The Loaded Words - Infallible, Inspired, and Perfect

It is revealing to me that those who taunt JWs endlessly over just how “inspired” are the ones at the helm today seem to take for granted that there should be ones who are that way. It gets even more crazy when words such as “infallible” are thrown in. “Perfect” makes matters worse. 

“Look at what Brother Jackson said,” they gloat. “Guess he’s not so infallible after all, is he?” they say. They take for granted that for the Christian life to have validity in modern times, there should be ones who ARE infallible, who can and SHOULD spoon-feed members, so there is a lessened need for faith, and hopefully (from their point of view) none at all.

These ones wouldn’t have lasted two minutes in the first century, when the ones taking the lead were manifestly not that way. A local speaker with a dramatic flair enacted a fictional encounter with an irate householder from back then, a forerunner of today’s “apostates.” “What! You’re going to tell me about love?” he hammers the visiting brother. “Look, I was there at that meeting of Paul and Barnabas after John took a leave of absence! You see those two kids there? [motioning to his young children playing on the floor] They do not fight as I saw those two grown men of yours fight! Why don’t you learn love yourself before you come here to lecture me about it!”

(For his part, Barnabas was determined to take along also John, who was called Mark.  But Paul did not think it proper to be taking this one along with them, seeing that he had departed from them from Pam·phylʹi·a and had not gone with them to the work.  At this there occurred a sharp burst of anger, so that they separated from each other; and Barnabas took Mark along and sailed away to Cyprus. - Acts 15:37-39)

For that reason, I shy away from such loaded words as “infallible.” Maybe the insistence on infallibility is a holdover from the Catholic Church, which for centuries insisted that the Pope was that way. “Inspired” will also blow up in your face, because you end up doing backflips in translating just what the word should effectively mean now—or even then, when the “leading men” fought like kids. I even put the word “apostates” in quotes, increasingly, because it comes in many varieties and it means different things to different people.

It is enough to say that the written record, which includes the dealings and interactions of imperfect ones at the first-century helm, is deemed “inspired:“ All Scripture is inspired of God and beneficial for teaching, for reproving, for setting things straight, for disciplining in righteousness,  so that the man of God may be fully competent, completely equipped for every good work.” (2 Timothy 3:16)

This is so even though it includes the account of Peter’s astounding cowardess (given his leadership role at the time) of changing his association once the Jewish-based brothers came on the scene—before they did, he mixed freely with the Gentile-based Christians; after they did, he “withdrew” from them.

(However, when Cephas came to Antioch, I resisted him face to face, because he stood condemned. For before the arrival of certain men from James, he used to eat with people of the nations; but when they arrived, he went withdrawing and separating himself, in fear of those of the circumcised class.  The rest of the Jews also joined him in putting on this pretense, so that even Barʹna·bas was led along with them in their pretense.  But when I saw they were not walking straight according to the truth of the good news, I said to Cephas before them all: “If you, though you are a Jew, live as the nations do, and not as Jews do, how is it that you are compelling people of the nations to live according to Jewish practice?” - Galatians 2:11-14)

It is still “inspired.” It is enough for us to go on. It is enough to make the Christian “fully competent” and “completely equipped for every good work.” Even though it includes the blunderings of the “uneducated and ordinary” ones that were the leaders back then—and the leaders today hold to that pattern—that is still the case. It is not at all what opponents today think that it should be—a true and unfailing human anointed one to wipe away every tear and smooth the path, removing all pebbles so that the people of God can sail along blithely without really having to develop faith. 

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If Hymenaeus and Alexander go bad on you, to be sure, it is a downer, but it does not destroy faith and a good conscience.

I think he means that with Jehovah’s Witnesses there is a combination of pure teachings that are found no where else. Some of them are individually, but the combination is not. They involve such things as the Name, the kingdom, no immortality of the soul,  no Trinity, the reason for suffering, the preaching work, the need to keep watchful, transformed personalities, and so forth. The Christian ministry is a treasure, however it is a treasure carried in “earthen vessels”—that is, people, who are not unflawed. “However, we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the power beyond what is normal may be God’s and not that out of ourselves,” Paul says at 2 Corinthians 4:7. Context reveals that he is speaking of the ministry, which he regards as a “treasure.”

Although a certain malcontent fights so much and so bitterly with the bus driver that I can’t imagine why he doesn’t just leave—it would make the driver happier, the bus company happier, the passengers happier, and one would think, him happier—yet he does not do it, probably for the above reasons. (except for the ministry, and the nearness of the end, which he doesn’t seem to think is so)

People are a collection of their experiences, both those that have happened to them, and those they have manufactured. I have called him a loon. Maybe he is not, but he so closely resembles one that I cannot tell the difference. My bad.

As much as he carries on about worshipping the GB, he cannot seem able to understand that it is factors in the first paragraph that form a Witness’s faith, and following the direction of the GB is no more than not fighting with the traffic cop or the coach or the mentor. 

Let us humor him for a moment. Let us grant his dream come true, that malfeasance will someday be uncovered ....gasp!’....high up in the ranks. So? It would hardly affect one’s faith. They are men—everyone knows that. There have been many times in the past when the earthly organization was shaken practically into rubble—in America during WWI, in Axis countries during WWII, in Russia now—and as soon as the heat is off, God’s people rebuild like ants, because their faith was never in human arrangements—those just exist to facilitate and enhance spiritual things—their faith was in the spiritual things themselves.

Many times in the past brothers in responsible positions have proven unfaithful, sometimes even duplicitous, hiding who they are, and when discovered, have been removed and replaced. So says 1 Timothy 5:24: “The sins of some men are publicly manifest, leading directly to judgment, but as for other men [their sins] also become manifest later.” Sometimes it is now. Sometimes it is “later.” Still, I would have to see some evidence before buying in. The fact that opposers “accuse them day and night before our God” (Revelation 12:10) does not count, for that has never not been the case.

It happens. Even GB members have been removed—sometimes with fanfare and sometimes not. Faith itself continues. It was never in human arrangements. It was in spiritual things. Enemies of the faith make the same mistake here that they do in Russia. Failing to grasp spiritual things, they imagine that if the shut down the earthly coordinating organization, the faith will collapse. Instead, it is like stomping on the anthill. The ants run for cover, but almost immediately they commence rebuilding. Their faith was never in the anthill—that was just their to magnify their ant-life.

The Bible reading last week in 1 Timothy 1:18 encourages ones (Timothy) to hold “faith and a good conscience, which some have thrust aside, resulting in the shipwreck of their faith.  Hymenaeus and Alexander are among these, and I have handed them over to Satan so that they may be taught by discipline not to blaspheme.” As long as you hold faith and a good conscience, you are fine—and the faith is with regard to God and his Son, as accurately represented by the factors of the opening paragraph

If Hymenaeus and Alexander go bad on you, to be sure, it is a downer, but it does not destroy faith and a good conscience. 

......

Likely they will say of these courtroom battles, as they did of Russia banning the entire organization within its borders, that it is an area of “concern” but not “worry.” They don’t get overly attached to things, even things of their own construction. They put it all on the line routinely as they do their best to advance kingdom interests, not cowering before their enemies. They plow where they plow as they apply their view of the Bible, unconcerned, sometimes unaware, of the quicksand that may get them into, confident that, should that happen, God will somehow get them out of it.

They do not deliberately court opposition, but they do expect it. The king makes a law and Daniel is thrown into the lion’s den. He makes another law and his friends are thrown into the furnace. Another king makes another law and the entire nation of Jews faces extermination until Esther the queen opens his eyes to the murderous scheme he has been maneuvered into. It happens to their spiritual descendants to this day. The modern Witness organization expects no less. They are “insular,” separate from the world, and the latter finds no end of reasons to oppose them for it.

From “TrueTom vs the Apostates!”

