If You Suspect That You Are Anointed, You’re Not - and Who Were the Gnostics?

At the meeting yesterday I commented that, with a certain history of anxiety issues in the control tower, if I were to start partaking of the emblems, I would expect people to say, ‘Well, he is a little that way.’ I mean, I wouldn’t expect people to just lap it up. Fortunately, there is no way on God’s green earth that I am ever going to be one of the anointed because it is on God’s green earth that I savor living forever and can’t begin to imagine whatever I would do in the heavenly realm.

Another remark was given of someone from his Bethel days, awoken by a roommate who said he thought he might be anointed. ‘If you only think it, you’re not. Go back to sleep’ was the reply.

I also said that, as a practical matter, I never ever bring the subject of anointed up in the ministry, since it involves so very few people. To do so seems like being one of those policy wonks eternally obsessed over what is going on in Washington, something that they at best have 1/200,000,000 input. Why go there?

Also, though 90% of Bart Ehrman’s remarks are infuriating, because while displaying impressive command of background facts, certain basic concepts seem completely foreign to him (such as ‘worshipping God’)—still, here and there one can spot an insight. One of them was his definition of Gnostics. Now, I had heard of the term, and I knew it had to do with ‘knowledge’ but I didn’t know what sort of knowledge and I had made up for that lack by assuming wrong, thinking of what we today call knowledge—you know, the stuff you acquire in school. Instead, the ‘knowledge’ that Gnostics had was that they didn’t belong in this world—it just didn’t feel right to them—they belonged somewhere else, and if you shared this similar ‘knowledge,’ you were one of them. Tell me if this doesn’t describe almost exactly ones who claim, rightly or wrongly, that they are anointed today.

Too, Bart points out that the Gnostics were not a separate Christian community but they were interspersed in existing congregations, again like anointed today. Of course, this does a little bit fly in the face of the current WT view that all Christians back then were anointed. But it has already been pointed out that the early Christian community very soon exceeded 144K, so that view is not exactly airtight. One easy way to resolve matters is to hold that the heavenly calling was indeed the priority back then, just after the Christ instituted the congregation, but the message still attracted people who sensed that it was the latest worship development from God, that this is where they belonged, and that they would therefore benefit even if every single little thing didn’t dovetail.

Defending Jehovah’s Witnesses with style from attacks... in Russia, with the ebook ‘Dear Mr. Putin - Jehovah’s Witnesses Write Russia’ (free).... and in the West, with the ebook ‘TrueTom vs the Apostates!’ (free)

Farmer Mort Gives the Talk: ‘A Cleansed Earth—Will You Live to See It?’

We had Farmer Mort over to the house following his public talk. Before eating, we made him take the City Slicker’s Quiz:

If you want to eat, identify all eight items:

1. Credit card

2. Necktie

3. Shoe polish

4. Pictures of Wegmans (where food comes from)
5. Roll of toilet paper (replaces Sears catalog)
6. Kitchen faucet (where water comes from)
7. Refrigerator (where cold comes from)
8. Stove (where fire comes from)

We did this as payback because Farmer Mort had made everyone take the Farmer’s Quiz at that Grad Party on the Farm. “Identify all 5 items before eating,” it said, and nobody was able to do it—Come on! he had bags of individual seeds in there—soybean, corn, wheat—how’s anybody going to know that? In the end, he relaxed the requirement so that guests would not starve to death.

Farmer Mort has farming on the brain. He has been known to give people stalks of wheat, bagged and tied up with a bow, labeled “pre-donuts.” He puts it all to good use when his turn rolls around for public speaking—the title of his talk was: “The Earth Remains Forever.”

He pulled a plastic bag of seeds from the paper bag he had brought up front with him. It contained wheat seeds. If you drop one on the ground in late summer or autumn, chances are pretty good that you will get a wheat stalk next year that includes 125 of such seeds. “That’s not a bad deal,” he pointed out—125 for 1—and man has not been able to ruin that—yet—but if for some reason that deal is not good enough for you and you want a better one.... He pulled out a bag of soybeans, for which the ratio is 210 to 1. If even that deal is not good enough for you....he pulled out a bag of corn seeds—500-700 to one, he pointed out, once again with the reminder that man has not been able to ruin that....yet.

Then he branched off into how there is the UCS today, the Union of Concerned Scientists, raising the alarm of environmental abuses worldwide. And yet—if you just leave the earth alone, it is pretty good at healing itself. Pour oil on man-made concrete and it is there for a long while. Pour it on grass—(“Don’t do this!” he forbade everyone) and in short order the grass is lush and green again. Visit that abandoned factory after a few decades and you will say: “THAT was the parking lot?” Earth has reclaimed it. The earth has enormous powers of recovery, Farmer Mort pointed out, pretty much like we do—cut your finger and there is very little that you must do to it—it heals itself.

