“I Can’t Believe They Joined That Cult!”

I can’t believe that they joined that cult! It’s a cult—pure and simple. It teaches them hate. The sooner it goes down, the better.

8E32EEC2-6478-4A56-A14F-8DD5AAD9C754

But he said to her: “First let the children be satisfied, for it is not right to take the bread of the children and throw it to the little dogs.” (Mark 7:27)

It is right. The snotty kids do nothing but eat. They can spare a little more chow than they do.

But she replied to him: “Yes, sir, and yet even the little dogs underneath the table eat of the crumbs of the little children.””(Mark 7:28)

They hardly even leave the crumbs, the brats!

What the true proverb says has happened to them: “The dog has returned to its own vomit,” (2 Peter 2:22)

Look, do I rub it in when I see you picking your nose?

Look out for the dogs; look out for those who cause injury; look out for those who mutilate the flesh.”(Philippians 3:2)

Yeah, well, not lately I haven’t. I was cranky that day. Give it a rest, will you?

Outside are the dogs and those who practice spiritism and those who are sexually immoral and the murderers and the idolaters and everyone who loves and practices lying.’”(Revelation 22:15)

So let me in already. You think it’s fun out here with these lowlifes? On the couch is where I belong!

60C6D8B7-A239-4B78-A9FF-94F1BCB7A156

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

Endurance

During the 1940s, after the U.S. Supreme Court held that American Witness children could be required to salute the flag, a wave of violent reprisals broke out from ordinary citizens suddenly turned thugs. Elanor Roosevelt, wife of the President, spoke out to stay the violence.1 So did the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), declaring: “It is high time we came to our senses regarding this matter of flag-saluting. Jehovah’s Witnesses are not disloyal Americans….They are not given to law-breaking in general, but lead decent, orderly lives, contributing their share to the common good.”2

Alarmed over what they had unleashed, three years later the Court, with several new members, overturned their own decision. Foregleams of it had appeared beforehand. “Ordinarily we would feel constrained to follow an unreversed decision of the Supreme Court of the United States, whether we agreed with it or not….The developments with respect to the Gobitis case, however, are such that we do not feel it is incumbent upon us to accept it as binding authority,” stated a lower court (United States District Court for the Southern District of West Virginia), as a similar case wended its way toward the top Court. There the prior decision was reversed by a 6:3 majority and the verdict was announced on Flag Day: June 14, 1943.3 Will there similarly emerge men of conscience in Russia, who cannot abide what they have unleashed?

Schoolteachers and principals in Russia have turned upon Witness children; persecution is not confined to adults and the Devil is not tender-hearted. Children become the new pawns. One 8-year-old girl’s parents were summoned to her school after she had sung a Witness song and talked about God to classmates. She was threatened with expulsion. In Ufa a policeman demanded a Witness mother explain why she “involves minors in extremist activities” as the eldest daughter recorded the conversation on her cell phone camera. In the Rostov region, a teacher sent a 14-year-old girl to the principal’s office, having previously confiscated her phone. There a police officer began to tell the girl that her mother forces her to go to a “terrorist organization” in which “they are robbed” and “are taught to kill people.” The officials brought the child to tears, in asserting that Jehovah’s Witnesses would “take control of her and send her to blow up the school,” and that she should “show her mother her individuality and not go to meetings.”

Another teacher told a child who had refused to sing a song heralding the military: “You are now banned and we are already fed up with your religion.” To her mother she reiterated “You are now extremists and there will be no indulgence.” At the family’s request, she allowed a song about nature to substitute for a music lesson but lowered the child’s grade on that account. A Witness once living at St. Petersburg Bethel (the Administrative Center) told of yet another 8-year-old girl who was forced by her school principal to sing a patriotic song at school in front of her classmates. Bullying children has become the new norm.4

It is the same scene in Russia that once played out in the United States. As brainwashing ever does, thought is replaced by rote. In the chain of events leading up to the United States Gobitis decision over the pledge to the flag, one Coronel Moss noted: “Another form that false patriotism frequently takes is so-called Flag-worship—blind and excessive adulation of the Flag as an emblem or image—super-punctiliousness and meticulosity in displaying and saluting the Flag—without intelligent and sincere understanding and appreciation of the ideals and institutions it symbolizes. This of course is but a form of idolatry, a sort of ‘glorified idolatry,’ so to speak. When patriotism assumes this form it is nonsensical and makes the ‘patriot’ ridiculous.”5

Another court went on to observe that “there are schools all over the United States in which the pupils have to go through the ceremony of pledging allegiance to the flag every school day. It would be hard to devise a means more effective for dulling patriotic sentiment than that. This routine repetition makes the flag-saluting ceremony perfunctory and so devoid of feeling; and once this feeling has been lost it is hard to recapture it for the ‘high moments’ of life.”6

Would the enemies of Jehovah’s Witnesses accuse them of brainwashing? Just who are the real brainwashers? Is it truly a fine thing that children of each nation must sing their respective patriotic song and salute their respective flag? Is it truly a gift from God to divide people in such a way? Start when they are young, for is that not the most effective time to brainwash?

“Officials who were already inclined to take action against Jehovah’s Witnesses are now emboldened, and ordinary people who have long disliked them are also emboldened,” said Felix Corley, a Norway-based religious rights activist. Within a month of the ban, assaults on Witnesses became legion. One enraged man in Belgorod shouted “You have been banned” as he repeatedly punched a Witness in the head, face and upper body. In Lustino, the home of a Witness family was burned to the ground. Outside of Moscow, a plainclothes policeman told Witnesses gathered to worship in a private home that the Court decision meant that they could no longer do so.7

Andrew Sorokowski, a columnist with the Religious Information Service of Ukraine posed the question: Why would a nation of some 144,000,000 risk its international reputation to persecute a religious sect numbering no more than 175,000 followers? The persecution is not illegal, according to its own laws, he points out. The federal law on Combating Extremist Activity punishes “propaganda of exclusiveness, superiority or inferiority of an individual based on his/her religious identity.” That law means no one but the Orthodox Church and an approved Jewish, Buddhist and Muslim selection can claim to be the one true path.8

Legally, they can do it. But why would they? The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom promptly labeled Russia one of the “countries of particular concern,” along with Iran, North Korea, Nigeria, and Sudan.9 There is a reputational price to pay for any nation that would carry on outrageously. Few are willing to pay it. They do not want to paint themselves before the whole wide world as a land of ruffians dictated to by house religions.

The most absurd accusations about Russia emanate from Western media these days. Surely a news report that Russia utilized the Pokemon Go game to undermine the American morale takes the cake.10 ‘Is there no end?’ Russian outlets have, in effect, asked. ‘Is there no accusation too preposterous?’ Unfairly, perhaps, but also predictably, Russia’s bullying of all minority religion and the outright ban of one suggests that there is not—that all accusations must be carefully considered. All but the most repressive nations on earth have learned to accommodate the human urge to worship as each human sees fit. Russia sides with the forces of repression in this regard, and even surpasses them when it bans the Jehovah’s Witnesses’ website as extremist, the only country on earth to do so. Everyone else on the planet can visit and plainly see that it is not. How can Russia not lose face? Everyone know what extremism is and they know that Jehovah’s Witnesses are not it.

The latest one to complain in this way is Sergey Lavrov.11 He grumbles at a press briefing that “Russia is blamed for everything that goes wrong on this planet.” Ought he not look in the mirror for the reason? He was among the six officials that Witnesses everywhere were invited to write. He received several million letters. Did they touch his heart? Addressing a question from the media in December of 2017, he said: “As concerns Jehovah’s Witnesses, Russia bans organizations that encourage their supporters to openly break Russian laws. This is exactly what this cult was doing. They were warned several times but they would not listen and continued to involve their members in anti-constitutional activity. There may be no question about this.”12

Lavrov was one of those who received a letter from Bob’s Cleaning Service. Say what you will about Bob, but you will never find a more decent, unassuming and honest man. Bob worked hard on his letter—he doesn’t write too many of them. Lavrov could have read it, taken it to heart, spoke to his five other friends, and saved his country untold grief. Instead, he sided with the Court expert who scribbles “any sort of nonsense” and the anti-cult hero who disseminates hate speech—the latter description supplied by Human Rights Without Frontiers.13  If you do this and criminalize 175,000 peaceful citizens who are Jehovah’s Witnesses, and then continue to make life miserable for the Pentecostals and the Baptists and the Evangelicals and the Mormons and the Salvation Army and the Adventists and the Roman Catholics and, in fact, any group professing Christianity that is not Russian Orthodox, not to mention non-Christian groups, you cannot say at the press conference ‘Why do people think we do bad things?’

In one of my individual blog posts that I cobbled together to make Chapter 2, reflecting a time before I was up to speed on so many things, I laid down the challenge: “If it is to be, let Russian officials look themselves in the mirror and publicly declare: ‘I believe, what with all the villains and scoundrels on the loose today in our country and throughout world, that taking out Jehovah’s Witnesses is the most important thing we can do.’” Mr. Lavrov and his friends rose to the occasion! It is the theme of Fedor Chistyakov’s new album ‘Unwanted Song.’ Dyadya Fyodor belts out “We’ll seize the world later, for now…Remove the witnesses!”

Chistyakov, too, is bringing his gift to the altar. He has been busy since his exile writing and recording music he never foresaw himself writing and recording—music that for him is a first. “So we lived to see emigrant music,” the web source Sobesednik says from Russia. Yes, that’s because they chased him away from his homeland. He’s holed up in New York, right now, and not by choice. Sobesednik supplies the best explanation for his plight that it can come up with: “Chistyakov is an extremist? And what did he do? Never mind.” It makes no sense at all to them.

‘To the punk rockers I became a punk rocker,’ Paul would have said had he thought of it. No one can say that the cat has got Fedor’s tongue. “The muzzle of a furious red-brown bear [emblazons the cover, along with] biting texts with a lot of allusions and direct analogies with the current Russian reality.” But he enters a world strange to him. Is this an album of “defiance,” as Bershidsky would say? No. It is a tactic of last resort, just as when his eight million brothers wrote to Putin. Who were they to write to Putin? Never in their lives would they have imagined it. They did it when the situation became desperate and an opportunity to do something opened up. It is the same with Chistyakov. “I’m a believer, and I should not interfere in politics,” the musician explained to Sobesednik. "At the same time, I’m not blind, I see what’s going on, and I’m terrified of this….Maybe the album will help someone. This album is not a protest. This is the essence of things.” 14

Yes, why would a nation of some 144,000,000 risk its international reputation to persecute a religious sect numbering no more than 175,000 followers? It is a good question. Yet Russia has done so. Religious repression hardly accounts for American media accusations, which are driven more by its own internal concerns, and in some cases border on hysteria. But it suggests to the unpracticed eye that all such accusations just might be true and that there is no accusation too fantastic to be dismissed out-of-hand. On Twitter someone sarcastically writes: “Don’t forget to check under your bed before you go to sleep tonight. There may be a Russian under there ready to give bad dreams.” “Thanks for the tip!” says anyone familiar with the plight of Dennis Christensen, jailed for nearly a full year without trial for merely leading a Bible study, as he peaks under the bed to check. How can people not imagine Russia capable of unlimited villainy?  Perhaps whatever they hear is but the tip of the iceberg. It is sad to see the self-inflicted wound of a great nation.

 

Jesus’ command is the one to follow, say the Witnesses. “And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached throughout the world as a witness to all nations and then the end will come,” he instructs his followers.15 ‘Not here!’ this or that king says. ‘We have our own religion here. We’re good. Peddle it elsewhere.’ I can recall right now a certain local speaker with a dramatic flair, twirling a globe he had brought up front with him, repeating Jesus words and then interrupting himself with “This gospel of the kingdom will not be preached in my part of the earth,” and covering with a finger or two the human nation that would defy God. Should nations truly do that? Should they truly seek to neutralize faith? Should they let the house religion tell them all bases are already adequately covered—particularly when it covers none of them with regard to Bible literacy?

It is not unlike how religious enemies treated Amos of the Old Testament when he uttered words they deemed not patriotic. Priest Amaziah, ever close to the king, “sent word to Jeroboam, king of Israel: ‘Amos has conspired against you within the house of Israel; the country cannot endure all his words.’” It is the same with Jehovah’s Witnesses in Russia. Prominent ones assure Putin that the country cannot endure all their words.

The answer Amaziah decides upon is to send Amos far away—outside the borders. It is the same answer once arrived at in Russia. “Off with you, seer, flee to the land of Judah and there earn your bread by prophesying! But never again prophesy in Bethel for it is the king’s sanctuary and a royal temple.” It is not just the high-handed command—it is also the insult, for Amos does not “earn his bread” prophesying, just as Jehovah’s Witnesses do not. He works to support himself, as do Jehovah’s Witnesses. His is a humble line of work, as is generally true of Jehovah’s Witnesses. Amos knows what he must do. For some reason the pre-eminent Amaziah and his bunch have not done it. No matter. Amos will. “I am not a [paid] prophet, nor do I belong to a company of prophets. I am a herdsman and a dresser of sycamores, but the LORD took me from following the flock, and the LORD said to me, ‘Go, prophesy to my people Israel. Now hear the word of the LORD,” he replies to the lofty one.16 They are humble people, those who God selects, not the bombastic bigwigs who love to hog the stage. Is it an absurd play that herdsmen are the central actors? Yes. But just because something is absurd does not mean it is not true. 

Enemies make trouble for Jehovah’s Witnesses and Witnesses simply have to plow through it as best they can. Jesus’ direction cannot be shunted aside, not even for the king. Ultimately, if he stops them, he stops them. They then become an example of Jesus’ other words: “If they have persecuted me, they will persecute you.”17

On behalf of her country, Russian Parliament Council member Lyudmila Narusova submitted a paper (July 2017) to the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe Parliamentary Assembly calling for others to show religious tolerance. It is another Kafkaesque event: taking the lead publicly and running in the opposite direction privately.

“Today political, religious and public figures should make efforts to prevent intolerance and discrimination on a religious basis. There is nothing worse than sectarian strife and history has shown that many times,” the head of Russian delegation told that body. The resolution pointed out each person’s rights on the freedom of thought, religion and beliefs called for interreligious dialogue. It even added that terror attacks committed by followers of a particular religion cannot justify religious intolerance.18

The 2017 Russian resolution dovetails with and even surpasses a statement of Vladimir Lenin made prior to the Bolshevik revolution of 1917, exactly 100 years ago: “Everybody must be perfectly free, not only to profess whatever religion he pleases, but also to spread or change his religion. No official should have the right even to ask anyone about his religion: that is a matter for each person’s conscience and no one has any right to interfere.”19

Is it blatant hypocrisy? Is it ‘One hand doesn’t know what the other is doing?’ Is it internal discord within the government? It is nothing this writer can figure out. Adding a note of further irony, Ms. Narusova’s husband, during his lifetime, was considered a prime mentor of Vladimir Putin in earlier post-glasnost days.20

Further indicating either that opposition to Witnesses is not monolithic or that the right hand does not know what the left is doing, or that it knows it very well but is content to send a signal—is the letter received by two Jehovah’s Witness elders from the Sergiev Posad City Prosecutor’s office, with apologies: “On behalf of the state, I bring you an official apology for the moral damage caused to you, connected with unreasonable criminal prosecution under art. 282 part 2….You have the right to demand the sending of written statements about the decision that justifies you, at the place of work, study or place of residence. In the event that information about…the illegal actions you have been applied to have been published in the press, distributed by radio, television or other media, you have the right to require the relevant mass media to make a report on rehabilitation.” Furthermore, their names and that of other believers have been removed from the list of “persons for whom there is evidence of their involvement in extremist activities.”21

The favorable decision toward the Witnesses took years of investigation, trial, acquittal, and renewed trial. In 2010, two agents posing as persons interested in Bible study secretly recorded the program at the area Kingdom Hall. “Overcome evil, restrain anger” and “What reputation do you deserve before God,” were the themes then discussed. The same expert, the mathematics teacher, who would later testify to the Vyborg court that the New World Translation was extremist, testified that these two meetings also contained content that was extremist. For three years, authorities in Moscow said it was not, but in 2013, they said it was. The two men were arrested at their respective homes. The first court acquitted them and found the experts biased against Witnesses. This judgement was appealed to an appellate court who also acquitted them. From start to finish the ordeal lasted seven years, and the inclusion of one on the extremism list caused his loss of employment.22

It turns out that the Court expert is an ‘expert’ on many things. Olga Nikitova, of the Agency of Political News, says that she “undertakes any research in the field of linguistics, culture, social sciences and even sexology and heraldry.” She and her colleagues are rather like hired guns, mercenaries, and her expertise, which Nikitova calls ‘malignant expertise,’ was rejected by the Sergiyev Posad court as “inconsistent, biased, contradictory and unacceptable.” Several months later a member of the St. Petersburg Chamber of Lawyers filed an application with the Investigative Committee to initiate criminal proceedings against her and her fellows. Vladimir Ryakhovsky, member of the Presidential Council for Human Rights, further complained of the “abuse of this expert, the dishonesty of this expert.”

