Did the Watchtower Give Women Bad Advice?

It is ever the pitfall of zealots that they are so eager to prove a point that, in their haste, they will grab something that proves just the opposite, yet continue to gloat as though have found the smoking gun. Such was the case when advocates at an atheist website tore their hair out over “some truly horrific advice to women in abusive relationships” from the December 2018 Watchtower magazine. They were to stay in them no matter what!

Well, that does sound truly horrific, and there were many who immediately condemned the scoundrels who would give such a vile command. Others went to the article first, where they discovered that it said nothing of the sort.

Isn’t this just Witness opponents depriving women of the right to choose? It is ironic because they generally claim to be champions of that right. The article makes clear that a woman always has a choice, that she need not be railroaded into an action just because it is societally popular.

Some leave amidst very trying circumstances. Some stay. Either action works from the congregation’s point of view. They have the right to choose. How is that the Watchtower urging them to stay with an abusive mate no matter what, the accusation of the opponents?  If a woman wants to try to salvage a marriage, what business is that of theirs? It may be an unwise decision or it may be the best decision she ever made, but either way, it is her decision.

Given the staggering cost of family breakup—emotional, mental, financial, and long-lasting damage to the children, if a woman decides to stick it out more than opponents approve, with a view towards salvage, who is to say that she is crazy? Possibly reading this chapter are veterans of two, three, four, or more failed relationships who wish they had put more effort into a given one. If she pulls it off, she has gained something very good.

These are not short-term hook-ups that we are speaking of, latching on to some loser that you cut loose as soon as you see what he is. These are marriages of years or decades’ duration. In some cases, they never used to be abusive, but they have become so due to who knows what factors? Dignify the woman as having the judgement to decide, based upon history, pressures affecting her man, and factors only she might know, as to whether he should be jettisoned or not.  If the lout has to go, he goes. Just don’t let some third party push you into it. The choice is always hers.

It is as though the grumblers cheer at the breakup of a marriage, oblivious to the damage left in its wake. It is as though they would prevent a woman from trying to repair hers. Let her try if she wants to, or even put up with one far from ideal, if that be her choice. Sometimes when you are between a rock and a hard place, you don’t assume or let the opponents tell you that the hard place is really a bed of roses. It isn’t always that way. I mean, it is not exactly as though they will be around to repair the damage, is it?

Granted, they like marriage over there in the Jehovah’s Witness world. Until fairly recently, everybody did, and considered family the foundation of society. Witnesses consider it a divine institution. That doesn’t mean others have to, but surely it means Witness women should be allowed to. They let their view be bound by biblical injunctions. Adultery is the one acceptable ground for ending a marriage, but even then, it does not necessitate it; it is always possible for the innocent mate to exercise his or her right of choice and forgiveness.

Several decades ago the Witness organization took note, as did most of society, of the increasingly visible ne’er-do-wells who, while they might not be unfaithful, were nonetheless impossiblet to live with. It took another look at 1 Corinthians 7, a chapter that deals with marital matters—sometimes people are surprised at how it says a husband and wife both owe each other sex (no, not “on demand” – don’t even go there) and should not be depriving each other of it. Specifically, it looked at verses 12 and 13: “If any brother has an unbelieving wife and she is agreeable to staying with him, let him not leave her; and if a woman has an unbelieving husband and he is agreeable to staying with her, let her not leave her husband.” “Maybe a marriage mate’s conduct says he is ‘not agreeable,’ regardless of what his words say,” they reasoned.

For some time, therefore, the guidance for women (or men) in not-so-hot marriages is that there are three conditions that any one of which might justify separation: if there is extreme physical abuse, if there is willful non-support, or if there is absolute endangerment of spirituality. It is at once apparent that much in is the eye of the beholder, so from time to time Watchtower publications revisit the subject, so that congregation members are guided by what they signed on for in the first place and not unduly influenced by what is all the rage elsewhere. If the bad egg must be fried, let him fry. A woman always has that right. But she needn’t feel railroaded into that choice by a flood of outside pressure.

Any Witness woman knows this, because she has read and considered the entire article, not just a cherry-picked paragraph, and she has taken into account how it fits into her overall framework of knowledge. You almost begin to think what causes the steam to emit from the ears of opponents is another possible benefit of the woman’s forsaking her right to leave: maybe the ‘unbelieving’ husband will become a believing one. How is that a bad thing?  If the guy makes it as a Jehovah’s Witness, he will have made significant inroads against what makes him such a loser in the first place.

From the book TrueTom vs the Apostates!

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About Women. Part 1

Daily my adversary hammers at the door of women’s rights groups, hoping that they will cooperate with him in his efforts to make trouble for his former religion. He calls it a vigil, tweeting every 24 hours that yet one more day has passed since The Watchtower (December 2018) published advice harmful to women’s interests. This strikes me as an extraordinarily disrespectful thing to do: to bludgeon them each day, as though he understands their cause better than they. If they don’t take the bait, they don’t take it.

Lately he modifies his approach and says that he “respectfully asks” that they give attention to his beef. He changes tactics because so many of his own people began to accuse him of “man-bashing” that he took to blocking them. When I read he was doing that, I thought it was because of me. However, I had been behaving myself lately, so I returned to investigate, and I saw that it was some of his own people kicking back.

I think it will turn out as when the ever-capable female British intelligence officer commented to Foyle, of the television show Foyle’s War, about the full-of-himself male officer that she, for the time-being, had to play second fiddle to: that he was overconfident and not really too smart. He would overreach and fall of his own weight. She had seen it before. Am I not at least as much in tune with women’s interests as is my adversary? Have I not several times written: “The question to ask in any discipline is not: ‘Can women do it better than men?’ It is ‘How can they do it worse?’”

It is a single paragraph that he takes issue with, a paragraph that deals with woman finding themselves in abusive relationships. As he puts it: “In a section discussing marriages between Witness women and ‘unbelieving’ husbands, the magazine urges the women not to get a divorce under any circumstances partly because they could influence their husbands to convert. Apparently, that possibility is supposed to carry them through any and all problems in the relationship, including physical abuse.” The reason he uses the word “apparently” is that the article does not say what he wants it to. With an ‘apparently,’ all things are possible. He is “obviously appalled” at his own interpretation of the Watchtower article and hopes the women’s rights groups will be, too.

If the background facts were as he represents, one might concede that he has a point. But the background facts have been misrepresented in almost every case. I wrote up a reply and also sent it to these groups, though not every day. Even Jehovah’s Witnesses do not call every single day. The jury is still out as to which version they will prefer. Possibly they will say, “If we never hear again from either one of these two clowns, it will be not soon enough.” We may never know. After 52 days of pummeling, he discontinued.

The Bible that he now derides shows unusual respect for women, relative to its time of writing. Two examples follow. Both involve Jesus’s relationships with women. In themselves they are not decisive; one could easily say that they do not go far enough. However, in the context of the times, they are monumental. The Lord did not stamp out every injustice he encountered during his brief time on earth. Little would remain if he had. He mostly worked within the existing world as the laid down principles that would facilitate a better reality to come.

The Samaritan “woman at the well” that Jesus spoke with was the first person to which he entrusted directly the news that he was God’s chosen Messiah. Even his disciples had to jump through hoops to gather that bit of intelligence. From a Christian’s point of view, it the most significant announcement of all time. He told it to a woman (John 4:26). Moreover, she was not a woman with society’s stamp of approval. She was a woman who was “living in sin.” Woman’s groups today may disagree with definitions and values of that time, but they will nonetheless accede that Jesus first gave the most important news of all time to a woman of “ill repute” but underlying fine heart that only he could detect.

The second example is found with the angel that announces Jesus’s resurrection. Who does he entrust this second most important announcement of all to? Again, it is a woman. (Luke 24:4-11) At the time, the testimony of a woman was considered worthless in that male-dominated Greek, Roman, and yes, even Jewish world. Didn’t the angel show contempt for that male-dominated society by completely skirting it? Even Jesus’s disciples, immersed in that culture, did not believe the women. That was of no consequence to the angel; they’d figure it out in time, the big dopes.

Update to the present. The intent of detractors today is to paint Jehovah’s Witnesses as obsessed with the “submission” women are supposed to show to men. To the extent the religion, or the Bible, speaks of submission, it is essentially to acknowledge that in any ship, there is a captain. In the Christian model, God has assigned roles as best suited for the stability of the family, which for the most part, means the stability of the human race. There is no tolerance made for abuse. That is not to say that abuse has not occurred, but it occurs no less in places wanting nothing to do with Bible principles. Unless I am very mistaken, Harvey Weinstein did not go door-to-door telling people about “God’s magnificent purposes.”

It is a spiritual or family-based arrangement only. More women than not in the women’s groups mentioned will say that it is antiquated and that they have moved on from it for the best. Point taken. Let it be said, however, that in Watchtower facilities it is an absolutely unremarkable fact of life that women will exercise authority over men in any area where one may have better aptitude, for example, in design, computers, medicine, and law. If the men working under them ‘cop an attitude’ (which has happened) they will hear about it. Men are ever inclined anywhere to parlay their usually superior physical strength into attempted domination. Watchtower headquarters will not let them get away with it. Detractors will catch wind of a woman working in the furtherance of JW purposes, maybe law, and carry on about how she can endure in the midst of domineering men. She doesn’t have to. They submit to her in these pragmatic areas where competence is all that counts, and “submission” is completely irrelevant, being merely a spiritual or family matter of organization.

Women are not seething with discontent over there in Witness-land, as their enemies seek to portray them. Neither are there weak women whom tyrant men play like a fiddle. Of course, there are some weak women, but there are also weak men. On balance, they are about equal in numbers.

See About Women. Part 2

From the book TrueTom vs the Apostates!

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About Women. Part 2

When I used the capable female British Intelligence officer’s prediction to Chief Inspector Foyle that her swaggering male superior would overreach and fall of his own volition as a prediction that my enemy would do likewise, I missed the most important question from the standpoint of women’s groups, and everybody knows that I missed it. It is: Why did she have to play second fiddle to him if she was so capable and he was so inept? Why didn’t he have to play second fiddle to her? Why indeed? We both know the answer. She was consigned to play second fiddle because she was a woman.

Back in the days when all were more given to modesty, often was heard the expression: “Behind every great man, there is a great woman.” Women’s groups will second this motion in a heartbeat, but they will also add to it. If she was so great, then why wasn’t she out in the forefront and the overrated bozo back home scrubbing the bathtub?

The one individual who probably did our family the kindest turn of all was a woman who co-owned a dental lab. My teenage daughter suffered a snowboarding accident that broke off half her front teeth—there they were embedded in the snowboard. This followed on the heels of my son’s accident and led me to vow to my wife that we should produce another child for spare parts. It also caught us at a time of financial embarrassment, and this businesswoman, a family friend who had taken a liking to my daughter, said she would make her dental replacements at no cost. She did so, and she worked as closely with our family dentist as he would allow. “It is important to install them in such and such a way,” she urged him, “so that there will not be a barely perceptible line of discoloration at the baseline.” Alas, it turned out as she feared. “I’m not going to let any technician tell me how to operate!” he exploded, and now my daughter has a barely perceptible line of discoloration at the baseline. “I worked so hard not to offend the little man,” she told me later.

