Nelson Barbour and the Rochester Connection

It’s obvious to any reasonably astute spiritual person that Rochester, my hometown, is nowhere mentioned in scripture. It’s equally plain that such neglect is grossly unjust. Not only unjust, but arbitrary. After all, if I lived just 90 miles east, in Syracuse, I would at least have minor (yet satisfying) scriptural mention. I think it was Tom Wheatandweeds concluding a District Convention held in that city a few years back, at the Onondaga County War Memorial Auditorium, who pointed out that all in attendance had fulfilled a scriptural pattern. He referred to Acts 28:12, the clown, which reads:  “And putting into port at Syracuse we remained three days… " And what if you lived in Rome, NY, 30 miles to the northeast. Well, then you’d have scriptural mention all the time. But Rochester….not even once.

Perhaps, though, things are different when we consider the modern-day history of Jehovah’s people - you know, the one that got underway in the late 1800’s, the one where Charles Taze Russell was a prominent figure. What finds we when we do a search of that period?

Whoa!! Right off the bat we hit a home run! In the very early days of Jehovah’s modern-day Witnesses, Russell came across a fellow searcher of scripture in Rochester by the name of Nelson H Barbour. The latter published a journal called The Herald of the Morning which advanced some doctrinal points that Russell, too, had discerned. The two teamed up and combined their Bible study groups, Barbour’s being the larger of the two. They became coeditors of the Herald. Russell infused cash into it, as it was in danger of going belly-up. They published a book together (in 1877): Three Worlds, and the Harvest of this World.

Ah….but the marriage didn’t last. Barbour began veering away with some ideas Russell didn’t care for, most notably denying the ransom value of Christ’s death, saying that [Russell’s words] “Christ’s death was no more a settlement of the penalty of man’s sins than would the sticking of a pin through the body of a fly and causing it suffering and death be considered by an earthly parent as a just settlement for misdemeanor in his child.” The two squabbled back and forth in the Herald magazine for awhile - each penning separate articles - and then Russell broke off partnership and started a journal of his own: Zion’s Watch Tower and Herald of Christ’s Presence, known today as the Watchtower. The Watchtower grew to its present circulation of 37 million. The Herald of the Morning disappeared.

Who was this fellow Barbour? I don’t know if I’d be especially curious, were it not for his Rochester connection. But I spent some time in the library archives [unnecessary, it turned out, since most of the information is also at Wikapedia] and uncovered some basics about him. He was a serious student of the Bible. Born in 1824  and raised among Presbyterians [as I was], he was a little too inquisitive for them and broke off at age 19 to do independent study and preaching. He published some tracts and books before he met Russell, and he founded The Church of the Strangers afterward. A pork chop preacher! Joe Hart might have called him, but such wouldn’t be fair. Unlike storefront preachers today, who, Joe suspected, preached just so as to supply themselves with pork chops, Barbour gives every appearance of being legit. Another Barbour, Clarence A Barbour, was a local Presbyterian preacher at the time, and he gets more contemporary press than does Nelson. Was Nelson the black sheep of the family?  And an Elizabeth Barbour - apparently Nelson’s wife - is listed in the records of the Central Presbyterian Church (3/31/1873) as “suspended, erased & excommunicated” [!] Did she stray from Presbyterianism and join Nelson in his heresy? She died in 1901. Nelson died in 1905.

There were a lot of guys like Nelson in those days. In fact, Russell was like him. As the end of the Gentile times approached, there were many in the decades leading up to 1914 who began searching the Scriptures - roving about, as Daniel phrases it. They focused on the fulfillment of prophesies - many of them found in the book of Daniel. You could say they were “keeping on the watch“ as to the Lord’s return. Might they be the “you” of verse 12?

10 Concerning this very salvation a diligent inquiry and a careful search were made by the prophets who prophesied about the undeserved kindness meant for you. 11 They kept on investigating what particular season or what sort of [season] the spirit in them was indicating concerning Christ when it was bearing witness beforehand about the sufferings for Christ and about the glories to follow these. 12 It was revealed to them that, not to themselves, but to you, they were ministering the things that have now been announced to you through those who have declared the good news to you with holy spirit sent forth from heaven. Into these very things angels are desiring to peer.       1 Pet 1:10-12

At any rate, Daniel relates what was told him about prophesies he recorded:

And as for you, O Daniel, make secret the words and seal up the book, until the time of [the] end. Many will rove about, and the [true] knowledge will become abundant.    Dan 12:1

You couldn’t count on the Presbyterians or any mainline church to do any such “roving.” They’d long since grown fat and happy with well-paid clergymen who were content to confer God’s blessing on whatever human government they lived under. No, it would be breakaway students - folks like Barbour - and Russell.

In the early twentieth century, Charles Taze Russell enjoyed particular success. The Bible study group he formed has grown into Jehovah’s Witnesses of today. Is it because he was smarter than the rest of them? Or more dedicated? Started with more money? Was more humble?  Was more blessed?  He would, I think, have emphasized the latter factor. At any rate, the movement he chaired became exceedingly active. Russell himself saw his weekly sermons published in 4000 newspapers. A publication called The Continent said of him: “His writings are said to have greater newspaper circulation every week than those of any other living man; a greater, doubtless, than the combined circulation of the writings of all the priests and preachers in North America; greater even than the work of Arthur Brisbane, Norman Hapgood, George Horace Lorimer, Dr. Frank Crane, Frederick Haskins, and a dozen other of the best known editors and syndicate writers put together.”

In what would have made Sam Harris proud, were he willing to give credit to a “deist,” -  which he is not - Russell and associates “called a spade a spade”with regard to the God-dishonoring teachings of the churches. So much so that when the eight principle officers of them was railroaded off to jail in 1918 (convicted under wartime charges of sedition - a conviction reversed nine months later, the original trial having been shown to contain 125 errors) the churches all high-fived each other.   Ray H Abrams writes in his book Preachers Present Arms, (published in 1933)  “An analysis of the whole case leads to the conclusion that the churches and the clergy were originally behind the movement to stamp out the Russellites. . . .
“When the news of the twenty-year sentences reached the editors of the religious press, practically every one of these publications, great and small, rejoiced over the event. I have been unable to discover any words of sympathy in any of the orthodox religious journals. ‘There can be no question,’ concluded Upton Sinclair, that ‘the persecution . . . sprang in part from the fact that they had won the hatred of “orthodox” religious bodies.’ What the combined efforts of the churches had failed to do the government now seemed to have succeeded in accomplishing for them—the crushing of these ‘prophets of Baal’ forever.”

