Watchtower Lightens Up in Brooklyn Heights

When their buildings were unconnected, Bethelites might walk sidewalks six-abreast at "shift changes," sweeping passerby into the street. So Watchtower connected buildings via underground tunnel, but this made them a "secretive cult," attempting to isolate their folk from the real world.

Watchtower owns 30 buildings in the Brooklyn Heights vicinity. They’ve been there since 1909. Brooklyn Heights was then, and remains, world headquarters for the organization.  Over the years, and especially in the 1980’s and early 1990’s, as neighboring properties became available, Jehovah’s Witnesses snapped them up to accommodate growth. Of course, they didn't buy indiscriminately...they looked them over closely. When the Hotel Margaret went up for sale, Watchtower kept their distance. With its all wood interior, surely it was a fire trap. A few years later the building burned to the ground! Our people, directly across the street, had to evacuate. The June 22, 1980 Awake! magazine relates the fire, and a subsequent issue highlights an excerpt from With New York Firefighters, the firefighters' house magazine:

“And, we would be remiss, indeed, if we neglected to mention those members of the Jehovah’s Witnesses who, from their headquarters across the street from the Hotel Margaret, provided food and shelter for our firefighters during the entire operation. On behalf of the entire fire-fighting force, warm and sincere appreciation is extended to these kind and dedicated people.”

It's a challenge for any neighborhood to bear that much tax-exempt property, even if the tax-exempt organization was responsible for keeping the area respectable during harsher times. So it’s probably a win-win that Jehovah’s Witnesses are lessening their presence….selling off a few buildings….so as to consolidate all U.S. printing in rural upstate New York. Some of the printing presses they use…newfangled jobs….require straight-line paths greater than the Brooklyn properties can physically accommodate. So the buildings have sort of become obsolete. And if the printing operations move, then you don’t need the residential buildings to house the workers, do you? Last year (2007) the Watchtower put six of it’s eighteen Brooklyn Heights properties up for sale. (the other twelve properties are in the nearby DUMBO (whatever that stands for) neighborhood)

These six aren’t the first to go. The year before, the Sliver building was sold. I have fond memories of the Sliver building, since Tom and Pam Oxgoad, Bethelites for many years, used to live there.

Tom Oxgoad hails from near Rochester. He’s a pal, and many years ago he was accepted as a Bethel volunteer. He met Pam while at Bethel. We‘ve been down to visit a few times over the years. Once we spent the whole day roaming Manhattan, which is easy to do when you have a native guide. Many hours we spent at the Metropolitan Art Museum. (or was that on another visit?) Come evening, we bought some wine and cheese and holed up in their tiny Sliver building apartment. Didn’t it have a bed that folded down from the wall, or have I just embellished its compactness in my head? What I positively do remember was their view of the Manhattan skyline…absolutely breathtaking!

The Oxgoads had had their eye on the Sliver building for some time, waiting for a vacancy.  At Bethel, there is a seniority system when it comes to housing, but you have to be alert to new openings as well. Pam had been on the ball. She'd learned of an opening at the Sliver, the couple had applied and slipped in before anyone else knew which end was up.

The Oxgoads adjusted well to city living. Visiting speakers from the hills would show up for the Sunday public talk, Tom once told me. They’d rail against wicked big cities and how Nimrod founded Babylon and how Jehovah would flatten them all and so forth. Tom and Pam would wince….New York City, after all, was their home, and most of us grow fond of our homes, same as I've grown attached to Rochester and even see fit to write nice thingsabout it. Alas, their Manhattan view was not to last. No sooner had they settled in, when they were reassigned to rural Patterson NY. One day their window view took in Manhattan; the next day it was grazing cows.

The timing is favorable for selling off some buildings. Brooklyn Heights is hot right now and properties command top dollar. "[Jehovah’s Witnesses] bought their buildings for their own use, not looking to cash out, at a time when the market was dead and you couldn't give real estate away in this area," said Andy Gerringer, managing director of Prudential Douglas Elliman Developments. "I don't know if it was savvy investing, luck or divine intervention."

Nor do I.

Everyone says the Witnesses have been good neighbors, though they’ve not mixed much with the greater community. “If families start moving in, it’ll probably get a bit livelier around here,” said one man. “They didn’t really interact with everyone around them.”

Like I say, it’s probably a win-win. But if we’ve been good neighbors to Brooklyn Heights, they also have been to us. The Oxgoads miss it a lot.

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)

Plato and the Governing Body of Jehovah's Witnesses

In general, Jehovah's Witnesses don't know a whole lot when it comes to ancient Greek society. We are happy when the visiting speaker pronounces Socrates with three syllables, and not "So crates." Oh, the Greeks are back there in our school days somewhere. After all, they lived in a window of time in which civilization got its act together long enough for some privileged persons to think deep thoughts and record them for our benefit. But we don't consider knowledge of them indispensable for enriched life. The rapidly ascending Chinese and Indian populations most likely are completely ignorant of Greece....the root of Western civilization, but not theirs....and don't bemoan the loss.

Nonetheless, there is this atheist fellow I've been conversing with lately who throws Greeks at me right and left. He's even assumed a Greek moniker....Moristotle....and he's prompted me to consider changing my own name to Tom Sheepandgoaticus so as to win some respect. So it behooves me to read up on those Greeks. What do we find, for example, when we do some research on Plato?

Plato put into writing his concepts of ideal government. He advocated rule by "philosopher-kings." Several times in Moristotle's blog I've read the term. (If his blog has a search feature, I'd provide links. C'mon, Moristotle, get with it!) Plato favored monarchy, but not hereditary monarchy. Instead, his rulers were to be selected (by already existing rulers) on the basis of merit. This would follow a lengthy period of education designed to separate the wheat from the chaff.....so lengthy that it seems nobody under age 50 would be eligible for consideration.

Consider this excerpt from The 100, an intriguing book by Michael Hart, which undertakes to rate the one hundred most influential persons of history: (Plato is #40)

Only those persons who show that they can apply their book learning to the real world should be admitted into the guardian class. Moreover, only those persons who clearly demonstrate that they are primarily interested in the public welfare are to become guardians.

Membership in the guardian class would not appeal to all persons. The guardians are not to be wealthy. They should be permitted only a minimal amount of personal property, and no land or private homes. They are to receive a fixed (and not very large) salary, and may not own either gold or silver. Members of the guardian class should not be permitted to have separate families, but are to eat together, and are to have mates in common. The compensation of these philosopher -kings should not be material wealth, but rather the satisfaction of public service.

