“Now, I finally want to express special thanks to those who helped and supported me during the last 2 years of this criminal case:”

[Dennis Christensen’s closing statement]

First, I want to thank my wife Irina, who from the very beginning did everything in her power to help and support me. She took care of me, passed me clothes, groceries, medicines and other things that I needed in the SIZO (Pre-Trial Detention Centre). She has supported me emotionally and spiritually with her visits and letters that I have received from her every day.

My dear wife, your strong faith, your great patience, your peace of mind and love for me and for the truth, including your optimism, have all been a great example to me. You should know that I love you very much and that I am very proud of you!

I also want to thank my family in Denmark, especially my elderly father and my sister. You should know that I miss you so much. I love you and appreciate everything you have done for me. During my stay in the SIZO you supported me with your numerous letters and telephone conversations. I am sure that you will never give up and lose hope that we will be able to come together again as a family one day.

I also want to thank all my many friends from all over the world. You supported me with your letters, encouraging thoughts, beautiful drawings and various gifts. All this has helped me to understand that I am not alone, and that I have a large global family.

Dear friends, you should know that every letter, big or small, has encouraged and strengthened me. Please do not be discouraged if I do not have time to respond to your letters. I will find you, thank you and hug you in the future, I promise!

I also want to thank the Embassy of the Kingdom of Denmark in Moscow and all its staff. You attended many court sessions and repeatedly visited me in the SIZO. Your helpful advice, guidance and encouragement mean a lot to me, and I really appreciate your support and the great help that you have given me.

I would also like to thank the Court of Appeal for the fact that I personally was able to attend this court hearing. When I participated in other appellate cases through videoconferencing from the SIZO, it was difficult for me to hear everything that was said. I had to guess half of what was happening there. This is an unworthy way to defend someone. In addition, when using the conference call in the SIZO, you must sit in jail, as if you were an animal in a zoo. I consider this an unworthy, inhuman treatment today, in the 21st century.

At the present, I have already been in the SIZO for almost two years, and this trial has been going on for 15 months. To endure all this, not to give up and not to lose heart, it is extremely necessary to have a certain inner strength. The Bible says - in Philippians, the 4th chapter, the 12th verse - that “I can do everything by him that strengthens me.” In the book of the Prophet Isaiah, the 12th chapter, in verse 2 it is written: “Behold, God is my salvation: I trust in Him and have no fear; for the Lord is my strength, and my song is the Lord; and he has been my salvation. "

Throughout this period, I have felt that my God, Jehovah, has been next to me and has given me the strength to endure all this. The power to not give up, not to lose heart, to be joyful and happy and to continue to smile. I am sincerely grateful to him for this and am proud to serve Him as one of his witnesses, one of Jehovah's Witnesses.

Many people have asked me how this criminal case have affected me. Of course, it is not easy to be in a SIZO for such a long period of time, to be cut off from your wife and from close contact with your family and friends. The last two years I have lived a very closed life. You could say I have just existed. 23 hours a day I have spent in my prison cell of 3 by 6 meters, and for an hour every day I have gone for a walk in the walking yard, also 3 by 6 meters, although under the open sky. During this time, I met various people with whom I had many interesting conversations. And I noticed that many of them are trying to achieve a decent, honest investigation and trial. Most feel that the system does not hear them, and I have also felt a similar feeling in the past two years. I tried to support and encourage them as best I could, because I am sure that Jesus Christ would have done the same.

I made many new friends, some of them were present at a part of the court sessions, and some wrote letters to me. I personally know some of them, but others not yet. Some havethe same faith as I do, others do not, but they still support me, because they cannot tolerate the injustice that is happening here in Russia, the way some here try to make Jehovah’sWitnesses, citizens who love their neighbour as themselves, out to be criminals and call them extremists. This is completely illogical and ridiculous. Many are shocked by the fact that such things happen here, in Russia, in the 21st century.

Someone asked me how this criminal case has affected my faith. Thanks to this criminal case, my faith has only become stronger, and I have experienced what the Bible said in the Epistle of James, the first chapter, in verses 2 through 4: “Take great joy, my brethren, when you meet with various trials, knowing that the test of your faith produces endurance; but endurance must have its action complete, so that you may be complete in its entirety, without any deficiency. ”

I am still far from perfect, but I have learned to be steadfast and remain joyful in my ordeals. And the most important thing I want to emphasize is that I have drawn even closer to my God Jehovah and have received an even more ardent desire to tell others about him and his purposes, an ardent desire to continue preaching the good news of the Kingdom of God, which is the only solution for humanity. A fervent desire to share with others the joyful message from the Bible about the world and eternal life here, in paradise on earth to help them get closer to the Creator and help develop strong faith in him and his promises.

This speech is officially called “the last word in my defence,” and maybe these will be the last words you will hear from me today. Maybe this is the last court hearing in this criminal case, and it will become an end to this last two-year period of my life. But I want to assure you that these are not my last words in this case about the injustice that is happening here in Russia against peaceful and completely innocent people. I have just started, and I have a lot more that I want to tell you publicly. I'm not going to be silent, as if I am guilty and have something to hide. I have a clear conscience, I have not done anything wrong, I have not violated any law of Russia and I have nothing to be ashamed of.

