On Women. Part 1

Daily my enemy has been hammering at the door of some woman’s rights groups, hoping that they will cooperate with him in his efforts to make trouble for his former religion. This strikes me as an extraordinarily disrespectful thing to do: to bludgeon them each day as though he understands their cause better than they. If they don’t ‘take the bait,’ they don’t take it.

Lately he modifies his approach and says that he ‘respectfully asks’ they give attention to his beef. He changes tactics because so many of his own people began to accuse him of ‘man-bashing’ that he took to blocking them. When I read what he was doing, I thought it was due to me, but since I had been behaving myself lately, I went to check and I saw that - no, it was some of his own people. Moreover, while I may have been sharp in my disagreement, I was never (especially) disrespectful.

I think it will turn out as when the ever-capable female British intelligence officer said to Foyle, about the full-of-himself male officer that she, for the time-being, had to play second fiddle to, ‘He is overconfident and not really too smart. He will overreach and fall of his own weight. I’ve seen it before.’ (Foyle’s War)

Nobody will appreciate women’s issues like a woman. However, to the extent that a man may weigh in, I submit that I am more on their side than he, and if permitted, I will develop this point over a few posts. Suffice it to say going in that I have several times written: “The question to ask in any discipline, is not ‘Can women do it better than men?’ It is ‘How can they do worse?”

BTW, the beef he has is over a paragraph in the December 2018 Watchtower Magazine dealing with woman finding themselves in abusive relationships. If the background facts were as he represents, one might almost concede that he has a point. But the background facts have been misrepresented in almost every case. I wrote up a reply, which I also sent to these groups. The jury is still out on which version of truth they will prefer. Possibly they will say, ‘If we never hear again from either one of these two jerks, it will be not soon enough.’ However, I have just forwarded mine a few times. He does his every single day. Even Jehovah’s Witnesses do not call every single day.

Okay, consider a few examples of respect for women, first from the Bible, and second from the people who do their best to follow the Bible. The first two involve Jesus’s relationships with women. In themselves they are not decisive; one could even say that they do not go far enough. However, in the context of the times, they are monumental. When Jesus appeared on earth, he didn’t instantly stomp out injustice wherever he saw it. Otherwise there would have been not much left. For the most part, he worked within the existing world, even as the laid down principles that would facilitate a better one.

The ‘woman at the well’ Jesus spoke with was the first person to which he entrusted directly the news that he was God’s chosen Messiah. Even his disciples he made jump through hoops to arrive at that bit of intelligence, which, from a Christian’s point of view, is the most significant announcement of all time. He told it to a woman (John 4:26). Moreover, she was not some hoity-toity religiously self-righteous woman. She was a woman who was ‘living in sin.’ Woman’s groups today will probably disagree with definitions and values of that time, but they will nonetheless accede that Jesus first gave the most important news there was to a woman.

The second example is found in the angel who announces Jesus’s resurrection. Who does he entrust this 2nd-most important announcement of all time to? Again, it was women. (Luke 24:4-11) Now, at the time, the testimony of a woman was considered absolutely worthless in that male-dominated Greek, Roman, and yes, even Jewish world. In effect, the angel showed contempt for that male-dominated society, and completely skirted it. Even Jesus’s disciples, immersed in that culture, did not believe the women. That was of no consequence to the angel; they’ll figure it out in time, the big dopes.

Update to the present. The intent of Witness detractors today is to paint the religion as obsessed with the ‘submission’ women are supposed to show to men. To the extent the religion, or Bible, speaks of ‘submission,’ it is far more innocuous, and essentially is simply to acknowledge that in any ship, there is a captain. God has assigned the roles as best suited for the stability of the family, which for the most part, means the stability of the human race. There is no tolerance made for abuse. Of course, that is not to say that abuse has not occurred, but it occurs no less in places wanting nothing to do with Bible principles. Unless I am very mistaken, Harvey Weinstein did not go door-to-door telling people about ‘God’s magnificent purposes’.

It is a spiritual or family-based arrangement only. I realize that more women than not in the women’s groups mentioned will say that it is antiquated, and they have moved on from it for the best. Point taken. Let it be said, however, that in Watchtower facilities it is an absolutely unremarkable fact of life that women will exercise authority over men in any areas where they have better aptitude, for example, in design, computers, medicine, and law. If the men working under them ‘cop an attitude’ (which has happened) they will hear about it. Men are ever inclined anywhere to parlay their usually superior physical strength into attempted domination. Watchtower headquarters will not let them get away with it. Detractors will catch wind of a woman working in the furtherance of JW purposes, maybe law, and write of how she can endure in the midst of domineering men? She doesn’t have to. They submit to her in these pragmatic areas where competence is all that counts, and ‘submission’ is completely irrelevant, being merely a spiritual or family matter of organization.

Women are not seething with discontent over there in Witness-land, as their enemies seek to portray them. Neither are there weak women who tyrant men play like a fiddle. Of course, there are some ‘weak women,’ but there are also weak men. On balance, they are about equal.

It is common today that if you do not embrace a given cause, you are said to hate it. Thus, some try to paint Witnesses, and Christianity in general, as inherently hateful and abusive to women. Other Christian denominations will have to speak for themselves. I don’t follow them closely enough to weigh in one way or the other. I can only speak for my own people, and I will speak more of them in Part 2


Are We Looking at Insurance Fraud? Part 2

This seemingly is a separate subject, but rest assured, it will converge. The Watchtower recently published an article that pointed out that some women in abusive marital relationships exercise their right to separate for safety’s sake, yet others have determined to stick it out. Lloyd Evans blew a gasket over this, wrote a short article of how controlling Watchtower men were, ordering Witness women to stay in abusive relationships, and he has been forwarding it daily to several agencies, hoping to get his former faith in trouble. Honestly. He did it as a countdown (or countup):

@ChtyCommission - Are you aware that Watchtower…is encouraging #jehovahswitness victims of #domesticviolence to endure life-threatening abuse?

and

It's Day 5 since Watchtower, a registered charity, publicly urged #JehovahsWitness women to stay with physically abusive husbands. @ChtyCommission has confirmed it is reviewing article. No response yet from @RefugeCharity or @womensaid.

and

Day 8 of a magazine with circulation numbering into the millions instructing women to "endure" abusive relationships. Still not a word from @ChtyCommission or #domesticviolence orgs @RefugeCharity @womensaid or @PurplePurse

