Saturday, May 30, 2009

JW Study Meeting #19

Today it was just myself and Uriah. After a little bit of smalltalk and petting my cat Moses, we chatted a bit about some JW publications I'd like. He's gonna bring me the copy of the one anti-spiritism publication that he'd promised a while back (I think maybe it's Spirits of the Dead--Can They Help You or Harm You? Do They Really Exist?), and another one he mentioned today (I think it's Will There Ever Be a World Without War?). When we finally got to business, we worked through the first eleven paragraphs of Chapter 7 in What Does the Bible Really Teach?, which deals with having hope after a loved one has died. Nothing was especially controversial here--he thoroughly enjoyed most of my answers--except for one paragraph (#11, I think) which attempted to use the case of Lazarus to teach that consciousness ceases absolutely at death. Since we already hashed through some of the afterlife questions in a previous session and will no doubt return to them after we get further along, I pointed past that disagreement to the point that the Bible focuses very little on the 'afterlife' and much more on resurrection.

I then managed to go on a rant about the Word of Faith movement for quite a while. I think it started when I was talking about visions of heaven and hell in intertestamental Jewish literature, and somehow shifted into the 'visions' of Word of Faith teachers... and from there I ran through some of the more eccentric teachings of the movement, including many that Uriah had never heard. So we spent some good time exploring the insanity of a third party. He agrees that they're pretty far removed from reality.

We plan to finish out the chapter next Saturday, and hopefully then discuss anything disagreeable. If I'm not mistaken, I think the chapter ends with some references to Jesus' resurrection as a spirit being, so I should probably spend some time this week reviewing the central passages in that little controversy, maybe re-read some sections from N. T. Wright's excellent The Resurrection of the Son of God too.

Also, Uriah found out that there are two scheduled publication releases for the upcoming convention, and that they're supposed to be different from previous releases somehow. At least, that's what he's heard. I'm looking forward to it. This year may see a release of a JW study companion to Acts of the Apostles. That'd be pretty interesting if so, and I wouldn't mind getting a copy and finishing it faster than Uriah can.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

JW Study Meeting #18

Today's encounter was relatively uneventful. My girlfriend's staying at my place this week, and Uriah and Shem came over at the designated time (1:00 PM). We spent a bit of time just catching up, chatting about the economy, etc. I mentioned that I'd finished both volumes of Isaiah's Prophecy: Light for All Mankind, and Uriah said that he enjoyed Pay Attention to Daniel's Prophecy! more. I said that sometime this summer I plan to read Revelation--Its Grand Climax at Hand!, because I'm going to be reading a lot of 'end times' stuff. We couldn't remember where on earth we'd left off in the study book, so we resolved to start at the beginning of Chapter 7. Of course, we never actually got around to it today; we'll be getting down to that next time. (It's perhaps for the best; I'm still feeling rather woozy, tired, and drugged up from getting my wisdom teeth yanked, so I probably wasn't up for it today anyway.)

Today we mostly discussed how their conventions work. The annual convention is coming up at the end of July, and I'm hoping to attend. Now that should be interesting! (Shem said I should be sure to bring a notepad; Uriah said the first time he went to convention, he filled an entire 180-page notebook with notes.) Anyway, the conventions are typically three-day affairs and are relatively localized. About 20 congregations go to each convention, with the same convention centers being used almost continuously throughout the summer for that purpose. So there are usually around 5,000 people at a convention. Uriah mentioned that back in the day, even before he became a JW, the conventions were more outdoors, five times as large, and three times as long. People passing out from heat stroke eventually persuaded them to change things a bit. Uriah isn't sure why the conventions used to be so long; he did say that the first day used to be devoted to having all the JWs go door-to-door preaching, which I imagine could overwhelm a city quite easily. Shem also remembered that there used to be bigger breaks for lunch. In ye days of olde, the convention was 9 AM to 9 PM each day, but these days it's typically out at 4 PM. The convention typically consists of maybe 90% talks, including some by members of the anointed class. There's basically always a book release, too (and although they generally bring twice as many books as there are attendees, they still manage to run out early each time). There are also baptisms (maybe about 100 or so per convention), and the third day typically involves a drama of some sort. The actors and other people involved in setting up the convention generally then attend another convention so that they get to see what they missed. Uriah also mentioned how there are usually a few protesters outside, and also people trying to sell JW literature back to the JWs, which never actually works because it makes no sense. The first time they held the convention in the current place (Sovereign Center in Reading, PA), the police were there to keep things under control--typical crowd control stuff--but eventually realized that JWs wouldn't be a problem, so now they just show up at 3:30 to direct traffic. The JWs typically receive nice letters from the town mayor and the local parking authority after the convention; the conventions also generally do the town's economy good.

We also discussed my reflections on the Memorial Service, which I enjoyed. Uriah's Quote of the Day: "We didn't sacrifice any babies because we ran out." He also mentioned a time during a meeting when one of his friends had been giving a talk about Abraham and Isaac, and about how difficult it would be to be put in Abraham's position with respect to the sacrifice; the friend muttered under his breath, "unless the kid's a teenager".

So that's more or less how things went today. It was good catching up and learning more about the conventions, but I look forward to getting back into the book next time.