Anti-Cultists Take Aim at the Scriptures “Controlling” People

Guys my age watch Perry Mason so they can see the old cars. They also like the courtroom drama of Counselor Mason zeroing in to finger just who is the scoundrel. As often as not, it is someone in the audience who jumps  to his or her feet and confesses, even with tears, but sometimes just with hostility:

I did it! But I didn’t mean to hurt him. I just wanted to change his mind, but he wouldn’t take....I didn’t (sob) mean to hurt him!”

or

I did it! That rotter had it coming! Yes, I did it! And I’d do it again!”

That doesn’t actually happen in a real courtroom. Nor does it happen that the witness himself confesses under Mason’s relentless questioning.

I checked you story, and it’s a lot of hot air! Didn’t you just make it up to hide the fact that you killed Mr. So-and-So yourself?”

”Yes! Yes, I killed him! (sob) But I never meant to hurt him! (or: “He was a good-for-nothing rotter! He needed killing! I did what was necessary!”)

No. Doesn’t happen in a real courtroom. The defense lawyer (which Perry Mason is) just works to get his client off. It’s not his problem who did the deed. Still, we forgive the show these excesses. It makes for good drama—not gripping by today’s standards—but acceptable entertainment to have running in the background.

It takes itself seriously, though. Check out this statement:

“When both sides properly prepare a case, the adversary system can effectively guarantee the revelation of all the facts bearing on an issue. The more experience you have with it, the more you’ll find it a surprisingly scientific method of trial preparation.” — Perry Mason.  (Season 5, Ep 13 The Case of the Renegade Refugee)

Come now, that is not a religious statement? Thrust upon us by a new world of “science” that has despaired of finding impartial judges the like of Exodus 18:26: “capable men fearing God, trustworthy men hating dishonest profit?”

The reason they are hard to find is that the world embraces values to the contrary. Not so in the Christian organization. I will take the congregation justice system any day, which only deals with the spiritual matters that are of no concern of secular courts. But a hostile world tries to reframe some of these spiritual matters as grist for the legal machine.

Such was the case a few years back with a Canadian man, disfellowshipped from the Christian congregation, who sued over it. Disfellowshipping is the last ditch measure of discipline, to be employed after all else has failed, so that those claiming to be members of the congregation hold to the moral standards that they signed on for. This fellow lost a lot of business as a real estate agent and he blamed the congregation for it. The Supreme Court declined to intervene in the internal affairs of religious beliefs and dismissed the case, but lesser courts had sided with him.

What is happening is that those who refuse discipline are airing their complaints to a world that downplays, if not despises, discipline and thereby finding common sympathy. The apostle John says it well: “They originate with the world; that is why they speak what originates with the world and the world listens to them.” (1 John 4:5)

It brings to mind the trademark of those describe in 2 Peter as “apostate”—they “despise authority.” They will not be held accountable for their actions.

You don’t think that those who come out on the short end of the world’s court system don’t also complain about how they were abused and unjustly sold down the river? It is human nature to do so in a system that downplays responsibilities and upplays rights.

The effort today is to hinder those wanting to stay separate from the world—ideally, even making it illegal to do so. Several Bible statements would outrage the “anti-cult”-driven legal climate of today:

“But now I am writing you to stop keeping company with anyone called a brother who is sexually immoral or a greedy person or an idolater or a reviler or a drunkard or an extortioner, not even eating with such a man.” (1 Corinthians 5:11). The Bible writer would be challenged legally today for trying to “control” people; who is he to tell them who they can eat with?

“If anyone comes to you and does not bring this teaching, do not receive him into your homes or say a greeting to him. For the one who says a greeting to him is a sharer in his wicked works.” (2 John 10)  Ditto. He is “controlling people.” Let them greet whoever they want, even those whom HE finds “wicked.”

“It is necessary to shut their mouths, because these very men keep on subverting entire households by teaching things they should not for the sake of dishonest gain.” (Titus 1:11) Oh? It is “necessary” to restrict someone’s free speech for the sake of “enforcing” your religion? See you in court, Paul.

From time to time, the earthly organization rewords something—like the disfellowshipping announcement or the questions for baptism—to make clear that members are voluntarily adhering to Bible counsel rather than, as opposers try to present it, suffering the bullying of an “evil” “oppressive” “corporation.” It may fail in this one day, because the intent of those hostile to Christianity is to make the Bible verses themselves illegal, or at least make it illegal for anyone to actually follow them.

The goal is to deprive Christians of organization. That way they can more easily be assimilated into the greater word. This is framed hypocritically, even obnoxiously, as an attempt to liberate them. It is no more better realized today than in Russia, where Jehovah’s Witnesses are not illegal, but only their organization is. ‘It’s not the foot-soldier they want to kill off. It’s only the generals that must go. That way the foot-soldier can more easily switch sides—and he will be all the happier for it,’ so the thinking goes. Of course, a scheme so devious cannot be comprehended by the average person, and so whatever local authorities there are who don’t like Witnesses simply feel free to beat up on them.

....

It is far far far easier—and thus more alluring—to tear down than it is to build up. However, it is more noble to do the latter.

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Thoughts Gleaned from the Midweek Meeting of September 23-29, 2019

One young woman at the congregation meeting last night identified with the “missing drachma” parable of Jesus, saying: “When I put my hand in my back pocket and find some money there....Whoa! it is a big deal!” (“Betty Davis style” is how Bob Dylan said it.) I must admit that it inspired me to do the same, slipping a dollar into my back pocket, pulling it out and exclaiming: “Whoa! Look at this!”

It was this illustration at Luke 15 that got her going: “What woman who has ten drachma coins, if she loses one of the drachmas, does not light a lamp and sweep her house and search carefully until she finds it? And when she has found it, she calls her friends and neighbors together, saying, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found the drachma coin that I had lost.’”

There is a not-so-hidden rebuke in Jesus’ words summarizing a similar parable: “I tell you that in the same way, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over 99 righteous ones who have no need of repentance.”​ Well, they did—have need of repentance that is. Otherwise they would have been out searching for the missing sheep themselves:

“What man among you with 100 sheep, on losing one of them, will not leave the 99 behind in the wilderness and go after the lost one until he finds it? And when he has found it, he puts it on his shoulders and rejoices. And when he gets home, he calls his friends and his neighbors together, saying to them, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep that was lost.’”​

The context was that of the Pharisees sneering at the common people that they should have been tending to, even employing the pejorative term “amhaarets”—“people of the dirt.” Straying a little off-topic, but still fair game, the conductor of that Bible-study portion explored how you wouldn’t want to come across that way in your own ministry:

Bible principles are good and with them people mess up their lives much less than they would otherwise. Sometimes it works at the other end, and they succeed much more than they would otherwise. It depends upon one’s starting point. At any rate, come across someone in the ministry with a host of problems, and realize it could well be you in the absence of Bible principles—I mean, it is no basis for ever feeling superior, as those Pharisees did without even mastering the godly ways.

Again, not part of this particular study, but certainly in the same vein, was Jesus’ rebuke to those same religious leaders on another occasion: “But when the scribes of the Pharisees saw that he was eating with the sinners and tax collectors, they began saying to his disciples: “Does he eat with tax collectors* and sinners?”  On hearing this, Jesus said to them: “Those who are strong do not need a physician, but those who are ill do. I came to call, not righteous people, but sinners.”

