On Women. Part 1

Daily my enemy has been hammering at the door of some woman’s rights groups, hoping that they will cooperate with him in his efforts to make trouble for his former religion. This strikes me as an extraordinarily disrespectful thing to do: to bludgeon them each day as though he understands their cause better than they. If they don’t ‘take the bait,’ they don’t take it.

Lately he modifies his approach and says that he ‘respectfully asks’ they give attention to his beef. He changes tactics because so many of his own people began to accuse him of ‘man-bashing’ that he took to blocking them. When I read what he was doing, I thought it was due to me, but since I had been behaving myself lately, I went to check and I saw that - no, it was some of his own people. Moreover, while I may have been sharp in my disagreement, I was never (especially) disrespectful.

I think it will turn out as when the ever-capable female British intelligence officer said to Foyle, about the full-of-himself male officer that she, for the time-being, had to play second fiddle to, ‘He is overconfident and not really too smart. He will overreach and fall of his own weight. I’ve seen it before.’ (Foyle’s War)

Nobody will appreciate women’s issues like a woman. However, to the extent that a man may weigh in, I submit that I am more on their side than he, and if permitted, I will develop this point over a few posts. Suffice it to say going in that I have several times written: “The question to ask in any discipline, is not ‘Can women do it better than men?’ It is ‘How can they do worse?”

BTW, the beef he has is over a paragraph in the December 2018 Watchtower Magazine dealing with woman finding themselves in abusive relationships. If the background facts were as he represents, one might almost concede that he has a point. But the background facts have been misrepresented in almost every case. I wrote up a reply, which I also sent to these groups. The jury is still out on which version of truth they will prefer. Possibly they will say, ‘If we never hear again from either one of these two jerks, it will be not soon enough.’ However, I have just forwarded mine a few times. He does his every single day. Even Jehovah’s Witnesses do not call every single day.

Okay, consider a few examples of respect for women, first from the Bible, and second from the people who do their best to follow the Bible. The first two involve Jesus’s relationships with women. In themselves they are not decisive; one could even say that they do not go far enough. However, in the context of the times, they are monumental. When Jesus appeared on earth, he didn’t instantly stomp out injustice wherever he saw it. Otherwise there would have been not much left. For the most part, he worked within the existing world, even as the laid down principles that would facilitate a better one.

The ‘woman at the well’ Jesus spoke with was the first person to which he entrusted directly the news that he was God’s chosen Messiah. Even his disciples he made jump through hoops to arrive at that bit of intelligence, which, from a Christian’s point of view, is the most significant announcement of all time. He told it to a woman (John 4:26). Moreover, she was not some hoity-toity religiously self-righteous woman. She was a woman who was ‘living in sin.’ Woman’s groups today will probably disagree with definitions and values of that time, but they will nonetheless accede that Jesus first gave the most important news there was to a woman.

The second example is found in the angel who announces Jesus’s resurrection. Who does he entrust this 2nd-most important announcement of all time to? Again, it was women. (Luke 24:4-11) Now, at the time, the testimony of a woman was considered absolutely worthless in that male-dominated Greek, Roman, and yes, even Jewish world. In effect, the angel showed contempt for that male-dominated society, and completely skirted it. Even Jesus’s disciples, immersed in that culture, did not believe the women. That was of no consequence to the angel; they’ll figure it out in time, the big dopes.

Update to the present. The intent of Witness detractors today is to paint the religion as obsessed with the ‘submission’ women are supposed to show to men. To the extent the religion, or Bible, speaks of ‘submission,’ it is far more innocuous, and essentially is simply to acknowledge that in any ship, there is a captain. God has assigned the roles as best suited for the stability of the family, which for the most part, means the stability of the human race. There is no tolerance made for abuse. Of course, that is not to say that abuse has not occurred, but it occurs no less in places wanting nothing to do with Bible principles. Unless I am very mistaken, Harvey Weinstein did not go door-to-door telling people about ‘God’s magnificent purposes’.

It is a spiritual or family-based arrangement only. I realize that more women than not in the women’s groups mentioned will say that it is antiquated, and they have moved on from it for the best. Point taken. Let it be said, however, that in Watchtower facilities it is an absolutely unremarkable fact of life that women will exercise authority over men in any areas where they have better aptitude, for example, in design, computers, medicine, and law. If the men working under them ‘cop an attitude’ (which has happened) they will hear about it. Men are ever inclined anywhere to parlay their usually superior physical strength into attempted domination. Watchtower headquarters will not let them get away with it. Detractors will catch wind of a woman working in the furtherance of JW purposes, maybe law, and write of how she can endure in the midst of domineering men? She doesn’t have to. They submit to her in these pragmatic areas where competence is all that counts, and ‘submission’ is completely irrelevant, being merely a spiritual or family matter of organization.

Women are not seething with discontent over there in Witness-land, as their enemies seek to portray them. Neither are there weak women who tyrant men play like a fiddle. Of course, there are some ‘weak women,’ but there are also weak men. On balance, they are about equal.

It is common today that if you do not embrace a given cause, you are said to hate it. Thus, some try to paint Witnesses, and Christianity in general, as inherently hateful and abusive to women. Other Christian denominations will have to speak for themselves. I don’t follow them closely enough to weigh in one way or the other. I can only speak for my own people, and I will speak more of them in Part 2

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Are We Looking at Insurance Fraud? Part 3

The following excerpt is from Tom Irregardless and Me, written by yours truly.

At the home of Victor Vomidog, an alarm panel light pulsed red. Victor read the incoming feed. It was serious. Someone was saying nice things about Jehovah’s Witnesses. Instantly, he swung into action. There was not a moment to lose. He opened his door and whistled. The media came running. “Witnesses are selfish!” he cried. “They only think of themselves! Why don’t they help everyone? Why do they just do their own people?” That evening, media ran the headline: “WHY DON’T THEY HELP EVERYONE?”

But they had asked the wrong question. The headline they should have run, but didn’t, because they didn’t want to deal with the answer, was: “WHY AREN’T OTHERS DOING THE SAME?” The answer to the first question is obvious: Witness efforts consist of volunteers using their vacation time. Just how much time is the boss going to grant?

So do it yourself, Victor! Organize your own new chums! Or send your money to some mega-agency where they think Bible education is for fools. Be content to see monies frittered away on salaries, hotels, travel, retirement, health care benefits, and God knows what else! Be content to see much of what remains squandered! It’s the best you can do - embrace it! Or at least shut up about the one organization that has its act together.

The obvious solution, when it comes to disaster relief, is for others to do as we do. Why have they not? There are hundreds of religions. There are atheists…aren’t you tight with Hemant now, Victor?  Organize them, why don’t you? They all claim to be unGod’s gift to humankind. Surely they can see human suffering. Why don’t they step up to the plate themselves?

They can’t. They are vested in a selfish model that runs a selfish world. Let them become Jehovah’s Witnesses and benefit from the Bible education overseen by the Governing Body, Plato’s and Sider’s dream brought to life. But if they stay where they are, they must look to their own organization or lack thereof. There’s no excuse that they should not be able to copy us. They have far more resources to draw upon. We’re not big enough to do everyone for free, and we don’t know how to run a for-pay model; we’ve no experience in that. Instead, other groups must learn how to put love into action, as we did long ago.

C’mon, Victor! If all the world needs is to ‘come together,’ then see to it! We don’t know how to do that. People without Bible education tend not to get along. You make them do it! You don’t want to, or can’t, do large-scale relief, yet you want to shoot down those who do! What a liar!

See Part 1

See Part 2


Tom Irregardless (3)

 

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Are We Looking at Insurance Fraud? Part 2

This seemingly is a separate subject, but rest assured, it will converge. The Watchtower recently published an article that pointed out that some women in abusive marital relationships exercise their right to separate for safety’s sake, yet others have determined to stick it out. Lloyd Evans blew a gasket over this, wrote a short article of how controlling Watchtower men were, ordering Witness women to stay in abusive relationships, and he has been forwarding it daily to several agencies, hoping to get his former faith in trouble. Honestly. He did it as a countdown (or countup):

@ChtyCommission - Are you aware that Watchtower…is encouraging #jehovahswitness victims of #domesticviolence to endure life-threatening abuse?

and

It's Day 5 since Watchtower, a registered charity, publicly urged #JehovahsWitness women to stay with physically abusive husbands. @ChtyCommission has confirmed it is reviewing article. No response yet from @RefugeCharity or @womensaid.

and

Day 8 of a magazine with circulation numbering into the millions instructing women to "endure" abusive relationships. Still not a word from @ChtyCommission or #domesticviolence orgs @RefugeCharity @womensaid or @PurplePurse

At some point I chimed in, linking to my own post on the entire Watchtower article, not just a single paragraph and appending it with my tweets to his:

 

Day 9 of @cedarsjwsurvey hoping he can get his former religion in hot water with @ChtyCommission. Every day he hammers on their door. Sheesh. Even Jehovah’s Witnesses don’t call every single day. @RefugeCharity @womensaid @PurplePurse .

and

11 STRAIGHT DAYS hammering their door! No cult leader could be more pesky.

and even

Day 23 of two women's groups being battered daily by a man who shames them for not pursuing his grudge against his former religion. One never knows, but it is possible they are considering overall context. @ChtyCommission @RefugeCharity @womensaid

Some of his own people told him to cool it:

if these organizations don't react, you have to respect their choice. Criteria of their evaluations is complex in nature (legal aspects) and other crucial elements imposed by the statutes of a Charity. Please read again Steve Hassan's last book, there are more efficient methods

Steve Hassan is a huge player in the ‘anti-cult’ movement. Here he is being appealed to as though he were a cult leader himself.

