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JWs at My Door

JWs at My Door

Two pleasantly plump Jehovah’s Witness women have just departed, their undelivered invitation to the upcoming District Convention in hand.

They were still huffing and puffing a bit from the exertion required to climb the driveway when they rang the bell. For a moment, I was tempted to pretend not to be home. Sigh. Nah. I instructed Ben to go play elsewhere in the house so that I could talk to them.

Follow the Christ. Sigh. I let them go through their opening remarks, and observed them closely. They were black women, a little bit younger than me – in their thirties, I’d guess. They both wore clingy dresses of artificial fabric – uncomfortable clothing for a muggy day like this. One wore glasses. They had kind, somewhat keen, expressions, and by their manner of speaking I would guess that they both had some amount of higher education – a bit unusual.

I found myself feeling sorry for them, and so my self-presentation was, I think, somewhat muted – even sad.

I told them that I was aware of the convention, although I hadn’t known where the local one was being held. I’d even blogged on the topic. That surprised them, and one exclaimed, “You blogged on it?!? Were you ever a baptized Jehovah’s Witness?” Interesting question – I wonder if they ask that now to establish whether they might be talking to an apostate. But no, I was never baptized. I told them that my father had been an elder and I was raised as a Jehovah’s Witness.

I asked them in what way they thought they were following the Christ. They looked at the invitation for clues, but it was really very general. “Well, we go out in service, like he told us to, and we oppose Satan.”

Wow. I’ve never heard the “opposing Satan” thing before. Yikes. When you consider that JWs believe that this entire “system of things” is ruled by Satan (including schools, police, government…) that’s a pretty wide-open sort of statement. They used to confine Satan remarks to insiders.

Hmmm. Where to begin.. “But there are a lot of things that Jesus instructed people to do that Jehovah’s Witnesses don’t do, and a lot of teachings he gave that JWs don’t really follow, right? Forgiveness, compassion, caring for the poor, sharing bread and wine together….” My words kind of faded off. There was so much to say, but…

They looked utterly dismayed, even stupefied. I don’t think they were ready for that kind of response.

Before they decided to start quoting, I tried once more. “If you’re Christian, and you have love and spirit amongst yourselves, wouldn’t it better to follow the Christ than to follow the governing body and the Watchtower? Look at how many times they have been wrong, how many times they have changed their guidance to you.”

Oh, they had a response to that, all right. “We are all imperfect, but the light gets stronger and they have more understanding…” They started to smile again, almost like mirror reflections of one another. There is reflective strength in the buddy-system.

“Why would you be salespeople for a very wealthy, very worldly corporation in New York, especially when – as you say – they are only imperfect men? Why would you hand your lives over to this group of men, just because they claim to be God’s channel? Don’t JWs always criticize other religions for putting priests and bishops and holy men between the congregation and God? Why would you need another mediator than the Christ? I think there are many good Jehovah’s Witnesses. I just believe that Jehovah’s Witnesses are being misled.”

Their smiles had frozen at the first sentence. Now they were expressionless. Totally blank.

“I’m sorry. I know you do what you think you are supposed to do, but I think that you are being misled. I truly believe that you are Watchtowerites, not Christians.”

I looked at them miserably, hands open. Then I handed back the invitation, and they turned, without a word, and – slowly – stiffly – started walking back down the driveway. They went directly to their vehicle, got in, and drove off.

Yea, sisters, time for a coffee break.

They will label me, they may even put that “X” over my house on the territory map at last. There wasn’t really very much in what I said to vilify me, but in another way, I said the worst possible thing: I spoke against God’s supposed channel on earth. And it may have scared them, because they are trained over and over to think that anyone who could do that is demonic, controlled, a slave of Satan.

I wonder if either one, maybe years from now, will ever read the scriptures and start thinking about the wider message that Jesus tried to deliver. They looked like strong women. What if they somehow found themselves able and willing to intervene when they saw cruelty – what if they were able to say “this is not a loving thing that we are doing.” Maybe they could allow themselves other kinds of service to others than simply preaching the end of the world. Maybe they could spread kindness. You never know.