Women, no matter how capable, had long had it rough in society. They have long had to put up with a lot. They are at last erupting, as the MeToo movement makes clear. The first female executive in the music recording business, Dorothy Carvello, recently wrote of her early days at Atlantic Records. As a new employee, ages ago, “one executive walked past my office every day and said, ‘Blow me.’ I hadn’t even met him…. [Another] grabbed my ass constantly. I hated it.” She put up with it though. She needed the job and she loved hobnobbing with celebrity clients. She credits the Catholic nuns from high school days with teaching her to hold her own and conduct herself with dignity under the circumstances, as she writes of 25 years in a “circus mixed with an orgy.” “I once went to a lawyer, who advised me that if I sued for harassment, I’d lose my job. Worse than that, I knew I’d be blackballed from the entire business,” so she never did sue for harassment and only wrote her account in 2018.

When the greater world at last wakes up to a problem, as it has with sexual harassment, it overswings. Sexual liaisons, involving various degrees of coercion and sobriety, are reinterpreted as rape. Harassment, and what was once called “getting fresh,” are equated with rape. Complementing a woman’s appearance is even interpreted as harassment by some. How will it resolve? It is too soon to tell. Suffice it to say that the Witness environment is one of the few environments on earth where men can be expected to behave. They will hear about it if they don’t. It is a result of their education at the Kingdom Hall. The occasional miscreant can expect serious chastisement.

That said, do Jehovah’s Witnesses help women to advance in their careers? It is a question not especially relevant. The women of Jehovah’s Witnesses are seldom career-oriented, but that is also true of the men. Both are far more likely to have a job, and not a career. Both feel that their overall career is their service to God. It is an odd view, by today’s standards, but hardly a destructive one.

An activist group becomes aware of an injustice and throws all its weight into correcting it. It grabs the wheel and jerks it around sharply. Those braced beforehand do fine. Nearly everyone else is swept off their feet. “How many women head departments over there in JW headquarters?” one detractor taunted me. Look, they are not activists over there, but they do try to keep up. I cited a few female attorneys, with the observation that those under them had better behave. Woe to any brother who tries to pull rank based upon gender; he will promptly be set straight from on high.

I know one of these female attorneys. On a forum devoted to complaining, some were carrying on about how women lawyers at Watchtower must suffer almost impossibly, ever having to kowtow to their male superiors. However, one of them recalled a woman named Jane from his Bethel days, and threw in his two cents that it could not have been that way with her—“she would not put up with that nonsense for one second.” “So he does know Jane,” I smiled to myself.

Jane showed up for her shepherding call long ago and she intimidated me. I recovered, of course, but I recall the feeling. She didn’t do it knowingly, I am sure. But—it has only happened three or four times in my life—sometimes you run across someone who is so stunningly capable that, well—it takes one’s breath away. The idea at the time was that everyone should receive a shepherding call, not just the ones who “needed” one. That way nobody would think they were in for corrective counsel should elders approach them. Share a few scriptures of mutual encouragement, and so forth—that was the intent.

As congregation secretary, I later drafted Jane’s letter of introduction to Bethel after she had applied. It was unusual for a single sister to apply for Bethel service at the time, where the work focused on heavy machine operation and farming. But they were getting away from that in the then-new age of computers. I felt the need to address undercurrents that I knew existed among some brothers to the effect that Jane (not her real name of course) had made progress in “working under the oversight of brothers less capable than she,” or something to that effect. I was annoyed to think it advisable to insert that, but I did so, nonetheless. Was it necessary? I’ll never know. The circuit overseer, before he ever met me or read my letter, pointed out that capable single sisters are always a gain at Bethel, so perhaps it was not.

She is a gifted woman, not merely a capable one. And she will not like the attention, probably. Of course, there are weak women within the ranks of Jehovah’s Witnesses, too, but no more so than there are weak men, and no more so than there are plenty of both in general society. If she was ever discontent over any male bias within the Christian society, she never gave any sign of it, but then, I might not be the one to know. When she visited our home for a gathering of friends, she said: “If I’m invited to the Harley home, I know it’s going to be a spiritually good time,” probably using words not quite so pious. Though no one in her family was a slouch, it was probably her influence that propelled the family business to million-dollar concern at a time that such status was rare among work-a-day Jehovah’s Witnesses.

They are not activists at Bethel headquarters, but they do, hopefully, skim the residual benefits from any reform movement. With regards to woman’s rights, they have let themselves be corrected whenever discovering that a prior practice was, not primarily biblical, as they may have thought at one time, but more cultural in origin. They don’t put themselves on the cutting edge of culture, but neither do they wish to be on the trailing edge, unless there is good scriptural reason to be.

From the book TrueTom vs the Apostates!

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Who Really is a Cult? Part 2

When you release suddenly the compressed spring, it bounds wildly, delirious at its new freedom, caring not where it lands, for any landing is better than where it was. It is that way with those who become apostate. You would think the world is the most paradisiac place imaginable to hear them carry on, with nothing but boundless opportunities ahead. Yes, there are niggling problems here and there, but not at all things to fret over—just think of the new freedom gained! It is a description of the world that few others will recognize.

The things that once caught their attention and led to their embracing the Witness faith in the first place are completely forgotten. The mourning and disgust over how “man has dominated man to his injury”—gone. The dismay that God catches the blame when humans use their free will to choose the course that he advised them not to choose—no longer a concern. The futility that twenty years growing up, forty gaining experience, and then, just when you think you have begun to figure things out, your body starts to betray you—“Cool beans!” they say. Let them say it. When you negate the plusses, all that remains to speak of are the minuses.

The consideration of the deeper questions of life that first led them to study the Bible with Jehovah’s Witnesses have seemingly vanished, replaced by chasing the baubles of the present life, convinced that they are not baubles at all, but the true gems. Stack them both side by side—the upside of the Witness way of life and the downside. Those who act upon the downside and jump ship rarely ever mention the upside again. Let the general audience weigh both. Some will choose one stack. Some another. Put the choice out there. It is what tolerance is all about.

At first glance, Jehovah’s Witnesses might seem the most intrusive people on earth, trucking straight up your driveway to give you their version of truth, whether you asked them to or not—and almost always, you did not. Upon reflection, however, they are the least. Tell them ‘no’ and they go away. They do not afterwards lean on the politicians or lawyers to force their way of life upon you, as do many others. Few bully more than the anti-cultists. Few disagree more with the Chief Justice who said, in a decision favoring Jehovah’s Witnesses: “If there is any fixed star in our constitutional constellation, it is that no official, high or petty, can prescribe what shall be orthodox in politics, nationalism, religion, or other matters of opinion…If there are any circumstances which permit an exception, they do not now occur to us.” It is as though the anti-cultists say: “One has occurred to us. They pursue goals we don’t want them to pursue. They dream dreams that are not our dreams. We don’t like them.”

Sly in their techniques, they present themselves as the people’s protector. One way to “protect” troops on the opposing side is to kill off their generals. That way, being disorganized, maybe you can in time persuade them to fight on your side. That slyness is seen now in the suspicion cast upon “religious corporations” that “abuse people.” Jehovah’s Witnesses would be better off without one, the argument goes. Then they would not be “abused” and would fall into place with conventional goals.

It sounds noble at first listen, but it is readily punctured at second. The only reason that religious people form corporations is so that they may exist and do things such as owning property. To seek to strangle a religious corporation is no different than seeking to strangle a nation’s chosen government, such as is attempted in times of war. It is to say that Canadians, for example, are fine people, in fact, excellent people, but they must not be permitted to choose a government. Anti-cultists ought not be so coy. They are warring against the Witness religion and those members who have chosen it. They ought not paint themselves as taking the high road, as Alexander Dvorkin in Russia does. In advocating the Witness organization be outlawed in Russia, he said that he was protecting the civil rights of the individual Witnesses, as though he was their friend. Eliminate their infrastructure and—why, you may better absorb them into the course you wish them to take.

The intent of the apostates is to thrust the downside of Witness life into the spotlight, and thereby, both embarrass them and undermine their message. It changes nothing. The game is the same. It’s just up on another level. Want to examine the price tag first? It is how many people shop. Jesus says count the costs before you commit, and he plainly has in mind that you count the benefits first, but if some want to reverse the order, we can all live with that.

It is but the same age-old drama seen through a new lens. Everything with significant upside will have a downside. Let people focus where ever they will. Some will choose the product. Some will choose the price. “Exert yourselves vigorously to get in through the narrow gate,” says Jesus. If the anti-cultists would focus on the narrow gate rather than the reason to pass through it, so be it. “If in this life only we have hoped in Christ, we are of all men most to be pitied,” says Paul, signaling agreement that paying the price is foolish if there truly is no Christ. “When the Son of man arrives, will he really find the faith on the earth?” says Jesus. (Luke 18:8) Let it all play out, as people weigh the product with the price.

The treasure is the “pearl of high price” for which its buyer sells everything else. (Matthew 13:46) Do the anti-cultists wish to focus on the “everything else?” That’s okay. That’s fair. Nobody in the Christian world would say that there is not a cost. Paul took the loss of all things and counted it as “a lot of refuse.” (Philippians 3:8) Should present-day opposers call him a fool, that is a value judgement that they are entitled to make. It is the same reality but seen through a different lens.

When apostates hope that persons will see the downside of Witness life and weigh it as more substantial than the upside, they are, in a sense, helping Jehovah’s Witnesses get their message out. They are hoping that people will learn of a downside and say: “Look, spiritual things are only so important. Who needs this kind of drama?” and steer clear. How is that any different from Jesus’ own words that one must exert oneself vigorously to squeeze in through the narrow gate and be prepared to jettison the extra-wide trailer that smashes against the gate posts? Let them do it. The Christian life will not appeal to all people. It separates one from the overall world—the one going down like the Titanic in the Witnesses’ eyes. But if you think that world is floating high and pretty, with armed crewmen on the bow poised to smash to smithereens icebergs as they approach, you will hate it. Kicking over the traces of anything produces an incomparable rush. Only much later is it revealed whether it was a good idea or not.

The restrictions of a Witness life are overblown, but nobody would say that they are nothing. Are they roadblocks to individual fulfillment or are they guardrails that one would be crazy to crash through? Beyond question, there are two very different views of the world. However, should someone sing: “Step out of line, the men come to take you away,” it is evidence of not having the most balanced personality—it’s not that restrictive. Nobody would say that Witnesses step any old place they like, but that is hardly the same as not stepping at all. Many of Jehovah’s Witnesses disagree with this or that aspect of “theocracy.” But they also keep it in perspective. They know that in any organized arrangement, there will be some things that do not go your way. And they are modest enough to consider that maybe it is they themselves who are in need of correction. After all, they have confidence that they are being “taught by Jehovah,” and they accepted from Day 1 that his chosen means of governing is not democracy. They know that slavish acquiescence is not required; it is enough to refrain from shouting from the rooftops that madmen are at the helm when the going gets rough.

They made their peace from the outset that separating from the greater world would trigger the latter’s disapproval. “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 same low sink of debauchery, they are puzzled and go on speaking abusively of you,” says Peter. As the divide grows between the former and the latter, the latter object: “What’s wrong with the ‘low sink?’ What are you trying to say about us?” In a super-sensitive world, one’s very existence is taken as judgmental of whatever one avoids. We must all “come together” is the mantra of our time.

To the extent that the anti-cultists lean atheistic, and most of the vociferous ones do, they seemingly are eager to trash things that are, not just JW, but of Judeo/Christian origin. The two-witness rule that Jehovah’s Witnesses retain in congregation matters, was, until recently, fundamental to Western law. You can’t just hurl out an accusation and allow your personal conviction to carry the day; you have to prove it. These days that Judeo/Christian model is increasingly a being replaced with a new one that says accusation is enough, and it is up to the accused to prove that it is not so. It represents a 180-degree reversal in justice, and one wonders whether the ‘old’ standard is rejected by a new atheistic world simply because its origin is religion. The reason one does not quickly shed “two-witness” policies emerges each time someone is exonerated after having served decades in prison, convicted over less strenuous “proof.”

