At the Wilkes-Barre “Love Never Fails” Regional Convention

We took supper at a Red Robin after the first day of the “Love Never Fails” Regional Convention in Wilkes-Barre. At the table just behind me, a child—about 5 years of age (and not one of ours)—began raising a horrible ruckus, screaming at the top of his lungs. His mother took him out, but when she returned he started up anew. I turned around and asked the parents if everything was okay.

I admit that I was looking for signs of endangerment. Maybe one “parent” or the other would look shifty. Maybe the child would act as though they were not his parents. It is a sign of the times that I should do this, but I saw nothing alarming.

There was a time not too long ago when most parents would respond in a certain way to such a tantrum, but that way is likely to land them in jail today. Jehovah’s Witnesses work with many refugee groups. Almost always, they encounter ones whose flight has turned their lives upside-down, and one of the most bewildering things they confront is that child-rearing customs that were absolutely routine and unremarkable back home are taboo in their new home. Do not misunderstand. I make no argument for its return. That said, it is by no means clear that today’s children are better adjusted for its disappearance.

My turning around put the parents even more on notice that they were disrupting the entire restaurant. They could hardly have not known it before, but here was a fresh reminder. The father became heated, threatening no TV for a week and the like. Upon leaving, I said to him: “Don’t worry about it. Whatever you do, stay calm. I’ve been there. They’re kids. It happens.”

Taking in the convention program over three days, I began to wish that silly reporter from the Phoenix New Times would have accepted the offer from the attendants (whom she seemed to regard as wardens) to be seated. With her anti-JW story already written, she could hardly run it during the day of their convention without at least having briefly been there, and it is plain she comes with that rationale.  She looks around hastily, notices that people are paying attention, and writes that “attendees listened rapturously.”

Of course, she is not silly. What she latches onto for her story is certainly not nothing. She will forgive my grumbling on the basis that she is young enough to be my daughter. For all I know, she is the daughter of some friend of mine. Reporters are not silly, or if they are, they are no more so than anyone else. They are typically concerned with injustice. They sometimes put their safety on the line in confronting it. Nobody is silly who does this. They have faith that shining the bright light of journalism on something will cause the cockroaches to disappear. Usually, however, they just go somewhere else—and failure to recognize that circumstance is what triggers the charge of silliness.

Though her focus is certainly not nothing, neither is it everything. She entirely misses the big picture. She would have benefitted from the program that she cited as “three days of music-video presentations, prayers, songs, addresses, symposiums, and dramatic readings from the Bible” on the theme of “Love Never Fails.” The public address of that convention (the program is identical at all locations—only the speaker differs, and not even that for every talk, since portions of that Phoenix “international” convention, so-named for the foreign delegates attending, were streamed into other locations, such as Wilkes-Barre) opened with a truth as self-evident as are the truths Thomas Jefferson addressed in the Declaration of Independence.

In this case, it is that all instances of injustice occur and are cultivated due to a lack of love. That being so, and obvious, the question becomes: “Just who will teach love?” Will it be the university? That is not its job. It focuses on training the intellect, with the apparent assumption that the moral qualities such as love will take care of themselves. As even the sloppiest purview of world headlines reveals, they do not. So who will teach it? Will it be agencies that are guided in training from the university that does not teach it? Is the quality so innate that it not need be taught? Again, a review of news headlines reveals the fallacy of such a notion. So who?

Training that takes its cue from humankind’s Creator has traditionally played that role. “God is love,” states 1 John 4:8. Such training appears under attack from the Phoenix reporter, though she has nothing to replace it with. In the case of Bible training, Witnesses will say that it is a “treasure,” but it is a “treasure” carried in “earthen vessels”—that is, us, as flawed humans—just as Paul states at 2 Corinthians 4:7. Humans are capable of error, poor judgment, and even villainy. But that doesn’t mean that the training from God is no good, and the reporter should have sat through it.

When she cites the Pew report that reveals Jehovah’s Witnesses have the lowest rate of retention of all faiths, why does she not also cite what appears on the same page? “Jehovah’s Witnesses are among the most racially and ethnically diverse religious groups in America,” it says. Nobody is concerned about racial prejudice more than reporters, and here Pew makes a statement to indicate that the Witnesses have solved it to a remarkable degree. All she had to do was look around and see for herself the harmonious diversity that she will not soon see again. But she does not notice it. She is caught up in an agenda pushed by the faith’s opponents. She is interested in the child sexual abuse angle—an angle that is seemingly shared by every group of persons on the planet. Pedophiles are a pernicious lot that nobody has succeeded in vanquishing, and the Boy Scouts of America, who taught generations of boys responsibility, self included, are at risk of going under because of it.

