Walking on Eggshells in the Kingdom Hall

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This week I visited the Kingdom Hall for their regular weeknight meeting of Jehovah’s Witnesses, something I try to do about once a month. If you’ve been following my posts, you will know that my cover has been blown; that is, they realize that I have an agenda, which is to share my “strong opinions” with their members. Actually, what I share are not my opinions, but rather what the Bible actually teaches, in contrast with what the Watchtower teaches.

Anyway, at one point they gave me an ultimatum, which resulted in a commitment from me to not share “my opinions” with members of the congregation. I agreed to do so. Since then, I have been visiting and engaging in only smalltalk with my JW friends.

That’s frustrating, as you can imagine. I have to bite my lip a lot. It’s a struggle to keep the Truth inside. And talking with my JW friends has become like the proverbial “walking on eggshells.” One false step, and they might “revoke their invitation,” forbidding me from entering the kingdom hall.

So what do I do?

This week’s visit provides a good example of exactly what I do.

First, I pray. Throughout the meeting, I talk with Jehovah and Jesus, mentioning the members that I see up front and in the seats, and for those with whom I talk before and after the talks.

Secondly, nothing has stopped my body language. I’m sure they see when I roll my eyes, cringe, bristle, or express exasperation or disbelief in what is being taught. Sometimes I even scoff audibly. I can’t help myself. So far no one has commented or asked me about it, but they must notice. The elders must see when I’m making a disgusted or incredulous face about what they’re saying from the lectern.

Thirdly, there are opportunities even within smalltalk to plant seeds. Our everyday conversation can reveal what we believe about God, Jesus, the Bible, the church, and other topics. This week I was commending “Verne,” one of the young men, a high-school student, for his astute comment during the meeting. He pointed out that when Jesus was killed, the spear the Romans used on him caused “blood and water” to flow out of him, conclusive evidence of certain death. After the meeting, I expressed my agreement with him about how important that was, that Jesus’ death and resurrection was a real, historical event that took place in space and time; that it was not fake news; that the “swoon theory” and other spurious explanations are bunk.

Do you see what I did there? It’s subtle, but I did at least two things. First, I included Jesus’ resurrection, something that JW’s believe in, but not in the same way that we do. They believe his resurrection was spiritual, not physical, and by lumping them together in history, space, and time, I planted a seed of truth about Jesus’ resurrection. Secondly, I as a member of “Christiandom,” what they call all other Christian organizations, expressed understanding and enthusiasm, even excitement, about biblical truth. JW’s are trained to believe that members of Christiandom have no understanding or enthusiasm for biblical truths. That might have been the biggest, most gnarly seed of all, something that could keep a JW from sleeping at night.

After talking with Verne, I talked with others, and shared with several members what I had shared with Verne. I multiplied the conversation, and hence the seed-planting! “Didn’t you love what Verne shared? I sure did! It places Jesus’ death and resurrection as a real event in history!” I must have had the same conversation four more times that evening.

So while my seed planting has to be stealthy, it can still be fun, and far from frustrating.

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Public Prayer Strategy at Jehovah’s Witnesses Carts

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From Pixabay.com

I have a new strategy I’m wanting to try when interacting with the Jehovah’s Witnesses at their literature carts. I’ve been thinking and praying about this because of my recent frustration with trying to hold a conversation of any length before they shut down on me. If you’ve tried to talk with JW’s recently, you’ve likely noticed that they shut down on you faster than ever before. In the past, they used to be willing to interact, dialogue, debate, and discuss. No longer. They have been receiving an increased amount of rhetoric in their kingdom hall talks and convention talks about not engaging in ANY discussions with apostates and opposers. They are being instructed to NOT talk with you. At all. None. Zero. Zip. Once they label you as an opposer, they clam up and avoid eye contact. You’ve seen it. You know what I mean. They suddenly say, “I’m not going to argue with you.” Then you get the silent treatment. Frustrating.

There are usually symptoms leading up to the shutdown. If they say one or more of the following, you know it’s coming:

“You can find all the answers you need at our website, jw dot borg.”

“Why are you asking that question?”

“Are you honestly seeking answers, or are you just wanting to start an argument?”

“I’m not sure you’re being sincere in your questioning.”

“Where is this question coming from?”

“Have you been reading apostate books/websites/sources?”

