Avoiding Masks in Public—the New Snake Handling. The Huffington Post Weighs In

The Huffington Post is an irreligious source that works fairly hard to exalt “reason” and persuade that faith is for chumps. Alas, religion behaves in such a way as to give them plenty of easy shots. Like this one from a former church missionary, now a skeptic, who says:

“The best testimonies in church were always from addicts and ex-cons who started with, “If it weren’t for God, I might be dead by now.” In 2020, I wonder the opposite. If it weren’t for no longer believing, I could be dead by now.”

This is because, in the writer Karen Alea’s view, the more Bible-believing someone is, the more likely they are to blow off “COVID-19 [as] a hoax, or even if it’s not a hoax, God will protect them from it.” She cites a study that say 55% of believers are convinced that God will protect them from the virus. They gather in defiance of government advisories and see efforts to curtail services as tricks of the devil to which they will not fall victim.

In the effort to convey that those who believe the Bible are nuts and even harmful, since they downplay (or ignore) masks and social distancing, the Huffington Post does not mention that the largest group of evangelizers BY FAR (since every member preaches the good news—until not long ago, from door to door) had no problem at all with complying with the recommendation of government and health policies—even acting ahead of them. We always take a hit from these religionists, because their deeds are ascribed to us, even though ours are 180 degrees opposite.

Jehovah’s Witnesses immediately shut down all congregation gatherings, even before governments starting decreeing it. There was about a week in early March when it was stated to congregations that the group whose turn was to clean the Kingdom Hall would sanitize every touchable surface both before and after meetings, but this lasted only a week. A letter from the Branch subsequently stated all physical meetings would be suspended. And yet congregation members missed nothing—the succeeding week all meetings were held via the Zoom app.

At the same time, the trademark feature of Jehovah’s Witnesses, the house to house ministry, was suspended for the first time ever. It was one of the constants of life—“there is death and taxes and Jehovah’s Witnesses” and then it was no more. The New York Times acknowledged this shift—it is a tidal wave historic shift—though because they share the same “enlightened” view of Bible-believers as the HuffPo, they managed to convey it as though it was only for outward appearances, that contrary to the Governing Body’s statement about putting life first, they didn’t give a hoot about life and were frustrated the pandemic would deprive them of their powers to “manipulate people”—oh yeah! these anti-cult crazies have guzzled far too much of their own Kool-Aid—still they did acknowledge it.

Why doesn’t the Huffington Post acknowledge this example that flies in the face of their “Bible-believers are reckless” narrative? The answer is contained in the question—they don’t want things to fly in the face of what they believe. Man, that is irritating! It is like the Black Nationalist I spoke with in the ministry who allowed that Jehovah’s Witnesses know their Bibles more than others, but he still looked upon them askance because he thought they were Trump supporters. It’s like Jen, who told me how people just assume that she, as a Christian woman serious enough about the Bible to visit their home, must necessarily be a Trump supporter. How she answered I do not know, but I know how I answered the Black Nationalist: that the Pew Research people report that Jehovah’s Witnesses are apolitical, and to the extent they are not, they lean slightly Democrat. But the feature of the chart that immediately strikes one is their distinct lack of participation on either side—in sharp contrast to any other religion surveyed. In fact (this is just my guess), if it were not for the fact that participants in such surveys self-identity, even the low participation rates revealed would be much lower still.

So here we have the Huffington Post striving with all its irreligious might to convey that Bible-believing is reckless, when in fact, not only are Jehovah’s Witnesses more responsible than the church Christians they consider, but they are more responsible than the Post’s own skeptical readers! They must be. The Cult Expert’s hashtag—he of the BITE model—is “freedomofmind.” You don’t think at least some of his followers will use their freedom of mind to tell the authorities where they can go with their advisories?

Now, this is not to say that Jehovah’s Witnesses have given up on their ministry, but they have shifted to methods not necessitating personal contact—letters, phone calls, online, informal situations, and the like—not as thorough, probably, but the best that can be done under the circumstances—maybe a little like how the ministry slows notably, but does not stop, during the atrocious months of winter.

So the Huffington Post ignore the example of Jehovah’s Witnesses that flies in the face of their ‘Bible-believers are reckless’ narrative because they are irreligious. Writer Karen Alea ignores it however—well, who can say why she ignores it?—but it is very likely that she does not know about it. And why does she not know about it?

Because the church community she hails from collectively does all it can to spread the fiction that Jehovah’s Witnesses are not Christian. And why do they do that? Because they buy into the completely illogical trinity teaching, and Jehovah’s Witnesses do not. The verses that can be used to support the trinity would, if seen in any other context, be instantly dismissed as figure of speech, and yet they take it all literally. No wonder her former chums declared that her problem was “logic” that was holding her back from God’s blessing. Now—in fact, there is something to not thinking you can figure God out, but that is not the same as incorporating completely irrational notions into your definition of him.

Portions of what Alea observes about her previous church connections would be unsettling to any of Jehovah’s Witnesses—even given that the Huffington Post will not paint faith in a flattering way and when they cover Jehovah’s Witnesses, they rip them apart, too.  For example, with regard to her pursuing the “gift of tongues,” she followed the advice to “Just let it come,” the leader said. I decided I needed to break through this rational thinking stifling me and so I followed their directions and emulated some of the sounds of speaking in tongues I heard coming out of the mouths of the people surrounding me. As I did, their prayers got louder with excitement. Adults, leaders, people who had put their lives on the line for God could tell I was being blessed and it roused their souls. I repeated the same odd five sounds again and again like a child starting to talk.” Most of Jehovah’s Witnesses would regard this as flirting with demonism—you don’t try to override your common sense—if it doesn’t make sense, don’t do it.

