To Joe Jeanette

They buried a great fighter today,” reported the Jersey Journal. “….a warm friendly man….we shall not see his like again in our time.”

Well, not exactly today. It was July 7, 1958. But he was family. So we keep track.

Boxing experts called it the most inhuman fight ever staged. Early last century, in 1909 Paris, Joe Jeanette [Jennette] slugged it out with Sam McVey for 49 rounds. Jennette pounded Sam into the canvas 11 times. McVey returned the favor 27 times. Nonetheless, Jeanette triumphed, for when the 50th round began, McVey refused to budge, crying “this man ain’t human!”

They were four of them: Joe Jeanette, Sam McVey, Sam Langford, and Jack Johnson. They were heavyweights. They were black. They were evenly matched. They mostly fought each other. White boxers rarely fought blacks, and so the World Heavyweight Title was a white title. But one of the four, Jack Johnson, tailed and taunted world champ Tommy Burns around the globe. Finally, in Australia, 1908, Burns agreed to a match. Jack thrashed him soundly and so became the first ever black titleholder. Thereafter, Johnson himself refused all challenges from black fighters.

Was Jack Johnson the greatest of the four? Or was it his tenacity, hounding the white establishment until he got his shot at the title? One can make a case for any of the four. “Many experts believe Joe [Jeanette] would have eclipsed all fighters…. if he had not injured his right arm early in his career,” said boxing writer Jack Powers. Jeanette himself gave the nod to Sam Langford. And it was Sam McVey that went the 49 rounds with Jeanette in Paris. Of course, Jack Johnson captured the title.

“If you want to know which was the toughest of the lot, I’ll tell you,” Joe said in a later interview. “It was Langford. Jack Johnson? No, sir. Not Johnson. Look, I fought them both, not once but many times. Sam would have been champion any time Johnson had given him a fight. There is no question about it. I wouldn’t wonder if Sam could have beaten any man that ever fought….Johnson was a good fighter. No mistake about that. Very clever, and he could hit, too. But Sam would have taken him. I know. But Johnson wouldn’t have any of us after he won the title. Smart man. He was plenty scared of Sam. I don’t blame him. I was too. Boy, how that boy could hit. Nobody could hit like that.”

In 1906, Joe Jeanette married Adelaide Atzinger, a white woman from a modest farm family in upstate New York. She was my great aunt, so I know the history.

They wed in secret, for her family never would have agreed to it. Back then, one did not marry outside one’s race. It was not done. Afterwards, our entire family was ostracized in the community, as if they were all complicit. Adie’s sister Mary was so harassed at school that she quit in the eighth grade and found work in a silk mill. She made $2.50 a week.

Soon such sentiments died down among the local folk. People liked Joe. He carved himself a respected place in the community. But it was not that way with strangers. Years later, his light skinned daughter Agnes would bring home dates to meet her folks. Some would take one look at Joe and disappear. She and her brother Joey later married, but neither couple had children. They wanted to spare kids the same prejudice they had faced.

As for the rest of the family, we read about Joe the fighter, but we remember Joe the man. Uncle Joe retired from boxing in 1918 and went into business. He’d made serious money from fighting, and his wife, by all accounts, could squeeze a nickel till the buffalo yelped. He built a three story brick building, which still stands, on Summit Ave in Union City, New Jersey. It sported a gym on the second floor, a garage/showroom on the first, and three apartments. For a short time, Joe housed all my relatives: Gram and Gramp on the top floor, my great uncle and aunt on the second, he and Adie on the first. Union City later named a street for him….Jeanette St. It runs behind the building.

Later in his career, Joe turned to renting limousines. He always liked fine cars, and the first car Gram ever saw, which scared the wits out of her, came at her piloted by Joe.

By the time my father was born in 1921, Gram and Gramp had bought a nearby farm. As Pop grew up, visiting Joe and Adie was a big deal. Times were hard then financially, and you never knew when Joe would spring loose with a quarter! Pop would wander up to the gym…Joe didn't mind…and slap around the punching bag.

Ron Howard’s 2005 film Cinderella Man includes scenes from Jeanette’s gym. Much was cut from the final movie, but appears in the deleted scenes segment of the DVD, with Ron providing voiceover commentary. Actor Ron Canada played Joe.

Joe was a warm, animated man…a favorite with all the young cousins. “Look at the birdie!” he would cry, looking up. They’d follow his gaze, but it was a trap! As if still in the ring, Joe would move in quick with a tickle, much to their delight. When Gram came down with the Spanish flu in 1918, Joe would visit every day to read her the newspaper. He died at home in 1958, in his 52nd year of marriage. “They buried a great fighter today,” said the Jersey Journal, quoted at the outset. “Jennette was a warm friendly man to his intimates….we shall not see his like again in our time.”

In the innocent naiveté of children, my cousins…their lives overlapped Jeanette’s by about ten years…didn’t realize Joe was a black man. Nor did they think he was a white man. He was just Uncle Joe. But one day they saw black people in the newspaper, the caption said they were black people, and they looked like Uncle Joe. Yes, their mother confirmed, Joe was a black man. But it made no difference to them…why would they care?

Older relatives, though, witnessed Jeannette’s lifelong fight against racism. He fought it with graceful dignity, aided by his amiability, his boxing and business sense, and no doubt the fact that he could pound the stuffing out of anyone had he taken it into his head to do so. Gram, a stolid farm woman, was sensitive to racial injustice throughout her life. And Pop imagines the day when nobody cares about their roots, and when people intermarry so commonly that it can’t be told who’s who. Then, he figures, racism will end.

It’s family history. Because of it, I was raised in a home where racist remarks were never heard. I was slow to imagine that any white family might be different.

Here is an update to the story.….……

Visit Smashwords bookstore.  Also available at Amazon & other ebook retailers.

