Jehovah’s Witnesses: an American Religion? I Don’t Think So: An Exploration of Psalm 33

Most Russians think Jehovah’s Witnesses are an American religion. In this age of poisoned East/West relations, that’s not good.

That’s not the main reason the Witness organization was banned in that country in 2017, but it’s a sabotaging corollary. Obviously, their HQ is in America. Everyone has to be somewhere. But do they pick up on and push the nationalistic policies of the country? They do not. They just exist there.

So how to fix that misconception that they are an American religion?

1A5C7823-40C7-484F-B578-099BCA0F1447A) You can’t. If the tract ‘Jehovah’s Witnesses: Christians or Communists?’ designed to fix just the opposite impression, doesn’t do the trick, nothing will. First published in 1951, it was used into the early 1970s. I remember carrying it myself at that tail end of that period, though I rarely used it. By then, everyone knew Witnesses weren’t communist. Imagine. Russians are saying Witnesses are American, and just a few decades ago Americans were saying Jehovah’s Witnesses were Russian [Soviet]! The 70-year-old tract has become a collectible. And to think you used to be able to pick up a handful of them for free!

1BA3D765-5DD0-4917-923E-502998D6511AB) There is also a second, more complicated solution (said 1974 Murder on the Orient Express Hercule Poirot, before opting for the simpler one even though he knew the second one was right).

The more complicated solution presents when Dwight D. Eisenhower, at his swearing in as president, suggested either that his country was or would be the country identified with Psalm 33:12: “Happy is the nation whose God is Jehovah, The people he has chosen as his own possession.”

‘Oh, no you don’t!’ the Watchtower said in effect. ‘That verse is referring to something else—the Israelite nation of antiquity whose God really was Jehovah* and the modern day spiritual descendant of it, which is NOT the country in which HQ is located, nor is it any other earthly nation.

*(“Now if you will strictly obey my voice and keep my covenant, you will certainly become my special property out of all peoples, for the whole earth belongs to me. You [ancient Israel] will become to me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.’ These are the words that you are to say to the Israelites.” Exodus 19:5-6)

How’s that for evidence Jehovah’s Witnesses is not an American religion, Mr. Putin? [whose leadership is being considerably undermined by some ‘anti-cult’ loons] Eisenhower says his country is “the nation whose God is Jehovah.” Oh, no it isn’t, says HQ.

It’s from a two-paragraph segment wedged in to the Watchtower Study article of November 15, 1968. The entire congregation would have considered it. It reads downright strange today. It would have read downright strange to non-Witnesses even then, most likely. But active Witnesses would have picked up on it instantly. It would have been ‘food at the proper time’ for them.

What few of the general public knew then, and none of them do today, is that the 34th president of the United States had been raised a Witness. Back then it was called ‘the International Bible Students’—the name ‘Jehovah’s Witnesses’ was adopted in 1931. Eisenhower was raised as one. He left his Witness background behind upon reaching adulthood (and his family to this day does all it can to obscure that former connection), but he was raised that way.

My question is—did any Witnesses of his era come to regard him as ‘our guy’ who became deliverer—almost like a Moses? If so, I’ve never heard it before, but it makes sense that some might. He liberated the Nazi concentration camps where many of them were imprisoned. He won World War II—it was he who was appointed Supreme Military Commander of Allied troops. Even today’s Watchtower, without naming names, necessarily include him in the earth that swallows up the waters of persecution emitting from rivers, the more stable elements of this world vanquishing the more unstable.

Eisenhower followed a familiar path: the victorious general gets elected president. It worked for Washington, Jackson, Taylor, Grant—it worked for Eisenhower. The prestige of the United States rode very high immediately after World War II. Learning a lesson from World War I, it was magnanimous towards its beaten enemies, and worked to rebuild their economies. True, it had to dump that megalomaniac McArthur, who in time wanted to pepper North Korea with 50 of those new-fangled atomic bombs (if that country is unhinged today, it is not as though someone didn’t seed their paranoia). But he was most magnanimous in rebuilding Japan. (Historians attribute the reason to his desire to be adored, but that still does not mean he was not that way.) Moreover, under the Marshall plan, Germany too was rebuilt.

President Eisenhower would have overseen all this—he, the one raised a Jehovah’s Witness, though never baptized. Some training would have stuck, though. I’ve gone so far as to suggest his warnings of a coming “military-industrial complex” (it was going to be “military-industrial-congressional” complex, but he didn’t want to offend that prickly body) is patterned after those one-time continual Witness characterizations of a big business, big government, big religion deleterious triumvirate—a characterization you never hear today but used to be heard frequently.

So were there some Witnesses then who regarded him as a deliverer? I guess he was in the sense that Cyrus was also a deliverer. But Cyrus has no background in Jehovah’s worship. Eisenhower did. Did Witnesses regard his as one of ‘theirs’—the hometown boy that turned out incredibly good, swatting a grand slam, not just for them, but for the whole wide world?

Any such notion is tamped down firmly in that November 15th Watchtower. Two paragraphs of the 22 paragraphs are devoted to it. ‘The Happiness of the Nation Whose God is Jehovah’ is the title of that article, and the remaining 20 paragraphs identify just what is that nation. It is neither Eisenhower’s country nor any other earthly one today.

“No, it is not the most powerful and prosperous nation on earth today,” said that Watchtower in paragraph 3. It wasn’t the one whose “thirty-fourth president was being inaugurated for his second term in office. Following the custom, he was being sworn in with his right hand resting upon an open Bible. This Bible was not the British King James or Authorized Version Bible, but was the American Standard Version of the Bible as published in the year 1901 C.E. This particular copy had been given him by his God-fearing mother when he was about to graduate from the national Military Academy at West Point, New York, in 1915 . . .”

Good old mom, who, like moms everywhere, never gives up hope that junior will return to the fold.

During that inauguration, Eisenhower’s hand “purposely rested at Psalm 33:12, which, in the American Standard Version, reads as follows: ‘Blessed is the nation whose God is Jehovah, the people whom he hath chosen for his own inheritance.’”

‘Don’t even think it,’ is the thrust of the next paragraph (4):

“By this gesture the reinaugurated president may have been suggesting that the United States of America was that blessed or happy nation or that he would serve in the presidency to make it such. But during his two terms in the presidency did he lead his nation into the blessedness or happiness spoken of in Psalm 33:12?” then the article goes on to document a litany of unhappy woes, such as we are good at doing—though by today’s standards those woes seem downright cheery.

So if there is some historical context to think that the victorious U.S really is that Ps 33:12 nation in which all is hunky-dory, the Watchtower does not let that notion stand. Does it anticipate or acknowledge that some brothers did?

On the JW Library app, if equipped with research notes, pressing the number of any particular Bible verse will bring up, in the adjacent column, a host of previous articles that have commented on the verse. Pressing ‘12’ for the 12th verse brings up that November 15th Watchtower, but not as the first offering. Pressing ‘10’ does bring it up as the first offering. What is verse 10?

