Persecution of Jehovah’s Witnesses in Russia—and Identification of Those Who Instigate It.

The New York Times today reports the torture of a member of Jehovah’s Witnesses in the Russian campaign to eliminate the faith. It is the second such instance of torture coming to light. [edit—several more came within a few days] Arrests are commonplace. More commonplace are raids with the confiscation of personal property. 200 Jehovah’s Witnesses were recently place of the federal list of extremists, which means that bank accounts are frozen and they can no longer transact routine financial business.

With an active and prolific critical, at times hate, campaign being waged against Jehovah’s Witnesses online, it is reasonable to think that it indirectly instigates persecution of them in Russia. It is reasonable to think that it indirectly instigates the torching of two Kingdom Halls in the United States during 2019, both of which burned to the ground.

Many groups are harassed in Russia, but it is Jehovah’s Witnesses who are head-and-shoulders the primary target. Why? It boils down to Jesus’ words: “If you were part of the world, the world would be fond of what is its own. Now because you are no part of the world...for this reason the world hates you.” (John 15:19) It is no more complicated than that. Hatred against Witnesses may be cloaked as reports from a “whistleblower” or complaints of those who would advocate freedom from “mind control,” but at root the motivation is simply disturbance that ones should choose to be “no part of the world.” No villain on TV ever says, “I am the villain.” Instead, he paints himself the wronged one with a merited score to settle—and the program director strives so that we all see his point of view. We must not be obtuse.

From TrueTom vs the Apostates!—“The book Secular Faith - How Culture Has Trumped Religion in American Politics attempts to reassure its secular audience through examining the changing moral stands of churches on five key issues. The book points out that today’s church members have more in common with atheists than they do with members of their own denominations from decades past. Essentially, the reassurance to those who would mold societal views is: ‘Don’t worry about it. They will come around. They always do. It may take a bit longer, but it is inevitable.’ Jehovah’s Witnesses have thwarted this model by not coming around.”

What Secular Faith is saying is that churches have in many respects ceased being “no part of the world”—and having done such, are not hated, since “the world is fond of what is its own.” Jehovah’s Witnesses, and almost they alone, are yet remaining “no part of the world”—and that is why they are hated. That is why they have “apostates” who are off the charts in expressing vitriol. “Apostates” (within the Christian context) can be expected to proliferate in direct proportion to how the main body stays separate from the world. As such, Jehovah’s Witnesses should almost be proud of theirs, for in them they are validated. A religion that has made its peace on the “five key issues” of Secular Faith—what’s to apostatize from?

Anti-Witnesses scream “Cult!” like patrons scream ‘Fire!’ in a crowded theater. Are Jehovah’s Witnesses a cult? To the extent they are, it is because the Bible is a cult manual. The behavioral, informational, thought, and emotional “control” that anti-Witness activists complain about can be found in the urgings of the New Testament writers themselves. The words indicate no more than people living by the Bible, living peaceably in this world while they look to the righteous new one to come with the arrival of the kingdom Jesus taught his followers to pray for, the one the Bible describes as “the real life.” (1 Timothy 6:19) The agenda of the virulent Witness detractors is simply that no one should think in such an “impractical” way. 

A faith that remains “no part of the world” is thought socially backward, even socially harmful by some. But that hardly means it ought not be allowed to exist, particularly since it dovetails with Jesus’ words. “There has only been one Christian,” Mark Twain too cynically remarked. “They caught and killed him—early.”

I am not even sure that Witnesses should run from the word. It may be well instead to highlight its origin. It is the same origin as ‘cultivate’—which denotes ‘caring for something’—and in a religious sense it refers to ‘caring for the matters of the gods.’ Okay. I’ll take it. Jehovah’s Witnesses ‘care for the matters’ of God. They trigger opposition from ones who don’t want them to do that. They trigger opposition from those who have crossed over to embrace various aspects of the world—the world that Jesus says not to be part of.

This is clear in the testimony of one witness testifying for the prosecution in the Russian trial that would ban the JW organization. She complained of “complete and total control of life by the Administrative Center.” Asked to give an example of this, she reported her expulsion from the congregations after she “began her close, but not officially registered, relations with a man.” In other words, she wants to violate, within the congregation, the Bible sanction of ‘sex only within marriage.’ The Witness organization does not allow it, and she spins it as “complete and total control of life,” hoping to get the Russian Justices riled up.

Look, it is fine to adopt the standards of the world so long as one goes there to do it—don’t bring it into the congregation. She signed on for such Bible-based standards, now she wants to change them—and when thwarted in that attempt, she seeks to get the organization that got in her way banned at the Russian Supreme Court! It is no more than revenge. It is no more than insisting the standards of the greater world be accommodated in the Christian congregation.

Disfellowshipping itself is a last-ditch attempt at discipline, when all else has failed, to ensure that a member not bring standards of the world, no matter how commonly accepted elsewhere, into the congregation. Is it harsh? It certainly can be spun that way, but as ought to be clear by considering Secular Faith, no denomination has succeeded in obeying Jesus’ direction to remain “no part of the world” without it.

History testifies that among the reasons Christians were viciously persecuted in the first century was that their rituals were said to include cannibalism. Obviously Jesus’ followers did not do this, but from where might the charge originate? Might one look to the following passage in the sixth chapter of John, which begins by quoting Jesus?

I am the bread of life. Your forefathers ate the manna in the wilderness and yet they died. This is the bread that comes down from heaven, so that anyone may eat of it and not die. I am the living bread that came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread he will live forever; and for a fact, the bread that I will give is my flesh in behalf of the life of the world.

Then the Jews began to argue with one another, saying: “How can this man give us his flesh to eat?” So Jesus said to them: “Most truly I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of man and drink his blood, you have no life in yourselves. Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood has everlasting life, and I will resurrect him on the last day.”

When they heard this, many of his disciples said: “This speech is shocking; who can listen to it?”...Because of this, many of his disciples went off to the things behind and would no longer walk with him. So Jesus said to the Twelve: “You do not want to go also, do you?” Simon Peter answered him: “Lord, whom shall we go away to? You have sayings of everlasting life. We have believed and have come to know that you are the Holy One of God.”  (6:48-69)

What of the ones who did not “come to know” that Jesus was the Holy One of God? What of the ones who “went to the things behind and would no longer walk with him”? Did they thereafter leave their former co-disciples to worship in peace? Or did some of them draw from these words proof that Jesus would recommend cannibalism to his followers? And if some advanced the notion, might there not have arisen ones in the congregation who pinned the blame on Jesus himself for saying the words that got the persecution ball rolling; ‘What a blunder!’—I can imagine some saying (though not in his presence).

It makes me think of the uproar raised over child sexual abuse within Jehovah’s Witnesses today. They are comparatively successful at preventing it—nobody, but nobody, has gathered every single member on earth (at the 2017 Regional Conventions) to consider detailed scenarios in which child sexual abuse might take place so that parents, obviously the first line of defense, can remain vigilant. But the world has little success at preventing CSA, so it focuses on punishing it after the fact, securing the barn door after the cows have fled. Routinely, we read of individuals arrested over CSA allegations. Unless the arrest is of a member of the clergy, the one detail that never accompanies such reports is that of the individual’s religious affiliation or lack thereof. Yet with Jehovah’s Witnesses, that detail is never lacking. Why? 

Plainly, it is that the Witness organization attempted to do something about child sexual abuse—they did not just close their eyes to it—and now detractors are trying to spin it as though they love the stuff. Jehovah’s Witnesses are well-known as a religion that “polices its own.” It is an attribute once viewed favorably, but now in the eyes of critics, it is spun as intolerable “control.” Those taking the lead in the Witness organization thereby came to know of individuals accused of CSA, and their “crime,” if it be one, is in leaving it up to affected ones themselves to report rather than “going beyond the law” to do it themselves. Time will tell how vile that sin is found to be, but it plainly falls far short of actually committing the CSA themselves, which is the pattern elsewhere. 

As with Jesus and his remarks that can, in the scheming of dishonest ones, be spun into encouragement of cannibalism, so the JW policy on CSA is spun by similarly dishonest ones to indicate that the organization is determined to nurture and protect it, whereas nothing could be further from the truth. Three times before the Australian Royal Commission, Geoffrey Jackson of the Witnesses’s Governing Body pleaded for universal, mandatory reporting laws, with no exceptions—if that could only be done, it would make the job of the Witness organization in policing its own without raising the ire of those outside the congregation “so much easier.”

Continuing his cross-examination, Justice Angus Stewart said: “Leaving aside the question of overriding mandatory law from the civil authorities...” I almost wish that Brother Jackson would have interjected at this point, “I wish you would not leave it aside, for it would solve the problem.” The greater world cannot make a dent in preventing childhood sexual abuse, and so it puts the onus on those who are trying to do something about it. Alas, our best lines invariably occur to us too late—had Brother Jackson picked up my line, it probably just would have got their backs up—and then (gulp) he would have looked at me with displeasure.

More on the Russian connection here.
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Bazhenov Goes To Jail - and Gives a Witness on the Way

At trial’s end, in a Russian court, Konstantin Bazhenov’s turn at last came to make his closing statement.

He “hardly talked about the legal aspects of the persecution and emphasized his spiritual side. ‘It is better to suffer for good deeds than for evil ones,’ he quoted the words of Jesus Christ. Then he briefly talked about what Jehovah's Witnesses believe in and how they live, and in the end he read a poem of his own composition.”

Yes. This is exactly what you do. The law is so convoluted that nobody can get their heads around it. Jehovah’s Witnesses are not banned, but only their organization is? People cannot get their heads around it. President Putin says words of support, yet it makes no difference? People cannot get their heads around it. Forget those things and just give a witness to all present, a witness that embodies Christian qualities of joy even under persecution, and a determination to serve God under any circumstances.

Konstantin starts with wanting “to recall one interesting aphorism, which is quite well-known: ‘While the truth was on my shoes, the lie managed to get around half the world.’ This aphorism emphasizes that sometimes some inaccurate data, false information spread very quickly, and the truth remains somewhere in the backyards,” and he applies it to the misinformation spread about Jehovah's Witnesses. Mark Twain’s version of this saying (or is this a version of his?) is: “A lie can travel halfway around the world before the truth gets its pants on.”

