Are We Looking at Encouragement to Commit Insurance Fraud? Part 1

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

It turns out that when the Watchtower organization oversees disaster relief, they afterwards suggest to ones that happen to have insurance that they might donate whatever insurance pays out to the Worldwide Work relief fund itself. Why this should infuriate the ex-Witnesses I’ll never know but infuriate them it does. Does it not seem only right that those who shell out assets for disaster rebuild should receive whatever insurance monies may be forthcoming? I could be wrong, but I suspect insurance companies love it that way; the work gets down promptly and without haggling over amount. However, the more important question to be raised is: If the Watchtower doesn’t get the insurance money, who does? The more I looked at these tweets the more I came to feel that I was looking at encouragement to commit insurance fraud.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

TTH: Tell him to not ignore the end result: distressed persons quickly having life & property restored, vs waiting weeks or months for relief that will only come if they are adequately insured, insurers sometimes being known to weasel out of adequate coverage.

TTH: Tell him also to spotlight the atheist and opposer agencies that do the same for their people so that those ones do not find themselves sh*t out of luck when insurance or build execution proves inadequate.

TTH: And make sure he tells of the premier agency in the Haiti earthquake, squandering practically to the penny the half billion dollars donated. [I linked to a Propublica article detailing breathtaking incompetence in America’s chief relief agency, and (alas) even exaggerated some, for they didn’t waste all of it, just most of it.] I am looking forward to this article, confident JR will not forget these things.

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

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

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

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

Look, this may be an overgeneralization, but this illustrates exactly why people who are Jehovah’s Witnesses should think twice before they leave the faith. I see these former Witnesses on Twitter. Some excoriate Trump and some excoriate Obama. They once had unity. Moreover, they cavalierly float an idea that would shock most Witnesses: Take the money and run. What is wrong with these characters? I mean, who would propose repaying the work of volunteer rebuilders with closed fists, and who would propose chiseling the insurance company out of their money at the same time? There is such a thing as hating so much as to lose all decency. My bet is that when insurance companies do sign over checks to the Watchtower, they find it a pure joy, knowing well how difficult customers can be under the pressure that disaster brings upon them.

Possibly what they are advocating is not illegal. the more I think about it, the more I think that is so. Perhaps it is just astonishing mean and ungrateful. Either way they look extremely small as they focus their unreasoning hatred to cripple the most effective disaster relief program the world has seen.

From the book TrueTom vs the Apostates!

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Are We Looking at Encouragement to Commit Insurance Fraud? Part 2

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

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

and

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

and

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

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

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

and

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

and even

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

Some of his own people told him to cool it:

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

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

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

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

One more from me:

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

He is still at it [he stopped at Day 52] and no, I don’t respond every day:

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

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

Around day 40, I became very bold and tweeted: “It’s as though he says: ‘G******t, ANSWER me when I’m talking to you!’” @womansaid @refugecharity.

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

“Day 1 of Lloyd’s chum encouraging insurance fraud to his Twitter followers.”

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

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

They look small, too, as they dream up the tactic to recharacterize volunteer efforts on the part of Jehovah’s Witnesses as unpaid labor that should be paid—wouldn’t that send their enemy into a tailspin, they rhapsodize! Arguing that “faith” is dead unless it is unaccompanied by “works,” the apostle James writes: “…a certain one will say: ‘You have faith, and I have works. Show me your faith apart from your works, and I shall show you my faith by my works.’” (James 2:18) There are accordingly many “works” that Jehovah’s Witnesses perform, regarding them as a manifestation of faith. In fact, nobody at any level in the Witness organization receives a salary, least of all those in positions of leadership. ‘Monetize it all,’ the anti-cultists say, in an attempt to cripple faith that translates into more than just sitting at religious meetings. The “religious corporation” benefits by unpaid labor—make them pay for it, they say. Pay those elders—make them mercenary ministers. Pay those Bethelites—the ones who have applied for special service and were accepted—pay them, not just room and board and living expenses, but wages! One wonders whether opposers will one day attack the door-to-door ministry itself as representing unpaid labor that should be remunerated.

Let them advance that argument if they will. But at the same time, advance the argument that volunteer efforts anywhere must be paid for. Volunteer for Red Cross disaster relief? Do it only for pay. Volunteer for the candidate of your choice? Only if you are paid. Volunteer for the hospital or the nursing home? Nope. Get involved in community activity, even pick up the roadside trash? Don’t even go there without a contract. Let the opposers reduce all that is noble to dollars and cents to ensure that nobody is “abused.”

 

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The following excerpt is from Tom Irregardless and Me, an ebook I wrote two years ago:

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

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

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

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

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

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

From the book TrueTom vs the Apostates!

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In Defense of Shunning

As the ultimate trump card of congregation discipline, to be applied when lesser measures have failed, is disfellowshipping cruel? It certainly could be, and increasingly is, argued that way. Undeniably it triggers pain to those who refuse to yield to it, “kicking against the goads,” as was said to Paul.  That said, suffice it to say that no group has been able maintain consistent moral principles through significant intervals of time without it. I vividly recall circuit ministers of my faith saying: “Fifty years ago, the difference between Jehovah’s Witnesses and people in general was doctrinal.” Conduct on moral matters, sexual or otherwise, was largely the same. Today the chasm is huge. Can internal discipline not be a factor?

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 from 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. Can internal discipline not be a factor?

In the case of Jehovah’s Witnesses, members voluntarily sign on to a program that reinforces goals they have chosen. Sometimes it is not enough to say that you want to diet. You must also padlock the fridge. It is not an infringement of freedom to those who have willingly signed aboard. They are always free to attempt their diet some place where they do not padlock the fridge. Experience shows, however, that not padlocking the fridge results in hefty people, for not everyone has extraordinary willpower.

If people want to padlock the fridge but they cannot do so because anti-cultists forbid that course, and they get hefty, how is that not a violation of their individual rights? It is all a difference of view over the basic nature of people and what makes them tick. It is the individualists of today who would hold that you can’t even padlock your own fridge. No. Full freedom of choice must always be in front of each one of us, they say, notwithstanding that history demonstrates we so easily toss with the waves in the absence of a firm anchor.

Christians are mandated to “imitate the Christ,” both individually and collectively. Given human imperfection, this can be done only with group-accepted tools of discipline to buttress good intensions. If anti-cultists would deny them these tools under the guise of protecting their individual rights, then what we are looking at is an attempt to throttle Christianity true to its roots and substitute rule by the popular crowd.

Disfellowshipping is unpleasant and some are so shocked to find themselves put out from their community of choice that they determine once and for all to mend whatever caused them to be ousted so as to regain entrance. But they do not all do that, and with the passing of time, the ones that do not accumulate. Some continue on in life with a “been there, done that” mentality. But others expend considerable energy in settling the score with the organization that ousted them. One businessman in Canada even sued at being disfellowshipped—his customer base consisted mostly of Jehovah’s Witnesses and most of them took their business elsewhere. A lower court agreed with him that those running his religion had “told” parishioners not to associate with the ex-member. But the Supreme Court ultimately decided that to rule on who had to associate with who, based on biblical interpretation, was beyond their legal mandate.

In some cases, disfellowshipped ones later frame their ousting as though it were over mere matters of disagreement. It was not their conduct that caused the trouble, they maintain, but it was simply disagreement over something, for example, the contention that leaving a spouse for another should trigger congregation sanctions. This was true of a prosecution witness at the Russian Supreme Court trial which resulted in the banning of the Jehovah’s Witness faith. Responding to a request from the judge to cite instances of “control,” [she] “reported that an example was her expulsion from the congregations after she ‘began her close, but not officially registered, relations with a man.’”

Other times it truly is over matters of disagreement with regard to interpretation or policy, and opposers try to frame things as in the song—that with Jehovah’s Witnesses, it is “step out of line, the men come and take you away.” Some of them become so convinced of their new-found enlightenment that they envision themselves liberators—hurl down the Watchtower walls and the captives within will come running to embrace them! Alas for them—were whatever they think of as walls to disappear, with barely a jiggle as to those “inside,” they would have to rethink their silly premise. To revisit an earlier illustration, they are determined to sneak goodies into the fridge and cannot believe that they would not be permitted to—it can only be because tyrants from on high are telling the fridge owner what can and cannot be stocked, they mutter.

Some of them came across some new insight, perhaps, that they thought would entitle them to drive the bus. They left when they discovered that they would not be allowed grab the wheel. In some cases, they were caught red-handed trying to hotwire the bus. The “bus,” of course, is the Witness organization itself. In the end it is a too high opinion of oneself and one’s importance that sinks one. The worship and deeds of Jehovah’s Witnesses are magnified by their organized quality, and they either appeal to the heart or they don’t. If they don’t, then one magnifies disproportionately matters of individual rights.

The spirit of the times today far elevates rights over responsibilities. There is a Bill of Rights appended to the United States Constitution. Would that there was a Bill of Responsibilities to go along with it. With Jehovah’s Witnesses, as with many religious people, it is the responsibilities that loom largest. Among the responsibilities Christians feel are those toward their spiritual kin. “Slave” for one another, the verse says, and many translations soften “slave” to “serve,” but the root word at Galatians 5:13 undeniably indicates “slave” as the correct choice. Even before that, however, there is a responsibility toward God. The Governing Body of Jehovah’s Witnesses dares not meddle with the disfellowshipping policy overmuch because they know it serves to keep the congregation “clean” so as to present to God what he insists upon: “a [clean] people for his name.” (Acts 15:14)

A book by evangelical author Ronald J. Sider, The Scandal of the Evangelical Conscience, highlights on the cover the question: ‘Why are Christians Living Just Like the Rest of the World?’ The author cites verse after verse of how Christian standards are “higher” than those of the greater world, and then example after example of how they are not with those claiming Christianity today. He concludes that it is largely a matter of church discipline. “Church discipline used to be a significant, accepted part of most evangelical traditions, whether Reformed, Methodist, Baptist, or Anabaptist,” he writes. “In the second half of the twentieth century, however, it has largely disappeared.” He goes on to quote Haddon Robinson on the current church climate, a climate he calls consumerism:

“Too often now when people join a church, they do so as consumers. If they like the product, they stay. If they do not, they leave. They can no more imagine a church disciplining them than they could a store that sells goods disciplining them. It is not the place of the seller to discipline the consumer. In our churches, we have a consumer mentality.”

Christians have a mandate to follow the Christ as best they can in speech and conduct. Consumerism makes that mandate effectively impossible. Yet it is the only model that today’s anti-cultists will permit. Anything veering toward discipline they paint as an intolerable affront to human rights. We must not be naïve. Theirs is no more than an attempt to stamp out biblical Christianity, veiled as though they are the very protectors of humanity.

The notion of protecting one’s values, through disciplinary action if need be, extends beyond Christianity. Was Tevye a cult member, he of the film Fiddler on a Roof? If so, no one has breathed a word of it until very recently. The third daughter of his Russian Jewish family was shunned for marrying outside of the faith. It is an action that would not trigger shunning in the Jehovah’s Witness community, though it would gain no praises. After all, if God is truly one’s best friend, ought one really make one’s second-best friend a person who is indifferent, perhaps even opposed, to the first? Only the atheistic anti-cultists will be blind to the logic of this, and that only because they would consider any god-concept an unsuitable friend.