This one is more than a little screwy, too: She writes: “I believed God would put things in my path to bless me or test me. Both would make me stronger in my faith.” In fact, overcoming trials does make one stronger—this is true for believers and non-believers alike—but does God “put things in her path to test her?” How does that square with the verse Witnesses read all the time, and now reading Karen’s article, I can better see why: “When under trial, let no one say: “I am being tried by God.” For with evil things God cannot be tried, nor does he himself try anyone.” (James 1:13) It is a seemingly subtle aspect of belief—that God causes suffering—that translates into a huge and deleterious shift of outlook.

Of course, Karen’s moved on from religion, now—she’s “currently a skeptic”—but how much of it is due to the nonsense she was required to swallow in the first place? She is preaching her new gospel: “Christianity is based on one singular belief: Jesus raised from the dead. Once you believe in one miracle, the pathway is paved to believe in the next. Not all branches of faith go as far as handling snakes, but they’re all rooted in the one miracle that overrides our intellect.

Does it really “override our intellect” or is it just something that we don’t know? Now, the trinity—that overrides our intellect. That is said to be beyond our powers of understanding even by its most ardent advocates. But the resurrection? Once you accept the premise that God created life, what is so hard about accepting that he can restore it? Haven’t you ever fixed something that was broken?

At any rate, she has described the course she once embraced as “spiritual terrorism.” She writes of how “gathering together [was] the best way to get out the message and be heard. But accompanied by their belief that God is protecting them against a government mask mandate, these particular groups of Christians are spreading more than the Word of God.

Well, if it kills huge swaths of people, as appear to be the case, I guess I can see her point of view as to what is “spiritual terrorism.” Still, somewhere along the way, even in a footnote, I would have been happy had the Huff Po said Jehovah’s Witnesses do not carry on that way—and they are the most evangelistic of all.

 

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1975–Could it Happen Again?

It’s embarrassing when you say the world is going to end and then it doesn’t. How are you going to shake off that one? Jonah was so nonplussed that he hiked outside Nineveh to sit and sulk. (Jonah 4:1-5)

Robert Luccioni addressed such problems when he advised “strengthening your spiritual core.” Disturbed at a prior organizational “dogmatic statement?” What if you had heard Jesus himself make one? “Most truly I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of man and drink his blood, you have no life in yourselves,” he said. (John 6:53) He lost a lot of disciples that day. “This speech is shocking—who can listen to it?” they said, and stomped off. They might have done better had they strengthened their spiritual core—hang around to see how it played out.

The trick is not to try to sanitize the present. It is to desanitize the past. This is what Luccioni does as he considers a few biblical blooper scenarios, like when Jesus’s disciples failed flubbed up expelling a demon that was causing great havoc to a child—and the scribes were making hay out of that failure. “They failed? Isn’t that their job?” he envisioned spectators being stumbled over it. (Mark 9:14-18) In the same way should modern-day “disciples” fail in some aspect of their job—well—some are stumbled.

How about the brouhaha over 1975? Might that not cause ones minus an enduring spiritual core some problems. Vic Vomodog trots out this faux pas repeatedly. Answer his question once and he repackages it and runs it through again. What a humiliation it was. Could it happen again?

There are two ways to answer this question: 

“No.” As Mark Twain said: “A cat that sits on a hot stove will never sit on a hot stove again. Nor will it sit on a cold one, for they all look hot.”

“Yes.” Are you kidding me? It was 6000 years countdown from Adam per Bible chronology. AND, coupled with the 1000 year reign of Christ to commence after Armageddon. It doesn’t call to mind the 6:1 sabbath arrangement of God? Especially given that one day to God is as 1000 years to mankind? Yes, yes—days to years is apples to oranges—still, its close enough. It is the 1000 to 1 that sticks.

Come now. You think they’re going to snooze through that one? They’re the watchman, after all. It’s an irresistible type/anti-type situation. Given the monumental alignment of the planets, it’s a wonder they didn’t make the call far more forcefully than they did, instead of merely stating it was a possibility, which some zealots presently escalated into a probability. They have to make a call on something like that. It is a sorry watchman, peering through the gloom, high up in his perch, that sounds the alarm only when the prow of the approaching ship smashes through the gunwale and pinches his toes.

“No.” The above is actually reassuring. Because such monumental circumstances will not repeat for a long, long, time—and it took such monumental circumstances to put the call on the back burner that some moved to the front. Three or four years after 75, I recall some rep saying, “We’ve sailed past all the markers.” What can that mean except, “We’re done?” No more calls like that—until the next time—but there shouldn’t be a next time, for that kind of a setup doesn’t happen everyday. Now we get things like “deep in the last days,” the “end is just around the corner,” and “the last of the last days.” No sense in holding out till “the last of the last of the last of the last days” Last of the last is enough.

Everyone gets one failed end-date call within a lifetime. It’s in the rules. It’s a sign of staying alert. Jump the gun in the race and do they shoot you with it? No. It’s not a big deal. They just start the race over.

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An Unlikely People for Persecution—Part 1

Any advanced alien civilization worth its salt, stumbling upon earth, will note its warlike past and present and as a consequence, will set its blasters to ‘pulverize.’ But they will pause upon discovering there is a group of people who categorically reject war participation—under any circumstances, for any reason. ‘Maybe there is hope,’ they will think. But further intelligence will reveal that group has been declared extremist and they will pull the trigger.

Any advanced alien civilization worth its salt, stumbling upon earth, will note its past and present racial hatred and as a consequence, will set its blasters to ‘pulverize.’ But they will pause upon discovering there is a group of people who have no problem in this regard—Pew Research said of Jehovah’s Witnesses “the denomination is one of the most racially and ethnically diverse of any religious group in the US. . . .32% are Hispanic, 27% are Black, and 36% are white.” ‘Maybe there is hope,’ they will think. But further intelligence will reveal that group has been declared extremist and they will pull the trigger.