Be that as it may, he is very glad that during court hearings “the truth nevertheless sounded,” albeit with “delay,”  but it did. He thanks his God Jehovah “that he trusts [him] to represent His interests in court, that He helped, gave strength, wisdom to understand the legal nuances.”

Represent His interests he does, fully getting the sense of Jesus’ words: People “will seize and persecute you, they will hand you over to the synagogues and to prisons, and they will have you led before kings and governors because of my name. It will lead to your giving testimony.” (Luke 21:12-13)

He has Revelation 2:10 down pat: Do not be afraid of anything that you are going to suffer. Indeed, the devil will throw some of you into prison, that you may be tested, and you will face an ordeal for ten days. Remain faithful until death, and I will give you the crown of life.” He is a fanatic to those who have discarded God, and even to some of those who have not. But he is the very embodiment of Jesus’ words to endure (with joy) under persecution, and he goes on to explain how that can be.

“Everyone who wants to live godly in Christ Jesus will be persecuted,” (2 Timothy 3:12) he cites. “This is like the law of physics, so I am not personally surprised that this is happening. Maybe a little upset. But the fact is that persecution is inevitable. They were in the 1st century, and they are now. It convinces me even more that I am on the right track and gives me confidence.”

He uses that confidence to thank participants. He thanks his wife, first of all, but also the judge for “carefully listening to us and trying to understand the essence of the issue.” He thanks the investigator “for permitting visits with his wife, as well as a request for our release from custody. It was a gift for my wife and I.” He thanks his lawyers, co-defendants, friends who came for support, and even the prosecutor “for listening carefully and outlining the main thoughts.” Why throw stones? Be like the early Christians.

“If according to the verdict of the court, I have to go through the punishment of imprisonment, [he does, said the court] then I am sure that this will strengthen my faith.” He has already been there almost a year in pre-trial detention, and has found that “neither high walls, nor bars, nor barbed wire can prevent the Holy Spirit from penetrating and giving support. There are such words in the Bible: ‘Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.’ It may seem at first glance: well, how, in prison is freedom? What kind of freedom is there? But in fact, for example, freedom from fear, freedom from sinful deeds, freedom from bad habits, freedom from foul language, from envy, greed, freedom from remorse, this freedom can be regardless of where we are.”

“For, if you please the will of God, it is better to suffer for good deeds than for evil,” he cites at 1 Peter 3:14-17. “Indeed, I am happy that I do not suffer for crimes, that is, I did not steal, I was not a mortgagee, I did not rape anyone, I did not blackmail, I did not cheat, but they accuse me. I suffer for worshiping God.”

“And it does not surprise me that such events occur, but sometimes it surprises others. For example, when I was in a pre-trial detention center, many prisoners said: ‘We are here for crimes.’ That is, scammers, hijackers, mortgages, counterfeiters - there are many articles with whom I sat. And they said: ‘We really did something. But what are you doing here?’ And they were surprised. Moreover, in my case there are no victims. Indeed, I have a clear conscience before God and before people.”

“If I find myself in a colony, there also live people who need to learn the truth from the Bible about God, about his plan for the earth and people. This is a huge field for activity. If this happens, I will consider that Jehovah found there sincere people whom I should help to learn the biblical message. I see no other reasons. Psalm 50, verse 15 says: ‘I will teach the wicked in your ways, and the wicked will turn to you.’ The psalmist David wanted to help others so that they would not take the slippery slope. So, I also have a desire to help others turn from their lawless deeds, their criminal way of life, so that they turn to God. The fact is that the Word of God, the Bible, has tremendous power to influence people for the better. Thanks to the Bible, people get rid of bad habits and criminal lifestyle. And it benefits both themselves and the state, because, in fact, they become useful members of society. Of course, I do not want to lose my freedom, but if at least one criminal cleansed of the criminal past, it means that I was not in vain hurt.”

He then launches into what can only be described as his “Adam to Armageddon sermon”—his talk touching on basic Witness beliefs regarding the:

  1. theme of God
  2. authority of the Bible
  3. role of Jesus Christ
  4. Kingdom of God
  5. Christ’s ransom
  6. heaven
  7. earth
  8. reason for God’s permission of evil and suffering
  9. what happens at death
  10. how to find happiness as a family
  11. our worship of God
  12. Christian unity
  13. our behavior as Christians
  14. our relationships to others

Well, why not? He does have a captive audience, after all, and they made themselves captive—specifically convening to pass judgment upon him. Trust me on this: nobody said on their drive home, “That fellow doesn’t know his Bible very well.” We live by the Bible —JWs do. We make no apology for it. If we experience adversity, make it clear that it is due to a dislike of what the Bible says.

Commendably, the Russian court participants did not stone him to death, as the Sanhedrin did with Stephen when he pulled such a stunt. They just put him on the prison bus and off to a new assignment. I love his flexibility. I pray that I can match it should my turn come. We can’t necessarily choose what our new assignment will be or what hardships it may entail.

(No Bible citations in this post are taken from the New World Translation. This is because in Russia that book has been declared not a Bible at all—as that country discredits itself before educated persons the world over who know very well that it is. No, that translation is actually an extremist work, the High Court maintains, so it cannot be quoted. Where I, and not Konstantin, have inserted verses, they are from the New American Bible - Revised Edition, the “house” Bible for “Dear Mr. Putin - Jehovah’s Witnesses Write Russia.” That book itself comes in “safe” and “unsafe” versions—identical except the unsafe version quotes occasionally from Watchtower publications, and the safe version does not. The version linked to above is the “safe” version—you can read it without going to the hoosegow, at least, until the entire work is declared extremist, if that hasn’t happened already.

 

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Putin to Restore Religious Freedom to Russian Jehovah’s Witnesses Before the End of 2020?

It was said on another forum—and was to be on the basis of pure political expediency. Could it be?

Two recent developments have occasioned specific rebukes from the U.S. State Department. 

1) the sentencing of 6 Witnesses to jail terms of 2-3 years.

2) the torture of at least 7 in Surgut, which Russian authorities at first denied but ultimately said proved necessary because the Witnesses resisted with martial arts techniques.

Of course, every other faith is kept track of as well—it is not just Jehovah’s Witnesses. Still, a State Department release of last year specifically mentioned just two groups. 1) Muslims, and  2) Jehovah’s Witnesses. The rest were all lumped into a single third category: 3) Others.

Of course, Trump might always consult with his son-in-law who can recall to him his dealings with the Witnesses from whom he purchased Bethel buildings—that they were people with whom “a handshake deal meant something.” He lavished praise on them in that video that JW.org took down as the Presidential campaign got underway, presumably so that no one would not attempt to portray Witnesses as part of Trump’s election machine—they are serious about neutrality over there.

The (relatively) optimistic prediction may well be right, but I am not holding my breath. The two Presidents did want to get along, but I am not sure that the moment has not passed. Any overtures between them have been soundly scuttled by the American media. It is even as though when the kings of the north and south indicate that they would like to agree, outside forces intervene to make sure that they cannot, as though to to enforce the current understanding of Daniel’s prophesy that the two will hate each other’s guts right down to the end.

It is also possible that Trump senses in his meeting on religious freedom an opportunity to defuse accusations that he is anti-Muslim. It is Muslims who are under attack today, probably more so than Christian groups, and probably spurred on by the perception of how readily a certain strain of that belief goes on to embrace violence. Who can say what Trump is up to? To say he is a bull in a china shop, one must accept the premise that the status quo among world and national leaders is a “china shop.” But he might well be likened to a junkyard dog in a junkyard. Who can say where he goes next?

At any rate, he sidesteps an agenda of climate change policy and hosts his own religious freedom meeting instead. Religious freedom is embedded in the U.S. Constitution, primarily the Bill of Rights. Climate change is not, and Trump plainly doesn’t trust it, viewing it as a mostly concocted wedge to drive socialism more firmly into the world fabric. Instead, he goes to country after country, as though Capitalist-Man wearing a cape, to cut deals. He reverses decades of policy that holds that making disadvantageous deals trade-wise will trigger political change, as newly monied populaces rise to overthrow the tyrannical governments that rule them, like a worldwide “Arab spring.” There is not much evidence that it works that way. It certainly didn’t with the Arab spring, and China is doubling down on its willingness to oppress, even in the face of material prosperity.

So will the (relatively) optimistic prophesy come true, that Putin will reverse JW persecution by year’s end? He points out that: “Neither care about Jehovah's Witnesses, specifically, but they both care about political optics, and pragmatically, about fairness.”

I agree that they are both pragmatic. But Trump is firmly resisted. And Putin may be as well. The New York Times speculated that he may not be so firmly in control as is assumed, partly because after he says: Why are we persecuting  Jehovah’s Witnesses? This must be looked into! the persecution does nothing but intensify. Even as the JW ban was under consideration, one pundit asked: Why would they do it? There was no question that they could, but why would they? They do nothing but make themselves ludicrous and thug-like on the world stage. But it has been “pedal to the medal” since. The succeeding act was to rule the New World Translation as extremist—not a Bible at all—and thus paint themselves before all as breathtakingly ignorant, since anyone with even a modicum of scholarship knows that it is.

The anti-religion campaign has only intensified. Deprived of the New World Translation, Jehovah’s Witnesses there resort to any translation. So courts have found that some verses even there are actually “extremist,” as happened with Psalm 37:29. In doing so they have bought into the thinking of the BITE model promoted by “anti-cultists” in the West. Such has become the wisdom that carries the day in Russia, however stretched the idea might be. It’s founder, Stephen Hassan, has just written a book about Trump: “The Cult of Trump—a Leading Cult Expert Explains How the President Uses Mind Control.”

