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Watchtower Society/Jehovah’s Witnesses GUILTY – Must Pay Millions in Punitive Damages in Child Sex Abuse Case

Watchtower Society/Jehovah’s Witnesses GUILTY – Must Pay Millions in Punitive Damages in Child Sex Abuse Case

I am overjoyed to see some traction on this issue at last.

The jury found that the elders who managed the Fremont congregation in the 1990s and who were under the supervision of Watchtower knew that Kendrick, a member, had recently been convicted of the sexual abuse of another child, but they kept his past record secret from the congregation, said Simons. Kendrick went on to molest the plaintiff, who was a Jehovah’s Witness member in Fremont, over a two-year period beginning when she was 9 years old, the lawsuit contended. Kendrick was eventually convicted in 2004 of the sexual abuse of another girl, and is now a registered sex offender in California, Simons said. He has not been criminally charged with abusing the plaintiff, but Simons said the case is under investigation by law enforcement.

The Watchtower Bible and Tract Society of New York, the Jehovah’s Witnesses’ legal entity, is responsible for the entire punitive damages amount and 40 percent of the compensatory damages, said Rick Simons, attorney for the plaintiff. Sixty percent of the compensatory damages was assessed against Jonathan Kendrick, the man accused of abusing her.

Yes, the Watchtower Society (along with their other “arms,” aka the “Jehovah’s Witnesses,”) have a policy of secrecy, as has been proven through the elder’s manual, “judicial” correspondence, the database of abusers that a Bethelite discovered, and numerous court cases that show that they neither notify the congregation nor even attempt to protect children when they are aware of sexual predators and violent abusers in their midst.

The key issue in the case, according to the victim’s attorney Rick Simons of Hayward, was the written policy of Watchtower New York, Inc., which instructed all Elders in Jehovah’s Witnesses Congregations in the United States to keep reports of child sex abusers within Jehovah’s Witnesses secret to avoid lawsuits. The case is believed to be the first in the nation to directly address the policy of secrecy, adopted in 1989, and still in force today.

Yes, they have a policy of requiring two witnesses to any act of abuse (any attempt by a victim of any kind of abuse to get help from the elders, even with support from someone else, is considered “slanderous.”) They have to twist a rather obscure bible verse out of context to support this doctrine. And – of course – they encourage spying and reporting for all kinds of other things, some of them rather trivial.

Yes, they have a history of discouraging members from seeking help from any “worldly authorities” such as police or therapists. Such “worldly authorities” are believed to be ruled by Satan and therefore cannot be trusted. This effectively cuts off all possibility of help for those who wish to remain “in good standing.”

Yes, they have a policy of lying in court, which they call “theocratic strategy.” They comply with the law only just as far as they have to, but prefer to be the only authority in their member’s lives. They hide their totalitarianism with “servant” language, but some people might have a better historical idea of what a “circuit overseer” or “district overseer” might really be.

They need to change these policies, and others (such as the demonizing and shunning – even by their families – of those who eventually choose a different path in the freedom of conscience that they freely claim when trying to convert others).

In 2007, 17 victims shared a $13 million dollar settlement from church officials. It involved victims in three states California , Texas and Oregon and six Jehovah Witnesses perpetrators.

To those who have been making unfounded accusations about Candace Conti’s motives, please note that she requested 144,000 cents in punitive damages, and the jury instead granted 21 million (plus one!) dollars. I hope that his case – and the financial costs to Watchtower Society, including those of the many others who were silenced with settlements including gag orders – will force whatever section of the legal organization currently responsible for “new light” (changes in doctrine) to be less paranoid, misogynistic, and uncaring when they exercise their “guidance” as “God’s only channel.”


144000 cents requested, 21 million +1 awarded in punitive damages
Punitive Damages: 144,000 (!) cents Requested – 21 million plus 1 (!) dollars Awarded. Thanks to Steven Unthank at JWNews.net for the graphic.

“Until now, a jury has virtually never held the JW national headquarters responsible for repeated heinous child sex crimes and cover ups by church members or officials,” said William H. Bowen of Nashville, TN, who founded and heads a support group for those molested by Jehovah’s Witnesses. “This is a ground-breaking case and a watershed award against an especially callous group of church bureaucrats.”

