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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For fuller discussion, see here.

 

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What of All These Changes in Recent Months? Part 3

Q:  “With all of these changes that have happened so fast, are Jehovah's witnesses slowly morphing into mainstream religion?”

No, but they are learning to adapt to a changing world. As long as you can do this without abandoning core principles, you’re okay.

All changes from Part 1 and Part 2 are relatively trivial things. One that is not has to do with discipline policies, which ex-Witnesses seek to portray, with some success, as draconian. For the time being, ‘activist’ woke courts, the type that try to mandate ‘inclusion,’ rule against the Witnesses for their policies to stay ‘no part of the world.’ Higher courts, where the woke mindset has not yet permeated, overturn those rulings.

Already, Jehovah’s Witnesses were, from a review of Joel Engardio’s documentary Knocking, “an excellent example, perhaps our last hope, of how groups with strongly polarized ideas can yet coexist peacefully.” Despite their public visits, Jehovah's Witnesses are a "live and let live" religion. Their "weapons" are ideas only. Tell them "no" and they go away. Sure, they try to be persuasive, but it's still only words. They don't afterward attempt to legislate their beliefs into law, so as to force people to live their way, much less resort to violence.

But now, a world that increasing stresses ‘inclusion,’ the very opposite of the scriptural directive to remain ‘no part of the world’ presents new challenges. JWs must revisit their policies of discipline, as these are now under attack. Can they be tweaked without being gutted? Turns out they can. The result is somethng that both improves the Witnesses and permits them to navigate the greater world’s changing standards.

The judge that ruled against Witnesses in Norway observed that he found it perfectly reasonable that teenage boyfriends and girlfriends are going to have sex with one another. You can be sure his ruling would have been different if he did not find such ‘perfectly reasonable.’ He may still have thought the Witnesses’ discipline policies harsh, but he would not likely have found them illegal. It was once commonplace for parents to be greatly concerned that their teens might be sleeping around. It no longer is. These are the shoals the Witness organization must navigate. Temporarily, with new policies on how to deal with teens veering from the family values, they have found a way to do so.

I like that Knocking quote because it presents Jehovah’s Witnesses as the most progressive of organizations, a description we don’t ordinarily enjoy. They are “perhaps our last hope, of how groups with strongly polarized ideas can yet coexist peacefully.” It is axiomatic in this world that ‘strongly polarized views’ in time results in violence. JWs have disproved this ‘axiom.’ Are they given credit for it? No. But they should be. With recent reports of ISIS taking credit for the horrific attack on that Moscow collosium, I posted that several times in ‘I Don’t Know Why We Persecute Jehovah’s Witnesses; Searching for the Why’ I had observed that one would think ISIS would have taught the Russian government what extremism is.

Far from JWs being the intolerant people who finally received comeuppance in a Norwegian court, as opposers try to present it, they are already bastions of peaceful coexistence who encounter problems with their discipline policies amidst a world that increasingly despises discipline. In the process of adapting, they end up making themselves better.

 

*******  The bookstore

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

Could Disfellowshipping be Likened to Time in the Penalty Box?

Could you liken disfellowshipping to time in the penalty box? It depends on your criteria.

It is time spent out of the game. It is also not forever. After a stint of cooling one’s heels, you get readmitted to the game; an outcome never in doubt—assuming a player wants that outcome, of course, and they all do in hockey.

In disfellowshipping, they may not. They may even decide the spiritual game sucks and they’re not going to play anymore. You do have to believe in God to be happy as a Witness. Occasionally, a DFed one even goes into full vengeful Haman mode, plotting revenge upon the ousting congregation. But I like the ones who view it the hockey way. At any rate, it is possible to do so, and say, ‘Ah, rats! Here I am in the penalty box. But not to worry. Do my time and out I come.”

Meantime, there you are watching the game. Same thing in the case of disfellowshipping. No one excludes you from the Hall. There you are watching the game. You just don’t take part for a time until you get your act together.

Of course, another main difference is that the refs in hockey don’t try to gauge repentance. They hold no conference to judge whether a player feels bad about slamming another into the boards (even spearing them with the stick!) or is apt to do it again. To the penalty box they go—whether they feel bad or not. But in the congregation, repentance will cut you slack every time. If you have it, you’ll avoid the box entirely, though you still may have your skates restricted for a time. Of course, if you slam them against the boards, apologize, and then go off to do it again, congregation refs start to wonder just how repentant you are.

Playing with the notion a bit, here I notice that Wikipedia calls that penalty box the ‘sin bin’ or the ‘bad box’—a point on viewing in my way, isn’t it? See how repentant this fellow looks.

IMG_1034

[[Photo:Richard Gynge going to penalty box.JPG|Richard_Gynge_going_to_penalty_box . . . No, this post has nothing to do with him personally.  He’s just here for the pic.]]

