Thursday’s News & Reviews: Armageddon Preppers

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From infancy I was taught faithfulness above all else. As a dedicated member of the Watchtower Society, I was trained to accept counsel and direction without question. To question implied a weak faith and vulnerability to the Satanic trait of rebellion.

I remember the first time I chose to disagree with something published by Jehovah’s Witnesses (JW’s). It was 1999. A was laying in bed in a cute little house I rented on the west end of Bend, Oregon. The spring breezes were wafting in the window and stirring the drapes around me. I was reading an article in the latest Watchtower magazine, which discouraged permanent forms of birth control (i.e. vasectomies, tubal ligation, etc.). As a person who never wanted children I found this a veritable death sentence. I didn’t just not want kids. I hated the little buggers! To feel like I was being forced into motherhood was more than I could swallow. The foundation of my faith cracked that day–a profound, irrevocable fissure that would lead to more and more weakening of my faith until the structure finally crumbled.

Fast forward 10 years to 2009. I was attending a meeting at my local Kingdom Hall when I heard a talk on “Go-Bags.” These were handy little receptacles a “faithful” JW would keep packed with essentials in the likelihood of “natural disaster.” They should be kept handy in the trunk of the car in case of instant and life-threatening need. Water, flashlights, batteries, change of clothes, food, compass–whatever one might need in a natural disaster. This talk fell right on the heels of Hurricane Katrina, so it may sound logical to some. It wasn’t logical in Central Oregon. The only natural disaster that threatened that part of the country was volcanic, and it’s not like the Cascade mountains are known for blowing up without warning. (This article in no way discourages disaster preparedness. If you live in an area known for natural disasters, power outages, or extreme weather please make the necessary preparations to protect yourself and your family.)

My bullshit detector went off. I knew the JW “brothers” were intentionally avoiding the mention of Armageddon or the Great Tribulation by couching their warnings in terms like “natural disaster.” For the first time in history, JW’s were being encouraged to prepare for “the end of this system of things” by putting bottles of water and granola bars in backpacks. The brother on the stage even insinuated this was a matter of faith, and the faithful would obey without question.

My bullshit detector was screaming. I’m surprised no one else heard it. One brother did hear about it after the meeting.  I approached him and asked him why he thought we were in danger of hurricane in landlocked central Oregon. He told me any number of other disasters could happen: earthquake, flooding (in the desert?!), spontaneous volcanic explosion, etc.

Up until this point, we had always been trained to believe that Jehovah would protect his followers when Armageddon struck. I told this “brother” that I thought go-bags were showing a lack of faith in God and his ability to take care of his people. I was given a patronizing look that indicated I was a sister and needed to stop asking questions.

So I did the next logical thing: I went to my dad. He had always been my rock. He knew the bible backwards and forwards and had read every piece of literature published by the Watchtower society since the 1940s.

He agreed with me. It was a lack of faith and he felt it was a localized attempt on the part of some area brothers to force others to succumb to doomsday prepping ideals. The fact that dad was an ex-Mormon might have also contributed to his aversion to such an approach.

Dad died a year later, but I wonder if his faith would have survived the latest attempt by the JW’s to force people into fearful scenarios.

Recently, I saw a picture that was posted in the latest copy of the Watchtower. It can be seen above. It shows people hiding in a basement, and an unmistakable look of fear on a child’s face to indicate the gravity of the situation. Undoubtedly, they are hiding from the rampant anarchy taking place over their heads. I imagine sounds of helicopters, bombing air raids, the shrieks of the dying, and the pop of gunfire. I can imagine those sounds because they haunted my dreams as a child raised with images of Armageddon and torture.

I have recently been informed that JW’s are now required to select a safe place to flee to in time of “Natural disaster.” Once a family, or group, have selected their “place of refuge,” they are to report this to the local elders who make a written record and share it with the Circuit Overseer, who then passes it on to the headquarters. This isn’t just a whimsical fantasy to make easily impressionable people excited over the prospects of global annihilation. All JW’s are required to submit a written document of their chosen place of hiding. (Is anybody else seeing images of Jonestown right about now?)

I spent 38 years deeply entrenched in that religion. They’re not about to drink any Kool-Aid, in spite of what their actions may sometimes indicate. I see this as nothing more than another ploy to keep people unstable and afraid. A lot has happened in the last 100 years of that organization, except for the one thing millions of people have lived, and died, for: Armageddon. After more than 10 decades of promising that “Armageddon is just around the corner,” if the JW leaders didn’t find a new tactic for threat and rescue they would start losing credibility.

I have to say, it’s a pretty good scheme. Twenty years ago, I would have been eating this stuff up. It would be so exciting to imagine my flight to some wilderness as the world fell apart and billions died at the hand of God. But I know that religion, and I know those people. I would be willing to bet you money that many of them have already initiated their flight. Just as in 1975 when many of them quit school and sold their assets in hopes of the imminent arrival of Armageddon, I am sure many are repeating those same horrible mistakes. The Ebola outbreak; the riots; the extreme weather–some serious bridges are being burned right about now, all in the name of faith.