Defending Jehovah’s Witnesses with style from attacks... in Russia, with the ebook ‘I Don’t Know Why We Persecute Jehovah’s Witnesses—Searching for the Why’ (free).... and in the West, with the ebook ‘TrueTom vs the Apostates!’ (free)

Tweeting the Meeting—Week of March 1, 2021. I Reconnect with an Old Friend.

Weekend Meeting

I am Zooming to Georgia for the meeting today. A friend’s son is giving his first public talk. Last time I saw him the boy was 10 and his parents were leaning on him to keep up with his homework and saxophone lessons.

There are a number of people I know here, &haven’t seen in a long time—from many places. Zoom makes that possible. Most friends say they look forward to Kingdom Halls reopening, but I have heard some say they don’t care if they ever see a Hall again—Zoom enables that streamlining

“Friends are like buttons on a elevator,” the kid says. “Some will bring you up and some will bring you down.” #WeekendMeeting

It is no surprise that the kid has iPad rather than print Bible—most young people do, and even adults. But it is especially apt for him. His dad is a high-tech honcho for a Fortune500 company. When we flew down to visit, he tracked us every inch of the way via an app.

No surprise, too, that the young man has a pure blue background, probably virtual. First I have seen other than on jw.org. Usually, as with newsmakers, there is a home background. ...1/2

One bro would take down his distracting baseball pics, but you could still see the hooks. Apparently he’d put them up again after the meeting....2/2

Look, this talk is very very good. He is from a family of high-achievers. And yet it lacks nothing in warmth and affability. Is it too stereotypical to say that the family is Asian?

Congregation is on the ball. Everyone has a blue background. Maybe the KH is opened for the purpose. And field service to commence in a breakout room 5 minutes after mtg. I’ve never seen it. Usually, chatter continues until someone pulls the plug and dedicates the rest to service.

I am atypically not prepared at all for the Watchtower study. Things happened last night. Nothing severe, just unanticipated. I have to skim ahead during the meeting, & I prefer not to do it that way.

Ah. It is refreshing that this together congregation is, like the rest of us mortals, experiencing minor Zoom problems. #watchtowerstudy It is almost like, “Rise, for I too am a man.”

Yikes. There are six pages here. It will not be a slam-dunk to get in a comment here. Maybe just as well, given my lack of prep. I would not be surprise if a HUGE number were visitors come to see my friend’s son’s first talk—he is very supportive of his family.

This is the Watchtower study that focuses upon the new year text, this year “Your strength will be in keeping calm and showing trust.” (Isa 30:15) It is in keeping with the overall there of coping with anxiety. One pic has someone holding the verse, as though a note reminder

Since I type my life away, I am not as given to anxiety as I might be at other times—writing is a coping mechanism in itself.

Yeah. I tried. I raised my hand but there are too many here to choose from. There is also very good participation

What I would have said is appreciation for how Acts 5 simplifies it. They felt they “must” preach, not could they or would they. Even in times of upheaval to normal routine, (like now) it can be possible to find a way and means, even devising one.

This is one together congregation. I tell you, there is no one here that is likely to have a cat walking behind them.

I raised my hand then lowered it. Someone had just said much the same. With so many people here, you don’t want to blow time with parroting something already said.

In this study on anxiety, Jesus’ pithy “Stop being anxious” is not quoted. I like the verse for introducing the notion it is open to attitudinal influence , but there have been anxious ones discouraged at any suggestion it is a switch that one can readily be flipped off.

Ah. There is a footnote that says anxiety may be a medical condition. As to stopping it, if you can’t do it you can’t do it. Don’t worry about it. Of course, those precise words were not used.

As the words to closing song are displayed, the speaker’s box and only his is displayed as thumbnail, as though presiding. I didn’t even know that was possible. I am told 8 pages of instruction come with Zoom meetings, largely to thwart trolls, but also for general appearance. ...1/2

Most congregation struggle with too many and some botch them all. This one didn’t miss a trick, I think, and may have added a few....2/2

Oh my goodness! The breakout rooms are named for scriptural themes! I have never seen anything other than #1, #2, #3, etc

Whoa! The 21-year old speaker (his first talk) is deluged with praise, and for the first time looks a little uncomfortable. It WAS a near perfect talk, & few give public talks at 21.    1/2

I’ll write to tell him not to let it go to his head—no doubt unnecessary as he is from a terrific family and seems well-grounded, but it can’t hurt and will be good pretext for getting reacquainted.   2/2

When you give a talk and people mob you to gush on how you have knocked it out of the park, it is a very awkward moment. There are only so many times you can say, “It’s not me, it’s Jehovah.” I learned to just say “Thank you,” and change the topic to them.

Of course, I never had this problem. What they would say to me is, “When I hear you speak, Brother Harley, I marvel at the wisdom of God’s organization in cutting public talks from 45 minutes to 30.”

When I first met my friend, he was himself about 21. A Vietnamese refugee, he loaded trucks for UPS and I believe it was they who were putting him through college. I recall him telling me that, having just left the bank, he was held up, I think it was at gunpoint. He would not relinquish his rent money! “I am one of Jehovah’s Witnesses,” he told the robber. “I don’t care about money. You can have all of it except what is for rent. I need that.” Way to get himself killed! However, he did emerge the victor of his “negotiations!” The thief did not get the rent money. He was insistent on that point.

