One Virtual Convention Replaces a Few Hundred Physical Ones

It started yesterday, just after the congregation meeting via zoom, just like Rocky said it would. It is divided up into 6 sessions, to be streamed from the website. The invitation is to view them directly after the abbreviated Watchtower Study, but they can be watched anytime.

I appreciated that the program went on with barely a hiccup, transferred to virtual. You just know that Zoom is giving people ideas. It works so well that even when the ‘coast is clear’ signal is given—assuming that it is someday—it will still play some role yet to be determined. At the very least, it will be the new option for people who can’t physically get to meetings, replacing the telephone tie-in. I could be wrong, but...let us be perfect candid...how likely is that?

Remember how Wayne Whitepebble used to carry on about the huge expense per family to attend? Even with economizing and choosing hotels on the recommended lodging list, it still was an annual expense of several hundred dollars. I wouldn’t be surprised if virtual supplements actual to some extent in the future.

On the first day, I liked the many stadium shots of Regional Conventions during the music introduction, and I even prefer the song in languages I do not understand—it gives it more of an international flavor.

Not only did they all start yesterday—actually just one now—but the entire world membership and their guests saw it. Even foreign languages—Rocky says last year there were about 100–saw the same speakers, with translation dubbed in. Of course, speakers at the Regionals of previous years have never been clunkers, but this year it is Governing Body members and their direct helpers—even better.

Some wiseacre has put out a meme, and it has been going around for awhile, of how to “prepare” for the virtual convention. It involves replicating all the inconveniences, and even aggravations, of the actual physical conventions. It’s very funny, and the friends love it.

Suggestions include making sure that you choose an uncomfortable chair to sit in, and then ramming another chair directly in front of it so you have no foot room. Make sure that you have an unstable platform for taking notes so that your notes (or even device) is sure to fall on the floor a time or two—and so forth—there are about a dozen of them. I even added one directed to a group of youthful sisters online—prepare ahead of time photos of all the eligible brothers so that you may engage in “fellowshopping” between sessions. 

Some of the dozen of so items of the list are not aggravating at all—they are merely inconveniences that are part of the package—they even contribute to the annual excitement. Still, streaming offers a way around much of what frustrates, while saving each family a huge amount of dough. We will see how much of it survives. Already in Rochester, at the last moment last year, Regional Conventions were cancelled at the location we had been using for 30 years. A change in management dramatically hiked the rates, and also (I am told) insisted that all pass through metal detectors manned by the facilities‘ own staff in order to enter. Disney on Ice, along with some Monster Truck Rally, also cancelled.

Through the years, Witnesses have developed a huge attendant department that will be far more vigilant than anything building management can come up with and that can spot a suspicious character blocks away, but new management would yield on nothing. We are to believe that some sleepy door employee, paid as little as possible, who will shake down a old man for a nail clipper and let an occasional knife slip by—we all know how these things work—is going to be more effective than our own people—alert due to love of those they protect? I don’t think so.

Witnesses canceled, with about three weeks to go before start of convention. Things hung in the air, though all were assured, and nobody doubted, that alternative arrangements would be made. They were—all was transferred to Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania, about four hours away for my wife and I. This year (prior to Covid-19) the entire 2020 Convention was going to be held at the Assembly Hall—an unheard of development (at least for me) that would entail splitting it up into a dozen different sections. 

It also doesn’t hurt that a small but very vociferous bevy of protesters is also thwarted by the switch—one reason the attendant department was so well organized was to prevent these ones getting in the face of visitors who aimed only to attend the convention in peace. The world has gone nuts in protesting things, and it can lead to the impression that many people don’t really have much to do with their lives. 

So changes were already underway In some places, and now with Covid-19, maybe some new ones may endure even once the all-clear signal is given. Unprecedented recent chaos made more timely the point raised by the keynote speaker, Kenneth Cook: “Is it possible to rejoice as the world crumbles around us?” It certainly is crumbling, and there isn’t a lot of hope among the general populace these days.

