Q: Have You Stopped Advertising Your Ebooks?

Hardly.

Obtain your copy now at the link below while the supply lasts:

‘Tom Irregardless and Me’—Starting with Prince, a fierce and frolicking defense of Jehovah’s Witnesses. A riotous romp through their way of life. “We have become a theatrical spectacle to the world, and to angels and to men,” the Bible verse says. That being the case, let’s show some theater! Let’s skewer the liars who slander the Christ! Let’s pull down the house on the axis lords! Let the seed-pickers unite!

All persons with names like ‘Irregardless’ are real though generally composite. You can meet them in my circuit or even yours. Events related are faithfully depicted except for a few that I’ve made up. Persons with names recognizable from history or current events – you’re nuts! – it’s not those people at all!

https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/686882

Puts Rolf’s book to shame!”.....Oscar Oxgoad

”A highly entertaining author—especially if you’re not fussy”.....Tom Brexit

Acceptable after a fashion. But his grasp of science is weak, and his critical thinking skills are abominable.”....Bernard Strawman

A pack of lies! I hate it!”.....Vic Vomodog

His chapter on bloodless medicine completely changed my practice.”....Dr Max ‘Ace’ Inhibitor

Mr. Harley works tireless to serve his readers. He has even taken out the typos!”...Wayne Whitepebble

Tom Harley’s Tom Irregardless and Me has been described as “a romping and riotous defense of Jehovah's Witnesses and their place in today’s world.” This really sums up the book, which is a light-hearted look at numerous aspects of the Watch Tower Society from the perspective of a practicing Jehovah’s Witness in the US.

“To the outsider, Jehovah’s Witnesses may seem deadly serious and preoccupied exclusively with their religion and the Society’s own publications. Harley dispels this stereotype. The book is about real people and issues, although the author has changed the names of rank-and-file members to preserve name anonymity. Tom Irregardless is an elder who uses the spurious word “irregardless” liberally in his Bible talks. Other characters include John Wheatnweeds, who hinders members from their house-to-house ministry by spending inordinate amounts of time expounding the text of the day before they set out. Then there is posh brandy-sipping Bernard Strawman, who receives frequent visits from the publishers, but continues to raise facile objections to their faith. Vic Vomidog, an apostate, repeatedly seeks to hamper their work. Other chapters are about real JW celebrities such as Prince, who is the subject of an entire chapter.

“Despite being light-hearted throughout, Tom Harley raises serious issues such as flag salutes, Darwinism and creationism, theocratic government, the paedophile scandals and the dangers of online grooming of minors, and the accuracy of the New World Translation of the Bible. Tom shows a remarkable breadth of knowledge and reading too – he has by no means exclusively studied Watch Tower publications.

“My favourite part of the book was the parody of Mickey Spillane near the end, where Tom Harley envisages a house-to-house publisher acting like one of Spillane’s macho characters. For those who don’t know, Spillane was a novelist whose books were renowned for their sex and violence, until Spillane converted to become a Jehovah’s Witness in 1951 – a decision that drastically changed his writing style.

“Tom Hartley states that he hopes Tom Irregardless is “entertaining but serious at heart”. This sums up the book well. It’s a good read, while providing valuable insights into life as a JW.”....Ivor E. Tower

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)

Updating the Ebooks

Q: “Dear Tom: What have you discovered during COVID_19 time?

A: I have discovered that if you read material aloud, the ‘it’ that should be an ‘is’, ‘if’, or even an ‘in’ has not a prayer of staying hidden, determined though it might be, even though it has survived innumerable silent readings. The ‘the’ that should actually be a ‘they’ is similarly flushed out. With this new weapon, I have been cleaning up my ebooks. Due to inexperience and budget, I released all of them with some errors. ‘Dear Mr. Putin - Jehovah’s Witnesses Write Russia’ was a particular mess, but now it is pristine.

That being the case, I’ll be attaching a modest price to it soon. Act now if you want the revised yet still free version. Not only have glitches been removed, but also have some sections having no Russian context whatsoever—to be placed into ‘TrueTom vs the Apostates!’ where they do have context. The latter ebook deals with opposition to Witnesses in the West, which is not identical to that in Russia. A Part 4 has also been added to ‘Dear Mr Putin,’ logging significant developments since the first edition of the book made its appearance.

I have also softened a name. Vic Vomidog, the “perennial apostate,” is now Vic Vomodog. It is but one letter, but it changes a lot. ‘Vomidog’ is an allusion to the verse of those who abandon their faith:

It would have been better for them not to have accurately known the path of righteousness than after knowing it to turn away from the holy commandment they had received. What the true proverb says has happened to them: “The dog has returned to its own vomit, and the sow that was bathed to rolling in the mire.” (2 Peter 2:22

Vic Vomidog was a character in ‘Tom Irregardless and Me’—sort of a comic book villain who never stopped making trouble, like Wily E. Coyote. But I have since come to apply the name to any ‘apostate.’ and not all are of the same character. Some are. Some aren’t. Why throw the barb at all of them when you only mean some? Since there is no way of knowing up front who’s who, soften it for all. ‘Vomidog’ evokes ‘vomit,’ which is disgusting and risks offending people needlessly. ‘Vomodog—here both ‘O’s will be long—does not, or does it less.

Some just lose their way, fall under the spell of the liars, or have really been hurt and are licking their wounds. I am told that at the Melbourne convention, Brother Splane spoke to how there are brothers and sisters who have been hurt within the organization and consequently, others may just have to put up with some “wild talk” from them—it’s part of their healing. So why call those who went over the edge ‘Vomidog’ as a blanket term? I won’t. “Why should we not judge people?” was the question asked in the recent Watchtower in a study article about field service. Because half the time, we’re wrong.