Jehovah has frustrated the schemes of the nations; He has thwarted the plans of the peoples.” as though one of the “schemes of the nations” is to claim that one of them is the happy nation whose God is Jehovah! As though Eisenhower himself is trying to pull a fast one, but the Watchtower won’t let him get away with it!

There’s two other locations (verse 16 and 17) which also pull up that November 15th Watchtower, though not as the first item. “No king is saved by a large army; A mighty man is not saved by his great power. The horse is a false hope for salvation; Its great strength does not ensure escape,” they read. Okay? Just because you have a large army—horses being the ancient equivalent of tanks, don’t think you get Psalm 33:12 status from it. U.S. has huge military might these days. So does Russia, for that matter. So does China. Doesn’t make them the happy nation.

See what projects you can get into when you supplement Bible reading with the Research Guide?

 

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Anti-cultists: Adding a New Level of Craziness to an Already Unstable World

Russian anti-cult lawyer Alexander Korelov spins the latest sinister plot against Jehovah’s Witnesses. They’re scheming to overthrow the Putin government! he charges. From their “Brooklyn headquarters” they’re so scheming! So reports this BitterWinter article.

Sheesh. They moved out of Brooklyn five years ago. Now, Ivan Q Public might not know it. It’s not his special interest. But it is that of Korelov, who  bills himself as an expert. If he doesn’t know where Witnesses are, he probably doesn’t know anything else. When a medical doctor probes for my amygdala in my great toe, it’s time for me to get a second opinion.

Do the Russian anti-cultists not speak at all to their Western anti-cult brethren? The Western anti-cultists will lambaste Jehovah’s Witnesses for just the opposite reason—for taking absolutely no interest in politics or any other aspect of “normal” life. It is due to the Witnesses’ take on remaining “no part of the world.” They barely know who prominent politicians are, and almost never know of the interplay between them. When I mentioned Eliot Spitzer to a good Witness friend of mine, he replied that, yes, he had heard the name, but he couldn’t quite place him. Spitzer was governor of the state he lived in at the time.

Jehovah’s Witnesses lack of interest in political affairs is exactly that of Christians of the first century who were roundly derided for having just as much interest in civic affairs—namely, none, as they pursue their worship of God and announce his incoming kingdom, that of the ‘Lord’s Prayer,’ When that kingdom comes—brought about entirely by God; all humans can do is announce and support it—then and only then will “God’s will be done on earth as it is in heaven.”

Theirs is strictly a religious message. It has nothing to do with human political regimes—let alone trying to interfere with one. They are watching the drama play out of human government vs the divine—‘God’s Kingdom.’ You don’t have to know the names of the actors to follow the play. It can even be a distraction if you do.

Read Watchtower publications and you will almost never see political leaders mentioned by name. Here is one current as I write: “Politicians Warn of Armegeddon: What Does the Bible Say?” See how light it is on specific individuals? It’s even frustrating to those who want to keep up with “current events.” But to the vast majority of people who don’t have time for the machinations of politicians but only want insight on where the world is heading—and why—it is useful indeed.

Russian anti-cultists sound the paranoid mantra just as do their Western anti-cultist allies—only the mantras are opposite. Say a peaceful word about Russia here and it can only be due to cult influence. No reasonable person thinks this way, but the anti-cultists buy into it wholesale. In the US is the anti-cultist founder of the BITE model denoting the behavioral, informational, thought, and emotional control that are the bread and butter of ‘cults.’ To me, he therefore becomes the BITEman.

The BITEman thinks half the U.S. citizenry has fallen victim cult manipulation—strong evidence, methinks, of having drunk too much of the KoolAid himself. Moreover, the half that has fallen victim to cult manipulation is the half that supports the former president who spoke of it being nice if “we actually got along with Russia.” Outside interests intervened at that point to virtually ensure that “we” would not.

And now here in Russia is this Alexander Korelov, an anti-cultist of opposite persuasion, who blames all opposition to Russia, particularly with regard to Ukraine, on cults! The unity of the FECRIS anti-cult organization instantly blows up upon worldwide conflict. The organization in the main stays pro-Western over Ukraine. It’s vice-president, Alexander Dvorkin, thoroughly backs the Russian side. Not to worry, his ally Korelov says: Russia will react and “destroy the United States, the spiritual garbage dump of humanity.”

94E1ECA3-523C-42C0-9178-D08961897D35Back to the US: two sharply polarized forces, the woke left and the neoconservative right, have made common cause to war on Russia, oblivious to talk on nuclear war, convinced it is but empty bluster. Both of them might regard each other as a cult, but only the woke would say it—the neocons (to my knowledge) are not given to that vocabulary. See how the notion is explored in this Newsweek opinion piece.

Does it not remind one of the “unclean inspired expressions [that looked] like frogs [from] the mouth” of the dragon, the wild beast, the mouth of the false prophet designed to gather people up for the final war? (Revelation 16:13-14)

The world was already unstable. Anti-cultists on both sides take it to a new level of craziness—wildly accusing each other of being cults. Somehow, the people who take no interest in politics get caught in the crossfire. And to think that during the 1970s, this Witness born in America used to work with the tract “Jehovah’s Witnesses—Christians or Communists,” designed to counter exactly the opposite impression of Korelov: that Jehovah’s Witnesses were tools of the Russian government.

(photo:https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Nuclear_artillery_test_Grable_Event_-_Part_of_Operation_Upshot-Knothole.jpg—public domain)

(see succeeding BitterWinter article: https://bitterwinter.org/korelov-insists-jehovahs-witnesses-and-other-cults-ready-to-overthrow-the-putin-regime/)

 

See: I Don’t Know Why We Persecute Jehovah’s Witnesses—Searching for the Why

 

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

It’s War!

It’s war! we’re told, 5EE87FB1-08DA-4CF1-BA9D-6AC0C5F03C31What kind of war is it? Is it the kind of war where one dresses in the forest in bright red like the Revolutionary War British and nothing could be easier than to pick them off?

Is it the kind of war where you hunker down in the trenches and lob letters that you know by faith will find their targets?

Is it the kind of war where you send out some Hushais to thwart the counsel of conniving Ahithophel, such that when he saw that his counsel was thwarted he went out and strangled himself as a forerunner of Judas? Yeah—that’s what I’m talking about! (2 Samuel 15:34, 17:7, 23)

Whatever kind of war Jehovah’s Witnesses fight, it’s a war where you don’t speak ill even of those who speak ill of you. In overturning the verdict of the Russian Supreme Court (and the next day Russia withdrew from the European Union rather than abide by the decision), the European Court of Human rights noted, “…it is significant that the texts [used to assert that JWs were “extremists”] did not insult, hold up to ridicule or slander non-Witnesses; nor did they use abusive terms in respect of them or of matters regarded as sacred by them.”

Enemies foment ‘trouble by decree,’ says Psalm 94:20. But sometimes the decrees are overruled—like this one of a lower court that said Witnesses couldn’t disfellowship as a last-ditch attempt at discipline and then the high court of the land (Belgium) said they could. No Witnesses had been consulted in that first trial, the High Court found, only their critics. Without internal discipline, it is impossible for a faith to be not swayed by shifting societal norms. That is the war—between those who want such swaying to occur and those who want the faith to stay true to its biblical charter.