I couldn’t resist. I just had to tweet:

In other words, you’re making yourself a pain, Cedars. The whole world does not revolve around your beefs. @ChtyCommission @RefugeCharity @womensaid

Okay, here’s one more from me:

It is possible that @womensaid resents being lectured to daily by a male who presumes to know their concerns better than they do themselves. Aren't abusive males known to behave this way, refusing to take delay or silence for an answer? Possibly they read the entire WT article.

He is still at it and no, I don’t respond every day:

Day 31 of circulation. A month ago, Watchtower published its clearest ever advice encouraging JW women to "endure" abusive husbands. Incredibly, it seems they can do this without any official rebuke from DV orgs like @RefugeCharity & @womensaid.

Some of his own have broken ranks and accused him of ‘man-bashing.’ He is confident, I think overconfident. But I do not underestimate him. He has had some success in stirring up major mischief. And you never quite know what these agencies will do. I would think when he sends complainants over there, Bethel could respond if queried merely by citing their present policy on marital separation, but you never know how things will turn out until they turn out.

On day 40 or so, I became very bold and tweeted: "It's as though he says, 'G******t, answer me when I'm talking to you!'"

Around Day 60, I heard that he had given it up.

Now, it occurs to me, that if he can hammer on an agency each day, there is no reason that I cannot do the same:

Day 1 of Lloyd’s friend encouraging insurance fraud to his Twitter followers.

Only I won’t hammer at the same agency each day as he does. There are enough that I can mix them up, just like rotating public speakers at the Kingdom Hall. Oh, yeah. Let’s see where this goes.

I don’t know. Is it illegal or is it just incredibly crass and ungrateful? Imagine. Your home is destroyed in a flood. Instantly your fellow congregation members swoop in to restore or rebuild, donating both time and materials. Yet when it turns out that you have made provisions to cover exactly that circumstance you say ‘Fugeddaboudit! I like 'free' better. See you on the Adriatic coast, if you can afford it, that is. I can.’ Either way, they can be made to look awfully small.

As Sherlock says, ‘It’s Game On.’

See Part 1

See Part 3

Arguing

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Are We Looking at Insurance Fraud? Part 1.

There was a series of tweets from former Jehovah’s Witnesses hoping to stir up discontent with present ones. The politics involved are likely not of interest to the general reader so I pass over it here. Suffice it to say that it is that way.

It turns out that when the Watchtower organization oversees disaster relief they afterwards suggest to ones that happen to have insurance that they might donate whatever insurance might pay out to the Worldwide Work relief fund itself. Why this should infuriate the ex-Witnesses I’ll never know but infuriate them it does. To me, it seems only just that those who do the disaster rebuild should receive the insurance monies if there are any. I could be wrong but I suspect insurance companies will love it that way; the work gets down promptly and without haggling over amount. However, the more important question to be raised is, if the Watchtower doesn’t get the insurance money, who does? The more I looked at these tweets the more I came to feel that I was looking at encouragement to commit insurance fraud.

With that backdrop, here are some of the tweets. I have excluded irrelevant ones as well as those from opposers calling me an a*****e. Apparently, a recent shipment of relief supplies was destroyed and that is how the topic is introduced. I will reproduce a few tweets which may or may not interest the reader, all in italics, and then return to the main point. I am TTH. Others I will refer to by their initials. Everything is captured in screenshots.

EDL: The donations from local Jehovah's Witnesses caught fire - but the article fails to mention that JW donations and disaster relief is ONLY ever for other JWs.  JWs only support their local community by preaching to them, never with practical help.

TTH: Yes. They cannot do everyone because they are near exclusively volunteers using vacation time. The best they can do is set an example for others to imitate so that they will not be beholden to astronomically wasteful agencies.

CF: Interestingly enough, WT usually pressure any JW’s they help to “dontate” the insurance payout they get back to WT to “thank” them.

TTH: ‘Pressure is a subjective term. However, if they do the work voluntarily at no cost that certainly would not be an inappropriate way to acknowledge it. Many people have no insurance at all, especially in the case of flooding. It is something immaterial to JWs. They do not check beforehand.

SL: Agreed, the WT does not do the work on the understanding the insurance cash will come their way…

 For a brief moment, I thought I had found an ally, but it was not so:

SL: I've given up my time in my JW past to do this work and it's lovely to feel you are helping someone in need.  In my experience few, if any, feel the need to solicit thanks from a victim of disaster let alone "suggest" the insurance money comes one's way.

CF: To clarify - it’s not the individual JW’s helping who do this. It’s something that happens afterward, organized via the branch and handled by the elders. Most JW volunteers never even know this has happened. JR is putting together an article that exposes multiple instances of WT leaning on JW’s after a relief effort to hand over the insurance money.

I was getting a little fed up at this point. In three tweets combined, I said:

TTH: Tell him to not ignore the end result: distressed persons quickly having life & property restored, vs waiting weeks or months for relief that will only come if they are adequately insured, insurers sometimes being known to weasel out of full coverage when they can. Tell him also to spotlight the atheist and opposer agencies that do the same for their people so that they do not find themselves sh*t out of luck when insurance or build execution proves inadequate. And make sure he tells of the premier agency in the Haiti earthquake, squandering practically to the penny the half billion dollars donated. (I linked to a Propublica article detailing breathtaking incompetence in America’s chief relief agency and (alas) even exaggerated some, for they didn’t waste all of it, just most of it.) I am looking forward to this article, confident John will not forget these things.

Someone made a snotty comment about Watchtower making a lot of money off their volunteers and the insurance companies. I replied that it was in return for doing exactly what the insurance company wanted done

The former Witnesses turned bitter opponents work tirelessly to stir up discontent in those loyal. They do a great deal of talking amongst themselves, but present Witnesses are their target audience. While the Watchtower organization may well afterwards make the suggestion, I doubt very much that they ‘pressure’ anyone because the idea of simply pocketing both work AND insurance payment would never occur to most Witnesses. And even if they were to ‘pressure’ anyone, it would clearly be for their own good; otherwise they would be committing insurance fraud, and the insurance companies are very good at sniffing such things out.

Say they succeed in finding some Witnesses who are outraged that the Watchtower Society should mention money after they have restored a person’s life. What are they recommending these ones do? Are they recommending that they say to their Christian brothers, who are generally on the scene long before relief comes by any other way, “Brothers, no. Don’t bother. I am afraid that the organization may afterwards mention money. I will wait instead for the insurance company to pay and hope that the amount is enough to restore what I have lost and that when the harried contractors at last get around to it they will not in their haste do a half-assed job.” I don’t think so.

I have never heard that advice from these characters or anything even approaching that. What the opposers appear to be doing is encouraging disgruntled ones, if they can find any, to accept the Watchtower’s help and then refuse any suggestion that they sign over an insurance check. What, then, will they do with the insurance money? Give it back to the insurance company? Again, I don’t think so. Why have they been paying premiums for all these years? No, they are encouraging them to keep the money, perhaps to thereafter spend on a new car, overseas vacation, or college tuition.

Look, this may be an overgeneralization, but this illustrates exactly why people who are Jehovah’s Witnesses should think twice before they leave the faith. I see these former Witnesses on Twitter. Some excoriate Trump and some excoriate Obama. They once had unity. Moreover, they cavalierly float an idea that would shock most Witnesses: take the money and run. What is wrong with these characters? I mean, who would propose repaying the work of volunteer rebuilders with closed fists, and who would propose chiseling the insurance company out of their money at the same time? There is such a thing as hating so much as to lose all decency. My bet is that when insurance companies do sign over checks to the Watchtower, they find it a pure joy, knowing well how difficult customers can be when under extreme pressure. Jerod Kushner said with Jehovah’s Witnesses a handshake deal means something when he bought some of their Brooklyn property. Even arch-enemy Barbara Anderson says that, overall, they’re very nice people.

