A Look Back Before We Look Forward

When I first started Beroean Pickets, it was intended as a means to contact other Jehovah’s Witnesses who wanted to engage in deeper Bible research. I had no other goal than that.
The congregation meetings do no provide a forum for real Bible discussion. The now-defunct Book Study arrangement came close on rare occasions when a group consisted of a number of intelligent, open-minded brothers and sisters with a true thirst for knowledge. I had the joy of conducting such a group for one blessed span of time. I always look back on it with great fondness.
However, in the current climate, frank and open Bible discussions even among long-time friends has become a dangerous proposition. Generally speaking, brothers and sisters are strongly disinclined to discuss the Bible outside of the strict confines of JW doctrine. Even within those confines, discussion is usually of a superficial nature. Therefore, I realized that if I wanted to find genuine spiritual nourishment with other Jehovah’s Witnesses, I had to go underground.
Beroean Pickets was intended to solve that problem for me and any others who chose to join in. It was intended to provide a place in cyberspace where brothers and sisters from around the world could safely gather to deepen our appreciation for God’s word by a mutual interchange of knowledge, insights and research. It has become that, but somewhere along the way it became so much more.
Initially, I had no intention of abandoning my faith as a Jehovah’s Witness. I started the site still believing that as a people, we were the one true faith on earth. I felt that we just had a few things wrong, mainly things relating to the interpretation of prophecy. However, our core doctrines—the make-it-or-break-it doctrines—were rock solid; or so I believed at the time.
My first post was in April of 2011. Two people commented. At that time I still believed 1914 was the start of Christ’s invisible presence. Following one-on-one discussions with Apollos, I came to see that the doctrine was unscriptural. So, nine months after my initial post, I posted again, this time on the topic of 1914. That was three and a half years ago.
It would be about a year and a half later that I had my own little epiphany which allowed me to resolve a growing cognitive dissonance that was becoming increasingly intolerable. Up to that point, I’d been fighting with two mutually exclusive ideas: On the one hand, I believed Jehovah’s Witnesses were the one true religion, while on the other hand, I came to see that our core doctrines were false. (I know many of you have experienced this revelation for yourselves, many long before I did.) For me, it was no longer a matter of good men with good intentions just making interpretive mistakes due to human imperfection. The deal breaker was the core JW doctrine that relegates the other sheep of John 10:16 to a secondary class of Christian who are denied adoption by God as his sons. (True, no one can deny God anything, but we sure are trying to.) To me this still is the most reprehensible of our false teachings, surpassing in its scope the false doctrine of Hellfire. (For a full discussion see “Orphans” as well as the Category Topic “Other Sheep”.)

Why So Easily Deceived?

No one likes to be played for a fool. We all hate it when we’ve fallen for a con, or learned that someone we trusted completely has been deceiving us. We may feel foolish and stupid. We may even begin to doubt ourselves. The fact is that things were different then.   For instance, I was taught that 1914 was the start of Christ’s presence by people I trusted above all others, my parents. To learn more about it, I consulted the publications which gave a plausible line of reasoning. I had no reason to doubt that 607 B.C.E. was the start date for the calculation that led to 1914, and the fact that the World War I began in that year seemed to be the cherry on the sundae. There seemed no need to go further, especially when doing the needed research would involve days of effort in a well-stocked public library. I wouldn’t have even known where to begin. It’s not like public libraries have a section labelled, “All you ever wanted to know about 1914 but were afraid to ask.”
With the advent of the internet, all that changed. Now I can sit down in the privacy of my own home and type in a question like “Is 1914 the start of Christ’s presence?” and in 0.37 seconds get 470,000 results. I don’t have to go much beyond the first page of links to get the facts I need. While there is a good deal of dross and drivel out there, there is also sound reasoning from the Bible that anyone can use to examine God’s own word and arrive at an independent understanding.