Upon release from prison -their convictions overturned - the eight officers of the Watchtower were not a bit abashed. They resumed with full vigor their preaching campaign, and, in fact, intensified it. We see the result as the Christian congregation of Jehovah’s Witnesses today. Of course, we view the movement as not brand new, but a restoration of first century Christianity, following a foretold period of “sleep:”

Another illustration he set before them, saying: “The kingdom of the heavens has become like a man that sowed fine seed in his field. While men were sleeping, his enemy came and oversowed weeds in among the wheat, and left. When the blade sprouted and produced fruit, then the weeds appeared also. So the slaves of the householder came up and said to him, ‘Master, did you not sow fine seed in your field? How, then, does it come to have weeds?’ He said to them, ‘An enemy, a man, did this.’ They said to him, ‘Do you want us, then, to go out and collect them?’ He said, ‘No; that by no chance, while collecting the weeds, you uproot the wheat with them. Let both grow together until the harvest; and in the harvest season I will tell the reapers, First collect the weeds and bind them in bundles to burn them up, then go to gathering the wheat into my storehouse.’”  Matt 13:24-30

But all that’s mere background for the post at hand. We’re dealing here with the backwater eddy that was Nelson H. Barbour. Rochester Central Library archives list his Church of the Strangers at the address 86 Williams Street* in Rochester.

No way!!! That’s not 100 yards from the old Irondequoit Kingdom Hall! (which is now a dentist’s office) I used to live in that Hall, in a downstairs apartment, when I pioneered back in the 70’s. Let me tell you, this is weird. It almost makes me feel like a bad Elisha, having caught the cloak of a bad Elijah. Of course, he missed by 100 yards, but that is what a bad Elijah would do. And I hate to think of the implications for this blog!

Sheesh! I’m almost sorry I asked.

*It is possible that the Williams St of today, at the very edge of Rochester City limits, is not the same Williams St. of 100 years ago. But I’ll leave matters as they are. How often does a guy get to end a sentence with three exclamation marks?



The Rochester Union and Advertiser for October 5, 1895, page 12 offers the following article on Nelson Barbour:

The 57th installment of the Union’s Series of Saturday articles on Rochester pastors is devoted to the Rev Nelson H Barbour, pastor the Church of the Strangers, located on Williams St.

"Nelson H. Barbour was born at Toupsville, three miles from Auburn, N. Y., in 1824. At an early age the family moved to Cohocton, Stueben County, N. Y. From the age of 15 to 18, he attended school at Temple Hill Academy, Genseco, New York; at which place he united with the Methodist Episcopal Church, and began a preparation for the ministry under elder Ferris. Having been brought up among Presbyterians, however, and having an investigating turn of mind, instead of quietly learning Methodist theology he troubled his teacher with questions of election, universal salvation, and many other subjects, until it was politely hinted that he was more likely to succeed in life as a farmer than as a clergyman. But his convictions were strong that he must preach the gospel even if he could not work in any theological harness. And at 19, he began his life work as an independent preacher. Since which, all that is worth reporting in his life is inseparable from his theological growth. He could not believe in an all wise and loving Father, permitting the fall; then leaving man's eternal destiny to a hap-hazard scramble between a luke-warm Church and a zealous devil. On the contrary he believed the fall was permitted for a wise purpose; and that God has a definite plan for man, in which nothing is left to chance or ignorance.
"Mr. Barbour believes that what he denominated the present babel of confusion in the churches is the result of false teaching and the literal interpretation of the parables.
"The Church of the Strangers was organized in 1879. Mr. Barbour has preached in England, in several Australian colonies, in Canada, and many states of the Union. For the past twenty-two years he has published the Herald of the Morning in this city; claiming that in his 'call' to preach, he confered [sic] not with flesh and blood. Nor was he called to convert the world; but independent of creed, to search for the truth 'as it is in Jesus,' the 'second man Adam,' believing that the restored faith is a precurser [sic] of the millenium [sic] and 'Times of restitution of all things.'"



Tom Irregardless and Me          No Fake News but Plenty of Hogwash


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'

Felix, Festus, Agrippa, and Paul


When Paul's visit sparked a riot in Ephesus, the Romans came and took him into protective custody. Not too protective, though. The Roman officer in charge wanted to know why all the ruckus and figured he’d beat it out of Paul. But Paul was a Roman citizen and, as such, had certain rights.

But when they had stretched him out for the whipping, Paul said to the army officer standing there: “Is it lawful for you men to scourge a man that is a Roman and uncondemned?” Well, when the army officer heard this, he went to the military commander and made report, saying: “What are you intending to do? Why, this man is a Roman.” So the military commander approached and said to him: “Tell me, Are you a Roman?” He said: “Yes.” The military commander responded: “I purchased these rights as a citizen for a large sum [of money].” Paul said: “But I was even born [in them].” Immediately, therefore, the men that were about to examine him with torture withdrew from him; and the military commander became afraid on ascertaining that he was a Roman and that he had bound him.      Acts 22:22-29

Paul never came out from under house arrest.  He appealed his case to Caesar. The book of Acts from this chapter on relates his travels to Rome. Along the way he met a bevy of officials, some petty, some major, and he pitched Christianity to each one. They all ran for cover, same as folks do today. They all had their reasons, same as folks do today.

First off was provincial governor Felix:

Some days later Felix arrived with Drusilla his wife, who was a Jewess, and he sent for Paul and listened to him on the belief in Christ Jesus. But as he talked about righteousness and self-control and the judgment to come, Felix became frightened and answered: “For the present go your way, but when I get an opportune time I shall send for you again.”     Acts 24:24-25

What was it that made him sweat? All was fine until Paul brought up “righteousness and self-control and the judgment to come.” Felix wasn‘t really that great of a guy:

 [Wikipedia on Antonius Felix:" Felix’s cruelty and licentiousness, coupled with his accessibility to bribes, led to a great increase of crime in Judaea. To put down the Zealots he favored an even more violent sect, the Sicarii ("Dagger-men"), by whose aid he contrived the murder of the high-priest Jonathan. The period of his rule was marked by internal feuds and disturbances, which he put down with severity."]