It doesn’t mean you cozy up to them, unless you like petting porcupines. No. But for an unknown some of them I do what Jesus did with the Phoenician woman: “It is not right to take the bread of the children and throw it to the little dogs,” he said to her, and the reason the verse reads “little dogs” and not “hound dogs” is because he chose a word with that meaning—sort of like ‘puppies.’ I will do that with certain ‘apostates.’ Some are just ‘kids’ doing what kids have done since the beginning of time—rebelling against their upbringing. Updating the woman’s answer to Jesus: “Yes, Lord, but really the little dogs ream you just like the hound dogs, but they are still little dogs that could one day get some sense pounded back into their skulls.” There’s a lot in a letter—‘Vomidog’ is now ‘Vomodog.’

‘TrueTom vs the Apostates!’ may also go behind a paywall in time—the sooner I tuck that sucker away, the better. But ‘Dear Mr. Putin’ will go that way first. It may even spur circulation, for you know how some are with regard to anything free: “It didn’t cost nothin—and it was worth it, too!” exclaimed Huck Finn about the traveling circus he snuck under the tent to see.

Not to worry. Any penniless brother will still be able to get either free. Just email me at the TomSheepandgoats.com

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)

B. W. Shultz of Separate Identity

Several months ago, B. W. Shultz tweeted to me the suggestion that —please don’t take offense, but I would probably benefit from a certain eighth grade English textbook. I decided not to take offense and I ordered it. Why can I not find it now? Did I give it to Rochester’s youngest reporter, a young man of tremendous gumption, but who—well—attended the city schools? I offered to, but the book never physically changed hands. Did I toss it because Mrs Harley thinks the house is too cluttered already with books? It drives me nuts. You would think I would have kept it as a reference.

I did order it on eBay as almost an impulse item, and I do remember cooling on the idea that I needed it—for the most part, where my language is sloppy, it is not because I do not know any better but because I do not bother. I know, for example, that you do not end sentences with a preposition (I remember a writer playing with the idea of how many he could string at end of sentence: “New York City is a bad place to get something in your eye in,” and even “New York City is a good place to get something in your eye out in) and when I take advantage of Covid time to review Dear Mr. Putin, I say of parts, “oh, my—what a mess!” and make corrections. About 80% of the book has now been gone through with a fine tooth comb. I cannot testify that there might be a comma in places where none is needed, but for the most part, it is okay. 

Alas, I favor long and intricate sentences. I flatter myself that I am being like Paul, and I take comfort that he is dead and is not going to call me on it. Maybe that is Shultz’s message to me—“learn to write sparsely, can’t you?” Yes, I mostly know what to do, but still colons, dashes, single and double quote marks, and even commas drive me nuts in all their variant settings and I wouldn’t have the problem if I kept my settings more manageable. I know it—but I get carried away.

His writing is far more disciplined, and even his tweets are at times hauntingly beautiful—maybe not uniquely so—maybe I just have that impression, because he is on my radar and others aren’t—‘confirmation bias,’ the learned Bernard Strawman calls it. There is a place for sparseness, because everything you say dilutes everything you have just said—extra writing doesn’t always magnify—it just as frequently dilutes. Shultz is given in tweets to chronicle the ordinary—his own health, for example. His niece did that, too. 

“It takes patience to sort my pills for the day. And when I've recovered from pill taking, it takes more patience to put the medicated cream on my poor legs. I'd rather have ice cream. ... email from grand niece. Such plans ... I was full of plans at that age too. I guess.“

He reminisces:

“Back in 1986 I bought a new, but previous years model deVille. Wife wanted to drive it home. When we got it home, she announced that henceforth it was her car. She complained whenever I drove it.”

And, of course, he tweets of his research:

”Mostly fruitless research day. You'd think these dead people would have realized that 150 years later I'd like to read their letters and such. Such ungrateful dead people!”

He is altogether not a bad follow at all. He used to pop up in my feed frequently. For some reason, Twitter now seems to be squelching him in favor of some firebrand brother who can hardly see a reference to a church without appending something about ‘false religion’—with everything there is a time and a place, and I am reminded both of how Jesus had to reign in the Sons of Thunder, and how a certain circuit overseer used to distinquish between ‘winsome words’ and ‘wincing words.’ There are people who eat ‘Bible sandwiches’ and they fail to understand that most people don’t.

Shultz didn’t became active on Twitter until after de Vienne died. He expressly states that he steers clear of Facebook and Instagram for all the “idiots” on it, but he allows that Twitter is a nice distraction—it is like the background chatter in a coffee house. 

There was a time when I thought neither of them liked me very much, but I have since come to think it was just due to their being no-nonsense researchers who think that humor in research is an abomination, and note that I have no such aversion. Moreover, my “research” is mostly pulling stuff off the internet. It’s not nothing, but it is pretty close. He is steadily warming. In answer to my post about Woodstock and how it was held during a pandemic, he tweeted that he and his “antique wife” were pulling the leg of his nephew, giving the young man to believe that they had been there, apparently toking up with rest of them. He then threw in the unnecessary detail—but completely expected of a historian—that he later fessed up and told the truth.

....

de Vienne wrote that when she submitted the final Volume I to Bethel of Separate Identity, via mail I suppose, they received it without comment. She speculated about this and one possibility she advanced was that they ‘were incurious about their own history.’ In the main, I think this is true. They don’t look back all that much at Bethel—they look forward. 

And it is also true of me. It is not that the past history does not interest me. It is that so many things interest me more that I may never get around to it, even though I would like to. I read the book rather quickly because I told her I would write a review of it, which I did. Maybe someday I will come back to it more thoroughly. 

