By Jon from the JWN(formerly JWD) board.
May 29, 2008
My Dear Mother,
I began writing this letter in March of 2006, right after our phone conversation. It’s not that I’ve spent the entire period since then working on it. It has more to do with not knowing how to approach the subject—or whether to approach it at all. Many in my position decide it’s best not to. But I just can’t imagine concealing something this important from you. I want you to have the truth, and I ask that—just as I read every bit of the letter you sent me—you read this in its entirety.
My intent is not to convince you that my way of thinking is the only right one, but instead to demonstrate that my reasons for coming to the conclusions I have are by no means frivolous. I have no problem whatsoever being in disagreement with another person, giving him all due respect for his beliefs. I am however troubled by those who assert that their conclusions are the only right ones, and with whom disagreement brings conflict and estrangement.
Thank you for sending me your point of view two years ago. It was not difficult to comprehend since your point of view used to be my point of view. I now believe that it was a point of view born of living in a sort of bubble. I know I never thought I was in a bubble; indeed I was greatly offended when some non-Witness would suggest such a thing. But now I know it was exactly that.
The above comment from the Watchtower could have two applications pertinent to our present difference of opinion. It could apply to me. It could mean that “apostates” have cleverly persuaded me to accept their thoughts—and that they are wrong. It could also apply to you. It could mean that the Watchtower Society has subtly persuaded you to accept theirs—and that they are wrong.
Do you agree with the above scripture? If so, would it be right for any individual to conclude that his or her own position must be the correct or morally superior one—without considering all the information?
Do you agree that assuming such an “air of dismissal” and discouraging open discussion of all the available information would be “unfair?” I can certainly commend the Watchtower Society for presenting the above. In fact they have often done similarly.
This is certainly an admirable position: the Watchtower Society is teaching that we should all have nothing to fear in examining “any religious organization with which we may be associated.” But does the Watchtower Society recommend the same policy for the examination of its own religion? Do they themselves “encourage discussion” that may challenge the things they teach?
“We may think of study as hard work, as involving heavy research. But in Jehovah's organization it is not necessary to spend a lot of time and energy in research, for there are brothers in the organization who are assigned to do that very thing, to help you who do not have so much time for this, these preparing the good material in The Watchtower and other publications of the Society. But you do not study enough? Take this suggestion: Often the very best and most beneficial studying you do is that done when you read a new Watchtower or Awake! or a new book with the joy of getting the new truths and a fresh view.” [Watchtower, June 1, 1967, page 338]
“Now, what will you do if you are confronted with apostate teaching—subtle reasonings—claiming that what you believe as one of Jehovah's Witnesses is not the truth? For example, what will you do if you receive a letter or some literature, open it, and see right away that it is from an apostate? Will curiosity cause you to read it, just to see what he has to say? You may even reason: 'It won't affect me; I'm too strong in the truth. And, besides, if we have the truth, we have nothing to fear. The truth will stand the test.' In thinking this way, some have fed their minds upon apostate reasoning and have fallen prey to serious questioning and doubt.” [Watchtower, March 15, 1986, pages 10-15--underlining added]
So, although the Watchtower Society encourages a thorough and open-minded examination of the things taught by a religion, this only applies to religions other than its own. We should “believe all things” they say, leaving most of the study and research to certain “brothers in the organization.” How incongruous it is for them to publish that “if we are lovers of the truth there is nothing to fear” in scrutinizing another religion, but the same sort of examination into Watchtower teachings is something in which “Jehovah is not pleased.” Any suggestion that “what you believe as one of Jehovah’s Witnesses is not the truth” must be considered—not an open minded examination—but instead the devious propaganda of “apostates.”
And why do they discourage “subtle reasonings”? Isn’t “reasoning” what we’re supposed to be doing? Is the word “subtle” supposed to sound scary? Then why do they use the word form favorably in a similar context in this June 22, 2000 Awake?
There is no shortage of counsel from the Watchtower Society on the subject of “reasoning” or “judgment.” And it all sounds very rational when they’re encouraging you to listen to their own teachings: ‘All sides should be examined and subtleties perceived; there’s nothing to fear!’ But when it comes to information that may challenge their teachings? ‘Don’t even read it! Don’t be curious! It might contain something subtle! You could fall prey!’
Mom, does this at all remind you of the aforementioned “superior air of dismissal?” For me, it is illogical, circular reasoning and amounts to human assertions rather than any sort of wisdom. Consider…
“This is God’s true organization.”
“If so, why be afraid of hearing out one who disagrees?”
“Because they might lead you away from God’s true organization.”
“But what if these ones are right?”
“They can’t be right since this is God’s true organization.”
“But shouldn’t such an organization withstand honest-hearted scrutiny?”
“It’s thinking like that that has led many away from God’s true organization!”
In examining one of the above Watchtower quotes, we find them actually discouraging readers from the policy that they themselves clearly taught in the Truth book. They even use the same words in perfect contradiction of themselves. Consider…
“You may even reason: …' if we have the truth, we have nothing to fear...' In thinking this way, some have fed their minds upon apostate reasoning and have fallen prey to serious questioning and doubt.”
So which is it? Should there be “nothing to fear” in examining all of the information about our religion, or shouldn’t there? And what exactly is wrong with “serious questioning” anyway? Isn’t that what we should always be willing to do? Don’t Jehovah’s Witnesses ask those with whom they come into contact to engage in “serious questioning?” And what’s wrong with doubt? Shouldn’t we doubt things that, after considering all the available information, we conclude are without sufficient foundation? Isn’t there something false about the way the Watchtower Society wholeheartedly endorses questioning in the first above quote, but spins it as ‘falling prey’ in the second?
Don’t you expect someone you’re studying with to “doubt” the Trinity doctrine when you show him scriptures and other information that contradict it? Would it be right for the Catholic church to warn all Catholics not to listen to Jehovah’s Witnesses on this and other subjects because it might lead to “serious questioning and doubt?” Wouldn’t a group of Jehovah’s Witnesses laugh at such a warning if they heard about it? Wouldn’t they say, “Well of course the Catholic church doesn’t want them listening to us! Of course they don’t want their churchgoers questioning their doctrines! They’re just afraid they’ll find out the truth!” And if Jehovah’s Witnesses would ridicule such a warning from the Catholic church, why would they not also do the same when the Watchtower Society sends out precisely the same sort of admonition?
Under what circumstances is it wise to disallow yourself the hearing of all sides of an important issue? Mother, if you were fully confident that something were true, but someone disagreed with you, would you feel the need to warn everyone you knew not to listen to that person? And would you take the further step of threatening that you might punish and enforce a group shunning against them if they did listen? If someone did that to you, might you not think they had something to hide?
But they’re referring to looking at information provided by “apostates.” Doesn’t that make a difference? Well what exactly are apostates?
The term comes from a Greek word, which means literally “standing apart.” Strictly speaking, anyone who defects from belief in a religion, political party or any other belief system can be called an apostate from that system. By this definition it is not wrong to call people who once but no longer believe in all the teachings of the Watchtower Society, apostates from their group. Similarly, all current Jehovah’s Witnesses who were once part of another religion are now themselves apostates. Mom, weren’t you a Methodist at one point? Then you are an apostate…from the Methodist church. But how haughty would it be if Methodists branded you an apostate from Christianity itself?
