whereas you used to be the most fun and pleasant person to be around, lately you have turned into a mean-spirited so-and-so. Do you even realize that the “Arab” you just spit at was actually a Jew?

Have you noted that the President does name calling? Do you think this is very nice? How do you expect other countries to respect this country if it’s leader is not nice? [Have your “Aha!” moment yet? No? Well, let’s continue] 

Hitler was not nice, was he? I know that we will agree on that. See, I am trying to build a bridge to you. I am establishing trust and support, and I will be delicate. Stalin was not nice either. And Pol Pot—what a meanie he was! These are facts I am telling you, James. I know that you will recognize that, for you are very smart. Trump is just like them. See? I am attempting a fundamentally new conversation with you, James. Thank you for allowing me to prove my point.

Alright, that’s enough! Am I my brother’s keeper? If he comes around, so be it. I hope he does, but there is only so much one person can do.

If Trump hadn’t been elected President, I would not have had the gift—an entirely unanticipated one—of Steve Hassan the anti-cultist revealing to all that he is just another political leftist.

 
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Putin to Restore Religious Freedom to Russian Jehovah’s Witnesses Before the End of 2020?

It was said on another forum—and was to be on the basis of pure political expediency. Could it be?

Two recent developments have occasioned specific rebukes from the U.S. State Department. 

1) the sentencing of 6 Witnesses to jail terms of 2-3 years.

2) the torture of at least 7 in Surgut, which Russian authorities at first denied but ultimately said proved necessary because the Witnesses resisted with martial arts techniques.

Of course, every other faith is kept track of as well—it is not just Jehovah’s Witnesses. Still, a State Department release of last year specifically mentioned just two groups. 1) Muslims, and  2) Jehovah’s Witnesses. The rest were all lumped into a single third category: 3) Others.

Of course, Trump might always consult with his son-in-law who can recall to him his dealings with the Witnesses from whom he purchased Bethel buildings—that they were people with whom “a handshake deal meant something.” He lavished praise on them in that video that JW.org took down as the Presidential campaign got underway, presumably so that no one would not attempt to portray Witnesses as part of Trump’s election machine—they are serious about neutrality over there.

The (relatively) optimistic prediction may well be right, but I am not holding my breath. The two Presidents did want to get along, but I am not sure that the moment has not passed. Any overtures between them have been soundly scuttled by the American media. It is even as though when the kings of the north and south indicate that they would like to agree, outside forces intervene to make sure that they cannot, as though to to enforce the current understanding of Daniel’s prophesy that the two will hate each other’s guts right down to the end.

It is also possible that Trump senses in his meeting on religious freedom an opportunity to defuse accusations that he is anti-Muslim. It is Muslims who are under attack today, probably more so than Christian groups, and probably spurred on by the perception of how readily a certain strain of that belief goes on to embrace violence. Who can say what Trump is up to? To say he is a bull in a china shop, one must accept the premise that the status quo among world and national leaders is a “china shop.” But he might well be likened to a junkyard dog in a junkyard. Who can say where he goes next?

At any rate, he sidesteps an agenda of climate change policy and hosts his own religious freedom meeting instead. Religious freedom is embedded in the U.S. Constitution, primarily the Bill of Rights. Climate change is not, and Trump plainly doesn’t trust it, viewing it as a mostly concocted wedge to drive socialism more firmly into the world fabric. Instead, he goes to country after country, as though Capitalist-Man wearing a cape, to cut deals. He reverses decades of policy that holds that making disadvantageous deals trade-wise will trigger political change, as newly monied populaces rise to overthrow the tyrannical governments that rule them, like a worldwide “Arab spring.” There is not much evidence that it works that way. It certainly didn’t with the Arab spring, and China is doubling down on its willingness to oppress, even in the face of material prosperity.

So will the (relatively) optimistic prophesy come true, that Putin will reverse JW persecution by year’s end? He points out that: “Neither care about Jehovah's Witnesses, specifically, but they both care about political optics, and pragmatically, about fairness.”

I agree that they are both pragmatic. But Trump is firmly resisted. And Putin may be as well. The New York Times speculated that he may not be so firmly in control as is assumed, partly because after he says: Why are we persecuting  Jehovah’s Witnesses? This must be looked into! the persecution does nothing but intensify. Even as the JW ban was under consideration, one pundit asked: Why would they do it? There was no question that they could, but why would they? They do nothing but make themselves ludicrous and thug-like on the world stage. But it has been “pedal to the medal” since. The succeeding act was to rule the New World Translation as extremist—not a Bible at all—and thus paint themselves before all as breathtakingly ignorant, since anyone with even a modicum of scholarship knows that it is.

The anti-religion campaign has only intensified. Deprived of the New World Translation, Jehovah’s Witnesses there resort to any translation. So courts have found that some verses even there are actually “extremist,” as happened with Psalm 37:29. In doing so they have bought into the thinking of the BITE model promoted by “anti-cultists” in the West. Such has become the wisdom that carries the day in Russia, however stretched the idea might be. It’s founder, Stephen Hassan, has just written a book about Trump: “The Cult of Trump—a Leading Cult Expert Explains How the President Uses Mind Control.”

When you think that half the country has fallen under cult influence, it is evidence, in my view, that you have drunk too much of the Kool-Aid yourself. It is also evidence that the entire BITE anti-cult movement is little more than a political movement. It is little more than a tool of the left. It is the new culture of victimization elevated to sainthood. Now, Mr. Hassan is a former “Moonie”—a group that is commonly regarded as a cult in both the new and the old sense of the word. Whether it is or not is for other people to judge. One way to apprise his present work is to judge it an effort to atone for his prior work—not just to atone, but to save face. “How could he have been stupid enough to join the Moonies?” is a question that many will ask. Of course, few are wont to admit that they could be stupid—hence the emotional appeal of a mindset that holds that even brilliant people can be misled by “cult” techniques—we are all that vulnerable. Having established the concept, it is then extended to the point at which half the country is deluded.

Experience is counted as a plus in some areas and roundly derided as making for bias in others. If I write a book about the persecution of Jehovah’s Witnesses in Russia (which I have), the fact that I am a Witness makes me incapable of accurately relating events in the eyes of many. But it doesn’t happen with him. He is hoisted upon the shoulders of others and paraded around because his thinking better accords with the irreligious humanistic thinking of the day.

At any rate, this anti-cult advocacy has been allowed to define Russia’s response to any religion not on the “approved list”—which in the Christian category, there is only one: the Russian Orthodox Church. One would think that the idiocy of declaring Jehovah’s Witnesses extremist would collapse eventually under its own weight, but it may not—again, because it fits in with the humanistic thinking of the day. It is not so much “mind control” that these anti-cultists are concerned about; it is mind-control that is not theirs. “At one time [Christians] walked according to the system of things of this world, according to the ruler of the authority of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience,” Paul says at Ephesians 2:2. Yes, the prevalent thinking of today surrounds us like air and has the same “authority.” Buck it at your own social and reputational peril.

Here is a Russian Orthodox priest who air-bombs a certain city with holy water as a strategy to combat the “heavy drinking and fornication” that, in his opinion, afflicts the population there. This action is not viewed as extremist. The peaceful preaching of Jehovah’s Witnesses, who manage within their ranks to avoid both heavy drinking and fornication, is extremist, however. One wonders if the word will not shatter someday at the stresses placed upon it.

Tying in a thread from yesterday about the Florida school shootings, I pointed out that two possible courses of actions were proposed, though neither agreed to because the inability to yield is the lifeblood of this system of things, though Witnesses have learned to do it without fuss: either outlaw rapid-fire guns or allow armed veterans and/or teachers to patrol the halls. Neither of those two courses, were they to be found in Russia, would be viewed as extremist. However, Jehovah’s Witnesses, who circumvent the entire problem by living now the standards that they see prevailing in the new system—they categorically renounce violence—are.

It is this world that is extremist, and not the Witnesses at all. However, this world has the upper hand at the moment, so expect similar atrocities of reason to prevail. Once in a while a bone is tossed our way. One Witness got out of pre-trail lockup when a judge ruled that the prior judge had shown prejudicial bias. She had rebuked the Witness with: “You are not a prisoner of conscience and you have nothing to do with the first Christians. You should not speculate on this...” He is and he does, and the second judge ruled that she had been out of line to muzzle the thought.

 

 
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“You Can Check Out Any Time You Like - But You Can Never Leave”

I had someone contact me via email, trying to get me going, saying he was “physically in, but mentally out.” And—here’s the kicker—he said that after he placed literature he would later return to warn the householder not to read it! Or if he did, not to act upon it. Now, just let me get a mental picture of how that might go down:

Why did he place literature in the first place? He is “a member of a controlling cult that monitors everything he does, and so he has no choice!”—I guess he would have to say something like that. And they “control” him by threatening to take his family away if he doesn’t follow every “command” that they issue! It is too late for him, but not too late for you, Mr. Householder. Run and save yourself!

Really? Could that truly be?