One other reviewer wrote of the authors’ “almost fanatical attention to detail.” That was also my general impression and it makes me suppose the book is probably the foremost authority on what it writes. They don’t appear to have any agenda at all, other than illuminating history—unlike almost everyone else who weighs in on the subject. He will not be charge as Emily Baron* was—of writing a hagiography—the worst of all possible sins for an historian for its lack-of-objectivity connotation.

*See Dear Mr. Putin - Jehovah’s Witnesses Write Russia, chapter 1.

See ‘Separate Indentity’—Volumes I and II. It is easy searchable online.

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)

A Sign of the Ebook Times—Sloppy Editing

“[Rulf’s] book gives evidence of rushed last-minute organization and some sloppy editing. There is a lot of unnecessary repetition, and a couple of mistakes and typos,” I was told.

This is reassuring to me. My books have suffered from this, too, and one of them positively reeked with errors, which took forever to ferret out. Several times I announced that all corrections had been made, only to find more blips.

Not long ago, I purchased a homeopathy books from someone supposedly renowned. I was amazed as how slipshod was the formatting, and how much beneficial editing could have been done but wasn’t.

It is a sign of the ebook times, and I am reassured that even Rulf the scholar is afflicted with it. Ideally, you proof a work with professionals, but that is pricey and with ebooks being so cheap, with no guarantee of sales, either you do it yourself or ask well-meaning (but essentially hobbyist) friends to help you out. It is a far more daunting task than it first appears to do it yourself, because you tend to read, not what is there, but what you recall being there. You can do tolerably well for a short article, but if we are speaking of an entire book—good l**k on that!

I even face an additional challenge. If I ask brothers who might be in position to help me out to do so, many will be unconfortable with the material and duck out. It’s frustrating. If I wrote a book about how the Easter Bunny was pagan, they would be lined up 5-deep to proof it, but if I confine myself to what seems more interesting, it is not that way.

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)

Trying in Vain to Reassemble the Three Amigos

Imagine my rotten l**k. Here I had almost succeeded in the reappearance of the three amigos—Wilma, Annabelle, and Gumee—the original three of the thread the Old Hen assigned to me, ‘TrueTom vs the Apostates,’ which I resisted because i didn’t want the job, but when my resistance proved futile, I warmed to the task and went after them with such ferocity that the same Old Hen that put me on it took me off—and many months later it became inspiration for my fourth book, ‘TrueTom vs the Apostates!

Annabel suddenly reappears and what happens? Gumee disappears to do penance! Gumee, who never was apostate in many ways but who so closely resembled one that I couldn’t tell the difference. He’s gone!—only days before the story breaks that may or may not fit so nicely into ‘TrueTom vs the Apostates—Round 2’ should such a book come about.

Annabelle OMaly, who is herself my inspiration of Top Cat O’Malihan—an alias I trotted out to mess with that pretentious buffoon Alistaire Strawman—Annabelle herself appears as Gumee disappears. I tell you, it is not right.

Incidentally, the cat in Top Cat’s profile photo is dead. It was my cat but when I took my daughter’s dog in because she was moving away as a need-greater—well, the dog has a thing about chasing cats. So I took the cat to my Dad’s house, who was just coming down with dementia and in time I stayed with him for a few months. He figured that it was one of the barn cats that he grew up with and kept leaving it saucers of milk around the house, just as he had done in his boyhood with the other barn cats. “Great, Pop!” I would mutter. “Here I want to pour myself a bowl of cereal and I can’t because you have put all the milk out in a dozen bowls for the cat—who never touches it!”

The cat was old by the time I took it to my Dad’s. It was a great comfort for him and would sit on his lap. He was looking for it one day and I knew he would not find it. It had crawled under the basement workbench, a place that it had never been before, to die. There really is something to the expression, ‘Crawl under a rock and die.”

.... All this talk about Top Cat O’Malihan got his attention:

Did I hear my name? Well well well! Annabelle Omaly! I am told I am named after her! Hmmm, Tom.....I’m not sure that I like her. She’s not like that blowhard Alistaire Strawman, is she? What a piece of work he was! Not like us, at all, hey Tom (or at least, me)?


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Photo: Sarah Finucane

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)

A Book Review from Top Cat O’Malihan

What I loved best about one of Tom Harley’s books—they’re all so good—is his recall of a squabble between Amy and he over a child abuse video. He was favoring the ‘Protect Your Children’ video of Jehovah’s Witnesses and she was skewering it for not dealing the the possibility that mommy and daddy might be the abusers. She favored a video from the Sinatra foundation, featuring circled areas of a child’s body which were no-touch zones, suggesting both that a child wouldn’t know its ass from its elbow, and also that it would need mentally consult the diagram in order to determine whether it felt bad about a touch or not. 

“I remember how Tom pointed out how the JW video spoke of a child having a conscience, and in fact, it did deal indirectly with her scenario, as one of the parents said ‘Let no one touch you inappropriately’—whereas the agency video specifically said that it was okay for a doctor to touch private places. ‘Ask the young women of the U.S. Olympic team which video they think would have better protected them,’ he said.”

....

Tom responds: Much as I appreciate this review from Top Cat, in fact the account has been edited out of ‘Dear Mr. Putin - Jehovah’s Witnesses Write Russia’ and has not been inserted elsewhere.

I had a ‘pedophile’ chapter in Dear Mr. Putin and I later edited it out because such charges never once arose in a Russian context. The chapter had been there in the first place is because I was mounting a defense of charges made anywhere and I threw in everything but the kitchen sink. On and on the chapter went, and it began to feel—even to me—a little defensive; of course, that is by definition the nature of a defense, but even so..... I also didn’t know at the time that I would be writing ‘TrueTom vs the Apostates!’ about charges in Western lands, where the accusation does fit. But the deleted chapter still hasn’t found a home, save for on my blog.

