Who Really Is a Cult? Part 1

Zealots find it irresistible to expand negative terminology so that it will embrace those that they would like to see shamed, discredited, or punished. Often this makes the terminology all but meaningless. For example, the Economist of August 2009 observes that the current child sex abuser registries are so long as to be absolutely useless to law enforcement. They include teenagers who had sex with underage girlfriends. They include persons who urinated in public, as well those who exposed themselves in public. None of those things are great, of course, but if you include them all on a master list with violent predators, you make it all but impossible to track the violent predators, which is the purpose of the list to begin with. Adding various levels of severity does not remedy things: people are preoccupied, sometimes obtuse, and can only work with uncluttered tools.

It is much the same with the word “cult.” Time was when if you fell under the spell of a charismatic leader, withdrew from society, and did peculiar things, you just might be a member of a cult. These days the word is expanded so as to embrace peoples not popular. Just thinking outside of the box is enough to trigger it.

One whom we have called Steve, who goes by the Twitter handle “cultexpert,” has developed what he calls the BITE model to describe the ingredients of a cult. Long ago, he used to kidnap those he thought were in cults so as to “deprogram” them. He was himself at one time a member of the Unification Church, commonly known as Moonies. BITE is a model outlining the means by which one party can “control” another though various techniques, some direct and some subtle. Each letter stands for something. There is Behavioral control, Information control, Thought control, and Emotional control. It is not a silly idea in its concept. It is silly in its overreaching application.

Most families are cults by this new definition, especially those conscious of a family reputation, and God forbid that any should still insist that members live up to a higher standard. “If everyone jumped off a cliff, would you jump off, too?” It was once the statement of everyone’s mother. Now it has become the words of a cult leader. “What’s wrong with ‘everyone else?’ Why are you making out as though you are better than they?” And if a family head maintains standards of discipline—that would appear to be a sure red flag. Who is he or she to seek to control persons that way?

Nations are certainly cults by this new definition. Any military organization is. National sacrifice, long thought laudable, is out of the question today by those intent on avoiding the modern cult label. “Ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country,” are the noble words of former U. S. President John F Kennedy. They are the words of a cult leader today.

One tweet from the BITE-man invited all to hear his upcoming podcast, in which he tells how President Trump is like a cult leader. When you think half the country has fallen victim to cult manipulation, is it not evidence that you have drunk too much of the Kool-Aid yourself?

One wonders if the cult expert did not become what he is as penance for having been so impulsive as to join the Moonies. Later, realizing that there really aren’t enough Moonies to build a career upon, he broadened his sites to target larger groups. However, even with Moonies—are they violent? If not, why would they especially compare unfavorably to—say, the “turn on, tune in, drop out” model of the 60s? That model has never been condemned, to my knowledge. Usually the young who chose it were romanticized as dropouts from a too cruel world. It is only by adding a God component to the mix that condemnation is unleashed.

Can one live a fulfilled life as a Moonie? Let others make that argument if they care to—it’s not my gig. Still, before condemning them it does seem that it should be demonstrated how sticking with the mainstream leads to fulfillment. If it cannot be demonstrated, then is it not just thought control of a different type to forbid persons from going there? If the greater world was not so bereft of answers to the significant questions of life, the Moonies, the Mormons, the Jehovah’s Witnesses, the Scientologists, and a host of others would not succeed in drawing a single person. Let it produce a few answers before it forbids straying from the beaten path.

These days, under common assault, the “enemy of my enemy is my friend” meme even kicks in to an extent. Legal members of these groups have been known to buttress one another. One Witness apostate made much of a well-known Watchtower attorney sitting in at a seminar with Scientologist participants. “I thought they were no part of other religions,” he taunted. “Don’t worry, he keyed their cars in the parking lot,” I told him.

We can maintain a healthy skepticism toward the latest mantra as well—“that clean, articulate, capable people fall for these cults all the time. They aren’t stupid. They were simply in the wrong place at the wrong time.” One way to boast is to condemn others; the same relative distance is established as with unrestrained chest-thumping. This smells akin to boasting. It is a way of saving face. It is to say: “Look, if it happened to me, smart as I am, it could easily have happened to you—probably much more quickly.”

As to Scientologists, the only thing I know about them for sure is that Tom Cruise, in his fifties, still does his own stunt work. BITE Productions Inc. would no doubt hire a nice, safe, and fake stunt double. By all accounts, Scientologists enjoy success in beating back the scourge of drug abuse that decimates general society, the same as do Jehovah’s Witnesses. That’s not trivial. They, too, will have to make their own arguments. But with Jehovah’s Witnesses being slaughtered in an irreligious media, there is no reason to assume that Scientologists are treated fairly, nor Moonies, for that matter.

Make no mistake, the overextension of the BITE model is no more than an effort to silence voices not liked so that other voices may prevail. One is reminded of the H. G. Wells observation about the quick popular acceptance of the theory of evolution—that it suddenly “seemed right to them that the big dogs of the human pack should bully and subdue.” Who are the big dogs of the human pack? Are they not those of the mainstream and those who would enforce the mainstream under the guise of “protecting people?” They are the deep-pocketed businesses and governments. They are those of the prevailing philosophies and new norms that comprise the very air of Ephesians 2:2—air that “has authority.” It is not thought control that they object to. It is thought control that is not theirs.

Do they decry “brainwashing?” It is largely because they want to do it themselves. College is more brainwashing than anything having a Jehovah’s Witness connection. Study the Bible with Jehovah’s Witnesses and you remain 95% of the time in familiar surroundings. Enroll in college and you are, from Day One, cut off nearly 100% from those surroundings. Find yourself immersed in a totally new culture, where guardians of this world’s latest thinking have full opportunity to play with your head. Jehovah’s Witnesses are not keen on higher education—the fact is well-known. It could be argued that their discouragement is too across-the-board. Still, how can one not be sobered by the following report from the October 19, 2018 edition of The Week magazine?

As related by Charles Sykes, a trio of hoaxers produced twenty “shoddy, absurd, unethical” papers loaded with incoherent post-modern “gibberish”—seven of which were published in “respectable” academic journals. Among the most outrageous papers included a thesis claiming astronomy is a patriarchal construct that should be replaced by feminist astrology, another arguing “dog parks are rape-condoning spaces,” and still another that demanded that males who masturbate while thinking about a woman should first obtain her consent. The authors “had no formal background in the subjects,” but taught themselves how to produce ridiculous, jargon-filled papers that were greeted with praise by “blindly receptive” academic reviewers. Allow this author to put it even more succinctly: “Yeah, we taught ourselves to write incomprehensible gobbledygook and they lapped it all up as cutting-edge social science.”

Suddenly, Jehovah’s Witness Governing Body member Anthony Morris doesn’t look so stupid, does he? It is he who, in discouraging higher education, observed that the more prestigious the university, the greater the “contamination of this world’s thinking.” The Witness organization has long recommended that Bible values be the source of moral instruction and that supplemental education be used to acquire a marketable skill. Learn to be an electrician, for example, and you have a well-paying skill that is both portable and scalable, so that, if you can line up the other circumstances of life, you can attend to more enriching matters. The counsel dovetails nicely with that of Mike Rowe, the former TV host of Dirty Jobs, who testifies before Congress that “we [in the United States] are lending money we don’t have to kids who can’t pay it back to train them for jobs that no longer exist,” even adding “that’s nuts.”

The hoaxers above fully expect to be blackballed by the higher education establishment, but they say it was worth it. One is reminded of whoever perpetuated the Piltdown Man hoax—a hoax that fooled evolutionists for 40 years. “It really was a horrible, nasty, vicious piece of work!” grumbled Andy Currant on the PBS show NOVA, and the discerning mind knows just why it is “horrible, nasty, and vicious”—because it made the most esteemed men of science look like donkeys. Others said that the great men weren’t fooled at all—from the beginning they had smelled a rat. If so, the gullibility onus is replaced with one of deceit, for it would mean that they knew of the fraud but did nothing to correct it, since it advanced a narrative that they wanted advanced.

Let us hear no more of modern “brainwashing.” Let us once again relegate the word to its proper and age-old context. The “brainwashing” of the prevailing mindset is far more pernicious than that of Jehovah’s Witnesses. The latter make no bones about directing persons to sources considered trustworthy. The former encourages “free minds” to roam wherever they will, but in the end manages to stack the deck so as to keep them all on the same page.

Are Jehovah’s Witnesses slaves to their [at present] eight-man Governing Body? This favorite anti-cultist charge reveals a thinking so infantile that it is hard to know how to respond. It is like saying that the motorist driving within the guardrails is slave to the Department of Transportation, the football player who hustles his feet though the hoops is slave to the coach, the student who does his homework is slave to the teacher. To the extent that Witnesses are “slaves” to the Governing Body, it is because they are grown-ups who realize that any project needs direction. They realize that there is no desire to “control” anyone, and certainly not for the sake of any “power trip.” The reason that Obi-wan Kenobi does not want Luke to stray into the dark side is that he really thinks it is the dark side. He is on no power trip. Let the anti-cultists provide convincing evidence that it is not the dark side before they denounce those choosing a different path. They will not find that task easy. When a Witness friend of mine invites people to name the one evil they would remedy if they but had the power, the most frequent reply is that the evils are too numerous to zero in on just one.

It is not an easy task to direct the work of several million people. One will say: “Thanks for the new rule!” and his neighbor will say: “Huh, did you say something?” Striking the right balance is ever a challenge. If the Jehovah’s Witness organization comes across as heavy-handed at times, it is because it does not want to find itself in the shoes of Lot, who warns his sons-in-law only to find that they think he is joking. The Witness organization trains members in Bible principles, the same as do Witness parents. It is not true that if you refrain from training your children, they grow up free and unencumbered and, when of age, select their own values from the rich cornucopia of life. No. All it means is that someone else will train them. These days that someone else is likely to be the anti-cultist himself; he is maneuvering for the position. He should be resisted. He wants you to aim so low. He wants you to revel in what Psalm 90 laments is a great tragedy—four score of trouble-prone years and then curtains for us all. That is bad. He wants you to think it is good. Does faith founded upon accurate understanding of the most widespread book on earth implant the hope of everlasting life on a paradise earth? He wants you to discard it and place your hope with the world’s politicians—maybe the next batch will solve a few problems. He settles for so little. The instant gratification that he would deny a child for its own good he wants you to pursue as an adult.

Journalist Vermont Royster, after remarking upon the undeniable scientific progress of his day, observed: “Yet here is a curious thing. In the contemplation of man himself, of his dilemmas, of his place in the universe, we are little further along than when time began. We are still left with questions of who we are and why we are and where we are going.” ‘It’s not curious at all,’ says the anti-cultist. ‘What you see is what you get. If anyone apart from religion figures it out, we’ll let you know.’

“When the Son of man arrives, will he really find the faith on the earth?” says Jesus? “Not if we can help it,” declare the anti-cultists. “With any luck, he will not arrive all. If he does, maybe he will get discouraged and go away. We have shed that backwards concept. We’re doing our best to muzzle anyone trying to spread it. We put our trust in human accomplishments and science. It may or may not tell us that our gooses are cooked, but at least it tells us that we don’t have to put up with anyone directing us in what to do.”

See Who Really is a Cult? Part 2

From the book TrueTom vs the Apostates!


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'Aye, the Bastards Will Come, Alright.' A Primer on Getting Along

Talk (5 minutes or less) Week of Feb 4-10, 2018: 'Maintain a Realistic View of Your Limitations and Those of Others.'

‘When Jehovah’s Witnesses go nuts, they become quirky eccentrics, who nevertheless wouldn’t harm a fly.

When people of the overall world go nuts, you’d better call in the SWAT team.

(It is an introduction that plays to the audience. Certainly, nuts of the general world do not all require the SWAT team, but there are enough instances of such that the introduction works.)

Of course, ‘nuts’ might be viewed as a pejorative. Instead one might say ‘damaged goods’ or ‘pieces of work.’

(Here the speaker is on shaky ground. Is he calling members of the congregation, or even the entire congregation, ‘nuts,’ while excluding himself? Best defuse that one.)