The Watchtower legal troops haven’t given up yet:

“We’ve got a long ways to go yet before this one is resolved,” he said of the planned appeal. Simons said Jehovah’s Witnesses has sufficient resources, including valuable real estate, to cover the judgment but an appeal could drag out for years.

Whether Jehovah’s Witnesses are correct in their humble claim that they alone possess “the TRUTH” or not (and personally speaking, I don’t believe theirs is a very spiritually mature view of the divinity), they have a responsibility under the law to be less destructive.

“Nothing can bring back my childhood,” Conti told the Oakland Tribune. “But through this (verdict) and through, hopefully, a change in their policy, we can make something good come out of it.”

More! Added 6/17/2012:

Jehovah’s Witnesses Claiming to Follow the Christ

Jehovah’s Witnesses Claiming to Follow the Christ

According to an article in the Cherry Hill N.J. Courier-Post, Jehovah’s Witnesses aim to “debunk myths” about their faith by adopting the topic “Follow the Christ!” at the District Conventions. The article mentions only the one convention being held in Reading, Pa., but of course the program is an identical thing everywhere, and it’s not as though it’s an actual “conference” type of convention at which one might expect discussions, debates, new scholarship, pastoral support, and the like. It’s reinforcement and rah-rah. The JW assemblies were fun because it was a chance to meet other JWS, and it had a celebratory air for that reason. Now it seems they are using it as a preaching tool. They must have gleaned some tips from Falwell, et al. Too bad for the young ones seeking a mate – they’ll have to sort through all the non-JWs that attend.

Jehovah’s Witnesses in South Jersey are knocking on doors and inviting their neighbors to attend the convention, which will explain how following Bible principles that Christ promoted can help people improve their family life, draw closer to God and gain everlasting life, said Mark Weaver, a spokesman for the Reading conventions.

Here’s a funny bit: “There also will be a public talk debating the question: Who are the real followers of Christ?” Debating? Hee-hee. Not likely. Any guesses on who they will claim as the “real” followers?

Last year, the district convention was all about the “Deliverance at Hand” – meaning that the loving God is about to kill off most of the people on the planet. So this year, it’s a PR move. They want to fight the perception that “their denomination isn’t a Christian religion.”

Why fight a perception? That’s like saying that you should undermine an insight. They should at least say they are fighting an “inaccurate impression.”

I think that people have the perception that Jehovah’s Witnesses (I call them Watchtowerites) aren’t Christian because of different and larger issues than simply their non-celebration of Christmas and Easter, which is the only reason given in the article (Even mainstream Christians are somewhat aware of the history of the development of these two holidays). No, there is a much larger set of issues. Grace, forgiveness, compassion… for starters.

They miss Jesus’ whole point (and in this they are not alone, of course), and so this topic is very pertinent to their problem. Unfortunately, they won’t address it at all. It takes a very narrow focus to try to claim that JWs follow Christ, and many things must be unspoken in order for them to attempt to do so.

Since comments on the article were allowed, here is the one I posted:

In some ways, JWs follow Jesus. They preach, like the disciples. They accept persecution, as did the early Christians. They will die for their beliefs – even as the beliefs change. They believe that the Christ has a mediating function in prayer, although they do not think it through but merely invoke the name.

However, I don’t think that anyone who looks more closely would believe that they are Christians. They are more like Watchtowerites.

They believe that Jesus, as Archangel Michael, very shortly will act as God’s hand to destroy “this satanic system of things,” including most of the people. They do not have a communion, only a yearly memorial of the last supper, during which only those who feel that they are of the 144,000 (destined to rule as kings over the earth) may partake of the bread and wine. The “emblems” are actually passed over every person present. In the years that I was a JW, I never witnessed any of them eat or drink in remembrance of Jesus. The ceremony is a reminder that they are not part of the communion. But hey, most of them would rather live on paradise earth anyway (once all the pesky bones have been cleaned up).

It seems to me that they have become more rule-bound and less able to make Christian decisions in my lifetime – but I am surely biased on that since I receive letters and questions from people who have been hurt by their myriad and often senseless cruelties. In judging comments from other former JWs, remember that they have cause for anger.