I feel it is incredibly presumptuous and arrogant of the Watchtower Society to assert that someone leaving their organization is also “leaving Jehovah.” Yet I used to say the same thing. It all seemed so simple. We had “The Truth.” We were in association with the sole channel of communication from Him. A group of men in Brooklyn, New York were now taking the lead among Christ’s faithful and discreet slave class. I’d been so convinced that we were right in this, that I simply couldn’t believe someone would leave unless they had a wicked heart or were possessed by Satan. And when it came to field service, it was difficult to imagine why—with everlasting life at stake—so few would listen to our warnings.
Now I find myself in a similar position. I now recognize that these men were not actually what I thought they were. And while, as previously written, I have no problem with my friends and family believing in something I don’t believe in, I am disturbed in knowing they don’t have full freedom to investigate ALL of the facts; facts that could lead them to their own conclusions—instead of merely accepting what the Watchtower Society influences them to. However, just as people at the door would usually not listen to us, so too I know that most active Jehovah’s Witnesses will not listen to me when I suggest they consider the abundant information that exists outside of that Watchtower bubble. But this time there’s a big difference.
The difference is that now my position is based on a willingness to consider all of the information. Doing this was so difficult for me because of the remarkably well executed system by which the Watchtower Society keeps us from all of the information. Basically this involves constant warnings that such might subvert our faith. But the enormity of evidence that the Watchtower Society is not what it purports to be does not challenge a faith in God. So any subversion would be—not of a faith in God—but of a faith in the Watchtower Society as God’s special human instrument.
This thought does in fact occur to many (if not most) active Witnesses. They wonder, “Why, if this truly is God’s sole organization, should we fear examining the views of those who disagree—or those who once agreed but now do not?” What keeps them from asking this question too loudly? What stops them from considering the evidence that it might not be what they think it is? Doesn’t the profound importance of this subject demand that we consider all of the evidence? Mom, shouldn’t any organization claiming to be something as important as “God’s sole channel” be willing to subject itself to an honest-hearted, rational examination?
One way that the Watchtower Society combats this thinking is by branding as “twisted, empty speech” anything that does not confess their leadership as being divinely appointed. Examples are provided of certain accusations made against them that might be frivolous and unfounded. Granted, some accusations may in fact be exercises in opportunistic faultfinding. But an overwhelming amount of information exists that is as well-supported and well-reasoned as anything you’ve ever seen in your life. If it weren’t the Society wouldn’t care so much, would they? And really what should be the yardstick in determining what information is and is not relevant? Should we as adults, with the minds God gave us, not be in a position to judge for ourselves what is truth? Or should we just hand this judgment over to the Watchtower Society—those themselves who are threatening you to listen only to them?
But how can you ‘keep testing and proving’ your beliefs when your religious leaders are constantly warning you not to take into account information that may challenge these beliefs? When they go so far as to discourage any independent Bible study? Historically the Society has applauded the example of the Beroeans…
But, as you may be aware, for some time now they have strongly discouraged their followers from this very endeavor. In the September 2007 Kingdom Ministry the Society chastises those who “…have formed groups to do independent research on Bible-related subjects.” How possibly do they attempt to make the case that something so essential to Christianity is wrong?
They caution the flock to confine any biblical examination to their own publications, and that anything else is “foolish,” completely misapplying the above scriptural references.
Active Witnesses are met with another barrier keeping them from considering information critical of their organization: the terrifying fear of being disfellowshipped—cut off from their family and friends if the result of any investigation were to lead to the conclusion that the Society isn’t what it says it is. What an effective device! Fear of abandonment. Of course the Watchtower Society favors the perspective that it is not they who are abandoning you, but you who are abandoning Jehovah. Never mind that there may be nothing further from your thinking. You see to them “faith in Jehovah” equals “faith in the Watchtower Society.” Even if you made the decision to be baptized when you were twelve years old, you are still held as a wicked apostate, as if any twelve year old (or teenager) can comprehend the facts sufficient to dedicate his or her life to the belief that a group can be “God’s true organization.”
And so it goes like this…
1) We are discouraged from looking at information critical of the Watchtower Society, being told that it is dangerous and can destroy our faith.
2) We are told that any such information is ridiculous and unfounded anyway, which persuades us not to waste our time with it.
3) We are in effect threatened that, if we were to become convinced that the Watchtower Society isn’t what it claims to be and admit as much, we would be branded as wicked enemies of God, and would be cut off from our families and our entire community of friends.
You have to make it through these three layers of propaganda and institutional manipulation in order to finally give yourself permission to conduct an objective investigation into this organization. It’s an awful lot to have to go through for the simple right to use your head.
This authority exercised over Jehovah’s Witnesses by representatives of the Watchtower Society is comparable to that of the religious leaders of Jesus’ day. It was this legalistic authoritarianism that he warned against perhaps more than all other things.
Mom, there are “secrets” that should rightfully be “revealed” about the Watchtower Society. They have done terrible things “in the darkness” that they are trying with all of their might to suppress. I’m not just talking about “mistakes.” They are things that you would be immediately expelled for had you done them. But not only do they refuse to apologize for them, they also try desperately to cover their tracks so you won’t find out and put two and two together. More about this later. A little more on this concept of “apostates.”
A few hundred years ago in United States’ history, there developed a concern about “witches.” This concern escalated into a sort of hysteria over them. Hundreds were accused, dozens languished in jail for months, nineteen were hanged and one man over eighty years old was crushed to death by heavy stones for refusing to submit to a “witch trial.” People who didn’t really know what a “witch” was became fearful that they’d be accused. The hysteria resulted in many people being wrongly indicted. To deflect attention some concocted stories about others, accusing them of being “witches.”
So this word, “witch,” struck fear in the hearts of people. They knew that the community leaders were whipped up into a frenzy about witches. They knew that those found to be “witches” would be publicly executed. The word, “witch,” developed an exaggerated meaning and took on a life of its own. From all available accounts, there was no legitimate witchcraft being practiced by those so accused, but where such a powerful word was concerned, it seemed simply being accused as a “witch” was enough to get people thinking you were one.
The same thing has happened with this term “apostate” among Jehovah’s Witnesses. Please recognize that nearly all first century Christians, including every one of the twelve apostles, were apostates…from Judaism. Did this mean they had left their God? Wouldn’t you say that their apostatizing was a good and even necessary thing?
The Christian apostate was one who had previously accepted Christianity but who had willfully left the teaching in favor of serving other gods and moving others to do so. But, since the Watchtower Society declares there is no legitimate Christianity outside its organization, when people leave them they are not merely apostates from their group—but apostates from Christianity itself. It matters not that such ones may still follow and profess their faith in Christ. The organization has infused this word with its own special meaning. One that arrogantly asserts there is no faith in God apart from faith in the Watchtower Society.
One thing I’m appreciative of is having been brought up in an environment that embraced people of all races. While I know others have had different experiences with racism in the organization, I remember mine as having been positive, and I’m thankful not to have been burdened by the heavy racial stereotypes so many have been indoctrinated with. For instance, I know a couple of perfectly intelligent white people today who, although showing themselves to be very rational thinkers, cannot seem to abandon the use of the “N” word when referencing persons of the black race. When young they learned this word along with so many negative beliefs associated with it. While they find many black people who do not correspond to these beliefs, they find others who do, and in the end they find just what they need in order to hang on to these stereotypes they learned and accepted so early in life. For many years, this word has been used by white people to, in ways big and small, keep feeling superior to blacks. To keep them down. It doesn’t require an explanation. It’s just a label that launches a quick, powerful message.