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They are declared extremist in Russia, but considered extremist—or at least weird—by a ton of other nations despite their peace and racial harmony. These are people who do not retreat to some inward cult cave. Rather they go to people as they live, work, and school in the general community. One can appreciate Brother Glass, when criticized sharply over not voting, responding with: “Why should we? We have solved most of the problems that the world is yet grappling with. Why should I trade the superior for the inferior?”

BusinessInsider took up the fact that Jehovah’s Witnesses do not vote, and the article is—well, maybe not a hit piece, but imagine how it would be in its original form. “This article has been updated to include comment from the Jehovah's Witnesses US spokesman,” is the byline at end of page. Imagine how it would read without his comments:

“The Christian denomination instructs its followers not to take ‘any action to change governments,’ which includes voting, running for public office, serving in the military, and reciting the Pledge of Allegiance,” it says, not mentioning that it is really the Bible that instructs this; the Witnesses merely follow that Book, rather than issue arbitrary instructions. Happily, the spokesman, Robert Hendriks, adds meaningful context.

Without Hendriks, the article continues: “Witnesses believe they should only be loyal to and representatives of ‘God's kingdom’ and should take ‘no part of the world.’” “Only” is the key word here. Am I too sensitive in reading an implication by the writer that they are disloyal to present governments? They are “hostile to all kinds of patriotic exercises,” says Professor of Religion at Trinity College Mark Silk, and it takes Robert Hendriks to “insist that Jehovah’s Witnesses respect others' participation in government and the political process and ‘don’t pretend to believe that the world would be a better place without government,’ despite praying for God to ‘take over rulership’ eventually.” (italics mine)

BusinessInsider takes the ball again from Hendriks and instantly fumbles it. “He [Hendriks] also noted that the denomination condones participation in civil society, as long as it isn’t political,” the article follows up. What he probably said was that the Bible offers no reason to reject such participation and so neither does the denomination.

“If you were to imagine [Witnesses] could vote, there might be a kind of social conservatism combined with economic progressivism," says another quoted professor of religion, Mathew Schmalz. Am I wrong or too sensitive in reading between the lines: “Ah—what they could bring to the table if only they weren’t so backward in this regard?”

Nothing is flat-out wrong in what the professors say. But it’s a word here, a phrase there, that reveals their lack of feel for the subject, to say nothing of a lack of appreciation. “Schmalz said the social and political upheaval the US and the world are experiencing may confirm Witnesses’ belief that human institutions can’t solve human problems,” it goes on. Hendriks might have added “Duh!” to this remark but he doesn’t—he is not me—he is a spokeman who knows how to use winsome words, not wincing words.

Rather, Hendriks speaks to how politics divides people, not unites them, and unity is what Jehovah’s Witnesses are all about. “Politics today is so fractured, it’s breaking families up, it’s breaking marriages up ... that is something Christians should have nothing to do with,” he said. “Even in our hearts, we need to love our neighbor—and it’s much more difficult to love your neighbor when you’re rabidly in the corner of one political candidate that is diametrically opposed to their political candidate.”

For once, BusinessInsider gets it right as it adds: “Witnesses, who are pacifists, believe humans were not made to rule over one another and reject the divisiveness of politics.” They’re not and they do.

They’re doing the best they can over there at BusinessInsider. When the original article reads too much like a hit piece they reach out to Hendriks—or did he reach out to them?—at any rate, they include his comments because they are trying present an accurate picture on something they don’t know much about. If you wanted to flatter, you could almost compare them to the philosophers of Athens who put Paul front and center onstage with the request: “Can we get to know what this new teaching is that you are speaking about? For you are introducing some things that are strange to our ears, and we want to know what these things mean,” (Acts 17:19-20) only this time it is Hendriks, not Paul. Still, I’d hate to read their article without Hendriks’s clarifications, and without his clarifications is how it originally stood.

“But when it comes to spreading their own beliefs, Jehovah's Witnesses aren’t shy about lobbying governments,” the article continues, and imagine how that sounds absent Hendriks’s stabilizing input, as though leveling an accusation: “They take, but they do not give.”  “Next week, the denomination will launch its largest ever ‘campaign for God’s kingdom’ by sending tens of millions of magazines and emails to government officials and businesses all over the world.”

I’ve taken part in that work. Here is what I wrote to some fellow that runs a trucking company in my area:

Dear Mr. Trucker:

I needn’t tell you that government is a hot topic today. Accordingly, during November the community of Jehovah’s Witnesses that I belong to is calling attention to God’s kingdom, focusing on those in the business community who are not always easy to reach.

Few persons think of God’s kingdom being a government arrangement, but the Bible presents it that way. It is what is prayed for in the ‘Lord’s prayer,’ as when it “comes,” God’s will is to be “done on earth as it is in heaven.”

Your copy of a magazine devoted to the topic is enclosed. Hopefully you will find a few minutes to look it over. Items can also be downloaded at jw.org.

You will find ideas presented quite simply, and feel free to contact me for details or with any questions.

This is the kingdom that includes health in its platform, as opposed to just that of health care.

Sincerely,

Tom Harley

Another thing BusinessInsider gets right—all on their own and without any input from Robert Hendriks is: “If Jehovah’s Witnesses did engage in politics, experts say their political allegiances would likely reflect a cross-section of American society given the group's large size, diversity, and even spread across the country.” In other words, it would be a wash. Leave them alone to do what they do best.

 

 

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Filling Jerusalem With All Your Teaching

God is our refuge and strength, A help that is readily found in times of distress. That is why we will not fear, though the earth undergoes change, though the mountains topple into the depths of the sea, though its waters roar and foam over, though the mountains rock on account of its turbulence.” (Ps 46:1-3)

There is a sense—not just among  JWs—but among many, that things are coming together as though in a grand finale. “Doomscrolling” is the newly coined phrase; people scroll through social media to read item after item announcing their doom, be it extreme weather, economic chaos, pandemic, protests, or riot. Fixtures as rocklike and dependable as mountains, “topple into the depths of the sea”—the sea which is alway restless and so well typifies human instability. The very “earth undergoes change” as sturdy human governments reveal themselves fragile, and unhinged zealots yank them this way and that. “Future historians will be asked what quarter of 2020 do they specialize in,” is the new meme. Applied to any other year, it makes no sense. Applied to 2020, anyone can identify with it.