It is like when many were away for a foreign-language assembly, and many more in seldom-worked territory. Just moments before the meeting was to begin, turnout was notably thin. I leaned over to Brother Oxgoad and said: “Do the friends think that you are giving the talk today?” He took a moment to process it, and shot back: “You’re a piece of work!” What was I going to say—that I wasn’t? In one way or another, we are all pieces of work.

(At that point it was time to go to the suggested verse.)

Romans 3:23 discusses the reality: “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” The word translated sin comes from a root that means “to miss the mark.”

(I played with a bow & arrow for a bit.) At first, we didn’t even hit the target, and once in a while, we still miss it altogether. Usually, though, we do hit the target and even come closer and closer to the bullseye, but outright hitting it doesn’t happen often.

Another way of saying that we ‘miss the mark’ is to concede that we all have rough edges. Rough edges aren’t a huge deal when each one keeps his distance, but in a close setting, like a family--or a congregation, they become more of an issue.

(It was time to refer to a video that most remembered as to how to deal with rough edges. Since I have written of it already in ‘Dear Mr. Putin – Jehovah’s Witnesses Write Russia,’ I will here do a copy and paste:)

“The video shown was entitled Remove the Rafter. It featured a disgruntled member who thought most of his congregation a bunch of sheltered oddities. Even if they were, he came to realize in the end that the only one he could change was himself. As the Bible verse he was considering, in order to give his assigned student talk, faded onscreen, two words remained a split second longer than the others: ‘rafter' and ‘straw.’ This happened three times, and on the third, the word ‘hypocrite’ also remained. It is Jesus’ words he considered: “Why do you notice the straw in your brother’s eye, but do not perceive the rafter in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me remove that straw from your eye,’ while the rafter is in your eye? You hypocrite, remove the rafter from your eye first; then you will see clearly to remove the straw from your brother’s eye.’ As though to drive the point home, in the background, a workman carrying a rafter in the video briefly stood in front of a stopping bus advertising eye exams, so that a rafter actually did protrude from a eye for but a moment.

“At first glance, it is a slick move from the Watchtower video directors. But it is meant to illustrate a slick move upon the heart. The reason those two words remained, and then three, is that his heart was yet soft enough for them to register—having benefited from previous divine education. A hardened person would not have responded that way. The brother allowed the scripture to mold him. This is how God trains in the congregation, but it would all have been lost upon one who’s heart was molded primarily by this world’s education. Imagine how differently history might read if this verse was a staple of education, and not just a dreamy footnote. With Jehovah’s Witnesses, it is a staple.”

The talk concluded with words not too unlike the above two lines. Days later someone referred to ‘Brother Sandpaper.’ It was from one of those old syrupy memes that some just love, (I don’t) probably the one about how all the congregation members are like tools in God’s drawer that he uses to accomplish his purpose. (Even as I write this, it annoys me.) What is Brother Sandpaper’s function? To sand down our rough edges, which he accomplishes by being abrasive.

The thing irritates because it seems to suggest that Brother Sandpaper will always be Brother Sandpaper. And it seems to imply that he is yet lovable. He is not lovable, though he has some redeeming features, but that is not the same. His brusque and curt manner has stumbled many, and if that verse about tying a millstone around the neck of someone who behaves that way means anything, the sooner he gets his act together, the better.

When you give an illustration, it has to reasonably fit in all aspects. Like the book I am reading right now, The Fort, by Bernard Cornwall. The British force has encamped on the shores of late-1700s Massachusetts so as to curb the revolutionaries. The captain muses whether they will soon come to mount a challenge. “Aye, the bastards will come, all right,” the first officer assures him. “Mark my words, they’ll come, like flies to dung!” and the captain wonders at the appropriateness of likening His Majesty’s Naval Forces to dung.

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This Has Nothing to do With 'Common Sense'

At the Russian government press conference, journalists asked about the case of Dennis Christensen, who one day prior had been sentenced to over 6 years in prison for practicing his faith. Journalists asked whether Jehovah’s Witnesses can really be considered an extremist organization from a common sense point of view.  The president's press secretary said: "We cannot rely on concepts of common sense for governmental purposes." Of course!

The knee-jerk response of any jaded person in nearly any country on earth is to chuckle and say “Yeah, it is just like that here.” But there is much more to be seen here.

The Russian government is plainly befuddled. The press secretary goes on to explain that the greater issue is not whether Jehovah’s Witnesses are extremist. The greater issue is that Dennis Christensen was found guilty of violating the law that says they are. Surely this is kicking the can down the road. Two months ago, at another meeting, President Putin stated that he really didn’t understand why Jehovah’s Witnesses are persecuted, indicating that the law itself makes no sense to him as applied to Witnesses.

To slightly misapply the words of Jesus, “something greater than Capernaum is here.” What? Two scenarios can be advanced—one for all persons, and one for persons of biblical bent.

The purely human one is that a powerful and cunning anti-cult movement takes the Russian government unawares. It takes them unawares because it is a Western import, not Russian at all, finding roots in a humanist French NGO dedicated to freeing people from ideas considered socially destructive, and nothing is more destructive to them than religion that includes the concept of authority among its members. The anti-cult movement finds its counterpart in all developed lands, though its methods will differ.

There are even divisions among them. The anti-cultists in the West consider the anti-cultists in Russia to be doing it all wrong. One of them says (sigh – it is my nemesis, but there are many others): “Jehovah’s Witnesses need persecution for their beliefs to make sense. With their thuggish behavior that violates human rights, Russia is blowing a huge gust of wind into Watchtower’s sails, fueling another generation’s worth of propaganda.”

Of course! They have a “persecution complex” over there—often the charge is made by Witness opposers. Why would their fellow anti-cultists—brothers in spirit if not in technique—be so stupid as to validate it by persecuting them? It is as though he says: “Look—we want what you want, the destruction of the Witness organization. But that is not the best way to do it.”

***~~~***

The second scenario, for those of biblical bent, and it may not be of interest to those not, so they have "permission" to skip this and two succeeding paragraphs, involves the fact that the Witness organization has identified Russia as the biblical “king of the north,” an entity found in the prophesy of Daniel (chapter 11). It is a complex prophesy which many students of the Bible have tackled, involving specific powers (kings) that pass their respective mantles to succeeding powers in often shifting geographical areas, commencing from Daniel’s time down to the present. Does it complicate matters with the Russian government for someone to tell them that the Witness organization says that they are the northern king? Emily Baran, who wrote the book Dissent on the Margins, about the persecution of Jehovah’s Witnesses during Soviet times, said that it did. It genuinely confused the irreligious Soviets and enabled them in characterizing the Witnesses as a political movement masquerading as a religion.

The Witness organization goes where it goes in furtherance of its mission to live by and advertise Bible principles, largely oblivious to ones who may think that their toes are stepped on—barely aware of it at all, because they ‘don’t do politics’ at Witness HQ. There is a king of the south, too, these days associated with the United States, and neither king is overly friendly to the interests of Jehovah’s Witnesses. However, because the concept of human rights finds soil more fertile in the West than in the East, Witnesses face few legal impediments to their work in such lands. In fact, the most frequent participant in U.S. Supreme Court proceedings has been the Witness organization itself—sometimes as plaintiff and sometimes as defendant. Of them, Justice Harlan Fiske Stone once said: “I think the Jehovah’s Witnesses ought to have an endowment in view of the aid which they give in solving the legal problems of civil liberties.”

The entire prophesy as seen though Jehovah’s Witnesses eyes is most recently discussed in their 1999 publication Pay Attention to Daniel’s Prophesy, which is a discussion of the entire Bible book, not just the chapters involving the two opposing kings. Regardless of who interprets the prophesy, and of what time interval is covered, the kings of the north and south are continually at loggerheads. What is remarkable about the present—and this is only this writer’s perception—is that even when the “kings” declare that they would like to get along, outside forces intervene to keep them “on script.”

“Wouldn’t it be nice if we actually got along with Russia?” the current American president said during his campaign. President Putin has spoken similarly. At which point, the American press intervenes to virtually ensure that they will not. Today, it is widely recognized that east-west relations are subsequently more strained than in even Soviet times. This dovetails so well with certain biblical passages (Ezekiel 38:4, Revelation 17:17) to the effect that world powers will do things not of their own devising that the similarity is impossible to let pass without mention. One must wonder if former Witnesses, upon seeing unexpected world developments that violate even “common sense,” yet are exactly in accord with long Witness expectations, do not think sometimes that they may have deboarded the train too soon—for in the aftermath of the final contest between the kings of the north and south, a contest whose biblical role has been developing for 2500 years, the “people of the covenant” at last find deliverance.

It is to be noted that enemies of Jehovah’s Witnesses present themselves, not as enemies of individual Witnesses, but of the organization that they have chosen, which they somehow portray as having “enslaved” them through various psychological techniques of “control.” In Russia, Jehovah’s Witnesses as people are not banned. Only their organization is. However, most persons are not sophisticated enough to tell the difference, because essentially there is no difference. The Witness enemy is befuddled by it and assaults members with impunity. The police stand by and do nothing because they, too, are befuddled by it. The government is befuddled by it, as noted above. The Witness him or herself is befuddled by it. Everyone is befuddled by it because it makes no sense. It is like this writer saying that I love the Russian people—it is only the Kremlin that I seek to destroy. It is like my saying that the Russian people are free to drive the roads—it is only the roads that are banned. It takes a while to get one’s head around such a notion. Guileless ones are particularly disadvantaged because the presentation itself is steeped in guile.

It doesn’t even matter the reason for opposition to the Witnesses. The anti-cultists of the West latch on to different reasons to destroy the Witness organization than do the anti-cultists of the East. A common trigger for denunciation in the West is that Jehovah’s Witnesses are unsupportive of gay rights, and within their community, do not allow for gay sex. This makes them absolute heroes in Russia, which avidly persecutes gays. Just after the Russian ban was instituted, Angela Merkel even mentioned the two populations in the same breath to Putin—questioning him of his harassment of gays and Jehovah’s Witnesses. (Many Western sources, such as the BBC, edited out Jehovah’s Witnesses so as to focus on gays.) So Russia must scramble to find different reasons for persecution, since a prime Western reason is not a problem in its eyes.  Some Russian sources commenting on recent Witness events mention as a specific objection only that Jehovah’s Witnesses refuse blood transfusions. Even the most staunch advocate of blood transfusion will concede that the group refusing them are not to be equated with ISIS terrorists. No, on so many levels, Witness persecution defies common sense. Whenever things do that, people can be forgiven for wondering if something supernatural isn’t at work as well.

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The 1933 Letter to the Fuhrer

See how Rabbi Tovia Singer, fierce in his defense of Judaism, says: “Remarkably, denominations that evangelical Christians regard as heretical, such as Mormonism or the Jehovah’s Witnesses, DO NOT have a strong history of anti-Semitism." (Caps mine. Incidentally, the post also attests to the excellence of the New World Translation)

So what does that say about exJWs who would try to frame it that their former associates are the worst of the lot? It agrees with scholars at the Holocaust Museum that the “mountain” they try to make of a 1933 Judge Rutherford letter is actually a “molehill.”

From an Independent Lens forum, dealing with criticism of the film Knocking, we read:

Q:  Are there historical documents that prove Jehovah’s Witness leadership wrote anti-Semitic letters to Hitler trying to gain favor during the Nazi regime?

A:  A letter and legal petition written by the Jehovah's Witness leadership to Hitler in 1933, just as Hitler first came to power, do exist. These were an attempt by Witnesses to inform the German government that they were apolitical and not a threat to the Nazi regime, which in its infancy in 1933 was not the killing machine it would soon become. The action of the Witnesses from 1934 onward was a complete reversal of the language in their 1933 appeal to Hitler. Rabbi Michael Berenbaum (former director of the Research Institute at the U.S. Holocaust Museum) speaks at length on the KNOCKING DVD about this issue. The conclusion by Berenbaum and other notable Holocaust scholars that the 1933 letters are inconsequential when compared to what the Witnesses did from 1934 onward, gave the producers of KNOCKING the confidence that the letters need not be mentioned in the film. But because they are an historical footnote, they are mentioned and discussed at length in the DVD extras. [italics mine]

The early language is not nothing, but the scholars deem it “inconsequential” in the overall scheme of things. What is that “early language”—essentially that of Joseph Rutherford, Watchtower director from 1919 – 1942, who wrote many books and penned all major communication? It is fair to say that there are some phrases anti-Semitic—certainly so by today’s standards. Don’t go back trying to pretty them up. They are what they are.