Citing Tevye to a certain ex-Witness nearly blew up in my face. At the movie’s end, he mutters to himself, as his daughter and new husband depart for another continent, “and let God be with you,” as though he should have been expected to shout: “May you rot in hell.” I was told that the movie teaches forgiveness, acceptance, and unconditional love rather than a stubborn cleaving to tradition and the past.” Could he really have once been one of Jehovah’s Witnesses? The entire premise of the faith, and that of many Christian denominations, is that, assuming the “traditions” are biblical and not man-made, the old ideas are solid whereas the new ideas are tenuous, with sometimes deleterious after-effects. In fact, forgiveness, acceptance, and love all come with nuances. One can forgive without accepting disapproved conduct. One can also love without accepting it. “Tough love” was the phrase of yesterday. Today it is “unconditional love.” Tomorrow who knows what it will be? The scene of this world is changing.

It is not uncommon for children of Jehovah’s Witnesses to be baptized at ages as young as ten. Witness detractors argue that this is far too early to make such a consequential decision. Many offer themselves as a case in point. Some of them were Witnesses and were baptized at an early age. They later changed their mind. Some of these eventually found themselves disfellowshipped and will push to their dying day that they escaped from a cult whose members were ordered to reject their own children. Some have gone on television with that charge where they persuade viewer without too much effort that only the most “brainwashed” of people would disown their own children and that whoever did the “brainwashing” must be punished.

It is an example of “truth” that is not “the whole truth and nothing but the truth.” They are not children. In Witness literature the distinction is consistently made between those who are actual children and those who are young adults capable of following through on choices they have made through word or conduct. When disfellowshipping happens in the case of minors, it may result in a somewhat strained family life in which all components except the spiritual continue as before, usually with the added condition that the disfellowshipped one should still sit in on the family Bible study. When disfellowshipping happens in the case of the latter, such ones may be told that it is time to leave the nest. They are not outright abandoned, though there is variability in people and one should never say that it has not occurred. One father I know secured a job with his large employer for his departing son and let him know that he would be there if truly needed. Another, in a family business arrangement, divvied up resources so that his young adult son could have a decent start outside the congregation. This was misrepresented as though he had thrown him out with nothing but the clothes on his back, and the father for a time became a community pariah, but eventually matters came out that he had actually been quite generous, whereby much of the reputational damage was restored.

Some disfellowshipped teens have run away from home, in a biblical twist of a drama as old as time. Such a dramatized case was presented in a short video at Regional Conventions of Jehovah’s Witnesses during 2017. A young woman had been disfellowshipped over sexual immorality, having sailed past all lesser forms of discipline unmoved. When she later called the home she had left—for she did run away in this case, against her folks’ wishes—her mom did not answer the phone, an action that the young woman later describes as crucial to her turnaround and reinstatement; if mom had extended just a little bit of fellowship, she recalls that it would have been enough for her to continue in her “headstrong” course.

This will go down hard with non-Witnesses today. “You would make all this fuss over sex?” they will say, aghast. “Get them vaccinated for HPV and accept that they will do what they do.” Yet, it is a matter of adhering to the standards of the oldest book of time. Family feuds are the stuff of legend, often started over matters far more petty, such as taking sides in the disputes of another family member. It is common today that old ones are dropped off in nursing homes, never to be visited again, for reasons no more substantial than that they became inconvenient. One would never say that it is routine for divisions in family to occur, but they are by no means unheard of.

The Witness organization has said that it does not instruct parents to not associate with their disfellowshipped children. But they have produced the video cited above of specific circumstances in which a parent ignores a phone call from one of them. What to make of this? Detractors will say that they are lying through their teeth with the first statement. I think not. I think they should be taken at their word—parents will reach their own decisions on the degree of contact they choose to maintain, since they can best assess extenuating circumstances. It becomes their decision—whether they find some or none at all. Specifically, what the Witness publications do is point out that there is no reason per se that normal counsel to avoid contact with those disfellowshipped is negated simply because there are family connections. That is not the same as “telling” families to break contact. It may seem like splitting hairs, but the difference is important.

That statement finds further support in the many Witnesses who have departed and subsequently report that, though they were never disfellowshipped, they still find themselves estranged from the family mix. Effectively, they are “shunned” without any announcement at all, evidence that a “cult” is not telling parents what to do, but it is their appreciation for Bible counsel that triggers that course. The specific mechanics of avoiding associations with those who have spun 180-degrees on prior spiritual convictions may be arguable, but the general principle is not. When no verbal direction is given, Witnesses defer to the general principle, so it becomes plain that it was the general principle all along, rather than the commands of eight tyrannical men at headquarters. “What harmony is there between Christ and Belial?” says Paul, referring to two polar-opposite worlds and those who would choose between them.

It is the “choice” that defines. Some family members fail to follow through on their decided course as Jehovah’s Witnesses, but they do not turn against it. Family relations may be less warm, but do not typically discontinue. It is only by making a choice that relations almost inevitably sour. Is it so hard to understand, given that spiritual things are important to Jehovah’s Witnesses? It is well-understood in matters of nations, where visiting an unfriendly country brings no sanction, but turning traitorous against one’s own does. In politics it is understood, too. When comedian Kathy Griffin holds aloft the mock severed head of the American president, does anyone think that her Republican dad (if he is) says: “That’s my lass! She speaks her mind. It won’t affect Thanksgiving dinner, though?” Of course it will.

The word “disfellowship” has not been heard in congregation announcements for perhaps a dozen years now—not that it has been purged from Witness vocabulary, but it is not explicitly stated. From time to time, an announcement is made that so and so “is no longer one of Jehovah’s Witnesses.” It is never made of one who has merely fallen inactive, but only of those who have departed from the faith through deed or word. Though, to my knowledge, no announcement has ever been made that such is the equivalent of disfellowshipping, people mostly treat it that way. Some of whom that announcement is made are shocked into regret and turning around. Others say “You got that right” as they turn the page and go on to another chapter of life. If it is said of someone who rejects the tenets of a religion that they are therefore no longer a part of it, what are they going to say—that they are? Few would challenge the statement.

Few would argue that youngsters have not the same maturity at age ten that they will have at twice that age. Ought they not be allowed to commit to the course they have come to believe is right, on the basis that they may later change their minds? It is not a good solution for Witnesses, though it be a great one for the anti-cultists, as it permits the latter more time to sway them. However, children will always do better when permitted to identify with their choices. John Holt, an education pioneer, maintained that a prime cause of juvenile delinquency is that children are shut out of the adult world—an unanticipated effect of child labor laws enacted to protect them. For children, the solution will not be to forbid them to act upon what they have come to believe. The solution will be to cut them slack when they, through inexperience, stumble along the way. Most likely, that is being done today, for Jehovah’s Witnesses, like everyone else, dearly love their children and want them to succeed.

As it turns out, I know a youngster who was disfellowshipped for a period of several months and was subsequently reinstated. He was a minor and he lived at the family home throughout the time. Months before he was disfellowshipped he had been reproved. Since I had a rapport with him, I afterwards approached to say that, while it was none of my business and I was not curious, still, if he ever wanted to discuss things, I would be available. Maybe, I allowed, he had come across some anti-Witness literature and had been intrigued. Maybe he had wanted to go to college and his parents had poured cold water on the idea. “Look, if you’ve gone gay on us—it doesn’t matter,” I said. “The point is that I have been around forever, I have seen everything, and I am not wound up too tight.” He was silent for a moment and then started telling me about this girl in another congregation. “Oh, girls are nothing but trouble!” I told him in an anticlimactic spirit. His woes were boiler-plate. Maybe he will marry the girl someday.

I had known him most of his life. As a young boy, he surfaces in my first book, Tom Irregardless and Me, as Willie, the lad who protested my introducing him at each door, so I responded that he could introduce me instead. That is how it had gone all morning, save for one or two awkward situations that I had handled. The householder would look at me in expectation and I would say: “Sorry, I’m too bashful. It’s his turn.” As long as he had been comfortable, it had remained his turn.

He also surfaces as Dietrich in the second book, No Fake News but Plenty of Hogwash. I only know two Dietrichs, and the younger is named after the older, a trustworthy man whom I almost gave a heart attack when I showed up to give the first talk at the District Convention, relieving him as chairman, with only seconds to spare—there he was with songbook in hand looking anxiously through the audience. I had been in the Chairman’s Office awaiting my escort, assuming that the current year’s procedure would be the same as the prior one’s. It wasn’t. Today it would be. Everyone “did what was right in his own eyes” back them. Even in small matters, there is a value in organization.

I followed the course with Willie and Dietrich that all Witnesses know and respect—I didn’t speak to him at all during his disfellowshipped time, save for only an instance or two that I could not resist. On a frigid day he dropped family members off at the door, parked, and strode toward the Kingdom Hall without a coat. Breaking all decorum, I said: “Look, I know there’s no contact and all, but did they even have to take your coat?” He liked that one. In time he was reinstated, and I later told him that there was a silver lining to be found in his experience—he would forever be an example of how discipline produces its intended effect in the Christian community. Actually, the word “shun” is never heard in the Witness community, just as the word “cult” is not, save for its age-old definition. It is unnecessarily harsh. Disfellowshipping is reversible and that always is the hoped-for outcome. “Shunning” does not adequately convey that distinction.

Always there will those of the opposite persuasion—not like Dietrich at all: persons disfellowshipped who aren’t too happy about it. Find a few of them, work up the narrative to make it as heart wrenching as possible, and it is hard to see how it cannot be a media grand slam every time. Hide the purpose of it and present it as petty vengeance—it is a view that will sell today. Paint those doing it as deprived of humanity—it flies. Paint as dictatorial the organization holding the course—that interpretation positively soars with some. This is the age of the individual, not the group that they have individually chosen. The view that carries the day with regard to any organization is—it may as well be the year text—“power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely.” If there are people in charge, they must be corrupt. To an irreligious crowd, whatever the offenses for which ones were disfellowshipped is all but judgmental religious nonsense anyway. We should have moved on from it long ago. The emotional component is strong and such narratives carry the day.

Beyond all question, Jehovah’s Witnesses march to a different drumbeat. They willingly yield to the influence of those who have chosen the same drumbeat, rather than those who pound the drums of the status-quo world. They can be easily be portrayed the very embodiment of a cult under the new updated definition, and the Bible itself a cult manual. It is because they are a religion that purports to be life-altering, rather than a religion that merely puts a smiley softening face on the quest for the status quo, that they run into anti-cultist opposition. Witness apostates who join forces with them lose sight completely of how religion can be the powerful force that it is with their former friends, or even relatives, and they agitate relentlessly for it not to be so.

To the congregation in Corinth, the apostle Paul writes: “For I am jealous over you with a godly jealousy, for I personally promised you in marriage to one husband that I might present you as a chaste virgin to the Christ.” Plainly, this concern is of no consequence to departing ones who have embraced atheism. Almost necessarily they must focus on individual rights, since what triggers a sense of responsibility among their former spiritual kin has become a non-factor to them. No, it will not be easy selling the idea of disfellowshipping to these ones.

From the book TrueTom vs the Apostates!

