Atheist Satire

A friend of mine on Facebook is a self-professed atheist.  One day in the not-too-distant past I noticed he joined a group that caught my attention called “Calling all ATHEISTS – Let’s see how many Atheists are on Facebook.”  It’s a rather silly group that never actually bothers to define what they mean by “atheist”.  Is the group open to “weak” atheism or only “strong” atheism?  That is to say, does the group recognize me as an “atheist” if I am merely agnostic about the proposition?  For that matter, how does this group define the “God” it is so fervently denying?

It came to my mind to recall the fact that Christians were originally called “atheist” by the Romans (and thus perhaps the oldest group to receive that appellation).  Additionally, when we understand the original meaning conveyed in the Germanic term “God” (compare “Gott”)—a word that was in Old English when the tribes of Brittain were far from Christian—it would be reasonable to refrain from using that term for YHWH the Eternal One of scripture.  And thus in my denial of this pagan “god” concept, could I not be an Atheist myself?

Well, suffice it to say, I’ve had a good bit of fun with this group and despite the several discussions I’ve had with others on the subject, I’ve yet to receive a satisfactory definition of “Atheism” in the group as no one has yet to define “God”.  It’s not that I’m asking for someone to disprove the concept; I’d just like to know what the concept they’re attempting to disprove IS in the first place.  So anyhow…

As part of posting on that group, I came across this rather silly picture…

Atheism - Good enough for these idiots.

When I saw this, I had to laugh—although perhaps not for the reasons intended by the person who put this picture together.  The reason I was immediately moved to laughter is because I have a passing acquaintance with these figures.  Anyone with a passing acquaintance with history would immediately question the inclusion of at least some of the iconic figures depicted in this graphic.  And the truth is it’s actually quite difficult to say that any of these figures could unarguably considered to be completely “atheist” in the common parlance understanding.

From left to right, top to bottom we have: Ernest Hemingway, Abraham Lincoln, Carl Sagan, Samuel Clemens (a.k.a Mark Twain), Thomas Jefferson, Albert Einstein, Charles Darwin, and Benjamin Franklin.

Starting with Hemingway, the only evidence I could find to support Hemingway’s supposed atheism is a quote that is much bandied about on the interwebs by a lot of smug atheists who proudly make this citation…

“All thinking men are atheists” – Ernest Hemingway.

This sounds rather conclusive on the surface, and it is a fact that Hemingway wrote that… as part of a FICTIONAL dialog stated by a FICTIONAL character in one of Hemingway’s FICTIONAL books!  Suffice it to say, my derisive laughter only multiplied when I found atheists using this quote this way.  I guess these “thinking men” didn’t give this one enough thought.  Here’s the quote in context…

” ‘All thinking men are atheists,’ the major said. ‘I do not believe in the Free Masons however.'” – A Farwell to Arms by Ernest Hemingway (Chapter 2, p. 8)

The fact of the matter is that Ernest Hemingway was born and raised a Congregationalist who later converted to Roman Catholicism.  A simple search on adherents.com and this can be easily verified.

Now, while we’re on the subject of quotes, let’s just go ahead and consider the following quotes on the rest of these great “atheists” shall we?

“As my husband was known to be the most loving and devoted husband & father we will allow these falsehoods a place where they deserve. We all — the whole world have been greatly shocked — at the fearful ideas — Herndon — has advanced regarding Mr. Lincoln’s religious views. You, who knew him so well & held so many conversations with him, as far back as twenty years since, know what they were. A man, who never took the name of the Maker in vain, who always read his Bible diligently, who never failed to rely on God’s promises & looked upon Him for protection, surely such a man as this, could not have been a disbeliever, or any other than what he was, a true Christian gentleman. No one, but such a man as Herndon could venture — to suggest such an idea. From the time of the death of our little Edward, I believe my husband’s heart was directed towards religion & as time passed on – when Mr. Lincoln became elevated to Office – with the care of a great Nation, upon his shoulders – when devastating war was upon us then indeed to my knowledge – did his great heart go up daily, hourly, in prayer to God – for his sustaining power. When too – the overwhelming sorrow came upon us, our beautiful bright angelic boy, Willie was called away from us, to his Heavenly Home, with God’s chastising hand upon us – he turned his heart to Christ” – Mary Todd Lincoln on Abraham Lincoln (“Abraham Lincoln and Religion“)

“Some people think God is an outsized, light-skinned male with a long white beard, sitting on a throne somewhere up there in the sky, busily tallying the fall of every sparrow. Others—for example Baruch Spinoza and Albert Einstein—considered God to be essentially the sum total of the physical laws which describe the universe. I do not know of any compelling evidence for anthropomorphic patriarchs controlling human destiny from some hidden celestial vantage point, but it would be madness to deny the existence of physical laws.” – Carl Sagan (“Personal Life & Beliefs” section of Wikipedia article)

“I believe in God the Almighty.  I do not believe He has ever sent a message to man by anybody, or delivered one to him by word of mouth, or made Himself visible to mortal eyes at any time in any place.” – Samuel Clemens (“Mark Twain’s Creed”)

“In summary, then, Jefferson was a deist because he believed in one God, in divine providence, in the divine moral law, and in rewards and punishments after death; but did not believe in supernatural revelation. He was a Christian deist because he saw Christianity as the highest expression of natural religion and Jesus as an incomparably great moral teacher. He was not an orthodox Christian because he rejected, among other things, the doctrines that Jesus was the promised Messiah and the incarnate Son of God. Jefferson’s religion is fairly typical of the American form of deism in his day.” – Avery Dulles on Thomas Jefferson (“Thomas Jefferson and Religion”)

“I’m not an atheist and I don’t think I can call myself a pantheist. We are in the position of a little child entering a huge library filled with books in many different languages. The child knows someone must have written those books. It does not know how. The child dimly suspects a mysterious order in the arrangement of the books but doesn’t know what it is. That, it seems to me, is the attitude of even the most intelligent human being toward God.” – Albert Einstein (“Albert Einstein’s religious views“)

“I have never been an atheist in the sense of denying the existence of a God. – I think that generally … an agnostic would be the most correct description of my state of mind.” – Charles Darwin (“Religious Views” section of Wikipedia article)

“In the beginning of the contest with G. Britain, when we were sensible of danger we had daily prayer in this room for the Divine Protection. — Our prayers, Sir, were heard, and they were graciously answered. All of us who were engaged in the struggle must have observed frequent instances of a Superintending providence in our favor. … And have we now forgotten that powerful friend? or do we imagine that we no longer need His assistance. I have lived, Sir, a long time and the longer I live, the more convincing proofs I see of this truth — that God governs in the affairs of men. And if a sparrow cannot fall to the ground without his notice, is it probable that an empire can rise without his aid? We have been assured, Sir, in the sacred writings that “except the Lord build they labor in vain that build it.” I firmly believe this; and I also believe that without his concurring aid we shall succeed in this political building no better than the Builders of Babel: …I therefore beg leave to move — that henceforth prayers imploring the assistance of Heaven, and its blessings on our deliberations, be held in this Assembly every morning before we proceed to business, and that one or more of the Clergy of this City be requested to officiate in that service.” – Benjamin Franklin (“Virtue, religion, and personal beliefs” section of Wikipedia article)

So, in summary, what do we have here?  We have a Congregationalist turned Roman Catholic named Ernest Hemingway.  We have a Calvinist Christian in the person of Abraham Lincoln who stirred the emotions of men with his famous appeals to the righteousness of God while liberally quoting the Bible.  Carl Sagan is perhaps the closest thing to an “atheist”, but himself agreed with Einstein’s theological understanding of “God” and therefore was really more of a speculative Deist/Pantheist.  We have Mark Twain who as a sardonic Deist was certainly no friend to the Church, although he remained in name a Presbyterian and a FreeMason.  We have Thomas Jefferson who was also a textbook Deist, but unlike Twain he had a lot of respect for Jesus Christ and the morality of the Bible.  We have the scientific genius Albert Einstein who famously referenced “God” and plainly stated “I’m not an atheist”.  Then we come to Charles Darwin who, due to his controversial biological thesis, we might think the atheists have someone to claim here, yet he himself wrote “I have never been an atheist in the sense of denying the existence of a God.”  Finally, we end with Benjamin Franklin… who not only was officially a Presbyterian, but Franklin actually argued for prayers to be offered at the start of congressional meetings on the basis that “God governs in the affairs of men”!

So, do we really have any atheists depicted here at all?

I think the answer speaks for itself.  The message of the graphic is certainly tongue-in-cheek, as not one of the men depicted was an “idiot”.  On the other hand, I tend to think the creator of this graphic was.

So, that being said and in conclusion, I decided to make my own little parody of this graphic to illustrate the point in the same spirit of satire.

Atheism - "A word that can mean anything, really means nothing."

http://www.facebook.com/photo.php?pid=31091809&op=1&o=all&view=all&subj=234490406891&aid=-1&oid=234490406891&id=1007825220

God the Mother?

God the Mother?


Monday of this week, I was greeted at the door by a couple of missionaries. This was the first time I’ve ever had the opportunity to talk with cultists in this face-to-face personal context since my JC meeting over three years ago. It was an exciting experience to be sure.