Look, possibly what they are advocating is not illegal. Perhaps it is just astonishing mean and ungrateful. Either way they look very small as they focus their unreasoning hatred to cripple the most effective disaster relief program the world has known. Parts 2 and 3, which follow, are not specifically on matters of insurance and can be skipped by those interested in those matters alone.

See Part 2 and Part 3

 

Spy

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Moses Strikes the Rock and Draws Water in a Rebellious Age

“Finally, Moses cried out to Jehovah: “What should I do with this people? A little longer and they will stone me!” as the Israelites went online and complained 24/7 over everything under the sun. It is an update Exodus 17:4 into the present. Though the July 2018 Watchtower article entitled ‘Where are Your Eyes Looking?’ nowhere makes the connection, beyond a vague reference to those having ‘a measure of responsibility in God’s organization,’ which everyone took as a reference to congregation elders, I couldn’t help but think the ones of the Governing Body had themselves foremost in mind as beneficiaries of the counsel offered.

It is not as though I have any special insight. It is just that I hang out on the internet a lot and I hear all the grousing going on. It is not necessarily to my credit that I do this. It may be like the impression you get from hearing Trump and Obama people scream online at each other day and night but then you go into the real world and you find that people get along with each other tolerably well despite differences, and it is just the internet that gives a skewed picture.

Much was made of the instance in which Moses produced water from the rock at God’s direction. He did it twice, something that I had forgotten, if I ever knew it in the first place. The first was months after crossing the Red Sea, during a time when there was so much muttering over lack of water that Moses in frustration cried out the words above. It didn’t occur to them that the God who slammed Egypt with ten plagues and parted the waters, closing them upon the army in pursuit, could solve the problem of a drought. Jehovah told Moses to strike a rock. Moses did, and water gushed out. (Exodus 17)

The next instance was almost 40 years later, and the people seem to have worn Moses down, what with constant bellyaching and occasional rebellion throughout the interim. This time when they started complaining over the same thing, Moses lost it. “Hear, now, you rebels! Must we bring water for you from this crag?” and struck the rock twice, after which water again gushed out. But God didn’t like what Moses had shouted. Much later Psalm 106: 32-33 says, ‘They provoked him at the waters of Meribah, and it went badly for Moses because of them. They embittered his spirit, and he spoke rashly with his lips.”

Look, if you approach the speaker after a good talk and tell him it was a good talk, he will as often as not say something to the effect that it is not really him who should get the credit, but Jehovah. He says that even though people are capable of speaking all by themselves without any help at all from Jehovah. So what about someone who takes full credit for doing what no human in a thousand years could do? It is what Moses did. Yet that’s what can happen when the scoundrels are nipping at your heels day and night for forty years. This last bit of correction from God, that Moses as a result of his outburst would not be the one to take his countrymen into the promised land, strikes the average reader as pretty harsh. Yet it is entirely in harmony with ‘to whom more is given, more will be expected,’ and ‘he will finish your training; he will make you firm.’ Moses, like everybody else, is being trained for the real life, not this transitory one.

Notwithstanding that the internet is the perfect breeding ground for complainers, one has to ask. ‘What is it with all these malcontents?’ It is as though kicking against the goads is the order of the day, seen everywhere. Acquiescence to the authority of the parent, the teacher, the counselor, the coach, the boss, the consulted advisor, the party leader, the union steward, and those taking the lead in the congregation was once an entirely unremarkable fact of life; today it is selling out one’s soul. I begin to imagine the GB posting God’s rebuke to Moses as their own personal yeartext, in hopes that they do not also lose it one day kicking back at the grumblers.

God counted that complaining about Moses as complaining about Him. “When your forefathers tested me; They challenged me, though they had seen my works,” reads Psalm 96:6. ‘Yeah, well, they’re no Moses,’ I can hear the retorts already, ‘Where are their comparable works? What Red Sea did they lead anyone though?’

No, I think people should think very hard before they go there. The human component of the divine-human interface is always the sticking point. It is even so with Judas. He and God were tight; there were absolutely no problems there. But that fraud that claimed to be the Messiah! That was just too much for Judas.

Observing that literal food and drink prefigures the greater spiritual food and drink, the accomplishments of the Witness organization today are nothing short of amazing, The average person of a developing nation is stuck with some 200 year-old turkey of a translation that he can neither afford nor understand because those in the church world think it only natural that Big Business be entrusted with the distribution of God’s word. Only Jehovah’s Witnesses devise an entirely separate channel to place a modern understandable translation in his hands at minimal cost, even free. The Bible satisfactorily answers questions that are answered nowhere else, the deeper questions of life such as ‘Why would God permit suffering, why do people die and what is the hope afterward, and what is the ultimate purpose of life?’ Although this fellow may not have a nickel to his name, he has access to the answers no less than someone in more affluent lands, some of whom count it as nothing as they grouse about matters of personal inconvenience.

It is not nothing. However, when people become obsessed with their own immediate needs and wants, it can become as nothing. I don’t dare do it: simply become a whiner over present inconveniences. There are some inconveniences, of course, in pursuing a united service to God today, but to carry on excessively about them seems to me a reality not too far off from Moses in Sinai. In any organization there is a chance that a given decision will not go your way. Should organization be jettisoned on that account? It is exactly what opposers would wish. That way individuals flail away, accomplish little, and can likely be absorbed in time by the popular cause.

Obviously if you take away the upside there become nothing left other than to bitch about the downside. The rage today of the young is to go atheist. Who smoothed that path for them? However, when they come around complaining about the ‘restrictions’ they have broken free from, always ask them what they have found that is better. What is it that they have to offer? Are they not just ‘promising them freedom’ while existing as ‘slaves of corruption’? What do they have to offer? Simply the freedom to do whatever one wants without check? History shows that freedom has not worked out particularly well for humankind.

Poussin _Nicolas_-_Moses_Striking_Water_from_the_Rock_-_1649

 

 

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The Serena Williams Child Doesn't Do Birthdays. Parts 2.5 and 3

Normally the progression is from Part 2 directly into Part 3. It should be here as well, except that Serena Williams reached a landmine of her career in the interim and it cannot be passed over. At the U.S Open she made headlines for converting a physical loss into a moral win. But it depends on who you talk to. If you didn’t like her before, you will dislike her more. If you liked her before you will like her more. I’ll take the latter.

Part 2.5:

The U.S. Open ref with the poofy hair penalized her three times, only the second of which was a slam-dunk for real. When you’re hot, you’re hot, and she blew up at him. Not at first 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 but I’m telling you it’s not. I don’t cheat to win, I’d rather lose. I’m just letting you know.” (The coach said later that he was coaching, but that it happens all the time, and he does it less than most, a point on which sportswriters agreed.)

But 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? Her daughter and the example set for her. The same daughter that does not do birthdays.

She called the ref a ‘thief’ for taking away the point that presaged her meltdown and that also counted against her. Men say “F**k you!” to the umpire all the time without consequence, so most agreed that she did catch it on account of being a woman, as she heatedly charged.

Her opponent Osaka won the match, but everyone booed. 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 Jehovah’s Witness should she get everything together. She has high reputation. “…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,” tweeted sports commentator Jeff Eisenband.

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 opportunities to blow one’s top. The two courses are not absolutely incompatible, but they pose a challenge.

Part 3:

Part 2 ended with the suggestion that Serena might succeed in showing up the anti-JW Reddit group for what they are. It is a chicken’s way out—say something like that and then close the post, thank you very much, take your beefs to the curb. It is better to take a square look at just what they are. ‘What are they,’ anyway, that Reddit group? They are a motley assortment of people of varying talents, with the common denominator of distaste for discipline and a determination to kick over the traces. It’s regarding the Witness organization here, but the trend is seen everywhere. Despite abundant evidence that unbridled self-determination does not work out particularly well for people, they nonetheless want to go that route. It is the order of the day. People do not want to be ‘told what to do’ by anyone and they are very touchy on what constitutes being ‘told what to do.’ Thwart their definition and you are toast.

If they are to be called ‘apostates,’ they mirror apostates of the first century. Of them, Peter says they “revel in their deceits while carousing with you,” have “eyes full of adultery,” “are insatiable for sin.” How does that become a problem unless there is someone who would tell them they can’t? The governing arrangement back then cannot have been too different from what it is today, given that it oversaw a much smaller field. Plainly, there was discipline then, and the ‘apostasy’ came from those who didn’t like it.