Sometimes those who dislike Jehovah’s Witnesses try to paint it that they have a higher proportion of ones mentally ill. I have no idea whether this is true or not, for mental illness defines the times that we live in, but I don’t even kick back at this anymore. Instead, I say that, if true, it is exactly what one would expect. I quote Jesus’ words that he came to call, not on those who do not need a physician, but on those who do. “Spiritually sick” is what he is talking about, but if spiritually sick, then maybe emotionally or mentally sick as well—sickness tends to overflow its banks. The people you have to wonder about, in my view, are not those who experience emotional difficulties in the face of the present world, but those who do not—those who sail past atrocities on every side and remain undisturbed.

The two Bible chapters up for review in that mid-week meeting were Hebrews 12 and 13. Discipline was a theme, in view of 12:7. “You need to endure as part of your discipline,” the verse says. There was a video of a circuit overseer taking counsel from his wife as discipline. He was upset over someone he thought had treated him badly, and his wife said: “Well, that’s because he is a yo-yo. But so are you. Get over it.” [precise words mine, not hers] He told of how he had received a letter from the branch telling how he had botched something or other, and he counted that, too, as discipline. Sometimes we get counseled over various things.

Still, the overall sense of Hebrews 12:7 is that even if no one ever says a word to you about anything, simply to pursue the Christian course in a world that either wants to change that course or have nothing to do with it is a “discipline.” The lives of Jehovah’s Witnesses might be described as ones of delayed gratification; they go light or even abstain from certain aspects of life that they would otherwise engage in for the sake of laying hold to a greater prize. That takes self-discipline. Delayed gratification is usually seen as a responsible thing, even by Witness opposers, just not in this case.

That just pursuing the Christian course in the face of an indifferent or even hostile world is in itself a form of discipline is plain from surrounding verses, as well as the overall context of the Book of Hebrews itself. Those members of the Jerusalem congregation were tiring of holding the line. They “ought to be teachers in view of the time but they again need someone to teach [them] from the beginning the elementary things.” (5:12) Hopefully, they would be encouraged by the “great cloud of witnesses” surrounding them—not to mention Christ’s own example, so as to “not get tired and give up.” (12:1-3)

“In your struggle against that sin, you have never yet resisted to the point of having your blood shed.  And you have entirely forgotten the exhortation that addresses you as sons: “My son, do not belittle the discipline from Jehovah, nor give up when you are corrected by him;  for those whom Jehovah loves he disciplines, in fact, he scourges everyone whom he receives as a son.” You need to endure as part of your discipline. God is treating you as sons. For what son is not disciplined by his father?  But if you have not all shared in receiving this discipline, you are really illegitimate children, and not sons. Furthermore, our human fathers used to discipline us, and we gave them respect. Should we not more readily submit ourselves to the Father of our spiritual life and live?  For they disciplined us for a short time according to what seemed good to them, but he does so for our benefit so that we may partake of his holiness.  True, no discipline seems for the present to be joyous, but it is painful; yet afterward, it yields the peaceable fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it. Therefore, strengthen the hands that hang down and the feeble knees.” (12:4-12)

Don’t be a lout and don’t miss the point of God’s undeserved kindness [“grace,” many transactions say, but the New World Translation says “undeserved kindness,” since the former term just conveys to the modern man that God is not clumsy and doesn’t topple over things]: “Carefully watch that no one fails to obtain the undeserved kindness of God, so that no poisonous root springs up to cause trouble and many are defiled by it; and watch that among you there is no one who is sexually immoral nor anyone who does not appreciate sacred things, like Eʹsau, who gave up his rights as firstborn in exchange for one meal. (12:15-16)

He is shaking the very heaven and the earth. He is not shaking the congregation directly, but it is sure to feel the aftershocks—hence the heightened need for the discipline of endurance: “Now the expression “yet once more” indicates the removal of the things that are shaken, things that have been made, in order that the things not shaken may remain.  Therefore, seeing that we are to receive a Kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us continue to receive undeserved kindness, through which we may acceptably offer God sacred service with godly fear and awe.  (12:27-28)

(thoughts gleaned from the midweek meeting of September 23-29, 2019)

*Tax collectors were the lowest of the low in popular esteem back then because they were not unknown to shake people down for, not just the required tax, but whatever they could get in addition.

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Sticking Up For “the Unrighteous” in Russia - Psalm 37:29 Pronounced Extremist

Russian scholars—they are awfully smart over there—found extremism in an Old Testament phrase in the course of building a case against Jehovah’s Witnesses. It was not in the New World Translation—that entire work has been declared extremist and is therefore shelved. It is a passage found in any Bible, even the one used by the Russian Orthodox Church.

The offending verse is Psalm 37:29 [36:29 in Eastern Bibles]: “The righteous will inherit the earth and will live in it forever.”

This verse is actually a threat toward “unrighteous persons,” the experts discerned. It is “about dismissiveness (contempt, aggression) toward a group of persons on the basis of religious affiliation.” It furthers the “‘propaganda of inferiority’ on the basis of religious identity.”

In other words, they are sticking up for the unrighteous in that land. “Well—they’re people, too,” is their stroke of wisdom. If the “righteous” are to be favored with inheriting the earth and living there forever, then the unrighteous should be there, too.

It is breathtakingly stupid reasoning, and yet it is the reasoning that carries the day in Russia. But we should not laugh at it, because it is more evil than stupid, and it is the work of opposers who know what they are doing and will do it here when the time is right. The reasoning is the same—it is only more unmasked in Russia than elsewhere, but it ought to serve as a heads-up for elsewhere.

In both places it is the reasoning of those who hate God. They do not hate him so long as He knows His place. If He allows societal trends and critical thinking to carry the day, He is welcome, but only then. If He tries impose upon people His own standards of “righteousness,” He is not. If He allows the will of the people to prevail, He is welcome. If He says, as in John 6:45: “They will all be taught be Jehovah,” He is not—unless He means that the will of the people is the will of Jehovah. He should know that His role is to sit in the back seat and keep His mouth shut.

The entire warfare of opponents denouncing disfellowshipping is a reflection of their frustration at having the window slammed shut on their fingers as they try to break into the house with their new and improved morality—morality that is not God’s. They are livid that they cannot do that, and so they rail against the tool that thwarts them, even trying to declare it illegal.

The book “Secular Faith - How Culture Has Trumped Religion in American Politics” attempts to reassure its secular audience through examining the changing moral stands of churches on five key issues. The book points out that today’s church members have more in common with atheists than they do with members of their own denominations from decades past. Essentially, the reassurance to those who would mold societal views is: “Don’t worry about it. They will come around. They always do. It may take a bit longer, but it is inevitable.” Jehovah’s Witnesses have thwarted this model by not coming around. Disfellowshipping—the ability to expel those who refuse to conform to the conduct and speech that they signed on for—is their trump card. It is a last-ditch method of discipline, when all else has failed, to ensure that the Christian congregation remains true to its underpinnings, something that cannot happen without the trump card held in reserve—or at least it never has happened. (See post here)

It is a God-ordained tool from the One who knows humankind better than they do themselves. Actually, humans know it well, too, but they forget it when it stands in their way. If they did not know it, there would be no such thing as advertising—the ultimate manipulative device founded on the premise that humans can be swayed any which way given sufficient propaganda. Corporate interests would not pour billions into advertising if they were not convinced human behavior could be molded. “We made Miller the number two selling brand in the country, and everybody said: ‘Nobody will drink that stuff,’” said Mickey Spillane.

