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I've listened to an interview with a German atheist philosopher (M. Schmidt-Salomon). He was raised as catholic. As a teenager he wondered, if you really believe that God's son came from heaven to save you, shouldn't the church be full of people glowing with faith and showing in their life how they love God? Since he couldn't find such persons in the church, he figured that there must be something wrong with this church business. That started the doubts that ended him as an atheist philosopher. To compare things: When I was a teenager (being almost the same age as he) I had an old brother in our congregation who went through several concentration camps and through the hands of the Polish communist secret service ("worse than the Nazis"). His faith showed from his face. And from his prayers (As a teenager I dreaded his ten(?) minutes prayers at the end of the meeting, but no one ever told him to cut them short). So I didn't have the occasion to develop doubts such as the said philosopher and here I am still believing and finding people in congregations that show their deep faith (beside some who would also perfectly fit into the church next door, but they keep in the background). Your post made me remember how lucky I was to be raised in a congregation. Otherwise I would probably be an atheist like most of my age around here.
I really don't know, why I'm always logged in as "D" What is funny (in a not-funny way): the redress scheme is voluntary. The respective law says that only institutions that (voluntarily) sign up will take part. There are no sanctions in the law. Now the government says it will think about sanctions after the fact for those that didn't sign up. That's not how the "rule of law" was explained to me at school. Either it's voluntary then there shouldn't be sanctions (especially after the fact sanctions) or the law should say, who has to take part in the scheme. This reminds me of how voting was "voluntary" in the 3rd Reich and later in communist East Germany. If you didn't "voluntarily" vote, the police (or the secret service) would get you. That is not how "voluntary" works. This makes me question the motives of the Australian government in this case. And another strange point: When the Watchtower gave the data about their case file to the commission, about 20% of the alleged perpetrators were not JW at the time of the incident, about 47% were cases of domestic abuse and about 28% were cases where a member without any privileges abused a child. After being informed the commission chose to label all these cases as institutional abuse, that JW are responsible for. I don't think that any other institution was treated in a similar way. Only about 5% of the allegations related to elders or ministerial servants that abused children in cases that might(!) be institutional abuse. The commission was also very keen to point out that the Watchtower didn't inform the police. What they were not so keen to point out: -up until recently there was no legal requirement to inform the police, so JW weren't doing anything sinister or wrong. -The same commission found that police and welfare services until recently mostly didn't do anything about informations about abuse. So informing them often didn't help. - The commission found that in about half of the cases that JW knew about, the police was in fact informed. Which is a lot in comparison to other institutions. The only problem: no one bothered to write down who did it, because there was no reason to absent a legal requirement. The commission could have asked why there were so many cases where the police was informed and how this was accomplished, but that was a question they didn't bother to ask. They could have learned something....
It looks like you are writing about a book that I recently skimmed through. One chapter in that book really made me mad. It was about how the members of the congregation used to own their kingdom halls and now the organization took that away from them. The reason why this makes me mad? Twenty years ago I spent one year and half helping building kingdom halls in another European country. There were five halls where I invested hundreds of hours (professional hours as engineer not just peeling potatoes or something (Nothing against potatoe peelers)) . In none of these halls did I ever sit even for one meeting. And now he wants to tell me that I offered my time and resources so that some people can own a building? Or is he saying that in Norway the congregation members are doing all the work for their hall themselves and no one else is helping? My time was certainly not spent for this kind of stuff. And he goes on with having to pay 13.000$ for a meeting in an assembly hall and how much more this is than the amount spent on electricity and water used (He left out the cost for the toilet paper;). What he doesn't get: there is so much more cost hidden in running such a building than electricity and water (and toilet paper) that he seemingly doesn't know the first thing about. Wear and tear requires quite a lot of work each week or else the hall would look very shabby after a year or two. Updating the hardware requires money too. P.e. when we got the new video equipment several years ago, no one was asked to pay a single penny. But it required a new electricity line that had to be paid for. And I'm sure you don't get a video system in this quality for some hundreds dollars, it would cost ten thousands if not more than 100,000. And he really proposes that the brothers in Africa and elsewhere should meet in mud huts (hyperbole!) so that brothers in Norway can have "their own" kingdom hall and don't have to share cars to get to the meetings or have to fuse their congregation to another one. Often the reason for this fusing is that half a century ago they build a lot of kingdom halls and now there are less Witnesses than they used to be in that region and the upkeep of the halls takes more than it is worth. And there were places where rich congregations had their own hall each so that everyone could have their sunday meeting at 10:00. Many of the halls I helped building are in a region where people are now moving out of. There probably will be a point in the future when they will have to close down one or more of those halls. Will I ask for my money back then? Surely not. That is not the spirit of a world wide brotherhood that I love about Jehovah's witnesses. Texts like Acts 4:32-35, James 2:1-4, 14-17 and Revelation 3:17 come to mind. And after reading that I couldn't be bothered to read the rest, even if he had some sensible points to make about something or another. A scholar should really make sure that he knows what he talks about. If he writes a book just about airing his frustrations that even rich Norwegians (and Norway is a rich land by everyone's standards outside Arabia) are touched by the world problems (even if only by not having their own halls anymore) then I'm not really touched. Get over it. I'm happy that brothers in different countries get decent halls. And if we have to sell one hall, that I helped building even the better. I can contribute to their needs in this way (even if indirectly) by not clinging to my work and wanting to have it for me and my glory (I don't have any, because no one sees the engineer drawing the plans;) but being happy to let it be used in a sensible way. You see that I get quite emotional about this. So I will stop now. [Tom answers: I do see it. If you’ve worked on 5 different Halls then you would come to have an emotional stake in them. As for changes of ownership—from local to Branch—sure, there’s plenty of room for people to get their feelings hurt if their particularly vested in ‘their’ Hall—and if they built and paid for it (and take for granted the volunteer efforts from brothers like you), then I can certainly see why they would view it as theirs. The trick is to think of it as one large worldwide congregation rather than a collection of thousands, and of KHs as pretty much shells to be placed over publishers wherever they happen to move. As you say, they don’t always increase in numbers. Sometimes they decrease, and I think it would be foolish to think that the non-stop efforts of those who oppose has not had an effect. If you’ve contributed engineering skills for five of them, then you are my man. Every time I sit down and the ceiling does not crash on me, I think of you—or at least your American counterpart. Each of us if “bringing their gift to the altar.” The time for thinking that each congregation should be its own altar has long since passed. I haven’t read Rolf’s book yet, and I tend to not quickly get around to things like that—my experience is as good as his—notwithstanding that I have a ‘Rolf’ category on my blog that I will be adding to. Indeed, I may never get around to it. On the other hand, I may.
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Jun 5, 2020