The Value of Organization

Anti-cultists mutter about the assumed “rights” of “religious corporations.” Such corporations need to be reined in so that they do not harm people, goes the charge. It sounds lofty, for who wants to be harmed? but it is only an attempt to neuter religion by depriving it of governance. It is akin to saying that the French people, or the Australian people, or the Nigerian, or the Russian, are fine people, but they should not be allowed to govern themselves—masking the unspoken hope that they can be better assimilated that way. It is the same way that you might seek to deprive enemy soldiers of their generals, thus “protecting” them from fighting for a cause you do not want them to fight for. People of religious bent form a corporation because it is the only way in which they can legally operate in the world of nations. They would have no interest in it otherwise.

Apostates don’t hate Jehovah’s Witnesses, many of them will tell you. They love Jehovah’s Witnesses. They want to help them. They want to break them free from their oppressive organization. It is like this writer saying that he loves Americans. It is only their government that he would seek to destroy. Surely, they’ve drunk too much of the Kool-Aid themselves. Some of them envision springing loved ones free from the Watchtower to their undying gratitude, like Dorothy freeing the guards from the Wicked Witch of the West and her winged monkeys.

My wife and I had people from Texas come into town to work on a Kingdom Hall remodeling project nearby and they needed a place to stay. Sight unseen, we handed them the keys to our house while we were heading away on vacation. Many people would die for such a brotherhood in which you can place such trust in total strangers.

At the Independence Day church, Mr. and Mrs. O’Malihan heard of this and decided to do the same. The first guests who stayed at their house broke their TV. The second set of guests tracked mud throughout the house. The third set found the Go Packs and raided the funds set aside. The fourth set emptied the house completely and the O’Malihans returned to four bare walls. Steamed, they contacted the Independence Day church headquarters. “Oh, yeah, that happened to us, too. No, they’re not congregation members – they’re imposters. But we have such a half-assed organization that any scoundrel can pull the wool over our eyes in a twinkling.”

It’s not a true story. I made it up for the sake of contrast. But the guests from Texas are true. The Witness visitors are quality individuals to start with because they are known to have dedicated their lives to God and they work under the direction of the organization that they are convinced he directs through his spirit. They are also screened through that organization so that, when you come to find that they need a place to stay, you know they are who they say they are. It doesn’t just happen by chance.

It is not like in the 1970s, when I, on a whim, drove to a St Louis International Convention of Jehovah’s Witnesses and presented myself at the rooming desk with the expectation that someone would put me up for the four or five days. They did. The only way that they knew I was a Witness was that I said I was. I stayed with an elderly sister and her non-Witness husband who treated me as though one of their own. But that was long ago, and “wicked men and imposters have advanced from bad to worse,” says the verse. Today there is vetting.

You can do more with organization than you can without it. It is no more complicated than that. In the case of an organization such as Jehovah’s Witnesses, devoted to spreading “this good news of the kingdom throughout all the inhabited earth,” stellar organization of voluntary efforts has enabled an entirely new channel of Bible production and distribution to be invented, so that they poorest person on earth can yet have a low-cost, free if need be, modern and understandable copy of what he has come to believe is instruction from God.

That same organization invents a website, for spread of the Christian message, which translates into 1,000 languages. People speak a dizzying array of languages throughout the earth. If your mission is to teach them all a common message, then somehow you have to deal with that. In today’s digital age, one can hardly be serious about Christ’s commission to preach throughout the entire inhabited earth unless one has such a website. There is no excuse not to have one, and having one is powerful evidence that you are qualified to do the work you have taken on. After all, when your car needs service, do you take it to the garage content to operate with duct tape, vice-grips, and WD-40? Or do you take it to the garage that has equipped itself with every modern tool?

Not everything has become more organized over time. Some things have become less so. Go back far enough and one could expect to be served a full meal at any convention of Jehovah’s Witnesses. I have seen an empty cavernous room, with only water and electric hook-up, converted to a full-scale kitchen capable of serving thousands in only a few hours’ time. With no knowledge of cooking, I almost ruined one, disposing of an unneeded vat of cooking grease by pouring it down the drain.

Feeding arrangements were simplified with the passage of time, for the members so sacrificing of their energies caught very little of the program in those days. Eventually, prepared meals gave way to various items of pre-packaged food, purchased beforehand, and distributed via a donation arrangement. One of those items was known as “a pasta salad,” and, as though anticipating my future role, I used to refer to it as “an apostasy” salad. I had been placed in charge of that food distribution at our circuit assemblies, so I used to say it a lot, offering everyone apostasy salads, ever suggesting that they try one. They were very good.