Add to this factors which JWs will especially appreciate, though they will not be lost on all others. What are the chances that the one worldwide religion that categorically rejects participation in war in any capacity for any reason will be declared “extremist?” Yet such is the case in Russia, and Witnesses will recall a multitude of verses to the effect that “if they have hated me [Jesus], they will hate you.” Two of the nine Sermon on the Mount beatitudes have to do with being persecuted for staying true to the cause.

At the same time, suddenly the preaching work cannot be done in any sort of normal way, and in lieu of this it was mentioned some might have the tendency to say “We’re done,” and wait to see how events unfold. I mean, can you really “fill Jerusalem with all your teaching” (Acts 5:28, cited in last week’s study—it’s a two part series) when you are reduced to letter-writing and phone calls? It is a bit of a high hurdle.

As to making phone calls, one local brother addressed “fears”—“It’s not so much the fear of doing it as it is the fear of being ineffective” that discourages him. Dampening my enthusiasm is my own self-awareness. Under no circumstances do I answer calls from unknown numbers—scammers will eat you alive if you do that. Callers can leave a message if it’s legitimate. 

Don’t most people do that? It has evolved over time. Mike used to devour Consumer Reports; consequently, he knew whatever product telemarketers were trying to sell better than they, and he would tear apart whatever crappy item they were hawking—his wife said it was a real hoot to watch him. And I have taken the tip before to witness to these characters—the phony Microsoft people with the Indian accents were stopped cold when I did that—but to me it involves using the truth as an offensive weapon. It’s not what I do. Naw—there’s just too many of them and people have things to do. Easier just to mute the phone.

Too, I’ll gear up to write a letter but then reflect that if I write a post instead I’ll reach dozens, ultimately hundreds—and I’ll get feedback too, which doesn’t happen much with individual letters. So I confess my participation in these two areas has been scant—not nonexistent, but scant. When we did door-to-door I focused on Sundays and evenings because that’s when the most people are home—not only home, but relaxed. Sigh—now we are “fishers of men” as before, but with a fishing line so long that you can barely see the fish.

So it’s my bad. I’ll have to get more in sync because I don’t like not being so, and even as we speak I am. Still, I was surprised that the move would be to replicate virtually the physical territory and car group experience—I mean, letter writing is not really a group activity. I even thought the virus might result in breaking away from “counting time” which works for keeping records but also triggers artificial situations.

I thought, for example, that starting with one’s own phone number, one might text each successive number. With the same area code, they’re not likely to be too far away, and since it is all virtual, who cares if they are? It seems you could more readily “fill Jerusalem with your teaching” that way. But it didn’t happen. Fairly soon came the word that bad results had come that way; some had received abusive or apostate replies. Well, “deal with it” I thought—that can happen anywhere. Still, I texted no more. It is a little dicey throwing out your phone number to all anyway.

But if you really want to “fill Jerusalem with your teaching”—isn’t “trending” the modern term for this? And where do things trend? Through phone calls and letters? Or isn’t it through social media? I wish we weren’t so averse to it. It’s not that someone can’t do it, but if you say that you do it is a little like butchering that trumpet burst and everyone in the orchestra stares at you aghast. So I don’t say it, at least not much. If I had my druthers, though, it would be considered a glass half-full, rather than a glass half-empty.

There is an art to it, but so is there is to everything. It’s not everything, but must it be nothing? You have to friend or follow those in the general community and not just the brothers if you don’t want to be preaching to the choir. And you have to engage with them on their topics, not just yours, not the Bible alone, or you drive most away. It’s pretty much like interacting in the physical neighborhood in which you live.

I like it when brothers are seamless on social media with their faith and their secular life, putting it out there for anyone to see how their latter is influenced by their former. Few do it. It’s almost as though friends have separate languages for believers and non-believers, belaboring only the most basic scriptures for the latter and thus stunting their own spiritual growth if they are not careful. 

Add it to the mix is what I would like to see, not replace the mix with it. The idea is to be well-rounded. Huge possibilities exist with  with regard to linking to items in JW.org. For the most part, we leave them untapped. 

Now, don’t misunderstand. Saying I would like to see something is not the same as saying: “This is what they should do,” just as as saying you would like an X-box is not the same as saying people should give you one. Some brother a while back advised Bethel that they should be stockpiling food, and Anthony Morris chuckled at the thought of such unsolicited guidance: “Imagine—a brother telling the Governing Body that they should be hoarding up supplies,” he mused wryly. I don’t want him saying: “Imagine—that yo-yo TrueTom saying the Governing Body should dispatch the friends to Facebook and Twitter!”

I get why we don’t. Isn’t the internet of the equivalent of the broad roads “trampled on by men?” Aren’t there even a lot of swine there, so that you think of the verse: “Do not give what is holy to dogs nor throw your pearls before swine, so that they may never trample them under their feet and turn around and rip you open?”  (Matthew 7:6) Let’s face it—I mean, no one will dispute this—there are plenty of swine on the internet. Many many times I have witnessed nasty battling of the trolls in areas of polarized opinion and I have said how nice it is that we stay out of public catfights—it lends our work a certain dignity. But that was before the pandemic.

