Ex-JW Rebuttal to a Jehovah’s Witness

Ex-JW Rebuttal to a Jehovah’s Witness

I’ve been having an extended discussion/argument with a Canadian Jehovah’s Witness in the comments of an old post. Feel free to read the whole thing if you can bear it. Yes. It’s long. I know. There were some resources in my latest reply that I thought might help others – so here’s a piece:

Most of what I posted from JW publications (not my own opinion, but actual arguments made by JWs themselves) show pretty clearly that JWs believe that you have to be a JW to live through Armageddon. Isn’t that a direct refutation of your claim? It is illuminating that criticism has forced the organization to change its rhetorical tactics – where is the standard line: "Only Jehovah’s Witnesses….." do such and such – refuse to salute idolatrous flags, refuse to partake of blood (again, why not kosher meat, which is where the Jews do honor the blood prohibition?), refuse to vote, etc etc?

OK, on blood. I don’t disagree with any of the arguments about medical risks. Yes, there are new things to test for every year. Blood transfusion is riskier than most people realize, and it’s good to have this information out there. Incidentally, did you know that JWs used to be prohibited from vaccinations as well? In an actual life and death situation, however, a doctor or team of doctors has to weigh the risks. I would be dead myself without a blood transfusion given after massive internal bleeding from a ruptured ectopic pregnancy, so I’m not unbiased on the issue. As for it not being a current issue, that’s simply not true on either side. The Society’s own positions are constantly changing and often contradictory, and they reassessed their teachings again just last month. There is almost always a lawsuit in the works somewhere. Here’s the most recent one from your own country. I’m sure you’re aware of it. And please check out the Watchtower Victim’s Memorial, including the Library of Watchtower Blood Quotes and archival images that illustrate their views of the medical profession. On the other side, there are important advancements in no-blood alternatives – certainly worth consideration and I am happy to see it.

You have not given any real argument here as to why a corporation formed in the last century could have any connections whatsoever to the Pentacostal outpouring of holy spirit. As you say, the last surviving member of Jesus’ original followers has been dead for a long time. The JW interpretation of the governing body’s authority is the single most destructive aspect of their teachings. I refer interested parties to Captives of a Concept by Don Cameron, Jehovah Lives in Brooklyn, by Richard Francis and Apocalypse Delayed: The Story of Jehovah’s Witnesses by James M. Penton.

Captives of a Concept (Anatomy of an Illusion) Jehovah Lives in Brooklyn Apocalypse Delayed: The Story of Jehovah's Witnesses

Suppose the JWs are right, and that there is a literal remnant of a literal 144,000 that still lives on earth – what relation do those people have to the multiple corporations of the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society? Who directs the "new light" then, the remnant or the guys in Brooklyn? JWs never question the connections and disconnections of the structure here – they only know they must obey. What is funny to me is that former JWs are described as the "evil slave class" in opposition to the "faithful and discreet slave" putting them at the same level of importance. A few whistleblowers are so threatening as to be put at the same level…

Why would I think that the organization’s protection of known pedophiles and abusers would be the reason you are doing this? That’s really a desperate kind of charge. In any case, it’s all well-documented and the Society has spent a lot of JW money on lawyers. Consult http://www.silentlambs.org/ for news on lawsuits and the history of JW policies on this matter. The Society has protected sex offenders, hidden their records from "worldly authorities" as well as from members of congregations, failed to report accusations to the police and even punished children and families making accusations. The Watch Tower Society defends keeping the database of self-confessed and accused offenders secret as part of its strategy of dealing with abuse without referring to the judicial system – ie, the "theocratic war strategy" (do a search on that phrase – it’s basically a justification for lying). You can keep up with JWs in the news – on this and a range of other topics such as those I mentioned – at Watchtower News and the Watchtower Information Service (note: Here’s another source I just found at the About Guide).  With the internet, people can research and discover for themselves the actual dealings of the corporation you worship. A simple search is sufficient to disprove your statements.

You use your words about the Bible to distract from difficult issues into vague feel-good information that most Christians might agree with. I remember the strategy from the so-called Theocratic Ministry School. While I was never baptised, I sure did go to about 5 hours of weekly indocrination at the Kingdom Hall. I did go out in "service." I recognize the language and the strategies you employ because I’ve actually made a study of discourse analysis and applied it to my own experience. I teach my students how it’s done – it helps them read the news.

