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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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Is the Watchtower Using (or Creating) Apocryphal Material?

apocrypha

Take a moment to read this excerpt from the fifth chapter of the book of Second Kings in the Hebrew scriptures (Old Testament of the Bible):

Now Naaman was commander of the army of the king of Aram. He was a great man in the sight of his master and highly regarded, because through him the Lord had given victory to Aram. He was a valiant soldier, but he had leprosy.

Now bands of raiders from Aram had gone out and had taken captive a young girl from Israel, and she served Naaman’s wife. She said to her mistress, “If only my master would see the prophet who is in Samaria! He would cure him of his leprosy.”

Naaman went to his master and told him what the girl from Israel had said.

(2 Kings 5:1-4)

See the mention of the young girl? Here’s an unnamed Bible character with only one line of dialogue. Even though she’s only a minor character in the epic drama of scripture, I’m sure she is mentioned here as a glimmering example of faithfulness to Jehovah.

So part of the Bible study that I observed in my most recent visit to the kingdom hall included a lesson based on these verses and that young girl. It began with a video, entitled “Jehovah Will Help You Be Bold,” produced by the watchtower society, with children being the target audience. The video told the story of how this young girl had to work up her courage to speak to her master, Naaman’s wife. Several other supporting characters were also depicted (including several servants, and two of Naaman’s children), and when Naaman returned cleansed, he embraced our heroic young girl, while the supporting characters ditched their idols in favor of worshiping Jehovah. The story has drama, suspense, humor, and heart. It takes effort to not tear up at least a little at the end.

The problem with the story is that it does not appear in scripture at all.

Let me say that another way. The story depicted in the watchtower video is not part of the ancient text of inspired scripture. It is entirely made up by some modern person, likely in our current decade, if not this year of 2018. Oh, the young girl is real; refer again to the verses quoted above. But what you read above is all there is; the rest is totally contrived by the watchtower. There is no mention of the other servants, or of Naaman’s children, or that the girl’s story was about having boldness for Jehovah.

I have several problems with this. First, I generally have a problem with anyone who embellishes the scriptural text, making up their own contrived stories based on nothing more than speculation. (News flash: there is no innkeeper mentioned in the Christmas story, and definitely no drummer boy!)

The second problem I have is that the watchtower itself warns against using apocryphal stories. See my blog post from back when, about the watchtower’s use of a fictional donkey in the story of Mary and Joseph’s travels, while chiding “christiandom” for using apocryphal stories. Hypocritical much?

And finally, the use of this contrived story is just so unnecessary! If you want to teach children (or adults) about being courageous, there are plenty of other clear examples in scripture, which could have been used without any need for embellishment! How about queen Esther? Daniel and his three friends? The apostles on trial? David versus Goliath? The list goes on and on. How does the governing bully justify their embellishment of the text of Second Kings 5? I would love to ask them, but we all know what happens when we ask questions, don’t we? (See my post about writing to the headquarters, for example.) Harumph.

I’m hoping that this can be a talking point sometime soon with any one of my JW friends. Right now I’m walking on thin ice, though. I feel like a man with an ice cream truck, but all the children have been told that I’m the child catcher from Chitty Chitty Bang Bang.

Ugh.

Ice cream, anyone?

 

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Jehovah’s Witnesses Perform Queen’s Bohemian Rhapsody. What the What?!

Okay. This is probably not news to you, since it’s from 5 years ago on Youtube, and there are now several knockoffs. but I just now discovered this video. (Someone posted it in a Facebook group to which I subscribe.)

I’m reeling from it.

Apparently a kingdom hall in Oregon had a talent show.

That’s shocker number one. A Jehovah’s Witness congregation having a talent show. Is that really a thing? (Tell us what you know about that in the comments.) This is the first sign of creativity I have encountered among rank-and-file JW’s. Granted, the governing bully is getting more creative, or is paying creative people, to produce pretty slick videos for their website. But “great crowd” congregation members doing something creative? I would be less surprised to find a rainbow-colored unicorn in my back yard.

Here are some reasons why I find this video to be seemingly impossible.

First, what local elders would approve of a talent show? I can almost see the scowls on the elders’ faces as a congregation member approached them with “Hey, here’s an idea I have–Let’s put on a talent show!” I can hear them saying, “Brother Upstart, don’t you think the brothers and sisters’ time and energy would be better used in the field ministry?”

Secondly, what local elders would approve of a musical skit using a rock-and-roll number (rock-and-roll: worldly, possibly bordering on satanic) by Queen (led by the famously gay Freddie Mercury, no less)? Aren’t the origins of that song more pagan than birthdays and Christmas?

Next, when do JW’s have the time, energy, and resources to write, produce, perform, record, and publish such a work? They’re overworked, stressed, and worn out. Who made all the set pieces, and painted the backdrop? Who rented the hall they performed in, and who paid for it? The funds could not have come from the kingdom hall budget, I’m thinking.

I have such conflicted feelings about the storyline of the skit. To summarize: A team of JW brothers and sisters in field ministry decide to visit just “one more house” instead of taking a break.  Their efforts are rewarded with success in recruiting a prospect from worldly despair. They bring him to the kingdom hall, where he is indoctrinated and trained, also receiving a theocratic makeover (haircut, coat, and tie). He then begins field ministry, knocking on the door of another despairing prospect.