Then he turned his attention to wrappers that clog the landfills. “I sort of like the wrappers Jehovah made,” he said, as he pulled out a banana from his shopping bag. This wrapper—he pulled out one from a candy bar—takes 50 years to decompose, but that of the banana? Forget and leave a banana on the dashboard of your car—it goes black in a few days—toss it and, as to the contents within—you plow it back into banana bread. He likes other wrappers as well—wrappers Jehovah made—in each case superior to those of man—the husks of corn, the shell of nuts, the skin of fruits—that wrapper you can even eat.

There is a spiritual crisis today, he observed as his talk unfolded, manifested in the shameful manner that humans treat the earth. He quoted Deuteronomy 32:5, about a “crooked generation” that is “not his children”—the “defect is their own” as they “act corruptly.” It will not always be. Farmer Mort read Psalm 37:29: “The righteous themselves will possess the earth, and they will reside forever upon it.”

(Incredibly, Russian authorities have declared this specific verse extremist—because it furthers the “propaganda of inferiority based on religious identity”—do they really wish to stick up for the “unrighteous” over there?)

What about when you take your family for an outing at the park? Farmer Mort presented the picture for us, and you see the sign of all the things you can’t do: no driving on the grass, no animals, no alcohol, no loud music, and so forth. “Well....I guess,” you say and as you enjoy that grass so lush that you don’t need shoes or socks, and—what is that delicious smell wafting in the air—honeysuckle? clover fields, linden trees?—and then it is all spoiled by the thunderous sound of choppers that spin out on the grass. Kegs are pulled out of the pickup truck. Raucous music blares from the speakers and...was that a shotgun blast? “Come on, kids. Time to go. It’s not safe.”

Rebels have destroyed the beautiful park—they always do—rebels who cannot obey the rules—but God will get rid on the rebels. Revisiting the promise expressed at Psalm 37:29 that everyone can read except for those in Russia, Farmer Mort read Proverbs 2:21-22: “For the upright are the ones that will reside in the earth, and the blameless are the ones that will be left over in it. As regards the wicked, they will be cut off from the very earth; and as for the treacherous, they will be torn away from it.” Farmer Mort loves the earth and he looks forward to that time.

Furthermore, “you will see it” when it happens. “Hope in Jehovah and keep his way,” says Psalm 37:24, “and he will exalt you to take possession of the earth. When the wicked ones are cut off, you will see it” Humans cleanse things on earth with “Arm and Hammer,” he said (did he pull out a box of that, too?), “but Jehovah has something called “Armageddon” that will get the job done much more thoroughly and, most important of all, lastingly.

What is it with this guy? Why did I enjoy this talk so much? Is it that I could picture Jesus doing it this way—spinning parables all having to do with rural life that his listeners could get their heads (and thereby hearts) around? Was it Farmer Mort’s low-key but indestructible enthusiasm —he retained the excitement he had from Day One upon discovering God’s purpose.

It had created shock waves in the community when his family embraced Jehovah’s Witnesses. Staunch church members—known and highly regarded by everyone—there is even a street named after Mort’s forefather—they had not been unhappy. His wife in particular had been fully involved in her traditions of the rural community. Only one thing nagged at her—a hunger to understand the Bible—a hunger that she was unable to satisfy anywhere but in just one place—and she resisted that conclusion for the longest time—how could it be Jehovah’s Witnesses, who were so ill-regarded? As for Farmer Mort, he was always busy out hauling the hay—“We used to plow all this land for the Temeris family,” he told me as we drove about in field service. When he saw his wife accept Bible teachings from the Witnesses, he finally took notice, and embraced it in a heartbeat, blanketing his community with such zeal that some thought he had taken leave of his senses. It is a perception that may remain to this day—“a prophet is not unhonored except in his home territory,” Jesus stated at Matthew 13:57—and when Farmer Mort and I worked in service in our territory, he exclaimed: “Wow! People are actually listening to me! I may have to start making sense!”

The joyful task of those post-Armageddon will be to transform the abused earth into paradise, he continued in his talk. They will have plenty of company, “Even though he dies he will come to life,” Farmer Mort quoted Jesus at John 11:25. He referred to God’s mandate—“being a plowboy, I have to look up words like ‘mandate,’” he said, and enthused over how “God is not a mere man who tells lies”—and how ademic conditions will cover the entire globe. Disobedience may work in the short run, he said, but not in the long run.

In the resurrection, people will appear who will say: “I was a Danite...I was a Ruebenite...I was a Simeonite.” Farmer Mort suggested what his reply to them might be: “Um...we really didn’t do it that way.” Did he really suggest that he might say: “I was a Trivialite?”