Look, if you want to present the picture that opposers are loony-tunes crazy, I can’t think of a better way to do it. On Christmas Eve, he goes to homes to sing Christmas carols. On every other night, he goes to sing Hotel California: 

‘You can check in any time you like—but you can never leave!’

or House of the Rising Sun:

‘and it’s been the ruin of many a poor boy, and God, I know, I’m one’

or For What it’s Worth:

‘step out of line, the men come to take you away!’

Sheesh. People are crazy. Loony-tunes crazy—pure and simple.

He also said, (with a hee hee hee) that he was one of thousands! Could that be? Or is his army like that of Gideon, making such a god-awful racket that they seem far larger than they really are? Or is it just him? Or is it not even him—look, going door to door for even the right reason is a challenge—but to go twice to say that you want to take back what you said the first time because you are actually an undercover guerrilla fighter—when the householder wasn’t all that interested in the first place? What kind of a nutcase could pull that off? 

No matter. I don’t run away from these things. I run toward them. I think of the Philippians verse: 

True, some are preaching the Christ through envy and rivalry, but others also through goodwill. The latter are publicizing the Christ out of love...but the former do it out of contentiousness, not with a pure motive, for they are supposing to stir up tribulation....What then? [Nothing,] except that in every way, whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is being publicized, and in this I rejoice.” (1:15-18)

The object is to get the good news out there, and these unhinged nutcases only help the cause. To be sure, it is a strange way to get it out there, but it does get it out there. The whole program is strange, as I told one fellow trying to run a garage sale that no one was showing up for. Appear out of nowhere as a complete stranger and say you want to talk about God? Christians are a theatrical spectacle in all the earth, says Paul. Tell me about it.

Nor am I ashamed that there are so many “apostates.” I am proud of them. I consider them additional proof that what JWs have fulfills the Bible pattern. If we didn’t have any—that would be a test of my faith, for I would wonder why. There is no New Testament writer who does not deal with apostates. If they existed then, why would they not exist now? In fact, as we get closer to the time, you would expect them to be more numerous and virulent, and would wonder what was the problem if they were not.

To be sure, many Witnesses run away from these things—it has been the pattern. The time may come when they will tackle them head-on. Opponents are having their day in the sun—beyond all question they have thrust awkward, even disagreeable, aspects of JWs front and center on the world stage. I take my hat off to them. Well done! That is not to be confused with personal admiration. It is more like when the Jurassic Park security chief praises the pterodactyl circling round to pounce on him, ‘Good girl!’ just before being eaten alive.

Will the beasts do the same this time? I think not. We are used to presenting the gem of the Christian way of life through it’s most appealing facet. Let us learn to present it through it’s least appealing one. It is the same gem. “The game is the same, it’s just up on another level.” That’s the song we should be singing—leave it to the lunatics to sing Hotel California!

The trick is not to try to sanitize the present. It is to de-sanitize the past. It is to say of Peter, ‘He is the most prominent one, and yet he cowers like an adolescent—his action can be (probably was) painted as the ultimate in hypocrisy! Once the Jewish Christians show up, he avoids company of the Gentile ones? And he is given the keys to the kingdom? Yes. That is how it is. God uses people despite phenomenal weaknesses. 

Transport it to the present day. We have people who did not avoid the trap that everyone else has fallen into. They wished not to advertise their dirty laundry—and to carry on as though they had none. They did it for perfectly understandable reasons—for fear of tarnishing the Name that they tried to stand proclaim. But they did it. The fact that they alone sought to investigate an evil in order to mete out discipline and protect other congregations does not matter.

They can ‘reform’ in the eyes of the reasonable world, and likely have done so even now, with various tweaks culminating in that May 2019 issue. But they will never ever reform enough in the eyes of their virulent detractors. At some point, perhaps they will take on detractors more openly—judiciously, and not so as to satisfy the detractors, which cannot be done, but to offer a defense of the Christian way to those whose ear the detractors have gained. This is what you want to be writing your books about, Greg, not arguing over the Trinity.

In other words, the things that detractors paint as sordid are exactly the traps that well-intentioned and imperfect people who are ‘insular’ (no part of the world) could be expected to fall into. We’ll learn, where necessary, to present the truth through this facet so easily spun as a negative. 

It is the same with disfellowshipping, which opposers (many of them disfellowshipped themselves) have made into a monster issue, and in this age where ‘victimization’ is all the rage, have thrust it into the public eye. Keep it there where it belongs. Don’t try to skulk away from it.

Jehovah’s Witnesses are a faith that adherents take seriously. If you don’t participate, even if you stop, that does not create ripples. If you turn 180 degrees and flame what your family holds most dear, that probably will. The scriptures “tell” congregation members what to do in that event. Leadership merely alerts to those scriptures & afterwards their job is done. It could be tweaked—has been already— but any competent leadership would know of the same verses & principles behind them. Most people will have little difficulty in accepting that if you persistently by word or deed refuse to conform to the standards of any group, you may find yourself out on your ear.

The malcontents who carry on that ‘if it is not perfect, it is filthy’ would not have lasted two minutes in the first century. They would have honed in on the ill doings of those Revelation 2 and 3 congregations and started screaming back then just as they are screaming now. 

And if they would not have lasted two minutes during the early days of the Christian congregation, they would not have lasted two seconds in the early days of the Jewish nation. Yes, yes, there are some things that are not exactly the same. But the similarities far outnumber the differences.

8DEE1E38-2A6D-4C17-9B2E-499E38931FDB

Photo: welcome to the hotel California, by askpang

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

“Should He Be Disfellowshipped?”

Come now. You know that this [“shunning” or “avoiding”] has already happened, unless he has been secretive as to his activities and intent. Social media is full of complaints of those saying that they have been “shunned” though no DFing has ever occurred—it is but their separation and subsequent activities that congregation members react to. Nobody tells them what to do. They tell themselves, based on their understanding of Bible principles, what to do.

That is why it would have been better had he remained part of the congregation throughout. Relations would have become tense, probably, but that is always the case with someone who presents himself as a ‘reformer’ or ‘whistleblower.’ Instead, he separates and aligns himself with a community that continually derides JWs as a “cult”—a perception that none of them will share—so they are unlikely to conclude that he has anything in mind other than sinking them, using an unsavory subject as a wedge, since many of that community have expressly stated that is their goal.

“Do you feel that what Mark has done merits a judicial committee and DF'ing?” From afar, one does not weigh in on this, with only a tiny percentage of the facts available. It is irresponsible to ask, just as it is irresponsible to try to get people to weigh in pre-trial on O.J, Michael Jackson, Paul Manifort, or anyone else. How would I know?

JWs are not a “cult”—the whole concept is silly, and the incendiary word has been expanded to include them only in the last 20-30 years or so. They are a faith that meaningfully applies scripture IN THEIR OWN LIVES ONLY, even as they recommend it to others—a point continually misrepresented by “anti-cultists.”

Is it only your community that complains of being “manipulated?” JWs are a community of believers who wish to avoid being “manipulated” by overall societal trends, and for this reason they have voluntarily signed on to tools, up to and including DFing, that facilitates this end. The reason we look at 30-year-old photos of ourselves and wonder how we ever imagined those dorky styles did anything for us reveals a basic law of human nature. Would that that principle applied only to small things like style. But It doesn’t. Humans run with the herd on matters small and big. To deny a faith the tools to self-control is no more than an attack on the free expression of one’s faith.

Since the Watchtower organization has stated that they do not tell family members to shun others in the family, there is no reason not to take them up on this. Family members will shun or not shun based upon whether they think there is any reason general policy on avoiding those who oppose should not apply simply because one is family. (“Shunning,” by the way, is not the best term, since it implies permanence. Disfellowshipping does not.)

If Mark’s work is no more than an extension of what has been plainly stated—that anyone who knows of CSA in the JW congregation has every right to go to authorities and doing so brings no reproach upon anyone other than the perpetrator, then he has nothing to be concerned about. https://www.tomsheepandgoats.com/2019/02/the-reproach-of-child-sexual-abuse-falls-on-the-abu.html.  I don’t even accede to your conclusion as to why the two congregation elders call. It could be that way, but you have by no means demonstrated it.

From Chivchalov’s blog, in Russia, since all ties together:

“Few people know that back in 2010, the European Court of Human Rights considered all the most popular accusations against Jehovah's Witnesses in Russia: breaking families, stealing real estate, failure to perform civil duties, refusal of military service, risk to health due to bloodless treatment, and even "mind control". Russian anti-cultists badly wanted to prove these allegations. The result: each of them was found to be unfounded and unsubstantiated. Here are some details in Russian: http://chivchalov.blogspot.com/2012/02/blog-post_13.htmlBut the Russian media don't care about the courts, facts and evidence. Over the past 9 years, these accusations continue to be heavily exploited by the media and presented as widely known and accepted facts. What doesn't work in court rooms due to the lack of evidence, works perfectly in the media that know how to invent any evidence and present it at the right angle. By the way, the Russian authorities learned a lesson: now what they say on TV, they don't say in court. In the Supreme and other courts, all these accusations were no longer mentioned. There was only one new accusation: "extremism," which is understood as the belief in the truth of one's religion.”

