Tag Archives: Jesus

Having Fun at Jehovah’s Witness Convention

If you have been to a JW convention, you might think that the title of this post is a contradiction. How could anyone have fun at a JW convention? Well, aside from counting ill-fitting suits and misinterpreted scriptures, I have had many pleasurable experiences while at the conventions.

Should I feel guilty that I find pleasure in ministering to JW’s? After all, it is a serious calling, and it’s life or death to the ones I’m reaching out to. Their relationship with Jehovah (or lack thereof) is as serious as a heart attack, and not something to be toyed around with. I do not find pleasure or satisfaction, as some do, in winning arguments, making them feel inferior, “setting them straight,” or “putting them in their place.” (OK, yes, I am tempted to do these things, but I’m gaining the victory over those sins. That’s right, I said sins.) But I cannot help that I find pleasure in talking with these people.

At the latest convention, I talked with a brother and sister (literal siblings, that is, not just fellow witnesses). Katie was the more outspoken of the two, so I asked her about the JW practice of concluding prayers to Jehovah with “in the name of Jesus.” “What does it mean to pray in the name of Jesus?” I asked, “assuming that it’s more than just a correct formula for the end of a prayer.” It was a pleasure to see her enthusiastically presenting my argument for me, as she explained the deep, profound meaning behind the phrase. Then, imagine my delight as she mentioned Jesus’ role as mediator in his role as the channel of our prayers to Jehovah. A more sinister mind would say she fell right into my trap. Instead I see it as God’s Spirit at work, bringing her to a crisis in her belief-system that could bring her one step closer to freedom. I affirmed her recognition of Jesus’ mediatorial role, and conveyed my excitement of having Jesus as my mediator. Then I dropped the bomb. “What concerns me,” I said, “is that Watchtower teaches that Jesus is the mediator for only the 144,000.”

Now the real fun began. Her intent gaze changed to searching-for-an-answer glances up and to one side–you know the look, like when you’re called upon in class and you’re trying to remember the answer from last night’s homework. That body language is what gives me the most pleasure, because it indicates that I’ve gotten them to “jump the tracks,” wrestling with concepts that they haven’t ever considered before. I love those moments.

Then, much more to my delight, Katie began to verbalize her internal conflict, in one sentence affirming that Jesus could be the mediator for the Great Crowd, and in another affirming that he could not be our mediator, all the while aware that she was contradicting herself, but powerless to fix the problem. (I must add that Katie is no dummy; she’s highly intelligent, and speaks more languages than I do.) All I had to do was repeat back to her what she was saying, and allow her to argue with herself.

Why do I find this so pleasurable? Do I have a sick mind? Well, maybe, but not in this case. My pleasure comes from seeing God at work. He caused me to have a divine appointment with Katie and her brother. He is drawing her (and possibly him) to himself. He directed her thinking and our conversation. She’s wrestling with God like Jacob, and probably doesn’t even realize it. And the longer I can keep her wrestling, the better chance she has of finding true freedom. I want to keep her (and others) in this searching-for-answers state for as long as possible. And I want to avoid pushing them further to the looking-around, change-the-subject, glazed-over, shutting down look. You know the one–the look that says “I’m done talking with you, at least about that subject.” If that happens, I try to give them an out, perhaps by saying, “Well, it’s something to think about, isn’t it? Anyway, . . .” (and change the subject). And wipe that smug look off my face (and my heart), because I want to remain friends with them. I want them to be willing to talk with me again sometime. Because talking with them is so much fun!

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Here’s What Happens When You Write to JW Headquarters

Watchtower Letter Anon

Several times, when presented with one of my stumper questions, I have had Jehovah’s Witnesses respond by asking me: “Have you written to the branch?” It’s one of their avoidance tactics used when they don’t know how to respond. (Ooh, I sense another post coming on: Avoidance Tactics. Coming soon.) My initial response to that question is always “What’s the branch?” I want them to know that newbies to their world are not familiar with their lingo, and they need to be more sensitive and helpful. By “Branch” they mean the Jehovah’s Witness /  Watchtower headquarters in Brooklyn, NY. After several suggestions that I do this, I started to wonder what would happen if I took them up on it. So I did it.