“Oh, and this one is worth getting out your glasses for” (which he did), as he read a quote from a 30-year old Watchtower publication—never repeated that I know of:

To all eternity our earth will bear a distinction that no other planet throughout endless space will enjoy, though the earth may not be the only planet that will ever be inhabited.[underlining mine] Uniquely it will be where Jehovah has indisputably vindicated his universal sovereignty, establishing an eternal and universal legal precedent. It will be the only planet on which Jehovah of armies will have fought “the war of the great day of God the Almighty.” It will be the only planet to which God sent his dearest Son to become a man and die in order to recover the planet’s inhabitants from sin and death. It will be the only planet from which Jehovah will have taken 144,000 of its inhabitants to be “heirs indeed of God, but joint heirs with Christ.”

He was like a little kid on Christmas morning, Farmer Mort was. Later on he identified almost all of the items on my City Slicker’s Quiz. I was bummed. I had hoped to flummox him like he had flummoxed us with his Farmer’s Quiz. He missed only #6—the kitchen faucet—which he incorrectly identified as a grab bar for use in the event of an earthquake. I think he was just pulling my leg. I think he really knew what it was. He just saw my spirits sink as he effortlessly ticked off the correct answers and threw me that one as a bone.

Defending Jehovah’s Witnesses with style from attacks... in Russia, with the ebook ‘Dear Mr. Putin - Jehovah’s Witnesses Write Russia’ (free).... and in the West, with the ebook ‘TrueTom vs the Apostates!’ (free)

My Favorite Tweet of the Day—From Richard Dawkins? Really?

Tweeted Richard Dawkins one fine day (11/13/19): “You could easily spot any Religion of Peace. Its extremist members would be extremely peaceful” 

Can it be? Is Richard Dawkins referring to Jehovah’s Witnesses—universally known for being “extremely peaceful” yet declared “extremists” in Russia? If so, I will take back the relatively few bad things I have said about him.

I have not really said THAT many bad things about him. At times, I have even been complimentary. When he blessed the atheist buses rolling out in London, I said that he raised a good point—his was a reaction to existing “hellfire’ buses, with advertising from the church. He did wuss-out, though, with a: “There probably is no God.” Probably?

It wasn’t until I began following him on Twitter, though, that I noticed how breathtakingly contemptuous he was toward anyone who disagreed with him—not merely about God, but also on geopolitical things—and then I did say a few mean things. For example, I said of him that “he does not suffer fools gladly, and a fool is anyone who disagrees with him.”

However, he has largely repented over this online meanness. I’ve noticed it over the months. He has not banished it entirely, but it is much less prevalent, so that I regret that I ever said what I did.

The temptation to be disdainful of opponents is well-nigh irresistible, particularly if you think that they are willfully choosing ignorance. I have (more or less) mastered the temptation, of course, but I have a source of effective and unending counsel that he does not.

This is no more concisely stated than it was at a recent Watchtower Study. A Bible verse considered how we ought “do nothing out of contentiousness or out of egotism, but with humility consider others superior to you.” (Philippians 2:3) Practically speaking, this advice is not easy to implement. It may even strike one as nonsensical—how can everyone be superior to everyone else? Said that Watchtower: “The humble person acknowledges that everyone is superior to him in some way.​—Phil. 2:3, 4.”

Of course. In some way everyone is superior to everyone else. Search for that way, hone in on it like a laser beam, and it will not be so difficult to treat even opponents with respect. “Disagree without being disagreeable” is the catchphrase today.

But Professor Dawkins does not have this advantage. Much of his tradition would sway him in just the opposite “survival of the fittest” direction. So he must be given credit for his new, somewhat softer, online personality. Possibly someone who has his best interests at heart—perhaps his wife—said, “Richard, you sure do come across as a cantankerous crank on Twitter,” and he deliberately walked it back. It’s commendable.

Now, I don’t think Richard had Jehovah’s Witnesses in mind with his tweet. He probably has formed his views of them through the contributions of their “apostate” contingent, and those views could hardly be blacker. I looked down among his comments to see whether any of those nasties had reared their heads. Perhaps here was an example:

Not entirely true. Extremists usually have their own misinterpretation of scriptures.”

I responded to this one: “If “misinterpretation” results in a religion of peace, perhaps it is not a misinterpretation after all. Perhaps the mainline view is a misinterpretation.” Is that not a no-brainer?

Another one, disagreeing with the above tweet: “Actually no. Most extremists do exactly what is written in their book. ‘Misinterpretation’ is used as an argument by believers that cherry pick morals that fit our secular ethics today.”

I know this type, too. This is the type that finds slavery in the Bible or war in the Old Testament and rails at the “hypocrisy.” I responded to this fellow as well:

Everything has a historical context and to deliberately ignore such context is to be intellectually dishonest. If our side does it to theirs, we never hear the end of it.

He blew up at this reference to context. Evil is evil, he carried on, across all places and time-frames. These characters are very predictable—you could even write their lines for them and not be too far off.