We run into that a lot, too. Sure, the truth promises a world without war…who wouldn’t want that? And a world without sickness, or even death. An earth made beautiful…..same as God originally intended it….sure does sound appealing. If only it were not for that “righteousness and self-control and the judgment to come!” We live in a time in which people want to do exactly what they want to do. The title of a current JW publication says it all: “What Does God Require of Us.” Surely when man and his Creator meet up, it won’t be the man telling God how things should be done. (though you'd never know that to hear certain ones bellyache on the web. Just like at Ezekiel 18:25: And you people will certainly say: “The way of Jehovah is not adjusted right.” Hear, please, O house of Israel. Is not my own way adjusted right? Are not the ways of you people not adjusted right?) He does require certain things of us...adjustments in our  thinking and ways and of living.... otherwise life would already be panacea, all problems would be readily solved and we wouldn’t need him.

Felix didn't release Paul. He handed him off to the next governor, Festus. (Unlike, Felix, the internet has very little to say about Festus of the Bible, but a great deal to say about Festus Haggen, the scruffy sidekick of Marshall Dillon in Gunsmoke. Such is today's culchure.) Festus heard Paul out and thought he would make for great entertainment when his crony king Agrippa rolled into town. Over after-dinner drinks, perhaps, Festus briefed Agrippa on Paul’s plight:

“There is a certain man left prisoner by Felix, and when I was in Jerusalem the chief priests and the older men of the Jews brought information about him, asking a judgment of condemnation against him. But I replied to them that it is not Roman procedure to hand any man over as a favor before the accused man meets his accusers face to face and gets a chance to speak in his defense concerning the complaint. [actually, he replied just the opposite. He was more than ready to hand Paul over………….Acts 25:9-11] Therefore when they got together here, I made no delay, but the next day I sat down on the judgment seat and commanded the man to be brought in. Taking the stand, the accusers produced no charge of the wicked things I had supposed concerning him. They simply had certain disputes with him concerning their own worship of the deity and concerning a certain Jesus who was dead but who Paul kept asserting was alive. So, being perplexed as to the dispute over these matters, I proceeded to ask if he would like to go to Jerusalem and there be judged concerning these matters. But when Paul appealed to be kept for the decision by the August One, I commanded him to be kept until I should send him on up to Caesar.”

Here Agrippa [said] to Festus: “I myself would also like to hear the man.” “Tomorrow,” he said, “you shall hear him.” Therefore, on the next day, Agrippa and Bernice came with much pompous show and entered into the audience chamber together with military commanders as well as men of eminence in the city, and when Festus gave the command, Paul was brought in. And Festus said: “King Agrippa and all you men who are present with us, you are beholding this man concerning whom all the multitude of the Jews together have applied to me both in Jerusalem and here, shouting that he ought not to live any longer. But I perceived he had committed nothing deserving of death. So when this [man] himself appealed to the August One, I decided to send him. But concerning him I have nothing certain to write to [my] Lord. Therefore I brought him forth before you, and especially before you, King Agrippa, in order that, after the judicial examination has taken place, I might get something to write. For it seems unreasonable to me to send a prisoner and not also to signify the charges against him.”

Agrippa said to Paul: “You are permitted to speak in behalf of yourself.” Then Paul stretched his hand out and proceeded to say in his defense: “Concerning all the things of which I am accused by Jews, King Agrippa, I count myself happy that it is before you I am to make my defense this day, especially as you are expert on all the customs as well as the controversies among Jews. Therefore I beg you to hear me patiently.

Paul gives an account of his past and how he came to be where he was. Some of it is a bit much for Festus.....a man can only stand so much religion, after all.... who interrupted:

Now as he was saying these things in his defense, Festus said in a loud voice: “You are going mad, Paul! Great learning is driving you into madness!”    Acts 26:24

That, too, we get a lot. Though its not generally phrased that way. Usually it’s less respectful, more along the lines of “you've got your noses stuck in that Bible so much that......" and so forth. But “great learning” back then centered on spiritual or philosophical things, and Paul did center his life there, as do Jehovah's Witnesses today.

Paul wasn’t put off in the slightest. Rather, he homed in on Agrippa:

Paul said: “I am not going mad, Your Excellency Festus, but I am uttering sayings of truth and of soundness of mind. In reality, the king to whom I am speaking with freeness of speech well knows about these things; for I am persuaded that not one of these things escapes his notice, for this thing has not been done in a corner. Do you, King Agrippa, believe the Prophets? I know you believe.” But Agrippa said to Paul: “In a short time you would persuade me to become a Christian.”

Whoa! Back off, fella! Needless to say, we get that a lot, too.

At this Paul said: “I could wish to God that whether in a short time or in a long time not only you but also all those who hear me today would become men such as I also am, with the exception of these bonds.”   vs. 29

Nothing great about the bonds! All else was good, though. His efforts to persuade in behalf of Christianity may have met with resistance, but Paul did establish his innocence of the charges against him:

And the king rose and so did the governor and Bernice and the men seated with them. But as they withdrew they began talking with one another, saying: “This man practices nothing deserving death or bonds.” Moreover, Agrippa said to Festus: “This man could have been released if he had not appealed to Caesar.”             vs. 30-32

Paul’s appeal took him to Rome soon enough. His custody was relaxed and he had much freedom to move about. He went to the senior Jewish leaders to explain himself. Maybe they’d heard bad reports about him?

They said to him: “Neither have we received letters concerning you from Judea, nor has anyone of the brothers that has arrived reported or spoken anything wicked about you. But we think it proper to hear from you what your thoughts are, for truly as regards this sect it is known to us that everywhere it is spoken against.”              Acts 28:21-22

Boy, do we ever get that! “Everywhere it is spoken against.” If that was a trademark of real Christianity back then, it is just as much so today. We’re sort of used to it, and in fact, would wonder what was wrong if it wasn’t the case. Christianity and “the world” are not supposed to be on friendly terms:

Adulteresses, do you not know that the friendship with the world is enmity with God? Whoever, therefore, wants to be a friend of the world is constituting himself an enemy of God.       James 4:4

The final verses of the book of Acts shows how Paul spent his final days in Rome.