At some point I chimed in, linking to my own post on the entire Watchtower article, not just a single paragraph and appending it with my tweets to his:

 

Day 9 of @cedarsjwsurvey hoping he can get his former religion in hot water with @ChtyCommission. Every day he hammers on their door. Sheesh. Even Jehovah’s Witnesses don’t call every single day. @RefugeCharity @womensaid @PurplePurse .

and

11 STRAIGHT DAYS hammering their door! No cult leader could be more pesky.

and even

Day 23 of two women's groups being battered daily by a man who shames them for not pursuing his grudge against his former religion. One never knows, but it is possible they are considering overall context. @ChtyCommission @RefugeCharity @womensaid

Some of his own people told him to cool it:

if these organizations don't react, you have to respect their choice. Criteria of their evaluations is complex in nature (legal aspects) and other crucial elements imposed by the statutes of a Charity. Please read again Steve Hassan's last book, there are more efficient methods

Steve Hassan is a huge player in the ‘anti-cult’ movement. Here he is being appealed to as though he were a cult leader himself.

I couldn’t resist. I just had to tweet:

In other words, you’re making yourself a pain, Cedars. The whole world does not revolve around your beefs. @ChtyCommission @RefugeCharity @womensaid

Okay, here’s one more from me:

It is possible that @womensaid resents being lectured to daily by a male who presumes to know their concerns better than they do themselves. Aren't abusive males known to behave this way, refusing to take delay or silence for an answer? Possibly they read the entire WT article.

He is still at it and no, I don’t respond every day:

Day 31 of circulation. A month ago, Watchtower published its clearest ever advice encouraging JW women to "endure" abusive husbands. Incredibly, it seems they can do this without any official rebuke from DV orgs like @RefugeCharity & @womensaid.

Some of his own have broken ranks and accused him of ‘man-bashing.’ He is confident, I think overconfident. But I do not underestimate him. He has had some success in stirring up major mischief. And you never quite know what these agencies will do. I would think when he sends complainants over there, Bethel could respond if queried merely by citing their present policy on marital separation, but you never know how things will turn out until they turn out.

On day 40 or so, I became very bold and tweeted: "It's as though he says, 'G******t, answer me when I'm talking to you!'"

Around Day 60, I heard that he had given it up.

Now, it occurs to me, that if he can hammer on an agency each day, there is no reason that I cannot do the same:

Day 1 of Lloyd’s friend encouraging insurance fraud to his Twitter followers.

Only I won’t hammer at the same agency each day as he does. There are enough that I can mix them up, just like rotating public speakers at the Kingdom Hall. Oh, yeah. Let’s see where this goes.

I don’t know. Is it illegal or is it just incredibly crass and ungrateful? Imagine. Your home is destroyed in a flood. Instantly your fellow congregation members swoop in to restore or rebuild, donating both time and materials. Yet when it turns out that you have made provisions to cover exactly that circumstance you say ‘Fugeddaboudit! I like 'free' better. See you on the Adriatic coast, if you can afford it, that is. I can.’ Either way, they can be made to look awfully small.

As Sherlock says, ‘It’s Game On.’

See Part 1

See Part 3

Arguing


Diedre Wins a Skirmish

The overnight tech is tired, overweight, underpaid, overworked, as she would tell you, (likely omitting the 2nd item) and perhaps it is so. Her rough treatment of those in her charge has hurt some of them and they dread disturbing her. They hold off until absolutely necessary. Only Diedre, recuperating from a fractured shoulder and hip, determines within her heart to win her over, as she tells us later, with a twinkle in her eye.

When my wife calls the nursing home, she is told that Diedre is not available because she is doing rehab in her room. ‘How long will it be?’ she asks. ‘Oh, I don’t know,’ comes the answer. ‘I think they just go in there to visit; she is so nice.’

She is. We all know it. Camping with us and the kids long ago, we would say about those in the neighboring cabin: ‘Diedre, go find out about those people.’ Off she would go with a disarming ‘hi.’ Fifteen minutes later she would return with their entire life stories.

She wins a skirmish. Coming to her side at 2AM for pain, the tech says, ‘I hate to see you suffering like this. You really are a good patient.’ ‘So she is coming around, just a little bit,’ Diedre smiles and chalks up the win.

[Edit: I spoke with Diedre after this post was written. She referred to that tech as "the sweetest little thing," before clarifying that she really wasn't little. I had just thrown that in on a hunch that she was overweight. I really didn't know. When Diedre left after several weeks recuperation, some of the patients cried. The staff begged her to visit, adding that many former patients say they will, but never do. They do not know that, with Diedre, it is a certainty.

Does she 'witness?' No, not particularly, though she is always ready should something come up. Rather, she is one of Jehovah's Witnesses, it quickly comes into conversation naturally, as when a person mentions what they do for a living, and thereafter everything she does or says becomes a witness.

When she attends to the hospital stays of her own children (who unfortunately, have had a few) she quickly is on a first name basis with every tech, nurse, and doctor in sight, who all look forward to exchanging a few words with her. She doesn't look at each person as 'an opportunity to give a witness.' Instead she looks at them as an opportunity to make a human connection. Sometimes that leads to a verbal witness. It always leads to a nonverbal one.]

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Thomas Jefferson - "How Cheap a Price for the Good Will of Another."

“I have mentioned good humor as one of the preservatives of our peace and tranquility. It is among the most effectual, and its effect is so well imitated and aided, artificially, by politeness that this also becomes an acquisition of first-rate value. In truth, politeness is artificial good humor; it covers the natural want of it, and ends by rendering habitual a substitute nearly equivalent to the real virtue. It is the practice of sacrificing to those whom we meet in society all the little conveniences and preferences which will gratify them, and deprive us of nothing worth a moment's consideration; it is the giving a pleasing and flattering turn to our expressions, which will conciliate others and make them pleased with us as well as themselves. How cheap a price for the good will of another! When this is in return for a rude thing said by another, it brings him to his senses, it mortifies and corrects him in the most salutory way, and places him at the feet of your good nature in the eyes of the company. 