It is ‘nice work if you can get it,’ to quote the popular George Gershwin song. “Examinations are a profitable business: each examination is paid by tens, or even hundreds of thousands of rubles from the state budget,” says Nikitova. Alexander Verkhovsky, director of the information-analytical center ‘Owl,’ further writes that “they are just legendary experts who are ready to write about anything, absolutely anything. For that, in fact, they are loved by customers. They write quickly their expertise and with the result that is always necessary.” He is embarrassed for the entire Russian justice system that makes such ready use of them.23

Somewhere I read (and cannot find it again) the Witness resolve: “We will continue to declare the good news tactfully.” Is it a concession: to do it tactfully? It has always been the goal—though perhaps not always. When Witnesses paraded around 80 years ago with placards emblazoned with “Religion is a Snare and a Racket!” that was hardly tactful, was it? Still, all things must be considered in their context; the placards were displayed amidst the backdrop between the two World Wars, during which the major Christian faiths played major supporter roles on both sides.24

Who is it among Witnesses who said: “You should strive for truth and tact. But if you have to sacrifice one, sacrifice tact.”? Was it Nathan Knorr, the third Watchtower President? Or is the entire line apocryphal? There will be more emphasis on tact today, but not at the expense of truth. Let’s face it, tactfulness doesn’t come easily to some of our people. They are real people, coming from the real rough and tumble world. They are not from the airy world of etiquette, of people who have come to realize they must behave, if only superficially, so as to advance in their careers. There is only so much tact you can muster when telling people that their goose is cooked. But Witnesses try. The goose of human rulership is indeed cooked. The training to preach is in place. Members improve over time. ‘Don’t sacrifice truth, but let your words be winsome, and not wincing,’ they are coached.25 Set up literature carts, where persons can approach you instead of you them. Set up a website so that they can do the same.

It is not a piece of cake. It does not come naturally. The average Witness is an average person, not given to diplomacy, conscious of inequality, much as Amos was, and much as Jeremiah was: “Ah, Lord GOD!” I said, “I do not know how to speak. I am too young!” But the LORD answered me, Do not say, “I am too young.” To whomever I send you, you shall go; whatever I command you, you shall speak. Do not be afraid of them, for I am with you to deliver you—oracle of the LORD. Then the LORD extended his hand and touched my mouth, saying to me, See, I place my words in your mouth! Today I appoint you over nations and over kingdoms, to uproot and to tear down, to destroy and to demolish, to build and to plant.”26

Russia is not a Western country and thus is not so enamored with human rights as are its counterparts. Some feel the prospects of Jehovah’s Witnesses there are doomed on that account. Why go there? Plenty of people suffer harm in places where human rights supposedly carry the day; they are simply different people. One should never forget the dictum that a “king’s heart is channeled water in the hand of the LORD; God directs in where he pleases.” Vladimir Putin is a national leader, but he is also a man with a heart.27

Sometimes a powerful person will overturn an established opinion of Jehovah’s Witnesses based upon personal contact with one of them. During the 1960s civil rights era of the United States, Alabama governor George Wallace was considered the epitome of racism. A black American Witness who regularly called upon him declared he was not that way at all. Concluding a conversation with Wallace, he heard upon returning to those in his car rumors that the Ku Klux Klan planned to disrupt an upcoming circuit assembly. He returned to Mr. Wallace, by then engaged in discussion with State Police authority. Upon hearing the man’s concern, Wallace directed the lawman to see to it. The story could be apocryphal, but I doubt it. It was related by someone too guileless to lie.

Just prior to a meeting with the circuit overseer, local pioneers were engaged in hubbub over the challenge of witnessing to certain ones considered opposed. John Wayne’s name came up. An uber-patriotic American film star, everyone assumed he would be hostile. The circuit overseer corrected everyone with his observation of how, in a prior circuit, a Witness had called on Mr. Wayne, who could not have been more polite or respectful. He had the highest regard for Witnesses, he told his visitor, and expressed the frank regret that he felt unable to live up to their standards. It is likely due to his friendship with Mickey Spillane, to whom he gave a Jaguar automobile. Spillane, author of the most shockingly violent fiction of his time, became a Witness in 1952, and his work thereafter pivoted 180 degrees. He worked in entertainment venues for the duration of his life—sometimes with John Wayne.

Okay, it’s a bit of a stretch to say Putin is on some Witness’ return visit route. I won’t say it. However, perhaps at the next Kremlin picnic he will run across his 3rd cousin twice removed who will tell him about the wonderful Jehovah’s Witness who returned his ruble-stuffed wallet he had accidentally dropped on one particularly hectic day.

The point is, there can always be a human connection, just as there was when Median king Ahasuerus thwarted a decision to kill off the Jews in his realm. “If you do not act,” Mordecai told his niece Esther, “salvation for the Jews will arise from some other source. But how do you know that you have been placed where you are for the very purpose of your speaking out?” and she thereafter did speak out.28 In the same way, there was a human connection when Cyrus was shown the scripture foretelling the action he had just taken in overthrowing Babylon; Josephus relates the account. It was just that way when Saul, the former chief persecutor of Christians, did an about face and became their foremost advocate. That one even went beyond a human connection, but who is to say the other ones did not as well?29

Will Putin become an Ahasuerus or a Cyrus? I’m not holding my breath. Still, stranger things have happened and you never know how things will turn out. “The kings of the earth take their stand as one against Jehovah and his anointed one,” says Psalm 2. You never know when a given king will read ahead and not want to play that game. Saul, holding high religious office, came to do a complete turn-around and wrote with regret of how he had once been a “blasphemer, persecutor and an arrogant man.”30

When Charles T. Russell, who traveled all over, visited the Russian field in the late 1800s, he saw little prospect for the kingdom hope to catch on there. “In Russia the government holds an intolerably tight grip on every man in the empire. And the stranger within their gates is always to them a suspicious character. His passport must be produced at every hotel and railway station before entering or leaving a city or town. The hotel proprietor receives your passport and hands it over to the Chief of Police, he retains it until you are ready to leave, so that any stranger could be readily traced as to just when he entered or left the country. Officers and authorities are simply civil, indicating that your presence is only tolerated, and any books or papers in your possession are carefully scrutinized to make sure that nothing in them is calculated to interfere with their ideas.”31 Yet look at what happened. By the time of 1991 legal registration, Witnesses numbered 45,000. They made hay while the sun was shining and grew to 175,000 in 26 years. Who is to say those days are finished?

 

Having declared the New World Translation of the Bible extremist, the next step was to make a grab for all Witness religious property. An unexpected glitch arose when reaching for the crown jewel in St. Petersburg, the administrative center complex of buildings that has been valued at $15 million (US).32 It was discovered that it was foreign-owned. The center had been specifically denied representation at the April 20th trial on that basis: that they were a foreign entity and thus the trial did not concern them. Now in order to seize the facilities, that rationale had to be reversed.

It was done without too much fuss. Since there was close cooperation between the Center and local witnesses, it was deemed that Russian interests owned it after all, and so it could be confiscated without creating an international incident. This despite the foreign owners in New York having made regular tax payments for seventeen years, per the terms of the original agreement.

Denis Korotkov, writing for fontanka.ru, summed matters up this way: “In the resort area, the prosecutor’s office and the court made a gift to Jehovah’s Witnesses. The property is worth…about 2 billion rubles. As a result, the American church lost its burdensome property and received almost one hundred percent chance of a generous return. International scandal—a bonus.” What Mr. Korotkov is saying is that Russia is giving the Watchtower Society a ‘gift’ in the form of a sure international scandal now and a generous financial return on their seized assets once that scandal has forced the government’s hand to undo the mischief they have just perpetrated. In the meantime, the 14-building complex that was a burdensome property for the Watchtower, since they could no longer use it but had to maintain it, no longer is. What appears to be a lose-lose for the Watchtower he reframes as a win-win. The article goes on to say that if Russian higher courts uphold the property grab, “there will inevitably be an appeal in European and American jurisdictions, and Russia will have to pay. Given the legal costs and fines, the amount can significantly exceed the cost of the complex in Solnechny.”33

Will the court decision be appealed outside of Russia? “Yaroslav Sivulsky, representative of the European Association of Christian Witnesses of Jehovah, one of those who defended in the hall, spoke about expropriation. ‘Of course, we will appeal this decision. It is based on nothing, except the desire of the prosecutor’s office to simply seize the property. We did not hear a single legal argument. This is expropriation. Russia encourages foreign business to invest in the country, but what investments can be made if the property is not protected and can be seized at any time?’”34

This writer agrees with Korotkov and is of the unusual opinion that if you are going to ban the Jehovah’s Witness organization in Russia, then it is a good thing, not a bad thing, to also ban the New World Translation and seize the Administrative Center buildings. Each action draws in people who might not otherwise care. Human rights people protest when Witness activity is banned, but it is partly offset by: ‘Well, they are a pain and they do call unannounced at inconvenient times.

But when you ban the Bible—even ringleader Dvorkin thought that was going too far.35 It plainly is a Bible; he doesn’t like it, but it plainly is one. He says, in effect: ‘We cut them off from U.S. organizational and monetary support. That’s enough. Break both their legs and they will die! You don’t ban the Bible as well, which will only make us look like a country of backward rednecks.’ I say ban it for exactly that reason. Let the sensible people of Russia observe how the anti-cult ideologues have sullied their reputation.

The academic community couldn’t believe it. The Russian expert witness, who copies any sort of nonsense off the Internet, which thereby becomes “essentially plagiarism,”36 had the court believing it wasn’t a Bible because it said ‘Holy Scriptures’ on the cover and not ‘Bible!’ In her voluminous expert analysis that she said took 287 days to complete, how could she have missed that the Forward of the Russian edition plainly states it is a translation of the Bible? Witness attorneys asked. She attacked the use of God’s name—nothing will get Jehovah’s Witnesses going more than that—fretting that “in the New World Translation, the dominant factor is the ‘Jehovah concept.’” Whereupon Witness attorneys had the judge reading from ten different Russian translations that also say Jehovah, creating the appearance of a “well-prepared Bible study,” said Moses Adjubage, who was present and later interviewed on JW Broadcasting.37

Faithful Chivchalov, who tweets like Trump, also covered the hearings and one gets the sense that it is not easy for him. Let us join the poor fellow, so that he does not lose his mind. With but a few superfluous tweets omitted, he says, all on a single December day:38

All experts who previously declared #NWT extremist came to testify to the court. Also representatives of US, UK, and Netherlands.

The experts will testify from Moscow on video conference call. #NWT

Switzerland embassy representatives also came. Europe wants to know what is wrong with Russia. #NWT

This time a larger court room is used, more people are able to attend. #NWT

A real philology expert, Anatoli Baranov, who defended #NWT at the lower court, is allowed to testify from Moscow too.

Let’s hope Internet won’t go down as he will start speaking. #NWT [Chivchalov is not personally present but is monitoring the proceedings online.]

JW attorney explains that previously 2 believers were criminally charged based on these false experts study (Kruykova, Batov, Kotelnikov). Later the study was found erroneous, and they were acquitted. #NWT

Sorry, the experts in that case were Kryukova, Tarasov, Kotelnikov. While the #NWT experts are Kryukova, Batov, Kotelnikov. They are essentially one team. They produced more than 50 studies against JWs in Russia in various cases.

Attorney files motion for disqualification of these “experts” as incompetent based on 280-page brief. #NWT

Court rejects motion for disqualification of the experts. #NWT

Judge asks questions to N. Kryukova: Why is the book you studied has different titles in the study, sometimes Russian, sometimes English? - This was an error. #NWT

Judge: What does the English word "Greek Scriptures" mean? N.K. It means “Gospels.” #NWT #facepalm

Judge: Is it a Bible? N.K. This is not a Bible from the viewpoint of traditional Christianity, but a sacred text of Jehovah’s Witnesses only. #NWT

JW attorney asks Kryukova why she thinks #NWT is not a Bible. She replies: the Bible is only a translation with the ROC Patriarch blessing or a book 100% consistent with such a translation.

Judge: How can we know which translation it bad? Expert Tarasov: It can be determined on the basis of the activity it produces. If this activity is bad, the translation is bad as well. #NWT

Judge asks expert Baranov to clarify. He replies there is a lot of criteria, but the one stated by Tarasov is unknown to him. This is the end of the experts’ testimony. #NWT

But on hearing all this nonsense, judge rejects the motion to order a new study of the #NWT with new experts.

Court rejects the JW attorneys’ motion to ask the Constitutional Court to clarify what the Bible is. #NWT

But court accepts the motion to file new proofs of the plagiarism of the study based on Wikipedia analysis (yep, the study has numerous quotes from Wikipedia). #NWT

It’s paradoxical that Kryukova’s study doesn’t contain a single quote from the #NWT it studies! But the court doesn’t seem to care about it.

The court also doesn’t care that Kryukova and her team claim to have studied the Russian #NWT version but quoted Wikipedia about the English version which are technically two different books.

JW attorney points out studies of #NWT by authoritative scholars and reviews of Kryukova’s own study that show serious flaws of it.

One such study stated: “[Kryukova’s text] shows that it is not JWs who are hostile to other religions but Kryukova and her colleagues are hostile to JWs.” #NWT

Prosecutor: “#NWT defendants pursue only one goal - to engage the court in religious debates about what is God, Bible, and religion, which is inacceptable.”

That’s all, the judges leave to discuss the ruling. Almost 10 pm on the clock. #NWT

Oh and here is the ruling: leave the decision of the lower court in force, reject the appeal. #NWT

So friends, if you live in Russia and want to ban something, all you need is a math teacher who knows how to use Wikipedia. The ruling will be appealed in Supreme Court now. Stay tuned!

 

It is good that Chivchalov showed endurance. Let the record reflect that nobody in that courtroom knew anything of biblical scholarship and their expert witness used that fact to showcase them all as ignoramuses before the world. See if they will thank her for that the next time they are laughed off some academic stage. She stated: “The only book that can be called a Bible is one approved by the Russian Orthodox Church and that is marked by the blessing of the Patriarch or that matches word for word that translation.” Good. Let them explain before educated people how they went along with her on that one. “Again and again we had the impression sitting there in the courtroom that the purpose of the hearing was not to establish the facts or evidence but to go through the legal formalities quickly since the decision had been already made and was to be announced today,” said Adjubage. It took the judges four minutes to review seven hours of testimony before giving their decision.   

The decision regarding the branch headquarters draws in the potentially much more influential business community. I say it is a good thing for them to seize the building. It cannot serve its intended function anyway. Let it serve its new function of calling attention to theft. Let the business community reflect upon how, should they upset the government, their assets might be seized. Within days a Finnish business delegation being courted by Russia for investment had declared it “a very bad sign.”38 Mr. Devine related that the hearing was in a small cramped room where “our attorneys and prosecutors literally were two feet apart facing each other over a small table.” Several congregation members who attended to offer support were relegated to the small barred holding area for criminals, where they might find themselves at any rate for a related reason on another day.

If you are going to go unjust, do it big time and make sure everyone knows. The Governing Body saw to it that the initial trial was videotaped in the largest venue possible. The sham nature of Russian justice toward kingdom interests has been exposed there. At one point the Russian judge asked the Ministry of Justice whether it had prepared for the trial, so unsupported by facts did the prosecution appear. In the end, he did what he knew he had to do if he wanted to keep his job, but his interaction with them clearly exposed a sham system, and that exposure was repeated at the appeal, repeated again at the hearing over the Bible, and again at the decision to confiscate the branch headquarters. And it was repeated in the case in the imprisonment without trial of Dennis Christensen, a dangerous criminal that everyone can plainly see is not.

A lot of people don’t like Jehovah’s Witnesses. They are a hot-button topic in several ways. But they do know that rule by law and even common sense is a good thing, not a bad thing, and when they see it so blatantly violated, some get more worked up than they would over the Witnesses themselves.