“Righteousness” is an antiquated term for those peddling a new morality and a trashing the traditional one. The term is a threat to them. It is a term that is no longer allowed in Russia, but how far behind can the West be? Acceptable human conduct should be determined by group norm, not imposed by some Bully from above, it increasingly says. The war against disfellowshipping is at root a manisfestion of those who would fight against God.

Says the apostle Peter: “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 course to the same low sink of debauchery, they are puzzled and go on speaking abusively of you.” (1 Peter 4:3-4)

They do speak that way. But as the discordant ones accumulate in the “low sink of debauchery,” they finally are emboldened to also say: “Water’s fine here in the low sink! Who are you to judge?” The qualities Peter speaks of are simply not the anathema that they once were. Some are openly embraced.

So “righteousness” as defined by a God is an insult. To speak of a world where righteousness will prevail is extremist in Russia, and therefore illegal. For now, in the West, it is just gauche and small-minded. That is changing. If it truly is that God will allow only the righteous in the new world of his making, then anyone on His side will do whatever can be done to be that way. Opponents today want to make that illegal, or at least they want to make illegal the means to do it.

The climate is not just right for opposers here to declare that the righteous inheriting the earth is extremist, as they have in Russia, but that is what many want to do—and it will likely reach that point one day. Should it happen, it will be a development that is on script, and so thereby can be said to be okay. It will not be unexpected. The miscreants are angling for it now.

Nikolai Gordienko, of the Herzen Russian State University in St. Petersburg, once stated: “When the experts accuse Jehovah’s Witnesses for their teachings, they do not realize that they are actually making accusations against the Bible.” Jehovah’s Witnesses represent it. They practice it as best they can. The gloves have come off in Russia. They came off long ago with regard to human rights, but now they also come off with regard to the intent of Witness persecution there. It is not Witnesses that are opposed. It is God who is opposed—the Witnesses are just the middlemen who represent him.

Gamaliel cautioned religious leaders in the first century regarding Christians: “Do not meddle with these men, but let them alone. For if this scheme or this work is from men, it will be overthrown; but if it is from God, you will not be able to overthrow them. Otherwise, you may even be found fighters against God himself.” That’s exactly who is in the crosshairs of opponents today—who is He to tell us what is righteous? they glower. Banning the Witness organization was not enough for those opponents in Russia. Banning the New World Translation was also not enough, for the same verses hateful to those demanding moral relevance are found in any translation of the Bible.

How far will opponents get in their quest to enlist the world’s sympathy that they got kicked out of a religion for refusing to abide by the rules—in essence, for refusing to be “righteous?” Time will tell, but until the Lord intervenes, the playing field is tilted their way. The individual rights of those who would kick over the traces garners popular support. The individual rights of those who would impose upon themselves a force greater than they to safeguard against their own weaknesses means nothing.

During Soviet times, dissidents stated that the underlying attitude of authorities was that they didn’t really care if you believed their lie or not, so long as you knuckled under to their power to define reality. Declaring the Psalm extremist—“The righteous ones will inherit the earth and they will live in it forever”—is an example of the pattern reasserting itself: “Yes, it is ridiculous, but who cares? It is what we say it is.”

In the West it is still deemed necessary to believe the lie—that the “offenses” of the people who endeavor to represent God are the objection, and not God himself. That can be expected to change. The offenses are blown up and misrepresented, but they are not, in most cases, untrue. They are, however, not the issues to watch. The issues to watch are those relating to God’s purpose to establish an earth in which righteousness prevails.

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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.

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Photo: welcome to the hotel California, by askpang

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”Tasting” Apostasy - ‘Yeah, I’ll Have Me Some of That!’

The present policy of God’s organization is not to “taste” apostasy. I would never say that that is wrong. In fact, it is all but required by the Scriptures, such as at Matthew 11:19–they criticize you no matter what you do, so pay them no mind, and press full speed ahead. Or “Let them be. Blind guides is what they are.” That is why I am a bad boy for hanging out where I do.

However, just because a policy is right does not mean that there may not be a downside to it. As it is, many of our young have succumbed to the oldest temptation in the world, going where they have been advised not to, like the cat that curiosity killed. There they find material that they have never seen before. It is material that is mostly misrepresented, but they do not see how—some of it is presented convincingly.  It strikes a chord with some of them.

Ideally, parents or other older ones should be able to show them how it has been misrepresented and what is wrong with it, but they cannot because they don’t know what is there themselves—they have not “tasted” apostasy. That’s why I could see Ann’s point when she said that she kept on top of “apostate” things, lest one fine day her teenage son ask about them and she is not able to do more than say, “Don’t go there!” which the opposers unfailingly spin as evidence of trying to keep the kid in a “cult.”

As it is, last I heard, the kid is happily serving as a regular pioneer, has never displayed any interest in such things, and says: “Mom, what’s with all this weird stuff that you read?” But he is not everyone.

***

The reasons that some will turn aside are plain as day, clearly stated. Sometimes one could wish they were specifically applied to the courses different ones follow:

For there are many, I used to mention them often but now I mention them also with weeping, who are walking as the enemies of the torture stake of the Christ...[who] have their minds upon things on the earth.  (Philippians 3:18-19)

Look out: perhaps there may be someone who will carry you off as his prey through the philosophy and empty deception according to the tradition of men, according to the elementary things of the world and not according to Christ; (Colossians 2:8)

...in order that we should no longer be babes, tossed about as by waves and carried hither and thither by every wind of teaching by means of the trickery of men, by means of cunning in contriving error. Ephesians 4:14

***

Don’t allow these malcontents to raise straw man arguments, [for whom a character in my first book, Tom Irregardless and Me was named ‘Bernard Strawman’] for example, making a huge fuss over JW understandings that have changed over time. To one such grumbler who grumbled over one such understanding, I answered: “They changed that. Where were you? They are very open about it, calling it tacking or light getting brighter. It is only you that try to spin a conspiracy out of it. It is not a piece of cake looking at the future. Look how many climate change predictions have proven wrong.” Such grumbling is but muddying the waters. The fundamental teachings of Jehovahs’s Witnesses have been in place for well over 100 years—from their beginning.

It is the divine/human interface that is always going to be the problem. This was even true with Judas. He and God were tight. There were no problems there! But this upstart who claimed to be the Messiah—he was not to Judas’ liking at all. And those bumpkins that he was attracting—don’t even go there. None of the respectable people at all were buying into Jesus. “Not one of the rulers or of the Pharisees has put faith in him, has he?” said the Pharisees. “But this crowd that does not know the Law are accursed people.” (John 7:48-49)

Nicodemus tried to stick up for him, but he got shot down: “Our law does not judge a man unless first it has heard from him and come to know what he is doing, does it?” he asked. “In answer they said to him: ‘You are not also out of Galilee, are you? Search and see that no prophet is to be raised up out of Galilee.’” It is a slur. Galilee was out in the sticks, where all but one of Jesus’ twelve disciples came from. Only Judas was from cosmopolitan Jerusalem.”

120F6314-D157-4AAB-99E5-E9DCBB92BE73

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“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.

 

 

 

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In Defense of Shunning

As the ultimate trump card of congregation discipline, to be applied when lesser measures have failed, is disfellowshipping cruel? It certainly could be, and increasingly is, argued that way. Undeniably it triggers pain to those who refuse to yield to it, “kicking against the goads,” as was said to Paul. That said, suffice it to say that no group has been able maintain consistent moral principles through significant intervals of time without it. I vividly recall circuit ministers of my faith saying: “Fifty years ago, the difference between Jehovah’s Witnesses and people in general was doctrinal.” Conduct on moral matters, sexual or otherwise, was largely the same. Today the chasm is huge. Can internal discipline not be a factor?