Anyone familiar with Jehovah's Witnesses will realize at once that this description almost exactly describes their "governing body," the agency that governs members of the faith. Only the "mates in common" does not apply.

Compare Plato's dream government with this depiction of the Watchtower organization, submitted by a reader to the Gary Halbert letter(which appears to be a Kiplinger-style newsletter, and which may include some sort of a sales pitch....I'm not familiar with it):

They are the most non-profit of non-profit organizations I've ever seen. All of their workers are voluntary. *All* of them. From the top down, the way the entity is structured, even the executives of the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society in Brooklyn, NY (headquarters of their worldwide organization) donate their time in exchange for very modest room and board. I've toured a few of their facilities in the Brooklyn, Wallkill and Patterson, NJ areas. I've seen it with my own eyes.

Everyone who works at their printing facilities (where they print bibles and bible literature for their worldwide bible education work) works for room and board and they get a very small allowance (somewhere around $120/mo.) for personal items. This entire organization is supported by means of voluntary donations. And it's amazing......I mean, these people are not driving around in fancy cars and getting rich pocketing donations by any means.

They spend their money on maintaining their printing facilities, printing bible literature, housing & feeding their voluntary workers (who all live in an apartment-like community maintained by the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society), supporting voluntary missionaries around the world, language and reading programs (where they teach illiterate people to read), DISASTER RELIEF....I could go on.

But the bottom line is that NONE of their money is used to line pockets of greedy execs. *

This organization is duplicated in the one hundred or so branch organizations that exist around the world.

Of course, one may object: Plato's recommendation is for the government of nations. Jehovah's Witnesses are a religion. But the similarities are more striking than the differences. Worldwide, Jehovah's Witnesses number between seven and seventeen million, depending on the criteria you use in counting. That's more than the population of a great many nations. Moreover, Jehovah's Witnesses are correctly viewed as a moral, decent, and law-abiding people. This is no mere accident, nor is it explained solely by their belief in the Bible as the source of divine instruction. It is also the result of effective administration, governing if you will, since there are ever so many groups who claim to follow the Bible but whose lifestyles beliethat claim. Jehovah's Witnesses are unified in a common goal and purpose, as the above letter points out. They would appear to be Plato's dream come true.

Author Hart actually allows for a religious setting when discussing the application of Plato's ideal. He suggests "there is a striking similarity between the position of the Catholic Church in medieval Europe and that of Plato's guardian class." I assume he is referring to the Church before the Inquisition. Otherwise, Hart acknowledges, Plato's ideals have never been adopted by any human government.

Oh, this is too rich! Here is Plato, poster boy of the modern atheist rationalists, devising a system of government which none of them have come close to reproducing, but which is adopted, without fanfare, by a group they can't stand, Jehovah's Witnesses! The reason, of course, is that Plato's system depends on persons who are neither ambitious nor materialistic nor overly proud. It's not that such persons can't be found among the general population. It's that the values of this world are such that these persons can't rise to the top. Indeed, they are often dismissed as impractical nuts (as with Jehovah‘s Witnesses).

By the way, what happens when atheists themselves try to adopt Plato's ways? Hart continues: "The role of the Communist party in the Soviet Union has also been compared with that of the guardian class in Plato's ideal republic. Here, too, we see a self-perpetuating elite whose members have all been trained in an official philosophy."

Aren't communist systems atheist, indeed the only governments officially atheist? Yes....and when the atheists try to implement Plato, their creations are hijacked by bullies and mass-murderers: Stalin, Mao, Pol Pot, Kim Jong-il, and so forth. Look at these guys crossways and you do ten years hard labor.

No, those atheists are unable to implement the ideals of their hero. Jehovah's Witnesses, on the other hand, have done so. Okay, I guess it is too much of a stretch to suggest that if Plato were somehow to appear today on the world stage he would become one of Jehovah’s Witnesses, so I don’t suggest it. But I can picture the highly educated “wise-in-their-own-eyes” elite rushing to embrace him as one of their own, and he, upon accessing how they have failed to implement any of his ideals, wanting nothing to do with them. Meanwhile, he could not help but be appreciative toward the one sizable organization on earth that has managed to transform his dream into reality.

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Tom Wheatandweeds of the Whitepebble Institute submitted the above item. I told him not to gloat, it's not becoming.....I strictly warned him....but he could not resist. His communication included the following, which I have deleted from my published edition:

"Ha ha ha ha ha ho ho ho haw haw ho ho ho ho ho yiiiiii....THUD!

ow...........(he he)"

He never had an ounce of dignity, that Wheatandweeds. That's why I'm the blogmaster, not him.

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*It should be noted that the writer to the Halbert letter incorrectly recommends that one may donate to the Watchtower as an efficient way of providing disaster relief to post-Katrina New Orleans. In fact, JW disaster relief is a sideline, aimed mostly at getting their own people on their feet again so that they may resume normal Christian activity. The disaster relief teams are almost entirely individual JWs using vacation time or taking unpaid leaves of absence. They are not in position to do a general rebuild of the city and have never represented themselves that way.

 

More on Governing Body here.

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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)

Four Suggestions to Clean up the Evangelicals

Just as Daniel apologized for his countrymen, though he himself had little share, so Ronald J. Sider bemoans America’s evangelicals, saying it all in his 2005 book The Scandal of the Evangelical Conscience. Sure, they believe the Bible, as they are quick to tell you. But they don’t practice the Bible. They don’t apply it in their personal lives. Some do, of course. Some are upright, but no greater a percentage than is true of people in general.

It wasn’t supposed to be that way, a point which chapter two, The Biblical Vision, makes painfully clear. That chapter is as concise and comprehensive a discussion of the subject as you will see anywhere. Taking each NT book in succession, Mr. Sider highlights scripture after scripture to show that Christians were (and are) expected to live under Christ’s law, and that doing so would produce a people who lived so decently that their lives, not just their words, would be a drawing card for the faith.

Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us.         1 Peter 2:12    NIV

Here is Paul at Gal 5:19-21:  The acts of the sinful nature are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God.

“If Paul is even close to being right about what it means to be a Christian, one can only weep at he scandalous behavior of Christians today,” Mr. Sider states. “….How many preachers today speak that clearly about the sins of greed, adultery, and slander?”