Today, Witnesses brown-bag it at their large gatherings. You cannot just waltz up to the directors of any huge organization and slip in your suggestions—they are slammed with things to do. However, the new method came about in very nearly that way. “You know, why doesn’t everyone just bring their own lunch?” a member observed in one of the local congregations, “we all know how to pack a lunch.” The circuit overseer included it in his report to the branch. The branch liked the common-sense idea. Should it be passed on to the Governing Body? It was, and they loved it. Everyone packs a lunch now, not through some lofty command from On High, but through the two cents of a local publisher.

If he can do it, maybe I can do it. My suggestion will spell the end of five or more persons in a vehicle—I am a known pain-in-the-neck on that point—save for special considerations of weather or safety. Four is ideal, and three is to be preferred. That way, one can always develop the experience of one-on-one speaking. I’m not sure I like the idea of “counting time,” either, that is, keeping track of how much time is spent in the ministry. It is done so that reports can be made and the needs for support can be assessed, but it tends to lead to quirky perceptions of being on-duty and off-duty, and even avoiding productive times in the ministry in order to accrue time in less productive but more convenient other times.

Ah, well. They’re small things. I probably won’t get them. It is true that people respond to goals. In any organized arrangement, there will be many things that do not go your way. The trick is to remember what is important and what is not. It is even true with big things. You don’t win them all.

Is it too much, the degree to which Jehovah’s Witnesses are organized? You could make a case for it. When a ten-minute talk at the Kingdom Hall focuses in on just how to handle the sound equipment, how far to hold the microphone from one’s mouth, at what angle to hold it, and what to do if you are the microphone handler and the one you hand it to is doing it wrong, there is a part of me that says: “Oh, for crying out loud! Just heave the microphones into the trash and tell people to speak up—the room is not that large!” It can get picayune. Still, that’s just the way people are sometimes.

From the book TrueTom vs the Apostates!

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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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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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Ben Franklin Gets Jilted and Flip-Flopping on the Resurrection

Ben Franklin courted the widow of his good friend, but the woman turned him down flat: ‘I could never be untrue to my husband.’ Then, in a dream, he went to heaven and met his good friend. They exchanged pleasantries until the friend presently said: “You must meet my new wife. She’ll be along soon.” Ben Franklin couldn’t believe it. ‘Your earthly wife is more loyal than you!’ he said. She turned me down cold on your account!’ ‘That’s too bad for you,’ the friend said. ‘She is an excellent woman and I missed her terribly at first, but now it is time to move on.’

As Ben Franklin grumbled, the ‘new’ wife showed up and it was Ben’s own deceased wife! Ben Franklin turned his rebuke on her, but she said: ‘I was a good and loyal wife to you for 50 years. Let that be enough for you!’

It is a mangling of Luke 20: 34-36, most likely, botched, but nonetheless used as a starting point. No need to say what is wrong with it. Suffice that it addresses the changed nature of relationships after death:

“Jesus said to them: ‘The children of this system of things marry and are given in marriage, but those who have been counted worthy of gaining that system of things and the resurrection from the dead neither marry nor are given in marriage. In fact, neither can they die anymore, for they are like the angels, and they are God’s children by being children of the resurrection.’”

For the longest time Jehovah’s Witnesses took those verses to mean that those who lost a spouse in death would not reunite in the earthly resurrection. The words were in response to a beef of the Saduccees, who did not believe in the earthly resurrection. Jesus went on to speak of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, who will benefit from it.

After a certain public talk years ago that had mentioned the verse, a sister raised her had during the chairman’s remarks, something I had never seen before and have not seen again. She was new in the faith, widowed, and she looked forward to reuniting with her husband in the resurrection. She quizzed the chairman until the speaker himself raised his hand and said he would clarify the verse for her afterwards.

About 30-40 years ago, the Witness organization looked at the verses anew and said maybe she could reunite. They didn’t want to be dogmatic. Maybe the verses just applied to those having the heavenly hope, as they were the ones in abundance back then. It can’t even be said of earthly ones “neither can they die anymore.” They can, and surely will, if they show a rebellious spirit. I mean, if you were raised up to life on a paradise earth, would you grumble about the ground rules? And who is the that is "counted worthy" of an earthly resurrection? Essentially, all you have to do to qualify is to show up; it is "the righteous and the unrighteous" who benefit.