Has “critical thinking” made us all nincompoops? It was once thought the most intelligent thing in the world to consider historical backdrop; one was irresponsible, even deceitful, not to do it. Very well. If he is going to trash, with blinders affixed, the source that I hold dear, I will do the same with his source:

You should turn your critical thinking skills upon Ancient Greece, the definer of it. When time travel is invented, history revisionists will give a friendly wave to American slaveholding forefathers as they race back in time to fetch wicked Greek pedophiles—it was an enshrined value of that world—back in irons.”

He was not chastened by this. Hijacking Twitter as his personal courtroom, he cross-examined:

Is the holding and beating of slaves, as described in Exodus, morally acceptable? Yes or no?

I countered: “Is the raping of children as endorsed by Ancient Greek society morally acceptable? Yes or no?”

Incredibly, he was not dissuaded. “Last chance!” he shot back. “Is the holding and beating of slaves, as described in Exodus, morally acceptable? Yes or no?”

To the blockheads, I became a blockhead.”—Paul (sort of) —1 Corinthians 9:19-22,” I tweeted back: “Two can play the game of obstinacy. Last chance: Is the rape of children—it was enshrined in Ancient Greek society—morally acceptable? Yes or no?”

Then I went away, and when I came back, he had deleted all this tweets so that it was hard for me to reconstruct the thread. However, someone else had pointed out a grave sin I had committed:

Thomas you are guilty of the moral equivalence fallacy.” Am I? I suppose. You can sort of guess by the wording just what that phrase means—I had not heard it before. At least it is in English. I once heard a theologian quip that if there is a Latin phrase and a perfectly clear English phrase that means the same thing, always use the Latin phrase so people will know that you are educated. But my “moral equivalence fallacy” is still is no more than considering historical context, a praiseworthy intellectual technique for all time periods except ours. 

Besides, I actually had posted something about slavery long ago. But it is not a topic so simple that it can be hashed out in a few tweets, and so I declined to go there with this fellow, who would debate all the sub-points. If God corrected every human injustice the moment it manifested itself, there would be nothing left. The entire premise of the Bible is that human-rule is unjust in itself and that God allows a period of time for that to be clearly manifested before bringing in his kingdom—the one referred to in the “Lord’s prayer”—to straighten it all out. In the meantime, the very ones who work themselves into a lather at religion “brainwashing” people are livid that God did not brainwash slavery away once humans settled upon it as a fine economic underpinning.

If Dawkins’s tweet and my response hangs around long enough before burial in the Twitter feed, I would expect some of our malcontents to observe as they did in Russia, where the only evidence of extremism cited is proclaiming “a religious view of supremacy.” Huge protest will come at how Jehovah’s Witnesses practice shunning and thus “destroy” relationships and even family. But views inevitably translate into consequences and policies. Refusal to “come together” with those who insist on diametrically opposed views is hardly the “extremism” of ISIS—and yet the Russian Supreme Court has declared that it is, with the full backing in principle of those from the ex-JW community—the ones who go crusading, which is perhaps 10%.

I’m going to write this up as a post and append it to his thread. Let’s see what happens. Probably nothing, but you never know.

Plus, let’s expand on that particular Watchtower some more. The particular article covered was entitled: “Jehovah Values His Humble Servants” (September 2019 issue—study edition)

Unlike nearly all religious services, Witness meetings are ones that you can prepare for. You can comment during them. They are studies of the sacred book, not just impromptu rap sessions, acquiescencing to ceremony, or sitting through someone else’s sermon. You can prepare for them, and you are benefited, as in any classroom, when you do. The focus here, as it so often is, is on practical application.

Humility draws persons to us. Haughtiness repels them, and thus makes next to impossible the mantra to “come together.”

My own comment, when the time was right, was that haughty people can only accomplish so much—it may be a great deal, for haughty people are often very capable people—but eventually they run up against the fact that nobody else can stand them, and so people are motivated to undercut their ideas, even if they are good ones, out of sheer payback for ugliness. Humble people, on the other hand, may be far less capable individually, but their efforts add up. They know how to cooperate and yield to each other in a way that haughty people do not.

Someone else on that Dawkins thread, an amateur wit, played with that them of unlikely extremists: “Jehova's witnesses are peaceful but their extremists are better extremely annoying...”

Why fight this? It is a viewpoint. Viewpoints are not wrong, because they are viewpoints—right or wrong doesn’t enter into the equation. Better to roll with it. I was indeed on a roll, and so I tweeted back: 

“I will grant that they can be. Still, if you had a choice between a team of JWs approaching your door and a team of ISIS members, you would (hopefully) choose theformer. Those 2 groups, and only those 2 groups are officially declared “extremist” in Russia.”