So he remained for an entire two years in his own hired house, and he would kindly receive all those who came in to him, preaching the kingdom of God to them and teaching the things concerning the Lord Jesus Christ with the greatest freeness of speech, without hindrance.      vs. 30-31

We kind of hope for that too, to be able to preach with freeness of speech and without hindrance. Sometimes that is the case. Sometimes not.




Tom Irregardless and Me           No Fake News but Plenty of Hogwash




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'

Reining in the Parachurch

I knew he’d have a field day with this, but I didn’t know when that day would start. The ink wasn't dry on that September Kingdom Ministry when Vic Vomodog was peppering my blog with comments, haranguing me. It’s a good thing I can screen comments. Otherwise, he’d write on my blog more than I do.

“Did ya see it, Tommy? Hah, did ya? It’s right there in the question box, Tommy! Did ya see it?”

There was an article about some of our people grouping together to explore deeply this or that spiritual topic, delving where no one had delved before. They’d done extra research, released their own extra findings, to augment material coming from the existing JW organization. They’d held conferences, published books, and hosted web sites where collaborators from all over could contribute their own research. The faithful and discreet slave didn’t like the idea….didn’t like it at all, and strongly discouraged it. They cited a few scriptures, such as:

Now I exhort you, brothers, through the name of our Lord Jesus Christ that you should all speak in agreement, and that there should not be divisions among you, but that you may be fitly united in the same mind and in the same line of thought.      1 Cor 1:10

Might not independent research groups pose a danger to the unity Paul spoke of? In fact, there were some lone rangers back in the first century, which produced the following results:

For the disclosure was made to me about you, my brothers, by those of [the house of] Chloe, that dissensions exist among you. What I mean is this, that each one of you says: “I belong to Paul,” “But I to Apollos,” “But I to Cephas,” “But I to Christ.” The Christ exists divided. Paul was not impaled for you, was he? Or were you baptized in the name of Paul? I am thankful I baptized none of you except Crispus and Gaius, so that no one may say that you were baptized in my name.      vs. 11-15

Barfendogs likes the scriptures well enough, but not ones that get in his way. “It’s mind control, Tommy! A cult! ‘Don’t’ think for yourself; we’ll tell you what to think!’ That’s what they’re saying, Tommy! When’re you going to wake up?! When’re you going to free your head?! Better shut down this blog, Tommy, before they catch you! You‘re not allowed on the internet!” And I admit, even Tom Pearlsenswine seemed a little put out. He read the article over and over, grumbling as he read. I’m starting to worry about Pearlsenswine. You don’t think he’ll be the next to go bad, do you? With a name like Pearlsenswine, one never knows. He’s been engaged in top-secret Trinity research for years now. It seemed straightforwardand clear-cut at one time, but it just drags on and on.     (1 Jn 5:6,7)

Western society puts such a premium on independence, even to the point of belligerence, that any notion seen as “pulling in the reins” seems suspect, as if motivated by megalomania. But consider Ronald Sider’s observations about the evangelical community, a community which, he laments, makes a shambles of living the faith, though they do well at talking the faith. What causes does he identify?

Two are relevant. The first is today’s nirvana of independence, so prized by Barfendogs. It is anathema to the Christian congregation: “The notion - and practice - of an independent congregation with no structures of accountability to the larger body of Christ is simply heretical,” Sider writes in his book The Scandal of the Evangelical Conscience. “How can an independent “Bible church” claim to be biblical when its very refusal to submit to a larger church structure of accountability defies the essence of a biblical understanding of being the church?     Pg 111

Doesn’t that dovetail with Watchtower’s discouragement of meetings, literature, or web sites which are not produced or organized under its own oversight?

The second is what Sider calls “parachurch” organizations, groups like the Billy Graham Crusade, the Youth for Christ, groups that transcend established church organization. They accomplish a lot of good, Sider feels, but they have no accountability, and thus provide an umbrella for the scandalous conduct Sider says is endemic in the evangelical community. “Frankly, I do not know how to solve this problem,” he admits.  Pg 112

The faithful and discreet slave does. But it takes guts to implement, and it earns them taunts and abuse from soreheads like Barfendogs. Are there even some evangelicals who join in with the catcalls?

So the Christian congregation adjusts to oversight from the parent Watchtower organization, which steps on the toes of a few (ouch!) whose motives not only are not bad but are often noble, yet whose unchecked projects might, over time, lead to the mess Mr. Sider describes. But now they are being checked. Nobody is saying not to do research. But there is a clear distinction regarding plain old research and organized efforts to augment the direction given congregations today. Even this (gulp) blog comes in for soul-searching. But at present, the author consoles himself that it’s contents do not match what is being discouraged. This blog is not a collaborating spot for Witnesses, there’s no “new truths” being unearthed, and posts that touch on religion are essentially no different than what the author might say in person were he to show up on your doorstep. (which he someday might do) Alas, there may be some overlap, however.


Tom Irregardless and Me      No Fake News but Plenty of Hogwash

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'

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




Tom Irregardless and Me               No Fake News but Plenty of Hogwash

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'

Organization and the Internet

Much as Sheepandgoats appreciates the internet and uses it as his unlimited library card, it is an destructive force to organization of any stripe....religious, business, or political. Isn't there some UTube video floating around that shows John Edwards obsessively primping his hair? Does it really matter now what the man stands for? The primped hair jets through cyberspace at lightning speed. No longer will we focus on the man's positions (because that's hard). Instead, we'll zero in only on the ridicule (because that's easy). Who knows if he wasn't just hamming it up for pals?

All of us have full potential to say/do something asinine or inconsistent. With the internet, we can now be assured that the gaffe will be transmitted instantly to everyone and that they'll all draw snap conclusions at gut level. The truth of anything requires thought. Some find thought foreign. Some simply don't have the time. But all can drink in a quick byte of so-and-so making an ass of himself.

