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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.

Marianne, you have an admirer

Marianne, you have an admirer

Marianne Meed Ward of the Toronto Sun has my admiration. She has written an opinion piece – in the Lifestyle Section, yet – that connects some of the dots in the conflict between the Jehovah’s Witness belief in the total abstention from blood and the welfare of children in cases where life-saving blood transfusions may be needed.

There are big themes here – civil liberties, freedom of (and from) religion, freedom of (and from) speech, child welfare, biblical scholarship, and the line between religion and the state.

Are such deadly biblical interpretations and movements a matter of natural/cultural selection? Or are they, as believed by followers, a mark of God’s true people?

What if you wanted to sacrifice, say, geese – at the town square every Sunday morning?
What if people decided, as Jehovah’s Witnesses used to, that vaccinations were also to be banned by God’s people?
Or – public education?
Or that we should pluck out what offends us – such as the eyes of the youngest, or oldest, of our nuclear family as a “body”?

Shall I become more ridiculous, or are you following me here? This debate could go anywhere. I hope some talented people get involved – Jehovah’s Witnesses have been a good place to practice such debate before.

In my reading of the various holy books, life always trumps law.

Thank you, Marianne. That is a great place to start! It’s a good place to start for a lot of the debates we should be having. Go read the article, people.

(Thank you again, Danny, for keeping me up to date)

The case really is one that should be debated. It probably needs some general unearthing even for some JWs – they don’t actually keep to kosher laws about meat and blood, and the leadership has gotten a bit technical on the “parts” of the blood that are not covered by the ban on blood transfusions. Presumably some bits of the blood are excluded as being without that elusive “soul” element that cannot be shared. Incidentally, the “soul” element is also completely distinct from the “spirit” of/in breath, which is not considered sacred and it therefore ok to share in life-saving circumstances. Imagine if we were arguing about resuscitation or oxygen therapy!

This would be a fascinating debate on many levels – in and out of the courtroom. In larger terms, it would be good for the planet (I hope) to confront some of the conflicts between some religious behavior and the general welfare. At this point, I have to say, however regretfully, that I believe that any debate of that sort could be better argued in Canada, far from the neo-legalististic pseudo-theocrats of America* – or those of the Middle East.

The issue of blood transfusions is not likely to create sources of destructive violence. Jehovah’s Witnesses don’t fight in wars. Nor do they vote. That seems pretty safe. They are, for the most part, good people who are trying to do what they believe is right.

Let’s start talking again about what is right. Let’s have more of a meta-discussion.

I define “religious” very broadly. I can’t actually say that I have met very many people whose ultimate concern really seemed to be God, but perhaps I am not as perceptive on that as I would like to be. One thing, though, the ones I trust tend to have little need to trumpet pronouncements.

In any case, the peoples of the book have got to talk, and this is a good place to start. It can be a practice run to learn terms of reasonable, spiritually responsible, terms of (and for) debate.

Think of the possibilities for discussion! Jehovah’s Witnesses are a minority group, who believe that “persecution” proves their righteousness in the end times. The Watchtower Bible and Tract Corporations (and their governing body of a dozen men in New York at the Watchtower building/block next to the Brooklyn Bridge) hold great sway over many aspects of their followers’ lives. For the most part, the stated aims have good effect, although there are some harmful aspects too (destructiveness to families, abuse, psychological problems, and other issues discussed here and elsewhere). Still, they are no worse than many other groups in terms of their somewhat totalitarian hold.

Cognitive dissonance can be a problem for JWs, and against that the leadership limits information and damps down possibilities for debate (unlike the Jews and early Christians they say they admire). The scholarship is questionable, the learning is by rote repetition of selected, highly interpreted biblical passages.

Despite the leadership’s changing policies on the blood issue, most Jehovah’s Witnesses consider this life-or-death decision as an important way to choose to stand for God. By doing so, they believe that they may be chosen to live forever on a Paradise Earth (after the oft-rescheduled impending Armageddon). It’s a blind faith fundamentalist fixation, reinforced.

Yet I believe that this debate – the debate itself – may save lives. Once people are used to debate and critical thinking, I believe that they can love it. There will be some for whom the cognitive dissonance will finally become irrepressible. They may be thrown into crisis and may start to think things through for themselves. This could have a larger impact on the population at large.