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

In the case of Jehovah’s Witnesses, members voluntarily sign on to a program that reinforces goals they have chosen. Sometimes it is not enough to say that you want to diet. You must also padlock the fridge. It is not an infringement of freedom to those who have willingly signed aboard. They are always free to attempt their diet some place where they do not padlock the fridge. Experience shows, however, that not padlocking the fridge results in hefty people, for not everyone has extraordinary willpower.

If people want to padlock the fridge but they cannot do so because anti-cultists forbid that course, and they get hefty, how is that not a violation of their individual rights? It is all a difference of view over the basic nature of people and what makes them tick. It is the individualists of today who would hold that you can’t even padlock your own fridge. No. Full freedom of choice must always be in front of each one of us, they say, notwithstanding that history demonstrates we so easily toss with the waves in the absence of a firm anchor.

Christians are mandated to “imitate the Christ,” both individually and collectively. Given human imperfection, this can be done only with group-accepted tools of discipline to buttress good intensions. If anti-cultists would deny them these tools under the guise of protecting their individual rights, then what we are looking at is an attempt to throttle Christianity true to its roots and substitute rule by the popular crowd.

Disfellowshipping is unpleasant and some are so shocked to find themselves put out from their community of choice that they determine once and for all to mend whatever caused them to be ousted so as to regain entrance. But they do not all do that, and with the passing of time, the ones that do not accumulate. Some continue on in life with a “been there, done that” mentality. But others expend considerable energy in settling the score with the organization that ousted them. One businessman in Canada even sued at being disfellowshipped—his customer base consisted mostly of Jehovah’s Witnesses and most of them took their business elsewhere. A lower court agreed with him that those running his religion had “told” parishioners not to associate with the ex-member. But the Supreme Court ultimately decided that to rule on who had to associate with who, based on biblical interpretation, was beyond their legal purview.

In some cases, disfellowshipped ones later frame their ousting as though it were over mere matters of disagreement. It was not their conduct that caused the trouble, they maintain, but it was simply disagreement over something, for example, the contention that leaving a spouse for another should trigger congregation sanctions. This was true of a prosecution witness at the Russian Supreme Court trial which resulted in the banning of the Jehovah’s Witness faith. Responding to a request from the judge to cite instances of “control,” [she] “reported that an example was her expulsion from the congregations after she ‘began her close, but not officially registered, relations with a man.’”

Other times it truly is over matters of disagreement with regard to interpretation or policy, and opposers try to frame things as in the song—that with Jehovah’s Witnesses, it is “step out of line, the men come and take you away.” Some of them become so convinced of their new-found enlightenment that they envision themselves liberators—hurl down the Watchtower walls and the captives within will come running to embrace them! Alas for them—were whatever they think of as walls to disappear, with barely a jiggle as to those “inside,” they would have to rethink their silly premise. To revisit an earlier illustration, they are determined to sneak goodies into the fridge and cannot believe that they would not be permitted to—it can only be because tyrants from on high are telling the fridge owner what can and cannot be stocked, they mutter.

Some of them came across some new insight, perhaps, that they thought would entitle them to drive the bus. They left when they discovered that they would not be allowed grab the wheel. In some cases, they were caught red-handed trying to hotwire the bus. The “bus,” of course, is the Witness organization itself. In the end it is a too high opinion of oneself and one’s importance that sinks one. The worship and deeds of Jehovah’s Witnesses are magnified by their organized quality, and they either appeal to the heart or they don’t. If they don’t, then one magnifies disproportionately matters of individual rights.

The spirit of the times today far elevates rights over responsibilities. There is a Bill of Rights appended to the United States Constitution. Would that there was a Bill of Responsibilities to go along with it. With Jehovah’s Witnesses, as with many religious people, it is the responsibilities that loom largest. Among the responsibilities Christians feel are those toward their spiritual kin. “Slave” for one another, the verse says, and many translations soften “slave” to “serve,” but the root word at Galatians 5:13 undeniably indicates “slave” as the correct choice. Even before that, however, there is a responsibility toward God. The Governing Body of Jehovah’s Witnesses dares not meddle with the disfellowshipping policy overmuch because they know it serves to keep the congregation “clean” so as to present to God what he insists upon: “a [clean] people for his name.” (Acts 15:14)

A book by evangelical author Ronald J. Sider, The Scandal of the Evangelical Conscience, highlights on the cover the question: ‘Why are Christians Living Just Like the Rest of the World?’ The author cites verse after verse of how Christian standards are “higher” than those of the greater world, and then example after example of how they are not with those claiming Christianity today. He concludes that it is largely a matter of church discipline. “Church discipline used to be a significant, accepted part of most evangelical traditions, whether Reformed, Methodist, Baptist, or Anabaptist,” he writes. “In the second half of the twentieth century, however, it has largely disappeared.” He goes on to quote Haddon Robinson on the current church climate, a climate he calls consumerism:

“Too often now when people join a church, they do so as consumers. If they like the product, they stay. If they do not, they leave. They can no more imagine a church disciplining them than they could a store that sells goods disciplining them. It is not the place of the seller to discipline the consumer. In our churches, we have a consumer mentality.”

Christians have a mandate to follow the Christ as best they can in speech and conduct. Consumerism makes that mandate effectively impossible. Yet it is the only model that today’s anti-cultists will permit. Anything veering toward discipline they paint as an intolerable affront to human rights. We must not be naïve. Theirs is no more than an attempt to stamp out biblical Christianity, veiled as though they are the very protectors of humanity.

The notion of protecting one’s values, through disciplinary action if need be, extends beyond Christianity. Was Tevye a cult member, he of the film Fiddler on a Roof? If so, no one has breathed a word of it until very recently. The third daughter of his Russian Jewish family was shunned for marrying outside of the faith. It is an action that would not trigger shunning in the Jehovah’s Witness community, though it would gain no praises. After all, if God is truly one’s best friend, ought one really make one’s second-best friend a person who is indifferent, perhaps even opposed, to the first? Only the atheistic anti-cultists will be blind to the logic of this, and that only because they would consider any god-concept an unsuitable friend.

Citing Tevye to a certain ex-Witness nearly blew up in my face. At the movie’s end, the grizzled man mutters to himself, as his daughter and new husband depart for another continent: “And let God be with you,” as though he should have been expected to shout: “May you rot in hell.” I was told that the movie teaches forgiveness, acceptance, and unconditional love rather than a stubborn cleaving to tradition and the past.” Could he really have once been one of Jehovah’s Witnesses? The entire premise of the faith, and that of many Christian denominations, is that, assuming the “traditions” are biblical and not man-made, the old ideas are solid whereas the new ideas are tenuous, with sometimes deleterious after-effects. In fact, forgiveness, acceptance, and love all come with nuances. One can forgive without accepting disapproved conduct. One can also love without accepting it. “Tough love” was the phrase of yesterday. Today it is “unconditional love.” Tomorrow who knows what it will be? The scene of this world is changing.

It is not uncommon for children of Jehovah’s Witnesses to be baptized at ages as young as ten. Witness detractors argue that this is far too early to make such a consequential decision. Many offer themselves as a case in point. Some of them were Witnesses and were baptized at an early age. They later changed their mind. Some of these eventually found themselves disfellowshipped and will push to their dying day that they escaped from a cult whose members were ordered to reject their own children. Some have gone on television with that charge where they persuade viewer without too much effort that only the most “brainwashed” of people would disown their own children and that whoever did the “brainwashing” must be punished.

