Tag Archives: kingdom hall

A Christian in a Jehovah’s Witness Bible Study: Part 10

Image from Pixabay; Not a kingdom hall, bit it looks like one.

Lesson 10 in the Jehovah’s Witness “Bible study” Enjoy Life Forever is “How Can the Meetings of Jehovah’s Witnesses Benefit You?” As “Craig” and I began our weekly meeting together, I noticed that it was just the two of us; none of his elders had joined us this time. I very much expected to see an elder’s face, calling my bluff and telling me that I need to start coming to their meetings.

How about that lesson title, though? Can you see where they’re heading with it? Ugh, the wording is so manipulative, so passive-aggressive, it’s annoying. You can tell that after this many lessons with the new recruit, the JW’s expect commitment from them. They may as well just come out and say, “You better get your @$$ to the meetings, now!”

So, I wondered whether Craig would put the pressure on.

We started going through the material in a friendly-enough way. Under point 2, “What will you learn in our meetings?” Nehemiah 8:8 is quoted. I expressed my surprise to Craig at the way the Watchtower translated the verse. While all other translations infer that the Levites explained the meaning of scripture to the people, the New World Translation renders the Hebrew text as “putting meaning into it.” I explained to Craig the difference between exegesis and eisegesis, and told him that this translation sounded like the latter rather than the former. All other translations give the sense of drawing meaning out of the text, not imposing one’s preconceived ideas into it. Craig answered by talking about his visit to the JW headquarters (“Bethel”), and the writing department. He talked about the vast effort required to produce a Bible translation. He didn’t really address the issue I had brought up, so I asked, “Were there any Hebrew scholars there? Did you meet any?” He avoided that question as well, suggesting that he thought the phrase meant that the Levites gave the text meaning by reading it in a dynamic way, putting feeling into it.

In Craig’s defense, he doesn’t deliberately lie; I get the impression he just tries to provide the best answer he can, no matter how remotely it does or doesn’t relate to the question. I think he makes up stuff to avoid sounding ignorant, and to defend the organization as well as he can. It’s very much like when you hear politicians try to answer a question they don’t have a real answer for. The motto for both could be “If you don’t know the answer, make something up.” I’ve seen salespeople do it, too. (I’m in sales myself, so I can recognize when they’re “blowing smoke” in an instant.)

When we got to the cute diagram of the kingdom hall, I asked about point C, which says, “During some parts of the program, the audience is invited to comment.” I told Craig that I have raised my hand in meetings several times, and have never been called on. “Do they only call upon baptized members?” I asked. He insisted that visitors would be called on as a normal practice. I insisted that it had not been my experience. I even told him the story (related here) of the trouble I got into when I questioned whether there was a donkey in the accounts of Joseph and Mary’s journeys. Craig winced when I told him that the elders took me into the back room. He offered a sort of apology, saying something like, “I don’t know what those guys’ issue was.” He assured me that if I visited his kingdom hall, I would be called on. Yeah, right. Whatever.

We went through the rest of the study, and I agreed with just about everything that was said. The thing is, though, I kept applying the principles of scripture about “meeting together” to the congregation I’m now attending, which is NOT a kingdom hall of Jehovah’s Witnesses. Craig asked me several questions about our practices, so he knew I was talking about my “christiandom” church.

Finally, at the very end of our time together, Craig asked me what I expected to gain from doing this Bible study with him. Uh oh, there it is. He’s fishing for whether I am “rightly disposed.” How should I answer? I couldn’t help feeling trapped. I can’t tell him I’m all-in, ready to begin faithfully attending their meetings. But if I admit that I’m not interested in becoming a JW, will he shut down our study and ghost me?