That said, they come not remotely close to the charge of “Christ killers” that the major churches have hurled at Jews throughout history, triggering many a pogrom. Doubtless that consideration contributes towards Rabbi Singer’s assessment of Jehovah’s Witnesses; it’s not NO history of anti-Semitism. It is not STRONG history of anti-Semitism—that is, it is comparatively little. As late as 2004, those fearing that Mel Gibson’s ‘The Passion’ would trigger a backlash against Jews, asked him whether he maintained that the Jews had killed Christ. “Well, it wasn’t the Scandinavians,” he replied. Plainly, the New Testament is ‘anti-Semitic’ by this standard. Every single gospel makes clear that the leaders of the Jews (not the common Jews themselves) delivered Christ up for execution. Every single gospel reveals that Pilate worked rather hard to free him, knowing full well that he was being set up by his religious enemies, before finally caving in the face of their determination. Don’t go carrying on about Rutherford’s ‘anti-Semitism’—the entire New Testament is ‘anti-Semitic!’ Anyone not glossing over this bit of history as though it never happened has, a least, a mild "history of anti-Semitism."

Rutherford’s statements are mild by the standards of the day, but he does accede to the common diatribe that ‘Jews and their money are taking over the world,’ posing a 'Jewish problem,' putting an unflattering spin on the astounding commercial success that some had and have attained. He doesn’t chide Hitler for not being nicer to them, or praise their undeniable contributions in scholarship. He even states in an early communique that the aims of the Bible Students and the aims of the new Nazi government were one and the same! What aims, one might reasonably ask? To benefit the citizens of the land—the professed aim of any government. Duh. There is hardly a smoking gun here. As soon as the Nazi regime tipped its hand to reveal the evil it would become, the tone completely changed, as the Holocaust Museum scholars recognize. That's how you get to be a scholar in the first place: for the ability to sort, evaluate, and prioritize facts that do not seamlessly dovetail. It is the moron (usually for the sake of pursuing an agenda) who allows a human failing to undermine an entire library of laurels.

On a post several years ago, I wrote:

“There are any number of serial gripers on the Internet who are alarmed at any favorable mention of Jehovah’s Witnesses, and who immediately attempt to negate such praise. Some of these characters strive with all their might to denigrate Jehovah’s Witnesses’ stand during the Holocaust. Of course, this is not easy to do, because the stand is among the most courageous actions of the past century. But they try. Generally, they feign applause for the astounding courage and faith of individual Witnesses, but then take shots at their organization, as though it were entirely separate. Yes, those Witnesses were amazing, they say. Too bad they were sold out by an oppressive, self-serving, uncaring Watchtower central machine.”

They were out in full force recently, when I dared to put another Twitter spin on their cherished narrative. Whoa! did I have a hard time swatting them off! What is wrong with these people, so blinded by hate? Did anyone say that the guy could do no wrong? No. If you only focus on personalities, there is nothing that cannot be trashed. Everyone today knows the "journalism of the hit piece," and there is no one without some vulnerabilities who cannot be made a target. Still, the people at the Museum without an ax to grind declare it inconsequential to the overall picture. Got that, you scoundrels? The Jews themselves say your characterization is nonsense, and they are people who know hate when they see it. I’d be surprised if they didn’t see it here.

Thwarted in this attempt to malign the one taking the lead back then, or perhaps emboldened by it, they then attack Rutherford’s “needless” provocation of Hitler, his “ordering” Witnesses in Axis lands into harm’s way by continued, even intensified, preaching in the face of Nazi atrocities. What Shangri-La are these people living in? It’s as though they imagine that one could just change the channel back then and watch something else! All you had to do was refuse military service to be sent to the camps. Just refusing a ‘Heil Hitler!’ was enough. The vast majority back then said to Hitler: “Well, if you say so. I mean, you’re the boss.” Jehovah’s Witnesses said “No!” And now these liars, blinded by their hatred of ‘authoritarian’ religion, furious that cannot instill in it an ‘Anything Goes’ spirit, would try to change history! It’s enough to make your blood boil!

I can see how Jews go livid when, the moment their backs are turned, slimy revisionists try to assert that the Holocaust never happened—taking advantage of fading collective memory. Or maybe the small-minded haters come along and frame it that the most important lesson to be taken away from the Holocaust is that some Jews sold out others to save their own skin! People know hate when they see it. They see it there, in desperate efforts to denigrate what is noble. They see it also in desperate efforts to denigrate the Witness’s record.

Refusing to give up the scent, one such revisionist lectures me: “To describe Rutherford’s message as a "molehill" [second paragraph] is just the kind of indifference that opens the doors for the kinds of atrocities that followed.” He’s joking! The man who led those who fell on the right side of history—90% were on the wrong side, and they were but individuals, as virtually NO complete groups were on the right side—is the head villain of the time?

“Rutherford’s words are there for posterity,” he cants. Let them stay there for posterity, you sanctimonious fool! Go back with your moralizing crew to collect all the bloopers of history and cluck at them all until your tongues fall out! Jehovah’s Witnesses are fully people, absolutely capable of picking up on the biases of the time. The fact remains that, under the leadership of this imperfect man—seeing that the choice was thrust upon all—they went through history on the only side of that electrified fence that would avail them of good conscience, with no blood on their hands afterwards, whether by acts of commission or omission. No, it will not be negated because Joe said some things insensitive about the ones that his people would presently stand up with. He also said this: “In Germany the common people are peace-loving, ... The Devil has put his representative Hitler in control, a man who is of unsound mind, cruel, malicious and ruthless . . . He cruelly persecutes the Jews because they were once Jehovah’s covenant people and bore the name of Jehovah, and because Christ Jesus was a Jew.” How anti-Semitic does that sound?

Witnesses were virtually the only collective group that DID NOT sell out the Jews. I have no doubt that the Jews would wish that Hitler and the mainline religious groups back then would have made a Jewish joke or two and left it at that. I assure you that they would not be rounding such ones up as war criminals, as they still are with the real criminals, 70 years later. It’s unbelievable the hatred that the present day opposers display!

PLUS, Jehovah’s Witnesses were the only group interred in the camps who were given opportunity to write their ticket out. All that was necessary was to renounce their faith and pledge cooperation with Hitler. Only a handful complied, a fact that almost a century later, I still find staggering. And to bring things full around to where this post began—with an appeal to Engardio’s film Knocking for the context of the day—let us note that the film features one Brother Kempler, a circuit overseer once an interned Jew. He entered the concentration camps as a Jew. He was liberated as a Jew. Afterwards, having observed Jehovah’s Witnesses in the camps, he became one. He testifies powerfully to Jewish sensibilities in the face of what is likely the greatest evil of all time.

From the book TrueTom vs the Apostates!

 

 

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One Last Chance for Religious Freedom in Russia

Dennis Christensen “has spent the last 20 months in a cold cell with suspected drug dealers and only been allowed to meet his wife, separated by bars and a corridor, twice a month. If convicted, he could spend up to a decade in jail,” writes Andrew Osborn for Reuters. How much do you want to bet that those drug dealers now know their Bibles quite well? Alas, that may make them more unwelcome in Russia than had they landed the area distribution franchise for Drugs-R-Us.

He must have his moments of despondency. He must. But you would never know it. He is serene in appearances, and sometimes even cheerful. Jehovah’s Witnesses could not have wished for better examples to face the Russian bear than he and his wife Irene. See how he typifies the spirit of 1 Peter 2:23:

“Christ suffered...leaving you a model for you to follow his steps closely....When he was being reviled, he did not go reviling in return. When he was suffering, he did not go threatening, but kept on committing himself to the one who judges righteously.”

Has he wavered in his love for his adopted homeland? He “does not regret that he moved to live in Russia. ‘It is one of the best decisions that I have made in my life, and it brought me much happiness,’” he tells the Reuters reporter. This despite his being anything but starry eyed. “To call me or other peaceful Jehovah's Witnesses extremists is the greatest stupidity that I have ever heard!" he says. “Of course I hope that he (the judge) will be just," he said. "But I also know which country I’ve been living in."

Only a month ago, President Putin, when asked, stated that the equating of Jehovah’s Witnesses with terrorists was “of course...complete nonsense,” something “you need to carefully deal with,” and later, “so this should be looked into” since “Jehovah’s Witnesses are Christians, too.” We may soon learn just how carefully he means to deal with and look at it, as the time of Dennis’ sentencing has arrived. As for Irena, “I’m not afraid of anything and Dennis is not afraid either,” she told Reuters.

I have never seen a picture of him in which he is not mild, even well dressed. He actually broke into song at one hearing via Internet, before the guard told him to shut up. Could one ask for a better example? The symbolism is complete. His surname points to the one he follows. Even his carpenter profession lines up. Even his last project as a free man spotlights the idiocy of branding him an “extremist”—building a playground for the community children. Would members of the only other group in Russia officially designated “extremist,” ISIS, also build a playground for the community children? Maybe, but it would be a long time gaining my trust to let my children play on it. On January 23, the prosecutor requested a sentence of 6 years and 6 months in prison. Why not add 6 days to the request to make it a nice, biblical 666?

It's déjà vu for Jehovah’s Witnesses in that country, whose period of freedom has lasted only 27 years. “The only difference is that at that time [of the Soviet Union] they were called 'enemies of the people'. Now they are called 'extremists'," says Irena.

Journalist Osborn does what all journalists must do. He probes for the actual reason that Jehovah’s Witnesses are opposed. Usually all one must do in such cases is read the charges of the prosecution, but here in the Christensen case the charges are ridiculous, and the ‘crimes’ easily refuted. So Osborn hits on one spot of contention after another, but presently puts his finger on the real trigger: “Russia has been the most outspoken in portraying it as an extremist cult.” He refers, perhaps unknowingly, to a burgeoning anti-cult movement which finds conditions fertile in Russia for a perfect storm, but which is active everywhere.

The reason that Putin declares it complete nonsense to call Witnesses “extremist” is because it is. As such, he and his in government would never have dreamt of doing such a thing. However much any of them may dislike Jehovah’s Witnesses, ISIS has taught them what extremism is. They are not so stupid as to confuse the two.

Likewise, the dominant Russian Orthodox Church did not originate the ban against the Witnesses. That is not to say that some of them did not squeal with delight like kids on Christmas morning, but it was not their idea. The thinkers there are not particularly happy about it, for the same set of laws that declare it a crime to proclaim the superiority of one’s religion in the case of Jehovah’s Witnesses might easily be turned against them.

No, problems with the Church and the suspicious government merely make for excellent tinder. The spark that sets it off Osborn identifies with: “Russia has been the most outspoken in portraying it as an extremist cult.” It is a determined anti-cult movement that sets the match to the tinder. It is not even Russian originated, but like Bolshevism itself, is a Western import. Religion writer Joshua Gill has outlined how a French NGO dedicated to protecting people from ideas considered socially destructive—the manifest goal of anti-cultism--sent a well-known emissary to Russia who spread that view with missionary zeal, maximizing his existing status with the Russian Orthodox Church.

The anti-cult movement ever seeks to extend its reach. Only in Russia does it find conditions ripe for the perfect storm, but its influence is afoot everywhere. The match was even literal in 2018 Washington State, where six attacks resulted in two Kingdom Halls burnt to the ground. Of course, that is not the intent—to incite violence. Anti-cultists speak against it, for the most part. But when you yell “CULT!” in a crowded theater, who can say what will happen? The correct term, non-incendiary and chosen by scholars for just that reason, is "new religious movement."

