He Has Blocked Me. I Think That Says it All

Mark is still carrying on about efforts of congregation elders to meet with him, and broadcasting it to everyone under the sun, (they certainly have been determined, assuming his account is accurate, which I have no reason to question), so I put together a few tweets for the sake of perspective:

It was once the most non-controversial thing in the world for one holding authority to request, even summon to, a meeting—be it teacher/student, coach/athlete, union steward/member, team leader/team, and countless others scenarios. JWs are undeniably a religion...1/4

that recognizes authority, which everyone knew from Day 1. Until relatively recently, all religions recognized some governing authority. This is no more than an attempt to eviscerate religion into an ineffectual movement of feel-good sloganeering. If one...2/4

hasn’t formally withdrawn membership, one naturally is still regarded as a member. If one aligns oneself with those calling the faith “cult” day and night, one must not be flabbergasted at an allegation of “causing divisions.” Having said that, nobody can say that these...3/4

ones have not been...um...thorough in their efforts to meet. We, and they, will see how it plays out....4/4

but when I sought to append it, not for his sake, but for the sake of those he advertises to - lo! I am blocked.

I have never blocked anyone in my life (one I did block, but then unblocked). That is not to say I would not do it if need be. I came pretty close with one opposer who expressed herself by tweeting a couple photos of an erect penis, but I figured correctly that it would stop & be quickly buried.

This is so like this group to plead with PIMIs to engage with them, yet as soon as one does, out he goes with the trash. What they want is ones inexperienced with social media that they can score easy points with, and most of our people are.

I have never done more than counter his view. Never abusively. Never accusingly. (Never much, either. Have I even tweeted him except for yesterday?) Even with Lloyd I have rarely been short, though I’ve had a torrent of abuse from him. I think blocking under such circumstances says it all. They like their own voice. They don’t like those of others,  and more importantly, they don’t want that voice to be heard.

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I May Have Called Him a ‘Big Baby’ a Time or Two, But Nothing More.

I seriously got under the skin of owner of one opposition site. (I don’t quite know who runs it, but this fellow is definitely a main player, if not the owner) Both on his site, where I was banned, and on Twitter, where he, almost with every tweet, taunted and insulted me, and I let most of them stand unanswered, never responding in kind. I may have called him a ‘big baby’ a time or two, but nothing more.

Several chapters of True Tom vs the Apostates are based upon my interactions with him.

One of the corkers came when he took issue with the December WT about women in trying relationships and he DAILY tweeted his urging to various women’s groups, tagging them each time, that they look into such “appalling" "orders" from an organization with absolute "control" over its women. They failed to respond. He kept it up for over 50 straight days! In time I wrote a counter article and began appending my tweets to his, such as:

“Sheesh! Even Jehovah’s Witnesses do not call EVERY SINGLE DAY!”

and my favorite (around day 50):

“It’s as though he says to [these women’s groups]: ‘GOD****T, ANSWER me when I’m talking to you!!’”

                        —-

And just LOOK at what happened to my Datsun pickup when I parked in his  lot!

I thought I was going incognito, but apparently not.

                       

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Photo credit: Silver Elephant 

 

In my chapter ‘On Women. Part 1’ I described him thus:

I think it will turn out as when the ever-capable female British intelligence officer commented to Foyle, of the television show Foyle’s War, about the full-of-himself male officer that she, for the time-being, had to play second fiddle to: that he was overconfident and not really too smart. He would overreach and fall of his own weight. She had seen it before.”

And I was NOT the one who, on first laying eyes upon him, called him a “bearded slob.”

For he life of me, though. I could not bring myself to rebuke this brother. As much as I think we overdo it sometimes, and I just cannot get my head around Old Testament prophets being as obsessed over their dress and grooming as we have sometimes made them out to be, there IS something to be said for changing out of your tee shirt before filming your ‘podcast.’

 

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Confrontation Atop Gotham Tower

On top of Gotham, way way up there on that crazy high tower, Batman confronts his nemesis. “Now I’m going to kill you!” he snarls. “You’re going to kill me? You made me!” the Joker screams. But Batman is not to be outdone. That young punk who became the Joker murdered his parents long ago—gunned them down in cold blood before the impressionable lad’s eyes, plunging him forevermore into a twisted life of crusading revenge. “I made you? You made me!” he growls. Jack Nicholson does an aside: “I say he made me. He says I made him. How childish!” he mimics, before taking a punch that flattens his face.

I’m with Batman. My own nemesis, the sinister Admin, turned my life and me into a freak show. I was a happy Bible Student, crossing every ‘t’ and dotting every ‘i,’ the way that they do. I stumbled upon three apostates beating up on my friend Job. I lurked in the background like Elihu, where I got madder and madder. Finally, I destroyed them all through sheer verbiage. God beamed approval from the heavens when Elihu did it. He had something darker in mind for me. Or at least he kept his cards to himself.

I mulled what my sorry life had become as I spit those same words to Admin: “You made me!” I hurled him over the parapet to his certain death, just like the Joker had hurled Kim Bassinger. I expected to hear a terrified and fading “Ahhhhhhhhhh!” followed by a faint but satisfying “Splat!” Instead, there was only silence. Kim had saved herself by grabbing onto a ledge. Admin had saved himself by grabbing onto the fact that it was all digital. I’ve never met him in person. It didn’t happen.

When Admin saw how I had beaten up those apostates he assigned me to headline a thread entitled ‘TrueTom Versus the Apostates.’ I protested. I didn’t want the job. I don’t go out of my way to pick fights with these characters. My protest fell upon deaf ears. So I warmed to the idea and went after them with such ferocity that the same Admin who put me on the thread pulled me off it, threw both me and the thread into the abyss, and slapped me with an ‘A’ for abuse. I think the final straw came when I posted that my foes, although united in apostasy, probably would not be able to stand one another in person, drawing upon some unpleasant idiosyncrasies they had revealed. I wore my ‘A’ with shame, like Hester Prynne of long ago. In time, it ceased to be a drawback and became an honor, also like with Hester Prynne of long ago. ‘Presto’ was formed my new identity, both a blessing and a curse.

I had gradually acquiesced to my new role. But then, as though it were not enough to ruin my old life, he tried to ruin my new one—the one he had assigned me. “Hey, knock it off there!” he shouted, as I was trading barbs with villains and semi-villains, saints and semi-saints. I don’t think it was just me he was mad at. It wasn’t even mainly me, and maybe not me at all—but the story is just so much better if you make the facts work for you rather than suffer them to be your master.

From his pontifical post he thundered: “I would just like to state for the record that as the owner of this website, I do not like pejorative labels. ‘Label’ and ‘Kill’ seems to be the way most groups continue to operate nowadays. I realize that all you different religions are free to exercise what you believe in, however I would like to push my own point of thought that we all should try to stop using labels on people. I keep seeing different religions on here use the pejorative label “apostate.” Why does anyone in 2018 still subscribe to this antiquated way of thinking?

“And IF by chance you still do subscribe to this religious mentality, please realize that the rest of the world doesn’t care about how you label others.

“They have MOVED ON.

“Try to keep up, people.

“This technology alone is proving far superior to any fear-based religion. Both pro and anti-religious groups should try to avoid labels and stick to facts.

“- End of rant.”

It’s over when I say it’s over. I fired back:

“Why does anyone in 2018 still subscribe to this antiquated way of thinking?” Because it is a significant sub-theme of the New Testament. There is no New Testament writer that does not deal with it. Two entire chapters are devoted to it. Jude was about to write a bland letter that would have entered the dustbin of canon history, but:

“I found it necessary to write you to urge you to put up a hard fight for the faith that was once for all time delivered to the holy ones. My reason is that certain men have slipped in among you who were long ago appointed to this judgment by the Scriptures; they are ungodly men who turn the undeserved kindness of our God into an excuse for brazen conduct and who prove false to...” and so forth.

 

“They have MOVED ON. Try to keep up people.”

“Possibly they have moved on, but the overall state of the world does not make clear that having “moved on” is for the best. Gadgets have improved, granted, and people do have to clean up after their dogs today, but an overall sense of well-being? Whether “keeping up” in the sense you mean is a good thing is highly debatable. Furthermore, if you think this is so horrible, show me the civility in the greater political world. Be sure not to miss the ‘gentleman’s disagreement’ involving the Supreme Court Kavanaugh nomination today. Show me the love-in between GOP and DEMS, or medical vs alternative, or atheist vs religious person, or scientist vs metaphysics. And make sure to tell me how the Russians and Chinese are allegedly hacking into Western computers so that say a friendly ‘hello.’

“It could be argued that you are missing the most significant development of all time, as you lambaste those debating issues of eternity in favor of those squabbling over matters that will only be personally relevant for a few decades until they die.

“End of rant.

“Having said that, I can easily see how this could drive a guy nuts. Just for the record, I think some participants here are barely sane. I won’t say that I have never used the word “apostate’’ but I have tried to be sparing with it, in favor of such words as ‘opposer’ or ‘detractor’ And I deliberately try to defuse super-intense threads with what I hope passes for humor. I stay primarily because I benefit by testing out lines that I know will be thrown back in my face. I get to refine my own writing thereby, like a scientist studying data. I’ve been able to write an absolutely unique book in this manner. A writer not only needs a muse. He also needs a villain, and here there are villains galore.

“It is pretty rough on those who don’t speak the lingo, though. I do appreciate that. I hope that you take it in the right spirit when I jokingly put you entering the annual Conference of Internet Magnificents, casually mentioning your traffic so as to impress the big boys, only to be told ‘Big Deal. They’re all religious nuts. Come back when you have people who know where the ground is.’”

 

***~~~***

 

Apostates and loyal ones unite! At last we have found common cause! Let us band together and beat up on Admin, who presumes to break up our riotous party! If we want to ruin his website, what’s that to him? I will even be gracious and concede that you fellows won a round. You correctly predicted that he would ‘lose it’ on a weekend. I could have sworn it would have been on a weekday.

Like the spoken word of God in the New Testament, the spoken word of Admin is rare on this religious portion of his website, which is presided over by another. I can recall only one other time that he spoke from on high, even coming down on the side of the good guys. “Geez, you guys are a piece of work!” he thundered from above. “If Watchtower legal wanted me to take down their copyrighted artwork, I would do it in two seconds.” The occasion was that Watchtower had written just that concern, and certain malcontents used to putting their work in different context and beating them over the head with it were screaming to high heaven about “free speech.”

Probably Admin knows that not one Witness he sees here on his website is a typical Witness. They are all rogue to one degree of another, self included. They all have their own individual reasons for being here. None of them are heeding the Witness organizations’ preference not to engage in disputes with determined opposers.

Witnesses are encouraged by their organization not to dispute. Whatever one may think about Jehovah’s Witnesses, one must concede that they endeavor to present their message with dignity, be it door-to-door, their website, or the recent innovation of cart witnessing. The dignity disintegrates when they come online to brawl, which is why the organization prefers that they not do it. Debate doesn’t work well, anyway. Jesus routinely resorted to tactics that would infuriate any devotee of debate, answering questions with counter-questions, raising straw man arguments, spinning complex parables that he rarely explained—let the heart figure it out. Put your version of truth out there, and if they reject it, they reject it.

What! Is it cheap entertainment we are speaking of? Jesus said religious truth would be “the pearl of great price” that you must “exert yourself vigorously” to lay hold of. He didn’t say it was a fine thing to tilt back the easy chair and wait for the winner of a debate to toss it to you. Debate focuses attention, not on the merits of any given idea, but on the skill of the debater. In debate school, one is taught to argue both sides of a given argument. That fact ought to suffice to assess “debate” as a way to arrive at truth.