"But in stating prudential rules for our government in society I must not omit the important one of never entering into dispute or argument with another. I never saw an instance of one of two disputants convincing the other by argument. I have seen many, on their getting warm, becoming rude, and shooting one another. Conviction is the effect of our own dispassionate reasoning, either in solitude or weighing within ourselves, idspassionately, what we hear from others, made Doctor Franklin the most amiable of men in society "never to contradict anybody." If he was urged to announce an opinion, he did it rather by asking questions, as if for information, or by suggesting doubts. When I hear another express an opinion which is not mine, I say to myself, he has a right to his opinion, as I to mine; why should I question it? His error does me no injury, and shall I become a Don Quixote, to bring all men by force of argument to one opinion? If a fact be misstated, it is probable he is gratified by a belief in it, and I have no right to deprive him of the gratification. If he wants information, he will ask for it, and then I will give it in measured terms; but if he still believes his own story, and shows a desire to dispute the fact with me, I hear him and say nothing. It is his affair, not mine, if he prefers error.

"There are two classes of disputants most frequently to be met with among us. The first is of young students, just entered the threshold of science, with a first view of its outlines, not yet filled up with the details and modifications which a further progress would bring to their knowledge. The other consists of the ill-tempered & rude men in society, who have taken up a passion for politics. (Good humor and politeness never introduce into mixt society a question on which they foresee there will be a difference of opinion.) From both of those classes of diputants, my dear Jefferson, keep aloof as your owuld from the infected subjects of yellow fever or pestilence. Consider yourself, when with them, as among the patients of Bedlam, needing medical more than moral counsel. Be a listener only, keep within yourself, and endeavor to establish with yourself the habit of silence, especially on politics. In the fevered state of our country, no good can ever result from any attempt to set one of these fiery zealots to rights, either in fact or principle. They are determined as to the facts they will believe, and the opinions on which they will act. Get by them, therefore, as you would by an angry bull; it is not for a man of sense to dispute the road with such an animal.”

The Futility of Disputes (from a letter to Thomas Jefferson Randolph, dated Washington November 24, 1808) - Thomas Jefferson

Co-workers-294266_960_720

 


Love, Marriage, and Soulmates

When I became a JW in the 1970's, I would tell people divorce was unheard of among us; it simply never happened. It wasn't true.
 
But it was almost true. Divorce was rare enough that a new person might think it was true, and I did. Back then, there might be a couple dozen divorces within the entire circuit, and that would be cumulative, not per annum. Not anymore. Nobody today has the slightest difficulty listing any number of divorced persons. In fact, someone even tried to tell me that, here in the West, divorces are slightly more frequent among JWs than the general population. I don't think that's true, just based upon what I see. But it might be true if one considers that huge swaths of people just don't bother with marriage anymore; they simply cohabit. Thus, should they break up, it does nothing to “harm the stats.”
 
Several years ago, I worked a part-time job that put me shoulder to shoulder with lots of young people. They'd ask how long I'd been married and do a doubletake when I told them. Products of divorce, separation, and single-parent families, they'd never come across someone married so long. Can you really expect that they're going to commit themselves to a model they've never seen work? So they simply live together when the time comes. Those who formalize their relationship into marriage may have lived together so long that their relationship is like an old comfortable shoe, unlikely to pinch.

But long-married folks among us know how marriage is. It's built on love and loyalty. You find just that right person to start with.... personalities that click, common interests, goals and so forth, and then you add in shared experiences, lots of communication, and deliberate acts of kindness expressed towards each other. You put time and effort into it. It's like sewing, really. Hundreds of tiny stitches, adding more all the time, to bind the garment ever tighter as one. It's all very fine. It builds over years and years.

And then one day someone comes along out of the blue, someone with whom you've done none of these things, and immediately narrows the gap by half simply by being themselves! What's with that? A “soulmate”? A “treacherous heart?” Or a bit of both?  Let's face it – people today love the idea of soulmates. 

Mrs. Sheepandgoats and I have talked through these things before. We have a good marriage. We don't have a perfect marriage. Are there any of those? We mesh as one on some things. We're quite unlike on others. We've worked through issues, like, really, any other lasting couple I know of.

That's why it irked me a little when I stumbled across that film Before Sunset, though at the same time I liked it a lot because it dealt intelligently with the attraction of soulmates.  It doesn't use the actual word, probably so as not to be assigned the category of “new age babble,” but it sure does explore the concept. It's a talky movie, full of persuasive, unforced, seemingly spontaneous dialogue, most of it filmed in long 6 or 7 minute takes while the two characters, man and woman, are strolling the streets of Paris. These two have reunited after a too-brief chance encounter ten years ago. It seemed, back then, that they were made for each other. They felt that instinctive attraction. They meant to develop and continue the relationship, but alas, circumstances yanked them apart and they did not reconnect until now – ten years later. In the meantime, they've both built lives, taken responsibilities, one of them is married with child.

What I like is that the soulmate notion is explored so well...we feel as they that developing awareness that they've both passed on that one person...each other...with whom they were meant to be. Moreover, the film develops so gradually you don't for a moment find it contrived. Ever so gradually it unfolds that this married fellow isn't happy with how his life has turned out, nor the woman with hers. His marriage is like a prison, he at long last confesses; he's married to a wonderful person, mind you, no one says otherwise, but just the wrong person. And when we learn why the he wrote his best-selling book in the first place....for that's the opening of the film: he's on a book tour promoting it.....you should think Slumdog Millionaire. He wrote the book about her, the only way he could think of to find her again! It's emotionally moving, I admit. That's what I like.

What I don't like is how conventional marriage suffers in comparison. Don't you have to cultivate a marriage? If this guy's marriage is a “prison,” isn't it through this own neglect? He's surely cultivated his career with due diligence, as we are made well aware. Would that he put the same effort into his marriage. But you know how it is with folks today. Relationships must be “pure heart,” no effort required. Thus, we have that stupid 1970 film Love Story, with it's silly “Love means never having to say you're sorry.” Any effort implies that perhaps the relationship is phony to begin with, and is not “meant to be.”
 