Assembling material in preparation for ‘Dear Mr. Putin – Jehovah’s Witnesses Write Russia,’ I became more and more convinced that the anti-cult movement was behind it all, and it is a conviction that has only strengthened since. In the book’s introduction, I wrote:

“Does Kuraev really mean to suggest that prosecution presented no intelligible arguments at the Supreme Court trial? An observer of the trial might well think it. He might well wonder just what does the government have against Jehovah’s Witnesses? There must be something, but it is not stated. At one point the judge asked the prosecution (the Ministry of Justice) whether it had prepared for the case. A decision had been plainly made somewhere from on high and it would fall upon the judge to rubber-stamp it. Of course, he did, perhaps because he wanted to remain a judge. The actual reasons behind anti-Witness hostility were never presented. So I have presented them in Part II, along with how they might be defended.”

I even went on to caution members of my own faith:

“Some Witnesses, truth be told, will be uncomfortable with Part II and might best be advised to skip over it. They will love the idea of defending the faith but may be unaware of the scope of the attacks made against it, some of which are truly malicious. Deciding to sit out this or that controversy will earn them taunts of ‘sticking one’s head in the sand’ from detractors, but it is exactly what Jesus recommends, as will be seen. Not everyone must immerse themselves in every ‘fact,’ for many of them will turn out to be facts of Mark Twain’s variety: facts that “ain’t so.” You can’t do everything, and most persons choose to focus on matters most directly relevant to their lives.” 

That caution is repeated, with even greater applicability, in the newer ebook ‘TrueTom vs the Apostates!’ The book is not recommended to all Witnesses. Read it if you want a specific reply to charges laid against the faith. For those able to focus upon forward motion only, the book is not recommended. For those not, it is. The line that invariably gets the largest applause at Regional Conventions of Jehovah’s Witnesses is: “Would you like to send your greetings to the brothers in Bethel [headquarters]?” The hard work and integrity of these ones is appreciated by all. So not everyone will feel the need to check out every derogatory report.

In some respects, the Witness organization appears to this writer to be out of step with regard to the attacks it faces today. With a long history of persevering in the face of religious threats to stomp it out of existence, it seems slow to acknowledge that religions are mostly licking their wounds these days, and it is the irreligious world, with anti-cultists in the vanguard, that most vehemently presses for its downfall.

See Reuters article, by Andrew Osborn

And one from BBC Russia, by Viktor Nekhezin

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Pew Ranks Jehovah's Witnesses by Politics

There is a PEW chart that maps religious denominations (in the US) by their political leanings. A vertical line represents the average, and each denomination is represented by a bar, portions of which fall upon the Democratic (blue) and Republican (red, also known as GOP, for ‘Grand Old Party’) side of the line. The most Republican is the LDS Church (Mormons), falling 70% on the Republican side. The most Democratic is the African Methodist Episcopal Church, falling 92% on the Democratic side. Where do Jehovah’s Witnesses fall? Surprising to some, they are not in the middle. 7% of them lean Republican and 18% lean Democratic. Given that Witnesses say they are “no part of the world,” one would expect an even split.

Of course, 7% and 18% add up only to 25, not 100. This brings us to a third measurement of the chart: the numbers who report no leaning whatsoever. Here the figure is exactly what one would expect: 75% for Jehovah’s Witnesses. No other group comes close. The next largest group of ‘no leanings’ is Hindu, with 26%. Mormons, mentioned previously, are 11% non-leaning; African Methodist Episcopalians are 4%.

It is no surprise that Jehovah’s Witnesses, by far, lead the pack with a 75% ‘non-leaning’ rating, but why isn’t it 100%? I suspect it is three factors at work. 1) People self-identify for the survey. Those who report themselves as Jehovah’s Witnesses for the survey are not necessarily the same as the Witness organization itself would report; they will include many Witnesses who are not ‘active,’ as well as some who are not Witnesses at all but find themselves drawn to what they stand for. 2) Most Witnesses have very slight engagement with political doings. They focus on ‘God’s kingdom,’ and they see that in concrete terms—as a real government, and not merely a motivation of the heart, something that is the pattern elsewhere. They’ll take in what news they do take in small doses from the media, and the media is overwhemingly Democratic. 3) In the case of the current President, they say “He is bombastic, whereas I try to be polite.”

I alluded to this chart for a return visit with a man who described himself as a black nationalist. He had ventured the opinion that Jehovah’s Witnesses knew their Bibles better than anybody else out there, but he was suspicious of their being Trump supporters. I showed him how, if anything, they were Obama supporters, but then went on the develop the greater picture of their neutrality. His pre-existing view points to the frustration of one of our sisters, who said that as a Bible-believing woman, she is commonly expected to be Republican, which these days means a Trump supporter, and she has to keep pointing out that it is not the case with her.

The best way to be truly neutral is to be ignorant of politics, and many Witnesses immerse themselves in ‘kingdom interests’ to that degree. Some deliberately flee from hearing anything political so as to achieve that end of complete neutrality. But for those who are not so inclined, the following is a primer of American politics, as neutral as I know how to present it. We are people, after all, and can be counted upon to develop opinions on whatever we are exposed to. However, those with opinions know enough not to bring them into the congregation, where they can only disrupt the peace, to no end. All human governments will drop the ball. Usually, it is a bowling ball. As people contemplate the vulnerability of their right and left toes, thus their politics is decided. Witnesses endeavor to steer clear of what divides, and so keep whatever opinions they may develop to themselves.

The left is generally globalist. That part appeals to Witnesses, except that it is ‘government by man,’ and that part does not. The right is generally ‘my country first,’ which does not appeal to Witnesses, except that it is more likely to uphold traditional moral values, which does. The news media overwhelmingly (over 90%) votes democratic, and thus cannot be depended upon to be impartial in what it covers. ‘Left,’ or ‘liberal,’ is not synonymous with ‘Democrat’—rather, it is a large subset of it. ‘Right,’ or ‘conservative,’ is not synonymous with Republican—rather, it is a large subset of it.

Regardless of who is doing the reporting, they all tell it through their own eyes. The right ever portrays itself as “moderate“ and refers to the other side as the “far left.” The left does exactly the opposite, and the right becomes the “far right.” Why is it that the media is overwhelmingly liberal? A local woman reveals it in a promo for her news outlet, saying that the goal of a journalist is to “find truth’ and “shout it from the rooftops.” When you do that, “change happens,” and “that’s amazing!” with a glow in her eye that is close to orgasmic. Long gone is the reporter who stands in a spot where I cannot be because Mrs. Harley is making me do some fool maintenance project around the house and tells me what is going on over there. People become journalists because they want to bring about change, the goal of liberals. Conservatives—the name itself says it—think the present course is basically okay, and any change they favor is gradual and within the system. Thus, journalists are almost always Democrats.

The current American president shatters the mold of communication by using a new avenue of it. In itself, I am not so sure what is wrong with a leader that tweets. Always the complaint of the people is that “government is not transparent.” I can think of no better cure for that than tweeting, going over the heads of the reporters and directly to the people, to tell what the leader is doing. I think that reporters object to it for just that reason—it cuts them out of the loop. They also don’t like it because of the wild lack of decorum. They are used to leaders, and themselves, being spoken of in hushed tones approaching awe. But few outside their own group think that the politicians are deserving of such awe, so I’m not sure that puncturing a balloon is such a bad thing. The Bible does observe that being deferential to those in power is a good thing, however, which defers back to to the traditionalists in communication.

It's not the easiest thing to stay truly neutral—the goal of Witnesses. Geoffrey Jackson of the Governing Body, Australian-born, spoke to the challenge of staying truly neutral while struggling in the back of one’s head with the thought: “I hope that idiot doesn’t get into power.” One wonders just what idiot he had in mind. And a circuit overseer—speaking on his own, I assure you—addressed a group of pioneers as to how imperative it was to stay neutral, and told them: “Now, we all know that Trump is crazy, but…” Whereupon, one pioneer sister looked at another and said: “I know that my father is a good man. And he voted for Trump.” No, it is not so easy as it looks.

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Confrontation Atop Gotham Tower

On top of Gotham, way way up there on that crazy high tower, Batman confronts his nemesis. “Now I’m going to kill you!” he snarls. “You’re going to kill me? You made me!” the Joker screams. But Batman is not to be outdone. That young punk who became the Joker murdered his parents long ago—gunned them down in cold blood before the impressionable lad’s eyes, plunging him forevermore into a twisted life of crusading revenge. “I made you? You made me!” he growls. Jack Nicholson does an aside: “I say he made me. He says I made him. How childish!” he mimics, before taking a punch that flattens his face.

I’m with Batman. My own nemesis, the sinister Admin, turned my life and me into a freak show. I was a happy Bible Student, crossing every ‘t’ and dotting every ‘i,’ the way that they do. I stumbled upon three apostates beating up on my friend Job. I lurked in the background like Elihu, where I got madder and madder. Finally, I destroyed them all through sheer verbiage. God beamed approval from the heavens when Elihu did it. He had something darker in mind for me. Or at least he kept his cards to himself.

I mulled what my sorry life had become as I spit those same words to Admin: “You made me!” I hurled him over the parapet to his certain death, just like the Joker had hurled Kim Bassinger. I expected to hear a terrified and fading “Ahhhhhhhhhh!” followed by a faint but satisfying “Splat!” Instead, there was only silence. Kim had saved herself by grabbing onto a ledge. Admin had saved himself by grabbing onto the fact that it was all digital. I’ve never met him in person. It didn’t happen.

When Admin saw how I had beaten up those apostates he assigned me to headline a thread entitled ‘TrueTom Versus the Apostates.’ I protested. I didn’t want the job. I don’t go out of my way to pick fights with these characters. My protest fell upon deaf ears. So I warmed to the idea and went after them with such ferocity that the same Admin who put me on the thread pulled me off it, threw both me and the thread into the abyss, and slapped me with an ‘A’ for abuse. I think the final straw came when I posted that my foes, although united in apostasy, probably would not be able to stand one another in person, drawing upon some unpleasant idiosyncrasies they had revealed. I wore my ‘A’ with shame, like Hester Prynne of long ago. In time, it ceased to be a drawback and became an honor, also like with Hester Prynne of long ago. ‘Presto’ was formed my new identity, both a blessing and a curse.

I had gradually acquiesced to my new role. But then, as though it were not enough to ruin my old life, he tried to ruin my new one—the one he had assigned me. “Hey, knock it off there!” he shouted, as I was trading barbs with villains and semi-villains, saints and semi-saints. I don’t think it was just me he was mad at. It wasn’t even mainly me, and maybe not me at all—but the story is just so much better if you make the facts work for you rather than suffer them to be your master.

From his pontifical post he thundered: “I would just like to state for the record that as the owner of this website, I do not like pejorative labels. ‘Label’ and ‘Kill’ seems to be the way most groups continue to operate nowadays. I realize that all you different religions are free to exercise what you believe in, however I would like to push my own point of thought that we all should try to stop using labels on people. I keep seeing different religions on here use the pejorative label “apostate.” Why does anyone in 2018 still subscribe to this antiquated way of thinking?

“And IF by chance you still do subscribe to this religious mentality, please realize that the rest of the world doesn’t care about how you label others.

“They have MOVED ON.

“Try to keep up, people.

“This technology alone is proving far superior to any fear-based religion. Both pro and anti-religious groups should try to avoid labels and stick to facts.

“- End of rant.”

It’s over when I say it’s over. I fired back:

“Why does anyone in 2018 still subscribe to this antiquated way of thinking?” Because it is a significant sub-theme of the New Testament. There is no New Testament writer that does not deal with it. Two entire chapters are devoted to it. Jude was about to write a bland letter that would have entered the dustbin of canon history, but:

“I found it necessary to write you to urge you to put up a hard fight for the faith that was once for all time delivered to the holy ones. My reason is that certain men have slipped in among you who were long ago appointed to this judgment by the Scriptures; they are ungodly men who turn the undeserved kindness of our God into an excuse for brazen conduct and who prove false to...” and so forth.

 

“They have MOVED ON. Try to keep up people.”

“Possibly they have moved on, but the overall state of the world does not make clear that having “moved on” is for the best. Gadgets have improved, granted, and people do have to clean up after their dogs today, but an overall sense of well-being? Whether “keeping up” in the sense you mean is a good thing is highly debatable. Furthermore, if you think this is so horrible, show me the civility in the greater political world. Be sure not to miss the ‘gentleman’s disagreement’ involving the Supreme Court Kavanaugh nomination today. Show me the love-in between GOP and DEMS, or medical vs alternative, or atheist vs religious person, or scientist vs metaphysics. And make sure to tell me how the Russians and Chinese are allegedly hacking into Western computers so that say a friendly ‘hello.’

