How Great Historians Record History: Part 1

Listen to Allen Guelzo lecturing and you soon think of those Bible couplets in which the second phrase (sigh—we call it the ‘B part’) modifies the first. At it’s zenith, it is “So and so advocated this policy, but (darkened tone and lowered pace) he did not mention how he personally stood to benefit.” The next statement will be just the opposite: a somber ‘A-Part’ succeeded by its offsetting chipper counterpoint. Listening to such is an acquired taste. One generally does acquire it, however, and rather quickly, upon realizing that the guy is a history nut, a fully realized version of Roy who would tell one and all that he was a historian. “How do you know that?” a householder would say and he would reply it was because he was a historian. Finally I told him to knock it off. He was a history buff, not an historian. An historian is when other people recognize your expertise, not just you.

They do recognize it of Allen Guelzo. He a real historian, lecturing at the university, with several books to his credit. He sets the stage when introducing new characters into his narrative, allowing them to make a splash. You get the impression he regards all historical personages as his children. He commends them when they do good, chides them when they do bad, but they always remain his children. He quotes at length Machiavelli (whom he chides) for a view he shares himself—a view that nothing surpasses the joy of hanging out with the notables of history.

“When evening comes,” Machiavelli writes, “I return to my home and I go into my study, and on the threshold I take off my everyday clothes which are covered with mud and mire, and I put on regal and curial robes, and dressed in a more appropriate manner, I enter into the ancient courts of ancient men and are welcomed by them kindly. There I am not ashamed to speak to them, to ask them the reasons for their actions. And they in their humanity answer me, and for hours I feel no boredom. I dismiss every affliction, I no longer fear poverty, nor do I tremble at the thought of death. I become completely part of them.

This sound so much like prayer that one cannot leave the similarities unmentioned. One reflects on a certain commentary on prayer (“Your Prayers Tell on You”—November 15, 1958 Watchtower) in the Jehovah’s Witnesses literature that, “by listening to the Holy Scriptures, the words of the prophets, the thoughts of the apostles and the wisdom of Jesus Christ all flow through the mind, refreshing it and building it up. In this way one can spend all night in prayer with God and hardly say a word. When you listen you learn. When we listen to the words of the Scriptures we show ourselves learners of God.”

It's one thing to stay in a state of prayerful meditation with God. It’s another to do so with lauded humans of the past. Does the sum total of their thoughts and deeds truly add up to anything? Or is it more akin to Richard Kimble taking cover as the train delivering him up for death derails, scattering cars willynilly, leaving Sam Gerard to come along later and exclaim, “My my my my my my my my—what a mess!?” If you think it’s the latter, why devote your life to recording history? Just say something pithy like Jeremiah and be done with it: “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.” (Jeremiah 10:23) Or be like Solomon and briefly apply [your] “heart to every work that has been done under the sun, during the time that man has dominated man to his harm,” and then move on to something more productive.

So historians tend to be folks who do not think the sum total of human history is a trainwreck. 65A1FF3C-DCCC-475D-A3D4-7DB8A216F558It would be too depressing to suppose it is, and then they would quit. “With every mistake we must surely be learning” they say along with George Harrison, and they are apt to squelch the gently weeping guitar that nags we are not. Moreover, though history is seldom outright fraud (poet and cultural critic Matthew Arnold called it that “huge Mississippi of falsehood”) it is, at best, subjective. It is like the elephant touched by the blind man who explains for our benefit its nature. One perceives it as a trunk, another a tusk, another a massive torso, another a tail. There is no lying involved; they all use their best judgment, but that judgment is molded entirely by their own personal experience.

Does not the relatively modern discipline of ‘criticism’ weed out such subjectivity? If anything, it makes it worse, Guelzo suspects, by cloaking human foible beneath a veneer of ‘science.’ It would not have changed Napoleon’s verdict that history is but “a fable agree upon.”

Putting it in the present day, who hasn’t heard the platitude that ‘history is written by the victors?’ Putting it even more in the present day, one thinks of the recent Pew report that the political left and the political right not only disagree on how to address questions, but they even disagree on what the questions are. Do you think the histories they write are going to remotely resemble each other?

The writings of early Christians represent pretty good history, insofar as they go, Guelzo states. Even after centuries of considerable doctrinal ‘evolution’ (which Witnesses would call apostasy), even though they are written “so that ye may believe” rather than be informed, even though there are many places they don’t go (why chronicle the details of a world that is going down the tubes?) it still makes for good history, in some ways an improvement over the classical stuff. Having given up rather quickly on Jesus’ counsel to ‘be no part of the world,’ they seek to remodel it. Church dignitaries such as Eusebius rewrite about social and governmental doings of the day to present them as molded by their understanding of Christ, ejecting the Greek and Roman gods (who are often just rebranded Greek gods) from the driver’s seat.

“Constantine bid for the support of the Christians by turning Christian himself,” Guelzo says, and then the “rush was on to rewrite Roman history in order to establish a new continuity, this time of Christianity with the Roman past.” Why did Rome, revealed in scripture as the mighty kingdom with iron and clay feet, conquer, impose order, and lay down roads? So that Paul could travel them and spread the gospel everywhere, of course! I’ve seen our own people use similar reasoning in suggesting that JW HQ came to be in the United States after that land proved a haven for those fleeing the religious strait-jacket of Europe, though not stipulated as divine direction. Suggested, though.

In reinterpreting history, Eusebius builds his narrative “on a dazzling array of published sources and archival materials,” says Guelzo. One thinks of the actual Bible writer, Luke, who opens his account with the names and titles of seven separate political and religious officials of his time, along with their interplay: “In the 15th year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar, when Pontius Pilate was governor of Judea, Herod was district ruler of Galilee, Philip his brother was district ruler of the country of Ituraea and Trachonitis, and Lysanias was district ruler of Abilene, in the days of chief priest Annas and of Caiaphas, God’s declaration came to John the son of Zechariah in the wilderness.”

Eusebius’s “literal fealty to the text of the Bible spilled over into a literal fealty into almost every other kind of text, says Guelzo. He’s “utterly scrupulous in citing letters, quotations, and official documents.” The earlier classical historians, on the other hand, “tended to put speeches and words into the mouths of their characters,” and it was left for later more analytical types to note that real people “do not deliver orations while arrows and spears are flying,” as the heroes of antiquity frequently did.

True, Eusebius so extols the benefits of Constantine’s conversion to the cross as to tempt the cynical reader to append “and they all lived happily ever after.” Some of it reads almost like propaganda—but who are we trying to kid? Those prior historians did it just the same, simply choosing different characters whose virtues to highlight. “If we've realized anything from the classical historians,” Guelzo states, “it's that alongside rational inquiry is always the need to choose, and choosing implies interpretation. There is no bright line between interpretation and propaganda because both are acts of persuasion

To be continued….here

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Making a ‘Great Name for Oneself’: Part 2

Part of a multi-part series.  Here is Part 1

Whoa! That certainly blew up in my face! George can rest easy. The friends love him

Not only was Aubree pounded into mush by everyone who chimed in, but one sis mistakenly took her sentiments as mine—I think she only read the preview—and chewed me out royal! She stuck up for George: “I happen to know that Brother Benson has taken time from his busy schedule to donate time doing specific songs that are original songs.” What’s more, she said as she slammed the door, ‘your books are rubbish!’

And here I am trying to be the JW successor to Mickey Spillane, the one who threw it back at his high-brow critics by vowing to never introduce a character who drank cognac or wore a mustache because he didn’t know how to spell those words! I mean, George doesn’t have this problem.

Quite a few people told her (and my new-found critic told me) to MYOB!. It was enough to recall to mind a certain young chum, continually accosted by someone who wanted to ‘encourage,’ who answered tersely, “1 Thessalonians 4:11.”

The bro intent on encouragement said he didn’t know that verse. ‘Look it up,’ was the reply.

The next day that brother, who was also a modest man, approached to say, “You’re a pretty good teacher.”