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Mark Sanderson in Russia, Joseph Rutherford in America

Can you believe these blockheads, carrying on about Sanderson the way that they do?

Here is Mark Sanderson, of the Governing Body, and a team of international Witness delegates, present at the appeal trial to lend support. He has been advised that, in the event of a negative verdict, he will be subject to arrest if he so much as stays overnight. Since he and his do not know on what day a verdict will be handed down, they travel each day to the trial with their bags packed. Sure enough, the appeal is denied. He and the entourage catch the last plane out of Russia that evening—and now malcontents, those who have no skin in the game, are not Witnesses, and don’t really care one way or the other, except that they search for a smooth stone to hurl at their former faith—charge that he is a chicken! Why didn’t he stay and face the music with the Russian Witnesses?!

Well, obviously he is not going to stay there and make himself a target. No one is more recognizable than he. Even Trump would not hang out in North Korea but for the sure knowledge that 100 nukes are pointed that way. The point is that he didn’t have to go there at all, and the brothers were thrilled that he was there. They weren't complaining that he didn’t stay to play Russian Roulette. After the failed appeal, he and his party had to leave that night so as not to be subject to arrest themselves. Had anything gone wrong, they might have all found themselves under arrest—to no purpose, other than to make those who oppose them happy.

Says Grace (without displaying it): “I would expect one of the Governing Body members to be in Russia for the court case. They believe themselves to be the holy spirit/ self? appointed leaders of God's modern day chosen people.I would expect them to be there to show their support. The fact that Mark Sanderson hot footed it out of Russia the day after the court case rather than standing side by side with his brother just appears very unChristian. As a leader of the JW movement I would expect him to use his position [which might have been behind bars] to support the Russian brothers. Fleeing straight away does not give a great impression of Christian solidarity. Forget writing millions of letters, he voted with his feet so to speak. In days gone by leaders of countries led their people to battle from the frontline. Sanderson's behaviour does not give much of an impression of loving/ selflessness. I'm not saying that I would not have acted in the same way, but I would expect a little more from someone who believed they were leading God's organisation. I would have thought ensuring he saved his own skin would have been less of a priority for him.” [Italics mine, also brackets]

Does not the devil lie in what she expects? Do you see the taunts italicized? It’s particularly telling in view of the acknowledgement that his departure is exactly the common-sense thing to do, and she would have done it too. The taunts are what motivates the comment, an urge to undercut the human organization. One can almost picture this woman at the Temple Mount coaching the Lord: “Come on! Take that leap! Show a little faith in God! What’s the matter—chicken?” (Matthew 4:6) 

I think she just wants to see him in the hoosegow, and then there are only seven remaining GB members to go after.

Grace: “I'm not sure what a hoosegow is so I can't comment and no I have no ill feeling toward anyone. It just surprised me that you put a positive spin of mentioning how he was there etc and then stated he left as soon as a negative verdict was reached.”

Hoosegow is American slang for jail. What I “put a positive spin” on is nothing more than common sense. A captain goes down with his ship. He does not scan the horizon so as to board other ships that he can go down with as well. Sanderson is “captain” of the entire world organization. Witnesses in Russia have “captains” that are specifically in Russia, and they are going down with the ship. However, perhaps it will prove to be a submarine. Maybe it will surface again, just like it did last time. True, it took 100 years. But maybe it will be quicker this time.

***~~~***

However, if this bit of revisionist history takes the cake, it is nothing next to how J. F. Rutherford’s role as President of the Watchtower Society during World War II is being rewritten. As the most visible member of Jehovah’s Witnesses, he put the face on their maintaining strict neutrality amidst conflicts and wars. In Germany, this neutrality put the German Witnesses behind bars, as it has at various times in many parts of the earth. Thus, he “threw German Witnesses under the bus,” according to these idiots.

It is also bogus. When “the bus” actually began moving in Nazi Germany, everyone BUT JWs were at the wheel. The vast majority of Germans then were of two major faiths. If even one of them had defied Hitler as Jehovah’s Witnesses did, the tyrant might have fallen. There are times one must take a stand.

Here is one of these characters now. Let us call him Beebs, who says: “JWs were barely on the periphery of Hitler’s plans - Jewish people were central to his fascist, sadistic plans. To elevate JWs’ victimisation to that of the Jewish people, which is what the GB has been doing, is to minimise the horrors of what the Jewish people went through.”

What is this idiocy? Of course, it can be “elevated.” Perhaps even more so, for JWs were unique in that they were the only persecuted group that could have written their ticket out, by renouncing their faith, and pledging support to HItler. Only a handful complied.

Beebs: “Model JDub, nice. What you’re saying then is that the JWs are basically a death cult - refusing to renounce a belief system would mean certain death, and most reprehensible of all, refusing life-saving blood in surgery resulting in needless death, incl. that of innocent youth.”

They are “basically a death cult” in the same sense that anyone who has ever given his life for his country, for science, for exploration, even in pursuit of extreme sports, belongs to “basically a death cult.”

It is as Paul writes to the Thessalonians, when he expresses the hope “that we may be rescued from harmful and wicked men, for faith is not a possession of all people.” (1 Thessalonians 3:2) With the elimination of faith comes the elevation of the present life to the ultimate status. Jehovah’s Witnesses certainly don’t think of the present life as nothing—you should see them when they get going on workplace safety—but they realize that this present life is not all there is. For those without faith, however, this life is all there is.

And yet even that position is not consistent. If the cause is “wrong” in their eyes, one death is far too many. But if the cause is “right,” as in the above examples of country, science, exploration, even sports, they are willing to see them mowed down by the hundreds—sometimes thousands.

And I never did get back to this fellow about his “life-saving” blood transfusions (the noun must always be preceded by that adjective, in their eyes). In fact, as employed, they are often “life-threatening.” Moreover, as a result of a relatively tiny religion sticking to its principles amidst much opposition, courageous doctors have developed and put into practice various forms of “bloodless medicine,” which, in combination with safer techniques concurrently developed, have likely saved far more lives than members of the small faith have lost.

 

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Skimish #268295 High Living for the GB

Imagine, Nemo trying to spin it that they live high on the hog there at HQ! What is wrong with him?

During my years at Bethel, two GB members came down with pneumonia. Nobody could figure out why, because they had perfectly good space heaters for their pup tents. It turned out that, even though the temperature had been in the teens for days, they had kept them off so as not to waste dedicated funds.

Three of them got hand fungus from the hours they spent every day on foot-washing detail.

Two of them subsisted on honey and locusts. Four pressed their clothes with bricks so as not to waste electricity on ironing.

One of them winced when I said ‘hello’ and I learned afterwards that he only says “greetings” because “hello” has “hell” in it.

He winced even more and permanently injured his back carrying my bags to my room when I arrived, even though I told him I had brought my anvil collection.

One of them, when I had a flat tire, gave me a wheel off his car, and then had to walk through the sleet to the airport, where he strapped himself to a wing of the plane to save money and flew to Portugal to serve as keynote speaker there.

Still another one I visited in his tent, and he offered me a cup of coffee. As I sipped mine he diluted his to make it last longer.

These brothers make more self-sacrifice in a day than Nemo does in a year.

~~~

I got about a minute into the clip that Wilma sent,  maybe a minute and a half, and I noticed three things about it.

1) Nemo is extremely pleased with himself.

2) In his brief exchange about pants, where he somehow caught Bro Mo on the phone, (just THAT says something - that he takes a call from an unknown “brother” with unspecified concerns, instead of it being handled well down the line by some support staff) the latter comes across as warm, engaging, and not in the slightest bit full of himself (as Nemo DOES seem) - “No, call the branch,” he laughs, “and I’d better not see you guys wearing them,” he quips, and “You’re kidding me, right?” It was impossible not to warm to the guy.

3) Nemo’s cooing concern of how difficult it is for an ordinary person, such as he, to speak with a GB member (notwithstanding that he had just done it), as though an 8:000,000 to 1 ratio meant nothing at all. In fact, apparently it is an 8 billion ratio to 1 that he expects anybody to be able to waltz through, since he said at the outset that he is not among the 8 million. 

The guy is too infantile to endure, and I got no further. I mean, this thing runs 17 minutes.

4) (Yeah, I know I said 3, but I thought of another) Wilma’s ridiculous assumption that she has landed a major blow. “Here’s one for you, TTH,” she says, with no doubt whatsoever that I am going to clear the calendar and patiently analyze it, doubtless running it through several times so that all of her insinuations sink in. Wilma, who I simply asked a couple of questions of, and who thereafter regarded me as her star pupil for a time, and expressed such disappointment when she found that it was not so. I mean, this is a very strange woman. 