The “crime” of Jehovah’s Witnesses is that of taking the Bible too seriously. Anti-cultists don’t want them to do it. The situation reverts right back to certain clergy of decades ago who attempted to dissuade church members from Bible reading on the grounds that it would “make them crazy.” Those adhering to the ancient Book find themselves in a crazy world determined to stamp out injustice but not what causes it. No one can agree on the latter, and if they could they would be unable to launch coordinated action. It is the fundamental weakness of a world typified by those within being “not open to agreement.” Therefore, injustices are pandemic, and those subjected to enough of them become like Humpty Dumpty, who topples so severely as to not be made whole again—yet no complaint will ever be dropped until that unreachable goal is attained. People are damaged goods today. Those who become Jehovah’s Witnesses are also that way, but they put themselves in a setting they feel most conducive to healing. It is as a former prisoner of war told me ages ago—a man then studying the Bible—that at the Kingdom Hall he felt peace.

The prevailing winds of the day blow against religious people. Religion is simply not a force worth getting all worked up over, its enemies charge. Its strengths are supposed irrelevant, if not but fiction. The age-old perception that it is a healing power has changed, replaced with a new one that it is a destructive power.

See Who Really is a Cult? Part 3

From the book TrueTom vs the Apostates!

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Who Really is a Cult? Part 3

The fifteenth chapter of Acts provides a template for how congregations are governed in the Christian congregation. An issue arose—one that will hardly seem relevant today, and will strike some as downright strange. Suffice it to say that the subject of male circumcision took center stage for a significant time back then. From the days of Moses, it had been the sign of a special relationship with God, and there were those of Jewish background who wanted to extend the one-time requirement to persons of all backgrounds who were swelling the ranks of new-found Christianity:

“And certain men came down from Judea and began to teach the brothers: ‘Unless you get circumcised according to the custom of Moses, you cannot be saved.’ But when there had occurred no little dissension and disputing by Paul and Barnabas with them, they arranged for Paul and Barnabas and some others of them to go up to the apostles and older men in Jerusalem regarding this dispute.” (vs 1-2) It is a passage sure to displease the anti-cultists, for it sends the signal that the latter were going to do something about it. Would they stoop to “brainwashing” and “thought control?”

Governing as though Plato’s philosopher-kings—it is remarkable the similarities (See Chapter 42)—the “apostles and older men” in Jerusalem set policy for the first century congregation. They determined how scripture applied for the rapidly growing Christian faith, much as modern governments apply principles contained within national constitutions. If they did not do so, constitutions would quickly become inapplicable, lost among new developments not explicitly spelled out.

Traveling ministers carried decisions of that early governing body to the ever-increasing congregations, which within decades had spread throughout the Mediterranean world. Acts 16:4-5 relates:

“Now as they traveled on through the cities they would deliver to those there for observance the decrees that had been decided upon by the apostles and older men who were in Jerusalem. Therefore, indeed, the congregations continued to be made firm in the faith and to increase in number from day to day.”

Alas, for those who suppose Christianity ought to be based upon Western democracy! It wasn’t guidelines being delivered. It wasn’t suggestions. It wasn’t proposals to be put to popular vote. It was decrees which were to be observed.

 It’s not just the New World Translation. Nearly all English translations use the terms “decrees” or “decisions.” The New International Version calls them “decisions for the people to obey.” Of the few variations, only the paraphrased Message translation waters the phrase down to “simple guidelines which turned out to be most helpful.” The Amplified Bible uses “regulations,” Moffatts Bible says “resolutions,” and the Good News Bible offers up “rules.”

Isn’t this what one would expect? If God’s ways are really higher than our ways, as Isaiah 55:9 states, and people become Christian converts precisely for that reason, does anyone truly think that God’s ways would be determined by majority vote? If that’s the case, who needs God? The aforementioned apostles and older men governed from Jerusalem as a God-ordained arrangement. They were not ambitious men seizing power. They were Christians with the most experience, men who had introduced the faith to others, and they saw to their own succession.

That 15th chapter of Acts reads like the minutes of that body’s consideration of circumcism. The resulting “decision is not to trouble those from the nations who are turning to God, but to write them to abstain from things polluted by idols and from fornication and from what is strangled and from blood,” and it was relayed throughout the congregations.

The decision was not at once accepted by all, which in itself offers a template for modern-day similar situations. Long after the governing arrangement supposedly settled the matter (49CE, per biblical chronology), its representatives were yet reasoning with those who opposed it, becoming more forceful with the passage of time:

(circa 51CE - 2 years later): “For such freedom Christ set us free. Therefore stand fast, and do not let yourselves be confined again in a yoke of slavery. See! I, Paul, am telling you that if you become circumcised, Christ will be of no benefit to you. Moreover, I bear witness again to every man getting circumcised that he is under obligation to perform the whole Law.”  (Galatians 5:1-3)

(55CE - 6 years later): “Was any man called circumcised? Let him not become uncircumcised. Has any man been called in uncircumcision? Let him not get circumcised. Circumcision does not mean a thing, and uncircumcision means not a thing, but observance of God’s commandments [does].” (1 Corinthians 7:18-20)

(circa 61CE - 12 years later): “Look out for the dogs, look out for the workers of injury, look out for those who mutilate the flesh. For we are those with the real circumcision, who are rendering sacred service by God’s spirit and have our boasting in Christ Jesus and do not have our confidence in the flesh.”   (Philippians 3:2-3)

(circa 63CE - 14 years later): “For there are many unruly men, profitless talkers, and deceivers of the mind, especially those men who adhere to the circumcision. It is necessary to shut the mouths of these, as these very men keep on subverting entire households by teaching things they ought not for the sake of dishonest gain.” (Titus 1:10-11)

Did such resisters eventually find themselves ousted from the congregation? It seems likely, in view of such directives as: “As for a man that promotes a sect, reject him after a first and a second admonition; knowing that such a man has been turned out of the way and is sinning, he being self-condemned.” (Titus 3:10-11)

Anti-cultists will go into convulsions at the behavioral, informational, thought, and emotional control mechanisms indicated by the above. There can be little question that the Bible itself must be a cult-manual in the eyes of these ones. They should not bother with middlemen such as Jehovah’s Witnesses—those who endeavor to live by the Book—but go after the source itself, thereby revealing their intolerance to all.

Who are these big babies, terrified of what some visiting factory worker or even janitor trudging up their driveway might say? Are they really the same ones who carry on about their newfound freedom, their keen intellect, and their powerful self-determination? They are the shallowest of people masquerading as the deepest, the narrowest masquerading as the broadest. The existence of God cannot be proven by the standards modern anti-cultists accept as proof. However, neither can it be disproven. It can be shown to be reasonable, that’s all, but to those whose reason is forged in another hearth, it cannot be. As regards being narrow, they will say the same of Witnesses. It is fair game. Let the great issue be put squarely before all. Is it government by men that will save us all or government by God?

What a pathetic view of human nature these anti-cultists have. Just how much mileage can one get out of playing the victim card? Are we all truly but putty, ever at the mercy of some passerby with new ideas? You should hear how some of these ones carry on about how Jehovah’s Witnesses show up at doors to “convert” people underhandedly. Witnesses ought to state that goal up front, they demand. It is all they can do not to insist upon a notarized statement.

It is nonsense. Nobody converts another. People convert themselves, based upon processing and trying on new ideas for size. If you were to tell a visiting Jehovah’s Witness point blank that you wanted to convert, you would not be able to. You would commence on a period of study and preparation, seldom lasting under a year in these parts, (United States) 95% of the time in familiar surroundings, with full option to say “no thanks” at every juncture. It is a situation far less controlling than higher education, where one may be cut off from previous surroundings almost completely, and the barriers to discontinuance may be high, involving finance or expectations.

It is so juvenile to maintain, as the anti-cultists do, that Witnesses are out to “recruit” new members. It is icing on the cake for them should that happen, but hardly the cake itself. With the supposed goal of conversion at least a year away, one can be sure that the visiting Witness does not even think of it for many months to come. The object is simply to share information, or even to shed new light on what is already known, irrespective of what one may do with it at a later date. Most people do nothing with it. “This good news of the kingdom will be preached in all the inhabited earth,” says Matthew 24:14. It says nothing about conversion, leaving that possibility open for another occasion.

Enough of this cult nonsense. Everything is misrepresented. The legal Trinity is missing two legs. “Truth” is not enough—there must also be “the whole truth and nothing but the truth.” It’s high time to respond to these overgrown adolescents as the police did years ago to the overgrown adolescents of the 60s. When student radicals began calling them ‘pigs,’—doubling down when they saw that it got under their skin—one resourceful cop responded: ‘PIGS—Pride, Integrity, Guts, Service.’ Yeah! Same here. Do enemies think that they can get under Witnesses’ skin, swinging around the ‘Cult’ truncheon, when everyone knows the word means something else? Very well. Let Witnesses wear the moniker proudly: ‘CULT—Courage, Unity, Love, Truth.’ At some point, one must kick back at this nonsense.

Jehovah’s Witness stand for an alternative way of life, no question about it. As one of many “new religions,”—the scholarly term—there was no reason to extend the “cult” word to them. Coin a new word. “Cult” has been around forever, and it reliably evokes prejudice, if not hate. For that reason, enemies of Jehovah’s Witnesses embrace it. They eschew what is dignified so as to go for the jugular, as they smell blood in the water.

From the book TrueTom vs the Apostates!

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Are We Looking at Encouragement to Commit Insurance Fraud? Part 1

There was a series of tweets from former Jehovah’s Witnesses hoping to stir up discontent with present ones. The politics involved are likely not of interest to the general reader, so I pass over it here. Suffice it to say that it is that way.

It turns out that when the Watchtower organization oversees disaster relief, they afterwards suggest to ones that happen to have insurance that they might donate whatever insurance pays out to the Worldwide Work relief fund itself. Why this should infuriate the ex-Witnesses I’ll never know but infuriate them it does. Does it not seem only right that those who shell out assets for disaster rebuild should receive whatever insurance monies may be forthcoming? I could be wrong, but I suspect insurance companies love it that way; the work gets down promptly and without haggling over amount. However, the more important question to be raised is: If the Watchtower doesn’t get the insurance money, who does? The more I looked at these tweets the more I came to feel that I was looking at encouragement to commit insurance fraud.

With that backdrop, here are some of the tweets. I have excluded irrelevant ones as well as those from opposers calling me an a*****e. Apparently, a recent shipment of relief supplies was destroyed, and that shall serve as introduction to the topic. I will reproduce a few tweets which may or may not interest the reader, all in italics, and then return to the main point. I am TTH. Others I will refer to by their initials. Everything is captured in screenshots.

EDL: The donations from local Jehovah’s Witnesses caught fire - but the article fails to mention that JW donations and disaster relief is ONLY ever for other JWs.  JWs only support their local community by preaching to them, never with practical help.

TTH: Yes. They cannot do everyone because they are near exclusively volunteers using vacation time. The best they can do is set an example for others to imitate so that they will not be beholden to astronomically wasteful agencies.

CF: Interestingly enough, WT usually pressure any JW’s they help to “donate” the insurance payout they get back to WT to “thank” them.