You would never know it from online forums, but the best way to uncover how most Witnesses feel about their governing arrangement is to attend a Regional Convention. The line that invariably brings down the house with applause is: “Would you like to send your greetings to the brothers in Bethel?” But as I was chewing out Admin for trying to salvage his own website, a villain by the name of John was listening! He chimed in: “Yes, it’s all puppet fashion and tradition. It is so corny. It is the expected thing, so they have to do it.”

I reflected upon this: “You know, you may have a point. I have looked closely at these times and I can tell that they don’t want to applaud. They really really don’t want to applaud. But then they notice an elder glowering at them and sweat breaks out on their brow. In some cases, they wet their pants. In the end, even though they hate the thought, they clap and clap and clap. Sometimes their hands turn to mush and the paramedics have to haul them away for first aid. Sheesh. I mean, it is possible to overplay the paranoia card. They applaud because they liked the program and appreciate the work of those that put it together.”

Lest Admin chew us out again for not displaying mutual love, I addressed his prior: “LABEL and KILL seems to be the way most groups continue to operate nowadays:”

“When you cite Jehovah’s Witnesses, you are citing almost the only example you could cite that disproves your point. Categorically, they will not kill or be maneuvered by the national king into killing. How bad can they be?”

I even took him up on his: “This technology alone is proving far superior to any fear-based religion:”

“Is it? I’ll even call you on this. The general reality is that social media is more apt to spread hate than resolution. Religion, however, at its best, will spread love in a way that your technology could not even dream of.

“And what is this about ‘fear-based religion?’ How often in Scripture is the expression ‘Fear God’ or ‘Fear Jehovah?’ Almost 40. I counted. It is ‘fear’ in the same sense children used to routinely fear their parents, out of love and respect—fear of displeasing them—with punishment only a background concern.

“Increasingly the ones to be feared are the “anti-cultists” who expand the definition of a pejorative word so as to cover people they don’t like. Under the guise of protecting them from ideas they don’t want heard, their Russian soul-brothers have gone so far as to arrest them and steal all their property. A fine way to protect the civil rights of the enemy soldiers is to kill off their generals. That way you can absorb them.”

The reckless appellation of the C-word is essentially hate speech. It is above and beyond any specific arguments for or against Witnesses, which is always fair game to be countered or acceded to. It has inspired violence not only in Russia, but also in the United States. During 2018, several arson attacks were launched against Kingdom Halls in Washington state. Two burned to the ground. Arguments are one thing, but screaming ‘cult’ whips the crazies into a lather. Anti-cultists will howl in a heartbeat if the political party they favor is the target of perceived hate speech from the other side. But when it comes to their own hate speech, they become obtuse. Everyone knows what a cult is, and everyone knows that Jehovah’s Witnesses are not it, regardless of how strenuously the champions of conformity try to rewrite the dictionary to make it appear so.

I returned to Admin: “If you must carry on about ‘this technology,’ consider this paragraph from Tom Irregardless and Me as to how the Witness organization uses it:

“In recent years, the Watchtower organization even offers its own programming through a JW Broadcasting streaming channel, a refreshing and most unusual alternative to mainstream TV. Members of the Governing Body thus repeat the pattern they are known for with any new technology: They eye it with suspicion. They advise caution. They know that when the thief switches getaway cars, it is the thief you have to watch, not the dazzling features of the new car. They follow the thief for a time. Convinced at last that they still have a bead on him, they examine the car. They circle it warily, kicking the tires. At last satisfied, they jump in with both feet and put it to good uses its inventors could only have dreamed of.”    

Whoa! John took advantage of my distraction to post: “I have been there and done all of that. It’s hype. They are conditioned to “like the program.” We were all expected to applaud.”

Once again, I acquiesced. I am that sort of a guy:

“I will go further to confess what I have never confessed before. Our body of elders used to rent a prison bus to round up the publishers and make them go to the convention. They made me drive. I didn’t want to, but they made me, using mind-control. The friends didn’t want to go. None of them did. They used to hide in the bushes when they saw me pulling up in the prison bus. But the elders had ordered me to stuff them in nice clothes by force if necessary. Oh, how my conscience torments me now.”

John: “The kids are ordered to answer up in Watchtower studies and made to pre-study for hours and write down long answers, which in truth they don’t even understand. They just answer parrot fashion.”

“That’s nothing!” I shot back. “I have seen children actually confined in oversized parrot cages until they finished studying their lessons, at which time, if they were lucky, they might be given a cracker.”

I thought that I heard Admin weeping at this point, and I felt sorry for him. Even I thought it was getting to be a bit much. I had chosen not to respond to his “Geez, you guys are a piece of work.” What could I have told him—that we’re not?

It is high time that we proceed to examine the adversary.

From the book TrueTom vs the Apostates!

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Who Are the Apostates?

Nobody has apostates like Jehovah’s Witnesses. Theirs are the best. Nobody has apostates more determined. Nobody has apostates more prolific. It is almost as though I am proud of them. I very nearly am. If they flourished in the first century, they should flourish now. If they didn’t flourish now, one would have to wonder why.

They certainly did flourish back then. There is no writer of the New Testament that does not feel obliged to come to grips with them. “I know that…from among you yourselves men will rise and speak twisted things to draw away the disciples after themselves,” warns the faithful apostle at Acts 20: 29-30. “For there will be a period of time when they will not put up with the healthful teaching, but in accord with their own desires, they will accumulate teachers for themselves to have their ears tickled, and they will turn their ears away from the truth,” he repeats at 2 Timothy 4:3.

If Christianity is among the greatest themes of all time, then combatting apostates is one of the greatest subthemes of all time. Every religion has them, but especially those with Judeo-Christian underpinnings, in which context the word is specifically defined. The Greek verb form means “to stand away from.” The noun form has the sense of “desertion, abandonment, or rebellion.” It is those who have ‘been there and done that.’ If one has not been there and done that, one cannot be an apostate, no matter how much one may dislike a religion.

If there was to be “a period of time when they will not put up with the healthful teaching, but in accord with their own desires, they will accumulate teachers for themselves to have their ears tickled, and they will turn their ears away from the truth,” it stands to reason that such a period would have commenced long ago, with the end product the cacophony of religious offerings that exist today. Let another book written by another author deal with who’s who. I will focus my attention on Jehovah’s Witnesses, the Christian denomination with the fiercest apostates. One can even make the case that the more namby-pamby the apostates, the more they are that way because they have already chalked up major wins. Where they are the most virulent, it is because they have yet to make significant dent in the core and are tearing out their hair in the unrelenting effort.

Apostasy is said to be a “mystery” in scripture. It might well seem so to the outsider looking in, for it involves persons attacking those who were once their closest friends with a ferocity that is breathtaking. “Why don’t they just move on in life?” the typical observer will say. The reasons behind the apostasy themselves are less a mystery. Most are covered with but a few simple Bible passages. The apostates are like Demas, who forsook Paul because “he loved the present system of things.” Though they tested the waters, they “went out from us” because “they were not of our sort.” Their former friends became misled fools to them when “the Master kept delaying.” They were stumbled, and woe to the one stumbling them. Nonetheless, the psalm that would have helped them is: “Abundant peace belongs to those loving your law, and for them there is no stumbling block.” (2 Timothy 4:10, 1 John 2:19, Matthew 24:48, Mark 9:42, Psalm 119:165)

The law they were to love, and once did, is “God’s law.” It is not the law of human government. Suffice it to say that Jehovah’s Witnesses put no stock in human government. All human governments will drop the ball. Usually it is a bowling ball, and the only pertinent question that remains is upon which toe will it land. As people ponder the vulnerability of their right and left toes, thus is decided their politics. Jehovah’s Witnesses discard it all as secondary, and they do not let such differences disrupt the peace of the congregation.

They obey the governments under which they live. If one considers how little cost they put upon agencies of law enforcement or tax collection, they are the most loyal citizens of any nation. They do what they are told, not because they are weaklings, but because they consider it but a secondary point. In every country they say to the ‘king:’ “Tell us your rules for maintaining public order and we will follow them.” It is a different matter when the law of the king conflicts with the law of God, but that situation is relatively rare. Usually one can “render Caesar’s things to Caesar and God’s things to God” without undue fuss.

Jehovah’s Witnesses put their stock in what they would term “divine government,” rather than that of humans. As a practical matter, that is expressed though a human agency they refer to at present as their Governing Body. They consider these ones charged with applying the Bible to modern times, just as in the United States and most other lands, a Supreme Court is charged with applying a Constitution to modern times. Governing Body members are not infallible. They strive to lead by example, and there is a scene I will not quickly forget of a representative, for illustrative purposes, pulling a string on a table by a finger placed firmly atop one end. “See how the rest of it nicely follows?” he points out. “What happens if I try to push the string?” and upon doing so, it wads up. “It really isn’t very smart of me to do it this way, is it?” he says.

The most likely area for apostasy to surface is at the divine/human interface. It was even true with Judas. He and God were tight. There were absolutely no problems there! But that character masquerading as the Messiah—why, he wasn’t at all what Judas had expected. And those yokels he was attracting? Don’t even go there.

It becomes quickly apparent that a religion with which the year text is “Anything goes” will produce few apostates. What would they apostatize from? Repeatedly we read in scripture that apostates “despise authority.” How does that become a problem unless there is authority? They love “lawlessness.” How does that become a problem unless there is law? They favor acts of “brazen conduct.” They have “eyes full of adultery,” and they are “unable to desist from sin.” How does that become a problem unless there is someone to tell that they cannot carry on that way? Not only is the nature of apostates revealed in the above verses of Jude and 2 Peter 2, but also the nature of the Christian organization. A faith too bland to produce quality apostates is too bland to be given the time of day.

When offering testimony about whatever faith they have apostatized from, their testimony cannot be relied upon exclusively, but must be corroborated by independent sources. The bias they reveal may be considerable, as Lonnie D. Kliever, Ph.D., Professor of Religious Studies, Southern Methodist University, writes:

“There is no denying that these dedicated and diehard opponents of the new religions present a distorted view of the new religions to the public, the academy, and the courts by virtue of their ready availability and eagerness to testify against their former religious associations and activities. Such apostates always act out of a scenario that vindicates themselves by shifting responsibility for their actions to the religious group. Indeed, the various brainwashing scenarios so often invoked against the new religious movements have been overwhelmingly repudiated by social scientists and religion scholars as nothing more than calculated efforts to discredit the beliefs and practices of unconventional religions in the eyes of governmental agencies and public opinion. Such apostates can hardly be regarded as reliable informants by responsible journalists, scholars, or jurists. Even the accounts of voluntary defectors with no grudges to bear must be used with caution since they interpret their past religious experience in the light of present efforts to re-establish their own self-identity and self-esteem.”

It doesn’t mean they must be ignored. It just means they must always be taken with a substantial grain of salt. John Gordon Melton, an American religious scholar cautions “that hostile ex-members would invariably shade the truth and blow out of proportion minor incidents, turning them into major incidents.”

When they leave a “new religion,” the current non-prejudicial term for those founded within the last century or two, less incendiary than the newly-expanded term “cult,” they have a lot of explaining to do. It is not as though they have switched from Chevrolet to Ford. They have abandoned goals and practices perhaps followed for decades to embrace ones that in many respects represent the very opposite. How best to account for such a flip-flop without suggesting that they were dupes? What could be better than lodging a “brainwashing” claim, asserting that they were “misled,” that, really, they are no more stupid than you—if it happened to them, it could have just as easily happened to anyone? It is an irresistible ploy.