~~~

Jimmy: TTH: “The guy is too infantile to endure, and I got no further. I mean, this thing runs 17 minutes.”

The point is that that in 17 minutes I can read 20 times as much, without having to endure an unpleasant personality.

Jimmy: Doya think it might have something to do with your attention span being about a minute and a half?

No. I think it has something to do with his being that way.

Taunting me, when I mentioned that I read plenty of non-JW material, he asked: “Which of the three major atheist books do you find the most compelling?”

I replied: “Which of Dickens’ novels do you find the most compelling? Which of the Greek tragedies do you find the most compelling?”

The shallow idiot. And I should watch him for 17 minutes when he is too lazy to put his information into written form, the way every intelligent person on the planet has done since the beginning of history? That’s why he is crying so about being denied the “right” to steal Bethel’s content so as to put it into his own framed context—he’s too dull to describe it himself as any credible chronicler must do.

I have you to do that, and following the thread with some less biased people who CAN suffer through it, I can pretty well piece things together.

Call it “forensic research.” Scientists do it all the time and we are called dodos if we do not eat up every word.

~~~

Okay, as for my only actual exchange with one of the GB, which I related in the ebook Tom Irregardless and Me:

"I once crossed paths with a member of the Governing Body, sort of. By odd coincidence, one of my pals has the same first and last name as one of that group. Only the middle initial is different. My friend entered Bethel around 1980 and later married. My wife and I sent him a card on his first wedding anniversary, and it was the Governing Body member who replied! He thanked us for our kind wishes, he related how he and his wife had been traveling, how they’d been to Australia for the District Convention, and then Africa - boy, he sure gets around for being just a year at Bethel, we thought. Funny, the wives’ names didn’t match. Ah, well – maybe someone has a nickname. How could we have known? Here is a Governing Body member taking time to respond to a card, writing a few chatty paragraphs to people he does not know, not willing to risk hurt anyone’s feelings. I mean, these are not pretentious people."

 

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Photo: CBS television as published on Wikipedia Commons

 
 
 
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Moses Strikes Solid Rock

Finally, Moses cried out to Jehovah: “What should I do with this people? A little longer and they will stone me!” Though the July, 2018 Watchtower article entitled ‘Where are Your Eyes Looking?’ nowhere makes the connection, beyond a vague reference to those having “a measure of responsibility in God’s organization,” which everyone took as a reference to congregation elders, this writer could not help but think that the ones the Governing Body had foremost in mind as beneficiaries of the counsel offered was themselves.

Much was made of the instance in which Moses produced water from the rock at God’s direction. He did it twice, something that I had forgotten. The first was months after crossing the Red Sea, during a time when there was so much muttering over a lack of water that Moses in frustration cried out the words above. It didn’t occur to them that the God who punished Egypt with ten plagues and parted the waters, closing them upon the army in pursuit, could solve the problem of a drought. Jehovah told Moses to strike a rock. Moses did, and water gushed out. It is related in the 17th chapter of Exodus.

The next instance was almost 40 years later, and by this time the people had worn Moses down. They had never given up on the bellyaching and even occasional rebellion. This time when they started complaining over the same thing, Moses lost it. “Hear, now, you rebels! Must we bring water for you from this crag?” and he struck the rock twice, after which water again gushed out. God didn’t like what Moses had shouted. Much later, Psalm 106: 32-33 says “They provoked him at the waters of Meribah, and it went badly for Moses because of them. They embittered his spirit, and he spoke rashly with his lips.”

If, at a congregation meeting, you approach the speaker after a good talk and tell him it was a good talk, he will as often as not say something to the effect that it is not really him who should get the credit but Jehovah. He says that even though people are perfectly capable of speaking all by themselves without any help at all from Jehovah. So what about someone who takes full credit for doing what no human in a thousand years could do? It is what Moses did. That’s what can happen when the scoundrels are nipping at your heels day and night for forty years. This last bit of correction from God—that Moses as a consequence of his outburst would not be the one to take his nation into the promised land, strikes the average reader as overly harsh. Yet it is entirely in harmony with the verses “to whom more is given, more will be expected,” and “he will finish your training; he will make you firm.” Moses, like everybody else, is being trained for the real life, not this transitory one.

Notwithstanding that the Internet is the perfect breeding ground for complainers, one has to ask: What is it with all these malcontents? It is as though kicking against the goads has become the order of the day, seen everywhere, not just in the field of religion. Acquiescence to the authority of the parent, the teacher, the counselor, the coach, the boss, the consulted advisor, the party leader, the union steward, and those taking the lead in the congregation was once an entirely unremarkable fact of life; today it is selling out one’s soul. I begin to imagine the Governing Body posting God’s rebuke to Moses as their own personal year text, in hopes that they do not also lose it one day in kicking back at the grumblers.

God counted the constant complaints about Moses as though it were constant complaints about Him. “When your forefathers tested me; They challenged me, though they had seen my works,” reads Psalm 96:6. “Yeah, well, they’re no Moses,” I can hear the retorts already, muttering about the Witness Governing Body. “Where are their comparable works? What Red Sea did they lead anyone though?”

Given that literal food and drink prefigures in the Bible the greater spiritual food and drink, the accomplishments of the Witness organization today are nothing short of amazing, The average person of a developing nation must make do with an archaic translation of the Bible that he can neither afford nor understand because those in the church world think it only natural that Big Business be entrusted with the distribution of God’s word. Only Jehovah’s Witnesses devise an entirely separate channel to place a modern understandable translation in his hands at minimal cost, even free. The Bible satisfactorily answers questions that are answered nowhere else, the deeper questions of life such as ‘Why would God permit suffering?’ ‘Why do people die and what is the hope afterward?’ and ‘What is the ultimate purpose of life?’ Although this fellow may not have a nickel to his name, he has access to the answers no less than those in more affluent lands. Some in those  latter lands count it the accomplishment as nothing as they grouse about matters of personal inconvenience.

It is not nothing. However, when people become obsessed with their own immediate needs and wants, it can become as nothing. This writer doesn’t dare do it—simply become a whiner over present inconveniences. There are some inconveniences, of course, in pursuing a united service to God today, but to carry on excessively about them seems to me a reality not too far off from Moses in Sinai. In any organization there is a chance that a given decision will not go your way. Should organization be jettisoned on that account? It is exactly what opposers would wish. That way individuals flail away, accomplish little, and eventually can be absorbed by the popular cause.

If you take away the upside there becomes nothing left to grumble about other than the downside. The trend today of the young is to go atheist. Who smoothed that path for them? When their new influencers come around, delighted about the restrictions they have broken free from, always ask them what they have found that is better. What is it that they have to offer? Are they not just “promising them freedom” while existing as “slaves of corruption?” What do they have to offer? Simply the freedom to do whatever one wants without check? History shows that freedom has not worked out particularly well for humankind.

With the wandering Israelites, it went well beyond complaining about the dry weather. They reached the point where they wanted to go back to Egypt. Imagine. It is widely told, if only from the Ten Commandments movie, that Moses led the Israelites out of Egypt—deliverance from a harsh life. They had there been slaves. Now, just a month later, they wanted to go back. When the going got especially rough because the ten timid spies planted fear amongst them, “they even went to saying to one another: ‘Let us appoint a head, and let us return to Egypt!’” says Numbers 14:4. Egypt! The land in which they had suffered slavery for decades. They wanted to go back!