In New York State, where I have lived and still keep up, a new law eliminates the statute of limitations for child sexual abuse. Law firms have flooded the media in search of plaintiffs. Hundreds of new lawsuits are being filed, and the challenge may soon be to find somebody NOT being sued, as lawyers preside over a massive transfer of wealth that amounts to a tax on everyone else. Businesses raise prices. Governments raise taxes. Insurance rates of all sort skyrocket at a time when overall inflation is quite low.

In fact, had I detected abuse at the Red Robin restaurant, and had I reported it, and had the police and child protective authorities arrived and confirmed that it was indeed abuse, and had they removed the child on that account, I still would not have been sure that I had done the right thing. Among those squarely in the crosshairs of child sexual abuse lawsuits are many agencies dedicated to placing them in “protected” settings, but who have put them into settings no better and sometimes worse than where they were before. The world is a shell game of persons wanting to “do something” who, though well-intentioned, are likely to simply shift the evil from one place to another.

In contrast, Jehovah’s Witnesses, during their 2017 Regional Conventions, considered detailed scenarios in which child sexual abuse has been known to occur—if there are sleepovers, if there are unsupervised trips to the restroom, if there are tickling sessions, if someone is showing unusual interest in your child, for example—so that parents, who are obviously the first line of defense, can be vigilant. Nobody, but nobody, gathers their entire worldwide membership for such training with the aim of protecting children from harm.

It is certainly not wrong for the reporter to report on the Witness connection with child sexual abuse. Much as they would love to say that they have vanquished the crime, such is plainly not the case. But neither has it been the case for anyone else. In some ways, Jehovah’s Witnesses have created a unique legal vulnerability for themselves, for unlike most faiths that were content to preach to the flock weekly and thereafter take no interest in whether religious training was actually applied or not, Witnesses attempt to “police their own,” and thus did become aware of sordid things.

Yet she was right there at the three day convention focusing on all aspects and applications of love. (And an international convention of 40,000 must make a greater impression than a Wilkes-Barre convention of 3500) Had she paid attention, she would have heard from the Cherokee man who grew up embittered because the white man had stolen the lands of his people. He was embittered again when he was required to fight their war for them (Vietnam). When his wife began studying with two Witness women, he was sullen and unwelcoming—the last thing he wanted was the religion of the white man. When she reached the point of wanting to be baptized, he declared that he would not come. When asked who would watch his baby during the baptism, he declared that maybe he had better come on that account. There, he observed the atmosphere for four days (conventions used to be longer) and his already softened attitude toward the Witnesses softened further. The reporter could have taken in that atmosphere, too, had she not had a deadline to meet.

(Jehovah’s Witnesses is not a “come down and be saved” faith. The process of learning and trying Bible teachings on for size seldom (in this area) lasts less than a year. Throughout that time, persons are grounded in their own familiar routine and environment. College is more “manipulative” than is anything having to do with the Witnesses, for there young people are typically cut off almost 24/7 from all that once stabilized them, be it family, friends, and general environment—a classic tool of those who brainwash)

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What the #@%! is Next?

Can you really put a smiley face on the world, with but a little tweaking, or even none at all? I wouldn't think so, but there are plenty who disagree.  Sometimes, trying to make me mad, they scour Watchtower publications for pictures of Armeggedon, and post them on their websites. Jehovah's Witnesses are mean, they charge. Look how they print such pictures, traumatizing the little children! What is armeggedon cover Many of these grousers, amazingly, are ex-Witnesses, who have tired of organized cooperation with a Bible educational work. These have reassessed their former view that today's world merits God's disapproval, instead concluding that it's a nifty place to find fulfillment.

 

Typifying this view, here's a comparative religion website accusing the Watchtower Society of "maintain[ing] a state of high anxiety in their membership by stressing the imminence of the end." We would not have phrased things this way.  Instead, we would say that recognition of where we are in the stream of time goes a long way to allay anxiety. It's as though these web writers think all is just peachy worldwide and everyone would know it were it not for JWs fouling the air with their “high anxiety.”