See the copy of my letter dated March 10, 2016, attached. I went to http://www.jw.org and clicked on the “write to us” link at the bottom of the page. That give me their address. I then wrote up my letter and dropped it in the mail. Snail mail, that is; the US Postal Service. They have nothing set up to send them a note online, nor is there an email address. Anyway, my honest expectation was that I would get either a form letter from them, or no response at all. My prayer was that whomever opened and read the letter at HQ would be the one impacted by the truth. Who knows how that prayer is being answered.

Anyway, fast forward to this last Saturday (April 30). I had just exited my home, heading for my car to run an errand, and here came two Jehovah’s Witnesses to meet me. They were both from the local congregation, and I remembered one of them (Darrin), but hadn’t met the other one (Bruce) that I was aware of. I asked if they were making the rounds in the neighborhood, and Darrin replied “No, we came to see you specifically.” Then he explained that I had written to the branch, and that often the answer to a letter takes the form of a personal visit.

My mind raced. Had I said anything in the letter that would blow my cover? Had I been aggressive, or sarcastic, or indicated in any way that I was a “hostile opposer”? I was relieved that Darrin and Bruce gave no indication that I had been any of those. They were only there to see if they could provide answers to my questions. Whew.

My question (as you can read in the copy of the letter) in its simplest form is: What was transferred from Michael to Jesus, since it could not have possibly been the life force, which they say is impersonal energy and no part of the person from which it is taken. The Watchtower literature contradicts itself, saying that for us humans the life force is not a part of us that could be transferred to anyone, while for Jesus the life force was a part of Michael that was transferred to Jesus.

So did Darrin and Bruce provide adequate answers? No. Not even close. They seemed to think that showing me the very passages in What Does the Bible Really Teach? and the Insight book that I had quoted in my letter, would be adequate answers. They didn’t seem aware that I had already read, and even quoted, those passages, as though it would be new, enlightening information for me. When I presented to them the contradictions that I had mentioned in my letter, it was as if I was starting from scratch with them. The Branch had not equipped them in any way to provide an explanation for the problem I had presented. They attempted to give me answers using their own reasoning, but their answers were merely deflections rather than reasoned solutions. They wanted me to focus on what the transfer accomplished (sinless perfection, ransom sacrifice), rather than any problems I might notice with the transfer itself. It’s the usual “Don’t confuse me with the facts” mentality of most JW’s. The way they deal with problems is to not deal with them, and instead try to focus on something (anything) else.

But what an interesting Saturday surprise! On the one hand I’m impressed with the organization’s response. While I expected no response, they dispatched a local contact to meet personally with the me, the questioner. On the other hand, I’m disappointed with (but not surprised at) the lameness of the response. What’s the point of sending someone around to NOT respond to the hot prospect’s actual question? If anything it teaches the potential candidate that your questions and concerns will NOT ever be addressed directly.

The positive takeaways far outweigh the downers, though. God used my letter experiment to influence at least three Jehovah’s Witnesses: The reader of the letter at headquarters, plus Darrin and Bruce. Who knows how many others read the letter along its meandering path, both at headquarters, and at the local kingdom hall? May the Lord speak to each of them to draw them away from the Watchtower and toward himself.

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What to Do When You’re Stumped

Last week after attending Congregation Bible Study / Theocratic Ministry School / Service Meeting, I talked with Denny, asking him to explain the relationship between Michael and Jesus. I specifically asked “What part of Michael was transferred to Jesus?” (Watchtower alternates between saying that the “life force” was transferred, or that the memories from Michael were transferred.) The interesting thing is, Denny had pretty good answers. He had obviously thought about the issue (unlike most JW’s), and had settled on some pretty logical explanations in his mind. He likened what was transferred to a computer program, or software. It made good logical sense within his own system. And yes, you can have a good logical explanation for anything, but if your original premises are faulty, then the whole system is faulty.