I had been told that Mark Sanderson’s talk Friday morning would be super-encouraging, on how one may “rejoice under persecution,” and it was. It even, as though for a personal zing to me, concluded with the same experience that I have used to conclude ‘TrueTom vs the Apostates!’—of a Russian brother sentenced to prison, who in slightly tongue-in-cheek fashion (which may or may not have been wise), invited the court to consider several years into the future, where there will be so many Witnesses in prison, and they will have so many Bible studies there—he had worked out the ratios—that when their sentences were up, they will not want to leave, and the Russian court would regret having ever sent them there in the first place. “He has a way with words, doesn’t he?” I concluded the book. “And math.”

(Like Dear Mr. Putin - Jehovah’s Witnesses Write Russia, I have used Covid-19 time to clear up blips, typos, and punctuation faux pas in ‘TrueTom vs the Apostates!’ that should have been cleared up before release, but I am only one person who had no idea how stubborn those things would be to get out, There were not nearly so many as the other book—the original was composed differently—but there were some, particularly at the end where I had very sloppily appended some updates post-publication. They’re all cleaned up, now.)

Then, too, there was that series of videos—the kind they always have—on ordinary scenarious and snares with which to cope. My wife has worked in machine shops. When that brother in the video dumped his cup of coffee and fried out the machine, she knew what that machine was. She knew how much it cost. She knew how much trouble he was in.

Did anyone else think that the janitor peering through the glass panel of the door—who saw it all—could have been like old Roger Chillingsworth had that brother tried to hide his ”sin?” Maybe he would have tormented the brother’s conscience until years later he would collapse on the floor, and co-workers would rip open his shirt to see “I did it” branded on his chest.

I sort of liked the line, “It even smells of coffee,” as they were thinking how feasible it might be to try to cover it up, before the brother decided (rather promptly) to fess up.

 

 

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I Will Miss the Zoom Meetings

Let nobody say that our chairman at the Zoom meeting does not have a sense of humor. His virtual backdrop for introducing the meeting was the Kingdom Hall platform—he seemed to be at the speaker stand. I thought it was real. But for the talk and Watchtower study, his backdrop became as though seated in the front row listening—he the only one present, so that even I began to see through the ruse.

Admit it. After the recent chaos of protests escalating to riots—throngs pouring onto the streets as though a coiled spring held down for weeks of quarantine suddenly released—and you know the underlying issues will not be fixed because they never are—was not the Zoom meeting refreshing? The public talk at our Hall was: Do You Harbor Resentment or Do You Forgive? and the Watchtower study: Love One Another Intently. Both represent aspects of “divine education” that, if you don’t have them, you will see most of your works fall apart—as most of the works of the greater world do.

Say what you will about organization, the Witness organization instantly got its head around an entirely new format so that “not forsaking our meeting together, as some have the custom, but encouraging one another, and all the more so as you see the day drawing near,” (Hebrews 10:24) could continue without a hiccup. It turns out that the give and take of the Watchtower Study in which anyone can participate, and is encouraged to do so, perfectly adapts to Zoom. This cannot be said of the typical ‘church’ service which consists of a preacher preaching to those in the pews, without feedback and thus lacking the element of fellowship.

I truly appreciate the quick adaptation and the efforts made to train persons in each congregation—many not at all technically savvy—to serve as hosts, assistants, and what not. The task is huge because villains were determined to horn in—like Vic Vomodog—so that he could disrupt the way he always does.

It is not just Vomodog and JWs. It is any riffraff disrupting any Zoom meeting. Bad news people are anywhere—the lecture of one Holocaust survivor was ‘Zoom-bombed’ with images of Hitler. But the Zoom founder is by all accounts a humble guy. He doesn’t make excuses. He says he should have been on top of things more and hires a ton of top-notch talent from places like Google to patch all concerns. Most people would say that if you opened your restaurant and everyone in the world dropped in for a hamburger and you hadn’t planned on that many, you ought not beat yourself up over it too much, but he does, at least publicly.

The breakout Zoom room feature adapts to hanging out after the meeting better than does even the actual physical meeting, imo. You are thrown in at random with congregation members, whereas at the physical you tend to gravitate toward this one or away from that one who is not your most bosom buddy; always there is some chemistry at work—but do it on Zoom and it is not so. There you are, face to face with Brother Lout, so you gingerly exchange some remarks, and discover he is not such a lout after all.