One of them was a smiley Asian man with braces, accompanied by a Caucasian woman who stood off to the side. The man barely spoke English as he offered to show me a video on what looked like an iPad (I had no idea cults were getting this high-tech these days, ha!). The very dramatic presentation he had to show me raised the question “If there’s a God the Father, couldn’t there be a God the Mother?” Of course, like most of these questions cult propaganda raise, it was a rhetorical one, and their answer became rather obvious as the video went along…

Now, I started out by assenting to the fact that the Holy Spirit is sometimes thought of in the feminine as the Shekinah glory is grammatically femine in Hebrew. And it is a tempting conclusion to draw, considering within the revealed Triune nature of God we have the Father and the Son, and this third person we call the Spirit. If the Son was born into the world through the conception of the Spirit (just as Mary bore Christ out of her womb 9 months after that), wouldn’t it be logical to think that perhaps the Spirit could be thought of as God the Mother?

On the other hand, I immediately pointed out that the language of scripture never actually employs such terminology, and so in essence the conclusion is extra-biblical speculation. And the important thing is that when we consider God in the totality of His nature, He is always masculine. Why? Because, we ourselves are feminine in comparison. As the Bride of Christ, the Church is the feminine counterpart to our masculine God.

Upon later study, it seems these folks were from the World Mission Society Church of God. They never identified themselves, and I initially thought after speaking with them that they were from the Unification Church (a.k.a Moonies). When I finally found the video they had shown me online, I realized my error.


Now, since it seems that this cult absolutely needs this doctrinal assertion to validate its further conclusions (i.e. that Ahn Sahng-Hong’s wife Zang Gil-Jah is the incarnation of God the Mother), then it’s understandable that the discussion did not end there. And instead this woman—at this point her companion was remaining silent—continued to argue for “God the Mother” as though it was an established fact in scripture.

She started with Genesis 1:27, “So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them.”

“See?” she asked. “The image of God is both masculine and feminine, for ‘male and female He created them’!”

“Ah…” I started, “but notice the semi-colon we put here in the text? These are ultimately two distinct thoughts that are related enough to join together in one sentence, but distinct enough to necessitate a semi-colon.” (Punctuation has fascinated me for some time, for all of its nuances have been a challenge for me to master). “In order to exegete this passage properly, it seems more likely to me that the antecedent of the thought here with ‘male and female’ is not so much about God’s ‘image’ but rather simply how God ‘created him’. It would be reaching to insist it necessarily implies anything more that God created both male and female individually in the image of God.”

Seeing that I was not convinced, she started by making an argument that when one sees a term in scripture he can not simply assume that its referent is the same in every context. Quickly going on to John 21:15 where Jesus said to Simon Peter “Feed my lambs.”

“Jesus was the lamb of God, yes?” she asked excitedly.

“Yes,” I replied dryly.

“But Jesus wasn’t saying ‘Feed my Jesuses’ was He?” she asked somewhat condescendingly.

“Yes, of course He wasn’t,” I replied, trying valiantly not to roll my eyes. And at this point, I wasn’t entirely sure where she was going with this line of thought.

So she went on to Matthew 22 and rather hurriedly gave a summary of the parable of the wedding feast (without reading it), and asked the question insistently “Where is the bride here?”

Thrown somewhat off-guard, I replied something to the effect that the bride hadn’t arrived, and asked her what her point was exactly. She went on to assert that the Bride had not come down out of Heaven yet, and that this Bride is in fact God the Mother.

So, I informed her that she was making an argumentum ex silentio. There’s simply no mention in this text of any “mother”, the whole thing is entirely a parable, and there’s nothing in the text to refute the understanding in Orthodox Christianity that the Bride of Christ is the Church. Now, we didn’t get to debate this passage of scripture much at the time, before she just wanted to move on enthusiastically to another one of her proof texts about which she was clearly exuberant: Galatians 4:26.

Here we read “But the Jerusalem that is above is free, and she is our mother.” Aha! Our “mother”! “Our mother!” she emphasized dogmatically. So at this point, I explained how “the Jerusalem that is above” is clearly referring to the Church, and if we interpret “mother” here figuratively, it’s understandable as the Church is greater than any one of us individually. And I pointed out how the video her companion showed me asserted that no one else seems to understand this “mother” motiff, yet Roman Catholics are fond of referring to their organization as their “mother” (just as the Watchtower is of theirs), for they believe it to be the Universal Church itself Paul was referring to here.  Both the Unification Church and the Church of Jesus Christ and Latter-Day Saints also teach about “God the Mother” or “Heavenly Mother” quite explicitly, the former matching this cult’s conception to a tee, but we didn’t get into that at the time.

Now, at this point, she did her best to be cordial and kind, but said something akin to “Well, I would rather go with what the Apostle Paul actually has to say…” To which I tried my best not to groan.

Around this time, they informed me their “ride just arrived”, but I did manage to request and schedule an appointment with them for a study before they left. I should have the opportunity to talk with them again in a few short days. In the mean time, I felt that with this entry, I would share some points I didn’t get to make in the spontaneity of the moment.

So, suffice it to say, the key verse that is used to support this whole “God the Mother” concept is Galatians 4:26. Like cultists often do, the context is completely neglected when interpreting this passage, so let’s examine what’s being ignored now…

“For it is written, that Abraham had two sons, the one by a bondmaid, the other by a freewoman. But he who was of the bondwoman was born after the flesh; but he of the freewoman was by promise. Which things are an allegory: for these are the two covenants; the one from the mount Sinai, which gendereth to bondage, which is Agar. For this Agar is mount Sinai in Arabia, and answereth to Jerusalem which now is, and is in bondage with her children. But Jerusalem which is above is free, which is the mother of us all.” – Galatians 4:22-26

So, when we read the verse in context, it becomes quite apparent why “Jerusalem which is above” is referred to as a “mother”. For what Paul is expressing he says himself is in the context of “allegory” (verse 24). The “bondmaid” Agar (a.k.a Hagar) is the mother of those “born after the flesh”—the natural Israelites. Meanwhile, the “freewoman” (Sarah) is “the mother of us all”, for she allegorically depicts the new covenant—remember that the two women “are the two covenants”.

Now, if we insist that we must interpret the “mother” of the last verse literally and conclude that Paul is affirming that this “mother” is a person or aspect of God, then what exactly does he mean by the “Jerusalem which is above”? If “Jerusalem… above… is the mother”, then how exactly is this mother a city? We can not escape that one must be a figure of the other. Either Jerusalem is somehow a metaphor for a literal mother, or the mother is a metaphor for a literal city.

There is absolutely good reason to assert the latter. In our own language, we often hear expressions of “the father land” or “the mother land”. These days it is not uncommon in environmental movements to hear much talk of “Mother Earth”. The land that sustains us is easily understood as a maternal metaphor.

Not to base our conclusions solely on contemporary usage of terms in our language, however, if we simply examine the text itself it’s quite clear that the counterpart to the “Jerusalem which is above” is the literal city of Jerusalem on Earth. It only makes sense that if one woman (Agar) represents a city, that the other woman (“the mother”) would represent a city—not the other way around.

When we go outside this passage to the rest of scripture, we see this is not the first time we have feminine metaphors employed like this. In Proverbs 1:20-21, wisdom is personified as a woman who cries aloud in the streets. Again, considering Paul is making allegorical comparisons, it only makes sense that this woman too would be the personification of something more impersonal (viz. the Heavenly Jerusalem).

While Revelation is a book that is admittedly written in figurative language, one has to wonder why in Revelation 21 the dimensions and attributes of the heavenly Jerusalem are described in meticulous detail. Is this really the description of God the Mother? It’s hard to see how “gates” (v.13), a “wall” (v.14), specific measurments (vs.15-17), and particular stones for its construction (v.18-20) could all be applied to what is in reality a person. Are these different aspects of God the Mother’s psyche or something? It seems much more likely, that again, the mother is a metaphor for the city—the city is not a metaphor for the mother.

Paul is commonly thought in much tradition to have written the book of Hebrews, and there Paul again describes “the city of the living God” in very spatial terms, where it’s hard to see how this “heavenly Jerusalem” is in full literal reality a person…

“But you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to myriads of angels, to the general assembly and church of the firstborn who are enrolled in heaven, and to God, the Judge of all, and to the spirits of the righteous made perfect, and to Jesus, the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood, which speaks better than the blood of Abel.” – Hebrews 12:22-24

It is simply the consistent witness of scripture that the “bride of Christ” is His people. In the Old Testament, God’s people were depicted as His bride: “I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt; which my covenant they brake, although I was an husband unto them, saith the LORD” (Jeremiah 31:32). So too, with the “covenant”, Christ—who is God incarnate—has His bride: the Church. And like natural Israel that has its land, spiritual Israel has its own land as well: the heavenly Jerusalem. It is the motherland.

So, in regards to Matthew 22, the bride has not yet “appeared”, for it has not fully formed. I related this analogy to the two missionaries at one point in the course of our conversation: We all start out in life as single-cellular organisms within our mother’s womb. As we grow and grow, we finally become mature enough to emerge from the womb and make our appearance into the world.

Now, like all analogies, it has to be applied in context and it has its limitations and shortcomings. Certainly, in one sense we could say it is God that nourishes us in His spirit and could be related to the “mother” in that analogy. Jesus Himself said “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, which killest the prophets, and stonest them that are sent unto thee; how often would I have gathered thy children together, as a hen doth gather her brood under her wings” (Luke 13:34). And this is an important quote, as we note that Jesus not only compares Himself to a female organism (a hen), but at the same time speaks of Jerusalem having “children”.