The Reddit grousers carry a range of beefs against the Witness organization, many quite tiny and pumped up, but some more substantial. Of the latter, there are those aggrieved at suffering child sexual abuse, rarely from someone in authority, but occasionally so. They now want a day of reckoning if it turns out that the molester was not turned over to police, regardless of how they were handled through congregational investigation. It is not the same as the Church, where abuse appears common among clergy. With Jehovah’s Witnesses, even after adjusting for size differences, if you want a similar ‘catch,’ you must broaden your nets to include, not just ‘clergy,’ but everybody.

An aggrieved victim of child sexual abuse is proving the most powerful force in the universe these days. Who would ever have thought that the greater world would attempt to ‘out-righteous’ the Christian congregation on this one? It has happened nowhere else. Moreover, the ‘out-righteousing’ is illusory. Despite 30 years combatting pedophiles, there is precious little to show for it. We constantly hear of crimes committed by ones already tagged as abusers—why, they lived right down the street. While reporting abusers is certainly a good thing, decades of doing so has made little dent in the pandemic. Better to focus on prevention, and here there is reason to feel that the Witness regimen and teachings are effective to a greater degree than those of the overall world.

The ‘crime’ alleged of the Jehovah’s Witness organization is rarely an actual crime. It is generally ‘failing to go beyond the law’ in years past, to report abusers, unless members themselves chose to do it. They could have, but often they did not because the Witness religion is ‘insular,’ the charge goes. Being ‘insular’ is but a tiny misstep away from being ‘separate.’ The latter is a biblical requirement of those who would serve God.

You almost wish there would be a statement someday from the Witness organization:

“Look, here’s what happened. We extended 1 Corinthians 6:7 into non-financial matters. We did it because we were insular, an unintended byproduct of being separate. We believe that saying separate from the world is a biblical necessity, the only position from which to help distressed ones in it. “Really, it is already a defeat for you when you have lawsuits with one another. Why not rather let yourselves be wronged? Why do you not rather let yourselves be defrauded,” is the verse we extended. We tried to root out child abuse in our midst at a time few others looked into it, and we did the best we could. Sorry.”

Yes, frame it as an apology, if need be. People love apologies and forgive much for it. Determined opposers will not, of course. They will say it is an admission of guilt and/or incompetence and proves you must be fired, but this is par for the course and happens everywhere. Might such a statement stumble some of the ‘sheep’? Possibly, particularly ones who know nothing of it. But it will be more than offset by new persons who admire the candor and can well understand that real Christianity must be separate from a decaying world. And the stumbled ones are not lost. Another mea culpa may do the trick, such as with a 1975 date that didn’t turn out as hoped:

“Um, sorry. We never outright said it, really, but we came close enough to stoke up the hopes of people who hoped to see it that way. At the drop of a pin, Jesus’ followers thought The End was tomorrow. In hindsight, maybe we should have reckoned more on how easy it is to get people going. Still, we did not want to ignore the Lord’s command to ‘keep on the watch’ and the trigger that prompted the excitement was not nothing.”

The former announcement will not make people happy on the Reddit forum; they still have 50 more beefs. But it will many others. Not all victims of injustice within the congregation go the outside legal system and sue their brothers. Most will say: ‘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 the barristers netting a third Some congregation members, even wronged ones, 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.

Serean 3

 

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The Serena Williams Child Does Not Do Birthdays. Part 2

No sooner did I liken Serena Williams to Queen Esther for her possible future role of exposing the evildoers, than someone said: “Um, she’s not exactly Queen Esther, you know. Didn’t she appear bare-naked, unmarried, and pregnant on that Vanity Fair cover? And you know that birth is not like the one of Mary.”

Well, I actually hadn’t thought of that, if I ever knew it in the first place. Still, it changes nothing. She openly acknowledges she likes the faith but has not practiced it. Now she means to. Is it a bad thing when she has, in the past, called herself a Jehovah’s Witness?

You know, ordinarily, yes. But in this case, not necessarily. People love celebrities and will usually concede that they live in a world of their own, facing unique pressures.

For better or for worse, nobody makes a big deal of sex before marriage anymore. I don't even think the news writer of the article that her child won’t do birthdays thought to mention it, or maybe she did and it didn’t register. That people do not make a big deal of it is 'for worse,' usually, because Word says that they should, the but in this case, it is 'for better.'

Totally without evidence, based only upon a feel for the way people are, I think her vehement critics are ones who dislike Jehovah’s Witnesses, who spot the disparity of conduct and want to slam us with it. Besides these ones are many Witnesses themselves, who also spot it. Few others care.

Has she lived up to the faith in the past? She says very openly that she has not. Now she reaches a point where she says she will. I think it is a very good thing. Okay, okay, so she is no Queen Esther. Call her the Samaritan woman by the well, a women who carried on more than Serena ever did off the court, yet lived to be a powerful witness for the Lord.

Do we have a woman who is a mixed bag, having done things good and bad, and who now wants to make them all good? I'll take it every time. it is in the spirit of Jesus, I think, who came to save persons ill who had become aware of their spiritual need. She will straighten out all those things before baptism, of course, should she continue on the path she now says she was to pursue more single-mindedly. Love hopes all things and believes all things. Sometimes it is even proved wrong. But it keeps hoping and believing

Moreover, to go back to the original point of my post, part one, this Reddit group has done Witnesses huge mischief. The Philly reporter used it as his source to write four incendiary anti-JW articles in a row to present a seeming scandal without the context that illuminates it.

This group is trying with all its might to equate Jehovah's Witnesses with the sins of the Catholic church. It is a stretch, because abusers in the Church are clergy. Even after making adjustments for size, if you want to get the same 'catch' among Jehovah's people, you must broaden your net to include, not just 'clergy,' but everybody. That doesn't mean that some are not diligently trying to do it, and equate some 'non-reporting to authorities' in previous years to being actual incubators of child abuse. They are up to no good, and the alleged sin in such cases is generally  'failing to go beyond the law' in reporting such cases to police. I continually make the point that if it is so crucial to 'go beyond the law' then that should become the law, the same point that Geoffrey Jackson, a member of the Witnesses’ Governing Body, made to a recent inquiry.

If Serena was to prompt her husband, the Reddit founder, to weigh in on that group in our favor and expose them for what they are (see upcoming Part 3), I believe she would be forgiven 'a multitude of sins,' even if she never did manage to get it all together in her own life, as she seems to want to do. In fact, in the event of that outcome, and to bring matters full circle, that would be an example of something else Mordecai said to his niece. If salvation does not come through spotless Esther, it will come from some other source. Either way, I’ll take it and say ‘thank you’ to the Lord and see if there is more ammunition lying around.


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Did the Watchtower Give Women Bad Advice?

It is ever the pitfall of zealots that they are so eager to prove a point that, in their haste, they will grab something that proves just the opposite, yet continue to gloat as though have found the smoking gun. Such was the case when atheists at Friendly Atheist tore their hair out over “some truly horrific advice to women in abusive relationships,” from the December 2018 Watchtower magazine. They were to stay in them no matter what!

Well, that does sound truly horrific and there were many who immediately condemned the scoundrels who would give such a vile command. Others went to the article first, where they discovered that it says nothing of the sort.

Isn’t this just atheists depriving women of the right to choose? It is ironic because they generally claim to be champions of that right. The article makes clear that a woman always has a choice, that she need not be railroaded into an action just because it is societally popular.

Some leave amidst these very trying circumstances. Some stay. Either action works from the congregation’s point of view. They have the right to choose. How is that the Watchtower ‘urging them to stay with an abusive mate no matter what,’ the accusation of the atheists? If a woman wants to try to salvage a marriage, what business is that of theirs? It may be an unwise decision, or it may be the best decision she ever made, but either way, it is her decision.

Given the staggering cost of family breakup, emotional, mental, financial, and long-lasting damage to the kids, if a woman decides to stick it out more than athiests approve, with a view towards salvage, who is to say she is crazy? Possibly reading this post are veterans of two, three, four, or more failed relationships who wish they had put more effort into a given one. If she pulls it off, she has gained something very good.

These are not short-term hookings-up that we are speaking of, latching on to some loser that you cut loose as soon as you see what he is. These are marriages of years or decades’ duration. In some cases, they never used to be abusive but they have become so due to who knows what factors? Dignify the woman as having the judgement to decide, based upon history, pressures affecting her man, and factors only she might know, as to whether he should be jettisoned or not.  If the lout has to go, he goes. Just don’t let some third party push you into it. The choice is always hers.