Most things take more than a sound byte to answer, which is why I put my reply on this platform, rather than a long series of tweets that will get all mixed up & out of order. On “cult” accusations: https://www.tomsheepandgoats.com/2019/02/who-really-is-a-cult-part-1.html

On “shunning” accusations: https://www.tomsheepandgoats.com/2019/01/in-defense-of-shunning.html

On all other accusations, see the free ebook TrueTom vs the Apostates! 

I have reproduced your tweets below, Javi, along with my reply that preceded them:

“See, this is where you often lose me. If Mark is disfellowshipped, he will be more than "avoided". he will be shunned by his entire family and lifelong friends. Cut off from his entire social environment. Check out Kip William's research williams.socialpsychology.org (1/3)

The effects of ostracism are on par with physical pain as far as the human brain is concerned. Aside from that, as Mark alluded in the article. Speaking out has already come at much personal and financial cost. These men could just leave him be and NOBODY in their congregation (2/3)

would be affected. Mark could proceed with his work, retain a semblance of a relationship with his elderly kin. But, it appears they're insisting on the visits. I'd argue that they are the aggressors; Do you feel that what Mark has done merits a judicial committee and DF'ing?” (3/3)

My prior tweets:

If you say someone lied, usually you say what the lie was. Also, if he presents himself as whistleblower who cares about his PIMI friends and family, he could have attended all congregation meetings both before ....1/3

and after. Relationships would strain, to be sure, but at no time would he need be concerned about being accosted physically. That cannot be said of the two men he named publicly before an audience mostly hostile to what ....2/3

they stand for. For that reason, it is usually thought extraordinarily vindictive to name private persons on the internet.....3/3

 

.....And since Mark has tagged everyone under the sun, so will I.

 

 

 

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

No Common Sense Here

At the Russian government press conference, journalists asked about the case of Dennis Christensen, who one day prior had been sentenced to over 6 years in prison for practicing his faith. Journalists asked whether Jehovah’s Witnesses can really be considered an extremist organization from a common sense point of view.  The president's press secretary said: "We cannot rely on concepts of common sense for governmental purposes." Of course!

The knee-jerk response of any jaded person in nearly any country on earth is to chuckle and say “Yeah, it is just like that here.” But there is much more to be seen here.

The Russian government is plainly befuddled. The press secretary goes on to explain that the greater issue is not whether Jehovah’s Witnesses are extremist. The greater issue is that Dennis Christensen was found guilty of violating the law that says they are. Surely this is kicking the can down the road. Two months ago, at another meeting, President Putin stated that he really didn’t understand why Jehovah’s Witnesses are persecuted, indicating that the law itself makes no sense to him as applied to Witnesses.

To slightly misapply the words of Jesus, “something greater than Capernaum is here.” What? Two scenarios can be advanced—one for all persons, and one for persons of biblical bent.

The purely human one is that a powerful and cunning anti-cult movement takes the Russian government unawares. It takes them unawares because it is a Western import, not Russian at all, finding roots in a humanist French NGO dedicated to freeing people from ideas considered socially destructive, and nothing is more destructive to them than religion that includes the concept of authority among its members. The anti-cult movement finds its counterpart in all developed lands, though its methods will differ.

There are even divisions among them. The anti-cultists in the West consider the anti-cultists in Russia to be doing it all wrong. One of them says (sigh – it is my nemesis, but there are many others): “Jehovah’s Witnesses need persecution for their beliefs to make sense. With their thuggish behavior that violates human rights, Russia is blowing a huge gust of wind into Watchtower’s sails, fueling another generation’s worth of propaganda.”

Of course! They have a “persecution complex” over there—often the charge is made by Witness opposers. Why would their fellow anti-cultists—brothers in spirit if not in technique—be so stupid as to validate it by persecuting them? It is as though he says: “Look—we want what you want, the destruction of the Witness organization. But that is not the best way to do it.”

***~~~***

The second scenario, for those of biblical bent, and it may not be of interest to those not, so they have "permission" to skip this and two succeeding paragraphs, involves the fact that the Witness organization has identified Russia as the biblical “king of the north,” an entity found in the prophesy of Daniel (chapter 11). It is a complex prophesy which many students of the Bible have tackled, involving specific powers (kings) that pass their respective mantles to succeeding powers in often shifting geographical areas, commencing from Daniel’s time down to the present. Does it complicate matters with the Russian government for someone to tell them that the Witness organization says that they are the northern king? Emily Baran, who wrote the book Dissent on the Margins, about the persecution of Jehovah’s Witnesses during Soviet times, said that it did. It genuinely confused the irreligious Soviets and enabled them in characterizing the Witnesses as a political movement masquerading as a religion.

The Witness organization goes where it goes in furtherance of its mission to live by and advertise Bible principles, largely oblivious to ones who may think that their toes are stepped on—barely aware of it at all, because they ‘don’t do politics’ at Witness HQ. There is a king of the south, too, these days associated with the United States, and neither king is overly friendly to the interests of Jehovah’s Witnesses. However, because the concept of human rights finds soil more fertile in the West than in the East, Witnesses face few legal impediments to their work in such lands. In fact, the most frequent participant in U.S. Supreme Court proceedings has been the Witness organization itself—sometimes as plaintiff and sometimes as defendant. Of them, Justice Harlan Fiske Stone once said: “I think the Jehovah’s Witnesses ought to have an endowment in view of the aid which they give in solving the legal problems of civil liberties.”

The entire prophesy as seen though Jehovah’s Witnesses eyes is most recently discussed in their 1999 publication Pay Attention to Daniel’s Prophesy, which is a discussion of the entire Bible book, not just the chapters involving the two opposing kings. Regardless of who interprets the prophesy, and of what time interval is covered, the kings of the north and south are continually at loggerheads. What is remarkable about the present—and this is only this writer’s perception—is that even when the “kings” declare that they would like to get along, outside forces intervene to keep them “on script.”

“Wouldn’t it be nice if we actually got along with Russia?” the current American president said during his campaign. President Putin has spoken similarly. At which point, the American press intervenes to virtually ensure that they will not. Today, it is widely recognized that east-west relations are subsequently more strained than in even Soviet times. This dovetails so well with certain biblical passages (Ezekiel 38:4, Revelation 17:17) to the effect that world powers will do things not of their own devising that the similarity is impossible to let pass without mention. One must wonder if former Witnesses, upon seeing unexpected world developments that violate even “common sense,” yet are exactly in accord with long Witness expectations, do not think sometimes that they may have deboarded the train too soon—for in the aftermath of the final contest between the kings of the north and south, a contest whose biblical role has been developing for 2500 years, the “people of the covenant” at last find deliverance.

It is to be noted that enemies of Jehovah’s Witnesses present themselves, not as enemies of individual Witnesses, but of the organization that they have chosen, which they somehow portray as having “enslaved” them through various psychological techniques of “control.” In Russia, Jehovah’s Witnesses as people are not banned. Only their organization is. However, most persons are not sophisticated enough to tell the difference, because essentially there is no difference. The Witness enemy is befuddled by it and assaults members with impunity. The police stand by and do nothing because they, too, are befuddled by it. The government is befuddled by it, as noted above. The Witness him or herself is befuddled by it. Everyone is befuddled by it because it makes no sense. It is like this writer saying that I love the Russian people—it is only the Kremlin that I seek to destroy. It is like my saying that the Russian people are free to drive the roads—it is only the roads that are banned. It takes a while to get one’s head around such a notion. Guileless ones are particularly disadvantaged because the presentation itself is steeped in guile.