So, too, apostates to the faith today want to go back to “Egypt.” It is as though they want to return to slavery. The Lord was impaled in Egypt, Revelation 11;8 says. Everyone knows that he was not impaled there. It is a symbolic usage of “Egypt,” an “Egypt” at cross-purposes with God no less than the Egypt of the Old Testament. It, too, features “slavery,” and apostates long to return to it because they have decided that it was not so bad after all. The slavery is not so obvious. Rather, it is so universal as to go unnoticed by most. We are slaves to sin with its ultimate consequence of death, Romans 5 tells us. The inherited imperfection by which, try as we might, we let ourselves and all around us down is the sad reality that God proposes to reverse by means of his Son’s sacrifice. “Nah, it’s not so bad,” the apostates say. “We’ll go back to it. Opportunities abound in the world we left, and we want to not miss out on them.” It is no different than “Demas has forsaken me because he loved the present system of things” of 2 Timothy 4:10.

If there is no God, he is exactly right. Paul would agree with him. “If it is in this life only that we have hoped in the Christ, we are of all men most to be pitied.” (1 Corinthians 15:9) In other words—if it is all a myth, an unreality. “However, now Christ has been raised up from the dead,” he goes on to affirm next. Faith in God’s purpose or the absence of it determines two starkly different outlooks in life. The goads that are absolutely unbearable to those without it are accepted by those with it with barely a notice.

There are times in Bible history when so many became too smart for their own pants and God simply gets fed up. Paul announces that he will take his missionary show on the road. (Acts 13) The king announces that those invited to the feast are not worthy of it, and he redirects the invitation to one and all. (Matthew 22) God himself announces that he will scrap his people and build for himself a new nation from Moses. Moses talks him out of it. Everyone recognizes that God is affording his prophet extraordinary consideration—allowing him to plead a case and demonstrate where his heart lies. Only persons of “critical thought” conclude that he is such an unreasoning hothead as to not know that killing off his own people will damage his street cred. (Exodus 32)

“Look out: perhaps there may be someone who will carry you off as his prey through the philosophy and empty deception according to the traditions of men, according to the elementary things of the world and not according to Christ,” cautions Paul at Colossians 2:8. In the case of opposing young people, former Witnesses themselves, it becomes almost silly to affix to them the label “apostate.” They do fit the bill, technically, but they haven’t really earned their stripes yet—call them “junior apostates,” if one must, or “apostates in training.” At present, they are “someone ‘carried off’ as prey through the philosophy and empty deception according to the traditions of men.” They will have to see through it for themselves now. Very likely, few of them will, for the animal carrying off prey is not known to release it. They have aligned themselves with masters skilled in the use of new blinders, the type that permits observation of the trees but not the forest. Still, young people are forever doing rash things that they later rethink, so one never knows how things will turn out. “It ain’t over till it’s over,” says Yogi Berra.

From the book TrueTom vs the Apostates!

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Let Us Appreciate Brother Lett

In the final chapter of Tom Irregardless and Me, the chapter in which I try to tie up many loose ends, I threw in this little snippet: “Brother Lett gave a talk in the Ministry School and was given a ‘W’ (work) for gestures. Surely if he applies himself he can learn to be more expressive!”

It is almost like what they said about Jesus, though not with the same degree of admiration: “Never has another man spoken like this.” As one brother put it: “Let no one ever say that Jehovah’s organization uses paid actors.”

Witnesses love this guy. He knows that he is nutty and he builds upon it as a strength rather than get all bashful over it. If I had any doubt about that, it was erased at the behind-the-scenes broadcast that explained how such programming is produced. As he is beaming in the chair and assistants are dabbing him with make-up, the voice-over (his) says that the final step is to apply make-up to the host so that he “looks his best!” He knows he is a nut. The important thing to remember is that, when Jehovah’s Witnesses go nuts, they are still harmless eccentrics who wouldn’t hurt a fly. When those of the greater world go nuts, you’d better call in the SWAT team. A guy that knows how not to take himself too seriously is a precious guy to have around. There are far too many people who do not suffer fools gladly—and a fool is anyone who disagrees with them.

That Lett is not one of them affords him huge respect in my eyes. It’s not so much where you are but how far you have come. When a Christian Life and Ministry program suggested that we think of brothers we appreciate, I picked two not commonly recognized. They are both from a pronounced socially awkward background, and they both have overcome it to serve capably in roles that anyone would have previously thought forevermore beyond their reach. They are not “heavy hitters,” in my view, and probably never will be, but they are solid and respected. In an age where elders seldom have to give talks, but just use discernment in applying Q&A sessions and via personal interactions, it is enough.

What does Jesus three times tell Peter, recently returned from one of the greatest failures in history? “Feed my little sheep.” It is not one’s stellar brilliance that is going to make one most effective in doing that. It is the love that one shows, and Lett shows it in spades.

In the August broadcast, he gives one of the most ridiculously over-the-top illustrations that I have ever heard, in which volunteers are supplied 2-inch brushes to paint the Kingdom Hall, and everyone knows that is a crazy way to do it. On and on he goes about some grumbling that 4-inch brushes would make more sense, even 6-inch brushes, even rollers. And why not go all the way and rent a spray painter? Or hire a contractor? And, come to think of it, someone else grouses, the Kingdom Hall doesn’t need painting in the first place. Furthermore, Lett almost makes this the central issue before all creation, with God potentially saddened because the friends are bickering over the tiny brushes and the Devil jumping for joy at their disunity, as though neither one of them really has much to do in the other realms.

Tempering this verdict of the illustration being ridiculous is that Brother Lett admits from the start that it is over-the-top. It is a hyperbole, and the man himself is a hyperbole. And come to think of it, anyone familiar with the gospels knows that Jesus employed hyperbole all the time. Through their exaggeration, they have the advantage that anyone of common sense and unhardened heart instantly gets the point.

They also have the advantage that anyone “wise in their own eyes” and too enamored with “critical thinking” does not. “I don’t have time for this nonsense!” they sputter, and thus are sifted out. I begin to think that hyperbole is a tool in the toolbox that serves to fulfill Jesus’ words at Matthew 11, on how God has “hidden these things from the wise and intellectual ones and revealed them to babes,” and is even a way in which he “catches the wise in their own cunning,” the “wisdom of this world” being “foolishness” in their eyes. I mean, if the stuff is so great, show me the peaceful world it has collectively produced. Real wisdom should enable diverse people to overcome divisions and work smoothly together—a sub-theme of Lett’s illustration.

You should have heard how some of the malcontents savaged him! “Classic JW thinking. So typically black and white!” But just because there is black and white thinking does not mean that some things are not black and white, and not long ago, a car group of sisters was rear-ended by a cop in an actual black and white because he was not single-mindedly focused upon his driving. It is possible to overthink things.

Though they are not the people that those of critical thinking pay any attention to, most persons in the world are quite simple, and thus so are Jehovah’s Witnesses, who draw disproportionately from this pool. One out of six persons in the world today cannot read. Do the wise ones of this system of things even know that these people exist? The Watchtower produces simplified versions of material already written simply so as to reach them.

There is an apocryphal story that one of the Governing Body told Lett to “stop acting like an idiot.” It is impossible to know with apocryphal stories what is true and what is concocted. That said, as I close my eyes, I can see it, for the two are vastly different in presentation. Even that “mystery” serves to beneficially separate people, as some dismiss it with a “who cares?” and some obsess over it. It is not unlike when Rex Tillerson supposedly called President Trump a moron and the news media suspended all other activity to find out whether he really did or not—a quest that continued even after Tillerson himself called a news conference to say: “Back where I come from, we don’t have time for that nonsense.” Incredibly, they were not chastened by this. “Yeah, well, did you or didn’t you?” they wanted to know. That is another way in which people are separated today. One person’s nonsense is another person’s manna.

[Edit: It turns out that Brother Lett has grappled with Bell’s palsy, which paralyzes facial muscles on the affected side, and as part of rehab, he got into the habit of exaggerated facial movements, a habit that stuck, or is perhaps even still advisable. The elder telling me this said, when I pressed him, that he had it “on good authority.” Knowing him, I rate it as probably a 90% chance—for the student of history knows and is aghast at how easily stories are distorted in transmission. So you never know. You just don’t. All the people saying nasty things about him are no doubt hanging their heads in shame just about now. Imagine! Calling such a man a nut! Who would ever do such a slanderous thing?]