It is as though the grumblers cheer at the breakup of a marriage, oblivious to the damage left in its wake. It is as though they would prevent one from trying to repair theirs. Let her try if she wants to, or even put up with one far from ideal, if that be her choice. Sometimes when you are between a rock and a hard place, you don’t assume or let the atheists tell you that the hard place is really a bed of roses. It isn't always that way. I mean, it is not exactly as they will be around to repair the damage, is it?

Okay, granted, they like marriage over there in the Jehovah’s Witness world. Until fairly recently, everybody did, and considered family the bedrock of society. Witnesses consider it a divine institution. That doesn’t mean others have to, but surely it means Witness women should be allowed to. They let their view be bound by biblical injunctions. Adultery is the one acceptable ground for ending a marriage, but even then, it does not have to be; it is always possible for the innocent mate to exercise his or her right of choice and forgiveness.

Several decades ago the Witness organization took note, as did all of society, of the increasingly visible ne’er-do-wells who, while they might not be unfaithful, were nonetheless ugly to live with. It took another look at 1 Corinthians 7, a chapter that deals with marital matters, and sometimes people are surprised at how it says a husband and wife both owe each other sex (no, not ‘on demand’ – don’t even go there) and should not be depriving the other of it. Specifically, they looked at verses 12 and 13: “If any brother has an unbelieving wife and she is agreeable to staying with him, let him not leave her; and if a woman has an unbelieving husband and he is agreeable to staying with her, let her not leave her husband.” 'Maybe a marriage mate’s conduct says he is ‘not agreeable,’ regardless of what his words say,' they reasoned.

For some time, therefore the guidance for women (or men) in not-so-hot marriages is that there are three conditions that any one of which might justify separation sans tongues clucking: if there is extreme physical abuse, if there is willful non-support, and if there is absolute endangerment of spirituality. It is at once apparent that much in is the eye of the beholder, so from time to time Watchtower publications revisit the subject, so that congregation members are guided by what they signed on for in the first place, and not unduly influenced by what is all the rage elsewhere. If the bad egg must be fried, let him fry. A woman always has that right. But she needn’t feel railroaded into that choice by a flood of outside pressure.

Any Witness woman knows this, because she has read and considered the entire article, not just the cherry-picked paragraph, and she has taken into account how it fits into her overall framework of knowledge. You almost begin to think what causes the steam to emit from atheist ears is another possible benefit of the woman’s forsaking her right to leave: Maybe the ‘unbelieving’ husband will become a believing one. How is that a bad thing?  If the guy makes it as a Jehovah's Witness, he will have made significant inroads against what makes him such a loser in the first place. 

Read the entire article here.

Argument

 

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Banned at the Apostate Website!

I got banned at the apostate website! Can you believe it? I was the very personification of respect and good-manners. Of course, I was also the very personification of tenacity, but it was still me against a dozen others. Now that I have been muzzled, it may be me against 100. Cedars worked so hard to get me to engage and as soon as I did, he tossed me out!

Actually, he wanted me to engage on his podcast, where you shoot from the hip. Again and again, he invited me there. I thought a forum in which you can think out your remarks beforehand was better. I put a human face on an outfit he is trying very hard to demonize, and I think that finally took him to his limit.

After making six or eight comments on his site, I found this:

Cedars: “I simply want to present the other point of view,” well, that’s partly true, Tom. You want to present “the other point of view” on your own terms – i.e. by trolling me in comments and tweets. You don’t quite have the guts to come on my YouTube channel for a conversation where you can express “the other point of view” (Watchtower’s point of view, which everyone is already aware of) in front of thousands of people. You’d much rather selectively violate the command to refrain from engaging with apostates as it suits you. Again, I wonder if there are any other commands from your masters “the Slave” regarding which you feel it’s ok to pick and choose? Or is your hypocrisy confined solely to this particular area of Watchtower’s rulebook?”

When I tried to reply, I found I was blocked. There was nothing to do but take it on the Twitter street, where I found the same response:

Cedars: “My point is you are already violating the rules by engaging with me (some would say trolling) on Twitter and my JWsurvey article. You may as well go the whole hog and come on my YouTube channel for an interview if you have something to say, but I doubt you have the backbone.”

Tom: “I don’t. Better thought-out written remarks than shoot-from-the-hip debate. Did I really just get banned at your site? Despite 2 tries, my last reply to you did not stick. All were polite, respectful, and on-topic. None repeated. (1)

“If that is ‘trolling’ it is not like the liar who pretended to be GJ, even tweeting “Pray for our brothers in Russia” before presently revealing he didn’t give a hoot in hell for our brothers in Russia. It was all a ruse to draw in the guileless ones. (2)

“Let me post my blocked remark here and then call it quits for now: “Cedars, if I am misbehaving, you can toss me, and let persons reflect of the irony of that, since you repeatedly asked to me debate in the first place. 'Trolling' is in the eye of the beholder. (3)

“I have not insulted anyone, On the contrary, I have gone out of my way not to on several occasions. For example, when someone here said: 'You calling us liars who exaggerate?' I made clear that I was not. (4) 

“On forums where there is a comment section, I have never blocked anyone that I can recall. I would if someone became an abusive and unrelenting pest, but I have not yet had to. (5)

“In debate classes you are given an argument and assigned to take this side and then that. The clear message is that it is technique over substance. Better to write, where one can compose words with thought. Let both points of view be presented honestly, (6)

“Jesus never debated. In fact, he routinely did things that would infuriate devotees of debate. He used hyperbole. He answered questions with counter-questions. He spun involved parables that he rarely explained as a means of reaching the heart. (7)”

 

Cedars was not impressed with this exchange: “I'm amazed at your continuing excuses for refusing to come on my channel for a conversation (not debate, necessarily) when the real reason is: you are afraid you will be pulled into the backroom by your elders because engaging with apostates online is verboten.”

Tom: “You are young and vigorous. I am older who perhaps must take care that my teeth do not fall out or my cane trip me up. Or like Paul (2Cor10:10) whose letters are weighty but whose personal presence is weak. Or slow of speech like Moses. I believe I did not misrepresent anything (1)

“(2) I disagreed, which is not the same, always respectfully, and stood up for a group that you continually attack without check, and whose similar attacks have resulted in Russian machine guns literally pointed at the heads of some.

“(3) A substantial blow for free speech on a site that purports to celebrate freedom. [I tagged a couple of journalists at this point] Of course, I take no comments on my site either, but in doing so forsake the flood of accolades and attaboys from my chums, which you clearly do not with yours, now as tight as the Russian press.”

He did not take this lying down. There was a flurry of back and forth tweets: 

Cedars: “It has nothing to do with free speech. It has to do with you knowingly misrepresenting my views and opinions. You can do that on here as much as you like, but on my website, nope.

“You get only one chance to not misrepresent/twist my words into something other than I meant or intended. You did this at least twice, hence you are blocked from commenting on JWsurvey, so please don't expect sympathy.”

[Did I do that, misrepresent him? He gave two examples, quoting me: [Let the reader use discernment]

1) "Cedars’ outrageous video assertion that elders visit patients in their hospital room to make sure they toe the line on blood policy." - An oversimplification. I am sure some elders visit patients on compassionate grounds, but that is not the sole thinking behind the HLC system. 

2) "Cedars assertion that when persons apply for reinstatement they do so just to reestablish social ties" - I never asserted that people only get reinstated to be reunited. I am sure many do so because, like you, they are simply indoctrinated and know no other way of living.

He didn’t like me tying him in with the Russian persecution, either: 

Cedars: “You cannot blame me for what's going on in Russia, which I have spoken out against unequivocally. Backward regimes have been persecuting religious minorities long before there was Google or YouTube.”


I declared war on these guys after the three (now four) incendiary anti-Witness articles in the Philadelphia Inquirer and I learned that the reporter checked in at one such anti-Witness site between articles, as though he were Trump firing up the base. It is the only reason I would engage: journalists hang out there. Maybe just one, but who can say? One is enough. So I weighed in to offer such ones context that they will not get otherwise. A journalist wants that. It is an abundance of anecdotal evidence at the anti-Witness site, and anecdotal evidence must always be given context so as to mean anything. In a world of 8 billion people, you will find countless examples of anything. There must be context so that you know what you are looking at, and this is what I tried to supply until I was shown the trap door. I mean, it’s his site. He can do what he wants with it. But there is reason to hope no reporter will rely on it solely.