There was also a rebuke of that country’s ‘anti-cult watchdog’ for issuing a report based on allegations, press clippings, and television offerings—the distinguishing feature being that any allegation that could be checked turned out to be false. Again, no Witnesses had been consulted. For a land that claims to be democratic, you’d almost think they’d allow people to defend themselves.  “The judgment will surely become a key precedent.  . . that scholars of religion are a more reliable source on these matters than journalists and anti-cultists, and that governmental agencies dealing with the alleged “danger of the cults” are not above the law and can be legally prosecuted when they spread false information and slander.” wrote BitterWinter.

Then there was Special Secret Agent Jack Ryan—yes, ‘JackRyan’ was his handle. Witnesses don’t have anyone who corresponds to this, nor even a Hushai. Special Agent Ryan, who issued a ‘Special Report’ of an ‘agent down’ at Bethel. Seems they recruited a young woman already there, who they knew or should have known, had some instability to her personality, and they sent her rifling through the Bethel files! She was found out.

Jack appears flabbergasted that HQ is not cool with this, as though any other organization would be. They 'interrogated her' for two days, he reports. The 'interrogation' was so grueling that she reported for a second day, when it was discovered that her pilfering was not for some innocuous cause or some misunderstanding, but to spirit whatever she found to Jack’s friends who have dedicated their lives to working against kingdom interests. Bethel showed her the door. 

"It was reported that when she arrived home, her Jehovah's Witness family and friends treated her terribly," Jack’s SPECIAL REPORT says, as though any other family would be bursting with pride to see their offspring attempting sabotage on what they held dear. He doesn’t clarify “treating her terribly,” which you think he would have done if it was truly that terrible. Doubtless she didn’t receive a hero’s welcome.

The story then takes a tragic turn. She took her life, triggering Jack’s ‘Special Report.’

I told him that if it had really happened, he killed her himself—maybe not he personally but his ‘team.’ They recruited an inexperienced and vulnerable young woman, and filled her head with nonsense of how she was a guerrilla freedom fighter liberating the oppressed, that her people would thank her like the flying monkeys of Oz thanked Dorothy for dousing the wicked witch, etc, oblivious and uncaring to the certain trouble that would befall her when she was found out. These people are crazy.

It’s fine for JackRyan (aka a Tom Clancy CIA spy character) to fantasize like an adolescent, but to manipulate others into his world of paranoia—well, he presents the consequences. And then he thinks issuing a Special Report will cover the damage. 

Sheesh! It’s as though he tries to recruit Tom Cruise on his mission to take out Witness HQ. Tom Cruise turns him down, not because the mission is impossible, but because it is ridiculous. He knows Jack and his are mostly hacks trying to settle old scores and work off grudges who should have moved on in life ages ago.

If Jack’s team must assign blame for the young woman's death, surely it is themselves they should point to. Recruiting someone once a fine servant of God, perhaps someone dismayed upon finding life was not Santa and the elves, but that there are real people doing their flawed best—and using her to further their own ends. I'm tired of their hate. Many of these ones have turned to atheism, so they are beyond all question "fighters against God." (Acts 5:37-18)

No war is fought without plenty of espionage but with Jehovah’s Witnesses there really doesn’t seem to be any. They do with their critics as Jesus did with his critics: “Do you know that the Pharisees stumbled at hearing what you said?” he was asked. “Let them be,” Jesus replied. “Blind guides is what they are. If, then, a blind man guides a blind man, both will fall into a pit.” (Matthew 15: 12-14) Start to tussle with him and maybe you’ll fall in, too. As Nietzsche put it: “Whoever fights monsters should see to it that in the process he does not become a monster. And if you gaze long enough into an abyss, the abyss will gaze back into you.”

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Things That Drive You Crazy About the Faith—and How to View Them: Part 7

This is a multi-part series. See Preface,  2nd Preface,  Part 1Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5, Part 6, Each part links to the next.

Other downsides of taking current knowledge by revelation? The perennially blaming of Babylon the Great for modern times of persecution, even when Babylon the Great had little to do with it. Often it is the work of secular anticultists. Religionists are largely licking their wounds these days. But Scripture says it is false religion, and so guys like me have to content themselves with statements like: “Well, if religion had done it’s job in teaching the truth about God, maybe those atheist anticultists wouldn’t be proliferating like weeds the way the are.”

10B731BA-4D7E-4D32-96A3-FB9FD053EB2DRussia’s ban of Jehovah’s Witnesses in 2017–just declared illegal by the European Court of Human Rights, 5 years later. Let no one say justice is quick, nor is it necessarily justice. Few are holding their breath for a quick cessation of persecution. At the time branch headquarters was seized in St Petersburg, Denis Korotkov wrote for fontanka.ru* that it was crazy. Russia would certainly have to give it back when the ECHR ruled against them, which it surely would, he said, and the legal costs, coupled with fines, would exceed the cost of the complex. Who could have foreseen that Russia would simply thumb its nose at the Court and withdraw from the European Union? Not Korotkov. Warring with Ukraine at the moment, the JW matter is relatively small potatoes anyway from the world’s point of view. [photo—Wikipedia Commons]

Did the Russian Orthodox Church originate the ban? Surprisingly, it did not. Not to say its clergy is not delighted (squealing like kids on Christmas morning, some of them), not to say they didn’t collaborate, but they did not originate it. We think they did because the Bible indicates religion makes mischief, but in this case it is a secular anti-religious movement that presses the attack.

‘Present knowledge via revelation’ guides how the Witness organization looks at government too. Scripture indicates that the superior authorities are “God’s minister to you for your good,” only a cause for concern “if you are doing what is bad,” since “it is not without purpose that it bears the sword.” (1 Corinthians 13:7) Therefore anything hinting at a more sinister role of government toward those governed can only be “conspiracy theory” and is dismissed out of hand.

When government declares a Covid 19 crisis that makes door-to-door infeasible, revelation determines how the ministry is carried out thereafter. Revelation indicates letter writing is good. Paul wrote letters. Peter wrote letters. John wrote letters. Face to face communication is obviously good, as was done back then. In times of emergency, telephone witnessing preserves the one on one aspect of face to face. But revelation has nothing to say about the internet. Isn’t that the “outside” where “the dogs and those who practice spiritism and those who are sexually immoral and the murderers and the idolaters and everyone who loves and practices lying” hang out? (Revelation 15:22) Revelation says “bad associations spoil useful habits,” (1 Corinthians 15:33) and it is not swayed by ‘empirical’ evidence that if  you have something to advertise the very first thing you do is plan a campaign of interaction on social media.