When you think that half the country has fallen under cult influence, it is evidence, in my view, that you have drunk too much of the Kool-Aid yourself. It is also evidence that the entire BITE anti-cult movement is little more than a political movement. It is little more than a tool of the left. It is the new culture of victimization elevated to sainthood. Now, Mr. Hassan is a former “Moonie”—a group that is commonly regarded as a cult in both the new and the old sense of the word. Whether it is or not is for other people to judge. One way to apprise his present work is to judge it an effort to atone for his prior work—not just to atone, but to save face. “How could he have been stupid enough to join the Moonies?” is a question that many will ask. Of course, few are wont to admit that they could be stupid—hence the emotional appeal of a mindset that holds that even brilliant people can be misled by “cult” techniques—we are all that vulnerable. Having established the concept, it is then extended to the point at which half the country is deluded.

Experience is counted as a plus in some areas and roundly derided as making for bias in others. If I write a book about the persecution of Jehovah’s Witnesses in Russia (which I have), the fact that I am a Witness makes me incapable of accurately relating events in the eyes of many. But it doesn’t happen with him. He is hoisted upon the shoulders of others and paraded around because his thinking better accords with the irreligious humanistic thinking of the day.

At any rate, this anti-cult advocacy has been allowed to define Russia’s response to any religion not on the “approved list”—which in the Christian category, there is only one: the Russian Orthodox Church. One would think that the idiocy of declaring Jehovah’s Witnesses extremist would collapse eventually under its own weight, but it may not—again, because it fits in with the humanistic thinking of the day. It is not so much “mind control” that these anti-cultists are concerned about; it is mind-control that is not theirs. “At one time [Christians] walked according to the system of things of this world, according to the ruler of the authority of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience,” Paul says at Ephesians 2:2. Yes, the prevalent thinking of today surrounds us like air and has the same “authority.” Buck it at your own social and reputational peril.

Here is a Russian Orthodox priest who air-bombs a certain city with holy water as a strategy to combat the “heavy drinking and fornication” that, in his opinion, afflicts the population there. This action is not viewed as extremist. The peaceful preaching of Jehovah’s Witnesses, who manage within their ranks to avoid both heavy drinking and fornication, is extremist, however. One wonders if the word will not shatter someday at the stresses placed upon it.

Tying in a thread from yesterday about the Florida school shootings, I pointed out that two possible courses of actions were proposed, though neither agreed to because the inability to yield is the lifeblood of this system of things, though Witnesses have learned to do it without fuss: either outlaw rapid-fire guns or allow armed veterans and/or teachers to patrol the halls. Neither of those two courses, were they to be found in Russia, would be viewed as extremist. However, Jehovah’s Witnesses, who circumvent the entire problem by living now the standards that they see prevailing in the new system—they categorically renounce violence—are.

It is this world that is extremist, and not the Witnesses at all. However, this world has the upper hand at the moment, so expect similar atrocities of reason to prevail. Once in a while a bone is tossed our way. One Witness got out of pre-trail lockup when a judge ruled that the prior judge had shown prejudicial bias. She had rebuked the Witness with: “You are not a prisoner of conscience and you have nothing to do with the first Christians. You should not speculate on this...” He is and he does, and the second judge ruled that she had been out of line to muzzle the thought.

 

 
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Sticking Up For “the Unrighteous” in Russia - Psalm 37:29 Pronounced Extremist

Russian scholars—they are awfully smart over there—found extremism in an Old Testament phrase in the course of building a case against Jehovah’s Witnesses. It was not in the New World Translation—that entire work has been declared extremist and is therefore shelved. It is a passage found in any Bible, even the one used by the Russian Orthodox Church.

The offending verse is Psalm 37:29 [36:29 in Eastern Bibles]: “The righteous will inherit the earth and will live in it forever.”

This verse is actually a threat toward “unrighteous persons,” the experts discerned. It is “about dismissiveness (contempt, aggression) toward a group of persons on the basis of religious affiliation.” It furthers the “‘propaganda of inferiority’ on the basis of religious identity.”

In other words, they are sticking up for the unrighteous in that land. “Well—they’re people, too,” is their stroke of wisdom. If the “righteous” are to be favored with inheriting the earth and living there forever, then the unrighteous should be there, too.

It is breathtakingly stupid reasoning, and yet it is the reasoning that carries the day in Russia. But we should not laugh at it, because it is more evil than stupid, and it is the work of opposers who know what they are doing and will do it here when the time is right. The reasoning is the same—it is only more unmasked in Russia than elsewhere, but it ought to serve as a heads-up for elsewhere.

In both places it is the reasoning of those who hate God. They do not hate him so long as He knows His place. If He allows societal trends and critical thinking to carry the day, He is welcome, but only then. If He tries impose upon people His own standards of “righteousness,” He is not. If He allows the will of the people to prevail, He is welcome. If He says, as in John 6:45: “They will all be taught be Jehovah,” He is not—unless He means that the will of the people is the will of Jehovah. He should know that His role is to sit in the back seat and keep His mouth shut.

The entire warfare of opponents denouncing disfellowshipping is a reflection of their frustration at having the window slammed shut on their fingers as they try to break into the house with their new and improved morality—morality that is not God’s. They are livid that they cannot do that, and so they rail against the tool that thwarts them, even trying to declare it illegal.

The book “Secular Faith - How Culture Has Trumped Religion in American Politics” attempts to reassure its secular audience through examining the changing moral stands of churches on five key issues. The book points out that today’s church members have more in common with atheists than they do with members of their own denominations from decades past. Essentially, the reassurance to those who would mold societal views is: “Don’t worry about it. They will come around. They always do. It may take a bit longer, but it is inevitable.” Jehovah’s Witnesses have thwarted this model by not coming around. Disfellowshipping—the ability to expel those who refuse to conform to the conduct and speech that they signed on for—is their trump card. It is a last-ditch method of discipline, when all else has failed, to ensure that the Christian congregation remains true to its underpinnings, something that cannot happen without the trump card held in reserve—or at least it never has happened. (See post here)

It is a God-ordained tool from the One who knows humankind better than they do themselves. Actually, humans know it well, too, but they forget it when it stands in their way. If they did not know it, there would be no such thing as advertising—the ultimate manipulative device founded on the premise that humans can be swayed any which way given sufficient propaganda. Corporate interests would not pour billions into advertising if they were not convinced human behavior could be molded. “We made Miller the number two selling brand in the country, and everybody said: ‘Nobody will drink that stuff,’” said Mickey Spillane.

“Righteousness” is an antiquated term for those peddling a new morality and a trashing the traditional one. The term is a threat to them. It is a term that is no longer allowed in Russia, but how far behind can the West be? Acceptable human conduct should be determined by group norm, not imposed by some Bully from above, it increasingly says. The war against disfellowshipping is at root a manisfestion of those who would fight against God.

Says the apostle Peter: “For the time that has passed by is sufficient for you to have worked out the will of the nations when you proceeded in deeds of loose conduct, lusts, excesses with wine, revelries, drinking matches, and illegal idolatries. Because you do not continue running with them in this course to the same low sink of debauchery, they are puzzled and go on speaking abusively of you.” (1 Peter 4:3-4)

They do speak that way. But as the discordant ones accumulate in the “low sink of debauchery,” they finally are emboldened to also say: “Water’s fine here in the low sink! Who are you to judge?” The qualities Peter speaks of are simply not the anathema that they once were. Some are openly embraced.

So “righteousness” as defined by a God is an insult. To speak of a world where righteousness will prevail is extremist in Russia, and therefore illegal. For now, in the West, it is just gauche and small-minded. That is changing. If it truly is that God will allow only the righteous in the new world of his making, then anyone on His side will do whatever can be done to be that way. Opponents today want to make that illegal, or at least they want to make illegal the means to do it.

The climate is not just right for opposers here to declare that the righteous inheriting the earth is extremist, as they have in Russia, but that is what many want to do—and it will likely reach that point one day. Should it happen, it will be a development that is on script, and so thereby can be said to be okay. It will not be unexpected. The miscreants are angling for it now.

Nikolai Gordienko, of the Herzen Russian State University in St. Petersburg, once stated: “When the experts accuse Jehovah’s Witnesses for their teachings, they do not realize that they are actually making accusations against the Bible.” Jehovah’s Witnesses represent it. They practice it as best they can. The gloves have come off in Russia. They came off long ago with regard to human rights, but now they also come off with regard to the intent of Witness persecution there. It is not Witnesses that are opposed. It is God who is opposed—the Witnesses are just the middlemen who represent him.

Gamaliel cautioned religious leaders in the first century regarding Christians: “Do not meddle with these men, but let them alone. For if this scheme or this work is from men, it will be overthrown; but if it is from God, you will not be able to overthrow them. Otherwise, you may even be found fighters against God himself.” That’s exactly who is in the crosshairs of opponents today—who is He to tell us what is righteous? they glower. Banning the Witness organization was not enough for those opponents in Russia. Banning the New World Translation was also not enough, for the same verses hateful to those demanding moral relevance are found in any translation of the Bible.

How far will opponents get in their quest to enlist the world’s sympathy that they got kicked out of a religion for refusing to abide by the rules—in essence, for refusing to be “righteous?” Time will tell, but until the Lord intervenes, the playing field is tilted their way. The individual rights of those who would kick over the traces garners popular support. The individual rights of those who would impose upon themselves a force greater than they to safeguard against their own weaknesses means nothing.

During Soviet times, dissidents stated that the underlying attitude of authorities was that they didn’t really care if you believed their lie or not, so long as you knuckled under to their power to define reality. Declaring the Psalm extremist—“The righteous ones will inherit the earth and they will live in it forever”—is an example of the pattern reasserting itself: “Yes, it is ridiculous, but who cares? It is what we say it is.”

In the West it is still deemed necessary to believe the lie—that the “offenses” of the people who endeavor to represent God are the objection, and not God himself. That can be expected to change. The offenses are blown up and misrepresented, but they are not, in most cases, untrue. They are, however, not the issues to watch. The issues to watch are those relating to God’s purpose to establish an earth in which righteousness prevails.

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The Russian Brothers are Doing Very Well, Thank You Very Much

What Witness of Jehovah could not think of their brothers in Russia when reviewing Philippians, this week’s Bible reading?

