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

 


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

 


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.


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


He Enjoys Disseminating Inflammatory Narratives and Hate Speech

I tweeted, with photo included, that all Regional Conventions had witnessed scenes of Russian police breaking up Christian meetings.

Instantly, the tweet was liked from three entirely separate parts of the world, none of them in English. There is nothing like the worldwide brotherhood. Admittedly, three is not a million, but the diverse background of the likers partly offsets this.

A prominent human rights person, frequently quoted in the media, picked up the tweet and retweeted it.

If you spend any time on the music video section of JW.org—not the choir part, but the convention interludes and original songs, you cannot but be struck by the international flavor, so different from the general world which too often views anyone significantly different as one of “those people.” For some odd reason, I almost prefer lyrics sung in languages I don’t understand. It adds to the appeal of unity despite differences. Can you view such videos, ranging from small groups to international conventions, and view participants as addled victims of a cult? You have to work at it. You really do.

Online is an enemy that I keep tabs on because he reliably informs me of things I might like to address. To say ‘enemy’ might seems a little mean. I have no doubt that he has to his credit some good qualities, as do most people. But spiritually speaking, we are at 180 degree opposite poles, and it is not through any miscommunication. It is through deliberate choice on both of our parts.

The spiritual component of a person comprises two thirds, at least, of his or her total makeup. Everything else is but so much window-dressing. It is why I wrote of Prince: “I would have enjoyed jamming with Prince. Not musically, of course - I can’t play guitar – but spiritually, in the ministry. We would have been seamless together; we’re on the same page – all Witnesses are. But it wasn’t to be in this system of things. Prince was always busy. And I was – well, no – I would have found the time.”

We would have instantly hit it off. It may be that I might have discovered differences in preferences, it almost certainly would have happened, even on matters of substance, but it wouldn’t have mattered. All Witnesses know how to keep such matters in their place and not allow them to disrupt the peace of the congregation.

My online enemy hears of Russian punishment of Jehovah’s Witnesses for being Jehovah’s Witnesses, this week’s arrest including persons in their 70s, as reported in Newsweek, and feigns sympathy. He does more than ‘feign’ it. I have no doubt he genuinely disapproves of it. But as a dedicated “anti-cultist,” he is sorry for it in the same sense that the arsonist is sorry to see California burning to the ground. We must not be obtuse. Once you release the hounds of hell, you find that you cannot control just how many they maul.

It is his fellow ‘anti-cultists’ who have driven the model to cast Jehovah’s Witnesses in such a bad light before the Russian Supreme Court (in combination with some nationalistic factors), with even some former members of the faith giving testimony, knowing that, if acted upon, innocent people would go to jail. My enemy’s allies push and push the narrative that Jehovah’s Witnesses manipulate people and break up families. Religion writer Joshua Gill has outlined how a French NGO dedicated to protecting people from ideas considered socially destructive by the NGO sent a well-known emissary to Russia who spread that view with missionary zeal, maximizing his existing status with the Russian Orthodox Church.

It worth noting that the European Court of Human Rights didn't buy either charge. It wrote in 2010: “It is the resistance and unwillingness of non-religious family members to accept and to respect their religious relative’s freedom to manifest and practice his or her religion that is the source of conflict.”

As to a charge of "mind control," it wrote: “The Court finds it remarkable that the [Russian] courts did not cite the name of a single individual whose right to freedom of conscience had allegedly been violated by means of those techniques.”

The Russian Supreme Court in 2017 was not chastened by this rebuke and saw no need to cite a name for the April 20th trial, either. They did, however, find every need to not hear representatives of foreign embassies who might, for all they knew, have sided with the European Court.

The NGO itself has come in for censure more recently, in that it “has benefitted from abusive grants that they have used to disseminate hate speech targeting some minority religious groups in the countries of the European Union and beyond.” The occasion was a side event to the Universal Periodic Review of France in Geneva (January 15th, 2018) where several NGOs and an international law expert called upon President Emmanuel Macron and his Prime Minister to revise the financing of the NGO that sends a clear “open hunting season” on religious minorities. 