Professor David Bromley, author of The Politics of Religious Apostasy: The Role of Apostates in the Transformation of Religious Movement, “explained how individuals who elect to leave a chosen faith must then become critical of their religion in order to justify their departure…Others may ask, if the group is as transparently evil as he now contends, why did he espouse its cause in the first place? In the process of trying to explain his own seduction and to confirm the worst fears about the group, the apostate is likely to paint a caricature of the group that is shaped more by his current role as apostate than by his actual experience in the group.”

Of course! If one leaves a group that truly is “no part of the world,” as Jesus said his followers would be, to pursue a course fully part of that world, there is a lot of catching up to do. There has been a lot of falling behind the curve, and there is a lot of time to be made up. Particularly if one has given up the faith for atheism, then there is only a short time left, and previous years comprising the majority of one’s life may appear to have been wasted. The temptation to resort to a thought-control defense is irresistible.

Apostates of the world have managed to unite under an anti-cult common umbrella. They come from many different faiths, and find that they have much in common. All of their former faiths were cults—they are smarting from their wounds—that did them great damage by deflecting from the truly fine goals of life. A prominent one, let us call him Steve, spent his early days as a ‘Moonie,’ the common name for those of the Unification Church. He now spends his time helping people to escape cults, and he has expanded the definition well beyond Moonies.

I know little about the Moonies, per se, and have nothing specifically against them. I share the common perception that they drop out of society, dress strangely, and used to interact with the public primarily to sell them things, such as flowers. Even this must be put into context, for there were plenty of Steve’s generation who became actual “flower children” of the sixties. They turned on, tuned in, and dropped out of contemporary society, and to this day they are not criticized for it, even when they enhanced their experience with mind-altering drugs.

A generation or two before them there were the hoboes, often educated men, who dropped out of society, roaming the country via railroad boxcars, which were not hard to surreptitiously board. “Stay away from the hoboes,” Gram told my Dad when he has a boy. Of course, he went right down to the woods to hang out with the hoboes, and he says they generally were the most gentle and peaceable folk you might ever hope to meet. When one came into town, he might ask for a meal. When there was extra in the pantry, a resident might feed them. They would sit on the porch nice as you please eating their meal, and upon leaving, would make a mark on the house so that other hoboes would know a free meal could be had there. If you left things lying about, they would steal you blind, but only take what they needed for their immediate future.

Drop outs are not uncommon. There have always been drop-outs. They are even a romanticized segment of society. But let there be a God component to it and all hell breaks loose. Isn’t that all the Moonies are guilty of, throwing an interpretation of God into the mix? Steve came to be upset with them, for they ‘stole’ his early life. But there really aren’t that many of them. Like a growth industry, he began to target other groups who, unlike the Moonies, did not drop out of society, in fact, they often improved their role significantly in it, such as by overcoming addictions. These new targets mixed in with regular society just fine, often better than before, as some of them dropped the criminal activity they had once engaged in. But they looked to a different source for direction. Let us be blunt. The modern anti-cult movement is an effort to stop them from doing that. It is an attempt to put persons on the same page and prevent them departing from script.

Think twice before you do it. Dr. Asseem Malhotra states: “We all have to realize that society has been manufactured in a way where we simply give up our own mind to someone else, who has been given theirs by someone else...from birth, we are programmed to think a certain way by somebody else.” Dr. Malhotra is a cardiologist and he is referring to standard regimens of health, but the principles apply widely. If the prevailing mindset was so productive and healthful, surely you could expect the world thus built to reflect that. Think twice before you shut down pathways to explore and perhaps even reject the status quo.

Jehovah’s Witnesses don’t cotton to the status quo of human rulership. They like what they would characterize as “God’s rulership.” Their assessment of history is that of Ecclesiastes 8:9—that “man has dominated man to his injury.” They agree with Jeremiah, the Old Testament prophet, that “to earthling man his way does not belong. It does not belong to man who is walking even to direct his step.” Human government is a disaster, they say, and they align their lives with “divine rulership” and the human organization they think best represents it, that unitedly spearheads the telling of the “good news of God’s kingdom” the world over.

Because the religion is consequential, it is resisted by the anti-cultists. Because under its influence people make decisions they would not make otherwise—and in some cases later come to reassess—the anti-cultists would like to stamp it out. If it confined its role to supporting the customary goals of society, they would have no problem with it. It is as Jesus says: “If you were part of the world, the world would be fond of what is its own.”

The more that a religion stands for things in contrast to the prevailing thinking, the more it will produce apostates. The more that it maintains a separateness from the greater world, the more it will produce apostates. Ones who cross the chasm from faith to anti-faith may hope that former relationships will not suffer, but they invariably will. It is a chasm they have crossed, not a dotted line. Anything with a significant upside will have a downside, and if one negates the upside, there remains nothing to focus upon but the downside—a point particularly applicable to those former members who have opted for atheism.

The outrage that some of these apostates express initially sets one back on one’s heels. However, outrage is the new normal today, and one must expect that going in. Following the commentary on world news for a week or so will dispel any doubt that outrage is the name of the game today. A Pew survey released during August 2018 revealed that, pertaining to the politics of the two major parties, not only can Americans not agree on how to act in light of the facts, but they cannot even agree on what the facts are. With no agreement on the facts there can be no starting point for discussion. If it is true of two parties which both occupy the here and now, how much more so of two parties, one whose view of the future is eternity, the other is that the next few decades. How much more so of two parties, one of which dismisses the “pearl of high price” as a ‘been there done that?’ Just what will there be to talk about?

“If a man dies, can he live again?” is the question at Job 14:14. “Of course,” says the Witness. “No way,” says the ex-Witness. The former looks at any sacrifices of the present life as but delayed gratification, the sort that does a person’s character nothing but good, the sort that is integral to any raising of a child. The latter looks upon it as foolishness on steroids, for ‘this life is all there is.’ Just what will there be to talk about?

They lie as submerged rocks poised to rip out whatever floats your boat. The lie they tell is more subtle than many of them know—in fact, it is a lie only in the eye of the beholder. It is the same as the first lie told in Genesis: “You certainly will not die. God knows that in the very day you eat from it, your eyes will be opened and you will be like God, knowing good and bad.” Take the verse symbolically. Take it literally. Either way the lesson is the same. Not only is the first woman told a lie, but more significantly, it is a lie told with a bad motive. “He is trying to deprive you of freedom and independence,” the charge goes, but “don’t let Him fool you. You don’t need Him. You can decide for yourselves what is good and what is bad.”

What of the ‘facts’ apostates may want to bring to the faithful one’s attention, ones they say that caused them to jump ship? Proverbs 21:2 is useful to consider: “Every way of a man is upright in his own eyes, but Jehovah is making an estimate of hearts.” Of course! Everyone is right in his own eyes. Everyone tells facts that are true. Nobody tells facts that are not true. It is how those facts are organized and prioritized that counts, and that is a matter of heart, which Jehovah assesses. The bare facts they present are often accurate, but they are entirely misrepresented and put into a context either untrue or highly subjective.

They revel in their new found “freedom.” No longer will they suffer traveling on the “cramped and narrow” road that Jesus spoke about. (Matthew 7:14) He must have been crazy. He was just trying to suppress human freedom with his “mind-control.” No more! Now the road is broad and spacious and deliriously exciting.

I don’t like them, and they don’t like me. If someone positively loathes my best friend—what if it were my wife?—are they going to be my chum? I don’t think so. Yes, yes, my wife is an actual person that can be seen, (indeed, it is hard to take one’s eyes off her) whereas God is a spirit, but it is close enough. I I may come to respect them but I am not their pal.  They seek to draw others into their course. “While they are promising them freedom, they themselves are slaves of corruption; for if anyone is overcome by someone, he is his slave,” says 2 Peter 2. In the case of those that have followed the path of atheism, if the only freedom you can offer expires in a few decades, just how much freedom do you truly have to offer?

“Certainly, if after escaping from the defilements of the world by an accurate knowledge of the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, they get involved again with these very things and are overcome, their final state has become worse for them than the first. It would have been better for them not to have accurately known the path of righteousness than after knowing it to turn away from the holy commandment they had received,” says the apostle Peter. (vs 19-21) “Leave them be” is the counsel. Send them packing should they come around. “Look out that no one takes you captive by means of the philosophy and empty deception according to human tradition, according to the elementary things of the world and not according to the Christ,” says Paul at Colossians 2:8. “Keep your eye on those who cause divisions and occasions for stumbling contrary  to the teaching that you have learned, and avoid them,” he says again at Romans 16:17. “If anyone comes to you and does not bring this teaching [of the Christ], never receive him into your homes or say a greeting,” says John.

For the one holding the course, the situation is no more complicated than for the one who, having determined that he has taken in altogether too much junk food over the years, and that it has done him much harm, resolves to diet. The last thing in the world that person wants is someone stuffing his pantry with cupcakes, cookies, and chips, his fridge with ice cream, and urging him to relax his ridiculous diet so as to “enjoy life” and “live a little.”—nothing is so delicious as ice cream! Our healthy dieter just doesn’t need to have that person around. He will almost wish he could dig a moat around the house so as not to let him in.

He has determined, upon examination, that the cruise ship is going down. He has boarded the lifeboat, where it is not so luxurious as on the main ship. He doesn’t need those who have swum back to re-board crowing about the fine wining, dining and dancing that they have resumed. It is fine, as well, to avoid the companionship of those who gripe and complain about the cramped quarters on the lifeboat. And when determined to quit smoking, one does well to avoid the company of ones who do so like chimneys. The principle is well understood and can be illustrated through numerous examples. Only when spirituality is thrown into the mix do some suddenly go obtuse, but the underlying logic is no different.

As a nation looks to its constitution, so does the Witness organization to the Bible. The counsel will be to avoid its apostates. “Taste and see that Jehovah is good,” says the psalm. They have tasted and “seen” that he is bad. What is there to talk about? There will be no persuading them, for they have deliberately crossed the chasm. The only possible outcome is they may attain their goal and persuade the one yet holding the course—the reverse will not happen, because it already has happened and they tired of it. “Did you know that your people are not perfect? Did you know that they have made mistakes? Did you know that they have been inconsistent?” they ask—all of which the Christian does know, if not specifically, then certainly in principle. The final Bible Book of Revelation describes, in chapters 2 and 3, several congregations meant to symbolically stand for the whole. Some of them are veritable basket cases, with problems quite serious. But that does not mean that they are not congregations.

The counsel to avoid apostates is good. It is biblical. One could hardly argue otherwise, scripturally. Yet there is a downside. Any military general realizes that he must know what the scoundrels across the divide are up to. Become too insular, and the apostate almost becomes the “bogeyman” of mysterious powers—the mere exposure to his words is enough to thwart years of alignment to God. It is a mystery status that they do not deserve. There is nothing mysterious about them. Their reasons for departure are un-mysteriously human, though they may be not readily reversible. They have cast aside what they once embraced for the thoroughly understandable and human reasons outlined previously.

It really doesn’t take that much to get one’s head around the opposition. They write and speak prolifically, but it’s quite repetitive. They make noise far disproportionate to their size—but that does not mean that there are not many of them. Are they truly a myriad, or have they managed to inflate their numbers, like Gideon’s 300 troops that convinced the enemy they numbered in the tens of thousands? It is not easy to tell. In a world of several billion people one can find countless examples of anything. Assemble them in one place and, why—it would seem that no other cause must exist.