The imprisoned Paul writes: “Now I want you to know, brothers, that my situation has actually turned out for the advancement of the good news,  so that my prison bonds for the sake of Christ have become public knowledge among all the Praetorian Guard and all the rest.  Now most of the brothers in the Lord have gained confidence because of my prison bonds, and they are showing all the more courage to speak the word of God fearlessly.” (Philippians 1:12-14)

It is the case with Witnesses in Russia, isn’t it? They are holding up pretty well, by all reports—it can be seen in the public support they give to ones punished by the state for their worship of God. As in the first century, “most of the brothers in the Lord have gained confidence,” trial-some though their circumstances are. We are proud of them, and even wonder whether we would do so well ourselves. ‘Don’t think that you can do it on your own strength,’ comes the answer, ‘and you will do fine.’

The anti-cultist mastermind, Alexander Dvorkin, did not foresee it happening this way. Just after the ban went into effect in April 2017, he was “absolutely convinced that after a few years, the number of members of the organization will decrease dramatically, two or three times, because, when one cuts off its financial foundation, its ability to freely, without hindrance, recruit other people, to rent large halls and so on, then, in fact, people will lose interest and will very quickly disperse.” Now, two years is not “just a few years,” but it is not so far apart. He did not say “generations.” He expected his results rather quickly, and it is not turning out that way at all.

One is reminded of Satan’s taunt: “Is it for nothing that Job has feared God?  Have you not put up a protective hedge around him and his house and everything he has? You have blessed the work of his hands, and his livestock has spread out in the land. But, for a change, stretch out your hand and strike everything he has, and he will surely curse you to your very face.” (Job 1:9-11) It isn’t working out that way. Our brothers in Russia are doing us proud.

Human rights advocates widely predicted that this would happen—it is not a circumstance solely of Jehovah’s Witnesses, but of people in general who are concerned with spiritual things. Similar fortitude is shown in other faiths as well. It is Dvorkin who, fleshly man that he is, totally misjudges the power of spiritual things to motivate. “But a physical man does not accept the things of the spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; and he cannot get to know them, because they are examined spiritually,” says the apostle again at 1 Corinthians 1:14.

He drinks too much of his own Kool-Aid, and thus, when things fail to turn out as he anticipated, it is due to his own self-deluded assumptions. Dvorkin is playing the role outlaws of religion have played from before he was born, using state apparatus to squash enemies, and doing so under a guise of People’s Protector. His premise is wrong: that individual Witnesses are being “manipulated” by an evil corporate outside class. Instead, the ‘outside’ class IS them, merely in the organized form that members know is necessary to best implement the faith that they have chosen. They are not like the munchkins of his imagination, delighted that the wicked witch is destroyed. They recognize his attack as the attack on Christianity that it is.

We see this all the time—enemies impose their own standards on spiritual things, and then draw wrong conclusions when things do not turn out as they have anticipated. It is seen when they make the self-determination that religious things cannot change, as secular and scientific things do, and that should Witnesses see that some teachings have “flip-flopped,” they will be outraged at having been “misled.” How can people be so nuts? They change all the time—it is called “tacking” and the “ever brightening light”—completely above board and nobody has ever said otherwise.

Still, the changes that are made are analogous to details, roughly akin to looking at the map anew and rereading it. It happens all the time with science. Somehow, physical people have decreed that it cannot happen with spiritual things. Of course it can. It is their own presumption of everything religious being autocratic, ironclad, and unyielding, that stymies them. It may not be so fluid—‘to each his own!—as the world they have chosen, but it is far from inflexible.  Moveover, the essential building blocks of the faith—defusing the ‘immortality’ of the soul, establishing the non-Trinitarian nature of God, the reason as to why he allows suffering and evil, along with the Name that he says he wants sanctified—these things have been firmly in place for over a century.

The Russian brothers are doing very well, thank you very much—“in no way being frightened by [their] opponents. This very thing is a proof of destruction for them, but of salvation for you; and this is from God.” (Philippians 1:28)

Surely the people are but green grass. The green grass dries up, The blossom withers, But the word of our God endures forever.” (Isaiah 40:8) So. Dvorkin thinks he will kill off the green grass, like a dog peeing on it? Time will tell. So far his dream is not coming true.

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photo: persecution 2, by dr zoidberg 

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“Now, I finally want to express special thanks to those who helped and supported me during the last 2 years of this criminal case:”

[Dennis Christensen’s closing statement]

First, I want to thank my wife Irina, who from the very beginning did everything in her power to help and support me. She took care of me, passed me clothes, groceries, medicines and other things that I needed in the SIZO (Pre-Trial Detention Centre). She has supported me emotionally and spiritually with her visits and letters that I have received from her every day.

My dear wife, your strong faith, your great patience, your peace of mind and love for me and for the truth, including your optimism, have all been a great example to me. You should know that I love you very much and that I am very proud of you!

I also want to thank my family in Denmark, especially my elderly father and my sister. You should know that I miss you so much. I love you and appreciate everything you have done for me. During my stay in the SIZO you supported me with your numerous letters and telephone conversations. I am sure that you will never give up and lose hope that we will be able to come together again as a family one day.

I also want to thank all my many friends from all over the world. You supported me with your letters, encouraging thoughts, beautiful drawings and various gifts. All this has helped me to understand that I am not alone, and that I have a large global family.

Dear friends, you should know that every letter, big or small, has encouraged and strengthened me. Please do not be discouraged if I do not have time to respond to your letters. I will find you, thank you and hug you in the future, I promise!

I also want to thank the Embassy of the Kingdom of Denmark in Moscow and all its staff. You attended many court sessions and repeatedly visited me in the SIZO. Your helpful advice, guidance and encouragement mean a lot to me, and I really appreciate your support and the great help that you have given me.

I would also like to thank the Court of Appeal for the fact that I personally was able to attend this court hearing. When I participated in other appellate cases through videoconferencing from the SIZO, it was difficult for me to hear everything that was said. I had to guess half of what was happening there. This is an unworthy way to defend someone. In addition, when using the conference call in the SIZO, you must sit in jail, as if you were an animal in a zoo. I consider this an unworthy, inhuman treatment today, in the 21st century.

At the present, I have already been in the SIZO for almost two years, and this trial has been going on for 15 months. To endure all this, not to give up and not to lose heart, it is extremely necessary to have a certain inner strength. The Bible says - in Philippians, the 4th chapter, the 12th verse - that “I can do everything by him that strengthens me.” In the book of the Prophet Isaiah, the 12th chapter, in verse 2 it is written: “Behold, God is my salvation: I trust in Him and have no fear; for the Lord is my strength, and my song is the Lord; and he has been my salvation. "

Throughout this period, I have felt that my God, Jehovah, has been next to me and has given me the strength to endure all this. The power to not give up, not to lose heart, to be joyful and happy and to continue to smile. I am sincerely grateful to him for this and am proud to serve Him as one of his witnesses, one of Jehovah's Witnesses.

Many people have asked me how this criminal case have affected me. Of course, it is not easy to be in a SIZO for such a long period of time, to be cut off from your wife and from close contact with your family and friends. The last two years I have lived a very closed life. You could say I have just existed. 23 hours a day I have spent in my prison cell of 3 by 6 meters, and for an hour every day I have gone for a walk in the walking yard, also 3 by 6 meters, although under the open sky. During this time, I met various people with whom I had many interesting conversations. And I noticed that many of them are trying to achieve a decent, honest investigation and trial. Most feel that the system does not hear them, and I have also felt a similar feeling in the past two years. I tried to support and encourage them as best I could, because I am sure that Jesus Christ would have done the same.

I made many new friends, some of them were present at a part of the court sessions, and some wrote letters to me. I personally know some of them, but others not yet. Some havethe same faith as I do, others do not, but they still support me, because they cannot tolerate the injustice that is happening here in Russia, the way some here try to make Jehovah’sWitnesses, citizens who love their neighbour as themselves, out to be criminals and call them extremists. This is completely illogical and ridiculous. Many are shocked by the fact that such things happen here, in Russia, in the 21st century.

Someone asked me how this criminal case has affected my faith. Thanks to this criminal case, my faith has only become stronger, and I have experienced what the Bible said in the Epistle of James, the first chapter, in verses 2 through 4: “Take great joy, my brethren, when you meet with various trials, knowing that the test of your faith produces endurance; but endurance must have its action complete, so that you may be complete in its entirety, without any deficiency. ”

I am still far from perfect, but I have learned to be steadfast and remain joyful in my ordeals. And the most important thing I want to emphasize is that I have drawn even closer to my God Jehovah and have received an even more ardent desire to tell others about him and his purposes, an ardent desire to continue preaching the good news of the Kingdom of God, which is the only solution for humanity. A fervent desire to share with others the joyful message from the Bible about the world and eternal life here, in paradise on earth to help them get closer to the Creator and help develop strong faith in him and his promises.

This speech is officially called “the last word in my defence,” and maybe these will be the last words you will hear from me today. Maybe this is the last court hearing in this criminal case, and it will become an end to this last two-year period of my life. But I want to assure you that these are not my last words in this case about the injustice that is happening here in Russia against peaceful and completely innocent people. I have just started, and I have a lot more that I want to tell you publicly. I'm not going to be silent, as if I am guilty and have something to hide. I have a clear conscience, I have not done anything wrong, I have not violated any law of Russia and I have nothing to be ashamed of.

What is being done against me and other Witnesses here in Russia are false accusations of extremism, interrogations, detentions, searches, confiscations, discoveries, threats, and now even torture. This should be shameful. It is of course adisgrace. The truth always becomes apparent, and justice will sooner or later prevail. In the Bible, in Galatians, chapter 6, verse 7, it says: “Do not be deceived: God is not mocked. Whatever a man sows, he will reap. ”

The court of first instance sentenced me to 6 years in prison, but for what? Nothing. There is no evidence that I did something wrong. On the contrary, there is a lot of evidence that I enjoyed the rights granted to me under Article 28 of the Constitution of the Russian Federation. I observe the law of the Russian state and am an honest person. I am a Christian, a believer, a Jehovah's Witness, and I love the Russian people. What are they punishing me for? Why should I be in prison for 6 years? Nothing. This is unfair.