I thank God for the deus ex machina experiences I have had in life. [That fancy phrase means “an unexpected power or event saving a seemingly hopeless situation, especially as a contrived plot device in a play or novel.” (From Oxford Languages.)] Once again the Lord gave me words to say. (Sometimes He shuts me up, too.) What I said was something like this: “I’m hoping to learn more about what my Jehovah’s Witness friends believe, so I can better understand where they’re coming from. I have mentioned to you that I have a number of questions that I haven’t found answers to yet, including questions about the New Covenant, the Two-class system of believers, Jesus as Mediator, and lots of questions about the 1914 thing.” Craig assured me that the answers to my questions would be provided in upcoming lessons of the “Bible study.”

When Craig said that, I thought “Oh, good.” It implies that he expects to continue the study with me. He’s not cutting me off, and apparently not expecting me to be “all in” yet. What a relief.

At this point, some readers might be thinking, “What’s the big deal? So what if he ends the study? Why do you care?” And to an extent, that’s right. I’m not invested in the JW system. There’s no fear or anxiety about my being rejected by them. But the fact is, I care about these JW friends of mine. They have become dear to me. I grieved when I was forbidden to attend the kingdom hall closest to my home. (Read about that experience here.) My goal is to keep my friendship with my JW friends alive for as long as I can. My window of influence with them is limited, and I want to extend that window of opportunity, making it last longer, to the extent that I am able. I plan on meeting with Craig for as long as he is willing, and as long as God protects our relationship. Please join me in prayer that Craig will wake up before he decides to cut me off.

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Anointed Class Sighting at the Jehovah’s Witness Memorial!

Crikey

Pic Sourced From Someone’s Instagram

We interrupt my list of Top 10 Topics to Discuss With Jehovah’s Witnesses to bring you a special report from Steve Irwin, the crocodile hunter (imagine his voice narrating): “We’ve got a rare one here! It’s the very rare member of the anointed class! As you know, there are only 144,000 of these beauties in existence, and most of them have already died! That makes them an endangered species, and here’s one right in front of us! Just look at that one eating the bread and drinking the wine! Crikey!”

That’s right, I attended the recent Memorial at a Jehovah’s Witnesses kingdom hall not far from me, and for the first time observed someone actually eating the bread and drinking the wine! For those who are unaware of what takes place at the JW memorial, read the next paragraph. If you already know, then skip ahead.

Jehovah’s Witness only observe what Christian churches call communion, eucharist, or the Lord’s Supper once a year, and they call it the Memorial or the Lord’s Evening Meal. They also believe and teach that only the 144,000 anointed believers are part of the New Covenant, and so they are the only ones expected to eat and drink. The rest of the “great crowd” believers are expected to respectfully observe the ceremony. Weird, right? It gets weirder. The practical result is a room full of people passing the plates and the cups up and down the rows, with almost no one eating or drinking! It is truly bizarre. Occasionally you hear about one, usually an elderly member, who believes they are of the anointed heaven-bound class, and they alone eat and drink.

So, I have attended perhaps 6 memorial services over the years that I have been interacting with JW’s, and I wondered if I would ever see one of the “anointed” eat and drink the elements. Well, this last Friday, I saw one! An older lady nibbled and sipped, just across the aisle and a couple seats over. After the service, I recognized her as one with whom I had talked with in the past; she seems (then and now) most interested in talking about her medical conditions.

What’s so sad is that one of my favorite passages of scripture, Romans 8:16, which says “The Spirit Himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children,” was quoted by the speaker, who then explained how that verse applies ONLY to the anointed 144,000. It makes me seethe inside! The great majority of Jehovah’s Witnesses are being denied all the blessings of being in the New Covenant:  Being born again, being adopted as Jehovah’s sons and daughters, being kings and priests, having Jesus as their mediator, the heavenly hope, and more.

One of the songs sung at that night’s memorial was their song #25, A Special Possession:

  1. God has a new creation,

His spirit-anointed sons.

He has bought them from mankind;

His approval they’ve won.

(CHORUS)

A special possession,

They’re a people for your name.

They love you. They praise you.

As one they declare abroad your fame.

  1. They are a holy nation,

Who handle the truth aright.

God has called them from darkness

To his wonderful light.

  1. Faithful to their commission,

They gather the other sheep.