There are people who will not do something until you tell them that they should not. “Stay away from the hoboes,” Gram told Dad, so he went right down there to hang with them. It is a universal law of human nature, and it is not usually wise to give in to it. It is why the curious cat needs every one of its nine lives. At times our own young people, wondering what all the fuss is about, goaded on that only a wus is afraid even to look here or there, succumbs to that universal law and launches his or her own investigation. Sometimes they are floored to find what they never expected to find. Arguably, they might have benefited from prior “vaccination”—exposure to just a little bit of the malady so that they might have worked up an immunity for it.

As an adult, even as a young adult, one is in position to leave childhood roots. Many choose to do so. But is the course wise while one is yet in one’s teenage years? It smacks too much of Mark Twain’s supposed saying: “When I was a boy of 14, my father was so ignorant I could hardly stand to have the old man around. But when I got to be 21, I was astonished at how much the old man had learned in seven years.”

Perhaps this writer can help some of these “bad” boys and girls, for alas—he too is being bad. Let us not spin it any other way. He is being a bad boy, pure and simple, sailing past godly counsel as though Odysseus thumbing his nose at Poseidon. “Battle not with the monsters, lest ye become a monster,” writes one of the apostate’s own prophets, for “if you gaze long enough into the abyss, the abyss gazes back.” Does this writer observe that good sense? He heedlessly hollers down the abyss: “Yo! Anybody down there?!” for the sake of a hopefully good read.

But if he is a bad boy in this one area, he is a good boy in all others, universally liked in his circuit because he is a peacemaker who is not wound up too tight. He steers clear of the six Proverbs things that God hates, a list that magically expand to seven, including “feet that in are in a hurry to run to badness, a false witness that launches forth lies, and anyone sending forth contentions among brothers.” His feet stay planted on terra firma, he launches nothing but rectitude, and he soothes contentions away.

In battling the “apostates” on the pages to come, one name will pop up more than all others combined—unfortunately suggesting that I have it in for this one personally. This is not the case. Many do what he does. I just happened to latch onto him first. It could have been one of many people. A writer needs not only a muse. He also needs a villain, and I frequented where I knew there were villains galore. In the unlikely event that he should feel picked on, (I suspect he will welcome the publicity) I offer my apology. More likely he will feel honored, and he should.  He and his have succeeded advancing the game to another level, and that must be respected. But it is the same game. It simply requires an adaptation in response. To some extent, it is a shame to name anyone, hero or villain, because it is not about individuals. It is about the ideas they represent. Still, if an idea can be personalized, it makes for more a interesting read. We are all people persons, after all.

For purposes of this book, this oft referred to chieftain replaces a fellow we shall call Danny, a former Witness turned sour, a man who came to have an extraordinary reach. If anyone posted anything anywhere about Jehovah’s Witnesses and there was room to comment, his was one of the first. Always his contribution was malicious and almost always it was irrelevant to the post. Visiting his own site, I noted that he billed himself as an expert witness in the case of custody lawsuits where one parent or the other was a Jehovah’s Witness and an expert witness in lawsuits against manufacturers of anti-depressants, apparently not realizing that each claim undercut his credibility for the other. I remember him for posting an almost maniacal laugh that he was getting the ultimate revenge on his former religion, because his retorts were everywhere, and they would last forever! He forgot to mention that they would also quickly be buried in the digital avalanche that is the Internet. Today he is unheard of. Witnesses ought not gloat about this, however, for he has been replaced by a legion of others.

“The first man to state his case is right, but then his opponent searches him through,” says the Proverb. Let us do exactly that. “However, here are some ground rules, TrueTom,” I tell myself: Don’t be goaded. Never make it personal. Remember that everyone has the right to interpret his or her own experience. Accept going in that you will be excoriated. Don’t expect to get in the last word. The key to staying dispassionate lies in knowing that you are going to lose the battle. The enemies will have their day in the sun before it all turns around.

From the book TrueTom vs the Apostates!

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Doesn't Do Birthdays. Part 3

No sooner did Serena Williams make herself a minor figure of controversy through a birthday brouhaha than she made herself a major one through cussing out another judge at the 2018 U.S. Open, which cost her the match—and for her converting a physical loss into a moral win. It depends upon who you talk to. If you disliked her before, you will dislike her more. If you liked her before you will like her more. I’ll take the latter.

The U.S. Open chair referee penalized her three times, only the second of which was without controversy. When you’re hot, you’re hot, and she blew up at him. Not at first she didn’t, when she said: “We don’t have any code and I know you don’t know that and I understand why you may have thought that was coaching [on the part of her coach allegedly sending an illegal signal] but I’m telling you it’s not. I don’t cheat to win, I’d rather lose. I’m just letting you know.” Her coach said later that he had indeed done the deed, but that it happens all the time, and he does it less than most. It was a point on which sportswriters agreed.

If she didn’t blast the referee then, she sure did blast him after missing a shot and mashing her racket (which also is common): “You owe me an apology!” she shouted. “I have never cheated in my life, I have a daughter and I stand what’s right for her!” See what motivates her these days? See what she had been stewing about, that perhaps caused her to botch the serve? It is her daughter and the example she sets for her—the same daughter that does not do birthdays.

She went on to call the referee a “thief” for taking away the point that presaged her meltdown, and that accusation also counted against her. Some observed that men retort “F**k you!” to the umpire all the time without consequence, so many agreed with her heated contention that she had indeed caught extra flak on account of being a woman.

With Serena forfeiting multiple points, her opponent, Naomi Osaka, won the match, but everyone booed at how it had transpired. As soon as Serena noticed her upset and tears, she ran and embraced her and told the crowd not to boo, even through her own tears: “I don’t want to be rude. I don’t want to interrupt and I don’t want to do questions. I just want to tell you guys she played well and this is her first grand slam,” at which point everyone cheered.

It is so like the Bible admonition to “keep an eye, not on your own interests, but on those of the other person’s” that one wonders if she did not absorb it from her Witness upbringing. Or maybe it is just her and has nothing to do with the Bible. Either way, it means she will make a fine Witness someday should she get everything together. She enjoys a high reputation. Sportswriter Jeff Eisenband tweeted “…people who hate on Serena Williams’ ‘character’ obviously don’t follower her off the court. She’s a competitor between the lines, but a role model off the court as a person and a celebrity.”

Immediately after Serena shot into ex-JW attention through the birthday announcement regarding her daughter, they were on the story, smelling opportunity. What if they could get her to say: “I’ve looked at this more closely and now I denounce Jehovah’s Witnesses! They won’t let women be elders! In this day and age!” Let me tell you some of these characters sent themselves into orbit, as they pressed her on whether Witness “misogyny” really squared with the good works she did off the court. They pressed her on the sacrifices Witnesses make with regard to their religion, and about how they are less almost anywhere else.

Honestly, how people can be so obtuse? She believes in God. Most of those on the Reddit forum do not. She is not going to be knocked off her feet as they blow out of proportion negatives, losing sight completely of the positives. And they think that she is going to cry about sacrifice? She is the least likely to cry about that. She is among the star athletes of our time and she well knows that nothing worthwhile comes without hard work. “Exert yourself vigorously to get in through the narrow gate,” Jesus advises. She will be the last one to wail that it should be as broad as a barn door so as to make it easy.

One can never say with any given individual, but even if they should get her going with their complaints, she will likely say that congregation justice may not be perfect, but it sure is head and shoulders over the justice of the outside world. It is a lawyer’s playground out there, with massive transfers of funds in all directions for every conceivable wrong, with barristers the only consistent beneficiaries. Some congregation members, even ones who have been wronged, will prefer to put their trust in 1 Timothy: “The sins of some men are publicly known, leading directly to judgment, but those of other men become evident later.” It’s not perfect. But it beats the greater world’s justice which so frequently falls down of the job.

One can even picture Serena retiring at this point. Not that I would will it, necessarily, but it could happen. She is now a mom with suddenly another life to care for, a common turning point in a woman’s life. There are things about Jehovah’s Witnesses and pro sports that are not entirely compatible, such as providing temptation to blow one’s top at the misogynistic referee. The two courses are not absolutely incompatible, but they do pose a challenge.

From the book TrueTom vs the Apostates!

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Who is "Mentally Diseased?"

Seeking to curb disintegration in human society, and having failed to curb human violence, nations increasingly resort to political correctness. If you can prevent people from saying certain things, the theory goes, perhaps tolerance, peace and good will to all will one day come about. There’s not much evidence that it works that way, but one must try something. In my youth, the phrase “I’ll kill you for that!” was both innocuous and commonplace—a mother might say it to a mischievous child, as mine did to me. The turning point for the play Twelve Angry Men came with the realization that the wrongly accused one’s: “I’ll kill you for that!” meant nothing. But that years long ago. Today the words are taboo, though the deed has become commonplace. Woe today to anyone uttering words suggesting lack of tolerance.

Has the Watchtower run afoul of that stricture recently? In its July 15, 2011 issue, for consideration in JW congregations, the magazine recommended (strongly) avoiding “apostates,” even calling them “mentally diseased.” You should have heard the howling from those who don’t like Witnesses, grumblers who immediately broadened application of those words to include all who left the faith, something the article never suggested. Government ought to investigate such “hate speech,” they insisted.

Most persons who leave JWs simply move on in life, some with the viewpoint that the religion just wasn’t for them, some with minor grumbling over this or that feature of the faith that prompted their decision, some with the viewpoint that they couldn’t live up to it. None of these are viewed as apostates. To be sure, those who remain do not regard the decision as wise, but they’re not “apostate.” A fair number eventually return. One could liken those leaving to a man or woman leaving a failed marriage. After initial trauma, most pick up the pieces and move on. But there’s always a certain few psycho ex-mates that can’t let go, who devote all their time and energy to harassing the person they once loved. With the Internet, such ones loom huge. That’s the type of individual the magazine commented on, not at all simply everyone who departs.

Moreover, “mentally diseased” was placed in quotation marks, indicating it was not meant as a medical diagnosis, but as an adjective to suggest a manner of thinking. Nor is the term anything original. It is merely a repeat of the Bible verse 1 Timothy 6:3-4....“If any man teaches other doctrine and does not assent to healthful words, those of our Lord Jesus Christ, nor to the teaching that accords with godly devotion, he is puffed up [with pride], not understanding anything, but being mentally diseased over questionings and debates about words.”

Whoa, whoa, whoa! one said. “That’s not in any Bible I know of except the New World Translation, your Bible!” He offered some alternatives, and I’ll quote from his blog:

“If anyone advocates a different doctrine and does not agree with sound words, those of our Lord Jesus Christ, and with the doctrine conforming to godliness, he is conceited and understands nothing; but he has a morbid interest in controversial questions and disputes about words, out of which arise envy, strife, abusive language, evil suspicions. (NASB)

“If any man teach otherwise, and consent not to wholesome words, even the words of our Lord Jesus Christ, and to the doctrine which is according to godliness; he is proud, knowing nothing, but doting about questions and strifes of words, whereof cometh envy, strife, railings, evil surmisings. (KJV)

“If any man teach otherwise, and consent not to the sound words of our Lord Jesus Christ, and to that doctrine which is according to godliness, he is proud, knowing nothing, but sick about questions and strifes of words; from which arise envies, contentions, blasphemies, evil suspicions.” (Douay-Rheims) before progressing to an unbelievable “But of course, translations are unnecessary for people like me who can read the original Greek: ‘ει τις ετεροδιδασκαλει και μη προσερχεται υγιαινουσιν λογοις τοις του κυριου ημων ιησου χριστου και τη κατ ευσεβειαν διδασκαλια τετυφωται μηδεν επισταμενος αλλα νοσων περι ζητησεις και λογομαχιας εξ ων γινεται φθονος ερις βλασφημιαι υπονοιαι πονηραι’ (Wetscott-Hort)”

I answered: “But of course! Fortunately, people like you produce translations so that dumb people like me can hope to understand the original. Surely, we are permitted to use translations. If not, then all international dealings/relations need be suspended unless all parties involved are thoroughly conversant in all languages. By comparing many translations, even the dunce can get an accurate feel for the original.