I sincerely hope that the Court of Appeal today will protect what is right and take care that justice prevail. That it will namely stop the persecution of faith, which is happening now in Russia. I very much hope that this court of appeal will send a signal to the whole world that here in Russia there is freedom of religion for all people.

In the near future these words will be fulfilled: “And he, God, will judge many nations, and they will cast their swords into plowshares and their spears into sickles; nation will not raise the sword against nation, and they will no longer learn how to wage war. But each one will sit under his vine and under his fig tree, and no one will frighten them.” The words of Micah, chapter 4, verses 3 and 4.

God always judges justly, and under his rule there will no longer be disagreements, violence and wars. On the contrary, there will be peace, and there will be no anxieties. In other words, there will be true happiness for all of humanity.

Your Honor, with your decision today you can make a big step in this direction, in the direction of justice and peace. A big step towards a world without anxiety, sadness and injustice. And I hope you do that. Thank you in advance!

[The appeal failed. Seemingly, it had already been decided that it would.]

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“Despite Whatever Way This Trial May End, Christensen is the Winner”

"Despite whatever way this trial may end, Christensen is the winner. He has not renounced his own ideas, even while being imprisoned for the course of two years. And he will continue to express them in the future, including in today's debates." (Anton Bogdanov)

“The whole essence of the case comes down to the following: a local religious organization was liquidated and believers continued to meet together. Believers are forbidden to meet and the local religious organization is liquidated," (Irina Krasnikova)

[Both of the above are attorneys representing Dennis Christensen on his appeal]

Finally, Christensen himself spoke, through an interpreter:

"'The more often a lie is repeated, the more it is believed.' This sentence was spoken many years ago by one horrible person. I thought that in the 21st century such a thing is now impossible. However these methods are again being used against me and other Jehovah's Witnesses. In my case, the lie is the continuation of the activity of a local religious organization....I am often asked why they try to take Jehovah's Witnesses for extremists. My answer is: I do not know. I also did not hear an answer to this question in the court.”

[I did not hear it either. That is why I decided to supply them myself, along with how they might be defended, when I wrote ‘Dear Mr. Putin - Jehovah’s Witnesses Write Russia.’ Later, noting that the same lie about Witnesses being extremists is told in the West—and not for the same reasons—I decided to detail them and their rebuttal as well, in ‘TrueTom vs the Apostates!’

Both are free in ebook version:

Dear Mr. Putin is also available in extremist-free version. Few quotations in the original ebook are from Watchtower sources—even the house Bible translation has been changed to the New American Bible - Revised Edition, a Catholic translation. The two Mr. Putin ebooks are exactly the same, save for when a quote is taken from a Watchtower source. In the “safe” version, even if the words will be as innocuous as ‘God is love,’ I rip them out with the stern warning that they pose danger to the reader and have therefore been redacted.

Pay attention to which version of the book you read. You do not want to spend time in the hoosegow.]

(Excerpts taken from Orlovskie Novosti.  (May 16, 2019) https://www2.stetson.edu/~psteeves/relnews/190516a.html)

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Inventing the News in Russia - to Jehovah’s Witnesses’ Detriment, But Maybe Everyone Else’s as Well

Okay, I get it. Religion is not a core concern with Russian State-controlled media, except for that of the Russian Orthodox Church—it perceives that its task is to guard “House Church” interests and to shoot down the “competition.” It is therefore okay to misrepresent, even to lie about, the other pathways of seeking God—especially those of the “new religions.” It does not harm the overall reputation of State-controlled media, so the thinking apparently goes, to deliberately cook up untruths about these groups and pass then off as “journalism.” I wonder.

The school guidebooks used by Jehovah’s Witnesses contain counsel points on ‘accuracy of statement.’ If you are speaking, and you make an error about even what is periphery to your point, someone will be sure to think: “Huh! He doesn’t know that?” From there it is only a tiny hop to “Maybe he doesn’t know anything else, either.” And here we are speaking only of a misstatement. We are  not speaking at all of a deliberate lie.

If you are a media outlet and you make a deliberate lie, doesn’t it call into question everything else you say about any other subject? Every so often there will be some report of a Christian refusing an instruction from his employer to lie, and getting away with it by pointing out: “If I will not lie for you, neither will I lie to you.” It is the same principle with faulty Russian reporting, I think. If they lie about such-and-such, who is to say that they will not lie about any topic they examine?

Russian State media—RT.com—told a whopper of a lie regarding Jehovah’s Witnesses some years ago. An RT journalist that I follow on Twitter encouraged me to select some stories more balanced, insisting that there were some. I turned down the offer. If you are trying to establish that Russian media is unreliable, it does not help your cause to point out that once in a while they do tell the truth on your topic.

Here is the example. I included it in the ebook Dear Mr. Putin - Jehovah’s Witnesses Write Russia:  See also the ‘safe’ version)

The three-minute 2009 video clip is entitled Jehovah and Out and the host is interviewing Audrey Zolovov of Russia Profile Magazine.11 The host asks why Jehovah’s Witnesses are targeted for possible ban because, after all, Russia is “pretty tolerant toward religion, isn’t it? I mean, the Hare Krisnas are operating on the streets of Moscow” and his guest says that ‘Well, he doesn’t really know.’ He agrees with the host that Witnesses are “annoying,” but also agrees that should hardly suffice as a reason. They do oppose blood transfusions, and that is very bad, but many fringe sects have similar disagreeable drawbacks. Maybe it is because they have a “very good organization.” After all, they are a “worldwide phenomenon,” he opines, as though expounding upon motive at a crime scene. He gives an example: several years ago, his wife went to a manicurist and he thinks that the manicurist must have been a “very important asset for that group because she had this captive audience for 40 minutes or so, while she was telling them about their religion. Of course, my wife stopped going to that manicurist as soon as she found out that she is being preached.” Of course! What loyal citizen would not?

Is it possible that RT.com can celebrate grownups behaving as such babies? Even if the Witness woman was tactless, something which is not alleged, an adult learns over time that there are many of such people encountered in life, and that you can handle them by making polite banter and if they become overly insistent, by telling them to shut up. You don’t send your husband to RT.com where he can relate how you escaped, only by the skin of your teeth, from an encounter with a scary monster like the one that would devour Caleb and Sophia. The Witnesses not only spoke to his wife while she was “captive,” but they also do “lots of these things.” As though conscious that his own complaint is silly, he further explains that the Witnesses have “a very very bad image, both in the media and among the public in general.”

In seeming determination to further that “very very bad image” and even add another “very” to it, the conversation takes place against a backdrop of crazies doing the most whacky things—bizarre cultish rites, pugilistic bare-chested fighting scenes, children in lock-step: very very weird scenes that have nothing whatsoever to do with the interview. Nor do they have anything to do with Jehovah’s Witnesses, as their most virulent critics, indeed, anyone who knows anything about them, will instantly attest. Will RT.com really treat its audience with such contempt? Are they working to cultivate stupidity among ones they seem to regard as a herd for them to direct? Or did they give no pre-thought to it. Is it an anomaly, and the producer merely said to an underling: “Hey, we’re doing a story on the Jehovah’s Witnesses. Run down to the lunatic bin in the storeroom and fetch some footage for me. Anything will do.” And will the Russian government outlet really treat the name of God with such contempt: “Jehovah and Out,” as in “Over and out?”

Ah well. It was some time ago. Maybe they have learned their lesson. Sigh...no.

ERR News is the English-language service of Estonian Public Broadcasting, run by a fully independent editorial team. On April 12, 2019, they told of “two employees of state-owned Russian TV channel Russia-1, entering Estonia on French and Italian Schengen visas, [and using] hidden cameras to gather material they then used to ridicule and demonise Jehovah's Witnesses. The Estonian Ministry of the Interior reacted by issuing a five-year entry ban....”

Furthermore, “trying to influence society by means of harassing different minorities is an integral part of the Kremlin's playbook. Jehovah's Witnesses are "persecuted and outlawed in Russia....The Russian state media occasionally make efforts to come up with an explanation for this fact. This typically includes reports where members of this religious minority are taunted, ridiculed and demonised.”

The clandestine reporters “entered a gathering of Jehovah's Witnesses in Tallinn without telling them who they are, and what they are planning to do. The material they gained at this gathering as well as at another, similar one in Finland was then used for Russia-1's news programme, Vesti, and aired on 29 November 2018.”

So Estonia kicked them out of the country for five years. That is what you do with liars. Good for them! They know what sanity is. The AP and the Washington Post picked up on and ran the story the next day.

I admit to not being expert on what media is state controlled and what isn’t, and what is the overlap. RT.com is state controlled. There are also others. This example caught by Estonia is apparently one of the others. I also get it that this is for local consumption only, not international consumption. Such shoddy “journalism” is instantly recognized for what it is internationally, but State media appears to feel it has every right to manipulate the gullible local public.

Will that happen with impunity? Time will tell. It may backfire on them. It morally should. It’s too bad. This writer finds RT.com to offer a refreshing contrast to Western media, which so often runs in a herd. But if they bend the truth so readily on their non-core concerns, who is to say they will not bend it on the core ones? One would think that if they want to safeguard their reputation, not only would these two journalists be fired, but more importantly, whoever put them up to it, as well—and the chain of command apparently reaches pretty high.