What I find disturbing is the effectiveness that this video could have in reinforcing doctrine and motivating action. The emotional manipulation is uncannily similar to the tactics used by the governing bully, but with the difference that this video is fun, humorous, and far more entertaining. It’s chilling to me how glibly the actors chant “There is no trinity,” “Living in the last days,” “Paradise we’ll see,” and “There is no hell.” (Pretty good summary of their doctrine, though. Compare that with the real gospel found in First Corinthians 15.) The newbie’s makeover into their image is very revealing. (Into cloning much?) And the tug on the viewer’s heartstrings when it comes full circle with a new prospect at the end–I was almost moved, until I recognized the monotonous, wearisome emptiness of it all. I found myself wishing it were a motivational video for a truly life-changing ministry instead of what it is.

The video makes both my brain and my heart hurt. And it’s still so cute! Dammit!

I’m hoping and praying along the lines of Joseph at the end of the book of Genesis: “What you meant for harm, God meant for good, and the saving of many lives.” I’m asking the Lord to take this video, with which Satan meant to deceive people, and it use it to wake up JW’s. Allow viewers to see the crassness of JW doctrine, defining themselves by what they don’t believe rather than by a vibrant relationship with God through Jesus. Allow them to see the futility of their recruitment, training, and indoctrination process. Allow them to see the impersonal, legalistic side of their religious system. Lord, use this video in ways not planned or foreseen by the enemy. Amen.

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I’m In Trouble With the Jehovah’s Witnesses Elders–Again.

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From Flicker Creative Commons

This week was my monthly visit to the local kingdom hall. Remember the time when I almost got kicked out of the hall because of an imaginary donkey? You can read about it here. That was surreal. This bit of trouble was more straightforward. Rather than being called into the “principal’s office” (aka boardroom), this time two of the elders ambushed me outside the front door of the hall, before I had a chance to enter. Apparently they were thinking of not allowing me in. I could tell that my favored status teetered on a fine edge.

The interrogation began with one of them accusing me of sowing seeds of doubt among the members. I reminded them of my previous commitment to keep my opinions to myself, and pointed out that I had been strictly limiting my conversations since then to small-talk. The elder corrected me, citing his own conversation with me at the recent annual memorial. (See my account of that meeting here.) He claimed that at that time I expressed to him my disagreement with the JW disfellowshiping policy. I in turn corrected him, pointing out that that convo with him was strictly about the policies of the church of Scientology. (I distinctly remember him saying something about crazy teachings of various groups, which prompted me to bring up the recent TV series about Scientology by Leah Remini.) I had told him my concerns about various teachings and practices of the Scientologists, including, but not limited to, their practice of “shunning and disowning family members.”

Here’s the crazy part: In my conversation with the elder, I had said NOTHING about the Watchtower or Jehovah’s Witnesses. I had not even used the JW language of “disfellowshipping.” It was only the elder himself who had connected the dots, and who now accused me of criticizing the WT policy of disfellowshipping.

The other elder then questioned my motives. Why was I attending the kingdom hall? Was I here to learn, or did I have some other purpose? I told him that I wanted to learn, to gain accurate knowledge of their teachings, so I could talk more intelligently with all my JW friends. Then they asked me again whether I was truly there to learn. I replied that if I ever stop learning, I would be in a bad state. They finally seemed satisfied with my answers, and let me into the hall.

My interaction with these two elders told me several things. First, God is at work in that elder who accused me of criticizing the disfellowshipping policy. Somehow (by the work of the Holy Spirit?) he in his own mind made the connections that I prayed he would, making the huge leap (for most JW’s) between the policies of other religious groups to his own. Second, I’m still protected by the “Holy Spirit Bubble.” They allowed me in! Only God could keep me there for this long. After I sat down, I came up with so many better things that I could have said, but what I did say to them convinced them! And these are intelligent men, not dummies. One of them is a pretty good public speaker. Which leads me to my next point–I’m convinced that I have a purpose there. I’m still not clear what that is, but I know I’m supposed to be there. This was confirmed by the reception I received from the members. After the meeting so many people approached me, seemingly more friendly to me than ever before. One lady (let’s call her Tammy) even said that she had been thinking of me the day before, wondering if I would be returning to the hall (I missed my meeting last month). She was delighted that I was back. What a contrast between the genuine affection (yes, I believe it’s genuine) of the common members, versus the stern warnings of the elders.

I don’t know what God is going to do with this. I could be kicked out at any time. Then what? Stand out on the sidewalk holding a sign? (Well, maybe I would. If I did, I would use scripture only. First John 5:1 comes to mind. Or Ephesians 2:8-9. Or John 5:39-40. Or . . . okay, back to the topic.) Attend a different kingdom hall? (Maybe.) Phone some kingdom halls? (Sounds fun.)

Maybe all this time spent in the kingdom hall is preparing me to understand the heart and mind of JW’s in preparation for talking with someone in particular. Hey, that would mean that what I told the elders is true–I am learning about them so I can better understand and talk with my JW friends! It could come full circle. Wouldn’t that be so like God?

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