And with that, I included a link to my ebook, “Dear Mr. Putin - Jehovah’s Witnesses Write Russia.” I am shameless in that. No matter how many books I sell, it is not enough. I don’t sell them, anyway. The book is free, a labor of love. It is an application of the theme: “If you have something important to say, don’t hide it behind a paywall.” It is the only, to my knowledge, complete history of events leading up to and beyond the 2017 ban of the Witness organization in Russia.

As to the latest developments there, another one was herded off to prison, who, making the best of a sour situation, or perhaps genuinely finding value there, said: "I want to thank … prosecution. I don't just thank you, but thank you very much, because thanks to you my faith has become stronger … I see I'm on the right path."

Of course. It is unreasonable to oppose so vehemently a people totally honest, hard-working, and given to peace—and yet the Bible says that such will exactly happen. How can it not serve to strengthen faith?

Defending Jehovah’s Witnesses with style from attacks... in Russia, with the ebook ‘Dear Mr. Putin - Jehovah’s Witnesses Write Russia’ (free).... and in the West, with the ebook ‘TrueTom vs the Apostates!’ (free)

Talk: (5 min. or less) w04 5/1 19-20 ¶3-7—Theme: How Were Certain Christians “a Strengthening Aid” to Paul? (Col 4:11, ftn.) (th study 7)

“I know several people who rose in their employment far beyond what their qualifications and education would have seemed to permit. When I investigated, I found that it was because they had deliberately made themselves indispensable. 

“Aw, man, I can’t believe I left my parchments at my apartment,” someone would say. He (or she) would volunteer to get it. “Rats, I left my cloak in the car,” another would say. “I’ll get it,” was his reply.

Of course, those are Bible examples from 2 Tim 4:13, the gist of such will be revisited presently. What they would actually volunteer for is some pain-in-the-neck spreadsheet that had to be done but nobody wanted to do it.

So it is that five obscure characters rose in the ranks in the apostle Paul’s eyes. “Only these are my fellow workers,” he says of Tychicus, Onesimus, Aristarchus, Mark, and Justus, almost as though they formed a cabal. He describes them as a “strengthening aid” (“source of great comfort” - 2013 NWT) and the Greek root word is peregoria, used only once in scripture, which generally has medicinal connotations, hence the two acceptable renderings. Going back several decades, there was the English ‘peregoric,’ an over-the-counter medicine. It had opium in it. It was good for whatever ailed you.

Paul comes across as almost superhuman in his endurance—recall Mark Sanderson at the Gilead gradation referring to the list at 2 Corinthians 11:23 and observing that just one of those experiences would have floored most of us—yet he surely could have used “strengthening” from time to time. Like when enemies try to pin the charge of ‘sedition’ on him—as they did with Jesus—as they have done with Jehovah’s people today—and, far from according him respect as a driving force of an important religion, dismiss him as a “pest” promoting a “sect.” (Acts 24:5)

If someone is described that way—especially if they are under (house) arrest, as was Paul—there is a tendency to keep one’s distance, lest the unsavory accusations rub off. If someone is charged with sedition, you think twice before you say, “That’s my buddy!” If someone is written off as a “pest,” you show whose esteem you are trying to court by whether you identify with that person or not.

Similarly, “they will say every sort of [wicked] thing about you,” Jesus says of his disciples. And ‘if you see how they treat me, then you know how they will treat you.’ (Matthew 5:11, John 15:20) There is a tendency to back away from anyone of whom “every sort of wicked thing” is said, and these five cabal Christians would not do it. It is hard not to think of Jehovah’s Witnesses in Russia right now. As some are being led off to courts andimprisonment, after having personal property confiscated, their brothers, far from laying low, are publicly identifying with them. There is even a scene somewhere of the friends clapping in the aftermath of a trial, as the “guilty” member is being led away. It plays a little odd from a distance, but the idea is to recognize and support those keeping integrity under trial. It is hardly just Russia, however. Everywhere “every sort of wicked thing” is said about Christians, affording ones opportunity to gather round or distance themselves.

Qualifications were not unreachable for those whom Paul would later recognize as a “strengthening aid,” or “source of great comfort”—just stick with him under censure and don’t run like a chicken. One of them even DID run like a chicken at one time (arguably) —Mark, but he later got his act together and identified with Paul in hard times—so if we are chickens, there is yet hope.

The others: “Tychicus, my beloved brother and faithful minister and fellow slave in the Lord, will tell you all the news about me. I am sending him to you so that you will know how we are and that he may comfort your hearts. He is coming along with Onesimus, my faithful and beloved brother, who is from among you; they will tell you all the things happening here.Aristarchus, my fellow captive, sends you his greetings, and so does Mark, the cousin of Barʹna·bas (concerning whom you received instructions to welcome him if he comes to you), and Jesus who is called Justus, who are of those circumcised. Only these are my fellow workers for the Kingdom of God, and they have become a source of great comfort to me.” (Colossians 4:7-11)

Tychicus made himself a conduit and a go-for. Onesimus is the former slave that the educated Paul hung out with—probably freed at his request, since his owner had also become a Christian. Aristarchus—all that is known about him is that he was a jailbird with Paul, and incurred the same slander. Mark, as mentioned, is the reformed chicken. Justus—virtually nothing is known about him. These are not high-profile people and their high praise as Christians is not unreachable for anyone.”