Of the emissary, a Mr. Dvorkin, it is written that he “enjoys disseminating inflammatory narratives and hate speech. Last year, in the capital city of India, Hindus have held a demonstration outside the Russian embassy to protest against the persecution of their religion and burnt an effigy of Dvorkin.” Nonetheless, his views have carried the day in Russia, the same as they do with my enemy closer to home.

 

IMG_0289


They Kick the Tires

I follow some malcontents on Twitter because they reliably inform me of developments I may want to address. If they wise up, I simply follow others, as there are many. But they don't wise up. In fact, many of them live to herald their "good news," almost as though they are JWs themselves

I don't do it for the purpose of engaging with them (though it has happened) and I don't consider myself above general counsel to not go there. I am chastened by such counsel and would be much worse without it.

I don't (somewhat) follow such counsel not to go there because I am afraid of men. I do it because I think it is good counsel. If you are determined to lose weight, you do not spend inordinate amounts of time with people who stuff their fridge with candy, cake and ice cream

Ever since inception, Christians have accepted, even embraced, the idea that theirs is a course of self-sacrifice and setting aside immediate desires in temporary pursuit of more urgent concerns. Along come some malcontents in a world that has cast off discipline (and suffered for it, imo)  who say: “Yikes! This involves self-sacrifice and setting aside immediate desires! Who wants that?”

I say, “bring it on.” It is a new front in the age-old war. It is no more than Paul saying in Philippians: “True, some are preaching the Christ out of envy and rivalry, but others out of goodwill. The latter are proclaiming the Christ out of love, for they know that I have been appointed to defend the good news; but the former do it out of contentiousness, not with a pure motive, for they are intending to create trouble for me in my prison bonds. With what result? Only that in every way, whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is being proclaimed, and I rejoice over this.”

I will concede that our people are behind the curve on this. Moreover, perhaps 'behind the curve' is exactly the place to be. The general counsel is to be like Jesus in Matthew 11, who noted that people lambasted him no matter what he did and responded by saying: Full speed ahead! ‘Wisdom is proved righteous by its works.’ I worry about being seen as a bad example, for looking back on the furrows. However, if the headship of Jehovah’s Witnesses ever puts their efforts into it, they will do what they have done with the Internet and what I wrote about in Tom Irregardless and Me:

“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.” 

At present, they don't go there with opposers and they certainly will not ever go there in the main. There are too many verses to advise them to keep doing just what they are doing. When the elders said that they would like to use me once more, but - did I argue with apostates? I told them that I did not. However, what I do is close enough that it could easily be misconstrued that way, and so I advised that they really ought not use me in any actual privilege. Look, this is a no-brainer. If you would represent any organization in an appointed capacity, you must adhere to its standards more closely than if you do not represent them in an appointed capacity.

In fact, I may be just kidding myself. If the counsel to teenagers at the circuit assembly is applied to adults, then I am indeed 'arguing' with them. Now, counsel to teenagers is not obligatory for adults. In fact, it is not even obligatory for teenagers, or to their parents who exercise headship. Disobey it flagrantly and you will be thought not a fine example, but it is not obligatory. Disobey it flagrantly and it may head you into ruin, which is the point of the counsel to begin with, but it is not obligatory. The counsel addresses just one more form of porn to stay away from.

Once in a while, though, you spot three malcontents mugging your friend Job, and you try to be like Elihu and take them out - in one grand speech, not through give and take chitchat. Ideally, the heavens will roar approval and some angelic creature will descend to kick them in their behinds. But other times, they glance down from their newspapers, rustle the pages to change the picture, and resume. You don't know until you know. You don't get smart-alecky with the king and say: "Your fire won't singe us." You say: "If it to be our God can deliver us out of your hand, you big jerk." [last three words mine] Time will tell.

And every once in a while David comes along and says: "Look, I took out the bear. I did serious damage to the lion. I'm pretty sure I can take out this big lout taunting the battle lines of the living God."

Christianity is among the greatest themes of all time. Battling 'apostates' is one of the greatest themes within Christianity. There is not a New Testament writer who does not deal with it, even devoting entire chapters to it, and in Jude's case, a whole book. He was just be-bopping along, writing another dull letter that would have settled into the dustbin of Christian history, when:

"although I was making every effort to write you about the salvation we hold in common, I found it necessary to write you to urge you to put up a hard fight for the faithe 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."