After graduation, before departing for his new IT job with the firm he had loaded trucks for, he married the last single pioneer sister from a family of ten. At the wedding reception, I could tell his refugee sponsors were not entirely thrilled about it. They were gracious, of course, and you had to drag it out of them—they didn’t go around muttering. I know how this works with career-minded college people when you marry into a family with no college. I know this because my own grandmother had grilled my prospective wife as to whether she was “good enough” for me. She is more than good enough, thank you very much. And my friend’s wife is more that good enough for him. If he is like me, he has turned the question around to say, “Am I good enough for her?”My grandmother was certainly not a bad woman, nor was she stuck up. She just wanted the best for her grandson, and I as firstborn was her favorite. (A wise choice, as the second-born is the brother with whom I play bi-weekly games of Scrabble, and he always cheats.)

I studied with this grandmother (actually a step-grandmother, no blood relation, though you would never know it) after my graduation from college—I had learned the Bible during my junior-senior summer break, and I almost didn’t return to school. My mom was so distraught at this, not speaking to me out of tears—and believe me, my mother not speaking was as unlikely as Trump not speaking with tears or without—that I knuckled under and returned for the final year. It was a little silly, after all, to go three years and not to completion. The brother studying with me offered to set me up in the other city, and for whatever reason I said no. I was studying the Bible with the aid of.a book, and if there was one thing a college student knew how to do, it was read a book. Besides, I liked him well-enough, but maybe the person he sent would be a nut. Like the born-again nut that had approached myself and two buddies on our camping trip that had us stopping from here to Washington DC and back.

He came out of nowhere into our campsite. “I just wanted to know if you boys knew the Lord,” he said. He rambled on for the longest time and I don’t remember all he said but I do remember we all thought he was a kook but we also respected him (and God) for mustering up the courage. He ran himself out of words after awhile and we spent the rest of the week composing songs of mockery—one friend had a guitar and all of us could sing. I mean, it was God, and we all respected that, but he wasn’t saying anything that appealed to the head. His emotion alone didn’t do it for us.

I did study on my own back in college, but only for a short while, for I was soon immersed in college life. In time, out of discouragement at where college was leading (or not leading) and at how I had been convinced I had found something of spiritual substance, I looked up the address of a Kingdom Hall and walked in. Therein begins another story and I’ve probably told it somewhere, but if not maybe I will.

The grandmother I studied with—she may have been my first Bible study—would have me over for dinner every week, or maybe it was every two weeks. Again, I was her favorite. After homemade cooking, we would study out of the truth book. She went to the Baptist church, and I learned later that my dad thought her a religious fanatic, but then, anyone bringing up the Bible was a religious fanatic to him. I think the Second World War was a big turnoff to him. Oh, and it didn’t help when the priest said he could not marry my Protestant mom unless she converted. Forget that!” he said, and they never saw him again.

Nobody else ever thought Nana a fanatic. She wasn’t a Bible-thumper. I can’t recall her ever preaching to anyone. She just went to church. Anyway, we went through several chapters of the Truth Book, and she was a very good student, but she also became troubled. “I see what this is saying,” she would tell me, “and I see how the scriptures support it, but it is just so different, she said.” I will never forget how troubled she was to think I had rejected the Trinity. But it turned out that by trinity, she just thought that their were three parties, and Witnesses must be denying that. When I explained about co-equal, co-powerful, co-eternal, co-this, and co-that, she said that she had never believed that—she just thought there were three close parties, so there was really no conflict!

Between school and courting, I don’t think my Vietnamese friend had too much to do with the fledgling Vietnamese group that was forming. That was largely Erna, a pioneer who had rented homes to some of them, had offered them studies, and two had accepted. This will be interesting she said, for she didn’t know a word of Vietnamese. But Erna was staggeringly resourceful. Her dad, whose home building business she had probably helped launch from one-house-at-a-time to lucrative, put her through law school and she emerged a commuter lawyer for Bethel. Some ne’er-do-wells online were carrying on once about how Witness women must have a horrible time always kowtowing to men. “I don’t know,” one of them said, “I knew Erna at Bethel and she wouldn’t put up with that crap for a moment.” So he does know Erna, I smiled. As congregation secretary, I had drafted her letter of recommendation to Bethel.

Though there were high and mighty Vietnamese, as there are those sorts everywhere, the ones we came in contact with arrived as boat people, They were remarkable. They would arrive with nothing, on welfare and food assistance. Within two years they were homeowners growing their own food, and bartering at the market. Venders of chickens had to come to grips with some of them being purchased for sacrifice. Another was rushed to the hospital when the mushrooms her family picked in the local schoolyard turned out to be poisonous toadstools—I guess that problem didn’t present back home. Each family member would work a job, sometimes more than one, almost always for minimum wage, but the income added up. I spoke with Anh once about demons. Did they know much about them where he had come from. Oh yes, he said matter-of-factly. They were always to be found in the woods, were apt to cause trouble, and sometimes his peasant neighbors would go hunting them down, which was not easy work and was fraught with danger because they could be nasty. Many years later I thought of that woman doctor from the Caribbean who had championed the anti-malarial drug that Trump advocated. Media felt obliged to discredit her, so they made mockery at similar statements she had made regarding demonism—it is not an “educated” Western concept even if it is an unremarkable fact of life for many lowly people today.

Oh, there is plenty more to the story, and I must get to it someday. Possibly, I already have and it is buried in posts somewhere. I really do need a massive overhaul in my filing system, but will probably never get around to it. After I die, in the unlikely event anyone tries to unravel this stuff, they will say, “Huh! The old buzzard must have said this 15 times if he said it once!”

And here is from the mid-week meeting. I usually do these first, but reconnecting with my old friend took precedence this time:

A new ‘translate’ button has appeared and it was explained it was for members of our foreign language group. Someone asked if it would work for.Charlie’s Brooklyn accent. #midweekmeeting

That zealous sister who suffered the heart attack is back. Someone asked her if the territory of Upstate Hospital is now completely covered.

“Way to fit a 5 1/2 minute video into a 5 minute part, the presiding elder said to the one conducting it? Was the “Organizational Accomplishments video really longer than the time allotted for it?