It doesn’t even matter the reason for opposition to the Witnesses. The anti-cultists of the West latch on to different reasons to destroy the Witness organization than do the anti-cultists of the East. A common trigger for denunciation in the West is that Jehovah’s Witnesses are unsupportive of gay rights, and within their community, do not allow for gay sex. This makes them absolute heroes in Russia, which avidly persecutes gays. Just after the Russian ban was instituted, Angela Merkel even mentioned the two populations in the same breath to Putin—questioning him of his harassment of gays and Jehovah’s Witnesses. (Many Western sources, such as the BBC, edited out Jehovah’s Witnesses so as to focus on gays.) So Russia must scramble to find different reasons for persecution, since a prime Western reason is not a problem in its eyes.  Some Russian sources commenting on recent Witness events mention as a specific objection only that Jehovah’s Witnesses refuse blood transfusions. Even the most staunch advocate of blood transfusion will concede that the group refusing them are not to be equated with ISIS terrorists. No, on so many levels, Witness persecution defies common sense. Whenever things do that, people can be forgiven for wondering if something supernatural isn’t at work as well.

~~~

Dennis Christensen “has spent the last 20 months in a cold cell with suspected drug dealers and only been allowed to meet his wife, separated by bars and a corridor, twice a month. If convicted, he could spend up to a decade in jail,” writes Andrew Osborn for Reuters. How much do you want to bet that those drug dealers now know their Bibles quite well? Alas, that may make them more unwelcome in Russia than had they landed the area distribution franchise for Drugs-R-Us.

He must have his moments of despondency. He must. But you would never know it. He is serene in appearances, and sometimes even cheerful. Jehovah’s Witnesses could not have wished for better examples to face the Russian bear than he and his wife Irene. See how he typifies the spirit of 1 Peter 2:23:

“Christ suffered...leaving you a model for you to follow his steps closely....When he was being reviled, he did not go reviling in return. When he was suffering, he did not go threatening, but kept on committing himself to the one who judges righteously.”

Has he wavered in his love for his adopted homeland? He “does not regret that he moved to live in Russia. ‘It is one of the best decisions that I have made in my life, and it brought me much happiness,’” he tells the Reuters reporter. This despite his being anything but starry eyed. “To call me or other peaceful Jehovah's Witnesses extremists is the greatest stupidity that I have ever heard!" he says. “Of course I hope that he (the judge) will be just," he said. "But I also know which country I’ve been living in."

Only a month ago, President Putin, when asked, stated that the equating of Jehovah’s Witnesses with terrorists was “of course...complete nonsense,” something “you need to carefully deal with,” and later, “so this should be looked into” since “Jehovah’s Witnesses are Christians, too.” We may soon learn just how carefully he means to deal with and look at it, as the time of Dennis’ sentencing has arrived. As for Irena, “I’m not afraid of anything and Dennis is not afraid either,” she told Reuters.

I have never seen a picture of him in which he is not mild, even well dressed. He actually broke into song at one hearing via Internet, before the guard told him to shut up. Could one ask for a better example? The symbolism is complete. His surname points to the one he follows. Even his carpenter profession lines up. Even his last project as a free man spotlights the idiocy of branding him an “extremist”—building a playground for the community children. Would members of the only other group in Russia officially designated “extremist,” ISIS, also build a playground for the community children? Maybe, but it would be a long time gaining my trust to let my children play on it. On January 23, the prosecutor requested a sentence of 6 years and 6 months in prison. Why not add 6 days to the request to make it a nice, biblical 666?

It's déjà vu for Jehovah’s Witnesses in that country, whose period of freedom has lasted only 27 years. “The only difference is that at that time [of the Soviet Union] they were called 'enemies of the people'. Now they are called 'extremists'," says Irena.

Journalist Osborn does what all journalists must do. He probes for the actual reason that Jehovah’s Witnesses are opposed. Usually all one must do in such cases is read the charges of the prosecution, but here in the Christensen case the charges are ridiculous, and the ‘crimes’ easily refuted. So Osborn hits on one spot of contention after another, but presently puts his finger on the real trigger: “Russia has been the most outspoken in portraying it as an extremist cult.” He refers, perhaps unknowingly, to a burgeoning anti-cult movement which finds conditions fertile in Russia for a perfect storm, but which is active everywhere.

The reason that Putin declares it complete nonsense to call Witnesses “extremist” is because it is. As such, he and his in government would never have dreamt of doing such a thing. However much any of them may dislike Jehovah’s Witnesses, ISIS has taught them what extremism is. They are not so stupid as to confuse the two.

Likewise, the dominant Russian Orthodox Church did not originate the ban against the Witnesses. That is not to say that some of them did not squeal with delight like kids on Christmas morning, but it was not their idea. The thinkers there are not particularly happy about it, for the same set of laws that declare it a crime to proclaim the superiority of one’s religion in the case of Jehovah’s Witnesses might easily be turned against them.

No, problems with the Church and the suspicious government merely make for excellent tinder. The spark that sets it off Osborn identifies with: “Russia has been the most outspoken in portraying it as an extremist cult.” It is a determined anti-cult movement that sets the match to the tinder. It is not even Russian originated, but like Bolshevism itself, is a Western import. Religion writer Joshua Gill has outlined how a French NGO dedicated to protecting people from ideas considered socially destructive—the manifest goal of anti-cultism--sent a well-known emissary to Russia who spread that view with missionary zeal, maximizing his existing status with the Russian Orthodox Church.

The anti-cult movement ever seeks to extend its reach. Only in Russia does it find conditions ripe for the perfect storm, but its influence is afoot everywhere. The match was even literal in 2018 Washington State, where six attacks resulted in two Kingdom Halls burnt to the ground. Of course, that is not the intent—to incite violence. Anti-cultists speak against it, for the most part. But when you yell “CULT!” in a crowded theater, who can say what will happen? The correct term, non-incendiary and chosen by scholars for just that reason, is "new religious movement."

Assembling material in preparation for ‘Dear Mr. Putin – Jehovah’s Witnesses Write Russia,’ I became more and more convinced that the anti-cult movement was behind it all, and it is a conviction that has only strengthened since. In the book’s introduction, I wrote:

“Does Kuraev really mean to suggest that prosecution presented no intelligible arguments at the Supreme Court trial? An observer of the trial might well think it. He might well wonder just what does the government have against Jehovah’s Witnesses? There must be something, but it is not stated. At one point the judge asked the prosecution (the Ministry of Justice) whether it had prepared for the case. A decision had been plainly made somewhere from on high and it would fall upon the judge to rubber-stamp it. Of course, he did, perhaps because he wanted to remain a judge. The actual reasons behind anti-Witness hostility were never presented. So I have presented them in Part II, along with how they might be defended.”

I even went on to caution members of my own faith:

“Some Witnesses, truth be told, will be uncomfortable with Part II and might best be advised to skip over it. They will love the idea of defending the faith but may be unaware of the scope of the attacks made against it, some of which are truly malicious. Deciding to sit out this or that controversy will earn them taunts of ‘sticking one’s head in the sand’ from detractors, but it is exactly what Jesus recommends, as will be seen. Not everyone must immerse themselves in every ‘fact,’ for many of them will turn out to be facts of Mark Twain’s variety: facts that “ain’t so.” You can’t do everything, and most persons choose to focus on matters most directly relevant to their lives.” 

That caution is repeated, with even greater applicability, in the newer ebook ‘TrueTom vs the Apostates!’ The book is not recommended to all Witnesses. Read it if you want a specific reply to charges laid against the faith. For those able to focus upon forward motion only, the book is not recommended. For those not, it is. The line that invariably gets the largest applause at Regional Conventions of Jehovah’s Witnesses is: “Would you like to send your greetings to the brothers in Bethel [headquarters]?” The hard work and integrity of these ones is appreciated by all. So not everyone will feel the need to check out every derogatory report.

In some respects, the Witness organization appears to this writer to be out of step with regard to the attacks it faces today. With a long history of persevering in the face of religious threats to stomp it out of existence, it seems slow to acknowledge that religions are mostly licking their wounds these days, and it is the irreligious world, with anti-cultists in the vanguard, that most vehemently presses for its downfall.

See Reuters article, by Andrew Osborn

And one from BBC Russia, by Viktor Nekhezin

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………

 

At a December 11. 2018 meeting with the Council on Civil Society Development and Human Rights, one council member, Ekaterina Shulman, addressed President Putin: “There is a list of organizations, for which there is information that they are involved in terrorism and extremism. There are 489 of them, and 404 of them are Jehovah’s Witnesses.”

Pressing her luck, she continued: “Here I will take a sinister pause. There could be an abundance of claims against Jehovah’s Witnesses—they don’t allow blood transfusion, don’t send children to hospitals, [ed: not a charge that I have heard before] but they definitely are not calling for violence or committing it.”

Putin’s response was: “We should treat the representatives of all religions in the same way – this is true, but still, it is also necessary to take into account the country and the society in which we live. True, this does not mean at all that we should include representatives of religious communities in some destructive, or even in terrorist organizations. Of course, this is complete nonsense, you need to carefully deal with it. Here I agree with you.”

Later in the meeting, Putin returned to the topic and added: “Jehovah’s Witnesses are Christians, too. I don’t quite understand why they are persecuted. So this should be looked into. This must be done.” The Washington Post and Time picked up on the story the next day, the Post saying that he “has pledged to look into the reported persecution of Jehovah’s Witnesses.”