So, while God in certain aspects can be conceptualized in feminine ways, He is always to be understood in His totality as the ultimate Masculine to the feminine Church. The Church is greater than any of its constituent members, and has its orgin—and perhaps its greatest number of members—in Heaven. Just as natural Jerusalem has its “children”, so too are we Christians the children of heavenly Jerusalem.

“God the Mother” is simply and completely foreign to the Bible, and like so many seemingly innocuous doctrines first presented by cultists, it is used to justify something even more aberrant and diabolical.  For instance, as I’ve come to find out in some preliminary research, “God the Mother” is considered in this cult’s theology to be a separate god altogether from “God the Father” who is the one to appear in the various “roles” of Father, Son, and Spirit.  Thus we have the heretical Modalism (most prominent in Oneness Pentecostalism) combined with a blatant affirmation of polytheism (as in Mormonism).

Currently, my appointment is scheduled for Monday, and I’m looking forward to discussing some of these things—as well as much greater objections—in the days and weeks ahead.

Questions for Jehovah’s Witnesses

In the interim between being summoned by the elders and officially disassociating myself from the Watchtower organization, I wrote a paper that was initially going to be my disassociation letter. As I feverishly labored on the paper, it got longer and longer, and I decided it probably wouldn’t be very effective in my meeting, so instead I wrote a much shorter single page disassociation letter in addition to my “thesis”.

JW Thesis
Disassociation Letter (PDF)
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

JW Thesis (PDF)                               Disassociation Letter (PDF)

Inside a Judicial Committee Meeting


We arrived at the Kingdom Hall shortly before a meeting of the Tucson Mountain congregation. Confused, I shortly noticed Joseph Friedenberg and we quickly made our way to the backroom where John(?) Russell and some elder (possibly the new Circuit Overseer) I have never met before were waiting. The following transcript starts with us first arriving inside the building.

Jonathan: Hi!

John: Hi!

Some Anonymous JW Inside: Hello?

John: I’m John. I think I probably met you before up here… Uh I came wednes—no—thursday.

Jonathan: Which congregation is this again?

Some Anonymous JW Inside: Tucson Mountain.

Jonathan: Tucson Mountain… Oh! Hey…

[At this point I spotted Joseph Friedenberg. John and I made our way to the lobby and subsequently to the backroom.]

John: [Indecipherable]

Jonathan: Yeah, sorry…

Jonathan: Hello. [In greeting to some anonymous JW in the lobby]

Jonathan: Confused with all the cars… Hah…[To the elders waiting in the backroom]

Russell: That’s all right. Come right in…

John: Hi, my name’s John.

Russell: I’m John.

John: All right, I kinda like that name. Heh…

Russell: [Indecipherable]

John: I’m John Hadwin. Good to meet you.

Russell: What’s your name?

John: John Hadwin.

[Indecipherable Chatter]

John: [Indecipherable]… Tucson like that, this place is so confusing…

Russell: So you’re old(?) friends?

Jonathan: Yeah. This is a brother from Louisiana.

John: We’re uh… we go back about 5 years now… but, uh… I’m only 25 so that’s like a fifth of our lives.

Jonathan: [Short burst of laughter]

Russell: So are you a witness? Are you one of Jehovah’s Witnesses or…?

John: Yeah.

Russell: Are ya?

Russell: In good standing, or…?

Jonathan: Absolutely.

John: Yeah, of course.

Russell: Louisiana, huh?

Jonathan: Yep.

John: Yeah, yeah… [Indecipherable] …My wife and I haven’t been back for… since, well really since Hurricane Rita. And my brother’s house was, like, 12 feet underwater at the time. And it was just… [loud crack] amazing so…

Russell: Bad.

John: Yes sir.

Russell: Uh, John… I guess John is a witness from Louisiana.

Jonathan: Mmhm.

New Guy: Well, thank you very much for coming. What we were concerned about is uh… majorly… is that uh… we do the right thing.

Jonathan: Mmhm, absolutely.

New Guy: And uh… you know you can’t record this. And so I have to ask you do you have a recorder?

Jonathan: Uh… yeah, I have a tape recorder, yeah. Umm… Now, why exactly is that—that I can’t record this?

New Guy: Well it’s the policy of the Watchtower Society.

Jonathan: Okay what’s—is there a biblical basis for that?

New Guy: I don’t believe they had recorders back then. *chuckles*

Jonathan: Well—fine—I know… Uh…

New Guy: No, that’s just the establishment of the meeting. And if you’re going to record it then we can’t have… [Indecipherable]

Jonathan: Okay. *mumbles* well, here you go… [hands over tape recorder] Okay.

New Guy: Do you have a second one?

Jonathan: No I don’t. That’s the only tape recorder I have.

Russell: We’d like to start with a prayer.

Jonathan: Go ahead.

Russell: Would you like to do that, Joseph?

Joseph: *cough* Jehovah God, we come before you now to give thanks for allowing us to… be part of your organization. To… use the bible and uh… adjust our thinking. And to help our… our members… in doing the same thing. So that… uh… we can all reach the same goal. We ask that you would be with us now to have a… mild spirit. And to be able to… uh… speak freely. I’d like to give this prayer to you now in Jesus Christ’s name.

Elders (in unison): Amen.

New Guy: And what I’d like to do is just read a scripture to you to start with…

Jonathan: Okay.

New Guy: It has to do with what our purpose here is. It’s in Galatians 6…

[Flipping to scripture]

Jonathan: Galatians 6?

New Guy: Galatians 6. First uh… first verse.

Jonathan: Okay.

New Guy: It says… “Brothers, even though a man takes some false step before he’s aware of it. You who have spiritual qualifications try to readjust such a man in a spirit of mildness. As you each keep an eye on yourself, for fear you also may be tempted.” So… the reason we wanted to meet with you is to see if there’s some way we can assist you… to be able to see things… uh clearly as to Jehovah’s organization, the Watchtower Society [Indecipherable].

Jonathan: Mmhm.

New Guy: That’s our purpose…

Jonathan: Okay.

New Guy: …is to help you.

Jonathan: Absolutely.

New Guy: Alright. So… based on that… your thinking today is what in regards to the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society?

Jonathan: Well what should it be?

New Guy: Well… do you… do you want this to be confrontational?

Jonathan: No, no, I’m asking what—what should… you know as an elder it would be of great assistance if you could define what should be my position to the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society.

New Guy: The Watchtower Bible and Tract Society is a legal corporation.

Jonathan: Okay.

New Guy: And in… within that legal corporation those who have put it together…

Jonathan: Mhm.

New Guy: …are those of the governing body who are part of the one hundred and forty four thousand.

Jonathan: Mmhm.

New Guy: The governing body are the ones that uh… give all directions throughout the Earth. And I guess the question would be do you believe that that governing body is appointed by Jehovah to do that.

Jonathan: What basis would I have to believe that?

New Guy: The Bible.

Jonathan: Okay and where—could you… if you could help me… please point that in the Bible.

New Guy: Matthew 24. I’m sure you know–

Jonathan: Matthew 24:14?

New Guy: No, 24. [Looking back, maybe he subconsciously was directing me to Matthew 24:24 ;-)]

Jonathan: Oh, the whole thing. Okay.

New Guy: No, 45.

Jonathan: Oh, okay, the faithful and discrete slave.

New Guy: There you go.

Jonathan: Okay. Yeah, Matthew 24:45 in regards to the faithful and discrete slave.

New Guy: That is correct.

Jonathan: What is the faithful and discrete slave?

New Guy: See, you’re asking the question. And what you want to do is try to convince us of what–

Jonathan: No, I’m not trying to convince you. I’m asking a question… because, as an elder… I have these questions and it would assist me greatly if you could answer them for me.

New Guy: The answer that I gave already is [Indecipherable]–the governing body.

Jonathan: Okay, so the faithful and discrete slave is the governing body.

New Guy: One hundred and forty four thousand, those that are left here on the Earth, the governing body is part of that. That is correct.

Jonathan: So you’d say the governing body then represents… the faithful and discrete slave.

New Guy: That’s true.

Jonathan: Okay, so where’s the governing body then in–in the scriptures?

New Guy: Same place as uh… were here… John and all of them were in Jerusalem. That’s where Paul went to visit them…

Jonathan: Mmhm.

New Guy: That’s where all the various ones went…

Jonathan: You’re talking about the Jerusalem council.

Russell: Y’know, uh…

New Guy: Y’know it’s… *chuckles*

Russell: Excuse me a second. *cough*

Jonathan: Mmhm.

Russell: Our—our purpose in being here is—is not to debate these things, but to find out… if… whether you agree or disagree with what you’ve been taught from infancy…

Jonathan: Mmhm.

Russell: …based on the bible. And, to answer our questions with questions is… only to stimulate debate. And we’re not here to debate.

Jonathan: Well it’s—it’s not stimulating debate. It’s—it’s… I find questions with questions, um… it actually allows us to… argue. And argument is where two people—two parties… come to a common conclusion. Umm… and so therefore… I-I can’t be sure… You say I’ve been taught from infancy. But a person isn’t sentient until they’re three years old. Um…

New Guy: No, well what we need to do is stop it here.

Jonathan: Okay.

New Guy: If—if you do not believe… that the anointed… on the Earth today… are directed by the governing body today…

Jonathan: Mmhm.

New Guy: …then we have no more discussion.

Jonathan: Simply because if, theoretically, I didn’t have that belief there would be the end of discussion?