Also, the elders, who may confer with each other over congregation matters directly after the meeting, cannot do so. Too bad for them, because they will have to do it later, but good for everyone else in that they get to chum around with them more. And good news for them as well, really, because this way they get to better know the appearance the flock. I remember from my eldering days one brother that came straight from Bethel, already an elder, so his appointment simply had to transfer, who frustrated all the other elders because he was never available for that “brief elders’s meeting” after the Hall meeting—you could never pull him away from the friends. Now he is having the last laugh.

No, Zoom does not disagree with me. I will be a little sorry to see it go, and I suspect that it will not go in its entirety. This is despite a video making the rounds of Hitler hearing a report from his underlings that citizens can’t understand it. “Just call them and explain how it works,” he says with a distracted air. His minions look at each other with trepidation. “We have, mien fuhrer, but they still don’t understand.” Hitler glares, slowly removes his glasses, his trembling hand betraying his building rage. He orders everyone out of the room except the hosts, co-hosts, and attendants. “My grandmother knows how to use Zoom,” he begins, temper quickly rising to boil, “you just type in the username and password!!!”

Then he screeches a tirade that only Hitler could screech, as his underlings overhear in the hall with concern and the hosts before him stand petrified. “People hold the camera at stomach height, and they present as though with huge belly and tiny pinhead! We have people and we don’t even know who they are! Who is ‘Galaxy Tab 25? They turn their mike on when it is not their turn to speak and I hear them yelling at their husbands! I don’t want to see their cat, and I don’t want to see piles of their dirty laundry! And they sit with shirt and tie, and get up, and they are in their underwear!!!!”

With that he breaks down with, “When can we go back to the Kingdom Hall?”

It’s not just Witnesses. In the opening days of Covid 19, I read of some medical gathering. “Many of the participants are not familiar with technology” a tweet said, “and well into the program someone said of the host, ‘This guy’s a f**king idiot!’” which effectively shut down the conference.

It was probably some irreverent brother who created the Witness video—maybe even an ex-JW. Ought you really liken the one overseeing the meetings to Hitler? It is too much like the British soldier in ‘The Fortress’ who opines as to whether the devious colonist enemy will launch an attack: “Oh, they’ll come, without a doubt,” he mutters. “Like flies to dung, they will come,” oblivious to how he has just likened His Royal Majesty’s Navy to dung.

But it doesn’t matter—who cares?—the video is hilarious. These days, if you can’t convince your opponent, it is because he is “arrogant.” If even that does not sway him, then it can only be that he is “like Hitler.” That is just the way people are. It may not even be an ex-Witness—just 20 years after the Evil One went down, the Nazis were thought fine grist for the Hogan’s Heroes mill—a sit-com that lasted many seasons, in which the camp Nazis were lovable buffoons (though the outside-the-camp ones were nasty buffoons).

The only reason I advance the notion in the first place is that I know the “Superpioneer” clip was produced by ‘apostate’ youngsters—though maybe they only became ‘apostate’ afterwards. Come now, can we agree that to call them ‘apostate’ is to cheapen the word?—“I know that kid,” my daughter had said of one of them. They are just our version of what youngsters have done since the beginning of time: kids who rebel against their upbringing, and largely for the same reason—their upbringing was too “restrictive” and their parents were “square.” Even “monogamous marriage” has gone the way of the dinosaur to ones sucked into the independent world, to say nothing of other modes of sexual life.

When Mrs. Harley and I homeschooled the children, and we picked up the 20-record anthology collection of the great musicians, I was surprised at how many of them had been ostracized by their fathers for not going into law or anything deemed more substantial than music. It was even so in Ken Burns’s documentary series, ‘Country Music.’ Kris Kristopherson was cut off (notified by letter) from his high-brow family for turning his back on the course they’d charted for him and devoting himself to honky-took ditties. “Always a joy to receive a letter from home, isn’t it?” Johnny Cash said to him. So children who sour on the nest in which they were raised is hardly unique to Witnesses—more have shared in that circumstance than not.

Seriously—look it up if you can—“Superpioneer”—it is hilarious. “I know you’re busy, so I’ll be brief” Superpioneer says, after walking directly into machine gun fire unharmed. He finishes up a nice Bible discussion with the terrorists, having placed literature, as they wave good-bye, calling out “dukka-dukka” in a sing-song manner—the only words any of them know—change the inflection and it can mean anything—in fact, it is the same “dukka dukka dukka dukka dukka that is their machine gun fire. Watch the video—not from my blog because (I checked) my link is now inoperative and it was not important enough to update. But the original can still be found somewhere. Watch it—nothing wrong with it all all. Only beware of the following YouTube Video—it’s Vic Vomodog! in his most droning tone, expounding upon ‘Fifty Ways to Leave your JW Lover.’