Why should haters own the internet? Take a stand and deal with them if they show up. Any troll is OCD and usually toxic. The greater world will counsel to avoid such persons, not just us. Ought we not be “always ready to make a defense before everyone who demands of you a reason for the hope you have, but doing so with a mild temper and deep respect?” (1 Peter 3:15) We run like scared rabbits from opposers. Dish them out an answer or two and block them should they get obnoxious. For the longest time I blocked no one by replying with a link to something I had written on whatever topic they were harping one, effectively answering their 30 words with my 1000–link to something on JW.org if you don’t have your own stuff, or even if you do. But one day they ganged up on me and I did end up blocking a few. Still, I am always surprised to find that I am blocked by opposers I have hardly interacted with—more of them block me than me them.

Ah, well. “The wise one is cautious and turns away from evil, but the stupid one is reckless and overconfident.”  (Proverbs 14:16) Maybe I’m just stupid—and impatient. I write this post within days of two heralded vaccine breakthroughs—Pfizer and Moderna each coming up with something 95% effective. If genuine, that’s huge—we are pestered to get annual flu shots that are never more than 50% effective, often much less. So there is a light at the end of the tunnel.

Is it that of an oncoming train? Or is it genuine light during which we may brace ourselves for the next tunnel? Maybe we will be back door-to-door soon, or at least cart witnessing. And in the meantime, new skills have been developed. My wife has come to enjoy phone calls—she is quite good at it, and letter writing to professionals with the ‘What is God’s Kingdom?’ issue, such as is being done this month is a significant unified accomplishment. 

“This is the government that has health in it’s platform,” I wrote to one of them, “and not just health care.”

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Just Who is Saved Come Armageddon?

Back in 1967, the year of the KM School for Elders held in Pittsburgh, were you to ask an elder “Will only JWs be saved at Armageddon?” he would most likely answer Yes, “but in a way that doesn’t make us look unreasonable.”

This is because Jehovah’s Witnesses are a “one true religion” faith. There are a lot of those around—not everyone maintains that “all roads lead to heaven”—and one firebrand of the Russian Orthodox Church—isn’t it Audrey Kuraev?—regrets that such a profession should be labeled extremist hate speech because there are factions in his Church that would like to say the same and now don’t dare. Extremist? If you say you are the one true Church and are wrong, just who is hurt? All that happens is you are left with egg on your face. And if you are right, you’ve provided a healthy heads-up.

Can it really be done—to answer yes “but in a way that doesn’t make us look unreasonable?” I am told (without evidence, as the phrase goes) that Jewish tradition holds as as the ark was lifting off the water and those treading it hollered, “Is it only you and your family that will be saved?” Noah was instructed to answer Yes, “but in a way that doesn’t make us look unreasonable.”

It is dicey topic, Armageddon is. It’s hard to put a smiley face on it, even if it does come with the caveat that “distress will not rise up a second time.” You should hear Vic Vomodog rail about how it means those of his old religion gleefully contemplate the slaughter of billions of human beings! Well—now that you put it that way...

But if you are a Bible believer, what are you going to do? There it is in numerous texts, not just in Revelation, but in such places as 2 Thessalonians 1:6-9, about how “you who suffer tribulation will be given relief along with us at the revelation of the Lord Jesus from heaven with his powerful angels  in a flaming fire, as he brings vengeance on those who do not know God and those who do not obey the good news about our Lord Jesus.” It cannot be dismissed euphemistically as “tough love.”

Still, it is nowhere near as nasty as what churches have historically embraced down through the centuries—the doctrine of hellfire, which holds that for a few decades of wrongdoing a person will be punished forever! I’ll take a quick death at Armageddon any day over that gruesome fate. One knockout punch and you sleep forever.

Bart Ehrman, the Bible thumper who became the anti-Bible-thumper, but you can still see the Bible thumper in the anti-Bible thumper—comes from this “theology,” so that you can see why he might consider escaping it as having opened his eyes. If fact, in one of his lectures for the Great Courses (what were they thinking when they chose him?) he explains the really bizarre resurrection-of-the-dead notion that prevails among his former co-religionists—that the ungodly are raised so that God can rub their noses in the condemned course that they chose, after which they will be cast into hell forever and ever! How did it escape him (then or now) that “he who has died has been acquitted for their sin?” (Romans 6:7) God doesn’t do a “double jeopardy” on them. It is the course they choose upon their resurection that matters, not what they did in their prior life. Ronald Curzan of the JW organization explains it here:

As for Great Courses, they wouldn’t know a scripture if one bit them in the rear end. They just scan the roster of university professors, pick an esteemed one, and figure he must know what he is talking about. It is not their fault if it turns out that he doesn’t. Or rather, he does, but only according to the inadequate method of biblical examination he has chosen—that of historical scientific analysis. He is like a mechanic come to the job, his toolbox stuffed only with wrenches, when what is needed is a screwdriver. Rather than regret he doesn’t have the correct tools, he declares that if a wrench can’t fix it it is not a problem. To be sure, Great Courses somewhat redeems itself by selecting Luke Timothy Johnson for their series ‘The Story of the Bible,’ who examines it from a traditional approach and does not adopt the default position that it is human myth making.

The current answer to “Will only Jehovah’s Witnesses be saved?” is no longer ‘Yes—but to be explained so that it doesn’t make us look unreasonable.” It is “No,” followed by how to say such would be presumptuous, since only Jehovah can judge those who might be mentally disabled, children too young to make up their minds, etc. This is essentially the same answer, isn’t it, with caveats that can be greatly expanded. Last I heard, one out of everything three Americans are on some form of antidepressants or other psych medicine. Research has come to light that a child’s brain formation is incomplete even into their early 20’s. I remember how Ray Hartman the circuit overseer would come up on the platform with a stack of material to choose from, and toward the end of whatever talk he was giving he would comment on various items, seemingly choosing them as he went, and that this business of brain development into the 20’s was among them, or maybe he just told it to me in private, but it does come from him.

