When Someone Says: “I Have My Own Religion.”

Jehovah’s Witnesses, as they engage in their ministry, sometimes make uncomfortable people who don’t really care about spiritual things but somewhere in the back of their head is a nagging thought that they should.

And we make uncomfortable those who assume that we are there to change their religion—the religion has not put them on equal footing to discuss intelligently the Bible—they know almost nothing about it. This is a circumstance very strange, when you think about it, since most of them simply assume that the Book provides their faith’s underpinning. What a shocker for some when they discover that it is not so.

With some, judging from their quick response, this discomfort is nearly to the point of panic—just like an ordinary joe might panic at the thought of an encounter with the time-share salesperson. “I have my own religion, and I am very happy with it,” they hastily say.

”Well, I’m not going to ask you to change it, and if I do you can say ‘no’” is my reply. “It’s just conversation.” 

I mean, they may not want to converse—more don’t than do— and if they don’t, that is fine, but I hate it to be for that reason.

One conversation with a college student was interesting enough that I proposed coming back. “To what end?” he said. Nobody had ever replied to me that way before. So I told him my ideal scenario—that over the course of 100 weeks, I would call back 100 times for 100 conversations—during which he would learn the Bible from front to back, and I would learn some things, too—and on visit #100 I would ask him if he wanted to become a Jehovah’s Witness like me and then he could say “no.” Once again, it’s just conversation.

I even asked him to play along on a practice session. I would ask him to become a Jehovah’s Witness, and he was to say “no.” He agreed to this.

”Would you like to become a Jehovah’s Witness like me?” I said. “No,” he replied. “See?” I said. “It’s easy. In the meantime you will learn the Bible and then you can better decide what you think about it”

This is called the Dickens approach and it is suggested by the ending of “Tale of Two Cities.” In that ending Sidney Carton visits Charles Darney, a prisoner in the Bastille being held for execution, during time of the French Revolution. He has repented of his profligate life and has determined to smuggle this better man out. Of course, he can only do this if he takes his place and tricks the guards—it has already been noted in the novel that he remarkably resembles the man in physical appearance. One by one he suggests to Darnay exchanging articles of clothing. Each time Darnay protests—he has no idea what Carton is up to. “What do you think you’re doing?” he objects. “Do you think you can break me out? It’s not possible to escape from here.”

Each time Carton answers: “Did I say anything about escape? Wait until I mention escape and then say “no.” In this way he persuades the man to swap clothes, as though to humor him, though he knows not why.

A strict application of the Dickens method in field service necessitates saying: “Did I say anything about you changing your religion? Wait until I ask you to do that and then say “no.” I have done this, but it’s a little easier to phrase it as I did initially: “Well, I’m not going to ask you to change your religion, and if I do you can say ‘no.’” It comes across as less of a rebuke.

It is important that your householder has not actually read “Tale of Two Cities,” for if he has, he may recall that after the clothing exchange is completed, Carton chloroform’s Darnay, calls the guard to report that his visiting friend has fainted, overcome by emotion, and requests that he be carried out to the waiting carriage. If the householder points out that development, tell him that you do not intend to copy that part of the ending—strictly speaking, that would require you to take his place and become a Catholic, Muslim, or Hindu, and to assume his car and house payment, which may be substantial—not to mention live with his family, who may not be model. Besides, your own wife will throw a fit.

It is a favorite book of mine. Ruse completed, Carton later takes his place in the guillotine lineup. He is giving his life in behalf of his friend, and several times Jesus’ words are quoted as inspiration: “No man has love greater than this, that someone should surrender his life in behalf of his friends.” (John 15:13) Just before him in line is a scared 12-year old girl. She is willing to die for her country if it has been decreed that she must, but she cannot understand just how she could actually have become such a threat to it. Her eyes widen as she discovers that her companion is not actually Darnay, but is someone giving his life for that man. Carton offers to hold her hand, and thereby she finds the courage to face the terrible blade.

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The New European Data Law as it Applies to Jehovah’s Witnesses - My Take

Yikes! No “data-gathering” according to the new privacy law. What to do?

As far as I am concerned, this is a blessing in disguise. Jehovah’s people will adapt. They always do. 