Here is the context I offered, all remarks made on his site before the window slammed shut on my fingers, with introduction in brackets. At every comment, a click on my name would link to a short justification for the disfellowshipping arrangement: 

[The subject of Cedar’s web post itself was disfellowshipping. Many of the participants presumably had undergone it. They didn’t like it.]

Tom: “In any forum where participants simply reinforce the prevailing view, matters eventually become skewed and inaccurate. So, I add the counterpoint, which I present for consideration and leave it at that. You have been after me for debate since you became aware of my existence, and this is as close as you are going to get. You are correct that Witnesses generally decline debates. Should I debate on your podcast, with all your chums cheering when you land a punch & wincing and doing damage control when I land one, while my chums don’t go in for that sort of thing in the first place? I don’t think so.

“When Kathy Griffin holds aloft the fake severed head of the President, are we to imagine that her Republican dad (if he is) says: ‘That’s my lass! She speaks her mind! It won’t affect holiday family cheer, though’? The example may help to explain how doing a 180 from previously held deeply moral views might cause a rift in the Witness family.

“It has been about a dozen years since the word ‘disfellowship’ has been heard in a Kingdom Hall. Instead, from time to time, an announcement is made that ‘so-and-so is no longer one of Jehovah’s Witnesses.’ If he has done a 180 from ‘witnessing for Jehovah’ can anyone say that he is? I can recall no talk or article saying: ‘this announcement means that.’ It hasn’t happened, to the best of my knowledge. It is even said by some on this forum that they are ‘fading’ and no announcement of any sort has been made, yet they still come to feel shunned, whether that word is the accurate description or not in such cases. Adding to the situation is that Witnesses do not celebrate the traditional holidays, occasions where family members customarily regroup, whether they like one another or not, leaving only funerals as the inevitable occasion for gathering.

“The GB does not ‘tell’ people to shun family members. Instead, they say that if one has triggered what would cause separation, there is no reason to say that because he or she is family, that matters are necessarily different. Members apply that counsel as they see fit, but whatever they do, they do not have the sense that someone is telling, much less ordering them, to do so, but that someone alerted them long ago to relevant Bible passages on the subject, after which the Bible passages themselves guide them in what to do, as they consider whatever mitigating circumstances there are in their own family, often finding none, but not inevitably so.

“The idea that Witnesses can turn off love for a family member is incorrect (given that there are variations in families). A separation causes deep pain in those remaining ‘faithful.’ It is not just the departing one who suffers. However, they tell themselves that the family member did bring it own him or herself, that Jesus said his words could cause division in the family, and should that happen, loyalty to God trumps that for even family members. The door that was closed as a last-ditch attempt at ‘discipline’ was never locked and it is always possible to return.

“It is the notion of Christianity as a movement separate from the world, trying to serve as a beacon to it, pointing to something better, that is under attack, especially when people have gone atheist, all the rage today and a marked divergence from all previous history. The concept of ‘separateness’ from the greater world inevitably brings about situations such as the topic of this thread, yet it is a concept integral to Christianity. It is only by staying ‘clean’ that Christians feel able to lend a helping hand to others. I understand that will come across as very self-righteous, but it is not meant that way. Members freely confess that they screw up all the time, but that to the extent they are able to adhere to God’s standards, their lives improve, and their abilities to help others.”
[I apologized subsequently for saying: ‘Many participants here are thinking people,’ which implies that many are not.]

[One participant got ahold of a private elders’ book and waved it as though it was the smoking gun. In fact, it undermined his argument that at the drop of a pin members are dealt with harshly.]

“Though the discipline of the congregation is admittedly rough on those who will not be guided by it (like Saul ‘kicking at the goads’) ones here expand it to make it seem much harsher than it is. Yet when @Maxwell actually quotes an elder’s handbook, (presumably giving it his best shot) he reveals something much less harsh than what he portrays. Elders “counsel and reason,” not exactly the same as “ordering.” In the event that a congregation member does not respond to counsel, he is not thrown on the spit but he “would not qualify for congregation privileges.” Is that not a big ‘Duh’? If you want to enjoy privileges anywhere, you must toe the line more than if you do not reach out for such privileges. “He would not be dealt with judicially” unless there is “persistent” [not occasional] “spiritual association” [not nuts-and-bolts association] or he “openly” criticizes the disfellowshipping decision, thus undermining the method of governance that he signed on for in the first place.

“So it is not so harsh as portrayed. Moreover, it can be avoided, and once incurred, it can be repaired. The ‘crime,’ then, is the congregation’s desire to fulfill the Christian mandate of staying ‘separate from the world,’ the only position from which it feels able to render assistance to those who feel crushed under the latter’s weight. The book ‘Secular Faith – How Culture Has Trumped Religion in American Politics’ attempts to reassure its secular audience through examining the changing moral stands of churches on five key issues. The book points out that today’s church members have more in common with atheists than they do with members of their own denominations of decades past. Essentially, the reassurance to those who would mold societal views is: ‘Don’t worry about it. They will come around. They always do. It may take a bit longer, but it is inevitable.’ Jehovah’s Witnesses have thwarted this model by not coming around. The congregation thinks it important to stick to the values that they signed on for, and they knew from the start God does not work through democracy. In order to preserve this unchanging model, it is necessary to have practices such as under discussion here, which can be tweaked some, as has happened per previous comment, but cannot be abandoned. No one has been able to ‘hold the line’ through decades of time without them.

“Cedars writes that he disapproves of Witnesses being arrested a jailed in Russia and I have no doubt that he means it. However, he disapproves in the same sense that the California arsonist disapproves of the state burning to the ground. One of the driving forces of the ban in that country is one Alexander Dvorkin, who pushes the same ‘anti-cult’ narrative endorsed by Cedars. He pushes it on many groups, not just Jehovah’s Witnesses, though they have been his prime target. He wants to ‘protect’ people by preventing them from hearing ideas that he thinks are ‘socially destructive,’ a goal not unlike some of the goals expressed here. The only difference is that he has seen it more fully accomplished.

“Acting on his prodding sends a clear “open hunting season” on religious minorities. Various human-rights and law experts convened in France in January 2018, where one of them observed of Mr. Dvorkin: He “enjoys disseminating inflammatory narratives and hate speech.” The reason that Russian Jehovah’s Witnesses have not caved under his mischief (which is added to nationalistic and dominant Church pressures) is that they do not see themselves as followers of “eight men,” the meme pushed here, but of the Bible. Acquiescing to the authority of the eight men taking the lead is little more than acquiescing to the authority of the teacher, boss, military leader, coach, parent, or consulted advisor, something that was once routine and unremarkable but is now portrayed as selling out one’s soul.”

[“Because of that you shouldn’t even be welcome here,” someone groused.]

“Andre, Cedars will determine that and I will respect him should he show me the door. Overall, I do respect him, though he is an enemy, for reasons stated above. He slants facts his way, but who doesn’t? He doesn’t make anything up, that I have ever seen, and does not seem to tolerate anyone that does go inaccurate on him.
“It is possible that even my own people will point me to the door, and I do not think that I am above them. They do not “order” me to stay out, as Cedars said (an example of something ‘slanted,’) but there is no question that such participation is not what is advised, by reason of some verses cited and some not yet. To some extent, I am being a ‘bad boy.’”

[Someone misunderstood what I said about disfellowshipping, and I tried to clear it up:]

“Sarah, when I said the word is not heard in the Kingdom Hall for a dozen years or so, I meant an announcement to that effect is not made. The phrase I mentioned, “so and so is no longer one of Jehovah’s Witnesses” is the announcement made from time to time. I did not mean to indicate that the word has disappeared from JW vocabulary.”

[A journalist had ambushed one of our people and I addressed that]

“When a person is unexpectedly accosted by a reporter wanting an answer to something that will take more than a sound bite to answer, everyone knows it is a cheap shot. That is not to say they do not cheer if it is an enemy, but they nonetheless know. People are not AI machines. His mind is a million miles away. Still, his discomfiture is inevitably and dishonestly painted as ‘proof’ that he is a flat-out liar. That is why respected sources content themselves with: “So and so was contacted but declined to comment for this article.”