It is an example of “truth” that is not “the whole truth and nothing but the truth.” They are not children. In Witness literature the distinction is consistently made between those who are actual children and those who are young adults capable of following through on choices they have made through word or conduct. When disfellowshipping happens in the case of minors, it may result in a somewhat strained family life in which all components except the spiritual continue as before, usually with the added condition that the disfellowshipped one should still sit in on the family Bible study. When disfellowshipping happens in the case of the latter, such ones may be told that it is time to leave the nest. They are not outright abandoned, though there is variability in people and one should never say that it has not occurred. One father I know secured a job with his large employer for his departing son and let him know that he would always be there for him if truly needed. Another, in a family business arrangement, divided resources so that his young adult son could have a decent start outside the congregation. This was misrepresented as though he had thrown him out with nothing but the clothes on his back, and the father for a time became a community pariah, but eventually matters came out that he had actually been quite generous, whereby much of the reputational damage was restored.

Some disfellowshipped teens have run away from home, in a biblical twist of a drama as old as time. Such a dramatized case was presented in a short video at Regional Conventions of Jehovah’s Witnesses during 2017. A young woman had been disfellowshipped over sexual immorality, having sailed past all lesser forms of discipline unmoved. When she later called the home she had left—for she did run away in this case, against her folks’ wishes—her mom did not answer the phone, an action that the young woman later describes as crucial to her turnaround and reinstatement; if mom had extended just a little bit of fellowship, she recalls that it would have been enough for her to continue in her “headstrong” course.

This will not likely resonate with non-Witnesses today. “You would make such a fuss over chaste conduct?” many will say, aghast. “Haven’t we moved on from that?” Yet, it is a matter of adhering to the standards of the oldest book of time. Family feuds in the overall world are the stuff of legend, often started over matters far more petty, such as taking sides in the disputes of another family member. It is common today that old ones are dropped off in nursing homes, never to be visited again, for reasons no more substantial than that they became inconvenient. One would never say that it is routine for divisions in family to occur, but they are by no means unheard of.

The Witness organization has said that it does not instruct parents to not associate with their disfellowshipped children. But they have produced the video cited above of specific circumstances in which a parent ignores a phone call from one of them. What to make of this? Detractors will say that they are lying through their teeth with the first statement. I think not. I think they should be taken at their word—parents will reach their own decisions on the degree of contact they choose to maintain, since they can best assess extenuating circumstances. It becomes their decision—whether they find some or none at all. Specifically, what the Witness publications do is point out that there is no reason per se that normal counsel to avoid contact with those disfellowshipped is negated simply because there are family connections. That is not the same as “telling” families to break contact. It may seem like splitting hairs, but the difference is important.

That statement finds further support in the many Witnesses who have departed and subsequently report that, though they were never disfellowshipped, they still find themselves estranged from the family mix. Effectively, they are “shunned” without any announcement at all, evidence that a “cult” is not telling parents what to do, but it is the latter’s appreciation for Bible counsel that triggers that course. The specific mechanics of avoiding associations with those who have spun 180-degrees on prior spiritual convictions may be arguable, but the general principle is not. When no verbal direction is given, Witnesses defer to the general principle, so it becomes plain that it was the general principle all along, rather than the commands of eight tyrannical men at headquarters. “What harmony is there between Christ and Belial?” says Paul, referring to two polar-opposite worlds and those who would choose between them.

It is the “choice” that defines. Some family members fail to follow through on their decided course as Jehovah’s Witnesses, but they do not turn against it. Family relations may be less warm, but do not typically discontinue. It is only by making a choice that relations almost inevitably sour. Is it so hard to understand, given that spiritual things are important to Jehovah’s Witnesses? It is well-understood in matters of nations, where visiting an unfriendly country brings no sanction, but turning traitorous against one’s own does. In politics it is understood, too. When comedian Kathy Griffin holds aloft the mock severed head of the American president, does anyone think that her Republican dad (if he is) says: “That’s my lass! She speaks her mind. It won’t affect Thanksgiving dinner, though?” Of course it will.

The word “disfellowship” has not been heard in congregation announcements for perhaps a dozen years now—not that it has been purged from Witness vocabulary, but it is not explicitly stated. From time to time, an announcement is made that so and so “is no longer one of Jehovah’s Witnesses.” It is never made of one who has merely fallen inactive, but only of those who have departed from the faith through deed or word. Though, to my knowledge, no announcement has ever been made that such is the equivalent of disfellowshipping, people mostly treat it that way. Some of whom that announcement is made are shocked into regret and turning around. Others say “You got that right” as they turn the page and go on to another chapter of life. If it is said of someone who rejects the tenets of a religion that they are therefore no longer a part of it, what are they going to say—that they are? Few would challenge the statement.

Few would argue that youngsters have not the same maturity at age ten that they will have at twice that age. Ought they not be allowed to commit to the course they have come to believe is right, on the basis that they may later change their minds? It is not a good solution for Witnesses, though it be a great one for the anti-cultists, as it permits the latter more time to sway them. However, children will always do better when permitted to identify with their choices. John Holt, an education pioneer, maintained that a prime cause of juvenile delinquency is that children are shut out of the adult world—an unanticipated effect of child labor laws enacted to protect them. For children, the solution will not be to forbid them to act upon what they have come to believe. The solution will be to cut them slack when they, through inexperience, stumble along the way. Most likely, that is being done today, for Jehovah’s Witnesses, like everyone else, dearly love their children and want them to succeed.

As it turns out, I know a youngster who was disfellowshipped for a period of several months and was subsequently reinstated. He was a minor and he lived at the family home throughout the time. Months before he was disfellowshipped he had been reproved. Since I had a rapport with him, I afterwards approached to say that, while it was none of my business and I was not curious, still, if he ever wanted to discuss things, I would be available. Maybe, I allowed, he had come across some anti-Witness literature and had been intrigued. Maybe he had wanted to go to college and his parents had poured cold water on the idea. “Look, if you’ve gone gay on us—it doesn’t matter,” I said. “The point is that I have been around forever, I have seen everything, and I am not wound up too tight.” He was silent for a moment and then started telling me about this girl in another congregation. “Oh, girls are nothing but trouble!” I told him in an anticlimactic spirit. His woes were boiler-plate. Maybe he will marry the girl someday.

I had known him most of his life. As a young boy, he surfaces in my first book, Tom Irregardless and Me, as Willie, the lad who protested my introducing him at each door, so I responded that he could introduce me instead. That is how it had gone all morning, save for one or two awkward situations that I had handled. The householder would look at me in expectation and I would say: “Sorry, I’m too bashful. It’s his turn.” As long as he had been comfortable, it had remained his turn.

He also surfaces as Dietrich in the second book, No Fake News but Plenty of Hogwash. I only know two Dietrichs, and the younger is named after the older, a trustworthy man whom I almost gave a heart attack when I showed up to give the first talk at the District Convention, relieving him as chairman, with only seconds to spare—there he was with songbook in hand looking anxiously through the audience. I had been in the Chairman’s Office awaiting my escort, assuming that the current year’s procedure would be the same as the prior one’s. It wasn’t. Today it would be. Everyone “did what was right in his own eyes” back them. Even in small matters, there is a value in organization.