(“Make it your aim to live quietly and to mind your own business . . .” 1 Thess 4:11)

***

Said Aubree: “If he was in my congregation I would say nothing. His choices are his own. I would listen to him at a get-together for sure....But I said what I said because I come here to share an opinion which I may not express any where else.”

Understood. It’s my fault, really. She says what she says before just a few and I relay it to the whole wide world! I changed her name of course, but it’s like what my daughter once told me: “Dad, it’s getting so I can hardly say anything to you because I’ll next see it on social media! You think calling me “Amy” covers it? My friends know who it is!” Well, they shouldn’t be here. I mean, none of us are ‘recommended’ to be on social media.

Give Aubree her due because the points that motivate her are certainly valid. I just didn’t like it applied to a specific person, even if it was on the tiny private forum that I swapped for a public stage.

She pointed to how “there are many brothers and sisters who have left lucrative political careers, football careers, ballet careers, singing careers, acting careers and other careers for which they have natural talent and have all the necessary skills - for to put Jehovah first in their life. … I would rather show great encouragement to young artists to practice their craft at home for pleasure of their friends - and I tell them it is not the time now to go out in the great entertainment world to make a name for themselves - unless they lose focus and lose their life. … Football, singing and a few of these professions take their toll on the young ones.  ..... that is all I wanted to say.”

Can anyone say she doesn’t have a point? Of course, she does. She cites two persons she personally knows who chased after entertainment careers and were never seen nor heard from again.

I do mentor young singers in the truth, and I have seen some of them go into the world to never return....... career and ego. I always warn them when they are good!” Of another, “I have told her to be cautious.”

Trouble is, it’s not in the nature of young people to be cautious. ‘The beauty of young men is their power,’ the verse says, not their caution. Sometimes I think we do damage to young people by eternally telling them to be cautious in circumstances that their peers face without the bat of an eyelash. But nobody can say, ‘What has she been smoking?’ Everyone has seen play out what she speaks about. I admire her for having the courage to say out of pure motive something she knows will be unpopular. But I’m still with George.

It’s just that those of creative bent, who may not excel in more practical gifts, are always being urged to tone it down, stay low key, keep their talents under a basket—whereas if your talents lay in putting down carpet, you would be honored in the highest places. Understand, it’s not the honor that is sought—it is the ability to move about freely.

There are brothers who are craftsmen, FBBC160A-9784-43CE-9A62-0C0E5CC434ACwho truly excel at their field, and are highly sought after. One of them locally is snapped up by a Fortune 500 company that puts him on their private jet and flies him all over to their various facilities, treating him like royalty. Nobody ever dreams it is an improper tending to his career or that he is unhealthily inflating his ego. As to me, my quip for the longest time has been ‘if it pays, I’m not good at it. If I’m good at it, it doesn’t pay.’

(Photo: Fran1 at Pixabay)

For crying out loud, even my books sell like ovens in hell! Let some malcontent write a book and it goes off the charts because all his/her friends buy it! Let me write a book and it trickles beneath the chart because all my friends consider one ought not look into ‘the deep things of Satan!’

‘How come you never taught me practical things?’ I said to my aged dad, who was handy. ‘I did,’ the amiable fellow said, having long outgrown his former taciturn ways. ‘You just weren’t paying attention that day.’

I think he fell for the mantra then in vogue, ‘To get a good job, get a good education.’ You can always hire people to do that lesser stuff for you.

I have what I need. I don’t complain. I do let off steam from time to time, but that’s like the Eastern European man who went to the police to assure them that the political views of his parrot were not his.

To be continued….

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How Many Are the Cows?

Our chum watched the video of Olivia being mocked by classmates. It would never happen that way, she said.  Why not? we asked. Things aren’t that bad?

They wouldn’t ridicule her like that. They’d beat her up in the bathroom instead, she said.

I do remember being guest at the home of some friends where the daughter matter-of-factly spoke of how at the school she used to attend girls would attack each other with box-cutters. They liked to sneak up on unsuspecting ones, preferring to disfigure the face.

We had no idea.

Not to say this would happen everywhere.. I think it would not. We once lived where there was a gritty school system. Long ago, I wrote of how the departing school superintendent was interviewed by local media about his tenure. This fellow was hailed as a superstar when he arrived, one sure to raise the sinking ship. He left in short order for greener pastures.

He answered his interviewer with a bewildering set of buzzwords. Not to fear, I wrote. The skilled interpreter of ‘Educatese’ has no difficulty comprehending the underlying message: Don’t expect any changes in your lifetime.

It was prophetic. Here we are decades later and there have been no changes. Well—that’s not technically correct. Things have gotten worse.  The SEC recently launched an investigation into that District’s internal finances. How often does THAT happen? And the education of the kids? Sigh…Fuhgeddaboudit.

We didn’t want to leave the area at the time, even though we have since. We figured we’d homeschool the kids. No regrets, though it does put you out of sync with the agencies. Even before school, we went through all the Glenn Doman number cards with our babies, I am convinced to good effect—and even in the event it was not it was fun and took almost no time.

At one point, following a Doman cue, we asked our infant to pick up the placard that was 57, as opposed to 56 and 58, dots all mixed up with no underlying pattern—the number written on the back so you would know. Instantly he did. But Doman said you can’t do it twice; infants get bored and they will not do it for show. Sure enough, when we tried again, he would not.

Coincidence? Dunno. It was a one out of three chance, after all, so coincidence is certainly possible.  But he reached for it instantly, with no hesitation at all.

The point was, in building your baby’s ‘better’ brain (Yikes!—Building Back Better) A8BD1D53-6D86-4E70-B1E7-194A94FA9B1Ethat if you see 3 or 4 cows in the field you instantly read them for their true number, but at some point you must start counting, 1…2…3…4…5…. The idea with the flash cards for an infant’s rapidly expanding brain was that you could push way up that point at which you had to start counting; that it could take in 56 at a glance. Doman’s flash cards went up to 100. 

Davey-the-Kid went after that system with an almost missionary zeal that embarrassed him later. He was there, all right, at that pricey weeklong seminar in Philly (where I wan’t). ‘How’s field service?’ Ernie asked him over the phone but he replied he hadn’t gone out in service. “How’s the meetings?” Ernie asked but he replied he hadn’t been to any. “Did you pray?” Ernie said in mock exasperation.

We’re talking about the guy who installed a 3 foot swimming pool in his heated basement so he could teach his baby to swim, another thing that was all the rage. Davey passed away some years ago, but his son is still with us. Come to think of it, if you asked me whether or not the kid can swim, I’d draw a blank.

 

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My Meeting Notes & stray thoughts: Week of July 4, 2022

No public talk today. Abbreviated WT, Everything at home over Zoom due to Part 2 of 6 of the Regional Convention streamed from jw.org  Midweek reading: 2 Samuel 17-19

WatchtowerStudy: ‘Revelation​—What It Means for You Today’ theme scripture: “Happy is the one who reads aloud . . . the words of this prophecy.”​—REV. 1:3.

Para 2: “In other words, we find ourselves ‘in the photo.’” It’s a novel take, isn’t it? Which one are you?

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Para 3: Better roll the Lord’s day understanding. Greater world is in chaos. Generation can alway become era or age if need by, like the Industrial Age or Age of the Enlightenment, even the Modern Era.

Para 8 “All those for whom I have affection, I reprove and discipline. So be zealous and repent.” (Rev 3:19) It’s a good verse to keep always to the fore.

Para 8: A certain chatterbox in the Zoom background exclaims ‘Daddy—that’s my daddy talking!’

Para 9: “Apostates may have “an appearance of godliness,” but … (2 Tim 3:5). Does this include the premier one of video fame who went down as with a millstone when armtwisted to admit his cavorting with the lithe and pretty young sex workers of Thailand?

One bro dutifully says apostate reports can mislead because they may contain ‘a tiny bit of truth.’ Sometimes they are exactly true, but explainable by the diff between those who think this life is all there is and those willing to put up with some inconvenience in the lifeboat. Other times the difference between though willing to sacrifice for a cause and those not. Or between those determined to cling to certain morals and those not.