While I commend those associated with the Watchtower organization who have been determined to embrace all races, I also see how they have often used language to similarly launch powerful stereotypes against those who will not submit to their authority. A person who concludes this organization is not God’s chosen instrument is not a Christian apostate. But in using this term, similar to the use of the “N” word, the Society is able to condemn people, and effectively threaten remaining members from speaking to them.
Most Witnesses don’t really appreciate the actual meaning of “apostate.” It’s just a word that inspires fear. They know that the Society has scathing words of denunciation for any who suggest they don’t represent the sole channel of communication from God. They know that such ones are disfellowshipped and often shunned. In the presence of such frightful things, is it likely that most Witnesses will decide to question the Society’s accusation that such ones are wicked persons? No. Sadly, they usually accept the perspective provided by the Watchtower Society itself.
In your letter to me, you make several statements about “apostates.”
“The ones who are trying so hard to disgrace it and spend so much time trying to convey to others how terrible the WT Society is, aren’t governed by love, but by hate and that hate and discontent will eat them up.”
I have some questions for you.
Does a person need to be “trying so hard to disgrace” the Watchtower Society in order for him or her to be labeled an “apostate” by them?
No. All a baptized Witness must do is decide they no longer recognize the Watchtower Bible & Tract Society as representing the sole channel of communication from God, and they are considered an apostate according to Watchtower teaching. Most people who wake up to the facts concerning the Society do not spend time trying to convey “how terrible the WT Society is.” On the contrary, many live in fear that someone will find out their true feelings and that they will be cut off from their families for simply following their own consciences. But it doesn’t matter, does it? Regardless of their actual disposition, the Watchtower Society will characterize them as “self-styled teachers” “who by smooth, deceptive speech “cause divisions and occasions for stumbling...””
But what about those who do spend time trying to shed light on the facts regarding the Society? If you believed your friends or family were being deceived by a religious organization, wouldn’t you want them to know? Isn’t such an effort an important reason why Jehovah’s Witnesses themselves speak to their friends and family about their religion? When speaking to (for example) Catholics, haven’t you, throughout your life, tried to show them how they were being deceived? Why is this different? In so doing, were you “governed by hate?”
Mom, the fact that I have allowed myself permission to consider all the available information pertaining to the Watchtower Society—and that I no longer allow these men to exercise authority over me—does not mean that I’m trying to be a “teacher” or that I am looking for some type of “glory” or that I am “persecuting” anyone, any more than it means such of you when you try to show someone from another religion how you think they are being misled.
But this illustrates how the Watchtower Society has been successful in manipulating the thinking of its followers. Consider…
When one of Jehovah’s Witnesses speaks out against any other religion, it is “a fine Christian witness” of “exposing the lies of false religion.”
But when a person speaks out against the Watchtower Society, they are “enemies of true worship,” who will slyly try to deceive with “slander and half truths,” which will only result in a “quick-spreading spiritual death.”
This amounts to a classic ad hominem argument. It is a biased assertion that simply attacks an opponent rather than addressing the substance of the argument. The Society only rarely addresses the evidence that one in disagreement with them is an enemy of God. Any who merely disagree with certain Watchtower interpretations or policy are labeled as being criticizers of “the way Jehovah is having his work done,” when actually the issue is whether there is proof that it is Jehovah who is causing the organization to act as it does.
The Watchtower organization has, especially from the time of Rutherford until this very day, waged war against all other religions. “Religion is a Snare and a Racket!!” they proclaimed throughout the streets. In 1956, Brother Knorr yelled out to more than 30,000 Witnesses, “Christendom must be cut down and thrown into the fire!” Whether a religion espouses Christianity or some other system of belief, they assert that it is “whorish,” “deserving of the fiery expression of Jehovah’s wrath,” and “fit for destruction.”
Mom, it’s impossible to deny that the Watchtower Society has spent a great deal of time “trying to convey to others how terrible” other religions are. So why should we not consider the Society as being ‘governed by hate?’
The only possible answer is that, at some point in your life, you became convinced that those in association with the Watchtower Society had been chosen as God’s spokesman, and as such they have the right to say what they will, while other religions do not. Any attacks made by them would be righteous, while any made against them would be evil. And while this can certainly be considered “a cheating pair of scales,” (Prov. 11:1) it is still your right to conclude such a thing. Yes, you are entitled to make decisions about what you believe and what you don’t. But so is everyone else, aren’t they?
You and I are both human beings, and as is the case with every single other person alive, we have the right to make decisions and choices. To use our minds in coming to conclusions about what we will believe. It’s certainly a fact of life that different people will often come to different conclusions. But what do you do when you find disagreement with someone? I think you’d agree that most reasonable, well-adjusted people will present their point of view, listen to the opposing point of view, and, if no harmony is found, agree to disagree. The problem comes when some people feel so strongly that everyone should accept their viewpoint on things, that they become angry with those who disagree, and try to cause them trouble.
Imagine a group of children among whom a disagreement develops. One of them tries to get the others to join his side in opposition to another child. The first child may try to get the others not to play with or talk to the second. Would the Watchtower Society condone this behavior? No, but they will reserve the right—not only to excommunicate someone who questions their authority—but to enforce a complete shunning on him. No one will play with or talk to him. Is this really what the scriptures teach?
Since the man to which Paul here referred was deliberately carrying on grossly sinful behavior, the congregation was advised not to be “mixing in company” with him—or anyone like him. It says nothing about not speaking to him.
Wait a minute… “Continue admonishing him as a brother?” How can you continue to do this if you have been warned never to speak or have any dealings with him or her? The truth is that the concept of shunning as practiced by the Watchtower Society is quite different from the ‘withdrawal’ practiced by first century Christians. Since the above scripture proved troubling to the Society’s teaching on shunning, they invented the spin that while the verses in 1 Corinthians refer to shunning, the verses in 2 Thessalonians must be referring to a situation in which a person has done something wrong—but not quite bad enough to require a full shunning.
But isn’t there a scriptural principle that does teach Christians not to speak to certain ones?
So the only time the scriptures teach Christians shouldn’t “say a greeting” to someone is when they “bring” something other than “the teaching of the Christ.” But so many of those whom the Watchtower Society would have you believe are “apostates” are doing no such thing. The disfellowshipping of those who’ve decided the Society isn’t “God’s sole channel” is simply one way they try with all their power to preserve their authority. How evil is that?
Further on this, it appears that—even though the Bible does indicate we shouldn’t “say a greeting” to such ones—it does not constitute the institutional shunning the Watchtower Society enforces today. Consider: In the book of Job, Jehovah becomes engaged in a controversial discussion with Satan, the first and greatest of the real apostates. Jehovah sent his prophets to those He himself described as an “apostate nation,” “renegade sons.” He was willing to “set matters straight” with them. Jesus didn’t hesitate to answer Satan when tempted by him—nor the religious leaders whom he called “offspring of vipers” and murderers of God’s messengers. His apostles followed this example, not only with the religious leaders but with persons who professed Christianity and who advanced what the apostles considered false teachings or who sought to lead other Christians astray.