***

  1. Joel Engardio, “Russia’s Bans on Jehovah’s Witnesses,” ACLU, December 10, 2009, accessed March 23, 2018, https://www.aclu.org/blog/russias-bans-jehovahs-witnesses
  2. Haig Bosmajian, The Freedom Not to Speak (New York, NYU Press, 1999) 112
  3. Ibid., 114
  4. “After the Decision of the Supreme Court, the Pressure on Children of Jehovah’s Witnesses Increased in Schools,” Jehovah’s Witnesses in Russia, May 15, 2017, accessed March 12, 2018, https://www.jw-russia.org/news/17051512-161.html
  5. James Alfred Moss, Patriotism of the Flag, Moss, The Flag of the United States, Its History and Symbolism (Washington: The United States Flag Association, 1941) 85-86
  6. W. C. Ruediger, The George Washington University, 49 Schools and Society, February 25, 1939, p. 249, as located the post: Minersville School District v Gobitis, accessed March 23,2018, https://www.leagle.com/decision/1939791108f2d6831582
  7. Lauren Markoe, “Persecution of Jehovah’s Witnesses in Russia Intensifies and Targets Children,” Salt Lake City Tribune, Religion News Service, accessed March 23, 2018, June 2, 2017, http://archive.sltrib.com/article.php?id=5358906&itype=CMSID
  8. Andrew Sorokowski, “Witnesses to Persecution,” Religious Information Service of Ukraine, May 5, 2017, accessed March 23, 2018, https://risu.org.ua/article_print.php?id=66964&name=asorokowski_column&_lang=en&
  9. Ibid.
  10. Joseph Curl, “A New Low: CNN Says Russian Meddling Extended To Pokemon Go,” Daily Wire, October 13, 2017, accessed March 23, 2018, https://www.dailywire.com/news/22235/new-low-cnn-says-russian-meddling-extended-pokemon-joseph-curl#
  11. “Coverage of Double Agent’s Alleged Poisoning is Hysterical Propaganda – Lavrov,” RT.com, March 9, 2018, accessed March 12, 2018, https://www.RT.com/news/420842-double-agent-poisoning-skripal/
  12. Press Service – The Minister’s Meetings, “The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation,” July 12, 2017, accessed March 8, 2018, http://www.mid.ru/en/vizity-ministra/-/asset_publisher/ICoYBGcCUgTR/content/id/2981131
  13. “Laicite And Religious Freedom: A Coalition of NGOs Questions France at the United Nations,” Human Rights Without Frontiers, January 16, 2018, accessed March 12, 2018, http://hrwf.eu/laicite-and-religious-freedom-a-coalition-of-ngos-questions-france-at-the-united-nations/
  14. Bakanov Konstantin, “Cult Icon of Russian Rock Fedor Chistyakov Settling in the US, Recorded the Album ‘Unwanted Song’,” sobesednik.ru, March 6, 2018, accessed March 10, 2018, https://sobesednik.ru/kultura-i-tv/20180306-okolo-nolya
  15. Mathew 24:14
  16. Amos 7:12-15
  17. John 15:20
  18. Viktor Tolochko , “OSCE PA Supports Russia’s Proposed Resolution Against Religious Discrimination,” Sputnik News, August 8, 2017, 15. accessed March 23, 2018, https://sputniknews.com/world/201707081055363864-osce-russia-resolution/
  19. Lu Daji and Gong Xuezeng, Marxism and Religion (Leiden, Kininklijke Brill N V, Ethnic Publishing House, 2014) 284
  20. Viktor Rezunkov and Tatyana Voltskaya, “15 Years Later, Questions Remain About Death Of The Man Who Made Putin,” RadioFreeEurope RadioLiberty, February 24, 2015, accessed March 23, 2018, https://www.rferl.org/a/questions-remain-about-death-of-man-who-made-putin/26867539.html
  21. “The Prosecutor’s Office brought official apologies to the Sergiev Posad Elders,” Jehovah’s Witnesses in Russia, November 7, 2017, accessed March 23, 2018, https://jw-russia.org/news/17110712-228.html
  22. “The Court of Appeal confirmed the acquittal of the Sergiev Posad Elders,” Jehovah’s Witnesses in Russia, August 24, 2017, accessed March 23, 2018, https://jw-russia.org/news/17082417-208.html
  23. Olga Nikitova, “Malignant Expertise,” The Agency of Political News, September 20, 2017, accessed March 12, 2018, http://www.apn.ru/index.php?newsid=36670
  24. Jehovah’s Witnesses – Proclaimers of God’s Kingdom (Brooklyn: Watchtower Bible and Tract Society of Pennsylvania) 447
  25. Luke 4:22 The verse states those in the synagogue were amazed at Jesus ‘gracious’ words. The 2013 NWT also says gracious. But the 1981 edition says ‘winsome’ and it is from this choice that someone devised the winsome/wincing witticism.
  26. Jeremiah 1:6-10
  27. Proverbs 21:1
  28. Esther 4:12-14
  29. Galatians 1:23
  30. 1 Timothy 1:13
  31. 2008 Yearbook of Jehovah’s Witnesses, 70
  32. Video Report: “Pure Worship Under Attack in Russia,” JW Broadcasting, accessed March 23, 2018, https://tv.jw.org/#en/mediaitems/pub-jwb_201801_12_VIDEO
  33. Denis Korotkov, “The Paradox of the Exile of Jehovah,” Fontanka.ru, December 8, 2017, accessed March 23, 2018, http://www.fontanka.ru/2017/12/08/047/
  34. Korotkov, “The Paradox”
  1. Alexander Dvorkin, The Decision of the Vyborg Court to Recognize the New World Translation as a Extremist Material is a Huge Mistake,” Pravoslavie.ru, August 22, 2017, accessed March 23, 2018, http://pravoslavie.ru/105915.html
  2. Anton Chivchalov, “The trial of the Bible is resumed in Vyborg,” Porta-Credo, July 26, 2017, accessed March 9, 2018, http://credo.press/site/?act=news&id=126993...
  3. “Pure Worship Under Attack,” JW Broadcasting, accessed March 27, 2018, https://tv.jw.org/#en/mediaitems/pub-jwb_201801_12_VIDEO
  4. A detailed description of the proceedings, updated approximately every 5 minutes, can be found in the tweets Anton Chivchalov, starting https://twitter.com/Chivchalov/status/943447491768410114, and also Jehovah’s Witnesses in Russia, accessed March 27, 2018, https://jw-russia.org/pages/17081610-203.html. The latter is a news only site run by Jehovah’s Witnesses in Russian and it appears to have been overlooked by authorities until it was banned in March of 2018.

 

 

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

Statecraft

The year 1962 nearly brought nuclear war to the world. America armed Turkey and Italy, but then discovered the Soviet Union doing the same in Cuba. The U.S. declared it would board approaching ships so as to stop that from happening.

Nikita Khrushchev is remembered in the West as the hothead who pounded his U.N. desk with his removed shoe and, on another occasion, bellowed: “We will bury you!”  He meant economically, but the media liked sound bites then no less than now. Was it his telegram that saved the day? At the John F Kennedy Presidential Library is the 2700-word telegram he sent to JFK, dated October 26, 1962.

 

Dear Mr. President:

I have received your letter of October 25. From your letter, I got the feeling that you have some understanding of the situation which has developed and (some) sense of responsibility. I value this.

…Everyone needs peace: both capitalists, if they have not lost their reason, and, still more, Communists….War is our enemy and a calamity for all the peoples….I have participated in two wars and know that war ends when it has rolled through cities and villages, everywhere sowing death and destruction.

…Mr. President, do you really seriously think that Cuba can attack the United States and that even we together with Cuba can attack you from the territory of Cuba? Can you really think that way? How is it possible? We do not understand this….You can regard us with distrust, but, in any case, you can be calm in this regard, that we are of sound mind and understand perfectly well that if we attack you, you will respond the same way…

We, however, want to live and do not at all want to destroy your country. We want something quite different: To compete with your country on a peaceful basis. We quarrel with you, we have differences on ideological questions. But our view of the world consists in this, that ideological questions, as well as economic problems, should be solved not by military means, they must be solved on the basis of peaceful competition,

If there is no intention to tighten that knot and thereby to doom the world to the catastrophe of thermonuclear war, then let us not only relax the forces pulling on the ends of the rope, let us take measures to untie that knot. We are ready for this….There, Mr. President, are my thoughts, which, if you agreed with them, could put an end to that tense situation which is disturbing all peoples. These thoughts are dictated by a sincere desire to relieve the situation, to remove the threat of war.

 

The superpowers came close. Perhaps it was Khrushchev’s telegram that averted catastrophe. Both sides removed missiles and the U.S. promised not to invade Cuba again. We “lucked out,” wrote The Week magazine, commenting on the telegram. Pundits will squabble till the end of time as to who was the worst villain or the best hero. It is in the eye of the beholder.

The little people ever want to get along but the greater interests thwart it. The 1966 movie The Russians are Coming, the Russians are Coming! featured for plotline a Russian submarine stranded off the New England coast. Before chieftains of the West could assume evil intent and retaliate, townspeople, who had taken a liking to the Russians, came to the rescue. They surrounded the sub with every yacht, sailboat, and dingy they could muster to escort the Russians out to sea and out of danger.

Marooned, a 1969 movie, strands American astronauts in space in a crippled spacecraft. All efforts to save them come to naught until Russian cosmonauts come along and haul them onboard their own craft. The air-starved Americans don’t know what is going on and try to fend off their rescuers, but in the end, everything works out for the best.

On the other hand, when filmmaker Oliver Stone showed the satirical Dr. Strangelove to Putin, apparently sneaking glances to see whether Putin would like it, it seemed pretty clear that he didn’t. Russian leaders are portrayed as buffoonish in that movie, though not villains. They were portrayed as villains when Students Wildly Indignant over Nearly Everything (S.W.I.N.E—from the comic strip Li’l Abner) effusively met the invading Russian General as he was striding ashore from his transport ship, and the first thing the general did was to kick all their behinds, seemingly for the sheer reason that he was mean. When the cartoonist had Russia send over their skilled negotiator Coldfinger during the 1970s period of detente, a period that cartoonist distrusted, he proved so skilled at negotiating that the Americans were soon stripped of their clothes and were reduced to wearing barrels.

At Brooklyn Bethel, they likely didn’t see the movies—they don’t do movies much there—but who could miss Li’l Abner, at one time in 900 daily newspapers? Even those who don’t keep up with politics—and that is Bethel—find it hard to resist the funnies.

Notwithstanding a few films, in dozens of tiny ways, and in some big ones, Russia is portrayed as the villain in the U.S. “Wouldn’t it be nice if we actually got along with Russia?” Trump asked during the 2016 campaign, tacitly acknowledging that the U.S. doesn’t. Despite his sentiments and despite his election, U.S.-Russian relations are worse than ever, more mistrustful than even during Cold War times. A 2017 Levada Center poll revealed 68% of Russians consider the United States a threat.1 Putin recently introduced the next generation of nuclear weapons and suggested his countrymen name them. One popular submission was: ‘Goodbye America.’2

It is hard not to absorb something of the culture in which you live, for it is the air you breathe. If anyone can do it, it is Watchtower headquarters, which is in most respects a world unto its own. They follow politics to an astonishingly small degree. Slate.com accurately reflected the reason, in stating “They don’t vote because they are ‘representatives of God’s heavenly kingdom,” it wrote in 2008. “For the same reason, they don’t run for public office, serve in the military, or even pledge allegiance the flag,” though the pledge issue is more about avoiding idolatry, per the first of the Ten Commandments, as it is about neutrality.3

Nations are represented by their ambassadors, and the Bible presents believers that way. They represent their nation, God’s kingdom, before others. An ambassador is not to become involved in the politics of his host nation. His role is to represent his own nation. “So we are ambassadors for Christ, as if God were appealing through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God,” writes the apostle to the Corinthian congregation.4

An organization must be based somewhere, and, despite its best efforts, it can pick up the lingo of the host country. One slip-up—say, one reference to the ‘iron curtain,’ in those ultra-suspicious Soviet times, was to fuel distrust.5 ‘How can they be neutral?’ the Russian government grumbled. ‘It’s not an iron curtain at all. It’s a protective border.’ Surely, the Witnesses were a political movement disguised as a religion, they concluded—a suspicion that ran deep in the Cold War period and still remains. There’s bad blood between the governments of the U.S. and Russia. It is long-standing, resulting in Soviet suspicion about any religion headquartered in America.

A plain indication of the Witnesses’ neutrality is found in the Watchtower article considered at meetings in early July of 2017. The topic under discussion was how to give aid of a spiritual and practical sort, to refugees. “Listen patiently to their concerns, but do not discuss politics,” the magazine counseled.6 If ever it was understandable to talk politics, it would be with those who have so recently suffered at its hands, yet it is a topic Witnesses are to avoid as they pursue kingdom interests.

When you set up shop in a new country, you find out what the king wants, and then you do it. Usually that suffices to keep both you and him happy. Usually, all he wants are things having to do with public order, which you also want. You go about your necessary business in the new country, modifying it where necessary to avoid misunderstandings. If the king there intrudes upon what are ‘God’s things,’ matters of worship, then you must take a stand, but in most cases, he does not. Even when he does, you don’t ‘take a stand’ in the form of confrontation. Political protest is just not something Witnesses do. Even Chistyakov releasing his fiery album sought to explain it was not that.

As already discussed, the book God’s Kingdom Rules was considered at Witness meetings throughout 2017, as the Russian ban first threatened and then was realized. Besides the high court cases related in chapter 3, it relates many bans that Jehovah’s Witnesses have faced in many parts of the world. In Australia, during the years of World War II, “Witnesses were unable to meet or preach openly. Bethel operations were closed down, and Kingdom Halls were seized. Merely possessing our Bible literature was prohibited. After operating in secret for several years, the Australian Witnesses found relief at last.”7 “You see?” a local Witness commented at a meeting, “nothing changed.” The brothers continued to operate. They simply had to do it ‘in secret,’ which was inconvenient, but the ban didn’t negate God’s command of exclusive devotion. They had to forge ahead at greater-than-normal human cost until the country’s High Court reversed the ban. One Russian brother even said that a ban in his country might be a good thing in a spiritual sense, in that it would prod all into vigilance and bring into stark relief just who is on God’s side and who isn’t.

Though it may seem a technicality, Jehovah’s Witnesses are not banned in Russia. The Russian constitution guarantees freedom of worship and the government has not forgotten that. Misunderstanding the nature of Christian worship, or deliberately redefining it, what is liquidated are the legal instruments that Witnesses use—the instruments that, in the eyes of the government, constitute ties to a headquarters outside the Russian border. They are suspicious of that. It is as though to say: ‘Nobody is saying you can’t drive your Chevy, but why do you need to keep ties to General Motors in Detroit? Yuri’s Auto Repair down the street will do just fine. If he doesn’t have just the exact part, he can improvise. That way everything is safely and agreeably Russian.’

An organization to ensure worldwide unity is an essential component of Witnesses’ spiritual life. Without it, they know they eventually devolve into a hodgepodge of loose cannons each with his own personal relationship with God, each a part of this world in various respects. They become divided along national lines, and the national king inevitably persuades them that he is the hero and his counterpart overseas is the scoundrel. Soon they are further divided along internal political lines. Soon to follow are social lines, racial lines, and economic lines. The way to prevent this is with a centralized overseeing organization. There should be no “divisions among you,” Paul wrote to the Corinthians, adding “that you may be united in the same mind and in the same purpose.”8

He goes on to liken the congregation to the organization of the human body. “Now the body is not a single part, but many. If a foot should say ‘Because I am not a hand I do not belong to the body,’ it does not for this reason belong any less to the body. Or if an ear should say, ‘Because I am not an eye I do not belong to the body,’ it does not for this reason belong any less to the body. If the whole body were an eye, where would the hearing be? If the whole body were hearing, where would the sense of smell be? But as it is, God placed the parts, each one of them, in the body as he intended.”9

The ruling of the Russian court would place those body parts differently. The ones happening to be in Russia would be divided from the rest of the body. But God wills “that there may be no division in the body, but that the parts may have the same concern for one another. If [one] part suffers, all the parts suffer with it.”10 This explains the letter-writing campaign, eagerly participated in by Witnesses the world over, started with but a single invitation from the Witness organization. The government today pursues policies so that Jehovah’s Witnesses will not band together. It wants them as independent individuals, who can thereby never get out of hand. It wants to dictate terms to them and see those terms adhered to. God is a fine Person, they acknowledge, so long as He remembers He is Russian.

 

Mr. Putin knows what it is for people to be divided. He thereby will understand Jehovah’s Witnesses’ lamentation over ones who would divide them. Speaking with American interviewer Charlie Rose, Putin stated: “I indeed said that I believe that the collapse of the USSR was a huge tragedy of the 20th century. You know why?”

Charlie Rose: “Why?”

“Because, first of all, in an instant 25 million Russian people found themselves beyond the borders of the Russian state, although they were living within the borders of the Soviet Union. Then, all of a sudden, the USSR collapsed—just overnight, in fact. And it's turned out that in the former Soviet Republics—25 million Russian people were living. They were living in a single country. And all of a sudden, they turned out to be outside the borders of the country. You see this is a huge problem. First of all, there were everyday problems, the separation of families, social problems, economic problems. You can’t list them all. Do you think it’s normal that 25 million Russian people were abroad all of a sudden? Russia was the biggest divided nation in the world. It’s not a problem? Well, maybe not for you. But it’s a problem for me.”11

He understands the tragedy of division. He will understand Russian Witnesses’ tragedy. With regard to his nation’s effort to divide Jehovah’s Witnesses, the latter might mirror his words back to him: “It’s not a problem? Well, maybe not for you. But it’s a problem for me.” He is essentially saying: ‘Religions don’t count; political nations do.’ Jehovah’s Witnesses, the religion, may seem to stretch the definition of nation a bit, yet they are a nation more so than most physical nations. They are a nation of persons united in spiritual outlook, purpose and cooperation, a nation in which every member is concerned over the welfare of every other member. “Open up the gates that a righteous nation may enter, one that keeps faith,” says Isaiah.12 They regard themselves as that nation.