 

 

 

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The Locusts of Joel and the Locusts of Revelation—Two Different Species!

I commented on the first paragraph of that Watchtower study (April 2020) on the Joel passage about locusts—rarely do I comment on the very first paragraph—on how all “fundamental Bible truths”—soul, resurrection, paradise earth, no trinity, why suffering—had been uncovered back in Russell’s day. There had been lots of tweaking since then, as would be done this day—sometimes there is even backtracking—but everything fundamental was revealed long ago. “Someone would raise a question, and then the group would examine every scripture text related to the subject. Finally, they would make a record of their findings. With Jehovah’s blessing, those sincere Christian men discovered many fundamental Bible truths that we cherish to this day,” the paragraph read, of Russell’s time.

A little girl—was she nine?—the speaker’s daughter, nailed that technical point about verse 28 that many adults I am sure would have missed. Holy spirit should be during, not after, the locust charge of Joel 1:14 if those locusts can be said to represent Jehovah’s servants. That holy spirit is said to come after, not during, was one of four bits of presented evidence to suggest a rethinking of Joel 2:7-9 was due:

They charge like warriors, They scale a wall like soldiers, Each keeps to his own course, And they do not swerve from their paths.They do not shove one another; Each man advances in his course. If the weapons cause some to fall, The others do not break ranks.Into the city they rush, on the wall they run. Onto the houses they climb, through the windows they enter like a thief.” (vs 7-9)

No, it has nothing to do with preachers of the good news—it is a description of the ancient invading Babylonian article of long ago. The reason the passage was ever connected with preaching of the good news in the first place was because of a passage in Revelation chapter 9 that is similar in some aspects—but not all. The differences were highlighted in yesterday’s study in the following paragraph:

Consider: In Joel’s prophecy, the locusts devastate the vegetation. (Joel 1:4, 6, 7) In John’s vision, the locusts are “told not to harm the vegetation of the earth.” (Rev. 9:4) The locusts Joel saw came from the north. (Joel 2:20) Those John saw came out of an abyss. (Rev. 9:2, 3) The locusts Joel described are driven away. In Revelation, the locusts are not driven away but are allowed to finish their work. There is no indication that they deserve Jehovah’s disapproval.​“

The little girl, by the way, along with her even younger brother who also commented like an adult—the two were centered in their Zoom window, and it was the parents who where cut in two by the frame—one on this side and one on that. I talked to my daughter the next day, and she knows the mother. Those kids were brought up as was my daughter and her brother—you don’t make little children prepare the entire Watchtower—how in the world are they going to retain any of it? What you do is focus on just 2 or 3 paragraphs, teach so they can explain it in their own words, and throw the rest away—for them, that is, not you. They’ll pick up more of it as they grow—and what is more important, they will want to, since they have had the experience of understanding and explaining smaller portions.

Frankly, the update from preachers to Babylonian army seemed so obvious that one wonders how it could have missed in the first place. But the explanation that was supplied I can live with: “Bible prophecies are often best understood when they are undergoing fulfillment or after they have been fulfilled.” Okay. The public speaker in his (unconnected) talk had said something about hiking a trail and you can’t really see things until you come across them—he even displayed Watchtower artwork of a family hiking, and it looked like his!—with two tow-headed kids and a mother with dark hair.

Sure. You’d best wait for things to undergo fulfillment or even to have already gone down before you prophesy on what has gone down—I can get my head around that. Still, it does represent some pulling in of the horns—maybe because sometimes those horns hadn’t always hit the target, and now there is more modesty. What! You think it’s a piece of cake looking into the future? It’s not.

I am reminded of that scene from ‘Up the Down Staircase’ in which the high-school student contests his failing grade for having wrongly interpreted a poem. His protest falls on deaf ears, even after he brings the poet to class and the poet says, ‘Yes—that is exactly what he meant.’ The teen’s only consolation is to know that he has changed school policy; from that day on only dead poets are to be used for assignments.