Is there any example anywhere of organization that has been aided by the internet? Maybe some fledgling politician, someone too small to be noticed by traditional means, and also too small for the internet to rip him apart as it's built him up. Finding instances where the internet has built up organization is a challenge. Finding instances where it tears apart we can do in our sleep. With even a horrible organization it's usually well to have a viable replacement before you tear the existing order apart. Ask them about that in Iraq.

If Christianity were simply some do-what-feels-good-at-the-moment movement, then it might be aided by the internet. But it's not. Christianity's predicated on the belief that we need guidance from a source beyond ourselves and that there is a specific channel through which that guidance comes.

Just as most everything today is desperately flawed and on life support, there are some who try to sell me on the notion that Watchtower, too, is overdue for change and that the powerful internet is just the means for such change, at long last giving "little people," a voice, and so forth. I doubt it.

In the same vein it's mentioned that letters are deluging Brooklyn for greater change. Well, I suppose they are. But when have they not? Is today's generation the first to know how to write letters? I suspect back in the days when Watchtower was constantly before the Supreme Court, letters (proportionate to population) poured in more than today. Are we to assume that the Society simply carted all letters to the dumpster until today, when their sheer weight demands attention? I don't think so. Letters from individuals have never been the primary driver of Christian policy. But neither have they ever been merely ignored. They are a source of feedback and always have been.

The Society was more regimented in days past when people were more regimented. For whatever reason, people in past generations were less fragile than they are today and enjoyed greater self-esteem. You could give your counsel blunt without their falling apart. They could take, not just the good, but also the bad without undue complaining. People are different today. Probably due to decaying society, individuals are much less secure. So an added emphasison "principles not rules, love not punishment, flexibility not unreasonableness" comes into being to meet changing times. And I'm glad to see it. But does it all come about only because Watchtower hardliners are being outmaneuvered by progressive new people with "subversive" ideas? Hogwash! Every new person brings something unique to the table, obviously, and old timers never lose sight of the tried and true. But the only model today's world can imagine is "power struggle among unyielding titans." It does not fit the Witness organization.

Because we live in a democracy and prevailing mindset is that democracy tops everything else, we get used to the idea that we should have a say in things. And as people become more individualistic, we become more insistent that our say should be heeded. But the Christian congregation is not organized that way, as it was not in it's first century beginning. The apostles sought to maintain unity and to forestall the endless sects and divisions that were to come. Thus, the Bible mentions the necessity of an older man to "reprove those who contradict" [Titus 1:9] and deal with those "wanting to be teachers of law, but not perceiving either the things they are saying or the things about which they are making strong assertions."  (1 Tim 1:7) Lots of people make "strong assertions" today and lots of people "contradict." It's a function of the unsettled times we live in, and is aided by the internet.

Not all of Jehovah's Witnesses today are 100% behind the program. Many are puzzled over this or that aspect of theocracy and many entertain their own pet ideas of how more of this, less of that, modification of this tactic, and so forth, would be beneficial. Some make suggestions via letter or traveling overseers. There's nothing new, earthshaking, or unnatural about that. It's not evidence that the organization is at some unprecedented crossroads. But in the final analysis we realize that the burden of directing things does not rest with us, but with a non-democratic channel which God has provided. We're not presumptuous. We cooperate as best we can.

The first century apostles lost that battle to maintain Christian unity. The "wheat" was oversown with "weeds," as Jesus foretold. (Matt 13:24-30) It would have happened much sooner had the internet existed back then.

As many know, Jehovah's Witnesses maintain we are in the last days of human rulership. God's rulership over the earth is soon to come, preceded by a public preaching campaign to that effect. Not everyone agrees, I realize. But looking at the state of affairs today, it clearly is not laughable that God might find human rulership lacking. Watchtower is doing their best to maintain Christian unity in the face of a increasing divisive world. And they're doing well, despite overwhelming forces to the contrary. They contrast with most churches, where unity is generally slight and rough and tumble politics is the order of the day.

I made the above remarks to some fellow who replied that he indeed understood how groups wishing to control information flow like [insert sarcasm] the Communist and the fundamentalist middle east governments wished the internet didn't exist.

Yes, that is how many think today: tyrants have abused authority so the answer is to eliminate authority. Fire all cops. Fire all teachers. Let us all live on love and self-discovery.


Tom Irregardless and Me    No Fake News but Plenty of Hogwash

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'

Barfendogs Blows a Gasket

I had to read that Watchtower paragraph twice. (May 1, 2007) Some Christians baptized after 1935 have apparently been given the heavenly hope. Looks like we can’t set a date for when the calling of Christians to the heavenly hope ends, the article said!

This is new. Until recently, there was a such a date: 1935.

This kind of thing used to send Tom Barfendogs, that perennial apostate, into orbit. You could just look at him, see him slowly redden, and then he'd explode into a tirade of.....ring!....ring!.......hello?

It was Barfendogs!

Did ya see that? Tommy, he screamed. They flipflopped! See that? Didya? What about 1935, huh?! They just changed it! Just like that! When you gonna open your eyes, pal?! When you gonna smell the music? Hah? When you gonna see....

So help me, I don't know why I give this guy the time of day. He's got an axe to grind so big it would scare off Paul Bunyan.

Actually, I don't give him the time of day. I put down the phone, and went off to check the mail, made some coffee, put a load in the wash, and cleaned out the cat litterbox. When I returned, he hadn't noticed a thing.

False prophets! That's what they are, Tommy, like I try to tell ya if ya'd just listen. But no! You'd just rather be led by the nose and just like that.....

I hung up the phone, but it made no difference! I could still hear his shrill voice!


They didn't flipflop at all. Nobody ever said adjustments like this wouldn't happen. In fact, we've been assured many times that they would, in accord with scriptures such as this:

"And as for you, O Daniel, make secret the words and seal up the book, until the time of [the] end. Many will rove about, and the [true] knowledge will become abundant."    Dan 12:4

Jehovah's Witnesses do believe we're in the "time of the end," and that "true knowledge will become abundant" during that time. With regard to prophetic matters, it's progressive. It happens by degrees.  The Watchtower has stated this innumerable times. Illustrating it with this scripture, for example:

But the path of the righteous ones is like the bright light that is getting lighter and lighter until the day is firmly established. (Prov 4:18) Just like how at dawn you can't make out too much, maybe only shapes, but as the day progresses the details steadily become more clear.