That is how I ended the talk, by observing that anyone could attain that status and that I hoped to be described that way myself someday.

CE701B4B-7850-4950-B617-A4AE027ADBA3

photo: Jwilli74 

 

 

Defending Jehovah’s Witnesses with style from attacks... in Russia, with the ebook ‘Dear Mr. Putin - Jehovah’s Witnesses Write Russia’ (free).... and in the West, with the ebook ‘TrueTom vs the Apostates!’ (free)

“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.

E4D25568-624C-4EBE-A521-18C0DD46167B

photo by iowademocrats.org

 

 

Defending Jehovah’s Witnesses with style from attacks... in Russia, with the ebook ‘Dear Mr. Putin - Jehovah’s Witnesses Write Russia’ (free).... and in the West, with the ebook ‘TrueTom vs the Apostates!’ (free)

You Don’t Enter Stage From Behind the Quarter Walls

They have quarter walls on the platform of the new Kingdom Hall I visited. Most taking the platform would walk up from the side, disappear behind one end of the wall and then reappear from the other end to take the speaker position. I only saw one person do it differently.

It is just a small thing. Hardly worth mentioning. Petty, anyone? I ought to rise about the temptation to say anything. But.....on the other hand........

IT DROVE ME NUTS! Why would anyone do it that way?

I know how this happens. Someone starting doing it thinking it looked more “dignified.” Others thought it was a cool idea, and followed suit. That is how these things work. There is never a ‘rule’ though occasionally there is an unwritten rule which you cope with by just ignoring it.

The way you stop this nonsense is by deliberately flying in the face of it. Structures vary, but usually there is but a single step from the auditorium to the platform—it runs the width of the platform—and you mount that step any old place that you happen to be—let the stuffy other brothers think that you are barbaric if they must. What is more likely to happen is that they will come to think the other way is a little silly.

They see it done that way at the Assembly Hall and they try to carry over the experience to the Kingdom Hall. At the Assembly Hall, that seats 1000, well—of course! Just like in any auditorium, you have to enter through a door in the back and then come on stage behind a curtain or a half wall. You can’t just take stage directly from the auditorium because you would have to clamber up a 2 or 3 foot wall, and that would look ridiculous.

Entering from behind the short walls at the Kingdom Hall makes just the opposite impression. The walls are convenient places to store junk behind, most likely—unused mike stands and the like. It’s not for a pretentious means for entry when you can just walk up easy as pie from where ever you are!

“Sure,” says my wife. “You always know just the way it should be. Everyone is doing it wrong. Only Tom knows the way to do it!”

Finally, that woman is catching on! DO IT RIGHT, BROTHERS!

3B519429-2269-4DA4-B173-165CDAB549FA

Defending Jehovah’s Witnesses with style from attacks... in Russia, with the ebook ‘Dear Mr. Putin - Jehovah’s Witnesses Write Russia’ (free).... and in the West, with the ebook ‘TrueTom vs the Apostates!’ (free)

'Aye, the Bastards Will Come, Alright.' A Primer on Getting Along

Talk (5 minutes or less) Week of Feb 4-10, 2018: 'Maintain a Realistic View of Your Limitations and Those of Others.'

‘When Jehovah’s Witnesses go nuts, they become quirky eccentrics, who nevertheless wouldn’t harm a fly.

When people of the overall world go nuts, you’d better call in the SWAT team.

(It is an introduction that plays to the audience. Certainly, nuts of the general world do not all require the SWAT team, but there are enough instances of such that the introduction works.)

Of course, ‘nuts’ might be viewed as a pejorative. Instead one might say ‘damaged goods’ or ‘pieces of work.’

(Here the speaker is on shaky ground. Is he calling members of the congregation, or even the entire congregation, ‘nuts,’ while excluding himself? Best defuse that one.)

It is like when many were away for a foreign-language assembly, and many more in seldom-worked territory. Just moments before the meeting was to begin, turnout was notably thin. I leaned over to Brother Oxgoad and said: “Do the friends think that you are giving the talk today?” He took a moment to process it, and shot back: “You’re a piece of work!” What was I going to say—that I wasn’t? In one way or another, we are all pieces of work.

(At that point it was time to go to the suggested verse.)

Romans 3:23 discusses the reality: “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” The word translated sin comes from a root that means “to miss the mark.”

(I played with a bow & arrow for a bit.) At first, we didn’t even hit the target, and once in a while, we still miss it altogether. Usually, though, we do hit the target and even come closer and closer to the bullseye, but outright hitting it doesn’t happen often.