Grousers who say that Jehovah’s Witnesses flip-flop on doctrine miss the point. They’ve never said they didn’t. They do it all the time, re-examining verses in the face of accumulating knowledge. It has been called ‘the light getting brighter.’ (Proverbs 4:18) It has also been called tacking. The only ones who say they can’t do it are the grousers themselves.

That said, the major teachings of Jehovah’s Witnesses regarding the nature of God (no Trinity), the nature of the soul (not immortal), who goes to heaven (not everybody good, but only a minority), have been firmly in place for over a century. Ridding the false doctrines that make knowledge and a close relationship with God all but impossible is part of the job of ‘the messenger preparing the way.’ The first thing you do in preparing the way for a building project is to take out the trash.

(the Ben Franklin writing is called 'A Proposal to Madame Helvetius')

Franklin-Benjamin-LOC-head

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Let us Appreciate Brother Lett

From the final chapter of Tom Irregardless and Me, the chapter in which I try to tie up many loose ends, I threw in this little snippet: "Brother Lett gave a talk in the Ministry School and was given a ‘W’ (work) for gestures. Surely if he applies himself he can learn to be more expressive!”


It is almost like what they said about Jesus, though not with the same degree of admiration: “Never has another man spoken like this.” As one brother put it: "Let no one ever think that Jehovah's organization uses paid actors.”


Witnesses love this guy. He KNOWS he is nutty and he builds upon it as a strength rather get all bashful over it. If I had any doubt about that, it was erased at the behind-the-scenes broadcast that explained how such broadcasts are produced. As he is beaming in the chair and assistants are dabbing him with make-up, the voice-over (his) says that the final step is to apply make-up to the host so that he “looks his best!” He knows he is a nut. A guy that knows how not to take himself too seriously is a precious guy to have around. There are far too many people who do not suffer fools gladly – and a fool is anyone who disagrees with him.


That Lett is not one of them affords him huge respect in my eyes. It’s not so much where you are but how far you have come. When a Christian Life and Ministry program suggested that we think of brothers we appreciate, I picked two not commonly recognized. They are both from a pronounced socially awkward background, and they both have overcome it to serve capably in roles that anyone would have previously thought were forevermore beyond them. They are not “heavy hitters,” in my view, and probably never will be, but they are solid and respected. In an age where elders seldom have to give talks but just use discernment in applying Q&A sessions and though personal interactions, it is enough.


What does Jesus three times tell Peter, recently returned from one of the greatest failures in history? “Feed my little sheep.” It is not your stellar brilliance that is going to make you most effective in doing that. It is the love that you show, and Lett shows it in spades.


In the August broadcast, he gives one of the most ridiculously over-the-top illustration that I have ever heard, in which volunteers are supplied 2-inch brushes to paint the Kingdom Hall and everyone knows that is a crazy way to do it. On and on he goes about some grumbling that 4-inch brushes would make more sense, even six inch brushes, even rollers. And why not go all the way and rent a spray painter? Or hire a contractor? And, come to think of it, someone else grouses, the Kingdom Hall doesn’t need painting in the first place. Furthermore, Lett almost makes this the central issue before all creation, with God potentially saddened because the friends are bickering over the tiny brushes and the Devil is jumping for joy at their disunity, as though neither one of them really has much to do up there in heaven. (a brother at an assembly applied the analogy, a bit more fittingly, to Satan being unhappy about the decision baptismal candidates had made to dedicate their lives to God. But don’t worry about it, he went on to say, “He’s not usually happy.”)


Tempering this verdict of the illustration being ‘ridiculous’ is that Brother Lett admits from the start that it is over-the-top. It is an hyperbole, and the man himself is an hyperbole. And come to think of it, anyone familiar with the gospels knows that Jesus uses hyperbole all the time. Through their exaggeration, they have the advantage that anyone of common sense and unhardened heart instantly gets the point.


They also have the advantage that anyone ‘wise in their own eyes’ and too enamored with ‘critical thinking’ does not, and thus these people are sifted out. I begin to think that hyperbole is a tool in the toolbox that serves to fulfill Jesus’ words at Matthew 11, on how God has “hidden these things from the wise and intellectual ones and revealed them to babes,” and is even a way in which he “catches the wise in their own cunning,” the “wisdom of this world” being “foolishness” in his eyes. I mean, if the stuff is so great, show me the peaceful world it has collectively produced. Real wisdom should enable diverse people to overcome divisions and work smoothly together, and that is a sub-theme of Lett’s illustration.