The local needs speaker built his talk, geared toward the young, around Isa 41: “Do not be afraid, for I am with you. Do not gaze about, for I am your God. I will fortify you. ..For I...am grasping your right hand...saying to you, ‘Do not be afraid. I myself will help you.’

The new Zoom settings enable personalized hands. Some black friends have brown hands, some white have tan hands. Were I Irish, would I choose a green hand, or if Native American, red? I have the default yellow, which apparently is not reserved for Asian.

Spurred on by Covid, there are many museum tours offered virtually from afar. The “disgusting idols,” even “false gods” that “competed” with Jehovah and triggered not-so-hot conduct are on display, and the guides are always more than ready to explain them. #Ezekielstudy

A new Zoom function was employed for the first time, allowing participants to come and go and switch breakout rooms at any time. But I didn’t like it. I feared it might be a revisit of school gym days where everyone was chosen for dodge ball before me.

.....Visit Smashwords bookstore.  Also available at Amazon & other ebook retailers

 

Defending Jehovah’s Witnesses with style from attacks... in Russia, with the ebook ‘I Don’t Know Why We Persecute Jehovah’s Witnesses—Searching for the Why’ (free).... and in the West, with the ebook ‘TrueTom vs the Apostates!’ (free)

Henry VIII—“What of His Character”? “Ah”

The three magnificent ships of Henry VIII land ashore and Henry leaps out of the most magnificent in a single bound. He splats in the mud. He landed on his feet, to be sure, but it was his not exactly the grand entrance he had envisioned. It was more like that Far Side cartoon in which the head alien trips and tumbles down the gangway, landing with his nose to earth, and the ones still aboard the ship say, “So much for impressing them with awe and grandeur.”

Deathly silence prevailed among all on show and yet afloat—that’s how ‘A Man for all Seasons’ presents the landing scene. Would Henry erupt in fury at his crew for “botching” the landing? Would he turn his wrath upon the household of Thomas Moore, whose castle he had come to visit? You did not want to cross the king! For seconds that seemed like hours all held their breath.

“Ha Ha!” Henry bellowed out at last, savoring the fine joke that nature had played upon him, and everyone knew it was safe to breath.

He loved it that way—everyone holding their breath awaiting his next move! Bold and larger than life—this portrayal is so much like Henry. At any rate, I instantly assume that the movie has it right. It squares perfectly with the image built up by Dale Hoak, the professor conducting ‘The Age of Henry VIII’ Great Courses series.

When I listen to CDs such as this, I become what they said about Paul at Acts 17:18–that he was a “chatterer.” (babbler—NIV, KJV, know-it-all—CEV, pseudo-intellectual—HCSB, word-sower—Douay, blabbermouth (!)—ISV, ignorant show-off (!!)—CSB) The word literally means “seed-picker,” denoting a bird that picks up a seed here and poops it out there. Only ‘Young’s Literal Translation’ renders it just that way—as seed picker. Accordingly, I drop something in conversation, and people assume that I am as smart as Dale Hoak. They do not realize that I have just said everything I know. Press Dale Hoak for details and he will regale you for hours. Press me for details and I will change the subject to Gilligan’s Island.

The bold portrait of Henry VIII striking a defiant pose that everyone will recall, and if not they will know it when they see it, is not anatomically correct. Body proportions are altered by the artist (Hans Holbein) to heighten the sense of majesty. What was Henry’s purpose on earth? Pretty much to enjoy himself—Professor Hoak infers this but does not outright assert it. His reign over England? Kings of that age ran their domains pretty much as a business. His foreign policy? Whatever made him look good and contributed to his glory—that Professor does assert repeatedly.

Does he not remind me of a certain customer of mine from long ago, a doctor, a fellow I used to describe as a man who expected that the world revolve around him? Upon hearing that description, friends would sympathize with me for how unpleasant it must have been to deal with him. Not at all, I would tell them. As long as the world did revolve around him, he was very pleasant, so I—I was in business, after all—tried to ensure that it did, until one day that it just got to be more trouble than it was worth, and I let a certain hour of decision blow whichever way it would.

Henry was like that—jovial and pleasant as long as the world revolved around him—but the moment it didn’t.... Now, this doctor wasn’t imposing like Henry at all. He was a petty stickler impressed with personalities whose staff poked fun at him behind his back. Spying through the blinds the young couple touring the manor for sale next door, he exclaimed to his wife, “They can’t afford that house! They’re just a bunch of grungy hippies!” However, it turned out that the grungy hippie was a rock star. Afterwards, the doc would tell everyone how he live right next to so-and-so and they were on the chumminess of terms.

But back to Henry:

At first, you almost feel sorry for Dale the Professor having to cover such a lout—it’s like being a celebrity reporter for Inside Edition, only to discover that many celebrities that look so shiny on the outside are in reality not so hot. At first, it really does seem that if you know the Herman’s Hermits song, you know all you need to know about Henry VIII. But sometimes the pivotal moments of history are steered by overbearing louts—they just are. One must get used to it.

Henry’s reign is pivotal because it marks a break from the Church—severing a connection of only 1500 years (!) to found what became known as the Anglican Church. He made the break, popular opinion says, because he wanted a divorce from his first wife and the Pope wouldn’t give him one. Professor Hoak doesn’t declare this nothing—it is a factor, he says, but he advances a greater reason: Henry needed the Church’s money. The Church was fabulously rich, and he had squandered every penny that had come his way. Not just in wartime did he squander it—that was to be expected—but even in peacetime his expenditures bore no restraint. With 50 palaces around the country, all them hosting gala bashes constantly to impress whatever dignitaries might come around, and certainly the one he occupied at the moment—like the Jurassic Park guy who “spared no expense” on anything, he needed the dough. Badly.