TTH: ‘Pressure’ is a subjective term. However, if they do the work voluntarily at no cost, that certainly would not be an inappropriate way to acknowledge it. Many people have no insurance at all, especially in the case of flooding. Reimbursement is something immaterial to JWs. They do not check beforehand.

SL: Agreed, the WT does not do the work on the understanding the insurance cash will come their way…

For a brief moment, I thought I had found an ally, but it was not so:

SL: I’ve given up my time in my JW past to do this work and it’s lovely to feel you are helping someone in need.  In my experience few, if any, feel the need to solicit thanks from a victim of disaster let alone “suggest” the insurance money comes one’s way.

CF: To clarify - it’s not the individual JW’s helping who do this. It’s something that happens afterward, organized via the branch and handled by the elders. Most JW volunteers never even know this has happened. JR is putting together an article that exposes multiple instances of WT leaning on JW’s after a relief effort to hand over the insurance money.

I was getting a little fed up at this point. In three tweets combined, I said:

TTH: Tell him to not ignore the end result: distressed persons quickly having life & property restored, vs waiting weeks or months for relief that will only come if they are adequately insured, insurers sometimes being known to weasel out of satisfactory coverage.

TTH: Tell him also to spotlight the atheist and opposer agencies that do the same for their people so that those ones do not find themselves sh*t out of luck when insurance or build execution proves inadequate.

TTH: And make sure he tells of the premier agency in the Haiti earthquake, squandering practically to the penny the half billion dollars donated. [I linked to a Propublica article detailing breathtaking incompetence in America’s chief relief agency, and (alas) even exaggerated some, for they didn’t waste all of it, just most of it.] I am looking forward to this article, confident JR will not forget these things.

Someone made a snotty comment about Watchtower making a lot of money off their volunteers and the insurance companies. I replied that it was in return for doing exactly what the insurance company wanted done

The former Witnesses turned bitter opponents work tirelessly to stir up discontent in those loyal. They do a great deal of inter-opponent chat, but present Witnesses are their target audience. While the Watchtower organization may well afterwards make the suggestion, I doubt very much that they “pressure” anyone because the idea of simply pocketing both donated work AND insurance payment would never occur to most Witnesses. And even if they were to “pressure” anyone, it would clearly be for their own good; otherwise they would be committing insurance fraud, and the insurance companies are very good at sniffing such things out.

Say they succeed in finding some Witnesses who are outraged that the Watchtower Society should mention money after they have restored a person’s life. What are they recommending these ones do? Are they recommending that they say to their Christian brothers, who are generally on the scene long before relief comes through any other avenue: “Brothers, no. Don’t bother. I am afraid that the organization may afterwards mention money. I will wait instead for the insurance company to pay and hope that the amount is enough to restore what I have lost and that when the harried contractors at last get around to rebuilding they will not in their haste do a half-assed job.” I don’t think so.

I have never heard that advice from these characters or anything even approaching that. What the opposers appear to be doing is encouraging disgruntled ones, if they can find any, to accept the organized help of Jehovah’s Witnesses and then refuse any suggestion that they sign over an insurance check. What, then, will they do with the insurance money? Give it back to the insurance company? Again, I don’t think so. Why have they been paying premiums for all these years? No, they are encouraging them to keep the money, perhaps thereafter to spend on a new car, overseas vacation, or college tuition.

Look, this may be an overgeneralization, but this illustrates exactly why people who are Jehovah’s Witnesses should think twice before they leave the faith. I see these former Witnesses on Twitter. Some excoriate Trump and some excoriate Obama. They once had unity. Moreover, they cavalierly float an idea that would shock most Witnesses: Take the money and run. What is wrong with these characters? I mean, who would propose repaying the work of volunteer rebuilders with closed fists, and who would propose chiseling the insurance company out of their money at the same time? There is such a thing as hating so much as to lose all decency. My bet is that when insurance companies do sign over checks to the Watchtower, they find it a pure joy, knowing well how difficult customers can be under the pressure that disaster brings upon them.

Possibly what they are advocating is not illegal. The more I think about it, the more I think that is so. Perhaps it is just astonishing mean and ungrateful. Either way they look extremely small as they focus their unreasoning hatred to cripple the most effective disaster relief program the world has seen.

See Are We Looking at Encouragement to Commit Insurance Fraud? Part 2

From the book TrueTom vs the Apostates!

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Are We Looking at Encouragement to Commit Insurance Fraud? Part 2

This seemingly is a separate subject, but rest assured, it will converge. The Watchtower recently published an article that pointed out that some women in troubled marital relationships have exercised their right to separate for safety’s sake, yet others have determined to stick it out. My nemesis blew a gasket over this, wrote a short article of how “controlling” Watchtower men were to “order” Witness women to stay in abusive relationships, and he has been forwarding it daily to several agencies, hoping to get his former faith in trouble. Honestly. He did it as a countdown (or countup):

@ChtyCommission - Are you aware that Watchtower…is encouraging #jehovahswitness victims of #domesticviolence to endure life-threatening abuse?

and

It’s Day 5 since Watchtower, a registered charity, publicly urged #JehovahsWitness women to stay with physically abusive husbands. @ChtyCommission has confirmed it is reviewing article. No response yet from @RefugeCharity or @womensaid.

and

Day 8 of a magazine with circulation numbering into the millions instructing women to “endure” abusive relationships. Still not a word from @ChtyCommission or #domesticviolence orgs @RefugeCharity @womensaid or @PurplePurse

At some point I chimed in, linking to my own post on the entire Watchtower article, not just a single paragraph, and appending my tweets to his:

Day 9 of Lloyd hoping he can get his former religion in hot water with @ChtyCommission. Every day he hammers on their door. Sheesh. Even Jehovah’s Witnesses do not call every single day. @RefugeCharity @womensaid @PurplePurse .

and

11 STRAIGHT DAYS hammering their door! No cult leader could be more pesky.

and even

Day 23 of two women’s groups being battered daily by a man who shames them for not pursuing his grudge against his former religion. One never knows, but it is possible they are considering the overall context. @ChtyCommission @RefugeCharity @womensaid

Some of his own people told him to cool it:

“If these organizations don’t react, you have to respect their choice. Criteria of their evaluations is complex in nature (legal aspects) and other crucial elements imposed by the statutes of a Charity. Please read again Steve Hassan’s last book, there are more efficient methods.”

Steve Hassan is a huge player in the ‘anti-cult’ movement. Here he is being appealed to as though he were a cult leader himself.

I couldn’t resist. I just had to tweet:

In other words, you’re making yourself a pain, Lloyd. The whole world does not revolve around your beefs. @ChtyCommission @RefugeCharity @womensaid

One more from me:

It is possible that @womensaid resents being lectured to daily by a male who presumes to know their concerns better than they do themselves. Aren’t abusive males known to behave this way, refusing to take delay or silence for an answer? Possibly they read the entire WT article.

He is still at it [he stopped at Day 52] and no, I don’t respond every day:

Day 31 of circulation. A month ago, Watchtower published its clearest ever advice encouraging JW women to “endure” abusive husbands. Incredibly, it seems they can do this without any official rebuke from DV orgs like @RefugeCharity & @womensaid.

Some of his own have broken ranks and accused him of “man-bashing.” He is confident, I think overconfident. But I do not underestimate him. He has had some success in stirring up major mischief. And you never quite know what these agencies will do. I would think that, if need be, Watchtower HQ could respond if queried merely by citing their present policy on marital separation, but you never know how things will turn out until they turn out.

Around day 40, I became very bold and tweeted: “It’s as though he says: ‘G******t, ANSWER me when I’m talking to you!’” @womansaid @refugecharity.

Now, it occurs to me, that if he can hammer on an agency each day, there is no reason that I cannot do the same:

“Day 1 of Lloyd’s chum encouraging insurance fraud to his Twitter followers.”

Only I won’t hammer at the same agency each day as he does. There are enough of them that I can mix them up, just like rotating public speakers at the Kingdom Hall. Oh, yeah. Let’s see where this goes. [it didn’t go far. I got distracted.]

I don’t know. Is it illegal or is it just incredibly crass and ungrateful? Imagine. Your home is destroyed in a flood. Instantly your fellow congregation members swoop in to restore or rebuild, donating both time and materials. Yet when it turns out that you have made provisions to cover exactly that circumstance you say ‘Fugeddaboudit! I like “free” better. See you on the Adriatic coast, that is, if you can afford it. I know I can.’ Either way, they can be made to look awfully small.

They look small, too, as they dream up the tactic to recharacterize volunteer efforts on the part of Jehovah’s Witnesses as unpaid labor that should be paid—wouldn’t that send their enemy into a tailspin, they rhapsodize! Arguing that “faith” is dead unless it is unaccompanied by “works,” the apostle James writes: “…a certain one will say: ‘You have faith, and I have works. Show me your faith apart from your works, and I shall show you my faith by my works.’” (James 2:18) There are accordingly many “works” that Jehovah’s Witnesses perform, regarding them as a manifestation of faith. In fact, nobody at any level in the Witness organization receives a salary, least of all those in positions of leadership. ‘Monetize it all,’ the anti-cultists say, in an attempt to cripple faith that translates into more than just sitting at religious meetings. The “religious corporation” benefits by unpaid labor—make them pay for it, they say. Pay those elders—make them mercenary ministers. Pay those Bethelites—the ones who have applied for special service and were accepted—pay them, not just room and board and living expenses, but wages! One wonders whether opposers will one day attack the door-to-door ministry itself as representing unpaid labor that should be remunerated.

Let them advance that argument if they will. But at the same time, advance the argument that volunteer efforts anywhere must be paid for. Volunteer for Red Cross disaster relief? Do it only for pay. Volunteer for the candidate of your choice? Only if you are paid. Volunteer for the hospital or the nursing home? Nope. Get involved in community activity, even pick up the roadside trash? Don’t even go there without a contract. Let the opposers reduce all that is noble to dollars and cents to ensure that nobody is “abused.”

 

***~~~***

 

The following excerpt is from Tom Irregardless and Me, an ebook I wrote two years ago:

At the home of Victor Vomidog, an alarm panel light pulsed red. Victor read the incoming feed. It was serious. Someone was saying nice things about Jehovah’s Witnesses. Instantly, he swung into action. There was not a moment to lose. He opened his door and whistled. The media came running. “Witnesses are selfish!” he cried. “They only think of themselves! Why don’t they help everyone? Why do they just do their own people?” That evening, media ran the headline: “WHY DON’T THEY HELP EVERYONE?”

But they had asked the wrong question. The headline they should have run, but didn’t, because they didn’t want to deal with the answer, was: “WHY AREN’T OTHERS DOING THE SAME?” The answer to the first question is obvious: Witness efforts consist of volunteers using their vacation time. Just how much time is the boss going to grant?

So do it yourself, Victor! Organize your own new chums! Or send your money to some mega-agency where they think Bible education is for fools. Be content to see monies frittered away on salaries, hotels, travel, retirement, health care benefits, and God knows what else! Be content to see much of what remains squandered! It’s the best you can do—embrace it! Or at least shut up about the one organization that has its act together.

The obvious solution, when it comes to disaster relief, is for others to do as Jehovah’s Witnesses do. Why have they not? There are hundreds of religions. There are atheists…aren’t you tight with them now, Victor?  Organize them, why don’t you? They all claim to be veritable gifts to freedom and humankind. Surely they can see human suffering. Why don’t they step up to the plate themselves?