“Would you like to have someone pay you a personal visit to answer your questions?”

There may be a few more telling statements or questions that I’m not thinking of right now. And there are more variations of these. At their heart is a questioning of your motives, and a judging of your heart attitudes. Yes, it’s wrong, but it’s what they’re being trained to do. We can’t get around that. So what can we do? How can we keep the dialogue alive, without them shutting down?

My hope is that the other posts on this blog will provide you with some good tools to do just that. But I have a new idea. Tell me what you think of this.

What if I were to talk with the cart people just long enough to learn their names and begin to share truth with them; then when I sense they’re about to shut down, I could go to my knees and begin to pray out loud to Jehovah. I would tell Jehovah about my burden for my new friends, and how my heart is grieved for them. I would talk with God about all the blessings and kingdom privileges that are being denied the JW’s, as they teach that they are only for the anointed class (the 144,000). I would mention many of the promises in prayer, including being anointed by the holy spirit, being adopted as sons of Jehovah, being kings and priests, being in the new covenant, being citizens of the kingdom, and having Jesus as their mediator.

I would pray about their lack of assurance of eternal life, and Jehovah’s promise of assurance at First John 5:1.

Essentially I would be talking with Jehovah about all the things I want to say to my JW friends. What could they do? How could they object? I would be exercising my right to my religious practice of prayer in a public place, just like they are exercising their right to publicly stand beside their literature cart. I think the worst case would be that they would pack up and leave, but I could follow them, still praying out loud. I would be persistent, without crossing over into harassment.

What do you think of this possible approach? I’m thinking of trying this out soon. I’m wondering if it would be an effective way to plant seeds. It would also give them an “out,” since they would be listening to my words, while being obedient to the governing bully by not engaging me in conversation.

Give me your opinions, please, and if anyone has done this or something similar, please let us know in the comments. Thank you!

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Jehovah’s Witnesses’ Promises Remind Me of Politicians

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From Pixabay

When any given politician is making their campaign promises, or reporting on how they performed over the last year, how much of what they’re saying do you believe? How much eye-rolling do you do? Or would you rather watch To Tell the Truth, because that show contains less lying?

You know the saying: How do you know when a politician is lying? Answer: His lips are moving.

As I attend Jehovah’s Witnesses meetings, assemblies, and conventions; and as I read Watchtower literature; I try to give the speakers and writers the benefit of the doubt. I try to assume that they’re being honest and up front with their hearers/readers, especially with outsiders, aka potential converts.

I’m having an increasingly hard time doing so.

I’m beginning to liken the JW speakers and writers to politicians.

What styles of discourse do politicians and JW’s have in common? Let me list a few.

Doublespeak: Affirming two contradictory statements without acknowledging the contradiction. Example: “Isn’t it wonderful about how blessed the anointed 144,000 are, with their heavenly hope? How great it will be for them to rule with Christ for all eternity!” Contrast that statement with things like, “Humans are designed for an earthly existence, not a heavenly one.” When talking about the anointed, heaven is sold as the best thing ever. But when talking about the “great crowd” believers, earth is where it’s at. “Heaven? Yuck! Who would want that?”

Omissions: At the recent convention I attended (July 2018), one of the speakers quoted John 6:44 like this: “No man can come unless the Father who sent me draws him.” This is one of my favorite verses of scripture, so I noticed immediately that the speaker omitted the phrase “to me.” The verse should read: “No man can come to me unless the Father, who sent me, draws him.” I wondered whether the omission was intentional, purposefully downplaying our need to come to Jesus. Perhaps it was subconscious on the part of the speaker, due to the relentless indoctrination he has been through over the years. There I go again, giving them the benefit of the doubt.

I find myself even giving the governing bully the benefit of the doubt. Some describe them as wolves. I wonder whether they are just as deceived as the common members. Honestly I don’t know. I can just as easily imagine them as oblivious puppets, or as deliberately manipulative shysters. The more I learn, though, the more difficult it is to give them the benefit of the doubt. And I don’t mean that I’m learning about them from inflammatory websites published by disgruntled apostates with an ax to grind. (There are plenty of those.) I’m talking about what I learn from what I hear and read directly from the JW “horse’s mouth.”