“It could be argued that you are missing the most significant development of all time, as you lambaste those debating issues of eternity in favor of those squabbling over matters that will only be personally relevant for a few decades until they die.

“End of rant.

“Having said that, I can easily see how this could drive a guy nuts. Just for the record, I think some participants here are barely sane. I won’t say that I have never used the word “apostate’’ but I have tried to be sparing with it, in favor of such words as ‘opposer’ or ‘detractor’ And I deliberately try to defuse super-intense threads with what I hope passes for humor. I stay primarily because I benefit by testing out lines that I know will be thrown back in my face. I get to refine my own writing thereby, like a scientist studying data. I’ve been able to write an absolutely unique book in this manner. A writer not only needs a muse. He also needs a villain, and here there are villains galore.

“It is pretty rough on those who don’t speak the lingo, though. I do appreciate that. I hope that you take it in the right spirit when I jokingly put you entering the annual Conference of Internet Magnificents, casually mentioning your traffic so as to impress the big boys, only to be told ‘Big Deal. They’re all religious nuts. Come back when you have people who know where the ground is.’”

 

***~~~***

 

Apostates and loyal ones unite! At last we have found common cause! Let us band together and beat up on Admin, who presumes to break up our riotous party! If we want to ruin his website, what’s that to him? I will even be gracious and concede that you fellows won a round. You correctly predicted that he would ‘lose it’ on a weekend. I could have sworn it would have been on a weekday.

Like the spoken word of God in the New Testament, the spoken word of Admin is rare on this religious portion of his website, which is presided over by another. I can recall only one other time that he spoke from on high, even coming down on the side of the good guys. “Geez, you guys are a piece of work!” he thundered from above. “If Watchtower legal wanted me to take down their copyrighted artwork, I would do it in two seconds.” The occasion was that Watchtower had written just that concern, and certain malcontents used to putting their work in different context and beating them over the head with it were screaming to high heaven about “free speech.”

Probably Admin knows that not one Witness he sees here on his website is a typical Witness. They are all rogue to one degree of another, self included. They all have their own individual reasons for being here. None of them are heeding the Witness organizations’ preference not to engage in disputes with determined opposers.

Witnesses are encouraged by their organization not to dispute. Whatever one may think about Jehovah’s Witnesses, one must concede that they endeavor to present their message with dignity, be it door-to-door, their website, or the recent innovation of cart witnessing. The dignity disintegrates when they come online to brawl, which is why the organization prefers that they not do it. Debate doesn’t work well, anyway. Jesus routinely resorted to tactics that would infuriate any devotee of debate, answering questions with counter-questions, raising straw man arguments, spinning complex parables that he rarely explained—let the heart figure it out. Put your version of truth out there, and if they reject it, they reject it.

What! Is it cheap entertainment we are speaking of? Jesus said religious truth would be “the pearl of great price” that you must “exert yourself vigorously” to lay hold of. He didn’t say it was a fine thing to tilt back the easy chair and wait for the winner of a debate to toss it to you. Debate focuses attention, not on the merits of any given idea, but on the skill of the debater. In debate school, one is taught to argue both sides of a given argument. That fact ought to suffice to assess “debate” as a way to arrive at truth.

You would never know it from online forums, but the best way to uncover how most Witnesses feel about their governing arrangement is to attend a Regional Convention. The line that invariably brings down the house with applause is: “Would you like to send your greetings to the brothers in Bethel?” But as I was chewing out Admin for trying to salvage his own website, a villain by the name of John was listening! He chimed in: “Yes, it’s all puppet fashion and tradition. It is so corny. It is the expected thing, so they have to do it.”

I reflected upon this: “You know, you may have a point. I have looked closely at these times and I can tell that they don’t want to applaud. They really really don’t want to applaud. But then they notice an elder glowering at them and sweat breaks out on their brow. In some cases, they wet their pants. In the end, even though they hate the thought, they clap and clap and clap. Sometimes their hands turn to mush and the paramedics have to haul them away for first aid. Sheesh. I mean, it is possible to overplay the paranoia card. They applaud because they liked the program and appreciate the work of those that put it together.”

Lest Admin chew us out again for not displaying mutual love, I addressed his prior: “LABEL and KILL seems to be the way most groups continue to operate nowadays:”

“When you cite Jehovah’s Witnesses, you are citing almost the only example you could cite that disproves your point. Categorically, they will not kill or be maneuvered by the national king into killing. How bad can they be?”

I even took him up on his: “This technology alone is proving far superior to any fear-based religion:”

“Is it? I’ll even call you on this. The general reality is that social media is more apt to spread hate than resolution. Religion, however, at its best, will spread love in a way that your technology could not even dream of.

“And what is this about ‘fear-based religion?’ How often in Scripture is the expression ‘Fear God’ or ‘Fear Jehovah?’ Almost 40. I counted. It is ‘fear’ in the same sense children used to routinely fear their parents, out of love and respect—fear of displeasing them—with punishment only a background concern.

“Increasingly the ones to be feared are the “anti-cultists” who expand the definition of a pejorative word so as to cover people they don’t like. Under the guise of protecting them from ideas they don’t want heard, their Russian soul-brothers have gone so far as to arrest them and steal all their property. A fine way to protect the civil rights of the enemy soldiers is to kill off their generals. That way you can absorb them.”

The reckless appellation of the C-word is essentially hate speech. It is above and beyond any specific arguments for or against Witnesses, which is always fair game to be countered or acceded to. It has inspired violence not only in Russia, but also in the United States. During 2018, several arson attacks were launched against Kingdom Halls in Washington state. Two burned to the ground. Arguments are one thing, but screaming ‘cult’ whips the crazies into a lather. Anti-cultists will howl in a heartbeat if the political party they favor is the target of perceived hate speech from the other side. But when it comes to their own hate speech, they become obtuse. Everyone knows what a cult is, and everyone knows that Jehovah’s Witnesses are not it, regardless of how strenuously the champions of conformity try to rewrite the dictionary to make it appear so.

I returned to Admin: “If you must carry on about ‘this technology,’ consider this paragraph from Tom Irregardless and Me as to how the Witness organization uses it:

“In recent years, the Watchtower organization even offers its own programming through a JW Broadcasting streaming channel, a refreshing and most unusual alternative to mainstream TV. Members of the Governing Body thus repeat the pattern they are known for with any new technology: They eye it with suspicion. They advise caution. They know that when the thief switches getaway cars, it is the thief you have to watch, not the dazzling features of the new car. They follow the thief for a time. Convinced at last that they still have a bead on him, they examine the car. They circle it warily, kicking the tires. At last satisfied, they jump in with both feet and put it to good uses its inventors could only have dreamed of.”    

Whoa! John took advantage of my distraction to post: “I have been there and done all of that. It’s hype. They are conditioned to “like the program.” We were all expected to applaud.”

Once again, I acquiesced. I am that sort of a guy:

“I will go further to confess what I have never confessed before. Our body of elders used to rent a prison bus to round up the publishers and make them go to the convention. They made me drive. I didn’t want to, but they made me, using mind-control. The friends didn’t want to go. None of them did. They used to hide in the bushes when they saw me pulling up in the prison bus. But the elders had ordered me to stuff them in nice clothes by force if necessary. Oh, how my conscience torments me now.”

John: “The kids are ordered to answer up in Watchtower studies and made to pre-study for hours and write down long answers, which in truth they don’t even understand. They just answer parrot fashion.”

“That’s nothing!” I shot back. “I have seen children actually confined in oversized parrot cages until they finished studying their lessons, at which time, if they were lucky, they might be given a cracker.”

I thought that I heard Admin weeping at this point, and I felt sorry for him. Even I thought it was getting to be a bit much. I had chosen not to respond to his “Geez, you guys are a piece of work.” What could I have told him—that we’re not?

It is high time that we proceed to examine the adversary.

From the book TrueTom vs the Apostates!

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Who Are the Apostates?

Nobody has apostates like Jehovah’s Witnesses. Theirs are the best. Nobody has apostates more determined. Nobody has apostates more prolific. It is almost as though I am proud of them. I very nearly am. If they flourished in the first century, they should flourish now. If they didn’t flourish now, one would have to wonder why.

They certainly did flourish back then. There is no writer of the New Testament that does not feel obliged to come to grips with them. “I know that…from among you yourselves men will rise and speak twisted things to draw away the disciples after themselves,” warns the faithful apostle at Acts 20: 29-30. “For there will be a period of time when they will not put up with the healthful teaching, but in accord with their own desires, they will accumulate teachers for themselves to have their ears tickled, and they will turn their ears away from the truth,” he repeats at 2 Timothy 4:3.

If Christianity is among the greatest themes of all time, then combatting apostates is one of the greatest subthemes of all time. Every religion has them, but especially those with Judeo-Christian underpinnings, in which context the word is specifically defined. The Greek verb form means “to stand away from.” The noun form has the sense of “desertion, abandonment, or rebellion.” It is those who have ‘been there and done that.’ If one has not been there and done that, one cannot be an apostate, no matter how much one may dislike a religion.

If there was to be “a period of time when they will not put up with the healthful teaching, but in accord with their own desires, they will accumulate teachers for themselves to have their ears tickled, and they will turn their ears away from the truth,” it stands to reason that such a period would have commenced long ago, with the end product the cacophony of religious offerings that exist today. Let another book written by another author deal with who’s who. I will focus my attention on Jehovah’s Witnesses, the Christian denomination with the fiercest apostates. One can even make the case that the more namby-pamby the apostates, the more they are that way because they have already chalked up major wins. Where they are the most virulent, it is because they have yet to make significant dent in the core and are tearing out their hair in the unrelenting effort.

Apostasy is said to be a “mystery” in scripture. It might well seem so to the outsider looking in, for it involves persons attacking those who were once their closest friends with a ferocity that is breathtaking. “Why don’t they just move on in life?” the typical observer will say. The reasons behind the apostasy themselves are less a mystery. Most are covered with but a few simple Bible passages. The apostates are like Demas, who forsook Paul because “he loved the present system of things.” Though they tested the waters, they “went out from us” because “they were not of our sort.” Their former friends became misled fools to them when “the Master kept delaying.” They were stumbled, and woe to the one stumbling them. Nonetheless, the psalm that would have helped them is: “Abundant peace belongs to those loving your law, and for them there is no stumbling block.” (2 Timothy 4:10, 1 John 2:19, Matthew 24:48, Mark 9:42, Psalm 119:165)

The law they were to love, and once did, is “God’s law.” It is not the law of human government. Suffice it to say that Jehovah’s Witnesses put no stock in human government. All human governments will drop the ball. Usually it is a bowling ball, and the only pertinent question that remains is upon which toe will it land. As people ponder the vulnerability of their right and left toes, thus is decided their politics. Jehovah’s Witnesses discard it all as secondary, and they do not let such differences disrupt the peace of the congregation.

They obey the governments under which they live. If one considers how little cost they put upon agencies of law enforcement or tax collection, they are the most loyal citizens of any nation. They do what they are told, not because they are weaklings, but because they consider it but a secondary point. In every country they say to the ‘king:’ “Tell us your rules for maintaining public order and we will follow them.” It is a different matter when the law of the king conflicts with the law of God, but that situation is relatively rare. Usually one can “render Caesar’s things to Caesar and God’s things to God” without undue fuss.

Jehovah’s Witnesses put their stock in what they would term “divine government,” rather than that of humans. As a practical matter, that is expressed though a human agency they refer to at present as their Governing Body. They consider these ones charged with applying the Bible to modern times, just as in the United States and most other lands, a Supreme Court is charged with applying a Constitution to modern times. Governing Body members are not infallible. They strive to lead by example, and there is a scene I will not quickly forget of a representative, for illustrative purposes, pulling a string on a table by a finger placed firmly atop one end. “See how the rest of it nicely follows?” he points out. “What happens if I try to push the string?” and upon doing so, it wads up. “It really isn’t very smart of me to do it this way, is it?” he says.