You should have heard how some of these latter ones savaged him! ‘Classic JW thinking. So typically black and white.’ But just because there is black and white thinking does not mean some things are not black and white, and not long ago, a car group of sisters was rear-ended by a cop in an actual black and white because he was not single-mindedly focused upon his driving. It is possible to overthink things.


Though these are NOT the people that those of critical thinking pay any attention to, most persons in the world are quite simple, and thus so are Jehovah’s Witnesses, who draw disproportionately from this pool. One out of six persons in the world today cannot read. Do the wise ones of this system of things even know these people exist? The Watchtower produces simplified versions of material already written simply so as to reach them.


There is an apocryphal story that one of the Governing Body told Lett to “stop acting like an idiot.” It is impossible to know with apocryphal stories what are true and what are concocted. That said, as I close my eyes, I can see it, for the two are vastly different in presentation. Even that ‘mystery’ serves to beneficially separate people, as some dismiss it with a ‘who cares?’ and some obsess over it. It is not unlike when Rex Tillerson supposedly called Trump a moron and news media suspended all other activity to find out whether he really did or not, a quest that continued even after Tillerson himself called a news conference to say: “Back where I come from, we don’t have time for that nonsense.”


That is another way in which people are separated today. One person’s nonsense is another person’s manna.

[Edit: It turns out that Brother Lett has grappled with Bell's palsy, which paralizes facial muscles on the affected side, and as part of rehab, he got into the habit of exagerated facial movements, a habit that stuck, or is perhaps even still advisable. The elder telling me this said, when I pressed him, that he had it "on good authority." Knowing him, I rate it as probably a 90% chance. So you never know. You just don't. All the people saying nasty things about him are no doubt hanging their heads in shame just about now. Imagine! Calling such a man a nut! Who would ever do such a slanderous thing?]

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Make those Tent Pins Strong

“Make the place of your tent more spacious.

Stretch out the tent cloths of your grand tabernacle.

Do not hold back, lengthen your tent cords,

And make your tent pins strong.”……Isaiah 54:2

 

Jehovah’s Witnesses have proved in recent years that they can put up and take down Kingdom Halls almost as readily as non-Witnesses can put up or take down tents.  So that’s what they are doing.

Back in the day, congregations expanded like independent churches. When members grew in numbers enough in this or that locality, they would build their own Kingdom Hall. But it wasn’t the most efficient way. Some Halls became overcrowded, some remained lightly used or even shrunk.

Since Kingdom Halls all belong to the same God who uses the same organization, these days there is a reshuffling. Some Kingdom Halls are shut down, the members moved to a nearby Hall, so that others can be built where there is more of a need. Thereby dedicated funds are not squandered, but used efficiency.

Sometimes that area of special need is here in the U.S. Other times it is overseas. Jehovah’s Witnesses have a worldwide organization and think nothing of transferring funds where there is the greatest need.

An LDC brother and his wife, who oversee such things, make their home in our congregation. “Don’t cross him,” I tell everybody. “If you do, he will shut down your Kingdom Hall and make you go to another one.”

I was worried about closing any Kingdom Halls. What if you need them later on?  ‘Then they’ll just build another one, like putting up a new tent,’ is of course the answer.

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Tom Irregardless and Me       No Fake News but Plenty of Hogwash

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Sometimes Your Best Option is to Hit the Reset Button

From 'Tom Irregardless and Me:'

There are quite a few of them out there – some shunned, some not. Some go online. They’re not necessarily wrong as they relate their experiences and viewpoints. Some have had run-ins with Tom Pearlsnswine, who never met a fly he didn’t counsel. Some caught the consumer mentality of religion and could “no more imagine a church disciplining them than they could a store that sells goods disciplining them. It is not the place of the seller to discipline the consumer.” Others lost their balance as standards of child-rearing veered more sharply than ever before. ‘If you kids don’t stop crying, I’ll give you something to cry about!’ my non-Witness Dad would holler, a phrase that was no idle threat – every child knew that phrase, as they did “I’ll kill you for that!” It was a commonplace ‘threat’ bestowed almost lovingly on a mischievous child – I can’t tell you how many times my mother said it to me - but the deed itself was rare. Today the deed is commonplace but you’ll have to explain your words before the judge. Lightning-like shifts in morals and mores caught youngsters and parents alike flatfooted. Besides – let’s face it – a lot of Jehovah’s Witnesses are nuts. Probably in no greater proportion than the world in general and certainly without the baggage of violence that can so easily attach itself to non-Witness nuts, but that doesn’t mean they’re not nuts. Sometimes your best option is to hit the reset button.