So the Watchtower Society falsely brands people as “apostates” of Christianity, and they impose a draconian shunning upon them, threatening even their own family members not to speak with them. Why do you suppose they really do this?
You have to be willing to consider the possibility that the Society’s repeated warnings about former Witnesses, whom they like to call “apostates,” turns out to be Watchtower propaganda that does not protect you from being misled. Rather, it prevents you from noticing that you are already being misled by the organization itself.
You also write, “Please, please don’t go along with the apostate’s thinking and working against Jehovah, you can’t win, my son.”
Mother, there is no grand organization of “the apostates” as the Society might want you to believe. In your letter to (my daughter) you make reference to “the apostate group.” If you could examine this for yourself, you would see that those who leave the Watchtower Society do not enroll in any “apostate group.” While I have heard of organized groups who try to provide support to shunned Witnesses, I have never been in contact with one—nor have I found them widely publicized. So let’s be clear: neither (my daughter) nor I are involved with any group. And there is no “apostate’s thinking.” There are good people just like you and me, with a variety of mindsets, who have come to see that they were never really walking in Christ’s footsteps, but instead in those of a religious publishing company. The idea that this is somehow “working against Jehovah” is ridiculous. And, dear, you can’t win if you believe salvation comes from following man.
You write, “Think of all those that have tried in the past and where are they now?”
Mom, do you know where they are? Probably not, right? And the reason you don’t know is because the Watchtower Society officially commands you not to speak to them. This is not to suggest that every single person who has left the Watchtower organization has gone on to a life bursting with happiness. I’m sure plenty have left for purely selfish reasons. But there exists an enormous number of good people who’ve gone on to lives that are far richer and truly happier.
You just can’t believe that, can you? Neither could I, until I woke up. The Society indoctrinates people with so much, including the idea that their followers “are the happiest people on earth.” Not true, mother. Not true. So many researchers throughout the world have conducted studies revealing that the rate of depression and mental illness among Jehovah’s Witnesses is shockingly higher than average. The following is taken from the book, “Jehovah’s Witnesses and the Problem of Mental Illness,” by Jerry Bergman, Ph.D.
Mom, there are so many more studies bearing out the same thing. But active Witnesses don’t face it, because they are so wrapped up in the mental and emotional manipulation and propaganda that exists within the Watchtower bubble.
You write, “As Peter said at John 6:66-69 ‘who would we go away to?’”
And to whom was Peter referring? Please answer… You must know that he was referring—not to a body of men—but to Jesus himself, don’t you? The fact that you can read that scripture and come away with the thought that your salvation requires allegiance to these men, (and that’s what it is, mother,) demonstrates the degree to which the human mind can be manipulated—just like mine was.
Look right to you? Jesus actually said…
It is perhaps one of the greatest ironies I will ever witness in my life. More than all other religions I know, Jehovah’s Witnesses ardently emphasize the need to flee from idolatry. No crosses, no holidays, no national emblems… Don’t hang posters of pop culture icons, don’t emulate “worldly” athletes or celebrities… Jehovah’s Witnesses are intensely concerned about committing idolatry, but they cannot see that their devotion to the Watchtower Society is as idolatrous as a thing could be.
And this is the reality, isn’t it? Consider: a Jehovah’s Witness is considered “spiritually strong”—not because of what they say or do about and for Jehovah or Jesus Christ, but about what they say or do about and for the organization itself. When a person is being questioned over supposed “apostasy,” these Society representatives do not care one iota what they say or believe about Jehovah or Jesus! Obedience and submission to the Watchtower Society is all that matters in such a situation!
This is an extraordinary deviation from the scriptures, and a shocking apostasy from the faith Christ established. I remember your talking to me about idols when I was a little boy; about the importance of not involving “things” in one’s worship. I even recall your remarking how some people will say, “I’m not worshipping the object itself. It’s just something I like to use; something through which I pray to God.” You made clear that Jehovah did not tolerate such “things.”
When Jesus compared Himself to Moses’ copper serpent, what was his point? That we had to keep looking at him (Jesus,) right? When He says, “No one comes to the Father except through me,” who is “me?” The scriptures go to great lengths to emphasize the importance of fixating on Christ and the folly of putting your trust in men.
“Do not put YOUR trust in nobles,
Nor in the son of earthling man, to whom no salvation belongs.” [Psalm 146:3, NWT]
“Not that we are the masters over YOUR faith, but we are fellow workers for YOUR joy, for it is by [YOUR] faith that YOU are standing.” [2 Cor. 1:24, NWT]
But it’s okay. You’re not really putting your faith in the men at the Watchtower Society. You’re just putting your faith in Christ through them, aren’t you? Does this remind you of the aforementioned warning about idolatry you yourself gave to me? Don’t think this applies to you? Then ask yourself: Is it possible for you to successfully put your faith in Jesus without having this reliance upon and allegiance with the Watchtower Society? If you answer “no,” how can you not recognize this relationship with the organization as being idolatrous?
They are not simply “fellow workers for your joy.” Regardless of what C.T. Russell originally intended, they have become a centralized religious authority structure that demands “loyalty” to them, threatens disloyalty to them, and teaches that there is no faith in God apart from faith in them. When Jesus warned to watch out for the “leaven” of the Pharisees, why do you think He used that word? Isn’t it because, despite the best of intentions, human authority structures breed corruption just like a growing yeast? Jesus saved his greatest denunciation for religious leaders, and told us instead to put our faith in Him. If this organization’s leadership and their appointees are not “masters over your faith,” WHO ARE?
As for this exclusivist concept of Christianity promoted by the Watchtower Society…
This is important. Are you absorbing what this and the other scriptures are saying? In whose name were you baptized, mom? Well I know you were baptized in the 1950’s, so no doubt at your baptism you were asked the following questions as published in the Watchtower of August 1, 1966 on page 465…
“(1) Have you recognized yourself before Jehovah God as a sinner who needs salvation, and have you acknowledged to him that this salvation proceeds from him, the Father, through his Son Jesus Christ?
(2) On the basis of this faith in God and in his provision for salvation, have you dedicated yourself unreservedly to God to do his will henceforth as he reveals it to you through Jesus Christ and through the Bible under the enlightening power of the holy spirit?” (Underlining added.)
These are the same questions asked of me when I was baptized in 1983. So we publicly acknowledged our dedication to God, and that our salvation comes through Jesus. You and I took no oath to the Watchtower Society, nor to any group of humans. But guess what happened? The Watchtower of June 1, 1985 on page 30 shows that the Society created its very own type of baptism with a revision of the former questions.
“On the basis of the sacrifice of Jesus Christ, have you repented of your sins and dedicated yourself to Jehovah to do his will?
The second is:
Do you understand that your dedication and baptism identify you as one of Jehovah's Witnesses in association with God's spirit-directed organization?” (Underlining added.)
It takes no small amount of chutzpah to insert a human organization into these vows that are supposed to have nothing to do with human leaders and everything to do with Christ.
In the recent book the Watchtower Society released, “What Does the Bible Really Teach?” in chapter 18, they list six things they regard as requirements for Christian baptism. They include having a formal study with a Witness, officially becoming an “Unbaptized Publisher,” and demonstrating ones Bible knowledge to Witness elders. But how can we reconcile this with Acts 10:34-48 in which Peter speaks less than two hundred words to Cornelius whereupon he and his entire family are immediately baptized? Or with Acts 16:11-15 in which Lydia and her household were baptized after listening to one session of Jesus’ disciples speaking? Or with Acts 16:25-34 in which a jailer and his family were baptized “without delay” after one late-night discussion with Paul and Silas?