Vic Vomodog, that perennial apostate, somehow caught wind of the revision, and screamed “flip_flop” on his website! “It used to be this way—and now it is that way! he hyperventilated.

As far as I am concerned, the way you answer the idiot is to say, “Oh, we changed that.” We lean into punches when we could just as easily duck them. Duck them, and the big slob’s own momentum (believe me, he is a big slob) sends him hurtling over the edge.

It is only soreheads who think it not permissible to revise positions—the JW organization itself doesn’t say it, nor do reasonable people. What is “the light that gets brighter” and “tacking” if not an admission that things change? The current study article was even more forthright—they see what they now see “in hindsight.” They are not the essential things that I commented on in that first paragraph, is the point—the core beliefs that everyone who became a Witness did so on that account—the core beliefs—that distinguish JWs from any other religion—that opposers forget all about, and thus reveal they haven’t a spiritual bone in their bodies, as they harp on trivial matters of human imperfection—as though Santa Claus should be running the show—showering presents on everyone and asking nothing more than a vague promise to ‘be nice,’ for people to define any way they like.

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‘Using’ the Pandemic to ‘Recruit’ - Sheesh! What is it With These Nutcases?

It must really confound those who accuse the JW organization of being a cult that few people are behaving better these days, or more reasonably, with more of an eye toward the public good. That #CultExpert tweets about how Jehovah’s Witnesses manipulate people, and I reply that their followers put his to shame for vanquishing COVID. Jehovah’s Witnesses immediately transferred all gatherings to Zoom and issued strong counsel to observe government-recommended social distancing—which our people will observe because they strive to be obedient. But his followers? Some will observe social distancing, no doubt—probably even most, but is his mission statement ‘Freedom of Mind’ really compatible with obedience to secular authority? You don’t think some will use their ‘freedom of mind’ to tell the government to buzz off—‘We’ll party on the beach if we feel like it!?’—thus spreading COVID far and wide?

Doubtless they expected ‘scare-mongering’—‘using’ the present crisis to scare new ones into the fold—and in fact, there have been accusations of that. But you really really have to stretch the point if you go there. The lead post on jw.org is the most socially responsible contribution imaginable, replete with suggestions on how to cope with isolation and resulting loneliness. With people beside themselves with anxiety, unable to cope in many cases, you don’t think that is a valuable contribution, perhaps THE most valuable? After all, if your psyche breaks down, all the physical relief in the world does you no good.

It reminds me of the verse on muzzling the talk of the ignorant ones by doing good. To be sure, hostile ones are still criticizing—but in doing so,  they are also plainly revealing their ignorance, and in some cases, their hate.

In fact, I don’t quite go there with the CultExpert, for some of the groups he monitors really DO seem pretty strange—so I don’t go there, though I do think about it—I almost want to say: “LET them join a cult if it helps them get through this and save their sanity! What are you offering in lieu—that we should put our hope in the next crop of politicians? Haven’t we been down that road countless times before?”

Affirming some cult idiot’s charge that I am ‘using’ the pandemic to ‘recruit,’ (to anyone concerned about that, I reply that on the 200th contact I will ask if they want to convert and then they can say ‘no’—in the meantime, it’s just conversation—don’t worry about it) I have many times tweeted that lead post to persons, sometimes in response to a specific plea like with Mr. Fiend, and sometimes I just throw it out there—with good results in both cases. Sometimes the tweets are retweeted. Unless you are a snarling ‘ain’t-cultist,’ people do not misunderstand—they know that you are trying to help.

As always, you tailor your tweet to the person. To persons who appear secular, you say (this one was lamenting a suicide she had read about): “It is a terrible thing. Healthy people struggle when their routine is uprooted, let alone persons unwell to begin with. I sent this to someone who tweeted that he was frankly losing it. There is a spiritual component to it, but it is mostly on combatting isolation and loneliness”—and I attach the link.

To someone decidedly irreligious, you might say: “As a suggestion—nothing more—here is a series of posts on how to cope with isolation and loneliness. Upended routines are driving everyone up a tree. My turn is probably next. Like Bob Dylan: ‘The riot squad is restless, they need somewhere to go.’” I like to play the Dylan card—it doesn’t mean that you have to. You also don’t exempt yourself—hence the ‘my turn is probably next,’

My new pinned tweet is: “With #mentalhealth under assault and even balanced people buckling under the stress, I can’t imagine a better read than this one on coping with isolation and loneliness from #JehovahsWitnesses,” as I include a link to the post.