There is also an Apostasy chapter in ‘Dear Mr. Putin.’ That remains because it does fit—apostates played a prominent role in exposing some of their former brothers to arrest and jail. But even there, about a dozen paragraphs with no Russian context whatsoever—they were just more pet indulgences on my part—have been deleted. Some of them appear in the latter book.

Top Cat included his photo. I wouldn’t want to meet him in a dark alley:726F6A0D-1538-4621-BB4A-CCEA9C0967F9

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)

Fight With the Army Have, Not the Army You Wish You Had

Like any nation, you must fight with the army you have, not the army you wish you had.

We want our people to be Rhodes Scholars who never misjudge, who hold their own easily among the brightest the university has to offer, whose every utterance sweeps you away for its sheer brilliance.

What we get is a bunch of yahoos who make all the blunders that yahoos have always made. We should not run from this. We should embrace it. It is because Christians are derived from—the very ones taking the lead were described this way—the ‘uneducated and ordinary.’ 

Now when they saw the outspokenness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were uneducated and ordinary men, they were astonished. And they began to realize that they had been with Jesus.” (Acts 4:13) They always remained so, by the standards of greater society.

We should embrace it because that is what God favors—“the uneducated and ordinary.” In the brilliant book ‘Tom Irregardless and Me’ (which, brilliant though it is, cannot touch ‘No Greater Love—How My Family Survived Genocide in Ryanda’) I wrote of how the great ideas of this world’s thinkers

all sounded good – heaven knows one can spin college degrees from them. But when put to the test – when placed under stress – they don’t work.

One might suppose that the architect of ideas that don’t work would be discredited. Bizarrely, the ‘doesn’t work’ caveat doesn’t matter. It is just the fine print at document’s end which nobody reads....Surely it is the fault of the little people below and not the great idea!’....It is that way with the bedrock ideas upon which this world is constructed. Despite being lauded to high heaven, they don’t work. Those who have earned university degrees in them do not sacrifice any prestige on that account. Instead, they go on to master other ideas that don’t work.

God laughs at the wisdom of this world, and in the passage above we see why. He says: “There is a generation that is pure in its own eyes, but has not been cleansed from its filth.” (Proverbs 30:12) Tell those educated ones: “Show us the just world that has resulted from your brilliance, and then maybe we can talk.”

So we ought not run from our ordinariness. We should embrace it. When Celsus ridicules 2nd century Christians for being “labourers, shoemakers, farmers, the most uninformed and clownish of men,” don’t run away from that quote. Don’t try to mitigate it (as do most Christian apologists). Instead, say: “You don’t know the half of it!”

An attribute of much of my writing—which is not appreciated by all Witnesses—is to give away many a fault, particularly faults that will make some look ridiculous, as when Tom Irregardless rattles on for ten minutes in that instruction talk about a woman’s ‘ministerial cycle’ because he has forgotten the word ‘menstrual.’ He recalls only cruder terms that he knows would not be suitable for the platform. (This really happened.) 

There is a joke about the sister who collected $6000 dollars by selling eggs every time her husband gave a bad talk—and brothers collapse upon themselves telling that joke—yet no one will tell it within 300 yards of Tom Irregardless because with him it is no joke—it is reality. You risk hurting his feelings. “Why would anybody ever take that risk? In all your days you will never find a more caring, generous person than Tom Irregardless. If you need help he is there. You can pop in at the Irregardless home anytime; they are delighted to see you. They don’t wonder why you didn’t call first. Tom is an excellent man through and through, but only in Jehovah’s organization would he be a public instructor.”

[Actually, this is not nearly so true as it once was, since in recent years there has been more emphasis on speaker quality and less opportunity for them to mess up]

The point is not to humiliate people. The point is to glorify God. When great things are accomplished and the workers themselves are great, you can say that was the reason. But when great things are accomplished and the workers are just regular unexceptional folk, the glory goes to God. So not only do I not hide embarrassing things—I highlight and even exaggerate them—always with 2 Corinthians 12:9 in mind: 

But he [God] said to me [Paul]: “My undeserved kindness is sufficient for you, for my power is being made perfect in weakness.” Most gladly, then, I will boast about my weaknesses, in order that the power of the Christ may remain over me like a tent. So I take pleasure in weaknesses, in insults, in times of need, in persecutions and difficulties, for Christ. For when I am weak, then I am powerful.

‘Don’t try to be something you’re not’ is the idea to glean. The strategy of admitting faults would have served even with regard to handling cases of child sexual abuse, the plague of the planet. Barely a day goes by that it is not uncovered somewhere, in some new setting. Yesterday I heard one new to me—that of a man suing the newspaper. Decades ago he was a paperboy molested by his supervisor. Young people will not remember, but it was always children delivering the paper back in my day.

Rather than hope for the perception that CSA could never ever occur among a people devoted to God, I wish our people would have said: “Oh, yeah—tell us about it—we’ve had some of those slime balls, too, and let me tell you they are tough to deal with!” It would have all been good. We would not be having opposers who now carry on as though with the mission statement:

“CSA among JWs is very very serious and must be exposed! CSA among the 99.9% that is everywhere else? Stuff happens.”

It would have been better if no one had ever thought it necessary to write that May 2019 article pointing out that the reproach of CSA falls on the abuser and not on the congregation. It’s a great article, and timely, but it would have been better if nobody had ever thought it necessesary.