Well, the Witness organization can’t wiggle much, can it? What can it do but abide to the “one faith, one Lord, one baptism” of Ephesians 4:5? Don’t other faiths baptize? Yes, they do, but the ones who aren’t raising the ungodly dead just to say “Told ya so!” before tossing them into hellfire, Bart Ehrman’s former cohorts, are blasting infants with squirt guns these days on account of Covid-19. (as seen  on  India.com)9899BD98-22C2-4350-9685-8A990B4E5FC4

My daughter answers that question with: “Well—I’m not Jesus and I don’t know.” I suppose she picked up the spirit from me, but not the exact words. I recall saying in one talk: “Just how far removed can one be? A certain distance or not one millimeter?” adding that I did not know but I would operate myself according to the principle of James 4:17 that if one knew what was right and did not do it, it was a sin for him.

Probably a lot of brothers take solace that, as Jehovah spared Nineveh at the last minute with: “Wow—look how stupid there are! They don’t know their right from their left!” he will somehow cut many some slack in ways we can’t foresee. (Jonah 4:11) But the Watchtower can hardly say this, for that would be clearly speculative. What can they say other than “One faith, One Lord, One baptism?” So that is what they say, in the main.

I don’t lose sleep over it. It is enough for me to be occupied with holding up my end. I don’t concern myself with God holding up his. What happens happens—and of course, I will adjust to it. As Anthony Morris said when he was trying to sell a house—it was critically important for him to quickly have the cash for some reason I forget—and the deal came at virtually the last second, and he related how he would look up in prayer and say “Um—it’s getting a little tight here,” but then qualify his duress with “He’s God—He can do what he wants.” 

The spirit of the Sovereign Lord Jehovah is upon me, because Jehovah anointed me to declare good news to the meek. He sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives and the wide opening of the eyes to the prisoners, to proclaim the year of Jehovah’s goodwill and the day of vengeance of our God, to comfort all who mourn...  (Isaiah 61:1-3)

 

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Uniting the Four Fundamental Prophesies of Nature—Fulfilled with the Demise of Trump. (a Parody)

Q: Dear TrueTom: Do you have any new prophesies so that we can be ready for the Big Day?

A: Yes. Trump’s defeat has allowed me to discern the Mother of All Prophesies.

We have already established that 2020 is the year to end all years. The line “Future historians will be asked what quarter of 2020 do they specialize in” says it all, as does the coining of the phrase ‘doomscrolling’ during the year. What a villainous time!

But recentlyI have read several instances of: “Finally! Something good about 2020!”

The occasion, of course, is the election’s (presumed) outcome. They are partying in the streets over this. Church bells have rung in Paris—it is not just a U.S. phenomenon, but worldwide. Euphoria prevails for the first time in ages, at least among the victors—the losers are muttering.

Now, what prophesy forecasts an enthusiastic announcement of great news that breaks a long spell of calamity—and yet we know that beneath the veneer of optimism nothing has really changed? Bingo! It is the cry of peace and security.

Whenever it is that they are saying, “Peace and security!” then sudden destruction is to be instantly on them, just like birth pains on a pregnant woman, and they will by no means escape.” (1 Thessalonians 5:3)

To be sure, they are not saying those exact words just yet—but how far behind can they be? I’d give it till tomorrow, and then, the end being “instantly” upon them—figure Friday at the latest for the grand finale. Be sure to have your bags packed.

It is a stupendous breakthrough of prophesy that I (blush) have come up with all by myself, and I have applied for copyright. I am in no danger of the Jehovah’s Witness organization trying to steal this one from me—they don’t go in for thinking that prophesies are fulfilled in a single person. They know it is the play we are watching, not the actors in the play. Sometimes an actor ducks out, takes ill, or even dies. It makes no difference to the outcome of the play—they just stick in another actor who has all the lines memorized down pat. No, JW HQ will not contest me for this one, but you never know about the scrappy upstart prophets; we prophets are a very competitive bunch. The guy who made much of Ronald Wilson Reagan (3 names of 6 letters each—666!) will be a particularly sore sport over this I fear.

True, I have already established my supremacy over them with my explanation of how to pinpoint the year of the world’s end. Since no one knows the day or the hour, simply extend that to the year—since ‘day and hour’ is overly picayune—and then rule out any year that some yo-yo has claimed to be it. There’s only two of three left unclaimed, so one of them has to be the end year.

Still, to really put this prophesy out of reach of my jealous competition, let us not rest on the ‘peace and security’ announcement alone, impressive though that is. Let us seek to unify the four fundamental prophesies of nature into one grand prophesy. To do this, we must tie in minutia such as the 1260 days of the Book of Daniel. This should not be overly difficult. Simply count back 1260 to discover whatever outrageous thing the POTUS said that day and assign historical significance to it.

What of the 3 kings that are humiliated at Daniel 7:24? Don’t make me laugh. It’s a piece of cake, the only slight complication being that there may be more than three that vie for position. For my money, Merkel, Macron, and Trudeau are the three kings Trump insulted most spectacularly.

However, a prophet must be neither know-it-all nor dogmatic. As long as I get top honors for calling this, I am willing to entertain other suggestions for the humiliated kings. Wanna put Xi in there? Fox from Mexico?  Who can forget Rocketman? The ballots are not all counted yet and Merkel, Macron, and Trudeau may be supplanted before the day is done.

And what exactly are my credentials as a prophet? What evidence do I advance to validate my position? I’m glad you asked. When I was changing congregations, moving to one far away, the local brothers threw a party for me. They surprised me with a cake on which frosting was written Jesus’ timeless words: “A prophet is not without honor except in his home territory and in his own house.” (Matthew 13:57)

Did your brothers ever bake a cake for you?

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It’s Like a Bad Accident—You Don’t Want to Watch but You Can’t Look Away

My non-JW neighbor said it best and she is not one known for metaphors. She’s not interested in politics, she says. She tries not to get worked up over it, but....