In their most destructive aspects, JWs not only divide families and cause paranoia and isolationism, but also protect predators – not only through their infamous “two-witness” requirement, but also by discouraging their members to deal with worldly (satanic) powers such as the police. Although they have furthered civil rights legislation in the US, they do not offer such democratic structures within their system. There is no discussion or debate, only endless repetitions of the “guidance” of the governing body in Brooklyn.

What they produce is a free sales force, driven by self-righteousness and fear, not compassion. And it is exploitative, too, since members often end up paying for the publications themselves. For a population that has been discouraged from higher education, and whose primary investment might be a few of those (strategic blending-in camouflage) three-piece suits, this is a hardship. They are kept busy and isolated – if members have questions of faith, they are labeled rather than mentored.

The rank and file JW is a good “sheep” – submissive, obedient. At least you can say that they are doing what they believe God wants of them – sometimes at great sacrifice. But the leadership, for all they call themselves “slaves,” are all-powerful to members. Some would even say that they have put themselves in the God-position. And they hide it under anonymity; you will look in vain for writer’s credits in any of their publications.

Local elders, who hold power over each JW’s life, have no training in languages, biblical interpretation, or even basic pastoral counseling. But there is a huge investment in their legal team. Recently, the Watchtower Bible and Tract Corporations succeeded in settling multiple cases about child abuse and pedophilia out of court – with a gag order.

If this is a Christian group, then the Christian message of reconciliation between God and humanity has been warped beyond all recognition. They have no concept of grace whatsoever. They are neither forgiving nor kind. Their only concept of service to others is to offer them the “good news” of how people might be able to survive the approaching destruction from their loving God. That’s it. The only community they are concerned about is their own.

Like some other fringe groups that have risen in influence, they are of the sort that would be more than happy to throw the first stone. They have completely missed the message.

I still don’t salute the flag – I think it’s a very creepy nationalistic ritual, but in most other ways, I have found that there are higher spiritual standards than the ones they can offer.

The recovering JWs that do best are those who have curiosity, like to read, and can locate their sense of humor. And, if you leave in freedom, you do have another advantage. You have learned to recognize the methods of control, and you have one step ahead in resisting them from other directions.

For those who are being shunned by their families and the people they thought were their life-long friends – know that you are not alone! Hang in there – it gets better.

Brenda Lee DID it!

Brenda Lee DID it!

OH….my….GOD. Oh, sweet lord in heaven.. (string of expletives following, unsuitable for blog publication).

I can’t believe it. Brenda Lee has done what I’ve fantasized about doing since I was 12. I’ve spent a fair bit of time trying not to think about it, for fear that I might actually do it.

A mildly disrespectful, gum-snapping Brenda attended the Jehovah’s Witness Memorial Service (their annual memorial of the Last Supper, at which almost no-one partakes of the “emblems” of wine and bread) and she…PARTOOK!

SHE DID IT!

Excuse the capital letters, but my heart is still racing in empathy.

It’s so nice to know that I wasn’t the only one to think of doing it. Now that someone has done it, maybe it’s time to let go of that particular fantasy (don’t worry, I have others).

Of course, my fantasy continued after that point. I imagined that I would stand up and say that everyone there should partake of the bread and wine, that to refuse the communion made a mockery of the entire ceremony. It reinforced the idea that almost all Jehovah’s Witnesses were unworthy to share in the spirit – at the same time that they thought they would be the ones sheltered from their loving God’s wrath during the Last Days and through the Apocalypse. Yeah, I thought I’d get a chance to preach a little sermon of my own.

I’m in shock. If you haven’t had any involvement with Jehovah’s Witnesses, it will be difficult for you to fully comprehend the transgressive nature of what she did. The only ones that are supposed to partake are of the 144,00 thousand destined to rule in heaven “as kings” with the Christ (Jesus / the Archangel Michael) after Armageddon. Among other things, they don’t mention any “queens.” I’ve never seen anybody partake. Not anybody.

I had recently ordered another copy of Brenda Lee’s book to send to a friend, but when I saw that she had inscribed the book with a message (Truth, love + light… Brenda Lee), I couldn’t bring myself to part with it. I sent my older copy instead.