Controlling the Medium, then the Message

Jesus came to set us free by revealing the truth and then granting us the gift of the holy spirit. (John 8:31, 32; 14:15-21; 4:23, 24) Jesus’ teachings are not human-government friendly. In fact, the Bible is the single biggest threat there is to the rule of man over man. That may seem odd to say since the Bible instructs us to obey the governments of man, but that obedience is relative not absolute. Human rulers, whether of the political or ecclesiastical variety, don’t want to hear about relative obedience. (Romans 13:1-4; Acts 5:29) The Governing Body of Jehovah’s Witnesses now requires exclusive devotion and unquestioning obedience. For years now it has condemned independent thinking.
In the beginning, when humans began to seize authority in the Christian congregation, they had to deal with the written word which challenged their actions. As their power grew, they controlled access to that Medium until eventually the common man had little to no access at all to God’s word. Thus began the centuries-long period known as the Dark Ages. Bibles were hard to get and even if they were attainable, they were in languages known only to Church authorities and the intelligentsia. However, technology changed all that. The printing press gave the Bible to the common man. The church lost control over the Medium. Courageous men of faith like Wycliffe and Tyndale saw this opportunity and risked their lives to provide Bibles in the language of the common man. Bible knowledge exploded and the power of the church was slowly undermined. Soon there were many different Christian sects, all with ready access to the Bible.
However, the drive for men to dominate others and the willingness of the many to submit to human rule soon created hundreds of new ecclesiastical authority structures—more men dominating men in the name of God. These could no longer control the Medium, so they sought to control the Message. To again steal away Christian freedom, unscrupulous individuals used artfully contrived false stories, false prophetic interpretations, and counterfeit words, and found many ready followers. (1 Peter 1:16; 2:1-3)
However, technology has again changed the playing field. Now it is incredibly easy for every Tom, Dick, Harry, or Jane, to check out and verify any statement made by men who claim to represent God. In short, Church authorities have lost control of the Message. Additionally, their misdeeds can no longer be kept hidden with ease. Church scandals are decimating organized religions. Millions have lost faith. In Europe, they consider they live in a post-Christian era.
In the Organization of Jehovah’s Witnesses, the Governing Body is responding to this new assault on its power and control in the worst possible way: By doubling down on its authority. The men of the Governing Body now lay claim to the Biblical role of Christ’s appointed Faithful and Discreet Slave. The appointment of this tiny group of men took place, according to their most recent interpretation, sometime during 1919. Without any real Bible proof, they have presumptuously proclaimed themselves to be God’s appointed channel of communication for humankind. Their authority over Jehovah’s Witnesses is now, in their mind, unassailable. They teach that rejecting their authority is tantamount to rejecting Jehovah God himself.
A man can hold sand in his hand by cupping his palm, or by closing and tightly squeezing his fist. Any child who has played on a beach knows that the latter doesn’t work. Yet the Governing Body has clenched its fist in the hope of consolidating its rule. Even now the sand is slipping through its fingers as more and more are waking up to the reality of the Governing Body’s teachings and conduct.
Our humble site is one means for providing help and understanding to such ones. However, it does not fully fulfill the commission our Lord gave us.

Obeying Our Lord

Last winter the six brothers who are now involved in the Beroean Pickets and Discuss the Truth forums came to the realization that we need to do more if we are to obey Jesus in publicizing the Good News of the kingdom, of salvation, and of the Christ. However, realizing that the holy spirit does not flow through us to you, but rather is distributed directly to all Christians who put faith in Jesus and who love truth, we asked for your input and support. The January 30, 2015 post, “Help Us Spread the Good News”, explained our plan and asked for your feedback on a variety of related subjects. There was a survey at the end which a number of you completed. From that we saw that there was indeed support for the continuation of Beroean Pickets, even into other languages; but more than that, there was support for a new site dedicated to spreading the message of the Good News free of any connection to any religious denomination.

Laying the Groundwork

At present, just maintaining Beroean Pickets and Discuss the Truth takes all our free time and cuts into the time we need to earn a living. My first personal goal is to launch a parallel BP site in Spanish (and possibly Portuguese), but I lack the time and resources. Collectively, our group want to launch the Good News site in English, and then in other languages, but again, time and resources are currently limited. If this is to grow and truly become a means of publishing the Good News unadulterated by the ideas and rule of men, it will need the support of the whole community. Many have expressed a desire to help out, both with their skills as well as their financial resources. However, before that could happen, we had to set up the right infrastructure, which is what we’ve been doing the past five months as time and finances have allowed.
We have set up a non-profit corporation. Its purpose is to give us legal status and protection under the law as well as a means for funding the preaching effort envisioned. With that finally in place, we have secured a reliable dedicated server for all our self-hosted WordPress blog sites. Currently, Beroean Pickets is hosted by WordPress, but there are many limitations as to what we can do under that arrangement. A self-hosted site gives us the freedom we need.
Of course, all of this time and investment may be for naught. If this is not the will of the Lord, then it will come to nothing and we are okay with that. Whatever he wills. However, the only way to know which way to go is to follow the principle found at Malachi.

“Bring all the tenth parts into the storehouse, that there may come to be food in my house; and test me out, please, in this respect,” Jehovah of armies has said, “whether I shall not open to YOU people the floodgates of the heavens and actually empty out upon YOU a blessing until there is no more want.”” (Mal 3:10)

Where Do We Go From Here?

Where indeed? This is a question often asked of us. To this point, we have given no firm answer because frankly we didn’t have one. However, I think we are ready to address that issue. There is much to speak of, but I will hold off until our new Beroean Pickets site is launched. I am working on that over the next few days. I do not know how long it will take to transfer the domain name over, and accomplish the data transfer, but at some point soon—not yet—I will be closing down the commenting feature of the site so as not to lose any data during the actual transfer. Once the new site is up, you can reach it using the same URL you currently use: www.meletivivlon.com.
I would like to thank everyone for their patience during this transition, which I’m sure will be beneficial to all.

Meleti Vivlon

Articles by Meleti Vivlon.
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