New Guy: Absolutely, because, that means that you do not…

Jonathan: Would it… Okay, the scripture you cited said that you were to readjust my thinking. So if my thinking is off… then you are to readjust me. Is that correct?

New Guy: The point is that you don’t desire, evidently, to be readjusted. Because you–

Jonathan: How is…? Okay…

New Guy: –incidentally ask questions. We give you a simple answer, and you want to know why that answer is given.

Jonathan: I’m trying to make sure of all things… make the truth my own. We—we do that by asking questions. We come to a knowledge of the truth… by… asking pertinent questions.

New Guy: Well… do you remember the other part of that scripture?

Jonathan: Well, what is the other part of the–that scripture?

New Guy: That we just read… where we protect ourselves…

Jonathan: I—I’ve been looking at the Watchtower. And I… I would think you might find this interesting. It says “Since we do not want our worship to be in vain, it is important for each one of us to examine his religion. We need to examine not only what we personally believe, but also what is taught by any religious organization with which we may be associated. Are its teachings in full harmony with God’s Word? Or are they based on the traditions of men? If we are lovers of the truth, there is nothing to fear from such an examination…”

New Guy: Absolutely.

Jonathan: “It should be the sincere desire of every one of us to learn what God’s will is for us and then to do it.” That’s from The Truth that Leads to Everlasting Life, 1986 p. 16

New Guy: I-I understand that…

Jonathan: Okay.

New Guy: …but that’s not what we’re talking about. Let me ask you a direct question…

Jonathan: Mmhm.

New Guy: Do you believe in the Trinity? Is that a belief of yours, today?

Jonathan: Could you define what the Trinity is?

New Guy: No, I’m not going to define what the Trinity is. Because you know–

Jonathan: Well, if we can’t define–

New Guy: –what the Trinity is.

Jonathan: Obviously I don’t. What is—what is the Trinity, please?

New Guy: I’m not going to argue the Trinity.

Jonathan: [Indecipherable]

Russell: In all of its variations…

Jonathan: Okay.

Russell: In all of its variations… And there are a variety of ways to apply… the doctrine…

Jonathan: Okay.

Russell: In any of it… do you believe in the trinity? In any form…

Jonathan: In any form?

Russell: Any form.

Jonathan: Well… that’s—that’s uh… I in any form… The Trinity, the word, is not found in the Bible.

New Guy: That’s true.

Jonathan: So, in that, I would say… no.

New Guy: Then do you believe that God and Jesus and the Holy Spirit are one?

Jonathan: How do you define “one”? Because Jesus Himself said “I and the Father are one”. So obviously that’s a biblical sentiment.

New Guy: Well, he also said all of His apostles were one with that.

Jonathan: Okay, so, there you go… I mean do you have—we have to define terms in order to understand what we’re talking about first.

New Guy: But we’re never going to get to a definition of terms. Because… you already have a mindset. And that mindset that you have is not acceptable to us. You don’t want that readjusted.

Jonathan: It-it’s not… No, I do want it readjusted. If I am wrong in any way, it’s your duty to readjust my thinking.

Russell: To readjust the one who wants to be readjusted.

Jonathan: And I do want to be readjusted. To—to judge my desires… No man can judge the heart, right?

Russell: That’s true.

Jonathan: Okay, so how can you prejudge my desires?

Russell: We’re not…

Jonathan: Okay, well then—then I do. All I can say is that I do want to be readjusted. If I am wrong, in any way, please point that out.

Russell: Well, maybe it would be easier—if I may..

Jonathan: Mmhm.

Russell: You tell us… Select just one doctrine… that Jehovah’s Witnesses… adhere to… based on the bible, that you disagree with. Just one. Let’s not go around.

Jonathan: Okay.

Russell: Well…

Jonathan: Well—well what makes you… believe that I disagree with any doctrines?

Russell: That’s why we’re here.

Jonathan: Okay.

Russell: Because we had heard this… because of what you have said to your family members.

Jonathan: Mmhm.

Russell: And you have posted, we understand, on the internet…

Jonathan: Do you have proof of that?

Russell: No! I wouldn’t look at postings…

Jonathan: Okay.

Russell: I have proof in the form of witnesses who’ve said they saw it. We do. We’ve heard that. So all we’re saying is…

Jonathan: Well who are—Can I—Can I ask who are these witnesses?

Russell: Absolutely. Jared and Emily…

Jonathan: Mmhm.

Russell: Uh… and uh… Chris, and uh… uh… Jill.

Jonathan: Mmhm.

Russell: Your own grandfather…

Jonathan: Mmhm.

Russell: …heard your words and your… and uh… what you were saying.

Jonathan: Okay.

Russell: And they’re happy to come and testify to that, but I don’t think that’s necessary. If we take this down to its very base… uh… point of the discussion…

Jonathan: Uh huh.

Russell: We can see whether or not you want to remain as part of… this organization.

Jonathan: Okay.

Russell: If I may…

Jonathan: Go ahead.

Russell: If we find one teaching… that you disagree with, rather than us trying to… banter on terms and words… give us one you’re having difficulty accepting.

Jonathan: It’s not a matter of difficulty accepting. I-I actually affirm a teaching… that the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society, or that God’s organization should not be involved in political affairs. I believe that. Now why did the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society join the United Nations in 1992?

Russell: You’ve been given an explanation for that. So…

[Indecipherable]

New Guy: You know the explanation for that.

Jonathan: What is the explanation then? How have I been given an explanation? Wha-what do you mean?

Russell: Because it was…

New Guy: Go ahead.

Jonathan: Okay.

Russell: The Society wrote and explained all of that. And—and… we don’t need to get into any of these definitions of… what it appeared, why it appeared that way…

Jonathan: Okay.

Russell: Let’s stick to just a basic bible doctrine so we won’t spend a lot of time…

Jonathan: Okay.

Russell: Because if you don’t–

Jonathan: Let me—let me ask you a question then. On—on doctrines…

Russell: Before you do…

Jonathan: Okay.

Russell: So you understand clearly why we’re here…

Jonathan: Sure.

Russell: If a person… biblically… poses a threat to the unity and the cleanliness of God’s organization here on Earth, we then are charged with the responsibility to investigate that, and for the sake of purity and cleanliness and to uphold holy standards—1 Peter 1:16—

Jonathan: Mmhm.

Russell: “You must be holy, because I’m holy”—then we will discharge that responsibility whether the person who we’re speaking to or not agrees or disagrees.

Jonathan: Yeah.

Russell: That’s not for you to decide.

Jonathan: Okay.

Russell: So what we’re saying is to get rid of all the periphery…

Jonathan: Yeah.

Russell: Let’s bear down to one basic thought. Not debate terms.

Jonathan: Mhm.

Russell: Take one thought. And if we can or can not agree on it, we’ll use that for the basis of our decision. How would that be?

Jonathan: Well, uhm you-you pointed out a number of procedures on how that’s—how that’s to go, uh, it’s interesting Matthew 28 says that we’re also to bring this before the whole congregation. It says, y’know, that if you have a problem with your brother… uh, go to him… and then that if—if that—if he doesn’t seem to be responsive—he doesn’t want your help—then to—then to, uh, go to the older men then to go to the congregation [I was thinking Matthew 18, and it doesn’t actually mention the “older men” in that passage]. The whole—the whole congregation. Uhm… I mean, well… I’ll give you an example—“Since the local court was situated at the city gates, there was no question about the trial being public (Deut. 16:18-20). No doubt the public trials helped influence the judges toward carefulness and justice, qualities that sometimes vanish in secret star-chamber hearings. What about witnesses? Witnesses in Bible times were required to testify publicly.” Okay, so that’s the Awake! January, uh, 22nd 1981. And—and as I was citing Matthew 18:15-17 [says] “speak to the congregation”.

Russell: Are you debating with procedure here? Is that—?

Jonathan: I’m not debating. I’m—I’m asking a question. Why, exactly… do we have this backroom procedure, at all? Why isn’t it brought before the congrega—You—you were explaining, uh, why we’re here, and that’s what I’m asking. Why is it that we’re here in this locality?

New Guy: We are charged—we are charged to protect the congregation. And therefore you must go through us to get to the congregation.

Jonathan: Okay. So it’s—it’s—

New Guy: That’s all there is to it.

Jonathan: So are you—you don’t believe that it was literal when he said “speak to the congregation” in Matthew 18.

New Guy: No.

Jonathan: Okay.

New Guy: Not for us today. In those days we don’t know what the congregation was. I mean—

Jonathan: Ah, okay.

New Guy: —we weren’t there.

Jonathan: Mmhm.

New Guy: How do we know what it was?

Jonathan: So, the basis of changing that would go back to the organizational legitimacy.

New Guy: Alright, alright.

Jonathan: That this is God’s organization so we can change that interpretation.

New Guy: Is this God’s organization or not in your mind? And that’s—that’s all I can ask.

Jonathan: Okay, well that’s—that’s my question. My—my question is if this is God’s organization what is the biblical basis to show that? You—you mentioned the “faithful and discrete slave,” okay, how do we identify it? Because Matthew Henry—Matthew Henry’s Commentary, which is cited extensively by the Watchtower—umm—basically states that the “faithful and discrete slave” is an example for ministers—for “gospel ministers”—that—that anyone who takes it upon them—that is called to be a minister in that role should be “faithful and discrete” in execution.

New Guy: You know what? This meeting is over.

