Trump, Covid, JW HQ, and ‘Rex’s Gas n Go’

In any crisis situation it is tremendously socially destructive to continually take shots at whoever is taking the lead. Regardless of who is is, where he came from, or how he came to be—there he is and you’re stuck with him. You cannot make things better but you sure can make them worse. Anyone socially responsible will point to the reassuring fact that the Pres generally allows his advisors to talk him out of rash statements. Though, sometimes he fires them. Just ask Rex Tillerson, once CEO of Exxon, now proprietor of ’Rex’s Gas n Go,’ unable to reclaim his top spot since board members were unfavorably influenced by the President‘s tweet that he was ‘dumb as a rock’ and ‘lazy.’
 
Without a fuss, simply in order to keep things moving, The POTUS signed off on legislation that would ensure that the family business doesn’t get a dime. Since the hospitality industry in general IS eligible for help, it seems to me no more than a matter of spite, but he yielded to it on account of the emergency.
 
Trying to shift blame, the mayor of New Orleans say she would have shut down festivities had only Trump warned her. I’m not so sure. Isn’t she one of those who, when he says anything else, claims he is full of you-know-what? Probably she’s just  trying to cover her own rear end—the oldest trick in the book. No, really—the oldest—since Adam’s response to being called for eating from the tree was “the woman you gave me, she gave me the fruit and I ate.” With the only other two living beings against him—three if you count the devil—what chance had a good ol’ boy like he?
 
Meanwhile, Jehovah’s Witnesses just play along. It makes things so much easier. Direction from HQ (in the United States) is that there be no meetings of more than ten persons, less if local officials decree it, but not more if they do not. Additionally, a letter a read, leaving matters to family heads since every circumstance is different, urged members to take most seriously all government suggestions on social distancing—and if one is in a high-risk group, seriously consider the recommendation to stay in place, not venturing outside at all till this blows over. The two Bible verses to serve as theme texts were ‘love you neighbor as yourself’ and ‘show obedience to the superior authorities.’
 
Will it? Probably. At the liquor store—no, not for my daily run, but looking for Memorial wine—I observed of ‘crazy times that no one saw coming’ that it is ‘almost biblical.’ But the young clerk allowed that to be probably an overstatement and I didn’t press he point—he may be right. But it also is not exactly ‘one of those things,’ since no one in 100 years has seen anything like it.
 
Outside among those who you think you be the most responsible, bickering is the order of the day. Look, it is one thing not to board the lifeboat because you think the ship is not going down. It is another to think that it possibly is, but it is STILL more important to apportion blame first.
 
Now that I think of it, it is also very strange, and no, I am not coming out as a true prophet over it, that 100 years exactly separate the capsizing of the two oceanliners so symbolic of their respective ages, AND almost 100 years exactly separate the two latest significant plagues in modern times: the Spanish flu in 1918, and the ‘Chinese’ virus in 2020.
 
JWs have a mindset that enables them to adjust and cope. If the Covid is the Spanish flu updated, well—then an easy explanation present itself. But if it is not—if it is triggering a huge overreaction as some maintain, and the edifice of human financial world should crash—well, how telling that something seemingly so mighty should prove so fragile. Everybody throws in their two cents and you have to ignore the meddlers because there is never an end to them. Otherwise, shelter in place to the degree possible, which is almost 100% for me. An overreaction? Maybe, but if so it is just one more nail in the coffin of those who think human governments have the wisdom to rule
 
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They Didn’t Sensationalize this Virus Even a Little Bit, Much Less Use it to Scare People

There are faithful sisters (and brothers, too) who must cope with opposed, sometimes even apostate, mates. One of those mates posted:

“I told my wife that maybe there will never again be meetings as before. I hope the JWs will wake up and start to examine the scriptures seriously and search what all this could lead to.”

In fact, it looks like meetings are pretty much going on with barely a hiccup. They have simply switched to conference-call software, with telephone tie-in for any not up to speed on this. Rather than take his self-predicted five years—he has styled himself as sort of a prophet, unusual for today’s ‘apostates, who mostly go atheist—to make himself even more insightful and pure than he already is, maybe he should repent if possible and try to get into that new format with his wife rather than being a drag that she must contend with.

Our congregation will start with the conference calls at this mid-week meeting, Zoom in our case. (We will meet in Zoom Rooms—who would have thunk it?) Over the weekend we streamed it from apparently one of the Bethels. I could not help but think how the contents would have been disappointing to any ‘anti-cultist’ because there was not a bit of alarmism and everyone treated the virus threat as just one more run-of-the-mill challenge to adapt to. Referred to several times in comments, it wasn’t even called the ‘Chinese virus.’ They didn’t get into any squabbles as to whether they should be able to describe it that way or not—since it gets some all incensed, they avoided the term, and just said virus or Covid 19 or Corona or whatever. It is so much like this world to ‘taunt’ the other side, deliberately getting them going usually for the sake of put down, if not ridicule, but they didn’t stoop to that for a moment. It almost made me ashamed that I do stoop to it (but probably not ashamed enough to stop), though I am trying to restrain myself, not always easily.

They didn’t sensationalize this virus even a little bit, much less use it to ‘scare’ people. It easily could be used that way. They didn’t. Not even a hint of it. So I will—just in a speculative bent, you understand, no more.