The most likely area for apostasy to surface is at the divine/human interface. It was even true with Judas. He and God were tight. There were absolutely no problems there! But that character masquerading as the Messiah—why, he wasn’t at all what Judas had expected. And those yokels he was attracting? Don’t even go there.

It becomes quickly apparent that a religion with which the year text is “Anything goes” will produce few apostates. What would they apostatize from? Repeatedly we read in scripture that apostates “despise authority.” How does that become a problem unless there is authority? They love “lawlessness.” How does that become a problem unless there is law? They favor acts of “brazen conduct.” They have “eyes full of adultery,” and they are “unable to desist from sin.” How does that become a problem unless there is someone to tell that they cannot carry on that way? Not only is the nature of apostates revealed in the above verses of Jude and 2 Peter 2, but also the nature of the Christian organization. A faith too bland to produce quality apostates is too bland to be given the time of day.

When offering testimony about whatever faith they have apostatized from, their testimony cannot be relied upon exclusively, but must be corroborated by independent sources. The bias they reveal may be considerable, as Lonnie D. Kliever, Ph.D., Professor of Religious Studies, Southern Methodist University, writes:

“There is no denying that these dedicated and diehard opponents of the new religions present a distorted view of the new religions to the public, the academy, and the courts by virtue of their ready availability and eagerness to testify against their former religious associations and activities. Such apostates always act out of a scenario that vindicates themselves by shifting responsibility for their actions to the religious group. Indeed, the various brainwashing scenarios so often invoked against the new religious movements have been overwhelmingly repudiated by social scientists and religion scholars as nothing more than calculated efforts to discredit the beliefs and practices of unconventional religions in the eyes of governmental agencies and public opinion. Such apostates can hardly be regarded as reliable informants by responsible journalists, scholars, or jurists. Even the accounts of voluntary defectors with no grudges to bear must be used with caution since they interpret their past religious experience in the light of present efforts to re-establish their own self-identity and self-esteem.”

It doesn’t mean they must be ignored. It just means they must always be taken with a substantial grain of salt. John Gordon Melton, an American religious scholar cautions “that hostile ex-members would invariably shade the truth and blow out of proportion minor incidents, turning them into major incidents.”

When they leave a “new religion,” the current non-prejudicial term for those founded within the last century or two, less incendiary than the newly-expanded term “cult,” they have a lot of explaining to do. It is not as though they have switched from Chevrolet to Ford. They have abandoned goals and practices perhaps followed for decades to embrace ones that in many respects represent the very opposite. How best to account for such a flip-flop without suggesting that they were dupes? What could be better than lodging a “brainwashing” claim, asserting that they were “misled,” that, really, they are no more stupid than you—if it happened to them, it could have just as easily happened to anyone? It is an irresistible ploy.

Professor David Bromley, author of The Politics of Religious Apostasy: The Role of Apostates in the Transformation of Religious Movement, “explained how individuals who elect to leave a chosen faith must then become critical of their religion in order to justify their departure…Others may ask, if the group is as transparently evil as he now contends, why did he espouse its cause in the first place? In the process of trying to explain his own seduction and to confirm the worst fears about the group, the apostate is likely to paint a caricature of the group that is shaped more by his current role as apostate than by his actual experience in the group.”

Of course! If one leaves a group that truly is “no part of the world,” as Jesus said his followers would be, to pursue a course fully part of that world, there is a lot of catching up to do. There has been a lot of falling behind the curve, and there is a lot of time to be made up. Particularly if one has given up the faith for atheism, then there is only a short time left, and previous years comprising the majority of one’s life may appear to have been wasted. The temptation to resort to a thought-control defense is irresistible.

Apostates of the world have managed to unite under an anti-cult common umbrella. They come from many different faiths, and find that they have much in common. All of their former faiths were cults—they are smarting from their wounds—that did them great damage by deflecting from the truly fine goals of life. A prominent one, let us call him Steve, spent his early days as a ‘Moonie,’ the common name for those of the Unification Church. He now spends his time helping people to escape cults, and he has expanded the definition well beyond Moonies.

I know little about the Moonies, per se, and have nothing specifically against them. I share the common perception that they drop out of society, dress strangely, and used to interact with the public primarily to sell them things, such as flowers. Even this must be put into context, for there were plenty of Steve’s generation who became actual “flower children” of the sixties. They turned on, tuned in, and dropped out of contemporary society, and to this day they are not criticized for it, even when they enhanced their experience with mind-altering drugs.

A generation or two before them there were the hoboes, often educated men, who dropped out of society, roaming the country via railroad boxcars, which were not hard to surreptitiously board. “Stay away from the hoboes,” Gram told my Dad when he has a boy. Of course, he went right down to the woods to hang out with the hoboes, and he says they generally were the most gentle and peaceable folk you might ever hope to meet. When one came into town, he might ask for a meal. When there was extra in the pantry, a resident might feed them. They would sit on the porch nice as you please eating their meal, and upon leaving, would make a mark on the house so that other hoboes would know a free meal could be had there. If you left things lying about, they would steal you blind, but only take what they needed for their immediate future.

Drop outs are not uncommon. There have always been drop-outs. They are even a romanticized segment of society. But let there be a God component to it and all hell breaks loose. Isn’t that all the Moonies are guilty of, throwing an interpretation of God into the mix? Steve came to be upset with them, for they ‘stole’ his early life. But there really aren’t that many of them. Like a growth industry, he began to target other groups who, unlike the Moonies, did not drop out of society, in fact, they often improved their role significantly in it, such as by overcoming addictions. These new targets mixed in with regular society just fine, often better than before, as some of them dropped the criminal activity they had once engaged in. But they looked to a different source for direction. Let us be blunt. The modern anti-cult movement is an effort to stop them from doing that. It is an attempt to put persons on the same page and prevent them departing from script.

Think twice before you do it. Dr. Asseem Malhotra states: “We all have to realize that society has been manufactured in a way where we simply give up our own mind to someone else, who has been given theirs by someone else...from birth, we are programmed to think a certain way by somebody else.” Dr. Malhotra is a cardiologist and he is referring to standard regimens of health, but the principles apply widely. If the prevailing mindset was so productive and healthful, surely you could expect the world thus built to reflect that. Think twice before you shut down pathways to explore and perhaps even reject the status quo.

Jehovah’s Witnesses don’t cotton to the status quo of human rulership. They like what they would characterize as “God’s rulership.” Their assessment of history is that of Ecclesiastes 8:9—that “man has dominated man to his injury.” They agree with Jeremiah, the Old Testament prophet, that “to earthling man his way does not belong. It does not belong to man who is walking even to direct his step.” Human government is a disaster, they say, and they align their lives with “divine rulership” and the human organization they think best represents it, that unitedly spearheads the telling of the “good news of God’s kingdom” the world over.

Because the religion is consequential, it is resisted by the anti-cultists. Because under its influence people make decisions they would not make otherwise—and in some cases later come to reassess—the anti-cultists would like to stamp it out. If it confined its role to supporting the customary goals of society, they would have no problem with it. It is as Jesus says: “If you were part of the world, the world would be fond of what is its own.”

The more that a religion stands for things in contrast to the prevailing thinking, the more it will produce apostates. The more that it maintains a separateness from the greater world, the more it will produce apostates. Ones who cross the chasm from faith to anti-faith may hope that former relationships will not suffer, but they invariably will. It is a chasm they have crossed, not a dotted line. Anything with a significant upside will have a downside, and if one negates the upside, there remains nothing to focus upon but the downside—a point particularly applicable to those former members who have opted for atheism.

The outrage that some of these apostates express initially sets one back on one’s heels. However, outrage is the new normal today, and one must expect that going in. Following the commentary on world news for a week or so will dispel any doubt that outrage is the name of the game today. A Pew survey released during August 2018 revealed that, pertaining to the politics of the two major parties, not only can Americans not agree on how to act in light of the facts, but they cannot even agree on what the facts are. With no agreement on the facts there can be no starting point for discussion. If it is true of two parties which both occupy the here and now, how much more so of two parties, one whose view of the future is eternity, the other is that the next few decades. How much more so of two parties, one of which dismisses the “pearl of high price” as a ‘been there done that?’ Just what will there be to talk about?

“If a man dies, can he live again?” is the question at Job 14:14. “Of course,” says the Witness. “No way,” says the ex-Witness. The former looks at any sacrifices of the present life as but delayed gratification, the sort that does a person’s character nothing but good, the sort that is integral to any raising of a child. The latter looks upon it as foolishness on steroids, for ‘this life is all there is.’ Just what will there be to talk about?

They lie as submerged rocks poised to rip out whatever floats your boat. The lie they tell is more subtle than many of them know—in fact, it is a lie only in the eye of the beholder. It is the same as the first lie told in Genesis: “You certainly will not die. God knows that in the very day you eat from it, your eyes will be opened and you will be like God, knowing good and bad.” Take the verse symbolically. Take it literally. Either way the lesson is the same. Not only is the first woman told a lie, but more significantly, it is a lie told with a bad motive. “He is trying to deprive you of freedom and independence,” the charge goes, but “don’t let Him fool you. You don’t need Him. You can decide for yourselves what is good and what is bad.”

What of the ‘facts’ apostates may want to bring to the faithful one’s attention, ones they say that caused them to jump ship? Proverbs 21:2 is useful to consider: “Every way of a man is upright in his own eyes, but Jehovah is making an estimate of hearts.” Of course! Everyone is right in his own eyes. Everyone tells facts that are true. Nobody tells facts that are not true. It is how those facts are organized and prioritized that counts, and that is a matter of heart, which Jehovah assesses. The bare facts they present are often accurate, but they are entirely misrepresented and put into a context either untrue or highly subjective.

They revel in their new found “freedom.” No longer will they suffer traveling on the “cramped and narrow” road that Jesus spoke about. (Matthew 7:14) He must have been crazy. He was just trying to suppress human freedom with his “mind-control.” No more! Now the road is broad and spacious and deliriously exciting.

I don’t like them, and they don’t like me. If someone positively loathes my best friend—what if it were my wife?—are they going to be my chum? I don’t think so. Yes, yes, my wife is an actual person that can be seen, (indeed, it is hard to take one’s eyes off her) whereas God is a spirit, but it is close enough. I I may come to respect them but I am not their pal.  They seek to draw others into their course. “While they are promising them freedom, they themselves are slaves of corruption; for if anyone is overcome by someone, he is his slave,” says 2 Peter 2. In the case of those that have followed the path of atheism, if the only freedom you can offer expires in a few decades, just how much freedom do you truly have to offer?

“Certainly, if after escaping from the defilements of the world by an accurate knowledge of the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, they get involved again with these very things and are overcome, their final state has become worse for them than the first. It would have been better for them not to have accurately known the path of righteousness than after knowing it to turn away from the holy commandment they had received,” says the apostle Peter. (vs 19-21) “Leave them be” is the counsel. Send them packing should they come around. “Look out that no one takes you captive by means of the philosophy and empty deception according to human tradition, according to the elementary things of the world and not according to the Christ,” says Paul at Colossians 2:8. “Keep your eye on those who cause divisions and occasions for stumbling contrary  to the teaching that you have learned, and avoid them,” he says again at Romans 16:17. “If anyone comes to you and does not bring this teaching [of the Christ], never receive him into your homes or say a greeting,” says John.

For the one holding the course, the situation is no more complicated than for the one who, having determined that he has taken in altogether too much junk food over the years, and that it has done him much harm, resolves to diet. The last thing in the world that person wants is someone stuffing his pantry with cupcakes, cookies, and chips, his fridge with ice cream, and urging him to relax his ridiculous diet so as to “enjoy life” and “live a little.”—nothing is so delicious as ice cream! Our healthy dieter just doesn’t need to have that person around. He will almost wish he could dig a moat around the house so as not to let him in.

