Corona as of March 8th

It is important in this new age of Corona not to touch your face, and that’s not easy to do—dozens of times per day most of us do it. There is a clip somewhere of officials doing it even as they caution others not to. Trump quipped that he “hasn’t touched my face in weeks; I miss it,” and yet afterwards—why, there he is touching his face.

I started the following as a joke, but the more I thought about it, the more I began to think that it’s not so stupid after all:

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You can avoid touching your face by wearing a mask—like a Halloween mask. What sort of a mask will you wear? I will walk about dressed as a teddy bear. How about you? And with that I posted an old picture of my brother dressed up for Halloween. (and I said this is my brother WITHOUT his mask because he had just beaten me in Scrabble) 

What about a Guy Fawkes mask?

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“Hey, great mask! You must be deeply concerned about injustice and have the courage to tackle it head-on even if it costs you your life! How admirable!!”

“Naw, I’m just trying not to touch my face on account of the Corona virus.”

Our people have shown themselves very proactive in this. A letter from HQ was read Thursday. It started out with how no one wants to start a panic, but for as long as the Coronavirus remains a threat, the group whose turn it is to clean the Kingdom Hall will also disinfect commonly touched surfaces, including seat railings, both before and after the meeting. Keep “physical greetings simple by avoiding hugs, kisses and handshakes, so please do not be offended if” someone declines normal contact. The verse was read about...

“Let each one keep seeking, not his own advantage, but that of the other person.” (1 Corinthians 10:24)

Also the one about...

“The shrewd one sees the danger and conceals himself,But the inexperienced keep right on going and suffer the consequences.” (Proverbs 22:3)

That one seems like it is read every time you turn around these days. Lots of things to be alert about, apparently.

Stay home if you’re sick—that was part of the letter, too. You can listen in on a telephone tie-in. Word has it that elders are prepared to tell ones that appear sick to go home. ‘Ask’ actually, not ‘tell,’ but they have a way of making an ask seem like a tell.

It is not hard—one just must remember to do certain things. It is greatly aided by people who are not quarrelsome by nature—their application of Bible principles makes them that way—and at the Hall today I was surprised at how quickly everyone took to the new routine. Jehovah’s Witnesses can be downright absurd with the amount of handshaking they do, and it was all replaced with elbow bumps & so forth. Someone forgot and approached me with hand outstretched. “What! Are you trying to get me killed?” I said. It’s an air of good-natured joking.

Things are changing fast. Two weeks ago for an upcoming Chinese circuit assembly, it was said not to wear masks so as not to stigmatize Chinese attendees. This week the entire assembly was cancelled. This morning I heard that all field service has been cancelled in New York City—people can do phone or letter writing but everything else is on hold. This may have to do with the fact that the governor declared a state of emergency the day before.

The morning before, at the meeting for field service, the one conducting said how some might not want to speak with us (more than usual) because of Corona. “Whatever you do,” was my comment, “don’t treat it as an ‘objection’ to ‘overcome.’ Corona may blow over or may deepen—we just don’t know yet. People do whatever they think they should—cut them slack for it.”

It’s not particularly scary for Witnesses because we have long had our heads geared up for this kind of thing. Even so, no one would say it’s a walk in the park. But you can’t help but think of people not so mentally prepared, those with families, especially. A website Drudge linked to a couple of weeks ago listed “ten plagues hitting the planet simultaneously.” It makes you think of those verses in Luke on how

people will become faint out of fear and expectation of the things coming upon the inhabited earth...but as these things start to occur, stand up straight and lift up your heads, because your deliverance is getting near.” (Luke 21:26-28)

I used to read that verse a lot, pointing to how the same things mean different things to different people so why not try to get your heads around the the viewpoint of ones who lift their heads up? But then HQ said it doesn’t really apply that way—it is yet for future events—but I can still say ‘it reminds me of’ can’t I? Is someone going to come along and say it doesn’t?

[Edit] Within 4-5 days of this post, public health officials were calling for the curtailing of all gatherings of over 50 people. Accordingly, all full congregation meetings as well as the public field ministry has been cancelled until further notice.]

 

 

 

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“What the Society is Trying to Tell Us Is.....”

I could be in serious trouble. They just finished remodeling the Kingdom Hall, and there are two quarter walls, one left of stage and one right. Gulp. Will the brother start entering and exiting the platform via those quarter walls, just like I saw them do in the other congregation?

The circuit overseer was visiting, so I started pumping him on it. “‘Don’t let the brothers walk behind the quarter wall to go on-stage,” I told him. I was not too insistent—one mustn’t overdo it on these things. I mean, I don’t want to be the brother who meets him in the parking lot to tell him that all the brothers are no good, and they aren’t loving at all, and they are deadwood in the ministry, and come to think of it, they don’t even like God, and so he, the circuit overseer, has a lot of work to do here, and he says “Yeah, I think I’ve found the problem already.”

I did about as much as I could. He seemed to be sympathetic. “Yeah, I know,” he said. “You see them, then you don’t as they walk behind the wall, and then you do as they emerge from the other side—it IS a little funny.” So I gave it a good try. But he was just biding his time to get away from me, I suspect. He is not going to do anything at all, I don’t think, other than tell the brothers to go on the platform any way they like when it is their turn to speak. What does he care how they do it? It doesn’t bother HIM one way of the other. It’s ME it’s driving nuts, and then he will say “Well, you were mostly there already.”