“You’ve objected to ‘mentally diseased over questionings and debates about words.’ What do your other quoted translations say? Douay-Rheims says ‘sick about questions and strifes of words.’ In view of the context, what sort of ‘sickness’ do you think the translator had in mind? Tuberculosis, maybe? Or is it not a sickness of thinking, so that ‘mentally diseased’ is not such a bad rendering after all? NASB, which you admire, offers ‘morbid interest in controversial questions and disputes about words.’ Does ‘morbid,’ when applied to thinking, suggest balance and soundness of mind? Or is ‘sickness,’ even ‘mentally diseased,’ more to the point?”

Here’s a few other translations:

‘diseased’ (Emphasized New Testament; Rotherham)

‘filled with a sickly appetite’ (Epistles of Paul, W.J.Conybeare)

‘morbid appetite’ (A New Testament: A Translation in the Language of the People; Charles Williams)

‘morbid craving’ (An American Translation; Goodspeed)

‘unhealthy love of questionings’ (New Testament in Basic English)

‘morbidly keen’ (NEB)

‘unhealthy desire to argue’ (Good News Bible).

“Do any of these other versions suggest soundness of mind to you? So the NWT’s ‘mentally diseased’ is an entirely valid offering, even if more pointed than most. Plus, once again, the term is an adjective, as it is in all other translations, not a medical diagnosis. Context (in that Watchtower article) made this application abundantly clear.” But my blogging opponent declared all such context (apparently without knowing it) “irrelevant.” The last time I carried on that way with regard to the remarks of some scientists, I was immediately accused of “quote mining.” Surely that sword must cut both ways. Malcontents who harp on that Watchtower sentence are quote-mining, totally ignoring (or disagreeing with) its context, so as to lambaste a religion they detest.

[Edit: December 2018:] Apparently my own people (after all my work!) decided that this was not the hill they wanted to die on. The NWT was revised in 2013, and the new rendering of 1 Timothy 6:4 is: “He is obsessed with arguments and debates about words” and the footnote for “obsessed” reads “Or ‘has an unhealthy fascination.’“ Thus, revision puts the NWT safely in the middle of the pack, no longer out there with the most pointed rendering. (October 2011)

From the book TrueTom vs the Apostates!

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'I Do Not Understand Why We Persecute Jehovah's Witnesses,' Putin Says

At a December 11. 2018 meeting with the Council on Civil Society Development and Human Rights, one council member, Ekaterina Shulman, addressed President Putin: “There is a list of organizations, for which there is information that they are involved in terrorism and extremism. There are 489 of them, and 404 of them are Jehovah’s Witnesses.”

Pressing her luck, she continued: “Here I will take a sinister pause. There could be an abundance of claims against Jehovah’s Witnesses—they don’t allow blood transfusion, don’t send children to hospitals, [ed: not a charge that I have heard before] but they definitely are not calling for violence or committing it.”

Putin’s response was: “We should treat the representatives of all religions in the same way – this is true, but still, it is also necessary to take into account the country and the society in which we live. True, this does not mean at all that we should include representatives of religious communities in some destructive, or even in terrorist organizations. Of course, this is complete nonsense, you need to carefully deal with it. Here I agree with you.”

Later in the meeting, Putin returned to the topic and added: “Jehovah’s Witnesses are Christians, too. I don’t quite understand why they are persecuted. So this should be looked into. This must be done.” The Washington Post and Time picked up on the story the next day, the Post saying that he “has pledged to look into the reported persecution of Jehovah’s Witnesses.”

Now, what to make of this?

Yaroslav Sivulski, the press secretary for JWs in Russia, stated: “We have noted the president’s reaction with surprise. If he knows about the whole situation, then probably his reaction could change something. We hope that he will give instructions to have the matter examined and something may happen. Though, knowing the realities of our country, there is not much optimism.” Okay, so they’re not breaking out the champagne just yet.

The online community of Jehovah’s Witnesses was a cynical bunch, by and large, with many thinking Putin was just being slippery. In fact, since translating from Russian to English poses challenges, one Witness understood him to say: “Jehovah's Witnesses are also Christians, for which I do not really understand how to persecute them,” as though he was searching for more effective ways to do it. Hmm. Did he say "I really do not understand how to persecute them" or "I really do not understand how they are persecuted"? It is the six-million-dollar question. It is a little like the Twilight Zone episode in which the earthlings were relieved to find the alien's handbook "To Serve Man." ‘Ahh, it means their intentions are good,’ and they breathed easily, but at the show’s end they discovered to their discomforture that it was a cookbook.

I tend to take President Putin’s remarks at face value. There is no reason that he has to say what he does, even expanding it to ‘Jehovah’s Witness are also Christians,’ contradicting prominent religious people who say they are not. When his Foreign Minister, Sergey Lavrov, who was also among the officials that Witnesses contacted via a letter campaign launched in hopes of averting the 2017 ban, was asked a similar question last year, he could not have answered more harshly than he did. I think Putin is being genuine, at last waking up to something that he has barely paid attention to. Maybe it is like the hinge squeaking in the background somewhere that he has barely noticed but now it is driving him nuts. Perhaps he will even pick up his WD-40, go lubricate it himself, and subsequently vent his wrath upon whoever allowed such idiocy to take center stage in the first place, painting his country before all the world as a nation of goons--in the spirit of Ahasuerus avenging Haman.

A president is a busy man. It is popularly believed that anything that goes down in a country will have his fingerprints all over it, but this is seldom so for matters of ‘low priority.’ Of course, this is not low priority for Witnesses, but it can hardly be otherwise for him. At a subsequent news conference, he spoke to the danger of nuclear war, which he hopes the West does not get too cavalier about: “The danger of the situation escalating is being downplayed,” he said, adding that the lowering of thresholds for nuclear capability “could really lead us to catastrophe.” If he loses sleep at night, it is not over the travails of a small religion. It is over the thought of the world going up in flames.

Western media excoriates him, but it cannot be wise to let the propaganda of one king mold our view of the other. I was very careful, in writing the book, Dear Mr. Putin – Jehovah’s Witnesses Write Russia, not to do that. In the event it was ever read by anyone that mattered, I did not want to sabotage it by being disrespectful or accusing.

It wasn’t that hard to do—for example, by spotlighting the two, likely three, times that Russia, not the United States, saved the world from certain nuclear war. Lieutenant Colonel Petrov spotted an incoming missile from the U.S. on his screen, correctly judged it a malfunction, and against orders, did not relay the report to the excitable Kremlin. Second-in-command Vasili Arkhipov refused to sign-off with his two fellow officers to launch a nuclear attack during the Cuban missile crisis—thwarting an attack that had to have unanimous backing. Nikita Khrushchev arguably brought that crisis to a close with his last-minute telegram to President Kennedy.

However, in refraining from criticizing Putin personally, I was not just being expedient. I honestly came to feel it not likely that he was one of the instigators. I admit that feeling wavered in view of the abuses of the last few months, with Witnesses physically accosted by police, but now it intensifies. Promisingly, he is not cut from the same cloth as many in high government. He was not born to privilege in the ruling class. He started from the ground up, as a regular office worker, and lived with his parents during the early days of his working life. He thus probably retains a feel for the interests of the ‘common man’ that his co-rulers do not. In the end, it hardly matters, because ‘the heart of a king is as streams of water’ in Jehovah’s hands. But it helps if it is neither ice cubes nor steam to begin with.

He didn’t have to say it, is the point. He could have issued some boiler-plate beatitude of how ‘the situation is serious and we continue to monitor it closely.’ He certainly didn’t have to say that Witnesses are Christian too, thus showing that he will not be shoved around by ones who insist they are not. His statement makes it much harder for Russia to thumb its nose at any upcoming ECHR verdict, indicating that he has no intention of doing that. How can his words not ease the pressure on Jehovah’s Witnesses in that country? After all, if you were a Russian cop, would YOU violently accost one after what he just said?

Still, he is conscious of the majority. How much freedom of worship will be restored remains to be seen, since he observes that with 90% of the country being of a certain religious orientation, one cannot throw everything overboard so as to please the "sects." It is enough not to persecute them, which he seems inclined not to do. Maybe the brothers will have to tip-toe around for a while, and it will not necessarily be a bad thing for our people to focus on being discreet. That has long been the direction of theocratic training, anyhow. If Putin truly had evil intent, however, he would not have returned to the topic to say that he doesn’t really understand why Jehovah’s Witnesses are persecuted. Now let’s see how well he holds up as the more devious ones labor to ‘educate’ him on the topic. We will see whose resolve prevails. Probably, JW representative Sivulsky has it just right: he is surprised and cautiously optimistic.

In some respects, it may prove a replay, with hopefully different outcome, of the situation with Pilate judging Jesus. Pilate knew that he was being set up. He knew Jesus was innocent. He worked rather hard to free him—that much is clear by reading any one of the gospel accounts, and the conclusion is inescapable upon reviewing all of them. But the scoundrels were so insistent, even hinting that to release Jesus would be treasonous, that he eventually caved. After all, it wasn’t his prime concern. He had a province to run. He tried to do the right thing. That’s how it is with many today. They try to do the right thing, but they only try so hard. When the going gets rough, they opt for expediency.

The Russian Orthodox Church has insisted that it did not instigate the ban and I am inclined to believe them. That is not to say that prominent ones were not delighted at the outcome, or that some instigators did not have Church connections. But the villainy stems from an anti-cult movement, with French connections, that is active in many lands. Conditions in Russia were ripe, that’s all, just like they were ripe for Communism 100 years ago, which was also imported from abroad.

Writing ‘Dear Mr. Putin - Jehovah’s Witnesses Write Russia’ took the better part of a year. There were few publicly available online sources that I did not read during this time, save only for those that were repetitive. The most telling report was one by Joshua Gill, a religion writer, revealing from where most of the trouble came.

“The Russian Supreme Court’s July 17 ban on the Jehovah’s Witnesses was the result of a decades long conspiracy funded by the French government, blessed by the Russian Orthodox Church, and sanctioned by the Putin administration…The latest phase of that plan first garnered international attention with Russian authorities’ arrest of a Danish citizen.” That would be Dennis Christensen, arrested May 25, 2017 for conducting a congregation meeting after the ban had gone into effect, and still in prison at this time of writing, (December 2018) his case only recently coming to trial.