So adjustments in understanding are to be expected, same as how it happened in the first century.


When Jesus' disciples began their ministry, they spoke to no one but Jews. Why would they not? Jesus was a Jew. They themselves were Jews. Jesus, they believed, was the Messiah foretold in the Jewish scriptures. And Jews kept their distance from non-Jews. They didn't mingle.

Early congregation growth was explosive. (Acts 2:41; 4:4) Acts, the history of early Christianity, tells us:

Consequently the word of God went on growing, and the number of the disciples kept multiplying in Jerusalem very much; and a great crowd of [Jewish] priests began to be obedient to the faith.  (Acts 6:7)


Then, indeed, the congregation throughout the whole of Judea and Galilee and Samaria entered into a period of peace, being built up; and as it walked in the fear of Jehovah and in the comfort of the holy spirit it kept on multiplying.   (Acts 9:31)

It all happened within the Jewish community.

The first disciples to tell the Kingdom message to non-Jews had some explaining to do. Should they really be doing that? Weren’t they stepping out of bounds? The matter was not settled by scripture. It was settled by holy spirit, and scripture was bought in afterwards to support what holy spirit was already doing. Specifically, believing non-Jews were receiving gifts of the spirit (healing, speaking in other languages, (tongues) prophesying) just like the Jewish believers. So who were those disciples to forbid what God was obviously approving?

Now the apostles and the brothers that were in Judea heard that people of the nations had also received the word of God.  So when Peter came up to Jerusalem, the [supporters] of circumcision [Jewish believers] began to contend with him, saying he had gone into the house of men that were not circumcised and had eaten with them.  At this Peter commenced and went on to explain the particulars to them, saying.......when I started to speak, the holy spirit fell upon them just as it did also upon us in [the] beginning. At this I called to mind the saying of the Lord, how he used to say, ‘John, for his part, baptized with water, but you will be baptized in holy spirit.’ If, therefore, God gave the same free gift to them as he also did to us who have believed upon the Lord Jesus Christ, who was I that I should be able to hinder God?” Now when they heard these things, they acquiesced, and they glorified God, saying: “Well, then, God has granted repentance for the purpose of life to people of the nations also.”    Acts 11:1-18

Something similar can be seen in the present day. From the standpoint of the governing body of Jehovah's Witnesses, only two centuries count: the first and the twentieth (plus a few years). The ones in between suffer the apostatizing of "primitive" Christianity and then witness its gradual re-awakening. The last days spoken of in the Bible are seen to have started in the early 20th century....with a bang....with World War I, and continue to the present amidst ever-worsening conditions.

As in the first century, the governing body tracks specific developments with regard to Kingdom increase today. And they make statements based on what holy spirit appears to be accomplishing, just as was done in the first century. For example, the heavenly calling, the call of certain Christians to rule with the Christ in his heavenly kingdom (manifested in their partaking of the emblems at Memorial time) has long been thought to have ceased in 1935.

Now, I freely confess it sounds weird to link a specific year to a heavenly event. Yet, it was in that year that the "great crowd" of Revelation 7:9 was identified. This is the group that survives the end of this system and lives right on under Kingdom rule on earth. There's really no point in gathering this group beforehand, since by definition, they must live long enough to survive the "great tribulation."

Prior to the 1930's, nearly all congregation members professed the heavenly calling. But in time, folks began packing in who simply didn't feel that the heavenly calling applied to them. They just didn't identify with it. Instead, the scriptures about living forever on earth is what rang true to them.

...and you made them to be a kingdom and priests to our God, and they are to rule as kings over the earth.    Rev 5:10

They began to identify, not with the ones who would rule, but with the ones who would be ruled over, living forever on earth.

Revealing the identity of the great crowd (Revelation 7:9) cleared in all up, and all these ones instantly found their place. Did this all take place at the lead of the holy spirit? Today, it is rare for one of Jehovah's Witnesses not to have the earthly hope.

Since the great crowd was identified at a summer convention in 1935, that year has long been thought to be the date in which the heavenly calling ceased, since the number of that group, while large, is finite. (unlike that of the great crowd)     (Rev 7:4-10)

So in more recent years, when someone began partaking of the emblems, people didn't know what to make of it. Maybe they were nuts! Or at least unbalanced. Or presumptuous, thinking the heavenly call would give them special prestige. Some of them were genuine, no doubt, since an anointed member who falls away would have to be replaced. But, realistically, how often would that be? Not very. And you'd expect a replacement to come from the ranks of those who had served God for many decades. So if a new partaker came along who didn't fit the profile, you'd sort of scratch your head and shelve the matter, curious how it would all play out.

We still don‘t know, but that latest Watchtower advances things a bit, and the adjustment process will continue to run its course. It always has. It will continue to.

Furthermore, adjustments of understanding must always be taken in context. The essential teachings of Jehovah's Witnesses, the foundational points, have remained unchanged since the movement began in the late 1800's. What is God's Kingdom? What will it do for humankind? What happens at death? Where are the dead? Why do we die? Why does God permit suffering and evil? Who is God? How may we fit in with his purpose? Who is Jesus Christ? What is the Holy Spirit?

These are the basic building block teachings of Jehovah's Witnesses, the answers to which have not essentially changed in 100 years.




Tom Irregardless and Me            No Fake News but Plenty of Hogwash

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'

Bend it Like the Boreans

Regarding the first century spread of Christianity, here's a scripture from Acts [Acts is the "authorized" history of the new Christian faith]: 

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

We look for the same today. You want people that are "noble-minded," not like they were in Thessalonica, where the disciples were run out of town. Noble-minded.....people who are open, who are searching, who don't assume they already know everything. Noble-minded, yes, but note....not gullible, for they "carefully examin[ed] the Scriptures daily as to whether these things were so." They never had to take a "leap of faith" They carefully examined evidence already in existence.