Though, having said that, if I recall correctly, this Before Sunset fellow married so as to be a responsible father to the child he had conceived. That's not the best foundation upon which to build, is it? Doesn't it serve to remind that you ought to go conceiving after the stable relationship is established, not before? I tell you, it makes me grateful to be one of Jehovah's Witnesses, a faith which has “held the line” regarding marriage over the past century, while most everyone else has learned to accommodate a new morality....to be satisfied with, not necessarily marriage, but merely a “caring relationship.” Okay, okay, so JWs show the strains of withstanding the new anti-marriage environment. We've even adapted to the times, and in the last few decades have listed a few scenarios....essentially, when you're married to someone who's just plain no good....under which separation is understandable. I mean, there are people with whom you just can't do much. Still, the JW stance is a far cry from most groups, who have thrown the marriage model overboard altogether, and how many of us might not have fared well were it not for that strong framework? For marriage, as practiced in most quarters today, is not thought to be a permanent bond, but simply a manifestation of hopeful intentions. You see your lawyer beforehand to draw up the pre-nups in case it doesn't work out.
 
However, back to the movie, and, of course, "true love" wins out at the end.....doesn't it always with new-age people?....this fellow reunites with his soulmate, presumably leaving his wonderful wife (and child) behind to fend for themselves.... responsibly, of course, with financial support and so forth. And, glory of glories, now that the very cosmos are aligned, doubtless the dumped wife (and child) are now freed to be reunited with their own soulmates! So it's a win-win-(win).
 
Now, what to make over all this?
 
With several billion men and women on the planet....you're not going to meet too many of them before marrying one for yourself, are you? So, after marriage, it would seem there's no way you're not going to run across someone, sooner or later, who appears more compatible than your own spouse! But if you've cultivated, sewn, and built upon your own marriage, shouldn't you be able to withstand a soulmate “assault?” Especially if you put some distance between yourselves. Whereas if you've cultivated, sewn, and built upon every other aspect of your life, while allowing the marriage to become a weed patch, it's likely doomed to extinction. Or you come to regard it as “a prison,” which isn't much better. Build on the marriage, however, and it becomes a great source of happiness, stability, loyalty, and love, even if you scratch your head sometimes over a “what if” soulmate scenario.
 
Besides, I 'm not so sure about “soulmates,” anyway. In the mid 1980's author Richard Bach brought soulmates to the masses. He was already well-known...a somewhat spacey character who authored Jonathan Livingston Seagull. His book stayed on the New York Times bestseller list for years, and spawned a movie scored by Neil Diamond. But then he went off on a well-publicized quest to find the "perfect match," the "one and only" for whom he was "meant to be!" He found her! He married her! His one true soulmate! His disciples swooned with joy and ecstasy! He spun a few books off the experience. He became THE soulmate guru. Years of natural bliss ensued. And then......don't you know....he divorced her! His soulmate!!! They say he received death threats from fans, who felt betrayed and who perhaps began to look apprehensively at their own soulmates. Read up on it here and here, if you like.
 
So it's intriguing, that notion of soulmates, but I hesitate to put too much stock into it.
 
Nonetheless, let's pursue this a bit. Wouldn't it also be the case that atheism, which is all the rage today, increases the appeal of the “soulmate?” I mean, if this life is truly all there is, then time's running short. You don't want to waste your remaining decades with the “wrong” person, and if you should happen to meet that “right” person....well.....better change horses now while there's yet time. And since, just playing the odds, you're always going to meet someone more “right” than the one you have now, just where does it end? Aren't you apt, if you really follow soulmate propaganda, to merely end up with a lifetime of failed relationships?

But with a healthy belief in God, one can take the long-range view. Doesn't the Bible even instruct that this life is not the real life, anyway....that the “real life” doesn't commence until 1000 years into the new system of God's kingdom rule over earth? So I don't know why we can't be patient, and learn to enjoy the trip. It seems sure to be a good destination in store, since God “is opening his hand and satisfying the desire of every living thing.” (Ps 145:16)
 
It's an alluring anomaly, that of soulmates. I think we lose a lot of marriages to it. Not all. Doubtless much divorce is just good ol sleaze and lust, today's world plastering illicit sex all over the place, so that people come to think of nothing else. Thus, we Watchtower readers are always hearing about trading one's relationship with God for “a few moments of pleasure.” But with the ever-increasing awareness of ones own emotional well-being that pop culture insists we all must cultivate, one begins to wonder about marriage itself. I mean, it doesn't, as practiced today, really take into account “soulmates,” does it? And yet soulmates would appear to be a good thing. Or is it all just Richard Bachian new-age drivel?
 
Being 1000 years removed from perfection, it's a little hard to tell. (Rev 20:1-6) We're an awfully self-indulgent people right now, living in an world that insists upon satisfying immediate desires. A “god of their belly” world, where people mind only “things on the earth.” Says Paul:
 
For there are many, I used to mention them often but now I mention them also with weeping, who are walking as the enemies of the torture stake of the Christ, and their finish is destruction, and their god is their belly, and their glory consists in their shame, and they have their minds upon things on the earth.     Phil 3:18-19
 
Perhaps it will be that, upon continual cultivation of one's own marriage over time, our spouse, whoever they are, becomes our full blown soulmate. Or, for all I know, marriage itself may turn out to be primarily a provision to get us through our time of imperfection....an arrangement tailor-made for this system, necessary for now, an acceptable way to interact with the opposite sex and provide a framework for raising the next generation, but due to become obsolete 1000 years into the new system, when the originally intended condition of humankind has been realized. Or maybe not. Dunno. It's a 'wait and see.' But we'd do a lot of changing in 1000 years, even without the burden of human imperfection removed. What might we do when it is removed?
 
You can almost read the possibility in the current wedding vows: “for as long as we both shall live together on earth according to God’s marital arrangement.” While that might imply permanence, doesn't it also allow for the possibility that “God's marital arrangement” might one day, 1000 years from now, change? You must admit, it is one way to resolve that perplexing question of why resurrected ones are said not to marry.
 
But I haven't the foggiest. No one knows. We don't get it all, in this system of things, nor do we even know what the “all” is. But we do know that, regarding God, he is “opening his hand and satisfying the desire of every living thing.” And really, that ought to suffice.

***************

Tom Irregardless and Me  No Fake News but Plenty of Hogwash


Jim and Pam and Ray Goth

 

Deep within the comment section of a certain prior post, whilst I’m being pummeled from the right by religionist whining, and from the left with atheist blather, comes a plea from Ray Goth, an occasional correspondent. I’m to help him salvage his love life!

Hey Tom,

This really has nothing to do with this post, so...yeah...but, I figure you're older and wiser [he got the first one right] than me; and we've had some fairly in-depth conversations, so, why not?