Revelation indicates that the “things that were written beforehand were written for our instruction, so that through our endurance and through the comfort from the Scriptures we might have hope.” (Romans 15:4) Ignore the elephant in the room, therefore—the elephant that everyone else will see right away—as you cover passages like 1 Samuel 27:9, lauding David’s clever deception of the enemy: “When David would attack [the Geshurites, the Girzites, and the Amalekites], he preserved neither man nor woman alive . . . Achish would ask: “Where did you make a raid today?” David would reply: “Against the south of Judah” or “Against the south of the Jerahmeelites” or “Against the south of the Kenites.” Okay. Got it. Valid point. You don’t have to tell every little bit of truth to those who want your head on a platter. But there are a lot of people in this passage whose deaths are presented as though dodgeball casualties—THAT is what most people will zero in on.

“Consider the example of Dan and Sheila,” another paragraph begins, serving up empirical evidence for something revelation says is true. They applied the Bible counsel under consideration and it turned out just hunky dory for them. What about Joe and Melanie who applied that same counsel and it blew up in their faces? someone thinks. That example remains unmentioned; they must have done it wrong, they must have built their house on sand somehow. It is a presentation of ‘knowledge by revelation.’

Not to be critical of earthly organization. Don’t misunderstand. Rather, the goal is to realize why some things are done the way they are done, that can otherwise drive a person crazy. ‘Oh, that’s why they reason this way,’ you can say. Overall the revelatory approach works well. Overall it is acceptable even in the short term. But it does have limitations. Even God, the originator of revelation, sometimes goes down to earth to take a look-see. How else can one account for Genesis 18: 20-21? “Then Jehovah said: ‘The outcry against Sodom and Gomorrah is indeed great, and their sin is very heavy. I will go down to see whether they are acting according to the outcry that has reached me. And if not, I can get to know it.’”

Oh—and one notable excerpt of the ECHR ruling: “Even accepting that the texts [used to prove that Jehovah’s Witnesses were “extremists”] promoted the idea that the religion of Jehovah’s Witnesses was superior to others or that it was better to be a Jehovah’s Witness than a member of another Christian denomination, it is significant that the texts did not insult, hold up to ridicule or slander non-Witnesses; nor did they use abusive terms in respect of them or of matters regarded as sacred by them.” [bolding mine]

That certainly is a result of present knowledge [of how to conduct oneself] via revelation. Jesus says that’s how you treat people, even those who scheme against you. I mean, it clearly is guided by revelation. This is the age of road rage. Normal human conduct when under assault is to do all those unsavory things—insult, ridicule, slander, and abuse. Often those means are used even when not under assault.

*Included in I Don’t Know Why We Persecute Jehovah’s Witnesses: Searching for the Why

To be continued…

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Relief in Russia? Part 2

Appeals to governmental powers do not always fall on deaf ears. The JW archives tell of a slandered Witness in danger of losing her son: “The brothers and sisters in Anna’s congregation composed a letter attesting to her good example as a mother. A brother carried the letter to Moscow and delivered it to then-leader Nikita Khrushchev. Remarkably, Khrushchev ordered an inquiry into the matter. Anna was exonerated, and her son was not taken by the authorities.”

Something similar has happened with Putin. [See prior post.] Today “the rights of Jehovah's Witnesses in Russia must be fully restored…..The Russian Supreme Court has taken the first step in this direction, …[ruling that] recognition of a religious organization as extremist does not prohibit its followers from exercising their right to freedom of conscience and freedom of religion.” In other words, do you want to arrest them? You first have to establish they have done something illegal. It is not enough that they exist.

(Copy and paste all Russian language articles into https://www.deepl.com/translator for translation.)

Maybe it just became too outrageous. Letters of support for Timothy Zhukov painted Russian “justice” as too much a word belonging in quotes. He had appealed his arrest based upon the constitution that guarantees freedom of worship. For that he was sent to a psychiatric hospital. It prompted these published letters:

A citizen of the Russian Federation wanted to use the article of the Constitution and this is his right. However, the law enforcement agencies decided to condemn the citizen for this, and even recognize him as mentally ill. Where is the Law? Where is the justice? Night arrest, interrogation - continuous violations of the law. As it recalls the events of the first century: "Then Jesus said to them: as if you went out against a robber with swords and stakes to take Me" (Bible, Gospel of Mark chapter 14 verse 48). I would like to praise Timothy, in such a terrible situation he remains a faithful Christian, he endures everything courageously!” Miroslava, November 11, 2021

and

Marvelous! A person shows respect for the highest law of the state, using the 51st article of the Constitution of the Russian Federation, and the investigating authorities themselves see this as a reason to doubt his sanity. It is as if a mirror image of the events of bygone days described in the Bible: “When he defended himself in this way, Festus interrupted him.“ You are out of your mind, Paul, ”he shouted,“ great learning drove you to madness! ”(Acts of the Apostles 26: 24, New Russian translation) …Victor, November 12, 2021.

Zhukov himself is a lawyer—thus, even from the secular perspective, the “great learning” works. He has recently been compensated for his confinement. One thing the Witness organization can be depended upon: They will not allow villainies to be “done in a corner.” (Acts 26:26) 

Did continual denunciations, each time highlighting the absurdity and thus painting the country itself as absurd, finally trigger a tipping point? Such as this recent item in the Washington Post?

A few days after the November 2021 Supreme Court reinterpretation, a Witness was acquitted of extremism—the first Witness to be acquitted of that charge.

The ultimate results of the High Court’s decision wait to be seen. “Few believe this is a signal to an end to mass repression against Jehovah's Witnesses,” one source says. 

Another speaks of theologian Andrei Kuraev, who is asked to interpret just what the Court’s ruling will mean in practical terms. He is hopeful—guardedly—“that this document of the whole Supreme Court may be evidence of some serious changes in approach.” Kuraev is included in I Don’t Know Why We Persecute Jehovah’s Witnesses: Searching for the Why, as is Timothy Zhukov.  He is no friend of Jehovah’s Witnsees, but he is a friend of common sense.

He has maintained all along that the original 2017 declaration equating Jehovah’s Witness with extremism is ridiculous. That decision “is far-fetched and very unconscionable. Because the Jehovists are radical in only one respect: they are radical pacifists.” Of the current decision that you can’t just beat up on them if they aren’t doing anything wrong, he agrees. But he knows where he lives. “The Supreme Court's decision is one thing and policy may be something entirely different. I am afraid that in Russia when there is a conflict between a legislative document and the order of an immediate superior, the latter will win." So time will tell.

Kuraev’s forces of common sense are up against some truly bizarre thinking. Graniru.org* reports (November 23, 2021) that the charge of "eschatological extremism," for which prosecutors were seeking a 9 year prison term before the latest Court decision thwarted them, must be upheld “since the end of the world, which these political prisoners [Jehovah’s Witnesses] expect, will result in mass disturbances and violations of Russia's territorial integrity.”

The prosecution’s “independent experts objected in all seriousness: ‘Violent acts committed by Jehovah, who is not a subject of law and cannot, due to his divine nature, be influenced by the texts presented for examination, can in no way be prevented by applying anti-extremist legislation. Moreover, any acts committed by Jehovah, even if they are violent, cannot be unlawful.’"