Now, what to make of this?

Yaroslav Sivulski, the press secretary for JWs in Russia, stated: “We have noted the president’s reaction with surprise. If he knows about the whole situation, then probably his reaction could change something. We hope that he will give instructions to have the matter examined and something may happen. Though, knowing the realities of our country, there is not much optimism.” Okay, so they’re not breaking out the champagne just yet.

The online community of Jehovah’s Witnesses was a cynical bunch, by and large, with many thinking Putin was just being slippery. In fact, since translating from Russian to English poses challenges, one Witness understood him to say: “Jehovah's Witnesses are also Christians, for which I do not really understand how to persecute them,” as though he was searching for more effective ways to do it. Hmm. Did he say "I really do not understand how to persecute them" or "I really do not understand how they are persecuted"? It is the six-million-dollar question. It is a little like the Twilight Zone episode in which the earthlings were relieved to find the alien's handbook "To Serve Man." ‘Ahh, it means their intentions are good,’ and they breathed easily, but at the show’s end they discovered to their discomforture that it was a cookbook.

I tend to take President Putin’s remarks at face value. There is no reason that he has to say what he does, even expanding it to ‘Jehovah’s Witness are also Christians,’ contradicting prominent religious people who say they are not. When his Foreign Minister, Sergey Lavrov, who was also among the officials that Witnesses contacted via a letter campaign launched in hopes of averting the 2017 ban, was asked a similar question last year, he could not have answered more harshly than he did. I think Putin is being genuine, at last waking up to something that he has barely paid attention to. Maybe it is like the hinge squeaking in the background somewhere that he has barely noticed but now it is driving him nuts. Perhaps he will even pick up his WD-40, go lubricate it himself, and subsequently vent his wrath upon whoever allowed such idiocy to take center stage in the first place, painting his country before all the world as a nation of goons--in the spirit of Ahasuerus avenging Haman.

A president is a busy man. It is popularly believed that anything that goes down in a country will have his fingerprints all over it, but this is seldom so for matters of ‘low priority.’ Of course, this is not low priority for Witnesses, but it can hardly be otherwise for him. At a subsequent news conference, he spoke to the danger of nuclear war, which he hopes the West does not get too cavalier about: “The danger of the situation escalating is being downplayed,” he said, adding that the lowering of thresholds for nuclear capability “could really lead us to catastrophe.” If he loses sleep at night, it is not over the travails of a small religion. It is over the thought of the world going up in flames.

Western media excoriates him, but it cannot be wise to let the propaganda of one king mold our view of the other. I was very careful, in writing the book, Dear Mr. Putin – Jehovah’s Witnesses Write Russia, not to do that. In the event it was ever read by anyone that mattered, I did not want to sabotage it by being disrespectful or accusing.

It wasn’t that hard to do—for example, by spotlighting the two, likely three, times that Russia, not the United States, saved the world from certain nuclear war. Lieutenant Colonel Petrov spotted an incoming missile from the U.S. on his screen, correctly judged it a malfunction, and against orders, did not relay the report to the excitable Kremlin. Second-in-command Vasili Arkhipov refused to sign-off with his two fellow officers to launch a nuclear attack during the Cuban missile crisis—thwarting an attack that had to have unanimous backing. Nikita Khrushchev arguably brought that crisis to a close with his last-minute telegram to President Kennedy.

However, in refraining from criticizing Putin personally, I was not just being expedient. I honestly came to feel it not likely that he was one of the instigators. I admit that feeling wavered in view of the abuses of the last few months, with Witnesses physically accosted by police, but now it intensifies. Promisingly, he is not cut from the same cloth as many in high government. He was not born to privilege in the ruling class. He started from the ground up, as a regular office worker, and lived with his parents during the early days of his working life. He thus probably retains a feel for the interests of the ‘common man’ that his co-rulers do not. In the end, it hardly matters, because ‘the heart of a king is as streams of water’ in Jehovah’s hands. But it helps if it is neither ice cubes nor steam to begin with.

He didn’t have to say it, is the point. He could have issued some boiler-plate beatitude of how ‘the situation is serious and we continue to monitor it closely.’ He certainly didn’t have to say that Witnesses are Christian too, thus showing that he will not be shoved around by ones who insist they are not. His statement makes it much harder for Russia to thumb its nose at any upcoming ECHR verdict, indicating that he has no intention of doing that. How can his words not ease the pressure on Jehovah’s Witnesses in that country? After all, if you were a Russian cop, would YOU violently accost one after what he just said?

Still, he is conscious of the majority. How much freedom of worship will be restored remains to be seen, since he observes that with 90% of the country being of a certain religious orientation, one cannot throw everything overboard so as to please the "sects." It is enough not to persecute them, which he seems inclined not to do. Maybe the brothers will have to tip-toe around for a while, and it will not necessarily be a bad thing for our people to focus on being discreet. That has long been the direction of theocratic training, anyhow. If Putin truly had evil intent, however, he would not have returned to the topic to say that he doesn’t really understand why Jehovah’s Witnesses are persecuted. Now let’s see how well he holds up as the more devious ones labor to ‘educate’ him on the topic. We will see whose resolve prevails. Probably, JW representative Sivulsky has it just right: he is surprised and cautiously optimistic.

In some respects, it may prove a replay, with hopefully different outcome, of the situation with Pilate judging Jesus. Pilate knew that he was being set up. He knew Jesus was innocent. He worked rather hard to free him—that much is clear by reading any one of the gospel accounts, and the conclusion is inescapable upon reviewing all of them. But the scoundrels were so insistent, even hinting that to release Jesus would be treasonous, that he eventually caved. After all, it wasn’t his prime concern. He had a province to run. He tried to do the right thing. That’s how it is with many today. They try to do the right thing, but they only try so hard. When the going gets rough, they opt for expediency.

The Russian Orthodox Church has insisted that it did not instigate the ban and I am inclined to believe them. That is not to say that prominent ones were not delighted at the outcome, or that some instigators did not have Church connections. But the villainy stems from an anti-cult movement, with French connections, that is active in many lands. Conditions in Russia were ripe, that’s all, just like they were ripe for Communism 100 years ago, which was also imported from abroad.

Writing ‘Dear Mr. Putin - Jehovah’s Witnesses Write Russia’ took the better part of a year. There were few publicly available online sources that I did not read during this time, save only for those that were repetitive. The most telling report was one by Joshua Gill, a religion writer, revealing from where most of the trouble came.

“The Russian Supreme Court’s July 17 ban on the Jehovah’s Witnesses was the result of a decades long conspiracy funded by the French government, blessed by the Russian Orthodox Church, and sanctioned by the Putin administration…The latest phase of that plan first garnered international attention with Russian authorities’ arrest of a Danish citizen.” That would be Dennis Christensen, arrested May 25, 2017 for conducting a congregation meeting after the ban had gone into effect, and still in prison at this time of writing, (December 2018) his case only recently coming to trial.

Gill spotlights the role of Alexander Dvorkin, the Russian Ministry’s Expert Council for Conducting State Religious-Studies. That Council exists so as “to investigate religions that deviate from Russian Orthodox teaching and to recommend actions against those religions to the state.” They have recommended taking strong action on non-majority faiths. Mr. Dvorkin is also vice president of the European Federation of Research and Information Centers on Sectarianism (FECRIS), a French NGO dedicated to identifying as a “sect/cult or a guru the organization or the individual which misuses beliefs and behavioral techniques for his own benefit.” It is an organization fully funded by the French government, and it may be remembered that that government tried to eliminate Jehovah’s Witnesses by imposing a 60% tax on their activities in 1998. The tax was steadfastly appealed by Jehovah’s Witnesses until it was struck down by the European Court of Human Rights fourteen years later.

The Daily Caller article reveals the depth of Dvokin’s misinformation and dislike of Jehovah’s Witnesses. “Their adepts recruit failed university enrollees, and people on vacation as well; they have a wide range of psychological influence, especially on the unstable minds of adolescents and youths,” he says of them and the Hare Krishnas. He has encouraged the public to “take part in the fight against sects, file complaints and collect raw data so that the local authorities can react quickly.” In a 2009 documentary called ‘Emergency Investigation: Jehovah’s Witnesses,’ he compared Witnesses to drug dealers. The Journal for the Study of Beliefs and Worldviews attributes instances of public violence against Russian Witness members to that documentary, just as the violence visiting Kingdom Halls in Washington State is similarly stoked by the inflammatory use of the C-word. Is the FECRIS mission of identifying as a “sect/cult or a guru the organization or the individual which misuses beliefs and behavioral techniques for his own benefit” not exactly the battle cry of the anti-cultists worldwide?”

Mine was the minority view among the Witnesses I spoke with. “You are a better Christian than I am,” one said. “You always expect the best from people. I don't believe a word a politician says.” Note that his distrust is of “a politician,” not of Putin specifically, though he hardly sings his praises. One could even say that it is a sign of being “insular”—they are all the same to him. Having said that, they are all the same to many persons today—it is hardly a quirk of him alone. Why, long ago Mark Twain even said that politicians must be changed as frequently as a diaper—and for the same reason.

It is true that I try to think the best of people. Am I a “better Christian” in this instance? Or just a dumber one? Time will tell.