What is being done against me and other Witnesses here in Russia are false accusations of extremism, interrogations, detentions, searches, confiscations, discoveries, threats, and now even torture. This should be shameful. It is of course adisgrace. The truth always becomes apparent, and justice will sooner or later prevail. In the Bible, in Galatians, chapter 6, verse 7, it says: “Do not be deceived: God is not mocked. Whatever a man sows, he will reap. ”

The court of first instance sentenced me to 6 years in prison, but for what? Nothing. There is no evidence that I did something wrong. On the contrary, there is a lot of evidence that I enjoyed the rights granted to me under Article 28 of the Constitution of the Russian Federation. I observe the law of the Russian state and am an honest person. I am a Christian, a believer, a Jehovah's Witness, and I love the Russian people. What are they punishing me for? Why should I be in prison for 6 years? Nothing. This is unfair.

I sincerely hope that the Court of Appeal today will protect what is right and take care that justice prevail. That it will namely stop the persecution of faith, which is happening now in Russia. I very much hope that this court of appeal will send a signal to the whole world that here in Russia there is freedom of religion for all people.

In the near future these words will be fulfilled: “And he, God, will judge many nations, and they will cast their swords into plowshares and their spears into sickles; nation will not raise the sword against nation, and they will no longer learn how to wage war. But each one will sit under his vine and under his fig tree, and no one will frighten them.” The words of Micah, chapter 4, verses 3 and 4.

God always judges justly, and under his rule there will no longer be disagreements, violence and wars. On the contrary, there will be peace, and there will be no anxieties. In other words, there will be true happiness for all of humanity.

Your Honor, with your decision today you can make a big step in this direction, in the direction of justice and peace. A big step towards a world without anxiety, sadness and injustice. And I hope you do that. Thank you in advance!

[The appeal failed. Seemingly, it had already been decided that it would.]

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”Tasting” Apostasy - ‘Yeah, I’ll Have Me Some of That!’

The present policy of God’s organization is not to “taste” apostasy. I would never say that that is wrong. In fact, it is all but required by the Scriptures, such as at Matthew 11:19–they criticize you no matter what you do, so pay them no mind, and press full speed ahead. Or “Let them be. Blind guides is what they are.” That is why I am a bad boy for hanging out where I do.

However, just because a policy is right does not mean that there may not be a significant downside to it. As it is, many of our young have succumbed to the oldest temptation in the world, going where they have been advised not to, like the cat that curiosity killed. There they find material that they have never seen before. It is material that is mostly misrepresented, but they do not see how—some of it is presented convincingly.  It strikes a chord with some of them.

Ideally, parents or other older ones should be able to show them how it has been misrepresented and what is wrong with it, but they cannot because they don’t know what is there themselves—they have not “tasted” apostasy. That’s why I could see Ann’s point when she said that she kept on top of “apostate” things, lest one fine day her teenage son ask about them and she is not able to do more than say, “Don’t go there!” which the opposers unfailingly spin as evidence of trying to keep the kid in a “cult.”

As it is, last I heard, the kid is happily serving as a regular pioneer, has never displayed any interest in such things, and says: “Mom, what’s with all this goofy stuff that you read?” But he is not everyone.

***

The reasons that some will turn aside are plain as day, clearly stated. Sometimes one could wish they were specifically applied to the courses different ones follow:

For there are many, I used to mention them often but now I mention them also with weeping, who are walking as the enemies of the torture stake of the Christ...[who] have their minds upon things on the earth.  (Philippians 3:18-19)

Look out: perhaps there may be someone who will carry you off as his prey through the philosophy and empty deception according to the tradition of men, according to the elementary things of the world and not according to Christ; (Colossians 2:8)

...in order that we should no longer be babes, tossed about as by waves and carried hither and thither by every wind of teaching by means of the trickery of men, by means of cunning in contriving error. Ephesians 4:14

***

Don’t allow these malcontents to raise straw man arguments, [for whom a character in my first book, Tom Irregardless and Me was named ‘Bernard Strawman’] for example, making a huge fuss over JW understandings that have changed over time. To one such grumbler who grumbled over one such understanding, I answered: “They changed that. Where were you? They are very open about it, calling it tacking or light getting brighter. It is only you that try to spin a conspiracy out of it. It is not a piece of cake looking at the future. Look how many climate change predictions have proven wrong.” Such grumbling is but muddying the waters. The fundamental teachings of Jehovahs’s Witnesses have been in place for well over 100 years—from their beginning.

It is the divine/human interface that is always going to be the problem. This was even true with Judas. He and God were tight. There were no problems there! But this upstart who claimed to be the Messiah—he was not to Judas’ liking at all. And those bumpkins that he was attracting—don’t even go there. None of the respectable people at all were buying into Jesus. “Not one of the rulers or of the Pharisees has put faith in him, has he?” said the Pharisees. “But this crowd that does not know the Law are accursed people.” (John 7:48-49)

Nicodemus tried to stick up for him, but he got shot down: “Our law does not judge a man unless first it has heard from him and come to know what he is doing, does it?” he asked. “In answer they said to him: ‘You are not also out of Galilee, are you? Search and see that no prophet is to be raised up out of Galilee.’” It is a slur. Galilee was out in the sticks, where all but one of Jesus’ twelve disciples came from. Only Judas was from cosmopolitan Jerusalem.”