They can’t. They are vested in a selfish model that runs a selfish world. Let them become Jehovah’s Witnesses and benefit from the Bible education overseen by the Governing Body, Plato’s and Sider’s dream brought to life. But if they stay where they are, they must look to their own organization or lack thereof. There’s no excuse that they should not be able to copy Witnesses. They have far more resources to draw upon. We’re not big enough to do everyone for free, and we don’t know how to run a for-pay model; we’ve no experience in that. Instead, other groups must learn how to put love into action, as we did long ago.

C’mon, Victor! If all the world needs is to ‘come together,’ then see to it! We don’t know how to do that. People without Bible education tend not to get along. You make them do it! You don’t want to, or can’t, do large-scale relief, yet you want to shoot down those who do! What a liar!

From the book TrueTom vs the Apostates!

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In Defense of Shunning

As the ultimate trump card of congregation discipline, to be applied when lesser measures have failed, is disfellowshipping cruel? It certainly could be, and increasingly is, argued that way. Undeniably it triggers pain to those who refuse to yield to it, “kicking against the goads,” as was said to Paul. That said, suffice it to say that no group has been able maintain consistent moral principles through significant intervals of time without it. I vividly recall circuit ministers of my faith saying: “Fifty years ago, the difference between Jehovah’s Witnesses and people in general was doctrinal.” Conduct on moral matters, sexual or otherwise, was largely the same. Today the chasm is huge. Can internal discipline not be a factor?

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. Can internal discipline not be a factor?

In the case of Jehovah’s Witnesses, members voluntarily sign on to a program that reinforces goals they have chosen. Sometimes it is not enough to say that you want to diet. You must also padlock the fridge. It is not an infringement of freedom to those who have willingly signed aboard. They are always free to attempt their diet some place where they do not padlock the fridge. Experience shows, however, that not padlocking the fridge results in hefty people, for not everyone has extraordinary willpower.

If people want to padlock the fridge but they cannot do so because anti-cultists forbid that course, and they get hefty, how is that not a violation of their individual rights? It is all a difference of view over the basic nature of people and what makes them tick. It is the individualists of today who would hold that you can’t even padlock your own fridge. No. Full freedom of choice must always be in front of each one of us, they say, notwithstanding that history demonstrates we so easily toss with the waves in the absence of a firm anchor.

Christians are mandated to “imitate the Christ,” both individually and collectively. Given human imperfection, this can be done only with group-accepted tools of discipline to buttress good intensions. If anti-cultists would deny them these tools under the guise of protecting their individual rights, then what we are looking at is an attempt to throttle Christianity true to its roots and substitute rule by the popular crowd.

Disfellowshipping is unpleasant and some are so shocked to find themselves put out from their community of choice that they determine once and for all to mend whatever caused them to be ousted so as to regain entrance. But they do not all do that, and with the passing of time, the ones that do not accumulate. Some continue on in life with a “been there, done that” mentality. But others expend considerable energy in settling the score with the organization that ousted them. One businessman in Canada even sued at being disfellowshipped—his customer base consisted mostly of Jehovah’s Witnesses and most of them took their business elsewhere. A lower court agreed with him that those running his religion had “told” parishioners not to associate with the ex-member. But the Supreme Court ultimately decided that to rule on who had to associate with who, based on biblical interpretation, was beyond their legal purview.

In some cases, disfellowshipped ones later frame their ousting as though it were over mere matters of disagreement. It was not their conduct that caused the trouble, they maintain, but it was simply disagreement over something, for example, the contention that leaving a spouse for another should trigger congregation sanctions. This was true of a prosecution witness at the Russian Supreme Court trial which resulted in the banning of the Jehovah’s Witness faith. Responding to a request from the judge to cite instances of “control,” [she] “reported that an example was her expulsion from the congregations after she ‘began her close, but not officially registered, relations with a man.’”

Other times it truly is over matters of disagreement with regard to interpretation or policy, and opposers try to frame things as in the song—that with Jehovah’s Witnesses, it is “step out of line, the men come and take you away.” Some of them become so convinced of their new-found enlightenment that they envision themselves liberators—hurl down the Watchtower walls and the captives within will come running to embrace them! Alas for them—were whatever they think of as walls to disappear, with barely a jiggle as to those “inside,” they would have to rethink their silly premise. To revisit an earlier illustration, they are determined to sneak goodies into the fridge and cannot believe that they would not be permitted to—it can only be because tyrants from on high are telling the fridge owner what can and cannot be stocked, they mutter.

Some of them came across some new insight, perhaps, that they thought would entitle them to drive the bus. They left when they discovered that they would not be allowed grab the wheel. In some cases, they were caught red-handed trying to hotwire the bus. The “bus,” of course, is the Witness organization itself. In the end it is a too high opinion of oneself and one’s importance that sinks one. The worship and deeds of Jehovah’s Witnesses are magnified by their organized quality, and they either appeal to the heart or they don’t. If they don’t, then one magnifies disproportionately matters of individual rights.

The spirit of the times today far elevates rights over responsibilities. There is a Bill of Rights appended to the United States Constitution. Would that there was a Bill of Responsibilities to go along with it. With Jehovah’s Witnesses, as with many religious people, it is the responsibilities that loom largest. Among the responsibilities Christians feel are those toward their spiritual kin. “Slave” for one another, the verse says, and many translations soften “slave” to “serve,” but the root word at Galatians 5:13 undeniably indicates “slave” as the correct choice. Even before that, however, there is a responsibility toward God. The Governing Body of Jehovah’s Witnesses dares not meddle with the disfellowshipping policy overmuch because they know it serves to keep the congregation “clean” so as to present to God what he insists upon: “a [clean] people for his name.” (Acts 15:14)

A book by evangelical author Ronald J. Sider, The Scandal of the Evangelical Conscience, highlights on the cover the question: ‘Why are Christians Living Just Like the Rest of the World?’ The author cites verse after verse of how Christian standards are “higher” than those of the greater world, and then example after example of how they are not with those claiming Christianity today. He concludes that it is largely a matter of church discipline. “Church discipline used to be a significant, accepted part of most evangelical traditions, whether Reformed, Methodist, Baptist, or Anabaptist,” he writes. “In the second half of the twentieth century, however, it has largely disappeared.” He goes on to quote Haddon Robinson on the current church climate, a climate he calls consumerism:

“Too often now when people join a church, they do so as consumers. If they like the product, they stay. If they do not, they leave. They can no more imagine a church disciplining them than they could a store that sells goods disciplining them. It is not the place of the seller to discipline the consumer. In our churches, we have a consumer mentality.”

Christians have a mandate to follow the Christ as best they can in speech and conduct. Consumerism makes that mandate effectively impossible. Yet it is the only model that today’s anti-cultists will permit. Anything veering toward discipline they paint as an intolerable affront to human rights. We must not be naïve. Theirs is no more than an attempt to stamp out biblical Christianity, veiled as though they are the very protectors of humanity.

The notion of protecting one’s values, through disciplinary action if need be, extends beyond Christianity. Was Tevye a cult member, he of the film Fiddler on a Roof? If so, no one has breathed a word of it until very recently. The third daughter of his Russian Jewish family was shunned for marrying outside of the faith. It is an action that would not trigger shunning in the Jehovah’s Witness community, though it would gain no praises. After all, if God is truly one’s best friend, ought one really make one’s second-best friend a person who is indifferent, perhaps even opposed, to the first? Only the atheistic anti-cultists will be blind to the logic of this, and that only because they would consider any god-concept an unsuitable friend.

Citing Tevye to a certain ex-Witness nearly blew up in my face. At the movie’s end, the grizzled man mutters to himself, as his daughter and new husband depart for another continent: “And let God be with you,” as though he should have been expected to shout: “May you rot in hell.” I was told that the movie teaches forgiveness, acceptance, and unconditional love rather than a stubborn cleaving to tradition and the past.” Could he really have once been one of Jehovah’s Witnesses? The entire premise of the faith, and that of many Christian denominations, is that, assuming the “traditions” are biblical and not man-made, the old ideas are solid whereas the new ideas are tenuous, with sometimes deleterious after-effects. In fact, forgiveness, acceptance, and love all come with nuances. One can forgive without accepting disapproved conduct. One can also love without accepting it. “Tough love” was the phrase of yesterday. Today it is “unconditional love.” Tomorrow who knows what it will be? The scene of this world is changing.

It is not uncommon for children of Jehovah’s Witnesses to be baptized at ages as young as ten. Witness detractors argue that this is far too early to make such a consequential decision. Many offer themselves as a case in point. Some of them were Witnesses and were baptized at an early age. They later changed their mind. Some of these eventually found themselves disfellowshipped and will push to their dying day that they escaped from a cult whose members were ordered to reject their own children. Some have gone on television with that charge where they persuade viewer without too much effort that only the most “brainwashed” of people would disown their own children and that whoever did the “brainwashing” must be punished.

It is an example of “truth” that is not “the whole truth and nothing but the truth.” They are not children. In Witness literature the distinction is consistently made between those who are actual children and those who are young adults capable of following through on choices they have made through word or conduct. When disfellowshipping happens in the case of minors, it may result in a somewhat strained family life in which all components except the spiritual continue as before, usually with the added condition that the disfellowshipped one should still sit in on the family Bible study. When disfellowshipping happens in the case of the latter, such ones may be told that it is time to leave the nest. They are not outright abandoned, though there is variability in people and one should never say that it has not occurred. One father I know secured a job with his large employer for his departing son and let him know that he would always be there for him if truly needed. Another, in a family business arrangement, divided resources so that his young adult son could have a decent start outside the congregation. This was misrepresented as though he had thrown him out with nothing but the clothes on his back, and the father for a time became a community pariah, but eventually matters came out that he had actually been quite generous, whereby much of the reputational damage was restored.

Some disfellowshipped teens have run away from home, in a biblical twist of a drama as old as time. Such a dramatized case was presented in a short video at Regional Conventions of Jehovah’s Witnesses during 2017. A young woman had been disfellowshipped over sexual immorality, having sailed past all lesser forms of discipline unmoved. When she later called the home she had left—for she did run away in this case, against her folks’ wishes—her mom did not answer the phone, an action that the young woman later describes as crucial to her turnaround and reinstatement; if mom had extended just a little bit of fellowship, she recalls that it would have been enough for her to continue in her “headstrong” course.

This will not likely resonate with non-Witnesses today. “You would make such a fuss over chaste conduct?” many will say, aghast. “Haven’t we moved on from that?” Yet, it is a matter of adhering to the standards of the oldest book of time. Family feuds in the overall world are the stuff of legend, often started over matters far more petty, such as taking sides in the disputes of another family member. It is common today that old ones are dropped off in nursing homes, never to be visited again, for reasons no more substantial than that they became inconvenient. One would never say that it is routine for divisions in family to occur, but they are by no means unheard of.

The Witness organization has said that it does not instruct parents to not associate with their disfellowshipped children. But they have produced the video cited above of specific circumstances in which a parent ignores a phone call from one of them. What to make of this? Detractors will say that they are lying through their teeth with the first statement. I think not. I think they should be taken at their word—parents will reach their own decisions on the degree of contact they choose to maintain, since they can best assess extenuating circumstances. It becomes their decision—whether they find some or none at all. Specifically, what the Witness publications do is point out that there is no reason per se that normal counsel to avoid contact with those disfellowshipped is negated simply because there are family connections. That is not the same as “telling” families to break contact. It may seem like splitting hairs, but the difference is important.