When I used to be a bad boy and interacted with the malcontents, I would point out that the CSA is not prolific among JWs. They (the more reasonable ones) would not challenge me on this. Instead, they would respond with: “Oh, so now you are saying that you have the same problems as everyone else!” They accepted my premise, that we do abhor it and it is not prolific—it was the perception of self-righteousness—as though imagining selves immune to the problems of everyone else—that got them incensed. It would have been better to have given no cause for that perception, and it would be nice if it is a lesson internalized for future guidance.

It is very very difficult to be the required “no part of the world” and not be perceived as self-righteous, because the world automatically takes offense at non-participation. “If you were part of the world, the world would be fond of what is its own,” says Jesus. “Now because you are no part of the world, the world hates you.” Still, I think we do unnecessarily bring trouble upon ourselves sometimes, and the above is a prime example.

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)

The Author in the Dog Park

I always walk laps at the dog park. I am the only one I have ever seen do so. I don’t know why. When there are other people, they just stand around; sometimes they chat with each other. I am not anti-social, but I can use the exercise every bit as much as the dog—why should he get it all? Walking this fellow has taken 30 points off my blood pressure.

Someone I have not seen before enters the park, and to my surprise, when I start my laps (about two and a quarter miles—I have calculated by pacing it off), he starts walking with me. That’s good. We chat. I say I have never seen him before and he says that he has been out of the country. I ask the reason. He says he is an author of science fiction and he has returned from one of their book conventions. I tell him that I write too—now that the kids are gone and the bills are paid, I get to indulge some interests, and writing is chief among them.

Now, whenever one writer meets another, there is some gentle probing so to determine who is the more successful. You don’t want to appear full of yourself. Best to say something modest, which in my case is entirely appropriate anyhow. So I told him how I had read the following career advise somewhere online:

  1. Ask yourself how many books you have read in the last year written by a totally unknown author,
  2. Now you know why you should not attempt to write for a living.

My companion said, however, that it was not true with him—he was able to make his living through his bookwriting. He was very modest, saying again and again that he was very fortunate, and also that he was in just the right genre—science fiction. I gave him a card for “Dear Mr. Putin - Jehovah’s Witnesses Write Russia” and he could not stop asking about it—drawing out from me the story of their persecution, which he knew nothing about. “Watchtower—are they the Mormons?” he initially said.

I am not the Jehovah’s Witness who goes on and on about his own cause and will not let another get a word in edgewise. Quite the contrary. I consistently tried to change the subject back to his writing, and he would not let me. He came coming back to my work. He had no issue at all with my book being free, as my first two were not. “Of course,” he said, “it is a labor of love. You want to get a word out.”

We talked a lot about the marketing of books in all their forms, of which he knew far more than I. It was gratifying to learn that, while there were many things that I did not know, there was nothing that I DID know that was wrong. I told him of my plans to eventually release the books on audio, and how I had been stymied by the CreateSpace site after it merged with Kindle. He said not to even bother with print—he sells ten times the audio versions that he does print, though he qualified his remark that much would depend on the genre.

He had only been to the park once before. He is single, devotes all of his time to writing, and only breaks for the sake of walking his dog. Through some chit-chat on the nature of dogs, he mentioned that the only other time he was at the park, someone else kept walking around doing laps while his dog humped other dogs. “That was probably me,” I told him, and he threw himself into contortions saying that he was sure it wasn’t. No, it probably was, I told him. I have never seen anyone else walk laps—but he swore it was someone else.

It may be as he said, because mine doesn’t really hump other dogs. I mean, he is not obnoxious about it—it is just occasional—rarely does he even give a thought to it—and if he gets that way, I intervene as soon as I am aware. The mutt is fixed anyway.

As he talked about his work, I said that I would love to read some of it. I tried to set up some sort of relationship with him, but, nice as can be, without a bit of pretentiousness, much less condescension (which he would have had every right to do, publishing-wise), he said that it would not happen—he is totally immersed in his science fiction, his books and his fans, and he wouldn’t have time to develop new relations. Essentially, he has no life otherwise, and right now he is consumed with his career. I never did receive any of his work through the email address I gave him, and haven’t seen him since. Ah, well. Did it actually even happen?

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“Why so much foul language? I don't see how Jehovah can approve of that or the necessary disregard for many of the friends' consciences.”

Sorry, Tom, After spending a couple of hours reading your blog, I’ve changed my mind.

Not a problem, John. I appreciate your taking a look at it. I consider that everything that I write about spiritual things is loyal to Jehovah’s earthly organization, EXCEPT for counsel not to engage with some of the types that I do. Why I do what I do I have explained in several places, such as here. As an FYI, the elders of my congregation are aware of it, as is the organization, because I have written to them. What they think of it I do not know. I have written the 4 ebooks that I have and have never been given any feedback about it. Best to you in your service to our God.

Why so much foul language? I don't see how Jehovah can approve of that or the necessary disregard for many of the friends' consciences.”

It is for two reasons. One is because of the challenge of writing to two audiences—Witnesses and non-Witnesses. My books are not primarily for the friends, especially Dear Mr Putin and TrueTom vs. the Apostates. I hope they like them, but they are not the primary audience. They are written in the hope of changing perceptions of some in the greater world, especially those who may be able to afford us relief or mold popular opinion. The interested journalist and policy-maker class is who I am aiming for. With non-Witnesses primarily in mind, I think of the language as actually quite mild. If you use foul language all the time, as many do, it becomes just lazy, provocative, and disrespectful speech. But it you use it very sparingly, it becomes like the spice—occasionally something off-color is exactly the right terminology to make a point. There is one person I follow on Twitter precisely because of the contrast between the outrageous language he employs and the basic refinement and decency of the man himself. 