~~~

From the ebook Dear Mr. Putin - Jehovah’s Witnesses Write Russia.

https://www.smashwords.com/books/search?query=Tom+Harley

 

 

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Who Really Is a Cult? Part 1

Zealots find it irresistible to expand negative terminology so that it will embrace those that they would like to see shamed, discredited, or punished. Often this makes the terminology all but meaningless. For example, the Economist of August 2009 observes that the current child sex abuser registries are so long as to be absolutely useless to law enforcement. They include teenagers who had sex with underage girlfriends. They include persons who urinated in public, as well those who exposed themselves in public. None of those things are great, of course, but if you include them all on a master list with violent predators, you make it all but impossible to track the violent predators, which is the purpose of the list to begin with. Adding various levels of severity does not remedy things: people are preoccupied, sometimes obtuse, and can only work with uncluttered tools.

It is much the same with the word “cult.” Time was when if you fell under the spell of a charismatic leader, withdrew from society, and did peculiar things, you just might be a member of a cult. These days the word is expanded so as to embrace peoples not popular. Just thinking outside of the box is enough to trigger it.

One whom we have called Steve, who goes by the Twitter handle “cultexpert,” has developed what he calls the BITE model to describe the ingredients of a cult. Long ago, he used to kidnap those he thought were in cults so as to “deprogram” them. He was himself at one time a member of the Unification Church, commonly known as Moonies. BITE is a model outlining the means by which one party can “control” another though various techniques, some direct and some subtle. Each letter stands for something. There is Behavioral control, Information control, Thought control, and Emotional control. It is not a silly idea in its concept. It is silly in its overreaching application.

Most families are cults by this new definition, especially those conscious of a family reputation, and God forbid that any should still insist that members live up to a higher standard. “If everyone jumped off a cliff, would you jump off, too?” It was once the statement of everyone’s mother. Now it has become the words of a cult leader. “What’s wrong with ‘everyone else?’ Why are you making out as though you are better than they?” And if a family head maintains standards of discipline—that would appear to be a sure red flag. Who is he or she to seek to control persons that way?

Nations are certainly cults by this new definition. Any military organization is. National sacrifice, long thought laudable, is out of the question today by those intent on avoiding the modern cult label. “Ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country,” are the noble words of former U. S. President John F Kennedy. They are the words of a cult leader today.

One tweet from the BITE-man invited all to hear his upcoming podcast, in which he tells how President Trump is like a cult leader. When you think half the country has fallen victim to cult manipulation, is it not evidence that you have drunk too much of the Kool-Aid yourself?

One wonders if the cult expert did not become what he is as penance for having been so impulsive as to join the Moonies. Later, realizing that there really aren’t enough Moonies to build a career upon, he broadened his sites to target larger groups. However, even with Moonies—are they violent? If not, why would they especially compare unfavorably to—say, the “turn on, tune in, drop out” model of the 60s? That model has never been condemned, to my knowledge. Usually the young who chose it were romanticized as dropouts from a too cruel world. It is only by adding a God component to the mix that condemnation is unleashed.

Can one live a fulfilled life as a Moonie? Let others make that argument if they care to—it’s not my gig. Still, before condemning them it does seem that it should be demonstrated how sticking with the mainstream leads to fulfillment. If it cannot be demonstrated, then is it not just thought control of a different type to forbid persons from going there? If the greater world was not so bereft of answers to the significant questions of life, the Moonies, the Mormons, the Jehovah’s Witnesses, the Scientologists, and a host of others would not succeed in drawing a single person. Let it produce a few answers before it forbids straying from the beaten path.

These days, under common assault, the “enemy of my enemy is my friend” meme even kicks in to an extent. Legal members of these groups have been known to buttress one another. One Witness apostate made much of a well-known Watchtower attorney sitting in at a seminar with Scientologist participants. “I thought they were no part of other religions,” he taunted. “Don’t worry, he keyed their cars in the parking lot,” I told him.

We can maintain a healthy skepticism toward the latest mantra as well—“that clean, articulate, capable people fall for these cults all the time. They aren’t stupid. They were simply in the wrong place at the wrong time.” One way to boast is to condemn others; the same relative distance is established as with unrestrained chest-thumping. This smells akin to boasting. It is a way of saving face. It is to say: “Look, if it happened to me, smart as I am, it could easily have happened to you—probably much more quickly.”

As to Scientologists, the only thing I know about them for sure is that Tom Cruise, in his fifties, still does his own stunt work. BITE Productions Inc. would no doubt hire a nice, safe, and fake stunt double. By all accounts, Scientologists enjoy success in beating back the scourge of drug abuse that decimates general society, the same as do Jehovah’s Witnesses. That’s not trivial. They, too, will have to make their own arguments. But with Jehovah’s Witnesses being slaughtered in an irreligious media, there is no reason to assume that Scientologists are treated fairly, nor Moonies, for that matter.

Make no mistake, the overextension of the BITE model is no more than an effort to silence voices not liked so that other voices may prevail. One is reminded of the H. G. Wells observation about the quick popular acceptance of the theory of evolution—that it suddenly “seemed right to them that the big dogs of the human pack should bully and subdue.” Who are the big dogs of the human pack? Are they not those of the mainstream and those who would enforce the mainstream under the guise of “protecting people?” They are the deep-pocketed businesses and governments. They are those of the prevailing philosophies and new norms that comprise the very air of Ephesians 2:2—air that “has authority.” It is not thought control that they object to. It is thought control that is not theirs.

Do they decry “brainwashing?” It is largely because they want to do it themselves. College is more brainwashing than anything having a Jehovah’s Witness connection. Study the Bible with Jehovah’s Witnesses and you remain 95% of the time in familiar surroundings. Enroll in college and you are, from Day One, cut off nearly 100% from those surroundings. Find yourself immersed in a totally new culture, where guardians of this world’s latest thinking have full opportunity to play with your head. Jehovah’s Witnesses are not keen on higher education—the fact is well-known. It could be argued that their discouragement is too across-the-board. Still, how can one not be sobered by the following report from the October 19, 2018 edition of The Week magazine?

As related by Charles Sykes, a trio of hoaxers produced twenty “shoddy, absurd, unethical” papers loaded with incoherent post-modern “gibberish”—seven of which were published in “respectable” academic journals. Among the most outrageous papers included a thesis claiming astronomy is a patriarchal construct that should be replaced by feminist astrology, another arguing “dog parks are rape-condoning spaces,” and still another that demanded that males who masturbate while thinking about a woman should first obtain her consent. The authors “had no formal background in the subjects,” but taught themselves how to produce ridiculous, jargon-filled papers that were greeted with praise by “blindly receptive” academic reviewers. Allow this author to put it even more succinctly: “Yeah, we taught ourselves to write incomprehensible gobbledygook and they lapped it all up as cutting-edge social science.”

Suddenly, Jehovah’s Witness Governing Body member Anthony Morris doesn’t look so stupid, does he? It is he who, in discouraging higher education, observed that the more prestigious the university, the greater the “contamination of this world’s thinking.” The Witness organization has long recommended that Bible values be the source of moral instruction and that supplemental education be used to acquire a marketable skill. Learn to be an electrician, for example, and you have a well-paying skill that is both portable and scalable, so that, if you can line up the other circumstances of life, you can attend to more enriching matters. The counsel dovetails nicely with that of Mike Rowe, the former TV host of Dirty Jobs, who testifies before Congress that “we [in the United States] are lending money we don’t have to kids who can’t pay it back to train them for jobs that no longer exist,” even adding “that’s nuts.”

The hoaxers above fully expect to be blackballed by the higher education establishment, but they say it was worth it. One is reminded of whoever perpetuated the Piltdown Man hoax—a hoax that fooled evolutionists for 40 years. “It really was a horrible, nasty, vicious piece of work!” grumbled Andy Currant on the PBS show NOVA, and the discerning mind knows just why it is “horrible, nasty, and vicious”—because it made the most esteemed men of science look like donkeys. Others said that the great men weren’t fooled at all—from the beginning they had smelled a rat. If so, the gullibility onus is replaced with one of deceit, for it would mean that they knew of the fraud but did nothing to correct it, since it advanced a narrative that they wanted advanced.

Let us hear no more of modern “brainwashing.” Let us once again relegate the word to its proper and age-old context. The “brainwashing” of the prevailing mindset is far more pernicious than that of Jehovah’s Witnesses. The latter make no bones about directing persons to sources considered trustworthy. The former encourages “free minds” to roam wherever they will, but in the end manages to stack the deck so as to keep them all on the same page.

Are Jehovah’s Witnesses slaves to their [at present] eight-man Governing Body? This favorite anti-cultist charge reveals a thinking so infantile that it is hard to know how to respond. It is like saying that the motorist driving within the guardrails is slave to the Department of Transportation, the football player who hustles his feet though the hoops is slave to the coach, the student who does his homework is slave to the teacher. To the extent that Witnesses are “slaves” to the Governing Body, it is because they are grown-ups who realize that any project needs direction. They realize that there is no desire to “control” anyone, and certainly not for the sake of any “power trip.” The reason that Obi-wan Kenobi does not want Luke to stray into the dark side is that he really thinks it is the dark side. He is on no power trip. Let the anti-cultists provide convincing evidence that it is not the dark side before they denounce those choosing a different path. They will not find that task easy. When a Witness friend of mine invites people to name the one evil they would remedy if they but had the power, the most frequent reply is that the evils are too numerous to zero in on just one.