After finishing my previous post, I clicked on the Technorati tag at the bottom of the post to check on how things were going with Brenda Lee. I came across the video that way. There is a decent (if a little flippant) introduction, and then – with the help of two accomplices – she filmed the whole thing. And here it is:

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CcoTE1Skw8A[/youtube]

I was screaming out to John. As much as I’ve tried to convey the effects of having been raised a Jehovah’s Witness, I think he still has a little trouble understanding. I don’t often feel obvious effects of it these days, partly because the work I do trying to help others is extremely healing to me. His own upbringing involved a kind of lukewarm semi-involvement in one of the major protestant denominations, and he’s in the agnostic/atheist camp now. Lately, watching what right-wing fanatics have done in this country, and seeing the daily slaughters over questions of religion in the news, he is even less likely to engage in discussions about spirituality. He smiled mildly at me (yelling “look at this! look at this! She’s doing it! She’s doing it!”) and… well… I guess it’s just one of those things. You had to have had certain kinds of experiences to fully understand. You had to be there…

I somehow thought that if I ever did that, lightning would strike in some way. I would be dragged out by a passel of elders. People would go berserk. Something. Man, she took her time munching that wafer down – very noisy – and gulped down three good swallows of the wine.

And nothing happened. It didn’t even look like anybody said anything to her.

The public is invited to the Memorial, so she was – technically – invited to be there. She wasn’t intruding on a private ritual. A lot more people attend the Memorial than go to the five weekly meetings, or go door-to-door. It’s a chance (as you can hear in the video) for them to preach to newbies, or to family members that aren’t yet JWs, or to the ones that drift in and out.

Of course, they would consider her an apostate for writing a book about her experiences as a JW, and if they had known who she was, they wouldn’t have let her enter. When they print those memorial statistics, just know that one of the memorial partakers is actually an “apostate.” I wonder if they’ll really count her?

I think in a way it was worse for her than for me, because her mother converted when she was a kid. She had already celebrated Christmas and birthdays and all – and then it was taken away. I think that would have been worse than never having known any other way.

I am not baptized according to the doctrine of any religious group. I did participate once in a christian communion – but the circumstances were very unique. At the time, I did feel very moved by the ritual. To me, it’s almost a kind of suggestion, a mind placebo. Or perhaps it’s a kind of witchcraft. I wrote a whole chapter in my dissertation comparing communion and vampirism. When you grow up as a Jehovah’s Witness, you can’t help but think about the symbolism of blood and spirit.

I am still very spiritually driven – I think spiritual independence is one of the aspects of my freedom that I most value.

Still, I feel like whooping in laughter – yes, a kind of mildly wicked kind of whooping – imagining sitting there next to her, and – not being to overcome the expected behavior – whispering, “All right, all right, quit fidgeting! Do you have to chew the gum like that?!?!” and then realizing, and losing my composure, and laughing, laughing, laughing. I would probably have become somewhat hysterical. Even now, I’m not sure that the whole experience wouldn’t have been too traumatic for me to take.

The last time I went to a meeting, many years ago now in my home congregation in Massachusetts, I was hemmed in by older women, then confronted by an elder. And that was before I ever had a web site or anything like that. They just somehow had heard that I was in an MA program in religion. That was enough. I get a shiver even driving by a Kingdom Hall. It’s hard for others to understand. Somehow, at the door it’s different. Everywhere I’ve lived I’ve had multiple visits from JWs, and gradually I’ve gotten to the point where I have conversations, even somewhat enjoyable ones. But I don’t think I could sit through another one of those meetings ever again.

I can’t help wondering if the entire congregation was staring her down. The elders didn’t even corner her later?!?!

Yeah, I’m expecting some expressions of disapproval in the comments. It was a transgressive sort of thing, kind of like having sex on a church’s consecrated alter (Abelard and Heloise found it rather exciting), but she didn’t really disrupt anything in a major way. Heh-heh. She didn’t make a scene. Considering everything, she showed self-control.

I’m sorry, but on this one I have to laugh. I can only laugh. Oh……oh. On the way out, she advised some JW teens to hang in there – someday this would all be over. That congregation is going to be gossiping about this for a long time to come.