That statement finds further support in the many Witnesses who have departed and subsequently report that, though they were never disfellowshipped, they still find themselves estranged from the family mix. Effectively, they are “shunned” without any announcement at all, evidence that a “cult” is not telling parents what to do, but it is the latter’s appreciation for Bible counsel that triggers that course. The specific mechanics of avoiding associations with those who have spun 180-degrees on prior spiritual convictions may be arguable, but the general principle is not. When no verbal direction is given, Witnesses defer to the general principle, so it becomes plain that it was the general principle all along, rather than the commands of eight tyrannical men at headquarters. “What harmony is there between Christ and Belial?” says Paul, referring to two polar-opposite worlds and those who would choose between them.

It is the “choice” that defines. Some family members fail to follow through on their decided course as Jehovah’s Witnesses, but they do not turn against it. Family relations may be less warm, but do not typically discontinue. It is only by making a choice that relations almost inevitably sour. Is it so hard to understand, given that spiritual things are important to Jehovah’s Witnesses? It is well-understood in matters of nations, where visiting an unfriendly country brings no sanction, but turning traitorous against one’s own does. In politics it is understood, too. When comedian Kathy Griffin holds aloft the mock severed head of the American president, does anyone think that her Republican dad (if he is) says: “That’s my lass! She speaks her mind. It won’t affect Thanksgiving dinner, though?” Of course it will.

The word “disfellowship” has not been heard in congregation announcements for perhaps a dozen years now—not that it has been purged from Witness vocabulary, but it is not explicitly stated. From time to time, an announcement is made that so and so “is no longer one of Jehovah’s Witnesses.” It is never made of one who has merely fallen inactive, but only of those who have departed from the faith through deed or word. Though, to my knowledge, no announcement has ever been made that such is the equivalent of disfellowshipping, people mostly treat it that way. Some of whom that announcement is made are shocked into regret and turning around. Others say “You got that right” as they turn the page and go on to another chapter of life. If it is said of someone who rejects the tenets of a religion that they are therefore no longer a part of it, what are they going to say—that they are? Few would challenge the statement.

Few would argue that youngsters have not the same maturity at age ten that they will have at twice that age. Ought they not be allowed to commit to the course they have come to believe is right, on the basis that they may later change their minds? It is not a good solution for Witnesses, though it be a great one for the anti-cultists, as it permits the latter more time to sway them. However, children will always do better when permitted to identify with their choices. John Holt, an education pioneer, maintained that a prime cause of juvenile delinquency is that children are shut out of the adult world—an unanticipated effect of child labor laws enacted to protect them. For children, the solution will not be to forbid them to act upon what they have come to believe. The solution will be to cut them slack when they, through inexperience, stumble along the way. Most likely, that is being done today, for Jehovah’s Witnesses, like everyone else, dearly love their children and want them to succeed.

As it turns out, I know a youngster who was disfellowshipped for a period of several months and was subsequently reinstated. He was a minor and he lived at the family home throughout the time. Months before he was disfellowshipped he had been reproved. Since I had a rapport with him, I afterwards approached to say that, while it was none of my business and I was not curious, still, if he ever wanted to discuss things, I would be available. Maybe, I allowed, he had come across some anti-Witness literature and had been intrigued. Maybe he had wanted to go to college and his parents had poured cold water on the idea. “Look, if you’ve gone gay on us—it doesn’t matter,” I said. “The point is that I have been around forever, I have seen everything, and I am not wound up too tight.” He was silent for a moment and then started telling me about this girl in another congregation. “Oh, girls are nothing but trouble!” I told him in an anticlimactic spirit. His woes were boiler-plate. Maybe he will marry the girl someday.

I had known him most of his life. As a young boy, he surfaces in my first book, Tom Irregardless and Me, as Willie, the lad who protested my introducing him at each door, so I responded that he could introduce me instead. That is how it had gone all morning, save for one or two awkward situations that I had handled. The householder would look at me in expectation and I would say: “Sorry, I’m too bashful. It’s his turn.” As long as he had been comfortable, it had remained his turn.

He also surfaces as Dietrich in the second book, No Fake News but Plenty of Hogwash. I only know two Dietrichs, and the younger is named after the older, a trustworthy man whom I almost gave a heart attack when I showed up to give the first talk at the District Convention, relieving him as chairman, with only seconds to spare—there he was with songbook in hand looking anxiously through the audience. I had been in the Chairman’s Office awaiting my escort, assuming that the current year’s procedure would be the same as the prior one’s. It wasn’t. Today it would be. Everyone “did what was right in his own eyes” back them. Even in small matters, there is a value in organization.

I followed the course with Willie and Dietrich that all Witnesses know and respect—I didn’t speak to him at all during his disfellowshipped time, save for only an instance or two that I could not resist. On a frigid day he dropped family members off at the door, parked, and strode toward the Kingdom Hall without a coat. Breaking all decorum, I said: “Look, I know there’s no contact and all, but did they even have to take your coat?” He liked that one. In time he was reinstated, and I later told him that there was a silver lining to be found in his experience—he would forever be an example of how discipline produces its intended effect in the Christian community. Actually, the word “shun” is never heard in the Witness community, just as the word “cult” is not, save for its age-old definition. It is unnecessarily harsh. Disfellowshipping is reversible and that always is the hoped-for outcome. “Shunning” does not adequately convey that distinction.

Always there will those of the opposite persuasion—not like Dietrich at all: persons disfellowshipped who aren’t too happy about it. Find a few of them, work up the narrative to make it as heart wrenching as possible, and it is hard to see how it cannot be a media grand slam every time. Hide the purpose of it and present it as petty vengeance—it is a view that will sell today. Paint those doing it as deprived of humanity—it flies. Paint as dictatorial the organization holding the course—that interpretation positively soars with some. This is the age of the individual, not the group that they have individually chosen. The view that carries the day with regard to any organization is—it may as well be the year text—“power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely.” If there are people in charge, they must be corrupt. To an irreligious crowd, whatever the offenses for which ones were disfellowshipped is all but judgmental religious nonsense anyway. We should have moved on from it long ago. The emotional component is strong and such narratives carry the day.

Beyond all question, Jehovah’s Witnesses march to a different drumbeat. They willingly yield to the influence of those who have chosen the same drumbeat, rather than those who pound the drums of the status-quo world. They can be easily be portrayed the very embodiment of a cult under the new updated definition, and the Bible itself a cult manual. It is because they are a religion that purports to be life-altering, rather than a religion that merely puts a smiley softening face on the quest for the status quo, that they run into anti-cultist opposition. Witness apostates who join forces with them lose sight completely of how religion can be the powerful force that it is with their former friends, or even relatives, and they agitate relentlessly for it not to be so.

To the congregation in Corinth, the apostle Paul writes: “For I am jealous over you with a godly jealousy, for I personally promised you in marriage to one husband that I might present you as a chaste virgin to the Christ.” Plainly, this concern is of no consequence to departing ones who have embraced atheism. Almost necessarily they must focus on individual rights, since what triggers a sense of responsibility among their former spiritual kin has become a non-factor to them. No, it will not be easy selling the idea of disfellowshipping to these ones.

From the book TrueTom vs the Apostates!

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The Movie 'Apostasy'

The biblically literate Christian generally wishes that Hollywood would forget that Book exists. They butcher it each time they touch it. It is seldom through malice. Hollywood simply isn’t an overly religious place, and few can put themselves into the shoes of persons of faith. They mix a bit of nonsense that they remember from Sunday School with formulas for what makes a riveting movie and produce a product in which Moses pops Pharaoh in the nose and gets the girl—a far cry from the actual Moses who carried on so much about being slow of tongue that God assigned a helper to handle public relations for him.

Cinema doesn’t always work against us. I once worked with an agnostic woman who knew that God’s name was Jehovah because she had seen an Indiana Jones movie. She knew that God’s original purpose was for the earth to be a paradise because she had seen the film Dogma. She had never been in a church, yet she knew more about God from two movies than do many after a lifetime of attending church. Usually, though, we get clobbered at the hands of moviemakers.

The first Hollywood production I know of that specifically mentioned Jehovah’s Witnesses was Clint Eastwood’s A Perfect World. The Witness mother in the film quelled the complaints of her two children, upset that they could not do Halloween trick or treating, with the pious platitude: “We have a higher calling.” No Witness in a thousand years is going to say “We have a higher calling”—they just don’t talk that way, and so I knew that Clint probably didn’t have it in for Jehovah’s Witnesses in particular; he just wanted a premise for a good movie, as most of his are.

A robber in the film had inadvertently kidnapped one of the Witness mother’s two children. As though testimony that this movie was filmed long ago, he did the child no harm. Instead, he warmed to the lad. The boy, too, didn’t seem too upset at being kidnapped. He warmed to his kidnapper, for now he could escape his frumpy Witness mom and go trick or treating, like every child longs to do. The detective assigned even arranged for this to happen, after exploding: “What kind of a nutty religion doesn’t do Halloween?” He made his deputies bring the boy candy, which the lad in his ghost costume eagerly collected. It was a heartwarming scene, indeed—and then the sharpshooter shot the boy’s new best friend dead just feet away from him.

Other than sporadic attempts to make hay out of a Witness refusing a blood transfusion—it is an irresistible film premise—and a doctor crusading, sometimes successfully, sometimes not, to override this bit of perceived pig-headedness, there have been few movie attempts to tackle Jehovah’s Witnesses. To my astonishment, one episode of The Practice, a legal drama of the late nineties, featured the topic and got most of it right. Trustworthy Rebecca, the resourceful secretary, got caught in a bomb blast brought on by a former client that the team should have stayed far away from. Suddenly a new character appeared out of nowhere for one or two episodes—Rebecca’s mom, who had affidavits from the local congregation that her daughter was a practicing Jehovah’s Witness and wouldn’t take blood!

Don’t Witnesses carry “blood cards,” head attorney Bobby objected. Don’t Witnesses talk about their faith? Rebecca hadn’t. But Mama said that she had been so beaten down by being the only black girl in the office that she had learned to keep her mouth shut. Well, maybe. It’s a little thin, but this is television after all.

Bobby determined that he would force a transfusion on the unconscious woman. He railed in court that this woman could be saved but for this - this “voodoo” religion. When it was Mama’s turn on the stand, she said: “You tipped your hand, Bobby. This has nothing to do with saving life. This is about your own religious prejudice.” The judge ruled in favor of Mama. I couldn’t believe it. At Witness headquarters worldwide, they all rose to their feet and cheered—or at least they might have had they been watching, which they probably were not. Afterwards, as though admitted to the bar, Mama joined in group prayer with the legal team keeping vigil around her daughter’s hospital bedside.

Okay, okay, so they messed some things up. It’s still immeasurably better than how we usually fare in Hollywood. Throughout, Jehovah’s Witnesses were presented with dignity. They were not presented as cult-addled nut-jobs. How do they fare in The Children Act, a 2018 offering? In this film, the judge does not rule for the Witness position, but personally intervenes with a young man dying of leukemia to sway him of his beliefs. He apparently becomes somewhat unhinged thereafter, which is to be expected, the premise goes, upon breaking free of a “controlling” religion. The judge herself is on shaky ground, with her marital life falling apart.

It’s hard to say if the movie is any good or not. The star power of the cast is undeniable . To the extent that Witness detractors are in the audience—and that will be a very large extent—they will reliably praise it to the heavens to the extent it denigrates their former faith. I may have to see the movie myself. But even counting television movies, I see only a handful a year, and that usually is at the behest of my wife. Can one write about a movie that one has not seen? It’s dicey. However, if scientists can do forensic research on events eons-old and have that research accepted, there is no reason that I should not be able to give it a shot, doing forensic research based upon existing reviews and my own background knowledge of how the Jehovah’s Witness faith works.