Russell: Yeah. There’s no point.

New Guy: There’s no point in discussion.

Jonathan: There’s absolutely a point! It is your duty to readjust me.

New Guy: No.

Jonathan: How?

New Guy: Your meeting is over.

Russell: Yeah.

New Guy: That’s it.

Jonathan: Okay, well before it’s over let me—let me give you something. Umm…

John: I have a question. Can I speak?

Russell: Sure.

John: Um… Why can’t you answer his questions?

New Guy: Because we know his thoughts. We know—

Jonathan: You know my thoughts! You’re psychic!

New Guy: Pardon?

John: How do you know his thoughts?

Jonathan: Yeah, how do you know my thoughts?

John: I was just talking to…

New Guy: I read your thoughts.

Jonathan: Oh… okay.

New Guy: Your grandfather had them.

Jonathan: Mmhm.

New Guy: All the things that you wrote…

Jonathan: You have alleged writings.

New Guy: Pardon?

Jonathan: You have alleged writings from my—my grandfather. Well do…

New Guy: Your grandfather…

Jonathan: Well, let me give you something. Would you be willing to accept my… my thesis? Joseph?

Russell: No. You know what we’ll accept from you?

Jonathan: Okay. Is a letter?

Russell: Yeah.

Jonathan: Okay. Sure.

Russell: If you–

Jonathan: Here—here’s my letter.

Russell: And what is it?

Jonathan: Would you like to read it? Here, I’ll—I’ll read it outloud. “Dear ‘Jehovah’s Witnesses’, the Watchtower organization self-styled ‘Jehovah’s Witnesses’ is an apostate cult.”

[Big Commotion]

Jonathan: “It is a high control group that fosters a unique puritanical culture of its own…”

New Guy: You’re—you’re dismissed. Bye bye.

Jonathan: Okay.

Russell: Thank you.

New Guy: Thank you for being here.

Jonathan: Well, God bless.

Russell: Thank you for helping us to resolve the matter.

New Guy: Thank you for [indecipherable].

Jonathan: Absolutely.

New Guy: Now the only other req—question we have is… Shall we talk to your mother and your brother?

Jonathan: Which—which?

John: I can’t believe you won’t even answer his questions, and I don’t understand why.

Russell: Yeah you do.

John: No, I don’t.

Russell: But we’re done—we’re done now.

New Guy: Then you must not be one of Jehovah’s Witnesses.

Russell: You’re not. *chuckles*

New Guy: And my question to you is…

John: Why won’t you even…?

New Guy: Should we talk to your mother and your brother?

Jonathan: And what would be the point?

New Guy: The point would be… If they don’t want to be one of Jehovah’s Witnesses we need to let…

Jonathan: That’s—that’s not—I have no idea what their thoughts—I don’t read anybody’s thoughts.

New Guy: As far as…

John: Why won’t you answer his questions?

New Guy: We don’t have time.

Jonathan: Frankly, this is satanic.

John: You don’t have time?

Russell: We don’t have time for it. We’re not—we’re not… This is a matter of debate. So… we’re not here to debate.

John: He was asking you guys for help.

Jonathan: Y’know… 1 Peter 3:15 says every man must make a defense for his faith.

Russell: And you know what? Your faith is apart from ours. There’s the door.

John: But mine’s not, so… let me ask you…

Russell: Well it is. We can look at you and tell it is. You’re sharing with him. You must be by association. And if you want to change that, go back to the congregation you came from and address it with your elders who know you. We don’t know you. Anymore…

John: But you’re brothers, right?

Russell: We are indeed. The three of us are… not to you.

John: Why not?

Russell: Because, it’s obvious. He refers to us as an “apostate cult.”

Jonathan: [Indecipherable]

Russell: Why don’t you come back at another time… without him? And we’ll visit. Why don’t you make an appointment to come see us? We’ll see you individually if you so choose.

John: Are you gonna answer my questions when I come back?

Russell: If they’re not in the form of debate… and if they’re sincere. But if…

Jonathan: How—how can you judge—judge my sincerity?

Russell: Well we’re not talking to you.

New Guy: Not sincerity as to what you believe.

Jonathan: Mmhm.

New Guy: But sincerity as to…

Jonathan: But I have serious questions.

Russell: No you don’t.

Jonathan: Yes I do.

Russell: Our conversation is over.

Jonathan: How serious can you be when you say this is not God’s organization; prove it to me?

Russell: Our conversation is over. So now, my point to you is this… if you are sincere, you may certainly get our attention—let us know—and we’re happy. If it goes in the same direction, we’re happy to meet with you, but if it goes in the same direction we’ll dismiss you as we’re dismissing him.

Jonathan: I would just like to say, could you keep this on file? Because this is my letter of disassociation.

Russell: Oh, we will.

Jonathan: Okay, thank you very much.

Russell: Oh, we will.

Jonathan: Well, why don’t we—why don’t we go, John? Because, they’re unreasonable so…

John: No!

Jonathan: No, we—we should go… Have a nice day!

New Guy: Thank you.

[At this point, John insisted on remaining inside and plead with the elders to be sane and reasonable (which they predictably refused, of course). The door was open, but the recording is much quieter at this point. After a few moments I walked back toward the doorway.]

[Indecipherable…]

Russell: …not be called to mind including the names of those who set themselves apart from God’s organization. He won’t even remember their name. Isaiah said it. [Isaiah nowhere mentions “organization”] We didn’t. It’s a serious matter. It’s a very serious matter. So with humility in your heart, when you come to a doctor, as he used the scripture, to adjust that bone. And you’re in great deal of pain. And the tears are streaming down you. And you’re in anguish. And you come to talk to us to help you adjust that bone, as Galatians 6:1 says, and you debate with us? Whether or not we have the credentials to adjust it? And how we’re going to adjust it? I would think you’d want the bone set.

John: I didn’t know I was having a bone set.

Russell: But you weren’t invited here.

John: Yes I was! He invited me.

Russell: Not by us. So I’m saying the invitation to come to this holy place, to have our attention, to have an audience with us, to help you, is open to you. Not to him. And… you’ll get the same hearing ear, but if you take the same position, at the outset, we’ll dismiss you, because we don’t have a sharing in that.

Jonathan: Because they can’t tolerate dissent. That’s what it comes down to.

John: But, he invited—look, he invited me here as his witness…

Russell: We didn’t—He makes a statement that’s true. We do not tolerate dissent against Jehovah’s organization. [He makes it sound as if “dissent” is somehow synonymous with rebellion…]

Jonathan: Because it’s not Jehovah’s organization! It’s dissent as… Is it Jehovah’s organization? That’s my question.

New Guy: You know, gentlemen, this meeting is already over.

Russell: It is. But I just want you to know the door’s open, if you humbly come back and ask for help.

John: But I came here humbly today…

Russell: Well, but we weren’t expecting you to be here. [I told them weeks in advance that I wanted a witness to observe the proceedings.] You come another time, if you’re sincere… you make an appointment—You know how to reach us. You know our meeting nights.

John: If I screw up are you guys gonna treat me like [indecipherable]

Jonathan: No, let’s… John… John, let’s go, c’mon.

Russell: Could be. We’ll dismiss you if we don’t feel comfortable being in your presence.

John: Y’know… Y’know what? I have never seen such a lack of love in all of my life. What happened to the rest of Galatians? The part that talked about love?

Russell: Y’know what? You’re just caught up in the emotion of it. We respect that. We hope that you’ll see the light.

John: What’s gonna happen to him and everyone he knows?

Russell: You know the best thing you can do for yourself, John? Separate yourself from him. Get yourself from him. Never speak to him again from this moment forward. And that’ll be the best thing you can do for yourself. If you love God—If you love God—not us, not him, not even yourself. If you love God…

Jonathan: If you love God, you will want the Truth.

Russell: Never speak—never speak to this man again. Come back to this holy place, strip yourself of your pride and let him affect your heart. And you will see things differently. Don’t have to come to this hally(?) place.

Jonathan: Uh huh.

Russell: Go to another Kingdom Hall, but do not speak to him… ever again, and you will be on the road to life. That will start you down that road.

[Indecipherable commotion]

John: I don’t have any hatred in my heart. (?)

Russell: We don’t have any hatred for you.

John: How am I supposed to start down that road?

[Commotion]

Jonathan: No, actually according to the Watchtower you’re supposed to hate apostates. So…

Russell: We don’t have any hatred

New Guy: [Indecipherable]

Russell: None whatsoever. We are sorry for you.

Jonathan: Might as well be, because you can prejudge him. So…

[More indecipherable commotion]

Russell: You know what? In a god-like form, I absolutely do hate him, just as Jehovah does. He’s insulted our god… in God’s house! How else should we act?

Jonathan: If you’re talking about the god of the Pleiades star system, then absolutely I would insult that.

Russell: You can step outside and close the door. If you’d like to say something, it has to be here.

John: But he didn’t even say anything about God or anything, he’s just talking about a bunch of stuff and he had questions. And you guys…

New Guy: No, he didn’t.

Russell: Listen. I’ll reiterate this so you make sure when you walk out the door you know our doors are open to you. We will hear you again. We will hear you again… not in a judicial form, because we don’t know you! You say—You’re one of Jehovah’s Witnesses…

John: He said I’m a witness… from Louisiana. I’m his witness.

Russell: Are you or are you not one of Jehovah’s Witnesses?