I don’t think I would be able to follow through on going to the Memorial and partaking, because I don’t think I’d be able to resist being a little more… theatrical. Knowing that I would have a hard time resisting the temptation to be very vocal and disruptive, I wouldn’t do it. So, no worries, dear rank and file JWs. You won’t be seeing me at the Memorial. You don’t want me to be there, and I don’t want to be there. It’s too traumatic for me. Even Brenda Lee showed some signs of anxiety and stress as the moment approached.

Of course, if hundreds of other people all over the world all decided to do it at once… hmmm.

My adrenaline levels are still high. I can’t believe I’m sitting here. I think I’m going to go outside and giggle helplessly to myself.

Brenda, sweet girl, more details please! Swing by and comment, I beg of you! Send me your phone number immediately! We’ve got to talk!

Breaking down a Watchtower message to the Great Crowd

Breaking down a Watchtower message to the Great Crowd

When my friend Janet sent me a link to this piece from a very recent talk (given by James Rayford at a Kingdom Hall in Houston Texas), I actually forced myself to listen to it. I’m going to comment below, so that you can begin to understand what happens to the self-identified “Great Crowd” (who believe they will inherit a paradise earth after Armageddon) in all those hours of listening at the Kingdom Hall.

This is why they can feel good about shunning their own family and friends if they leave. This is why they can let their children die for lack of a blood transfusion. This is why they look so alarmed if you try to wish them a Happy Birthday or a Merry Christmas.

Matthew 24:14 is Fulfilled, Speaker James Rayford, January 2007 (2.2mb mpg file at DavidGladden.com) (Note 7-25-07: The previous link to the audio has disappeared. Turn on your popup blocker (sheesh) and try this one http://www.savefile.com/files/403256. See also the discussions at Jehovah’s-Witness and E-Jehovah’sWitnesses.)

I’ve created a transcript here (in case the file disappears, as they are wont to do), but you really have to listen to understand the effect this might have had on the audience. All such messages are crafted by the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society (despite the ploy of his opening comment). My comments are below.

I’m going to put these notes down here for a minute and just say something to you.

I’d like for you to listen to this very carefully…

For those of us at Bethel we have the privilege of working with the faithful and discreet slave – the governing body – and I would like for you to know how the governing body – the faithful slave – feels about the way things are right now in this system of things, the time period in which you are living.

The faithful slave feels that that have fulfilled Matthew 24:14. This good news has been preached in all the inhabited earth for a witness.

What does the next part of that text say, after?

(a couple of people mutter in the audience)

Yes. The end will come.

Do you know that there are only three countries in the entire world where there are no Witnesses today?

Only three countries. They are Somalia, North Korea, and Afghanistan. That doesn’t mean that the literature is not in those countries, there’s no Witnesses there.

And I mentioned this yesterday to some of the friends, and they wanted to know why, and I will tell you why.

Jehovah does not send his people to any environment where they will be killed.

That’s why there’s no Witnesses there. Those two (sic) countries bear community responsibility. But the good news of the kingdom has been preached.

Matthew 24. Luke 21. Mark 13. Revelation 6. Those scriptures are having their fulfillment. They’re being fulfilled.

So where are you in the stream of bible prophecy?

What is the next prophecy to be fulfilled – the next one?

Do you know?

(silence)

I’m going to read it to you. Turn to Revelation. Revelation 17. Verses 15 through 17.

And he says to me, the waters you saw where the Harlot is sitting means people and crowds and nations and tongues. The ten horns that you saw and the wild beast, these will hate the harlot and will make her devastated and naked and will eat up her fleshly parts and will completely burn her with fire, for God put it into their hearts to carry out His thoughts – or His thought, even to carry out their one thought – by giving their kingdom to the wild beast until the words of God will have been accomplished.

The words of God will have been accomplished.

The anointed – the faithful slave – is waiting for God with this one thought in their hearts.

That’s the next bible prophecy to be fulfilled. For those who know what that means, that triggers the Great Tribulation.

Once that starts, all of you will be locked into where you are now.

Whatever you’ve done, you’ve done. There won’t be any more “well, you know I could have, I thought of, that I might do this, if I had the time.”

This is the time.

What will you going to, what will you do about the time in which you, we, are living?

Be at it urge..urgently. Be quick about it.

The time left is reduced.