Putin is like Russian Witnesses in that both love the land of their birth, just as Witnesses elsewhere ever maintain a warm spot in their heart for where they came from. In this regard, individual patriotism is noble. Collectively, however, patriotism transforms into nationalism and is just one more tool of the Devil to divide people. God wants to unite his people. It is not his fine idea that the earth should be carved up into 200 squabbling sub-divisions. To forbid God from uniting his people is an attempt to thwart him. He doesn’t like it. His people are not able to abide by it. They know that illustration of the congregation being like the human body and they also know that it is not to be borne to have an arm cut off.

Secular persons can usually see that neutrality is no threat, especially once they realize that there are just as many neutral Jehovah’s Witnesses on the other side as they are on theirs. If they fight here, they will fight there. Must everyone fight? Is there no room anywhere for anyone to take a pass? Khrushchev had “participated in two wars and [knew] that war ends when it has rolled through cities and villages, everywhere sowing death and destruction.” How can it be so terrible if ones decide to sit it out?

A common bit of wisdom handed to me as a boy in America was that every generation has a war to fight. As a child, my classmates and I ducked under our school desks during air-raid drills, where we were told to clasp our hands behind our necks to guard against ‘flying glass.’ With a child’s imagination, I pictured glass flying as though with wings, searching for children to slash. Generational war was then portrayed as a rite of passage, a part of growing into adulthood—only afterwards could your credentials as an adult be verified—once you had proven yourself. It was as much a constant of life as was the Junior Prom, then the Senior Ball, and might well follow just as quickly—several of my graduating class died the next year in Vietnam.  Our grandfathers fought World War I, our fathers World War II, our older brothers the Korean War, and for us it was the war in Vietnam.

It wasn’t clear for the latter wars why anyone should go. There was a boiler-plate line dispensed to all about how the communists invaded one country after another and would topple them like dominoes—it was actually called the domino theory. It remains an example of how the media of any nation spins stories to fit their own narrative. RT.com, gaining in popularity in the States, is lambasted by some as being a source of Russian propaganda. ‘It is from Russia—people take that into account,’ the site says, shrugging off criticism. I like RT.com. I like the China People’s Daily. I like U.S. news sources, both conservative and liberal. By following them all, and not just the home team, one can hope to approximate an overall sense of current events.

Only through studying the Bible did I become aware of a greater cause: allegiance to God’s kingdom, that was a morally consistent ‘out’ for taking part in whatever war was going on at the moment, with no damage done to the country. If all of Jehovah’s Witnesses were to fight, they would simply cancel each other out. Why don’t they all sit it out instead and focus on what they are good at? I have at times asked to hear stories of military service from old-timers I come across in my ministry. They are old, and no one wants to hear their old stories. So I do. I will listen with all earnestness. Who cannot respect a person who puts his life on the line for a cause he believes in? I can genuinely respect his loyalty to country. However, I also must note that were he anywhere else, he would be equally loyal to another country.

My father was but a farmboy when he went to fight in the second world war. When they found he could fix tractors, they stationed him in a motor pool in the Philippines and made him a sergeant. The closest he ever came to combat was when a lieutenant wanted to draft his whole crew to fight off a Japanese incursion somewhere on the island. Pop told him to forget it—where would the army be without jeeps?  Decades later, killing time in a small New York town, he and I came upon its war memorial in the village square. All the town’s war dead were carved into stone. Many small towns have such memorials. Pop was troubled. “They shouldn’t do this.” he said. “It just glorifies it.”

He would have agreed with the historian Sir Max Hastings: “Having spent most of my life studying wars, my respect is very great for all those who take part in them and for what some wars have achieved for the rest of us. By their nature, conflicts bring out the very best and the worst in human beings. Writing books about them [he was promoting his] means studying both how low mankind can fall and how high it can rise. ‘The Glorious Dead’—it is the sort of phrase that all nations have to write on their memorials. Otherwise you’d never get anyone to go to war again,” he says.13 Yes. Carve the names into memorials to ensure a steady stream of participants.

The last soldier of World War I from France, Lazare Ponticelli, was 110 years of age when he died. Some things he had never figured out, such as why he had been fighting in the first place. Or why his enemy had, for that matter. Of course, he knew the reasons supplied by leaders, but how did it ever get so human—a worldwide slaughter that took the lives of 14 million? “One of the paradoxes of 1914 is that in every country huge numbers of people, of all parties, creeds and blood, seem, surprisingly, to have gone willingly and happily to war,” states British historian John Roberts.14 Their later reflections would be different. “More than anything, [Ponticelli] was appalled that he had been made to fire on people he didn’t know and to whom he, too, was a stranger. They were fathers of children. He had no quarrel with them.”15

Hermann Goering, the German Air Force leader from the next World War understood these things quite well: “Why of course the people don’t want war. Why should some poor slob on a farm want to risk his life in a war when the best he can get out of it is to come back to his farm in one piece? Naturally the common people don’t want war neither in Russia, nor in England, nor for that matter in Germany. That is understood. But, after all, it is the leaders of the country who determine the policy and it is always a simple matter to drag the people along, whether it is a democracy, or a fascist dictatorship, or a parliament, or a communist dictatorship. Voice or no voice, the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is tell them they are being attacked and denounce the peacemakers for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger. It works the same in any country.”16

Do not think it is easy to resist the “leaders of the country who determine the policy.” It is these who form the backdrop of popular thinking, the unconscious elements that everyone draws from. The contemporary “follow your inner voice” philosophy is but sloganeering which works splendidly when times are easy and fails utterly when they are hard. Nationalism has proven more than equal to the task of molding inner voices. Wisdom from on high, on the other hand, will enable one to withstand, perhaps wisdom that has been forged with Jesus words: “Put your sword back into its sheath, for all who take the sword will perish by the sword.”17 If ever there was a reason to unsheathe the sword, it was in order to deliver Jesus from death. Surely, if you don’t do it there, you don’t do it anywhere.

During that second World War, there were only two major faiths in Nazi Germany: the Roman Catholic Church and a union of Protestant churches known as the ‘German Evangelical Church.’18 If even one of those faiths had stood up to Hitler as did Jehovah’s Witnesses, might the war have never occurred, with its 60 million casualties? Is this what Revelation means when it blames Babylon the Great, that conglomeration of unfaithful religion, for not only the blood of the prophets and the holy ones, but for all who have been slain on the earth?19 The slain prophets and holy ones slain are acts of commission, but the far more numerous third group represents a staggering act of omission: the failure to train members in ways of peace. Only Jehovah’s Witnesses and a handful of other tiny faiths observe those ways.  

60 million casualties! Even were we to multiply the supposed count of Witnesses who are alleged to have died refusing blood transfusion20 by a factor of hundreds, the product would be but an infinitesimal amount compared to the lives saved, theirs and that of those they might target, by declining war participation. As much as this world carries on about the value of life, if the cause is right, it will mow them down by the millions. If it deems the cause not right, one is too many.

Cassius Clay (Muhammad Ali) was among the first to break ranks during my youth. “No Viet Cong never called me nigger”21 he declared and refused the draft into the Vietnam war. Exactly. What quarrel did he have with persons halfway around the globe? If the kings of the earth couldn’t get along, how did that become his problem? His real enemy was elsewhere. Ali didn’t go to jail—he won his case on appeal22—but he was stripped of his Heavyweight Title and lost several years boxing. There is a price to be paid to sit out the war that the world leaders would funnel you into. The price is especially steep when, like Jehovah’s Witnesses, you not only sit out war but also the substitute civilian activity that is clearly designed to support the war. As for me, had I not become a Witness when I did, perhaps I would have been shipped out of Vietnam in a box for a cause history judges not especially noble—for I could not then, nor now, scrap like Mohammed Ali.

 

Most wars are ambiguous. Though the victors write history, a case can usually be made for the other side. World War II is an exception. To this day, those who would defend the defeated side can be fit, relatively speaking, into a thimble. Yet even in this theater the Christian consciences of Jehovah’s Witnesses moved them to decline participation. Victor Blackwell defended many American Witness youths in the local courts of that time. Almost always the punishment for declining military service was prison, usually delivered with some heat, such as: “I sentence you to five years in a federal prison to be approved by the Attorney General. My only regret, you yellow coward, is that I cannot give you twenty five years!”23 Blackwell writes of an exception to this rule, in which he said:

“May it please the Court, even though my client is in truth a minister of Jehovah, yet he could not meet the strict criteria for the Act for the ministerial exemption, as the Act has been constructed by the Supreme Court. I shall therefore not impose upon the Court’s time and patience by asserting a defense which my client and I both recognize as untenable before the law. However, I would like to make a brief statement in mitigation of the sentence of this Court.

“The defendant here was accorded the conscientious objector status, which he had claimed….The tender and delicate conscience of this youth, trained in the Holy Word of God, would not permit him to accept the civilian work. Much as he did not like to disobey the board order, he could not and would not disobey the more binding order of his conscience. It was not a matter of ‘defying the law,’ but of responding to what he earnestly believed to be the “Law of God.”

The judge ordered the young man released. It almost never happened. Blackwell writes: “The federal prosecutor was flabbergasted. He had told me before trial he had a foolproof case….Ironically, this prosecutor had told me in connection with previous cases tried with him: ‘It is most distasteful for me to prosecute and send these fine, clean young men to prison. They are the finest specimens of youth I have ever seen. If it were left up to me, I’d throw every one of these files sent to me in the wastebasket.’ Yet, through the years, for a quarter century, he continued such prosecution. In later years, he became bitter and hostile toward them.”24

With regard to another young client sentenced, Blackwell writes: “He served one year and was paroled. The final parole report said of him: ‘as was anticipated [he has] made an excellent adjustment under supervision….He is a Jehovah’s Witness and is active in church activities. His prognosis is excellent.’ With perhaps negligible exceptions (though I am aware of none), this is the kind of final probation report filed in the cases of the many thousands of other American citizens who paid a dear price for keeping an unblemished conscience.”25

Blackwell also defended a young man in military court, who became a Witness while enlisted. He writes: “The judge was more than fair-minded and impartial. He was gracious, both to the youngster and his counsel. He permitted the most extensive questioning of the accused by his own counsel and army counsel. The youth was allowed to explain in the most complete manner the causes and reasons which impelled him to sever his relations with the army. His skillful use and handling of the Word of God, the Sword of the Spirit, was most impressive to the judge and all others present at the hearing.” Council for the army did not insist upon his being kept in the service, and the judge subsequently said: “I have known many of Jehovah’s Witnesses. Their sincerity, as with this young man here, is beyond all questioning. The earnestly believe that they have a higher mission than serving their country in the military, commendable as that is….Their scruples here should be respected. I do not have the authority to discharge you, young man. However, I direct the authorities here to put through a request to Washington for your early release.” The release order came through within a reasonable time, the young fellow was discharged, and has since been devoting a large measure of his time to the ministry as one of Jehovah’s Christian Witnesses.”26

The foregoing is the same ancient pattern playing out in modern times. “A careful review of all the information available goes to show that, until the time of Marcus Aurelius [121-180 C.E.], no Christian became a soldier; and no soldier, after becoming a Christian, remained in military service,” states one source.27 “It will be seen presently that the evidence for the existence of a single Christian soldier between 60 and about 165 A.D. is exceedingly slight….Up to the reign of Marcus Aurelius at least, no Christian would become a soldier after his baptism,” states another.28 “The behavior of the Christians was very different from that of the Romans … Since Christ had preached peace, they refused to become soldiers,” states yet another.29 “It was impossible that the Christians, without renouncing a more sacred duty, could assume the character of soldiers, of magistrates, or of princes,” states a fourth.30 The legal price to pay is usually substantial, but there is no wiggle room in which to wiggle.

In modern times, some governments have proved progressive (and some haven’t)—willing to substitute neutral civilian service for military service. Taiwan instituted such a program in 2000. Kou-Enn Lin, director general of the program, recommends it to other nations during an interview with a Witness representative. Approved applicants to the system are assigned sites such as hospitals, government offices, nursing homes; there are sixteen possible venues. It’s not “very light work,” Kou-Enn makes clear, because the purpose is to substitute for, not exempt from, military service. It is a win-win, he maintains, and he cites figures to indicate a satisfaction rate of 90-97% among the agencies to which applicants are assigned. The greater goals of religious people are to serve, he says. They fit right in and need no discipline; they attack their work with enthusiasm. “At one time we had a situation where there were people with religious conscience in jail and people with little conscience outside of jail. Resolving this contradiction shows our respect for human rights.”31

He concludes with: “It’s good to have a system in parallel with regular military service as an alternative. That’s the solution. The results and benefits exceeded what we expected. Human rights, religious suppression; all of these things can be resolved. I really hope other counties will come and draw lessons from our experience.”32

 

The general world of churches tends to accept the world’s division of people into myriad nations as a God-given reality. They pray to God to bless it, particularly the section in which they live. Jehovah’s Witnesses say it is all from the Devil—it is his idea, not God’s. That’s not to say that human leaders operating therein have evil intent. More often than not they are conscious of a responsibility to govern and provide for the public good. If the system allows for it they stay as long as possible, for one cannot provide such governing from the outside looking in. As though students of Newtonian physics, they seek to remove friction so that the object in motion (themselves) will stay in motion. There is no need to bad-mouth anyone. Has Putin amassed money while in office? American politicians do no less. They come in poor and they leave wealthy. They come in wealthy and they leave wealthier.33 The current president is one of the few who go against the pattern. He comes in wealthy and has seen his financial interests suffer, as he takes no salary and sees opposers boycott the family business.

The worst problem leaders may inflict comes when they decide that they can’t make an omelet without breaking a few eggs. It primarily then becomes a problem for the eggs, not the leaders themselves. Unfortunately for Witnesses, even though they strive to be ‘good eggs’ as people, they are still eggs. Political leaders don’t reliably look into spiritual matters and many take it ill that human government should be described as Satanic—never mind that all governments are described that way and not just theirs.

Witnesses say what they say because the Bible says it. The gospel of Luke relates how Satan shows Jesus all the kingdoms of the world and offers him headship for simply an act of worship. Jesus rejects the offer, but not the premise that the kingdoms are the Devil’s to offer. It has been that way from the rebellion of Eden. That is not to say Christians disobey the governments, for until his purpose is realized, they exist as a stopgap measure. They build the roads. The deliver the mail. Woe to the people where anarchy prevails. Even an abusive government is better than that.34

In a sense, if you want a certain policy to take place, then you must side with the party promising it. One can hardly vote for one party and then complain that the policies of the other are not taking place. If you want righteous conditions realized earth-wide, reason the Witnesses, then you must ‘vote’ for the party that has such in its Bible platform. You cannot vote for the party that has never managed to bring it about. You must vote for the party that has given evidence that it can deliver. Of course, you also must wait until inauguration day.

Alas, Witnesses are not diplomats who ever so gracefully sidestep subjects unpalatable. They crash into them head-on, worried not about being blunt. Accuse them of ‘watering down’ the Word and they double down just so that there should be no misunderstanding. Still, these days they are careful to point out that while the system is of the Devil, that is not to imply that the players therein have horns. They have not always stated matters so delicately. For they ham-fistedly call a spade a spade. They decline to pussyfoot around, as do some who manage to convey the muddled impression that a spade is really just a misunderstood heart, a club with poor self-esteem, or a ‘diamond in the rough.’

If you try to ‘expose’ the faults of the king, he gets mad. Keep out of his way, and usually you’ll do fine. In all lands it is: ‘Ask the king his ground rules for maintaining public order, and then do them.’ Witnesses’ life is not about human rule. Do what he says and get on with life. Of course, if he turns against you, siding with the house Church, you are up the crick and our brothers have it very tough for a time. The only caveat is that they are used to it, as others might not be.

Visiting Uzbekistan, Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia, asserted that “insulting religious feelings is one of the forms of extremism, this is what shakes the foundations of social life, what provokes internal conflicts.”35 If we do not confine our gaze to the real thing, many things can be described as forms of extremism. The Patriarch’s concern for shaking the foundations of social life and the welfare of the state calls to mind the concerns of other religious leaders from long ago: “These people who have been creating a disturbance all over the world have now come here!”36

At the same time, traditional religions, according to the primate, “are called upon to strengthen the foundations of national existence.” Patriarch Kirill called on religious leaders “to work with their flock, but to educate this flock in the spirit of respect for each other, in caring for the stability of public life, in caring for the welfare of the state.” If only he had called upon them to strengthen their flock’s foundations of Bible knowledge, as most of the flock will assume is their role. But, no. It is the foundations of national existence and welfare of the state that comes first. God is welcome in the soup of national sovereignties, so long as he knows that his place is to serve as a balm applied to the prevailing system in hopes it will run a bit smoother. Pour it on like a syrup. Perhaps it will seep into the foundation somehow and fortify it.

 

The World Youth Festival opened for 2017 in Sochi, Russia. President Putin addressed the delegates. He spoke of challenges of the future—the payoffs can be very real, but the threats are also very real. The young—Putin takes an interest in them—must pursue the future that science makes possible, but they must not abandon moral and ethical values in doing so, he warned, for that could cause a catastrophe larger than a nuclear war.