To the Lamb they are loyal.

His commandments they keep.

 

This is the only JW song that I sing with them. But I change one thing. Every place the song says “they,” I sing “we.” This changes the application of the song’s words from the anointed class only, to all believers. Those standing around me hear me do that. I hope they think about the significance of what I’m singing. I can’t bring myself to do anything disruptive in the service; that’s just not me. But I imagine my little word-changing to be my subtle protest. Ooh, I’m such a rebel. Watch out! But I have to be subtle. Making a scene would shut them down, and they wouldn’t hear anything I had to say. I’m trying to make an impact, softly. It’s like beating on a concrete dam with one of those inflatable squeaky hammers. God, put your miraculous power in my stupid little hammer.

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Top Ten Topics to Discuss With Jehovah’s Witnesses: #1

Top10

Whether you’re at their cart, in their kingdom hall, or at your door, what are your top subjects to discuss with Jehovah’s Witnesses, hoping to help them “wake up”?  Please submit your favorite(s) in the comments, and yours might appear in an upcoming blog post!

Please nothing caustic, abrasive, insulting, belittling, etc., you get the idea. We’re looking for topics that will actually be helpful in getting them to think. Oh, and if you’re able, please include a scripture (or two) to go along with your topic.

Let’s try to bump their carts out of their Watchtower ruts!

So here’s my first: Jesus as our Mediator. Watchtower teaches that Jesus is the mediator for ONLY the 144,000 anointed believers, and not for the rest of the “great crowd” believers. (For proof of this, because many JW’s don’t know, and will question you about it, use the entry under “mediator” in the Insight On the Scriptures publication, available in the “online library” section of their official website.) The Bible teaches that Jesus is the mediator for all believers, as seen in First Timothy 2:5. I love talking about this with Jehovah’s Witnesses! It’s my favorite topic, so it has earned the #1 spot on my list. They long to have Jesus as their mediator–you can see it in their eyes.

 

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An Evangelical Christian Writes a Letter to Jehovah’s Witness Elders

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From Pixabay

Since my previous post, where I was threatened by some elders with banishment from their kingdom hall (oh, horror!), I have been working on the letter they requested. See my previous post here where I recount their challenge to me to write a letter stating my motives for attending.

So I have attached the letter that I’m about to send to them. I predict that I will be banished regardless of my defense, but I also believe that God still performs miracles (contrary to Watchtower beliefs). By faith I’m hoping that I will be allowed to continue to attend! But even if I am banished, I hope and pray that my letter will accomplish several things:

  1. First, I want the elders to actually read it. All of them. My fear is that one of them will start reading, concluding after a few sentences that I am an “opposer,” and stop reading. (I can hear him saying, “There’s no need for us to read any more. We know where he stands, and he’s an opposer.” Mr. Elder files my letter under W for “wicked opposer from the whore of Babylon sent by Satan to persecute us.”) I pray that God will cause ALL of the elders to read the WHOLE letter.
  2. Even if the elders do their assumed duty and banish me, I pray that the letter touches their hearts and minds, and gets them thinking. One of more of them may already be questioning, and this can further the process. Or it may be the beginning of questioning for one or more of them. May it be so!
  3. I pray that my letter will be the means of God convicting the elders of their harshness in doling out the policies of the watchtower and the governing bully. I hope that my words will allow them to step back and see themselves through another’s eyes, showing them their resemblance to the Pharisees rather than to Jesus. Holy Spirit, convict them of their collaboration with the modern-day spiritual bullies!
  4. Finally, I pray that they see my heart of love and concern for the members of their congregation. That an Evangelical Christian would have a God-given heart of love for others is a foreign concept to them. (I guess I’m wanting my letter to blow their minds! Not because of any cleverness on my part, but because they meet the true God and his character in the experience.)

My fellow Christ-followers, I covet your prayers for this. Let’s gang up on these elders in prayer.