Outright Lies: Here’s where it’s really becoming difficult to cut the governing bully and its minions any slack. One recent example I experienced was during the midweek ministry training at the local kingdom hall. The nice ladies acted out a JW inviting a “householder” to attend a kingdom hall meeting. The JW, in pitching her invitation, said that there would be audience participation, and that children are not separated from the meeting, but that they too could participate in the interaction.

That is a flat-out lie.

Yes, children can participate in the question-and-answer ritual, but that would only be children of families in good standing, and who have been prepared for such participation. No visitor, adult or child, is allowed to ask or answer a question. As a visitor, I have tried. I held my hand up for about 10 minutes one evening. If the fictional skit was representing what JW’s actually promise householders, they are being misleading at best, or insidiously deceptive at worst. They’re putting a positive spin on children attending meetings where they’re bored out of their gourds, instead of being offered educational programs tailored to their developmental level.

All of this is very vexing to me, especially when these flat-out lies are being presented by such nice ladies, whom I have actually been befriending at the kingdom hall. I don’t know whether to be angry or heartbroken for these people. I guess I will continue to feel both.

 

 

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Stay Awake With Jehovah’s Witness Convention Bingo!

While attending the recent Jehovah’s Witness convention, I was inspired with an idea that would help JW’s and non-JW’s alike to stay awake during the unrelenting onslaught of talks throughout the day. Actually, thinking about this idea and noting down some things I heard helped to keep me awake.

Let’s make a Bingo game out of the convention talks! Here are the step-by-step instructions.

Make a number of cards with 5×5 grids on them. Fill the squares randomly with the following phrases, making each card unique:

This system of things

Publisher

Worthy Ones / Ones Disposed to Receive

Coming Kingdom / Paradise

Higher Education

Jehovah God (in the center space)

In the Truth

Apostate

“We Commend You”

Honor or Uphold Jehovah’s Name

Maintain Your Spirituality

Theocratic

Jehovah’s Organization

Jehovah’s Arrangement

“Serve Where the Need is Greater”

Attend Meetings

Do the Preaching Ministry

Trust the Faithful Slave

“Where Else Would We Go?”

The Channel Jehovah is Using

Those Taking the Lead

Symposium

Patronizing Announcement

Announcement of Obvious

Vocal Crescendo at the End of a Talk

Euphemism for “Sit Down and Shut Up”

Thrilling / Exciting

Make up your own phrases to add to the list. You can share them in the comments below.

While listening to the convention talks, mark off each time your hear one of the phrases. Don’t use an “X;” that might look too much like a cross. You better use big black dots instead.

I just realized that we will have to change the name to JAH-Go, because “Bingo” might have pagan origins. Or it might come from the gambling world. Either. Or both.

Anyway, see my sample below, and Have Fun!

JWBingo

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Random Thoughts About the 2018 Jehovah’s Witness Convention, Part 2

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More thoughts about my experience attending the 2018 Jehovah’s Witnesses convention:

(This is part 2; see part 1 here.)

I was able to have a good conversation with one of the attendants (ushers). He showed me (on his phone) the trailer for the Jonah film that would be shown in full the next day (Sunday). I brought up my concern about the “great crowd” believers being denied so many kingdom privileges, including having Jesus as one’s mediator. He (predictably) thought I was wrong. I told him that it’s spelled out very clearly in the Insight on the Scriptures book, which is accessible at the JW website, and also in several Watchtower articles. He still insisted that I must have misunderstood the information I had read. I encouraged him to research the subject, and we went on with just friendly talk. I hope he has or will research on the subject of mediator. I prayed that he would not forget, and would not be able to shake the subject from his mind and heart.

During the lunch break, I had a couple of good, friendly conversations with other attendees. I also asked several security team members whether there had been any protesters that day or the day before, but they said there had been nothing.

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Groom’s Procession (not the one I saw), from sareez.com

Later in the afternoon, when I left one of the “talking head” sessions to get a break from the tedium, I saw a procession coming down the street, with people banging on drums and playing loud music. I thought it was going to be a protest group, but it was an Indian wedding procession, joyfully celebrating the groom traveling on horseback to the wedding site. How fun! I joined in the song and dance for a few minutes, something that I’m sure none of the JW’s would be caught doing. Actually, I don’t know. Can anyone provide insight as to whether JW’s in India participate in their traditional wedding revelry? There didn’t seem to be anything pagan about it, but well, you know how the Watchtower is. Please comment below if you know anything about it.