Whatever reason they supply for needing these “baptism requirements,” one thing is clear: they have gone “beyond the things that are written.” There is no other possible conclusion than that, in so doing, they are able to seize more control over those in the congregations. We are not supposed to be baptized in the name of Paul or Cephas or anyone other than Jesus Christ. But the Society now requires people to acknowledge the organization of Jehovah’s Witnesses in their baptism vows. Way, way, wayyy beyond “the things written.”
This principle, clearly stated by Jesus, stands in stark contrast to what the Watchtower Society teaches. Indeed they teach ‘anyone not with us is against us.’ Any Witness seeing this scripture is usually bothered by it, so he or she will pull out the reference materials to look for the Society’s understanding. They will find the assertion that this principle was apparently only applicable to a very limited period of time—and not after Pentecost 33 C.E.—although Christ suggests no such thing.
Directly before the aforementioned scripture is another account of the apostles “arguing on the road,” after which Jesus teaches…
This scripture is considered to have application right until this day—unlike the one immediately adjacent to it that contradicts Watchtower teaching and therefore must be “explained.”
Further, Matthew 12:30 is brought out, which reads, “He that is not on my side is against me.” Is this a contradiction? Not at all. The man who was expelling demons through Jesus’ name was certainly demonstrating he was ‘on Jesus’ side’—even if he was not a part of what the apostles thought was their approved group. In opposition to the principle Jesus established, the Watchtower Society in effect teaches: It doesn’t matter what they say or do. It doesn’t matter how much they try to apply Jesus’ teachings or help others in imitation of him. If he isn’t “with us,” namely a full-fledged, meeting-going, hour-reporting, Watchtower-studying Jehovah’s Witness who has submitted himself to a Watchtower Approved baptism, then he is neither approved by Jehovah nor Jesus Christ. There can be no sharing between this reality and what Jesus actually taught.
This brings to mind the subject of presumptuousness. I can recall during talks at the Kingdom Hall and at conventions, speakers describing the attitude of those within other religions as being “presumptuous.” “How presumptuous of them!” they’d say, accusing them of wrongly concluding that they had God’s approval and backing.
WHO does not want to avoid making mistakes? They can be quite embarrassing, often costly and so regrettable! Do we want to avoid distressing errors? Then we must guard against a trait that easily leads to them. We must beware of presumptuousness!
What is presumptuousness? It is “assuming a prerogative, privilege, or permission without warrant”; “overstepping due bounds”; “readiness to presume in conduct or thought.” Indeed, presumptuousness makes a person proceed according to his own ideas and makes him resist counsel or correction.
But who are the presumptuous ones? Are they only the obviously wicked? Who really needs to beware of presumptuousness?
Presumptuous PersecutorsForemost among mankind’s presumptuous ones are the persecutors of God’s people. They insist that they, rather than Jehovah, should be obeyed. Could any act of presumption exceed that?” [Watchtower, January 15, 1984, page 10, underlining added]
But how is it the Watchtower Society is exempt from this judgment of presumptuousness? Do they not claim to be the instrument used by “God’s sole channel of communication?” Why are they different?
Let’s examine the statement, “…presumptuousness makes a person proceed according to his own ideas and makes him resist counsel or correction.” But “counsel or correction” from whom? Within the organization of Jehovah’s Witnesses, the Society has often claimed that the correction is coming from Jehovah, but that it is being delivered through them—His “visible, earthly organization.” Their message is—and always has been—“People, people! Stop being so presumptuous. Be humble enough to submit yourselves TO US.” Is this not in itself the height of presumptuousness? They misled people into believing that Armageddon was coming in six particular years! They were wrong every time! There is nothing that qualifies them for the position they claim for themselves. It is they who are “overstepping due bounds.”
They have tried to escape scrutiny for this by describing themselves like expectant ones of the first century who were eager in their desire to see God’s Kingdom come. But the Watchtower Society was not merely asking the simple question: “Lord, are you restoring the kingdom to Israel at this time.” They were proclaiming these dates as if God Himself were proclaiming them…
I always knew there were some quotes like that, but I never understood how their predictions regarding dates vacillated so much—nor did I appreciate how very forcefully they were advanced. (And believe me, there are hundreds of them.) When faced with others telling me about such quotes, I used to excuse it by saying that Jehovah’s Witnesses have never claimed to be prophets. But now I know this is untrue.
So they have called themselves prophets, but to avoid scrutiny they have often repositioned the meaning of that term. When accused of being false prophets, they have explained that they never meant to suggest they were inspired and infallible prophets, and this should excuse them from any criticism over mistakes and miscalculations. Note this explanation…
What the heck are they actually saying here, Mom? The claim is made that Jesus has entrusted all his “earthly goods” to them and uses them to “publish” interpretations. But they are not actually doing the interpreting. No. God and Christ do so. Does this make sense? How is this different from any other religion whom the Watchtower Society itself would accuse of being a false prophet? Yes, even they are not suggesting their interpretations have come entirely from their own powers, but that they were supposedly supplied with them by God. Does this salvage their reputation with the Watchtower Society? Certainly not.
God and Christ have no need to interpret something for themselves that they have already set forth in the scriptures. It is we humans who need an interpretation. Who gives it to us? The Watchtower Society. So, the claim goes, God and Christ inspired the writing of the scriptures and supply the meaning of it to some in association with the Watchtower Society, and those men publish this meaning to the rest of us.
While they may disclaim being “inspired,” they definitely claim to be the one agency on earth to whom God is communicating. The one agency he has ‘made responsible’ to distribute his truths. They often refer to God’s “revealed truth.” If it is revealed, who revealed it? The assertion is that God revealed it. If God revealed it, how can it be anything other than inspired and infallible?
It’s an interesting line they walk. They claim not to be inspired, but they speak with the same amount of authority as if they are. They demand they be considered as if inspired, not even allowing the flock to question or have doubts about anything they teach without coming under scrutiny. Yet when accused of being false prophets, they then beg off from responsibility, escaping under a manufactured definition of what the word “prophet” means, suggesting that prophet doesn’t necessarily suggest divinely inspired prophet.
Easton’s Bible dictionary provides the same definition for “prophet” found anywhere else. It shows that the Hebrew word translated “prophet” is nabi. It meant “to bubble up as from a fountain,” hence “to utter.”
The meaning is not complex. Clearly this definition fits the position the Watchtower Society itself admits it has assumed. Again quoting from the 1943 Watchtower, “…he makes them responsible to make known the meaning of such scriptures…”
And what does the Bible say about such ones?
It’s pretty simple, Mom. They claim to be Jehovah’s mouthpiece, and the things they repeatedly said would come true didn’t. According to the Bible, this is not something God takes lightly. The sentence was death. It is also interesting to note the Bible’s counsel for us not to “get frightened at” such a false prophet. It would appear that God may have known that false prophets often try to frighten people into following them. This does not follow the Christian pattern. Consider what Paul had to say to those who were questioning the authenticity of some Christians with whom they had disagreements.
Remember too Jesus’ illustration of the wheat and the weeds. He told his slaves not to try and identify the weeds prematurely, but to “let both grow together until the harvest,” after which he would see to it that the weeds would be burned.