Jonathan: He’s absolutely one of Jehovah’s witnesses, because Jesus is Yahweh and he—he is a Christian.

Russell: Well I—I’m out of words. I only have so many words per day, and I’ve used ’em up. So have a great evening.

Jonathan: Absolutely.

Russell: And if you want any help you come back without him… in a different time and a different setting or another Kingdom Hall with other elders… they’ll share the Bible with you, but they’ll dismiss you if you’re the same—assume the same posture. That’s just how it is…

Jonathan: That’s how it is.

John: Logical debate is bad?

Jonathan: Yes it is. Let’s go John…

New Guy: Go on, John.

Russell: Have a good evening.

Jonathan: C’mon… Oh! Thank you for the record…

New Guy: I knew you were lying.

Jonathan: It’s not a tape recorder. I said I have no tape recorder.

New Guy: Well I knew… I knew exactly what you were doing.

Jonathan: Sure.

New Guy: Have a good night.

Jonathan: You too!

Jonathan: Hi!

John: Hi!

Some Anonymous JW Inside: Hello?

John: I’m John. I think I probably met you before up here… Uh I came wednes—no—thursday.

Jonathan: Which congregation is this again?

Some Anonymous JW Inside: Tucson Mountain.

Jonathan: Tucson Mountain… Oh! Hey…

[At this point I spotted Joseph Friedenberg. John and I made our way to the lobby and subsequently to the backroom.]

John: [Indecipherable]

Jonathan: Yeah, sorry…

Jonathan: Hello. [In greeting to some anonymous JW in the lobby]

Jonathan: Confused with all the cars… Hah…[To the elders waiting in the backroom]

Russell: That’s all right. Come right in…

John: Hi, my name’s John.

Russell: I’m John.

John: All right, I kinda like that name. Heh…

Russell: [Indecipherable]

John: I’m John Hadwin. Good to meet you.

Russell: What’s your name?

John: John Hadwin.

[Indecipherable Chatter]

John: [Indecipherable]… Tucson like that, this place is so confusing…

Russell: So you’re old(?) friends?

Jonathan: Yeah. This is a brother from Louisiana.

John: We’re uh… we go back about 5 years now… but, uh… I’m only 25 so that’s like a fifth of our lives.

Jonathan: [Short burst of laughter]

Russell: So are you a witness? Are you one of Jehovah’s Witnesses or…?

John: Yeah.

Russell: Are ya?

Russell: In good standing, or…?

Jonathan: Absolutely.

John: Yeah, of course.

Russell: Louisiana, huh?

Jonathan: Yep.

John: Yeah, yeah… [Indecipherable] …My wife and I haven’t been back for… since, well really since Hurricane Rita. And my brother’s house was, like, 12 feet underwater at the time. And it was just… [loud crack] amazing so…

Russell: Bad.

John: Yes sir.

Russell: Uh, John… I guess John is a witness from Louisiana.

Jonathan: Mmhm.

New Guy: Well, thank you very much for coming. What we were concerned about is uh… majorly… is that uh… we do the right thing.

Jonathan: Mmhm, absolutely.

New Guy: And uh… you know you can’t record this. And so I have to ask you do you have a recorder?

Jonathan: Uh… yeah, I have a tape recorder, yeah. Umm… Now, why exactly is that—that I can’t record this?

New Guy: Well it’s the policy of the Watchtower Society.

Jonathan: Okay what’s—is there a biblical basis for that?

New Guy: I don’t believe they had recorders back then. *chuckles*

Jonathan: Well—fine—I know… Uh…

New Guy: No, that’s just the establishment of the meeting. And if you’re going to record it then we can’t have… [Indecipherable]

Jonathan: Okay. *mumbles* well, here you go… [hands over tape recorder] Okay.

New Guy: Do you have a second one?

Jonathan: No I don’t. That’s the only tape recorder I have.

Russell: We’d like to start with a prayer.

Jonathan: Go ahead.

Russell: Would you like to do that, Joseph?

Joseph: *cough* Jehovah God, we come before you now to give thanks for allowing us to… be part of your organization. To… use the bible and uh… adjust our thinking. And to help our… our members… in doing the same thing. So that… uh… we can all reach the same goal. We ask that you would be with us now to have a… mild spirit. And to be able to… uh… speak freely. I’d like to give this prayer to you now in Jesus Christ’s name.

Elders (in unison): Amen.

New Guy: And what I’d like to do is just read a scripture to you to start with…

Jonathan: Okay.

New Guy: It has to do with what our purpose here is. It’s in Galatians 6…

[Flipping to scripture]

Jonathan: Galatians 6?

New Guy: Galatians 6. First uh… first verse.

Jonathan: Okay.

New Guy: It says… “Brothers, even though a man takes some false step before he’s aware of it. You who have spiritual qualifications try to readjust such a man in a spirit of mildness. As you each keep an eye on yourself, for fear you also may be tempted.” So… the reason we wanted to meet with you is to see if there’s some way we can assist you… to be able to see things… uh clearly as to Jehovah’s organization, the Watchtower Society [Indecipherable].

Jonathan: Mmhm.

New Guy: That’s our purpose…

Jonathan: Okay.

New Guy: …is to help you.

Jonathan: Absolutely.

New Guy: Alright. So… based on that… your thinking today is what in regards to the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society?

Jonathan: Well what should it be?

New Guy: Well… do you… do you want this to be confrontational?

Jonathan: No, no, I’m asking what—what should… you know as an elder it would be of great assistance if you could define what should be my position to the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society.

New Guy: The Watchtower Bible and Tract Society is a legal corporation.

Jonathan: Okay.

New Guy: And in… within that legal corporation those who have put it together…

Jonathan: Mhm.

New Guy: …are those of the governing body who are part of the one hundred and forty four thousand.

Jonathan: Mmhm.

New Guy: The governing body are the ones that uh… give all directions throughout the Earth. And I guess the question would be do you believe that that governing body is appointed by Jehovah to do that.

Jonathan: What basis would I have to believe that?

New Guy: The Bible.

Jonathan: Okay and where—could you… if you could help me… please point that in the Bible.

New Guy: Matthew 24. I’m sure you know–

Jonathan: Matthew 24:14?

New Guy: No, 24. [Looking back, maybe he subconsciously was directing me to Matthew 24:24 ;-)]

Jonathan: Oh, the whole thing. Okay.

New Guy: No, 45.

Jonathan: Oh, okay, the faithful and discrete slave.

New Guy: There you go.

Jonathan: Okay. Yeah, Matthew 24:45 in regards to the faithful and discrete slave.

New Guy: That is correct.

Jonathan: What is the faithful and discrete slave?

New Guy: See, you’re asking the question. And what you want to do is try to convince us of what–

Jonathan: No, I’m not trying to convince you. I’m asking a question… because, as an elder… I have these questions and it would assist me greatly if you could answer them for me.

New Guy: The answer that I gave already is [Indecipherable]–the governing body.

Jonathan: Okay, so the faithful and discrete slave is the governing body.

New Guy: One hundred and forty four thousand, those that are left here on the Earth, the governing body is part of that. That is correct.

Jonathan: So you’d say the governing body then represents… the faithful and discrete slave.

New Guy: That’s true.

Jonathan: Okay, so where’s the governing body then in–in the scriptures?

New Guy: Same place as uh… were here… John and all of them were in Jerusalem. That’s where Paul went to visit them…

Jonathan: Mmhm.

New Guy: That’s where all the various ones went…

Jonathan: You’re talking about the Jerusalem council.

Russell: Y’know, uh…

New Guy: Y’know it’s… *chuckles*

Russell: Excuse me a second. *cough*

Jonathan: Mmhm.

Russell: Our—our purpose in being here is—is not to debate these things, but to find out… if… whether you agree or disagree with what you’ve been taught from infancy…

Jonathan: Mmhm.

Russell: …based on the bible. And, to answer our questions with questions is… only to stimulate debate. And we’re not here to debate.

Jonathan: Well it’s—it’s not stimulating debate. It’s—it’s… I find questions with questions, um… it actually allows us to… argue. And argument is where two people—two parties… come to a common conclusion. Umm… and so therefore… I-I can’t be sure… You say I’ve been taught from infancy. But a person isn’t sentient until they’re three years old. Um…

New Guy: No, well what we need to do is stop it here.

Jonathan: Okay.

New Guy: If—if you do not believe… that the anointed… on the Earth today… are directed by the governing body today…

Jonathan: Mmhm.

New Guy: …then we have no more discussion.

Jonathan: Simply because if, theoretically, I didn’t have that belief there would be the end of discussion?

New Guy: Absolutely, because, that means that you do not…

Jonathan: Would it… Okay, the scripture you cited said that you were to readjust my thinking. So if my thinking is off… then you are to readjust me. Is that correct?

New Guy: The point is that you don’t desire, evidently, to be readjusted. Because you–

Jonathan: How is…? Okay…

New Guy: –incidentally ask questions. We give you a simple answer, and you want to know why that answer is given.

Jonathan: I’m trying to make sure of all things… make the truth my own. We—we do that by asking questions. We come to a knowledge of the truth… by… asking pertinent questions.

New Guy: Well… do you remember the other part of that scripture?

Jonathan: Well, what is the other part of the–that scripture?