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The Movie 'Apostasy'

The biblically literate Christian generally wishes that Hollywood would forget that Book exists. They butcher it each time they touch it. It is seldom through malice. Hollywood simply isn’t that spiritual of a place, and few can put themselves into the shoes of persons of faith. They mix a bit of nonsense that they remember from Sunday School with formulas for what makes a riveting movie and produce a product in which Moses pops Pharaoh in the nose and gets the girl—a far cry from the actual Moses who carried on so much about being slow of tongue that God assigned a helper to handle public relations for him.

Cinema doesn’t always work against us. I once worked with an agnostic woman who knew that God’s name was Jehovah because she had seen an Indiana Jones movie. She knew that God’s original purpose was for the earth to be a paradise because she had seen the film Dogma. She had never been in a church, yet she knew more about God from two movies than do many after a lifetime of attending church. Usually, though, we get clobbered at the hands of moviemakers.

The first Hollywood production I know of that specifically mentioned Jehovah’s Witnesses was Clint Eastwood’s A Perfect World. The Witness mother quelled the complaints of her two children, upset that they could not do Halloween trick or treating, with the pious platitude: “We have a higher calling.” No Witness in a thousand years is going to say “We have a higher calling”—they just don’t talk that way, and so I knew that Clint probably didn’t have it in for Jehovah’s Witnesses in particular; he just wanted a premise for a good movie, as most of his are.

A robber in the film had inadvertently kidnapped one of the Witness mother’s two children. As though testimony that this movie was filmed long ago, he did the child no harm. Instead, he warmed to the lad. The boy, too, didn’t seem too upset at being kidnapped. He warmed to his kidnapper, for now he could escape his frumpy Witness mom and go trick or treating, like every child longs to do. The detective assigned even arranged for this to happen, after exploding: “What kind of a nutty religion doesn’t do Halloween?” He made his deputies bring the boy candy, which the lad in his ghost costume eagerly collected. It was a heartwarming scene, indeed—and then the sharpshooter shot the boy’s new best friend dead just feet away from him.

Other than sporadic attempts to make hay out of a Witness refusing a blood transfusion—it is an irresistible film premise—and a doctor crusading, sometimes successfully, sometimes not, to override this bit of perceived pig-headedness, there have been few movie attempts to tackle Jehovah’s Witnesses. To my astonishment, one episode of The Practice, a legal drama of the late nineties, featured the topic and got most of it right. Trustworthy Rebecca, the resourceful secretary, got caught in a bomb blast brought on by a former client that the team should have stayed far away from. Suddenly a new character appeared out of nowhere for one or two episodes—Rebecca’s mom, who had affidavits from the local congregation that her daughter was a practicing Jehovah’s Witness and wouldn’t take blood!

Don’t Witnesses carry “blood cards,” head attorney Bobby objected. Don’t Witnesses talk about their faith? Rebecca hadn’t. But Mama said that she had been so beaten down by being the only black girl in the office that she had learned to keep her mouth shut. Well, maybe. It’s a little thin, but this is television after all.

Bobby determined that he would force a transfusion on the unconscious woman. He railed in court that this woman could be saved but for this - this “voodoo” religion. When it was Mama’s turn on the stand, she said: “You tipped your hand, Bobby. This has nothing to do with saving life. This is about your own religious prejudice.” The judge ruled in favor of Mama. I couldn’t believe it. At Witness headquarters worldwide, they all rose to their feet and cheered—or at least they might have had they been watching, which they probably were not. Afterwards, as though admitted to the bar, Mama joined in group prayer with the legal team gathered around her daughter’s hospital bedside.

Okay, okay, so they messed some things up. It’s still immeasurably better than how we usually fare in Hollywood. Throughout, Jehovah’s Witnesses were presented with dignity. They were not presented as cult-addled nut-jobs. How do they fare in The Children Act, a 2018 offering? In this film, the judge does not rule for the Witness position, but personally intervenes with a young man dying of leukemia to sway him of his beliefs. He apparently becomes somewhat unhinged thereafter, which is to be expected, the premise goes, upon breaking free of a “controlling” religion. The judge herself is on shaky ground, with her marital life falling apart.

It’s hard to say if the movie is any good or not. The star power of the cast is formidable. To the extent that Witness detractors are in the audience—and that will be a very large extent—they will reliably praise it to the heavens to the extent it denigrates their former faith. I may have to see the movie myself. But even counting television movies, I see only a handful a year, and that usually is at the behest of my wife. Can one write about a movie that one has not seen? It’s dicey. However, if scientists can do forensic research on events eons-old and have that research accepted, there is no reason that I should not be able to give it a shot, doing forensic research based upon existing reviews and my own background knowledge of how the Jehovah’s Witness faith works.

I was roundly thrashed by ex-Witnesses when I pulled this trick by writing a review of another film—one that presents Jehovah’s Witnesses in a decidedly bad light—the movie Apostasy. You don’t win them all—sometimes they blow up in your face. Even I had to admit that it is a bit much to review it unseen, forensics notwithstanding. I took on the challenge because I knew that whatever problems might lay with the film would lay with, not what was said, but what was not said. I readily conceded that the film was well-done, and it has gone on to win honors—though once again, it is hard to say how much of those honors stem from Witness-bashers lauding it to the heavens. Once again, the stars are top notch. My aim was to offer context, since the film, by all accounts, portrays Jehovah’s Witnesses as the most deluded of people.

It does not portray them as bad people, however, but merely hamstrung in life by immersion in a cult. It doesn’t even portray them as unhappy people, just people whose happiness somehow rings hollow, as it is based upon unreality. The movie’s director was raised in the faith and says “it was liberating to leave the Jehovah’s Witnesses.” It is probably well for Witnesses to know, to the extent they don’t already, that they don’t all pine away for the good old days at the Kingdom Hall after departure.

This director certainly doesn’t. As he himself developed doubts growing up, he has concocted two film characters who also develop doubts. Perhaps three of them do—I may have to see this one as well. The filmmaker is described as a “gentle, softly spoken man” who was initially uncomfortable with the topic of his debut film. The reviewer praises the film’s “even-handedness, the way it stirs in the audience sympathy for characters whose beliefs most of us might ordinarily struggle to understand.” Only the “cult” that has so hoodwinked them suffers.

Confounding his co-ex-members, he tells the Guardian film critic in a July 15, 2018 article that he on good terms with his Mom, though he left his childhood faith years ago. Perhaps that will change with the movie. Or perhaps it will go the other way, and his apparent dream will come true—he may succeed in undermining her faith in the spiritual things that she once though preeminent, and, having canceled out the positive, there will remain only the negative upon which to focus.

The most telling part of the interview is his statement: “The audience needs to understand the weight of their beliefs, the spiritual pressure they’re under. Because that’s what motivates them.” Plainly, this is opinion, not fact. But it is an informed opinion of one who has “been there and done that,” and there have been many that have held it. He has been mobbed at showings by ex-JWs who hail him for succeeding in his mission.

He describes the atmosphere of his former faith as one of “elitism.” This, too, is plainly opinion. It is like how it has become standard fare for parties on either side of a dispute to pronounce the other “arrogant” upon failing to sway them. Any time you have an outlook not shared by the general populace you are a sitting duck for those who want to paint you as “elitist.”

He even applies the phrase “cognitive dissonance” to those of his former faith. It is the modern method of giving insult, as in: “Your cognitive dissonance must be massive to stand in the face of my overwhelming persuasion.” Is it really so that persons cannot simultaneously hold non-dovetailing ideas without short-circuiting their heads? One glance at Americans watching pharmaceutical ads will dispel the notion, with narrator insisting that you must have the product peddled and voiceover saying that it may kill you.

He is disappointed that the other Witness-bashing movie, Children Act—there are not that many of them, after all—is released at exactly the same time as his. What are the chances? He doesn’t particularly like the other film, describing it as “an outsider’s movie.” “When I read it,” he says, “I found myself nit-picking. Ex-Witnesses always say: ‘Oh, that’s not quite right.’” Present Witnesses will do it, too. Did I not just do the same with the Clint Eastwood movie?

Granted, the movie is fiction, and so by definition is untrue, but the outward facts do not appear to be wrong, merely incomplete and skewed by an emotional component that few Witnesses will identify with. “Meagre” and “joyless” are not words I would ever use describing the Jehovah’s Witness world, as the director does—one certainly would not get that impression upon visiting a Kingdom Hall, much less a large convention. “Unnervingly quiet” also doesn’t ring true, nor men who “rule the roost.” Still, I know where he is coming from. If you become disillusioned with your own cause and start to long for the offerings of the other side, your life becomes meagre and joyless until you grasp them. What is a guardrail to some is an iron curtain to others.

Jehovah’s Witnesses may be best thought of as a nation. Unlike physical nations, its citizens are united in terms of common purpose and goals. Barriers that divide elsewhere mean nothing to Witnesses—those of nationality, race, economic, and social status. Like any nation, Witnesses will have their own culture. Unlike other nations, that culture is ever the minority view where they live. The happy citizens of China will surely seem immersed in a cult from an American point of view, their outlook and concerns molded by forces of which Americans are mostly unaware and would not think important if they were aware of them. The citizens of America will surely seem immersed in a cult from a Chinese point of view for the same reasons. The two situations cause no internal discord because, in each case, persons are surrounded almost entirely by their own. Witnesses are a scattered nation, though, nowhere the majority, and since the beginning of time, the majority has been intolerant of the minority.

Yes, I do know where this fellow is coming from. My people have a culture. They can be seen as a little too insistent on this point, a little too pushy on that point, a little too hung up on yet another, so that, all things being equal, if I could find another group that does all that they do, minus the gaffes, I would go there. But I can’t. Not even close. It would involve finding someone else “speaking and teaching with correctness the things about Jesus,” like Apollos did. It would involve finding someone else who has built a brotherhood undivided by nationality, race, or social position. It would involve finding someone who has built an infrastructure for the universal spread of a detailed body of life-changing knowledge that is unimpeded by language differences. I look and I look but I do not see that other group, so I begin to say perhaps what I perceive as downers aren’t so down after all. Perhaps it would be the case that as soon as I was to get them more amenable to my preferences, they would lose what makes them effective. Maybe it is no more sporting of me to point fingers at them than to point fingers at Canadians for ending sentences with ‘eh.’ People with Bible principles are able to yield to one another and get along. Is it truly cult-like to get along and thereby get things done? Or is it pig-headed not to? I’ll stay where I am, thank you very much.

There are any number of things that I do not like about the earthly organization. They are far offset by things that I do like. Mostly they are a matter of style. And no, I would not state them in a general forum. It is not ‘cult’ thinking to decline that invitation. It is recognition that the greater world thrives on division—that’s what it ever wants to talk about—and uses each disagreement as an occasion to drive a wedge to divide further. The points are all arguable. If I thought that they were not, I’d go elsewhere. Being that they are, I’ll argue it their way. If they change on anything—they do it all the time and are very open about, euphemistically calling it “tacking” and navigating in “the light that gets brighter”—I’ll argue it the new way. It’s the role I have chosen. Is it cult-like to work for unity? Or is it ruinous to work for division?