Another way of saying that we ‘miss the mark’ is to concede that we all have rough edges. Rough edges aren’t a huge deal when each one keeps his distance, but in a close setting, like a family--or a congregation, they become more of an issue.

(It was time to refer to a video that most remembered as to how to deal with rough edges. Since I have written of it already in ‘Dear Mr. Putin – Jehovah’s Witnesses Write Russia,’ I will here do a copy and paste:)

“The video shown was entitled Remove the Rafter. It featured a disgruntled member who thought most of his congregation a bunch of sheltered oddities. Even if they were, he came to realize in the end that the only one he could change was himself. As the Bible verse he was considering, in order to give his assigned student talk, faded onscreen, two words remained a split second longer than the others: ‘rafter' and ‘straw.’ This happened three times, and on the third, the word ‘hypocrite’ also remained. It is Jesus’ words he considered: “Why do you notice the straw in your brother’s eye, but do not perceive the rafter in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me remove that straw from your eye,’ while the rafter is in your eye? You hypocrite, remove the rafter from your eye first; then you will see clearly to remove the straw from your brother’s eye.’ As though to drive the point home, in the background, a workman carrying a rafter in the video briefly stood in front of a stopping bus advertising eye exams, so that a rafter actually did protrude from a eye for but a moment.

“At first glance, it is a slick move from the Watchtower video directors. But it is meant to illustrate a slick move upon the heart. The reason those two words remained, and then three, is that his heart was yet soft enough for them to register—having benefited from previous divine education. A hardened person would not have responded that way. The brother allowed the scripture to mold him. This is how God trains in the congregation, but it would all have been lost upon one who’s heart was molded primarily by this world’s education. Imagine how differently history might read if this verse was a staple of education, and not just a dreamy footnote. With Jehovah’s Witnesses, it is a staple.”

The talk concluded with words not too unlike the above two lines. Days later someone referred to ‘Brother Sandpaper.’ It was from one of those old syrupy memes that some just love, (I don’t) probably the one about how all the congregation members are like tools in God’s drawer that he uses to accomplish his purpose. (Even as I write this, it annoys me.) What is Brother Sandpaper’s function? To sand down our rough edges, which he accomplishes by being abrasive.

The thing irritates because it seems to suggest that Brother Sandpaper will always be Brother Sandpaper. And it seems to imply that he is yet lovable. He is not lovable, though he has some redeeming features, but that is not the same. His brusque and curt manner has stumbled many, and if that verse about tying a millstone around the neck of someone who behaves that way means anything, the sooner he gets his act together, the better.

When you give an illustration, it has to reasonably fit in all aspects. Like the book I am reading right now, The Fort, by Bernard Cornwall. The British force has encamped on the shores of late-1700s Massachusetts so as to curb the revolutionaries. The captain muses whether they will soon come to mount a challenge. “Aye, the bastards will come, all right,” the first officer assures him. “Mark my words, they’ll come, like flies to dung!” and the captain wonders at the appropriateness of likening His Majesty’s Naval Forces to dung.

00

 

Defending Jehovah’s Witnesses with style from attacks... in Russia, with the ebook ‘Dear Mr. Putin - Jehovah’s Witnesses Write Russia’ (free).... and in the West, with the ebook ‘TrueTom vs the Apostates!’ (free)

Building Emotional Health

It was hard not to think of the human immune system at Sunday’s Watchtower. We all have them and if kept strong they are pretty good at warding off all manner of illness. But they are under assault constantly. It is the same with emotional health. It is under assault constantly with pressures described as “strength-sapping” and “emotionally draining.”

Building up emotional health in the congregation will be members who are careful in their speech not to add to someone’s burden but to alleviate it. “Thoughtless speech is like the stabs of a sword, but the tongue of the wise is a healing.” (Prov. 12:18)

Also helping is reflection of the God we serve. “For you became precious in my eyes...and I have loved you....do not be afraid, for I am with you.” (Isaiah 43:4-5) And: “Do not be afraid, for I am with you. Do not be anxious, for I am your God. I will fortify you, yes, I will help you, I will really hold on to you with my right hand of righteousness.  (41:10)

Given the pressures and even atrocities of the day, the ones to be concerned about are those with whom it all runs off like water off a duck's back. One is reminded of Jesus' words that he called upon, not those who do not need a physician, but those who do.

 

Defending Jehovah’s Witnesses with style from attacks... in Russia, with the ebook ‘Dear Mr. Putin - Jehovah’s Witnesses Write Russia’ (free).... and in the West, with the ebook ‘TrueTom vs the Apostates!’ (free)

How Difficult a Thing to Stay Neutral

I like how the Watchtower Study meeting Sunday, dealing with political neutrality, distinguished between support, tacit support, opinion, and strong opinion.
 