In some places, that still is all that is "carefully examin[e] the Scriptures daily as to whether these things were so." But in our part of the world, it's not always enough, since learned society invests much time in trashing authority of "the scriptures." So you have to reestablish that authority before you get some folk to benefit from examining scriptures. Often you have to reestablish that authority before you even get them to agree to make the examination.

This is not an insurmountable task, but it is an extra step. Several publications of Jehovah's Witnesses are devoted entirely to this purpose....considering the Bible via several lines of evidence to establish, beyond reasonable doubt, that it is what it claims to be....God's message for our benefit.

Can't you just uncover such evidence within the university setting, since that's where people are smart? Oddly, no, for the upper echelons of human society are especially intent on denigrating matters pertaining to faith. Their motive? Essentially, they don't like conclusionsthe Bible points to and/or the personal responsibility it implies, and so they seek with all their might to undermine it. Since we operate within society, such dominant attitudes can rub fact, they certainly will unless we do something to counteract the flood of Bible-trashing propaganda.

The Bible's promise of living forever on a transformed paradise earth attracts persons of humble backgrounds. But in western lands, educated folk smile knowingly and dismiss the idea as a fairy tale. They are too clever to believe in fairy tales. Thus, this friendly fellow I trade letters with, let's call him Dan, declared he would not check into such a notion because a) he would not know how to check, and b) he feared it would be a waste of his time since c.) it struck him as a big fantasy.

Well, of course it would! Trust me, I would look askance were he, with his background, to say "This is great! Where do I sign up?!" No, it strikes him as a fantasy, as should be expected. However it will also strike him, hopefully, as an appealing fantasy.

Now, if checking into it called for some outlandish allotment of time, you would reasonably expect a person to pass. Ditto if it were expensive. Why waste time and money on a likely "fantasy?" Would that not be naive? But if checking was fast and cheap, then what's the hang-up? If it truly is fantasy, the one sharing it is the naive one, not the recipient, since the sharer does so free of charge.

Jehovah's Witnesses' signature offer is a program of home Bible study. It's free. It's an hour or so per week. And since folks here have usually not heard of the "live forever on earth" promise....well, that's why we visit people, even though some (many?) wish we would not. It’s a model as old as time: if you have something worthwhile, you must tell people about it. They rarely come to you. At any rate, the home Bible study is a viable way to check into it. It may be the only way. It certainly is the most direct.

Strangely, if the program was offered at the university, and if people had to pay a fortune for it, and devote much time, and if they could earn a degree in it, it would be enormously popular. But, as it is, who offers this program? Clods, bumpkins, Jehovah's Witnesses! What could they possibly know?

So people take odd consolation in modern day "prophets" such as Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr. (1917-February 28, 2007), who writes: "..........because all important problems are insoluble: that is why they are important. The good comes from the continuing struggle to try and solve them, not from the vain hope of their solution."

If someone as smart as he says problems are insoluble, well, then they must be. And if another claims to have found a solution.....what, they're smarter than Mr. Schlesinger, are they? What degrees from what universities do they hold? All the more so if they come from some unsophisticated camp like Jehovah's Witnesses!

But one must be discerning and consider the nature of Christianity, which was historically a movement of the common folk....carpenters, fishermen, not the upper classes. For example:

For you behold his calling of you, brothers, that not many wise in a fleshly way were called, not many powerful, not many of noble birth; but God chose the foolish things of the world, that he might put the wise men to shame; and God chose the weak things of the world, that he might put the strong things to shame; and God chose the ignoble things of the world and the things looked down upon, the things that are not, that he might bring to nothing the things that are... 1 Cor: 26-28

And when the apostles were summoned before the Sanhedrin (religious leaders of the day): "Now when they beheld the outspokenness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were men unlettered and ordinary, they got to wondering. And they began to recognize about them that they used to be with Jesus."                     Acts 4:13

In other words, the common folk had the answers back then, not the sophisticated ones.

In time, the upper classes hijacked Christianity. They found a way to make a buck off it. They found a way to surround it with social prestige and influence. But they so changed Christianity in doing so that it became unrecognizable, worlds apart from what Jesus taught, fully capable of acting contrary to his teachings. That is why Sam Harriscan latch onto religious conduct as raw material for his doctrine.




Tom Irregardless and Me               No Fake News but Plenty of Hogwash

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'

Philosophers and Theologians Strike Out

Evil and suffering are embarrassing intellectual problems that philosophers and theologians have wrestled with forever. Why, having spent all that time, do they come up empty-handed?

This statement of Jesus is key:

“I publicly praise you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and intellectual ones and have revealed them to babes."                 Matt 11:25

That's quite a trick. Just how does the “Father, Lord of heaven and earth” do it? Do we ever see that feat elsewhere, perhaps in the university settings where those philosophers and theologians hang out? Does it ever happen there that the babes understand, yet the wise and intellectual ones come up short?

No, it does not. So how can it be true in this context?

The quick answer is that we are emotional beings as well as intellectual ones. And certain qualities will absolutely short circuit one's spiritual quest. Pride will do it. As will narcissism. "Smarts" can be found in abundance in the university setting. But humility is more rare. As is the willingness to put other's interests ahead of one's own.

As long as this is the case (and I can't picture it ever changing) those philosophers and theologians will strike out every time. The answers are there. Their minds can readily grasp it, more readily than those less mentally endowed. But their dominant dispositions will never permit it.

For example, regarding the Christian message, the apostle Paul said:

For the speech about the torture stake is foolishness to those who are perishing....For it is written: “I will make the wisdom of the wise [men] perish, and the intelligence of the intellectual [men] I will shove aside.....we preach Christ impaled, to the Jews a cause for stumbling but to the nations foolishness...    1 Cor 1:18-23

And, make no mistake, Christianity in the first century did not appeal to philosophers and theologians, any more than it does today:

For you behold his calling of you, brothers, that not many wise in a fleshly way were called, not many powerful, not many of noble birth; but God chose the foolish things of the world, that he might put the wise men to shame; and God chose the weak things of the world, that he might put the strong things to shame; and God chose the ignoble things of the world and the things looked down upon, the things that are not, that he might bring to nothing the things that are...       vs 26-28

Note that Paul did not say "any." He said "many" There were some Christians "wise, powerful, of noble birth," but not "many." Pride, selfishness, and concern about one's social status would thwart them almost always, completely negating any intellectual advantage.