*https://graniru.org,   (https://www.facebook.com/achivchalov, Nov 23rd entry)

It recalls to mind a cartoon I once saw of God preparing to hurl a lightning bolt. He is stopped when an angel tugs at his sleeve: “Not America! Think of the lawsuits.”

Seems the angel should have said it of Russia.

See: I Don’t Know Why We Persecute Jehovah’s Witnesses—Searching for the Why

 

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

Relief in Russia? Part 1

From The Moscow Times (November 17, 2021):

Russia’s Supreme Court has banned the criminal prosecution of Jehovah’s Witnesses for joint worship, potentially putting an end to the law enforcement practice of jailing believers for prayer sessions. The ruling could also affect the 152 convictions that have not yet entered into force or are being appealed, the Jehovah’s Witnesses in Russia organization said in a statement on its website Tuesday.

Does this mean that persecution in that land has turned a corner? If so, it will be be as Mark Sanderson spoke, in both English and Russian, to the Russian brothers back in 2017—that a time of testing was about to commence, but it would be a Revelation 2:10 time, during which “the Devil will keep on throwing some of you into prison so that you may be fully put to the test, and you will have tribulation for ten days.” Ten days is not forever. It seems like it at the time, but it is not.

An end, or even a lull, in an intense time of persecution is a very good thing. The earthly organization is still banned, of course, as is even the preferred Bible. But if the words of the Supreme Court count for anything, authorities won’t be able to beat up on people anymore simply because they are Jehovah’s Witnesses. 

And how have the brothers comported themselves? “There are almost no instances of renunciation of the faith among them,” says Credo Press, Nov 8, 2021, as translated here: When all is done (it is not yet) will this be another instance in which, upon passing trial, the brothers go on to gain more members than going in? People take note when plainly innocent persons remain true to their conviction despite trial. There’s not too much in this world that is stable, that can be depended upon in good times and bad, and here plainly is one.

How bad has it become? Says the same CredoPress source of a sentence only days before this Court opinion: “Eight years! In Russia a criminal may receive even less time for murder or rape. Innocent conversations about the Bible are equated with horrible crimes.” It is only the most unhinged crazies that would punish a Bible conversation more severely than murder. People take note when ones stand fast despite it.

Remember three years ago when Putin said he really didn’t understand why Jehovah’s Witnesses were persecuted? It became the title of a book. Not only had he been puzzled when asked of it, but he said, “This must be looked into. This must be done.” The brothers were cautiously optimistic, but only cautiously. Don’t Know Why stated: “After all, if you were a Russian cop, would you beat up on one of them after what the President just said?” followed by a later edit reading: “It turns out they would.”

Most things from government move at a snail’s pace. “Two years later, at a meeting of the Human Rights Council, human rights defender Alexander Verkhovsky again pointed out to the Head of State the absurdity of prosecuting believers whose organizations had been banned; as a result, the President issued new instructions to the Supreme Court to prepare explanations regarding the generalization of court practice in cases related to violations of legislation on religious associations.”

That President Putin should be puzzled over the Witnesses in the first place suggests that he read a few of that flood of letters sent him. The Governing Body listed three goals when inviting all members in the world to write:

1. drawing international attention to the situation.

2. giving evidence of one's love for their brothers in Russsia

3. support fellow Christians who face persecution.

Had the persecution not taken place that would have been icing on the cake, but meddling with what the government would do was not one of the stated goals. Everyone who did write, though—well, it sure beats sitting on one’s hands and doing nothing. Maybe they’ve contributed to this tiny squeak that over time annoys the president enough that he picks up his WD-40 to fix it.

Always prior to a conviction, defense lawyers would ask the prosecutor to identify an injured party—you would think that would be a necessary ingredient of any crime. Always the prosecutor would decline to identify anyone. That’s because there is no one. Now there must be, says the Supreme Court opinion. You have to identify someone who has been harmed. At last, the contradiction has become too blatant to ignore.

The Credo article already cited really presses its luck.: “The state should recognize its mistake and …should issue an apology to believers, as was done by Russian President Boris Yeltsin,” for years of repression under the old USSR. Those years were bad, but Bro Sivulsky says in some respects the present ones have been worse. Rarely were people beaten under the old regime. Today it is common.

Does Credo [it is a human rights publication] think it will be like when Paul and Barnabas were arrested with much violence and then the next day the authorities wanted to release them quietly? “Paul said to them: ‘They flogged us publicly, uncondemned, though we are Romans, and threw us into prison. Are they now throwing us out secretly? No, indeed! Let them come themselves and escort us out.’” (Acts 16:37)

I don’t think so, Paul said, They’ll release us with as much fanfare as they arrested us. 

Edit: Relief appears to be taking hold: On November 22, 2021, the Pervorechenskiy District Court of Vladivostok in the Primorye Territory found Brother Dmitriy Barmakin not guilty and acquitted him of all criminal charges. This is the first time a Russian court has issued a not-guilty verdict for one of Jehovah’s Witnesses charged under Article 282.2(1) of Russia’s Criminal Code (regarding organizing the activities of an extremist organization). The court will remove the restrictions on his activities. The verdict will enter into force on December 3, 2021, if the prosecutor's office does not file an appeal.

See: I Don’t Know Why We Persecute Jehovah’s Witnesses—Searching for the Why___

 

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

Is the Russian Orthodox Church behind the Perscution of Jehovah’s Witnesses?

The Russian Orthodox Church is delighted with the ban, but insists it was not behind it. I’m inclined to believe them. Both it and the Kremlin are manipulated by a voracious anti-cult movement.

Putin says: “I don’t understand why Jehovah’s Witnesses are persecuted” in response to a question, and then, unbidden, later in the meeting he returns to the topic. It seems to genuinely confuse him. since he observes that they “are Christians, too,”

I did a lot of research on this for the book. I think the driving factor is the anti-cult movement. Indirectly, of course, it is all the fault of Babylon the Great, for if it had represented God appropriately, there wouldn’t be such strong irreligious movements. So, indirectly, yes. Directly, no.

Q: What about this woman, who created the policies—Irina Yarovaya - Wikipedia" https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Irina_Yarovaya, and https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yarovaya_law

She is a “reactionary” political figure, as stated, but few of her proposals involve religion. They are a reaction to genuine terrorism, extending into at-home ways to prevent the masses from plotting to do mischief, assuming that most mischief comes from abroad. The intention is also to quell political unrest. Note the wiki artical says nothing of religion. 

“Sects” of any sort have never been popular in Russia, so she does not exclude them, but it is not the main thrust of legislation she sponsored. It is the  anti-cultists who have engineered the idea that non-mainstream religion in general, and Jehovah’s Witnesses in particular, can also be “extremist.” There is one government minister in particular, Alexander Dvorkin, who is also VP of a large French anti-cult organization [FECRIS], who pushed hard for the ban. Recall that it was France that tried to eliminate Jehovah’s Witnesses years ago by imposing a 60% tax on their activity. Anti-cultists thrives in France. The country might even be considered its birthplace. 