For the longest time we have said our preaching will end someday. What if this turns out to be it? It’s not impossible, though no one suggests it. I expect this to blow over and normal preaching and activities will resume, but there is no reason to accept that as a foregone conclusion. What if the world leaders who just assume you can shut down the entire world economy and start it up again are wrong, and instead another worldwide Great Depression ensues? Then deaths then will dwarf anything that the virus itself brings on, including many a suicide. Will people endure it as resolutely as they did 90 years ago? I wouldn’t hold my breath, not with the belligerence and non-cooperation that defines the overall culture today. And wouldn’t that be a decisive verdict to the facades men have erected? The worldwide financial bedrock system, that everyone depends upon and have taken for granted will endure no matter what—dissolving so easily in the face of what might well be an overreaction to a virus only two or three times more nasty than the regular flu—bad, to be sure, but not nearly as bad as the devastation triggered in the all-out war to contain it, a war that leaders can only hope will be won but do not know. As that mighty structure crumbles, who knows what efforts nations may resort to in their desire to shore it up?

Then all these ones on the outside lambasting the Witness organization every time one of them so much as farts may begin to feel less comfortable. For the Witness brotherhood appears to be holding up pretty well, and it is holding up well independent of material assets. If worse comes to worse, you can run the whole program from a server in Brother Lett’s dorm room. It might even be that conditions could devolve to Acts 2 mode, in which Christians are physically caring for the needs of others. If you have kept yourself plugged into the brotherhood that, with all its flaws, is one run on love, you will be able to weather whatever shaking of the world is going on. Those who were there but have deliberately put themselves outside it and are united in nothing other than finding fault—of them I am not so sure.

A speaker quoted from Numbers 12 recently. “Face to face I speak with [Moses], and not in riddles. Why then, did you not fear to speak against him?” Yes, I know, I know—those taking the lead today are not Moses, but I am not so unfearful to declare they are not filling exactly the modern role that he did the ancient. Yes, they are not Moses, but then Moses was not Moses in the eyes of his critics. What were they murmuring about? His Hittite wives. He really did have Hittite wives. It was not an invalid complaint. God accepted him anyway and struck down those who would rise up against him.

I can easily extrapolate, based on the snarling hate expressed by some for the theocratic organization, and current events showing that opposition shifting into high gear, most notably in Russia—I can envision that attack on the city ‘existing without bars’ and ‘the city that seems open to plunder’—I can easily envision it—not as a slam-dunk gonna-happen-now, but certainly as a possibility. Will religions in general hold onto their own as JWs hold on to theirs? Time will time, but I’m dubious. How many will so easily switch to new methods of keeping in touch? How many are so organized into not just congregations, but groups within congregations, so that no one other than those who willfully keep their distance is overlooked?

Revelation presents scenarios of people ‘warring against God’ and one can’t help but wonder: ‘Who would be stupid enough to do that?’ Now some scenarios emerge. ‘Do not meddle with these men so that you may not be found actually fighters against God,’ Gamaliel said. It was enough to dissuade the Sanhedrin. ‘Forget that!’ enemies say today as they go in for what they imagine is the kill.

The view of the humanists is that human solutions must prevail, and they are livid that any would look to another source. They are livid that any would put their trust in anything else. They attack and put the most ridiculous interpretation on Letts’ words about what doesn’t bother him at all, because they can’t stand what he looks to for salvation. To one of these characters ranting about how Lett uses calamity to ‘exploit’ members with fear so as to keep them in line, I said that ‘the entire premise of the faith is that we are living in the last days of this system of things in which difficult times will prevail. To point to evidence of that does not frighten them; it strengthens them—it validates their faith.’

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Anti-Cultists Jump on the JW Video Encouraging Brothers to Hold Steady During the Virus Time

It took no time at all for the anti-cult crowd to latch on to that recent Stephen Lett video about how the brothers are doing worldwide in the face of Covid 19. (6 have died in Italy). Of course, he made remarks about being ‘deep in the last days’—and they were all over that. He was declared ‘oppontunistic’ and exploitive of current events so as to maintain control over members. Sheesh!

Now, Stephen Lett is a very unusual figure—Witnesses love this guy—but there is no one who over-emotes like this fellow. Sometimes I think a spokesman less ‘polarizing’ in his mannerism would be better suited, but who can say? He shows love for the friends, and maybe that overrides all else. I wrote up a post on him previously.

At any rate, I posted a few tweets of my own to kick back at some of these accusations—if that be what they are. As to the ringleader of the anti-cultists, who does not specialize in Jehovah’s Witnesses but also does not exclude them, I do not treat him as an enemy, and I am neutral as to his overall mission. To the extent he notices me, he doesn’t treat me as an enemy either, and if he does I take no offense. Mutual respect works here.

I posted:

A worldwide plague and concurrent financial collapse JWs do not dismiss as ‘one of those things,’ but their end-time words long precede this. Plus, they are nothing but cooperating with gov’t authorities in trying to contain virus

It is irrelevant to general society if it is accompanied by complete cooperation with govt authorities as they try to contain such, which is the case with JWs. After all, it is not them partying on the Fla beach.....1/2

Also, people cannot be buffeted about by such calamities as world plague & financial collapse and just shrug it off. An ‘end-time’ view is as good as any to cope. Few cooperate with gov’t containment efforts as JWs do. They promptly calledoff their door2door & are not the problem...2/2

The trick is to allow other viewpoints to exist besides your own. Tolerance. JWs in no way undermine govt efforts to control virus. Besides, until all chips in, who are you to say they are wrong? It has to be a ‘wait and see.’