Para 12: “Because you kept the word about my endurance, I will also keep you from the hour of test, which is to come upon the entire inhabited earth, to put to the test those dwelling on the earth.” (Rev 3:10)

Para 15: The eight reps of 1918, convicted under the Espionage and Sedition Act, then the charges dropped after wartime because they were nonsense, are lined up in order of (considerable) descending height. Looks odd, though it was the photographic norm of the day.

Para 17: “Time and again, Jehovah’s servants have won court cases that have allowed them a certain measure of freedom. How have they used this freedom? They have made full use of any opportunities to do the work Jehovah has given them.  Some modern cases:

https://bitterwinter.org/ghent-decision-overturned-jehovahs-witnesses/

https://bitterwinter.org/jehovahs-witnesses-and-sexual-abuse/

https://bitterwinter.org/russia-persecution-of-jehovahs-witnesses-unlawful/

Para 18: After all is said and done, this verse remains the call to action: “And this good news of the Kingdom will be preached in all the inhabited earth for a witness to all the nations, and then the end will come.” (Matt 24:14)

Para 19: I told the elder I love to tease that I might be fearful to deliver a hard-hitting message during the great trib but if I had some practice, I might be okay. So could I be the one to announce it whenever he was to give the talk?

Two fine remarks from the bro, the last during public prayer stating how not just the bad things but also the good are highlighted in Revelation, the other that apathy can become contagious when one rests on past laurels. Alas, his laptop froze up briefly, delaying the prayer.

 

**Pursue Peace Convention opens, first talk, with the bro who has lamented that he would like to retire, “but they wan’t let me.” (Streamable & featured at jw.org.)

Yikes! The video of “an abundance of grain on the earth; On the top of the mountains it will overflow. … “ (Ps 72:16) includes several succeeding overhead pics of delicious foods as though from an Instagram account.

Ha! Of course! The first act of the wolf who becomes a lamb is to shave! Long live Symbolism.

Whoa. Those five talks of Isaiah prophesied seemed to go by at lightening speed but were apparently the same length as ever:  “My Servants Will Eat . . . My Servants Will Drink” (Isaiah 65:13, 14)• “They Will Build Houses and . . . Plant Vineyards” (Isaiah 65:21-23)• “The Wolf and the Lamb Will Feed Together” (Isaiah 11:6-9; 65:25)• “No Resident Will Say: ‘I Am Sick’” (Isaiah 33:24; 35:5, 6)• “He Will Swallow Up Death Forever” (Isaiah 25:7, 8)2

At one video, briefly I thought of Connie, long since deceased, who told everyone how to do everything, always with hat firmly secured as though a helmet to grant immunity.

Ha! Stepdad is trying so hard to conduct the family study—but he sucks at it! B-O-R-I-N-G! Mom does it better but she’s staying low-key. ‘Not sure if I’m getting through to them,’ he says. ‘Keep it up,’ she says. Trying to figure it out—and eventually they do.

“I really like Brother Noumair’s talks,” said my daughter’s friend—followed by a long long pause, and it finally dawned on everyone that was the sole remark. She burst out laughing. EVERYONE likes Bro N’s talks. She had just taken for granted that there would be a follow up comment.

This is not your fight, Jesus taught them in the Garden of Gathsemene. “If we truly believe the good news of the kingdom we will not do anything that hinders our ability to tell it.”

The video of the man leaving Malawe for South Africa, disrupting family stability, reminded me of ‘Cry the Beloved Country,’ one of those most moving novels I have ever read.

The orange book ‘True Peace and Security’ was originally brown.

#Midweekmeeting:

“Me·phibʹo·sheth, the grandson of Saul, also came down to meet the king. He had not cared for his feet or trimmed his mustache or washed his garments from the day the king left until the day he returned in peace.”  2 Samuel 19:24.   How does one ‘not care for his feet?’

Furthermore, the forest devoured more of the people than the sword did on that day. 18:8. Like one of those ‘Lord of the Rings’ forests.

At once A·bishʹai the son of Ze·ruʹiah said: “Should not Shimʹe·i be put to death for this, because he cursed the anointed of Jehovah?”  2 Samuel 19:21   He said it at the time too:  “Then A·bishʹai the son of Ze·ruʹiah said to the king: “Why should this dead dog curse my lord the king? Let me go over, please, and take off his head.”  16:9

I’m not so sure I’d drag an atheist into a discussion of Adam and Eve, That said, no end of people look for the reason behind suffering, and if they find something they can sink their teeth into, for some of them that atheism goes out the window. (Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth)

“Abʹsa·lom eventually found himself facing the servants of David. Abʹsa·lom was riding on a mule, and the mule went under the thick branches of a large tree, and his head got entangled in the big tree, so that he was suspended in midair while the mule he had been riding kept going.” Reminds me of that quote from the Erie Canal museum, “A mule will labor ten years, willingly and patiently for you, for the privilege of kicking you once,”

“Some Bible publishers have failed to give credit where credit is due. For example, one Bible translation lists the names of over 70 people who in some way contributed to its production. Yet, this same Bible omits the name of the Author —Jehovah God —altogether!” That IS odd.

Pray and barely say a word? A thought that had never occurred to me, from https://wol.jw.org/en/wol/d/r1/lp-e/1958841   “by listening to the Holy Scriptures the words of the prophets, the thoughts of the apostles and the wisdom of Jesus Christ all flow through the mind, refreshing it and …1/2

building it up. In this way one can spend all night in prayer with God and hardly say a word.”   Best article on prayer I’ve ever read, said the one who called my attention to it……2/2

Seems to fit here with this study part on getting the most from Bible reading.

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Making a ‘Great Name’ for Oneself: Part 1

As shown in link, George Benson, long known as one of Jehovah’s Witnesses, is still going strong at 79..

This news did not sit well with all.

You would think at this age he would put Jehovah first. Instead his career still going....still working hard on his career,” said Aubree.  “Older people like this could set the right example.”

Tom: At Prince’s funeral, one of the congregation’s pioneers told reporters, (I included the quote in the Prince chapter of Tom Irregardless & Me) “I was just standing there and all of a sudden, in he walks. I thought, ‘He just wants to be treated like an average person,’ so I just kind of acknowledged him, and he came in and sat down.” She added: “I think he wanted to be private and my observation is: he had to have his creative outlet. Maybe he just needed it to survive.” 

He wanted to be treated like an average person. But people do what they need to survive. I’m not sure that he’s not ‘putting Jehovah first.’ We can expend too much energy pounding square pegs into round holes.

Aubree didn’t give up:

When one is famous and has a lot of income coming in from royalties.... one can cut your life-style and put Jehovah first….There are many brothers and sisters who have left lucrative political careers, football careers, ballet careers, singing careers, acting careers and other careers for which they have natural talent and have all the necessary skills - to put Jehovah first in their life.”

Tom: I would not assume that he is not. Time was when coming across someone like him we would say that he has his own special territory, one that others will find hard to reach. As to income, who is to say he does not put it to very good use? The angels may sing out, “Another nickel from Harley!” at the end of the month, but it is perhaps guys like Benson who provide much of the practical fuel.

I do not share the same sentiment.…I have a nasty suspicion it is the ego that remains involved.... the need of achieving something and still be admired by the people!

On the other hand, “Have you beheld a man skillful in his work? Before kings is where he will station himself; he will not station himself before commonplace men.” Do these ones all grovel around in sackcloth? These days ordinary publishers are given counsel not to let spiritual gifts go to their head. Why conclude just from his work that he has an inflated ego? If he does, he has plenty of company in others who have yet to separate their own egos from bringing their gifts to the altar.

In the mid-seventies, rumors swirled that Glen Campbell had become a Witness. The rumors were untrue. He hadn’t. However, one of his band members had and proceeded to talk Bible so much that an exasperated Glen forbade all discussion of religion during working hours. Who is to say that George is not doing the same before people who cannot tell him to shut up? He’s to quit this gig in order to write letters? Given the restricted forms of ministry available today, it’s even more understandable he would choose to continue what he does.