Anyway, his answers caught me off guard, not because I thought they were credible (far from it), but because I expected him to have the same ignorance level that most JW’s have. When we started talking, Denny claimed to be a simpleton, and that he needed simple, clear explanations for things. At the end of the conversation, I told him, “You are not a simpleton, as you claim.” I don’t think he was being deceptive. Just like me, he doesn’t see himself as a genius. There are different types of “smart”, and his, like mine, is the “boil it down to a simple concept” type of smart.

So I came away wondering if I had had any impact at all on his view of Jesus and Michael. He seemed to be pretty comfortable with his understanding of the issue, and able to support his view very skillfully. But my hope is that I got him to think about his view like never before. Perhaps articulating his view out loud, and hearing himself say it, might have caused him to see it from a different perspective. I did notice thoughtful looks a few times during the conversation. My hope is that those looks indicated an internal tension that his poker face would not reveal.

For some moments I was stumped, not knowing how to continue in our conversation. What did I do? I did the following, and they are my tips for you:

  1. Go back over something already discussed, asking for further clarification. “Let me see if I understand what you’re saying. I think that what you believe is this . . .”
  2. Share scripture. “OK, so what do you think of this verse? How do you explain what the Bible says here?”
  3. Show them the logical outcome of what they believe. “If what you’re saying is true, it would seem like Jesus had a past life, like reincarnation, or the spiritist view.”

Then just shut up, and let them respond. And allow God’s word and your logic to have it’s effect, even if you can’t see it.

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Trinity, Tri-Unity or Bi-Unity

I was talking on the phone with my JW friend Mark recently, and he brought up the subject of the Trinity. (I never bring it up, because it usually proves to be too much of a back-and-forth argument to do any good.) He did not remember that we had discussed the subject several times, so I reminded him that I prefer the term “Tri-Unity” rather than “Trinity.” I explained that “Trinity” sounds too much like a belief in 3 gods, which I assured him that I don’t believe. (I could tell he was puzzled by my response, assuming that trinitarians actually believe in 3 gods.) I explained to him that I believe that God is three persons existing in one being, in a similar way that Watchtower teaches that Jesus and Michael are two persons existing in one being. That statement gets JW’s to think outside of the categories they’re used to, and I could tell that Mark was experiencing just that. (In other words, his mind was blown.) At this point it took all of my willpower to resist gloating, and instead I proceeded with the important task of helping Mark to make sense of what I had just said. We went on to discuss and clarify the Watchtower’s teaching about Michael’s “life force” being transferred to Jesus, and how unintelligible that is in light of the teaching that the life force is impersonal like electricity.

So rather than attempting to win an argument with Mark, I sought to help him clarify what the Watchtower is teaching, showing him that Watchtower arguments, while on the surface appearing to be logical and coherent, when more closely examined are shown to be inconsistent and/or illogical. Rather than attempting to prove my doctrine, I find it much more effective to show him the failure of the Watchtower doctrine.

With Mark I can be more direct in pointing out Watchtower doctrinal flaws. With other JW’s I’m more subtle, taking on the role of a student with questions. “Can you explain this to me? Please help me understand this Jesus and Michael thing. When the Watchtower says that the life force of Michael was transferred to Jesus, what does that mean? I thought the life force was impersonal power like electricity, so what part of Michael did Jesus get?”

And then I listen to their attempt at answering, continuing to prompt them for further clarification, allowing them to dig their own pit of irrationality, until they change the subject in frustration. Then I pray that the subject continues to bother them in the coming weeks. It’s the judo technique of debating, and I find it far more effective than the direct argument, and far safer when attempting to remain undercover.

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