I'm in a pretty messed up situation with this girl. Morally, ethically, whatever...yeah...it's just bad. But, it's so right, and I know that we're really right for one another, in a way that I've never felt in any of my previous relationships. Like, all those cheesy 80's and early 90's romantic comedies...for the rest of my life, if nothing works out with this girl, I'll think to myself "There goes my wife..."

But it's a really messed up situation...What do you do? I mean, I guess I'm asking from the point of view of not having you say "Wait and pray about it," because, I feel like that's where I'm at anyway. Just...how do you go about your life when you know something is so right, that you want to be with someone for the rest of your life and are so completely happy and comfortable with them and being so unsure that it's ever going to work out for entirely external factors?

Thanks,

Ray Goth

I get this kind of request all the time and, frankly, it’s a great distraction from my important work here at the Whitepebble Religious Institute. Moreover, helping out with someone’s relationship difficulties is foreign territory for me since my life with Mrs. Sheepandgoats has never been anything but 24/7 marital bliss. Time was when I would fob a query like this off on an assistant, perhaps Tom Pearlsandswine. But Pearlsandswine recently read an article critical of Charles Russell, and he has defected, saying “how can this be the truth?!” I met him at the Institute door and tried to reason with him but he told me: “Go to hell!”

So now he believes that, too. Very well, Ray. I’ll do what I can in person to help.

You have to pay attention to the chemistry between Jim and Pam of The Office, particularly during seasons one and two. In the first season, Jim pines away every episode for an unavailable Pam. In the second season, it’s exactly the opposite. The writers of that show are not just funny; they are astute, and have a good grasp of how men and women respond to each other.

Season 1: Jim loves Pam. He cutsies up to her all season, horsing around, playing tricks on the co-workers, and so forth. He probably wouldn’t even be at this silly job were it not that he wants to see her. Pam likes him a lot. Does she love him? It sure seems so, but she’s engaged to Roy. Now, Roy is an inconsiderate lout - we all know it. He probably does love her, but he takes her absolutely for granted - one possession among many, and runner-up to drinking buddies, car and sports. How many years has he stretched out this engagement? She deserves better - why did she ever agree to marry this clod? Most likely, (strictly my guess) her dad is just like him. A woman (and vice versa) will often be drawn to someone like her father because that’s the pattern she’s seen all her life - it’s the only type of man she can relate to, warts and all.

Having strung us along all season, Jim tells Pam he loves her madly in the final episode. Well, it’s about time, you weak-kneed idiot! Now, surely, all will be well. But no! Pam is disquieted and confused. She’s not admitted to herself any feelings for Jim. What’s the point, since she’s not available? She’s got to marry Roy.

Season 2: “It’s over,” Jim says to himself. He put his cards on the table. She said no. There’s nothing more to be done, so he leaves town, taking that job in Connecticut. Guys do things like that, especially guys that make inordinate fuss about facts and logic.

Fact: He said he loved her.

Fact: She said no.

Conclusion: Case closed. Leave town.

But - the moron - anyone with the slightest understanding of women knows the case is not closed. Pam simply needs time to adjust to the idea, that’s all. Throughout the second season, she pines away for Jim, who doesn’t have a clue - even though he’s been transferred back to the original office - because, in his mind, the matter is settled. He’s even got himself a new girlfriend - might as well move on in life, he reasons. Meanwhile Roy self-destructs, as we all knew he would.

The point, Ray, that you have to be persistent. And patient. Just because she doesn’t come around immediately doesn’t mean she never will. Men and women process thought and events differently. Not only must you be persistent, you must be willing and able to hear her out, to make her concerns yours. That does not mean you have to fix them! Men are always thinking they have to get in there and fix things, but understanding a situation and her feelings is better than fixing it. Women often want listening more than fixing. Of course, if she’s tied to the railroad tracks with the train approaching, you might want to fix that. But in general, listening is your best move. And whatever you do, don’t show yourself obsessed over sex! Women - for the life of me, I don’t know where they get this from - often think that men “are only after one thing.” If this is truly Miss Right, you must rise above the instinct. Sex does not make faulty relationships well.

Actually, Jehovah’s Witnesses, you likely know, are among that vanishing breed that reserves sex for marriage, and considers it off-limits elsewhere. We needn’t go into that here, only to say that sex relations creates an enormous emotional bond, which muddies the waters as to seeing the other person clearly, and is a source of major frustration if a person is not prepared to follow through with continued commitment. Even if one imagines they are doing it just for sport, that is no guarantee the other thinks that, or that one or both party might change at any time. As the ad used to say: “it’s not nice to fool Mother Nature.”

And, as the geezers from the old country will still say (to their daughters): “why buy the cow when you can have the milk for free?” But this is a vanishing lifestyle these days. Once it was the norm, even if it was not always strictly adhered to. But, in our day, Jehovah’s Witnesses and a handful of others are pretty much the only ones still attempting to live thus.

Now, a couple of caveats to the Jim and Pam scenario:

1.) When I tell you to be persistent, I am taking you at your word (and my general impression) that you are a good guy, an attitudinal cousin of Jim. If you were a lummox like Roy, “be persistent” is the worst advice I could give. Miss Right would justifiably hate me for it. But guys like Roy seldom ask for such advice. They are already convinced they are God’s gift to women, and they are unmercifully persistent, much to any sensible woman’s disgust.

2.) There is a bell curve for men and a bell curve for women. When I say that “women are this” or “men are that,” it is understood that there is great variety in individuals and that they might rest anywhere on their bell curve, even to the point of reversing roles in some areas where both persons sit toward the edges of their overlappinng curves. For the bell curves, while they may overlap some, are not the same. They are different, and it is the averages I have described. There really is a “men from Mars, women from Venus” phenomenon.

3.) Jim and Pam are storybook characters. Yes, the writers are astute, but it is still fiction. Are you really the kind of guy Jim is? Could I even depend upon you to take Miss Right to the Kingdom Hall regularly? (wait….strike that….that’s for another post)

Worrisomely, you admit to having messed up morally, ethically, and whatever. I mean, it’s good you admit to it, but worrisome you have done it. Of course, we are all human, and who hasn’t, to some extent, shot themselves in the foot before? What are we to make of your confession? Typical man! huffs Mrs. Sheepandgoats: he gives no details and just expects you to read his mind! (Note: I am not prying here. cl took a similar statement of mine as an invitation to dump a busload of anti-Russell, anti-NWT tripe on me!) You have messed up. So you have some fixing to do - not of her, but of yourself - and you must persuade her that the fixing is genuine. And it must really be genuine. Are you ready for a permanent relationship? Alas, I have no way of knowing from here.