Dvorkin’s plan is to separate Jehovah’s Witnesses from their “controlling” organization, after which he thinks they will be assimilated into regular society. (“Strike the shepherd, and the sheep will scatter” is how the Bible would put it.) The idea that the Jehovah’s Witness organization can be banned but not the religion itself is so duplicitous that ordinary people cannot get their heads around it and just figure it is open hunting season on the people themselves.

Accordingly, a certain court thinks it a fine idea to ban the JW Bible, the New World Translation, and rules to that effect. The court employs a group of mercenary experts who will issue whatever findings are desired—they are well known for this, and not just in the field of religion. The NWT doesn’t say ‘Bible’ on the cover, and the “experts” persuade the court that is significant. It also suffers from the Jehovah factor, the court frets, ignoring that the Russian synodal translation also uses the name. Genesis 19:25, the verse that God destroyed everything alive in Sodom and Gomorrah, was seized upon as evidence to the NWT’s extremism, even after it was pointed out that all Bible translations say the same thing!

This is farther than Dvorkin intended to go. The NWT is a Bible. He doesn’t like it, but it plainly is one. He thinks it a mistake to ban the NWT, for it makes his country look like a squad of ignoramuses. I say ban it for exactly that reason. See if Russians will thank him for how his policies have trashed the reputation of their country.

He is also against the SWAT team style tactics employed against our brothers. But again, it is a natural consequence of his ideas. If you declare people “extremist” and then arrest them as you would a jaywalker, you declare to all the world that they are not extremist and that you know it very well. So the violent arrests are consistently necessary.. 

Cops also come to see it as an easy path to promotion. What can look better on one’s resume that cracking down on a group of “extremists?” Older cops still remember the “good old days” when all “sects” were a proper target of wrath, even as was the ROC itself. 

A common theme in most news reports is that nobody quite knows what is behind the excessive war on Jehovah’s Witnesses & how it got so out of hand. Journalists don’t know, human rights people don’t know,  Putin doesn’t know, the ROC doesn’t know, Dvorkin himself claims not to know, nor do the Witnesses themselves. Unfortunately, when you release the hounds of hell, you find you cannot control just how or who they maul. It is why I consider the subtitle of my book well chosen: “Searching for the Why.” I end up floating the notion—I don’t dwell on in, for my intended audience is mostly secular—that when people cannot identify a human reason, they can be forgiven for thinking there may be a superhuman one.

***

See: I Don’t Know Why We Persecute Jehovah’s Witnesses—Searching for the Why

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

ABCNews: Russia’s Campaign Against Jehovah’s Witnesses—a reaction

It is a shocking report, “Russia’s Campaign Against Jehovah’s Witnesses,” the latest in a long line of shocking reports. Throw it on the stack. I did, and then wrote up the following response to it:

Sergey Lavrov, one of the six Russian officials whom Jehovah’s Witnesses worldwide were invited to write, later grumbled at a press briefing that “Russia is blamed for everything that goes wrong on this planet.” I wrote in I Don’t Know Why We Persecute Jehovah’s Witnesses: Searching for the Why, “Ought he not look in the mirror for the reason?” When you arrest, jail, persecute, and in some cases even torture, the most peaceable people on the planet, you send a clear signal to the world that sanity does not prevail in your land.

“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?” columnist Andrew Sorokowski wrote. Yet Russia has done so—it has gone ahead and trashed its international reputation—and it suggests to the unpracticed eye that all charges directed its way just might be true, that there is no accusation too fantastic to be dismissed out-of-hand. On Twitter, one Russian outlet sarcastically writes: “Don’t forget to check under your bed before you go to sleep tonight. There may be a Russian under there ready to give bad dreams.” “Thanks for the tip!” says anyone familiar with the plight of Dennis Christensen, jailed for nearly a full year [now much longer] without trial [he later had and lost his sham trial] for merely leading a Bible study, as he peaks under the bed to check. How can people not imagine Russia capable of unlimited villainy? Perhaps whatever they hear is but the tip of the iceberg.

This ABCNews story is painful to watch. In researching what I hoped would be like the modern-day (Russian) Book of Acts  (all particulars of this post are taken from that book, the ebook version of which is free on most venues and a print version also available through Amazon), these were names I’d run across before and I felt as though I knew them. They are ordinary people like me, manifestly harmless, manifestly decent, manifestly doing no more than worshipping the God of the Bible. Might there even be a little survivor’s guilt? We in the West may be targets of sporadic opposition, but the notion of violent repression is foreign to us (though not to Russians, who have historically known little else). Along with praying for our brothers, we pray that should our turn come, we will be a courageous as our Russian brothers are proving themselves to be.

In one rare Russian court decision that went our way, a Witness escaped imprisonment when a judge ruled a 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, he does, and he should; the second judge ruled the first out of line to muzzle the thought.

The parallels with the “first Christians” are exactly what to focus on. Russia’s outlandish persecution of Christians rivals even that of the first century in all but the ultimate price. The numbers are even comparable. Bart Ehrman, scholar of early Christianity, numbers Christian martyrs of Roman times as no more than a few hundred. Then as now, the unprovoked and irrational cruelty of it all sent disproportional shock waves down through history. The witness given ultimately reached and moved spiritually hungry persons everywhere.

Again and again in the ABCNews report comes the observation that nobody knows just why such atrocities are happening. Indeed, the story’s byline is: “Hundreds have been targeted in a crackdown that no one can fully explain.” Tanya Lokshina, when asked in interview, can’t figure it out. She is a human rights researcher and journalist; she is accustomed to figuring it out, so as to be able to better counter it. Here she admits that she just doesn’t know. It “doesn’t add up,” she says as she floats and discards one possibility. Putin himself famously commented that he didn’t understand why Jehovah’s Witnesses are persecuted, since they “are Christians, too.” Whenever things defy human explanation, surely believers can be forgiven for supposing something superhuman is also at work. Time and again the Bible narrative assures that “all those desiring to live with godly devotion in association with Christ Jesus will also be persecuted.” (2 Timothy 3:12)

Just after the ban on the Jehovah’s Witness religion was imposed, when it was not clear just what would be the practical aftermath, authorities raided a campground. It was feared that Jehovah’s Witnesses were teaching their religion to their children. It didn’t sit well with those who commented on the news article. “Something is too much. Even I, being an inveterate and convinced atheist, against such interference in the personal life of citizens, even if they are any Witnesses (this is still to be proved). People are adults, they went out with their tents to rest, yes, and with their children.” Nearly all of the 54 comments attached were supportive and sympathetic to Witnesses, and the few that were not were mostly traceable to a single vitriolic person—Witnesses would call this one an “apostate,” for they almost always are; no one else could work up such a frenzied passion, even infecting entire nations.

The Witness organization gives this unjustified persecution maximum exposure. As Paul told Agrippa, “this thing has not been done in a corner.”  This Witness organization did not permit that, even if they failed to stop what is in essence a sure Bible prediction. Our Russian brothers will forever know that their courageous stand spurs honest, hungry, and humble persons to look into the faith now on display as heretofore uninterested persons check jw.org to see if it is truly extremist. When they see that it is not, how will they respond? The world reels from one calamity to the next, and distressed people seek explanation and comfort. Perhaps that is the greatest contribution our Russian brothers make to Jehovah’s service—to point to where answers may be found, even if “with persecutions.” (Mark 10:30)

 

See: I Don’t Know Why We Persecute Jehovah’s Witnesses—Searching for the Why

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

FECRIS Rebuked by the Hamburg District Court for Defaming Jehovah’s Witnesses.