I even think it will be beneficial for us, overall. We have some people who become obsessed over records, the way some people do with regard to records of any sort. We have some who call back repeatedly if the householder does so much as give them the time of day—training them not to, in my opinion. Working with this new European law will force more discernment and maturity, though initially inconvenient in some respects. I wouldn’t mind if it spread to here in the States.

This law will alter the logistics of the Matthew 28:19-20 aspect of Christianity— “Go therefore and make disciples of people of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the holy spirit, (Mathew 28:19) but it will not impact the Matthew 24:14 aspect at all: “And this good news of the kingdom will be preached in all the inhabited earth for a witness to all the nations; and then the end will come.” (Matthew 24:14) It will probably even enhance it. 

The more I think about it, the more I like it.

Most of the suggested field service presentations I don’t like. I don’t like them because they do not work for me. Of course, it is “different strokes for different folks,” but from what I have seen, they don’t work that well for others, either. They are incremental in approach, and many, when implemented by anyone less than an expert, come off as passive-aggressive. Sometimes I wonder where they come from, because they do not necessarily dovetail with each other. Probably they are the products of various full-time evangelizers who are brainstorming. Since many start with floating a question that will seldom be on the typical person’s mind, such as “Where are the dead?” you pretty much have to record the response and hope that you have laid the foundation for furthering it or starting another topic. All that requires you write stuff down, which is now illegal unless the person has authorized it.

Better—or at least it works better for me—to bring up something more all-encompassing. The circuit overseer last visit made much of the 1-minute (and six seconds) video “Would You Like Good News?” Invite people to hear it—it only is one minute (and it is good to say literally one minute) The video ends with a plug for the Good News from God brochure and that brochure has a table of contents:

“Which topic interests you most?” It says. They include

Who Is God?,

Who Is Jesus Christ?,

What Is God’s Purpose for the Earth?,

What Hope Is There for the Dead?,

What Is God’s Kingdom?,

Why Does God Allow Evil and Suffering?,

How Can Your Family Be Happy?, and

How Can You Draw Close to God?

The video is here:

If the person registers any interest, you can set up something then and there. If not, off you go with a sincere thanks for their time—after all, we call without appointment, which is becoming a rarety in the West, nobody is required to listen to what we have to say, so whenever someone does, I thank them for their time.

Some all-encompassing verses that also work for starters—just offer to read a verse, give a brief statement as to why you read it, ask what the person thinks about it, and then offer to disappear. Such as:

Jeremiah 29:11 - “For I myself well know the thoughts that I am thinking toward you,’ is the utterance of Jehovah, ‘thoughts of peace, and not of calamity, to give you a future and a hope.” (The reason I like the verse is because some people think God is out to rake us over, or judging from the current state of things, that there is no God, and this verse says not only that there is, but he thinks good thoughts towards us.)

Or Matthew 5:3 - “Happy are those conscious of their spiritual need, since the kingdom of the heavens belongs to them.” (The reason I like the verse is because we all have a spiritual need, but we are not necessarily conscious of it—it is more like vitamins, that if neglected, may lead to sickness and we never know quite why.)

There are no end of verses that can be used. It just takes adjusting to the idea. All work except for the verse Tom Pearlsandswine latched onto in my first book, ‘Tom Irregardless and Me’: Revelation 21:8: “But as for the cowards and those without faith and those who are disgusting in their filth and murderers and fornicators and those practicing spiritism and idolaters and all the liars, their portion will be in the lake that burns with fire and sulphur. This means the second death.” “The reason I like that verse,” he would say, “is that it shows sinners are going down and you’d better shape up.” He is such an idiot. 

With a flat response to any chosen verse other than his, off you go. With a favorable one, you can even go to a longer video, with the intro that I find works well, “This video runs almost four minutes, but you don’t have to listen to it all. The minute it gets boring, hand it back.” It puts the control in the householder’s hands and defuses any impression of being pushy. I hate being pushy and try hard not to give that impression. There are few people in the world easier to get rid of than me.

None of these presentations require the use of memory-jogging records. If the response if favorable, there is no difficulty in exchanging contact information if desired.

As for keeping track of who is not-at-home—JWs do this—I even know one person who writes down every address beforehand and crosses them out as she finds them home, completely reversing how it is intended to be done—one might respond by forgetting all about it. Put the angels in charge of that one. Call when the majority of persons are likely to be home in the first place, which we do not always do.