All human governments and political parties are going to drop the ball. Usually it is a bowling ball. The only remaining question is upon which toe will it land. As people ponder the vulnerability of their right toes and left toes, they may well develop opinions.
 
If so, keep them from being ‘strong opinions’ and certainly do not lend support or ‘tacit support‘ and absolutely do not bring it into the congregation, where it can do nothing but divide.
 
Brother Jackson acknowledged just how hard that is to do, in saying or even thinking ‘I hope that ‘idiot’ doesn’t get into power.’ It is impossible to hear that without wondering what idiot he has in mind, notwithstanding that he gave another experience from Australia back in the day. That was back in the day, long ago. He’s done nothing but think about it since then? Or does he have something more modern in mind?
 
A sister at the Hall commented how hard it is to stay neutral when prominent leaders are separating children from their parents. Even that statement is political, another pointed out (not publicly) since the countertake is to point out that one should not put children in the illegal situation where that is going to happen.
 
This made me also wonder after the study if maybe the universal grousing about taxes, which many do, which (gasp) even I have done, is not political. Jesus simply said ‘pay them,’
 
180716-D-BN624-001
Defending Jehovah’s Witnesses with style from attacks... in Russia, with the ebook ‘Dear Mr. Putin - Jehovah’s Witnesses Write Russia’ (free).... and in the West, with the ebook ‘TrueTom vs the Apostates!’ (free)

Standing Up For Your Beliefs in Class

At the Regional Convention, at least half of the videos were directed at young people. This is good because they are under more peer pressure than most not to 'go along with the crowd.' All young people experience this pressure, but Jehovah's Witnesses youth more than usual because what they stand for is more specific and the degree to which they stand is more determined. Besides, there are many young people who resolve the pressure not to go along with the crowd by going along with the crowd. Sometimes they go so far as to answer the wise words of their mama, "If everyone jumped off of a cliff, would you jump off, too?" with a "That's what I'm talkin about!"

Such talks at the convention would feature some Bible character doing something that took guts, and then the modern video application have some young person taking a bold stand based upon consideration of it. I don't remember the specific talk, but I do remember the specific video of a high school girl saying how she was really quite shy but got into the habit of, right from the start, at school's opening intro 'show and tell' session, reveal that she was one of Jehovah's Witnesses and thereafter let it be known, when all the kids are quizzing each other as to what they did on the weekend, that she engages in spiritual activity during much of that time. That is all she did.

"People started coming to me with their problems," she relates. Upon establishing herself as a member of something she thinks works better, all she has to do is be nice, cooperative, friendly, and it is easier for her to stand firm when peer pressure to do something she thinks wrong comes her way. People approached her, she said, and to the extent they did, she was ready to discuss what she had and how she found it had worked for her. Let me tell you, it works way better than haranquing people over religious doctrine, which few in the West care much about anyway, and the ones that do are inclined to do nothing but argue over it.

The Watchtower Study Sunday furthered that basic youth-supporting theme, with paragraphs discussing various situations. When another student approaches her teacher, and you know it is a science teacher because of the ascending apelike creatures on the chart in the background, she does not have to convince him to turn the whole troupe around and march them back into the slime from whence they came; he is not going to do that. All she has to do is tell him that she doesn't buy it. It is undermining to her faith and it is not sufficiently logical to be allowed to do that. To overturn the common sense model seen everywhere else that anything made has a maker and the more complicated the made thing is the smarter the maker must be will take proof more conclusive than what is offered.

Even the teacher, though he may mutter a bit, may be able to live with this because Watchtower publications speak of the six days of creation being "epochs" and the period prior to their commencement being "aeons." Jehovah's Witnesses are not young-earth creationists.

When the Watchtower wants to suggest a biology teacher, always the ascending ape chart is in the background; that's how it is done. It probably is done everywhere, not just in the Watchtower, for that one chart instantly conveys the idea as nothing else does. Icons are everywhere. Sometimes they are not even accurate. When a scientist was impressed with a discussion between he and I and wanted to reproduce it on his own blog, he represented himself with a double-helix. I got stuck with a cross! So I told him Jehovah's Witnesses do not believe that Jesus died on a cross but on an upright stake. "I knew that, actually," he said, "but an upright stake makes a ridiculous looking icon." What could I say? I had to bear my cross.

Several videos (back to the Regional Convention) feature Witness youths being put down, sometimes even by the teacher, and thereafter mustering up boldness to ask to address the whole class, always (in the cases shown) winning respect from students and teachers alike.

Evolution-1295256_960_720

 

Defending Jehovah’s Witnesses with style from attacks... in Russia, with the ebook ‘Dear Mr. Putin - Jehovah’s Witnesses Write Russia’ (free).... and in the West, with the ebook ‘TrueTom vs the Apostates!’ (free)