Doesn’t it remind one of what Samual told the people in Bible times when they demanded a king?

“Samuel told the people who were asking him for a king all the words of Jehovah.  He said: “This is what the king who rules over you will have the right to demand: He will take your sons and put them in his chariots and make them his horsemen, and some will have to run before his chariots.  And he will appoint for himself chiefs over thousands and chiefs over fifties, and some will do his plowing, reap his harvest, and make his weapons of war and equipment for his chariots. He will take your daughters to be ointment mixers, cooks, and bakers. He will take the best of your fields, your vineyards, and your olive groves, and he will give them to his servants. He will take the tenth of your grainfields and your vineyards, and he will give it to his court officials and his servants. And he will take your male and female servants, your best herds, and your donkeys, and he will use them for his work. He will take the tenth of your flocks, and you will become his servants. The day will come when you will cry out because of the king you have chosen for yourselves, but Jehovah will not answer you in that day.” (1 Samuel 8:10-18)

Yeah. That’s pretty much what Henry did—drained the country dry. You wouldn’t think it possible for one man to cause such cash flow chaos—but there it is. He broke with Rome and dissolved the monasteries. All that was theirs became his.

‘Retrospect’ is the title of Professor Hoak’s last lecture, and here he turns pontifical. Maybe you have to do this if you’re an historian—you just can’t say, “the guy’s a jerk.” What was Henry like? “By what criteria, whose criteria should we judge him: yours, mine, his subjects, those who knew him, himself?”—the professor sets the stage for consideration, and first starts out with what he considers the good: He was a “brilliant player of the game of princes, of intelligence taste, training, of record for princely pursuits. A man for the renaissance.” Great.

A short list of his attainments. He cherished music, his compositions are really good, his playing might not have landed him a philharmonic spot, but it was surely good enough “for the Boston Pops.” He was a great athlete, first rate with bow and arrow, tops at tennis, wresting, horseback, feats of arms. He was a great dancer! a master of the “art of conversation!” he could write in several languages. He had fantastic artistic tastes! his tapestry collection “the greatest ever assembled!”

He “understood the requirements of princely magnificence!” He “set a very high standard of princely high conduct! And his war-making! The professor quotes some author who describe renaissance monarchies as “machines for the battlefield,” and in this Henry excelled!*

Got it. He knew how to play the game. Is it only me who wishes to be remembered for things more meaningful than this?

“But what of his character?” the professor says.  “Ah.”

“We must admit that the character of any person ultimately remains unknowable, even enigmatic. But I think it is possible to draw a few tentative generalizations based on what we clearly know of the king’s behavior.”... and with that Dale goes on to mention “the executions of two wives, a cardinal of the Church, a bishop (John Fisher) lord chancellor (that’s Thomas More) a duke, a marquis, two earls, a viscount, a viscountess, four barons, and hundreds of subjects, commoners who resisted his authority.” Well, yes—that might give a clue as to his “character.”

Look, the professor is an historian. He has to do it. His job is not to judge history—it is to relate it. But I kind of miss the Bible accounts that sum up this or that king by saying he was a real rotter. “He did on a grand scale what was bad in Jehovah’s eyes, to offend him,” we read of one. And as to what a person might hope to be remembered for, who can beat the prayer of Nehemiah: “Remember me, O Jehovah, for good”?

...

*Henry is also listed as renowned for his “theology.” Professor Hoak mentions his interchange with the Pope, and I wish he had explored it more thoroughly, but he didn’t. There were other factors involved, but the Pope annulled marriages all the time. If Henry had just asked him to override scripture, he might have done it—he was the Pope, after all. But instead Henry sought to debate scripture (Leviticus 18:16, 20:21—his first marriage was never valid because it violated these two passages) with the Pope—as though he was equally qualified—and you just KNOW that will arise the ire of the latter.

Oh, and Thomas More, the “man for all seasons” from the first paragraph? He lost his head. It was chopped off. Literally. He was supposed to cheerlead for Henry’s break from Rome and he just couldn’t do it.

 

 

Defending Jehovah’s Witnesses with style from attacks... in Russia, with the ebook ‘I Don’t Know Why We Persecute Jehovah’s Witnesses—Searching for the Why’ (free).... and in the West, with the ebook ‘TrueTom vs the Apostates!’ (free)

On Reading, Higher Education, and the News.

There is a firm movement under the guise of ‘anti-cultism’ to make religion a decided subset of the state—with all its policies to be reviewable by the state. How strongly Rulf plays into this I cannot say, but I’ll bet it leans that way. You have probably hit the nail on the head.

“Could it be a matter of politics?” someone asked.

Yes. I think so. Someone asked Rush Limbaugh his reaction to the Boy Scout bankruptcy. In answer, he spoke to a radical leftist move to destroy anything standing for traditional family, using their own occasional failures to bring them down. I hadn’t thought of that before, I but think there is a common theme—that JWs are part of, but by no means the whole target of a movement that would remold anything of traditional family or God.

And, no—I don’t listen to Rush 24/7. Unless I am driving somewhere with the radio on, I don’t listen at all. But I did, 30 years ago, record the show and listen each night. I also, before that, listened to Larry King each night—and he is of the opposite politics. In his heyday he had the most interesting show of all. Each night he interviewed an author, each one of a different field of interest. One hour of his own Q & A, followed by 2 hours of call-in questions from the audience. He was so good. He would not let callers ramble on with long-winded speech-making questions—he forced the windbags to be succinct. He kept focus on the guest and made his own comments few. Unfortunately, his show got bought out by some network and they changed the format completely, putting him on only interviews with puff celebrities, and his newsworthy relevance fell off a cliff. 