 

******  The bookstore

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

One Fine Day Sailing Home from the Theopenisian Wars

Now, TrueTom sailed off from the Theopenisian Wars with his shipgroup. How he missed his home! Would his loyal mutt Rookin—how old must he be now?—still recognize him? TrueTom pictured him on the dungheap, same as when he was a pup, perhaps reading Dilbert and wearing his cowboy hat.

More wrenchingly, Truetom longed for his noble wife, fending for herself these many years. Probably the malcontents were making plenty of trouble for her, trying to draw her into their wicked beds. He’d kick their rear ends sure enough.

“Gather around, men!” Truetom hollered to his shipmates. “We all long for our homes but there are yet perilous seas ahead. Like this island coming up where voluptuous sirens descend and sing so tantalizingly that it is said no man can hear them and not go mad! I’m half there already, so what’s another exposure? But I want to protect you from these femme fatales, even as I check them out for myself.”

TrueTom’s men hearkened to this new light but mused whether their peerless leader could really withstand the wiles of these knock-out babes. Tom announced his plan of action. “I want you guys to put blinders on and stuff your ears with this tincture of molasses and tar. But me—bind me securely to the masthead. And—this is important, men—no matter how much I plead, DO NOT release my bonds!”

Now, you know how guys like to improvise—improve on a good idea. The men responded that the most effective bond of all would be for them to threaten shunning if their captain misbehaved—shunning to continue until he resumed behaving! At first, Tom was aghast that they could propose anything so cruel as shunning. However, in view of the dire risks he agreed to this harshest of all bonds.

“Are you ready, men?” Truetom shouted as they neared the dangerous island. The men, their ears oozing with molasses and tar, made no reply. Truetom praised them inwardly for their obedience. With blinders on and ears plugged, they pulled ahead lustfully, Tom bonded to the mast under threat of shunning.

Women curvaceous beyond anyone’s wildest dreams soon descended upon the boat. They swirled around the masthead, singing their maddenly sweet songs. “Go to college—make a great name for yourself!” one of them cooed. “Do your own thing! be happy,” another crooned, followed by such tantalizing lyrics as “Take it easy,” “have this here cigarette—live it up!, Here, let me pour you some strong drink.” “Why so serious?” cried another. “It’s not so baaaaad.”

Shucks, said TrueTom to himself. This is nothing! It’s like when you click on that cautionary Twitter link expecting a real zinger ahead and it turns out to be pure dullsville. I stopped up the guys’ ears for this?

However, a second wave approached. The first had been but a decoy! Those first hussies headed back to their island, discouraged that their songs had so little impact, but now the ‘bad cop’ floozies swooped down en masse!

“You guys are a cult!” sang one. “Your CSA policy stinks,” bellowed another. “What about that guy in Colorado who shot his wife?” wailed a third.

Suddenly Truetom was overcome. C221A707-CB99-4E58-9060-88E806CA62AE“Get me out of here!” he pleaded to his men. “Release me—I can’t take it!” But his men rowed on as though passing Giligan’s Island, blinders in place, molasses and tar doing their evil work. They could not hear his impassioned cry! Tom struggled in vain to escape his cruel bonds but was held fast in place. He didn’t want to be shunned!

(Photo: Ulysses and the Sirens by H.J. Draper—Wikimedia) 

The magical women gave no letup. “Tony bought some booze!” shrieked another siren! “Rolf says you suck—and he’s been to university!” tormented yet another. On and on the unspeakable torture went. Truetom gnashed his teeth, his heart ablaze as though he had taken 1000 Covid boosters. He tore in vain against his bonds but there was no escape. At last he collapsed, exhausted. The women, seeing they had not swayed him, went off to search for some other sucker.

Far from the island, Tom’s men released him, promising not to shun him even if he did misbehave. Thereafter, Truetom’s stature became legendary, as the man who had withstood and lived to tell all the brazen spiritual hussies had to dish out.

 

******  The bookstore

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

Congregation Discipline in the First Century

Vic Vomodog (we used to pull together in the work!) landed this one in my in-box: (He doesn’t like the way it works with discipline.)

“In first century Christianity individual errors were investigated, counseled, reviewed, and if necessary reproved at Congregational meetings in front of and with the input of the Entire Congregations. Then they voted as to whether someone should be rebuked or reproved. This was ONLY AFTER the procedures of Matthew 18 were followed.”

How does he know this? Let’s call him out on it: “This is a statement you have made countless times. But you have never actually backed it up with evidence it was done that way. Can you?”

‘Sure,’ he answered. ‘The entirety of Matthew the 18th Chapter. Visualize as you read along.’

Oh, come on! Is that all you got? ‘Speak to the congregation?’ (18:17) It doesn’t occur to him that when I say I’m speaking to Chevy about my old Citation , I don’t actually imagine I’m speaking to every Chevy employee but only to a representative of that company?