New Guy: That we just read… where we protect ourselves…

Jonathan: I—I’ve been looking at the Watchtower. And I… I would think you might find this interesting. It says “Since we do not want our worship to be in vain, it is important for each one of us to examine his religion. We need to examine not only what we personally believe, but also what is taught by any religious organization with which we may be associated. Are its teachings in full harmony with God’s Word? Or are they based on the traditions of men? If we are lovers of the truth, there is nothing to fear from such an examination…”

New Guy: Absolutely.

Jonathan: “It should be the sincere desire of every one of us to learn what God’s will is for us and then to do it.” That’s from The Truth that Leads to Everlasting Life, 1986 p. 16

New Guy: I-I understand that…

Jonathan: Okay.

New Guy: …but that’s not what we’re talking about. Let me ask you a direct question…

Jonathan: Mmhm.

New Guy: Do you believe in the Trinity? Is that a belief of yours, today?

Jonathan: Could you define what the Trinity is?

New Guy: No, I’m not going to define what the Trinity is. Because you know–

Jonathan: Well, if we can’t define–

New Guy: –what the Trinity is.

Jonathan: Obviously I don’t. What is—what is the Trinity, please?

New Guy: I’m not going to argue the Trinity.

Jonathan: [Indecipherable]

Russell: In all of its variations…

Jonathan: Okay.

Russell: In all of its variations… And there are a variety of ways to apply… the doctrine…

Jonathan: Okay.

Russell: In any of it… do you believe in the trinity? In any form…

Jonathan: In any form?

Russell: Any form.

Jonathan: Well… that’s—that’s uh… I in any form… The Trinity, the word, is not found in the Bible.

New Guy: That’s true.

Jonathan: So, in that, I would say… no.

New Guy: Then do you believe that God and Jesus and the Holy Spirit are one?

Jonathan: How do you define “one”? Because Jesus Himself said “I and the Father are one”. So obviously that’s a biblical sentiment.

New Guy: Well, he also said all of His apostles were one with that.

Jonathan: Okay, so, there you go… I mean do you have—we have to define terms in order to understand what we’re talking about first.

New Guy: But we’re never going to get to a definition of terms. Because… you already have a mindset. And that mindset that you have is not acceptable to us. You don’t want that readjusted.

Jonathan: It-it’s not… No, I do want it readjusted. If I am wrong in any way, it’s your duty to readjust my thinking.

Russell: To readjust the one who wants to be readjusted.

Jonathan: And I do want to be readjusted. To—to judge my desires… No man can judge the heart, right?

Russell: That’s true.

Jonathan: Okay, so how can you prejudge my desires?

Russell: We’re not…

Jonathan: Okay, well then—then I do. All I can say is that I do want to be readjusted. If I am wrong, in any way, please point that out.

Russell: Well, maybe it would be easier—if I may..

Jonathan: Mmhm.

Russell: You tell us… Select just one doctrine… that Jehovah’s Witnesses… adhere to… based on the bible, that you disagree with. Just one. Let’s not go around.

Jonathan: Okay.

Russell: Well…

Jonathan: Well—well what makes you… believe that I disagree with any doctrines?

Russell: That’s why we’re here.

Jonathan: Okay.

Russell: Because we had heard this… because of what you have said to your family members.

Jonathan: Mmhm.

Russell: And you have posted, we understand, on the internet…

Jonathan: Do you have proof of that?

Russell: No! I wouldn’t look at postings…

Jonathan: Okay.

Russell: I have proof in the form of witnesses who’ve said they saw it. We do. We’ve heard that. So all we’re saying is…

Jonathan: Well who are—Can I—Can I ask who are these witnesses?

Russell: Absolutely. Jared and Emily…

Jonathan: Mmhm.

Russell: Uh… and uh… Chris, and uh… uh… Jill.

Jonathan: Mmhm.

Russell: Your own grandfather…

Jonathan: Mmhm.

Russell: …heard your words and your… and uh… what you were saying.

Jonathan: Okay.

Russell: And they’re happy to come and testify to that, but I don’t think that’s necessary. If we take this down to its very base… uh… point of the discussion…

Jonathan: Uh huh.

Russell: We can see whether or not you want to remain as part of… this organization.

Jonathan: Okay.

Russell: If I may…

Jonathan: Go ahead.

Russell: If we find one teaching… that you disagree with, rather than us trying to… banter on terms and words… give us one you’re having difficulty accepting.

Jonathan: It’s not a matter of difficulty accepting. I-I actually affirm a teaching… that the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society, or that God’s organization should not be involved in political affairs. I believe that. Now why did the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society join the United Nations in 1992?

Russell: You’ve been given an explanation for that. So…

[Indecipherable]

New Guy: You know the explanation for that.

Jonathan: What is the explanation then? How have I been given an explanation? Wha-what do you mean?

Russell: Because it was…

New Guy: Go ahead.

Jonathan: Okay.

Russell: The Society wrote and explained all of that. And—and… we don’t need to get into any of these definitions of… what it appeared, why it appeared that way…

Jonathan: Okay.

Russell: Let’s stick to just a basic bible doctrine so we won’t spend a lot of time…

Jonathan: Okay.

Russell: Because if you don’t–

Jonathan: Let me—let me ask you a question then. On—on doctrines…

Russell: Before you do…

Jonathan: Okay.

Russell: So you understand clearly why we’re here…

Jonathan: Sure.

Russell: If a person… biblically… poses a threat to the unity and the cleanliness of God’s organization here on Earth, we then are charged with the responsibility to investigate that, and for the sake of purity and cleanliness and to uphold holy standards—1 Peter 1:16—

Jonathan: Mmhm.

Russell: “You must be holy, because I’m holy”—then we will discharge that responsibility whether the person who we’re speaking to or not agrees or disagrees.

Jonathan: Yeah.

Russell: That’s not for you to decide.

Jonathan: Okay.

Russell: So what we’re saying is to get rid of all the periphery…

Jonathan: Yeah.

Russell: Let’s bear down to one basic thought. Not debate terms.

Jonathan: Mhm.

Russell: Take one thought. And if we can or can not agree on it, we’ll use that for the basis of our decision. How would that be?

Jonathan: Well, uhm you-you pointed out a number of procedures on how that’s—how that’s to go, uh, it’s interesting Matthew 28 says that we’re also to bring this before the whole congregation. It says, y’know, that if you have a problem with your brother… uh, go to him… and then that if—if that—if he doesn’t seem to be responsive—he doesn’t want your help—then to—then to, uh, go to the older men then to go to the congregation [I was thinking Matthew 18, and it doesn’t actually mention the “older men” in that passage]. The whole—the whole congregation. Uhm… I mean, well… I’ll give you an example—“Since the local court was situated at the city gates, there was no question about the trial being public (Deut. 16:18-20). No doubt the public trials helped influence the judges toward carefulness and justice, qualities that sometimes vanish in secret star-chamber hearings. What about witnesses? Witnesses in Bible times were required to testify publicly.” Okay, so that’s the Awake! January, uh, 22nd 1981. And—and as I was citing Matthew 18:15-17 [says] “speak to the congregation”.

Russell: Are you debating with procedure here? Is that—?

Jonathan: I’m not debating. I’m—I’m asking a question. Why, exactly… do we have this backroom procedure, at all? Why isn’t it brought before the congrega—You—you were explaining, uh, why we’re here, and that’s what I’m asking. Why is it that we’re here in this locality?

New Guy: We are charged—we are charged to protect the congregation. And therefore you must go through us to get to the congregation.

Jonathan: Okay. So it’s—it’s—

New Guy: That’s all there is to it.

Jonathan: So are you—you don’t believe that it was literal when he said “speak to the congregation” in Matthew 18.

New Guy: No.

Jonathan: Okay.

New Guy: Not for us today. In those days we don’t know what the congregation was. I mean—

Jonathan: Ah, okay.

New Guy: —we weren’t there.

Jonathan: Mmhm.

New Guy: How do we know what it was?

Jonathan: So, the basis of changing that would go back to the organizational legitimacy.

New Guy: Alright, alright.

Jonathan: That this is God’s organization so we can change that interpretation.

New Guy: Is this God’s organization or not in your mind? And that’s—that’s all I can ask.

Jonathan: Okay, well that’s—that’s my question. My—my question is if this is God’s organization what is the biblical basis to show that? You—you mentioned the “faithful and discrete slave,” okay, how do we identify it? Because Matthew Henry—Matthew Henry’s Commentary, which is cited extensively by the Watchtower—umm—basically states that the “faithful and discrete slave” is an example for ministers—for “gospel ministers”—that—that anyone who takes it upon them—that is called to be a minister in that role should be “faithful and discrete” in execution.

New Guy: You know what? This meeting is over.

Russell: Yeah. There’s no point.

New Guy: There’s no point in discussion.

Jonathan: There’s absolutely a point! It is your duty to readjust me.

New Guy: No.

Jonathan: How?

New Guy: Your meeting is over.

Russell: Yeah.

New Guy: That’s it.

Jonathan: Okay, well before it’s over let me—let me give you something. Umm…

John: I have a question. Can I speak?

Russell: Sure.

John: Um… Why can’t you answer his questions?

New Guy: Because we know his thoughts. We know—

Jonathan: You know my thoughts! You’re psychic!

New Guy: Pardon?

John: How do you know his thoughts?

Jonathan: Yeah, how do you know my thoughts?

John: I was just talking to…

New Guy: I read your thoughts.

Jonathan: Oh… okay.

New Guy: Your grandfather had them.

Jonathan: Mmhm.

New Guy: All the things that you wrote…

Jonathan: You have alleged writings.