Aubree still doesn’t back down. She seldom does. It’s the prerogative of we old people who have seen a lot and think we have something to say, who see young people chomping down on cotton candy, imagining it substantial, and would warn them that it’s not. And it certainly is true that those who ‘reach for the stars’ come to spiritual ruin far more often than not. So I will tell her a story that spins things her way.

The story was told at LeRoy’s funeral that he, as a young black man in the Deep South, was invited to play along as one of B.B. King’s band members. His son confirmed it. He declined the offer, on the basis of family and spirituality. Instead, he went on to make his living on the railroad. He came up from the South in his later years to my neck of the woods. For a time we served together on the same body of elders. He was outspoken, even occasionally outrageous in things he would say, but always genuine and universally appreciated. In time, he stepped down as an elder. I even helped persuade him that it would be a good thing, that he had done it all, and should go out ‘on top,’ not when his faculties were starting to decline and people would start to say bad things about him. He was true to the faith till his death and would frequently get together and jam with brothers young enough to be his grandsons. 

I used to tell him that, should I die before him, I wanted him to give my funeral talk. What a trip that would be! “Hee hee hee,” I could picture him rumbling in his deep roguish and jocular voice, “that Tom Harley was a good ol boy, but he’s deead now, D-E-A-D!”

I don’t know. Maybe George is being a bad boy. There he is posted with a ‘Look! A celebrity! And he’s one of ours!’ type of admiration. Is it really so that having celebrities onboard somehow buttresses your cause? Some of the silliest people on earth are celebrities—all of them, really, except our guys, and we only have a handful. Serena doesn’t even count, because it doesn’t appear she was ever baptized and she has gone on record saying (now that she has a daughter) she means to get serious about the faith she was raised in. We shall see what comes to pass. I have a chapter in TrueTom vs the Apostates on the brouhaha surrounding that statement of hers..

No, I suppose George is not the one to emulate. But don’t we do damage when we become too insistent that everyone must be ‘an example?’ Leave the fellow in peace and appreciate him for what gifts he has. Here we put the constantly repeated, ‘Do not compare yourself with one another’ counsel in a setting that we usually don’t put it in, though it applies nonetheless. Alas it is human nature that we will do exactly that.

Growing up, I took one of those psychological tests in which you answer all sorts of nosy questions and are rewarded with indications of what vocation you are best suited for. Being raised in a suburban and non-Witness home, I imagined results would point me to some nice secure field, the sort in keeping with the saying then in vogue, “To get a good job, get a good education.” My dad, raised on the farm, used the GI bill to put himself through engineering school after WWII and took a job with the local utility. He figured that since everyone requires heat and electricity, no job could be more secure. People raised during the Depression came to highly value security. 

Instead of similar recommendations, results were that I should be A) a music performer, or (slightly lower priority, but still head and shoulders above anything else) B) a youth counselor. I’ve never done either of those things, but I have come close enough to satisfy both urges. Public speaking (and now blogging) is not so different than music performing. Shepherding (and now writing) is not so different than youth counseling. 

So I have a thing for creative people. And I don’t like  to see them dismissed as ones ‘trying to make a name for themselves.’ or persons incessantly in quest of satisfying their ‘big egos.’ That doesn’t have to be the case, though it can be.

***

Workers could be crude at the power company, though my dad was not one of them. “I just wasn’t prepared,” said one brother who started working there as a young man, “for one of those guys to grab me from behind and another pull my pants down,” a common hazing of new employees. He came to know my dad, as he was sometimes assigned to the nuclear plant where my dad had been promoted. Nuclear technology was then brand new. This plant was among the first in the country. Tour guides would lead visitors through the plant. By prior agreement, an employee would walk by staggering and drooling, muttering nonsense. “Don’t mind him,” the guide would say. “He’s one of the earliest here and absorbed a little too much radiation.” 

Another story this new employee told, our brother who is now retired, was of visiting laborers being advised that invisible radiation hangs around at the 3 foot level, but if you stay below that, you’re okay. They would walk about and work all day, even carrying heavy gear, in a crouched over position. 

Here were jokesters satisfying their ‘big egos,’ though perhaps not making ‘a great name for themselves.’ Or maybe they were. Our brother remembers these donkeys decades later as though it were yesterday.

To be continued here

******  The bookstore

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

The Normalization of the F-Bomb

Sat through a crime drama recently in which all characters used the f-bomb. (Yes, I know it is not ‘wholesome.’) Good guys said it. Bad guys said it. High class said it. Low class said it. They said it when angry. They said it when not angry. Men said it. Women said it. Everyone said it—constantly. It used to be that people said ‘um’ as a word whisker. Do they have any idea how ridiculous they sound?

And no, I’m not worried about bad associations spoiling useful habits. “Pass the f-n salt, please,” I said at the family dinner.  (Not hardly. Not yet. Not never, assuming I don’t make a practice of watching such shows.)

Too bad, really, because it’s otherwise not a bad show, as cop shows go. I can even put up with ‘a little bit of poison,’ to use the expression. I’m not so sure I want to chug it by the vatful however. Sheesh!

And to think I took Pops to the movies 15 years ago and he objected to the cursing—cursing that wasn’t one tenth as bad but was still novel for him. (And no—he was not a religious man.)

***

The gallery: “I hope you don’t get taken out into the virtual back room.

I’m not all that worried. Obviously, bad words are things to avoid. They have a corrosive effect, and I do avoid them, save for when the jacked-up car slips off and lands on my foot. But there is the type of person who would never ever use a swear word and points to that abstinence as ‘Exhibit A’ in his claims to be a Christian. Would that it was so simple.

After all, if upbraided, I could always point to the elder who said, ‘S**t!’ after smacking into my car when it was in the turnaround spot he didn’t expect it to be while backing up. He apologized. “Don’t worry about it,” I told him, ‘that’s what bumpers are for.”

***More from the gallery: “I have a 6 year old grand daughter that uses it frequently in conversation. Unbelievable!”

“I have a little story from a number of years back. When my little buddy (my dog) and I were walking through the park by my place one fine summer day, we were walking behind two girls. They were late teens, early twenties. Between the F-bombs, and the word "like," for the life of me I had no idea what they were talking about. No clue how they knew either! Amazing in it's own way.”

“I remember a couple of (fleshly) brothers that I used to run into occasionally at lunch time that worked in another body shop across the street from the one I worked in at the time.  I wasn't a Witness then & I definitely wasn't a goody two-shoes, but those guys embarrassed me with the flood of 4 letter words that came out of there mouths.  I don't believe they could say 3 words w/o one of them being f---.  Now adays, a lot of TV shows and movies are almost as bad as those brothers were.  We will, quite often, quit a program after a few minutes into it because of that.”

“You have to switch off the TV. Personally I think it is used to fill up space in modern films instead of pithy dialogue. If you took away the f__ words used those 90 minute films would likely only last around 40 minutes.”

We’ve come a long way from the days where moviemakers were allowed one F-bomb to avoid a no-no rating. ‘Make it count, son’ moviemakers would say as they maneuvered so that F-bomb would be the crescendo of the film. Maybe it is still that way, but it doesn’t matter. A torrent of entertainment venues have arisen that don’t give a hoot about what the rating police want. 

B25E760E-8B89-4350-9DF2-A91144E6282BAnd to think that, as a boy, I was on the beach with my family, surrounded by other families with beach towels, umbrellas, and picnic baskets. A group of teens passed by. One of them uttered the S-word. My dad rose like a grizzly bear. “Hey! There’s decent families here! Watch your mouths!” They may have made fun of him, but not until they were very far away.

(photo by mana5280 on Upsplash)

******  The bookstore

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

My Meeting Notes, Week of June 27, 2022 (with musings and meanderings)

WatchtowerStudy: How to Set and Reach Spiritual Goals, Theme scripture: “Ponder over these things; be absorbed in them, so that your advancement may be plainly seen by all people.”​—1 TIM. 4:15.