Okay, so maybe it could have been that way but it’s hardly a slam-dunk—certainly not enough that he should be carrying on as he does. Vomodog puts the dog into dogmatic!

In fact, it’s not very likely at all. Paul said there are plenty of dishonorable vessels in a congregation, not to mention immature ones, ones who haven’t yet learned to fully distinguish between right and wrong, ones in the process of drawing away. John adds to the list in Revelation: ones whose love has grown cold, ones who tolerate ‘that woman Jezebel’, and so forth. You mean to tell me that all these have a say equal to that of the irreproachable ones appointed to ‘shepherd the congregation of God?’ Fat chance.

Vomodog got sucked into politics. Some go right. Some go left. He’s gone right. It spills over and clouds judgment. He becomes enamored with mantras like ‘power to the people,’ ‘equal voting rights for all,’ and so forth.

***Don’t be so mean to Vomodog? Didn’t he say something nice about me recently? He’s just setting me up for a sucker punch, most likely, but still maybe I should be more kind. It is part of the religion and all. Should it be tearful reconciliation in view of his recent praise?

It’s like how Abraham Lincoln BE1F6A5F-5840-47BB-9117-B211BAF0C358illustrated that the victorious Union was now in postilion to settle the score with Britain, the way it had not been during the war. Then, the North just had to put up with England’s continual meddling on behalf of the South. 

He opened the subject by telling an anecdote, the way he loved to do. He told of the old man on his deathbed making peace with his lifelong enemy, ironing out all former feuds so he could die at peace with all men. “If possible, as far as it depends on you, be peaceable with all men,” says Romans 12:18.

It was a scene to melt a mafioso’s heart. Tears flowed like a river. The very angels wept. But as the reconciled enemy made to take his leave, the newly minted peacemaker raised himself on an elbow to remind: “But remember—if I get better, that grudge still stands!”

So it is with Vomodog. If he resumes his outrageous ways, that grudge still stands.

 

******  The bookstore

 

 

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

You Can’t Always Get What You Want—Kicking Back at the Villains

When Mark Sanderson speaks of the wisdom of the modest ones and how you don’t jump the gun and assume it is your place to do this or that, I don’t figure that he must be speaking to someone else. I figure maybe he is speaking to me.   

This is because I remember how Brother McPhee at the Circuit Assembly related how he gave counsel to the circuit elders via assembly talks and when he returned he found they had not followed it. When he asked why they told him that they thought he was talking about the brothers in Pennsylvania. He related the experience, repeated the counsel given, and added “No, brothers—I was speaking to you, not those bad brothers in Pennsylvania.” 

They are bad there, however at mention on the mixed website of some within the organization going rogue, I said that sometimes I feel that I am becoming one of them.

I told the elders that I would not get into squabbles with these characters, and I said that so as not to be oblivious to theocratic counsel. Yet here I find myself making sporadic ad hominem attacks—(not many really, but it does happen—sort of like when an elder backed into my car in the drive and said a bad word that I have never heard him say before, and then he apologized, and I said “Don’t worry about it—that’s what bumpers are for)—to a few yo-yos on the the mixed forum. Of course, I don’t beat myself up too much over it—if these characters would work on their ad hominems a bit more, it wouldn’t happen. And it is also true that in the absence of theocratic counsel, I would be much worse. But even so, I am allowing personal exasperation to throw barbs here and there after I said I would not do it.

The initial long response to one thread was okay, of course, because that constitutes as though a letter to the editor. Maybe even the first retort to you-know-who can be overlooked since she is so much the way she is. But the third one was unnecessary and just reflects personal lack of self-control.

“I find, then, this law in my case: When I wish to do what is right, what is bad is present with me....I see in my body another law warring against the law of my mind and leading me captive to sin’s law that is in my body.  Miserable man that I am!” (Romans 7:21-24)

I have to behave better. I said that I would.

But Anna said: 

Judging by the few comments in response there are ones who understand where you are coming from and are even grateful for ones like you, as one of them said: "My study conductor was always unsure about the what to say to the questions I'd bring. So I began looking for jehovah's witnesses that were/are responding and thankfully I found a good few, including yourself ....... and to be honest I'm not 100% certain that I would have continued if I hadn't been able to get answers to questions and honest perspectives on being a Witness" ....So what's the problem, really? In fact the sooner one understands that, the less chance there is of being stumbled or shocked and leaving. [bolding hers]

The problem is that I told the elders I wouldn’t do it. But because I believe what you have just said and from time to time get emails stating the same, I don’t beat myself up when I break my resolve, though I do say “Don’t make it a habit.”