New Guy: Pardon?

Jonathan: You have alleged writings from my—my grandfather. Well do…

New Guy: Your grandfather…

Jonathan: Well, let me give you something. Would you be willing to accept my… my thesis? Joseph?

Russell: No. You know what we’ll accept from you?

Jonathan: Okay. Is a letter?

Russell: Yeah.

Jonathan: Okay. Sure.

Russell: If you–

Jonathan: Here—here’s my letter.

Russell: And what is it?

Jonathan: Would you like to read it? Here, I’ll—I’ll read it outloud. “Dear ‘Jehovah’s Witnesses’, the Watchtower organization self-styled ‘Jehovah’s Witnesses’ is an apostate cult.”

[Big Commotion]

Jonathan: “It is a high control group that fosters a unique puritanical culture of its own…”

New Guy: You’re—you’re dismissed. Bye bye.

Jonathan: Okay.

Russell: Thank you.

New Guy: Thank you for being here.

Jonathan: Well, God bless.

Russell: Thank you for helping us to resolve the matter.

New Guy: Thank you for [indecipherable].

Jonathan: Absolutely.

New Guy: Now the only other req—question we have is… Shall we talk to your mother and your brother?

Jonathan: Which—which?

John: I can’t believe you won’t even answer his questions, and I don’t understand why.

Russell: Yeah you do.

John: No, I don’t.

Russell: But we’re done—we’re done now.

New Guy: Then you must not be one of Jehovah’s Witnesses.

Russell: You’re not. *chuckles*

New Guy: And my question to you is…

John: Why won’t you even…?

New Guy: Should we talk to your mother and your brother?

Jonathan: And what would be the point?

New Guy: The point would be… If they don’t want to be one of Jehovah’s Witnesses we need to let…

Jonathan: That’s—that’s not—I have no idea what their thoughts—I don’t read anybody’s thoughts.

New Guy: As far as…

John: Why won’t you answer his questions?

New Guy: We don’t have time.

Jonathan: Frankly, this is satanic.

John: You don’t have time?

Russell: We don’t have time for it. We’re not—we’re not… This is a matter of debate. So… we’re not here to debate.

John: He was asking you guys for help.

Jonathan: Y’know… 1 Peter 3:15 says every man must make a defense for his faith.

Russell: And you know what? Your faith is apart from ours. There’s the door.

John: But mine’s not, so… let me ask you…

Russell: Well it is. We can look at you and tell it is. You’re sharing with him. You must be by association. And if you want to change that, go back to the congregation you came from and address it with your elders who know you. We don’t know you. Anymore…

John: But you’re brothers, right?

Russell: We are indeed. The three of us are… not to you.

John: Why not?

Russell: Because, it’s obvious.

Jonathan: [Indecipherable]

Russell: Why don’t you come back at another time… without him? And we’ll visit. Why don’t you make an appointment to come see us? We’ll see you individually if you so choose.

John: Are you gonna answer my questions when I come back?

Russell: If they’re not in the form of debate… and if they’re sincere. But if…

Jonathan: How—how can you judge—judge my sincerity?

Russell: Well we’re not talking to you.

New Guy: Not sincerity as to what you believe.

Jonathan: Mmhm.

New Guy: But sincerity as to…

Jonathan: But I have serious questions.

Russell: No you don’t.

Jonathan: Yes I do.

Russell: Our conversation is over.

Jonathan: How serious can you be when you say this is not God’s organization; prove it to me?

Russell: Our conversation is over. So now, my point to you is this… if you are sincere, you may certainly get our attention—let us know—and we’re happy. If it goes in the same direction, we’re happy to meet with you, but if it goes in the same direction we’ll dismiss you as we’re dismissing him.

Jonathan: I would just like to say, could you keep this on file? Because this is my letter of disassociation.

Russell: Oh, we will.

Jonathan: Okay, thank you very much.

Russell: Oh, we will.

Jonathan: Well, why don’t we—why don’t we go, John? Because, they’re unreasonable so…

John: No!

Jonathan: No, we—we should go… Have a nice day!

New Guy: Thank you.

[At this point, John insisted on remaining inside and plead with the elders to be sane and reasonable (which they predictably refused, of course). The door was open, but the recording is much quieter at this point. After a few moments I walked back toward the doorway.]

[Indecipherable…]

Russell: …not be called to mind including the names of those who set themselves apart from God’s organization. He won’t even remember their name. Isaiah said it. [Isaiah nowhere mentions “organization”] We didn’t. It’s a serious matter. It’s a very serious matter. So with humility in your heart, when you come to a doctor, as he used the scripture, to adjust that bone. And you’re in great deal of pain. And the tears are streaming down you. And you’re in anguish. And you come to talk to us to help you adjust that bone, as Galatians 6:1 says, and you debate with us? Whether or not we have the credentials to adjust it? And how we’re going to adjust it? I would think you’d want the bone set.

John: I didn’t know I was having a bone set.

Russell: But you weren’t invited here.

John: Yes I was! He invited me.

Russell: Not by us. So I’m saying the invitation to come to this holy place, to have our attention, to have an audience with us, to help you, is open to you. Not to him. And… you’ll get the same hearing ear, but if you take the same position, at the outset, we’ll dismiss you, because we don’t have a sharing in that.

Jonathan: Because they can’t tolerate dissent. That’s what it comes down to.

John: But, he invited—look, he invited me here as his witness…

Russell: We didn’t—He makes a statement that’s true. We do not tolerate dissent against Jehovah’s organization. [He makes it sound as if “dissent” is somehow synonymous with rebellion…]

Jonathan: Because it’s not Jehovah’s organization! It’s dissent as… Is it Jehovah’s organization? That’s my question.

New Guy: You know, gentlemen, this meeting is already over.

Russell: It is. But I just want you to know the door’s open, if you humbly come back and ask for help.

John: But I came here humbly today…

Russell: Well, but we weren’t expecting you to be here. [I told them weeks in advance that I wanted a witness to observe the proceedings.] You come another time, if you’re sincere… you make an appointment—You know how to reach us. You know our meeting nights.

John: If I screw up are you guys gonna treat me like [indecipherable]

Jonathan: No, let’s… John… John, let’s go, c’mon.

Russell: Could be. We’ll dismiss you if we don’t feel comfortable being in your presence.

John: Y’know… Y’know what? I have never seen such a lack of love in all of my life. What happened to the rest of Galatians? The part that talked about love?

Russell: Y’know what? You’re just caught up in the emotion of it. We respect that. We hope that you’ll see the light.

John: What’s gonna happen to him and everyone he knows?

Russell: You know the best thing you can do for yourself, John? Separate yourself from him. Get yourself from him. Never speak to him again from this moment forward. And that’ll be the best thing you can do for yourself. If you love God—If you love God—not us, not him, not even yourself. If you love God…

Jonathan: If you love God, you will want the Truth.

Russell: Never speak—never speak to this man again. Come back to this holy place, strip yourself of your pride and let him affect your heart. And you will see things differently. Don’t have to come to this hally(?) place.

Jonathan: Uh huh.

Russell: Go to another Kingdom Hall, but do not speak to him… ever again, and you will be on the road to life. That will start you down that road.

[Indecipherable commotion]

John: I don’t have any hatred in my heart. (?)

Russell: We don’t have any hatred for you.

John: How am I supposed to start down that road?

[Commotion]

Jonathan: No, actually according to the Watchtower you’re supposed to hate apostates. So…

Russell: We don’t have any hatred

New Guy: [Indecipherable]

Russell: None whatsoever. We are sorry for you.

Jonathan: Might as well be, because you can prejudge him. So…

[More indecipherable commotion]

Russell: You know what? In a god-like form, I absolutely do hate him, just as Jehovah does. He’s insulted our god… in God’s house! How else should we act?

Jonathan: If you’re talking about the god of the Pleiades star system, then absolutely I would insult that.

Russell: You can step outside and close the door. If you’d like to say something, it has to be here.

John: But he didn’t even say anything about God or anything, he’s just talking about a bunch of stuff and he had questions. And you guys…

New Guy: No, he didn’t.

Russell: Listen. I’ll reiterate this so you make sure when you walk out the door you know our doors are open to you. We will hear you again. We will hear you again… not in a judicial form, because we don’t know you! You say—You’re one of Jehovah’s Witnesses…

John: He said I’m a witness… from Louisiana. I’m his witness.

Russell: Are you or are you not one of Jehovah’s Witnesses?

Jonathan: He’s absolutely one of Jehovah’s witnesses, because Jesus is Yahweh and he—he is a Christian.

Russell: Well I—I’m out of words. I only have so many words per day, and I’ve used ’em up. So have a great evening.

Jonathan: Absolutely.

Russell: And if you want any help you come back without him… in a different time and a different setting or another Kingdom Hall with other elders… they’ll share the Bible with you, but they’ll dismiss you if you’re the same—assume the same posture. That’s just how it is…

Jonathan: That’s how it is.

John: Logical debate is bad?

Jonathan: Yes it is. Let’s go John…

New Guy: Go on, John.

Russell: Have a good evening.

Jonathan: C’mon… Oh! Thank you for the record…

New Guy: I knew you were lying.

Jonathan: It’s not a tape recorder. I said I have no tape recorder.

New Guy: Well I knew… I knew exactly what you were doing.

Jonathan: Sure.

New Guy: Have a good night.

Jonathan: You too!