Gill spotlights the role of Alexander Dvorkin, the Russian Ministry’s Expert Council for Conducting State Religious-Studies. That Council exists so as “to investigate religions that deviate from Russian Orthodox teaching and to recommend actions against those religions to the state.” They have recommended taking strong action on non-majority faiths. Mr. Dvorkin is also vice president of the European Federation of Research and Information Centers on Sectarianism (FECRIS), a French NGO dedicated to identifying as a “sect/cult or a guru the organization or the individual which misuses beliefs and behavioral techniques for his own benefit.” It is an organization fully funded by the French government, and it may be remembered that that government tried to eliminate Jehovah’s Witnesses by imposing a 60% tax on their activities in 1998. The tax was steadfastly appealed by Jehovah’s Witnesses until it was struck down by the European Court of Human Rights fourteen years later.

The Daily Caller article reveals the depth of Dvokin’s misinformation and dislike of Jehovah’s Witnesses. “Their adepts recruit failed university enrollees, and people on vacation as well; they have a wide range of psychological influence, especially on the unstable minds of adolescents and youths,” he says of them and the Hare Krishnas. He has encouraged the public to “take part in the fight against sects, file complaints and collect raw data so that the local authorities can react quickly.” In a 2009 documentary called ‘Emergency Investigation: Jehovah’s Witnesses,’ he compared Witnesses to drug dealers. The Journal for the Study of Beliefs and Worldviews attributes instances of public violence against Russian Witness members to that documentary, just as the violence visiting Kingdom Halls in Washington State is similarly stoked by the inflammatory use of the C-word. Is the FECRIS mission of identifying as a “sect/cult or a guru the organization or the individual which misuses beliefs and behavioral techniques for his own benefit” not exactly the battle cry of the anti-cultists worldwide?”

Mine was the minority view among the Witnesses I spoke with. “You are a better Christian than I am,” one said. “You always expect the best from people. I don't believe a word a politician says.” Note that his distrust is of “a politician,” not of Putin specifically, though he hardly sings his praises. One could even say that it is a sign of being “insular”—they are all the same to him. Having said that, they are all the same to many persons today—it is hardly a quirk of him alone. Why, long ago Mark Twain even said that politicians must be changed as frequently as a diaper—and for the same reason.

It is true that I try to think the best of people. Am I a “better Christian” in this instance? Or just a dumber one? Time will tell.

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)

A Review of the Movie Apostasy. Part 3

The biblically literate Christian generally wishes that Hollywood would forget that Book exists. They butcher it each time they touch it. It is seldom through malice. Hollywood simply isn’t that spiritual of a place, and few can put themselves into the shoes of persons of faith. They mix a bit of nonsense that they remember from Sunday School with formulas for what makes a riveting movie and produce a product in which Moses pops Pharaoh in the nose and gets the girl, a far cry from the actual Moses who carried on so much about being slow of tongue that God assigned a helper to handle public relations for him.

It doesn’t always work against us. I once worked with an agnostic woman who knew that God’s name was Jehovah because she had seen an Indiana Jones movie. She knew that God’s original purpose was for the earth to be a paradise because she had seen the film Dogma. She had never been in a church, yet she knew more about God from two movies than do many after a lifetime of attending church. Usually, though, we get clobbered at the hands of moviemakers.

The first Hollywood production I know of that specifically mentioned Jehovah’s Witnesses was Clint Eastwood’s A Perfect World. The Witness mother therein quelled the complaints of her two children, upset that they could not do Halloween trick or treating, with the pious platitude: “We have a higher calling.” No Witness in a thousand years is going to say “We have a higher calling”—they just don’t speak that way, and so I knew that Clint probably didn’t have it in for Jehovah’s Witnesses in particular; he just wanted a premise for a good movie, as most of his are.

A robber in the film had inadvertently kidnapped one of the Witness mother’s two children. As though testimony that this movie was filmed long ago, he did the child no harm. Instead, he warmed to the lad. The boy, too, didn’t seem too upset at being kidnapped. He warmed to his kidnapper, for now he could escape his frumpy Witness mom and go trick or treating like every kid longs to do. The detective assigned even arranged for this to happen, after exploding: “What kind of a nutty religion doesn’t do Halloween?” He made his deputies bring the boy candy, which the lad in his ghost costume eagerly collected. It was a heartwarming scene, indeed, and then the sharpshooter shot the boy’s new best friend dead just feet away from him.

Other than sporadic attempts to make hay out of a Witnesses’ refusing a blood transfusion—it is an irresistible film premise—and a doctor crusading, sometimes successfully, sometimes not, to override this bit of perceived pig-headedness, there have been few film attempts to tackle Jehovah’s Witnesses. To my astonishment, one episode of The Practice, a legal drama of the late nineties, featured the topic and got most of it right. Trustworthy Rebecca, the resourceful secretary, got caught in a bomb blast brought on by a former client that the team should have stayed far away from. Suddenly a new character appeared out of nowhere for one or two episodes—Rebecca’s mom, who had affidavits from the local congregation that her daughter was a practicing Jehovah’s Witness and wouldn’t take blood!

Don’t Witnesses carry “blood cards,” head attorney Bobby objected. Don’t Witnesses talk about their faith? Rebecca hadn’t. But mama said that she had been so beaten down by being the only black girl in the office that she had learned to keep her mouth shut. Well, maybe. It’s a little thin, but this is television after all.

Bobby determined that he would force a transfusion on the unconscious woman. He railed in court that this woman could be saved but for this - this “voodoo” religion. When it was mama’s turn on the stand, she said “You tipped your hand, Bobby. This has nothing to do with saving life. This is about your own religious prejudice.” The judge ruled in favor of mama. I couldn’t believe it. At Witness headquarters worldwide, they all rose to their feet and cheered—or at least they might have had they been watching, which they probably were not. Afterwards, as though admitted to the bar, mama joined in group prayer with the legal team gathered around her daughter’s hospital bedside.

Okay, okay, so they messed some things up. It’s still immeasurably better than how we usually fare in Hollywood. Throughout, Jehovah’s Witnesses were presented with dignity. They were not presented as the cult-addled nut-jobs that they supposedly are in The Children Act, a 2018 offering. In this film, the judge does not rule for the Witness position, but personally intervenes with a young man dying of leukemia to sway him of his beliefs. He apparently becomes somewhat unhinged thereafter, which is to be expected, the premise goes, upon breaking free of a cult. The judge herself is on shaky ground, with her marital life falling apart.

It’s hard to say if the movie is any good or not. The star power of the cast is formidable. To the extent that Witness detractors are in the audience—and that will be a very large extent—they will reliably praise it to the heavens for taking powerful aim at their former faith. I may have to see the movie myself. But even counting television movies, I see only a handful a year, and that usually is at the behest of my wife. Can one write about a movie that one has not seen? It’s dicey. However, if scientists can do forensic research on events eons-old and have that research accepted, there is no reason that I should not be able to give it a shot, doing forensic research based upon existing reviews and my own background knowledge of how the Jehovah’s Witness faith works.

I was roundly thrashed by ex-Witnesses when I pulled this trick by writing a review of another film that presents Jehovah’s Witnesses in a bad light, the movie Apostasy. You don’t win them all—sometimes they blow up in your face. Even I had to admit that it is a bit much to review it unseen, forensics notwithstanding. I took on the challenge because I knew that whatever problems might lay with the film would lay with, not what was said, but what was not said. I readily conceded that the film was well-done, and it has gone on to win honors—though once again, it is hard to say how much of those honors stem from Witness-bashers lauding it to the heavens. Once again, the stars are top notch. My aim was to offer context, since the film, by all accounts, portrays Jehovah’s Witnesses as the most deluded of people.

It does not portray them as bad people, however, but merely hamstrung in life by immersion in a cult. It doesn’t even portray them as unhappy people, just people whose happiness somehow rings hollow, as it is based upon unreality. The movie’s director was raised in the faith and says “it was liberating to leave the Jehovah’s Witnesses.” It is probably well for Witnesses to know, to the extent they don’t already, that they don’t all pine away for the good old days at the Kingdom Hall after departure.

This director certainly doesn’t. As he himself developed doubts growing up, he has concocted two film characters who also develop doubts. Perhaps all three of them do—I may have to see this one as well. He is described as a “gentle, softly spoken man” who was initially uncomfortable with the topic of his debut film. The reviewer praises the film’s “even-handedness, the way it stirs in the audience sympathy for characters whose beliefs most of us might ordinarily struggle to understand.” Only the “cult” that has so hoodwinked them suffers.

Confounding his co-ex-members, he tells the Guardian film critic in a July 15, 2018 article that he on good terms with his Mom, though he left his childhood faith years ago. Perhaps that will change with the movie. Or perhaps it will go the other way, and his apparent dream will come true—he may succeed in undermining her faith in the spiritual things that she signed on for, and, having canceled out the positive, there will remain only the negative upon which to focus.

The most telling part of the interview is his statement: “The audience needs to understand the weight of their beliefs, the spiritual pressure they’re under. Because that’s what motivates them.” Plainly, this is an opinion, not a fact. But it is an informed opinion of one who has “been there and done that,” and there have been many that have held it. He has been mobbed at showings by ex-JWs who hail him for succeeding in his mission.

He describes the atmosphere of his former faith as one of “elitism.” This, too, is plainly opinion. It is like how it has become standard fare for parties on either side of a dispute to pronounce the other “arrogant” upon failing to sway them. Any time you have an outlook not shared by the general populace you are a sitting duck for those who want to paint you as “elitist.”

He even applies the phrase “cognitive dissonance” to those of his former faith. It is the modern method of giving insult, as in, “Your cognitive dissonance must be massive to stand in the face of my overwhelming arguments.” Is it really so that persons cannot simultaneously hold non-dovetailing ideas without short-circuiting their heads? One glance at Americans watching pharmaceutical ads will dispel the notion, with narrator insisting that you must have the product peddled and voiceover saying that it may kill you.

He is disappointed that the other Witness-bashing movie, Children Act—there are not that many of them, after all—is released at exactly the same time as his. What are the chances? He doesn’t particularly like the other film, describing it as “an outsider’s movie.” “When I read it,” he says, “I found myself nit-picking. Ex-Witnesses always say: ‘Oh, that’s not quite right.’” Present Witnesses would do it, too. Did I not just do the same with the Clint Eastwood movie?

Granted, the movie is fiction, and so by definition is untrue, but the outward facts do not appear to be wrong, merely incomplete and skewed. “Meagre” and “joyless” are not words I would ever use describing the Jehovah’s Witness world, as the director does—one certainly would not get that impression upon visiting a Kingdom Hall, much less a large convention. “Unnervingly quiet” also doesn’t ring true, nor men who “rule the roost.” Still, I know where he is coming from. If you become disillusioned with your own cause and start to long for the offerings of the other side, your life becomes meagre and joyless until you grasp them. What is a guardrail for some becomes an iron curtain for others.

Jehovah’s Witnesses may be best thought of as a nation. Unlike physical nations, its citizens are united in terms of common purpose and goals. Barriers that divide elsewhere mean nothing to Witnesses—those of nationality, race, economic, and social status. Like any nation, Witnesses will have their own culture. Unlike other nations, that culture is ever the minority view. The happy citizens of China will surely seem immersed in a cult from an American point of view, their outlook and concerns molded by forces of which Americans are mostly unaware and would not think important if they were aware of them. The citizens of America will surely seem immersed in a cult from a Chinese point of view for the same reasons. The two situations cause no internal discord because, in each case, persons are surrounded almost entirely by their own. Witnesses are a scattered nation, though, nowhere the majority, and since the beginning of time, the majority has been intolerant of the minority.