Para 2 ‘Spiritual goals’ can be doing what one is already doing but “doing it in fuller measure.” (! Thess 4:10)

Para 4: Said Paul of Timothy: “For I have no one else of a disposition like his who will genuinely care for your concerns. For all the others are seeking their own interests, not those of Jesus Christ.” (Phil 2:20-21).  Even then a young man like Timothy was comparatively rare.

Para 4: “Ability without humility is a _______?” asks the bro who likes rhyming and who has uttered the phrase many times before. “A tragedy,” says another bro, to deliberately trip him up.

Para 12: You get the impression that Timothy was not a naturally assertive guy, a little shy, had to be told to speak up, don’t neglect the gift of prophesy given him, don’t let people look down on your youth, take a little wine for the sake of your [nervous?] stomach. Usuful to know that because a lot of young people are that way today, with reticence a common trait.

Para 14: I used to say that my ‘spiritual goal’ was to, come preparation for Sunday, reach out and instantly lay hands on the proper Watchtower, rather than every other issue that’s ever been printed.

No public talk today and the Watchtower is abbreviated:

Pursue Peace Convention, Part 1 of 6, streamable at JW.org. (Psalm 29:11) Jehovah will bless his people with peace. And the first song of the language medley is sung in— Ukrainian

Bro Walls points out ‘lovers of self’ may head the list of 19 traits at 2 Timothy 3:1-5 because all other bad traits naturally follow from it.

“Keep in mind in none of these situations was Jacob in the wrong and needed to apologize,” said Mark Sanderson, reviewing several Genesis accounts in which Jacob pursued peace.

 

Midweekmeeting: June 27–July 32,  SAMUEL 15-17

“Absalom would say to him: “See, your claims are right and proper, but there is no one from the king to hear your case.” Absalom would say: “If only I were appointed judge in the land! Then every man who has a legal case or judgment could come to me, and I would see that he receives justice.” (2 Samuel 15:3-4)

Sometimes I like to station myself by the elder I love to tease and behave similarly. ‘Oh, yeah, you raise a good point, but fat chance trying to get THAT fellow to give you the time of day.’

“And when a man came near to bow down to him, Abʹsa·lom would extend his hand and grab hold of him and kiss him.” Well—I don’t go THAT far.

 

“Then the king said to Itʹtai the Gitʹtite: “Why should you also go with us? Go back and dwell with the new king, for you are a foreigner and also an exile from your place.  Yesterday you came, so today should I make you wander with us, to go when I must go and where I must go? Go back and take your brothers with you, and may Jehovah show you loyal love and faithfulness!”  But Itʹtai answered the king: “As surely as Jehovah is living and as surely as my lord the king is living, wherever my lord the king may be, whether for death or for life, there your servant will be!”  (2 Samuel 15:19-22)

This is very much like the Ruth story, minus only the ‘Jehovah’ that gives it special meaning. It still is loyalty. I like it:

 

“But the king said to Zaʹdok: “Take the Ark of the true God back to the city. If I find favor in the eyes of Jehovah, he will also bring me back and let me see it and its dwelling place.”  2 Samuel 15: 25.  This is not the typical behavior of deposed kings. Most would just take that ark as though their ‘right,’ like an entitled guest stealing the hotel towels.

The Asian-born bro who appends an r to names that don’t end that way—and I spoke privately to him about it because I know he wants to improve—didn’t do it during his Bible reading.

A whole lot of spying and counterspying in this week’s Bible reading:

At this Hushai said to Absalom: “The advice that A·hithophel gave is not good in this instance!” … Then Abʹsa·lom and all the men of Israel said: “The advice of Huʹshai the Arʹchite is better than the advice of A·hithʹo·phel!” For Jehovah had determined to frustrate the sound advice of A·hithʹo·phel . . . “ (2 Samuel 17:7-14) and then Ahithophel (who prefigures Judas) runs off and hangs himself.

Yeah! That’s what I’m talkin about!

 

Do not say: “Why has it happened that the former days proved to be better than these?” for it is not due to wisdom that you have asked about the good old days of 2019

“I wouldn’t buy a used car from that guy,” I was just about to say after watching that video about Absalom kissing up to the commoners, then I thought about the sister’s husband who sells used (and new) cars.

Chuck was flabbergasted to learn no collections are ever taken at the Kingdom Hall. In all his life, he had never heard of such a thing.

https://www.jw.org/en/jehovahs-witnesses/meetings/video-kingdom-hall/

Old Merrill used to speak of the fundamentalist church he once belonged to. Collections taken to the beat of music, plates on the no of long poles shaking to the music. Leave coins and the chinks would reverberate. He attributed it to ‘quiet money’ that they wanted. Well, so do we—things cost money—but we manage to get it out of generous hearts, nobody has any idea what another gives.

I think that cut-away of a Kingdom Hall meeting is trying to train us. People are sitting in the front rows, leaving the back open for latecomers. In real life, it is just the opposite.

Comments galore tonight in the program about initial impressions of Kingdom Hall meetings. “You can prepare for them,” is the one that stuck with me. Seldom does worship material lend itself to advance preparation.

 

***

No, the holy writings don’t make us wise for salivating. They make us wise for salvation. Stupid autocorrect.

Ought one not prefer the expression ‘golden rule’ to ‘human rights?’ The first preserves all that is noble of the second, while discarding all that is pretentious. After all, our own bodies do not respect our ‘human rights,’ crapping out on us after just a few decades.

Watching a mourning dove as it perches on a nearby fence. It’s an odd-shaped bird and reminds one a little of Wimpy who will “gladly pay you Tuesday for a hamburger today.”

My wife wants to catch those small white butterflies that do serious damage to the garden and buy them a bus ticket out of town. She has procured a butterfly net to that end. I half expect to look out the window and see her transformed as though a Twilight Zone episode into a little girl chasing the things.

Run across a patch of these babies unexpectedly and you can do serious damage to a schedule.

A0A07318-E775-4C64-95B4-190938CFDFC2

“This lowly one called, and Jehovah heard. He saved him from all his distresses.” Psalm 34:6

Again, this seems covered here: https://wol.jw.org/en/wol/d/r1/lp-e/1958841

“Best article on prayer I’ve ever read,” said the one who called my attention to it.

 

******  The bookstore

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

Yikes! A Bad Review of TrueTom vs the Apostates! (Part 3)

This is part of a multi-part series. Here is Part 1,  Part 2,

8F1F30D5-598D-48E4-B67A-1C25AE5EBDE0  “A patient man am I, down to my  fingertips, the sort who never would, never could, let an insulting remark escape his lips.”

That being the case with me, not just Professor Higgins,* what a body blow it was to be accused of rudeness in that mean-spirited review! “I actually emailed him regarding the JW belief that Jerusalem was destroyed in 607 BCE, long story short he resorted to name calling and insults and then stopped replying.”

Gasp! Did I do that? Resort to name-calling and insults? Me—Tom Harley? It made me do some soul-searching. The entire e-mail exchange is reproduced here, in Part 2 of this series.

Not to worry, Tommy. My soul comes out reasonably intact, particularly given that this fellow’s very first emailed remark is an accusation. To be sure, as he ratchets up his accusing, I ratchet up my defense, but still the closest I come to insulting this jerk this person is when I refer in my final reply to his “blustering.” Oh, and I suppose the remark, “What is it with you? Do you live to argue?” also toward the end, is also in that vein. Nothing more heated than that though. It’s enough to put me on the cover of Patience Magazine, the magazine that has previously featured my car group, endlessly waiting in the driveway while I use my powers of persuasion on Bernard Strawman, who only recently said that he just might come to a meeting some day. He also said something about climate change in hell, but I didn’t understand what he meant by that.

Dave McClure, the circuit overseer, used to say how one could “pre-empty” objections by acknowledging them up front. You could say, “We’re calling on people who have their own religion and posing a question . . .” What can they say to that? he’d observe, “that they have their own religion?”