First of all, you need to hear this man’s voice – it is very soft and seductive and easy to hear (a little creepy, too, but maybe I’m biased). Anyway, that kind of voice is pleasant, compared to the usual. He draws the audience in with a confidential-seeming aside. He’s an insider, so they will be excited and a little apprehensive with this kind of set-up. Clearly, the message will be special. They are promised insight into the assessment of the governing body! That’s like getting the message straight from God… kinda.

The governing body is actually just the twelve men in New York who act as the ultimate earthly (worldly?) authorities for Jehovah’s Witnesses. They run the Watchtower corporations and set all of the policies of Jehovah’s Witnesses. Note how they are as ambiguously singular and plural as the harlot and the beast.

You’ll note also the repetition reinforcement technique used with the interchangeability between the “governing body”, and “the faithful slave” (who they believe are the remnant of the remaining living members of the 144,000 who will rule with in heaven with Jesus – the Archangel Michael – over the new earth).

The two groups aren’t actually synonymous, even by their own doctrine. The members of the governing body are assumed to be of the 144,000, but not all surviving members of the 144,000 are members of the governing body (official Watchtower statistic: 8,524 memorial partakers in 2005). Wouldn’t it be interesting if one of these spoke out against the organization? (For a critique of the governing body as an embodiment of the “faithful slave” see Six Million Jehovah’s Witnesses Held Captive by Don Cameron, a former elder).

There’s nothing very new or special about the statement about the good news being preached throughout the earth, except that they seem to feel their job is done. (You have to realize that any other christian missionary work ever done by any other religious group doesn’t count.)

(I need to verify this, but I believe that their membership is down and they are “downsizing” many of their unpaid workers, which might be prompting this whole thing.)

JWs have always felt that they were in the end times. The sense of urgency is the same, too.

The deliverance of the saints must take place some time before 1914.
~ Charles Taze Russell, founder of the Jehovah’s Witnesses, “Studies in the Scripture”, 1910 edition

The deliverance of the saints must take place some time after 1914.
~ Charles Taze Russell, founder of the Jehovah’s Witnesses, “Studies in the Scripture”, 1923 edition

Rutherford stressed 1925 as a date for Armageddon, and there are other dates. Check with anyone who was told that the end would come in 1975. Many JWs left when that didn’t happen.

What’s also interesting to me – and I wouldn’t have noticed it when I was still a Witness – is that the content of the good news isn’t mentioned at all. No word here on grace, forgiveness of sins, salvation, Jesus the Lamb of God (or the mediator, or anything involving kindness – only the kingship and destroyer metaphors are used with regularity). The focus is on all the prohibitions, but none of the virtues or insights.

Does this kind of message sound like good news to you? Is it good news to think that most of the world’s population is about to be destroyed? What a lack of compassion. Mostly, it’s this “bad news” that is being spread…

What is important to all concerned is simply how many Jehovah’s Witnesses there are. Even in the three – perhaps recently it was two? – countries, the “literature” is there and those communities bear “responsibility.” It doesn’t even matter how many people come to love or accept the Judeo-Christian God, even the one of their interpretation. Not even the distribution of bibles (a standard missionary move) matters as much as the spread of the literature produced by the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society.

I am surprised by the claim that Jehovah (God) does not send people to where they will be killed. God has sent people to where they will be killed on many occasions, according to biblical narratives. Jesus comes to mind, for example. Or the early christian martyrs who were thrown to the lions. Or any of the martyrs of any faith, really. Back in World War II, one of the Kingdom songs (Forward You Witnesses) was written in a concentration camp, where they continued to worship and preach, as they sang about “this time of the end.” Ask any old-timers about the policies regarding Malawi.

It’s also interesting that the usual comments about courage and perseverance in the face of persecution seem to have been dropped.

It seems to me that there are probably some other reasons why the organization is not formally recognized in these three countries… Unmentioned additional countries may ban the JW faith, particularly where there are strict theocracies or semi-theocracies. Just a speculation.

You’d really have to be steeped in JW-speak to understand the reasons for this cherry-picked meandering through Revelation. Note how he lingers on “naked” and “completely burn her with fire.” (She was askin’ for it, right?) The sexual fascination and misogyny is an undercurrent, but I won’t dwell on it here. Let’s just say the language resonates for JWs in many directions, and for many reasons.