Paul endeavored to spread Christianity in Athens, where he encountered philosophers of the Epicurean and Stoic variety. They can hardly be described as brimming with humility. “What is it this chatterer would like to tell?” they asked each other? The word "chatterer" literally means "seed-picker" and it has reference to a bird who picks up a seed here and poops it out there, and picks one up there and poops it out some other place.       Acts 17:18

No, he was not treated with much respect. Today Jehovah's Witnesses find a similar situation. They present their Christian message to everyone. Yet only humble people respond. People bursting with pride never do.

It's not hard to see why. The Bible's message is that humans do not have the answers to the world's problems, and are not capable of self-rule. Furthermore, God's Kingdom is the answer and the best way we can spend our time is to announce that Kingdom, while remaining neutral with regard to this world's affairs and politics. Just try selling that to a prideful person! They live for figuring new solutions, devising new politics and......God forbid they should spend their time speaking religion to strangers, or even be associated with those that do!

Within the humble context of Bible study, the mystery regarding suffering and evil is answered readily.   




Tom Irregardless and Me             No Fake News but Plenty of Hogwash

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'

Forty Years Down the Toilet!

Forty Years Down the Toilet: My Wasted Life with Jehovah’s Witnesses!

This title in the library’s new books section caught my eye. I snapped it right up and headed home because I love a good read. But only when I flopped into my armchair did I notice who the author was.

It was Tom Barfendogs, formerly a colleague and fellow member of the prestigious Carriertom Into-wishen Research Institute!

Yes, Tom Barfendogs, who once worked shoulder to shoulder with the likes of Tom Sheepandgoats, Tom Wheatandweeds, his brother Tom Weedsandwheat, Tom Fishandchips, and Tom Pearlsenswine.

Ah, his defection is a sad story. For I readily concede that he was a smart guy. But he was also kinda full of himself. We remember he started to develop some opinions he was fond of - who doesn’t? - but then, by degrees, those opinions became, not opinions, but Revealed Truth. It got so you couldn’t pass him in the Institute hallways without hearing him go on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on about his special close relationship with God. Naturally, he felt others should see him in the same light, and he got miffed when that didn’t happen. In time, he began to conduct his own classes: Barfendogs’ Bible Briefings, I think they were called.

Of course, this didn’t sit too well with the JW organization, which is modeled after the first century Christian congregation. There is a definite structure. It is not a free stage for independent cowboys, yahoos and hotshots.

Next thing you know, he’s quit the congregation and later resurfaces with his own website: www.BarfendogsBullhornofTruth.con, which, were you to visit it, does nothing but run down his former JW pals. I mean, he must have some other interests - all of us do - but you’d never know it from the site.

The sourpuss website syndrome is a well-documented phenomenon  affecting 5%, give or take, of those who leave Jehovah’s Witnesses. The remaining 95% is comprised of those who return, and of those who move on in life to other things.

It didn’t help that, years after he left, the JW organization actually came around to his way of thinking on a couple points! You might think that Barfendog would have returned at this point. But he had his website and book by then, and all he would tell anyone is how he Forged Ahead due to His Special Relationship with God. He didn’t need any organization. The organization needed him! Now they could kiss his you-know-what!

And he used to be such a nice guy.

Besides, why does anyone need an organization? “Me n Jesus” is enough. And what about Christian love? Didn’t Jesus stand for love? Doesn’t, love mean “nobody’s telling me what to do!”?


It’s clear that there was a human organization in the first century. Acts chapter 15 reveals the inner workings of a governing body, which was necessary to organize preaching activity and to adapt scripture to a changing world, much as the Supreme Court serves to adapt the Constitution to changing times.

Acts 16:4,5 reports on an aftermath of that meeting of the apostles and elders in Jerusalem:

Now while they were passing through the cities, they were delivering the decrees which had been decided upon by the apostles and elders who were in Jerusalem, for them to observe. So the churches were being strengthened in the faith, and were increasing in number daily.           New American Standard Bible

Note that the apostles and elders had authority. It wasn’t good ol boy coaching that they offered, so that you could tell them to go fly a kite. They delivered decrees. It wasn’t “me n Jesus” back then, even in those first years immediately following His resurrection!

Note, too, that God blessed the arrangement, even though the apostles and elders were men, imperfect men, fully capable of all the dopey moves common to humans:  Thus the churches were strengthened in the faith and daily their numbers increased.  Acts 16:5


Whoever assumes leadership, and does not remain in the doctrine of Christ, does not have God.    2 John 9    Berkeley Version




Tom Irregardless and Me      No Fake News but Plenty of Hogwash

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'

Pop Goes to the Doctor...Sort of

Pop is 85 years old. He’s in perfect health.

He attributes that perfect health to the fact that he never goes to a doctor. Not since World War II. When we got him to agree to occasional physicals, it was a major victory. But he only did it so as to be on someone’s radar screen, in case he ever needs an insurance gatekeeper.

During those physicals, the doctor suggests this or that pill. Pop ignores it all.

Doctor: Actually, we don’t have any blood work on you.

Pop: That’s right, you don’t. Pills


The Bible writer Luke was a doctor, whatever that meant back then.

“Luke the beloved physician sends you his greetings, and so does Demas.” - Col 4:11)

He writes, not unkindly, towards his own profession:      “And a woman, subject to a flow of blood for twelve years, who had not been able to get a cure from anyone, approached from behind and touched the fringe of his [Jesus’] outer garment, and instantly her flow of blood stopped.” - Luke 8:43-44

Yes, doctors had done their level best, but it hadn’t been enough. She hadn’t been able to get a cure from anyone.

But look what happens when the gospel writer Mark, not a doctor, relates the same event:

“Now there was a woman subject to a flow of blood twelve years, and she had been put to many pains by many physicians and had spent all her resources and had not been benefited but, rather, had got worse. [!]

a) put to many pains

b) spent all her resources

c) had not benefited; had gotten worse.

Mark and Pop would have gotten along well together.




Tom Irregardless and Me              No Fake News but Plenty of Hogwash

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'