At the end of the day, we finally encountered “protesters”. At least, that is how the attendees saw them. Just outside the main doors of the convention hall, on the public sidewalk, there was a man and (I assume) his wife and daughter. They all held signs, saying things like “Jesus is Lord.” He was preaching with a bullhorn. I snapped a picture of them, which you can see above. He’s in the white shirt, his daughter is to the right in a blue shirt, and you can see part of his wife at the far left. The great thing was that he was not obnoxious. The bullhorn was not too loud. He was not shouting. He was using scripture, and all the right verses that make JW’s think, verses that I use with my JW friends. I chatted briefly with the wife, letting her know that I was praying. I was so encouraged that this family had a burden to preach the gospel to Jehovah’s Witnesses. More power to them (aka God bless them).

Almost every JW I talked with asked me, “Are you enjoying the convention?” or “Are you enjoying the talks?” Without exception I gave them my standard answer: “I’m really glad I came.” I highly recommend this response. Using it will enable you to give an honest answer that will always satisfy your JW friends. It’s good for kingdom hall use as well. If you go to a convention, be sure to take a lunch and plenty of snacks to keep you awake. Coffee was essential for me. Hard candies to suck on work well too. Do your best to endure the talks, because the opportunities for conversation before, in between, and after are priceless!

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Random Thoughts About the 2018 Jehovah’s Witness Convention

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The view from my seat, about 1/3 of the way back from the front.

This last weekend I attended one of the three days of the 2018 Jehovah’s Witness Convention, which was titled “BE COURAGEOUS”!

There are so many things I want to say, and they’re all competing to be picked first.

Okay, the first thing I want to say is that it was so thoughtful of the organizers to provide something right up front for the grammar police. The title of the convention, which I copied and pasted above, has the exclamation point outside of the quotes. Wrong. The exclamation should be part of the quote. Whew, got that off my chest.

Next, I attended one day of the convention, the Saturday. One day. I cannot imagine attending any more than one day. The boredom is excruciating. The points are so redundant and rudimentary. The music is amateurish. The series of talking heads is nearly unbearable. The morning consisted of a “symposium” of eight talks, followed by another symposium of five talks, followed by a baptism-related talk. Then the afternoon featured another symposium of five talks, followed by, surprise, another symposium of six talks, and finally wrapped up with a final talk. Granted, there were some brief videos interspersed among the talks, but they only served to make the whole day slightly less torturous. At times I felt like saying out loud, “Thank God, a video!” During the final talk of the day, I had to escape and walk around outside for a while. I was reminded of the song lyrics “All you can eat for a dollar ninety-nine, but one dollar’s worth was all that I could stand.” I cannot imagine enduring three days of it. But that leads me to my next observation.

There was a whole lot of buzz at the convention about a video that was scheduled for the third day (Sunday) of the convention. Almost everyone I talked with mentioned the “Jonah” movie. There is even a trailer for it, which one man played for me on his phone. (You can see the trailer at their website, jw.org.) Part of the excitement, I’m sure, is the desperate desire of the poor “great crowd” believers to experience a break in the boredom that the video will provide. The schedule shows the length of the film to be 50 minutes, nearly a whole hour of drama (dare we call it entertainment?) breaking up the parade of talking heads! The JW’s were almost giddy about it! My impressions from the trailer is that it will be a pretty high-quality production; it’s obvious that the Watchtower has invested a significant amount of money into it. With its special effects and professional-sounding music, it’s pretty slick. Once again, I’m dumbfounded about the artistic licence taken by the watchtower. Like they have done before, they have added a character not mentioned at all in the biblical account, in this case a sister of Jonah named Joanna. Her name is mentioned three times in the trailer, which seems deliberate to me. What’s up with this habitual use of fictional characters? (For two other examples, see my previous blog posts, one the story of Haman, the other a fictional donkey serving as Mary’s transportation.) The crazy thing is, whatever the watchtower tells its members, they believe, absolutely, unquestioningly, and immediately. So after this convention, I predict that all the JW’s will believe that Jonah had a sister named Joanna, and that she is mentioned in the biblical account. Just like Mary and Joseph’s donkey. (Again, if you haven’t read my account of my run-in with the JW’s about the donkey, see my previous post. If nothing else, it’s good for a laugh.)