Keep your eyes open. You might see some houses go on the market in hopes of a quick sale. If you are in the janitorial field, you might be able to pick up some new accounts as JW’s flee the western world to live in caves and bomb shelters. The most positive aspect of all this? If they are in hiding, at least they’re not knocking on our doors.

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Thursday’s News & Reviews: Suicide In All Its Forms

Topmost in people’s minds this week has been the news of actor/comedian Robin William’s suicide. The outpouring of sadness and compassion from the huge array of his fans has made us all wonder a bit about the painful depths hidden beneath his kind, and comical, grin. My first exposure to Robin was Mork & Mindy (1978-82), a show I adored as a child. His comedic genius was unmatched and the world has lost a light bearer who taught us empathy in the face of tragedy and gave us laughter as a healing salve. The greatest tragedy, perhaps, was his inability to find that healing when he most needed it. I wonder at the high price of comedy when I consider the greats that have been taken from us prematurely: Chris Farley, John Belushi, John Pinette, John Candy, Phil Hartman, Andy Kaufman, etc. etc. etc. Do successful comedians give so much they haven’t anything left for themselves?

On a related note, it never ceases to amaze me the depth of people’s cruelty when someone dies. I have experienced it, witnessed it, and am now stunned to find such vehement disregard for the feelings of friends and family who are suffering a terrible loss. Has our society become so devoid of human compassion that they take a man’s suffering and use it to beat his mourning family? Artists and actors commit suicide all the time with drugs and alcohol. What is it about this kind-hearted and selfless man that brings out the viciousness in people? Rampant jealousy?  Be warned, if I meet someone who says these things and doesn’t hide behind the safety of a computer screen like a fucking coward, I will kick you in the balls.

 

The recent, and still unchecked, outbreak of Ebola in Africa has westerners fearing contamination as doctors and travelers return home from infected countries. Ignorance and superstition are fueling its spread in Africa, but the centers for disease control within western lands seem to have the issue well in hand. This doesn’t prevent doomsdayers from proclaiming this pestilence another sign of the inevitability of Armageddon. As I mentioned in a previous blog, Jehovah’s Witnesses particularly are likely hoping 2014 will not pass without definite signs of The Great Tribulation, if not Armageddon itself. The ones that aren’t praying it will occur, are terrified it won’t occur and yet another year will pass with no sign of the prophesied “end of this system of things.”

 

In the last few weeks, the paranormal community has been following the latest kerfuffle involving Ryan Buell and the Paranormal Research Society (PRS). For those of you who don’t know, or don’t care, Ryan Buell has finally burned his last bridge and alienated many of his fans. I will say, however, that PRS fans are amongst the most loyal human beings on earth, as many of them continue to sing Ryan’s praises despite continued disappointments and thousands of dollars unaccounted for.

My first exposure to Ryan was with Paranormal State, a 30 minute A&E program, which portrayed Buell and his fellow Penn State students ridding homes of demons and bringing in priests for weekly exorcisms. I found the show entertaining in that it was saturated with Catholic dogma and demonology. The worst cases of demon possession always seemed to occur in trailer parks with hugely obese people who never left the house.

Ryan had apparently experienced difficulty with dark spirits since childhood. Which may, or may not, explain his constant issues with health. I attempted to take a class offered through PRS a couple of years ago. Elfie Music was the instructor. She always amused me when I watched Paranormal State. I got the impression that the producers of the show had given up trying to get her to look, or act,  presentable. She wore some of the worst ensembles I had ever seen, and I never knew what horrible thing she would do to her hair from one episode to the next. She was supposed to be the occult specialist of the group, but she always seemed a little lost.

I’m not sure why I took her class on the history of spiritualism, but I did. And, together with the book, it cost me $85. The book was mind-numbingly boring and the class was, basically, a waste of money. Elfie spent most of the time commenting on inane chatter in the chat box. She’d giggle, drink something, respond to some question by an empty-headed uber-fan, spend a few minutes discussing some slide in her Powerpoint, then go back to the chat box. The class had endless technical difficulties, and some of the participants had already been disappointed by other classes they had paid for that never transpired. I abandoned the class after the second attempt and wrote the whole PRS community off as badly run.

Sure I lost $85, but that is nothing compared to the hundreds of dollars some fans invested in a tour Ryan announced for this summer that never transpired. Fans all over Canada and the U.S. bought plane tickets, event tickets, and made hotel reservations for a tour that never even got off the ground. Ryan claims, not for the first time, that it is due to ill-health and bad management on the part of others. But like the boy who called wolf, many of his fans are shouting fraud and an investigation is underway. If the money isn’t repaid, a lawsuit will be the natural result.

I find this whole situation extremely short-sighted. This young man already had a career and a bevy of devoted fans. All he needed to do was travel around and spend time with people who thought he walked on water. Yeah, they may not be the most intelligent group of people, but who cares right? They’re willing to travel any distance to worship at the feet of their modern-day saint. Ryan has managed to commit professional suicide and will likely never regain the notoriety he enjoyed before he started screwing people over. I don’t get it. I would live that life in a heartbeat, and be way more deserving of the loyalty of my minions. As it is, I have no minions. Even my cats barely tolerate me.