It is not an easy task to direct the work of several million people. One will say: “Thanks for the new rule!” and his neighbor will say: “Huh, did you say something?” Striking the right balance is ever a challenge. If the Jehovah’s Witness organization comes across as heavy-handed at times, it is because it does not want to find itself in the shoes of Lot, who warns his sons-in-law only to find that they think he is joking. The Witness organization trains members in Bible principles, the same as do Witness parents. It is not true that if you refrain from training your children, they grow up free and unencumbered and, when of age, select their own values from the rich cornucopia of life. No. All it means is that someone else will train them. These days that someone else is likely to be the anti-cultist himself; he is maneuvering for the position. He should be resisted. He wants you to aim so low. He wants you to revel in what Psalm 90 laments is a great tragedy—four score of trouble-prone years and then curtains for us all. That is bad. He wants you to think it is good. Does faith founded upon accurate understanding of the most widespread book on earth implant the hope of everlasting life on a paradise earth? He wants you to discard it and place your hope with the world’s politicians—maybe the next batch will solve a few problems. He settles for so little. The instant gratification that he would deny a child for its own good he wants you to pursue as an adult.

Journalist Vermont Royster, after remarking upon the undeniable scientific progress of his day, observed: “Yet here is a curious thing. In the contemplation of man himself, of his dilemmas, of his place in the universe, we are little further along than when time began. We are still left with questions of who we are and why we are and where we are going.” ‘It’s not curious at all,’ says the anti-cultist. ‘What you see is what you get. If anyone apart from religion figures it out, we’ll let you know.’

“When the Son of man arrives, will he really find the faith on the earth?” says Jesus? “Not if we can help it,” declare the anti-cultists. “With any luck, he will not arrive all. If he does, maybe he will get discouraged and go away. We have shed that backwards concept. We’re doing our best to muzzle anyone trying to spread it. We put our trust in human accomplishments and science. It may or may not tell us that our gooses are cooked, but at least it tells us that we don’t have to put up with anyone directing us in what to do.”

See Who Really is a Cult? Part 2

From the book TrueTom vs the Apostates!


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One Last Chance for Religious Freedom in Russia

Dennis Christensen “has spent the last 20 months in a cold cell with suspected drug dealers and only been allowed to meet his wife, separated by bars and a corridor, twice a month. If convicted, he could spend up to a decade in jail,” writes Andrew Osborn for Reuters. How much do you want to bet that those drug dealers now know their Bibles quite well? Alas, that may make them more unwelcome in Russia than had they landed the area distribution franchise for Drugs-R-Us.

He must have his moments of despondency. He must. But you would never know it. He is serene in appearances, and sometimes even cheerful. Jehovah’s Witnesses could not have wished for better examples to face the Russian bear than he and his wife Irene. See how he typifies the spirit of 1 Peter 2:23:

“Christ suffered...leaving you a model for you to follow his steps closely....When he was being reviled, he did not go reviling in return. When he was suffering, he did not go threatening, but kept on committing himself to the one who judges righteously.”

Has he wavered in his love for his adopted homeland? He “does not regret that he moved to live in Russia. ‘It is one of the best decisions that I have made in my life, and it brought me much happiness,’” he tells the Reuters reporter. This despite his being anything but starry eyed. “To call me or other peaceful Jehovah's Witnesses extremists is the greatest stupidity that I have ever heard!" he says. “Of course I hope that he (the judge) will be just," he said. "But I also know which country I’ve been living in."

Only a month ago, President Putin, when asked, stated that the equating of Jehovah’s Witnesses with terrorists was “of course...complete nonsense,” something “you need to carefully deal with,” and later, “so this should be looked into” since “Jehovah’s Witnesses are Christians, too.” We may soon learn just how carefully he means to deal with and look at it, as the time of Dennis’ sentencing has arrived. As for Irena, “I’m not afraid of anything and Dennis is not afraid either,” she told Reuters.

I have never seen a picture of him in which he is not mild, even well dressed. He actually broke into song at one hearing via Internet, before the guard told him to shut up. Could one ask for a better example? The symbolism is complete. His surname points to the one he follows. Even his carpenter profession lines up. Even his last project as a free man spotlights the idiocy of branding him an “extremist”—building a playground for the community children. Would members of the only other group in Russia officially designated “extremist,” ISIS, also build a playground for the community children? Maybe, but it would be a long time gaining my trust to let my children play on it. On January 23, the prosecutor requested a sentence of 6 years and 6 months in prison. Why not add 6 days to the request to make it a nice, biblical 666?

It's déjà vu for Jehovah’s Witnesses in that country, whose period of freedom has lasted only 27 years. “The only difference is that at that time [of the Soviet Union] they were called 'enemies of the people'. Now they are called 'extremists'," says Irena.

Journalist Osborn does what all journalists must do. He probes for the actual reason that Jehovah’s Witnesses are opposed. Usually all one must do in such cases is read the charges of the prosecution, but here in the Christensen case the charges are ridiculous, and the ‘crimes’ easily refuted. So Osborn hits on one spot of contention after another, but presently puts his finger on the real trigger: “Russia has been the most outspoken in portraying it as an extremist cult.” He refers, perhaps unknowingly, to a burgeoning anti-cult movement which finds conditions fertile in Russia for a perfect storm, but which is active everywhere.

The reason that Putin declares it complete nonsense to call Witnesses “extremist” is because it is. As such, he and his in government would never have dreamt of doing such a thing. However much any of them may dislike Jehovah’s Witnesses, ISIS has taught them what extremism is. They are not so stupid as to confuse the two.

Likewise, the dominant Russian Orthodox Church did not originate the ban against the Witnesses. That is not to say that some of them did not squeal with delight like kids on Christmas morning, but it was not their idea. The thinkers there are not particularly happy about it, for the same set of laws that declare it a crime to proclaim the superiority of one’s religion in the case of Jehovah’s Witnesses might easily be turned against them.

No, problems with the Church and the suspicious government merely make for excellent tinder. The spark that sets it off Osborn identifies with: “Russia has been the most outspoken in portraying it as an extremist cult.” It is a determined anti-cult movement that sets the match to the tinder. It is not even Russian originated, but like Bolshevism itself, is a Western import. Religion writer Joshua Gill has outlined how a French NGO dedicated to protecting people from ideas considered socially destructive—the manifest goal of anti-cultism--sent a well-known emissary to Russia who spread that view with missionary zeal, maximizing his existing status with the Russian Orthodox Church.

The anti-cult movement ever seeks to extend its reach. Only in Russia does it find conditions ripe for the perfect storm, but its influence is afoot everywhere. The match was even literal in 2018 Washington State, where six attacks resulted in two Kingdom Halls burnt to the ground. Of course, that is not the intent—to incite violence. Anti-cultists speak against it, for the most part. But when you yell “CULT!” in a crowded theater, who can say what will happen? The correct term, non-incendiary and chosen by scholars for just that reason, is "new religious movement."

Assembling material in preparation for ‘Dear Mr. Putin – Jehovah’s Witnesses Write Russia,’ I became more and more convinced that the anti-cult movement was behind it all, and it is a conviction that has only strengthened since. In the book’s introduction, I wrote:

“Does Kuraev really mean to suggest that prosecution presented no intelligible arguments at the Supreme Court trial? An observer of the trial might well think it. He might well wonder just what does the government have against Jehovah’s Witnesses? There must be something, but it is not stated. At one point the judge asked the prosecution (the Ministry of Justice) whether it had prepared for the case. A decision had been plainly made somewhere from on high and it would fall upon the judge to rubber-stamp it. Of course, he did, perhaps because he wanted to remain a judge. The actual reasons behind anti-Witness hostility were never presented. So I have presented them in Part II, along with how they might be defended.”

I even went on to caution members of my own faith:

“Some Witnesses, truth be told, will be uncomfortable with Part II and might best be advised to skip over it. They will love the idea of defending the faith but may be unaware of the scope of the attacks made against it, some of which are truly malicious. Deciding to sit out this or that controversy will earn them taunts of ‘sticking one’s head in the sand’ from detractors, but it is exactly what Jesus recommends, as will be seen. Not everyone must immerse themselves in every ‘fact,’ for many of them will turn out to be facts of Mark Twain’s variety: facts that “ain’t so.” You can’t do everything, and most persons choose to focus on matters most directly relevant to their lives.” 

That caution is repeated, with even greater applicability, in the newer ebook ‘TrueTom vs the Apostates!’ The book is not recommended to all Witnesses. Read it if you want a specific reply to charges laid against the faith. For those able to focus upon forward motion only, the book is not recommended. For those not, it is. The line that invariably gets the largest applause at Regional Conventions of Jehovah’s Witnesses is: “Would you like to send your greetings to the brothers in Bethel [headquarters]?” The hard work and integrity of these ones is appreciated by all. So not everyone will feel the need to check out every derogatory report.

In some respects, the Witness organization appears to this writer to be out of step with regard to the attacks it faces today. With a long history of persevering in the face of religious threats to stomp it out of existence, it seems slow to acknowledge that religions are mostly licking their wounds these days, and it is the irreligious world, with anti-cultists in the vanguard, that most vehemently presses for its downfall.