Before that I would zip through Books on Tape from the library during my mundane work, and only stopped when the library ran out of books other than the bestsellers of the day. “Stupid janitor forgot to leave an extra roll of toilet paper—I’m screwed,” someone tweeted. I tweeted back, “I read 50 of the BBC’s top 100 books of all time via Books on Tape, far more than anyone else on the thread, while working as a janitor. Sorry about the toilet paper.”

Larry King famously did not read the books beforehand of the authors he would interview. He said he did it that way so that he could approach each book with a layman’s curiosity and not his own pre-formed opinion. He was probably just being lazy, but that does not mean that what he said was not true—he could more easily approach topics with honest curiosity and without bias. I find myself doing something similar with books such as Rulf’s, which I may someday read but I am in no hurry. It is in my area of expertise—why should I drop everything to wolf it down? It is someone’s takeaway from their own experiences. I have my own experiences and my own reactions to things he responds to. Why should I assume his are better? Did he go to a fancy-pants school? So did I. I don’t make a big deal over it because it has never done me any good (my fault, not theirs) but if he starts slobbering over ‘higher education’—well, I know that world well. 

None of us are Jesus, of course, but I like the response to his Sermon on the Mount of how people were astounded. “When Jesus finished these sayings, the effect was that the crowds were astounded at his way of teaching. for he was teaching as one having authority and not as their scribes”—the scribes that had nothing original to say but would just expound upon the opinions of each other. Jesus ignored it all to contribute his own (actually God’s) take on things. 

Everybody has a few books in them and if they do not have the wherewithal to write them, that does not make their stories any the less valid or interesting. I may get around to Rulf, but he’ll have to wait his turn. My story is as good. As it is, there is a certain idiot here (he will not have read down this far because he cries foul at any sentence longer than a dozen words) who crows about all that Rulf has “proven” the moment he is aware of the book, without even reading it. I’ll know that I have arrived when I release a book and Billy gushes on about how I have knocked the ball out of the park without having read it.

C1A427D1-D33D-49FA-A365-5ECCDF96C956

Defending Jehovah’s Witnesses with style from attacks... in Russia, with the ebook ‘I Don’t Know Why We Persecute Jehovah’s Witnesses—Searching for the Why’ (free).... and in the West, with the ebook ‘TrueTom vs the Apostates!’ (free)

Elder-care During the Windstorm

Windy mornings like we just had, and I think of the huge tree that came crashing down on the home of some friends in southern tier, pinning them in their bed. “This room is original, this one is new,” my pal later told me on a tour of his house that the friends had rebuilt. The upstairs bedroom—brand spanking new? His wife will not sleep in it. The tree no longer threatens—it came crashing down upon her already during that storm. But she will not sleep in that room again.

The exasperating thing about a power outage is that you keep forgetting. Flip a switch, nothing happens—continual aggravation. Well, I have my Go Kit ready in the event of a really huge natural disaster. Many think that the Witness organization dreamed up the idea, but it is actually the government, and the Witnesses said, “Yeah! Let’s get on that one!” I tend to put things like that off and for the longest time my Go Kit consisted of a bag of pretzels and whatever else I could scrounge up in 2 minutes. But now it’s in pretty good shape and I am preparation in search of a disaster.

Not every little thing is fully cared for. “Oh, did I tell you about my dog?” I will say to my temporary hosts as Samson tracks mud across their kitchen floor. That’s not Sampson of Bible fame, who pushes apart the pillars. That’s Samson the dog, who pees on them. Confused by the change, maybe he will even pee in the new residence.

I was staying with my dad, attending him in his old age, when another wind storm hit 3 or 4 years ago—wow-whee can wind ever do damage! “Have you entered the storehouses of the snow, or have you seen the storehouses of the hail [or the wind], which I have reserved for the time of distress?” Job 38:22 says. Yeah, I have seen them at medium throttle. I can only imagine what might happen when the pedal is to the metal.

Going back almost 30 years, my parents stayed with us for over a week. Ice storms paralyzed the entire region. Our electric line was laying right there on the ground—we didn’t come prop it up—but it was still delivering the juice. In one of those rare reverses of how this system usually works, the people with money, living out in heavily-treed areas, lost their power, but the people living within city limits did not!

Power went out to my dad’s during that windstorm 3 or 4 years ago, too, but not to me, and he again stayed with us until it was restored. By that time he had dementia. “I think we should swing by the house and see if the power has come back on,” he would say every 30 seconds.

Surprisingly, there is a time to lie. The elder-care people recommend it in the case of seniors with dementia. “How’s Jill doing these days?” he wants to know again and again. Why should I tell him again and again about the divorce in the family that will trouble him, yet he can do nothing about it? “Fine, Pop, she’s just fine. All of them are.”

Why should I tell him every day that his wife died 20 years ago—stabbing him each time? “She’s fine, Pop. She’s away to visit her cousin, remember? She’ll be back soon.”

9CCD6878-F35C-476D-8513-932394840FB5

Defending Jehovah’s Witnesses with style from attacks... in Russia, with the ebook ‘I Don’t Know Why We Persecute Jehovah’s Witnesses—Searching for the Why’ (free).... and in the West, with the ebook ‘TrueTom vs the Apostates!’ (free)

A Lot of Work to Syphon Out the Liars

As much as I hate "conspiracy" theories”

As near as I can tell, Jehovah’s Witnesses buy into conspiracy theories in no greater proportion than the general population. It is a little surprising, since they have become privy to the greatest conspiracy theory of all—that involving religion having deviated so far from its source

As for me, I find myself nibbling at the edges, and in some cases accepting them. If I follow anything on Twitter, I make a point also of following its polar opposite. Sometimes I find the polar opposite point of view to be represented much more persuasively than the common wisdom.