Admin is embarrassed that there are so many religious nuts on his forum. He wants them to remain, of course, because traffic means recognition and, ultimately, money, but just post on more learned things so that he can hold his head high among the Internet titans that he wants to hang out with. In fact, he should tell the Internet titans to go jump in the lake. By looking down upon the corporate agendas of faithful Christians, which they will invariably have the moment they move out from their parents' basement, he is missing out on the greatest drama of all time.

As Sherlock says: "It's Game On!"

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I'll Take it, Fake News or Not

Fake news is everywhere, and some of it surfaced about the Russian ban: ‘Church members of Russia have united! They have launched massive protests against the government in behalf of the Witnesses! President Trump rebuked Russia and invited its entire Witness population to the United States! He visited a Kingdom Hall to worship with them!’ All of it is fake news. It didn’t happen.1

Is “the news” another one of those biblical hills that melt in the last days? Is it now a thing that people of bygone days could depend upon but now need to call in Sherlock Holmes to decipher whether or not it is genuine? Is ‘reading the news’ now the information equivalent of playing Russian Roulette?

Given this apparent new normal, I will take the Trump story, fake news though it is. No, he did not speak out in favor of Jehovah’s Witnesses. But the story plants the clear notion that he should have. Most fake news about Jehovah’s Witnesses is derogatory. It is the ‘every kind of evil’ falsely said against them. It’s about time something went our way. Now it is only a matter of time before some poor body of elders must deal with NBC or somebody attempting to set up shop in their foyer so that they can broadcast “Live from the Kingdom Hall.”

From: 'Dear Mr. Putin - Jehovah's Witnesses Write Russia'

The above becomes relevant because today Presidents Trump and Putin meet for summit, and the New York Times tells of an exiled Jehovah's Witness who proposes Trump ask Putin a simple question: "Why are Russians who pay their taxes, follow the law and embrace the Christian values promoted by the Kremlin being forced to flee their country?" 

A simple [and single] question. To propose Trump do this is exactly the non-confrontational style of Jehovah's Witnesses, and is proof in itself that they are not extremist. Moreover, because the goal is so modest, it is not impossible that it could happen. Persecution of Jehovah's Witnesses in Russia is not everywhere, but where it is, it is draconian, with police dressed in riot gear breaking down doors to arrest them.

Meanwhile (and irrelevant), I did a google search of "New York Times Jehovah's Witnesses." The second hit is an article from 1958, telling of (I think) the largest Christian assembly in history.

 


"We Know that Satan's Coming After Us"

A major American newspaper has published material meant to be damning to Jehovah’s Witnesses, which refers to a group of elders at a 2017 meeting, where they were supposedly advised to destroy handwritten notes of meetings and notes of internal documents due to the potential legal harm such pose. Presumably (though it is not explicitly made clear) these are notes relevant to child sexual abuse investigations.

The reason? A Witness representative reportedly states: “Well, we know that the scene of this world is changing, and we know Satan’s coming after us, and he’s going to go for us legally. We can see by the way things are shaping up.” It is not hard to imagine what certain ones are doing with the explanation that “Satan’s coming after us.”

The reason the Witnesses have whatever child abuse records they do is that they sought to investigate this evil in their midst at a time that others did not. Should they destroy anything, it merely puts them on par with everyone else, who never left a ‘paper trail’ in the first place because they never were proactive. Seen in this light, it does indeed seem that Satan is ‘coming after them.’ It is the quintessential example of the cynical phrase: ‘No good deed goes unpunished.’

On the other side of the world, the Jehovah’s Witness organization during the same year was banned in Russia. Government and media have partnered to whip the public into a froth, hurling many virulent accusations about the faith. Yet, child sexual abuse allegations have played no part whatsoever. Chivchalov states that nobody has heard of it there. Only after the ban did the Russian Embassy, in response to one of my tweets, respond with a Western headline of pedophile charges.

In other words, they found a completely separate reason to ban Jehovah’s Witnesses.