It is little wonder that Russia seeks to disconnect its internet from that of the rest of the world. Among the advantages to them will be to keep such slippery deeds hidden. However, does not that step alone disqualify it as a credible journalistic source?

https://news.err.ee/929589/iss-ministry-issued-schengen-entry-ban-against-russia-1-employees

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Mistreatment in Surgut and Enemy Tactics Revealed

At 6:15 AM on February 15, 2019, Timofei Zhukov and his wife were awakened by furious pounding on the door, as though someone would break it down. They didn’t answer and the pounding ceased. Half an hour later their balcony door was broken down. Several riot police stormed into the room. Zhukov was kicked, cuffed, and his head slammed against the wall—'the blood is still on the wallpaper,’ he later told Kommersant, the business magazine. His wife cried in alarm and was cursed for her trouble.1

It was part of a sting operation that netted 40 of Jehovah’s Witnesses in Surgut, Siberia—a major dark turn of events that nobody had anticipated. Twelve officers jumped from three vehicles pulled over to detain 2 Witnesses who were walking alongside the street.2

Mr. Zhukov was not tortured at the police station, but he did not escape hearing the screams of those seven Witnesses who were—music turned up loud to mask the sounds, but there was no masking them. He is a lawyer, as it turns out, who once served as assistant prosecutor in the city, and now is legal advisor to a construction firm. “Please register the exact time. Somebody is being beaten here,” he shouted. An FSB agent entered the room and said, “Don’t worry, they do not beat anyone here”—there was a drug addict within who was screaming his head off, he was told. And the former prosecutor believed it, only discovering the truth later from his brothers who had been on the other side of the door. He told the magazine that “until recently, he could not believe that law enforcement officers could torture believers.”

Though cuffed for three hours while his home was searched and beaten on his legs whenever they were judged to be insufficiently far apart, the handcuffs were removed for his escort to the waiting vehicle. “We won’t scare people,” he was told. He answered back that he preferred to wear them, for the neighbors had known him his entire life and were in good position to know whether he was a criminal or not. But off they came, and he was placed into the van—not one that said Police but one that bore the markings ‘Northern Roadway,’ as though off for a friendly commiseration with his former colleagues in law, though his smashed-in apartment balcony must have suggested otherwise.

They must have hoped to have kept it under wraps. They must have hoped to cast a pall upon the Witness community, but otherwise not suffer their deeds to see the light of day. How else can one account for such a hurried and stupid explanation, shortly thereafter, that the Witnesses had beaten themselves up (as only a sect member could do) to thwart the police investigation? “After the arrest and searches, they, under the direction of the lawyers who arrived in Surgut, got together and during the meeting struck each other, which could then be presented as evidence of torture,” one “insider” said, for ura.ru. “Well-known lawyers who specialize in representing the interests of the Jehovists throughout the country are involved in the case. Services each cost 5 million rubles. The main task is to ruin the criminal case, to attract public attention.”3 Of course! They must have figured that they had to say something, and quickly, for the accounts of the victims along with undeniable photo evidence4 were promptly showcased throughout the world, and the European Court of Human Rights demanded independent investigation.5

Local hospitals told the released victims that would be treated for their injuries, but that those injuries would not be documented.6 Plainly, they had been leaned upon by someone. Surgut, as determined by a rough atlas survey, is the 67th most populous city in Russia. Perhaps authorities hoped there wouldn’t be much of any support, legal or otherwise, for Witnesses way out there, instead of one of the victims actually being a lawyer. Another victim said one agent had told him: “We had to specifically come from Moscow for this.”7 Why couldn’t he have just stayed in Moscow, where Jehovah’s Witnesses surely are more numerous and are having just as great a challenge coping with the Orwellian law that says you can be a Jehovah’s Witness just so long as you do not do any of the things Jehovah’s Witnesses do, which apparently includes existing? No, to this writer, this episode has the earmarks of a deed meant to be done in a remote corner that unexpectedly turned out to be a world stage, necessitating a hasty (and clumsy) response.

Reported Znak.com: “The believers think that all of this was done with just one goal—to beat out "evidence necessary to the investigation" from those who had decided to exercise their right granted by the Russian constitution not to provide evidence against themselves and their associates.” A committee spokesman in the Khanty-Mansi region, Oleg Menshikh, told TASS news agency on February 20 that no law had been violated during the interrogations. “Nobody tortured them,” he said. “There was no physical or psychological pressure on them.”5 But two days later there was an about face, with the same official declaring that the government had decided to probe the claim “given the agitation that has arisen after publication of this information in the media.”8

That’s not entirely promising, a cynic might reply, and many did, was it not like saying: “Look, if they want an official document saying that we didn’t do it, we can comply with that”? So be it. Whose version of truth will prevail? From within the Nazi death camps, Jehovah’s Witnesses smuggled out detailed diagrams of their layout, and those were published in Watchtower magazines.9 They were disbelieved by other media outlets until post-liberation proved them all true. The Witnesses’ veracity is well established, even by those who don’t like them. On the other hand, stories of abuse, even torture, by Russian police are legion by groups of many different stripes.

Not everything pointed to a quick whitewash. Following an early meeting of the Investigative Committee, Vladimir Ermolaev, a department chief, told Znak.com: "I admit to you that what these people described at the meeting, with these horrible details, all of this shocked me….I cannot describe for you in detail, since nobody has authorized me to do so. But what they said, I registered it all, documented it. I will send all of these materials to the Investigation Department of the S.K.R. for Yugra and to the prosecutor's office of the region.”10 So time will tell.*

When the young boy cries “The emperor has no clothes!” and the latter in response just keeps on strutting his stuff, there’s not much one can do about it other than thoroughly documenting his nakedness and broadcasting it far and wide. This, the organization of Jehovah’s Witnesses have done, most notably through their website. No wonder the urgent need of those who oppose to deprive them of organization.

Jehovah’s Witnesses are regarded by many as the canary in the coal mine. What happens to them may soon happen to others. Two American Mormon missionaries were deported in early March and there were reports that they might be next in line for wider persecution. However, Alexander Verkhovsky, one of the top Russian experts on extremism, xenophobia, nationalism, and human rights, wrote in March 2019, that Witnesses just might become a canary pointing in the other direction. “The growing campaign against Jehovah's Witnesses inspires horror, but it also gives a chance that this time someone will finally catch on and think. [The Witnesses] are too obviously not a threat to security and at the same time they are just as clearly impossible to “eradicate”, since more than 100,000 people cannot be imprisoned or forced out of the country, and Jehovah’s Witnesses have not given up on their faith during difficult times.”11 The situation is too ludicrous, and too unambiguous. The popular mind confuses Muslim groups in a non-Muslim country, so that peaceful Muslim groups are mistaken for groups that have done very bad things. Even Mormons cannot be said to be apolitical—in the United States, they are the most politically polarized of all faiths.12 But Jehovah’s Witnesses have claimed neutrality for their entire existence, and their “pacifist” stance is attested to by all. Just how dangerous can they be? Maybe the recent shocker of torture for a Christian group (Russians are used to it for Muslim activists suspected of “excessive radicalism,” Verkhovsky speculates) will cause the government to recalibrate.

Russian Jehovah’s Witnesses will hope for the best and ever be respectful of government, but they can be forgiven if they become jaded at the speculations of a quick turnaround. They have seen their country sail blithely past many buoys of ludicrousness. Did not Dennis Christensen say that he hoped the judge would be fair, “but he also [knew] what country he lived in?” Did not the country ban a Bible on the basis that it is not a Bible and the entire educated world knows that it is? Did not every interested person in the world see, via the Witness website, video evidence of Russian police in riot gear scaling fences to break down the door of a Kingdom Hall en route to arresting those inside, and the only ones refusing to see it were the ones that had a moral obligation to do so—the Russian Supreme Court? Maybe this buoy will be yet one more left in the wake of the unshamable ship.

Can the Russian authorities be shamed? Possibly not. The ban itself shames them, and they could see it come from miles away but embraced it anyway. The present reality harkens back to what columnist Andrew Sorokowski wrote prior to the ban: “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?” Nonetheless, trash it they did and it is not so clear when or even if that course will reverse.13

Mr. Verkhovsky takes for granted that Jehovah’s Witnesses will not give up on their faith. How can they? They will recall the verse about paying Caesar’s things to Caesar but God’s things to God. They will think of the verse that says you do not fear the one who can kill the body and afterwards do no more. The one to fear is the one who can take away the soul.14

Though ever a small minority, many have protested the treatment of Jehovah’s Witnesses over the past two years. Atheists have held up banners in support of them. An activist from Kaliningradian scaled a lamppost to hang as sign proclaiming: “Jehovah's Witnesses are banned, they will also ban God.”15 Perhaps he is more accurate than he knows. Nikolai Gordienko, of the Herzen Russian State University in St. Petersburg, once stated “When the experts accuse Jehovah’s Witnesses for their teachings, they do not realize that they are actually making accusations against the Bible.”16 “Of course they are scared,” Yaroslav Sivulskiy tells a source. “But it does not mean that they will cease to be Jehovah's witnesses and do what is important to them…Jehovah's witnesses are good people, but they cannot abandon their faith when the state expects this refusal from them.”17

Just to keep things in perspective, for anyone can be too close to the forest to see the trees. Virtually all of Jehovah’s Witnesses were exiled to Siberia during the late 1940s and early 50s. Today, about 200 of them are detained out of a population of 170,000. It is outrageous, of course, and for many there is a sense of waiting for the other shoe to drop. Still, terrible though it may be for those affected individuals, life goes on and most of the Russian Witnesses are not suffering. They are cautious, yes, but they have always been cautious. They know their country. They know their government. They know their police. They've had the potential for trouble for many years and have adjusted. For the vast majority, life goes on as usual: they work, they go to school, they marry, some have children, they visit family both Witnesses and non-Witnesses, they buy groceries, they play in the park.

They know they must be careful, but they have always known it. They note with approval the heightened world and national attention to their faith, even if some individuals endure more than their share of injustice. They strengthen their weak ones. A few have actually stated that the last two years have been good for them because it has strengthened their relationships with each other and with their God.