On the negative side, Jehovah’s Witnesses may be told that the debate is being brought – as persecution – from the worldly reality of Satan’s control. Some of these will hunker down and refuse to think at all. Independent thinking (outside the guidance of the “organizaton”) is against their religion. It may be that the leadership simply gets “new light” from God. One possibility is that they could say that each person is responsible for themselves. Who decides for children? Parents? Doctors? A corporation in New York? Can they decide for themselves? It’s a very messy issue, and a fruitful one.

I also have a personal interest in observing what religion scholars have to say. I’ve read a lot on this issue, and it would be extremely fun for me. I wrote a chapter in my dissertation comparing communion and vampirism along viral questions of framing, and it is also a theme in my novel (the writing of which still doesn’t get enough of my time). I have always wanted to see the issue of blood debated by the very best of minds. What is this quasi-spiritual, quasi-physical substance of soul, and sacrifice? Where and when does spiritual communion turn into literalism, into cannibalism? What is this that promises immortality, and what is the cost of such beliefs?

*P.S. The intrusive side trains of thought. These should really be separate blog entries, but to me they are related.

Most Americans can’t get their heads around why it might be a tad bit idolatrous to take a pledge of allegiance to the nation’s flag. Indivisible? Oh, please. Don’t get me started on liberty and justice…for all. I don’t think most people even think about what they are saying. It’s a ritual, like “Heil.” The reds. The blues. Yet our world is fractal, complex – not dualist. We need a new synthesis of thought – a breakthrough to a better path.

If there is a God, whatever that God might be, we all would have to be (by definition?) “under God,” all the time. And not only “America,” not only people of one particular religious path or discipline. What do we mean by “under God” anyway? Under God’s rule? Under God’s banner? Under God’s protection? Under God’s blessing? Can anyone truly claim God as their property? Or it is meant to be a statement of humility? Nah. Don’t think so.

A lot of people look for the Kingdom in the world. But didn’t God warn against the desire for human kings? The kingdom (the corporation? the tribe? the nation?), the relationship to the cosmos, the eternal, is within you.

“Taking the Christ out of Christmas”

“Taking the Christ out of Christmas”

This whole new thing about taking away Christmas is such a lie.

There isn’t anyone anywhere saying you mustn’t say Merry Christmas.
The ACLU has fought for Falwell on religious liberty issues and in fact fought for the boys who handed out candy canes with bible verses despite the misleading statements of the so called “religious” right. Doesn’t anyone remember Jesus’ warning about false prophets?

They are just keeping us fighting about these hot-button issues – and even lying about them – while meanwhile doing much more serious things that every christian should be alarmed about and against if they are truly christian.

There is nothing wrong with including everyone and saying happy holidays. I beg you to do a little research before judgment.

Where do you see anyone opposing the expression of christian beliefs?

As a former JW, what I remember is this. We didn’t celebrate Christmas. I had to sit out when the school choir sang Christmas songs. I don’t remember any Hanukkah songs, much less Ramadan or the pagan Yule. I remember not being able to participate when art class made ornaments and cards. I remember not being included. I was a christian too, albeit a fringe one.

Today, my son performs in a christmas program, makes christmas cards and ornaments at school. In his previous school, they even had international students saluting the american flag – parents too shy or polite or frightened to make an issue of it.

Everything is oriented around Christmas. If you want to be critical, it’s the materialism that cuts into the message.

These lies about the left and the ACLU etc are very unchrist-like and very much against the christian message. What could be more christian than to be kind and respectful? What does it cost you to say Merry Christmas, or a blessed Ramadan, or Happy Hanukkah, or have a wondrous Yule? And is it so terrible for someone, knowing they have a mixed audience, to honor all sacred traditions by saying Happy Holidays?

This whole attack is based on a lie. No-one is opposing Christmas – it’s one of the most entrenched traditions of the US. I only wish people were defending freedom of religion, our national fiscal responsibility, the Geneva conventions, and basic values like these. But noooooooo, there is only this horrible projection onto the left – who, incidentally, are the ONLY ones fighting for religious freedom in this country right now – that the left wants to take away Christmas! Give me a break! There are a lot of christians on the left – they perhaps don’t parade it (do you remember what Jesus said about that?). And there are agnostics and atheists too. And there are people with religious convictions other than Christian.

I’m getting emails every day now about this Merry Christmas thing. How the masses are so easily misled – where are your minds?

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