He cites Peter as well: For you have spent enough time in the past doing what pagans choose to do—living in debauchery, lust, drunkenness, orgies, carousing and detestable idolatry. They think it strange that you do not plunge with them into the same flood of dissipation, and they heap abuse on you.      1 Pet 4:3-4

Apparently, the countercultural lifestyle of these early Christians was obvious to outsiders, notes Mr. Sider. Not so today among the evangelical community. “Our disobedient lifestyles crucify our Lord anew.”   Pg 96

After reviewing the evidence, “we have seen the stunning contrast between what Jesus and the early church said and did and what so many evangelicals do today. Hopefully that contrast will drive us to our knees, first to repent and then to ask God to help us understand the causes of this scandalous failure and the steps we can take to correct it.”  (pg 53) Mr. Sider has done just that and offers some remedies. You cannot read these remedies without noting they are the very building blocks integral to the organization of Jehovah’s Witnesses. And they do, to a considerable degree, solve the woes Mr. Sider describes. Alas, they earn us ridicule, particularly the ones having to do with obedience and submission. Don't many evangelicals join in the ridicule?

First, says Mr. Sider, the Western world’s obsession with independence must end, to be replaced with recognition that Christians are a community belonging to, and having responsibility for, each other. Paul goes so far as to say Christians ought to be slaves to one another.  Galatians 5:13 literally reads “be slaves to each other,” yet most popular translations, Mr. Sider notes, dilute the verse to a more independence-savoring “serve one another in love.” (but not so the New World Translation, used by Jehovah’s Witnesses. It reads “through love slave for one another.”)

Many churches today trumpet that they are “independent Bible believing,” yet the very notion is “heretical,” says Mr. Sider. To be part of the body of Christ, a church must align itself with a larger structure to give “guidance, supervision, direction, and accountability.”

Jehovah’s Witnesses have exactly such a structure in their governing body. Soreheads and malcontents rail against such organization as “mind control.”

Second, Mr. Sider suggests, any congregation with over fifty members ought to arrange its people into small groups, where oversight and encouragement can more effectively be offered.

They’re called book studies. Since as long as anyone can remember, perhaps from their outset, Witness congregations have made use of such small groups.

Make it harder to join, is a third suggestion. Evangelical Conscience points to early Anabaptists and Wesleyans, as if no modern examples existed. These groups took their time in admitting new members, ensuring that their conduct as well as words lined up with Christ’s teachings. They did not just settle for the silly and surface “confess the Lord and be saved.” Jehovah’s Witnesses are well known for requiring an extensive period of Bible study as a prerequisite to baptism..

Lastly, “parachurch” organizations, groups like Youth for Christ that transcend the larger church structure, have, by definition, no accountability to anybody. “Many of the worst, most disgraceful actions that embarrass and discredit the evangelical world come from this radical autonomy,” says Evangelical Conscience. Somehow such groups have to be brought into tow, though the author admits that he has no clue as to how to accomplish this.

Jehovah’s Witnesses do. They strongly discourage any such activity not under the oversight of the central governing body. You should hear guys like Barfendogs carry onabout such “strong-arm” methods! But one can’t help feeling Mr. Sider would approve.      

To be sure, Mr. Sider and Jehovah's Witnesses are poles apart doctrinally, yet organizationally we are his dream come true - a peculiar irony, if ever there was one.

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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)

Reining in the Parachurch

I knew he’d have a field day with this, but I didn’t know when that day would start. The ink wasn't dry on that September Kingdom Ministry when Tom Barfendogs was peppering my blog with comments, haranguing me. It’s a good thing I can screen comments. Otherwise, he’d write on my blog more than I do.

“Did ya see it, Tommy? Hah, did ya? It’s right there in the question box, Tommy! Did ya see it?”

There was an article about some of our people grouping together to explore deeply this or that spiritual topic, delving where no one had delved before. They’d done extra research, released their own extra findings, to augment material coming from the existing JW organization. They’d held conferences, published books, and hosted web sites where collaborators from all over could contribute their own research. The faithful and discreet slave didn’t like the idea….didn’t like it at all, and strongly discouraged it. They cited a few scriptures, such as:

Now I exhort you, brothers, through the name of our Lord Jesus Christ that you should all speak in agreement, and that there should not be divisions among you, but that you may be fitly united in the same mind and in the same line of thought.      1 Cor 1:10

Might not independent research groups pose a danger to the unity Paul spoke of? In fact, there were some lone rangers back in the first century, which produced the following results:

For the disclosure was made to me about you, my brothers, by those of [the house of] Chloe, that dissensions exist among you. What I mean is this, that each one of you says: “I belong to Paul,” “But I to Apollos,” “But I to Cephas,” “But I to Christ.” The Christ exists divided. Paul was not impaled for you, was he? Or were you baptized in the name of Paul? I am thankful I baptized none of you except Crispus and Gaius, so that no one may say that you were baptized in my name.      vs. 11-15

Barfendogs likes the scriptures well enough, but not ones that get in his way. “It’s mind control, Tommy! A cult! ‘Don’t’ think for yourself; we’ll tell you what to think!’ That’s what they’re saying, Tommy! When’re you going to wake up?! When’re you going to free your head?! Better shut down this blog, Tommy, before they catch you! You‘re not allowed on the internet!” And I admit, even Tom Pearlsenswine seemed a little put out. He read the article over and over, grumbling as he read. I’m starting to worry about Pearlsenswine. You don’t think he’ll be the next to go bad, do you? With a name like Pearlsenswine, one never knows. He’s been engaged in top-secret Trinity research for years now. It seemed straightforwardand clear-cut at one time, but it just drags on and on.     (1 Jn 5:6,7)

Western society puts such a premium on independence, even to the point of belligerence, that any notion seen as “pulling in the reins” seems suspect, as if motivated by megalomania. But consider Ronald Sider’s observations about the evangelical community, a community which, he laments, makes a shambles of living the faith, though they do well at talking the faith. What causes does he identify?

Two are relevant. The first is today’s nirvana of independence, so prized by Barfendogs. It is anathema to the Christian congregation: “The notion - and practice - of an independent congregation with no structures of accountability to the larger body of Christ is simply heretical,” Sider writes in his book The Scandal of the Evangelical Conscience. “How can an independent “Bible church” claim to be biblical when its very refusal to submit to a larger church structure of accountability defies the essence of a biblical understanding of being the church?     Pg 111

Doesn’t that dovetail with Watchtower’s discouragement of meetings, literature, or web sites which are not produced or organized under its own oversight?