Russia is a huge country and not everyone plugs into the news. Many only vaguely know of the ban, many don’t care about it, and some, as seen above, actively don’t support it. Nor do they treat their JW acquaintances any differently because of it. This writer is told of one case where a school boss refused to dismiss a Witness employee, telling his superior that she is the best teacher he has, and he would hope for more like her. At a certain meeting location held in a private home, a Witnesses’ unbelieving husbands says: "Everybody knows that you are not extremists." That’s good to hear, for another aftermath of the Surgut episode is that one father of three, a firefighter, was thereafter fired from his job despite triggering no complaints over 20 years, joining many others of similar experience. “My three kids have been crying ever since the operatives barged down the door,” he said. “Now I have no job, but I am certain my God will show me a way through.”18

Says Sivulskiy: “law enforcement is making monstrous efforts to find clusters of Jehovah’s Witnesses in their small gatherings”—large assemblies are out of the question.19 But Russia is a monstrous country, and efforts have been sporadic. Will they diminish, level off, or intensify? Witnesses recently reconsidered Revelation 2:10: “Do not be afraid of anything that you are going to suffer. Indeed, the devil will throw some of you into prison into prison, that you may be tested, and you will face an ordeal for ten days.” “Some” does not mean “all,” it was observed, as the Witnesses continue to show resolve amidst adversity. They don’t like what is happening, but they always knew that it might.

 

***~~~***

Every religion has its apostates. The trend now is that their activism is in direct proportion to the degree of firmness exercised within their former faith so as to encourage members to stay on the path that they have chosen. Apostates of the world have even united to wage common war against faiths they perceive as having similar attributes. And nobody has apostates more voracious than those of Jehovah’s Witnesses.

Some members of this avid JW-opposer community gloated over this new development. By far, however, the tactics of torture were condemned by that group. Make no mistake, such condemnation is noted and appreciated, however it is also substantially watered down by the recognition that their goals are the same—that Jehovah’s Witnesses cease being Jehovah’s Witnesses. It is only in methods that they differ.

Spiritually speaking, is it not a situation of good cop/bad cop? They hope for the same outcome. The good cop is likely sincere that he does not want you to fall into the clutches of the bad cop, for he knows how bad that bad cop can be. But they both have the same goal. Physically, of course, Jehovah’s Witnesses will far prefer the good cop. They are not superhuman and nobody wants to be mistreated. Spiritually, however, the good and the bad cop is the same. In fact, the good cop may even be worse. A thug is a thug is a thug. His malice is unmistakable and is on plain display. He doesn’t masquerade as a friend whose only aim is to help you. He doesn’t patronize you with a concocted “us versus them” scenario from which he is trying to free you.

The mutual goal is that Jehovah’s Witnesses should no longer be Jehovah’s Witnesses. It is that talk about the hope of God’s kingdom should stop, and the grapes already on the vine should wither, and to that end there is an effort to strangle the support organization. To be sure, their methods differ. It is as though one faction says to another, “You’re going about it all wrong!” Yet the two factions are working in tandem, pressing for the same end.

As much as the saying goes that “you can fool some of the people all of the time, and all of the people some of the time, but you can’t fool all of the people all of the time,” sometimes you can get pretty close. The majority can be fooled for the longest time. If it were not so, then the prophets of old would not have had the time that they did—a time which was revisited upon Christians of the first century, and a time which is being revisited on Christians in Russia today:

“What more shall I say?” the Bible writer asks. “I have not time to tell of Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, of David and Samuel and the prophets, who by faith conquered kingdoms, did what was righteous, obtained the promises; they closed the mouths of lions, put out raging fires, escaped the devouring sword; out of weakness they were made powerful, became strong in battle….Some were tortured and would not accept deliverance, in order to obtain a better resurrection. Others endured mockery, scourging, even chains and imprisonment. They were stoned, sawed in two, put to death at sword’s point; 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.”20

Jehovah’s Witnesses will put the experience off as long as they can, thank you very much, but they do not imagine themselves outsmarting the scripture, nor Jesus words that his followers would be hated.

Anton Chivchalov, the individual who covered court proceedings via tweet at five minute intervals, per personal email to this writer, offers a gloomy assessment of how Russians view Jehovah’s Witnesses, notwithstanding that there are some who see right through it. “In Russia there are many myths about Jehovah's Witnesses that 99% people believe,” he writes. “They break up families, take people's property, kill their own children by refusing blood transfusion, American spies, want to overturn the government, etc. This is mostly the cause of the hate.”

“Can it really be that high? what with Putin‘s recent statement of seeming support and at least a certain amount of favorable press? Are the human rights people, supportive journalists, and religious scholars all viewed as rabble-rousers?” I asked.

“Yes,” Chivchalov answered. “They are too few. General public still hates Witnesses and approves of the repressions.21 And many people hate human rights movements too (thinking they work for the US).” Jehovah’s people are not wildly popular anywhere, but it appears that in Russia they face the most unhinged opposition, against which they are standing strong. They have this writer’s undying respect.

Timofei Zhukov the Jehovah’s Witness hauled down to the police station where fellow congregation members were tortured, had this to say to Kommersant: “I will tell you, not as a believer, but as a lawyer—these investigators and [F.S.B agents] esfesbeshniki simply do not know what they are doing. The did not understand anything—whom they are coming to search. what kind of people these are, what they are accused of. It seems that the authorities told them: “There are bad people live there and they are corrupting the state system. Go and do what you want with them.” Where did they get the idea that Jehovah’s Witnesses were bad people?

After the ordeal, Mr. Zhukov spoke with some of his former colleagues, who encouraged him to desist from “such nonsense.” He told them that Witnesses were doing their work for them to a great extent. “You are investigating crime, but you have a problem with prevention. And I come to people and I say: ‘It is bad to steal. It is bad to lie. It is bad to smoke.’” They are not bad people. They are good people. Jerod Kushner, the U.S. President’s son-in-law, well prior to his political days, said of the Jehovah’s Witnesses from whom he would buy property that they were persons of “high integrity” with whom “a handshake deal meant something.” The journalists of Present Time comment to the director of the Sova Center Alexander Verkhovsky, after hearing his description: “Then they look like perfect citizens.” “You see, they would be ideal citizens in some other country,” is the latter’s reply.22 They are not bad people. They are good people. So from where comes the perception that they are bad people?

It is a question that might well have been asked in the first century. The historian Tacitus writes the following about the persecution of Christians after Nero pinned the blame upon them for burning down Rome: "Therefore, to stop the rumor [that he had set Rome on fire], he [Emperor Nero] falsely charged with guilt, and punished with the most fearful tortures, the persons commonly called Christians, who were hated for their enormities. Christus, the founder of that name, was put to death as a criminal by Pontius Pilate, procurator of Judea, in the reign of Tiberius, but the pernicious superstition - repressed for a time, broke out yet again, not only through Judea, - where the mischief originated, but through the city of Rome also, whither all things horrible and disgraceful flow from all quarters, as to a common receptacle, and where they are encouraged. Accordingly first those were arrested who confessed they were Christians; next on their information, a vast multitude were convicted, not so much on the charge of burning the city, as of "hating the human race." In their very deaths they were made the subjects of sport: for they were covered with the hides of wild beasts, and worried to death by dogs, or nailed to crosses, or set fire to, and when the day waned, burned to serve for the evening lights. Nero offered his own garden players for the spectacle, and exhibited a Circensian game, indiscriminately mingling with the common people in the dress of a charioteer, or else standing in his chariot. For this cause a feeling of compassion arose towards the sufferers, though guilty and deserving of exemplary capital punishment, because they seemed not to be cut off for the public good, but were victims of the ferocity of one man."23

Note the dim view of Christians, fully shared by Tacitus. They were “hated for their enormities.” They were readily thought to be persons “hating the human race.” They were the deluded followers of a “pernicious superstition.” The cruel wrath of Nero unleashed genuine compassion, however they were regarded “guilty and deserving of exemplary capital punishment.” How could this have been perceived of Christ’s followers only 35 years after his death?

Professor G. A. Wells, author of The Jesus Myth, writes that “the context of Tacitus’ remarks itself suggests that he relied on Christian informants.”24 Who could possibly have been their “informants?” They could not have been faithful members, for these would not “inform.” They could not have been non-members, for these would not have anything to “inform” about. There is little left to choose from other than former disgruntled members—today (and then) we would call them “apostates.” These came to wish their former faith ill. Perhaps some of them even posed as reformers of that faith, whistleblowers to whatever upset them—particularly if they had been ousted for conduct contrary to tenets of the faith.

The parallels are too blatant to ignore. If it was they in former times, how can it not be they in present times? How else can such a manifestly good people—in the first century and in the present—be so widely portrayed as bad? It is the “apostates” that present that picture of good portrayed as bad. It is the apostates that spark the conflagration, with unrelenting and incendiary charges. Any student of human nature knows that if you repeat a charge often enough, no matter how unlikely, it impresses itself on the general populace. Surely advertising teaches us that. The match doesn’t catch everywhere, but in Russia if finds the kindling just right—a government hostile for 100 years to the land in which Witness headquarters is located, at the same time in close union with the dominant house church, hostile to even traditional Christian faiths. It doesn’t happen everywhere. But the apostates ever light the match to encourage conflagration and sometime the planets align.

The religious enemies of the Jesus’ day had to be careful: “Then the chief priests and the elders of the people assembled...and they consulted together to arrest Jesus by treachery and put him to death. But they said: ‘Not during the festival, that there may not be a riot among the people.’”25 They could have done it at the festival had the festival been held in Russia. There wouldn’t have been a riot. There would have been widespread approval. They could have done it at the festival had the festival been held in Rome, too. There was widespread approval back then—such is the change in popular perception wrought by then and now apostates.

Kommersant asked Mr. Zhukov why the government persecutes his people, and he told them that he didn’t really know—he could speculate, but he didn’t really know.26 It was the same answer as President Putin himself offered just two months ago—he didn’t really know why Jehovah’s Witnesses are persecuted. Mr. Zhukov did note however, that early Christians, too, were called “sectarians” and that they, too, had been persecuted.