I followed the course with Willie and Dietrich that all Witnesses know and respect—I didn’t speak to him at all during his disfellowshipped time, save for only an instance or two that I could not resist. On a frigid day he dropped family members off at the door, parked, and strode toward the Kingdom Hall without a coat. Breaking all decorum, I said: “Look, I know there’s no contact and all, but did they even have to take your coat?” He liked that one. In time he was reinstated, and I later told him that there was a silver lining to be found in his experience—he would forever be an example of how discipline produces its intended effect in the Christian community. Actually, the word “shun” is never heard in the Witness community, just as the word “cult” is not, save for its age-old definition. It is unnecessarily harsh. Disfellowshipping is reversible and that always is the hoped-for outcome. “Shunning” does not adequately convey that distinction.

Always there will those of the opposite persuasion—not like Dietrich at all: persons disfellowshipped who aren’t too happy about it. Find a few of them, work up the narrative to make it as heart wrenching as possible, and it is hard to see how it cannot be a media grand slam every time. Hide the purpose of it and present it as petty vengeance—it is a view that will sell today. Paint those doing it as deprived of humanity—it flies. Paint as dictatorial the organization holding the course—that interpretation positively soars with some. This is the age of the individual, not the group that they have individually chosen. The view that carries the day with regard to any organization is—it may as well be the year text—“power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely.” If there are people in charge, they must be corrupt. To an irreligious crowd, whatever the offenses for which ones were disfellowshipped is all but judgmental religious nonsense anyway. We should have moved on from it long ago. The emotional component is strong and such narratives carry the day.

Beyond all question, Jehovah’s Witnesses march to a different drumbeat. They willingly yield to the influence of those who have chosen the same drumbeat, rather than those who pound the drums of the status-quo world. They can be easily be portrayed the very embodiment of a cult under the new updated definition, and the Bible itself a cult manual. It is because they are a religion that purports to be life-altering, rather than a religion that merely puts a smiley softening face on the quest for the status quo, that they run into anti-cultist opposition. Witness apostates who join forces with them lose sight completely of how religion can be the powerful force that it is with their former friends, or even relatives, and they agitate relentlessly for it not to be so.

To the congregation in Corinth, the apostle Paul writes: “For I am jealous over you with a godly jealousy, for I personally promised you in marriage to one husband that I might present you as a chaste virgin to the Christ.” Plainly, this concern is of no consequence to departing ones who have embraced atheism. Almost necessarily they must focus on individual rights, since what triggers a sense of responsibility among their former spiritual kin has become a non-factor to them. No, it will not be easy selling the idea of disfellowshipping to these ones.

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)

In Defense of Shunning

As the ultimate trump card of congregation discipline, to be applied when lesser measures have failed, is disfellowshipping cruel? It certainly could be, and increasingly is, argued that way. Undeniably it triggers pain to those who refuse to yield to it, “kicking against the goads,” as was said to Paul.  That said, suffice it to say that no group has been able maintain consistent moral principles through decades of time without it. I vividly recall circuit ministers of my faith saying: “Fifty years ago, the difference between Jehovah’s Witnesses and people in general was doctrinal. Conduct on moral matters, sexual or otherwise, was largely the same.” Today the chasm is huge. Can internal discipline not be a factor?

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

In the case of Jehovah’s Witnesses, members voluntarily sign on to a program that reinforces goals they have chosen. Sometimes it is not enough to say that you want to diet. You must also padlock the fridge. It is not an infringement of freedom to those who have willingly signed aboard. They are always free to attempt their diet some place where they do not padlock the fridge. Experience shows, however, that not padlocking the fridge results in hefty people, for not everyone has extraordinary willpower.

If people want to padlock the fridge but they can’t do it because anti-cultists forbid that course, and they get hefty, as in the United States, for example, where the level of obesity is staggering, how is that not a violation of their individual rights? It is all a difference of view over the basic nature of people and what makes them tick. It is the individualists of today who would hold that you can’t even padlock your own fridge. No. Full freedom of choice must always be in front of each one of us, they say, notwithstanding that history demonstrates we easily toss with the waves in the absence of a firm anchor.

Christians are mandated to “imitate the Christ,” both individually and collectively. Given human imperfection, this can be done only with group-accepted tools of discipline to back up good intentions as needed. If anti-cultists would deny them these tools under the guise of protecting their individual rights, then what we are looking at is an attempt to outlaw Christianity true to its roots and enforce rule by the popular crowd. 

Disfellowshipping is unpleasant and some are so shocked to find themselves put out from their community of choice that they determine once and for all to mend whatever caused them to be ousted so as to regain entrance. But they do not all do that, and with the passing of time, these latter ones accumulate. Some continue on in life with a “been there, done that” mentality. But others expend considerable energy in settling the score with the organization that ousted them. One businessman in Canada even sued at being disfellowshipped—his customer base consisted mostly of Jehovah's Witnesses and most of them took their business elsewhere. A lower court agreed with him that those running his religion had “told” parishioners not to associate with the ex-member. But the Supreme Court decided that—did they really want to rule on biblical interpretation or on who had to hang out with whom?

The most disingenuous of disfellowshipped ones later frame their ousting as though it were over mere matters of disagreement. It was not their conduct that caused the trouble, they maintain, but it was simply disagreement over something, for example, the contention that leaving a spouse for another should trigger congregation sanctions. This was true of a prosecution witness at the Russian Supreme Court trial which resulted in banning the Jehovah's Witness faith. Responding to a request from the judge to cite instances of "control," [she] “reported that an example was her expulsion from the congregations after she ‘began her close, but not officially registered, relations with a man.’”

Other times it truly is over matters of disagreement with regard to interpretation or policy, and opposers try to frame things as did the Buffalo Springfield—that with Jehovah's Witnesses, it is "step out of line, the men come and take you away." Some of them present themselves almost as though freedom fighters. They came across something, perhaps, that they thought would entitle them to drive the bus. They left when they discovered that they would not be allowed grab the wheel. In some cases, they were caught red-handed trying to hotwire the bus. The “bus,” of course, is the Witness organization itself. In the end it is a too high opinion of oneself and one’s importance that sinks one. The worship and deeds of Jehovah’s Witnesses are magnified by their organized quality, and they either appeal to the heart or they don’t. If they don’t, then one magnifies disproportionately matters of individual rights.

The spirit of the times today far elevates rights over responsibilities. With Jehovah’s Witnesses, as with many religious people, it is the opposite. The responsibilities Christians feel is toward their spiritual kin. “Slave” for one another, the verse says, and many translations soften "slave" to "serve," but the root word at Galatians 5:13 undeniably indicates "slave” as the correct choice. Even before that, however, there is a responsibility toward God. The Governing Body of Jehovah’s Witnesses dares not meddle with the disfellowshipping policy overmuch because they know it serves to keep the congregation "clean" so as to present to God what he insists upon: "a [clean] people for his name." (Acts 15:14)

A book by evangelical author Ronald J. Sider, The Scandal of the Evangelical Conscience, highlights on the cover the question: ‘Why are Christians Living Just Like the Rest of the World?’ The author cites verse after verse of how Christian standards are “higher” than those of the greater world, and then example after example of how they are not with those claiming Christianity today. He concludes that it is largely a matter of church discipline. “Church discipline used to be a significant, accepted part of most evangelical traditions, whether Reformed, Methodist, Baptist, or Anabaptist,” he writes. “In the second half of the twentieth century, however, it has largely disappeared.” He goes on to quote Haddon Robinson on the current church climate, a climate he calls consumerism:

“Too often now when people join a church, they do so as consumers. If they like the product, they stay. If they do not, they leave. They can no more imagine a church disciplining them than they could a store that sells goods disciplining them. It is not the place of the seller to discipline the consumer. In our churches, we have a consumer mentality.”