Also, I’m considering what my response will be if they do banish me from their property. I’m considering standing on the sidewalk when they arrive for meetings with signs that say things like “I love you,” and “I miss you.” Maybe a Bible verse or two. But nothing harsh, only loving and kind. What are your thoughts about that? Let me know.

SPOILER ALERT: Opening my letter will reveal my true identity! My actual name is at the bottom of the letter. That’s right! No more “undercover” anonymity. I figure since my cover is now fully blown, I might as well not hide who I am any more. Some of you know of me already anyway. But your discovery of my real name is your invitation to look me up on Facebook and friend me. I hope to have a Youtube channel developed sometime soon also. More on that in coming posts!

So here’s the attached letter. Please give me your comments and reactions, and please join me in prayer for the elders and members of the congregation.

EldersLetter

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Almost Banished From the Kingdom Hall

bullying-3362025_1280

From Pixabay

Yesterday I visited the local kingdom hall, as I do about once a month. My purpose in visiting is to try to influence JW’s with either the truth of the Bible, or my personal relationship with God, or both. A while back I was forbidden by the elders to share my “personal opinions” with parishoners, and I have been abiding by their rule, keeping my conversations limited to small-talk and personal caring about their lives.

So after the meeting last night, two of the elders asked me to talk with them outside. This was the third time I got a talking-to; see my previous posts about those experiences, here and here. This time they were telling me that they were going to forbid me from attending any more. If I showed up at their kingdom hall, or any of the others that meet on the same property, I would be trespassing. When I asked why, they explained that they had gotten word “from the body” that I was sharing my opinions. I told them that I had indeed not been doing that since being directed not to do so. And I questioned their source, asking “What do you mean, you have gotten word from the body? You mean, all the members of the congregation?” They backpedaled, saying they meant the “body of elders.” (I believe I caught them in an attempted deception there, what they call “theocratic war strategy.”)

Then they changed their tactic, saying that they had been observing that I had “not been participating” in the meetings. So I called them on that, saying that I had my Bible open during the whole meeting, and that when I raised my hand attempting to participate, I was never called on. Well, they explained that what they meant was that during the prayers I was not bowing my head. I told them that I was indeed praying, and that prayer does not require that one bowed their head or closed their eyes. “Wow,” I said, “You’re judging based on the outward appearance!” They replied that they had to, to protect the flock. I said “No, you don’t, and in fact Jesus tells us NOT to.” (Later I thought of the obvious question I could have asked: “How do you know my head wasn’t bowed, if your head was bowed and your eyes closed?” I guess the Lord didn’t want me to use that one.)

They then said they were questioning my motives for being there. Boom. There it is. I called them out for questioning the motives of my heart.

“You’ve been coming here a long time,” they said, implying that I needed to commit. I went to Acts 26 (which was the chapter right before Acts 27 and 28 from that night’s study). Agrippa asked Paul “Do you really think you’re going to convert me in so short a time?” Paul’s response is that whether a short time, or a long time, he wanted everyone there to be like himself, but without the chains. Paul was willing to take as much time as was needed for someone to be persuaded.

They had no good answers to my arguments, and I think they realized that, so one of the elders made me a proposal. He proposed that I write a letter to them explaining my motives for coming to the kingdom hall meetings. I gladly, even enthusiastically, agreed, (Challenge accepted!) and provided my email address to one of the elders so he could contact me with his email info.

As strange as this experience is, I have to think that God is at work in it. I have to be prepared for the worst case: They disregard my letter and I’m barred from the kingdom hall for life. But I’m also hoping for the best case: They actually read my letter and re-extend their invitation to me. There are, of course, other possibilities in between those two, including their reading of my letter and not reinstating me. In that case, I pray that each elder would personally be affected by my letter, and that it would be one seed that helps them get free from bondage to the Watchtower.

Even if the elders throw away my letter unopened, I will post it online, here and elsewhere, so that it can be used by God in other ways.

Okay, so on with letter writing! Please pray that my faltering efforts will be used by God in mighty ways!

 

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Walking on Eggshells in the Kingdom Hall

egg-2152808_1280

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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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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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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