As for keeping records of those who have requested we not call on them again—well, I don’t know. Tell them we’d love to comply but the new law is screwing us up.

Not to mention that we have long been moving in that direction anyway. That’s what the mobile cart witnessing is all about. That’s what the website is all about. They are two forms of advertising the good news without going to anyone’s door at all. On the home page of jw.org is a new Bible study feature. A series of studies that are multimedia, self-guided at one’s own pace, and require no registration or entry of info—“I’ll never know if you do it or not,” I tell people. In fact, I am looking forward to the time—the timing and circumstances will have to be just right, you wouldn’t do it just with anyone—when I tell someone, “I don’t want to study the Bible with you. Do it yourself.” We spoon-feed people too much, and it is hardly necessary with the majority. I even think being constantly obsessed over presentation of the very basics keeps us from pressing on to maturity, in some respects.

They have done us a favor with their new law, is my take.

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Photo: DSC00212 by gauge opinion

 

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Pay Them All a Denarius

If we accept the usual take that Matthew 20:1-15, about paying all workers a denarius, is about time spent in the Christian congregation and those arriving to it late have the same reward as those early, with its object lesson: 'don't gripe about it,' then how serious are we to take the questions within the parable? Do they mean anything or do they just flesh out the story?
 
I'll opt for the former.
 
The master's question smacks of a reproof: "Why have you been standing here all day unemployed?" Yet he accepts the laggards' answer: "Because nobody has hired us" and sends them also into the vineyard.
 
Why shouldn't that be applied to the preaching work? At first glance, the master is taken aback that there yet are, at such a late date, so many just hanging around unemployed. But their answer is unassailable - nobody 'hired' them.
 
It's not an exhortation to be active in the ministry and not to write off people as unresponsive? The master apparently agrees that it is just a matter of their not yet being reached.
 
April_Patina_Vosges_Die_Vogesen_France_-_Master_Alsace_magic_Elsaß_Photography_2014_Color_de_Vins_-_panoramio
 
I think the exchange of the master with the 11th hour ones serve as an exhortation to preach, and even to step it up where possible. 'Get out there so those ones know they are hired. They won't know it otherwise.'
 

There is another application of Matthew 20:1-15 - 'pay them each a denarious' - that has nothing to do with time spent in the Christain way, which I like as much, or even better.

It is: In any circumstance of life, you cut the best deal that you can and then you look ahead to the next deal You DO NOT look around, envious, at someone who may have gotten a better deal. Think of how much heartburn THAT would solve if we managed to internalize it.

Neither do you gripe, like the initial vineyard workers, that the 'master' was unfair. Life will be fair in the new system. It is not typically so today.

Maybe it is there in print somewhere. I haven't come across it. No matter. It is enough to stay within 'the pattern of healthful words' It is not necessary to but repeat the healthful words oneself.

 
photo: Master Alsace Magic ElsaB Photography
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No Scrapping on My Watch

I don't do the following often, for it is a little mean. I wouldn't do it just on account of a differing point of view. I reserve it for someone obnoxious and condescending from the fundamentalist religious world, someone trying to denigrate the work Witnesses do, someone saying dismissively: "No thanks. I'm Christian." As though they own the word.
 
I reply that only a Christian would do the work I am doing, adding "frankly, I'm a little surprised you're not doing it yourself." Always it vanquishes the smug smile.
 
However, one does not stop there, upon seeing that the blow has landed. Immediately you move on to soften it somehow, perhaps by returning to whatever you were discussing in the first place.
 
I am not thrilled speaking with these ones. If they try to start a fight - and it is always over the Trinity - I deflect. Hopefully I share my verse and leave it at that.
 
When I offered a verse to one of these fellows, he immediately wanted to know my religion. Anyone else I would tell immediately, but to him I acted as though - well, it's rather a personal question, don't you think? I mean, this is the Bible. What is more Christian than to talk about it?
 
Too many of these folks have their scholarship defined by their beliefs, and not the other way around. Too many have had a religious awakening of some sort. How do you tell them that their experience is not theirs? I don't try. If they find what they learned by revelation confirmed in Scripture, they are happy, but they are not unduly put out when they find it is not.
 
Reliably, being saved by faith and not by works will come up. 'Of course,' I reply. 'Everyone knows that. But the works don't hurt, to they? They certainly give us some street cred.'
 