Language is a virus. Maybe one small idea may turn out to have been contagious, mutating, incubating, ready to re-emerge later in changed form. Someday. Maybe.

“We had as our goal to capture, brain wash and establish thousands of Kingdom Publishers, making them all think alike, like robots. When in 1938 the Theocracy was decreed, all these fell down in abject submission before this newly erected ‘Image of the Beast’ of the Watchtower religion of ‘buying and selling’ (Rev. 13). All the companies of Jehovah’s Witnesses at that time voted in a resolution declaring that henceforth and always that would accept all instructions and appointments handed down by the Watchtower Society. All shreds of congregational independence was thus given up, together with every semblence of a personal Christian religion. A new world organization based on the concept of robot-like obedience and performance had now been realized and would now expand to become a New World Society. It is described by Jehovah’s Witnesses as God’s Organization or Kingdom. It is in actuality nothing more than a dictatorship of the Faithful and Wise Servant Class in Brooklyn” – William J. Schnell, Thirty Years A Watchtower Slave, p.130.

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.

JW District Convention Invitation Received

JW District Convention Invitation Received

What’s a girl got to do to have her house marked with an X on the local territory map of the JWs?

For the second time this week, I received a home-delivered invitation to the District Convention of Jehovah’s Witnesses. The first was delivered when we weren’t home. The second was delivered this morning by a lone man carrying an uncommonly nice leather valise. I think it’s the first time I’ve ever seen a JW at the door by himself; normally they travel in pairs. He didn’t say anything much, no attempt at the usual pitch – maybe he just wanted to get a look. Considering the other visits I’ve received, I wouldn’t be surprised.

I felt a little bit sorry for him. It’s a warm day, and my uphill driveway is difficult enough that we get few visitors at Halloween. So I didn’t ask any questions, didn’t make any statements. I just said “thank you,” and stepped back inside. The man who handed me the tract looked so cheerful. He is confident that he will survive and be part of God’s Kingdom. He thinks it is a literal place in history, and he’s going to see it and live forever on a Paradise earth while all the heretics and blasphemers and miscreants – basically, anyone who’s not a JW – die on the orders of the God of Love, with Christ (the Archangel Michael) arriving on a white horse for the slaughter. Sometimes I think the organization must be talking about an alien invasion of some kind. The cheerful man looks for “deliverance” from the world while not noticing (even as a black man) that the JW organizational structure is designed on the vocabulary of slavery: slave class, district/circuit overseer, and so on. But – each to their own path.

It’s amusing to note the differences between the official JW website and what JWs are actually taught at the Kingdom Hall. The Watchtower Society looks so benevolent online. You wouldn’t know that they were an extremely profitable set of corporations. Common JW phrases and words do not appear on the site. It’s easy to see the vetting by legal professionals and spindoctors on matters such as how to treat exJW family members, how to respond to domestic abuse or child abuse, their stance on pedophilia, in what circumstances it’s ok to lie in court, or even their views on male “headship.” Maybe current JWs don’t read the site, or somehow don’t notice the huge differences, or maybe they just assume that all is fair in “theocratic strategy.”

I looked at the invitation to attend the “Deliverance at Hand” District Convention of Jehovah’s Witnesses. I know for certain that they don’t want me to attend!

Under the text are sepia-toned depictions of “Poverty,” “Epidemics” and “Disasters.” Love the “helmuts” on the vague police/soldier guys, which look like a cross between Darth Vader and a Roman guard. Under these, a curved arrow points down (as transformational timeline?) onto their idea of the post-apocalyptic world. A strange pastoral in the regular JW style, it is set in a valley: Representatives from different races, smiling, tending a crop of flowers. One man pushing a wheelbarrow that overflows with grapes, watermelon, kale, and other produce. A yellow suburban house on the hill. A mountain lion sipping water from a stream, with children petting it – a gazelle and deer nearby.