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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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Even the Trite Saying Came Out About How Our Brains Can Use a Good Washing

The post about ‘manipulating’—who does it, to what degree, and whose is the most serious, brought out some predictable comments on the ‘never is heard a discouraging word’ website. ‘Unity of belief means brainwashing?’ one woman said. She thought not. She suggested that convincing followers to drink poisoned Kool Aid so they could all go to heaven was brainwashing. She suggested that flying your hijacked airplane into the Twin Towers so as to achieve the same goal was also brainwashing. She thought withdrawing from society to live in communes was brainwashing, as well. But she thought that if you live, school, and work in the general community, plus directly visit members of that community one-on-one to discuss your hope with them, plainly making connections in the Book that everyone has (or did) but almost nobody understands, that is not brainwashing.

How bad can the ‘manipulation’ be, someone else observed, if it results it results in people unselfish, with good family values, respectful of laws, honest, peaceable, and so forth? Why—if people were manipulated to be like that, you wouldn’t have to fear going out at night, you could lighten up on carrying keys for everything under the sun, and in general enjoy much less stress. The old trite saying even came out that ‘given the state of our brains, they can use a good washing.’ It may be trite, but that does not mean that it is untrue. Witnesses have been nothing but benefited by choosing adherence to God’s direction.

Jehovah’s Witnesses make a mistake should they take to heart the cry of their opposers about ‘manipulation.’ Essentially, the cry is no more than the accusation that Witnesses march to the beat of a different drum, which none of them would deny. The manipulation that is detrimental is in just the opposition direction. “We know that we originate with God,” says John, “but the whole world is lying in the power of the wicked one.” (1 John 5:19) Must “the whole world” not be ‘controlled’ or ‘manipulated’ for that to be the case? “The Devil is misleading the entire inhabited earth,” states Revelation 12:9.

So when the cry is made that “Jehovah’s Witnesses are manipulated!” simply translate it as “Jehovah’s Witnesses believe the Bible” and you will be fine—the two statements are equivalent. Witnesses are no more than the modern counterpart of Joshua, famous for his Declaration of Dependence: “Now if it seems bad to you to serve Jehovah, choose for yourselves today whom you will serve...but as for me and my household, we will serve Jehovah.” (Joshua 24:15)

Furthermore, stick it right back to those who favor independence from God to produce the fine world that their independence has brought them. Don’t settle for shallow answers such as pointing to clever gadgets like the iPad that I am putting to excellent use right now. Don’t settle for the admission that things may be getting worse right now, but the world is about to make a brilliant turnaround. Were that to happen, would it not be akin to a cry of ‘peace and security’ that I have read about somewhere? Learn to apprise the world’s offerings as did the Joker in the art gallery, flipping through paintings and rendering instant judgement: “crap, crap, crap, crap, crap.” In doing so, you will not be far from the Bible’s own conclusion—that there is a generation pure in its own eyes that has not been washed from its own filth. (Proverbs 30:12)

Don’t walk around all glum as though there is no joy to be had in the present life, for that is plainly not so and JWs do not carry on as though it were. But don’t be ashamed to proclaim the real life of 1 Timothy 6:19, and don’t let modern opponents manipulate you into thinking that this life is the real one. No. This one is the irretrievably broken one set to be replaced when God’s kingdom comes.

Tell your critics to produce evidence of the child sexual abuse and human trafficking epidemic that they have stopped dead in its tracks. Ask them even to show how they have reached their laudable goal of no longer objectifying women—perhaps they will point to the Super Bowl halftime show (2020) as Exhibit A. How about the drug abuse problem that they have vanquished, or the homeless problem? “Why is it you Jehovah’s Witnesses always have to insist that things are getting worse?” one brother was asked by a detractor. “What does that view do for you?” He replied that it helped him to explain why the Doomsday Clock was set at 90 seconds to midnight (the latest revision) and not 10:30 AM.

 

 

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Sputnik and 1957: Fearful Sights and from Heaven Great Signs?

For a brief time, Mike Tussin was a roommate of mine. He drove me nuts in taking literally the admonition to read God’s Word “in an undertone day and night.” In time, he learned that he had better not do it in my presence. I logged some of his exploits in No Fake News but Plenty of Hogwash.

He was one of the most squirrelly characters that you will ever hope to meet, and yet—people are a mix—he had the most telling common sense, knack for nailing aspects of human nature (though mixed with an odd naïveté), no fear whatsoever of man, and the ability to simplify the complex. I can hear him now explaining to someone or other just how it worked with the Governing Body of Jehovah’s Witnesses, composed of anointed Christians. This would have been in the early 1970s.

They study and study their Bibles and one of them notices a point and discusses it with the others. They continue to turn it over and over. If their discussion reaches the point of agreement, that idea finds its way into the Watchtower—that’s how God’s people are fed spiritually today.

“Now, in your own personal study, you may have noticed that point, too, maybe even before they did. And if this was Christendom, you’d go out and start your own religion over it.” 