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Tom Irregardless and Me     No Fake News but Plenty of Hogwash

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Go to the Shop Content with Duct Tape, Vice Grips, and WD40?

From Tom Irregardless and Me:

“the official website of Jehovah’s Witnesses, is the most widely translated website on earth today. This should not be surprising. If you are serious about proclaiming ‘this good news of the kingdom in all the inhabited earth,’ (Matthew 24:14) then naturally, you will have such a site. Image I’m critical of those who don’t; when your car needs repair, do you take it to the shop that has equipped itself with every modern tool? Or do you go to the shop content to operate with hammer, vice grips, WD-40, and duct tape? The extent of jw.org’s translating is amazing - it includes more than 800 languages.”

I’m dumbfounded when I see brothers unduly concerned over topics like ‘spirit directed’ or ‘Jehovah’s modern-day prophet.’  If they harp on it, I question their motive. The now-880 or so languages means nothing? How many does the next religious organization have – maybe 12? Isn’t it like comparing the modern auto shop with the one that relies on duct tape? Shouldn’t anyone serious about carrying out Christ’s commission to preach be so well-equipped? Aren’t they inept at best and frauds at worst if they have not equipped themselves in such a way?

Why would anyone want to be a fly on the wall in the inner rooms of Bethel? Who cares? It’s their business and they apparently have a lot to show for the work they do. It is Western media that Imagedrives the destructive meme that there should be no confidential talk – that it’s our business to look over the shoulders of all in government – that persons should ‘take responsibility’ or be ‘held accountable’ every time they fart.

I’ll focus on the 880 languages and the one organization that has so obviously succeeded in carrying out Christ’s words.

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Tom Irregardless and Me     No Fake News but Plenty of Hogwash

photo (vice grips) LadyDragonflyCC

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"Mentally Diseased" and Political Correctness

You know, Joel Engardio's words seem more prescient each day. I wrote once that he was an apologist for Jehovah's Witnesses. He wrote back to say he wasn't. Still, his words seem more relevant with each passing day.

Through his film KNOCKING, Mr. Engardio offers Jehovah’s Witnesses as an excellent example, perhaps our last hope, of how groups with strongly polarized ideas can yet coexist peacefully. Jehovah's Witnesses are “moral conservatives who stay out of politics,” he observes. “They attempt to persuade, but not impose their beliefs.” Isn't that the key? “Persuade, but not impose.” Their door-to-door visits rank right up there with death and taxes as one of the constants of everyday life. But the exercise of free speech is as far as they go, and in today's world of malcontents, firebrands and terrorists, what an example that is of getting along! Even politics might be viewed as a form of personal violence, since it offers a means of imposing one's views by law upon others. JWs steer clear of politics.

“There was little tolerance for my explanation that we only worshiped God, and that God wasn't American,” Joel writes of his childhood upbringing. Those words, too, are prescient. For today there is considerable backlash against JWs by those who insist that God is American. Or at any rate, that he embraces traditionally American values, such as “rugged individualism” and "independence." But he doesn't.

Signing on with Jehovah's Witnesses is in some ways like joining an army; no one's ever said otherwise. And in an army, you can disagree with those taking the lead, but you can't go on a campaign to undercut them. You just can't. Everyone who has ever served in the military knows it. Now, Jehovah's army poses no threat to any nation. In aspects of personal fiber and morals, members are a great asset to any country. And surely, they're the largest “army” in history whose soldiers have never taken a life. People today join armies at the drop of a pin; daily we see news images of young men firing AK47s into the air. The only army people look askance at is the one in which they don't get to fire guns, the one whose weapons are words only.

Desperate to avoid absolute disintegration in human society, and having utterly failed to curb human violence, nations increasingly resort to “political correctness.” If you can prevent people from saying certain things, the theory goes, perhaps love and tolerance, peace and good will to all will one day come about. There's not much evidence it works that way, but one must try something. So woe to anyone uttering words suggesting lack of tolerance.