 

“...After a while, one can develop an entire framework of areas (and players) where such admissions happen more often than others. When the pattern of 1)position, 2)slip-up, and 3)method of backtracking to regain the original position becomes very predictable, then you are probably onto something trending toward truth.”

That’s a lot of work to syphon out the liars. 

That’s not to say it is not a good idea, nor that it is any more time-consuming than what I do. It is just that few people have that kind of time. Most people take news from one or two sources, often the evening TV news for people our age, and pretty well accept that they are being told the truth. Usually they are, but it is not “the whole truth and nothing but the truth”—which can completely turn things around.

At one pioneer meeting the elder conducting it was highlighting the importance of neutrality, and never to give the impression of taking sides. “Now we all know that Trump is crazy,” he said, “but.......” I would stake my life on it that his only source of news is the evening news of one of the three networks. 

I was relatively up in years before I discovered to my surprise that my (non-Witness) Dad cared hardly at all about politics. Many were the political discussions swirling around the dining room table, as I was growing up, when the extended family was gathered. However, it turned out that my Mom’s father was very much a GOP person and would crank on about it endlessly, and my Dad was just too gracious to tell him to zip it—it was his father-in-law, after all, who his wife liked.

6DF6587C-6FB9-4840-AA58-11592633147B

Photo: Evening News, by Vasilennka
Defending Jehovah’s Witnesses with style from attacks... in Russia, with the ebook ‘I Don’t Know Why We Persecute Jehovah’s Witnesses—Searching for the Why’ (free).... and in the West, with the ebook ‘TrueTom vs the Apostates!’ (free)

“I Saw Tears Well up in the Eyes of One Elder”

That sentence from yesterday’s Watchtower study called to mind an experience:

From paragraph 17: “A brother recalls appreciatively: ‘I saw tears well up in the eyes of one elder as he contemplated my situation. That image will always remain in my mind.’”

I was sure that the kid at the tire repair show had lost my specialty tool when I had my tires switched. The dopey mounted snowtires (that somebody talked me into buying) require a unique socket—it is not standard and it is not metric. I have two of them so it is not that big of a deal, but when it was not in its designated place after I picked up the car from the shop (it could only be there and nowhere else because I always put it there) I drove back to the shop and let them hear about it at the front counter. “He’s got it in his toolbox, somewhere,” I said, “just absentminded, not theft—he is just careless. Make him check for it.”

When I returned home I found the socket.

I know how companies bully their employees. I figured they must have leaned into him pretty heavily. I drove back to apologize—not to the front counter, but to him personally. Nah—they said it wasn’t necessary. I said it was. No, it was nothing, they said, don’t worry about it. Look, I know that “the customer is always right,” I responded—he probably was made to feel some heat. They said no—not a problem. (what’s the big deal? They just didn’t want to pull him out of the shop and interrupt his work flow.)

Did I tell you that when I get something in my head I am not easily put off? I said that I could probably just walk right in there and say it quick—which bay is he in, anyway? and made for the door. When they saw that I would not be dissuaded—what were they going to do? toss me out on my ear with a showroom full of customers looking on? they fetched him for me.

He looked defensive, as though I was going to yell at him. Instead, I apologized. I said that I was sure that he had lost the tool, but when I got home I found it. Very likely someone had made him sweat about it. He was a Spanish speaking kid and he looked like someone who doesn’t get apologized to that often.

A little to my embarrassment, I felt some tears welling up, just like the elder in the paragraph. I mean, several were looking on. I probably made a fool of myself. And maybe it was completely unnecessary. Maybe they had all had a good laugh over the jerk who griped over his “lost” tool. Dunno.

But it didn’t matter. It is not a bad thing to show empathy. The elder in that Watchtower paragraph not only benefited the congregation member by tears welling up—unless I am very mistaken, he benefited himself as well.

B7C04C87-156D-484D-B27D-DD9C6D75C0C5

Defending Jehovah’s Witnesses with style from attacks... in Russia, with the ebook ‘I Don’t Know Why We Persecute Jehovah’s Witnesses—Searching for the Why’ (free).... and in the West, with the ebook ‘TrueTom vs the Apostates!’ (free)

Offering my Sacrifice to the Gods

Volkswagen is ending production of the New Beetle, first begun in 1997. That beetle was the reincarnation of the original Beetle, which was itself ended in 1978. Every hippie on earth drove a Beetle back in the day.

It’s time. It is a smart move on Volkswagen’s part, for reasons beyond mere sales. With people routinely screaming that their opponents on anything are ‘like Hitler,’ you know it is only a matter of time before a company offering a car that actually was inspired by Hitler is subject to wrath itself.

I never owned a Beetle, but a friend did. My car was a 64 Rambler Classic station wagon. I decaled a bumblebee stripe around the rear end, wagon and all.  Sometimes we took my car and sometimes his as we explored the old logging roads in the Adirondacks during college days. Many of those roads would disintegrate into pure forest when they reached back far enough.

Emerging from a quasi-road onto a dirt road only slightly more real, my friend, who was driving, asked: “Anything coming your way?” “Just a school bus,” I said, and he laughed, for we were in the middle of nowhere. He pulled out and a school bus took off his front bumper.

I did have a Kharmann Ghia afterwards, which was a sportier Volkswagen offering, and I have two memories of it. The first is when I was alone with it performing the same house-to-house ministry I do now, decades ago when I was much dumber than I am now. Now, VWs barely heated at all. So I had gotten it into my head that maybe a portable kerosene heater would be a good idea; I could roll the windows down a bit for the fumes. As I do even today, I waited till I actually needed it, on one frigid suburban street, to try it out. I didn’t want to fire it up right there in the car. At least credit me with not being that dumb. I lit it outside, and a two-foot high flame shot into the air because I had not done it right. What would any homeowner glancing out the window have thought? “Oh, man, another religious nut, this one offering sacrifice to the gods!”