From the book TrueTom vs the Apostates!

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Plato and the Governing Body

In general, Jehovah’s Witnesses don’t know much when it comes to ancient Greek society. We are happy when the visiting speaker pronounces Socrates with three syllables, and not “So-crates.” Oh, the Greeks are back there in our school days somewhere. After all, they lived in a window of time during which civilization got its act together long enough for some privileged persons to think deep thoughts and record them for our benefit. But we don’t consider knowledge of them indispensable for enriched life. The rapidly ascending Chinese and Indian populations most likely are completely ignorant of Greece—the root of Western civilization, but not theirs—and don’t bemoan the loss.

Nonetheless, there is this atheist fellow I’ve been conversing with lately who throws Greeks at me right and left. He’s even assumed a Greek moniker, Moristotle, and he’s prompted me to consider changing my own name to Tom Harleticus so as to win some respect. So it behooves me to read up on those Greeks. What do we find, for example, when we do some research on Plato?

Plato put into writing his concepts of ideal government. He advocated rule by “philosopher-kings.” Several times in Moristotle’s blog I read the term. Plato favored monarchy, but not hereditary monarchy. Instead, his rulers were to be selected (by already existing rulers) on the basis of merit. This would follow a lengthy period of education designed to separate the wheat from the chaff—so lengthy that it seems nobody under age 50 would be eligible for consideration.

Consider this excerpt from The 100, an intriguing book by Michael Hart, which undertakes to rate the one hundred most influential persons of history: (Plato is #40) “Only those persons who show that they can apply their book learning to the real world should be admitted into the guardian class. Moreover, only those persons who clearly demonstrate that they are primarily interested in the public welfare are to become guardians.

“Membership in the guardian class would not appeal to all persons. The guardians are not to be wealthy. They should be permitted only a minimal amount of personal property, and no land or private homes. They are to receive a fixed (and not very large) salary, and may not own either gold or silver. Members of the guardian class should not be permitted to have separate families, but are to eat together, and are to have mates in common. The compensation of these philosopher-kings should not be material wealth, but rather the satisfaction of public service.”

Anyone familiar with Jehovah’s Witnesses will realize at once that this description almost exactly describes their Governing Body, the agency that governs members of the faith. Only the “mates in common” does not apply.

Compare Plato’s dream government with this depiction of the Watchtower organization, submitted by a reader to the Gary Halbert letter in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, the 2005 storm that flooded New Orleans: “They are the most non-profit of non-profit organizations I’ve ever seen. All of their workers are voluntary. *All* of them. From the top down, the way the entity is structured, even the executives of the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society in Brooklyn, NY (headquarters of their worldwide organization) donate their time in exchange for very modest room and board. I’ve toured a few of their facilities in the Brooklyn, Wallkill and Patterson, NJ areas. I’ve seen it with my own eyes.

“Everyone who works at their printing facilities (where they print bibles and bible literature for their worldwide bible education work) works for room and board and they get a very small allowance (somewhere around $120/mo.) for personal items. This entire organization is supported by means of voluntary donations. And it’s amazing......I mean, these people are not driving around in fancy cars and getting rich pocketing donations by any means.

“They spend their money on maintaining their printing facilities, printing bible literature, housing & feeding their voluntary workers (who all live in an apartment-like community maintained by the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society), supporting voluntary missionaries around the world, language and reading programs (where they teach illiterate people to read), DISASTER RELIEF....I could go on.

“But the bottom line is that NONE of their money is used to line pockets of greedy execs.”

This organization is duplicated in the one hundred or so branch organizations that exist around the world.

Of course, one may object: Plato’s recommendation is for the government of nations. Jehovah’s Witnesses are a religion. But the similarities are more striking than the differences. Worldwide, Jehovah’s Witnesses number between seven and seventeen million, depending on the criteria you use in counting. That’s more than the population of a great many nations. Moreover, Jehovah’s Witnesses are overwhelmingly viewed as a moral, decent, and law-abiding people. This is no mere accident, nor is it explained solely by their belief in the Bible as the source of divine instruction. It is also the result of effective administration, governing if you will, since there are ever so many groups that claim to follow the Bible but whose lifestyles belie that claim. Jehovah’s Witnesses are unified in a common goal and purpose, as the above letter points out. They would appear to be Plato’s dream come true.

Author Hart allows for a religious setting when discussing the application of Plato’s ideal. He suggests “there is a striking similarity between the position of the Catholic Church in medieval Europe and that of Plato’s guardian class.” I assume he is referring to the Church before the Inquisition. Otherwise, Hart acknowledges, Plato’s ideals have never been adopted by any human government.

Oh, this is too rich! Here is Plato, poster boy of the modern Greek aficionados, devising a system of government which none of them have come close to reproducing, but which is adopted without fanfare by a group most of them would look down upon—Jehovah’s Witnesses! The reason, of course, is that Plato’s system depends on persons who are neither ambitious nor materialistic nor overly proud. It is not that such persons cannot be found among the general population. It is that the values of this world are such that these persons cannot rise to the top. Indeed, they are often dismissed as impractical nuts (as with Jehovah’s Witnesses).

By the way, what happens when atheists themselves try to adopt Plato’s ways? Hart continues: “The role of the Communist party in the Soviet Union has also been compared with that of the guardian class in Plato’s ideal republic. Here, too, we see a self-perpetuating elite whose members have all been trained in an official philosophy.”

Aren’t communist systems atheist, indeed the only governments officially atheist? Yes—and when the atheists try to implement Plato, their creations are hijacked by bullies and even mass-murderers: Stalin, Mao, Pol Pot, and so forth. Look at these guys crossways and you do ten years hard labor.

No, those atheists are unable to implement the ideals of their hero. Jehovah’s Witnesses, on the other hand, have done so. Okay, I guess it is too much of a stretch to suggest that if Plato were somehow to appear today on the world stage he would become one of Jehovah’s Witnesses, so I do not suggest it. But I can picture the educated elite rushing to embrace him as one of their own, and he, upon assessing how they have failed to implement any of his ideals, wanting nothing to do with them. Meanwhile, he could not help but be appreciative toward the one sizable organization on earth that has managed to transform his dream into reality. He might even rush right over to Bethel to consult, where they, having no idea who he is, would make him take a number. (February 2008)

From the book TrueTom vs the Apostates!

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Is it Time for Jehovah's Witnesses to Apologize? Part 2

 

First, it may be well to catch up with Part 1.

Jehovah’s Witnesses did fail in this regard. Let us admit it. They failed to ‘go beyond the law.’ The stakes are so high that law is thereafter reinterpreted to mean that they did violate it. Why did they fail? Ms. Chuck accurately states that any Witness victim or family of victim was always free to report child sexual abuse and that congregation justice did not preclude outside secular justice. Arguably, then, they failed because they were insular, as she says, and she may not realize just how firmly she has put her finger on the reason. They were not inclined to air their dirty laundry before the public.

It is not hard to understand. In some cultures, the concept of ‘saving face’ is so firmly entrenched that your efforts to communicate are doomed to failure if you ignore it. The very reason there is an expression ‘skeletons in the closet’ is the universal human instinct to keep them there. It is even found in the scriptures that Ms. Chuck acknowledges underlie everything Witnesses do. Decrying the spectacle of early Christians taking one another into court over personal disputes, the apostle Paul writes: “I am speaking to move you to shame. Is there not one wise man among you who is able to judge between his brothers? Instead, brother goes to court against brother, and before unbelievers at that!” If Jehovah’s Witnesses today are ‘insular,’ it is because Christians back then were ‘insular.’