Relationships take work. Ideally, you start off with someone close enough to your heart that real love can develop. But that will not negate the need for work, self-examination, and ongoing communication to keep the relationship growing and healthy. Unfortunately, we live in a quick gratification society in which, instead of working through problems, people are inclined to conclude that the relationship was “not meant to be” and run off looking for the perfect soul-mate, who they once thought was the person at hand, but no longer do. My guess is that atheists would be especially susceptable to this kind of reasoning, since for them the clock is always ticking, the end draws near, and this life is all there is.

Ray, I hope within this mass of words there is something you can run with. As for me, though ours is a culture obsessed with youth, I’m sort of glad to have reached the age in which personal dramas are all sorted out, in which one has come to know oneself - who he is and who he isn’t - and perhaps offer something to another generation (who won’t listen). Not to say that all things have gone swimmingly in my life; some have, whereas others have sort of fizzled, but the point is that it is done, and one can move on to another stage of life.

It may suffice simply to show Miss Right this post. That may solve all your woes. Or she might break the laptop over your head - it’s a tough prediction from here. Or she might dump you altogether and try to schmooze up to me! But it won’t do her any good. I am married to the gracious, lama-loving, blog-tolerating Mrs. Sheepandgoats. Besides, I am older than your Miss Right by half an ice age.

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Tom Irregardless and Me               No Fake News but Plenty of Hogwash

 

 


Liars, Idiots, and Humble Persons

Back in school days, I took a college course on the Gospels. It wasn’t really my cup of tea, but I was curious and you have to have a number of electives, so you choose the ones least egregious. The instructor was some retired Southern Baptist clergyman. He told how the old boys back in seminary would yuck it up over John‘s gospel. It was the “idiot’s gospel,” they said, since its vocabulary is markedly simpler than anywhere else in the Bible.

But sometimes simple statements have all the more power for their simplicity. We regularly drown our audience in verbosity, the purpose of which is, at least in part, to show off. Check this statement of John’s for power:

If anyone makes the statement: “I love God,” and yet is hating his brother, he is a liar. For he who does not love his brother, whom he has seen, cannot be loving God, whom he has not seen.    1 John 4:20

Upon aligning our lives with God’s purpose, we are judged in large measure on the basis of how we get along with each other. Can’t love your brother? Then don’t even pretend that you love God.

To this end, humility is a good thing. It’s a lubricant of human relations. Act high-handed, even to those whom you have authority over, and you invariably bring out the worst in them. Thus Paul advises us to be “doing nothing out of contentiousness or out of egotism, but with lowliness of mind considering that the others are superior to you.”  (Phil 2:3) Practically speaking, how does that work? How can everyone consider everyone else superior?

For the most part we like to think of ourselves in terms of areas in which we excel. And that’s fine…..good for self-esteem and all, but when looking at others it’s good to think differently. Surely they have some qualities in which they outstrip us thoroughly. We’ve very clever, but they’re really more loving than we are. We’re very loving, but they’re really more courageous than we are. We’re very courageous, but they’re really more generous than we are. And so forth.

Another way to see persons as superior is to focus on what they’re doing with what they have.

Jesus spoke of the fellow with 10 talents (a measure) of silver who produced 10 talents more. And the guy with 5 talents who produced 5 talents more. And then the one oaf who had one talent and didn’t do a thing with it….he buried it. We don’t all start equally; we don’t all have the same abilities, backgrounds, dispositions, genes, upbringings, etc. Therein lies a way in which to look at other people.

If so-and-so is putting out 8 talents, assume he was given 8 talents. The person putting out 4 was given 4. Strive to look at people that way. The only fellow we don’t know about for sure is ourself. We were given 5, but are maybe giving back only 4. There’s room for improvement within ourselves, but to the best of our knowledge…..we‘re not empowered to judge, you know….. the other person is doing as much as they can with what they have.

Two suggestions for viewing the other person as superior, and thus smoothing human relations. It’s all in perception. But that doesn’t make it invalid.

Incidentally, John uses that label “liar” a total of 5 times in his letter. The other four are:

If we make the statement: “We have not sinned,” we are making him a liar, and his word is not in us.    1:10

He that says: “I have come to know him,” and yet is not observing his commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in this [person].    2:4

Who is the liar if it is not the one that denies that Jesus is the Christ? This is the antichrist, the one that denies the Father and the Son.     2:22

The [person] putting his faith in the Son of God has the witness given in his own case. The [person] not having faith in God has made him a liar, because he has not put his faith in the witness given, which God as witness has given concerning his Son.   5:10

Yeah, he spoke simply, John did. And he called a spade a spade.

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Tom Irregardless and Me      No Fake News but Plenty of Hogwash


Show Me Your Oddballs

When Paul arrived in Rome to plead his legal case before Caesar, he first met with Jewish leaders. Probably you’ve heard about me, he said. I’ve been in the news back home [his presence in Jerusalem’s temple had sparked a riot]……

the Jews from Asia on beholding him in the temple began to throw all the crowd into confusion, and they laid their hands upon him, crying out: “Men of Israel, help! This is the man that teaches everybody everywhere against the people and the Law and this place and, what is more, he even brought Greeks into the temple and has defiled this holy place.”…..And the whole city was set in an uproar, and a running together of the people occurred; and they laid hold of Paul and dragged him outside the temple. And immediately the doors were closed. And while they were seeking to kill him, information came up to the commander of the band that all Jerusalem was in confusion; and he at once took soldiers and army officers and ran down to them.     Acts 21:27-32

….I’m also under arrest, which might cause you concern. So I thought I’d stop by and explain myself and answer any questions you may have.

But Rome is a long ways from Jerusalem. The Jews there hadn’t heard a thing about Paul. They sure knew about what he represented, though:

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

That’s about the best Jehovah’s Witnesses can hope for today. It’s a given that the Christian faith will be “everywhere spoken against,” but as for us personally, no letters will have been received nor does anyone have anything wicked to say about us [ideally]. When you strive to apply Bible principles in your life, as JWs do, over time it makes you a better person.