I have always tried to stack the deck. Those elders way back in the day would have a meeting coming up and I would pump various ones separately over a multitude of picayune things, so that one of them said at their meeting (as I was told later) “Wait a minute. Who’s running this congregation? You, me, or Tom Harley?”

But then, visiting another Kingdom Hall, I saw something that got me going even more, if that is possible. I saw, yes—I witnessed it while visiting another congregation, brothers clapping after each and every exchange that took place up front, whether live or on video, just the way I had heard someone complaining about before, and I thought he was making it up. Suddenly he becomes as a prophet from on high. That too, drove me nuts!—all that clapping. You don’t clap over every single skit of one sister offering a tract to another, who, of course accepts it a just little too eagerly, it seems to me, from what I recall in the actual ministry. You clap spontaneously when something really knocks your socks off. You clap when a child or even anyone gives his or her first talk in the school. You clap when the spirit genuinely moves you, for anything. You clap after the public talk, even giving the speaker the benefit of the doubt if it wasn’t that—um—good. But you don’t clap for every minor exchange of trivial words! It only cheapens the times that there really is something to clap for.

I know where this comes from, just like I know where walking behind the quarter walls came from. Some pious brother doubtless wanted to “show appreciation” for everything under the sun and so started up the habit, thinking he was setting a ‘good example’ and that others would follow, and those others, not wanting to seem unappreciative, did follow, even some half-heartedly. 

However, it is possible that it is not the pious brother at all who is responsible, but rather the one who is too swayed by the new-agey mantra that you have to lavish praise on children non-stop just for showing up, because you will crush their self-esteem if you don’t do it, and so the brothers clap if another so much as clears his throat. I mean, don’t go pinning this one on “theocracy,”—it could just as well be that trendy “world” that he is so enamored with.

This will not the easiest habit to break. I mean, you can hardly sit there and scowl, so as to provide the counter-example. The best strategy is just to contain it, as you might strive to do with a measles outbreak. Don’t send speakers to that congregation for awhile, until the illness passes. I doubt I can even enlist the circuit overseer in any serious capacity on this one. He will probably just roll his eyes when I meet him about it in the parking lot. C’mon, DO IT RIGHT, BROTHERS!

This will not readily yield to change, if history is any guide. About the best I can hope for is some circuit overseer acting similarly as he did with another “crisis.” During a transitional lull from one main point to another, he will say that the expression “Now let us turn the platform over to the next speaker” is not optimal because it evokes an image of turning the platform over. With that, I eventually heard the expression less, though it still pops up from time to time.

It is not easy to correct anyone on anything, especially on a triviality, though occasionally people jump instantly on the trivialities but ignore the things of substance. Finding the right degree of emphasis is tough. One recipient will say “Thanks for the new RULE!” and his companion will say “Huh? Did you say something.”

There was a certain sister ages ago who enjoyed explaining things to others and eventually left the truth because not enough people listened to her. She had even begun to partake of the emblems. “What the Society is trying to tell us is....” she would often employ as a preamble. She is the inspiration (in this one regard only) for John Wheatandweeds, from my book ‘Tom Irregardless and Me,’ who will not let the brothers go in field service in the morning because he insists as the conductor of rattling on and on about the day’s text, and he resists counsel  to shorten that part—eventually to as little as 7 minutes— and he talks at such length, drawing out comments, that eventually nobody is in the mood to go out anymore. “What the Society is trying to tell us...” he responds to every bit of counsel on the subject. Finally, the Society interrupts him mid-sentence to say “We’re not trying to tell you anything—we’re telling you,” after which he finally obliges by getting everyone out the door in reasonably short order—not seven minutes, but neither seven years—however he makes up for it by chatting away in the parking lot.

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photo by iowademocrats.org

 

 

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Make those Tent Pins Strong

“Make the place of your tent more spacious.

Stretch out the tent cloths of your grand tabernacle.

Do not hold back, lengthen your tent cords,

And make your tent pins strong.”……Isaiah 54:2

 

Jehovah’s Witnesses have proved in recent years that they can put up and take down Kingdom Halls almost as readily as non-Witnesses can put up or take down tents.  So that’s what they are doing.

Back in the day, congregations expanded like independent churches. When members grew in numbers enough in this or that locality, they would build their own Kingdom Hall. But it wasn’t the most efficient way. Some Halls became overcrowded, some remained lightly used or even shrunk.

Since Kingdom Halls all belong to the same God who uses the same organization, these days there is a reshuffling. Some Kingdom Halls are shut down, the members moved to a nearby Hall, so that others can be built where there is more of a need. Thereby dedicated funds are not squandered, but used efficiency.

Sometimes that area of special need is here in the U.S. Other times it is overseas. Jehovah’s Witnesses have a worldwide organization and think nothing of transferring funds where there is the greatest need.

An LDC brother and his wife, who oversee such things, make their home in our congregation. “Don’t cross him,” I tell everybody. “If you do, he will shut down your Kingdom Hall and make you go to another one.”

I was worried about closing any Kingdom Halls. What if you need them later on?  ‘Then they’ll just build another one, like putting up a new tent,’ is of course the answer.

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Tom Irregardless and Me       No Fake News but Plenty of Hogwash

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