I'm answering a private email in a public forum. I've deleted personal references but retained most of the body of the email. The questions have been asked privately by several. Consider this my answer to all:
I've ordered your book and am looking forward to receiving it ... I guess your next book is about Russell's early days?
Thanks. I hope you enjoy it; more, I hope you find it informative. And yes, the next book is about Zion’s Watch Tower’s early days, Russell’s youth included, and will take us up to about 1887.
I've read your comments at your blog, complaining among other things of the difficulties you have to access some source material. It is frustrating to read about "a mass of material sitting in file cabinets in an archive “in the east” that few people will ever see." I'm very intrigued; could you tell me what exactly you wanted to know? What do they fear to disclose?
There is no explanation for paranoid behavior. With the exception of the Vatican, every major and many minor religious movements maintain archives to which they give public access. Only the totally paranoid or someone uncertain of their faith would fear disclosure. I cannot answer for any organization that approaches their religion this way.
What do I want to know? The facts. All of them. I expect a scholarly approach to history. I want to see sources and standard footnotes.
I'm with you, I just want to know the true historical facts whatever they are. Although on the other hand I think I understand the position of those people "in the east". There are lots and lots of enemies throwing bites like piranhas even with very very little evidence to support them, or none at all. If the brothers have any information that could be easily interpreted or manipulated in a negative way or that could be difficult to explain, that will be used against us.
You’ve made a presumption as to whom I meant that may not be correct.
And the problem is not that a couple of opposers repeat that information in their websites or visit forums to have debates, the problem is that any negative bit that can be said against us will be used to try and ban us in certain countries of the world, or to give us bad publicity which makes unbeliever husbands or fathers feel justified to put pressure on our sisters or brothers, or to win children custody cases, for example.
No sensible person should fear debate. Debate is healthy and often leads to new discoveries. If one believes their religion God directed and God protected, there should be nothing to hide. Humans do stupid things. Even faithful people do stupid things. Moses did. Jonah did. The Apostles did. Some of their stupidity made it into the divine record. It provides object lessons and guidance to us. It does not undermine the authority of God or the fact of his intervention in human affairs.
My faith would remain exactly the same if I discover that Russell mocked a blind old man when he was 20, if you know what I mean, but it could entail a lot of problems for other brothers. So I'm not sure which is the most prudent position here.
If we’re dealing specifically with Watchtower Society practice, I suggest we’re mature enough to give scholars the same kind of access that Advent Christians do or that Seventh Day Adventists do. Either we have an honorable past or we do not. Hiding aspects of it only makes us look paranoid and afraid.
However, I'd love to know all that historical information, so I dare to ask you to let me know more about it. Thanks