The second is what Sider calls “parachurch” organizations, groups like the Billy Graham Crusade, the Youth for Christ, groups that transcend established church organization. They accomplish a lot of good, Sider feels, but they have no accountability, and thus provide an umbrella for the scandalous conduct Sider says is endemic in the evangelical community. “Frankly, I do not know how to solve this problem,” he admits.  Pg 112

The faithful and discreet slave does. But it takes guts to implement, and it earns them taunts and abuse from soreheads like Barfendogs. Are there even some evangelicals who join in with the catcalls?

So the Christian congregation adjusts to oversight from the parent Watchtower organization, which steps on the toes of a few (ouch!) whose motives not only are not bad but are often noble, yet whose unchecked projects might, over time, lead to the mess Mr. Sider describes. But now they are being checked. Nobody is saying not to do research. But there is a clear distinction regarding plain old research and organized efforts to augment the direction given congregations today. Even this (gulp) blog comes in for soul-searching. But at present, the author consoles himself that it’s contents do not match what is being discouraged. This blog is not a collaborating spot for Witnesses, there’s no “new truths” being unearthed, and posts that touch on religion are essentially no different than what the author might say in person were he to show up on your doorstep. (which he someday might do) Alas, there may be some overlap, however.

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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)

Earning Salvation and Playing Chess with God

Some stories you just don't forget.

Like this one from Isaac Bashevis Singer (the title of which I forgot) about a man who viewed life as a chess game with God. Accordingly, he knew he'd always be the loser in any situation, eternally in check, and after being toyed with an adequate time, checkmated without mercy. And yet there was an upside. It was a great honor, after all, to play such a worthy opponent; no one wants to waste their time on a third-rate foe. So even as our man got stomped upon time after time, he could reflect in awe on the ingenious tactics of the Master Player.

For example, (the precise details may be slightly off - it was a long time ago that I read it) our main character, a repairman or messenger or whatever, enters the apartment of an absolutely drop-dead beautiful woman. But he falls ill, so the kind woman lets him lie down on her couch. The blazing sunlight is pouring into the room, so she leans over the couch to pull the shade. But she loses her footing and falls on top of our hero! Of course, belt buckles or something lock, and they can not separate! At that very moment, the footsteps of her huge, mean, jealous husband are heard in the hall, the key turning in the door.

Even as our hero thinks of how he's about to be pounded into mush, he can not help but marvel: "Masterful move, God! Awesome!"

What is the nature of a person's relationship to God? Might it even differ from person to person, since God, who is described as having humility (as opposed to modesty, they are not the same) adapts himself to each one, taking into account each unique personality?

Detractors of Jehovah's Witnesses delight in the accusation that Witnesses are trying to earn salvation; that's the reason for their door-to-door activity, they say. The truly uninformed portray them competing with each other for one of the limited (144,000) heavenly slots! The truth of the matter is very different. And yet not so different that it can't be misinterpreted, not just by the casual observer, but even by some Witnesses themselves, who may know and say one thing, but act as if another were true.

The everlasting life that Jehovah's Witnesses look forward to, made possible by Christ's death is described biblically as a gift.

For the wages sin pays is death, but the gift God gives is everlasting life by Christ Jesus our Lord.   Rom 6:23

A free gift, of course, is just that. It is a gift. You can't earn it. Yet you can show appreciation for it. Indeed, anyone who provides a really fine gift, perhaps at great cost to themselves, has to be sorely disappointed if the recipient merely grabs the gift matter-of-factly, without sign of gratitude.

So Jehovah's Witnesses love the giver of this gift, and they show appreciation for it. That's different than trying to earn the gift, and yet the outward manifestations of both attitudes are similar. It is easy to mistake one for another.

My favorite circuit overseer, who we'll call Roger, was known for the expression "just do the best you can." Guys in the organization who like to push, and who, more or less, imply that whatever you are doing is not enough, didn't always appreciate Roger. The Watchtower Society did, however. I noted at the elder training school, where traveling overseers rotated all the teaching parts, that Roger was invariably assigned the really weighty segments. When he "retired" from the circuit work, and settled in one congregation, not everyone welcomed his "just do the best you can" message. They fretted. Would not some start dogging it, they feared? Maybe they would slow down! And sure enough, some did. For a time. But only for a time.

With such a well-known person espousing "just do the best you can," people who were pushing themselves, maybe some out of a sense of guilt or obligation or even "earning," did back off, relieved. But the congregation readjusted. Soon, new ones, and many of the old, were stepping up to the plate, "doing the best they could," and doing so with a purer love of God. The congregation's field service exceeded anything that had come prior.

Matthew 24:14 states that "this good news of the kingdom will be preached in all the inhabited earth for a witness to all the nations; and then the end will come." Who, if not those who believe in it, would one expect to do this preaching?

With regard to earning, a pertinent thought is found at James 5:19-20:

My brothers, if anyone among you is misled from the truth and another turns him back, know that he who turns a sinner back from the error of his way will save his soul from death and will cover a multitude of sins.

The question might be asked: Whose soul is saved and whose multitude of sins covered? The "turner" or the "turnee?" If it is the "turner," well....that's a lot like earning one's salvation, isn't it? Has the Watchtower Society ever interpreted the verse that way?

It has not. It has consistently pointed to the "turnee" who's soul is saved and sins covered, not the "turner."

"The person who reproved him has thus worked toward the covering over, or pardoning, of the erring one’s sins."   (Wt 3/1/83 page 15)

Publishers of the Watchtower, and all of Jehovah's Witnesses, are well aware that life is a free gift, a gift that can be appreciated, but not earned.

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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)

The Grumbling Slave

"I never thought I'd ever be this old." The circuit overseer was addressing a circuit assembly. He looked at his hands "I didn't think I'd have wrinkles or my hair would turn gray. I thought this present system of things would long have passed, but isn't it fine that many people have come into God's organization over the last decades?" The notion went over well. People clapped.

It doesn't always go over so well, not with everyone. If there's one thing we know about life today, it is that people are restless. In turmoil. Uneasy. Society has broken down in many areas, be it family life, finances, public health and safety, integrity and trust. People are unsettled. And where is the master? Wasn't he supposed to be here by now?

The master, of course, is the one referred to at Matt 24:48-9. Matt 24 and 25 are the apocalyptic chapters of Matthew. They're concerned with the "last days" of human rule on earth. Matt 25:13, for instance, advises Christians to "keep on the watch, therefore, because you know neither the day nor the hour."