In this case, however, insularity, and the failure to ‘go beyond the law’ has resulted in child abusers who did not take their turn in the police lineup, as well as victims thereby deprived of justice. Whether they would have received justice otherwise is arguable, for no end of persons manage to evade the wrath of the law. But that is not the point. They should have been turned over to police, the argument goes, for the latter to either nail them to the wall or let them beat the rap. The victims want justice. Like victims anywhere, they don’t always get it. But don’t get in the way of their quest for it. Since the Witness organization is perceived to have gotten in the way, with law being reinterpreted so as to more damningly point to that conclusion, should they apologize to victims or issue a public statement of regret? You could certainly build a case for it.

When the cop speeds in hot pursuit and a horrific accident results, pointing out that he had permission to speed only goes so far. There are times when only a sincere expression of regret stems the tide of outrage, for who is going to dismiss a run-over pedestrian as ‘just one of those things’?  At such times legal matters become technicalities and you look tone-deaf if you harp on them. Best to say that, in pursuing one’s mission, even within existing rules, a terrible tragedy has resulted for which there is sincere regret.

Were the Witness organization to ever do that, it would cut them no slack with the Reddit group. They would merely drop down a notch on their list to highlight the next reason they hate their former religion before surfacing briefly again to declare the statement insincere. Were the entire Governing Body membership to resign, or even hang themselves, it would not make them happy. They know that their successors would be cut from the same cloth.

No, there will be no placating these folks. But it might very well clear the air for all other persons, who know very well, simply through personal experience, that Jehovah’s Witnesses are very fine people. Even arch-enemy Barbara Anderson concedes this, as she somehow manages to insinuate that this is despite their evil governing body, rather than the much more reasonable ‘because of it. Not because of it solely, of course, for Witnesses’ decency stems from the God they worship. But in the sense that the Witnesses’ governing body keeps them clearly focused on the Bible, the source they signed on for, they surely deserve credit, not condemnation. Almost all other faiths have swayed with the changing winds of contemporary culture. Witnesses have not. They merely update now and then, as they have with their procedures of child sexual abuse investigations. Is it intimidating for a victim of child sexual abuse to appear before the three men of a investigatory committee? Well, they never thought of that. Maybe they should have. So now it is that a child’s recorded testimony can serve itself as the witness and he or she does not have to appear personally. If he or she does, it can be with any congregation member of choice, whether male or female. The religion’s fiercest critics say they will never stop opposing until Witnesses fix their child abuse policies. Arguably, they already have, since almost all cases tried are from 20-30 years ago.

Not everyone likes Jehovah’s Witnesses. Probably more do not than do. But people are mostly fair. A statement of regret would go a long way for them to say: “Oh, I see. They did screw it up, but now I can see why. They really do abhor child sexual abuse over there.”  Otherwise, their enemies find it a cakewalk to portray those in leadership positions among Jehovah’s Witnesses as ‘arrogant,’ and in some cases, careful cultivators of child sexual abusers. They are probably the least arrogant people on earth, but that does not mean they cannot be painted that way.

They do Bible education work. They do it extensively and effectively. In the developing world, a person is stuck with some 200-year old turkey of a Bible translation that he can neither afford nor understand because nobody other than Jehovah’s Witnesses thinks it is inappropriate for Big Business to handle distribution of the Word of God. The Witness Governing Body does think it is inappropriate and they have invented an entirely new production and distribution channel so that the person can obtain a modern Bible at minimal cost, or even free. That accomplishment is not nothing.

They do not do all of this personally, of course. Detractors routinely spin it that Witnesses are ‘controlled’ by ‘eight men in New York.’ It makes no sense. They are modest persons. Many of them cut their teeth performing their trademark door-to-door ministry in the developing world, carrying out a work more lowly than that of the ones they would ultimately lead. They have a certain knack at administration, as with any effective organization, but other than that, they have little expertise in anything. But they know where to find it when they need it. From a field of eight million members, where there are neither paywalls nor turf battles, they can quickly assemble whatever they deem necessary.

Their latest offering in the field of Bible education consists of an online, self-guided, and anonymous course of Bible study offered on the front page of their website, JW.org. The Bible offers convincing answers to important questions of life, Jehovah's Witnesses feel, questions not readily answered anywhere else. Of course, it is free and presented without any mention of money. After each lesson there is the option to 1) go deeper, for the presentation is necessarily simple, 2) attend a group study at the Witnesses’ Kingdom Hall, 3) request a personal instructor, or 4) say ‘none of the above’ and proceed to the next lesson. It is a relatively new feature. I don’t know how it will be incorporated. But with only some exaggeration, I am looking forward to saying: “I don’t want to study the Bible with you. Do it yourself. If you have any questions or want to go a level more, I’ll be around.” With only slightly more exaggeration, the new feature illustrates that, if need be, the main Bible teaching component of the Witnesses’ work could be run out of a server in someone’s dorm room.

They always will be ‘insular,’ or to put in their terminology, ‘no part of the world.’ Surely, they must be permitted to be, for the alternative is to snuff out the type of Christianity that existed in the first century, arguably the most 'true' model. Snuffing out this model in favor of societally evolved ones would be a very fine outcome in the eyes of today’s ‘anti-cultists,’ who will allow that religion can have a place only so long as it is clearly subservient to contemporary life and leaders. Anything not meeting this description they are inclined to label a ‘cult’ that ‘brainwashes’ people through ‘mind-control.’ Those of that spirit of Western anti-cultists have used exactly that reasoning to fuel the furor that has banned Jehovah’s Witnesses in Russia and confiscated all of their property, with many other faiths shaking in their boots that they will be next. Of a prominent Russian anti-cultist, Alexander Dvorkin, who shares Western connections via an French NGO, a human-rights expert has said: he “enjoys disseminating inflammatory narratives and hate speech.” It is no less with anti-cultists here, who further their goals through whatever avenues present themselves.

It may well be time to acknowledge that this avenue, this one involving child sexual abuse reporting, is one that became riddled with axle-bending potholes, express sincere remorse, help out to whatever extent is necessary to fill them in, so as to move on with the overall program.

End of Part 2. See Part 3.

 

 

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Let us Appreciate Brother Lett

From the final chapter of Tom Irregardless and Me, the chapter in which I try to tie up many loose ends, I threw in this little snippet: "Brother Lett gave a talk in the Ministry School and was given a ‘W’ (work) for gestures. Surely if he applies himself he can learn to be more expressive!”


It is almost like what they said about Jesus, though not with the same degree of admiration: “Never has another man spoken like this.” As one brother put it: "Let no one ever think that Jehovah's organization uses paid actors.”


Witnesses love this guy. He KNOWS he is nutty and he builds upon it as a strength rather get all bashful over it. If I had any doubt about that, it was erased at the behind-the-scenes broadcast that explained how such broadcasts are produced. As he is beaming in the chair and assistants are dabbing him with make-up, the voice-over (his) says that the final step is to apply make-up to the host so that he “looks his best!” He knows he is a nut. A guy that knows how not to take himself too seriously is a precious guy to have around. There are far too many people who do not suffer fools gladly – and a fool is anyone who disagrees with him.


That Lett is not one of them affords him huge respect in my eyes. It’s not so much where you are but how far you have come. When a Christian Life and Ministry program suggested that we think of brothers we appreciate, I picked two not commonly recognized. They are both from a pronounced socially awkward background, and they both have overcome it to serve capably in roles that anyone would have previously thought were forevermore beyond them. They are not “heavy hitters,” in my view, and probably never will be, but they are solid and respected. In an age where elders seldom have to give talks but just use discernment in applying Q&A sessions and though personal interactions, it is enough.