The other memory that lasts of my Karmann Ghia is when I pulled into my folk’s drive right behind their station wagon. No sooner had I shut the engine off than the backup lights of wagon ahead came on and my brother launched out and into my headlights like a rocket for Saturn. This is the same brother who took my stamp collection and who cheats at Scrabble. I didn’t have a lot of dough back then, so I fiber-glassed over the two gaping holes and bought two truck-mounted headlights and mounted them between front side fenders and hood. The car looked like a frog. I drove it in field service afterwards until I got rid of it, but I was always careful to avoid the street in which I had sacrificed to the gods.

D412CC2B-004C-45A1-ACC3-45BBD559FEE8

 

 

 

Defending Jehovah’s Witnesses with style from attacks... in Russia, with the ebook ‘I Don’t Know Why We Persecute Jehovah’s Witnesses—Searching for the Why’ (free).... and in the West, with the ebook ‘TrueTom vs the Apostates!’ (free)

In new New York You Can do Fireworks

Fireworks are legal in New York State. Not always, just a week or so around the fourth of July. Makeshift sales tents pop up everywhere hawking the goods.

It never used to be that way. I worked so hard with my boy when he, long ago, started pestering me about the stuff, harassing me night and day. Do you think I could convince him, my own child, that fireworks were not legal in New York State? Not just dynamite, but also cherry bombs and even ladyfingers. They are illegal. You can’t blow them off in New York. Yes, they are legal in some states, but New York is not one of them. Tired of arguing with a kid who dressed head to toe in Goth black to parade around in the mall with friends dressed the same way and didn’t stop until I threatened to dress head to toe in white and follow him everywhere, it suddenly dawned upon me how to solve the problem.Talk to a cop! What a brilliant idea! I drove to the area police station. Were fireworks legal in New York State? No, they were not. What about ladyfingers? No they were not. What about on holidays and special events? No, that made no difference! What about…..LOOK, said the cop, you got a listening problem?! NO means NO.!! Now if you want to break THE LAW, go right ahead, but we’ll be coming after you!! All that Download

as missing was for him to draw his gun.

Elated, I skipped home to grab my son and return. Yeah! Tell the kid what you just told me! Scare the everloving daylights out of him!

But Joe Friday wasn’t there!! Instead, it was jolly Officer O’Mallahan! Well….he patted my boy on the head, with a twinkle in his eye, just be careful, and don’t shoot them off too much!! Thanks a lot, copper!!! If this kid grows up to be a pirate, I’ll know who to blame!

And now it turns out that it was all for nothing! Fireworks are okay, now. And no, he has not become a pirate. He does do a lot of traveling, though.

Defending Jehovah’s Witnesses with style from attacks... in Russia, with the ebook ‘I Don’t Know Why We Persecute Jehovah’s Witnesses—Searching for the Why’ (free).... and in the West, with the ebook ‘TrueTom vs the Apostates!’ (free)

I Can Hear the Charges of 'Stealing From God' Now

When Gene was transferred to an Assembly Hall in Virginia, he said that Bethel likes to do that. If a given overseer remains too long at an Assmbly Hall, it gets to be known as 'Gene's Assembly Hall.' I told him the only reason I change from my pajamas is BECAUSE it is his Assembly Hall. He said I would like the new guy. I said I don't like him already if he is going to replace him. But, in fact, the new guy turns out to be fine, too.

Last year Gene was at the house Galileo-2813231_960_720
 and he was admiring the Galileo thermometer on the mantleplace - you know, those ones with the bobbing balls? A week later I called him and asked if he was at the Assembly Hall. He said he was and I told him to stay there. I drove over and gave him the Galileo thermometer as a gift (which is how I ended up with the dust-collecting thing myself). He said he couldn't accept it and I said he could. So he did.

But don't you know that my wife did some work at the Assembly Hall the other day and went into the office and what do you suppose is there? MY (alright - 'his') GALILEO THERMOMETER!!!!

HE LEFT IT! He went to Virginia and left it! I hope he fries or freezes because he couldn't dress properly because he didn't have a Galilio thermometer to tell him what the weather will be!

Moreover, I have no idea if the new guy will appreciate it or not. For all I know, he has a bowling ball on his mantleplace that he admires and wonders what the stupid thing is with the bobbling ornaments! But do you think he will let me take it back? I can hear the charges of 'stealing from God' already if I try it! 

Defending Jehovah’s Witnesses with style from attacks... in Russia, with the ebook ‘I Don’t Know Why We Persecute Jehovah’s Witnesses—Searching for the Why’ (free).... and in the West, with the ebook ‘TrueTom vs the Apostates!’ (free)

She Slammed Me Through a Supporting Wall and the House Caved In

They have jack-hammered the basement to install perimeter drainage. A cement truck backed in to cover up the new piping with cement. There was a backhoe in the front yard tying in the house gutters to the storm sewer.

The pipe delivery truck took down the phone line so I switched to cable internet and the cable truck came the next day. They had to string a new wire from a nearby pole.

By pure coincidence, the furnace truck also arrived for some scheduled maintenance.

The nosy neighbor is absolutely beside herself trying to figure out just what we are having done and how much it is costing us.

"Tell her we had a fight and you slammed me through a supporting wall, causing the house to collapse," I say to my wife. "That ought to satisfy her for awhile."

Collapsed house

Defending Jehovah’s Witnesses with style from attacks... in Russia, with the ebook ‘I Don’t Know Why We Persecute Jehovah’s Witnesses—Searching for the Why’ (free).... and in the West, with the ebook ‘TrueTom vs the Apostates!’ (free)