If the day and the hour are out-of-bounds, Jehovah's Witnesses have nonetheless tried to nail the year more than once, most recently in 1975. It's not just them, either. Isaac Newton, the grandpa of science, who wrote more about spiritual matters than math and science combined (to the annoyance of Richard Dawkins, I suspect), decided 2060 was the final year. And even outside Christian circles, didn't the Mayans come up with some date - 2011 - a date rapidly approaching?

And why should people not wonder about such things? Give us a few decades, and we'll all be senile and in diapers. And that amidst an ever-decaying world. Who is so dull as to not be curious about what lies after our 80 years?

We Witnesses learned our "date" lesson for awhile (perhaps) and for some time Armageddon has merely been "soon," even "just around the corner." Armageddon, remember, is not the earth's destruction, but the wiping clean of rebellious society that accompanies Kingdom rule coming to power. Still, that is one heckuva corner.

So some do what Jesus said in 24:48-9:

"But if ever that evil slave should say in his heart, ‘My master is delaying,’ and should start to beat his fellow slaves and should eat and drink with the confirmed drunkards, the master of that slave will come on a day that he does not expect and in an hour that he does not know...." and will not be pleased.

The "master" seems to be "delaying," and so some of his slaves start to beat up on the other slaves, apparently the ones not so concerned about timing. . "I was misled! It's  mind control! They're false prophets!" You hear people say such things about the Witness organization.

No question about it. There are older JWs who literally never thought they'd see old age in this system. Because of that, some have found themselves "out of sync" with practical life, sometimes seriously so.  Undeniably - a great inconvenience for anyone in that boat. (though there's the other type of person who adapts to anything - nothing inconveniences them! Ah. I wish I were more like that. Tom Whitepebble, for example, who's never worried a day in his life. His goal, he tells me, is to take his last dime out of the bank two minutes before he has his final heart attack. Then he will die with a smile on his face!)

But some are like the "evil" slave, beating up their fellows. Other slaves, who may also have gone out on a limb, simply suck it up and move on. That is not necessarily easy and some opportunities, when they pass, never return. Life in this system is smoother, certainly more predictable, if you do things in a certain order. But the Christian faith, after all, holds that this is not the "real life."

Give orders to those who are rich in the present system of things not to be high-minded, and to rest their hope, not on uncertain riches, but on God, who furnishes us all things richly for our enjoyment; to work at good, to be rich in fine works, to be liberal, ready to share, safely treasuring up for themselves a fine foundation for the future, in order that they may get a firm hold on the real life.    1 Tim 6:17-19

Faithful ones can expect to be a bit like Abraham, an alien in a foreign land.

By faith he resided as an alien in the land of the promise as in a foreign land, and dwelt in tents with Isaac and Jacob, the heirs with him of the very same promise. For he was awaiting the city having real foundations, the builder and maker of which [city] is God.    Heb 11:9-10

Have some Witnesses been disappointed with aspects of their personal life? Probably. But only in matters relevant to this system of things, which is not the real life. After all, it's not as if a botched end prophesy is the only grounds for disappointment today. This system of things disappoints people all the time. Ask them about that in Iraq.

Are not our times, at least compared with recent centuries, the most materialistic, individualistic, and self-centered ever? That's not to criticize anyone coming under their spell. It's the world we're born into and it permeates our being. It's harder on the younger generation because the backdrop has become more and more pronounced.

When all is said and done, the real question may be the one Jesus raised in Luke 18:8:

"....when the Son of man arrives, will he really find the faith on the earth?”

Frankly, you cannot but have great respect for the JW governing organization. They alone are unafraid to go out on a limb. Everyone else hedges their bets. Everyone else covers their rear end. Everyone else tries to have it both ways. They don't.

It's not as if they personally benefit when timing doesn't turn out. They live in dormitories, for crying out loud! Nice dormitories, to be sure. But dormitories, all the same. Should they decide to leave, they don't walk away with a pension or 401K.

Yes, in hindsight, it might be well if dates had never been given. But they're the watchman. Conditions Jesus foretold have long been upon us. So they peer all the harder for details. Mist and fog can mess up a watchman, interfere with his vision. But what good is a watchman who sounds the alarm only when the bow of the approaching ship is scraping your toes?

Son of man, a watchman is what I have made you to the house of Israel, and you must hear from my mouth speech and you must warn them from me.    Ezek 3:17

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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)

Engardio, Gobitus, and the Flag Salute

As a teenager, Joel Engardio broke his mother's heart. He declined to pursue the Witness faith in which he was raised, diving into journalism, which he imagined could change the world now, not later.

As a young man, he broke it again. He declared he was gay. That’s a problem within JW congregations. Scriptures are scriptures and we're not authorized to change them. We don't go on anti-gay rants and witch hunts, like the fundamentalist groups, but to say we "discourage" homosexual practices would be an understatement.

But as an adult, he's done his mama proud.

Mr. Engardio has written, produced and narrated Knocking, probably the best documentary ever about Jehovah's Witnesses. Others think so, too, not just me.

Best Documentary, Jury Award, 2006 USA Film Festival (Dallas)

Best Documentary, Jury Award, 2006 Trenton Film Festival (New Jersey)

Best Documentary, Audience Award, 2006 Indianapolis International Film Festival

Its website, www.Knocking.org, lists 10 other film awards.

Some aspects of Jehovah's Witnesses, Mr. Engardio relates better than the Witnesses themselves do. For example, while it's well known that the U.S. leads the world in protecting basic freedoms from government abuse - freedom of speech, of press, of assembly, of expression, of worship - the reason is less well known. It is, in large measure, Jehovah's Witnesses.

Towards the end of ensuring freedoms, Jehovah's Witnesses have tried 50 cases before the U.S. Supreme Court. Except for the government itself, no other group has done so more often. The victories they've wrestled trickle down to groups of all stripes, including some with principles quite opposed to those of Jehovah's Witnesses. Such groups owe a large debt to JWs, but instead they take pot shots at our beliefs! Freedoms defined in the U.S. set the standards for other nations as well, particularly emerging ones.

An example of a basic freedom defined:

We all know that there is true patriotism and there is phony patriotism. There is the flag salute that reflects true love of country and the flag salute that is just going through the motions. The symbol means nothing in itself; it’s what the symbol means to a person which is significant. We all know that terrorists, spies, scoundrels, and what-have-you feel no compunction about saluting someone's flag, if only so as to avoid drawing attention to themselves.