What does Jesus three times tell Peter, recently returned from one of the greatest failures in history? “Feed my little sheep.” It is not your stellar brilliance that is going to make you most effective in doing that. It is the love that you show, and Lett shows it in spades.


In the August broadcast, he gives one of the most ridiculously over-the-top illustration that I have ever heard, in which volunteers are supplied 2-inch brushes to paint the Kingdom Hall and everyone knows that is a crazy way to do it. On and on he goes about some grumbling that 4-inch brushes would make more sense, even six inch brushes, even rollers. And why not go all the way and rent a spray painter? Or hire a contractor? And, come to think of it, someone else grouses, the Kingdom Hall doesn’t need painting in the first place. Furthermore, Lett almost makes this the central issue before all creation, with God potentially saddened because the friends are bickering over the tiny brushes and the Devil is jumping for joy at their disunity, as though neither one of them really has much to do up there in heaven. (a brother at an assembly applied the analogy, a bit more fittingly, to Satan being unhappy about the decision baptismal candidates had made to dedicate their lives to God. But don’t worry about it, he went on to say, “He’s not usually happy.”)


Tempering this verdict of the illustration being ‘ridiculous’ is that Brother Lett admits from the start that it is over-the-top. It is an hyperbole, and the man himself is an hyperbole. And come to think of it, anyone familiar with the gospels knows that Jesus uses hyperbole all the time. Through their exaggeration, they have the advantage that anyone of common sense and unhardened heart instantly gets the point.


They also have the advantage that anyone ‘wise in their own eyes’ and too enamored with ‘critical thinking’ does not, and thus these people are sifted out. I begin to think that hyperbole is a tool in the toolbox that serves to fulfill Jesus’ words at Matthew 11, on how God has “hidden these things from the wise and intellectual ones and revealed them to babes,” and is even a way in which he “catches the wise in their own cunning,” the “wisdom of this world” being “foolishness” in his eyes. I mean, if the stuff is so great, show me the peaceful world it has collectively produced. Real wisdom should enable diverse people to overcome divisions and work smoothly together, and that is a sub-theme of Lett’s illustration.


You should have heard how some of these latter ones savaged him! ‘Classic JW thinking. So typically black and white.’ But just because there is black and white thinking does not mean some things are not black and white, and not long ago, a car group of sisters was rear-ended by a cop in an actual black and white because he was not single-mindedly focused upon his driving. It is possible to overthink things.


Though these are NOT the people that those of critical thinking pay any attention to, most persons in the world are quite simple, and thus so are Jehovah’s Witnesses, who draw disproportionately from this pool. One out of six persons in the world today cannot read. Do the wise ones of this system of things even know these people exist? The Watchtower produces simplified versions of material already written simply so as to reach them.


There is an apocryphal story that one of the Governing Body told Lett to “stop acting like an idiot.” It is impossible to know with apocryphal stories what are true and what are concocted. That said, as I close my eyes, I can see it, for the two are vastly different in presentation. Even that ‘mystery’ serves to beneficially separate people, as some dismiss it with a ‘who cares?’ and some obsess over it. It is not unlike when Rex Tillerson supposedly called Trump a moron and news media suspended all other activity to find out whether he really did or not, a quest that continued even after Tillerson himself called a news conference to say: “Back where I come from, we don’t have time for that nonsense.”


That is another way in which people are separated today. One person’s nonsense is another person’s manna.

[Edit: It turns out that Brother Lett has grappled with Bell's palsy, which paralizes facial muscles on the affected side, and as part of rehab, he got into the habit of exagerated facial movements, a habit that stuck, or is perhaps even still advisable. The elder telling me this said, when I pressed him, that he had it "on good authority." Knowing him, I rate it as probably a 90% chance. So you never know. You just don't. All the people saying nasty things about him are no doubt hanging their heads in shame just about now. Imagine! Calling such a man a nut! Who would ever do such a slanderous thing?]

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Governing the Modern Day Congregation

Like Plato's philosopher kings, the "apostles and older men" in Jerusalem set policy for the first century congregation. They determined how scripture applied for the rapidly growing Christian faith, much as modern govenments apply principles contained within national constitutions. If they did not do so, constitutions would quickly become inapplicable, lost among new developments not explicitly spelled out. They'd become relics for debate, and nothing else. (Some people would like it that way.) But the Bible was not to suffer the same fate. It was to be applied to changing times by a governing agency.
 
Traveling ministers carried decisions of that early governing body to the ever-increasing congregations, which within decades had spread throughout the Mediterranean world. Acts 16:4-5 reports:
 
Now as they traveled on through the cities they would deliver to those there for observance the decrees that had been decided upon by the apostles and older men who were in Jerusalem. Therefore, indeed, the congregations continued to be made firm in the faith and to increase in number from day to day.

Alas, for those who suppose Christianity ought to be based upon Western democracy! It wasn't guidelines being delivered. It wasn't suggestions. It wasn't proposals to be put to popular vote. It was decrees which were to be observed.
 
It's not just the New World Translation. Nearly all English translations use the terms "decrees" or "decisions." The New International Version calls them "decisions for the people to obey." Of the few variations, only the Message translation waters the phrase down to "simple guidelines which turned out to be most helpful." But the Amplified Bible uses "regulations," Moffatts Bible says "resolutions," the Good News Bible offers up "rules."
 
Isn't this what one would expect? If God's ways are really higher than our ways, as Isa 55:9 states, and people become Christian converts precisely for that reason, does anyone truly think God's ways would be determined by majority vote? If that's the case, who needs God? Unless you want scripture to be no more than fodder for debate. And as already observed, that's exactly what many folks want; the more learned they are and thereby fond of their own opinions, the more they want it. That way no one has to really pay any attention to it, even if it's their own that opinion prevails. It's just academic hot air. No, there has to be a governing agency. God saw to that in the first century. The apostles and older men governed from Jerusalem as a God-ordained arrangement. They weren't ambitious men seizing power. They were Christians with the most experience, men who had introduced the faith to others, and they saw to their own succession.
 
Is this arrangement to be extended into the present? Jehovah's Witnesses say yes. It's what they glean from consideration of Matt 24:45-47: Who really is the faithful and discreet slave whom his master appointed over his domestics, to give them their food at the proper time? Happy is that slave if his master on arriving finds him doing so. Truly I say to you, He will appoint him over all his belongings.  

At first glance, one might wonder if these verses can really refer to governance for the modern-day Christian congregations. I've had someone try to tell me the verses are no more than a nice little story with the moral to always do your best. But consider that the verses are embedded in Matthew 24-25, two Bible chapters filled with prophesies and parables about Christ's return. Matt 24:3 leads with the question posed by Jesus' disciples: "what will be the sign of your presence and of the conclusion of the system of things?" Matthew 25 consists of three parables in which the Master returns after a long absence and settles accounts with his slaves....what have they been up to while he was gone? Some have been diligent. Some negligent. Some have kept alert. Some have fallen asleep.  Some have done well by his "brothers." Some have ignored them. As always, Jesus speaks in illustrations, largely so as to throw off people whose interest in spiritual things is only superficial. (see Matt: 13:10-15)
 
From time to time through the years, various persons have claimed to be "the faithful and discreet slave," presuming that whatever they have to say constitutes "food at the proper time" for the "domestics." However, Christ departed in 33CE - wouldn't he have made his appointments before leaving?. And he arrived....Jehovah's Witnesses (alone) are on record stating his invisible presence as reigning heavenly King began in 1914 (another claim which, at first glance, seems far-fetched, but which is substantiated with reasonings reproduced here and here and here.) Therefore, the faithful and discreet slave must be, not an individual, but a group, or class, of individuals. A small remnant of Christ's followers recognized through Bible study that the Master's presence would commence in 1914. They gave the matter wide publicity well beforehand. ‘Look out for 1914!’ has been the cry of the hundreds of traveling evangelists who, representing this strange creed [today known as Jehovah's Witnesses], have gone up and down the country enunciating the doctrine that ‘the Kingdom of God is at hand.’ wrote the New York World newspaper on August 30, 1914. Early Watchtower President C.T. Russell wrote weekly sermons which were published, all told, by more than 4000 newspapers. The early Witnesses were off on some applications, but they were surely right on enough of them so as to be uniquely recognizable.
 