I was roundly thrashed by ex-Witnesses when I pulled this trick by writing a review of another film—one that presents Jehovah’s Witnesses in a decidedly bad light—the movie Apostasy. You don’t win them all—sometimes they blow up in your face. Even I had to admit that it is a bit much to review it unseen, forensics notwithstanding. I took on the challenge because I knew that whatever problems might lay with the film would lay with, not what was said, but what was not said. I readily conceded that the film was well-done, and it has gone on to win honors—though once again, it is hard to say how much of those honors stem from Witness-bashers lauding it to the heavens. Once again, the stars are top notch. My aim was to offer context, since the film, by all accounts, portrays Jehovah’s Witnesses as the most deluded of people.

It does not portray them as bad people, however, but merely hamstrung in life by immersion in a cult. It doesn’t even portray them as unhappy people, just people whose happiness somehow rings hollow, as it is based upon unreality. The movie’s director was raised in the faith and says “it was liberating to leave the Jehovah’s Witnesses.” It is probably well for Witnesses to know, to the extent they don’t already, that they don’t all pine away for the good old days at the Kingdom Hall after departure.

This director certainly doesn’t. As he himself developed doubts growing up, he has concocted two film characters who also develop doubts. Perhaps three of them do—I may have to see this one as well. The filmmaker is described as a “gentle, softly spoken man” who was initially uncomfortable with the topic of his debut film. The reviewer praises the film’s “even-handedness, the way it stirs in the audience sympathy for characters whose beliefs most of us might ordinarily struggle to understand.” Only the “cult” that has so hoodwinked them suffers.

Confounding his co-ex-members, he tells the Guardian film critic in a July 15, 2018 article that he is on good terms with his Mom, though he left his childhood faith years ago. Perhaps that will change with the movie. Or perhaps it will go the other way, and his apparent dream will come true—he may succeed in undermining her faith in the spiritual things that she once thought preeminent, and, having canceled out the positive, there will remain only the negative upon which to focus.

The most telling part of the interview is his statement: “The audience needs to understand the weight of their beliefs, the spiritual pressure they’re under. Because that’s what motivates them.” Plainly, this is opinion, not fact. But it is an informed opinion of one who has “been there and done that,” and there have been many that have held it. He has been mobbed at showings by ex-JWs who hail him for succeeding in his mission.

He describes the atmosphere of his former faith as one of “elitism.” This, too, is plainly opinion. It is like how it has become standard fare for parties on either side of a dispute to pronounce the other “arrogant” upon failing to sway them. Any time you have an outlook not shared by the general populace you are a sitting duck for those who want to paint you as “elitist.”

He even applies the phrase “cognitive dissonance” to those of his former faith. It is the modern method of giving insult, as in: “Your cognitive dissonance must be massive to stand in the face of my overwhelming persuasion.” Is it really so that persons cannot simultaneously hold non-dovetailing ideas without short-circuiting their heads? One glance at Americans watching pharmaceutical ads will dispel the notion, with narrator insisting that you must have the product peddled and voiceover saying that it may kill you.

He is disappointed that the other Witness-bashing movie, The Children Act—there are not that many of them, after all—is released at exactly the same time as his. What are the chances? He doesn’t particularly like the other film, describing it as “an outsider’s movie.” “When I read it,” he says, “I found myself nit-picking. Ex-Witnesses always say: ‘Oh, that’s not quite right.’” Present Witnesses will do it, too. Did I not just do the same with the Clint Eastwood movie?

Granted, the movie is fiction, and so by definition is untrue, but the outward facts do not appear to be wrong, merely incomplete and skewed by an emotional component that few Witnesses will identify with. “Meagre” and “joyless” are not words I would ever use describing the Jehovah’s Witness world, as the director does—one certainly would not get that impression upon visiting a Kingdom Hall, much less a large convention. “Unnervingly quiet” also doesn’t ring true, nor men who “rule the roost.” Still, I know where he is coming from. If you become disillusioned with your own cause and start to long for the offerings of the other side, your life becomes meagre and joyless until you grasp them. What is a guardrail to some is an iron curtain to others.

Jehovah’s Witnesses may be best thought of as a nation. Unlike physical nations, its citizens are united in terms of common purpose and goals. Barriers that divide elsewhere mean nothing to Witnesses—those of nationality, race, economic, and social status. Like any nation, Witnesses will have their own culture. Unlike other nations, that culture is ever the minority view where they live. The happy citizens of China will surely seem immersed in a cult from an American point of view, their outlook and concerns molded by forces of which Americans are mostly unaware and would not think important if they were aware of them. The citizens of America will surely seem immersed in a cult from a Chinese point of view for the same reasons. The two situations cause no internal discord because, in each case, persons are surrounded almost entirely by their own. Witnesses are a scattered nation, though, nowhere the majority, and since the beginning of time, the majority has been intolerant of the minority.

Yes, I do know where this fellow is coming from. My people have a culture. They can be seen as a little too insistent on this point, a little too pushy on that point, a little too hung up on yet another, so that, all things being equal, if I could find another group that does all that they do, minus the gaffes, I would go there. But I can’t. Not even close. It would involve finding someone else “speaking and teaching with correctness the things about Jesus,” like Apollos did. It would involve finding someone else who has built a brotherhood undivided by nationality, race, or social position. It would involve finding someone who has built an infrastructure for the universal spread of a detailed body of life-changing knowledge that is unimpeded by language differences. I look and I look but I do not see that other group, so I begin to say perhaps what I perceive as downers aren’t so down after all. Perhaps it would be the case that as soon as I was to get them more amenable to my preferences, they would lose what makes them effective. Maybe it is no more sporting of me to point fingers at them than to point fingers at Canadians for ending sentences with ‘eh.’ People with Bible principles are able to yield to one another and get along. Is it truly cult-like to get along and thereby get things done? Or is it pig-headed not to? I’ll stay where I am, thank you very much.

There are any number of things that I do not like about the earthly organization. They are far offset by things that I do like. Mostly they are a matter of style. And no, I would not state them in a general forum. It is not ‘cult’ thinking to decline that invitation. It is recognition that the greater world thrives on division—that’s what it ever wants to talk about—and uses each disagreement as an occasion to drive a wedge to divide further. The points are all arguable. If I thought that they were not, I’d go elsewhere. Being that they are, I’ll argue it their way. If they change on anything—they do it all the time and are very open about, euphemistically calling it “tacking” and navigating in “the light that gets brighter”—I’ll argue it the new way. It’s the role I have chosen. Is it cult-like to work for unity? Or is it ruinous to work for division?

There are two views of the world. Let the adherents of both have their say. Long ago, in a lengthy discussion with a householder on the topic of evolution, the man at last ventured to ask what difference did it make how we all got here? I replied that, if there was a God who created us and the earth upon which we live, he might just have some purpose for them both and not sit idly by to see it all ruined. But if evolution put us all here, then whatever hope there was for the future lay in human efforts. “And they’re not doing so well,” I added. The man’s wife, who had been silent up till then, said, “That’s a good point.” Here in the Apostasy movie is a reality drawn by one who thinks that they are doing well, or at least he has lost faith in God’s purposes to remedy the earth that is now, for he describes himself as agnostic. Let all voices be heard as the contest for minds and hearts continues.

There are two worlds from which to choose. The Book describes the one to come, everlasting life on a paradisiac earth made possible when God’s kingdom truly comes “on earth, as it is in heaven,” as the prayer says. It is the “real” life of 1 Timothy 6:19. Some translations call it the “true” life. Jehovah’s Witnesses, without too much fuss, know how to delay instant gratification in this life so as to lay hold of the “real” one. Their anti-cult detractors readily concede that delaying instant gratification is a good thing, but will protest that this is going too far, because, for them, the game is well along in innings, with no concept at all of a succeeding “real” life.

Most Witnesses will have conniptions about seeing their faith slammed so publicly. They’ll have to get used to it. It’s okay. The play now features an additional act, but it is the same play. For decades, Jehovah’s Witnesses, who came “out of the world,” have spun an image of that world that rings true with some and untrue to others. Now the shoe is on the other foot, with someone who comes from their own ranks and does the reverse. Let people decide for themselves what rings true and what rings false.

To his followers, Jesus says “Happy are you when people reproach you and persecute you and lyingly say every sort of wicked thing against you for my sake.” It is a saying that makes no sense at all until it is taken as an indication that they must be on the right track for it to be said of them, for “as they have persecuted me, so will they persecute you.” Beyond all question, whatever is done by the Witness organization is done “for Jesus’s sake.” They are accustomed to showing the gem through its most appealing facet. Let them learn, if need be, to show it through its least appealing one. Disfellowshipping is unpleasant, and the prospect of that unpleasantness serves to discourage the conduct that might trigger it. Once incurred, it serves to spur the conduct that might reverse it, for the door that was closed was never locked. But if that one goes thereafter his or her own separate way, relations will cool. If he turns upon and savages the framework that his loved ones hold dear, it will almost certainly sever.

Jesus says both hot or cold are desirable, but lukewarm doesn’t work. The illustration that every Witness knows is that of the embers staying hot only if they huddle toward the center. They also know the expression that it is possible to engage in the ministry just enough to hate it—only whole-souled with do the trick. They encourage members to solidify their faith through study, ministry, and association. “Make the truth your own,” is an expression all Witnesses know. If that sounds cult-like, it is because, given the present expanded definition, Christianity true to its roots is a cult.

It all boils down to what Jesus told Saul, related at Acts 26:14—“to keep kicking against the goads makes it hard for you.” A support system is only a support to those in line with the program—they will not think of them as goads at all. Should one choose to pursue Christianity, it does indeed come with a support system to better ensure success. But to those whose alignment to the Christian purpose has waned or even shut down, the goads will seem almost unbearably oppressive—it is no wonder that these would depart and thereafter speak ill of the faith they once breathed.

The situation resembles the apostle Paul’s letter to the Philippians. He is probably making lemonade out of lemons, but it is lemonade all the same: “True, some are preaching the Christ through envy and rivalry, but others also through goodwill. The latter are publicizing the Christ out of love…but the former do it out of contentiousness….What then? [Nothing,] except in every way, whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is being publicized, and in this I rejoice.”

Let the man make his movie. Should he be lambasted for it? He is a person of creative bent. What else should he be expected to do with his talents other than address what he once lived? I feel the same pressure, only from the opposite direction. I, too, tell stories, and everything comes with a Witness’s perspective because that is the life I live. Should I write of something else—say, current matters of newsworthy interest, I find that they usually come down to the same ending: “It’s all messed-up because we ‘need the kingdom.’” As Solomon put it, “that which is crooked cannot be made straight.”

Is it really Jehovah’s Witnesses that live in a manipulated unreality? Or it is their apostates? Each will choose differently. Thrilled to be finally liberated from “waiting upon God” and his kingdom rule, some of them dive into the formerly off-limits governments of nations with verve. Let them at least consider briefly The Confession of Congressman X, a book released in 2016:

“My main job is to keep my job, to get reelected. It takes precedence over everything,” the author quotes an anonymous member of Congress. “Voters are incredibly ignorant and know little about our form of government and how it works….It’s far easier than you think to manipulate a nation of naive, self-absorbed sheep who crave instant gratification.” He describes most of his colleagues as “dishonest career politicians who revel in the power and special-interest money that’s lavished upon them.” “Fundraising is so time consuming I seldom read any bills I vote on. Like many of my colleagues, I don’t know how the legislation will be implemented, or what it’ll cost,” the unburdening Congressman says—he is cleansing his soul, for he found the reality so different from what he had anticipated, and it has shaken his core, but, after all, he knows he has landed a good gig and doesn’t want to start pounding the pavements in search of another. “We spend money we don’t have and blithely mortgage the future with a wink and a nod. Screw the next generation. It’s about getting credit now, lookin’ good for the upcoming election.”