Okay, back to my random thoughts and observations. I sat about a third of the way back in the exhibition hall in the Sacramento Convention Center (see my pic above). The crowd count announced for the day was about 4,600 attendees. Compare that with the nearly full Cow Palace (San Francisco) in years past. I think we can safely conclude that there’s downsizing going on, at least in Northern California. To what will the watchtower attribute the decreasing numbers? Will they say that the number of “worthy ones” being drawn by Jehovah ebbs and flows over the years? Or will they say the door of opportunity for repentance is getting narrower, or is about to close altogether? Or will they use this as an opportunity to put pressure on the members to increase their preaching efforts, essentially blaming the workers and guilting them into working harder for the kingdom? Perhaps none of these. They may simply not mention it, ignoring the trend, or somehow spin it to look like success. After all, whatever explanation, or non-explanation, the governing bully gives, the members will believe it. And if they don’t, who would dare to question them anyway?

My blog post is becoming lengthy. I’ll stop here and write a part two. Please share your thoughts about this post, or your own observations of the convention in the comments.

 

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It’s Official. I’m an Opposer.

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From Pixabay

It’s official. I have been labeled, categorized, and marked as an “opposer.” I might as well have it printed on a t-shirt.

My first clue was when the elders at the local congregation in my town confronted me as I was about to enter the kingdom hall last time I visited. (See my account of that experience here.) But it was all confirmed as I prepared to attend the most recent convention with my friend Mark. I called and asked Mark whether we should go together. He was enthusiastic about the idea, but hesitant to have me join him in the carpool in which he would be riding. When I pressed him about it, he admitted that he was afraid that I would “say things that would weaken the faith of some of the weaker brothers and sisters.” This statement was out of character for Mark, and I could tell he was not comfortable saying those words to me. It was as if he were saying to me words that were not his own. I asked Mark where this was coming from. He admitted that the warning had come from his elders.

Naturally, we talked about how I’m not about weakening anybody’s faith, and quite the contrary, I’m about strengthening their faith in Jehovah, Jesus, and the Bible. He understood and admitted that he knew I wasn’t in the business of weakening others’ faith. Then, as we talked some more, things that he shared with me got really interesting.

Mark said that things that I had discussed with JW’s at their carts got back to the elders in Mark’s congregation.

What? Come again? Conversations I had with JW’s at the carts in the city (San Francisco), got back to the elders of the congregation in a small town in the Napa Valley, about 70 miles away? Can someone please say “Big Brother is watching you”? Oh, and there’s more. Word is, I was attempting to give the cart people my own literature. Oh, horror! Apostate literature! (Their paranoia rears its mole-like head.) The truth is, what I was trying to show them was their own literature, specifically my printout of the article on the subject of “Mediator” in their Insight book, which I downloaded from their own website, jw.org. Apostate literature? Shaking my evangelical head.

Let me just pause and say that I love my JW friend Mark. He knows that their accusations are outrageous, and he wants to continue to meet with me. We talked about how I like talking with atheists and others who challenge my faith, causing me to research and become stronger in what I believe. He likewise appreciates my questions and challenges to him. He’s “old school” JW, from back when they relished discussing, debating, and dialoguing with evangelical Christians. That’s no longer the case for most almost all current JW’s. Recent rhetoric is warning them not to talk at all with apostates and opposers. No dialogue. None. At. All. We have a gag order out on us.

So where does that leave me and Mark? Is my time of opportunity over? Far from it. I drove myself to the convention, intending to find Mark there and sit with him. We did not find each other, but we were able to talk quite a lot on the phone the next day.  And we’re planning on getting together soon. Take that, Pharisees.

I plan on continuing my visits to the local kingdom halls, until they threaten to call the police on me (which is funny, since they’re so anti-military and anti-police). If and when that happens, maybe I’ll stand on the sidewalk holding signs with scripture verses on them. Maybe. I don’t know.

Additionally, I’ll always take advantage of opportunities where JW’s don’t know of my “opposer” status. Jehovah will provide opportunities for ministry, regardless of any human labeling, judgment, and other efforts. The one thing they can’t control is the sovereign work of God!

Your and my identity are wrapped up in our status as children adopted by Jehovah, not by how anyone might attempt to categorize us. Keep doing the ministry God has called you to do!

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