You could even do two, he’d say: “We’re calling on busy people, who have their own religion, and posing a question . . . “

Trust McClure to spin a witticism at the end. This is the same McClure who would, before his companion in field service, upon encountering something unexpected, frantically pass his forefinger from breastbone to belly and back again, making “the sign of the stake.” This is also the same McClure who was among the beset-upon children of West Virginia State Board of Education v Barnett, the Supreme Court decision that reversed the earlier Minersville School District vs Gobitis. (The “Flag Salute Cases”) He passed away several years ago in Florida. With a single exception, I don’t use the real names of persons still alive, excepting only Governing Body members, who are public figures. Come to think of it, that single exception has since passed away himself, so there are no exceptions.

“Of course, there’s a limit,” the grown-up McClure would admit, acknowledging that one couldn’t really say, “We’re calling on busy people, who have their own religion, and who aren’t interested, and posing a question . . . “

So what if you say we’re calling on people who have their own religion and the householder does point out and expound upon how he has his own religion? It’s a point you’ve already acknowledged! That’s why I said this nasty reviewer was ‘blustering’ after I acknowledged his view was the majority one and he proceeded to go on and on about how his view was the majority one! What else would you call it if not blustering?

That said, it has gradually dawned upon me over the years that if you write a persuasive passage for the critics and contaminate it with even one snarky remark, the snarky remark will become the sole focus of attention, to the exclusion of all else. So you ought not do it. This is not easy, because they by no means exercise such restraint. Still, one does well to recall that “sarcasm is the language of the devil,” the Thomas Carlyle saying. Your friends will all think your clever when you say something snarky. If that’s your sole object, you’re okay. But if your aim is to win over an opponent, you don’t look for wounds to rub salt into. I shouldn’t have said “blustering,” nor even uttered the plaintive, “Do you live to argue?

Would it have made a difference? Probably not. But maybe it would with the appeals court. That’s how it was when the European Court of Human Rights declared Russia’s ban on the Jehovoh’s Witnesses organization illegal. That Court noted: “it is significant that the texts [of Jehovah’s Witnesses that the Russian Supreme Court labeled ‘extemist’] did not insult, hold up to ridicule or slander non-Witnesses; nor did they use abusive terms in respect of them or of matters regarded as sacred by them.” (Italics mine) That restaint didn’t cut it with the accusing Russian Court. But it did with the court of appeal.

George Chryssides, he of the scholarly set (who wrote a review of Tom Irregardless and Me under the pen name Ivor E. Tower that I still use in promo material), was likewise commiserating over a nasty review he had received—the both of us were crying into our online beers. Who is nicer than he? Didn’t save him from the exJW critics, though:

Geo: “I also get a 1* review - an unverified purchase and no indication that s/he has read it. But it's good evidence against the critics' trustworthiness: they really hate it when academics say they can't be trusted!”

Tom: “Yes, I just read that 1*. I like to think, as with  mine, it doesn’t do too much damage because the content plainly reveals his gripe is with the faith, and the book only because it is supportive of the faith. At any rate, you have some excellent editorial reviews from acknowledged experts to offset the single malcontent. Essentially, he is telling his like-minded buddies that this is not one of ‘their’ books.” 

To be continued…here.

******  The bookstore

(photo: Kostuumrepetitie My fair Lady , Margriet de Groot en Sonneveld, Bestanddeelnr 911-6157.jpg)

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

My Meeting Notes: Week of June 20, 2022 (with musings and ramblings)

The public talk, ‘Who is Qualified to Rule Mankind’ was presented simply, an appeal to the heart, in the spirit of “a workman with nothing to be ashamed of”—and indeed, the speaker was a tradesperson. It focused on 5 areas—economy, disaster relief, health care, ecology, protection. Bible verses read to highlight Jesus’ competence on all 5. Contrast the ‘health’ he delivered with the ‘health care’ that human governments promise and haphazardly deliver to a limited degree.

Mark is tersest and says it best. They felt an “unusual fear.” I mean, what kind of a guy causes others to do this?      “Now a great violent windstorm broke out, and the waves kept dashing into the boat, so that the boat was close to being swamped.  But he was in the stern, sleeping upon a pillow. So they woke him up and said to him: “Teacher, do you not care that we are about to perish?”  With that he roused himself and rebuked the wind and said to the sea: “Hush! Be quiet!” And the wind abated, and a great calm set in.  So he said to them: “Why are YOU fainthearted? Do YOU not yet have any faith?” But they felt an unusual fear, and they would say to one another: “Who really is this, because even the wind and the sea obey him?” (Mark 4:37-41)

 

WatchtowerStudy: Mothers​—Learn From the Example of Eunice. Theme scripture: “Do not forsake the instruction of your mother. [It is] an attractive wreath for your head and a fine ornament for your neck.”​—PROV. 1:8, 9.

“This study will be about someone who has been influential in all our lives,” the chairman says. If you weren’t paying attention, you’d think he meant the one he next introduces: the Watchotwer conductor

Para 1: Someone applies the ‘it takes a village’ quote to those observing Timothy’s baptism. Timothy’s father is not there. He would be recognizable in Greek clothing, says another.

The conductor refers to an unnamed sis who was baptized long ago in a local park pond. That algae-choked mess? It must have been long ago indeed. It was once a popular swimming area.

One sis on Zoom prefaces her comment, as she always does, with “Can you hear me?” “Sure can,” the conductor says, as he always does. 

Para 7: If Jehovah’s people today have a reputation for fanaticism, it was the same way in the first centruy. Lots of gods were worshipped, none of them had any problem in sharing worship with others. It extended to certain humans worships. All had their own turfs, none interfered with that of others. Only Christians worshiped a “jealous” God who wanted “exclusive devotion,” not tolerating even a “inch of incense offered up to the emperor.

Para 9: One elder relates how he was a product of a single parent family, without male input, so he always appreciated bros taking an interest in him and now tries to do the same.

Para 10 “do not criticize the elders.” Not easy to follow because they have faults. Who doesn’t?. Ah, well. No need to pour molasses on everything, it is just a matter of what is your focus,

Para 11: Whoa. One bro speaks of sisters who would come to meeting with bruises or black eyes, because “when husbands were opposed, they were opposed.” Not so sure it would play out that way today. This would have been 1950s and 60s. They would not trash their husbands before the children though.

Para 14: “What do you learn from the examples of Leanne, Maria, and João?” says the question. Learned we don’t need them. We have similar examples in this circuit that some related.

Like the one who never attended a single meeting growing up because dad forbid it. Mom continually studied with him though. Following dad’s instruction, he took a scholarship to an Ivy League school, afterwards a job on Wall Street. “What am I doing here?” he said after a year, and then, having fulfilled dad’s wishes, he quit the job, hunted up a certain bro in the territory to study with, & today serves at Bethel.

Sigh….the watchtower reader lays great stress on the phrases he agrees with that aren’t necessarily the main point of the paragraph.

Para 18: another mention of ‘it takes a village to raise a child.’ That’s a popular saying.

Midweek Meeting Assigned Bible reading: 2 Samuel 13-14

 

ANOTHER instance in which an underling traps David with his own words! First Nathan, now this slick woman from Tekoa, hoodwiinking him to make up with Absalom. (2 Samuel 14:2).  It is as though his subjects continually fool him with knock knock jokes.

“When [Absalom] shaved his head—he had to shave it at the end of every year because it was so heavy for him—the hair of his head weighed 200 shekels.” 2 Sam 14:26

This is not the same problem for me as it once was. In fact, not a problem at all.

Musing and meandering:

5AD618BE-78BC-4F3C-B968-15E7B1EAA9FEHa! Dedicated to the person who responded to a certain overly interested party, ‘1 Thessalonians 4:11’ and that person said he didn’t know that verse, and was advised to look it up—after which the modest fellow said, ‘You’re a pretty good teacher.’  (not every lyric fits)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SYJig3QIuXE

For the longest time my daughter wondered where her Tupperware was going. Turned out her husband was giving his lunches to panhandlers he encountered

The guy at the beer garden waved by my wife when she reached for her wallet to prove her age. ‘We’re from New York’ I said. ‘They’ll proof you if you’re the Mummy.’