“In the nearest future, humanity may enter and will, most likely, enter a very difficult and important period in its development and existence,” he said, referring to recent scientific breakthroughs. “What I’ve said now may be more dangerous than a nuclear bomb. Therefore, no matter what we’re doing, we must never forget about the moral and ethical basis of our business. Everything that we’ll be doing must benefit the people and empower humanity, not destroy it.”

The president used genetic engineering as an example to illustrate his words, saying that this discipline can bring both positive and negative results. “It’s great” that it can provide the possibility to change the genetic code of people suffering from serious diseases, he said. “But there’s another component to this process. Humanity also receives an opportunity to meddle with the genetic code, which was created either by nature or, as people with religious views say, God.”37

Yes, it is right around the corner, he said: the possibility of “creating a human with predesigned characteristics.” However, “it may be a genius mathematician or musician, but also a soldier, who will fight without fear, compassion and regret, without pain,” Putin warned. He gets into such things speaking to the young people, who are the prospects for the future. It is unfair for the West to accuse him of making himself a cult figure. Or, rather, if he does, it is with no evil intent, but for the good of those he leads. If being perceived a cult figure helps him better lead, so be it. It may well facilitate his greater object. Does he pump iron and ride bare-chested and slam hockey players half his age into the boards? Okay. It means he could best the American president in hand-to-hand combat any day, despite his smaller stature, and sometimes one wishes that world leaders would settle their disputes just that way. He calls to mind Jesse Ventura, former pro wrestler turned governor of Minnesota. The bumper stickers read: “My Governor Can Beat Up Your Governor.”38 Reporters asked whether he had seen them. He said that he had and that furthermore, they were true. He had been to those governors’ conferences. He had looked those flabby guys over. There was not one of them he could not take.

Putin makes clear his vision for the future speaking before those students. It is science. It is human efforts. It will be a challenge that human science does not outmaneuver human ethics, he says, for it is all human. Does religion play a part? It can, if that part is modest and does not rock the boat. “Humanity also receives an opportunity to meddle with the genetic code, which was created either by nature or, as people with religious views say, God,” he says. Gone are the days when the Soviet State insisted it could only be ‘nature.’ Now if one wants to say ‘God,’ that is okay. So long as he doesn’t overdo it. So long as he acquiesces that God’s place is to assist human efforts to save the planet through science. If people want to entertain some silly stories about afterlife, we all can live with that—they do no harm to the overall program. But to suggest human efforts are not up to the job in the present life, as Jehovah’s Witnesses do—to suggest that God disapproves, that he will one day replace the status quo—to get people all worked up over that? Surely only a pest would behave that way. It is the purely secular outlook of the future that sees religion as unnecessary, but so long as it does nothing but reinforce, its efforts are tolerated and sometimes even welcomed. But if it runs off with an agenda of its own, it must be stopped. Why can’t it just line up with the Orthodox Church which has the God base adequately covered? Why does it have to go and be a pest? Why does it have to rock the boat? It is too much to bear.

“We found this man to be a pest; he creates dissension among Jews all over the world and is a ringleader of the sect of the Nazoreans,” the religious leader said of Paul.39 What was Paul’s problem—in their eyes? He was a pest. He created dissention in that religious world. If he stopped doing that, then he would not be a pest and all would be fine. Why can’t he just go along with the way things already are: make a suggestion or two and leave it at that? Putin likes the Russian Orthodox Church because they help build a strong Russia. But now they, too, report a pest. Why should he see them have to suffer a pest? So he signs off on the move to harass all minority religion and ban the most pernicious one in particular.

If one allows that it may be God, and not just nature, who made all things, might not some deductions be made? Is our origin truly a matter of no consequence? If God made all things, it stands to reason that he may have some purpose behind it all. He thus may not stand aside and see it all be wasted away or otherwise brought to ruin. However, if nature is responsible for all things—nature through evolution—then if there is any hope for humanity it lies entirely with what humans are able to do. And they are not doing so well. That is why Putin cautions them.

The president talks a good game—how scientists, in the person of those young delegates present—must rise to the occasion of making the world better, or at least ensuring that it has a future. Does he believe it? Does he have misgivings? Who can tell? But the issue is: Will it be human efforts or God’s efforts saving the future? The Russian government unreservedly looks to human efforts. Jehovah’s Witnesses unreservedly look to God’s efforts.

It is not unlike the post-World War I innovation of the League of Nations, the first organization of its kind to tackle governing the entire planet through human means. Its object was to get the governments talking to each other and defuse conflicts before they could trigger another war. That very year (1919) Jehovah’s Witnesses held a convention in Cedar Point Ohio in which they embraced God’s kingdom as the sole hope for governing the planet: a government by God, not men. The two are philosophically precise opposites. At this fork in the road, which stand did the Federal Council of the Churches of Christ in America take? It famously declared the new League of Nations to be the “political expression of the kingdom of God on earth.”40 Religion must be ‘practical’ in its eyes. It must support human aspirations of governing equitably and not roil matters by suggesting God will one day replace it all. Does any religion maintain that the stone cut from divine sovereignty will one day strike the idol on the feet and crush it?41 Surely that is extremist.

If Putin carries on about morality and ethics, how can he go along with, if not ordering, Jehovah’s Witnesses to be suppressed, even with violence? It is a reasonable question, and the answer may be found in how Jewish religious leaders described Paul to Roman governor Felix: he was that pestilent fellow not worthy of Rome’s justice.

It is human efforts that must save the day, they say. Nothing must get in the way. Nothing must distract or discourage. The stakes are too high. Those who cannot fathom God cannot understand why anyone would quibble over different perceptions of him. The more authoritarian ones among them do not want it even to happen on their watch. It does little good to carry on about the Russian constitution that guarantees freedom of religion. Freedom of religion is not a Russian concept. It is appended onto the constitution because it sounds good. But it does not resonate. It is boiler-plate language for many Russians, legalese inserted at document’s end in the confidence that nobody will read it. The Levada Center recently reported that, whereas 79% of the Russian population in the early 1990s thought the repressions of Stalin constituted “a crime that has no justification,” the figure has now dropped below 40%.42 ‘Enough of freedom,’ many say. ‘It means nothing but trouble.’

Jehovah’s Witnesses steadfastly advocate the Bible viewpoint in Russia, and for that they suffer. It is the trials of the ancient people of God revisited. They “endured mockery, scourging, even chains and imprisonment. They were stoned, sawed in two, put to death with the sword; they went about in skins of sheep or goats, needy, afflicted, tormented. The world was not worthy of them. They wandered about in deserts and on mountains, in caves and in crevices in the earth.” Update it but slightly. Replace ‘scourging’ with beating. Strike the ‘chains,’ but keep the imprisonment. Cancel the detail about ‘clad with skins of sheep and goats’ and settling in ‘caves and crevices.’ Instead, just sack them from their employment; let them survive if they think they can.43 The only part of the verse to remain is “the world was not worthy of them.”44

Jehovah’s Witnesses in Russia will think Paul’s preceding words prophetic: “You even joined in the sufferings of those in prison and joyfully accepted the confiscation of your property, knowing that you had a better and lasting possession.”45 ‘You got that right,’ they will say to Paul, for they have seen a lot of property confiscated. Can one really accept such things joyfully? Not in and of itself, no. It is an atrocity. But in the greater picture, yes. People whose horizons are only the goals of this system of things can never appreciate the mentality of those who are not. It is but one more way that “the natural person does not accept what pertains to the Spirit of God, for to him it is foolishness, and he cannot understand it, because it is judged spiritually.” One hates the confiscation of one’s things, but it is compensated for by being a “spiritual person, [who] can judge everything but is not subject to judgment by anyone.”46

“During the chaos of the early post-Soviet years,” writes the Moscow Times, “the average Russian was adrift, aghast at his sudden job insecurity and embarrassed about his country’s poverty….Then came Vladimir Putin to restore his sense of dignity. Putin assured Russians that every country had skeletons in the closet, ‘nothing to be ashamed of.’ More important, he returned the state to its role ‘as a paternalistic caretaker.’ The modern Russian is very much like [the Soviet Russian] only with a car and nicer clothes” and is not inclined to protest or make trouble.47

The Russian experiment with Western freedoms produced a mixed bag of results. Some things blew up in their faces. It was too much. So they beat a partial retreat. The administration’s 2000 National Security Concept stresses “protecting the cultural and spiritual-moral legacy and the historical traditions and standards of public life and preserving the cultural heritage of all Russia’s peoples.” Also, “there must be a state policy to maintain the population’s spiritual and moral welfare, prohibit the use of airtime to promote violence or base instincts, and counter the adverse impact of foreign religious organizations and missionaries.”48

The average person cares not overmuch about government. He or she has a life to lead. A weakness of most media is that they are obsessed with government and are staffed with persons who imagine it the central hub of life. This writer recalls a personal friend who used to point out how Newsweek and Time would completely miss the thrust of this or that story, whereas Watchtower-published Awake! would capture it. Not if the subject was politics or business, of course, but if it had to do with the general populace, Awake! would win hands-down. Those two secular magazines would send their wildly overeducated reporters into this or that barrio, and the locals, thoroughly over-awed, not wishing to appear stupid, would tell them anything they wanted to hear. Awake! would send in their peers and get the true picture.

Not too long ago, BBC interviewed a poverty-stricken man in an impoverished nation. “Whom can you trust?” the reporter wanted to know. “I trust in God,” the fellow replied. “Yes, yes, you trust in God,” repeated the newsman, eager to get this useless bit of trivia behind him, “but what about politicians?” “Some politicians, but not all politicians,” the man said. Ah—at last! Now we’re talking—human efforts! Awake! would have zeroed in on his initial response, taking for granted the general irrelevance of politicians to most people. Ancient governments are likened in Scripture to the heavens. They would shine on you one moment, rain on you the next, and there was nothing you could do about it. For all the democratic notions prevalent in some lands, the situation is little different today. To get an ounce of result, you must apply a ton of pressure, and most people are simply not up to the job.

 

The human record of exercising authority is not good. “All these things I saw and I applied my heart to every work that is done under the sun, while one person tyrannizes over another for harm,” says Ecclesiastes.49 Yet the Witness view is that God allows it as a stop-gap measure. Heaven help the people where there is anarchy.

The last chapter or two of each gospel is Jesus interacting with Pilate. If Christians were meant to ‘change’ government, surely it would be revealed here. One sees not a trace of it. Pilate asked Jesus if he was a king. Jesus said he was. Pilate knew straight away that he was looking at some sort of religious thing, and not the literal sedition the Jewish leaders, hoping to cause Jesus trouble, made it out to be.

Jehovah’s Witnesses appeal to this world’s justice system when the occasions for it arise. They work until they don’t. The course has precedent. A full quarter of the Book of Acts is the apostle Paul appealing to authorities following his arrest in Jerusalem. As he wends his way up to Caesar for a final trial, he does not criticize Roman government. Nowhere does he call them on their deeds, heavy-handed though some of them were.

His appeal was ultimately unsuccessful.50 He ended his days under house arrest in Rome. But it was successful from a witnessing point of view, and it is part of the Bible record that has stood for two millennia. Paul witnessed to each official he met. When his appearance sparked a riot in Ephesus, the Romans took him into protective custody. It was not too protective, however. The Roman officer in charge wanted to know why all the ruckus and he figured that he would beat it out of Paul. But Paul was a Roman citizen and, as such, had certain rights:

“The cohort commander ordered him to be brought into the compound and gave instruction that he be interrogated under the lash to determine the reason why they were making such an outcry against him. But when they had stretched him out for the whips, Paul said to the centurion on duty, “Is it lawful for you to scourge a man who is a Roman citizen and has not been tried?” When the centurion heard this, he went to the cohort commander and reported it, saying, “What are you going to do? This man is a Roman citizen.” Then the commander came and said to him, “Tell me, are you a Roman citizen?” “Yes,” he answered. The commander replied, “I acquired this citizenship for a large sum of money.” Paul said, “But I was born one.” At once those who were going to interrogate him backed away from him, and the commander became alarmed when he realized that he was a Roman citizen and that he had had him bound.”51

This was not the first time Paul asserted his rights as a Roman citizen before government officials. When local authorities threw him and his companion into prison and magistrates sought to undo it quietly the next day, Paul would not permit it: “The jailer reported these words to Paul, “The magistrates have sent orders that you be released. Now, then, come out and go in peace.” But Paul said to them, “They have beaten us publicly, even though we are Roman citizens and have not been tried and have thrown us into prison. And now, are they going to release us secretly? By no means. Let them come themselves and lead us out.” The lictors reported these words to the magistrates, and they became alarmed when they heard that they were Roman citizens. So they came and placated them, and led them out and asked that they leave the city.”

So it was that the Governing Body made sure that the Russian trial to ban Jehovah’s Witnesses was held in the largest venue possible and received worldwide attention. If there was to be an injustice, let it not be done in secret. Let the world know. One is also reminded of the Watchtower’s campaign of the 1950s and 1960s, related in Baran’s book, to ensure that Russian Witnesses knew their rights under the Soviet constitution—those rights buttressed by pertinent U.N. resolutions and even select quotations of Lenin. If the rights were not to be respected by government authorities, that did not mean they were nonexistent.

After Paul’s conversion on the road to Damascus, he made himself a persistent menace to the religious powers that were then, peeling off their adherents willy-nilly. Picture their annoyance at watching this play out in town after town, and take note of their response: “Following his usual custom, Paul … entered into discussions with them from the scriptures, expounding and demonstrating that the Messiah had to suffer and rise from the dead, and that ‘This is the Messiah, Jesus, whom I proclaim to you.’ Some of them were convinced and joined Paul and Silas; so, too, a great number of Greeks who were worshipers, and not a few of the prominent women. But the Jews became jealous and recruited some worthless men [imagine—going down in history as ‘worthless’] loitering in the public square, formed a mob, and set the city in turmoil.”

Nor was it just Paul. All Christians were encouraged to do likewise, so as not to be a lamp placed under a basket. Paul wrote to Timothy: “Be eager to present yourself as acceptable to God, a workman who causes no disgrace, imparting the word of truth without deviation.”52 The word ‘workman’ is telling. It would not be a separate, elite class who would ‘impart the word of truth without deviation.’ It would be the ‘workmen’ that the educated class scorned. Christians would be run-of-the-mill persons made powerful though coordinated study of the Word. It is little wonder their enemies felt they had no recourse but to silence them.

As stated, Paul never emerged from under that arrest in Jerusalem.  He appealed his case to Caesar. The book of Acts from that chapter on tells of his travels to Rome. Along the way he met a bevy of officials—some petty, some major—and he pitched Christianity to each one. They all ran for cover, the same as folks do today. They all had their reasons, the same as folks do today.

First off was provincial governor Felix. “He had Paul summoned and listened to him speak about faith in Christ Jesus. But as he spoke about righteousness and self-restraint and the coming judgment, Felix became frightened and said, “You may go for now; when I find an opportunity I shall summon you again.” Felix does not comport well in history; many are the complaints of his ‘cruelty and licentiousness.’ It is hardly surprising that ‘righteousness,’ ‘self-restraint,’ and the ‘coming judgment’ made him sweat. The succeeding verse does nothing to put him in a better light: “At the same time he hoped that a bribe would be offered him by Paul, and so he sent for him very often and conversed with him.” Paul had little control over who his audience would be, but he did have control over whether they would be an audience.

Notwithstanding Felix’ dubious record, when the high priest traveled from Jerusalem with a spokesman to make trouble for Paul, the spokesman gushed: “Since we have attained much peace through you, and reforms have been accomplished in this nation through your provident care, we acknowledge this in every way and everywhere, most excellent Felix, with all gratitude. But in order not to detain you further, I ask you to give us a brief hearing with your customary graciousness.” When it was Paul’s turn to reply, he said “I know that you have been a judge over this nation for many years and so I am pleased to make my defense before you.” In so many words he says: “Well, you’ve certainly been around for a while.” Yet even so, he is nowhere disrespectful, nor does he tell Felix how to run his jurisdiction.

Felix leaves Paul in prison so as to please the dominant religion. His successor is a man named Festus. The same representatives of that religious system come down to secure Paul’s doom once again, having failed in their previous attempt to have him sent to Jerusalem, where they had hoped to assassinate him along the way.

Festus eventually entertains a neighboring king and tells him the background: “There is a man here left in custody by Felix. When I was in Jerusalem the chief priests and the elders of the Jews brought charges against him and demanded his condemnation. I answered them that it was not Roman practice to hand over an accused person before he has faced his accusers and had the opportunity to defend himself against their charge. So when (they) came together here, I made no delay; the next day I took my seat on the tribunal and ordered the man to be brought in. His accusers stood around him but did not charge him with any of the crimes I suspected. Instead they had some issues with him about their own religion and about a certain Jesus who had died but who Paul claimed was alive. Since I was at a loss how to investigate this controversy, I asked if he were willing to go to Jerusalem and there stand trial on these charges. And when Paul appealed that he be held in custody for the Emperor’s decision, I ordered him held until I could send him to Caesar.” Agrippa said to Festus, “I too should like to hear this man.” He replied, “Tomorrow you will hear him.”