Well, two can play at that game. Take a look at Newsweek's cover for March 28, 2011:Newsweek cover apoclayse

“Tsunamis, Earthquakes, Nuclear Meltdowns, Revolutions, Economies on the Brink!” No anxiety here, is there? I tell you, for anyone with a memory, it's absolutely amazing to see such despairing words on the cover of a national magazine. Surely Newsweek, representing the world's collective wisdom, has some reassuring words for the children? Ah...yes, here it is, just below the list of calamities: They say “What the #@%! is next?!”

And to think that my 7th grade social studies teacher had us all subscribe to Newsweek, on the premise we would thereby become well-informed. Was I anticipating future covers of that magazine when I began my World News Oral Report with the words “What the #@%! is next?” and spent the rest of the semester writing “I will not swear” on the chalkboard? As adults of this system have failed the children in so many ways....in morals, in education, in personal and group and financial security, they now fail them even in reassuring rhetoric. “What the #@%! is next?” is the best they can manage. Why not further say: “We haven't a clue, kids. We've screwed things up in every way.”

For that matter, why not say “Jehovah's Witnesses are Right?” For Jehovah's Witnesses have been saying for decades that the present system of things is doomed to extinction, to be replaced by God's Kingdom. Everyone else says or hopes that God will somehow bless the present hash of human governments, so as to collectively bring us all a happy future. Well who doesn't want a happy future? But a happy future is not something humans can provide. It comes only under God's Kingdom. No human has the slightest role in bringing that Kingdom about. God himself does that. But we can position ourselves to benefit from it. That is the long-standing message of Jehovah's Witnesses, coupled with an invitation to study the Bible itself.

Hey, it's not been an easy job. It still isn't. “Aw, go soak your head,” people tell us. “What a bunch of alarmists! We've always had bad things happening!” I can hear the refrain now.  Naturally, the Bible reader thinks of 2 Peter 3:3,4:

First off, you need to know that in the last days, mockers are going to have a heyday. Reducing everything to the level of their puny feelings, they'll mock, "So what's happened to the promise of his Coming? Our ancestors are dead and buried, and everything's going on just as it has from the first day of creation. Nothing's changed."   (the paraphrased Message translation; it may not be literal, but it sure is fresh)

Well....we sure haven't always had magazine covers like this one of Newsweek's! It's as if the editors are collectively throwing up their hands and crying “Sheesh! Everything humans touch turns to shit!” (Normally I would never use such unsavory words as “shit,” but I am unwholesomely influenced by Newsweek's #@%! It really is true that “bad associations spoils useful habits.)

The only time I said “What the #@%! is next?” was when I saw the price of the magazine. $5.95! Weren't these things under a dollar when I was a kid? With more pages? And better written, not dumbed down like it is today? I know, I know, it's unfair to be critical of a mass publication for “dumbing down.” The Watchtower is dumbed down, too. We all know it. As the world's education system steadily goes down the toilet, so do collective reading skills. If you want to reach a broad audience, simple writing is the way you have to go, however painful it may be for guys who cherish reading. But there's hardly any need to rub it in: Note above the Newsweek banner is the byline for another story: “How Ignorant are You?” Am I being too sensitive when I read between the lines: “We're not ignorant.....you are!”?)
 
To be faithful to the Bible, you need to talk about things not so pleasant. You just do. And destruction of “the ungodly” is not so pleasant. Nobody says otherwise. The only caveat.....and it's a significant one....is that a person can be saved from it by adhering to divine direction. Isn't that, when push comes to shove, a good thing?

Now....see if you can spot the spurious words I've cleverly inserted in the following passage: Revelation 6:12-17 (Message Translation, again) in which John prophesies

“…..a bone-jarring earthquake, sun turned black as ink, moon all bloody, stars falling out of the sky like figs shaken from a tree in a high wind, sky snapped shut like a book, islands and mountains sliding this way and that. And then pandemonium, everyone and his dog running for cover—kings, princes, generals, rich and strong, along with every commoner, slave or free. They hid in mountain caves and rocky dens, calling out to mountains and rocks, “What the #@%! is next?”

There. Did you spot it? What they actually cry is "Refuge! Hide us from the One Seated on the Throne and the wrath of the Lamb! The great Day of their wrath has come—who can stand it." But I try to keep up with contemporary jargon per Newsweek.

Or, what about the words of Jesus:

The time is coming when they'll say, 'Lucky the women who never conceived! Lucky the wombs that never gave birth! Lucky the breasts that never gave milk!' Then they'll start calling to the mountains, “What the #@%! is next?”  Luke 23:29-30

Nope. What they actually call to the mountains is “Fall down on us! Cover us up!”