So while the Bible encourages Christians to guard against poor association, it also warns against placing ourselves in the position to judge others. “Frightening” people into accepting their version of Christianity is something that “false prophets” do. Christians are told not to “judge anything,” but to leave that to “the Lord.”
Only a handful of times in my letter will you see me challenging some of the biblical teachings made by the Watchtower Society. While there is much to be challenged, it isn’t whatsoever the point I’m trying to make. Unlike the Society, I’m not trying to convince you that anyone’s way of thinking on a biblical matter is the only correct way—as if that might prove something. I’m trying to demonstrate the audacity in any human group’s demanding that they represent the only divine agency of God’s truth on earth—especially to the degree that they’ll impose and enforce a terrible, social isolation on those among them who disagree. I’m also trying to shine light on how this organization—despite the good intentions of many involved—certainly does not possess the credentials for being considered a “faithful and discreet slave,” nor “God’s channel of communication.”
As a Watchtower follower, where really is your faith? I know the answer since I spent my entire life with this group and served as a ministerial servant and elder for three years each. Watchtower devotees do not really cleave to Jesus Christ. They cleave to what they believe to be “God’s Organization.” Although there exists an understanding that Jesus will take the lead in righting all universal wrongs—although there may be an appreciation for Jesus—on a day-to-day basis Jehovah’s Witnesses are putting their faith in the people who claim to lead “God’s Organization.”
If the above does not seem clear to you, consider this: One of your four children is in the hospital after a terrible accident, and the doctor tells you they need a blood transfusion. Your child has made you responsible for acting in such an event, and you have to make a decision. Tearfully you explain to the doctor that you cannot allow a blood transfusion of the needed fractions. Why? Because of your faith in Christ? Or in the Watchtower Society?
Then let’s say the doctor comes in with one of the elders from the Hospital Liaison Committee who explains that the Society has just determined that the very fractions one of us needs is now considered a conscience matter, and not something the Society opposes. Might you allow this transfusion? And what would have prompted your decision? Your faith in Christ? Or in the Watchtower Society?
And, to get specific, how is this “theocratic organization” really supposed to work? It is claimed that Jehovah has installed Jesus Christ as King and that Jesus is communicating to his “domestics” through a “faithful and discreet slave,” which is a “class” originally limited to 144,000. Today the remaining ones of this class are supposedly scattered about the earth, associated with the organization of Jehovah’s Witnesses. As someone who served as an elder, I know that the only effort made with regard to such ones is to count those who partake at the Memorial each year. No data is requested of such persons by the Society, no address, no phone number. Just a little postcard with a total on it sent in to them.
Further, there is no two-way (nor even one-way) communication attempted with “anointed ones” when the Circuit Overseer comes for his congregation visit. He has meetings with the elders, ministerial servants, pioneers, but not with those of this “slave class.” Who are thought of as direct representatives of the Watchtower Society? The Circuit Overseers themselves, and not these anointed slave class members. And rarely today does one of these COs even profess to be anointed. Yet he tells these anointed ones what to think and do. It is, in reality not this supposedly anointed class of persons guiding this organization. It is the directors of the Watchtower Society themselves, who comprise a tiny percentage of this class, never making inquiry to the vast majority of supposedly anointed ones, and acting with impunity.
They get away with this because they have made those in the organization afraid to question them. While the questioning of newer ones is tolerated a bit, if you are a baptized Witness, you cannot ask many difficult questions without coming under serious scrutiny. At least on an organizational level, I do not find those directing the Watchtower Society to be humble slaves, but instead like the Pharisees whom Jesus said had “seated themselves in the seat of Moses.” [Matthew 23:2, NWT]
So how can the Governing Body of this organization claim to represent those with whom it makes no effort to communicate? Anyone who, in the sincerity of his or her heart, admits not to see evidence of such representation is attacked and branded an “apostate.” I even recall a letter to elders stating that a person need not even be “spreading” these thoughts. A person did not even have to believe that the Society was bad. All that was needed was for someone to hold the personal belief that the Society was not representative of God’s sole channel in order to rubber stamp him or her as “wicked” and a “traitor.”
But isn’t it true that God has always worked through an organization? This teaching is fundamental to Watchtower beliefs. It’s amazing how almost every Witness who begins to see the religion isn’t what they thought asks the same question: “Well, if Jehovah’s Witnesses don’t have The Truth…who does?” First Witnesses are taught that God has always worked through an organization of humans, therefore he must be working through one now. Then they are persuaded to believe that it is the Watchtower Society that represents this organization today.
While it’s true that, during certain periods of time, God did work through an organization, this was certainly not always the case. He spoke to some directly (Gen. 46:1-4; Josh. 8:1) or through angels. (Judg. 6:11-24; chapter 13) Others received visions or dreams. (1 Ki. 3:5-15; 9:1-9; Isa. 1:1; Amos 7:1-9; Ezek. 1:1) But most messages to God’s people were delivered by prophets. Who appointed prophets? The kings, the priests, or even the previous prophets? No. According to the Bible they were appointed by God himself. (Num. 11:24-29)
During Pentecost Peter, in explanation of the behavior of those spirit-filled Christians, quoted the prophet Joel…
This prophecy indicates that God would communicate with Christians in exactly the same ways he had during pre-Christian times: directly, by visions, dreams and through prophets. And is this what happened? Yes it is, and the book of Acts is filled with accounts of these things. It says "the last days," Mom. Do you believe we're living in the last days? Then how can you harmonize this scripture with the reality of life within the Watchtower bubble? The one that tells you your understanding of God and His purposes lies exclusively within the collective palm of men who represent the Society? That God only works through an authoritarian organization? That you shouldn't even be studying the Bible without the "aid" of their approved publications?
Consider Philip and the Ethiopian. Philip was preaching in Samaria. An angel sent him to the road from Jerusalem to Gaza. On his way he met an Ethiopian eunuch. Was it a “governing body” telling him what to do? No, the scriptures say it was “the spirit” that sent Philip to his chariot. After Philip baptized him, did he report to a panel of men for an assignment? No. God’s spirit led Philip away. (Acts 8:36, 39, 40)
Then there was Cornelius. He had a vision of an angel of God, who told him to send men to Joppa to get Peter. Meanwhile Peter, on the roof praying, fell into a trance, and was told by a voice that things formerly considered unclean were now clean. The spirit told him about the men sent by Cornelius. Peter went to Cornelius’ house, where he proclaimed the Gospel to a large group of people, who became Christians. (Acts 10:1-46) These things did not happen as a result of guidance from any human organization.