Be it proactively or in response to a summons, the reason you legally defend the good news in court is in order to give a witness. You do it to keep the path open for witnessing, as with Paul’s “defending and legally establishing of the good news,” (Philippians 1:7) since there are ever factions that would like to rule it illegal. And often the defense you present in itself becomes a witness.

“Why, you will be haled before governors and kings for my sake, for a witness to them and the nations.  However, when they deliver you up, do not become anxious about how or what you are to speak; for what you are to speak will be given you in that hour,” says Jesus. (Matthew 10:18-19)

So it is that Jehovah’s Witnesses challenged FECRIS in a German District Court with regard to 32 separate statements from them, each one picked up and even acted upon by some as though fact. Please rule as to whether or not they are defamatory, they asked the court.

It all makes for a witness when you publicly expose ones lying about you, and that is why you do it. If it leads to a reversal of unjust policies, that is icing on the cake. Word on the street is that, while the friends in Russia are obviously distressed at the villainies visited upon them, they also take consolation that their own undeserved suffering serves to focus world attention on the kingdom hope they proclaim.

FECRIS, is the acronym for the “European Federation of Centres of Research and Information on Cults and Sects.” It is funded by the French government, and it is the source of significant trouble for Jehovah’s Witnesses and a host of other “new religions.”

“New religion” is the scholarly term for any religious group originating in relatively recent times. Scholars deliberately choose “new religion” over “cult” to sidestep the incendiary overtones of the latter word. Non-scholars favor “cult” because they wish to make it as hot as possible for the “new religions.” The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) has identified FECRIS as a main international threat to religious liberty.

The Hamburg court agreed that 17 of the 32 FECRIS statements of Jehovah’s Witnesses were, in fact, defamatory. (Actually, it was 17.5–one was partly defamatory.) This, despite the court’s recognition that there is much latitude in making critical statements of a religion, and that even an incorrect expressed opinion nevertheless is usually protected speech. Even so, FECRIS, with 100% hostility toward the Witnesses, had crossed the line of what was permissible 55% of the time. They were just flat-out lying, to put it in layman’s terms. And yet, ones with influence pick up on their lies, and even implement law based upon them.

There can be no better example of this than Russia. It turns out that the VP of FECRIS, Alexander Dvorkin, rides high in Russia as a government minister—exercising a duel role. He is a chief architect of the ban of the Jehovah’s Witness organization as “extremist.”. Therefore, police arrest Jehovah’s Witnesses in that land, and they do so violently, with fully armed FSB teams (the American equivalent of SWAT teams). After all, if you declare someone “extremist,” you must treat them that way. If you arrest them as you would a jaywalker, you proclaim to all that you know full well they are not extremists and that your entire premise is a lie.

It all falls upon Dvorkin, and his Western FECRIS organization. Anti-cultism in Russia is a Western import. It is not native Russian at all, just like the communism of 100 ago was not Russian, but was injected into that land in hopes destabilizing the Allied powers of World War I. Is Russia forever to be manipulated by outside powers?

Armed with FECRIS ideology, Dvorkin shouts “CULT!” in the crowded Russian theater with “facts” that are incorrect 55% of the time. Thus he and his FECRIS is responsible for the mayhem that results. Each time a Witness is beaten, jailed, detained, robbed of belongings, or harassed, it falls upon him.  It is the same as how someone shouting “FIRE!” in a crowded theater would be held accountable. Hopefully, now that his credibility is seriously undercut, the government may reassess the degree to which they wish to rely upon his “expertise.”

Now, of course, I’m not holding my breath. Perhaps they will say, “Well, he doesn’t lie all the time. We’ll stick with him.” It is a bizarre world in which we live, increasingly irreligious, but a fine parallel one might consider is when the US Supreme Court ruled during WWII that Witness children could be compelled to salute the flag. A wave of persecution broke out across the country that saw widespread destruction of property, and even some Witnesses lynched. In the aftermath of what had been unleashed, three of the justices gave to understand they thought the case had been decided incorrectly. Another two retired and were replaced by ones thought more agreeable to individual liberty. The case came before the court once again, just three years later, and the decision was reversed. Would that such a thing were to happen in Russia. 

“FECRIS comes out of the Hamburg decision with its image of an organization of ‘experts,’ who deserve to be supported by taxpayers’ money in France and elsewhere, deeply shattered,” comments religious scholar Massimo Introvigne. “It rather emerges as a coalition of purveyors of fake news, which systematically use defamation to attack groups they label as ‘cults.’ Hopefully, the German decision will become a model for others in different jurisdictions, teaching FECRIS-affiliated anti-cult movements that they may have powerful patrons but are not above the law.”

Introvigne covers the 17 false statements in a piece he writes for BitterWinter.org. A handful of FECRIS statements were actually just fed them by their VP Dvorkin and uncritically repeated. They are that among the  “characteristic features” of the Jehovah’s Witnesses are “illegal possession of property,” that they “took possession of citizens’ apartments,” commit “religiously motivated crimes,” and bring “adult and children to their death.” Untrue statements of fact, all of them, said the Hamburg District Court, leaving out only the adjective ridiculous.

Because the charges are Russian, I dealt with them in I Don’t Know Why We Persecute Jehovah’s Witnesses: Searching for the Why. It turns out that others had found them outrageous as well:

“Katerina Chernova pushes back at “money-pumping” allegations. Yes, they are heard all the time, she acknowledges, but “when [people] are asked to name just one victim from whom “money, apartments, or something else was taken by the Witnesses, NOBODY was able to remember A SINGLE case in fact! [Caps hers] So we asked to show us or give the address of just one cottage of a Jehovah’s Witness, built with money stolen from people. And again, nobody knows a single real instance.” She goes on to relate a small fact that is actually huge and that says it all: with Jehovah’s Witnesses, baptisms and weddings and funerals are conducted “on a cost-free basis.” With the Orthodox Church? “We have heard many complaints against it regarding the impossibility of performing any ritual in the event that a person does not have money. That is, you want to be ‘baptized,’—some ‘donation;’ you want to be ‘married,’—it takes so much cash; a ‘funeral,’—it is also not for free.”An avaricious organization is not going to cut off these most dependable of all generators of cash.”

 

See: I Don’t Know Why We Persecute Jehovah’s Witnesses—Searching for the Why

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

Dam! Dam! Dam! Dam! They’ve Grown Accustomed to My Face (spelling intentional)

grumble grumble...The daily text for today (February 7) quoted Emily Baran’s book about withstanding persecution in Russia. It didn’t quote mine. The reason it didn’t quote mine is that mine is rubbish, but even so... Mine is of the more intense time period. Hers (Dissent on the Margins) covers Witnesses standing up to Russian oppressors from the mid-1900s to her book’s 2014 date of publication. Mine more or less picks up where hers leaves off. Her time period is no slouch, but mine is where the real action is.