What about "there has been a child born to us...his name will be called wonderful counselor, mighty God, prince of peace," he challenges. What about it? I reply. Does he think I should have a problem with it? Why should I?
 
He will have to get a little more specific than that if he wants to get into a shoving match. No scrapping on my watch. Wrestler
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We've Lined Up Vertically All of Tom Harley's Field Service Reports

“We’ve lined up vertically all of Tom Harley’s field service reports. Let’s see how fast you can read them off!”

Donna: “Twelve hours, four magazines, eight return visits, three videos.”

Connor: “Ten hours, six magazines, seven return visits, two videos.”

Blitzen: Fifteen hours, nine magazines, nine return visits, six videos.”

Prancer: “Fourteen hours, pix fagazines, seven veturn risits …..wow, that’s a lot of hours! What an amazing publisher Tom Harley is!”
…….
A little ditty inspired by watching the latest Chevy commercial.

Image may contain: car and outdoor
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Assembling the Puzzle

Learned society today strives so mightily to trash Scripture that you may have to reestablish its authority before people will even agree to investigate. But not always. Sometimes you can persuade them to suspend doubt. Not to be confused with taking a "leap of faith," for they don't discard doubt, they only suspend it.

Mathematicians do this all the time. Assume such and such a condition is true. Follow the logical thread. What deductions can be made? If the results are just so much horse manure, then just take back the assumption. No harm done.

But sometimes it pans out. Valuable math has been discovered this way. And not just math, but also science, since much scientific research these days is done by means of mathematics, the subjects of research being too tiny (atomic) or too huge (galactic) for human instruments to do the job. Scientists take advantage of the remarkable power of mathematics to describe the physical world.

Jehovah's Witnesses are known for the offer of a free home Bible study. Sometimes people agree to it even though they doubt that the Bible is what it claims to be. But they do as the mathematicians. They suspend their doubt on its authenticity; it can always reinstated later. Having done so, the person (ideally) comes to appreciate the Bible is, not an incoherent hash as he may have once supposed, but a book that makes a lot of sense, a book in which loose ends are tied up, and in which all verses contribute towards a unified theme. Important questions of life are convincingly answered. What happens when we die? Why do we grow old and die? Why does God permit evil and suffering? What is the meaning of today's worldwide chaos? What is God's purpose with regard to the earth, with regard to humanity? Satisfied on these points, our seeker revisits his original assumption about Bible authority and finds it not so compelling as he once imagined.

You might liken it to how you felt last time you completed a jig saw puzzle. There is the completed picture. Holes are filled in. No pieces left over. All is well. Should someone come along and suggest that your result is merely your interpretation of the data, it is hard for you to take him seriously, especially since his puzzle is still in the box. And when some learned puzzologist declares that the puzzle can't be solved and that trying is a waste of time, same reaction on your part. What a surprise when everyone accepts his view! You just shake your head in dismay. You look back at your completed puzzle. Yes, there it is. And yet people will not attempt the puzzle, although the invitation and path to go about it could not be easier, because the puzzologist says "no." Instead, they gobble up the puzzologist's books on the nature of the puzzle pieces and the reasons they're nonsense!

Yes, temporarily suspending doubt, so as to make an investigation, can lead to good results. In my own case, it played out well.

When I first came across the ideas of Jehovah's Witnesses in my college years, I was floored to think I had found people who actually believed in Adam and Eve! They didn't look stupid - well, maybe a few of them, but in no greater proportion than greater society. Yet all my life I had believed that only the most ignorant of the rednecks rejected evolution. A fellow from the Kingdom Hall lent me a book on the subject, now out of print, replaced by a superior version. I didn't like it. It seemed poorly written and it took some cheap shots. But everything else I was learning made much sense, so I decided to shelve the matter for the time being. Later I was able to resolve it. The evidence favoring evolution is nowhere near as compelling as its advocates would have one believe, but we are emotionally conditioned to think a certain way, and are slow to change, regardless of the evidence.

Call it the noble-minded model, neither closed-minded nor gullible.

"Now the latter were more noble-minded than those in Thessalonica [where the disciples were run out of town!], for they received the word with the greatest eagerness of mind, carefully examining the Scriptures daily as to whether these things were so."    Acts 17:11

 

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Tom Irregardless and Me               No Fake News but Plenty of Hogwash

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