Keep in mind that we are speaking of the faith whose members are universally recognized as ‘pacifist’ – who will on no account resort to violence or support war efforts. It is highly unusual for a large group of people to have absolutely no blood on their hands in this regard, but they do not. It is not inconsequential that Jehovah’s Witnesses are, not just banned in Russia, but labeled extremists. Reports khpg.org (10/24/2018): “You can’t claim that people are ‘terrorists’ or ‘extremists’ and then simply knock on their doors to arrest them, though in all cases there is nothing at all to suggest that resistance would have been shown.  Instead, there are armed searches, most often by masked men in full military gear, with the suspect hurled to the ground and handcuffed, often in the presence of their distressed and terrified children.” Is it so crazy for the Witness spokesman to say: ‘Satan is coming after us?” Given the foregoing, it would almost be crazy for him not to.

Among the most heated charges in Russia are those of Jehovah’s Witnesses refusing blood transfusions, stemming from their interpretation of scripture. It is an issue that has largely been put to bed in the West because of the success of bloodless medicine and the growing recognition that transfusion therapy poses many risks. Still, it does happen from time to time that such refusal costs a Witness his or her life. Russian media rages over this, labeling leaders of the religion murderers.

Surely, somewhere along the line it should be acknowledged that Jehovah’s Witnesses have absolutely no deaths at all attributed to illicit drug abuse, overdrinking, and tobacco use, save only for when someone is slipping into old habits. Witnesses could multiply transfusion deaths 1000-fold and still not not come close to the mortality record of the overall world. Far and away, they are the ‘safest’ religion out there. Yet they are said to be the murderers.

And we are to laugh when they say: ‘Satan is coming after us?’ One thing we know about opposers: they will always overplay their hand, giving honest-hearted persons a heads-up. How can it not be getting near to crunch time?

It is in the free ebook (soon to be in print), ‘Dear Mr. Putin – Jehovah’s Witnesses Write Russia,’ with chapter 12 devoted to pedophile accusations. I had no idea when I wrote it that the book would so quickly become so relevant.

https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/815620

With the major outlets increasing dedicated to attacking Jehovah's Witnesses, it is not easy to balance the reports. One can do shares and retweets, but still. When push comes to shove, the Word makes clear that the enemies will have their day in the sun during this system of things.

 


The Wicked and Sluggish Slave Strikes Again

I like the parables of Jesus where every word may convey meaning and none of it should be quickly dismissed as "filler" For example, the excuse proffered by the wicked and sluggish slave, and the master's rebuke:

"Finally the slave who had received the one talent came forward and said: ‘Master, I knew you to be a demanding* man, reaping where you did not sow and gathering where you did not winnow.So I grew afraid and went and hid your talent in the ground. Here, you have what is yours.’ In reply his master said to him: ‘Wicked and sluggish* slave, you knew, did you, that I reaped where I did not sow and gathered where I did not winnow? Well, then, you should have deposited my money with the bankers, and on my coming I would have received it back with interest." (Matthew 25:24-27)

The master does not deny the slave's allegation that he 'reaps where he does not sow,' letting pass without comment only the slave's perception that he is thereby 'demanding.' The slave has a bad attitude, for the master does not expect to make his own disciples personally - he expects his slaves to pull with him, and the slave ought to have gotten his head around that.

Nonetheless, it seems that even with that bad attitude, the master could have worked with it. All it took was to deposit the money with the bankers - essentially a one-time only trip - and the master would have rolled with it. He may not have jumped for joy, but he would not have rebuked the slave - who worked up a sweat to thwart what would have occurred automatically.

So there are be ones today who don't have the greatest attitude. They don't have to. It is better if they do, for immersing oneself in the kingdom work as it exists is the best way to strengthen faith and be happy, they surely build up the brotherhood more, and they may be heading for shipwreck if they do not, but it is only by actively opposing and 'beating his fellow slaves' (from Matthew 24:48) that the master gets riled - burying the money in the ground, which is the exact opposite of setting the lamp on a lampstand so all will see the light.

Still pondering if I have the right read on his one. I am not sure it has been commented on in detail.