The next day Agrippa and Bernice came with great ceremony and entered the audience hall in the company of cohort commanders and the prominent men of the city and, by command of Festus, Paul was brought in. And Festus said, “King Agrippa and all you here present with us, look at this man about whom the whole Jewish populace petitioned me here and in Jerusalem, clamoring that he should live no longer. I found, however, that he had done nothing deserving death, and so when he appealed to the Emperor, I decided to send him. But I have nothing definite to write about him to our sovereign; therefore I have brought him before all of you, and particularly before you, King Agrippa, so that I may have something to write as a result of this investigation. For it seems senseless to me to send up a prisoner without indicating the charges against him.”

Agrippa said to Paul: “You are permitted to speak in behalf of yourself.” Then Paul stretched his hand out and proceeded to say in his defense: “Concerning all the things of which I am accused by Jews, King Agrippa, I count myself happy that it is before you I am to make my defense this day, especially as you are expert on all the customs as well as the controversies among Jews. Therefore I beg you to hear me patiently.”

Paul gives an account of his past and how he came to be where he was. It is too much for Festus: “Now as he was saying these things in his defense, Festus said in a loud voice: ‘You are going mad, Paul! Great learning is driving you into madness!’” (Some Witnesses alive today recall various clergymen discouraging study of the Bible, claiming it would make one ‘crazy.’)

Paul wasn’t put off by this remark. Instead, he countered: “I am not going mad, Your Excellency Festus, but I am uttering sayings of truth and of soundness of mind. In reality, the king to whom I am speaking with freeness of speech well knows about these things; for I am persuaded that not one of these things escapes his notice, for this thing has not been done in a corner. Do you, King Agrippa, believe the Prophets? I know you believe.” But Agrippa said to Paul: “In a short time you would persuade me to become a Christian.” At this Paul said: “I could wish to God that whether in a short time or in a long time not only you but also all those who hear me today would become men such as I also am, with the exception of these bonds.” Some lemons are hard to make into lemonade—“bonds’ for example. Nobody can say Paul was timid speaking before the king, though, nor ashamed of the cause for which he was arrested.

“And the king rose and so did the governor and Bernice and the men seated with them. But as they withdrew they began talking with one another, saying: “This man practices nothing deserving death or bonds.” Moreover, Agrippa said to Festus: ‘This man could have been released if he had not appealed to Caesar.’”

So it was as Paul worked his way toward Caesar, establishing his innocence at every stop. Still, they decided to keep him restrained, anyway. Everywhere he is an ambassador for God’s kingdom, and everywhere he avoids telling them how they should run theirs. It is the same way that Jehovah’s Witnesses act toward the governments under which they live.

The Book of Acts ends with Paul under house arrest. The dominant religious system did not attain its goal of killing him, but they did attain its goal of restricting him. The restriction was less successful than they might have imagined, for Paul went on to complete the majority of letters in the New Testament. Higher critics maintain he essentially founded a different religion, putting his own spin on the words of both Moses and Jesus.53

Tradition has it that Paul was executed during the time of Nero. This is consistent with the fact that Nero pinned the burning of Rome on the growing Christian movement. That attempt to eliminate it triggered many an atrocity. Over time, Christianity modified itself. It learned to accommodate its enemies and be molded by them. Paul had forewarned: “I know that after I leave, savage wolves will come in among you and will not spare the flock. Even from your own number men will arise and distort the truth in order to draw away disciples after them.” These men did not lose. They won. They would win today except that the timing is different.54

Jesus illustrated the change of timing with his parable of the wheat and weeds. The enemy sowed weeds among the fledgling wheat. “Leave them be,” the owner tells his slaves, and the weeds promptly overrun the wheat. During the harvest, however, it is a different story. “Then at harvest time I will say to the harvesters, ‘First collect the weeds and tie them in bundles for burning; but gather the wheat into my barn.’”55 The weeds that were victorious soon after planting are not victorious at the harvest, despite the efforts of the dominant religious empire. Even though they maneuver the governments into fighting against God, they are not victorious. 

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

See also safe version

***

  1. “Russia’s Biggest Enemy Is U.S. — Poll,” The Moscow Times, January 10, 2018, accessed March 24, 2018, https://themoscowtimes.com/news/russias-biggest-enemy-is-us-poll-60146
  2. “Goodbye America — Russians Suggest Names for New Nukes in Online Vote,” The Moscow Times, March 2, 2018, accessed March 12, 2018, https://themoscowtimes.com/news/goodbye-america-russians-suggest-names-for-new-nukes-in-online-vote-60690
  3. Jacob Leibenluft, “Why Don’t Jehovah’s Witnesses Vote? Slate.com, June 26, 2008, accessed March 24, 2018, http://www.slate.com/articles/news_and_politics/explainer/2008/06/why_dont_jehovahs_witnesses_vote.html
  4. 2 Corinthians 5:20
  5. Emily P. Baran, Dissent on the Margins - How Jehovah’s Witnesses Defied Communism and Lived to Preach About It (New York: Oxford University Press, 2014) 134
  6. “Helping ‘Foreign Residents’ to “Serve Jehovah With Rejoicing” The Watchtower – study edition, May 1, 2017, 7
  7. God’s Kingdom Rules (Brooklyn, Watchtower Bible and Tract Society of Pennsylvania, 2014) 158
  8. 1 Corinthians 1:10
  9. 1 Corinthians 12:14-18
  10. 1 Corinthians 12:25-26
  11. Announcement of the American Embassy of the Russian Federation Washington DC: “Vladimir Putin Gave an Interview to American Journalist Charlie Rose,” Embassy of the Russian Federation Washington DC, September 28, 2015, accessed March 24, 2018, Shttp://www.russianembassy.org/article/vladimir-putin-gave-an-interview-to-american-journalist-charlie-rose
  12. Isaiah 26:2
  13. Tobin Harshaw, “Trump, Brexit and Echoes of World War I,” Bloomberg.com, November 11, 2017, accessed March 24, 2018, https://www.bloomberg.com/view/articles/2017-11-11/trump-brexit-and-echoes-of-world-war-i
  14. “The Nations Are Still Not Learning,” Awake! August 8, 2002, 6
  15. “Lazare Ponticelli, the Last French Foot-Soldier of the First World War, Died on March 12th, Aged 110,” The Economist, March 19, 2008, Obituaries, accessed March 24, 2018, http://www.economist.com/node/10875719
  16. Gustave M. Gilbert, Nuremberg Diary (New York: New American Library, 1961) 278 See: https://www.snopes.com/quotes/goering.asp
  17. Matthew 26:52
  18. “The German Churches and the Nazi State,” Holocaust Encyclopedia, United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, https://www.ushmm.org/wlc/en/article.php?ModuleId=10005206
  19. Revelation 18:24
  20. The issue of Jehovah’s Witnesses refusing blood transfusion has been downgraded in the West (though by no means eliminated as a concern) and for that reason, I do not go into it in this book. Facilities practicing ‘bloodless medicine,’ either stand-alone or as departments of existing medical facilities, have become common-place. Long gone are the days when my wife, as a young girl, was administered a blood transfusion for a nosebleed – one might view it as ‘topping off the tank.’ Studies detailing inherent transfusion risks have become well-known. New Scientist Magazine summarized several such studies in its April 26, 2008 article entitled “An Act of Faith in the Operating Room,” in which the act of faith referred to was not withholding a transfusion but administering one. See also the Watchtower-produced video: ‘Transfusion Alternatives - Simple, Safe and Effective.’
  21. Ali’s exact words: “My conscience won’t let me go shoot … some poor, hungry people in the mud, for big, powerful America, and shoot them. For what? They never called me nigger, they never lynched me, they didn't put no dogs on me,” recorded on a 1980 documentary by the black public affairs television program ‘Like It Is.’ Stefan Fatsis, "No Viet Cong Ever Called Me Nigger, slate.com, June 8, 2006, accessed March 27, 2018, http://www.slate.com/articles/sports/sports_nut/2016/06/did_muhammad_ali_ever_say_no_viet_cong_ever_called_me_nigger.html
  22. Muhammad Ali’s chief attorney in 1967 was Hayden Covington, who argued many successful Supreme Court cases on behalf of Jehovah’s Witnesses two decades earlier. See: Robert Lipsyte, “Politics Wins in the Ring,” New York Times, April 28, 1967, accessed March 25, 2018, http://www.nytimes.com/packages/html/sports/year_in_sports/04.28.html
  23. Victor V. Blackwell, O’er the Ramparts They Watched (New York: Carlton Press, 1976) 213
  24. Ibid., 236-237
  25. Ibid., 239
  26. Ibid., 246
  27. Earnest W Barnes, The Rise of Christianity (London: Longmans Green and Co, 1947) 333
  28. C. J. Cadoux, The Early Church and the World (T & T Clark, LTD, 1955) 275-276
  29. N. Platt and M. J. Drummond Our World Through the Ages (Englewood Cliffs, N.J., Prentice-Hall, 1961) 125
  30. Edward Gibbon, The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire (London, 1776) Vol. I, p. 416
  31. “A Successful Program of Alternative Civilian Service in Taiwan” JW Broadcasting, August, 11, 2017, accessed March 25, 2018,
  32. “There is No Sect, There are No Problems,” portal-credo.ru, December 28, 2017, accessed March 28, 2017, http://www.portal-credo.ru/site/?act=news&id=129229. For English Translation, see http://www2.stetson.edu/~psteeves/relnews/171228a.html
  33. Andrew Katz, “Congress Is Now Mostly A Millionaires’ Club,” New York Times, January 9, 2014, accessed March 25, 2018, http://time.com/373/congress-is-now-mostly-a-millionaires-club/
  34. Luke 4:5-6
  35. “Uzbekistan: Patriarch Kirill Equates Insulting Believers’ Feelings to Extremism,” Ruptly TV, September 29, 2017, accessed March 25, 2018, https://www.newstube.ru/media/uzbekistan-patriarch-kirill-equates-insulting-believers-feelings-to-extremism
  36. Acts 17:6
  37. “Giving Up on Moral & Ethical Values ‘More Dangerous Than Nuclear Bomb’ – Putin,” RT.com, October 21, 2017, accessed March 25, 2018, https://www.RT.com/news/407414-moral-ethical-values-putin-sochi/
  38. The colorful slogan is preserved only on Wikipedia and a humor page or two, which might not remain. One can sometimes find memorabilia online, such as a coffee mug bearing the same words I recently saw advertised on eBay for $12. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jesse_Ventura
  39. Acts 24:5.
  40. Jehovah’s Witnesses – Proclaimers of God’s Kingdom (Brooklyn: Watchtower Bible and Tract Society of Pennsylvania, 1992) 192
  41. Daniel 2:44
  42. “Russian Condemnation of Stalin’s Repressions Plunges,” RadioFreeEuropeRadioLibery, November 30, 2017, accessed March 28, 2018, https://www.rferl.org/a/russian-condemnation-of-stalins-repressions-plunges/28724392.html
  43. Forum 18 cites examples of Jehovah’s Witnesses fired from their jobs or forced to resign, solely on the basis of religion. Victoria Arnold, “Russia: Jehovah’s Witnesses Now Banned,” Forum 18 News Service, July 18, 2017, accessed March 12, 2018, http://www.forum18.org/archive.php?article_id=2297
  44. Hebrews 11:36-38
  45. Hebrews 10:34
  46. 1 Corinthians 2:14-15
  47. Eva Hartzog and Led Gudkov, The Week, October 27, 2017
  48. Daniel P. Payne, “Spiritual Security, the Russian Orthodox Church, and the Russian Foreign Ministry: Collaboration or Cooptation?” Рубрика: Статьи современников, February 10, 2012, accessed March 25, 2018, http://rpczmoskva.org.ru/stati/daniel-p-paynespiritual-security-the-russian-orthodox-church-and-the-russian-foreign-ministry-collaboration-or-cooptation.html
  49. Ecclesiastes 8:9
  50. It appears that Paul was released for a time, and was hoping to preach in Spain, and he was later rearrested and condemned to death. Since Acts makes no mention of this, I have taken it all as a needless complication and have edited it away as, in the spirit of the times, as though it were fake news
  51. Acts 22:24-29 begins a narrative that continues through Acts 26 and is the source of the remaining portion of this chapter.
  52. 2 Timothy 2:15
  53. This is another reason The 100 from ‘Introduction’ rates Muhammad as a more significant figure than Jesus. The former founded a complete religion. The latter did only in tandem with Paul.
  54. Acts 20:29-30
  55. Matthew 13:24-30, 36-43

 

 

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

Skirmish #299610 - Good Cop / Bad Cop - Was That in Your Book?

“What [Bobby] you and your friend Tom do...”

Geo  you are such a two-year-old. You know very well that I rebuked him harshly not long ago, and that he took umbrage to it.

Nonetheless, I know your style, and I now know that you will be taunting me over this forever. So...is Bobby my friend or not?

Yes, assuming that he is the brother that he claims to be, he absolutely is. He is loyal to God. He is loyal to Christ. He is loyal to the human organization that does its level best to follow their lead. He is my friend. He may sometimes display himself a marauding and unhinged pit bull, but he is my friend. In the Kingdom Hall, we would get along just fine. 

Maybe, since you have paired us, we will roll with the illustration of ‘Good Cop/Bad Cop.’ (Guess which one he is) The good cop really and truly does not want you to fall into the hands of the bad cop, for he knows how bad that bad cop can be. He thinks the bad cop is doing it all wrong and indeed wonders sometimes whether the bad cop can truly be a cop. However, the bad cop thinks the good cop is a namby-pamby, fraternizing with the crooks way too much, and wonders ‘where is his loyalty?’

The metaphor works well enough. I like it.

Let me direct you, therefore, to the L.A. Confidential movie in with the corrupt official taunts the good cop: “Oh, give me a break! You are not going to pull the good cop/bad cop routine on me, are you? I wrote the book on that routine!” Whereupon the bad cop grabs him by the scruff of the neck, nearly drowns him in the toilet, and then dangles him by a single foot over the 20th floor window that he had kicked out. 

Placing the jellyfied mess that is left of the corrupt official back on the couch, as the two leave with the requested information extracted, he says, “Was that in your book?”

Your witness, Bobby. Go as easy on him as you are capable of.

F8A0897D-D0FB-4FAA-A8C4-3DC8E3AD21FA

Photo: Times Square, by Joe Holmes

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

Why the Change to the Baptism Question?

I had heard on the grapevine  that question 2 of the baptism questions was changed, and then this weekend at our convention this rumour was confirmed. Question number 2 no longer includes the phrase "......God's spirit directed organization

Does anyone know why?”

 

It is probably for the same reason that nobody is ‘disfellsowshipped’ in the Kingdom Hall anymore. Instead, we hear from time to time that so-and-so is no longer one of Jehovah’s Witnesses.

It is probably because legalistic enemies find something in the wording that they can beat us over the head with, as they did with disfellowshipping, and so the organization says, ‘Okay, we’ll change the wording so as to defuse the point.’

It is like when a misstep of mine provoked a huge overreaction and charges of meddling in someone else’s blog, and to illustrate the point, the blogger came after me in successive posts, demanding that I change a word in my ‘About’ page. 

Look, it is just an ‘About’ page, I said at last. ‘Change it if it will make her happy:’

...

“Sometimes while blogging, as I was engaging in dignified search of peers on whose blogs I might leave a comment – not despicably trolling as the sickos do – but conducting honorable perusal of internet resources so as to find fatheads that I could set straight, my stumbling about would inadvertently trigger an avalanche. This was especially possible if I visited someone writing on a hot-button topic, such as blood transfusion or pedophilia, for you can never really know just where they have been or what they have been through – or, for that matter, how stable they are. Once I stepped in to say a kind word for Joe Paterno, falsely vilified, in my view, in the Penn State pedophilia scandal. To be sure, it was only a sub-point to her own post. She appeared not to understand the point, and at this late date, I forget just what it was. I rephrased it. WOW! did I ever live to regret it! I mean -you talk about stepping in it! She came after me in a successive post I wrote that had nothing to do with that topic:

She: “In your ‘About’ section you used the word ‘imbecile.’ Are you aware that the medical definition of the word is, ‘A person of moderate to severe mental retardation having a mental age of from three to seven years and generally being capable of some degree of communication and performance of simple tasks under supervision. The term belongs to a classification system no longer in use and is now considered offensive?’ Or that it is generally applied to a person with an IQ between 26 and 50, while the average American has an IQ between 70 and 130? Where are references to Dr. Henry Goddard, the American psychologist of the 1920s generally credited with/blamed for developing these now outdated and discredited classifications? Have you ever once stopped to think of how your word choice might impact those with intellectual challenges who may visit icerocket and then troll sites like yours, scouring your posts for the casual reference that put you in the search engine's sites? What’s that? You don’t want to discuss intelligence quotients on your blog? How can that be? You mentioned it slightly only once while writing about something else entirely? Clearly that is an open invitation for people like me to blather on about it! If you don’t want your blog shang hai’d with discussions of the comparative merits of IQ classifications and political correctness, rewrite your ‘About’ section and change your settings. No offense intended, of course. Sorry for the intrusion. It won’t happen again. (Get it now?)”