There are two views of the world. Let the adherents of both have their say. Long ago, in a lengthy discussion with a householder on the topic of evolution, the man at last ventured to ask what difference did it make how we all got here? I replied that, if there was a God who created us and the earth upon which we live, he might just have some purpose for them both and not sit idly by to see it all ruined. But if evolution put us all here, then whatever hope there was for the future lay in human efforts. “And they’re not doing so well,” I added. The man’s wife, who had been silent up till then, said, “That’s a good point.” Here in the Apostasy movie is a reality drawn by one who thinks that they are doing well, or at least he has lost faith in God’s purposes to remedy the earth that is now, for he describes himself as agnostic. Let all voices be heard as the contest for minds and hearts continues.

There are two worlds from which to choose. The Book describes the one to come, everlasting life on a paradisiac earth made possible when God’s kingdom truly comes “on earth, as it is in heaven,” as the prayer says. It is the “real” life of 1 Timothy 6:19. Some translations call it the “true” life. Jehovah’s Witnesses, without too much fuss, know how to delay instant gratification in this life so as to lay hold of the “real” one. Their anti-cult detractors readily concede that delaying instant gratification is a good thing, but will protest that this is going too far, because, for them, the game is well along in innings, with no concept at all of a succeeding “real” life.

Most Witnesses will have conniptions about seeing their faith slammed so publicly. They’ll have to get used to it. It’s okay. The play now features an additional act, but it is the same play. For decades, Jehovah’s Witnesses, who came “out of the world,” have spun an image of that world that rings true with some and untrue to others. Now the shoe is on the other foot, with someone who comes from their own ranks and does the reverse. Let people decide for themselves what rings true and what rings false.

To his followers, Jesus says “Happy are you when people reproach you and persecute you and lyingly say every sort of wicked thing against you for my sake.” It is a saying that makes no sense at all until it is taken as an indication that they must be on the right track for it to be said of them, for “as they have persecuted me, so will they persecute you.” Beyond all question, whatever is done by the Witness organization is done “for Jesus’s sake.” They are accustomed to showing the gem through its most appealing facet. Let them learn, if need be, to show it through its least appealing one. Disfellowshipping is unpleasant, and the prospect of that unpleasantness serves to discourage the conduct that might trigger it. Once incurred, it serves to spur the conduct that might reverse it, for the door that was closed was never locked. But if that one goes thereafter his or her own separate way, relations will cool. If he turns upon and savages the framework that his loved ones hold dear, it will almost certainly sever.

Jesus says both hot or cold are desirable, but lukewarm doesn’t work. The illustration that every Witness knows is that of the embers staying hot only if they huddle toward the center. They also know the expression that it is possible to engage in the ministry just enough to hate it—only whole-souled with do the trick. They encourage members to solidify their faith through study, ministry, and association. “Make the truth your own,” is an expression all Witnesses know. If that sounds cult-like, it is because, given the present expanded definition, Christianity true to its roots is a cult.

It all boils down to what Jesus told Saul, related at Acts 26:14—”to keep kicking against the goads makes it hard for you.” A support system is only a support to those in line with the program—they will not think of them as goads at all. Should one choose to pursue Christianity, it does indeed come with a support system to better ensure success. But to those whose alignment to the Christian purpose has waned or even shut down, the goads will seem almost unbearably oppressive—it is no wonder that these would depart and thereafter speak ill of the faith they once breathed.

The situation resembles the apostle Paul’s letter to the Philippians. He is probably making lemonade out of lemons, but it is lemonade all the same: “True, some are preaching the Christ through envy and rivalry, but others also through goodwill. The latter are publicizing the Christ out of love…but the former do it out of contentiousness….What then? [Nothing,] except in every way, whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is being publicized, and in this I rejoice.”

Let the man make his movie. Should he be lambasted for it? He is a person of creative bent. What else should he be expected to do with his talents other than address what he once lived? I feel the same pressure, only from the opposite direction. I, too, tell stories, and everything comes with a Witness’s perspective because that is the topic I live. Should I write of something else—say, current matters of newsworthy interest, I find that they usually come down to the same ending: “It’s all messed-up because we ‘need the kingdom.’” As Solomon put it, “that which is crooked cannot be made straight.”

Is it really Jehovah’s Witnesses that live in a manipulated unreality? Or it is their apostates? Each will choose differently. Thrilled to be finally liberated from “waiting upon God” and his kingdom rule, some of them dive into the formerly off-limits governments of nations with verve. Let them at least consider briefly The Confession of Congressman X, a book released in 2016:

“My main job is to keep my job, to get reelected. It takes precedence over everything,” the author quotes an anonymous member of Congress. “Voters are incredibly ignorant and know little about our form of government and how it works….It’s far easier than you think to manipulate a nation of naive, self-absorbed sheep who crave instant gratification.” He describes most of his colleagues as “dishonest career politicians who revel in the power and special-interest money that’s lavished upon them.” “Fundraising is so time consuming I seldom read any bills I vote on. Like many of my colleagues, I don’t know how the legislation will be implemented, or what it’ll cost,” the unburdening Congressman says—he is cleansing his soul, for he found the reality so different from what he had anticipated, and it has shaken his core, but, after all, he knows he has landed a good gig and doesn’t want to start pounding the pavements in search of another. “We spend money we don’t have and blithely mortgage the future with a wink and a nod. Screw the next generation. It’s about getting credit now, lookin’ good for the upcoming election.”

Like the three hoaxers of chapter 10, Congressman X will not be invited soon to any speaking engagements before the establishment. Every so often a factoid emerges from somewhere to reveal that the emperor has no clothes. Perhaps his is not the last word on matters. But then, perhaps the Apostasy movie’s word is also not the last word. We live in a world in which people process exactly the same data, come to polar opposite conclusions, and thereafter scream at each other day and night on social media. Let the spiritual things that preoccupy Jehovah’s Witnesses also take their turn in the spotlight—the things with the greatest consequence of all. Let them, too, divide people, according to what they wish to fixate upon.

Jehovah’s Witnesses are drawn from ones who know within themselves that the reality today has changed little from that of Bible times. Then, the common people were “skinned and thrown about.” It is modified today only in that there are more to do the skinning—powerful commercial, political, and religious interests. Those prospective Witnesses know intuitively that the game will not change, though it is ever moved to another level so as to give that appearance. They also sense a gross injustice at God’s taking the blame for the misuse of the free will that he afforded humans. Yet when they later band together and impose some limits on their free will, they find that their God takes the blame for that, too, for that is an affront to “freedom.”

The urge to investigate the promises of the Bible and then stick with them in the face of opposition or adversity is largely a matter of the heart, not the head. “Sighing and groaning” over all these detestable things (Ezekiel 9) is not the same as bellyaching and complaining. Many do the latter. Relatively few do the former. The heart chooses what it wants, and then entrusts the head to devise a convincing rationale for the choice, lending the impression that it was the head all along. But it is mostly the heart.

Not everyone will feel as do future Witnesses, and some, like the movie director, will move in the other direction. Hope springs eternal. The game will change one day, through human efforts, they will maintain. The young will yet fix things—why did no other generation ever think to do this? Others acquiesce that the game may not change but they remain determined to ride it out, for good or ill. They will look with derision at Witnesses riding cramped in their self-described lifeboat. It is only to be expected. Jesus didn’t come to save the cool people. The cool people will tell you that they don’t need saving—they are doing just fine, thank you very much. He came to save, not those who do not need a physician, but those who do.

Are they really that cool? How cool can one be when in, a heartbeat, one can be run over by a truck? From their ranks come the ones who deride religion as a “crutch” of which they have no need. The analogy is correct—religion is a crutch. What is wrong is the premise. The premise that more aptly fits is that of the crippled fellow dragging himself through the mud, too stupid or proud—or maybe just uninformed—to know that a crutch would be useful. In his day, Ronald Reagan was arguably the most influential person on earth. Ten years later, in the throes of Alzheimer’s, he didn’t know who he was. How cool is that?

From the book TrueTom vs the Apostates!

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New Scientist and Blood Transfusions

When speaking medicine with someone who doesn’t care for Jehovah’s Witnesses, one finds that “blood transfusion” is always linked with “life-saving.” There are no exceptions. The noun and adjective must never be separated. At least, not until recently. At long last, the link is beginning to crumble. “Life-threatening” is fast emerging as a reality to offset, in part, the “life-saving.” Not among JW detractors, of course, who will still be chanting “life-saving blood transfusions” as they are lowered into their graves. But among those who actually keep up with things, matters are changing fast.

It is the only conclusion one can reach upon reading the April 26, 2008 New Scientist magazine. Entitled ‘An Act of Faith in the Operating Room,’ an article reviews study after study, and concludes that for all but the most catastrophic cases, blood transfusions harm more than they help. Says Gavin Murphy, a cardiac surgeon at the Bristol Heart Institute in the UK: “There is virtually no high-quality study in surgery, or intensive or acute care, outside of when you are bleeding to death, that shows that blood transfusion is beneficial, and many that show it is bad for you.” Difficulties stem from blood deteriorating in even brief storage, from its assault on the immune system, and from its impaired ability to deliver oxygen. In short, the “act of faith” referred to is not withholding a blood transfusion. It is giving one.

One study cited is from the journal Circulation, vol 116, p 2544: “For almost 9000 patients who had heart surgery in the UK between 1996 and 2003, receiving a red cell transfusion was associated with three times the risk of dying in the following year and an almost six fold risk of dying within 30 days of surgery compared with not receiving one. Transfusions were also associated with more infections and higher incidences of stroke, heart attack and kidney failure—complications usually linked to a lack of oxygen in body tissues.”

Once before I ventured into the blogosphere with similar thoughts and I count myself lucky to have escaped with my life: “You are welcome to your belief that blood is a dangerous substance that God wants you to avoid,” said Charlie. “But please, don’t claim that you are doing so out of reason.” “In the USA we have the inalienable right to be idiots, as long as it doesn’t hurt someone else,” lectured Chemish. From Stanley: “Refusing a life-saving blood transfusion (which hasn’t even any side effects) is clearly insane if the refusal is just because of the blood transfusion itself.” Greg: “Why is this crazy religion not a form of mental incompetence?” Justin: “My take on the matter is that ultimately anyone who subscribes to the no-blood doctrine has been brainwashed and is not fit to make decisions for themselves on this basis.”

And you should have heard them when I mentioned Dr. Bruce Speiss. They went positively apoplectic when he dared to use the R-word: “So it’s just largely been a belief system—almost a religion, if you will—that if you give a unit of blood, patients will get better” “What a crank!” they charged. He must be a Jehovah’s Witness himself. (He is not, but he might as well become one, for he will now have to deny it to his dying day.) Isn’t he the fellow selling cherry cola as a blood substitute? Didn’t he buy his medical degree online?

But now it turns out that everything Dr. Speiss said was correct—yes, even the religion part. Says New Scientist: “At first glance it seems astonishing that a technique used so widely for so long could be doing such harm. Yet many surgeons have proved reluctant to submit their methods to systematic study….[Their] assumptions went untested for the better part of a century”

And you should have seen these guys carry on when I suggested that the medical community would one day owe a debt to Jehovah’s Witnesses for setting them on the right track, urging the development of bloodless medicine. “Scientists invented bloodless medicine all by themselves!” they shrieked, guided only by their Scientific Method—climbing ever upward and onward—fearlessly pushing the bounds of human knowledge—all to the glorification of Science! “They don’t give two hoots about your pissy little religion!”