He captured it. I like the idea of ‘They’re not the only people who can think’ as well as the notion of waiting on headship and not running ahead. Present your idea, but if it doesn’t get adopted, don’t lose your cookies over it. The ship cannot sail in every direction at once.

Rumor has it that Sputnik came up for discussion at the Bethel table after 1957, but it was aborted before takeoff. Might that date not be a milestone in the last days stream of time commencing with the outbreak of World War I in 1914–a year marking the first time in history that the entire world went to war at once? Throw in the greatest plague of history, the Spanish flu of 1917, the colossal food shortages that always accompany colossal war, and viola!—one is powerfully reminded of Luke 21:10:

Then he said to them: “Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be great earthquakes, and in one place after another food shortages and pestilences; and there will be fearful sights and from heaven great signs.”

Might 1957 Sputnik mark a mighty exclamation mark in “fearful sights and great signs from heaven?” It certainly scared the bejeebers out of the Americans, and within 3 years President Kennedy declared that the US would not play second fiddle to the Russians. They would join—and so make it—a “space race” by sending a man to the moon.

It is worth a simulated launch, I guess—presenting the idea at Bethel—three GB members batted about the idea, I’m told, but I’m glad that it blew up on the pad. The “fearfulness” would have been lost on most people. Did the race have military implications? Relatively few catch the implications of anything. They take it at face value, as it was popularly repackaged just a few years later:

Space: the final frontier. These are the voyages of the starship Enterprise. Its five-year mission: to explore strange new worlds. To seek out new life and new civilizations. To boldly go where no man has gone before!

On a flight to Damascus, Bill had a vision of such. Some strange fellow that he probably took for an angel presented the idea to him right there as he was riding in the Shatner seat. Like Saul, it disoriented him completely for a time, and the other passengers heard of the disturbance, sure enough, but witnessed nothing themselves.

As a boy, I never once trembled when they launched a rocket from Cape Canaveral. I always took it in the spirit of advancing technology, advancing exploration, and so forth. It’s one of the few major accomplishments of men that has NOT been quickly put to military use—though that could ever change—the way that airplanes were. No sooner had they been invented then they were strafing the towns of Europe and dogfighting each other in the skies.

In contrast to 1957, World War I was not only perceived by just about everyone, but it was instantly perceived as a negative. Probably that’s what the other GB members pointed out, sending the three Bethel “astronauts” pitching the notion hurtling off like Darth Vader in his crippled craft, careening off to the pantry for a donut or two.

Hmm. Maybe an update could incorporate robocalls from the cloud. What year did they begin? Truly, they cause men to raise their faces and curse the heavens. Truly, they too, are instantly perceived as a great evil, as any time-share owner in the Everglades knows.

You know, as I read the 1960 speech, I can see how the idea might come up for discussion at Bethel. Despite my innocuous take expressed about it—a take that has mostly played out (but may someday not)—there certainly were military overtones—overtones that just might make some tremble—in JFKs speech rallying Americans to support a moon launch. Everything must be considered in its own historical context. I’ve added italics to his words that play this way:

“We set sail on this new sea because there is new knowledge to be gained, and new rights to be won, and they must be won and used for the progress of all people. For space science, like nuclear science and all technology, has no conscience of its own. Whether it will become a force for good or ill depends on man, and only if the United States occupies a position of pre-eminence can we help decide whether this new ocean will be a sea of peace or a new terrifying theater of war. I do not say that we should or will go unprotected against the hostile misuse of space any more than we go unprotected against the hostile use of land or sea, but I do say that space can be explored and mastered without feeding the fires of war, without repeating the mistakes that man has made in extending his writ around this globe of ours.

“There is no strife, no prejudice, no national conflict in outer space as yet. Its hazards are hostile to us all. Its conquest deserves the best of all mankind, and its opportunity for peaceful cooperation may never come again. But why, some say, the Moon? Why choose this as our goal? And they may well ask, why climb the highest mountain? Why, 35 years ago, fly the Atlantic? Why does Rice play Texas? 

“We choose to go to the Moon...We choose to go to the Moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard; because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills, because that challenge is one that we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, and one we intend to win, and the others, too.”

Yes, you could read a measure of terror into that speech if you were of a mind to, though I did not as a boy. The President says: “Space can be explored and mastered without feeding the fires of war, without repeating the mistakes that man has made in extending his writ around this globe of ours.”

What are the chances of that happening?

 

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Is it Climate Change or a Massive Scam? Either Way, it Suggests a Presentation.

“Hundreds of thousands of kids marching the streets. Terrorized due to climate change OR terrorized at a massive scam. It is nuts either way. It is child abuse from the older generation either way.”

It is a presentation that I have been playing around with lately. Make the observation, and the scripture you offer to read is Revelation 11:18:

But the nations became wrathful, and your own wrath came, and the appointed time came for the dead to be judged and to reward your slaves the prophets and the holy ones and those fearing your name, the small and the great, and to bring to ruin those ruining the earth.”

It is a tricky verse to read. All you are really looking at is the phrase at the end, that God will “bring to ruin those ruining the earth.” Just paraphrase the lead-in: “It’s of future times. It’s what God plans to do. Some of it takes a bit of explaining, but not that last phrase.

The beauty of the presentation is that you do not have to take a stand on whether is there is global warming or not. People will argue to the end of time about which truth is really truth. That is what people are good at—arguing. You don’t have to go there.