Like the three hoaxers of chapter 10, Congressman X will not be invited soon to any speaking engagements before the establishment. Every so often a factoid emerges from somewhere to reveal that the emperor has no clothes. Perhaps his is not the last word on matters. But then, perhaps the Apostasy movie’s word is also not the last word. We live in a world in which people process exactly the same data, come to polar opposite conclusions, and thereafter scream at each other day and night on social media. Let the spiritual things that preoccupy Jehovah’s Witnesses also take their turn in the spotlight—the things with the greatest consequence of all. Let them, too, divide people, according to what they wish to fixate upon.

Jehovah’s Witnesses are drawn from ones who know within themselves that the reality today has changed little from that of Bible times. Then, the common people were “skinned and thrown about.” It is modified today only in that there are more to do the skinning—powerful commercial, political, and religious interests. Those prospective Witnesses know intuitively that the game will not change, though it is ever moved to another level so as to give that appearance. They also sense a gross injustice at God’s taking the blame for the misuse of the free will that he afforded humans. Yet when they later band together and impose some limits on their own free will, they find that their God takes the blame for that, too, for that is an affront to “freedom.”

The urge to investigate the promises of the Bible and then stick with them in the face of opposition or adversity is largely a matter of the heart, not the head. “Sighing and groaning” over all these detestable things (Ezekiel 9) is not the same as bellyaching and complaining. Many do the latter. Relatively few do the former. The heart chooses what it wants, and then entrusts the head to devise a convincing rationale for the choice, lending the impression that it was the head all along. But it is mostly the heart.

Not everyone will feel as do future Witnesses, and some, like the movie director, will move in the other direction. Hope springs eternal. The game will change one day, through human efforts, they will maintain. The young will yet fix things—why did no other generation ever think to do this? Others acquiesce that the game may not change but they remain determined to ride it out, for good or ill. They will look with derision at Witnesses riding cramped in their self-described lifeboat. It is only to be expected. Jesus didn’t come to save the cool people. The cool people will tell you that they don’t need saving—they are doing just fine, thank you very much. He came to save, not those who do not need a physician, but those who do.

Are they really that cool? How cool can one be when in, a heartbeat, one can be run over by a truck? From their ranks come the ones who deride religion as a “crutch” of which they have no need. The analogy is correct—religion is a crutch. What is wrong is the premise. The premise that more aptly fits is that of the crippled fellow dragging himself through the mud, too stupid or proud—or maybe just uninformed—to know that a crutch would be useful. In his day, Ronald Reagan was arguably the most influential person on earth. Ten years later, in the throes of Alzheimer’s, he didn’t know who he was. How cool is that?

From the book TrueTom vs the Apostates!

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New Scientist and Blood Transfusions

When speaking medicine with someone who doesn’t care for Jehovah’s Witnesses, one finds that “blood transfusion” is always linked with “life-saving.” There are no exceptions. The noun and adjective must never be separated. At least, not until recently. At long last, the link is beginning to crumble. “Life-threatening” is fast emerging as a reality to offset, in part, the “life-saving.” Not among JW detractors, of course, who will still be chanting “life-saving blood transfusions” as they are lowered into their graves. But among those who actually keep up with things, matters are changing fast.

It is the only conclusion one can reach upon reading the April 26, 2008 New Scientist magazine. Entitled ‘An Act of Faith in the Operating Room,’ an article reviews study after study, and concludes that for all but the most catastrophic cases, blood transfusions harm more than they help. Says Gavin Murphy, a cardiac surgeon at the Bristol Heart Institute in the UK: “There is virtually no high-quality study in surgery, or intensive or acute care, outside of when you are bleeding to death, that shows that blood transfusion is beneficial, and many that show it is bad for you.” Difficulties stem from blood deteriorating in even brief storage, from its assault on the immune system, and from its impaired ability to deliver oxygen. In short, the “act of faith” referred to is not withholding a blood transfusion. It is giving one.

One study cited is from the journal Circulation, vol 116, p 2544: “For almost 9000 patients who had heart surgery in the UK between 1996 and 2003, receiving a red cell transfusion was associated with three times the risk of dying in the following year and an almost six fold risk of dying within 30 days of surgery compared with not receiving one. Transfusions were also associated with more infections and higher incidences of stroke, heart attack and kidney failure—complications usually linked to a lack of oxygen in body tissues.”

Once before I ventured into the blogosphere with similar thoughts and I count myself lucky to have escaped with my life: “You are welcome to your belief that blood is a dangerous substance that God wants you to avoid,” said Charlie. “But please, don’t claim that you are doing so out of reason.” “In the USA we have the inalienable right to be idiots, as long as it doesn’t hurt someone else,” lectured Chemish. From Stanley: “Refusing a life-saving blood transfusion (which hasn’t even any side effects) is clearly insane if the refusal is just because of the blood transfusion itself.” Greg: “Why is this crazy religion not a form of mental incompetence?” Justin: “My take on the matter is that ultimately anyone who subscribes to the no-blood doctrine has been brainwashed and is not fit to make decisions for themselves on this basis.”

And you should have heard them when I mentioned Dr. Bruce Speiss. They went positively apoplectic when he dared to use the R-word: “So it’s just largely been a belief system—almost a religion, if you will—that if you give a unit of blood, patients will get better” “What a crank!” they charged. He must be a Jehovah’s Witness himself. (He is not, but he might as well become one, for he will now have to deny it to his dying day.) Isn’t he the fellow selling cherry cola as a blood substitute? Didn’t he buy his medical degree online?

But now it turns out that everything Dr. Speiss said was correct—yes, even the religion part. Says New Scientist: “At first glance it seems astonishing that a technique used so widely for so long could be doing such harm. Yet many surgeons have proved reluctant to submit their methods to systematic study….[Their] assumptions went untested for the better part of a century”

And you should have seen these guys carry on when I suggested that the medical community would one day owe a debt to Jehovah’s Witnesses for setting them on the right track, urging the development of bloodless medicine. “Scientists invented bloodless medicine all by themselves!” they shrieked, guided only by their Scientific Method—climbing ever upward and onward—fearlessly pushing the bounds of human knowledge—all to the glorification of Science! “They don’t give two hoots about your pissy little religion!”

But in fact, some of them do. “[Bloodless surgery] was originally developed to enable Jehovah’s Witnesses, who shun transfusions, to undergo major surgery,” states the article, and then considers some of its advantages. Indeed, New Scientist opens with scripture: “‘For the life of the flesh is in the blood. No soul of you shall eat blood.’ So says the Bible’s book of Leviticus, and it is for this reason that Jehovah’s Witnesses shun blood transfusions.” Perhaps, the magazine suggests, all persons should be treated as Jehovah’s Witnesses.

Now, I don’t want to gloat over this development. I really don’t. Really and truly. Honestly.

On the other hand—Come on! You would too if you were in my shoes! For decades, we Witnesses were the ignorant slaves of superstition. Transfusion proponents, on the other hand, were the all-wise devotees of modern medical science. What right had we to not to do as we were told? I’ve known three persons in my lifetime who were told, point blank and without the slightest empathy, that they would die if they did not consent to a blood transfusion. None of these three consented. None died. Jehovah’s Witnesses don’t smoke, they don’t do drugs, they don’t drink to excess—all factors whose health risks, by their sheer prevalence, far outweigh anything having to do with transfusions. They are entirely cooperative with all aspects of medical care, barring only one. Unless fixated on just that one item, a doctor could not ask for better patients.

These findings, so new to the medical establishment, are not new to us. Witnesses have been accumulating them for years, trying to share them with doctors, usually being rebuffed, all the while with the media whipping folks into near hysteria. All we ever wanted was that our own religious conscience be respected, that medical people would not huff, “It’s my way or the highway!” and run roughshod over our consciences. Treat it as an allergy ruling out the favored treatment, if you must, and do the best you can under those circumstances. Decades ago Jehovah’s Witnesses formed Hospital Information Service committees from local volunteers and sent them into medical establishments to keep them informed on the latest advances in bloodless medicine. Believe me, it was not easy. Constantly we had to contend with, “And what medical school did you get your degree from?” But it has paid off. Here and there, fearless doctors have acknowledged our point of view and have worked to accommodate it. We are most grateful to these medical pioneers, who usually had to withstand much pressure from their own peers.

Did the New Scientist article declare blood transfusions inadvisable in all circumstances? No. It is still thought to be the best option in cases of severe anemia and catastrophic blood loss. But perhaps these views, too, will change. After all, if blood threatens harm to a healthy person, can it really be the treatment of choice for a critically ill one? Surely something from the field of bloodless medicine will emerge as superior, if it hasn’t already.

Incidentally, blood banks apparently plan no changes at present. “If all blood had to be used within two weeks, it would cause a major inventory problem,” says James Isbister, an adviser to the Australian Red Cross Blood Service, quoted in the article. Right. Just like that time I bought a basket of spoiled fruit and spent the week in the bathroom with diarrhea. I wasn’t upset. I realized it was my duty to grin and bear it. I didn’t want to screw up their inventory.

Anti-Witness “activists” should scream about blood transfusion and Jehovah’s Witnesses? Witnesses are the safest religion out there. Have there been deaths due to their transfusion stand? They are made up for 1,000 times over by their no-tolerance policy of tobacco, illicit drugs, and overdrinking. An anti-Witness activist truly interested in preserving life would direct his or her attention almost anywhere else.

Of course, one must be cautious with the above statement lest it appear callous. The survivors of one who has died for any reason will not be comforted to know he could have died in numerous other ways—the JW death was unnecessary, their detractors will allege. Well, that can be equally said of all the other ones, with the added travesty that no principle lay behind them at all other than the mere pursuit of pleasure. If Witness opponents would “protect” people from making choices that they don’t want them to make, surely these far more numerous causes of death should incur their ire long before transfusion situations.

And how can extreme sports not be railed against, or even regular sports? It is not uncommon to read of youths dying in this way, and if we count paralysis or foreshortened life due to head trauma, the numbers greatly escalate. Did anyone watch the youngster, an accomplished athlete, soaring thirty feet in the air on the Olympics half-pipe, come down crashing on the edge, and then slide limp into the center track? How many children have died or been maimed trying to emulate that trick, the purpose of which is no more noble than shining before others as daredevil and providing entertainment? For that matter, do we not read of far more driving deaths for youngsters than for those older? Ban them from the road. Find the age with the lowest death stats and ban driving at any other age. Let us veer into hyperbolic here, so as to illustrate that it is possible to paint oneself a great fool in one’s quest to restrict the freedom of others.

The willingness to put one’s life on the line for almost any cause is accepted as a matter of individual choice, often laudable individual choice. Only with those from the Jehovah’s Witness community is an exception made in the popular media. When a youngster dies through daredevil sports, is the coach ever fingered as an accessory to murder, as Jehovah’s Witnesses have been with regard to transfusions? No. We all know it—children so dying are lionized for living life to the full and giving their all in the quest of their dreams. It is only when their dreams include God that they are painted as “cult” victims.

From the book TrueTom vs the Apostates!

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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)