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

Look, most persons who leave JWs simply move on in life, some with the viewpoint that the religion just wasn't for them, some with minor grumbling over this or that feature of the faith that prompted their decision, some with the viewpoint that they couldn't live up to it. None of these are viewed as 'apostates.' To be sure, we don't think their decision is wise, but they're not “apostate.” A fair number eventually return. You could liken those leaving to a man or woman leaving a relationship, like a failed marriage. Most just move on. But there's always a certain few psycho ex-mates that can't let go, who devote all their time and energy to harassing the person they once loved. Sigh....with the internet, these ones have a voice and it's amazing how prolific they can be. One such character (I'm not suggesting he is typical) even hosted a website (does he still?) in which he offered expert testimony in legal proceedings against Jehovah's Witnesses and expert testimony in legal proceedings against pharmaceutical makers of anti-depressants, apparently not realizing that each offer undercuts his credibility for the other. In any other setting, he'd be a quite ordinary person, but put him on the internet and he looms huge.

That's the type that the magazine commented on, not at all simply everyone who departs.

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

Whoa, whoa, whoa! said guys like this one....that's not in any Bible I know of except the New World Translation, your Bible! He offered some alternatives, and I'll quote from his blog:

“That's not what it says in any English translation I know of. Here are 3 as a sample (courtesy of Unbound Bible):

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

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

If any man teach otherwise, and consent not to the sound words of our Lord Jesus Christ, and to that doctrine which is according to godliness, he is proud, knowing nothing, but sick about questions and strifes of words; from which arise envies, contentions, blasphemies, evil suspicions (Douay-Rheims)

“But of course, translations are unnecessary for people like me who can read the original Greek:

“ει τις ετεροδιδασκαλει και μη προσερχεται υγιαινουσιν λογοις τοις του κυριου ημων ιησου χριστου και τη κατ ευσεβειαν διδασκαλια τετυφωται μηδεν επισταμενος αλλα νοσων περι ζητησεις και λογομαχιας εξ ων γινεται φθονος ερις βλασφημιαι υπονοιαι πονηραι (Wetscott-Hort)

“I will discuss the meaning of the Greek passage with you if you wish. In fact, I invite you to do so. If you can't read the Greek, then we have little to discuss about it. What I will say is that the NASB, in this case, happens to be nearest in meaning to the original. I will stand by that assessment unless you can demonstrate conclusively that it's not true.”

 

 

To which I answered (starting with a requote of his words):

But of course, translations are unnecessary for people like me who can read the original Greek:

“Of course! [Why do people have to be such blowhards?] Fortunately, people like you produce translations so that dumb people like me can hope to understand the original. Surely we are permitted to use translations. If not, then all international dealings/relations ought to be suspended unless all parties involved are thoroughly conversant in all languages.

“By comparing many translations, even the dunce can get an accurate feel for the original.

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

 

I'm okay when grousers who don't like the Bible denigrate Jehovah's Witnesses for that reason. But it burns me up when they suggest JWs...or the translation they generally use....misrepresent the Bible.

Here's a few other translations:

 diseased (Emphasized New Testament; Rotherham)

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

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

 morbid craving, (An American Translation; Goodspeed)

 unhealthy love of questionings (New Testament in Basic English)

 morbidly keen (NEB)

unhealthy desire to argue (Good News Bible).

Do any of these other versions suggest soundness of mind to you? So the NWT's "mentally diseased" is an entirely valid offering, even if more pointed than most. Plus, once again, the term is an adjective, as it is in all other translations, not a medical diagnosis. Context (in that Watchtower article) made this application abundantly clear. But my blogging opponent declared all such context (apparently without knowing it) "irrelevant." The last time I carried on that way with regard to the remarks of some scientists, I was immediately accused of "quote mining."

Surely that sword must cut both ways. Malcontents who harp on that Watchtower sentence are quote-mining, totally ignoring (or disagreeing with) its context, so as to lambaste a religion they can't stand.

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Dr. Lonnie D. Kliever (1932 – 2004), Professor of Religious Studies of the Southern Methodist University in his paper The Reliability of Apostate Testimony about New Religious Movements that he wrote upon request for Scientology, claims that the overwhelming majority of people who disengage from non-conforming religions harbor no lasting ill-will toward their past religious associations and activities, but that there is a much smaller number of apostates who are deeply invested and engaged in discrediting, and performing actions designed to destroy the religious communities that once claimed their loyalties. He asserts that these dedicated opponents present a distorted view of the new religions and cannot be regarded as reliable informants by responsible journalists, scholars, or jurists. He claims that the lack of reliability of apostates is due to the traumatic nature of disaffiliation, that he compares to a divorce, but also due to the influence of the anti-cult movement, even on those apostates who were not deprogrammed or did not receive exit counseling. (Kliever 1995 Kliever. Lonnie D, Ph.D. The Reliability of Apostate Testimony About New Religious Movements, 1995.) [Submitted by “Jay” on the Beliefnet blog]