There are two views of the world. Let the adherents of both have their say. Long ago, in a lengthy discussion with a householder on the topic of evolution, the man at last ventured to ask what difference did it make how we all got here? I replied that, if there was a God who created us and the earth upon which we live, he might just have some purpose for them both and not sit idly by to see it all ruined. But if evolution put us all here, then whatever hope there was for the future lay in human efforts. “And they’re not doing so well,” I added. The man’s wife, who had been silent up till then, said, “That’s a good point.” Here in the Apostasy movie is a reality drawn by one who thinks that they are doing well, or at least he has lost faith in God’s purposes to remedy the earth that is now, for he describes himself as agnostic. Let all voices be heard as the struggle for minds and hearts continues.

There are two worlds from which to choose. The Book describes the one to come, everlasting life on a paradisiac earth made possible when God’s kingdom truly comes “on earth, as it is in heaven,” as the prayer says. It is the “real” life of 1 Timothy 6:19. Some translations call it the “true” life. Jehovah’s Witnesses, without too much fuss, know how to delay instant gratification in this life so as to lay hold of the “real” one. Their anti-cult detractors readily concede that delaying instant gratification is a good thing, but will protest that this is going too far, because, for them, the game is well along in innings, with no concept at all of a succeeding “real” life.

Most Witnesses will have conniptions about seeing their faith slammed so publicly. They’ll have to get used to it. It’s okay. “The game is the same, it’s just up on another level,” says Bob Dylan in a context he never imagined. For decades Witnesses, who came “out of the world,” have spun an image of that world that rings true with some and untrue to others. Now the shoe is on the other foot, with someone who comes from their own ranks and does the reverse. Let people decide for themselves what rings true and what rings false.

“To his followers, Jesus says “Happy are you when people reproach you and persecute you and lyingly say every sort of wicked thing against you for my sake.” It is a saying that makes no sense at all until it is taken as an indication that they must be on the right track for it to be said of them, for “as they have hated me, so will they hate you.” Beyond all question, whatever is done by the Witness organization is done for Jesus’s sake. They are accustomed to showing the gem through its most appealing facet. Let them learn, if need be, to show it through its least appealing one. Disfellowshiping is unpleasant and the prospect of that unpleasantness serves to discourage the conduct that might trigger it. Once incurred, it serves to spur the conduct that might reverse it, for the door that was closed was never locked. But if that one goes thereafter his or her own separate way, relations will cool. If he turns upon and savages the framework that his loved ones hold dear, it will almost certainly sever.

Jesus says both hot or cold are desirable, but lukewarm doesn’t work. The illustration that every Witness knows is that of the embers staying hot only if they huddle toward the center. They also know the expression that it is possible to engage in the ministry just enough to hate it—only whole-souled with do the trick. They encourage members to solidify their faith through study, ministry, and association. “Make the truth your own,” is an expression all Witnesses know. If that sounds cult-like, it is because, given the present expanded definition, Christianity true to its roots is a cult.

It all boils down to what Jesus told Saul, related at Acts 26:14—“to keep kicking against the goads makes it hard for you.” A support system is only a support to those in line with the program—they will not think of them as goads at all. Should one choose to pursue Christianity, it does indeed come with a support system to better ensure success. But to those whose alignment to the Christian purpose has waned or even shut down, the goads will seem almost unbearably oppressive—it is no wonder that these would depart and thereafter speak ill of the faith they once breathed.

The situation resembles the apostle Paul’s letter to the Philippians. He is probably making lemonade out of lemons, but it is lemonade all the same: “True, some are preaching the Christ through envy and rivalry, but others also through goodwill. The latter are publicizing the Christ out of love….but the former do it out of contentiousness….What then? [Nothing,] except in every way, whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is being publicized, and in this I rejoice.”

Let the man write his movie. Should he be lambasted for it? He is a person of creative bent. What else should he be expected to do with his talents other than address what he once lived? I feel the same pressure, only from the opposite direction. I, too, tell stories, and everything comes with a Witness’s perpective because that is the topic I live. Should I write of something else—say, current matters of newsworthy interest, I find that they usually come down to the same ending: “it’s all bolloxed-up because we ‘need the kingdom.’” As Solomon put it, “that which is crooked cannot be made straight.”

Is it really Jehovah’s Witnesses that live in a manipulated unreality? Or it is their apostates? Each will choose differently. Thrilled to be finally liberated from “waiting upon God” and his kingdom rule, some of them dive into the formerly off-limits governments of nations with verve. Let them at least consider briefly The Confession of Congressman X, a book released in 2016:

“My main job is to keep my job, to get reelected. It takes precedence over everything,” the author quotes an anonymous member of Congress. “Voters are incredibly ignorant and know little about our form of government and how it works….It's far easier than you think to manipulate a nation of naive, self-absorbed sheep who crave instant gratification.” He describes most of his colleagues as “dishonest career politicians who revel in the power and special-interest money that's lavished upon them.” “Fundraising is so time consuming I seldom read any bills I vote on. Like many of my colleagues, I don't know how the legislation will be implemented, or what it'll cost,” the unburdening Congressman says—he is cleansing his soul, for he found the reality so different from what he had anticipated, and it has shaken his core, but, after all, he knows he has landed a good gig and doesn’t want to start pounding the pavements in search of another. “We spend money we don’t have and blithely mortgage the future with a wink and a nod. Screw the next generation. It's about getting credit now, lookin’ good for the upcoming election.”

Like the three hoaxers of chapter ***, Congressman X will not be invited soon for any speaking engagements of the establishment. Every so often a factoid emerges from somewhere to make clear that the emperor has no clothes. Perhaps his is not the last word on matters. But then, perhaps the Apostasy movie’s word is also not the last word. We live in a world in whihc people process exactly the same data, come to polar opposite conclusions, and thereafter scream at each other day and night on social media. Let the spiritual things that preoccupy Jehovah’s Witnesses also take their turn in the spotlight—the things with the greatest consequence of all. Let them, too, divide people, according to what they wish to fixate upon.

Jehovah’s Witnesses are drawn from ones who know within themselves that the reality today has changed little that of from Bible times. Then, the common people were “skinned and thrown about.” It has only intensified today in that there are more to do the skinning—powerful commercial, political, and religious interests. Those prospective Witnesses know intuitively that the game will not change, though it is ever moved to another level so as to give that appearance. They also sense a gross injustice at God’s taking the blame for the misuse of the free will he afforded humans. Yet when they later band together and impose some limits on their free will, they find that their God takes the blame for that, too, for that is an affront to “freedom.”

The urge to investigate the promises of the Bible and then stick with them in the face of opposition or adversity is largely a matter of the heart, not the head. “Sighing and groaning” over all these detestable things (Ezekiel 9) is not the same as bellyaching and complaining. Many do the latter. Relatively few do the former. The heart chooses what it wants, and then entrusts the head to devise a convincing rationale for the choice, lending the impression that it was the head all along. But it is mostly the heart.

Not everyone will feel as do future Witnesses, and some, like the movie director, will move in the other direction. Hope springs eternal. The game will change one day, through human efforts, they will maintain. The young will yet fix things—why did no other generation ever think to do this? Others acquiesce that the game may not change but they remain determined to ride it out, for good or ill. They will look with derision at Witnesses riding cramped in their self-described lifeboat. It is only to be expected. Jesus didn’t come to save the cool people. The cool people will tell you that they don’t need saving—they are doing just fine, thank you very much. He came to save, not those who do not need a physician, but those who do.

Are they really that cool? How cool can one be when in, a heartbeat, one can be run over by a truck? From their ranks come the ones who deride religion as a “crutch” of which they have no need. The analogy is correct—religion is a crutch. What is wrong is the premise. The premise that more aptly fits is that of the abased fellow dragging himself through the mud, too stupid or proud—or maybe just unaware—to know that a crutch would be useful. In his day, Ronald Reagan was arguably the most influential person on earth. Ten years later, in the throes of Alzheimer’s, he didn’t know who he was. How cool is that?

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)

The Anti-Cultists are Directly Responsible

The term for a faith-based community of relatively recent origin is “new religious movement.” But if you really dislike that community, you resurrect a word already reviled and apply it to your target—you say it is a “cult.” That way you don’t have to demonstrate that the group is bad. Your label does your work for you.

Time was that if you fell under the spell of a charismatic leader, withdrew from all normal societal contact, and began doing strange things, you just might be part of a cult. Today, the word is expanded to cover those thinking outside of the box that we are not supposed to think outside of.  If the box of popular goals and thinking undeniably led to fulfillment that might not be such a bad thing, but everyone knows that it does not.

Says religion.wikia.com of the term “new religious movement”: “Scholars studying the sociology of religion have almost unanimously adopted this term as a neutral alternative to the word ‘cult.’” How can it not follow that “cult” is therefore not scholarly but more in keeping with those who want to stir up ill will if not hate?

It is akin to yelling “Fire!” in a crowded theater. People may act upon it. They particularly may do so if “cult” is coaxed just a little bit further in the public eye to become “extremist.” Such a thing has happened with regard to Jehovah's Witnesses in Russia under the guidance of “anti-cultists." Many other new religious movements are shaking in their boots that their turn will come.  In that country, Witnesses are officially designated “extremist,” a designation shared only with ISIS.

As the human rights group khpg.org points out, “You can’t claim that people are ‘terrorists’ or ‘extremists’ and then simply knock on their doors to arrest them, though in all cases there is nothing at all to suggest that resistance would have been shown. Instead, there are armed searches, most often by masked men in full military gear, with the suspect hurled to the ground and handcuffed, often in the presence of their distressed and terrified children.” This has become the reality for many Witnesses and it is a direct result of those who expand the definition of “cult” to cover people not covered previously.

Note how this meme plays out in the following event. Note also that it has nothing to do with controversies that have dogged the faith in the West: A mass shooting occurred in Crimea and the shooter’s sole parent, bringing him up by herself, is said to be a Jehovah’s Witness. Let us assume that it is true. This is not a safe assumption, for another Witness was recently denounced by Russian media as having a cache of arms. It turned out that her non-Witness husband had a few rusted and inoperable souvenir grenades from World War II. Nonetheless, we must start somewhere. Let us assume mom was a Witness.

Khpg.org here reports: “Whether or not his mother is, or has ever been a Jehovah’s Witness, there is no proof that Roslyakov had any religious beliefs, or that his mother’s alleged beliefs affected him in any way….the entire ‘story’, as presented, for example, on the Russian state-controlled Vesti.ru, is based solely on value judgements which are presented as though they were facts.

“The Vesti.ru report is entitled ‘The Kerch killer was surrounded by supporters of totalitarian sects’.  It claims that Roslyakov’s mother…’forced her son to live by the rules of the banned organization’.

“It then asserts that people who ‘have pulled themselves away from it’ are sending messages of sympathy to the bereaved families and claiming that ‘all that happened was the result of pseudo-religious upbringing.’

“The supposed ‘expert on religious sects’, Alexander Dvorkin, makes allegations about the Jehovah’s Witnesses’ faith that are seriously questionable, as does the Russian Orthodox priest interviewed. None of the claims are in any way checked or analyzed, nor is the viewer offered anything in the way of an alternative point of view. The Crimean Human Rights Group is surely correct in identifying all of this as hate speech, which can result in crimes being committed against the targets of attack.” 

Note that simply being raised as a Witness is said to account for his crime. He simply snapped amidst an intolerable upbringing. It wouldn’t have happened otherwise. There have never been any other mass shootings. “Oppressive” religion is solely to blame.