Mom, I actually have a cassette tape of a Gilead graduation talk delivered by Frederick Franz on September 7th, 1975, in which he brings out these very points. Bethelites have explained that, during this time, the Governing Body had been pushing to take the almost absolute authority away from then President Knorr, and distribute it amongst six different supervisory committees. Knorr and Franz were not happy about it, and during this time Franz tried to make his feelings known. Here is a word-for-word transcript of a portion of that talk…
“So you see, the Lord Jesus Christ was acting as Head of the congregation and taking action directly, without consulting anybody here on earth what he could do or what he could NOT do. And he acted in that way with regard to, to Saul and Barnabas. And they were both apostles of the Antioch congregation. And so they went out on the work and had great success, and in course of time they completed their first missionary tour, and where did they go … where did they report? Well, there's a record, you read it for yourself in the closing verses of the fourteenth chapter of Acts: THEY WENT BACK TO ANTIOCH, TO THE CONGREGATION THERE… (Franz is making clear that they did not have to report to any “governing body” in Jerusalem.) So there's where they reported. So the record also says, now they stayed in Antioch not a little time.Well, now, what happened? All of a sudden something, eh, occurs, and, uh, Paul and Barnabas, they go up to Jerusalem. Well, what's the matter? What brings them up to Jerusalem? Well, is it, uh, the body of apostles and of other elders of the Jerusalem congregation that have summoned them up there and said, 'Looka here. We have heard that you two men have gone out on a missionary tour … and you finished it, and you haven't come up here to Jerusalem to report to us. DO YOU KNOW WHO WE ARE? We're the Counsel of Jerusalem! Do you two recognize the headship of the Lord Jesus Christ? If you don't come on up here in a hurry, we're going to take disciplinary action against you.' Is that what the account says? Well, if they had acted that way toward Paul and Barnabas, because they reported to the congregation, uh, by means of which the holy spirit had sent them out, then this Counsel of Jerusalem, of apostles and of other elders of the Jewish congregation would have put themselves ABOVE the headship of the Lord Jesus Christ.”
Of course, in arguing against the concept of a Governing Body assuming authority, Franz pretty effectively refutes the larger concept that Christians are supposed to be in subjection to a centralized authority structure. And he was right.
The Watchtower Society applies “the faithful and discreet slave” mentioned at Matthew 24:45-47 to a “class” of people (the remnant of the 144,000.) But it’s very difficult to come away with this understanding after reading the parallel account at Luke 12:41-48.
I don’t believe you can read the above account and come away with the idea that the “faithful steward” here described is some type of “class.” It describes different sorts of people, all in the position of “slaves.” In describing the slave ‘appointed over all the Master’s belongings,’ it shows that this very one could later go bad. He could start doubting, beating the other servants, etc. Since you believe the “faithful steward” is a “class” of persons represented by the Watchtower Bible & Tract Society, do you accept that, according to the scriptures, they could go bad? And, just as was the case many times throughout Bible history, are you willing to condemn them if or when they do? How could you even be in the position to do that if you merely accept everything they say as being ‘God’s increasing light’? They tell you to think of them as “Mother.” They warn you not to conduct Bible study independent of their publications. Are you prepared, in the spirit of Jehu, to willingly abandon the leadership of this organization should you find they are not acting in line with God’s word?
The illustration goes on to describe other slaves who have varying degrees of accountability for their actions. It says, “everyone to whom much is given, much will be demanded.” These verses makes much more sense as an exhortation to individual Christians to be aware of the importance of proper behavior toward others, always remembering that one day they will have to answer to a higher authority.
How did this all happen? How did my family come under the spell of a legalistic and authoritarian high pressure group? How did none of us figure it out for so many years?
I am aware that both Dad and my brother-in-law profess to be of the anointed. I wish to make it perfectly clear that I am in no position to condemn them for this profession. I do not have any reason to believe they make this claim in intentional falsehood. Further, having grown up in our household, I do not believe that Dad is the sort of person who would make this claim in order to receive some special attention. On the contrary, I have no doubt that he does so with the utmost sincerity and in a spirit of humility. I would not be at all surprised that P-- is equally sincere. So what am I saying?
The following was written by a former Witness missionary and Bethelite who believed himself to be of the anointed and who gave almost his entire life to the Watchtower Society before finally figuring it out. He feels no animosity; only sadness and a responsibility springing from his own conscience to finally speak the truth—as so many former elders, Bethelites, and Circuit and District Overseers—many having professed to be anointed—are doing today…
This is what happened. No matter how many times one of Jehovah’s Witnesses reads in his bible that there is one God, and one mediator between God and man, the Watchtower Society has succeeded in placing that little asterisk* in the minds of its followers.
*While the Scriptures speak of Jesus as the “only” mediator between God and man, we of course know that he is using a “faithful and discreet slave class” of righteous persons. We also know that these ones are only in association with the organization of Jehovah’s Witnesses, using the Watchtower Bible & Tract Society as its legal instrument. So again, when the Bible reads ‘only Jesus is our mediator,’ faithful Christians know what it really means and are not troubled by it.
The effect? The clear and simple teaching of a relationship with Christ is exchanged for the “concept” of “The Organization.” And those involved do indeed become “Captives of a Concept.”
Mother, I’m sending you this letter as a result of my own conscience. There are two schools of thought when it comes to leaving a high-control group such as the Watchtower Society and communicating with family about your departure from it.
You can just try to slowly “fade” from the organization. You move away. You stop going to meetings. You have little contact with former friends within. When your family brings up the organization to you, you tell them as little as possible in the hope that they will only consider you “weak” and not shun you—so that you can at least enjoy some measure of contact and communication with them. (So many you may know who no longer attend—or rarely attend—meetings, or who provide you with short, non-committal answers to questions about the organization, are such faders. I know of at least one very pleasant, long time Witness in your own congregation who has come to recognize that the Watchtower Society isn’t what it claims to be—but continues to attend anyway, because that’s where old friends are, and because of this person’s fear of admitting such honest beliefs to others.)
Or you can just come out with the truth. That you have come to recognize that the Watchtower Bible & Tract Society is not what it purports to be—and that it is in fact horribly misleading and manipulating people. They persuade you to believe that using your own mind is “independent thinking” that demonstrates a disobedience to Jehovah. They have succeeded in convincing adherents that, in obeying their instruction to turn away from beloved family members, they are being “loyal to Jehovah.”
I thought I might try to fade at first, but I simply cannot live a lie. I cannot pretend I am not incensed by this pathetic, controlling organization and how it has ruined the lives of so many—all the while claiming to be “persecuted.”
The truth is my family needs to know what I know. And how dare these men in Brooklyn try to scare me from showing you?!
Ah, but then the reality of the situation sets in… Escaping the indoctrination of such a group is not easy. In fact it’s incredibly difficult. There exists a mental state known as “cognitive dissonance,” which encourages us to find reasons to continue believing in something we hold strongly—despite evidence that challenges it. The stronger the belief and/or the longer we’ve held the belief, the harder it is to overcome. The measure of the person will come down to this:
Do you really want the truth? I mean the real truth?
Why really does the Society not want you to see all of the information? Are you a child without the ability to distinguish truth from falsehood? Why did Paul at Hebrews 5:14 say that “mature people” would “through use” have “their perceptive powers trained to distinguish both right and wrong,” if in reality we are to subject what we consider to only that which is approved by a body of men? A genuine truth-seeker will not shy away from considering all of the information on an important subject such as this one. You are invited to do so.
If you do, you will be utterly floored to find that so many of those negative things we have heard people say over the years—the stuff we’ve always pooh-poohed—is not the flimsy faultfinding we thought it was. You will also note how the organization’s teachings on its own authority have, just like the leaven of the Pharisees, grown out of control.
Even as recently as 1961, this appeared in The Watchtower…
But what does the Society teach today?
The above is a small glimpse at how what started out as a fairly harmless group became a legalistic and authoritarian institution. ‘Beware the leaven’ indeed. Their own words condemn them. But this really doesn’t scratch the surface; there is so much more, and you deserve to see it.