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Years ago Jehovah's Witnesses faced down another form of “political correctness,” that of compulsory flag salute. As with the present political correctness, it involved forcing certain speech or actions so as to foster desired attitudes. Observed a Court opinion of the era: "there are schools all over the United States in which the pupils have to go through  the ceremony of pledging allegiance to the flag every school day. It would be hard to devise a means more effective for dulling patriotic sentiment than that. This routine repetition makes the flag-saluting ceremony perfunctory and so devoid of feeling; and once this feeling has been lost it is hard to recapture it for the "high moments" of life." Yet for three years, until the Supreme Court overturned its own prior decision, compulsory flag salute in public school was the law of the land.

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Read ‘Tom Irregardless and Me.’    30% free preview

Starting with Prince, a fierce and frolicking defense of Jehovah’s Witnesses. A riotous romp through their way of life. “We have become a theatrical spectacle in the world, and to angels and to men,” the Bible verse says. That being the case, let’s give them some theater! Let’s skewer the liars who slander the Christ! Let’s pull down the house on the axis lords! Let the seed-pickers unite!

 

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)

Counting the Costs

When Roger the retired C. O. gave the public talk, we invited him to the house for lunch afterward. Also a few twenty-somethings. Mutual encouragement, you know, copy a fine example, one 'face sharpens another,' and so forth. Young Solomon approached the fellow after lunch.

“So, how long were you in the Circuit work?”

“Thirty years!” came the reply.

“Wow. You must really miss it.”
 
“Nope!” the C.O. shot back.

“Well...um...I mean....that is..(this was not the answer he'd expected) it must have been a big adjustment.”

“I adjusted that afternoon.”

“Look, I don't want to sound unappreciative,” he told a friend on another occasion. “It's just that a lot of the job is not my cup of tea. You know me...I'm an outdoors guy. [in his younger days, he'd worked on the railroad] And so what am I doing all day? I'm sitting in meetings! Still, Jehovah apparently has a purpose for me, so I've stayed the course.”

It's called 'counting the costs.' It's a good thing to do. You get emotional control of your circumstances. Aren't 'mid-life crises' caused when people don't count the costs, then are suddenly floored when the 'bill' hits them all at once? Be it family, job, responsibilities, goals in life...people go haywire all the time for never having counted the costs. But if you blow off steam as you go....acknowledge this part is good, though that part is not so good....and adjust accordingly, either deciding to stay the present course or make modifications....well, I'll trust those folks a lot quicker than those who've never made introspection.

And Jehovah did have a purpose for him, apparently. In one of those training schools, where the traveling ministers instruct all the assembled elders and servants, I noticed that the weightiest parts were invariably assigned to Roger. A favorite among C.O's, he was a man of real empathy, who's trademark expression, “just do the best you can,” (as opposed to measuring yourself by the standards of others) is still recalled by all in these parts. I groused once about servants who'd leave the city congregations so as to raise their growing families in the rurals or suburbs, [“Don't worry, Jehovah will provide. Besides, I'm outta here.”]  but Roger didn't agree. 'You always do what's best for your family' he observed.  When he retired, he settled in a nearly congregation, where he continues in full-time service to this day.

The Christian life itself calls for counting the costs. 'What if it's not true, Tom Sheepandgoats, what then?' taunts a certain character, trying to get me going. What if the whole Universal Court Case and Armageddon and all of it is just a story? What if there is no God? What if there is no purpose? What then? Won't all your preaching and all your meeting-going and all your Bible reading be just wasted time?

He's convinced his point is original. In fact, Paul also made it at 1 Cor 15:17-19:

"Further, if Christ has not been raised up, your faith is useless; you are yet in your sins. In fact, also, those who fell asleep [in death] in union with Christ perished. If in this life only we have hoped in Christ, we are of all men most to be pitied."