But in fact, some of them do. “[Bloodless surgery] was originally developed to enable Jehovah’s Witnesses, who shun transfusions, to undergo major surgery,” states the article, and then considers some of its advantages. Indeed, New Scientist opens with scripture: “‘For the life of the flesh is in the blood. No soul of you shall eat blood.’ So says the Bible’s book of Leviticus, and it is for this reason that Jehovah’s Witnesses shun blood transfusions.” Perhaps, the magazine suggests, all persons should be treated as Jehovah’s Witnesses.

Now, I don’t want to gloat over this development. I really don’t. Really and truly. Honestly.

On the other hand—Come on! You would too if you were in my shoes! For decades, we Witnesses were the ignorant slaves of superstition. Transfusion proponents, on the other hand, were the all-wise devotees of modern medical science. What right had we to not to do as we were told? I’ve known three persons in my lifetime who were told, point blank and without the slightest empathy, that they would die if they did not consent to a blood transfusion. None of these three consented. None died. Jehovah’s Witnesses don’t smoke, they don’t do drugs, they don’t drink to excess—all factors whose health risks, by their sheer prevalence, far outweigh anything having to do with transfusions. They are entirely cooperative with all aspects of medical care, barring only one. Unless fixated on just that one item, a doctor could not ask for better patients.

These findings, so new to the medical establishment, are not new to us. Witnesses have been accumulating them for years, trying to share them with doctors, usually being rebuffed, all the while with the media whipping folks into near hysteria. All we ever wanted was that our own religious conscience be respected, that medical people would not huff, “It’s my way or the highway!” and run roughshod over our consciences. Treat it as an allergy ruling out the favored treatment, if you must, and do the best you can under those circumstances. Decades ago Jehovah’s Witnesses formed Hospital Information Service committees from local volunteers and sent them into medical establishments to keep them informed on the latest advances in bloodless medicine. Believe me, it was not easy. Constantly we had to contend with, “And what medical school did you get your degree from?” But it has paid off. Here and there, fearless doctors have acknowledged our point of view and have worked to accommodate it. We are most grateful to these medical pioneers, who usually had to withstand much pressure from their own peers.

Did the New Scientist article declare blood transfusions inadvisable in all circumstances? No. It is still thought to be the best option in cases of severe anemia and catastrophic blood loss. But perhaps these views, too, will change. After all, if blood threatens harm to a healthy person, can it really be the treatment of choice for a critically ill one? Surely something from the field of bloodless medicine will emerge as superior, if it hasn’t already.

Incidentally, blood banks apparently plan no changes at present. “If all blood had to be used within two weeks, it would cause a major inventory problem,” says James Isbister, an adviser to the Australian Red Cross Blood Service, quoted in the article. Right. Just like that time I bought a basket of spoiled fruit and spent the week in the bathroom with diarrhea. I wasn’t upset. I realized it was my duty to grin and bear it. I didn’t want to screw up their inventory.

Anti-Witness “activists” should scream about blood transfusion and Jehovah’s Witnesses? Witnesses are the safest religion out there. Have there been deaths due to their transfusion stand? They are made up for 1,000 times over by their no-tolerance policy of tobacco, illicit drugs, and overdrinking. An anti-Witness activist truly interested in preserving life would direct his or her attention almost anywhere else.

Of course, one must be cautious with the above statement lest it appear callous. The survivors of one who has died for any reason will not be comforted to know he could have died in numerous other ways—the JW death was unnecessary, their detractors will allege. Well, that can be equally said of all the other ones, with the added travesty that no principle lay behind them at all other than the mere pursuit of pleasure. If Witness opponents would “protect” people from making choices that they don’t want them to make, surely these far more numerous causes of death should be incur their ire long before transfusion situations.

And how can extreme sports not be railed against, or even regular sports? It is not uncommon to read of youths dying in this way, and if we count paralysis or foreshortened life due to head trauma, the numbers greatly escalate. Did anyone watch the youngster, an accomplished athlete, soaring thirty feet in the air on the Olympics half-pipe, come down crashing on the edge, and then slide limp into the center track? How many children have died or been maimed trying to emulate that trick, the purpose of which is no more noble than shining before others as daredevil and providing entertainment? For that matter, do we not read of far more driving deaths for youngsters than for those older? Ban them from the road. Find the age with the lowest death stats and ban driving at any other age. Let us veer into hyperbolic here, so as to illustrate that it is possible paint oneself a great fool in one’s quest to restrict the freedom of others.

The willingness to put one’s life on the line for almost any cause is accepted as a matter of individual choice, often laudable individual choice. Only with those from the Jehovah’s Witness community is an exception made in the popular media. When a youngster dies through daredevil sports, is the coach ever fingered as an accessory to murder, as Jehovah’s Witnesses have been with regard to transfusions? No. We all know it—children so dying are lionized for living life to the full and giving their all in the quest of their dreams. It is only when their dreams include God that they are painted as “cult” victims.

From the book TrueTom vs the Apostates!

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Dennis

There is a line from a review of the ‘Apostasy’ movie that says, “Alex thumbs a pamphlet of ‘kids who died for Jehovah,’ knowing that she might have to do the same.” Now, I know my Watchtower publications pretty well and the only one I can think of that could be characterized this way is an Awake magazine from the 1990s. Possibly it was later included into some sort of brochure format. I wrote about it in an excerpt from another blog post:

“I also thought it well to take a look at that May 1994 Awake quote which Matt uses to advance the notion JW youths are dropping like flies for their transfusion refusals: ‘In former times thousands of youths died for putting God first. They are still doing it, only today the drama is played out in hospitals and courtrooms, with blood transfusions the issue.’

“Not that I accuse Matt of anything devious. I’ve no doubt he used the quotation in good faith. It’s likely from a web source purporting to be informative, but in reality existing to denigrate a faith its author dislikes, trying to make Jehovah’s Witnesses look as fanatical as possible, and doing so for philosophical reasons, rather than anything having to do with medicine or lives. So, is the statement taken out of context or not?

“It’s a little difficult to tell, for there is no context. The quote is a one-line blurb on the magazine’s table of contents designed to pique interest in the articles to follow. The articles to follow describe the cases of five Witness youngsters in North America. Each was admitted into a hospital for aggressive cancer or leukemia. Each fought battles with hospitals, courts, and child welfare agencies determined to administer blood against the patient’s will. Each eventually prevailed in court, being recognized as “mature minors” with the right to decide upon their own treatment, though in two cases, a forced transfusion was given prior to that decision. Three of the children did die. Two lived. It is rather wrenching stuff, with court transcripts and statements of the children involved, and those of the participating doctors, lawyers, and judges. In no case do you get the sense that blood transfusions offered a permanent cure, only a possible prolonging of life, ideally long enough for some cure to be discovered. Medical science, frustrated at its inability to cure cancer, has lowered the bar as to what constitutes a cure. If symptoms vanish for so long as five years, the patient is considered cured. If symptoms thereafter return, that is thought be a new case of cancer and perhaps that, too, can be cured. One of the children, who did die, was told that blood would enable her to live only three to six months longer, during which time she might “do many things,” such as “visit Disney World.” There’s little here to suggest that “thousands of youths are dying for putting God first” who would otherwise live. Frankly, I think the quote is sloppily written. “They are still doing it,” says the quote. Doing what? Dying? Dying in the thousands? Or putting God first without regard for the immediate consequences?”

One of these children apparently “still doing it” was a fourteen-year-old from the Seattle area who, in 2007, refused further transfusions deemed crucial by his doctors, and did die. The news media picked up the story and gave it wide publicity, almost all of it unfavorable to the boy’s convictions. On my own blog, I posted the following, incorporating some of the points made above:

“…This post is to put things in perspective. It is what the boy would want, I am confident. He would not like to see his sincere religious conviction dragged through the mud by persons speaking from emotion, much less from staunch opposition to his convictions. That said, death of a young person is always tragic, no question about it. You can be sure he would have far rather lived. Yet people routinely put their lives on the line for any number of causes, and they are generally lauded as heroes for it, not deluded nuts. Which are they? Take the one who “gives his life for his country,” for example. Only some of that person’s own countrymen will think his death noble. Everyone else will conclude he died in vain.

“Don’t more youngsters die proportionately each year in high school sports than in refusing transfusions? Each year I read a few local examples of the former. I am not sure I would know any of the latter were it not for the news media relaying any such event around the globe. Does anyone think high school sports should be banned or it’s coaches judged accessories to ‘negligent homicide,’ as some bloggers thought would be appropriate for those who may have contributed to Dennis’ mindset?

“Dennis was 14. In just four years he’d be eligible for the military. For every youngster who has died via refusing a transfusion, there must be 10,000 who have died as combatants. Jehovah’s Witnesses don’t go to war. So not only do their 10,000 not die, but there are 10,000 others of all faiths who don’t die because there are no JW combatants to kill them. Does anyone think dying in one of the world’s never-ending skirmishes is more noble than dying in consequence of observing one’s religious conscience? If all persons refused transfusions, as Jehovah’s Witnesses do, and all persons refused to take part in war, as Jehovah’s Witnesses do, this would be on balance a far safer world.

“Look, death of any youngster in such circumstances pushes a lot of emotional buttons. I understand that. But the hard fact is that most of those voicing strong opinions now were nowhere to be found during the first ten years of Dennis’ difficult life. Nor did they lend any support to the aunt generous enough to assume raising the boy after that. Nor, had this crisis resolved itself in any other way, would they take any interest in his subsequent life. The ones who should speak for Dennis are those who knew and shared in his convictions

“But one also must address the assumption, never challenged in the media, that rejecting a transfusion is tantamount to suicide. (The judge stated that “I don’t think Dennis is trying to commit suicide. This isn’t something Dennis just came upon, and he believes with the transfusion he would be unclean and unworthy.”) How often does one read the noun “blood transfusion” not proceeded by the adjective “life-saving?” The facts suggest the label is not especially fitting.

“For example, Surgeon Bruce Spiess addresses the Australian and New Zealand College of Anesthetists a few months back, and he declares that blood transfusions have hurt more people than they’ve helped. Transfusions, he observes, are “almost a religion” because physicians practice them without solid evidence that they help. We all know that blood is a foreign tissue and we all know that the body tries to reject foreign tissue, even when the types match. Another study concludes that the chemical which permits transfused blood to transfer oxygen begins to break down within hours of storage, yet in the U.S blood is stored up to 42 days. Another study concludes that transfusion triples the risk of kidney impairment, strokes, and heart attacks.

“Jehovah’s Witnesses steadfastly refuse blood transfusions (for religious reasons, not medical) and have created hundreds of Hospital Liaison Committees composed of members who interact with local hospitals and doctors. As a result, some in the medical field have pioneered bloodless techniques. By eliminating the risk of foreign tissue, human error, and blood-borne diseases, these new techniques offer a safety margin that conventional blood transfusions do not. The film Knocking states there are over 140 medical centers in North America that offer some form of bloodless surgical techniques. Might the day come, or is it even here already, when the number of lives saved through such medicine will outnumber those lost by a few members of a relatively tiny religious group that stuck to its principles amidst much opposition? And if Dennis’ death is seen in that light, it is not in vain, even in a non-JW context. He should not be remembered as some deluded kid. He deserves better.”