All the same, politicians are sometimes satisfied, not with true patriotism, but with the appearance of true patriotism. In the late 1930's, shortly before America's entrance into WWII, "patriots" [real or phony?] thought it a good idea to make all schoolchildren salute the flag. Some communities wrote it into school bylaws. It was to be obeyed upon pain of expulsion. This created a problem for the children of Jehovah's Witnesses, who do not salute any country’s flag. Their reason is religious, not political. It’s based on the Ten Commandments. (1 and 2)

You shall not make for yourself an idol in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below. You shall not bow down to them or worship them…       Ex 20:4,5  (NIV)  Saluting a flag, for them, violates this command.

Granted, not everyone interprets those verses as we do, yet it is clear that JWs’ not saluting the flag has nothing to do with love of country. It’s a religious stand, based on avoiding "idolatry."

Their motives made no difference to a certain Pennsylvania school board. With World War II threatening to draw in the United States, they wanted patriotism, or at least the appearance thereof. Further, they imagined that forcing students to salute the flag would instill the real variety. Religious conscience was of no concern to them. There was the flag - salute it! Two Witness children, William and Lillian Gobitus, would not. They were 12 and 10 years old, respectively. They stood their ground, and were expelled from public school. Through their father, they took the matter to court.

Early court decisions went in favor of the Gobitus children. Two lower courts ruled in their favor. The second wrote into its decision the words of a certain Colonel Moss, who had authored several WWI training manuals:

"Another form that false patriotism frequently takes is so-called Flag-worship - blind and excessive adulation of the Flag as an emblem or image - super-punctiliousness and meticulosity in displaying and saluting the Flag - without intelligent and sincere understanding and appreciation of the ideals and institutions it symbolizes. This of course is but a form of idolatry - a sort of "glorified idolatry," so to speak. When patriotism assumes this form it is nonsensical and makes the "patriot" ridiculous."

"The court also noted that "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."

Nonetheless, those who wanted the appearance of patriotism appealed each victory. The case reached the United States Supreme Court, which reversed the lower court decisions by an 8:1 vote.  [!]  "...We live by symbols," the Supreme Court declared. "The flag is the symbol of our national unity..." The school board could indeed compel students to salute the flag. Get over it, they seemed to say to minorities. Religious (or any other) conscience, though it harmed nobody, was stomped upon so as to please the majority.  Justice Harlan Fiske Stone, the only one who voted against the decision, wrote the dissenting opinion. Three years later that dissent would become the majority opinion. 

The year was 1940, and war fever ran high, a mood hard to imagine today. Any action thought to be snubbing the flag brought public vengeance,  and everyone knew by then that Jehovah's Witnesses would not salute it. The Court decision lit a fire of intolerance. Mobs formed, waving the flag and demanding Witnesses salute it. When they would not, they were attacked and beaten, even into unconsciousness. Their homes, automobiles and meeting places were torched or wrecked. In small towns run by the “good ‘ol boys,” some were rounded up and jailed without charge. In four years over 2500 mob-related incidents occurred.

The Solicitor General of the United States took to the NBC airwaves:

“Jehovah's Witnesses have repeatedly been set upon and beaten. They have committed no crime; but the mob adjudged that they had, and meted out punishment The Attorney General has ordered an immediate investigation of these outrages.

“The people must be alert and watchful, and above all, cool and sane. Since mob violence will make the government's task infinitely more difficult, it will not be tolerated. We shall not defeat the Nazi evil by emulating its methods.”

First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt echoed the plea of the Attorney General. The ACLU also spoke out:

“It is high time we came to our senses regarding this matter of flag-saluting. Jehovah’s Witnesses are not disloyal Americans….They are not given to law-breaking in general, but lead decent, orderly lives, contributing their share to the common good.”

Was it this vigilante atmosphere that led three of the justices to declare, in another case, that they believed Gobitus had been wrongly decided? Yet another two justices retired, and they were replaced by ones thought to be more on the side of individual liberty. If compulsory flag salute was presented anew to the Supreme Court, would the decision be the same?

The children of Walter Barnette, Paul Stull and Lucy McLure, in West Virginia were expelled from school for non-salute, and their parents were threatened with prosecution for raising delinquents. In response, they filed suit, just as the Gobitus children had done three years prior. The first court to hear the case, the United States District Court for the Southern District of West Virginia - has this ever happened before? - refused to follow the precedent of the Supreme Court decision and ruled in favor of the Witness children!

Ordinarily we would feel constrained to follow an unreversed decision of the Supreme Court of the United States, whether we agreed with it or not.... the developments with respect to the Gobitus case, however, are such that we do not feel it is incumbent upon us to accept is as binding authority....The tyranny of majorities over the rights of individuals or helpless minorities , has always been recognized as one of the great dangers of popular government. The fathers sought to guard against this danger by  writing into the Constitution a bill of rights guaranteeing to every individual certain fundamental liberties....We are clearly of opinion that the regulation of the Board requiring that school children salute the flag is void insofar as it applies to children having conscientious scruples against giving such salute...

The issue was again appealed up to the Supreme Court, and this time that body reversed itself! By at 6:3 majority, the Court ruled that compulsory flag salute was unconstitutional. Their verdict was announced on June 14, 1943 - flag day!

In writing the dissenting opinion, Justice Frankfurter grumbled: “As has been true in the past, the Court will from time to time reverse its position. But I believe that never before these Jehovah’s Witnesses cases [there were several more besides those concerning flag salute] …..has this Court overruled decisions so as to restrict the powers of democratic government.”

Yes, that’s how it is with these governments, democratic or not. They want more power. They don’t want to give it up. A certain amount is necessary, of course, so as to maintain public order and safety. We cede it to them willingly and render obedience. But when they grab for yet more - the consciences and souls of their citizens, someone has to call them on it. And that someone has often been Jehovah’s Witnesses.

………………………………............

Knocking concludes with the observation that Jehovah's Witnesses are, at present, litigating 400 human rights cases worldwide.

 

....................

 

More on Knocking here

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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)

Good Evangelicals, Bad Evangelicals

When soreheads charge that Jehovah's Witnessses are mean, they offer as proof that JW congregations tell their people what to do. As proof of that, they point out that congregations impose discipline upon members ranging from mild reproof to strong reproof to even expulsion for individuals who persistantly and purposefully deviate from core beliefs and practices. Doesn't that prove JWs are mean? Doesn't that prove they are a manmade organization of rules, not love? Doesn't that prove members are slaves to a governing body comprised of old men on a power trip?