 

Tom: “I’ve not given the thought you suggest I should to use of that term. I’ve never had anyone take it in the strict medical sense. Many words have multiple meanings. A house dictionary for general usage lists your definition as the third. The first definition is ‘a stupid or silly person.’ That’s how I expect people will take it, just an example of self-deprecatory humor. Self-deprecation is a fine literary device, breaking tension, indicating one doesn’t take oneself too seriously. Thank you for your comment. However, I respectfully disagree.

“For whatever it’s worth, I worked for several years with people who had developmental disabilities. The I-word you mention is so outdated that it never came up, in either serious use or colloquial. There is an R-word, however, that is used quite frequently in general conversation, that is considered offensive to those with developmental disabilities. That word I have never used anywhere in my blog.”

 

She: I suspect you are being purposely obtuse about my point. But just in case I give you too much credit, let’s try this: You also mention the color ‘blue’ in your ‘About’ section. Which shade of blue? Can it be matched in the Pantone palette? Why no mention of the derivation of the popular CMYK system used in printing and desktop publishing? Why, the casual way you touched upon the color ‘blue,’ it’s almost as if you don’t consider the color blue to be the centerpiece of your posts! There isn’t even a whisper of the important statistic that a full nine percent of American cars are blue! If you aren't willing to discuss, compare and contrast the various features and benefits of periwinkle vs. cobalt ad nauseum, why then you should rewrite your ‘About’ section and change your blog settings. That’s merely “part of the blogging process,” you know.

“Shame on you for disregarding the point of my original blog post, and my wishes, just so you could once again cut and paste your opinions about how poor old Joe recalls (as do you) more innocent times. I also suggest that, as one who is qualified to drive and vote, you truly did understand the point I was trying to make above. Are you really this desperate to attract traffic to your blog or for someone to talk to? [I was, and I am] Now I hope we can agree to leave one another alone for all cyber eternity.”

 

[Hell, it’s only an ‘About’ page. Change it if it will make her happy]

Tom: “To show that I did understand your original point, I’ve thought it over and decided you are correct. ‘Imbecile’ risks being needlessly offensive. I’ve changed my ‘About’ page to read ‘dope.’ Thank you for your contribution on that point.”

Months later I began to miss ‘imbecile.’ When the coast was clear, I changed it back.”

[edit....It still reads ‘dope.’ Apparently I never got around to changing it back. It was just a statement of intention. Too bad—I actually like imbecile better and I may yet change it back someday.]

Sometimes we overthink things. It is just beating the rascals at their own game, most likely.

It probably plays somehow into the scheming of enemies to portray an US vs THEM scenario, with the evil THEM “manipulating” the US—whereas in reality the US is THEM, simply in organized form.

The reason that you organize anything is to enable that anything to be done more expansively and more unitedly. The reason you attempt to dismantle an organization is to thwart those goals. Usually, it is no more complicated than that. 

So here we have people positioning themselves as ‘People’s Protector’—as though taking the high road—when mostly what they are trying to do is take out the means to magnify a work and a message that goes against the grain of contemporary thinking and that they therefore don’t like. They may love Paul’s analogy of the congregation as a human body with all members harmoniously interacting together. But if they see it in reality, they holler about manipulation, bullying, and mind-control.

8024B40C-0662-4FDF-98C5-0648F5806357

photo: RCC Baptism Celebration, by River City Church

My blog exchange re the ‘About’ page is found in ‘No Fake News but Plenty of Hogwash.’ 

 

 

 

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

The Door Stop at the Eisenhower National Historical Site

When you go to Gettysburg, you go because you think you will hear about Abraham Lincoln. You do not go because you think you will hear about Dwight D. Eisenhower—he is 80 years removed from the Civil War battle that made the town famous. But hear of him you do, because he bought his first and only house adjacent to the Gettysburg battlefield, now a National Park Historic Museum.

Should you doubt that you are adjacent to the Gettysburg battlefield, all you need to is glance a couple hundred yards away at the observation tower built to survey where the troops once fought. Eisenhower’s secret service attachment had conniptions over that tower, and pressed Eisenhower to remove it. He refused. If it was for the public’s edification of important history, who was he to take it down? So they bought him a book on the subject of what assassins with high-powered rifles could do. ‘Take it down,’ he said.

C1F68327-AB14-446C-9D3D-FA5892A8F978

Of course, by the time you spot the tower, you will be in no doubt as to the Musuem’s proximity, because it is only by shuttle bus from the Museum that access to the Eisenhower ranch is gained. It is itself a National Historical Park Site.

On the grounds that came with the farmhouse, Ike used to putz around on a golf-cart type of vehicle. Dignitaries that he would invite away from the congestion of Washington would putz around with him, and Ike would show them the Angus cattle that he raised. Khrushchev was one who rode with him. If the Soviet leader was fond of railing about the materialism of the West, he would have been hard pressed to make his point here. The farmhouse has more rooms than is typical, but otherwise it is no different than any farmhouse of the era. The extra bedrooms are not large. Some of them are downright tiny.

5611E4CF-FD2F-44E6-A463-F0386304A863

11480AB2-24A2-4CCA-A512-DBA79E868AC0

8A8521EA-F314-44EE-A1EB-290F8C8CDA6E

The farmhouse was not a budget-buster in itself, but the rehab work proved astronomical, the equivalent of two million dollars today. The brick facade proved to be just that—the covering on a log frame that was rotting away. He should have had an inspector look the place over for him before signing on the dotted line. After Ike was done, he bought a car (hard to photograph because it was in the closed-off garage) for his wife (he did not drive himself) and told her that they were now broke. It is about that time that he figured he had better begin writing his memoirs.

BDF5C2CA-9876-4B61-B719-BEE43B8B295B

The elderly docent who greeted us in the living room apologized for sitting as he did so, but he had reached the age where standing was too hard on his feet. He did not seem to know how to silence his phone calling pre-recorded to remind him of a doctor’s appointment—he told it to “shut up” once or twice before at length shutting it off. He had once been a building facilities specialist in the military and had at that time been granted Top Secret clearance. People would call him for help even after retirement, and he tried to avoid them because, after all, he was retired—ask the new guy—but he could usually be prevailed upon to tell how to adjust the air conditioning up or down—nothing is straightforward when it has government overtones.

I learned all this because after his speech, While others were roaming the house, I asked him whether he had ever seen the movie ‘Guarding Tess.’ (He had not.) The reason that I asked him that was because he had related before the group grapevine reports that Mamie, Ike’s wife, would make the secret service take notes on her soap operas whenever she was not able to watch them in person, just the sort of thing that Tess, the fictional former First Lady of the movie would have done—though otherwise there appears no similarity at all—do not think I am suggesting that the movie was modeled after the Eisenhowers.

Eisenhower, a recent West Point graduate, had wanted to see action during World War I, but they stuck him in Gettysburg instead in order to head up Camp Colt, a training ground for the Army’s new Tank Corps. He trained his untested volunteers so well—their first task had been to get over the flu they all came down with—that, by the time World War II came about, he vaulted over many more well-known prospects to eventually become Supreme Commander, not just of American forces, but to all Allied Troops.

In his almost embarrassingly modest back enclosed porch (for a president), he liked to watch Westerns as the day wound down. Gunsmoke was a favorite. In this he was just like my Dad, who also liked all Westerns, but would reliably emerge from his den like clockwork only when he heard the Gunsmoke theme music that heralded Matt blowing away yet another miscreant in the street who had drawn his gun first—they always did, the louts—and Matt always outdrew them, saving Dodge City once again.

39736AA3-7608-4DA5-88AB-AF1AA8BBFFA8

43C4CBE9-972D-4618-9AD8-DA2B4BD7312D

An odd and unusual door stop caught my wife’s attention before it did mine. It was metalwork—a statue of Jacob wrestling with the angel, about 8 inches tall.  Maybe his Jehovah’s Witness mom had given it to him with the note ‘Do you remember?’ I entertained for a split second, but dismissed it immediately. Of course he remembered it—the biblical scene has for centuries been fair game for painters and sculptors alike. Or maybe he didn’t remember—or if he did, he was not swept off his feet with appreciation for it. I mean—come on!—a door stop is not an especially honored place for a work of art. It beats weighing down the toilet handle so the water doesn’t run, but still...

A7A6CCAA-94EA-4C40-A4F8-1A6EEB7F5471

I decided I would ask about that statue, because the subject had come up recently in another connection. Did the ranger (not the one in the living room) know where it came from? No, she said, she did not, but she then dove into the task of discovery with surprising gusto. There is a master log of every single item in the room, if not the entire house. She led me to it and we combed through the pages together.

Ah - here it is. It was a gift presented to the President in 1955 by the Swedish artist Carl Mille, and he used the biblical story to symbolize the present struggle for world piece. How much do you want to bet that before he came calling—hopefully, he didn’t just drop in—Mamie Eisenhower (who kept everything, the docent stated) retrieved it from the humble spot she probably put it in to begin with, spiffed it up, and displayed it prominently on the mantelpiece. I learned that trick with regard to my in-laws ages ago.

4C7B8E6A-75BB-4FF4-A34D-807CE0A2463F

Ike really didn’t get as much use out of his house as he would have liked. No sooner had he bought it, at the conclusion of the war, then Truman asked him to become leader of NATO, which meant living in Europe. Afterwards, elected President of the United States, he would have spent more time in Washington than his Gettysburg home. He willed his home to the National Park Service. After that, he lived but a few years until heart trouble—he had been drinking 25 cups of coffee per day—confined him to nursing facilities. The Park Service granted Mamie permanent occupancy until her health, too, failed. At that time David Eisenhower, the son, told family members to remove the keepsake items they wanted from the home—but make it sparing—and from that time on the farm home and surrounding ranch became the haunts of Park Rangers and docents. The view is spectacular—no wonder the Eisenhower’s liked it. The entire Gettysburg area is gently undulating landscape—the perfect spot for the epic battle of the Civil War 80 years before he and Mamie moved there. It is what went through our minds as we took the shuttle bus back.

286262AA-A218-400A-BA01-E9D64D3BD0FE

 

 

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

Why Isn’t THAT in Your Museum, National Historic Park Service - Eisenhower’s Mom

They wanted to make him king? And he declined?

“Therefore Jesus, knowing they were about to come and seize him to make him king, withdrew again into the mountain all alone.” (John 6:15)

Few who have read the verse will have had that same offer, much less the experience of accepting it. But Dwight D. Eisenhower was one of the few. The victorious general gets to be president—it worked for George Washington, then Andrew Jackson, then Zachary Taylor, then Ulysses Grant. And it worked for Dwight D. Eisenhower, elected “king” in 1952. He had served as Supreme Commander of Allied Forces during World War II.

At the Eisenhower National Historic Site in Pennsylvania, the ranger almost immediately made a mistake. Ike and his siblings were raised in the Mennonite religion, she said. I knew it was wrong. They were raised as Jehovah’s Witnesses—‘Bible Students’ was the name back then. Yet even when I had one-on-one time with the ranger, I did not challenge her because 1) I had forgotten about it, and 2) the reason I had forgotten about it is that I had initially told myself that maybe his parents were Mennonites longer than they were Witnesses, or maybe they were not Witnesses during their childrens’ formative years. However, I checked later. They were. She was wrong—amazingly wrong, because the National Historical Park Service is not wrong about anything.

The most authoritative source will be this entry of the Kansas Historical Society. If I recalled the name of that ranger, I would contact her first. Alas—like most of the ‘Aha!’ moments of life, it occurs to me too late to act upon it.

If a Mennonite background might sink you as a Presidential candidate in 1952, God help you if were found to have a Jehovah’s Witness background. The Eisenhower children and their handlers kept that background very very secret, so as not to hurt Ike’s political career. Pundits would have destroyed him. I have to admit, even I would have enjoyed a crack at it—there would be my cartoon of Ike and his wife doing street work in front of the White House, holding aloft the Watchtower and Awake, the cover emblazoned: ‘Can Presidents Bring Peace?’ Oh yeah, they would have had a field day with it.

No U.S. religious group was more unpopular during World War II than Jehovah’s Witnesses, who not only refused military service, but also refused to salute the flag—Witnesses do not salute any flag anywhere. Often Witness youths refusing the military draft were sentenced with considerable emotion. Like this example: “I sentence you to five years in a federal prison to be approved by the Attorney General. My only regret, you yellow coward, is that I cannot give you twenty five years!” [from the book ‘Oer the Ramparts They Watched’ - by Victor V Blackwell, an attorney who represented many of them]

Mob violence was common following a 1940 decision of the Supreme Court that school pupils could be compelled to salute the flag. Mobs formed, waving the flag, demanding Witnesses salute it. When they would not, they were attacked and beaten, even into unconsciousness. Their homes, automobiles and meeting places were torched. In small towns, some were rounded up and jailed without charge. In four years, over 2500 mob-related incidents occurred.

The Solicitor General of the United States took to the airwaves: “Jehovah's Witnesses have repeatedly been set upon and beaten. They have committed no crime; but the mob adjudged that they had, and meted out punishment The Attorney General has ordered an immediate investigation of these outrages...The people must be alert and watchful, and above all, cool and sane. Since mob violence will make the government's task infinitely more difficult, it will not be tolerated. We shall not defeat the Nazi evil by emulating its methods.”

First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt echoed the plea of the Attorney General. The ACLU also spoke out: “It is high time we came to our senses regarding this matter of flag-saluting. Jehovah’s Witnesses are not disloyal Americans…They are not given to law-breaking in general, but lead decent, orderly lives, contributing their share to the common good.” The High Court reversed its decision three years later, partly because they were aghast at what they had unleashed.

A question might be asked: Why didn’t Ike defend them? If not he, (for he was at the time fully immersed as brigadier general overseas) then why not one of his several siblings, who were in position to clarify that declining the flag salute had nothing to do with lack of patriotism, but of respecting the 2nd of the Ten Commandments. They would also have been in ideal position to explain that non-participation in war was completely in harmony with Bible standards. Instead, it was left to the ACLU to explain that “Jehovah’s Witnesses are not disloyal Americans…They are not given to law-breaking in general, but lead decent, orderly lives, contributing their share to the common good.” Ike’s kin might have done it, if not for their former faith itself, then for the sake of dear ol Mom, who held faithfully to it.

Dwight D. Eisenhower’s service to his country, and even the world, will be the trump card for most persons. Had he not been appointed Supreme Commander of Allied Forces, maybe someone less capable would have botched the job. Even for Jehovah’s Witnesses, this will likely be the trump card—for he did liberate the German concentration camps where many of them were, after all, and that must have made Mom proud.

Yet the Eisenhower sibling’s service to the cause of faith is not so stellar. When the Word states that Christians will be hated in all the nations on account of Jesus’ name [“Then people will hand you over to tribulation and will kill you, and you will be hated by all the nations on account of my name.” - Matthew 24:9], is it because those nations will say that they hate God? No. They will say that they love God, but there will be some hot-button issues—in this case, refusal to salute the national flag or engage in military service—that will enrage them, be the matter biblically supported or not.

In fact, a third reason that Jehovah’s Witnesses were reviled is that they called out the major churches for their enthusiastic war cheerleading on both sides of both World Wars. Had even one of the major churches in Germany renounced war participation, Hitler might never have become the world threatening menace that he did become. If you are not going to stand up for peace during time of war, just when do you stand up for it?

Eisenhower’s kin could have explained it all, even if not going along with it themselves. They didn’t. One can only conclude that they were deeply embarrassed, if not ashamed, of their Jehovah’s Witness mother, and to this day wish to keep it a deeply held secret—and that even the National Historic Park Service, who seldom miss the slightest detail, acquiesces to their desire to keep this worst of all worst disgraces out of the public eye. Look, nobody cares—the Watchtower organization is certainly not outraged by it—they don’t do celebrities over there. However, the fact that nobody cares can be said of most details of history. It is history, and history is the National Historical Park Service’s reason for existence. They ought to get it right!

In the mid-seventies, Modern Maturity magazine ran this quote from Melvin Eisenhower, Ike's brother:Mother and Father knew the Bible from one end to the other. In fact, Mother was her own concordance: Without using one, she could turn to the particular scriptural passage she wanted. . . . We had an ideal home for I never heard an unkind word between Father and Mother. They lived by the cardinal concepts of the Judaic-Christian religion.” Really? Well what “Judaic-Christian religion” was it? Alas, it must never be told, for fear of dropping in the eyes of others.

From a Bible standpoint, it is not good. “Everyone, then, who acknowledges me before men, I will also acknowledge him before my Father who is in the heavens.  But whoever disowns me before men, I will also disown him before my Father who is in the heavens,” says Jesus at Matthew 10:32-33. Should a literal observing of his words be treated as a dirty little secret that must never see the light of day for the sake of preserving popular social approval? “How can you believe,” Jesus spoke again, “when you are accepting glory from one another and you are not seeking the glory that is from the only God?” (John 5:44)

The October 15, 1980 Watchtower tells of a World War II American soldier who became one of Jehovah’s Witnesses while enlisted. Efforts to speak with his superiors about his new-found neutrality went nowhere. So the fellow wrote, not to General Eisenhower, but to his mom! Sometimes you have to do that. Do you want President Trump to do something for you? You can’t write him – he’s busy. You have to write his mom, who will nag him into doing what you want.