From the book TrueTom vs the Apostates!

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This Author Goes Under the Knife

Dr. Neil Blumberg runs the transfusion medical unit at the University of Rochester Strong Hospital. He concedes that the public health impact of transfusion immunomodulation is very difficult to estimate. Then he ventures to do just that—if anyone can do it, it will someone immersed in the field—and says “that in the United States we can expect that 10 to 50 thousand patients a year may be dying from transfusion immunomodulation related causes.”

He doesn’t mean dying on the operating table. He means dying somewhere down the road through disease transmitted directly by means of a blood transfusion or indirectly due to a compromised immune system later admitting such disease. He might even have had in mind science fiction writer Isaac Asimov, who died in 1992 of AIDS transmitted through a transfusion given nine year previous. Blood transfusions come with severe risks. Those risks have mostly become known in recent decades, largely through research attempting to meet the needs of Jehovah’s Witnesses.

An October 15, 2012 article in The Telegraph, entitled ‘Killed by a Needless Blood Transfusion,’ quotes Professor of Epidemiology and Public Health at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine Ian Roberts, as saying: “Like many interventions that have been used for a long time, the necessity for blood transfusion has never been properly tested.” Transfusions are “engrained in medical culture,” he says. “A doctor will assess patients for levels of oxygen in the blood, find it’s low and think: ‘Oh, I’ll raise it.’ It’s a bit like cooking – you make a casserole, you taste it and think it’s not very salty and you add some salt.” Mike Murphy, a professor of blood transfusion medicine at Oxford University, says “Most blood transfusions are non-urgent, used routinely to ‘top up’ patients about to undergo planned surgery.” (The patient “killed by a needless blood transfusion” died afterwards of Creutzfeld-Jakob disease, acquired through the transfusion, though his hip-replacement operation itself was successful)

It is not easy to find such material. It is drowned out in a flood of promotion as to how safe transfusions are said to be, often advanced by those who have vested interests in preserving the status quo. One suspects that Jehovah’s Witness detractors are chief among them—the status quo they wish to preserve is the perception that anyone who would turn down a “life-saving” blood transfusion is either a lunatic, or, more likely, a victim of a brainwashing cult. “Today at least 80% of the patients would strongly favor not to have blood transfusion” says medical Professor Roland Hetzer. To hear Witness detractors carry on, one would think that they all drop to their knees and beg for one.

Though they might strongly favor not having a blood transfusion, they will not necessarily be given that option. In most places still, blood transfusion is standard fare. Indeed, the hospital Dr. Blumberg works for has long been uncooperative with Jehovah’s Witnesses wishing to avoid blood transfusions. I know this because I long resided in the general area. An area doctor, who is a Jehovah’s Witness, knows Dr. Blumberg. When I asked him why Blumberg’s expertise and authority—he is in charge of the blood unit, after all—has failed to sway his own hospital, his answer was: “Because he is not political.” Exactly. It’s not enough to be on the cutting edge of science. One must also battle day and night those who want to knock you off that edge. Not everyone is up to it, for it may entail arguing one’s life away. Don’t people have spouses, children, and their own health to consider? One must choose one’s battles.

Hospitals that have added bloodless to their toolbox report favorable outcomes. Such techniques make for cheaper medicine due to reduced recovery times, for everyone knows that blood is a foreign tissue, and everyone knows that the body tries to reject foreign tissue. It is also cheaper in terms of avoiding liability for transfusions gone bad. Overall, there is no negative impact upon mortality. As far back as 1962, heart transplant pioneer Dr. Denton Cooley was known to cooperate with Jehovah’s Witnesses, declaring that their stand could be accommodated with “acceptable risk.” Fifty years later, bloodless has become the gold standard—where it is available.

Up to half of adverse transfusion reactions are due to simple human error. If the transfusion is unnecessary to begin with, any adverse reaction at all is a huge penalty to pay. A 1994 study gave further evidence that many of them are. Known as the Sanquis study, the records of 43 European teaching hospitals and 7000 patients were examined. It was found that transfusion usage varied greatly from hospital to hospital and depended upon preference of the doctor, not the condition of the patient. The same type of surgery that came with standard transfusion use in one hospital came with almost none in another. In the aftermath of such research, some hospitals have halved their use of blood transfusions simply by relaxing the trigger that calls for one—from 10.2 g/dL to 9 or even 8, at no cost whatsoever, and with no impact upon mortality. The 10.2 figure is but an arbitrary figure that dates back to 1942, yet it still holds sway in the popular mind—drop below it, and, for many doctors still, a blood transfusion is indicated.

A storekeeper will the sell the customer, not necessarily what is best for him, but what is on its shelf. A mechanic will choose, not necessarily the best tool, but the one that is in his toolbox. It is the same with bloodless medicine. If the facility is not equipped with it, for all practical purposes, it does not exist, and the doctor may know of it only in the abstract. For now, it is a specialty, and one can hardly expect all doctors to specialize. To the extent possible, Jehovah’s Witnesses lay the groundwork well ahead of time, even choosing specific hospitals, so as not to show up suddenly at one of them and say: “Surprise! No blood!” It is no wonder that some doctors have blown a gasket in such circumstances.

It is not always possible. When I was admitted suddenly for a condition that required immediate surgery, I made clear several times that I would not accept a blood transfusion. ‘Not a problem,’ I was told more than once. ‘We do it all the time. It shouldn’t be indicated for this type of operation, anyway. Here, sign this, initial that, and rest easy.’ Yet, on the verge of going under anesthesia, the anesthesiologist introduced himself and asked if I would prefer to die rather than accept a blood transfusion should one prove necessary. The reason that it is not advisable to do this, as I discussed with the man afterward, is that it introduces to the patient at the last moment the notion that maybe his surgeon is not very skilled after all—perfectly capable of botching an operation that everyone else has said was a piece of cake.

Taken aback, I had responded that if he were to come to a point in which he felt a blood transfusion was necessary, he was to find an anesthesiologist to whom it would not prove necessary—it wasn’t my fault if they couldn’t get their ducks lined up. But it wasn’t his fault, either. The man was just being conscientious. If a fault was to be assigned, it was with hospital management that had not afforded opportunity to settle this ahead of time. Probably the man had received only five minutes training on the subject: “Run with them if you can but run them down if you can’t.”

The account is related in greater detail in my first book, Tom Irregardless and Me, in which I have changed all names and even attributed the experience to someone else. There, I came up with the seemingly cute idea of giving all medical staff names that would suggest drugs or diseases. My nemesis anesthesiologist became Dr. Mike “Ace” Inhibitor, and his trusty assistant, Nurse Hep See. Some of the other characters have not aged well, having been named after drugs that were then advertised heavily on television, which was frequently playing in the background as I wrote, but which have today been replaced by other drugs. I would do things differently today.

In every area of medicine, Jehovah’s Witnesses know less than their doctors, and they never pretend otherwise. But in the area of blood transfusion, sometimes they know more. This is not because they’re smart, but because it is their special cause. “The trouble is,” I told Dr. Inhibitor, that our people are likely to know about the New Scientist article, (see chapter 18) and if you do appear not to, they will panic, even to the point of questioning your qualifications.

Jehovah’s Witnesses are not medical reformers. They don’t tell doctors what to do; they just would like that their consciences be respected. By sheer happenstance they have spurred major advancement in the field of blood transfusion therapy. Some Witnesses will say, however, that it is not sheer happenstance. They will venture the opinion that if the Bible consistently says to not “eat” blood, it cannot be that transfused blood is overall good for you.

It is the underlying principle that counts. If the doctor was to say that absolutely you had to avoid alcohol at all costs because it would cause excruciating pain with your unhealed dental surgery, and you concocted a plan to transfuse it instead, well—whatever floats your boat. Go for it. But if the reason is that your liver has taken all the abuse it can take and but one more drop of alcohol will cause it to shut down, then you will pour that alcohol out on the ground as if water. The fact that Christ’s death fulfilled the Law of the Old Testament, yet the requirement to abstain from blood is still carried over into New Testament times, indicates that something more than mere dietary law is at work here.

Among the greatest repositories of bloodless medical research is that found at JW.org in a section entitled ‘Medical Information for Clinicians.’ Not that the Witnesses do any of the research themselves, but they keep track of it, for obvious reasons. They have produced two videos in which doctors and academics from around the world inform on the latest developments in bloodless therapy: ‘Transfusion-Alternative Strategies—Safe, Simple, and Effective,’ and ‘Transfusion-Alternative Health Care—Meeting Patient Needs and Rights.’ Several doctors here quoted are taken from this source.

When the first rudimentary blood transfusion experiments were performed centuries ago, Professor of Anatomy at the University of Copenhagen, Thomas Bartholin (1616-80), objected. His concern was not on scientific grounds but on spiritual: “Those who drag in the use of human blood for internal remedies of diseases appear to misuse it and to sin gravely,” he wrote. “Cannibals are condemned. Why do we not abhor those who stain their gullet with human blood? Similar is the receiving of alien blood from a cut vein, either through the mouth or by instruments of transfusion. The authors of this operation are held in terror by the divine law, by which the eating of blood is prohibited.”

The only people I know of who still have regard for this aspect of “divine law” are Jehovah’s Witnesses. If there were others, (and judging from Bartholin’s comment, there must have been) they abandoned it when transfusions were adopted by the medical mainstream. More or less the same thing has occurred with both abortion and embryonic stem cell research.

Science advances. It is now possible to separate blood into the tiniest of fractions. This development occasions the seemingly deliberate misunderstanding on the part of Witness opposers that the Watchtower organization has “flip-flopped”—they now “allow” what they formerly “forbade.” The reality is that Witness HQ simply recognizes that it is for the conscience of each member to decide which of these minuscule components constitutes blood and which does not. Some will reason that any fraction, no matter how tiny, is blood. Others will reason along the lines of: “It’s not a cake until you mix the ingredients.”

Chichester-based Dr. Vipul Patel has stated: “I can foresee in the future that patients will almost expect that any surgery that is necessary is carried out without blood transfusion.” If his vision comes true at all, it will be a long time away, probably, because the forces of inertia favor the status quo. Of the many developed techniques of bloodless medicine, Dr. Aryah Shandler has said: “This is universal, can be practiced in any institution, in any part of the world….This is the best way of treating patients and truly should be a standard of care.”

From the book TrueTom vs the Apostates!

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Who are Intolerant Like the Anti-Cultists

Few are unaware that the Bible depicts the epic battle between good and evil, even if they know it in but inkling form. It is the subject of the final Book of Revelation. Foreglimmers of it appear in several other places.

The contest involves the choice between human rulership and divine rulership of the planet. The former is expressed in the present reality of two hundred eternally squabbling nations. The latter is expressed in the Lord’s prayer, as God’s kingdom (Catholics may know it as the “Our Father prayer), which, when it “comes,” results in God’s “will be[ing] done on earth, as it is in heaven.” Human rulership of the earth has not been such a stellar success that those who point to God’s government as the one true hope should be run off the road.