With a single exception all Bible mentions of hell stem from one of three original Gr or Heb words. Find the meaning of those words and you’ve found the meaning of hell. Two of the (Sheol, hades) simply mean the ‘place of the dead.’ ….1/2

The other (Gehenna) was an incinerator dump outside Jerusalem walls where every type of rubbish was cast, sometimes even those deemed too wicked to merit a resurrection. None of the three to be literally feared…..2/2

An early Witness with much traction was known within his lifetime as the man who ‘turned the hose on hell and put out the fire.’…3/3

 

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

Yikes! A Bad Review of TrueTom vs the Apostates: Part 2

This is part of a multi-part series. Here is Part 1


Jehovah’s Witnesses fend off critics on two fronts. JWs are the prime targets of the fundamentalist church religious world. “I have been unable to discover any words of sympathy for them in any of the orthodox religious journals,” wrote Ray H Abrams in the first edition (1933) of ‘Preachers Present Arms.

They are also the prime targets of the secular irreligious front as represented by ‘anti-cultists.’ “Russia’s religious persecution focuses almost exclusively on Jehovah’s Witnesses,” Human Rights Watch said in 2021.

If ‘Preachers Present Arms’ and Jehovah’s Witnesses don’t, why would they be the prime target of the irrelgious world that also says it wants peace? And in an age when religionists seek to force their views upon others through legislation and sometimes violence, but Jehovah’s Witnesses don’t—the standards they have they apply only to themselves—again, you would not think they would be prime target of the irreligious world. Why not go after someone who does do these meddling things? There are plenty of groups to choose from.

The answer is offered by Massimo Introvigne—he the scholar of new religions. When the fledgling irreligious anti-cult movement first started ‘flexing their muscles,’ they simply latched on to what already was the prime target of the religious would, Jehovah’s Witnesses.

Witnesses are the prime target of the fundamentalist church world—trust me on this—primarily because they reject the trinity doctrine. For that reason, they’re usually denied Christian status altogether by these ones. “No thanks, I’m Christian,” sniggered one fellow I encountered at the door, with the clear implication that I wasn’t. I answered in perplexity that only a Christian would do the work I was doing, and “frankly, I’m a little surprised that you’re doing it yourself.” Fade smug smile. Of course, I would never do this for an honest misunderstanding, but believe me—this was no honest misunderstanding.

It’s a denial of status that the fundamentalists can’t quite make stick—it sticks only among themselves. “The Witnesses come right up my driveway to talk about Jesus as God’s chosen king,” non-fundamentalists will say, who may not be thrilled to see them do that but they obviously recognize them as Christian, and in fact, pretty serious Christians to be putting biblical direction to preach into practice.

If the trinity truly was the central reality of the faith, you’d expect it to be on nearly every page of the Bible. Instead, references to it are few and far between, and almost always, if seen in any other context, would be instantly dismissed as figure of speech. “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do,” Jesus says as he is being put to death. Who’s he talking to—himself? Again, it’s odd that anti-cultists would makes Witnesses their central target, who make sense on this doctrine, as opposed to a horde of groups that do not—but Introvigne has explained why.

When you respond to a critic, it’s well to know where that one is coming from. Is he/she from the secular anti-cult front, or the religionist front? What answers one will not answer another. The critic who savaged the masterpiece TrueTom vs the Apostates, taking exception to a point of chronology that is nowhere discussed in the book, is from the church religious world. This is the world in which if you have ever said something that turned out not so, you are a “false prophet.” The irreligious world would never speak that way.

With regard to the Babylonian destruction of Jerusalem, Witnesses don’t have the date favored by the majority of scholars. Accept it and move on. After all, we don’t have the majority view on the origin of mankind either. Maybe someday scholars will change on this point. Maybe they will not. Have scholars never been wrong? All the time they are reversing themselves.

On the other hand, what would be the consequences if they were right and we were wrong? A matter of timing is all. It would affect the ‘when’ of the faith, but not the ‘who’ ‘what’ ‘why’ ‘where’ and ‘how’. Awkward? Yes. A deal-breaker? No. Opponents who would not know who was president before their birth have studied up on a tiny sliver of Persian history in order to undermine their former associates. Should I study up on it too? I’m sure I could get the Cliff Notes version in short order, but it would take a lot more than that to weigh with any authority. I do monitor someone who, at great length, argues of flaws with the consensus view. It goes over my head. I let it do that because either outcome is irrelevant to the big picture. At most, it adds to uncertainty as to where we are in the stream of time, but you’d still be crazy to get out of the stream.

History is often scholars angling for position, egos and reputations at stake, and after they take control of the playing field they tilt it so anyone of competing view slides off. So I won’t lose my cookies when our view is not the majority one. Every factoid of Bible history must be argued with critics intent on gutting them, and when they reluctantly concede to one, they do not extend that concession to any others—you have to beat them down one rung at a time. “The great patriarchal tales in the book of Genesis are prehistoric, no more historically true than the tales of . . . King Arthur,” wrote clergyman Stopford Brooke in his book The Old Testament and Modern Life. “It is impossible,” another theologian added, “to place implicit confidence in any of these records.” I remember giving a talk on how these guys all had to turn around on Genesis 14 in the face of accumulating archeological finds.

94F9E4EB-DDEF-448C-BB04-6253D3727EC8…Okay, here’s the unsavory review. Imagine! Anyone criticizing TrueTom vs the Apostates! Who would do that other than . . . Ah, “taste and see Jehovah is good,” says the Psalm. They have tasted and seen he is bad. Think they’re going to like the book? But there is such a thing as making lemonade from lemons:

 

This guy is part of a cult, and it shows. His great "debates" if you can even call them that, seem to consist of him running in circles trying to distract from the fact that he has no actual evidence for his false doctrine.

I actually emailed him regarding the JW belief that Jerusalem was destroyed in 607 BCE, long story short he resorted to name calling and insults and then stopped replying. The "truth" indeed...”

 

To use the lingo of critical thinkers, what the nasty reviewer is doing is called setting up a straw man argument. Bernard Strawman himself, my return visit character from ‘Tom Irregardless and Me,’ (who is progressing very well, thank you) would spot it in an instant. It’s not at all true, as the reviewer implies, that the Witness organization desperately tries to hide their miscues lest they lose some aura of infallibility. Instead, they’re very open about expectations that did not work out. In public broadcast, Anthony Morris recently stated he comes from a line of Witnesses, each one of whom thought the end was at hand. If they did it in the first century, they’ll do it in the present as well. And they did do it in the first century:

“[Jesus] spoke in addition an illustration, because he was near Jerusalem and [his disciples] were imagining that the kingdom of God was going to display itself instantly.  (Luke 19:11)

“When, now, [the disciples] had assembled, they went asking him: “Lord, are you restoring the kingdom to Israel at this time?” (Acts 1:6)

You think it’s easy looking into the future? The watchman peers into the mist and makes a few false calls. He gets everyone scrambling for nothing! But it’s all in keeping with the continual NT language to “keep on the watch,” be ever “vigilant,” for the Lord’s day “is coming unexpectedly,” like a “thief in the night,” and happy is the one not caught napping. What good is a watchman who sounds the alarm only when the bow of approaching ship pinches his toes, having just smashed through the gunwales?

I suppose this reviewer’s second statement also is ‘raising a straw man argument:’ “His great "debates" if you can even call them that . . . “ I never did call them that. Like 607 BCE, this claim doesn’t appear from my pen. The only one who wanted to debate, inviting me repeatedly for that purpose, was Nemo of Chapter 3, a real and rabid opposer (though name is changed) who later blew his credibility (and, alas, his family) by cavorting with the lithe young prostitutes of Thailand, fulfilling exactly the biblical description of apostates “promising freedom” while they themselves exist as “slaves of corruption.”

So with that in mind, here is the email thread the reviewer referred to. I’ve kept it, pending further reply that I may or may not have gotten around to. Note how he gets the last word. You have to acquiesce to this if you engage with any of his type, because no way will they give up! They come out of nowhere, ram you as those big dumb animals with horns in the nature shows, thereafter take for granted that all your time is theirs, and the moment you cease correspondence declare glorious victory!!! 