However, people don’t all have the same start in life. Health varies, physical and mental. So does inherited disposition. Some folk are smarter than others. Or calmer. Or sturdier. How you were brought up as a kid may have helped or handicapped you. So you have to look at people in terms of how far they’ve come, not just where they are now.

It’s difficult to quantify the term “oddball” or determine just how pejorative the word should be. Worldwide, prisons are loaded up with murderous and conniving thugs, yet most of them would not be categorized as “oddballs.” Violence and slickness are enshrined values today…..these hapless jailbirds went too far, that’s all, they stepped over the line, but the direction itself is not out of harmony with contemporary values. In contrast, we may have some “oddballs,” yet they wouldn’t harm a fly.

I’ve even heard the charge made that Jehovah’s Witnesses suffer mental illness in greater proportion than general society. But I’m not sure how accurate that is. Isn’t it just a charge that soreheads make who don’t like us ("everywhere spoken against," like they said to Paul)?  Drive by the psych ward….it's always full....they’re not ALL our people in there. Usually no one at all, occasionally one or two. Besides, an astounding percentage of Americans today are on some sort of prescribed antidepression or mood-altering medication. Are they all mentally ill, or have many just been sold a bill of goods by pharmaceutical companies? Moreover, the world today suffers global warming, terrorism, family breakup, moral disintegration, economic abyss, and so forth. Perhaps the one who readily adjusts to these evils is the one with true mental illness! Isn’t there something wrong with a person who can readily take this stuff in stride, as if it were the most normal thing in the world?

A truly close-knit organization will seem to have more oddballs then one in which people stay at arm’s length. It’s for the same reason that our own extended family members seem odder than people in general. They’re not, of course [usually], it’s just that we know them better.  One way to think you’re living amidst cool people is to not get to know them very well.

But I will grant one point. Christ’s message is of love and hospitality. The demeanor of the Christian congregation reflects that attitude. You can expect troubled persons to be drawn to such an environment. After all, how many groups will readily take them into their midsts? But among Christians they find a welcoming home and, over time, become less odd (though not always).

In fact, perhaps we should make that a test for true Christianity. For any group that claims to follow Christ, we should insist on seeing their oddballs. If they don’t have any....say, if all their people are cool, or if their oddballs are not of truly high calibre, well then I guess that group can’t be true Christians, can they? Odd as it may seem, you have to have oddballs if you're really following Christ.

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Tom Irregardless and Me           No Fake News but Plenty of Hogwash


Beijing and Real World Unity

As the $40 billion dollar Beijing Olympics romped through closing ceremonies, NBC commentator Cris Collinsworth gushed with emotion. Two weeks of persons from all corners of the earth mingling, smiling, and learning about each other’s cultures! No battling, save only that of sports, and that done amidst mutual respect and good will. Maybe….maybe….I mean, it’s probably pie-in-the-sky, he conceded, but maybe…..if they could do it for two weeks, then what about three weeks? And then  what about a month? And then a year? And….oh, utopian dream come true!….why should the party ever stop? Can’t we all just get along?

Of course, kids can also behave pretty well for the two weeks prior to Santa's Christmas arrival, or at least, I was generally able to manage it. It is pie-in-the-sky Cris…..but then, he knows it…..everyone was moneyed and pampered and well-fed for those two weeks. Stress-free, really. And weren’t they all pretty upper crust? Excepting perhaps the poor relations of some of the athletes, and these must have seemed to be in material fairyland for those 17 days.

Still, a glimpse of unity is real impressive, even if it’s temporary, even if it’s artificial. It speaks to a yearning deep within most of us. Is not the world breaking into more and more independent factions, all of whom resist cooperation with anybody else? So every once in a while there will be some circumstance to evoke a contrasting taste of unity (sometimes the circumstances are those of tragedy) and people like Cris wax poetic. It always makes me scratch my head because seven million Jehovah’s Witnesses enjoy such unity daily, as a matter of course. In all circumstances, our people of all races, nationalities, socioeconomic classes, and educational levels mingle freely and without strife. Wars, riots, and social upheavals do nothing to mar the peace. We tell people of this unity…doubtless we’ve told Cris…but by and large they want no part of it. Peace and unity….yeah, that’s great, it’s what they want….but not at the price of adopting a screwy religion like Jehovah’s Witnesses!

But it only seems screwy because JWs have renounced attitudes that make unity impossible and embraced those that facilitate it. This the general world has failed to do. Alas, it is not just a few teeny tiny tweaks that need be made so as to achieve unity. No, but a massive overhaul of thinking and behaving is required, and Jehovah’s Witnesses have done that. But that revised viewpoint makes us seem very strange to general society and not especially palatable. Nonetheless, surely it is beliefs that will get to the crux of why people can or cannot get along, and what institution in life is credited with molding a person’s beliefs? Where does morality come from? Surely it’s not found in higher education. If we’re SOBs, going to college usually just makes us smart SOBs, but it’s through spiritual growth that a person’s conduct can change for the better.

The peace and unity typifying Jehovah’s Witnesses is so well attested that even detractors….we have quite a few of them…..don’t deny it. Instead, they sometimes attribute it to (gasp!) LANDRU.

……………………………….................

Captain James T. Kirk and the Star Trek boys came across the Landru clanwhen they were way, way out there, on the very fringe of the galaxy. (Was it only me who was disappointed that, no matter how far they traveled, whatever aliens they found looked just like us, save for raised eyebrows, different skin color, pointy ears, peculiar dress and grooming, etc? Where are the evolutionists when you need them?)  This was a nauseating race of folk with syrupy smiles who carried on trancelike and greeted each other with slogans like May you have peace…Joy to you, friend, and…Landru gives blessings, and so forth. Tranquility prevailed, but none of them could really think for themselves. Kirk couldn’t stand them, but then he found out why they were the way they were. Boss man Landru had brainwashed them and stolen their souls! He’d come across them when their world was about to self-destruct and given them peace though mind-control! Now….all was joy!  And Landru wasn’t even a person, but a machine (that should please the evolutionists) which the aging Landru had designed (that should displease them) to carry on after he died. And above all things, you were not  to step out of line. If you did, why….there were enforcers to zap you into oblivion. The Enterprise crew was so distressed at this society that they violated their Prime Directive [Mind Your Own Business] to short circuit the computer and free the people. Having done so, they cruised on, leaving the citizens raping and pillaging like in the good old days.