Christians have a mandate to follow the Christ as best they can in speech and conduct. Consumerism makes that mandate effectively impossible. Yet it is the only model that today’s anti-cultists will permit. Anything veering toward discipline they paint as an intolerable affront to human rights. We must not be naïve. Theirs is no more than an attempt to stamp out biblical Christianity, veiled as though they are the very protectors of humanity.

The notion of protecting one’s values, through disciplinary action if need be, extends beyond Christianity. Was Tevye a cult member, he of the film Fiddler on a Roof? If so, no one has breathed a word of it until very recently. The third daughter of his Russian Jewish family was shunned for marrying outside of the faith. It is an action that would not trigger shunning in the Jehovah’s Witness community, though it would gain no praises. After all, if God is truly one’s best friend, ought one really make one’s second-best friend a person who is indifferent, perhaps even opposed, to the first? Only the atheistic anti-cultists will be blind to the logic of this, and that only because they would consider any god-concept an unsuitable friend.

Citing Tevye to a certain ex-Witness nearly blew up in my face. At the movie’s end, he mutters to himself, as his daughter and new husband depart for another continent,“and let God be with you,” as though he should have been expected to shout: “May you rot in hell.” I was told that the movie teaches forgiveness, acceptance, and unconditional love rather than a stubborn cleaving to tradition and the past.” Could he really have once been one of Jehovah’s Witnesses? The entire premise of the faith, and that of many Christian denominations, is that, assuming the “traditions” are biblical and not man-made, the old ideas are solid and the new ideas are tenuous, with sometimes deleterious after-effects. In fact, forgiveness, acceptance, and love are not mutually exclusive. One can forgive without accepting disapproved conduct. One can also love without accepting it. “Tough love” was the phrase of yesterday. Today it is “unconditional love.” Tomorrow who knows what it will be? The scene of this world is changing.

It is not uncommon for children of Jehovah's Witnesses to be baptized at ages as young as ten. Witness detractors argue that this is far too early to make such a consequential decision. Many offer themselves as a case in point. Some of them were Witnesses and were baptized at an early age. They later changed their mind. Some of these eventually found themselves disfellowshipped and will push to their dying day that they escaped from a cult whose members were ordered to reject their own children. Some have gone on television with that charge where they persuade viewer without too much effort that only the most “brainwashed” of people would disown their own children and that whoever did the “brainwashing” must be punished.

It is an example of "truth" that is not "the whole truth and nothing but the truth." They are not children. In Witness literature the distinction is consistently made between those who are actual children and those who are young adults capable of following through on choices they have made through word or conduct. When disfellowshipping happens in the case of minors, it may result in a somewhat strained family life in which all components except the spiritual continue as before, usually with the added condition that the disfellowshipped one should still sit in on the family Bible study. When disfellowshipping happens in the case of the latter, such ones may be told that it is time to leave the nest. They are not outright abandoned, though there is variability in people and one should never say that it has not occurred. One father I know secured a job with his large employer for his departing son and let him know that he would be there if truly needed. Another, in a family business arrangement, divvied up resources so that his young adult son could have a decent start outside the congregation. This was misrepresented as though he had thrown him out with nothing but the clothes on his back, and the father for a time became a community pariah, but eventually matters came out that he had actually been quite generous, whereby much of the reputational damage was restored.

Some disfellowshipped teens have run away from home, in a biblical twist of a drama as old as time. Such a dramatized case was presented in a short video at Regional Conventions of Jehovah's Witnesses during 2017. A young woman had been disfellowshipped over sexual immorality, having sailed past all lesser forms of discipline unmoved. When she later called the home she had left—for she did run away in this case, against her folks’ wishes—her mom did not answer the phone, an action that the young woman later describes as crucial to her turnaround and reinstatement; if mom had extended just a little bit of fellowship, she recalls that it would have been enough for her to continue in her "headstrong" course.

This will go down hard with non-Witnesses today. "You would make all this fuss over sex?" they will say, aghast. "Get them vaccinated for HPV and accept that they will do what they do." Yet, it is a matter of adhering to the standards of the oldest book of time. Family feuds are the stuff of legend, often started over matters far more petty, such as taking sides in the disputes of another family member. It is common today that old ones are dropped off in nursing homes, never to be visited again, for reasons no more substantial than that they became inconvenient. One would never say that it is routine for divisions in family to occur, but they are by no means unheard of.

The Witness organization has said that it does not instruct parents not to associate with their disfellowshipped children. But they have produced the video cited above of specific circumstances in which a parent ignores a phone call from one of them. What to make of this? Detractors will say that they are lying through their teeth with the first statement. I think not. I think they should be taken at their word—parents will reach their own decisions the on degree of contact they choose to maintain, since they can best assess extenuating circumstances. It becomes their decision—whether they find some or none at all. Specifically, what the Witness publications do is point out that there is no reason per se that normal counsel to avoid contact with those disfellowshipped is negated simply because there are family connections. That is not the same as “telling” families to break contact. It may seem like splitting hairs, but the difference is important.

That statement finds further support in the many Witnesses who have departed and subsequently report that, though they were never disfellowshipped, they still find themselves estranged from the family mix. Effectively, they are "shunned" without any announcement at all, evidence that a "cult" is not telling parents what to do, but it is their appreciation for Bible counsel that triggers that course. The specific mechanics of avoiding associations with those who have spun 180-degrees on prior spiritual convictions may be arguable, but the general principle is not. When no verbal direction is given, Witnesses defer to the general principle, so it becomes plain that it was the general principle all along, rather than the commands of eight tyrannical men at headquarters. “What harmony is there between Christ and Belial?” says Paul, referring to two polar-opposite worlds and those who would choose between them.

It is the "choice" that defines. Some family members fail to follow through on their decided course as Jehovah's Witnesses, but they do not turn against it. Family relations may cool, but do not typically discontinue. It is only by making a choice that relations tank. Is it so hard to understand, given that spiritual things are important to Jehovah's Witnesses? It is well-understood in matters of nations, where visiting an unfriendly country brings no sanction but turning traitorous against one's own does. In politics it is understood, too. When comedian Kathy Griffin holds aloft the mock severed head of the American president, does anyone think that her Republican dad (if he is) says: "That's my lass! She speaks her mind. It won't affect Thanksgiving dinner, though?” Of course it will.

The word ‘disfellowship’ has not been heard in congregation announcements for perhaps a dozen years now—not that it has been purged from Witness vocabulary, but it is not explicitly stated. From time to time, an announcement is made that such and such "is no longer one of Jehovah's Witnesses." It is never made of one who has merely fallen inactive, but only of those who have departed from the faith through deed or word. Though, to my knowledge, no announcement has ever been made that such is the equivalent of disfellowshipping, people mostly treat it that way. Some of whom that announcement is made are shocked into regret and turning around. Others say "You got that right" as they turn the page and go on to another chapter of life. If it is said of someone who rejects the tenets of a religion that they are therefore no longer a part of it, what are they going to say—that they are? Few would challenge the statement.