We take a lot of flak for adhering to the Bible's teaching of Armageddon, great tribulation, destruction of the wicked, paradise earth under Kingdom reign, and so forth. Jehovah's Witnesses are a serious religion that doesn't hedge its bets. We're not all over the board. We unabashedly hold to key Bible tenets, no matter if they find scorn elsewhere. For, to be sure, if you don't think God will call “the ungodly” to account, if you don't think God will one day intervene dramatically in world events, then Jehovah's Witnesses and all that they represent are ridiculous, a perfect target for derision. It all depends upon where you're coming from.

But pertaining to Armageddon.... look, I don't know just who will and who will not go down at that time. Nobody does. Can you be some distance from theocratic provisions or not one inch? Dunno. But why not stay in a known place of safety and take part in a work in which it is good to take part in any event, simply on the basis of Rev 4:11?

“You are worthy, Jehovah, even our God, to receive the glory and the honor and the power, because you created all things, and because of your will they existed and were created.”

God created all things. The massive experiment of human self-rule is turning out exactly as he said it would. He deserves our service.

Is it coincidence? In the same month Newsweek throws up its hands in mass despair, Jehovah's Witnesses intensify their ministry as never before.  Here in Rochester, most congregations have 50-80% or more of members in some form of “pioneer service,” volunteering 30-50 hours of their time in Bible teaching. As they visit neighbors, they don't say “What the #@%! is next?” Instead, they point out today's disintegration is all foretold, and is a precursor to God fulfilling his promise to bring peace and paradise on earth through his kingdom.

We like verses like the following one in Psalms. We think they're soon to come true. And we don't just sit on the information, we do our best to tell others so they can benefit too:

And just a little while longer, and the wicked one will be no more; And you will certainly give attention to his place, and he will not be. But the meek ones themselves will possess the earth, And they will indeed find their exquisite delight in the abundance of peace.   Ps 37:10-11

Does not this Psalm recall Jesus' words “Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.” They certainly haven't to date. But Jehovah's Witnesses believe this promise is soon to be fulfilled, and they invite others to examine the evidence.

See here, here, here, and here.

 

[EDIT....58% was the figure of those in some sort of full-time service during April, so reported our C.O. recently. (figures in your circuit may vary)]

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No Fake News but Plenty of Hogwash

 

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Tiny Funnies? That's Not Funny!

When the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle shrunk the Sunday comics to microscopic size, it made Edward P Curtis, Jr. hopping mad. He fired off a sharp rebuke to the offending paper, but they didn’t print it. So he sent a copy to rival City! newspaper. They did.

Why shouldn’t he be mad? Is there a newsprint shortage? Will tiny funnies house the homeless? Feed the hungry? Support the troops? No, no, no and no. It will help the shareholders, saving a fraction of a cent per hundred papers.

Truth be told, we were all furious that horrible Sunday morning when we saw what the misers had done. We all wanted to give them a piece of our mind, but we were afraid to. This type of letter is tricky.

Deep down in our heart of hearts, we all know that the funnies aren’t too important. Maybe our letter of protest will hit on a heavy news day. The Opinion page will be stuffed with gut-wrenching letters about genocide, AIDS, earthquakes, stock market meltdown….and smack dead center will be our silly little letter sniveling about the funnies.

It can be done, but you can’t be clumsy. You must saturate your letter with humor, self-deprecation, and mock outrage. That way, if it appears alongside weighty stories, it is the editor who looks like a dork, not you.

Mr. Curtis has brilliantly met the challenge. Thank you, sir, for you did what we all wanted to do, but didn’t have the guts.

Unfortunately, Mr. Curtis’ letter reached the D&C too late. They had already published a letter of protest from a less experienced writer, who fell headlong into the above trap.

Dear Ms. Editor:
How truly tragic that a feature which brings all of us so much joy each week, the Sunday funnies, has been reduced in size. It’s now so hard to see the detail in drawings that I so cherish. Of course, we all must cut costs, but surely not at the expense of the uplifting Sunday funnies! I am not angry, and I can forgive, for I feel you do not know what you do. But please, please, oh please, Ms. Editor, reconsider and restore our beloved Sunday funnies.

The letter was printed on a day of heavy news. They sandwiched it between a letter from Osama Bin Laden and another from a tsunami survivor. That night, the embarrassed author left town, and hasn‘t been heard from since.

 

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Tom Irregardless and Me                No Fake News but Plenty of Hogwash

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