No, it does not. The discipline now practiced by Jehovah's Witnesses was practiced in most Protestant denominations until less than 100 years ago - and was based on the same scriptures upon which we base ours. But when it became unpopular, they gave it up. As a result, the morals and lifestyle of today's evangelical church members are indistinguishable from that of the general population. That might be okay if the general population was a storehouse of virtue, but newspapers remind us daily that it's not. And scripture is clear that the Christian congregation is not supposed to be a mirror image of today's morally bankrupt society. It is supposed to be an oasis.

Such is the conclusion of Ronald Sider, author of The Scandal of the Evangelical Conscience - Why Are Christians Living Just Like the Rest of the World? (2005) Mr. Sider is well respected within evangelical circles. He publishes PRISM magazine and serves as contributing editor to Christianity Today and Sojourners. He is professor of theology, holistic ministry, and public policy, as well as director of the Sider Center on Ministry and Public Policy at Eastern Baptist Theological Seminary, and some other accolades. He is not happy to reach his conclusion, and you cannot but admire the man for his frankness. One doesn't readily air one's dirty laundry in public, yet Sider does so out of moral outrage and shame for the evangelical community. He points to attitudes on sex, money, racsim, and personal self-fulfillment. Evangelicals live no differently than the rest of the world, he laments.

I vividly recall circuit overseers and their ilk pointing out that "50 years ago the difference between Jehovah's Witnesses and churchgoers in general was doctrinal, not moral." Time was when there was little difference between the two groups as regards conduct. Today the chasm is huge. Can internal discipline not be a factor?

"Church discipline used to be a significant, accepted part of most evangelical traditions, whether Reformed, Methodist, Baptist, or Anabaptist," Sider writes. ".....In the second half of the twentieth century, however, it has largely disappeared." He then quotes Haddon Robinson on the current church climate, a climate he calls consumerism:

"Too often now when people join a church, they do so as consumers. If they like the product, they stay. If they do not, they leave. They can 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. In our churches we have a consumer mentality."

They do. And because the church promotes it, caters to it, does whatever it must to swell its ranks, its people cannot be told apart from general society. Of course, some can. I personally know ones who, like Mr Sider himself, take living by Bible standards seriously. But the evangelical label apparantly means nothing as regards lifestyle. It points to a people who can argue Trinity and hellfire till your ears fall off, but who otherwise live no differently than anyone else. The ones who actually apply Christianity are left unreinforced, in some ways even challenged, by their own church.

Doesn't it remind you of that endless list of negative qualities that people are said to have in the "last days?" Paul writes "But mark this: There will be terrible times in the last days. People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God..."

As Paul winds down his list, he observes that such people, far from being atheist or agnostics, are "having a form of godliness but denying its power. Have nothing to do with them."   2 Tim 3:1-5   (NIV)

What to make of Sider's book? I don't really know. A few upright evangelicals I know, such as in my own family (or are they just born-agains?) make me skeptical of the book's conclusions. Can it really be that all churches have sold out? But if I think of those evangelicals who picket our conventions, I believe every word. Such an unruly looking bunch you've never seen.

Only one other group comes to mind that has not forsaken church discipline: Mormons. Is it just coincidence that they, like Jehovah's Witnesses, carry a reputation for both honesty and family values and maintain a policy of internal discipline? Evangelicals, though, at least those on the web, deride both them and us as "cults," and rail against both for imposing rules of conduct on members. Yet discipline, even imperfectly applied (which is all you can expect of imperfect humans) has succeeded in preserving a people who can be identified by their conduct - a conduct which stands apart from the world at large.

God is treating you as sons. For what son is not disciplined by his father? If you are not disciplined (and everyone undergoes discipline), then you are illegitimate children and not true sons. Moreover, we have all had human fathers who disciplined us and we respected them for it. How much more should we submit to the Father of our spirits and live! Our fathers disciplined us for a little while as they thought best; but God disciplines us for our good, that we may share in his holiness. No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.     Heb 12:7-11   (NIV)

 

More here, here, and I suppose even here

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In Defense of Shunning

When my pal Keith, became interested in Jehovah's Witnesses, he thought he'd test them out. So he thought up a series of questions and posed them to someone in the local congregation. Why does God permit this, what is He going to do about that, what happens at such-and-such, why do you say this is true and that is not true? Those kinds of questions.

Noting the answers, he went across town to another congregation, and posed the same questions. He got the same answers. He traveled cross-state a few weeks later to visit family. Again, the same questions and the same answers. He came away satisfied that Jehovah's Witnesses really are united in beliefs.....it wasn't just talk. In fact, he could have gone anywhere in the world, and discovered the same. Over the years, he has.

"Big deal!" says Tom Barfendogs, not a bit impressed. Of course Witnesses are all in agreement! They disfellowship (shun) anyone who disagrees! Barfendongs runs one of those web sitesthat scours the globe for bad JW reports. If one of our people so much as farts, there's the link on his site. There's a lot of us: 7 to 17 million, depending upon how you count, so he never lacks for links.

But it's a cheap shot he takes on unity "coercion."  Sure, a surgeon has the option of cutting out cancerous cells. Is that the reason the other cells behave?

Still, it's no fun being disfellowshipped,  and Barfendogs would have you believe it can happen at the drop of a pin. Just disagree, that's all you have to do, he says. Almost like that scene from the Gulag Archipelago, in which the party boss makes a speech and gets nonstop applause. On and on it goes. People's hands start turning to mush. Nobody dares be the first one to stop clapping! Bigwigs are watching.

Yet, in fact, it's rather hard to get disfellowshipped on such grounds. You have to take deliberate steps. It doesn't happen by accident. Persistently and publicly challenging the governing agencies of the Christian congregation will do it, and few go so far. (Though the ones that do, accumulate. If you gather them all together, there's a lot of them.) A person can just fade if they're determined to leave. Barfendogs makes it sound as if elders are determined to catch and punish such persons, but that's not the case at all. Disfellowshipping only exists to separate an intractable, opposed person (or one who willfully and persistently violates moral tenets of the faith, but that is not under discussion here) from the congregation. If such a person does it on his/her own accord,  the measure is not necessary, and no one spends times pursuing it. Yes, you may be able to hunt around and find an exception, but in general, the principle holds.

If you're riding on the bus and you don't like where the bus is going, you can get off. Or you can stay on, figuring the driver must know the way. You can scratch your head at the strange scenery...where are we now, anyway?....discuss it with your neighbor, even ask the driver. You don't get tossed off the bus for these things. But if you grab the wheel! yes, that will do it. Or create such a ruckus that throws the bus into turmoil. That too, may land you an invitation to leave and find your own way.