Anytime I read a verse, I explain afterwards in a sentence or two why I read it. It’s rather easy to point to the householders fine home (assuming that it is) and say: “What would you do if you had tenants ruining it? Would you bulldoze the home? Or would you toss the people?”

Ex-Witnesses who really really oppose the preaching work will—I’ve never heard anyone else take this position—assert that what Jehovah’s Witnesses should do is stop just quoting Revelation 11:18 and roll up their sleeves so as to do something now to fix things. Don’t let them get away with it. What are they smoking? Do they think that JWs would weigh in as a united block, tipping the balance in their favor? They would fracture into the two opposing poles, the same as everyone else—climate change advocates versus scam perpetrators—and they would just cancel each other out. Tell the grumbler that since he thinks he is so smart and his ex-brothers are so stupid, that they would probably weigh in mostly on the side opposite his and he would just be shooting himself in the foot. He doesn’t want them to fix anything. He just wants them shedding their unity, joining the fray, and forgetting the ministry.

The climate-change fight illustrates one of the reasons that most who become Witnesses do so in the first place. This world faces any number of paralyzing concerns, and in the face of them it is just that—paralyzed. It is the inevitable upshot of humans trying to rule themselves. Each one has a different idea. No one will yield to another. The children pay the heaviest price of man’s inability to govern. Witnesses have little trouble buying into the premise that God alone, earth and humankind’s Creator, has the wisdom to know just how things ought to be governed.

Someone likened reading the Drudge Report to reading the Book of Revelation. Every new outrageous thing is an endorsement of Ecclesiastes 8:9–“man has dominated man to his injury.” Every new outrageous thing is an endorsement of Jeremiah 10:23–“To earthling man his way does not belong; it doesn’t not belong to man who is walking even to direct his own step). Every new outrageous thing rings out as though a prophesy. Each item is an indictment of what unchecked human wisdom produces.

Will the voice of the children be the ones to decide the future? Or do they simply become the pawns of cynical adults pursuing their own causes? What truly would be the “power of the children” would be if they boycotted school and did not return until there was a resolution—either that climate change was real, necessitating such-an-such policies, or that it was a scam with the goal of promoting political policies, necessitating discarding those policies. Otherwise, it is just a day off school, which many kids will choose for exactly that reason.

A boycott of school would have had even more relevance after the Florida high school shootings in which 17 died and another 17 were injured. There were students saying at the time that they would boycott school. That course does not seem unreasonable to me if adults cannot take action to guarantee that school will not become a shooting gallery with themselves as targets. Instead, “responsible” adults funneled their outrage, fear, and energy into some silly one-day gathering in Washington that provided headlines but was otherwise forgotten the next day.

What if they had boycotted school and not come back until their safety could be assured—is it too much to ask that children should feel safe in school? Two possible courses of action presented themselves at the time. Eliminate guns, at least the rapid fire ones, or arm teachers and/or sentries—there are veterans who would count it a privilege to guard the next generation. That kind of boycott might solve the problem.

Except we all know that it wouldn’t. Even in the most life or death scenario, even in the scenario where backs are to the wall, it will make no difference. Opposing factions will not agree. They never do. Again, it is a large part of why people become Jehovah’s Witnesses in the first place: humans don’t have the wisdom to govern themselves. God does. He created us and the planet. How could he not?

Having razor sharp minds trained at the university or anywhere else is only part of the equation, and it is not the most significant part. If agreement cannot be reached, the razor-sharpness goes to naught. It even becomes a liability, since, in frustration at not being able to persuade the other side, its proponents resort to extreme tactics. Education that does not include the ability to agree is ineffectual education that barely merits the term. It is rather like a team with a formidable offense but absolutely no defense—what good is it? It is another reason that people become Jehovah’s Witnesses. Their formal education may not be as high, but as they take their cue from godly thinking and not that of humans, they can run circles around their “smarter” counterparts because they are able to agree. They are able to cooperate, they know how to yield, and they can coordinate action.

 

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The Man of Lawlessness in the 21st Century

Yes, I know, I know. The application of the Man of Lawlessness is to the emergence of the clergy class in the early centuries. That point was repeated in the discussion of Paul’s second letter to the Thessalonians at the midweek meetings.

But is there anyone other than me that thinks a modern application would be more to the emergence of a modern-day atheist class, today’s apostasy, that turns upon the theocratic organization under the guise of “protecting people” from its “mind-control?”

2 Thessalonians 2:3. Let no one lead you astray in any way, because it will not come unless the apostasy comes first and the man of lawlessness gets revealed, the son of destruction. 

4  He stands in opposition and exalts himself above every so-called god or object of worship, so that he sits down in the temple of God, publicly showing himself to be a god. 

5  Do you not remember that when I was still with you, I used to tell you these things?

6  And now you know what is acting as a restraint, so that he will be revealed in his own due time. 

7  True, the mystery of this lawlessness is already at work, but only until the one who is right now acting as a restraint is out of the way. 

8  Then, indeed, the lawless one will be revealed, whom the Lord Jesus will do away with by the spirit of his mouth and bring to nothing by the manifestation of his presence. 