He has determined, upon examination, that the cruise ship is going down. He has boarded the lifeboat, where it is not so luxurious as on the main ship. He doesn’t need those who have swum back to re-board crowing about the fine wining, dining and dancing that they have resumed. It is fine, as well, to avoid the companionship of those who gripe and complain about the cramped quarters on the lifeboat. And when determined to quit smoking, one does well to avoid the company of ones who do so like chimneys. The principle is well understood and can be illustrated through numerous examples. Only when spirituality is thrown into the mix do some suddenly go obtuse, but the underlying logic is no different.

As a nation looks to its constitution, so does the Witness organization to the Bible. The counsel will be to avoid its apostates. “Taste and see that Jehovah is good,” says the psalm. They have tasted and “seen” that he is bad. What is there to talk about? There will be no persuading them, for they have deliberately crossed the chasm. The only possible outcome is they may attain their goal and persuade the one yet holding the course—the reverse will not happen, because it already has happened and they tired of it. “Did you know that your people are not perfect? Did you know that they have made mistakes? Did you know that they have been inconsistent?” they ask—all of which the Christian does know, if not specifically, then certainly in principle. The final Bible Book of Revelation describes, in chapters 2 and 3, several congregations meant to symbolically stand for the whole. Some of them are veritable basket cases, with problems quite serious. But that does not mean that they are not congregations.

The counsel to avoid apostates is good. It is biblical. One could hardly argue otherwise, scripturally. Yet there is a downside. Any military general realizes that he must know what the scoundrels across the divide are up to. Become too insular, and the apostate almost becomes the “bogeyman” of mysterious powers—the mere exposure to his words is enough to thwart years of alignment to God. It is a mystery status that they do not deserve. There is nothing mysterious about them. Their reasons for departure are un-mysteriously human, though they may be not readily reversible. They have cast aside what they once embraced for the thoroughly understandable and human reasons outlined previously.

It really doesn’t take that much to get one’s head around the opposition. They write and speak prolifically, but it’s quite repetitive. They make noise far disproportionate to their size—but that does not mean that there are not many of them. Are they truly a myriad, or have they managed to inflate their numbers, like Gideon’s 300 troops that convinced the enemy they numbered in the tens of thousands? It is not easy to tell. In a world of several billion people one can find countless examples of anything. Assemble them in one place and, why—it would seem that no other cause must exist.

There are people who will not do something until you tell them that they should not. “Stay away from the hoboes,” Gram told Dad, so he went right down there to hang with them. It is a universal law of human nature, and it is not usually wise to give in to it. It is why the curious cat needs every one of its nine lives. At times our own young people, wondering what all the fuss is about, goaded on that only a wus is afraid even to look here or there, succumbs to that universal law and launches his or her own investigation. Sometimes they are floored to find what they never expected to find. Arguably, they might have benefited from prior “vaccination”—exposure to just a little bit of the malady so that they might have worked up an immunity for it.

As an adult, even as a young adult, one is in position to leave childhood roots. Many choose to do so. But is the course wise while one is yet in one’s teenage years? It smacks too much of Mark Twain’s supposed saying: “When I was a boy of 14, my father was so ignorant I could hardly stand to have the old man around. But when I got to be 21, I was astonished at how much the old man had learned in seven years.”

Perhaps this writer can help some of these “bad” boys and girls, for alas—he too is being bad. Let us not spin it any other way. He is being a bad boy, pure and simple, sailing past godly counsel as though Odysseus thumbing his nose at Poseidon. “Battle not with the monsters, lest ye become a monster,” writes one of the apostate’s own prophets, for “if you gaze long enough into the abyss, the abyss gazes back.” Does this writer observe that good sense? He heedlessly hollers down the abyss: “Yo! Anybody down there?!” for the sake of a hopefully good read.

But if he is a bad boy in this one area, he is a good boy in all others, universally liked in his circuit because he is a peacemaker who is not wound up too tight. He steers clear of the six Proverbs things that God hates, a list that magically expand to seven, including “feet that in are in a hurry to run to badness, a false witness that launches forth lies, and anyone sending forth contentions among brothers.” His feet stay planted on terra firma, he launches nothing but rectitude, and he soothes contentions away.

In battling the “apostates” on the pages to come, one name will pop up more than all others combined—unfortunately suggesting that I have it in for this one personally. This is not the case. Many do what he does. I just happened to latch onto him first. It could have been one of many people. A writer needs not only a muse. He also needs a villain, and I frequented where I knew there were villains galore. In the unlikely event that he should feel picked on, (I suspect he will welcome the publicity) I offer my apology. More likely he will feel honored, and he should.  He and his have succeeded advancing the game to another level, and that must be respected. But it is the same game. It simply requires an adaptation in response. To some extent, it is a shame to name anyone, hero or villain, because it is not about individuals. It is about the ideas they represent. Still, if an idea can be personalized, it makes for more a interesting read. We are all people persons, after all.

For purposes of this book, this oft referred to chieftain replaces a fellow we shall call Danny, a former Witness turned sour, a man who came to have an extraordinary reach. If anyone posted anything anywhere about Jehovah’s Witnesses and there was room to comment, his was one of the first. Always his contribution was malicious and almost always it was irrelevant to the post. Visiting his own site, I noted that he billed himself as an expert witness in the case of custody lawsuits where one parent or the other was a Jehovah’s Witness and an expert witness in lawsuits against manufacturers of anti-depressants, apparently not realizing that each claim undercut his credibility for the other. I remember him for posting an almost maniacal laugh that he was getting the ultimate revenge on his former religion, because his retorts were everywhere, and they would last forever! He forgot to mention that they would also quickly be buried in the digital avalanche that is the Internet. Today he is unheard of. Witnesses ought not gloat about this, however, for he has been replaced by a legion of others.

“The first man to state his case is right, but then his opponent searches him through,” says the Proverb. Let us do exactly that. “However, here are some ground rules, TrueTom,” I tell myself: Don’t be goaded. Never make it personal. Remember that everyone has the right to interpret his or her own experience. Accept going in that you will be excoriated. Don’t expect to get in the last word. The key to staying dispassionate lies in knowing that you are going to lose the battle. The enemies will have their day in the sun before it all turns around.

From the book TrueTom vs the Apostates!

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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 Incendiary Articles

The Philadelphia Inquirer wrote four incendiary articles about Jehovah’s Witnesses, and Wow! did they ever make them look bad! Probably that was the intent, though it is hard to say for sure because nobody would ever say that the subject is nothing. It is the topic of child sexual abuse, the most white-hot topic of all.

Some significant facts are omitted in the articles. Some background facts that are included are misrepresented, leading to condemnation of a religion that otherwise has a reputation for fine works and conduct. “Overall, they’re nice, sincere people” says vehement critic Barbara Anderson in the first article, referring to the “rank and file.” Her statement accompanies the video of Jared Kushner, from before campaign days, speaking about the Witnesses from whom he would buy their Brooklyn buildings. It is almost unheard of in its praise—Witnesses are persons of “high integrity” with whom “a handshake deal means something,” he says. How can this be if the leadership is as vile as the reporter represents them? Plainly, something is missing.

No topic is more incendiary than child sexual abuse. In no other area is a person’s viewpoint so determined by experience. It is exacerbated by the Witnesses being said to be an ‘insular’ organization, and this ‘crime’ of being insular is pushed pedal-to-the-medal by the Philly reporter, who returns to an anti-Witness website in between articles, where he is lauded as a hero. Perhaps he has 20 more of such articles up his sleeve. But it is little wonder that he is lauded: some of these gathered at the site are ones who have been victims.

The overall stats for child sexual abuse do not speak well for humanity. Few evils appear to be more widespread. One in four girls and one in six boys will be sexually abused before they are 18 (in the U. S, according to InvisibleChildren.org)—this, despite decades of battling the evil. Comedian Sacha Baron Cohen, who stops at nothing in his impersonations, appeared to be stopped dead in his tracks when one of those impersonations apparently uncovered an elite pedophile ring, reported Newsweek on December 20, 2018. He and his production team were so disturbed at what they thought they had found—“a pedophile ring in Las Vegas that’s operating for these very wealthy men. And this [interviewed] concierge had said that he’d worked for politicians and various billionaires”—that they turned over all footage to the FBI, who declined to pursue the tip.

There is some reason to think that child sexual abuse is relatively uncommon within the ranks of Jehovah’s Witnesses,* but just try telling that to one who has suffered from it. Jehovah’s Witnesses in 2017, at their summer conventions, which all attend, considered detailed scenarios in which child sexual abuse might occur, so that parents, the first line of defense, could be vigilant. If anyone displays unusual interest in your child, if there are sleepovers, if there are unsupervised trips to the rest room, if—there were several others, all potential hot spots, not necessarily bad, but reason to be attentive. Nobody, but nobody, gathers their entire membership for such education other than Jehovah’s Witnesses.

There is also Caleb and Sophia, cartoon characters whose family doings are utilized as a teaching tool for Witness parents. They teach short lessons on subjects often mundane, yet crucial to smooth functioning of society, such as the desirability of honesty. The tykes delight the hearts of JW children everywhere (except in Russia, where they are behind bars as extremists). ‘Protect Your Children’ is an especially vital lesson that addresses pedophilia, in which Mommy and Daddy coax their children on how to respond if threatened. If someone “touches you where they should not” or “asks you to do something that makes you feel uncomfortable.” “Even if it is someone you know and trust,” Mommy commends a correct answer, and her husband adds, “and then tell Mommy and Daddy right away,” who, in the video, take the news most seriously.

In four articles, the Philadelphia Inquirer makes no mention of these clearly relevant factors, though the balance between malice and incompetence is difficult to ascertain. Nor does it cite the Witness organization’s easily available printed and digital child abuse policy, which gives the obvious lie to most of the insinuations made. Included only is a Watchtower Society quote that the latter “abhor child sexual abuse,” which the Inquirer presents in a context as though evidence that they do not.

No, Philly Inquirer, the religion you slimed is not the scourge of humanity. It comprises a group of decent, caring human beings who encountered problems in the 80s and 90s doing what others did not attempt. The Watchtower organization was investigating reports of this and other forms of wrongdoing within its ranks, and it is through this policy of vigilance that they come to be identified with this moral crime. In fact, any group professing that their beliefs contribute to better conduct should take measures to see that that is in fact the case. The Book of Romans says “You, the one preaching, ‘Do not steal,’ do you steal? You, the one saying, ‘Do not commit adultery,’ do you commit adultery?” If they “mishandled” anything, it must be observed that you cannot mishandle what you never attempted to handle in the first place.

The Philadelphia Inquirer appears to be fully siding with enemies of the religion whose stated goal is to litigate it out of existence. Were they to succeed, they would be showing themselves friends of child sexual abuse, for few others have the proactive education and prevention record of Jehovah’s Witnesses, despite some missteps with regard to general society now determined to leave no stone unturned in squashing the evil. Data that can be gleaned from various sources,** coupled with the Witnesses’ relentless campaign to avoid pornography in any form, plus the educational factors already cited, make this conclusion nearly inescapable, though positive proof will ever be lacking because others of the time failed to address the problem and thereby produce records. In many venues, such ‘negligence’ is a punishable offense; here it is effectively rewarded. It is Sergeant Shultz crying, “I know nothiinnnggg,” a policy that ultimately got him out of many a jam on the old TV show.

It is fine to handle a case of child sexual abuse properly. But it is far finer if the abuse does not happen in the first place. It is similar to calling in the grief counselors in the wake of a school shooting. Of course, it is a good thing to call them in, but how much better to not need them in the first place. A case of child sexual abuse “properly handled” does not mean that it did not occur, and the child is only somewhat less damaged than if the case was properly handled. Thus, a story on this topic should never omit the overall relative success of the Witness organization in prevention of this evil.

Lucy Delap, writing for History and Policy, states that “clear guidelines for best [child protective] practice were not established until the 1990s,” during or even after most of the JW abuse cases under review. Thus, the Witness organization walked in largely uncharted territory, for the purpose of identifying this most pernicious group so as to apply discipline, often expulsion, to safeguard other congregation members, and to ensure that pedophiles could not slip unnoticed from one congregation into another (as they could anywhere else). Seen in this light, condemnation of the Watchtower for this proactive policy is a prime example of the cynicism: “No good deed goes unpunished.”