The second reason I go off-color sometimes is that “bad associations spoil useful habits,” and I should take to heart more what you say. I have no bad associations in person, but one cannot spend any time on social media without encountering massive quantities of it, and it rubs off. You are not the first one to point out what you have about language. The last one triggered my cleaning several instances of it up, but it sneaks back in again.

I think that the friends are on such a spiritual island—even if they think it a paradise island—that they have become oversensitive to what is not, in the greater scheme of things, an especially egregious sin. I also rebel at the thought that there will always be some who “strain out the gnat, but swallow the camel”—their language may be impeccable, but they do things that are far worse. But it doesn’t matter what I think. I am on that island, too, and I should not bring onto it what offends. I will be readjusted by you about this, and I will try to not go that way, and even take it out where it already exists. it is good counsel and I thank you for it.

Much of what I write about controversial things I have never heard anyone say before. Partly this is because that we are so much ‘no part of the world’ that we have forgotten how the world thinks, and are not good at answering it on its own terms. I read and write all the time—it is not really to my credit that I do this, but in this case it comes in handy—and I have gotten good at answering them on their own terms. I go on social media sites because I feel able to supply what some of the friends will find helpful, and to be sure, it is an interchange of encouragement. But I don’t really go online for the sake of making friends, for like most of us, I have a circuitful of real flesh-and-blood friends that I never have to wonder about who they really are.

Thanks, John. It is good counsel on language. I will take it to heart. Whether that resolve holds remains to be seen, but I will try to make it so.

....Hmm. You know, there is quite a bit to clean up. Did I really rebuke the National Historical Park Service with “It is history, dammit, get it right!” No more! Now I merely observe that history is their reason for existence—they ought to get the details right. And did I really say that certain opposers are “batsh*t crazy?” No more! Now they are “loony-tunes” crazy. I admit, I don’t like it as much, but it is not about me.

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Child Sexual Abuse Storm on the 'Atlantic'

“Tom, you’re on here quite often justifying or defending some pretty horrible doctrine. I get it, it’s your faith and you’re probably a decent guy IRL so I hope one day you’ll find a religion that won’t require you to perform logical contortions to rationalize your adherence to it.”

Actually, you don’t get it. Of course I see the point your community makes. But you make it so persistently and to the exclusion of all else that I say “Okay, those bases are covered” and I focus on the all else. You are a community that plays and perseverates over the movie bloopers and in time imagines that the bloopers were the movie itself. I am struck by the exuberance your pals display in re-embracing the life they once left. Most long-standing residents of that life will not share that exuberance, I think. It is as though they sing the Vioxx ‘It’s a Beautiful Morning!’ song, forgetting that the FDA ultimately pulled that product because it kills people.

I have no problem with saying the Jehovah’s Witnesses governing arrangement makes mistakes. But (we have many trees on our property) it’s like when we contracted the tree trimmer and my wife kept pointing out more and more flaws. “Don’t look so hard,” the fellow told her. “You’ll cut them all down.” It is like that with people anywhere. Taken to extremes, one will dismantle any organization of any sort.

Look, everyone today describes the other side as delusional and even hate-filled. It’s just the way people are. I don’t take it personally. We are spiritual enemies not because of CSA. You have probably done us a favor in that by triggering such 5/19 Watchtower statements as “the reproach falls upon the abuser,” which effectively solves the problem. We are spiritual enemies because you have reversed course on the ‘everything else,’ trading in the diamonds for the turds. The CSA stuff was turds all along, but every group is pulling out its hair trying to cope with it, many less effectively than us, and at any rate, it is not the big picture. It is but a component of the big picture, overall a very small one. If you focus on any tree of the forest long enough, it becomes the forest. Your points I see all the time. Many of my points I have never seen anyone make but me. Even the Watchtower organization itself, which has a “penchant for privacy” as one reporter put it, does not make them. I take for granted going into your community that I will lose. I just want to get another view on the table. Any group with a narrow focus becomes myopic over time. I just seek to counter that.

 

***~~~***

It is a solid base hit—even a double or a triple—with the publication of the Atlantic article and opposers are crowing as they seldom crow. Other sources have picked up on it, such as the New York Daily News. As for me, I would just as soon not see such articles. Given that they exist, however, this one I liked. It helped me with the listings. I have many times interacted with some of these characters, mostly through Twitter, without knowing exactly who they were, where they came from, and what were the relationships between them. Now I know.

I find myself, much to my surprise and even shock, trading tweets with some of the most celebrated ex-Witness opponents on the planet (and seriously getting under their skin, in some cases). I don’t hang out there. I don’t engage overmuch—though I guess I can hardly say that I don’t engage at all. After I learned that one reporter used an anti-Witness forum as his practically sole source, I went there to see if I could leave material that contrasts with what he otherwise finds monolithically. I post long articles there. Each one produces a flurry of protests and I briefly answer a few of them before disappearing. It is the same way on Twitter. Once in a while there is a mighty storm, but most of the time there is nothing at all and I am chatting about the local weather and relaying cat and dog gifs like everyone else.

Crossing swords with these folk is not exactly what a Witness is expected to do. I approach it, like Paul approached the Corinthians, with fear and trembling. One misstep and your head is handed to you on a platter. I wouldn’t dare do it if I didn’t have 15 years of communicating in writing under my belt, not specializing in, but also not avoiding controversial topics. Some of these characters goad and taunt, I think in hopes of provoking an intemperate response. You’d better not give them one or you and what you represent are toast. To be sure, I have blundered a few times, but not beyond recovery. You must not respond in anger even if your blood boils. Neither be too sympathetic, because that is inevitably thrown back in your face as hypocritical. It is the mark of zealotry that you cannot agree with part of a position. You must endorse all of it, otherwise you are said to hate that position and even whoever makes it. The trick is for your blood not to boil—to regard these ones as opponents, but not enemies—even as some of them express the most virulent hostility to you. You answer them evenly and dispassionately.