Dear Mr. Putin - Jehovah’s Witnesses Write Russia may be rubbish but its rewrite will not be. I took it down, it was so bad, and I’m embarrassed I ever released it. The rewrite is not too far off now—even if when I say “two months” it actually means four at the very least. The same narrative is told in 2/3 the words, showcasing what survives to more powerful effect. Plus, it updates with the darker turn of current events. Let’s face it, even if the ebook was any good, the whimsical cover of a child writing Putin seems remote from the current “fight to the finish” tone of Mark Nourmair. It needs a new title and new cover. It will have both.

“Dam, dam, dam, dam! They’ve grown accustomed to my face,” to quote Rex Harrison. (The dam is spelled the friendly beaver way, for the sake of the friends. I would spell it otherwise were it not for them. But dam gets the job done. Everyone knows beavers are highly educated—graduates of Dam U, every one of them. The two forms can substitute for each other) The point is—how am I going to advance a new book as genius when I have firmly planted the notion that I originate rubbish? I’ll think of something. But someone should have told me the ebook needed work so as to make the present salvage unnecessary. That’s the trouble with the friends—they’re either too polite to tell you that your work stinks, or they have such a low bar of approval, happy to read anything complimentary, that they don’t think it does.

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Never again will I write a book after the fashion of Dear Mr. Putin. You’re supposed to start with an outline, and then progressively write to fill it out. You’re not supposed to start with hundreds of individual conversations and then shake everything you have until it all falls into one of many categories, then call each category a chapter. What a hare-brained way to write a book! My other books aren’t this way. This book made for trouble for me by far than my other four put together!

Because of this basic structural flaw, it probably won’t be possible to redeem it 100%. But I can come pretty close. And I do have advantages. One is that I know my people inside and out. Another is that I am a pretty good storyteller. Most of what “witnessing” I do will be in the form of storytelling—just relating my conversations and experiences in field service to illustrate this point or that. Another advantage is that there is NO competition. Even in it flawed form, it is the only comprehensive record of Witness trials and integrity in the face of the Russian bear. Then too, the ebook version (maybe not Amazon—is it even possible with them?) remains free, a labor of love. Alas, I wish I had charged $300 for Dear Mr. Putin so no one would have bought it.

On the weakness side, I can’t approach Emily Baran for scholarship. I have a disclaimer on that in Dear Mr. P, and it will probably survive into the new book. Nor did I actually travel to Russia (I wouldn’t dare now) to interview people, as she has. Nor do I have any blessing from Russia Bethel, as I think she did—it does seem they rendered her some assistance. On the other hand, I have Chivchalov, who says anything he puts out can be made use of and who answers my various questions, and I have very complete updates from several human rights and academic sources.

Why don’t I just wait for the organization to put out a complete record? They probably will one of these days, just as the 2008 Yearbook featured a history of Jehovah’s people in that land up till that date. I guess I write for the same reason Baran did. Anything the brothers come out with will be spiritually on the money, but secularly maybe not so much. It will be “one world leader said,” “one human rights organization reported,” “one academic professor agreed,” without much sense of the interplay between them.

Alas, I also don’t have the support system Baran had. Baran’s is published on the academic press. Mine will be self-published. There are hoops of quality control that must be leapt for the commercial press, some are imposed upon you whether you like it or not, and it is all too easy to not leap them for self-publishing.

I am here in the world of the friends, half of whom will think, “Oh, you’re writing of the brothers? That makes it spiritual food. Is it your place to do that?” and the majority aren’t too bookish to begin with. If I start spreading the word that I’m looking for collaboration, someone will surely come along to suspect that I am pushing ahead or trying to make a name for myself. It is as I write in Dear Mr Putin:

“Books about Jehovah’s Witnesses authored by Jehovah’s Witnesses are not plentiful. This is a shame, for no outsider, even with the best of intentions, can do justice to the faith as can a Witness—they miss the nuances, and in some cases, even the facts. Three reasons account for this drought. Jehovah’s Witnesses are primarily drawn from the ranks of working people, who are not inclined to write books. Pathways of publicizing their faith are already well established and few think to go beyond them—why write a book when you can and do look people in the eye and tell them what you have to say? There is also a sense of not wanting to compete with an official channel.”

Ah well, it is what it is. I don’t want to be one of the whiners, always blaming my problems on someone else. I could work to overcome these deficiencies if I put my back into it. The fact is, even without Covid, I am a bit of a loner who doesn’t excel at networking. With Covid, I have unchained my inner hermit, and he is doing just fine, but it doesn’t make for an especially good support system. Nor am I envious of Baran, much less in competition with her. I swapped emails with her a few times. She’s very nice. She probably rolled her eyes at Dear Mr. Putin. She dropped out of sight for a time so as to be a mom, but now I see she has contributed anew in the press.

Oh—and her quote from the daily text? “Commenting on Jehovah’s Witnesses in the former Soviet Union, historian Emily B. Baran said: ‘When the state told believers that they could not evangelize their faith to others, Witnesses chatted [with] their neighbors, coworkers, and friends. When these actions landed them in labor camps, Witnesses sought out converts among their fellow prisoners.’ Despite the ban, our brothers there did not stop preaching. May you have that same determination!” 

Notice how she is an “historian” and I’m not? And yet, the description is plainly correct. It reminds me of Ray, a former brother who would go around telling people he was an historian. “How do you know that?” a householder would say and he would reply it was because he was an historian. Finally I told him to knock it off. He was a history buff, not an historian. An historian is when others recognize your expertise, not just you yourself.

I acknowledge Baran’s work in an early passage that will also survive the cut into the rewrite: “I will draw upon her book heavily for background. This particular chapter could not be written without it, and other chapters are spared many obtuse statements because of it.” I also discussed how she took vigorous exception to one reviewer’s charge (just one, out of many favorable reviews) that hers was a hagiography, heightened to “gagiography,” which is not a word. I suspected it was someone expressing personal distaste of the subject, as though it made him gag. She was inclined to think it was just a typo. Either way she was steamed about it, since it alleges lack of objectivity, the worst of all possible sins for an historian.

She is not among those who “miss the nuances, and sometimes even the facts.” Her work is detailed and admirable. She sidesteps the red herrings. It is not easy to write of Jehovah’s Witnesses because the subject either draws or repels—strict neutrality is very hard. It is Hebrews 4:12 at work: “For the word of God is alive and exerts power and is sharper than any two-edged sword and pierces even to the dividing of soul and spirit, and of joints and [their] marrow, and [is] able to discern thoughts and intentions of [the] heart.” She thanks one mentor in her foreword for never asking, “Why Jehovah’s Witnesses?” I added, “If he didn’t have to know, then neither do I. We don’t have to know everything.”

....

See: I Don’t Know Why We Persecute Jehovah’s Witnesses—Searching for the Why

 

 

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