9  But the lawless one’s presence is by the operation of Satan with every powerful work and lying signs and wonders 

10  and every unrighteous deception for those who are perishing, as a retribution because they did not accept the love of the truth in order that they might be saved. 

11  That is why God lets a deluding influence mislead them so that they may come to believe the lie, 

12  in order that they all may be judged because they did not believe the truth but took pleasure in unrighteousness.

Verse 4 fits an atheistic Man better than it does a clerical Man. Also verses 9 and 10–with the powerful works and wonders being the application of science, which enthralls them to the point that they forget all about God.

It certainly fits better with the line of Paul from the next chapter: 

Finally, brothers, carry on prayer for us, that the word of Jehovah may keep spreading rapidly and being glorified, just as it is with you,  and that we may be rescued from harmful and wicked men, for faith is not a possession of all people. 

It is not those with faith—even a skewed faith that might be ascribed to a clergy class—that most seek to further the “cult” meme today. It is those without faith.

it is all spot-on to identify the Man of Lawlessness with the emerging clergy class in the first century, with all the infusions of Babylonian and Greek philosophies that it embraced and spread. But today that Man is much weakened. He is casually respected as long as he stays in his place, but his place is much reduced. In the old days his place was anywhere he wanted it to be. He limps along trying to insist that he is relevant, and more and more people doubt that is the case.