“Yeah, well if you could see things though their eyes, you would be hostile, too, you delusional fool!” someone will retort. Who can say? Never expound on what you do not know. Refrain from assigning motives even if they seem to you crystal clear. You may be wrong. Indeed, some of them describe themselves as whistleblowers. Why deny them the status? Having blown the whistle and effecting some change with it, they could return to the fold if they wanted to, even if disfellowshipped. What! Even some of pedophiles disfellowshipped have been allowed to return and the elders forever more have to watch them, for one cannot read hearts, so these “whistleblowers” could not? All one must to is “repent” and “turn around” and “produce fruits that befit repentance”—manifested by doing and saying the right thing, giving no further evidence of causing trouble, and enduring months or even years of sitting through meetings and afterwards in silence. The “whistleblowers” are not going to “make trouble,” because they already made it and it turned out to be just the ticket for solving a vexing problem. It could happen.

Of course, why it may not happen is that they might insist upon a heroes’ welcome. They might insist upon thereafter being a “power broker” in the congregation. What they also would “repent” over would be “pushing ahead,” and speaking injuriously of congregation governance. But they could say that there were driven to distraction by what they had heard or experienced and will from this point on “behave” and it would all be smoothed over in time. Time heals most everything that wants to be healed.

The reasons they become “enemies” is not simply due to any whistleblowing, but because they quickly progress to the following, as illustrated by a remark of Lloyd’s:

“And there’s Tom’s approach in a nutshell: join a religion, even if it doesn’t make sense, and just hope eventually your questions will be answered & everything will fall neatly into place. Never mind that people of other religions do the same, wasting their lives on nonsense.”

There it is. He threw out the baby with the bathwater. In fact, it does make sense and is not nonsense. He once thought so, too. It is one of the few things in the world today that does make sense—that is the reason that Witnesses were attracted to Bible teachings in the first place. It is the reason that they stick to it despite trials and even blunders. Current blunders, if they be that, and some courts have said they are, present the framework that Jehovah’s Witnesses often call ‘the Truth’ through its least flattering light. But it is still the same framework. Lloyd illustrates what

Professor David Bromley, author of The Politics of Religious Apostasy, wrote—that “individuals who elect to leave a chosen faith must then become critical of their religion in order to justify their departure…Others may ask, if the group is as transparently evil as he now contends, why did he espouse its cause in the first place? In the process of trying to explain his own seduction and to confirm the worst fears about the group, the apostate is likely to paint a caricature of the group that is shaped more by his current role as apostate than by his actual experience in the group.”

If a court case goes against you, you are duly chastened. But that does not mean that the entire picture has been seen, nor that another court might see things another way. It frequently happens—so many times that one could even stretch matters a little and say that it tacks in the light of ever-brightening approximations of truth, using verbiage that the Watchtower itself is fond of. What about the classic Supreme Court case that went against us in the 1940s, after which Jehovah’s Witnesses were accosted and beaten up so that even Eleanor Roosevelt had to speak up in their behalf, and then three years later, that same Court, with a few new members and a few others chastened at the brutality they had unleashed, reversed itself in the Gobitis decision regarding flag salute? Courts are the best humans can do, but they are not impartial. Everyone knows it. If they were impartial, confirming a new Supreme Court Justice could be done in an afternoon. Justices are swayed by interpretation of the law which is, in turn, swayed by pre-existing ideology. And no ideology is so white-hot as that which accompanies the subject of child sexual abuse, the plague of the planet.

The civil court is not so much a forum to establish truth but one to assign blame. The two goals overlap, but they are not the same. A conciliatory tone, for example, would seem to be a prerequisite in a forum seeking truth, but in an adversarial court forum, one must eschew it, for it will only result in getting beaten over the head with it by the other party. It is the nature of an adversarial legal system.

Yes, one is chastened upon losing a court case. On the other hand, Jehovah’s Witnesses in Russia did not need the Supreme Court declaring it extremist and the equivalent of ISIS (the only other officially designated extremist group) to know whether they were extremist or not. They did not need the Russian cops being told: ‘There are bad people inside. Do with them what you like,’ to determine whether they were bad people or not. It is the same when a Western civil court rules against them in a child abuse matter. They know the original intent of whatever record-keeping exists—to monitor some abhorrent conduct, in accord with Romans 2:21: “You, the one saying ‘do not steal,’ do you steal? You, the one saying ‘do not commit adultery,’ do you commit adultery?” They know, too, the intention was to protect their general community, so that molesters could not slip quietly out of one congregation and into another (as they could anywhere else). They know these things—even if they are misrepresented, sometimes deliberately, as attempts to protect pedophiles.

 

As Jehovah’s Witnesses experienced Bible teachings come together to convincingly answer deep questions of life—questions answered nowhere else—to them it was like a jigsaw puzzle assembled. They thereafter look at the mountain vista from the box cover replicated before them and are not quickly swayed by opponents saying they put it together wrong—even if there are some frayed pieces. This is especially true if that opponent’s own puzzle lies unassembled in the box on the upper shelf of his closet.

That consideration will be the predominant factor for most Jehovah’s Witnesses as they respond to what is here undeniably sordid. Child sexual abuse is the growth industry of the planet. Nearly all groups of size have suffered ship damage attempting to navigate those shoals. The common view now for any organization in which it has not been revealed is that it is only a matter of time. See how the United Nations, for example, is a pedophile haven—wear a blue helmet and nobody questions your authority or intention.