He must have snapped substantially, for Jehovah’s Witnesses are one of the few groups on earth whose members categorically reject violence for any reason. Yet they are the ones said to be at fault when a young man does a 180 from his taught values. This ridiculous perception prevails because of “anti-cultists,” whose champion in Russia, Mr. Dvorkin, is soul-mate to anti-cultists here, he even having a French NGO connection.

Some enemies of Witnesses in the West, who hurl the “cult” label liberally, are gleeful over this development, even though, in the case of former Witness anti-cultists, it results in machine guns pointed at the heads of their arrested and shackled former loved ones.  More typically, however, they disapprove of it. Some have denounced it. But their verbiage is directly responsible. Their denunciation is akin to the California arsonist denouncing that the state has burned to the ground. One must not be obtuse. Once you release the hounds of hell, you find that you cannot control just how many they maul.

And what have the Jehovah’s Witnesses done to deserve such an outcome? Do they interpret the Bible differently? Do they publicize the view that this grand experiment of human self-rule will one day end, to be replaced by God’s Kingdom? Surely such a view should be allowed to stand, even if ones adopting it change their life goals accordingly. Not everyone will think that the present world sails proudly upon the high seas, with sharpshooters in the bow ready to blast to smithereens icebergs as they approach. Some will think it more likely that the Titanic will hit one. Must that view be stomped out of existence by bullying anti-cultists?

Navy

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Is It Time for Jehovah's Witnesses to Apologize? Part 4

See this series' beginning here.

The Old Testament tells some very strange tales and one of them is told at 2 Samuel. David, the Israelite king, on the ropes because he is facing an armed insurrection from his own son, enters a town where loyalty is not assured. He and his men are received hospitably, but there is one man decidedly not hospitable. The account reads:

“...a man…came out shouting curses as he approached. He was throwing stones at David and at all the servants of King David, as well as at all the people and the mighty men on his right and on his left. Shimei said as he cursed: “Get out, get out, you bloodguilty man! You worthless man!”

“…Then Abishai the son of Zeruiahm said to the king: “Why should this dead dog curse my lord the king? Let me go over, please, and take off his head.” But the king said: “…Let him curse me, for Jehovah has said to him, ‘Curse David!’ …Here my own son, who came from my own body, is seeking my life… Leave him alone so that he may curse me, for Jehovah told him to! …With that David and his men kept going down the road while Shimei was walking alongside the mountain abreast of him, shouting curses and throwing stones and a lot of dust.”  (16:5-19)

Imagine! David is not too hung up on himself, is he? The fellow curses him, throws stones at him, shouting he is bloodguilty and worthless. And David as much as says: ‘Well, maybe he has a point. I mean, if God is letting it happen, who am I to smash in his head?’

The passage is included in the midweek meeting study material for October 15, 2018. That program also incorporated a passage at Matthew chapter 11, in which Jesus said of his detractors that they criticize you no matter what you do, so the best recourse is to go full speed ahead and let 'wisdom be proved righteous by its works.’ Meetings of Jehovah’s Witnesses are essentially Bible studies that one can prepare for, organized around themes suggested by current needs and the pre-determined schedule of Bible reading that members have observed for 100 years—work your way through Revelation, and start in again at Genesis.

Nothing gets in the program without the okay, if not the direct insertion, of Witness governing members, who serve on various supervisory committees. The Matthew verse demonstrates how they respond to public criticism. They like Psalm 38:13 as well, another verse of David, about how he determined to muzzle his mouth as his adversaries kept “muttering all day long” about him. Luke 9:62 is also a favorite. That one records Jesus saying: “No man that has put his hand to a plow and looks at the things behind is well fitted for the Kingdom of God.” They press ever forward. They content themselves with a Newsroom tab on their public website that does not get into specific complaints, much as one would not expect to find a citing from the building inspector on the restaurant menu.

It is a program that October week on how Jesus set the pattern for those who would follow him, not specifically concerned with how to answer criticism, but also not avoiding the topic, particularly in the final half-hour segment. And Shimei’s tirade is right in there, with David conscious of the abuse he is receiving, and acquiescing to receiving it, as though it were discipline of sorts, as though he says “Well, maybe I had it coming,” even as he expresses hope that perhaps “Jehovah will see…and will actually restore me to goodness instead of his malediction this day.” (vs 12)

Do not think that the Witness Governing Body, as they are teaching others by means of the scriptures, do not also teach themselves. ‘If David was subjected to it, I guess we will be too,’ they seem to say. One should not think that they will not reflect on just how they got into this predicament in the first place, as David surely must have, with stones bouncing off his helmet. They will remedy it to the extent they can, but it will not be at the expense of betraying their prime directive of leading through Bible principles, and they have been loath to pull rank on family heads, reporting abuse which is sometimes entirely within a family, usually a step-family as was the case in Montana, and assume their responsibility or prerogative.

Likely they will say of these courtroom battles as they did of Russia banning the entire organization within its borders, that it is an area of “concern,” but not “worry.” They don’t get overly attached to things, even things of their own devising. They put it all on the line routinely as they do their best to advance kingdom interests, not cowering before their enemies. They plow where they plow as they apply their view of the Bible, unconcerned, sometimes unaware of the quicksand that may get them into, confident that, should that happen, God will somehow get them out of it. They do not deliberately court opposition, but they do expect it. The king makes a law and Daniel is thrown into the lion’s den. Another king makes another law and his friends are thrown into the furnace. Still another king makes another law and the entire nation of Jews faces extermination until Esther the queen opens his eyes to the sinister scheme he has been maneuvered into. It happens to their spiritual descendants to this day and the Witness organization expects no less. They are ‘insular,’ separate from the world, and the latter finds no end of reasons to oppose them for it.

They have really stepped in it this time, or at least it has been made to appear that way. It is not like last year, when Russia banned them, declared the Bible they favor illegal, and confiscated their property, doing so for completely separate reasons that never even mentioned child sexual abuse. It is not like Jehovah’s Witnesses of decades past, trying issue before first amendment issue before the U.S. Supreme Court, nobody engaging more frequently other than the government itself, so that Justice Harlan Fiske Stone wrote: “The Jehovah’s Witnesses ought to have an endowment in view of the aid which they give in solving the legal problems of civil liberties.” No. This time it is the unsavory subject of child sexual abuse, and the question that cannot be answered: If they did not go ‘beyond the law,’ why didn’t they?

Is it to be included as among the “wicked things that they will lyingly say against you?” that Jesus speaks of? (Matthew 5:11) Nobody can ever say that the charge is not wicked, on the same level as first-century charges that Christians were cannibals who burned down Rome. Just possibly it takes their breath away, as it is a legitimate bad that they never saw coming. With Shimei’s stones knocking on their helmet, just possibly the drop to their knees like Hezekiah besieged by an enraged enemy. Just possibly they look to outsiders like deer caught in the headlights while they are doing so. Just possibly they are like Adrian Monk, a good and upright man who nonetheless finds himself both outside of his normal element and in a pickle because he cannot choose which chair in which to sit until Natalie gently pushes him down on whatever one he hovers over at the moment.

Drive this sucker to the Supreme Court, if need be. If they decide to hear it, it will be case number 50-something that Witnesses have tried before that body, more than any other group besides the government itself. Let it be resolved once and for all when the time is right. Many person are being sued over child sexual abuse these days, and it is generally the same scenario. Though groups as the Boy Scouts manifestly benefit children in ways not readily duplicated, their deep pockets permit a pummeling such as cannot be visited on unorganized society, though it be every bit as accommodating to child sexual abuse, only minus the benefits. It will be so with groups that instill religious values into youth, as well.

Don’t be put off by the sordid backdrop. The world wallows in sordidness these days and is accustomed to everyone being accused of everything. The Week Magazine reports (09/03/2018) that referrals of child abuse online images have increased seven-fold over five years. On average, one child in every primary school classroom has received nude or semi-nude pictures from an adult. They respond not always well: “A girl from my primary [was] sending half-naked pictures because it’s what everyone does,” said one. Don’t let this be painted as a Witness pandemic or even a pandemic of any religion. What! It is only where there are deep pockets that child sexual abuse occurs? It is only taxpayer-funded schools, scouting organizations, or faith groups that suffer child sexual abuse? The origins don’t line up. Christianity, where it remains true to its roots, is an offshoot of Judaism, where pedophilia was exceedingly uncommon in Bible times A verse from the Sibylline oracles, a collection of oracular utterances written in Greek hexameters ascribed to the [prophetesses] Sibyls, claims that only the Jews were free from this impurity. They were “mindful of holy wedlock, and they do not engage in impious intercourse with male children, as do Phoenicians, Egyptians and Romans, spacious Greece and many nations of other, Persians and Galatians and all Asia, transgressing the holy law of immortal God, which they transgressed.” 

And where does the mainstream educated world find its underpinnings? Is it not the world of ancient Greece, the cradle of democracy? It is also the cradle of pedophilia, a societally accepted practice no where condemned. The only condemnation to be found is from Christians who withdrew and became insular as regards that world, and it is found in 1 Corinthians 6:9: “Do not be deceived; neither fornicators nor idolaters nor adulterers nor boy prostitutes nor sodomites nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor robbers will inherit the kingdom of God.” (NABRE) A footnote to the New American Bible – Revised Edition on ‘boy prostitutes’ and ‘sodomites’ reads: “The Greek word translated as boy prostitutes may refer to catamites, i.e., boys or young men who were kept for purposes of prostitution, a practice not uncommon in the Greco-Roman world. In Greek mythology this was the function of Ganymede, the “cupbearer of the gods,” whose Latin name was Catamitus. The term translated sodomites refers to adult males who indulged in homosexual practices with such boys.” They even had a god for it! 

Montana law being what it appears to be, it is hard to imagine this could not be appealed successfully. The Montana court’s greatest mistake may have been the excessive punitive damages, clearing indicating they felt the Witness organization was trying to violate law. If it can be shown that they made every conscientious effort to follow law, everything might reverse. Whether they are insular or not should not factor in. Separateness from the overall world is not yet a crime. It may factor into public opinion, but not yet that of law.

What would be the repercussions in the event of a higher court reversal? Not necessarily positive for Jehovah’s Witnesses, who always sought, perhaps to a fault, not to ‘sully God’s name.’ It’s a little late to worry about that now. Or maybe it is not. A higher court reversal of the Montana verdict may cause the average person who learns of it to say: “It’s unbelievable! The Court says it’s okay for Jehovah’s Witnesses to abuse children!” But if there was a sincere expression of regret in the interim, for children truly have been harmed, they might say, “Oh. I understand. They did bollox things but now I see how it happened.”

People, by and large, are fair, even when they don’t especially care for Witnesses. They don’t buy for a minute that Jehovah’s Witnesses, Latter Day Saints, Boy Scouts, and taxpayer-backed institutions are the only settings in which child sexual abuse occurs. They understand that these parties have deep pockets, and there is no sense in going after anyone who does not. Yes. A higher court victory giving opportunity to ‘come clean’ as to how the whole mess began may well clean up that Name Witnesses are so concerned about.

Let it be framed as it is. An attack on separate religion, in which child abuse matters are employed as a righteous smokescreen. It is not merely Jehovah’s Witnesses under the gun. It is religion in general and the more determined it is to resist mainstream thinking the more of a target it becomes. Prejudice against the Jehovah’s Witness faith runs deeper than most, and it is a very real child abuse tragedy that enables it to be disguised as justifiable outrage. But the attack on religious freedom ought be the subject of focus.

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)