He’s not stupid. He makes some valid points. It certainly would be better not to make any mistakes, a dilemma that is often solved by not doing anything. You might even end up agreeing with him. But I don’t:

 

Dave: Hello Mr Harley: Just wondering if you could explain to me why your religion's publications repeatedly tells it's members that Jerusalem was destroyed in 607 bce when all available evidence points to 587/586 bce. I know it's tied up in doctrine, and I believe it's dishonest to misrepresent history like this. 

Tom: For the same reason our religion’s publications repeatedly tell members that Adam and Eve are our first human parents when “all available evidence” points to them being imaginary. I believe the publishers defer to the Bible’s own chronology over that of academia.

Dave: It seems to me that rather then "deferring" to the Bible's chronology your leaders are rather "making up" a chronology that suits their needs. Strange how the Babylonian records are employed to establish the return of the Jews, but suddenly become untrustworthy when it comes to the destruction of Jerusalem. Many Christian scholars have demonstrated workable timetables that preserve the 70 years and agree with the cuneiform tablets.

Tom: Whatever was done it was done long ago and it permitted the Witnesses to point well ahead of time to 1914, since deemed by historians a ‘turning point year.’ It seemed to correlate well with Matthew 24:7 as the first time that the entire world was at war at once. I wrote of it here: [see link] Is it wrong? I don’t really think so, though I am aware that ours is the minority view. Sometimes the minority view turns out to be the correct one. But if not, it simply becomes an issue of delayed timing, a little like misreading the bus schedule. It doesn’t mean the bus is not coming.

Dave: The Bible students pointed to many dates for the end, which all failed, and I'd hardly call 1914 a slam dunk either. If you'd examine world history you'd see that 1914 was in fact not the first time that the whole world was at war. Plus Jesus told his disciples not to be alarmed by warring nations because the end was not yet, they were just the "beginning pangs" to use your translation.

It's not really a minority view though is it? It's a view for which there's no evidence, and you have a lot riding on it. Could you explain to me how your "faithful and discreet slave" doctrine works without 1914? Seems like without this discredited chronology you're really just obeying men rather then Jesus.

Tom: Probably the people of God are destined to be chumps, always prematurely expecting the end which does not occur until it does. It’s not too different from first century disciples wanting to know if Christ was bringing the end “at this time,” and who imagined “the kingdom of God was going to display itself instantly.” It’s a regrettable downside of “keeping on the watch,” but still beats “sleeping on as the rest do.”

And World War I certainly was the first time the whole world was concurrently at war, either as direct participants or as colonies of direct participants, their resources exploited to that end. That’s why it is called ‘World War I’—it had never happened before. Rather than a dismissive directive to “examine world history,” give me an example of a greater conflict if you think there was one. I doubt very much your knowledge of history exceeds mine, barring only a cherry-picked area or two which you seize upon only because you think you can undermine Jehovah’s Witnesses with it.

Dave: I would agree with you that keeping on the watch is important, it's what our Lord told us to do. However keeping on the watch does not mean run around prophesying that the end is coming on <insert date here>. Jesus told us to not do exactly that at Matt 24: 24-27, instead said his coming would be obvious like lightning, no one would have to point it out.

Funny, you seem to missed these wars: The Napoleonic wars, The war of American independence, the seven years war, and the war of Spanish succession. All these wars are classed as "world wars". The Napoleonic wars were fought on all continents whereas the world war of 1914 was largely limited to Europe. 

The generally accepted combined figure of soldier and civilian deaths for world war I is 10-12 million. This figure shows that rather then being the most devastating conflict in history up to that time as watchtower has claimed, it's well within normal margins. Next to the Taiping rebellion of 1850-1864 that resulted in 40 million deaths it pales in comparison, and is closer to the 10 million deaths of The Thirty Years' War of 1618-1648.

You still haven't provided a good reason as to why JW's reject 587/586 bce, there are literally thousands of tablets that give us a very detailed chronology of the period of Jewish exile. I do however appreciate your willingness to even discuss this with me, I've been brushed off by many other witnesses.

Tom: If the wars you mentioned were ‘world wars,’ that little spat in 1914 would be known as ‘World War V.’ It isn’t. It is World War I. Yours is a ridiculous take that I have never heard before.

What is it with you? Do you live to argue? Sometimes people disagree. I can live with that.

Dave: According to the historians Richard F. Hamilton and Holger H. Herwig there have been eight world wars, beginning with the nine years' war in 1688, followed by the War of the Spanish succession, The war of the Austrian succession, the Seven years war, the French revolutionary wars, the Napoleonic wars, world war I, and world war II. 

Source: Richard F. Hamilton; Holger H. Herwig, eds. (24 February 2003). The Origins of World War I. Cambridge University Press. pp. 4–9. ISBN 978-1-107-39386-8

Here's two mainstream historians who refer to world war I as world war VII. Hardly ridiculous, but not as well known as it should be. [it’s because they’re ridiculous] Oh and I never called it a little spat, it was among the deadliest wars in history, but it wasn't a war that made all preceding conflicts look small in comparison. 

Well I wouldn't say I live to argue per se, but I love truth and God. Since your religion calls itself "the truth" I thought maybe you would be able to defend their doctrines.

I get the sense we've reached an impasse, since you haven't provided any evidence or arguments to support your organisation's chronology besides insisting that world war I proves it. I do want you to know that I admire you for maintaining an internet presence when so many JW's avoid religious discussions online. I hope you come to Christ someday brother. God bless 

Tom: The fact that after two exchanges you say we’ve “reached an impasse” is evidence enough for me of your penchant for arguing. After conceding that we hold the minority view, there is hardly any point of you blustering on about your majority view, yet you do anyway. If I have not addressed all your concerns, neither have you addressed your inconsistency on complete reliance on academia when it comes to chronology, yet complete rejection of it when it comes to Adam and Eve. It is the same thing when it comes to world war. Here the consensus of academia means nothing to you. Instead you champion the view of a lone wolf whose work I have never heard of. If you think Jehovah’s Witnesses cherry-pick you do it no less.

Look to the scriptures on the imperfections of humans (I’ve given you two examples regarding disciples ‘jumping the gun’ in the first century) and you’ll better forgive if the same has happened in the present. JWs are very open about it. Anthony Morris recently stated in public address that going several generations back, Witnesses he knew of often thought the end would occur within their lifetimes. 

Humoring you for a moment, if it turns out your view of 607 is correct, the Witness organization will adjust, as they have many times before. The prime source of their headship is that they do the work of spreading the gospel. There are tens of thousands of different organizations today. Always, they are led by people who organize and do the work.

And I have no sense of not coming to Christ. On the contrary, in my view Jehovah’s Witnesses best champion his overarching role in God’s purpose.

Dave: Last I checked you were the one "blustering" on about minority and majority views, I'm just looking at evidence, something you should try out sometime. That's why I said we'd reached an impasse, your view is in fact refuted by all available historical evidence.

Adam and Eve is a bit different from the exile. The Babylonian exile is described in clearly historical terms whereas Adam and Eve and the creation account in Gen 1 are classic examples of mythic history, their story is a clear polemic against Egyptian and mesopotamian myths, and is it just a coincidence that Adams story mimics Israel's? I doubt it. That doesn't mean that I don't believe they never existed but I do believe these accounts are more concerned with theology then history, and clinging to a rigid interpretation of these stories does more harm than good.

The "consensus view" is that while we don't call these previous conflicts world wars, they do fit the criteria. Even world war I wasn't officially called that until much later. It's just a matter of nomenclature why these earlier conflicts weren't called world wars. 

I suppose those faithful JW's thought the end would come because "this generation will not pass away". Well that didn't age quite so well...

Let me share a scripture with you, Matt 24: 23: "Then if anyone says to you, ‘Look, here is the Christ!’ or ‘There he is!’ do not believe it." 

It seems to me that saying has returned and has been reigning invisibly for over 100 years fits that category nicely. Being eager for the kingdom is good, but it's no excuse for becoming a false prophet. 

To be continued: here.

******  The bookstore

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