The verses of 2nd Thessalonians remind me more today of an atheistic Man than of a religious Man.

~~~***~~

There were some who thought I was trying to change space and time, what with a new interpretation of the Man of Lawlessness. I wasn’t. They pointed out that atheism came about because the clergy class of those early centuries wrestled away the wheel but then didn’t drive people anywhere, so that some became disillusioned. 

They are right, of course, as regards the overall picture. 

“Yes, in her [Babylon the Great] was found the blood of prophets and of holy ones and of all those who have been slaughtered on the earth.”  Rev 18:24

“All those who have been slaughtered” is a big category, and it is especially huge if we equate slaughter to death, since no one would have died at all were it not for rebellion back in Eden. Most die, not due to acts of commission, but due to acts of omission. The Man of Lawlessness does not teach biblical truth, and the sheep, as a consequence, are found roaming the hills, and land themselves into all sorts of mischief, atheism being one of those mischiefs. Had they not been force-fed a diet of spiritual junk food, they might not have thrown out the baby with the bathwater, asserting that not only are the doctrines untrue, but also is God.

So the origin of the Man of Lawlessness may be correct, but I am not sure that we keep up with its modern evolutions. Sometimes I think that we do the equivalent of railing about Egypt or Assyria, and don’t grasp that other heads have emerged in the seven-headed wild beast. The “apostates” that cause us trouble today are overwhelmingly atheistic. The media people, be it print or video, who “accuse the brothers day and night before our God” are almost always atheistic, Every general needs to know the enemy. We do ourselves a disservice if we imagine that today’s enemy is religious. It leads to miscalculations as to how to oppose him. Sometimes, for example, we imagine that explaining doctrine clearly will serve to rectify things.

 

The clergy class still rears its ugly sting to inflict vindictive damage on true servants of God if possible (See the Russian affair).”

I don’t think that’s true, and it is a good case in point. Buy too much into this and it would appear that if the clergy were to disappear, attacks against us would be over. In fact, the clergy has practically disappeared from the standpoint of influence, and attacks come upon us full-throttle. 

 Nobody believes me on this. They just assume that the Russian Orthodox Church is behind the ban. They have said that they are not. I am inclined to believe them. To be sure, most there squealed with delight when the ban on Witnesses went into effect, like kids on Christmas morning, but the thinkers among them don’t like it. They think that the same legal reasonings being used against us could also be used against them. They also regard themselves as the true church, and THAT is now illegal under the new laws first applied to Witnesses.

The centerpiece of my “theory” is articles such as this one in the Daily Caller:

We fixate on the Russian Orthodox Church because we have not moved on from the days of the Roman Catholic Church in 1950s Quebec, and 1940s America and Europe, when religion truly did orchestrate the mischief. The anti-cult movement of today that would take out ALL religion starts with the biblical faith that is most clearly “no part of this world,” but it is hardly friendlier with other types. We should know the enemy.

Recently in field service a woman answered my companion’s knock and said she wouldn’t speak with us since she “follows the Word of God.” Thus, she drew “battle lines,” and it was hard to not respond in kind. My companion began to go where we so often go, where I used to go, and a silly little contest begins of searching for chinks in her “armor,” since we are loath to leave an “objection” such as hers unanswered. After all, we also think that we are following the Word of God.

After a time, I interrupted to say: “Look, you believe in God and you think we’re doing it all wrong. We believe in God and we think you’re doing it all wrong. We will steal sheep from your church if we can and you will do the same to us. Let’s just accept that as a given. Either way it is a search for God and a desire to worship him.” With that, I made a point about the “shocking disregard for Jesus” prevalent in the world today, and a brief defused conversation ensued. We parted with her thinking that we were, at least in some respects, on the same page. And we were. We both have a common enemy who is on the ascent.

The Western clergy is licking its wounds these days. It is the atheists who are riding tall. It may be correct to identify the Man of Lawlessness with a religious faction—it certainly was that way in the early centuries—but its latest manifestation is not religious and has no use for God, having elevated other concerns to that status.

 
 

 

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What the #@&! is Next?

A common theme of Witness opposers is that their former religion scared the socks off them. All this teaching about Armageddon—it was just too much, they say. Artwork of the final day caused them nightmares, they say—it should be outlawed. These ones have reassessed their former view that today’s world merits God’s disapproval, instead concluding that it is a nifty place to find fulfillment.

Typifying this view, one website of comparative religion accuses the Watchtower Society of “maintain[ing] a state of high anxiety in their membership by stressing the imminence of the end.” Witnesses would not have phrased things this way.  Instead, they would say that recognition of where we are in the stream of time goes a long way to allay anxiety. It’s as though these web writers think all is just peachy worldwide and everyone would know it were it not for JWs fouling the air with their “high anxiety.”

Well, two can play at that game. Take a look at Newsweek’s cover for March 28, 2011. Emblazoned over a backdrop of a crashing tidal wave was: “Tsunamis, Earthquakes, Nuclear Meltdowns, Revolutions, Economies on the Brink!” No anxiety here, is there? I tell you, for anyone with a memory, it’s absolutely amazing to see such despairing words on the cover of a national magazine. Surely Newsweek, representing the world’s collective wisdom, has some reassuring words for the children? Ah—yes, here it is, just below the list of calamities: They say: “What the #@%! is next?!”

And to think that my 7th grade social studies teacher had us all subscribe to Newsweek, on the premise that we would thereby become well-informed. Was I anticipating future covers of that magazine when I began my World News Oral Report with the words “What the #@%! is next?” and spent the rest of the semester writing “I will not swear” on the chalkboard? As adults of this system have failed the children in so many ways—in morals, in education, in personal and group and financial security—they now fail them even in reassuring rhetoric. “What the #@%! is next?” is the best they can manage. Why not further say: “We haven’t a clue, kids. We’ve loused things up in every way.”

For that matter, why not say “Jehovah’s Witnesses were right?” For Jehovah’s Witnesses have been saying for decades that the present system of things is doomed to extinction, to be replaced by God’s kingdom. Everyone else says or hopes that God will somehow bless the present hash of human governments, so as to collectively bring us all a happy future. Well who doesn’t want a happy future? But a happy future is not something humans can provide. It comes only under God’s kingdom. No human has the slightest role in bringing that kingdom about. God himself does that. But we can position ourselves to benefit from it. That is the long-standing message of Jehovah’s Witnesses, coupled with an invitation to study the Bible itself.

Hey, it’s not been as easy job. “What a bunch of alarmists! We’ve always had bad things happening!” I can hear the refrain now.  Naturally, the Bible reader thinks of 2 Peter 3:3,4: “First off, you need to know that in the last days, mockers are going to have a heyday. Reducing everything to the level of their puny feelings, they’ll mock, ‘So what’s happened to the promise of his Coming? Our ancestors are dead and buried, and everything’s going on just as it has from the first day of creation. Nothing’s changed.’” (the paraphrased Message translation; it may not be literal, but it sure is fresh)

Well, we sure haven’t always had magazine covers like this one of Newsweek’s! It’s as if the editors are collectively throwing up their hands and crying “Sheesh! Everything humans touch turns to s**t!” (Normally I would never use such unsavory words as “s**t,” but I am unwholesomely influenced by Newsweek’s #@%! It really is true that bad associations spoils useful habits.)