“It like a bad accident. You don’t want to watch, but you can’t look away,” she says. Ha! Isn’t it, though? Like this one:

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Just try looking away from that one. And imagine—the image of human politics, “man dominating man to his harm,” says Ecclesiastes 8:9, likened to a bad accident. “I well know, O Jehovah, that man’s way does not belong to him.It does not belong to man who is walking even to direct his step,” says Jeremiah at 10:23. Jehovah’s Witnesses defer to that verse to show that human self-rule is not an ability God granted them. Invariably it reduces to some variant of “power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely” to punctuate a highway of “solutions” not quite up to the job.

This is why one wonders what the #CultExpert has been smoking when he seeks to liberate people from “cults”—and he expands the word to include half the country, in the form of the political party he doesn’t like! Let’s face it—there are only so many Moonies, the “cult” that he “escaped” from (whether they are or not will be for them to argue, not me) and like the diminishing returns of a multilevel marketing scheme, he has to expand the C-word to far more than the Moonies if he is ever going to amount to anything. Still, when you maintain that half the country has fallen victim to a cult, is it not evidence that you’ve been drinking too much of the Kool-Aid yourself?

Somewhere on the road from the Moonies to the Republicans, Jehovah’s Witnesses got caught in his C-trap. When he turns his attention their way, he wants them to come out. Come out to what? To his version of normal, to his way of man ruling man, that my neighbor so aptly applies illustrates by metaphor? Moses led his people to the promised land, not the town dump.

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JW HQ lately has ramped up attention to Bible verses of neutrality, doing so for JWs themselves, lest they get sucked into the morass. Brothers flirt around the edges as it is. They post jokes, even insults, of one contestant, and yet still imagine themselves neutral as they do it. Or they patiently explain the position of one pugilist, for fear the liars are distorting it, but are content to let the other fellow twist in the wind. Even Geoffrey Jackson, when he illustrates the challenge of maintaining absolute neutrality with combatting the thought: “I hope that idiot doesn’t get into power!”—is it only me who wonders what “idiot” does he have in mind? 

Climbing to the pinnacle of what divides humans, the politics of any given nation, he first encounters the lesser side-taking of the sports world. He tells how he recorded a game for a friend, and it was a really exiting game! But when he offered to show the match to others, they said, “No thanks. It might be different if we had won.”

I had a lot of fun with the Olympics while writing No Fake News but Plenty of Hogwash. Were it not that the Olympics has been canceled this time around due to Covid-19, I would be having it some more. There I wrote of telling Tom Pearlsandswine that I had seen Trump tie his shoe, only to earn the instant rebuke: “We are no part of the world!” The next day I told him that Hillary had worn a nice bright pants-suit, and his retort was: “We must keep our eyes on the Jerusalem above!” The next day I stopped by his house as he was watching the Olympics, to hear him say: “Look at that medal count, Tommy! We’re cleaning up!!!”

Meanwhile, at the virtual meetings, JWs are testing on each other just how they will explain their neutral stance in a politically volatile world, and some of the results come off as a bit clunky. Listen, it ain’t easy to do, because most of them involve presenting God’s kingdom as an actual government—which it is, but not that many look upon it that way, and people don’t turn on a dime. I did like (which wasn’t one of the suggestions—it was simply something that some old-timer recalled) Brother Glass responding to queries as to why he is not voting with: “Why should I? Jehovah’s Witnesses have solved most of the problems that your world is yet grappling with. Why should I trade the superior for the inferior?” But the neighbor said it best—it’s like watching a bad accident.

It is a special month of activity for we Witnesses. There is a campaign to distribute to business, government, and professional people our vote, that of recommending God’s kingdom. I admit I was a little worried I might be called upon to explain how the stone not cut by human hands smashes the toes of the idol, but so far there is none of it—not in the magazine, which is inviting, and so certainly not in any missive of mine. Rocky Nash in Las Vegas has picked up on it and spread it around via her news feed, and many outlets have latched onto it. I don’t really know who Rocky is—at first I thought it was a guy, like Rocky Balboa, but it is a woman—or just where she is coming from, but then, I don’t really have to. You don’t have to know everything.

Here is the kingdom envisioned in Revelation, descending from heaven:

“I also saw the holy city, New Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God.... I heard a loud voice from the throne say: “Look! The tent of God is with mankind, and he will reside with them, and they will be his people. ...And he will wipe out every tear from their eyes, and death will be no more, neither will mourning nor outcry nor pain be anymore. The former things have passed away.” (21:2-4)

Jerusalem was (and is) the capital of Israel, so New Jerusalem is a suitable symbol for God’s kingdom ruling over all humans and not just one country. It is not good people going to heaven as angels when they die—rather it is God “coming down” to “mankind”—they are his “peoples”—and from there he removes “mourning, outcry, and pain.”

And the present system of “man’s rule over man to his harm?” What of these dark rumblings one may hear from time to time that Jehovah’s Witnesses say human government is from the Devil? (!) That comes, most pointedly for my money, from Luke 4–the second of the three temptations thrown at Jesus in the wilderness. 

“[The Devil] showed him all the kingdoms of the inhabited earth in an instant of time. Then the Devil said to him: “I will give you all this authority and their glory, because it has been handed over to me, and I give it to whomever I wish. If you, therefore, do an act of worship before me, it will all be yours.” In reply Jesus said to him: “It is written, ‘It is Jehovah your God you must worship, and it is to him alone you must render sacred service.’” (vs 5-8)

He turned down the offer but he didn’t deny the premise—that the kingdoms are for the Devil to offer since they have been handed to him, a handoff that commenced way back there with human rebellion in Eden.

I am looking forward to God’s kingdom “coming”—as the Lord’s prayer [Our Father Prayer] says. I’ve built my life around it, as anyone can. No accident scene then. Nothing but fine Packards for all:

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“Dumbing Down” the Spiritual Food—Say Goodbye to ‘Wicked Was the Word!’