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“Despite Whatever Way This Trial May End, Christensen is the Winner”

"Despite whatever way this trial may end, Christensen is the winner. He has not renounced his own ideas, even while being imprisoned for the course of two years. And he will continue to express them in the future, including in today's debates." (Anton Bogdanov)

“The whole essence of the case comes down to the following: a local religious organization was liquidated and believers continued to meet together. Believers are forbidden to meet and the local religious organization is liquidated," (Irina Krasnikova)

[Both of the above are attorneys representing Dennis Christensen on his appeal]

Finally, Christensen himself spoke, through an interpreter:

"'The more often a lie is repeated, the more it is believed.' This sentence was spoken many years ago by one horrible person. I thought that in the 21st century such a thing is now impossible. However these methods are again being used against me and other Jehovah's Witnesses. In my case, the lie is the continuation of the activity of a local religious organization....I am often asked why they try to take Jehovah's Witnesses for extremists. My answer is: I do not know. I also did not hear an answer to this question in the court.”

[I did not hear it either. That is why I decided to supply them myself, along with how they might be defended, when I wrote ‘Dear Mr. Putin - Jehovah’s Witnesses Write Russia.’ Later, noting that the same lie about Witnesses being extremists is told in the West—and not for the same reasons—I decided to detail them and their rebuttal as well, in ‘TrueTom vs the Apostates!’

Both are free in ebook version:

Dear Mr. Putin is also available in extremist-free version. Few quotations in the original ebook are from Watchtower sources—even the house Bible translation has been changed to the New American Bible - Revised Edition, a Catholic translation. The two Mr. Putin ebooks are exactly the same, save for when a quote is taken from a Watchtower source. In the “safe” version, even if the words will be as innocuous as ‘God is love,’ I rip them out with the stern warning that they pose danger to the reader and have therefore been redacted.

Pay attention to which version of the book you read. You do not want to spend time in the hoosegow.]

(Excerpts taken from Orlovskie Novosti.  (May 16, 2019) https://www2.stetson.edu/~psteeves/relnews/190516a.html)

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“Egypt Anyone? Let’s Stuff This Religious Gig and Go Back!”

It seems incredible that Israelites delivered from bondage in Egypt would petition to go back just a few weeks later. Doesn’t it? We’ve all seen the movie. Moses raises him arm, the Red Sea parts, the Israelites cross, the Egyptian army follows, and the Sea closes in on them and drowns them all.

A few weeks later they thought it was all a mistake. They wanted to go back. Would anyone believe it without seeing it in black and white? No. Therefore, here it is:

“And all the sons of Israel began to murmur against Moses and Aaron, and all the assembly began to say against them: “If only we had died in the land of Egypt, or if only we had died in this wilderness!  And why is Jehovah bringing us to this land to fall by the sword? Our wives and our little ones will become plunder. Is it not better for us to return to Egypt?” They even went to saying to one another: “Let us appoint a head, and let us return to Egypt!” (Numbers 14:2-4)

It wasn’t the cakewalk they thought it would be. If God got them out of a jam once, surely it couldn’t happen again. The food had been good. “How we remember the fish that we used to eat in Egypt for nothing, the cucumbers and the watermelons and the leeks and the onions and the garlic!” (Numbers 11:5) True, the slavery sucked, but life wandering about in hopes of a promised lands wasn’t glamorous at all.

It is all a matter of delayed gratification. If you weren’t able to do that, and grumbled about manna— it was fairly versatile stuff, but there are limits—being not cucumbers and watermelons and leeks and onions and garlic, then you started to pine away for the old life. Apparently slavery wasn’t all that tortuous; if you faithfully made your quota of bricks, the taskmaster left you in peace and fed you good when feeding time came.

The reasons not to go back to Egypt? They were all of a spiritual nature. Wanting to worship their God unhindered had triggered the Ten Plague showdown in the first place. To Pharaoh is was: “This is what Jehovah the God of the Hebrews has said: “Send my people away that they may serve me.” (Exodus 9:13) And the “promised land” where they would also worship their God unhindered was but a promise that one had to have faith it would come about.

In short, the reasons to turn back were physical. The reasons to press on were spiritual. It is no different today. If the Reddit characters that the Philly reporter wrote about—the dropouts who carried on about “the absurdities of their experiences” to a reporter who lapped it all up—it could be argued that they remained too shallow for too long to appreciate what was worthwhile.

Wanting to go back to Egypt, my foot! To maneuver to maybe become the bossman’s head lackey? Don’t tell me that in any way compares to the real life that one must, to be sure, exercise faith in and master the art of delayed gratification.

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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.

See the ebook TrueTom vs the Apostates!

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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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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)

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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