Note the hashtags. Ages ago my daughter said to me: “They’re hashtags, Dad, not crosstags.” Hashtags are fair game on social media, whereas tagging individuals directly is generally considered rude, unless you know full well that they will welcome it. Hashtags will draw in anyone else who monitors the subject—as an experiment, enter a hashtag anything on social media to see what comes up. You can even use it as your own filing system if you choose a hashtag unique enough.

It can, however backfire. If the hashtag is of any controversial topic, it can bring in people who want to argue, even insult. In the case of Jehovah’s Witnesses, there are disgruntled former members—‘apostates’—that can be attracted—in fact, they almost surely will be. “Oh, yeah,” you can mutter. “They’ll come alright. As surely as flies to dung, they will come!” But you should not say this because, while you are comparing apostates to flies, you are also comparing yourself to dung—so you should seek another metaphor.

My #mentalhealth hashtag drew in some mental health people, some of whom expressed great appreciation. But true to warning, my #jehovahswitnesses hashtag drew in some ‘apostates.’

“The rather large elephant in the paragraph [about the comfort JWs offer] is the Jehovah’s Witness shunning policy.”

But I replied (in three tweets):

“There is hardly an issue here. Those who would trigger a ‘shunning policy’ are those for whom, at the present time, the last thing in the world they would want is to abide by the principles of those who wrote the article. Even so, they are welcome to take from it what they will.”

“The thoughts expressed in the article are non-denominational, offered freely to all, even those on the outs at present with JWs. It’s meant as a public service. One need not take it. One can always put trust in the politicians, medical staff, and economists to fix matters.”

I looked at the detractor’s profile and discovered that she was one who was trying to torpedo the JW organization’s status as a charitable religious organization, something that they plainly are:

“In fact, it is an excellent post for consideration of the @CharityComms, though not written for that reason. Look, nobody is everything to everyone. But they will recognize that we are well past the time for nursing grudges—not with C19 threatening the mental health of the planet.”

It shut her up! I couldn’t believe it! It is unheard of! ‘Apostates’ never ever EVER give up—I’ve had to block some—and yet she gave up. There is no finer proof of 1 Peter 2:15 than that: “For it is the will of God that by doing good you may silence the ignorant talk of unreasonable men.”

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The Riot Squad is Restless, They Need Somewhere to Go—Witnessing When You Can’t

At a Zoom meeting for field service I admitted that I probably wasn’t going in service at all and, that being the case, I felt a little silly attending, but I did so anyway because that is what Jehovah’s Witnesses do. Every so often certain squirrelly things come up that everyone knows about, but they hesitate to state the obvious. With a squirrelly reputation is already firmly in place, I thought I’d have a go at it. It’s a little tricky to say because it you don’t want to down anyone’s ministry. Fortunately for me, I struck a chord. Others were where I was.

Now, letter-writing is fine—phone calls, too, I guess. Long ago I started a Bible study through a telephone call to someone in that apartment complex we couldn’t get into. I’m okay with both of them. But neither was ever intended to be the main ministry. Both were good for shut-ins—not for the prime ministry of able-bodied ones who might dabble in them but not jump in whole hog.

A pioneer sister said elsewhere—as soon as I heard her say it, I said ‘This is my kind of sister!’ that maybe it makes her a bad pioneer, but she’s not about to go into letters and phone calls 70 hours. I liked her almost as much as I did the candid sister trying to get people to go out with her in service after the Sunday meeting said to me: ‘It’s like pulling teeth!’ and I had to laugh, not only because it is, but also because only one person in 200 would have said it—my wife and I usually go out on Sunday but were not able to that particular day.

Sunday after the meeting is not a well-supported time in our area—too bad, really, because the organization used to try to pump up the day for the longest time by recalling how Supreme Court cases were fought to assure us that right, but times have changed. The congregation, by and large, chooses other days for the ministry. It is what it is, and the organization gave up—or at least it is not stressed as before, though when the CO was here he made a big deal of it and over 50 were out then, but the next week it was two—some Sundays it is nobody. Now that we are on COVID Zoom time, there is yet a local call for Sunday service but there is hardly any point to it anymore. The day used to be unique because you could find people home—now you can find them home any old time—and it doesn’t matter because we don’t go to their homes anyhow.