The only time I said: “What the #@%! is next?” was when I saw the price of the magazine. $5.95! Weren’t these things under a dollar when I was a kid? With more pages? And better written, not dumbed down like it is today? I know, I know, it’s unfair to be critical of a mass publication for “dumbing down.” The Watchtower is dumbed down, too. We all know it. As the world’s education system steadily deteriorates, so do collective reading skills. If you want to reach a broad audience, simple writing is the way you have to go, however painful it may be for those who cherish reading. But there’s hardly any need to rub it in: Note above the Newsweek banner is the byline for another story: “How Ignorant are You?” Am I being too sensitive when I read between the lines: “We’re not ignorant—you are!”?)

 

To be faithful to the Bible, you need to talk about things not so pleasant. You just do. And destruction of “the ungodly” is not so pleasant. Nobody says otherwise. The only caveat—and it’s a significant one—is that a person can be saved from it by adhering to divine direction. Isn’t that, when push comes to shove, a good thing?

Now: see if you can spot the spurious words I’ve cleverly inserted in the following passage: Revelation 6:12-17 (Message Translation, again) in which John prophesies

“…a bone-jarring earthquake, sun turned black as ink, moon all bloody, stars falling out of the sky like figs shaken from a tree in a high wind, sky snapped shut like a book, islands and mountains sliding this way and that. And then pandemonium, everyone and his dog running for cover—kings, princes, generals, rich and strong, along with every commoner, slave or free. They hid in mountain caves and rocky dens, calling out to mountains and rocks, “What the #@%! is next?”

There. Did you spot it? What they actually cry is “Refuge! Hide us from the One Seated on the Throne and the wrath of the Lamb! The great Day of their wrath has come—who can stand it.” But I try to keep up with contemporary jargon.

Or, what about the words of Jesus:

“The time is coming when they’ll say, ‘Lucky the women who never conceived! Lucky the wombs that never gave birth! Lucky the breasts that never gave milk!’ Then they’ll start calling to the mountains, “What the #@%! is next?”  Luke 23:29-30

Nope. What they actually call to the mountains is “Fall down on us! Cover us up!”

Witnesses take a lot of flak for adhering to the Bible’s teaching of Armageddon, great tribulation, destruction of the wicked, paradise earth under Kingdom reign, and so forth. Jehovah’s Witnesses are a serious religion that doesn’t hedge its bets. They are not all over the board. They unabashedly hold to key Bible tenets, no matter if those find scorn elsewhere. For, to be sure, if one doesn’t think that God will call “the ungodly” to account, if one doesn’t think that God will one day intervene dramatically in world events, then Jehovah’s Witnesses and all that they represent are ridiculous, a perfect target for derision. It all depends upon where one is coming from.

Pertaining to Armageddon, can one be some distance from theocratic provisions or not one inch? Dunno. Witness HQ clearly weighs in on the side of caution. Why not stay in a known place of safety and take part in a work in which it is good to take part in any event, simply on the basis of Revelation 4:11? “You are worthy, Jehovah, even our God, to receive the glory and the honor and the power, because you created all things, and because of your will they existed and were created.” God created all things. The massive experiment of human self-rule is turning out exactly as he said it would. He deserves our service. (April 2011)

From the book TrueTom vs the Apostates!

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Nautical Bookends of Our Age

Sometimes the spirit of an entire age is captured in a single event. Even better, sometimes the spirit of an entire age is bookended by two separate events, one defining the “before,” the other the “after.” Whenever this happens, it is a fine thing. It saves a lot of work. You don’t have to read up on the entire age. Just get your head around the two bookend events and you’re home free. Like Morgan Freeman said to Miss Daisy, “We don’t have to worry about what’s in the middle?” No. We don’t.

We have exactly this situation today with regard to the Costa Concordia, that luxury cruise liner that capsized January [2012] off the Italian coast. It’s a nautical bookend. It’s complement, the Titanic, also capsized, almost exactly a century ago, in 1912. The age thus bookended is the “last days” that Jehovah’s Witnesses proclaim. Current view traces it to 1914, and it is near completion, since we are “right around the corner” from the end of this system of things—a most elusive corner indeed. One remembers that year was the year of World War I, and it marks the first time that the entire world went to war concurrently. It is seen as setting off with a bang the events described in Luke 21:10, events that have cascaded to our day.

 If ever there were contrasting events to illustrate the fulfillment of 2 Timothy 3:1-5, they are to be found in these behemoth boats. Those verses read: “But know this, that in the last days critical times hard to deal with will be here. For men will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, self-assuming, haughty, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, disloyal, having no natural affection, not open to any agreement, slanderers, without self-control, fierce, without love of goodness, betrayers, headstrong, puffed up [with pride], lovers of pleasures rather than lovers of God, having a form of godly devotion but proving false to its power; and from these turn away.”

In other words, the verses point to a general deterioration of human character. People have “gotten worse” during the last days. As Pop, who is not a Witness and has little use for them, readily asserts: the world is going “to hell in a handbasket.” But this is not necessarily easy to prove to one who thinks otherwise. It is subjective. If you show the verses to someone who doesn’t agree that they apply more today than at other times, there is not much you can do about it. To some extent, it depends upon where you look. If you think in terms of technology, for instance, the notion of things worsening is patently untrue. One is reminded of that line from the 1968 book The Truth that Leads to Eternal Life: “True, there has been progress in a materialistic way. But is it really progress when men send rockets to the moon, and yet cannot live together in peace on earth?” Some people think it is.

Still, the best chance we have of illustrating 2 Timothy 3:1-5 lies in contrasting similar events occurring in different time frames—events such as ship sinkings. Consider: After the Titanic struck an iceberg back in 1912, the captain expedited rescue efforts, then went down with his ship. After the Costa Concordia struck a rock in modern 2012, the captain, seen beforehand fraternizing with women in the bar, was among the first to jump ship. Titanic’s crew, in 1912, urgently worked to shepherd passengers to lifeboats. Concordia’s crew, in 2012, told them to go back to their rooms...surely this crisis would pass. With the 1912 Titanic, it was “women and children first.” With the 2012 Concordia it was “every person for himself,” said one of the survivors.

In short, all that was noble and self-sacrificing is replaced today with all that is cowardly and self-serving. That is the relevance of 2 Timothy 3:1-5. Tell that to those fatheads who cannot see any change in people. Even the big liners themselves seem to fulfill 2 Timothy 3:1-5. Titanic, in 1912, went down majestically, gracefully, symmetrically. Concordia, in 2012, rolled over on its side like a huge fat pig and just lay there lolling in the sun, like our overstuffed cat does in hopes someone will scratch its belly. People of the last days can’t even sink a ship properly.

 

Okay, okay, so it doesn’t prove anything, comparing the two sunken ships. It is pure symbolism. I understand that. But as symbolism goes, it doesn’t get any better. I don’t issue many prophesies, being a modest guy, but I’m comfortable with this one: James Cameron will never make a film entitled Concordia. Nor will I quickly modify my answer to some smart-aleck who challenged me: “Why do you have to think that things are getting worse? What does that view do for you?”

It helps me to explain why the Doomsday Clock is set at four minutes to midnight and not 10:30 AM. (January 2012)

From the book TrueTom vs the Apostates!

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