As with the Don McLean song, “the marching band refuses to yield.” Though it involves no human agency, God’s kingdom forcibly is to replace human rulership. It does not wait for “the broken-hearted people living in the world to agree,” for they never will. Daniel 2:44 says it succinctly: “The God of heaven will set up a kingdom that will never be brought to ruin. And the kingdom itself will not be passed on to any other people. It will crush and put an end to all these kingdoms, and it itself will stand to times indefinite.”

This can be dicey to express in literature, much more in artwork. Still, it has been expressed as long as there have been persons longing to see a final end of evil. One recent offering is from the book: Pure Worship of Jehovah Restored at Last, produced by Jehovah’s Witnesses. The writing gets explicit toward the end. For example:

“During the war of Armageddon, Jehovah will execute people, not in a cold, clinical manner, but in a “great rage.” (Read Ezekiel 38:18.) He will direct the explosive force of his anger, not against one army or one nation, but against countless individuals living across the globe. On that day, those slain by Jehovah “will be from one end of the earth clear to the other end of the earth.”—Jer. 25:29, 33.

The Bible verses cited are, from Ezekiel:

“On that day, the day when Gog invades the land of Israel, declares the Sovereign Lord Jehovah, ‘my great rage will flare up. In my zeal, in the fire of my fury, I will speak…all humans on the surface of the earth will tremble, and the mountains will be thrown down, and the cliffs will fall, and every wall will collapse to the ground.’ ‘I will call for a sword against him on all my mountains,’ declares the Sovereign Lord Jehovah. ‘Every man’s sword will be against his own brother. I will bring my judgment against him…’”

and from Jeremiah:

“‘You will not go unpunished, for I am calling for a sword against all the inhabitants of the earth,’ declares Jehovah of armies. …’ And those slain by Jehovah in that day will be from one end of the earth clear to the other end of the earth. They will not be mourned, nor will they be gathered up or buried. They will become like manure on the surface of the ground.’”

That’s not very pleasant, is it? Let no one accuse the Bible writers of beating around the bush.

Is it too much? Should the Bible be banned, as it clearly is the fiery source material for such paragraphs as in the Watchtower publication? Ought one side in this epic struggle be allowed a preemptive strike so that the view of the other be muzzled? Is it the sign of a “cult” not to interpret such passages out of existence?

Should the view that God might be displeased, even outraged, at the present state of the planet be outlawed? Should the only view allowable be that he cheerleads for the present world, having his feelings hurt with each new atrocity, to be sure, but quickly rebounds with the chipper hope that if his creatures but elect the right set of leaders, all will be well? Should only that neutered portrayal of God be allowed to stand, and any portrayal that God might actually do something about the state of the world be consigned to the state of fantasy, even harmful fantasy when those of that view reprioritize their lives to better accommodate it?

Taking their place among the most intolerant people on the planet are the anti-cultists. Religion they will allow so long as it does not forget that its place is to reinforce the status quo. “If religion helps you to be kinder and gentler, so be it,” they seem to say, “but don’t go rocking the boat. Human leadership is the only reality—if your god can come on board with that, he’s welcome, but only if. There may daily be discouraging checks, but they are not checkmates, so don’t go bringing any literalist religion into it saying that final the checkmate looms dead ahead.”

What’s it to them, anyway? If the verses are to become reality, then Jehovah’s Witnesses offer a fine head’s up and an opportunity to sidestep the trouble. If they are not to become reality, then there is no harm done other than egg on the faces of those announcing it. Jehovah’s Witnesses will take that chance. The Bible is still the most widely distributed book on earth, and it is so by a huge margin. Not all will consign it to the dumpster when they hear of such fiery passages. Some will be more like the Hebrew king Josiah of long ago:

“As soon as [Josiah] heard the words of the book of the Law, he ripped his garments apart. Then the king gave this order…. ‘Go, inquire of Jehovah in my behalf, in behalf of the people, and in behalf of all Judah concerning the words of this book that has been found; for Jehovah’s rage that has been set ablaze against us is great, because our forefathers did not obey the words of this book by observing all that is written concerning us.’“ (2 Kings 22)

It will ever be the minority view. But only the anti-cultists seek to banish it so as to keep everyone on the same page of human rulership. For Jehovah’s Witnesses, who unapologetically choose God’s rulership over human rulership, “the wicked” will primarily be those who clearly see both sides and decisively choose human rulership—abysmal track record and all. It will not be those with only a hazy concept of one or both. It will be those who know what they are choosing.

Destruction of “the wicked” so that “the righteous” may live unmolested is a long-understood Bible theme. It has traditionally been seen as a hopeful message, ultimately, and a fine inducement not to be “wicked.” Today the anti-cultists try to categorize it as on a par with hate-speech. Sometimes they use the reasoning that such language must terrify young children—that it is a form of child abuse to expose young ones to such verses. Is it? Do Jehovah’s Witnesses scare children? Or is it the gradual accumulation of ever more obscene conditions that they are expected to adjust to? Tweeted one woman: “I understand why our schools need to have lockdown drills. I cannot even begin to express my rage that this is normal now. But we also need to have a conversation about the psychological harm that’s being done to children because of them.”

The above paragraph in the Watchtower publication will raise eyebrows, at the very least. That is understood. Yet, many religions ratchet up the consequences to a far greater degree, in effect making Jehovah’s Witnesses a “kinder, gentler religion.” Many hold that, regardless of how “the wicked” may meet their end, their afterlife will be such as to make that end seem like a walk in the park. Many religions have held that “the wicked” will be tormented forever and ever in some sort of a hellfire. It is notable that Isaac Asimov called hellfire “the drooling dream of a sadist,” and wrote of the obvious villainy of imposing everlasting punishment for but a few decades of misdeeds during life—even the most regressive human government knows that the punishment must fit the crime. It is also worth noting that Charles Taze Russell, often described as the founder of Jehovah’s Witnesses, was known during his lifetime as the man who “turned the hose on hell and put out the fire.” Jehovah’s Witnesses have never believed in an afterlife of torment. These days Watchtower literature associates Russell and those of his time with “the messenger who prepares the way,” drawing on a John-the-Baptist reference. One of the first things that must be done in preparing the way for any building project is carting out the trash. From Day 1, Jehovah’s Witnesses have regarded eternal torment in hell as among the trashy doctrines that must go. The teaching makes drawing close to God challenging—for who can be drawn to a God capable of such cruelty?

“Have plenty to do in the work of the Lord,” says the Bible at 1 Corinthians 15;58. To those taking such counsel to heart, almost by definition they will have little to do in works not of the Lord—to the point where they may even lose touch with those who speak the language of those works. This will not be the case with religion that views the “works of the Lord” as a buttressing support to the prevailing system of governing the earth through human governments. But it will be the case with religion that sees the two as separate—that sees the present system of human self-rule as something slated for replacement by divine rule. Those of the latter view can be expected to align themselves with what they think is to come. They can readily be painted as out of touch with concerns that they have set aside to focus on what they think is more relevant.

Were they not dispersed worldwide, their situation would not seem strange in the slightest. The citizens of one nation will know almost nothing of issues that form the very core for the citizens of other nations. They are usually dissuaded from learning those concerns. Sometimes, it is active dissuasion from governing forces. Other times, dissuasion is more subtly accomplished by putting so much on one’s plate as to forestall exploring elsewhere. “Insularity” with regard to national groups relating to one another is the most natural thing in the world.

Plainly, not all can think as Jehovah’s Witnesses. It they did, the very system of dividing people by national groups would crumble. But that is not going to happen in this system of things. One is reminded of the American judge who, in the height of World War II, addressed Witness attorney Victor Blackwell, who was defending a conscientious objector: “This whole matter troubles me. What, with Jehovah’s Witnesses increasing and spreading out all over the earth, if everybody got to be Jehovah’s Witnesses, where would we be….” Mr. Blackwell responded: “Your Honor, if everybody on earth became Jehovah’s Witnesses, there would be no war, and no need for armed forces of any kind, in any nation. Would the Court object to that state of affairs?” Proceed with the case, the judge said.

Had he been an anti-cultist judge, he might not have proceeded with the case. Had he been an anti-cultist judge, he might have zeroed in on religious people who dare to champion modes different than his own. He might indeed have objected to “that state of affairs” on the basis that it reflected cult-thinking. He might have not have moved on at all until he succeeded in getting everyone on the same page of human endeavor, bloody though it was at the moment.

From the book TrueTom vs the Apostates

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Moses Strikes Solid Rock

Finally, Moses cried out to Jehovah: “What should I do with this people? A little longer and they will stone me!” Though the July, 2018 Watchtower article entitled ‘Where are Your Eyes Looking?’ nowhere makes the connection, beyond a vague reference to those having “a measure of responsibility in God’s organization,” which everyone took as a reference to congregation elders, this writer could not help but think that the ones the Governing Body had foremost in mind as beneficiaries of the counsel offered was themselves.

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

The next instance was almost 40 years later, and by this time the people have worn Moses down. They have never given up on the bellyaching and even occasional rebellion. This time when they started complaining over the same thing, Moses lost it. “Hear, now, you rebels! Must we bring water for you from this crag?” and he struck the rock twice, after which water again gushed out. But God didn’t like what Moses had shouted. Much later, Psalm 106: 32-33 says “They provoked him at the waters of Meribah, and it went badly for Moses because of them. They embittered his spirit, and he spoke rashly with his lips.”

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

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

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

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

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

If you take away the upside there becomes nothing left to grumble about other than the downside. The trend today of the young is to go atheist. Who smoothed that path for them? When their new influencers come around, delighted about the restrictions they have broken free from, always ask them what they have found that is better. What is it that they have to offer? Are they not just “promising them freedom” while existing as “slaves of corruption?” What do they have to offer? Simply the freedom to do whatever one wants without check? History shows that freedom has not worked out particularly well for humankind.

With the wandering Israelites, it went well beyond complaining about the dry weather. They reached the point where they wanted to go back to Egypt. Imagine. It is widely told, if only from the Ten Commandments movie, that Moses led the Israelites out of Egypt—deliverance from a harsh life. They had there been slaves. Now, just a month later, they wanted to go back. When the going got especially rough because the ten timid spies planted fear amongst them, “they even went to saying to one another: ‘Let us appoint a head, and let us return to Egypt!’” says Numbers 14:4. Egypt! The land in which they had suffered slavery for decades. They wanted to go back!

So, too, apostates to the faith today want to go back to “Egypt.” It is as though they want to return to slavery. The Lord was impaled in Egypt, Revelation 11;8 says. Everyone knows that he was not impaled there. It is a symbolic usage of “Egypt,” an “Egypt” at cross-purposes with God no less than the Egypt of the Old Testament. It, too, features “slavery,” and apostates long to return to it because they have decided that it was not so bad after all. The slavery is not so obvious. Rather, it is so universal as to go unnoticed by most. We are slaves to sin with its ultimate consequence of death, Romans 6 tells us. The inherited imperfection by which, try as we might, we let ourselves and all around us down is the sad reality that God proposes to reverse by means of his Son’s sacrifice. “Nah, it’s not so bad,” the apostates say. “We’ll go back to it. Opportunities abound in the world we left, and we want to not miss out on them.” It is no different than “Demas has forsaken me because he loved the present system of things” of 2 Timothy 4:10.

