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?
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.)