On the back of the flyer, there is an illustration of a packed stadium, bordered at the left and bottom by a curve dotted with six illustrations (shouldn’t it be seven?) of the globe turned to different locations.

The conventions take place “from one end of the earth to the other” in July. They make a point of saying that no collections will be taken. An offer of a free book (“What Does the Bible Really Teach?”), along with a form to set up a free home Bible study, ends the page. There’s a little sticker for the dates, times, and location of the local 3-day convention.

I wonder how many hours of door to door service is required per book study these days? Per convert?

One feature of the convention “To Whose Authority Do You Submit,” is a “dramatic presentation in a Biblical setting” that promises to “highlight what loyalty to God really means.” They are backpedalling a bit, then, from the obedience and submission themes of last year. That was all about submission to the organization, obeying the dictates of the parrot-elders, and the like. The slight reorientation to God combined with the “Deliverance” theme is a bit troubling.

The last public address points to what is really meant by “Deliverance”:

Deliverance by God’s Kingdom Is at Hand!

Yikes. Ok, let me translate. Ask yourself… deliverance of who? from what? by who? how? when? Go ahead. Guess….

Answers: Deliverance of God’s submissive and obedient true people (i.e. Jehovah’s Witnesses at two levels – the great crowd of sheep, and the 144,000 intended to rule Planet Earth with Christ in heaven) from this evil and worldly system of things, by God and Christ, through global apocalypse. When? Any day now, just like they’ve been saying since the corporation got started.

Here’s the message. Listen up now:
Everybody had better join up with God’s voice on earth, the Jehovah’s Witnesses, lest they be destroyed. Got that? Join us or die. Sound familiar?

Love and compassion and ethics and service to others and patience and reason and gifts of the spirit and all manner of other spiritual qualities and goals and gifts don’t matter. What matters to the JWs is to bring in as many free workers as possible – under a death theat under God’s own authority.

Other evangelists do similar things, of course. Well, religious liberty and all that.

Actually, I don’t recall that there is anything much new in terms of fulfillment of their interpretations of biblical prophecies. If I remember correctly, I think the next thing in line was a united world religion, followed by its destruction by the UN (or a similar worldly organization transcending nations and having military “horns”). Of course there is the little matter of their doctrine, which says that the generation of 1914 “surely will not pass away” before the end comes, but I think they will be forced to see some “new light” on that one before too long.

They are incredible fear-mongers, not unlike the current Administration of the United States.

I do see economic disaster in our future, but again, one mustn’t blame God for our own stupidity and incompetence and greed. Unfortunately, religion is playing a very destructive role all around the globe – from one end of the earth to the other (sigh).

Ironically, I do think that we are poised on the brink of possible world catastrophes ranging from the threat of global warming to the escalations of war into nuclear catastrophe, but I don’t see either of these scenarios resulting in a cleansed earth fit for paradise. You know, unless they really are in contact with an advanced alien species whose earth rep is named YHWH.

The world today is more fearful than it has been in a long time. Apocalyptic pep talks don’t do much to help rebuild world sanity.

If the eagle can fight the dragon and the bear – which isn’t looking impossible – and the conflict escalates further in the middle east, and some bioweapons are let loose just as global warming really starts to accelerate, and the corporate fundies unite and pollute the rest of the planet under the name of their “stewardship” of the earth, then maybe the aliens will come in and rescue us. I guess. But why would they? It’s not as though we’re very good neighbors.

These are the thoughts that can run through your mind when you’ve been raised on this stuff. You can actually have a train of thought like this and weigh the merits of the speculative argument. Maybe it will help me write fiction.

I’m still waiting for someone to connect the dots and hire some blue-turbaned actor to ride through the gates on a donkey. Maybe that’s the signal to the fathership.

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