Few would argue that youngsters have not the same maturity at age ten that they will have at twice that age. Ought they not be allowed to commit to the course they have come to believe is right, on the basis that they may later change their minds? It is not a good solution for Witnesses, though it be a great one for the anti-cultists, as it permits the latter more time to sway them. However, children will always do better when permitted to identify with their choices. John Holt, an education pioneer, maintained that a prime cause of juvenile delinquency is that children are shut out of the adult world—an unanticipated effect of child labor laws enacted to protect them. For children, the solution will not be to forbid them to act upon what they have come to believe. The solution will be to cut them slack when they, through inexperience, stumble along the way. Most likely, that is being done today, for Jehovah's Witnesses, like everyone else, dearly love their children and want them to succeed.

As it turns out, I know a youngster who was disfellowshipped for a period of several months and was subsequently reinstated. He was a minor and he lived at the family home throughout the time. Months before he was disfellowshipped he had been reproved. Since I had a rapport with him, I afterwards approached to say that, while it was none of my business and I was not curious, still, if he ever wanted to discuss things, I would be available. Maybe, I allowed, he had come across some anti-Witness literature and had been intrigued. Maybe he had wanted to go to college and his parents had poured cold water on the idea. “Look, if you’ve gone gay on us—it doesn’t matter,” I said. “The point is that I have been around forever, I have seen everything, and I am not wound up too tight.” He was silent for a moment and then started telling me about this girl in another congregation. “Oh, girls are nothing but trouble!” I told him in an anticlimactic spirit. His woes were boiler-plate. Maybe he will marry the girl someday.

I had known him most of his life. As a young boy, he surfaces in my first book, Tom Irregardless and Me, as Willie, the lad who protested my introducing him at each door, so I responded that he could introduce me instead. That is how it had gone all morning, save for one or two awkward situations that I had handled. The householder would look at me in expectation and I would say “Sorry, I’m too bashful. It’s his turn.” As long as he had been comfortable, it had remained his turn. Hard on the householders? Probably not. Probably it was better for them to focus on the lad—I can become wearing over time.

He also surfaces as Dietrich in the second book, No Fake News but Plenty of Hogwash. I only know two Dietrichs, and the younger is named after the older, a trustworthy man whom I almost gave a heart attack when I showed up to give the first talk at the District Convention, relieving him as chairman, with only seconds to spare—there he was with songbook in hand looking anxiously through the audience. I had been in the Chairman’s Office awaiting my escort, assuming that the current year’s procedure would be the same as the prior one’s. It wasn’t. Today it would be. Everyone ‘did what was right in his own eyes’ back them. Even in small matters, there is a value in organization.

I followed the course with Willie and Dietrich that all Witnesses know and respect—I didn’t speak to him at all during his disfellowshipped time, save for only an instance or two that I could not resist. On a frigid day he dropped family members off at the door, parked, and strode toward the Kingdom Hall without a coat. Breaking all decorum, I said: “Look, I know there’s no contact and all, but did they even have to take your coat?” He liked that one. In time he was reinstated, and I later told him that there was a silver lining to be found in his experience—he would forever be an example of how discipline produces its intended effect in the Christian community. Actually, the word "shun" is never heard in the Witness community, just as the word "cult" is not, save for its age-old definition. It is unnecessarily harsh. Disfellowshipping is reversible and always the hoped-for outcome. "Shunning" does not convey that nuance.

Always there will those of the opposite persuasion--not like Dietrich at all: persons disfellowshipped who aren’t too happy about it. Find a few of them, work up the narrative to make it as heart wrenching as possible, and it is hard to see how it cannot be a media grand slam every time. Hide the purpose of it and present it as petty vengeance—it is a view that will sell today. Paint those doing it as deprived of humanity—it flies. Paint as dictatorial the organization holding the course—that interpretation positively soars with some. This is the age of the individual, not the group that they have individually chosen. The view that carries the day with regard to any organization is—it may as well be the year text—"power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely.” If there are people in charge, they must be corrupt. To an irreligious crowd, whatever the offenses for which ones were disfellowshipped is all but judgmental religious nonsense anyway. We should have moved on from it long ago. The emotional component is strong and such narratives carry the day.

Beyond all question, Jehovah’s Witnesses march to a different drumbeat. They willingly yield to the influence of those who have chosen the same drumbeat, rather than those who pound the drums of the status-quo world. They can be easily be portrayed the very embodiment of a cult under the new updated definition, and the Bible itself a cult manual. It is because they are a religion that purports to be meaningful, rather than a religion that merely puts a smiley softening face on the quest for the status quo, that they run into anti-cultist opposition.

To the congregation in Corinth, the apostle Paul writes: "For I am jealous over you with a godly jealousy, for I personally promised you in marriage to one husband that I might present you as a chaste virgin to the Christ." Plainly, this concern is of no consequence to departing ones who have embraced atheism. Almost necessarily they must focus on individual rights, since what triggers a sense of responsibility among their former spiritual kin has become a non-factor to them. No, it will not be easy selling the idea of shunning to these ones.

 

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I'll Stay Where There is a Measure of Sanity

Q: "Since the Organization has received "new light" regarding the 1914 generation, and completely changed their view on this, does this mean that all the former Jehovah's Witnesses who were disfellowshipped years ago for the same view the organization is now teaching will automatically be accepted into fellowship again?"

Of course. It is not automatic, though. Such ones have gone on to other things. What are you going to do, search the globe for them?

If they have not gotten too carried away with their own brilliance, they can apply for reinstatement and providing that that is the sole hang-up, yes, they will be reinstated.

This is not rocket science. It happens all the time. The Witness organization is very open about it. Many times they have adjusted a viewpoint to coincide with what somebody else years ago said. Alas, often that 'somebody else' is long gone. I thnk this was mentioned again on a recent monthly broadcast. John says that they went out from among us 'because they were not of our sort.' Part of being 'of our sort' is acquiescing to the theocratic direction that they signed on for in the first place. (1 John 2:19)

Look, if you want to belong to some outfit where everyone can have an epiphany and then become livid at everyone else for not falling into line, be my guest. I'll stay where there is a measure of sanity.

Idea

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The Trump Card of Christian Discipline

As an ultimate trump card of congregation discipline, to be applied when lesser measures have failed, is disfellowshipping cruel? It certainly could be, and increasingly is, argued that way. Undeniably it triggers pain to those who refuse to yield to it, “kicking against the goads,” as was told Paul.  That said, suffice it to say that no group has been able maintain its deeply-held moral principles over decades of time without it.

I vividly remember circuit ministers of my faith saying: “Fifty years ago, the difference between Jehovah’s Witnesses and people in general was doctrinal. Conduct on moral matters, sexual or  otherwise, was pretty much the same.” Today the chasm is huge. Can internal discipline not be a factor?

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

In the case of Jehovah’s Witnesses, members voluntarily sign on to a program that reinforces goals they have already chosen. Sometimes it is not enough to say that you want to diet. You must padlock the fridge. It is not an infringement of freedom to those who have willingly signed aboard. They are always free to attempt to diet some place where they do not padlock the fridge. Experience shows, however, that not padlocking the fridge results in overweight people, for not everyone has extraordinary willpower.

If people want to padlock the fridge but they can’t do it because malcontents forbid that course and they get big and fat, as in the United States, for example, where the level of obesity is breathtaking, how is that not a violation of their individual rights? It is all a difference over the basic nature of people and what makes them tick. It is the individualists of today who would hold that you can’t even padlock your own fridge. No. Full freedom of choice must always be in front of each one of us, they say, notwithstanding that history demonstrates we do nothing but sway with the wind in the absence of a firm anchor.

 

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