When the elders met with me after the meeting, I had no thought at all of putting the experience online. That occurred to me later

I just came to think I’d let it stand as a real time example of responding to counsel even if I don’t agree with every aspect of it. The only examples of meeting with the elders that ever appear online are those written by unruly persons already on the edge, like Dathan and those rebellious louts, who rail at the attempt at “mind control” and cry ad nauseum over their right to free speech, missing every spiritual point in the process of making their dominant fleshy one: “No one’s telling me what to do!”

I don’t resent the counsel at all. I take it for just what it is—loving oversight.  I both accept and appreciate that Jehovah leads his people via a human agency, and I am grateful that there is something that corresponds to verses such as Hebrews 13:17, to “be obedient to those who are taking the lead among you and be submissive, for they are keeping watch over you as those who will render an account, so that they may do this with joy and not with sighing, for this would be damaging to you.

As such, I accept they have the responsibility to counsel in line with scripture, and I don’t carry on as though my toes are being stepped on or my rights infringed upon. They represent the human link in the divine/human interface, and they do not demand lockstep walking even as they give pointed counsel. I don’t consider myself above them. They are above me as regards authority.

I appreciate their efforts to check me, and as stated, I would be far worse in the absence of godly counsel to not engage with those who show by word or deed that acquiescence to Jehovah’s standards and all that is entailed is repugnant to them. It does me good to be checked by them, for I do believe that we become who we hang out with. We may not become it instantly, but we do so eventually—if not in point of argument then in forfeiting the Christlike manner—and often even in point of argument, as they are almost always based on following the trends of the day.

I would like it if there was a little more organizational pushback on some of the charges leveled against us—you know, take these guys on. I’ve said it many times before. But you can’t always get what you want. You can’t always get what you want. You can’t always get what you want. But if you try sometime, you just might find, you get what you need. 

And I have. I can’t go charging around like an enraged bull. But that kind of conduct can get a guy skewered anyway. It does me well to do what I do under the discipline of conforming to theocratic counsel. Even if in one aspect I am not a stellar example of it. I am in most other aspects.

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

Observations on PBS’s China—Power and Prosperity: Treatment of Uyghurs & Social Credit Systems

Q: By now, most people have heard about the Uyghurs issues in China. There are supposedly concentration camps, torture camps,...thousands imprisoned, etc. When someone changed thousands to "for all we know, there might even be millions" the new number changed to "millions" without Western media even batting an eyelash. 

A: I saw a PBS show, China—Power and Prosperity not long ago. The unedited version of this runs almost two hours and is divided into seven or eight topics. The segment about the Uyghurs (toward the end) seems to back reports of harsh treatment—but is it thousands or “millions?” Several witnesses who lived through it are interviewed—ones now in “self-imposed exile” in Istanbul. One man tells of massive detention centers where he saw ones interrogated with “unbearable brutality,” one woman of her block mates taken for interrogation 15 at a time, and would reemerge “bruised and swollen.”

Q: my sense of right and wrong was outraged when I heard that they take children away from parents and re-train them in boarding schools where state propaganda is spoon-fed day and night.  

A: They testified as to this, too. They all assert that state video of helpful retraining is “staged and scripted.” The justification for all of it is some terrorist attacks from that ethnicity. It seemed convincing to me. Easy to find, if you have not seen it. Google the topic and bring up some YouTubes. The government spokesman who denies it all wonders “who is paying them?”

...There is something about a PBS offering, or any offering from ones of similar background. How to put it?

Q: they are forced to comply at peril of their life or a system that can take all their social credit away in one swoop.  This new social credit system is terrible and may soon come to the west

A: Interviewing one Chinese company spokesperson about this, the interviewer asks: “Does it work?” that is—does the system of incentives and disincentives serve to change people’s conduct? The woman seems flustered at this, and mumbles that “Of course it works,” before breaking away. “Something about our question disconcerted the hosts, who suspended the interview and withdrew,” says the narrator, “but our mics were still on and recorded what they next said privately” (not exact quote, but close).

The first thing the woman said privately to some cohorts was: (in the full version, not the edited one) “What kind of a question was that?” That had been my impression, too. What was disconnecting about the question was the sheer stupidity of it. Do incentives and disincentives serve to mold behavior? Of course they do! There is something so naive about persons who have been raised with “enlightened” views of discipline. The next backstage remarks are of how they can’t really refuse an interview, but they want to take care not to criticize the party, and of course, this is what the program seizes upon, as though their dopey question served to expose the underbelly of the beast. 

If a stove is red-hot, and people know it is red hot, will they touch it? Only in the West will moral revisionists question this, extrapolating the few who will indeed touch it anyway into the many. The truth is more in accord with Mark Twain’s observation that “a cat that sits on a hot stove will never sit on a hot stove again. Nor will it sit on a cold one—for they all look hot.”

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

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.

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

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.

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

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.

See: I Don’t Know Why We Persecute Jehovah’s Witnesses—Searching for the Why

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

“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

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