Mind controlled zombies! Just like under Landru! That’s why Jehovah’s Witnesses are so peaceful, charge guys like Tom Barfendogsand Tom Sowmire! But their unity is really not so weird or hard to understand. It just seems that way because that quality is unheard of in today’s world.

Jehovah’s Witnesses share a common vision and purpose. Moreover, they defer to God Jehovah as their lawgiver. That’s really all there is to it. They’ve voluntarily made the choice, and so encounter a Christian formula for achieving practical unity. They find the Bible’s way of life to be not oppressive, but rather like a highway with guardrails. Nobody gripes about the guardrails in real traffic….they serve a purpose. Everyone knows that. Moreover, they neither infringe meaningfully on your freedom nor stifle your personality. On the contrary, they help you become all you can be. Just like in chess. Once you decide to abide by the rules you can do amazing things on the board, but you can’t do any of them until you follow how the game is played.

One of the public talk outlines currently in circulation spends considerable time contrasting unified and uniform. They’re not the same. Human organizations tend to squeeze persons into common molds, stifling individuality, often literally slipping them into uniforms. But unity based upon observing Bible standards is different. The apostle Paul likened it to the human body:

For the body, indeed, is not one member, but many. If the foot should say: “Because I am not a hand, I am no part of the body,” it is not for this reason no part of the body. And if the ear should say: “Because I am not an eye, I am no part of the body,” it is not for this reason no part of the body. If the whole body were an eye, where would the [sense of] hearing be? If it were all hearing, where would the smelling be? But now God has set the members in the body, each one of them, just as he pleased. If they were all one member, where would the body be? But now they are many members, yet one body.             1 Cor 12:14-20

Note that the eye, ear, hand, foot, and so forth cooperate seamlessly and yet do so without sacrificing any individuality or uniqueness. They don’t all become the same. Rather, they each bring their own contributions, for the benefit of the entire body. It’s much the same with Jehovah’s Witnesses. They are fully individuals, with unique likes and dislikes, strengths and weaknesses, assets and liabilities. You will like some of them; others may not be your cup of tea, just like anywhere else. In cooperating towards a common theme, they lose none of what makes them unique, but they carry on free from the endless divisiveness that characterizes the world today. It’s a very appealing aspect of JW society which newcomers tend to recognize quickly. Not like Landru at all!

There! Another ill report disposed of! And now….

May…you…have….peace …friend.    Joy….blessings….and tranquility!

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Tom Irregardless and Me     No Fake News but Plenty of Hogwash


Clamdiggers - Didn't Prostitutes Wear Those?

In the early 1960's, if you wanted to be cool, you wore clamdiggers. A blip in the adolescent fashion world - did they last more than a season or two?  They were, nevertheless, a necessary item. See, they weren't shorts. And they weren't full pants. Neither were they jeans. No, they were sort of cotton, light green or blue, if I remember, with a stripe down the side. They reached to the shin and were secured by a rope, not a belt.

I had a pair or two, so everyone thought I was cool, an opinion I could not elicit otherwise. I returned the favor to other clamdigger kids. But then summer vacation came and the family went down to the farm. The dairy farm, where my Pop's "roots" were, way out in God knows where, where they knew nothing of being cool and cared less. My hillbilly uncle takes one look at my clamdiggers and says: "Hey, how come you’re wearing pedal pushers?! Those are girls pants!"

They weren't pedal pushers, for Pete's sake! He couldn't see that? They were cool clamdiggers!

Of course, the fashion/ fad world, relatively speaking, left kids alone back then. Nothing like today where youngsters are targeted by every stylistic hustler.  So parents, as parents have always done, as I did when I was a parent, dig their heels in. No kid of mine going to dress like......whatever the offending style is! And some of them really are offending,  sordid in origin. The really low hanging pants, for example, the pants that hang so low that if you do a crime, the cops will instantly catch you, since you cannot run with these pants, find their inspiration from the prison world, were some guys are frequently called upon to drop their pants for unsavory reasons.

So parents take their stand. And probably over-take it, in some cases. And the young people chafe, as they always have. Like this one, who, after noting a respected sister in another congregation has a body-piercing wants to know:

"could i rightly get pierced? ABSO-FREAKING-LUTELY NOT. god, i can't even wear an anklet without someone going... 'you know, prostitutes wore those.'"

HA! Yeah, it is sorta that way. Don't “look just like the world,” and  don‘t “stumble people,” and "he who is faithful in small things is faithful in large," but you don‘t want to cross this line into an  area where people learn to judge by outward appearance. .

I've been there and I've got kids who've been there. There may be some mild hypocrisy to it, at least in its extremes.

I suppose, if absolutely necessary, a person can always do one or two of those small things and then, if people cluck about it, say yes, they admit it, they‘re not all that great of an example, rather than try to "out-righteous" everyone. People will probably move on. (but, alas, maybe they won't) There is a difference between what is important and what is relatively trivial. Of course, I'm not recommending this, but it's an option, and it beats chafing to such an extent that one leaves the congregation,which has happened, as may happen in this case: “Life is just not worth living under restrictions we all just need to break free!!!!!!!!!!”

Unless you're living with your parents - in that case I guess you really can't, or shouldn't, but that time will pass soon enough, and then you can do it if you want. You may not even care about it by then.

Or maybe you can view things like that woman did in "The Scarlet Letter," Hester Prynne. "Letter" is the story of a woman who’d borne a child out of wedlock, fathered by someone she would not name. Those Puritans made her wear a scarlet letter “A” (standing for adulteress) for the rest of her life. We all had to read that book in high school. Nobody liked it at the time, as with anything that is rammed down your throat. Later, though, some of us came to think it was pretty powerful. Nathanial Hawthorne’s short stories read like the “Twilight Zone” of his time

Said Hawthorne about his heroine Hester Prynne: "People who think the most bold of thoughts have no difficulty conforming to outward norms of society." It fits. (the reverse is also true) Jehovah's Witnesses think some very bold thoughts, decidedly different from that of the pack. Conforming to outward norms is not a big deal for many of them.

Still, older ones know that a lot of things they once insisted upon but which their parents opposed eventually entered (not necessarily for the better) the mainstream. Like rock and roll.

I know it’s only rock and roll
but I like it.
                        
Rolling Stones

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Tom Irregardless and Me     No Fake News but Plenty of Hogwash