The misstep that the Inquirer exclusively zeroes in on, and it is not nothing, is the inclination of many Witnesses, upon submitting a matter to congregation elders, to not also go to outside authorities, and elders to not go over their heads and do so themselves. Ones were never prevented from doing so, but the prevailing atmosphere in the 80s and 90s was such that they were less likely to do it, and stories abound of persons being pressured in that direction. An ill-conceived desire to protect reputation is hardly unique to Witnesses of that day; the very reason there is an expression “skeletons in the closet” is the universal human instinct to keep them there. This writer would not argue that Jehovah’s Witnesses were slower than many to give up that mindset. These days elders positively plead with families of victims to report to outside authorities, only to find that some are still reluctant to go that route.

In this context, some victims of child sexual abuse come to feel that they went unheard. Some of these later become bitter towards religion in general and Jehovah’s Witnesses in particular. Today, in an era of litigation, many of these ones seek their due. The fourteen persons that the Philly reporter interviewed appear to be from a Reddit forum “devoted exclusively to ex-Witnesses,” who “discuss the absurdity of their experiences.” This writer has no reason to challenge the experiences the fourteen relate, and whether their perspective on what they report is the final word, he is in no position to say. However, it is inexcusable for the Inquirer article to link to an ex-Witness forum of 20,000 members, and not also to a Watchtower downloadable child-protection policy packet plainly showing that most its insinuations are untrue.

The second of the series tells it from the point of view of a wronged girl. The details of any child molestation case are stomach turning. It is not claimed that she speaks untruthfully. It is simply that, humans being what they are, we are inclined to remember things the way we remember them—embellish certain points and downplay or forget others. When the judge involved recalls certain things in a matter-of-fact way, the victim says that’s not how she recalled it, and the reporter at that point forgets all about the judge and runs with the victim. It is at least as likely that the judge recollects it more accurately, because he has not carried the emotional baggage for two decades. When Witness Governing Body member Stephen Lett, speaking many years later, tells of “apostate lies,” the reporter presents it as though he is calling his old friend—he once knew the victim’s parents—a liar. Of course, he is not. No one says that the bare facts of the abuse case is a lie; it is the spin that enemies (which now seem to include the Inquirer) put on it that is the lie.

The notion that persons should be monetarily compensated for real or perceived wrongs has long been accepted by society. Lawsuits for all manner of offenses are unremarkable routine, with enormous monetary awards increasingly common. It amounts to a massive societal transfer of wealth, with lawyers netting a third. It is the reason insurance skyrockets at a time that inflation is quite low. It is a reason that prices of goods escalate, as ‘punished’ corporations pass along their costs to the consumer. Few would assert that compensation is wrong, but few would deny its overall effects, either.

Witness policy has likely evolved to the extent they feel possible, given their Bible outlook, and they plead for a circumstance in law that is unlikely ever to be realized. Here law mandates that allegations be reported to police, there it does not mandate it, and the default law kicks into place that it is likely forbidden, as it can constitute a violation of ‘clergy-penitent confidentiality,’ an idea as much enshrined into law as doctor-patient confidentiality and attorney-client confidentiality. The Witness attorney pleaded for understanding before an investigating Australian Royal Commission (and got none) that Witnesses were having a hard time navigating this patchwork of laws, as they sought to fulfill a biblically-mandated duty that others do not take seriously. Three times before the ARC, a member of the Witnesses’ Governing Body pleaded for universal mandatory reporting laws, across all territories, with no exceptions. Then it wouldn’t matter if a given congregation member, for whatever reason, declined to go to the police. Elders would be enabled do it regardless. Most of the cases reported today are from 20 or more years previous, and the “crime” alleged is failing “to go beyond the law” with regard to reporting. Nothing is more telling of society’s overall desperation at losing the war against child sexual abuse than the moral imperative to “go beyond the law.” If it is so imperative to go beyond the law, then surely that should become the law. Otherwise, that lapse becomes simply a means of Monday-morning quarterbacking to target unpopular groups.

Such universal change in law would make possible both the aims of the congregation and those of outside authorities. Roundly condemned is Jehovah’s Witnesses insistence on a “two-witness rule” in connection with their religious investigations. The Philadelphia Inquirer misrepresents this rule as though Jehovah’s Witnesses, intent on nurturing molesters, demand two spectators for every abuse incident, and let perpetrators off with a wink and a nod in their absence. Various accommodations Witnesses have made to work around this obvious difficulty are ignored by the Philly reporter.

The reason one ought not be too quick to give up a “two-witness rule” emerges every time someone is exonerated by DNA evidence, the latest advance of criminal science, after serving decades in prison, having been convicted over less strenuous proof. Outside authorities have their own standards for proof, and with universal mandatory reporting laws, both agencies can fulfill their duties simultaneously. Why was this not done long ago—passing universal mandatory reporting laws? Given the crusade to punish child sexual abuse, one would think that no task would have been easier.

Since the present legal climate makes the Witnesses’ duty in policing its own, according to biblical standards, almost impossible, the situation could be framed as an encroachment of state upon church. “Preach to them on Sunday, and be done with it,” is the only liability-free policy. “It’s none of your business whether they apply it or not.’’ And yet, to those determined to live by Bible principles as best they can, it clearly is their business. Is it possible that the Witnesses’ underlying “crime” is the resolve to stay separate from the overall world, today portrayed as being “insular?” The Jews’ historical determination to stay separate, which has moderated only in recent times, contributed towards many a pogrom over the centuries.

Jehovah’s Witnesses are overall pretty good at allowing the repercussions of life to serve as discipline, even if they are not intended that way. “It is for discipline that you are enduring,” says Paul, adding, “no discipline seems for the present to be joyous, but it is painful; yet afterwards it yields the peaceable fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.” Witness leaders are without doubt humbled and chastened by events. They may not state it to those they perceive as their enemies—because the goals of the latter go well beyond humbling—but it is undoubtedly so.

Meanwhile, when sued, they must defend themselves in court where determining what is right is complex and impartiality cannot be assumed. The reason there is an uproar with every new Supreme Court justice nominee is the universal understanding that even judges are not impartial; they interpret the law in the light of overriding philosophy and pre-existing bias; it is not enough simply to find an honest one who knows how to swing a gavel. And no topic can trigger overriding philosophy and pre-existing bias more than child sexual abuse.

Stories of Jehovah’s Witnesses and child sexual abuse are certainly not nothing, and it is easy to see why a journalist might go there. However, by being so selective in what he reports, the Inquirer writer maligns a faith whose overall record of producing fine people of integrity has already been mentioned, by a harsh critic, no less. As the “if it bleeds it leads” theme fails to excite a hardened public in the way that it once did, the Philly source appears to have found a more potent substitute.

 

***~~~***

 

*The frequency of child sexual abuse within a religious laity is almost impossible to compare because it has never been tracked by denomination, save for Jehovah’s Witnesses, who did so for purposes of protection and discipline. Still, from time to time there are clues. During his lifetime, Ray Franz was a hero to Witness detractors. He was once a high-ranking member, he separated over various disputes, and thereafter never ceased to criticize those he once rubbed shoulders with. He has proven decidedly unhelpful to them, however, with regard to the topic of child sexual abuse. When specifically asked by a Witness opponent, he replied that he really didn’t think there was much of a problem at all, and that it had all been blown out of proportion in the media.

**Case Study 54 of the Australian Royal Commission mentions reports of abuse from the JW community within the period extending from the ARC’s initial investigation to its final report. It is possible to work out ratios, compare them to the non-Witness community, and conclude that the Witness organization’s vigilance has paid off, perhaps by as much as a factor of six, though there are many factors making this less than a fine science. During a time interval in which there were 27,058 reports of child sexual abuse in a greater Australian population of 23,968,973, there were 12 of such in an Australian Witness population of 67,418. For various reasons, it is not a comparison of oranges to oranges—the reports are at different stages of investigation, for example—but neither is it oranges to apples. Call it oranges to tangerines. If any other group had bothered to track the crime within its community, there would be more to go on.

From the book TrueTom vs the Apostates!

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Defending Jehovah’s Witnesses with style from attacks... in Russia, with the ebook ‘Dear Mr. Putin - Jehovah’s Witnesses Write Russia’ (free).... and in the West, with the ebook ‘TrueTom vs the Apostates!’ (free)

Banned at the Apostate Website!

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

Actually, he wanted me to engage on his podcast, where you shoot from the hip. Again and again, he invited me there. I thought a forum in which you can think out your remarks beforehand was better. I put a human face on an outfit he is trying very hard to demonize. It finally pushed him to his limit. After making six or eight comments on his site, I found this:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Did I do that, misrepresent him? He gave two examples, offered here with my own words in quotes: (Let the reader use discernment.)

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

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

He didn’t like me tying him in with the Russian persecution, either: “You cannot blame me for what’s going on in Russia, which I have spoken out against unequivocally. Backward regimes have been persecuting religious minorities long before there was Google or YouTube.”

 

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

Here is the context I offered, all remarks made on his site before the window slammed shut on my fingers, with introduction in brackets. At every comment, a click on my name would link to a short justification for the disfellowshipping arrangement, which will be explored further in chapter 16.

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

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

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

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

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

[I apologized subsequently for saying: “Many participants here are thinking people,” which implies that many are not.]

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

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

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

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

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

[A journalist had ambushed one of our people, who took cover, and I addressed that]

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

I don’t know if it was a good idea or not. Like Howard Beale, I just got “mad as hell and couldn’t take it anymore.” After every comment there came a torrent of abuse. I changed no one’s mind and was routinely called a hypocrite, sometimes an a*****e. You have to expect this going in and you cannot take such things to heart. You certainly cannot get into tit for tat, nor should you be so dumb as to say someone does not correctly perceive his or her own experience. How would you know? It is the constant with all anecdotal evidence, which may (not likely) be understated, may be (more likely) overstated, or may occasionally even be made up. You have no way of knowing, so you ought not touch it. You have to realize going in that you will lose.

My engagement was all on account of the journalists, and maybe I just fool myself as to how many hang out there. Who can say? At each comment I was reminded that I am “ordered” not to engage and “not allowed” to be there. It turns out that I truly was “not allowed,” but it was not by my own people. It was by the web host himself after I pasted his ears back a little. Thereafter, do you think he would correct the impression his own readers had that Witness HQ had “ordered” me to cease and desist? “Tell them it was you” I told him. But he said that he didn’t owe me a thing. He likes softballs that he can swat out of the park.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“No, that year text will just not cut it for everyone.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

[His chums joined in:]

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

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

[Forgive me if this gets tiresome. Feel free to skip a little, or go right on to the next chapter.  A bit later:]

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

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

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

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

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

He: “It doesn’t need to be a debate, just a conversation.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Witness organization cannot be expected to defend itself on social media, if on any media. It takes the scriptural view of Jesus at Matthew 11, noting that grumblers slam him no matter what he does, before finally saying, ‘Don’t worry about it,’ “wisdom is proved righteous by its works.” It is like David who kept mum as ‘all day long they muttered against him.’ ‘It is like the plowman who knows that if you look behind while plowing, the furrows get all flaky.’ They don’t do it. The common view of opposers is that the Witness headship is telling members what to do, while it cynically manipulates all from above. That view is wrong. They practice what they preach and they do it themselves. The organization headship cites Hebrews 13:7 about ‘imitating the faith of those who are taking the lead among you.’ They don’t go on social media at all. They prefer a less raucous channel, and content themselves with news releases at the website that inform but do not kick back at the critics.

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

It will fall upon the Witness journalist to do it, if it is to be done, and there aren’t many of them. If fourteen years of blogging, not shying from controversial things, does not qualify me to take a shot at it, what does? If you are in a spiritual paradise, or even a vacation paradise, you do not have to concern yourself with removing the trash. It may be even dangerous to do so, because there is broken glass and used syringes. It’s not for everyone, and maybe for no one. But I thought I’d give it a go, and I at last got under this fellow’s skin, the big baby.

https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/917311

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Defending Jehovah’s Witnesses with style from attacks... in Russia, with the ebook ‘Dear Mr. Putin - Jehovah’s Witnesses Write Russia’ (free).... and in the West, with the ebook ‘TrueTom vs the Apostates!’ (free)