Is this a weak point for Christianity? Or a strong one? There's no question that the JW organization doesn't hedge its bets, and it stands for a life that amounts to not hedging bets. Jehovah's Witnesses are a serious religion that maintain today's world is fundamentally out of harmony with God's will. Not merely on the surface, fixable by just a bit of tweaking, but fundamentally. So we don't try to put a smiley face on it. We take positions involving goals, lifestyle, employment, associations, which are in harmony with Christianity, but diametrically opposed to today's prevalent thinking. So much so that if someone reassesses years later and leaves the faith, he finds himself out of sync with the mindset he repudiated years ago. So he strives to readjust. It's a rougher transition than, say, changing brands of cars. Some simply conclude that they made a decision that did not work for them and move on. People being what they are, however, many prefer to find a scapegoat, and what better scapegoat than the faith they left? They were "mislead," "lied to," "bullied," etc. Sheesh! Isn't it a lot like the “slave” of Matt 24:48 who is upset that “my master is delaying,” and who therefore starts “beating his fellow slaves?”

Back when I spoke with Frank Mulicotti, years ago, I and my younger chums were inclined to view the Christian life so refreshing...enjoyable activity surrounded by good people and all....that even if it turned out to be not true, it was still worth pursuing. But older Frank would have none of it, and he stood his ground. The older you get, the more the costs become apparent. Activities and goals you pursue, that you wouldn't otherwise. Activities and goals you don't pursue, that you might otherwise, because of the ones you do. It's not to say the costs aren't worth paying, just as people pay costs in all areas of life. But it's well to always 'count them,' so they don't sneak up on you unawares.

On the internet somewhere is a person who frankly acknowledged he left the faith because he wanted to advance professionally. To really advance, he pointed out, you have to be clubby, you have to hang out socially with your work colleagues, and Jehovah's Witnesses don't do that; they hang out with each other. With distance behind him, he'd come to think of other Witness things he disagreed with, but at the time, it was professional considerations alone that appeared to have moved him. Some commenters commiserated with him....one has to keep religion in it's place, after all......but I think Paul would have looked at matters differently, if 2 Tim 4:10 is anything to go by:

“Demas has forsaken me because he loved the present system of things.”

Sigh....whenever people start carrying on about keeping religion in it's place, invariably they mean last place.

As I get older, I also side with Frank, though at the same time one must concede that the youngsters had a point, too. I mean, considering how some lives consist of just one disastrous move after another, lives spiraling ever downward to all manner of decadence, a religion that transforms them into honest, clean, productive persons, even if it turned out to be untrue, would be a significant step up. One detractor carries on about how, when one dies after a lifetime propagating Witness beliefs, it is far more than a waste of time....it is a tragedy. Give me a break! Don't tell me about wasted lives! Just look at all the “fulfilled” people rioting or starving, raped or butchered, as portrayed on TV news! How many embittered and disillusioned people are there today? How many who feel betrayed by their goals? How many knocked about by one setback after another? How many once-respected and prominent people broken, succumbing to various temptations, then gleefully busted in the media? How many groping through life with closets packed full of skeletons in their wake? And if some have found fulfillment in self-directed God-free life, (as some have) it's always with the caveat that, just as you begin to feel you've figured things out, your health starts to give out and off to the grave you go. Let's face it – there's a certain 'futility' built into this life. One may escape it for a time, but it eventually catches up with you.

But this is merely an answer to those who'd assert the Christian life is a waste of time. We don't take such a fall-back position...we look to the fulfillment of all things God has promised. No one would ever assert, as regards the faith, that every 'i' is dotted nor 't' crossed. But there's enough to go on. It's like that definition of faith found at Heb 11:1: “Faith is the assured expectation of things hoped for, the evident demonstration of realities though not beheld.” It's not like that strong feeling one may get that “this time, for sure, my lottery number will come up.”  There's substance to it. A bit like (to oversimplify) one has little doubt the sun will arise next day, knowing the mechanics behind it.

Alas, there is much to work against faith today. Atheists parade a no-God gospel almost with the zeal of, well....Jehovah's Witnesses, as if their message, too, was good news for all, and not just sawing off the branch upon which their sitting. Religious nutjobs blow up buildings, people and airplanes. The Pope evades arrest from grousers, for crying out loud, accused of shielding pedophile clergy. 'If this is God, I want no part of it!' say more and more people. Now....the prevalence of counterfeit money does not prove there's no such thing as real money, but many lump it all together anyway. Doesn't it add timeliness to Jesus question: “when the Son of man arrives, will he really find the faith on the earth?” (Luke 18:8)

Ah well. The work progresses. It speeds up a bit in the last year or two, perhaps as colossal failure of human economics causes some to reassess human rule. It's absolutely astounding that JWs buy out increasing time for the ministry, given the squeeze this system puts on everyone.

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Tom Irregardless and Me       No Fake News but Plenty of Hogwash

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)