Normally, I resist being sucked into doctrinal argument. I think these are things that people are empowered by God to decide for themselves. However, I do have my own opinions. I am a contextual ethicist and a scholar of religion to some degree – although my most advanced training (and interests) moved into other topics as well. I’ve taught religion at the college level, including Judeo-Christian Traditions. It was quite a revelation to me to read the "meaty" work of real scholars and to compare that to the "skim-milk" of JW pseudo-scholarship. I recommend that those who are interested in any of these topics to read widely and to consider various arguments.

The JWs are largely unaware that there are multiple interpretations for many of these texts. Some of the considerations of interpretion include the actual meanings of biblical worlds and phrases in the original languages, the cultural and historical context, the genre and purpose of each kind of text, literary methods and theories, anthropological, psychological, linguistic, archaeological questions, the way the texts were actually selected for biblical inclusion, and a host of other perspectives and questions. Good interpretation comes from asking better questions from a better-informed perspective, not from rote repetition. JWs do not allow question-based analysis of any kind among their members, although they have to tolerate it from newbies and people at the door. What they generally will do is exactly what you’re doing – deflect, distract, and get back on script. JWs are not trained in the interpretation of texts – they have no methods for doing so because it is not allowed. The rank and file JW is simply force-fed the interpretation of the mysterious few at the top (while criticizing the Pope and priests for doing the same thing).

Just one example. You earlier interpreted Jesus as refusing to be drawn into an argument over the paying of taxes. I would argue just the reverse because I think his response was one of the most brilliant rhetorical accomplishments I have ever seen. What he actually said addressed a very complex religious and political situation of conflicts between multiple audiences – yet his words had a message for each one of them. The Herodians and Pharisees wanted to trap Jesus with a no-win answer: Neither group really wanted Jesus to agree with them. The Herodians were hoping that Jesus would say you should not pay taxes – that would put him big trouble with the Roman authorities. He would be guilty of sedition, a capital offense. If he so agreed with the Pharisees, the Herodians could charge him with revolution against the Romans. But the Pharisees were hoping Jesus would take the Herodians’ position and support the payment of taxes. Then Jesus would have lost the support of the people who hated Roman occupation of Israel – and if he agreed with the Herodians, the Pharisees could charge him with idolatry.

But Jesus countered with "why tempt me you hypocrites?" He called attention to the likeness of Caesar on a coin – and made a simple distinction: to render unto Caesar what is Caesar’s and to God what is God’s (translations vary: compare the different gospel versions as well). In one cryptic sentence, he addressed several audiences. The Romans "heard" that these new followers would continue to pay their taxes, and that this rabblerouser wasn’t in fact interested in taking political power or challenging them on this topic. The Pharisees couldn’t fault him for prioritizing God’s law or separating the realms of heaven and earth and the Herodians couldn’t align him with the revolutionary movement. Those who wanted to trap Jesus were foiled and dared not question him that way again.


4 thoughts on “Ex-JW Rebuttal to a Jehovah’s Witness

  1. Jesus broke the law of resting on the Sabbath – because healing was more important. The prohibition on eating pork had an exception for a pregnant women who had no other food. Why? Because there is a set of priorities at the top of which is love, compassion, care – not just for one’s own ingroup, but for all humankind, and in some traditions, for all sentient beings.


    Incidentally, this is mainstream halakhic (Jewish-legal) policy. The mitzvah of saving a life trumps any other mitzvah (commandment) in the lexicon, up to and including the commandments regarding Shabbat observance. 🙂

    Granted, the halakha on this matter evolved in the early Common Era, e.g. after Jesus’ lifetime. So it was probably pretty radical when he did it. But though I don’t think mainstream Judaism regards him as the precedent-setter, Judaism’s approach on this matter matches his…

  2. My own feeling was that he was bringing out – for new emphasis – aspects that had already been there in the Hebrew texts and traditions, but had been overshadowed by other concerns at the time (esp. under Roman occupation). I’ve always wondered if he might have been a bit of a magician healer…

    I have always thought that every religion has this danger zone, of becoming so attached to the rules (either as as part of self-identity or to make a group more distinct from a competing/opposed group) that the context for the laws is lost, and higher insights and priorities of justice and compassion forgotten. It’s easy to understand how it happens – there are lots of non-religious examples too. There is a golden mean there somewhere, and it seems that every generation of every religion has to struggle through the process of finding it again (with varying results).


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