 

Lloyd will not return, not because he has spotlighted something unsavory, but because he has responded to the JW ship running into the shoals by burning every part of it. Is it really so that the Witness world is the one that “makes no sense?” One glance at the news will reveal that it is his world that makes no sense. Is it really so that religion is a crutch of which we have no need? The premise of the question is wrong. It is indeed a crutch. The flawed premise is that we have no need of one. In his day, Ronald Reagan was arguably the most influential person on earth. Ten years later, in the throes of Alzheimer’s, he didn’t know who he was. Will anyone maintain that they need no crutch in the face of a pathetic reality as that?

I approach online “in fear and trembling,” not just because these characters will rip you to shreds if you say something dumb, or because you are invariably battling a dozen of them at once, or because everything you say they think is dumb, but also because I do not know the reaction of my own people. Many of them, if not most, will think a Witness should not be doing what I am doing, and they will give me the fisheye.

Will I one day hear from the Witness organization: “What are you doing, TrueTom?! You’re messing everything up!?” If so, I will recalibrate, for I do not think that I am above them. It is no more than acceding to the authority of the coach, the teacher, the boss, the mentor, the union steward—something that used to be the most unremarkable thing in the world and is now portrayed as domination by those who would abuse. You can over-play the victimization card.

I am very glad—and did not plan it this way at all—that I wrote two timely books (four altogether) and put portions online so that, should I choose to respond to a tweet, I can also link to something relevant, effectively answering someone’s 50 words with my 1000. Let me tell you that gets rid of trolls in a hurry.

It started out as such a small project. As our people experienced problems in Russia, I wrote a few posts about it in my blog. In time, it occurred to me to assemble them for the record. Emily Baran, a non-Witness, wrote the history of Jehovah’s Witnesses in Russia from their beginning up till 2007. Nobody has written an account of the present happenings, so I figured that I would do it.

All I had in minds was something on the order of a brochure. However, as opposition in Russia intensified, the precise reasons for opposition were never stated, leaving reporters to venture educated guesses as to just what Russia has against them. Putin himself doesn’t seem to understand it, stating that he doesn’t know why Jehovah’s Witnesses are persecuted since “they are Christians, too.” So I decided to state them myself, along with how each might be defended in Parts 2 and 3 of what became a book—with references endnoted because that is what one does with history.

Thus the book is not only a chronicle of history (Part 1). It is also a witness to persons who might not know much about us. It is what I would say were I on a return visit there. It is literally what I would say, in many cases. One personal friend said about my first ebook, Tom Irregardless and Me that he was having a hard time following along until a light went off in his head: “Oh. Tom writes like he speaks,” after which he had no trouble.

The defense portion of Dear Mr. Putin – Jehovah’s Witnesses Write Russia grew and grew and is as large as the history portion. Moreover, everything is interwoven. When I put it out there, I thought my book-writing days were done. However, opposition that had taken a pause in the West kicked up again—I found myself responding to that in other posts—and presently I thought to package them into another book: TrueTom vs the Apostates!

The two were always meant to stand separately. I didn’t think of Dear Mr. Putin while I was writing TrueTom. However, they will end up sharing a few common chapters, even though both have already been released—you can do that with ebooks—they will share common material because, in a spiritual sense, the situation in Russia and the situation in the West are the same. It is a good cop/ bad cop situation. The good cop may really not want you to fall into the hands of the bad cop, because he knows how bad that bad cop can be. But both cops have the same goal—that Jehovah’s Witnesses cease being Jehovah’s Witnesses and that kingdom message that they alone preach should stop.

Will my own people upbraid me? Their preference, sometimes stated strongly, is for Witnesses to not go cavorting about online, even if as self-proclaimed sheriffs determined to drain the internet swamp—perhaps especially so, because they always look foolish in so doing. The internet is not the congregation and cannot be made to behave like one. But for me, it will be sort of like what Brother Sivulsky in Russia, from a far more secure perch organizationally, but from a far more dangerous one physically, said. Just after the Russian ban went into effect, he was interviewed from afar by American media: “Are you putting yourself in danger just by speaking with me?” the reporter asked. His answer:

“I don’t know—to be frank, I have no fear. if something will happen—okay it will happen—what I can do? What I am telling only the truth—then why I should fear? If something happens, okay, we will face this problem. For me it is easier because my family was exiled to Siberia. My father spent seven years in prison. My mother spent four years in prison. And I also myself spent one and a half years in prison for military service objection. That’s why I know what does it mean to be persecuted and I have no fear.”

I should be at least as courageous (even though my father did not spend seven years in prison), because my brothers in Russia are showing that quality in spades, and everyone else wonders if, when it comes to them, they will handle it as well. “You can’t do it on your own strength,” comes the scriptural answer. “Nor could they. They lean upon God for strength.”

Upbraiding from my own folks may not happen. When a widow asked me to give the funeral talk of a close friend at the Kingdom Hall, I said that I would if it were allowed—there would be no problem at a funeral home but, neither being a current elder or servant, it might not be allowed at the Kingdom Hall. It was. I’ve been around for a while and people like me. The day I arrived to give it, however, one elder known for crossing ‘t’s and dotting ‘i’s asked me if I was speaking from the supplied funeral talk outline that most speak from. I said I was not. He was not real pleased about that, but after the talk he reversed his position. Another elder present, a former Bethel member, told me afterwards that Bethel has no problem departing from customary practice whenever it can be improved upon. An older man can chance it more readily than a young man, for whom it would likely come off as immodest. You don’t have to speak the healthful words verbatim. You have to speak the pattern of the healthful words, as Paul told Timothy.

See: Tweetstorm Over the Atlantic    and/or

Lessons to be Learned

Included in the eBook; TrueTom vs the Apostates!

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