In your letter to me, you wrote that you would not tell the rest of the family what I’ve told you. I have also heard that you did in fact do so, so I imagine you may do so again. I know that most if not all of the family may not speak to me after reading this or hearing of my position on the Watchtower Society. But of one thing I am confident: eventually some will go through exactly what I did. The flashpoints that have been accumulating throughout their lives will finally come to the fore, and they will finally give themselves permission to conduct an honest, objective investigation.
They may be affected by learning that the Society’s dating system of 607 B.C.E. and 1914 was a complete and utter blunder—and that the Society knows it but refuses to admit it publicly. They may be shocked to learn that, for nearly a decade, they entered into an alliance with the United Nations, the very organization the Society itself has demonized. Or they may finally be faced with the sick, sad history of policies that have protected tens of thousands of pedophiles and often led to the vicious expulsion of young victims who dared to speak out about it. I really could go on and on.
Yes, at some point they will see that it’s not just “mistakes” that have been made, dear mother. As I told you on the phone, whether you realize it or not, the entire foundation for the Watchtower Society’s claims of authority rests upon their calculation of 1914 as the date when Jesus began to rule. Their claims have vacillated through the years, but for many decades they’ve taught that in 1918, four years after they say Jesus sat down on his throne, he came to inspect those claiming to be Christians, and after a period of cleansing he appointed associates of the Watchtower Society “over all his belongings.”
Problem: In the late 1960s, when conducting research for Aid to Bible Understanding, it was discovered that Jerusalem did not fall in 607 BCE, but in 587 BCE. This would obviously mean that the “Gentile times” did not end in 1914 as they’ve always maintained. Later a remarkable amount of research was conducted by a Swedish pioneer elder who found seven lines of evidence demonstrating this very thing. There are literally tens of thousands of pieces of evidence that prove this. Every single scholar, every single historian, everyone else on the planet knows Jerusalem fell in 587. Only the Watchtower Society, because of an apparent reliance on bad information provided by Russell’s one time associate Nelson Barbour, uses 607. When the truth was discovered, the Governing Body considered a revision to the former Gentile Times date calculations. But they realized this would devastate all former teachings about Jesus coming in 1914 and choosing them in 1918/1919—and would dash their claims of having been appointed at that time as God’s sole channel of communication. So the majority voted not to release this information.
The brother in the writing department assigned to pen the information under “Chronology” in the Aid book later confessed he was simply given the task of poking whatever holes he could in the new information they found. When you (again) look at all the information, these comments and any the Society has made on this subject since then are superficial, disingenuous, and based on incredibly limited information. They, for instance, claim to be using “Bible chronology” in favor of “secular chronology,” when they use this very same “secular chronology” as the basis for every other historical date they accept. Nearly everything they write on this subject amounts to a smokescreen, attempting to obscure the simple fact that a mistake fatal to their claims of divine appointment had been made.
This man, along with other longtime brothers in the writing department, many other Bethelites and even that Swedish elder, would eventually be disfellowshipped for not keeping this and other information deemed embarrassing to the Society quiet. Each one of these individuals was a loyal Witness, doing research in an attempt to support the Society’s teachings. Such people, who the Society summarily dismissed, would later be described as “self-styled teachers,” as “running ahead” of the organization. When the truth is the organization was embarrassed by the veracity of what they found—and frightened by the threat this information posed to their own authority.
Mother, any argument about “waiting on Jehovah” or things being taken care of “in Jehovah’s due time” is pointless since it presumes that the leadership of this organization has grounds for proclaiming their unequaled divine guidance. But they don’t! They were not at any time—and they certainly aren’t now—chosen to be God’s mouthpiece, and their insistence that they be recognized as such makes them no different than the religious leaders of Jesus’ day. You have every right to examine the evidence in this regard, Mother. And you should be suspicious of anyone telling you not to.
Remember again, please, the warning Jesus provided…
In the September 8, 1987 Awake!, (pages 10, 11) the Watchtower Society makes the following appeal to members of other churches under the subheading: "If Your Church Fails to Act, Will You?”
If you ever finally do come to realize what I have—and want to speak of it—just call. I’ll be here.
Please understand how difficult this whole situation is for me. Any intensity you sense does not come from a disagreement with the teachings of the Watchtower Society. It comes from knowing they are willing to try and rip me from my family in an attempt to keep you from finding out what I know, as well as to protect the authority they exercise over you.
From what I understand, there was a time when those who left the Watchtower Society could leave with a bit of dignity. They could say, “Hey, I love you folks, but upon examination I no longer believe the way I used to.” But in the very early 80s, as they dealt with the fallout from the 1975 disappointment, the Society decided they didn’t want former members talking to active members. Consequently the Governing Body voted to treat disassociated ones the same way they treated the disfellowshipped.
This may be considered a shrewd move for an organization interested in preserving the authority of its leadership. But no matter how strongly they believe they are God’s special human agency, they are still men. They, you and I can believe whatever we want—as strongly as we want. But for us to believe something so strongly that we assume a position of superiority over other fellow humans and feel we have the right to impose penalties upon them simply for disagreeing with us? That’s wrong, Mom, and there’s nothing Christian about it.
So please: before you form this image of angry former Witnesses “governed by hate,” remember that it is not disassociated ones who decided to get all nasty here. The vast majority would be perfectly happy to leave peaceably, still maintaining good relationships with friends and family within. It was the Watchtower Bible & Tract Society who decided they would not have it. They would not tolerate people questioning, challenging, or deciding to leave. It is they who decided to create an adversarial relationship with any who dared not accept their authority. It is they who tell you to actually “hate” those who decide to leave their organization. This image Witnesses have of rabid apostates originates with the organization itself and its own hostility to dissent or even honest-hearted questioning.
I don’t claim that everything I’ve written here is without error, but I believe you can see that my expressions are not made by one who is “governed by hate.” And I’d be willing to put whatever mistakes can be found in this letter up against the Watchtower Society’s record any day.
If you’d like for me not to discuss the Watchtower Society with you, I can do that. But please understand that—if you ask this of me—it will be just as proper for me to ask the same of you.
My love for you and the entire family is not affected one bit. I love you for all of the things you are that have nothing to do with these guys in New York. This love is something God put in you and I—and the rest of our family. It is an entirely unnatural and unscriptural thing to allow a group of men to convince you that, because I no longer think they are what they say they are, you should act out of harmony with that love by shunning me.
I submit to you that it is the height of small mindedness for either of us to decide that, since we may have disagreements about what is and is not true, we should punish the other for it. I have presented you with lots of information that I deem relevant so you could—in the very least—understand that my reasons for leaving the organization are not negligible. I know it could seem as if I’m trying to convince you to see things as I do, but this is not my goal. I suppose it’s rather difficult to show you the strong reasons I no longer believe the Society is what it claims to be—without it coming across in that way. So I ask that you understand this predicament. It’s just the lot of a man who loves his parents and wants them to be happy, while hoping they know he is, in the sincerity of his heart, endeavoring to be every bit as righteous as they taught him to be.
It was good to see the photos of P-- and D-----’s new home, and I was so comforted to know you and Dad will have such a nice place to live whenever you decide it’s time to move in there. Please call or e-mail me from time to time. I have a new home with lots of room and would love for you, Dad and the rest of the family to visit me sometime.