See Reuters article, by Andrew Osborn

And one from BBC Russia, by Viktor Nekhezin

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Who Really is a Cult? Part 2

When you release suddenly the compressed spring, it bounds wildly, delirious at its new freedom, caring not where it lands, for any landing is better than where it was. It is that way with those who become apostate. You would think the world is the most paradisiac place imaginable to hear them carry on, with nothing but boundless opportunities ahead. Yes, there are niggling problems here and there, but not at all things to fret over—just think of the new freedom gained! It is a description of the world that few others will recognize.

The things that once caught their attention and led to their embracing the Witness faith in the first place are completely forgotten. The mourning and disgust over how “man has dominated man to his injury”—gone. The dismay that God catches the blame when humans use their free will to choose the course that he advised them not to choose—no longer a concern. The futility that twenty years growing up, forty gaining experience, and then, just when you think you have begun to figure things out, your body starts to betray you—“Cool beans!” they say. Let them say it. When you negate the plusses, all that remains to speak of are the minuses.

The consideration of the deeper questions of life that first led them to study the Bible with Jehovah’s Witnesses have seemingly vanished, replaced by chasing the baubles of the present life, convinced that they are not baubles at all, but the true gems. Stack them both side by side—the upside of the Witness way of life and the downside. Those who act upon the downside and jump ship rarely ever mention the upside again. Let the general audience weigh both. Some will choose one stack. Some another. Put the choice out there. It is what tolerance is all about.

At first glance, Jehovah’s Witnesses might seem the most intrusive people on earth, trucking straight up your driveway to give you their version of truth, whether you asked them to or not—and almost always, you did not. Upon reflection, however, they are the least. Tell them ‘no’ and they go away. They do not afterwards lean on the politicians or lawyers to force their way of life upon you, as do many others. Few bully more than the anti-cultists. Few disagree more with the Chief Justice who said, in a decision favoring Jehovah’s Witnesses: “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…If there are any circumstances which permit an exception, they do not now occur to us.” It is as though the anti-cultists say: “One has occurred to us. They pursue goals we don’t want them to pursue. They dream dreams that are not our dreams. We don’t like them.”

Sly in their techniques, they present themselves as the people’s protector. One way to “protect” troops on the opposing side is to kill off their generals. That way, being disorganized, maybe you can in time persuade them to fight on your side. That slyness is seen now in the suspicion cast upon “religious corporations” that “abuse people.” Jehovah’s Witnesses would be better off without one, the argument goes. Then they would not be “abused” and would fall into place with conventional goals.

It sounds noble at first listen, but it is readily punctured at second. The only reason that religious people form corporations is so that they may exist and do things such as owning property. To seek to strangle a religious corporation is no different than seeking to strangle a nation’s chosen government, such as is attempted in times of war. It is to say that Canadians, for example, are fine people, in fact, excellent people, but they must not be permitted to choose a government. Anti-cultists ought not be so coy. They are warring against the Witness religion and those members who have chosen it. They ought not paint themselves as taking the high road, as Alexander Dvorkin in Russia does. In advocating the Witness organization be outlawed in Russia, he said that he was protecting the civil rights of the individual Witnesses, as though he was their friend. Eliminate their infrastructure and—why, you may better absorb them into the course you wish them to take.

The intent of the apostates is to thrust the downside of Witness life into the spotlight, and thereby, both embarrass them and undermine their message. It changes nothing. The game is the same. It’s just up on another level. Want to examine the price tag first? It is how many people shop. Jesus says count the costs before you commit, and he plainly has in mind that you count the benefits first, but if some want to reverse the order, we can all live with that.

It is but the same age-old drama seen through a new lens. Everything with significant upside will have a downside. Let people focus where ever they will. Some will choose the product. Some will choose the price. “Exert yourselves vigorously to get in through the narrow gate,” says Jesus. If the anti-cultists would focus on the narrow gate rather than the reason to pass through it, so be it. “If in this life only we have hoped in Christ, we are of all men most to be pitied,” says Paul, signaling agreement that paying the price is foolish if there truly is no Christ. “When the Son of man arrives, will he really find the faith on the earth?” says Jesus. (Luke 18:8) Let it all play out, as people weigh the product with the price.

The treasure is the “pearl of high price” for which its buyer sells everything else. (Matthew 13:46) Do the anti-cultists wish to focus on the “everything else?” That’s okay. That’s fair. Nobody in the Christian world would say that there is not a cost. Paul took the loss of all things and counted it as “a lot of refuse.” (Philippians 3:8) Should present-day opposers call him a fool, that is a value judgement that they are entitled to make. It is the same reality but seen through a different lens.

When apostates hope that persons will see the downside of Witness life and weigh it as more substantial than the upside, they are, in a sense, helping Jehovah’s Witnesses get their message out. They are hoping that people will learn of a downside and say: “Look, spiritual things are only so important. Who needs this kind of drama?” and steer clear. How is that any different from Jesus’ own words that one must exert oneself vigorously to squeeze in through the narrow gate and be prepared to jettison the extra-wide trailer that smashes against the gate posts? Let them do it. The Christian life will not appeal to all people. It separates one from the overall world—the one going down like the Titanic in the Witnesses’ eyes. But if you think that world is floating high and pretty, with armed crewmen on the bow poised to smash to smithereens icebergs as they approach, you will hate it. Kicking over the traces of anything produces an incomparable rush. Only much later is it revealed whether it was a good idea or not.

The restrictions of a Witness life are overblown, but nobody would say that they are nothing. Are they roadblocks to individual fulfillment or are they guardrails that one would be crazy to crash through? Beyond question, there are two very different views of the world. However, should someone sing: “Step out of line, the men come to take you away,” it is evidence of not having the most balanced personality—it’s not that restrictive. Nobody would say that Witnesses step any old place they like, but that is hardly the same as not stepping at all. Many of Jehovah’s Witnesses disagree with this or that aspect of “theocracy.” But they also keep it in perspective. They know that in any organized arrangement, there will be some things that do not go your way. And they are modest enough to consider that maybe it is they themselves who are in need of correction. After all, they have confidence that they are being “taught by Jehovah,” and they accepted from Day 1 that his chosen means of governing is not democracy. They know that slavish acquiescence is not required; it is enough to refrain from shouting from the rooftops that madmen are at the helm when the going gets rough.

They made their peace from the outset that separating from the greater world would trigger the latter’s disapproval. “For the time that has passed by is sufficient for you to have worked out the will of the nations, when you proceeded in deeds of loose conduct, lusts, excesses with wine, revelries, drinking matches, and illegal idolatries. Because you do not continue running with them in this same low sink of debauchery, they are puzzled and go on speaking abusively of you,” says Peter. As the divide grows between the former and the latter, the latter object: “What’s wrong with the ‘low sink?’ What are you trying to say about us?” In a super-sensitive world, one’s very existence is taken as judgmental of whatever one avoids. We must all “come together” is the mantra of our time.

To the extent that the anti-cultists lean atheistic, and most of the vociferous ones do, they seemingly are eager to trash things that are, not just JW, but of Judeo/Christian origin. The two-witness rule that Jehovah’s Witnesses retain in congregation matters, was, until recently, fundamental to Western law. You can’t just hurl out an accusation and allow your personal conviction to carry the day; you have to prove it. These days that Judeo/Christian model is increasingly a being replaced with a new one that says accusation is enough, and it is up to the accused to prove that it is not so. It represents a 180-degree reversal in justice, and one wonders whether the ‘old’ standard is rejected by a new atheistic world simply because its origin is religion. The reason one does not quickly shed “two-witness” policies emerges each time someone is exonerated after having served decades in prison, convicted over less strenuous “proof.”

The “crime” of Jehovah’s Witnesses is that of taking the Bible too seriously. Anti-cultists don’t want them to do it. The situation reverts right back to certain clergy of decades ago who attempted to dissuade church members from Bible reading on the grounds that it would “make them crazy.” Those adhering to the ancient Book find themselves in a crazy world determined to stamp out injustice but not what causes it. No one can agree on the latter, and if they could they would be unable to launch coordinated action. It is the fundamental weakness of a world typified by those within being “not open to agreement.” Therefore, injustices are pandemic, and those subjected to enough of them become like Humpty Dumpty, who topples so severely as to not be made whole again—yet no complaint will ever be dropped until that unreachable goal is attained. People are damaged goods today. Those who become Jehovah’s Witnesses are also that way, but they put themselves in a setting they feel most conducive to healing. It is as a former prisoner of war told me ages ago—a man then studying the Bible—that at the Kingdom Hall he felt peace.

The prevailing winds of the day blow against religious people. Religion is simply not a force worth getting all worked up over, its enemies charge. Its strengths are supposed irrelevant, if not but fiction. The age-old perception that it is a healing power has changed, replaced with a new one that it is a destructive power.

See Who Really is a Cult? Part 3

From the book TrueTom vs the Apostates!

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