If there is no God, he is exactly right. Paul would agree with him. “If it is in this life only that we have hoped in the Christ, we are of all men most to be pitied.” (1 Corinthians 15:9) In other words—if it is all a myth, an unreality. “However, now Christ has been raised up from the dead,” he goes on to affirm next. Faith in God’s purpose or the absence of it determines two starkly different outlooks in life. The goads that are absolutely unbearable to those without it are accepted by those with it with barely a notice.

There are times in Bible history when so many became too smart for their own pants and God simply gets fed up. Paul announces that he will take his missionary show on the road. (Acts 13) The king announces that those invited to the feast are not worthy of it, and he redirects the invitation to one and all. (Matthew 22) God himself announces that he will scrap his people and build for himself a new nation from Moses. Moses talks him out of it. Everyone recognizes that God is affording his prophet extraordinary consideration—allowing him to plead a case and demonstrate where his heart lies. Only persons of “critical thought” conclude that he is such an unreasoning hothead as to not know that killing off his own people will damage his street cred. (Exodus 32)

“Look out: perhaps there may be someone who will carry you off as his prey through the philosophy and empty deception according to the traditions of men, according to the elementary things of the world and not according to Christ,” cautions Paul at Colossians 2:8. In the case of opposing young people, former Witnesses themselves, it becomes almost silly to affix to them the label “apostate.” They do fit the bill, technically, but they haven’t really earned their stripes yet—call them “junior apostates,” if one must, or “apostates in training.” At present, they are “someone ‘carried off’ as prey through the philosophy and empty deception according to the traditions of men.” They will have to see through it for themselves now. Very likely, few of them will, for the animal carrying off prey is not known to release it. They have aligned themselves with masters skilled in the use of new blinders, the type that permits observation of the trees but not the forest. Still, young people are forever doing rash things that they later rethink, so one never knows how things will turn out. “It ain’t over till it’s over,” says Yogi Berra.

From the book TrueTom vs the Apostates!

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The Anti-Cultists Are Directly Responsible

The term for a faith-based community of relatively recent origin is “new religious movement.” But if you really dislike that community, you resurrect a word already reviled and apply it to your target—you say it is a “cult.” That way you don’t have to demonstrate that the group is bad. Your label does your work for you.

Time was when if you fell under the spell of a charismatic leader, withdrew from normal societal contact, and began doing strange things, you just might be part of a cult. Today, the word is expanded to cover those thinking outside of the box that we are not supposed to think outside of.  If the box of popular goals and thinking undeniably led to fulfillment, that might not be such a bad thing, but everyone knows that it does not.

Says religion.wikia.com of the term “new religious movement:” “Scholars studying the sociology of religion have almost unanimously adopted this term as a neutral alternative to the word ‘cult.’” How can it not follow that “cult” is therefore not scholarly but more in keeping with those who want to stir up ill will, if not hate?

It is akin to yelling “Fire!” in a crowded theater. People may act upon it. They particularly may do so if “cult” is coaxed just a little bit further in the public eye to become “extremist.” Such a thing has happened with regard to Jehovah’s Witnesses in Russia under the guidance of anti-cultists.

Anton Chivchalov has described himself as an “observer of the persecution of Jehovah’s Witnesses in Russia.” He covered the Supreme Court trial resulting in a ban of the faith, as well as the appeal and events thereafter, with a steady stream of tweets. As to anti-cult apostates stirring up hate, he wrote: “The active participation of apostates in the trial against Jehovah’s Witnesses in the Russian Supreme Court is a vivid example of their unprincipled and indiscriminate cooperation with anyone, if only against us. And I’m not talking here about how incompetent and preposterous this participation was (none could testify anything about extremism). Only emotions, zero facts. But this activity is also utterly immoral, since they want to send innocent people to jail. They are not sincerely misled, like many others. No, apostates are well aware that Jehovah’s Witnesses neither killed nor rob anyone, yet they are happy to prosecute us on criminal charges. Of course, they still consider themselves good Christians. [Apostates from the Witness faith do not necessarily become atheist, however the ones that align themselves with anti-cultists usually do.] And it is completely beyond my understanding that with all this hatred towards us they are offended that we don’t want to communicate with them!”

Many other new religious movements are shaking in their boots that their turn will come next, for they all have their own apostates eager to grab the popular ear. In that country, Witnesses are officially designated “extremist,” a designation shared only with ISIS. As the human rights group khpg.org points out, “you can’t claim that people are ‘terrorists’ or ‘extremists’ and then simply knock on their doors to arrest them, though in all cases there is nothing at all to suggest that resistance would have been shown. Instead, there are armed searches, most often by masked men in full military gear, with the suspect hurled to the ground and handcuffed, often in the presence of their distressed and terrified children.” This has become the reality for many Witnesses and it is a direct result of those who expand the definition of “cult” to cover people not covered previously.

Note how this meme plays out in the following event. Note also that it has nothing to do with controversies that have dogged the faith in the West: A mass shooting occurred in Crimea, and the shooter’s sole parent, raising him alone, is said to be a Jehovah’s Witness. Let us assume that it is true. This is not a safe assumption, for another Witness was recently denounced by Russian media as having a cache of arms. It turned out that her non-Witness husband had a few rusted and inoperable souvenir grenades from World War II. Nonetheless, one must start somewhere. Let us assume that mom was a Witness.

Khpg.org reports: “Whether or not his mother is, or has ever been a Jehovah’s Witness, there is no proof that Roslyakov had any religious beliefs, or that his mother’s alleged beliefs affected him in any way….the entire ‘story’, as presented, for example, on the Russian state-controlled Vesti.ru, is based solely on value judgements which are presented as though they were facts.

“The Vesti.ru report is entitled ‘The Kerch killer was surrounded by supporters of totalitarian sects.’ It claims that Roslyakov’s mother…‘forced her son to live by the rules of the banned organization.’

“It then asserts that people who ‘have pulled themselves away from it’ are sending messages of sympathy to the bereaved families and claiming that ‘all that happened was the result of pseudo-religious upbringing.’

“The supposed ‘expert on religious sects’, Alexander Dvorkin, makes allegations about the Jehovah’s Witnesses’ faith that are seriously questionable, as does the Russian Orthodox priest interviewed. None of the claims are in any way checked or analyzed, nor is the viewer offered anything in the way of an alternative point of view. The Crimean Human Rights Group is surely correct in identifying all of this as hate speech, which can result in crimes being committed against the targets of attack.” 

Note that simply being raised as a Witness is said to account for his crime. He simply snapped amidst an intolerable upbringing. It wouldn’t have happened otherwise. There have never been any other mass shootings. “Oppressive” religion is solely to blame.

He must have snapped substantially, for Jehovah’s Witnesses are one of the few groups on earth whose members categorically reject violence for any reason. Yet they are the ones said to be at fault when a young man does a 180 from his taught values. This ridiculous perception prevails because of anti-cultists, whose champion in Russia, Mr. Dvorkin, is soul-mate to anti-cultists here, he even having the Western connection of a French NGO.

Some enemies of Witnesses in the West, who hurl the “cult” label liberally, are gleeful over this development, even though it results in machine guns pointed at the heads of their arrested and shackled former loved ones.  More typically, however, they disapprove of it. Some have denounced it. But their verbiage is directly responsible. Their denunciation is akin to the California arsonist denouncing that the state has burned to the ground. One must not be obtuse. Once you release the hounds of hell, you find that you cannot control just how many they maul.

And what have the Jehovah’s Witnesses done to deserve such an outcome? Do they interpret the Bible differently? Do they publicize the view that this grand experiment of human self-rule will one day end, to be replaced by God’s kingdom? Surely such a view should be allowed to stand, even if ones adopting it change their life goals accordingly. Not everyone will think that the present world sails proudly upon the high seas, with sharpshooters in the bow ready to blast to smithereens icebergs as they approach. Some will think it more likely that the Titanic will hit one. Must that view be stomped out of existence by bullying anti-cultists?

Christianity started as a religion of the working class. It took the scholarly Paul to make the connections with the Law of Moses—a feat that might not be expected of fishermen and laborers. The upper classes cared little about such doings, and so references to the faith in Roman writings are few and unflattering. Earliest of them is from Roman historian Cornelius Tacitus, who point out that when suspicion fell upon Nero for setting fire to Rome, he blamed the Christians instead.

Writes the historian: “Hence, to suppress the rumor, he falsely charged with the guilt, and punished with the most exquisite tortures, the persons commonly called Christians, who were hated for their enormities. Christus, the founder of that name, was put to death as a criminal by Pontius Pilate, procurator of Judea, in the reign of Tiberius, but the pernicious superstition, repressed for a time, broke out yet again, not only through Judea, where the mischief originated, but through the city of Rome….Accordingly, first those were seized who confessed they were Christians; next on their information, a vast multitude were convicted, not so much on the charge of burning the city, as of hating the human race.

“And in their deaths they were also made the subjects of sport, for they were covered with the hides of wild beasts, and worried to death by dogs, or nailed to crosses, or set fire to, and when day declined, burned to serve for nocturnal lights. Nero offered his own gardens for that spectacle, and exhibiting a Circensian game, indiscriminately mingling with the common people in the habit of a charioteer, or else standing in his chariot. Whence a feeling of compassion arose toward the sufferers, tho guilty and deserving to be made examples of by capital punishment, because they seemed not to be cut off for the public good, but victims to the ferocity of one man.”

Let us pass over what first draws our attention—the barbarity of it all—to dwell on the evil reputation of those early Christians that made it possible. From where did it come? How can it be that, three decades after Jesus’ death, his followers were “hated for their enormities?” How can it be that they were convicted on the charge of “hating the human race” as much as of setting fire to the city? How can it be that they could so readily be thought “guilty and deserving to be made examples of by capital punishment?” They could not have been made the scapegoat without that ugly reputation, no matter how vigorously the depraved emperor had pointed to them. How did they acquire it?

Professor G. A. Wells, author of The Jesus Myth, opines that “the context of Tacitus’ remarks itself suggests that he relied on Christian informants.” No genuine Christian is going to say: “We hate the human race,” but exactly the opposite. It was their “informants”—their apostates, that spread the ill report!

A faith that 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.

Persecutions today are not like in Nero’s day. The mistreatment of Christians in Russia is not the mistreatment of Christians in the first century. History is not repeating—but it is beginning to rhyme a little. Jehovah’s Witnesses and other “new religions” are under assault by a modern “anti-cult” movement, incensed at their “authoritarian” nature—just as first-century apostates to the faith were of theirs, and misrepresented it popularly as being “haters of the human race.”

Jesus said to his followers that “if they have persecuted me, they will persecute you, also.” Those of his footsteps were separate from the greater world—insular to it—even as they tried to lend a helping hand to those within. Their insularity was the source of different expectations, goals, and conduct that their apostates could work into a lather in their attempts to foment opposition. It is the same today, with miscues of the faithful—some real and some concocted—blown up beyond all bounds of reason in efforts to eliminate arguably the most peaceful and law-abiding people on earth. When Kingdom Halls are burned to the ground, as were two in 2018 Washington State amidst six separate attacks, can it be possible that the still-at-large arsonist will not have been whipped into a frenzy by the incendiary C-word? Screaming that word pushes the crazies over the edge; such is the power of hate speech and it is the reason authorities exempt it from normal protected free speech.

From the book TrueTom vs the Apostates!

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