Her husband told her not to worry about it—that sister who wasn’t doing 70 hours of letters. That’s what the organization has said, too. Still, you never know when some local firebrand of a brother is going to lean on everyone else to ‘get with the new program.’ I see the calamity coming along and try to conceal myself. I’m not doing phone calls—oh, I may do a few here and there, even a few letters—but these days it is the friends to focus on. People don’t answer their phone anyways unless they recognize the number. At least I don’t—if you do, scammers will eat you alive. As for letters—look, they’re okay, but would I pay 55 cents per door to visit each householder in person? I would not. I want door-to-door and cart witnessing, and I can’t do them! Even were the green light given to resume the tried and true methods, householders would take offense, as though you had just stopped by to infect them so as to bump them off.

Bob Dylan sung: “The riot squad is restless, they need somewhere to go.” He could just as well have been singing it about Jehovah’s Witnesses. We need somewhere to go! Letter-writing and phone calls should become my bread and butter? Look, if someone wants to do that—and some do—I have no problem with it—go for it, especially for shut-ins who already were. I just don’t want it to become one of those things where if you don’t do it you’re deemed not very spiritual. I don’t think that will happen, but you never know. It’s hard to give it the personal touch. You can witness by text as well, and there are some possibilities there, but it still falls far short of the personal touch that I have grown to love.

My form of witnessing has come into its own, yet I can only say it gingerly, lest some jump in to warn me about the ‘dangers of the internet.’ Man, I wish we weren’t so timid about it. Say that you enjoy witnessing on social media and it is sort of like saying that you enjoy farting at the Hall. Nobody has ever said that you can’t do it. But ‘social media’ is never ever included in those articles about the many paths open to witnessing. Couple that with frequent caution about the internet being where the liars hang out—well, I just zip my mouth.

It can be done but you can’t be clumsy. You can’t do it directly. There is nothing that corresponds to ringing someone’s doorbell. There is nothing that corresponds to cart work. Sometimes brothers think that they can throw witnessing tweets just out there in the mix for passerby to pick up on, but if they follow counsel to friend only those they personally know, or at least those who seem just like those they know, they end up preaching to the choir. Then one of those who ‘seems like those they know’ turns out to be not what he seems and presents raring for a fight.

The analogy that best fits is where you move into a community—you buy or rent a residence. When you do such a move, you do not do so in order to witness to the neighbors—you do it because you need a place to live. Once you have settled in, however, you interact to a reasonable degree with the general community and in doing so, opportunities for informal witnessing arise.

All is not lost for traditional people-to-people witnessing. Walking the dog the way I do, I ran across a retired couple heading in the opposite direction.  Engaged in a little chit-chat, and presently asked how were they holding up anxiety-wise, crazy world and all. As it turned out, they were holding up just fine, but they still heard me out when I said “Everyone has a cause and so do I. Lately I’ve been calling attention to a website with a lead post on how to cope with isolation—a big concern for many.” The man allowed that mental health was a huge deal, and I added how with some it was not too good to begin with, and now this. ‘Jw.org,’ I said, if you should ever want to check it out—just two letters, easy to remember.

I didn’t even hand him a card, which might have had cooties on it.

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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)

Zoom and Jehovah’s Witnesses

In a service group Zoom meeting on the ministry, one sister said how we ought not “put people in boxes.” I agreed with this remark as I gazed upon ten boxes of people on my computer screen. The gray boxes suddenly appear with name only. It is like a drum roll announcing the appearance of yet another friend. Then the video comes online, as though the cymbal crash. I can get used to this. There are some aspects of it I even prefer—such as wearing my slippers.

With very little fuss at all Jehovah’s Witnesses adopted the Zoom conferencing software and now conduct all meetings this way. Doesn’t it provide case-in-point to those talks about how Jehovah considers people individually important? There were other church groups that also adopted Zoom—Witnesses were not alone—but because their normal program structure doesn’t incorporate congregation participation, there were remarks that the result just seemed too irrelevant and inadequate for the times. Some of those churches indeed had additional social groups, chat rooms, but that was just it—they were for chat, with no spiritual component built into it.