The scripture speaks about end times, and empires, and religions, and the kingdoms of the earth, and who-all knows what else, in allegorical and symbolic terms – maybe even in a kind of code. The meaning? Well, there are huge interpretative differences among the different Christian groups about how to interpret. Babylon, Rome, Jerusalem, the Catholic Church, the UN, all “false religion”, the anti-christ, secular governments, blah blah blah. I won’t go into all of the explanations of the beast and harlot and water and horns and such. The thought of explaining the JW doctrine on this stuff gives me a headache. I’m not going there today. I spent too much time peddling this stuff myself. JWs are taught to believe that there is only one correction interpretation of any biblical passage, and that God has given the correct interpretation directly to the governing body via mysterious transmissions of holy spirit. They don’t worry about conflicting interpretations – they just follow whatever the organization happens to say that decade.

Have fun. Google Revelation 17. Get out your bible and read the whole chapter, or the whole book. Do your own research. Or not. Some people can get a little addled and odd after becoming obsessed with the cryptic messages of Revelation (cf. Charlie Manson, David Koresh, etc.).

Basically, the purpose here is to wave around some secret knowledge, reinforcing previous messages and emphasizing the horror to come for non-JWs and anyone else who is not in good standing with God when the Great Tribulation comes as the opening act of Armageddon.

The whole ending, delivered very quietly, will create a tiny little panicked voice in the heart of the regular rank and file Jehovah’s Witness. I felt a little pang inside myself, as you would feel while watching a good play. He effectively delivers the whole crafted sales pitch. Even though he is, as they say, “preaching to the choir,” he is successfully making personal status and diminishing time felt as urgent issues.

This sort of content and delivery makes the audience feel special, and frightened, and resolute – the perfect combination for control. He is pumping up the herd.

Notice that the emphasis is on what someone does, not what they think or what they believe or who they are. It’s not about joy or love or character or insight or prayer or faith or compassion or transformation. It’s about a very specific and very limited kind of work. Care for others – a wider sense of service or devotion – doesn’t enter into it. There is no language of individual calling.

JWs will simply ask themselves whether they are really doing everything possible to be in the best position when they get “locked in.”

They had better stop talking to former brother-X altogether – they just can’t risk being associated with anything outside the “organization,” outside the “Truth.” Better cut down on that outside reading, better quit school, better stop learning karate or piano. All these things take up time. Kindness doesn’t matter anymore. God’s going to kill everybody else anyway.

So what if he’s my brother, or son, or father, or cousin, or friend? What if that person never got any real guidance or help? So what if someone is simply a decent person who’s going through a difficult time and needs the support and help of his or her family and friends to figure things out?

Gotta keep that congregation clean. It’s ideological cleansing. We recoil in horror at the idea of ethnic cleansing, but theocratic cleansing doesn’t seem to bother us so much.

Ironically, it’s also hopeful. If the preaching work is fulfilled, well, maybe they can stop this thankless task? Maybe the hours they spend out in service won’t need to be reported anymore? Maybe the book and magazine distribution to worldly outsiders is no longer important? Wouldn’t it be exciting if the whole mission were re-envisioned?

I wonder if they actually will rethink the evangelical mission if they feel the prophecy is already fulfilled. Probably not, but the thought might occur to one or another of the brighter ones. Of course, they won’t have the courage to ask.

The ending seems dramatic at first, unless you stop to think for a moment. If you believe in the end times, then – logically speaking – the time is always reduced.

Try to imagine leaving this group after years of messages like this for several hours a week. For a JW who leaves or is disfellowshipped, the trauma and fear (and even paranoia) is very real. Add to that the rejection, and being cut off from family and friends who fear to taint themselves with association – even to give spiritual guidance or simple, caring friendship. Follow JWs in the news to see some of the results.

There are no marks of love in any of this.

This is the kind of message that only strengthens my resolve to help and support recovering Jehovah’s Witnesses in any way that I can. If you are a former JW and you need someone to talk with, please feel free to contact me. I’m no guru. However, I “get” what you might be going through, and I don’t have any agenda except to support you, in kindness, with finding your own way, your own path.

(No, I don’t make any money doing this – it’s a part of my own spiritual calling to help if I can.)

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.

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