 

I don’t know if it was a good idea or not. Like Howard Beale, I just got ‘mad as hell and couldn’t take it anymore.’ After every comment there came a torrent of abuse. I changed no one’s mind and was routinely called a hypocrite, sometimes an a*****e. You have to expect this going in and you cannot take it personally. You certainly cannot get into tit for tat, nor should you be so dumb as to say someone does not correctly perceive his or her own experience. How would you know? It is the constant with all anecdotal evidence, which may (not likely) be understated, may be overstated, or may occasionally even be made up. You have no way of knowing, so you ought not touch it. You have to realize going in that you will lose. You must resist your urge to defend the Witness organization. It is perception. Everyone calls the other guy ‘arrogant’ when they cannot get their way. It is all parallel to the incessant Trump/Hillary wars, a development that I consider a godsend for Christians because it demonstrates the applicability of 2 Timothy 3:1-5. Don’t be goaded into losing you’re temper and remember whatever you write remains forever, so you cannot ‘fire first and ask questions later.’ My engagement was all on account of the journalists, and maybe I just fool myself as to how many hang out there. Who can say? At each comment I was reminded that I am ‘ordered’ not to engage and ‘not allowed’ to be there. It turns out that I truly was ‘not allowed’, but not by the nefarious ones that he indicated would do the deed.

[Someone brought up homosexuality. It is the common view today that if you do not accept another person’s tenets you must ‘hate’ that person, and I sought to counter that. Every comment was to counter something and to present a side not otherwise seen:]

Tom: “One can sympathize here [with the plight of gay people who were once members]. I don’t know the answer. JWs do not ‘go after’ gays as do many churches. The 2018 Regional Convention devoted about 2 minutes to it in a video (which created an uproar) in a program lasting three days. Okay? They don’t crusade. And they certainly don’t do what evangelicals do to maneuver politicians into passing laws forcing gays to live as they do. Nor do they go in for simple-minded and abusive practices as ‘conversion therapy.’

“The meme ‘born that way’ becomes the dominant meme by endless repetition. However, the Wt has acknowledged that genetics might play a role. Alternatively, it might be environment, psych endorsement, discredited Freud-type ideas (discredited mostly because they are unpopular) universal gender-bending hormones/plastics in common use, even epigenetics. Who knows? One thing for sure: sexuality has proven far more fluid than anyone of my day would have thought possible.

“The GB likely feels that they have no choice, given what the Bible, their guide to life, tells them. They take it as wisdom from God, who knows us better than we do ourselves. Gays within our ranks do not swim against the current, nor into it, both recipes for disaster. They are prepared to swim parallel to the shore, likely for a long time, in hopes that their urges will eventually realign. One could argue that their faith is stronger than most Christians in that they stick to what they believe is right despite the very real testimony of their own bodies. It hardly seems fair, does it? It is why I have the greatest respect for such ones, who will mostly remain anonymous, and ZERO respect for the frothing church types who rail against gays, as they are demanding the latter lift a load the comparison of which they themselves would not be willing to budge with their little finger.”

[In response to someone who said he thought the organization's days were numbered:]

"Time will tell. The enemies of Jehovah's Witnesses have succeeded in doing what they could never have succeeded in doing alone, putting the Cause before the world. Russia persecution triggers international sympathy. Shunning and child abuse cover-up allegations trigger international frowning. All three are diluted by the fact that there are endless atrocities today to compete for people's limited attention.

"Cover-up allegations and shunning complaints are bad. Invariably they are exaggerated, such as people are wont to do, but they are seldom manufactured. Countering the bad press will be the good things that Jehovah's Witnesses have to offer, things that are never alluded to here.

"A recent development of the Witness organization is self-guided, online Bible study lessons at their website, addressing such age-old questions as 'Why does God permit suffering?' 'What happens when we die?' and 'Is there realistic hope for the future?' Is it only opponents that can use the web? People want such answers. Cedars says (pityingly) in a video that Witnesses 'crave certainty.' Isn't that a big 'Duh'? Anyone here enjoy playing Russian Roulette with their finances or health? The more certainty we can lay hold of the better.

"Will Cedars ask me to leave, as Andre suggested? Maybe, but I don't think so. He strikes me as an honest man. He several times asked me to debate him. If I appear here and behave myself, is it not what he wanted? And if he did ask me to leave, after asking me to engage, surely THAT would indicate something. it is my own people who are more likely to ask me to leave, perhaps even kicking me in the rear end as they do so, and I will have to cross that bridge when I come to it. Ironically, should I vanish, people will fuss for some days over whether they lowered the boom or was it Cedars.

"Bible answers are Jehovah's Witnesses' strong suit. Christians are directed in the Bible to stay separate from the greater world, as they offer it a helping hand. Anything with an upside will have a downside. The downside zeroed in on exclusively on this forum is real, but it does not negate the upside. Therefore it depends upon where is your focus.  'Bible education' is the overall goal of the Witness organization, 'preaching the good news,' As the online study sessions demonstrate, with only some exaggeration, if push comes to shove, the essential components of the Witnesses' work can be run out a server in someone's dorm room.

"Meanwhile, going atheist holds some attraction, mostly escaping anyone who would tell you what to do, as though one does not simply put themselves under the 'control' of other deep-pocketed parties telling you what to do, be it Trump, Soros, the Russians, Big Defense, Big Pharma, pro or anti climate change with the enormous economic and lifestyle consequences both bring. Atheism will appeal to some, but never all. The yeartext presumably agreed upon here is: "Sh*t happens. Get used to it. Maybe we can elect the right politicians to fix it." How's that project going, anyway?

"No, that yeartext will just not cut it for everyone."

Don’t misunderstand. I don’t claim to have ‘knocked it out of the park’ on anything. Causes for their disgruntlement remain. You don’t expect to change anyone, just inform anyone new, should they exist.


Maybe I should have gone on his podcast, but I figured it might be like the time, long ago, when I filled in for a school bus driver in a very rough district, and one of the deboarding students spit on me, and then he and all his chums assembled to invite me on their ‘podcast’ just outside the bus. I decided to do like Jesus, who was not even driving a bus, when he was spit upon. ‘But they say that Cedars is very nice in person,’ his buddies told me. Doubtless he would pour me Kool-Aid with a smile to quench my thirst. I never entertained the idea, though I did stretch it out for a while:

Cedars: “Welcome back Tom. Is your personal allowance for engaging with apostates online still only limited to Twitter, or will you be able to join me for a recorded chat on Skype?’ [I had come back. I followed this character in the first place when I discovered he would reliably inform me of things I might want to address. The moment he became aware of me, he wanted me on his show.]

Tom: “As soon as one agrees to a debate, one agrees to the premise that debate is the best way to illuminate things.”

Cedars: “There are lots of ways of illuminating things. Discourse is one way. I had no idea it was a competition.”

Tom: “I have written three books. You have written at least one. Let that be your ‘discourse’ for you.”

Cedars: “I think we both know your reason for declining an interview. It ain't your books.”

[His chums joined in:]

Chum: “Tom why on earth are you in contact with ‘apostates’? Do you think Jah can’t read twitter....and therefore judge you for it?”

Cedars: “Tom has been granted a special exemption that allows him occasional interactions with the "mentally diseased" on Twitter.”

Tom: “It is odd that anyone would mention "mentally diseased" in this context. The quotes are from a 2011 Wt and I posted about it at the time. Alas, I was more wordy then and it is 6 paragraphs in that the term comes up.” [I linked to a post I had previously written, which I have found is a fine way of shaking these guys should they come after you. With one such person (not Cedars) I even served up one that I called my 'troll special.'

Another chum: “Seriously Tom, I’d be bricking it in your shoes! There’s no allowance for chatting with bad sorts (well, Jesus did it, but let’s forget that, and him, eh!).”


[Forgive me if this gets tiresome. I want to assemble everything in one place. Feel free to skip a bit, or chuck it entirely.  A bit later:]

Cedars: “Me waiting for @truetomharley to accept my offer of an on-camera interview to discuss his views as a believing JW who doesn't have a problem engaging with apostates on social media.”

Cedars: “BTW Tom, since you're apparently able to bend the rules by interacting with apostates on social media, are you feeling brave enough to go the full nine yards and join me for an on-camera Skype interview? Or does Jehovah's judgment kick in once you appear on camera?”

Cedars: “I'm quite happy to have a civilized discussion in which we agree to disagree. We do have at least some common ground in both opposing Russia's ban of Jehovah's Witnesses.”

Cedars: “…you've already rejected the offer citing some bizarre argument about being an author and not the true reason - that your religion prevents you from conversing with apostates.”

Tom: “Perhaps I am not a good debater.”

Cedars: “It doesn't need to be a debate, just a conversation.”

Tom: “Unfortunately, I am not even good at conversation. “But I said: “Alas, O Sovereign Lord Jehovah! I do not know how to speak, for I am just a boy.” Jeremiah 1:6”

Cedars: “You're not much good at following the rules of the cult for which you are a cheerleader, either.”

Tom: “Many things I am not much good at. More things than not, actually.”