One testy exchange between this new Witness and his superiors turned around quickly: “As I entered the headquarters tent, where all the ‘top brass’ had gathered, I didn’t salute.”

One of the officers said: “Don’t you salute your superiors?”

“No, Sir.”

“Why not?”

The soldier gave his reasons, based on his new and incomplete understanding of the Bible. At that the officer said: “General Eisenhower ought to line you Jehovah’s Witnesses up and shoot you all!”

“Do you think he would shoot his own mother, Sir?’ The soldier asked. He then produced the reply that he had just received from Eisenhower’s mom. The senior officer read the letter, and the other officers also gathered around to look at it. He then replied: “Get back to ranks. I don’t want to get mixed up with the General’s mother.”

Why isn’t THAT in your museum, you who miss no detail of Ike’s life? The letter is reproduced below:

 

Abilene, Kansas - August-20-’44.

Mr. Richard Boeckel.

 

Dear Sir: A friend returning from the United Announcers Convention of Jehovah’s Witnesses, informs me of meeting you there. I rejoice with you in your privilege of attending such convention.

It has been my good fortune many times in the years gone by to attend these meetings of those faithfully proclaiming the name of Jehovah and his glorious Kingdom which shortly now will pour out its rich blessings over all the earth.

My friend informs me of your desire to have a word from General Eisenhower’s mother whom you have been told is one of the witnesses of Jehovah. I am indeed such and what a glorious privilege it has been in association with those of the present time and with those on back through the annals of Biblical history even to Abel.

Generally I have refused such requests because of my desire to avoid all publicity. However, because you are a person of good will towards Jehovah God and his glorious Theocracy I am very happy to write you.

I have been blessed with seven sons of which five are living, all being very good to their mother and I am constrained to believe are very fine in the eyes of those who have learned to know them.

It was always my desire and my effort to raise my boys in the knowledge of and to reverence their Creator. My prayer is that they all may anchor their hope in the New World, the central feature of which is the Kingdom for which all good people have been praying the past two thousand years.

I feel that Dwight my third son will always strive to do his duty with integrity as he sees such duty. I mention him in particular because of your expressed interest in him.

And so as the mother of General Eisenhower and as a witness of and for the Great Jehovah of Hosts (I have been such the past 49 years) I am pleased to write you and to urge you to faithfulness as a companion of and servant with those who “keep the commandments of God and have the testimony of Jesus”.

There can be no doubt that what is now called the post-war period is the “one hour” mentioned at Revelation chapters 17 and 18. Ten here being a symbol not of just ten nations but rather of the whole number or all of the nations, then if we have a real League of Nations acting efficiently as a super guide to the nations of earth at the close of this war that should be ample proof.

Surely this portends that very soon the glorious Theocracy, the long promised Kingdom of Jehovah the Great God and of his Son the everlasting King will rule the entire earth and pour out manifold blessings upon all peoples who are of good will towards Him. All others will be removed.

Again may I urge your ever faithfulness to these the “Higher Powers” and to the New World now so very near.

Respectfully yours in hope of and as a fighter for the New World,

Ida E. Eisenhower

 

See also the chapter ‘Enemies’ of my ebook ‘Tom Irregardless and Me.’

And ‘The Military-Industrial Complex and Jehovah’s Witnesses’

82532695-05EB-439D-9695-6B66D8D16601

See overall post of our visit to the Eisenhower National Historical Site here.

 

 

 

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

At the Hershey Chocolate Story Museum

No bad things will be said about Milton Hershey at the Hershey Story Museum. Almost no bad things will be said at all.

“Trouble ensues” when Milton’s father appears on the scene, but that trouble is only hinted at, even though it caused the son’s bankruptcy. No matter. Through “hard work” he got on his feet again to find success. He did not build his factory near his birthplace because Lancaster doubled his taxes after he declined to support a local politician. No. He moved so as to be close to his neighbors—industrious workers, and the farmers who would supply his burgeoning chocolate factory with fresh wholesome milk, along with the railroads.

All exhibits will feature nothing but praise of Milton Hershey—almost always called ‘Mr. Hershey.’ “I have always worked hard, lived rather simply, and tried to give every man a square deal,” [1938] is about as controversial as it gets at the museum. “I am trying to build a place where people can live in pleasant surroundings,” is another shocker. [1927] A teenaged docent seemed surprised that there could be any bad things to say. “He built this beautiful town that I live in,” she explained. Hershey, Pennsylvania, is billed as “the sweetest place on earth” and the street lights are in the shape of Hershey Kisses. Eight million of the chocolate Kisses are made each day.

0869E4E3-FC7D-4CE7-A29B-AEBB30B9661E

Perhaps there are no bad things to say and even modern pundits would abandon the search to find some. A headline of November 9, 1923, tells that he transferred his entire then-wealth of $60,000,000 to an orphanage he’d established years earlier, and managed to keep the deed hidden for five years. It is the highest-profile example that comes to mind of Jesus’ words—“When you make gifts of mercy, do not blow a trumpet ahead of you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, so that they may be glorified by men....[Instead], do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing,  so that your gifts of mercy may be in secret. Then your Father who looks on in secret will repay you.”

8FDA13FF-52C8-48A1-BEA8-1F00B7BE5774

He is the founder of a company town, with housing that workers were encouraged to own. He was energetic in providing for cultural resources, parks, and education. Placard after placard informs that: “Mr Hershey knew that workers needed....” and one may gaze about the city and see that whatever thing they needed was planted in seedling form and is now a massive forest seemingly employing all the teenagers in the region—no wonder they like him. “But if you want to see Mr. Hershey’s extraordinary legacy, step outside and look around you,” says a poster. Schools, an amusement park, a zoo [ZooAmerica, which I took at first to mean that it was huge, but it actually means that it is a “rescue zoo” and all animals are native to America], sports arenas, floral gardens and an arboretum.

2A27DB5D-4532-4DC4-B454-EFFE429ACA97

0593CA51-82D7-4B8B-9379-FA1EB5940202

In fact, he is the founder of two such towns, for there was also a Hershey, Cuba (sugar cane source during WWI, when it became scarce) that was sold in 1946, 14 years before communism could confiscate it.

“To reduce unemployment [during the Great Depression] in his Pennsylvania town, Mr. Hershey embarked on a ten year “Great Building Program.” Amenities such as Hotel Hershey [it is the building to the background of the next picture], Hershey Stadium, and Hershey Theatre were constructed,” says one placard. “My workers are not my partners, so they don’t have to share my loss,” he explains in another. Another placard explains that he donated $20,000 apiece to the area churches to stay them through the hard times.

06AB3E36-BF88-4779-B075-B0E7F78E9653

Still, labor unions were gathering steam during those tough years. Though there were no layoffs, there were shrinking paychecks. 400 workers staged a sit-down strike in 1937. After 5 days, local farmers and workers not disgruntled stormed the factory and beat them. Wikipedia attributes some of the tension to the nationality differences of supervisors and workers.

F4BDC17E-AA01-4BF9-B898-C2A3C19C5D2F

Milton meets his bride to be in Jamestown NY and his animated eyes take the shape of hearts that bulge outwards. But within a few posters, we read the couple is touring the world in futile search for her incurable illness, and then that he is a widow after just 17 years of marriage. Just what her illness was is unknown to this day, another placard down the row briefly states.

Only at the rose garden he planted for her—now expanded to 23 acres—did my wife discover that her unknown illness was one causing slow paralysis and that, unable to sense cold or heat, she had told the chauffeur to drive fast so as to feel the wind in her face. It was cold March wind and she died of pneumonia.

62B66A17-6348-43ED-8A1D-760777EA0AD6

At the museum, the teenaged guides have little to do other than stand around and look friendly, and one of them was completely immersed in her smart phone—always a major temptation. Nothing is free at Hersheyworld, another teenaged attendant told us, but there is a single exception—the ChocoWorld tour that loads people into cocoa-bean cars and rides them through a simulated factory. Hershey recoups the funds, probably, because the ride empties out onto the largest retail candy shop (with gift shop) that I have ever seen, not to mention the huge amusement park just outside. The queue on top is for the ChocoWorld tour. Most visitors probably saw the town in reverse order than did we and many would never even have gotten around to the museum.

1003393D-E16F-4FC7-BCA7-591829E715AA

86256B3B-89B1-4055-9297-E2622517616A

99CF304F-8801-47E1-B561-A0E0A25091B7

But the ones that started with the museum, like we did, might even get around to visiting the Wilbur Chocolate store, in nearby Lilitz—it is not as though Milton was the only candy maker of this time. We bought a package of ‘Wilbur Buds,’ essentially ‘Hershey Kisses’ minus any patent infringement, and they tasted just as good. The defunct Wilbur chocolate factory is just across the street and is now being converted to upscale lofts and restaurants, and entire town is dubbed one of the coolest small towns around. It is a designation that is not especially hard to come by. It is marketing, mostly. Still, a fuddy-daddy town will not get one.

Trust Wikipedia to tell the bad news that will not be read at the museum:

“In September 2006, ABC News reported that several Hershey chocolate products were reformulated to replace cocoa butter with vegetable oil as an emulsifier. According to the company, this change was made to reduce the costs of producing the products instead of raising their prices or decreasing the sizes. Some consumers complained that the taste was different, but the company stated that in the company-sponsored blind taste tests, about half of consumers preferred the new versions. As the new versions no longer met the FDA’s official definition of "milk chocolate", the changed items were relabeled from stating they were "milk chocolate" and "made with chocolate" to "chocolate candy" and "chocolaty." [I thought the taste was different, but it is very subtle and might be my imagination.]

However, Wikipedia also reports some good news: “A 2016 attempt to sell Hershey to Mondelez International was scuttled because of objections by the Hershey Trust.”

Good. A new monster buyer would come in with efficiency spreadsheets and productivity software. They would search out that teen engrossed in her smartphone and fire her. Somehow the museum needs her.

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

“You Can Check Out Any Time You Like - But You Can Never Leave”

I had someone contact me via email, trying to get me going, saying he was “physically in, but mentally out.” And—here’s the kicker—he said that after he placed literature he would later return to warn the householder not to read it! Or if he did, not to act upon it. Now, just let me get a mental picture of how that might go down:

Why did he place literature in the first place? He is “a member of a controlling cult that monitors everything he does, and so he has no choice!”—I guess he would have to say something like that. And they “control” him by threatening to take his family away if he doesn’t follow every “command” that they issue! It is too late for him, but not too late for you, Mr. Householder. Run and save yourself!

Really? Could that truly be?

Look, if you want to present the picture that opposers are loony-tunes crazy, I can’t think of a better way to do it. On Christmas Eve, he goes to homes to sing Christmas carols. On every other night, he goes to sing Hotel California: 

‘You can check in any time you like—but you can never leave!’

or House of the Rising Sun:

‘and it’s been the ruin of many a poor boy, and God, I know, I’m one’

or For What it’s Worth:

‘step out of line, the men come to take you away!’

Sheesh. People are crazy. Loony-tunes crazy—pure and simple.

He also said, (with a hee hee hee) that he was one of thousands! Could that be? Or is his army like that of Gideon, making such a god-awful racket that they seem far larger than they really are? Or is it just him? Or is it not even him—look, going door to door for even the right reason is a challenge—but to go twice to say that you want to take back what you said the first time because you are actually an undercover guerrilla fighter—when the householder wasn’t all that interested in the first place? What kind of a nutcase could pull that off? 

No matter. I don’t run away from these things. I run toward them. I think of the Philippians verse: 

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, not with a pure motive, for they are supposing to stir up tribulation....What then? [Nothing,] except that in every way, whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is being publicized, and in this I rejoice.” (1:15-18)

The object is to get the good news out there, and these unhinged nutcases only help the cause. To be sure, it is a strange way to get it out there, but it does get it out there. The whole program is strange, as I told one fellow trying to run a garage sale that no one was showing up for. Appear out of nowhere as a complete stranger and say you want to talk about God? Christians are a theatrical spectacle in all the earth, says Paul. Tell me about it.

Nor am I ashamed that there are so many “apostates.” I am proud of them. I consider them additional proof that what JWs have fulfills the Bible pattern. If we didn’t have any—that would be a test of my faith, for I would wonder why. There is no New Testament writer who does not deal with apostates. If they existed then, why would they not exist now? In fact, as we get closer to the time, you would expect them to be more numerous and virulent, and would wonder what was the problem if they were not.

To be sure, many Witnesses run away from these things—it has been the pattern. The time may come when they will tackle them head-on. Opponents are having their day in the sun—beyond all question they have thrust awkward, even disagreeable, aspects of JWs front and center on the world stage. I take my hat off to them. Well done! That is not to be confused with personal admiration. It is more like when the Jurassic Park security chief praises the pterodactyl circling round to pounce on him, ‘Good girl!’ just before being eaten alive.

Will the beasts do the same this time? I think not. We are used to presenting the gem of the Christian way of life through it’s most appealing facet. Let us learn to present it through it’s least appealing one. It is the same gem. “The game is the same, it’s just up on another level.” That’s the song we should be singing—leave it to the lunatics to sing Hotel California!

The trick is not to try to sanitize the present. It is to de-sanitize the past. It is to say of Peter, ‘He is the most prominent one, and yet he cowers like an adolescent—his action can be (probably was) painted as the ultimate in hypocrisy! Once the Jewish Christians show up, he avoids company of the Gentile ones? And he is given the keys to the kingdom? Yes. That is how it is. God uses people despite phenomenal weaknesses. 

Transport it to the present day. We have people who did not avoid the trap that everyone else has fallen into. They wished not to advertise their dirty laundry—and to carry on as though they had none. They did it for perfectly understandable reasons—for fear of tarnishing the Name that they tried to stand proclaim. But they did it. The fact that they alone sought to investigate an evil in order to mete out discipline and protect other congregations does not matter.

They can ‘reform’ in the eyes of the reasonable world, and likely have done so even now, with various tweaks culminating in that May 2019 issue. But they will never ever reform enough in the eyes of their virulent detractors. At some point, perhaps they will take on detractors more openly—judiciously, and not so as to satisfy the detractors, which cannot be done, but to offer a defense of the Christian way to those whose ear the detractors have gained. This is what you want to be writing your books about, Greg, not arguing over the Trinity.

In other words, the things that detractors paint as sordid are exactly the traps that well-intentioned and imperfect people who are ‘insular’ (no part of the world) could be expected to fall into. We’ll learn, where necessary, to present the truth through this facet so easily spun as a negative. 

It is the same with disfellowshipping, which opposers (many of them disfellowshipped themselves) have made into a monster issue, and in this age where ‘victimization’ is all the rage, have thrust it into the public eye. Keep it there where it belongs. Don’t try to skulk away from it.

Jehovah’s Witnesses are a faith that adherents take seriously. If you don’t participate, even if you stop, that does not create ripples. If you turn 180 degrees and flame what your family holds most dear, that probably will. The scriptures “tell” congregation members what to do in that event. Leadership merely alerts to those scriptures & afterwards their job is done. It could be tweaked—has been already— but any competent leadership would know of the same verses & principles behind them. Most people will have little difficulty in accepting that if you persistently by word or deed refuse to conform to the standards of any group, you may find yourself out on your ear.

The malcontents who carry on that ‘if it is not perfect, it is filthy’ would not have lasted two minutes in the first century. They would have honed in on the ill doings of those Revelation 2 and 3 congregations and started screaming back then just as they are screaming now. 

And if they would not have lasted two minutes during the early days of the Christian congregation, they would not have lasted two seconds in the early days of the Jewish nation. Yes, yes, there are some things that are not exactly the same. But the similarities far outnumber the differences.

8DEE1E38-2A6D-4C17-9B2E-499E38931FDB

Photo: welcome to the hotel California, by askpang

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

“I Took My Appetite to Madame Mew” - sung to the tune of Love Potion #9

I took my appetite to Madame Mew,
You know that neighbor cat that’s been taboo.
She’s got a pad and she’s setting up so fine,
but what she doesn’t know is
for my dinner she’ll be mine.

I told her that I was a reformed bitch.
I hadn’t eaten cat since 96.
She looked at me suspiciously but then she changed her mine,
she said ‘You seem a changed dog,
and that suits me just fine.

She lay down and turned around and I gave a wink.
I said ‘I’ll eat this stupid cat with ketchup, I think,’
I knew that when I made my move she’d raise quite a stink.
I held my nose, I closed my eyes,
but then I blinked:

I didn’t know if it was day or night,
She screeched and scratched at everything in sight,
but when she caught my snout, then I nearly lost my mind.
I said ‘I’ll leave this cat alone,
clear till the end of time.

Clear till the end of ti-hi-hi-hi-hime,
clear till the end of time.

(*You can sing it non-profit but just remember where it came from. It is not yours)

 

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