Not all of Jehovah's Witnesses today are 100% behind the program. Many are puzzled over this or that aspect of theocracy and may entertain their own pet ideas of how more of this, less of that, modification of this tactic, and so forth, would be beneficial. Some make suggestions via letter or traveling overseers. There's nothing new, earthshaking, or unnatural about that. There's always been those with both suggestions and doubts, now and in the first century. [Also, continue showing mercy to some that have doubts......Jude 22] In the final analysis, though, we realize that the burden of directing things does not rest with us, but with a non-democratic channel which God has provided. We're not presumptuous. We cooperate as best we can. Both the idea of a central governing agency and the ejection of those who oppose are firmly rooted in scripture, so we play along with it.

The big picture regarding disfellowshipping surely must include the following:

Jehovah's Witnesses enjoy an unparalleled brotherhood and spiritual atmosphere.  If I KNOW that someone is a fellow Witness, I can leave my wallet with that person. And my keys. And if need be, my family. I need not know the person. They can be anywhere in the world. Race, nationality, social & economic standing means nothing to Jehovah's Witnesses, though they effectively divide most people. If war breaks out between respective nations, it has no effect on how resident JWs view ones from the other nation. Same thing for genocides.

This sort of unity makes people suspect if they haven't been there. Isn't it brainwashing? Isn't it Landru? It is neither. The Bible’s analogy is that of the human body, whose members could not be more unlike, yet are able to cooperate seamlessly for the good of the whole body. So it is with Jehovah's Witnesses today. They could not be more unlike in personalities, backgrounds and talents (besides the factors already mentioned) yet they enjoy unshakable unity. God's spirit makes it possible.

We're zealous to safeguard this unity. When a person leaves JW tenets, he begins to lose the thinking that makes such unity possible. Some lose it instantly. More often, it happens over time. But it does happen. This is a significant reason for disfellowshipping, which, as mentioned, a person can usually avoid by “fading.”

Is this to say that there are no decent people among other groups of people, either religious or non-religious? Of course not. People of integrity can be found everywhere. But are there groups where mere membership in that group virtually guarantees such integrity? No. You might come up with one or two arguable exceptions, but in general, no.

There is a price for such unity. I don't think its overly steep, but it does exist. It is the willingness to yield to authority, the willingness to not put our own personal freedoms above all else, the willingness to cooperate and not insist on our own view. These days Western nations have proved totally incapable of this. It probably accounts, in large measure, for the fact that Eastern countries, India, even parts of South America, are running rings around the West growth wise. They have not lost the ability to respect authority (granted, sometimes with little choice) and cooperate, whereas all we can do is bitch and whine and sue each other.

<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<

Ah! Here is a last minute news item from today's paper that reinforces the paragraph above:

Labor Secretary Elaine Chao just made some unflattering observations on American workers (and got accused of racism for her frankness). "They need anger-management and conflict resolution skills, and they have to be able to accept direction. Too many young people bristle when a supervisor asks them to do something."

Pschologist Jean Twenge chimes in that today's young people are all about "focus on the self and doing what's right for you rather than following social rules or rules of the society."

That sort of says it all, doesn't it?

 

For men will be lovers of themselves.....self-assuming, haughty....not open to any agreement....headstrong, puffed up [with pride], lovers of pleasures                       2 Tim 3:2-4

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Life Saving and Life Threatening Blood Transfusions

In all history, there's never been a JW detractor who's used the noun blood transfusion uncoupled to the adjective life-saving. Thus, from time to time we hear of so-and-so, who's health is in jeopardy because he refuses a life saving blood transfusion. Always, the message is the same: what kind of a crackpot religion would persuade its members to decline a life saving blood transfusion?

But we now know that life-saving is the wrong term. The correct term is life-threatening. Bloodless medicine, where available, is usually the treatment of choice. Largely due to Jehovah's Witnesses, scores of medical centers exclusively devoted to bloodless surgery have cropped up in North America and worldwide.

Everybody knows that blood is a foreign tissue, even when types match, and they also know that the body tries to reject foreign tissue. Suppress the immune system, and that creates other problems. Bloodless medicine avoids the issue, and is thus safer.

The latest authority to weigh in is cardiothoracic specialist Bruce Spiess, addressing the Australian and New Zealand College of Anesthetists. (May 28, 2007) He declares blood transfusions have hurt more people than they've helped. Transfusions, he observes, are "almost a religion" because physicians practice them without solid evidence that they help. "Blood transfusion has evolved as a medical therapy and it's never been tested like a major drug," he said. "A drug is tested for safety and efficacy, blood transfusion has never been tested for either one."

Hurt more people than they've helped! That's an incredible statement, given that transfusions are always given to help and frequently given in the belief that they are absolutely essential, life saving!

He cites a Swedish study of 499 Jehovah's Witnesses which shows their survival rate after declining transfusions is higher than that of patients who received them. Such studies are becoming commonplace.

He told the conference: "If you come to surgery, we should ethically treat every patient as if they were a Jehovah's Witness...."

This "almost a religion" description squares with my own experience. Through the years, I've personally known three people who were told point blank, curtly and without the slightest empathy, that they would die without a transfusion. None of them agreed to one. None of them died. Alright, one did die years later, but she was in her 80's. I've never personally known anyone who was told they'd die without a transfusion and who actually did die. Mind you, I don't doubt there have been such ones. I've just never known any, whereas I have known three with the other outcome.

My point is that the life-giving blood transfusion mantra is overstated. Partly this happens because, if a person dies after refusing a transfusion, the added blood that never was is always reported as the cause! It does not matter if the person passed through a veg-a-matic beforehand. If nobody ever died after receiving a life-saving blood transfusion, I'd be more moved. But as observed above, they die in greater numbers than those who refuse.

Old habits die hard, in medicine and most other areas, due to inertia. The words of Max Planke the physicist are applicable:

People think new truths are accepted when the proponents are able to convince the opponents. Instead, the opponents of the truth gradually die, and a new generation comes along who is familiar with the idea. 

Over time, and almost entirely born from the organized efforts of Jehovah's Witnesses, bloodless medicine will spread, to the benefit of JWs and non-JWs alike.

Watchtower has produced documentaries on what's being done today and why bloodless is safer. This documentary has won a few "film festival" awards. In other words, it is well done and not schlocky.

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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)