Then there were also some churches that blew past social distance strictures as a scheme to subvert religion and held their services as usual, enraging everyone else for being so ‘irresponsible,’ even defiant of public policy.

How much ‘credit’ will Jehovah’s organization get their for quick cooperation with the new social distancing policies at no spiritual detriment to believers? When the CultExpert tweets that cult members are putty in the hands of their leaders ordering them to ignore science and convene as usual, I append that there is at least one “cult” that does not. When he says that cults fall into line with the prompts of his new nemesis, the Supreme Cult Leader Trump, I tell him that there is at least one “cult” that is universally known to be apolitical—and not involved in such controversies at all. I mean,  in some many ways, Jehovah’s Witnesses are the polar opposite of his cult model, and as so I can’t help but think, even though I know better, that he will one day halt his ridiculous efforts to categorize them as such. I think I told him somewhere along the line that if all persons were ‘cult’ members like Jehovah’s Witnesses, COVID-19 would have moved on by now—it’s not OUR people that were partying on the beach, but it likely included some of his, whose distinguishing feature is ‘independence’ and ‘forming their own mind.’ That’s a recipe for cooperating with government recommendations? I don’t think so.

The Zoom company wondered why so many of those using their app identified as Jehovah’s Witnesses—this was related to us by a brother in our service meeting group. Zoom had served as a tool for his huge family reunion just after the Memorial, bringing together ones who had not crossed paths in some time, and some of them had Warwick connections. Warwick brothers got to witness to the Zoom team, they related. Six Zoomer leaders attended a meeting, and three of those stayed on till the end.

Now, our brothers will unfailingly put a spiritual face on doings that may be completely non-spiritual. But surely the core of the story will be true. They will spin it that these Zoomers are on the cusp of Bible study themselves, when doubtless their first motive will be to see how their product is being used and provide customer support. That does not mean a spiritual component is non-existent. Time will tell. Meanwhile, unless I am very much mistaken (how likely is THAT?) Jehovah’s Witnesses worldwide are giving their product its most rigorous workout ever, ensuring that each member is connected to the coordinating organization—and this cannot help but put the cause to the front of their consciousness. Just like Putin never saw anything like every Witness in the world writing him on behalf of their brothers, so Zoom never saw anything like the efforts to keep every Witness in the world unified in Bible teachings.

Zoom was not ready for the explosion of interest in their product—nobody would be. It is as though you open a restaurant and everyone in the country shows up to order a hamburger. Some security issues came to the fore and the Zoom people scrambled to patch them, like the kid sticking his fingers in the dike. Two weeks ago our elders mentioned having received an 8-page letter from our own HQ on how to effectively yet safely use the product. All elders in the world got up to speed on Zoom—and there will be among them a huge number, no doubt, with very shaky grasp of technology to begin with.

Now you know—you just know—how the brothers would have been in interacting with Zoom personnel. They would have been respectful, patient, and even helpful, as the creators of what one Italian IT firm called the “world’s best website” (mentioned in one of the Yearbooks—I think, 2017). Contrast that with the typical customer, who might well not be that way at all—screaming when something goes wrong, some of them. Faith and its resulting qualities are not the possession of all people.

It seems a perfect time to kick back at some of those naysayers—you know who you are (oh....they will mostly be on the open forum, not here. Ah, well...tough) —who have said, “Who needs organization?” People are going stir-crazy in the greater world, but it is not so with Jehovah’s people. Just ‘Jesus and me?’—that’s enough? I think not. It is the bottom line, of course. You need a relationship with the father and with the son. But as a gimme, God throws in a network of united worshippers—a brotherhood. Anyone would be crazy to pass that by. We are social beings. We’re built that way. The brotherhood has come to the fore with its quick adaptation of technology.

At the same time, the non-stop Bible counsel fed us on how to get along with family and spouse in forbearance and love—you want to try to tell me that hasn’t come in handy? There are many people for whom the worst possible stressor is to sentence them to open-ended ‘prison terms’ with their family—cooped up in the same house! but it is not so for Jehovah’s people. Again, the godly organization has kept that counsel before us incessantly and never has the payoff been more apparent than now.

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)