 

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What I Like About Jehovah’s Organization is That Those With the Highest Education Do Not Assume Takeover Rights

Q: We had a CO visit some time ago and he said that some are getting frustrated with our meetings because they lacked deep food...and explained that the bulk of people responding to the good news were from lands with little education..many struggled with the basics of reading and writing...and our articles were written with them in mind...and told us that for their sake we had to get used to it...and do personal deep study...which is really our own responsibility anyway.

A: I’ll buy it. That’s who responds to the good news. That is the historical pattern. No reason to think it should change:

For you see his calling of you, brothers, that there are not many wise in a fleshly way, not many powerful, not many of noble birth, but God chose the foolish things of the world to put the wise men to shame; and God chose the weak things of the world to put the strong things to shame; and God chose the insignificant things of the world and the things looked down on, the things that are not, to bring to nothing the things that are, so that no one might boast in the sight of God.” (1 Corinthians 1:24-26)

So for those who have more than the norm of education? They can learn to read a few grade levels below them if they are not too full of themselves—it will be good for them, as they “do personal deep study...which is really our own responsibility anyway.”

What I like about the truth is that those with educational background do not assume takeover rights, as they do in the greater world. They either self-discipline or have been disciplined by life not to let their educational advantage become a disadvantage—to not let their education puff them up. They do not patronize with: “Okay, you have done well. Amazingly well, really, considering your lack of education. But now the smart people have arrived. We’ll take it from here, thanks very much.”

They learn their education is a gift that they may bring to the altar, no more valuable than the gifts of others.

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The Personification of God—Part 3

Q: “So I find it difficult to see how that kind of personification [accounts of Jehovah’s anger, jealousy, warfare & so forth] reaches the heart of a Christian.....or any decent human being living today.” (See thread that begins with Part 1)

Well, you can always say it’s Genesis—it is the writing of people immersed in life thousands of years ago. You can compare it with other writings of the time. What should stick is the descriptions of God’s love for his people—even when they are giving Him a run for His money (and he has it all—“if I were hungry, I would not tell it to you,” he says at Ps 50:12). Remember, the particular sin that gets his dander up here is pretty severe—that of so quickly worshipping the golden calf that they have made themselves—so quickly forgetting his commandments on idolatry and all that he has done for them. I think the many expressions of his love is what should remain, all the more so because I see it no where else in those times.

Are there any other ancient religious systems that incorporate love? Taoism, Buddhism, Hinduism, any of the ancient philosophies and myths. Often there is emphasis on ethics and doing what is right, but on love? Not that I am aware of. Not too long ago I finished a Great Courses lecture series on Greek mythology. The gods of mythology don’t love humans—they are indifferent to them, the professor pointed out, notwithstanding that now and again some god gets the hots for a particular bombshell of a woman, and they do tend to be fond of whatever halflings they have conceived with them, but love for humans in general? No. They “find them useful,” the professor kept saying. They like the sacrifices offered, but there is no love in return. As near as I can tell, love (not lust) is uniquely a trait of Jehovah, even if it is a (blisteringly) “tough love” at times.

Maybe the way in which human traits and even emotions are attributed to God as presented in the Bible for our edification, even though whe all know he doesn’t have the physical appendages of humans, and presumably, the emotional ones—Maybe it can be likened to one of those campaign messages: “My name is God, and I approve this message.” That way the message stands as from God even though it reflects the limitations of the writers. Jehovah is “running for office” of sorts. He is running for the office of our approval—that we will choose him over that scoundrel who is running on the Satan ticket. Of course, he doesn’t have to run for office. He doesn’t have to condescend to have any interaction with humans at all. But he does—he indicated immediately after Adam’s transgression that he would—going so far as to give his son a ransom for our buyback.

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“Are You Jehovah?” the Woman Asked.

During one of the early pioneer schools, testing out what we had learned, I had been paired together with one of the other students. Thirty years later I ran across her again, and she recalled our working together.

Upon my ringing the bell, the householder had asked: “Are you Jehovah?” My companion remembered that I had all but recoiled at the question: ”Oh, no,” I modestly replied. “I would never presume to call myself by the name of the Most High God. I am but a lowly servant of his, trying in my own imperfect way to serve him, etc.” Many times she had reviewed it in her hear, and each time she was so impressed at my abject humility.

It never happened! She had worked it over herself. That will be the day that I fall in for such mock piety. Never trust urban legends.

What I had said when the good-natured woman hollered “Are you Jehovah?”—hollering through the screen door from the far-removed kitchen, for she was distracted cooking, was: “Well—no, actually, I am not.” Whereupon she realized just what she had really said and laughed uproariously at the fine joke. 

We did end up having a pretty good discussion, and maybe it is from that circumstance that my companion elevated me to near sainthood. I’m not really all that deserving of it.

I am pretty sure I know how this happened. She is getting me balled up with some brother in a Watchtower account who did say self-effacing things like that—only he wasn’t asked if he was Jehovah, he was asked if he was one of Jehovah’s Witnesses. The Mexican brother was very lowly—of a peasant background—and he was working in an upscale area, an area he would never ever have any business in visiting were it not for the ministry. He manned up for the occasion.

“I try to be sir, it’s hard—to live up to the standards of the Most High God, and to represent His name—it’s hard, but I try.”

It puts an whole different spin on the picture, doesn’t it? He did say it. The circumstances account for it. He was overwhelmed—far outside his comfort zone—whereas I have been known to take the position that even in my comfort zone I am not necessarily comfortable.

Moreover, I have seen it, too, in congregations where I have served. Ones of the urban poor would check out or be drawn into a territory of downright wealthy neighborhoods.They could duck out, for timidity’s sake, and no one would think the lesser of them for it. But they didn’t. They displayed courage the like of which people are not too commonly called upon to display, in order to bring the good news to ones who were light years above them monetarily, if not the slightest bit spiritually.

I admire them to this day for that.

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