Even the Russian president can’t figure it out! Doug Bandow, senior fellow at the Cato Institute, writes that his “comments are hard to explain other than as an expression of genuine puzzlement over so much effort being expended to eliminate an evidently nonexistent threat.”27 How can it not be the machinations of someone devious? What arguments does that international community of apostates/opposers to the faith make? They are settling the score, largely, in the cases of those who were disfellowshipped, spinning for an irreligious world the myth that Jehovah’s Witnesses break up families, a point of view that was not accepted by the European Court of Human Rights: “It is the resistance and unwillingness of non-religious family members to accept and to respect their religious relative’s freedom to manifest and practice his or her religion that is the source of conflict.”28 Many, even most today, will look askance at any scenario in which spiritual considerations can trigger a family divide—no matter from which side it arises, but they will not think it an evil that compares with global terrorism. Families have divided since the beginning of time, often for matters far more fleeting than religion. In the West, it is not uncommon for the elderly to be abandoned in nursing homes, never to be contacted again, for no greater reason that they have become inconvenient. It is not something in which governments typically wish to meddle.

No, it makes no sense, the mass portrayal of Jehovah’s Witnesses as “bad people.” If they refuse blood transfusions, surely it must be acknowledged somewhere along the line that progressive doctors have learned to accommodate their point of view, and it so doing, they have devised medicine that is both safer and more cost-effective.29 And, though it has played no part in Russia, a widespread war against child sexual abuse finds Jehovah’s Witness “clergy” accused of covering up pedophilia. This is an unsavory thing, yet they come off almost as knights in shining armor when compared to religious denominations in general in which the leaders themselves have been the pedophile abusers.30 The “us versus them” scenario avidly advanced by apostates has caught on. Roman Silantyev of Moscow State Linguistic University complains that “this sect promotes external and inner extremism, inciting hatred to those who think and believe in a different way and bullying their own members,” and even hopes that “recognizing this sect as extremist [will give] a possibility to dozens of our citizens to leave this concentration camp.” He has been conditioned to misunderstand everything. Jehovah’s Witnesses will continue to carry out the tenets of their religious beliefs “because they are operating out of faith rather than compulsion.”31

Silantyev is “crazy” and yet his craziness has spread to influence those whom you would think would not be crazy to act in crazy ways. Writes Bandow: “Moscow denies that it is persecuting JWs for their beliefs. Rather, explained Vyacheslav Lebedev, chief justice of the Russian Supreme Court, ‘the situation is actually being presented as if these people are being persecuted for their belief and religious activity. Yet the decision, which was made by the Supreme Court amongst others, is unrelated to religion. It is about a violation of the law, which religious organizations have no right to breach.’ The law bans the faith, so punishing them for exercising their faith is merely punishing a violation of the law. This argument is perfectly Orwellian. Translating Lebedev: We declared your religious faith to be extremist, and you are not allowed to be extremists. So we are arresting you for being extremists. But feel free to practice your faith and have a good day.”

This writer would be a wealthy individual indeed if he had a few dollars for every disgruntled ex-Witness who, upon failing to turn the JW ship in the direction of his choosing, went on scorch the JW earth with terminology from George Orwell’s 1984. Witnesses practice “doublethink” and have “thought police” who sniff out ones committing “thoughtcrime,” or even ones who fail to do “goodthink” (thought approved by the party). It is an intensification of a trend seen everywhere: failing to sway the other side and consequently declaring them “arrogant.” Yet the first actual instance of 1984 comes, not from Jehovah’s Witnesses, but from those who oppose them. If memory serves, was not Mr. O’Brien a pleasant and refined man on the surface, posing as Winston’s friend, before revealing his true character—and thus combining both good cop and bad cop into a single character?

***~~~***

*In fact, the Russian investigation into torture found, in a very short time, that there was nothing to it at all.32

From the ebook: Dear Mr. Putin – Jehovah’s Witnesses Write Russia

 

Endnotes:

  1. Alexander Chernykh, “We are the same people as you, but now we are called criminals and extremists,” Kommersant, March 1, 2019, accessed March 15, 2019, https://kommersant.ru/doc/3899000
  2. Oliver Carroll, “Russia’s Jehovah’s Witnesses Allege ‘21’st Century Inquistion’ Amid Claims of Torture,” Independent, February 21, 2019, accessed March 15, 2019, https://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/europe/russia-jehovahs-witness-crackdown-surgut-religion-discrimination-a8790761.html
  3. Dmity Zayayov, “Source: Jehovah's Witnesses, Khanty-Mansiysk Autonomous Okrug, are trying to ruin a criminal case with accusations against security officials,” Ura.News, February 28, 2019, accessed March 15, 2019, https://ura.news/news/1052374340
  4. Lev Pomomarev, “Read and Watch,” blog post for echo.msk.ru, February 26, 2019, assessed March 15, 2019, https://echo.msk.ru/blog/lev_ponomarev/2378667-echo/
  5. “ECHR Imposes Interim Measures in Response to Torture Complaint From Surgut,” jw-russia.org, February 27, 2019
  6. Matthew Luxmoore, “‘Time Becomes a Blur When You’re Experiencing Great Pain’: Russian Jehovah’s Witness Alleges Police Torture,” RadioFreeEurope/RadioLiberty, February 22, 2019
  7. Jason Lemon, “Jehovah’s Witnesses Tortured With Electric Shocks and Suffocation in Russia, Church Says” Newsweek, February 23, 2019
  8. “Russia Says it Will Probe Jehovah’s Witnesses Torture Claim,” apnews.com, February 23, 2019, accessed March 19, 2019, https://apnews.com/f43f396dac9c4159987493f92123a3f9
  9. Also, see Crusade Against Christianity, (Brooklyn: Watchtower Bible and Tract Society of Pennsylvania, 1938) . Regarding this book, the 1965 Watchtower volume, December 1, 1965 issue, recalls on page 733: “Meantime in Germany, the Nazi fury rages and our brothers are exposed to frightful, inhuman persecution, which they withstand even at the cost of their lives. Documented material that reaches our office about such persecution is carefully preserved. Then Brother Rutherford approves publishing a book giving the evidence of the sufferings of Jehovah’s Witnesses in Germany. It appears under the title “Kreuzzug gegen das Christentum in the German language. It is also published in French and Polish.” See some of diagrams at “The Evils of Nazism Exposed,” Awake!, August 22, 1995, 11.
  10. ”Stories of Surgut "Jehovah's Witnesses" about torture in the TFR shocked the Ugra Ombudsman,” Znak.com, February 25, 2019, accessed March 16, 2019, https://www.znak.com/2019-02-25/rasskazy_surgutskih_svideteley_iegovy_o_pytkah_v_skr_shokirovali_yugorskogo_ombudsmena
  11. Alexander Verkhovsky, “The Fight Against Religious Extremism’ all Widers, Need to be Narrowed Down,” ng.ru, March 5, 2019

 

  1. Michael Lipka, “U.S. Religious Groups and Their Political Leanings,” Pew Research Center, February 23, 2016, accessed March 9, 2019
  2. 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&
  3. Matthew 10:28
  4. ”They Will Also Ban God,” klops.ru, Mrch 9, 2019, accessed March 11, 2019, https://news.rambler.ru/other/41842016
  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) 240
  6. Anna Ryzhova, "Get Rid of Witnesses," Russian-reporter, February 25, 2019, accessed March 16, 2019, http://expert.ru/russian_reporter/2019/03/izbavitsya-ot-svidetelej/
  7. Oliver Carroll, “Russia’s Jehovah’s Witnesses Allege ‘21’st Century Inquistion’ Amid Claims of Torture,” Independent, February 21, 2019, accessed March 15, 2019, https://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/europe/russia-jehovahs-witness-crackdown-surgut-religion-discrimination-a8790761.html
  8. Anna Ryzhova, "Get Rid of Witnesses," Russian-reporter, February 25, 2019, accessed March 16, 2019, http://expert.ru/russian_reporter/2019/03/izbavitsya-ot-svidetelej/
  9. Hebrews 11:32-38
  10. Chivchalov’s comment does not entirely square with remarks I made above (based upon the visits of a personal acquaintance who has traveled in Russia) but I believe it is a case of no one person seeing the entire picture. Plainly the ‘99%’ is hyperbole. The title says it all in this Moscow Times article: “Many Russians Don’t Know the Jehovah’s Witnesses, But They Still Want Them Banned” (themoscowtimes.com, July 13, 2017). Chivchalov himself said at the time that it depends upon how the subject is breached. If it is just a matter of shooing away uninvited callers, most Russians will say yes. But if it is a matter of sending those ones to jail, they will not go that far.
  11. www.currenttime.tv/a/Jehovah-witnesses-Russia/29785245.html
  12. Tacitus, Annals, 117 c.e.
  13. G. A. Wells, The Historical Evidence for Jesus, (Buffalo: Prometheus Books, 1982) 17
  14. Mathew 26: 3-5
  15. Alexander Chernykh, “We Are the Same”
  16. Bandow, Doug, “Persecutors Pile on Jehovah’s Witnesses, in Russia and Worldwide,” nationalreview.com, March 1, 2019, assessed March 21, 2019, https://www.nationalreview.com/2019/03/jehovahs-witnesses-persecuted-russia-worldwide
  17. Willie Fautre, “Cults and Religious Freedom Around the World,” address to the ICSA Annual International Conference, Montreal Canada, July 5-7, 2012, accessed March 21, 2019, https://www.academia.edu/5201173/Cult_Issues_and_Religous_Freedom
  18. “An Act of Faith in the Operating Room,” New Scientist, April 26, 2008
  19. See the category https://www.tomsheepandgoats.com/pedophiles (by this author)
  20. Doug Bandow, “Persecutors Pile”
  21. ”The Examination Found No Signs of Torture in the Follower of “Jehovah’s Witnesses,” RIA Novosti, Moscow, March 21, 2019

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photo: Wikipedia commons

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)

From Sergey Skrynnikov‘s Closing Statement

“Let us take a look into the future. If for another ten years or so the government keeps putting Jehovah’s Witnesses in prisons and correctional colonies, there will be about 200 of them in each penal facility. Imagine four congregations of Jehovah’s Witnesses in one prison! The prison administrators will be begging the Ministry of Justice to set Jehovah’s Witnesses free. What do you imagine the majority of Witnesses would pray for? “Lord, don’t soften the heart of the administrator; don’t let him set me free. I have so many Bible students and sincere people to talk to in here.”

He sort of has a way with words, doesn’t he. And math.

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)