Can that small anointed remnant not be "the faithful and discreet slave", found by the "master on arriving" to be giving "food at the proper time?" The passage points out that this "slave" is thereby appointed over all his [the Master's] belongings. Thus, today, a governing body, drawn from members of this anointed class, oversees kingdom interests on earth. As closely as possible, it models itself after the pattern set by that first century governing body. In this way, congregations of Jehovah's Witnesses are governed. They thereby maintain unity. They actually stand for something, and don't just reflect cultural norms of the day slightly modified by a God smiley face.
 
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Appendix: Acts chapter 15 (reproduced below) offers a specific example of how Christians were governed in the first century. It provides a template which the governing body uses in directing Christians today. Note the dispute (regarding circumcision), and the agreed upon channel of redress. Note how, prior to reaching a decision, scriptures are considered, both historical and prophetic. Witnesses are heard, who testify to the role holy spirit is playing....what God is then doing among the congregations. The resulting decision is put into writing and sent to all the congregations. Delivery must have taken some time, given means of travel back then.
 
From Acts chapter 15:
 
And certain men came down from Judea and began to teach the [newly converted Gentile] brothers: “Unless you get circumcised according to the custom of Moses, you cannot be saved.” But when there had occurred no little dissension and disputing by Paul and Barnabas with them, they arranged for Paul and Barnabas and some others of them to go up to the apostles and older men in Jerusalem regarding this dispute.  Accordingly, after being conducted partway by the congregation, these men continued on their way through both Phoenicia and Samaria, relating in detail the conversion of people of the nations, and they were causing great joy to all the brothers. On arriving in Jerusalem they were kindly received by the congregation and the apostles and the older men, and they recounted the many things God had done by means of them. Yet, some of those of the sect of the Pharisees that had believed rose up from their seats and said: “It is necessary to circumcise them and charge them to observe the law of Moses.”
 
 And the apostles and the older men gathered together to see about this affair. Now when much disputing had taken place, Peter rose and said to them: “Men, brothers, you well know that from early days God made the choice among you that through my mouth people of the nations should hear the word of the good news and believe; and God, who knows the heart, bore witness by giving them the holy spirit, just as he did to us also. And he made no distinction at all between us and them, but purified their hearts by faith. Now, therefore, why are you making a test of God by imposing upon the neck of the disciples a yoke that neither our forefathers nor we were capable of bearing? On the contrary, we trust to get saved through the undeserved kindness of the Lord Jesus in the same way as those people also.”
 

At that the entire multitude became silent, and they began to listen to Barnabas and Paul relate the many signs and portents that God did through them among the nations. After they quit speaking, James answered, saying: “Men, brothers, hear me. Symeon has related thoroughly how God for the first time turned his attention to the nations to take out of them a people for his name. And with this the words of the Prophets agree, just as it is written, ‘After these things I shall return and rebuild the booth of David that is fallen down; and I shall rebuild its ruins and erect it again, in order that those who remain of the men may earnestly seek Jehovah, together with people of all the nations, people who are called by my name, says Jehovah, who is doing these things, known from of old.’ Hence my decision is not to trouble those from the nations who are turning to God, but to write them to abstain from things polluted by idols and from fornication and from what is strangled and from blood. For from ancient times Moses has had in city after city those who preach him, because he is read aloud in the synagogues on every sabbath.”


Then the apostles and the older men together with the whole congregation favored sending chosen men from among them to Antioch along with Paul and Barnabas, namely, Judas who was called Barsabbas and Silas, leading men among the brothers; and by their hand they wrote:
 

“The apostles and the older men, brothers, to those brothers in Antioch and Syria and Cilicia who are from the nations: Greetings! Since we have heard that some from among us have caused you trouble with speeches, trying to subvert your souls, although we did not give them any instructions, we have come to a unanimous accord and have favored choosing men to send to together with our loved ones, Barnabas and Paul, men that have delivered up their souls for the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. We are therefore dispatching Judas and Silas, that they also may report the same things by word. For the holy spirit and we ourselves have favored adding no further burden to you, except these necessary things, to keep abstaining from things sacrificed to idols and from blood and from things strangled and from fornication. If you carefully keep yourselves from these things, you will prosper. Good health to you!”
 

Accordingly, when these men were let go, they went down to Antioch, and they gathered the multitude together and handed them the letter. After reading it, they rejoiced over the encouragement. And Judas and Silas, since they themselves were also prophets, encouraged the brothers with many a discourse and strengthened them. So, when they had passed some time, they were let go in peace by the brothers to those who had sent them out. 

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The new policy wasn't at once accepted by all, which in itself offers a template for modern-day similar situations. Jewish converts, in particular, had taken circumcision as a rite for generations. But now it was to be simply a personal choice, not an obligation to be imposed upon new believers. Long after the governing body supposedly settled the matter (49CE), its representatives were reasoning with those who opposed it, becoming more forceful with the passage of time:
 
(circa 51CE - 2 years later): For such freedom Christ set us free. Therefore stand fast, and do not let yourselves be confined again in a yoke of slavery. See! I, Paul, am telling you that if you become circumcised, Christ will be of no benefit to you. Moreover, I bear witness again to every man getting circumcised that he is under obligation to perform the whole Law.  (Gal 5:1-3)
 

(55CE - 6 years later): Was any man called circumcised? Let him not become uncircumcised. Has any man been called in uncircumcision? Let him not get circumcised. Circumcision does not mean a thing, and uncircumcision means not a thing, but observance of God’s commandments [does]. (1 Cor 7:18-20)
 
(circa 61CE - 12 years later): Look out for the dogs, look out for the workers of injury, look out for those who mutilate the flesh. For we are those with the real circumcision, who are rendering sacred service by God’s spirit and have our boasting in Christ Jesus and do not have our confidence in the flesh.   (Phil 3:2-3)
 
(circa 63CE - 14 years later): For there are many unruly men, profitless talkers, and deceivers of the mind, especially those men who adhere to the circumcision. It is necessary to shut the mouths of these, as these very men keep on subverting entire households by teaching things they ought not for the sake of dishonest gain. (Tit 1:10-11)
 
Did such resisters eventually find themselves removed from the congregation? It seems likely, in view of such directives as:
 
As for a man that promotes a sect, reject him after a first and a second admonition; knowing that such a man has been turned out of the way and is sinning, he being self-condemned. (Tit 3:10-11)
 
So it is in the modern-day congregation. Not everyone agrees with everything. But they strive to come into agreement, rather than cultivate divisions, having bought into the way of thinking that "God's ways are higher than man's ways," including his ways of providing organization. They subscribe to the wisdom from above (tell me if this isn't different from the wisdom of today): ...the wisdom from above is first of all chaste, then peaceable, reasonable, ready to obey....(Jas 3:17)

Occasionally individuals decide they can no longer acquiesce to this type of arrangement. Should they get to that point, they leave. It's the only reasonable course. It's really the only viable course. As in real life, you can't grab hold of the wheel. You get tossed off the bus should you try that.

 

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Tom Irregardless and Me           No Fake News but Plenty of Hogwash

 

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