Cedars: “There's simple mistakes and then there's straight up hypocrisy. Either it's "Jehovah's organization" or it isn't. If it is, maybe you should do as you're told and get your acre in paradise.” [Ouch]

Tom: “You say I violate ‘rules’ and yet you would have me violate them further by ‘conversation’? Ha! You just think you can get me into trouble with my own people so that I will sulk and cross over into the Obi-wan Dark Side.”

 

And now I must face the music from my own side, and there may be some. Cedars’ continual taunts at being ‘not allowed” were surely overdone, and it must have made him feel a little silly when I kept coming nonetheless, until he felt compelled to issue the order himself. Still, nobody here thinks it is the bee’s knees to engage with these characters, and I may hear about it. And they could be right. Maybe I am the yoyo on the Jerusalem wall singing out just when Hezekiah is telling the troops to zip it. But I just couldn’t take it anymore.

The Witness organization probably cannot be expected to defend itself. It takes the scriptural view of Jesus at Matthew 11, noting that grumblers slam him no matter what he does, before finally saying, ‘Don’t worry about it,’ “wisdom is proved righteous by its works.” It is like David who kept mum as ‘all day long they muttered against him.’ ‘It is like the plowman who knows that if you look behind while plowing, the furrows get all flaky.’ They don’t do it. The common view of opposers is that the Witness headship is telling members what to do, while it cynically manipulates all from above. That view is wrong. They practice what they preach and do it themselves.

It is scriptural. It is proper. But there is a downside. By staying mum on specifics, essentially our enemies get to define us to the news media who refer to a cover statement about ‘abhorring child abuse’ as “boiler-plate” and then go to former members who will eagerly fill their ears with accounts that we could counter by adding context but don’t. What’s a reporter to do? He goes to who fills his ears.

The organization headship cites Hebrews 13:7 about ‘imitating the faith of those who are taking the lead among you.’ They don’t go on social media at all. They prefer a less raucous channel, and content themselves with news releases at the website that inform but do not kick back at the critics.

It will fall upon the Witness journalist to do it, if it is to be done, and there aren’t many of them. If fourteen years of blogging, not shying from controversial things, does not qualify me to take a shot at it, what does? Still, one must not be presumptuous.’ I have noted that when anyone self-assumes expertise, they run the risk of becoming full of themselves. Sometimes they take offense that whatever they think they have pioneered is not adopted by everyone else. I try to safeguard against this with evening participation in the door-to-door ministry, often alone. It has a way of instilling humility. As you take note of the response, both favorable and unfavorable, you begin to envision the response that Jesus got. Neglect the door-to-door ministry at your own spiritual peril. Too, I have been sufficiently chastened by various circumstances of life that might be likened by an outsider to having one’s head stuffed in a toilet. Upon extracting that appendage, you do not say, “I guess I taught than toilet a thing or two, didn’t I?” It, too, serves to instill humility.

If you are in a spiritual paradise, or even a vacation paradise, you do not have to concern yourself with removing the trash. It may be even dangerous to do so, because there is broken glass and used syringes. It’s not for everyone, and maybe for no one. But I thought I’d take a shot at it, and I at last got under this fellow’s skin, the big baby.

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)

Alexis Olympia Ohanian Doesn't Do Birthdays. This Gets Interestinger and Interestinger

Few things cause more distress in the world of celebrities than a neglected birthday celebration. Yet Serena Williams presented them exactly that scenario with regard to her baby daughter, soon to turn one. “Serena and husband Alexis Ohanian won’t be throwing an over-the-top birthday bash for their baby girl…In fact, they won’t be throwing a party at all,” reported Caitlyn Hitt for the DailyMail. Why?

Serena says: ‘We’re Jehovah’s Witnesses, so we don’t do that.’ She repeats the tactic that she took with President Obama, back when she was “excited to see Obama out there doing his thing….[but] I'm a Jehovah's Witness, so I don't get involved in politics. We stay neutral. We don't vote...so I'm not going to necessarily go out and vote for him. I would if it wasn't for my religion.'' Let me tell you that she took heat for it from people immersed in civic affairs, not to mention those who dislike Witnesses.

Notwithstanding that the support organization of Jehovah’s Witnesses encourages congregation members to give reasons for their stands and not just say “I do it because I’m a Jehovah’s Witness,” there are times when the latter response is exactly the thing to say. The actual reason takes a while to explain and people don’t necessarily want to hear it. You have to know your audience. I begin to like Serena Williams more and more. She doesn’t buckle under pressure, mumbling something incomprehensible. No. She says "We don’t do that.” She reminds me very much of a sister named Jackie who was ribbed at school for her modest way of dress. She threw it right back at them. “I set the style,” she told the would-be bullies. “If you want to be cool, you dress like me.”

Speaking of modest dress, Serena hasn’t exactly done that over the years on the tennis court. Even given that you want freedom of movement, every so often you will hear her criticized for that, primarily from people who think they can embarrass Jehovah’s Witnesses on that account. Outspokenly she has thanked Jehovah for her tennis victories, yet how does that work with the flag at the Olympics? Jehovah’s Witnesses are circumspect about the flag of any nation, declining to salute, not for any reason of protest, but because of the second of the Ten Commandments. And didn’t she cuss out that official at a certain match? Ah, well, athletes have been known to do that and people cut them slack. After all, if she was mild-mannered Clark Kent, she would find transition into Superwoman difficult.

So she has sent mixed signals over the years. Why would that be? Ah, here it is in the Caitlyn Hitt article: Last year she told Vogue, “Being a Jehovah’s Witness is important to me, but I’ve never really practiced it and have been wanting to get into it.” Okay. She was brought up in the faith and has made part of it her own but not entirely. Apparently, she is not baptized, a big deal for Witnesses. Now, with the birth of a child, she means to change some things. The birth of a child will frequently trigger a shift in priorities. Likely, she is conscious of a spiritual need not completely attended to in her own case and she does not want the same for her daughter. Since Jehovah’s Witnesses call each other brother and sister and I am old enough to be her dad, I tweeted: ‘Knock it out of the park! You go, my daughter.' I’m sure she saw it out of the gazillion tweets she receives each day, many from JW detractors telling her that she is nuts.

Her outspokenness served her well in another instance. When the man she was dating wished her a ‘Happy Birthday’ and she responded as she now does for her daughter, the man admired the courage. He “saw this gesture as Serena stepping outside her comfort zone for him and decided immediately that he wanted to marry her.”

It only gets more interesting. He is Reddit founder Alexis Ohanian. He is not a Jehovah’s Witness, and was not raised with any religion at all, but is reportedly okay with Serena’s faith. Now, it turns out that Reddit is a huge online discussion forum in which topics are hosted for everything under the sun. One of those groups, with thousands of participants, is dedicated to bringing down the organization of Jehovah’s Witnesses. When Philadelphia Inquirer reporter David Gambacorta wrote (so far) four incendiary articles about Jehovah’s Witnesses, he used this group as his source of information and between articles checked in with them, as though Trump playing to his base.

It therefore reminds – I mean, it is not a type/antitype kind of thing, but it sure does remind one of Jewish Queen Esther of long ago, married to the wealthy Persian King who had been maneuvered by enemies into decreeing that her people be destroyed, and the sentence surely would have been carried out but for Esther’s (putting her life at risk to do it) bold intervention. Yeah, why don't you go in there to Mr. Ohanian, you Reddit Witness haters, and tell him that his wife is crazy? That sounds like a brilliant plan to me. Tell him that Mr. Gambacorta is on your side. Just make sure that you read up on Haman before you do it. (See the entire short Book of Esther)

Look, it is not parallel in all respects. Nobody is literally threatening to kill anyone, but they are threatening to kill the Christian organization that supports and coordinates the worldwide work that Jehovah’s Witnesses do, just as like-minded ones are now doing in Russia. Moreover, Mr. Ohanian cannot be expected to pull the group’s Reddit credentials; he runs a website dedicated to free speech. There is also a pro-JW group on the site, as well as a squirrelly in-between one, supposedly supportive of Witness teachings but unsupportive of the human leadership. Such will always be the sticking point in the divine/human interface. It was even true with Judas. He and God were tight. There were no problems there. But that yoyo claiming to represent him was just too much, not at all what Judas wanted to see. And those bumpkins he was attracting! Don’t even go there.

No, it is possibly not history repeating itself. Mark Twain [allegedly} said that does not happen. History does not repeat, he said, but it does rhyme a little.

"I am stronger than you. I bless Heaven for it," said Miss Pross to the wicked foreign woman trying to destroy her Loved One, resisting her "with the vigorous tenacity of love, always so much stronger than hate." 

455px-Serena_Williams_at_2013_US_Open

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)