Witnessing the Witnesses

Kingdom Hall signFor the past few weeks, I’ve been in contact with a few Jehovah’s Witnesses. They, of course, make it quite easy, since they will show up right at my house. So, yesterday (Saturday), I invited them in to sit and chat for a while, and at some point near the end of the discussion, they offered me an invitation to come join them in one of their weekly meetings.1 So today, I decided to take them up on this offer and attend their Sunday meeting. It was fascinating and strange, so I’d like to take some time to describe it for you.

The name of the main person I have been speaking with is Lubert. When he gave me the invitation, he had said he would leave his number and that if I was interested, I could call him and he would pick me up. Well, in the process he forgot to actually give me his number, so I ended up taking the bus. When I got there, I didn’t see him right away, but I managed to find one of the other people with which I had spoken before. He then took me to try and find Lubert, and when we finally did find him, he was ecstatic. He was completely surprised that I had shown up, since I hadn’t called him, and he went around introducing me to five or six people right away (and another six or seven afterwards). This whole process seemed reminiscent of “love bombing” that many cults use, where individuals are sort of “swarmed” and immediately shown love and affection. While I wouldn’t really classify Jehovah’s Witnesses as a “cult” (since they don’t operate around a charismatic leader, for one thing), I certainly felt welcome there. I almost felt famous, getting to shake all these people’s hands. Then again, I likely stood out quite a bit.

Kingdom Hall interiorThe Kingdom Hall itself was quite non-descript. Pastel-coloured walls, ugly chairs, ugly carpet. No different than many other churches. As I mentioned, there was no cross or any other religious imagery on the walls, but they did have a verse on the wall at the front in both English and Chinese (I forget what verse it was now). Although there was space in the hall for maybe about 100 people, I estimated about 50 people were there. Just like people at every other church in existence, these individuals seemed to have an extreme aversion to sitting near the front. The first five rows or so were almost entirely empty, save a few people at the front, near the side wall. While it was mostly older people, there were a few younger people in the crowd. Probably a few around my age, and a few in high school, with a couple children sitting in the row behind me. All the men seemed to have suits on, and I noticed many briefcases around. I guess that’s not unusual considering the fact that they always wear suits and carry briefcases when out witnessing to people.

Anyway, I sat with Lubert during the service and he gave me a copy of the Bible in the translation they use (New World Translation) and the little booklet with their Watchtower study guide for that service. At any rate, the way the services work is that members take turns preaching or performing other tasks; there is no pastor or other “leader”. As far as I understand it, there are “elders” that take care of some of the administrative duties, but other than that, there isn’t really a central leadership for each specific hall. So one of the members opened up the meeting and they sang one “Kingdom song”. The singing was hilarious, really. They had a recording of a piano playing the song, and everyone had little booklets with the songsheets, like hymn books. But honestly, the singing was little more than a mumble. I don’t know whether they were just unfamiliar with the song or the tune, or whether nobody cares about singing, but it was hilarious to hear such pathetic singing. It was good to hear that everyone was mumbling the song as much as I was.

After one song, another member came up and did a talk. They call it a “Bible discourse”, and it really was just like a sermon. It wasn’t a particularly good one, because he was essentially just reading a speech that was fully written out. So it was a bit dry, but that might have just been that particular person. The sermon was about how Jehovah is our stronghold. It was identical to a sermon you’d hear in any other church except for using the name “Jehovah” over and over again. I did notice that he used numerous passages to support his point, which is a little different than what I grew up with in the Pentecostal church. Most pastors I have listened to will pick a specific passage and then pull out some sort of message or topic from that passage. They may use other passages to support it, but one passage will be the “primary” one, so to speak. This individual was pulling out passages from 2 Samuel, Psalms, Nahum, Revelation, etc. Of course, they were pretty pathetic. Most of them just made some mention of Jehovah as a “stronghold”. But his point was essentially that it is important not to rely on the things of the world, such as fame, money, possessions, and so on, and instead rely on Jehovah for protection. All in all, a pretty typical sermon.

Watchtower study guideThis Bible discourse lasted for about half an hour or so. After this, they sang, or rather mumbled, another song, and then moved onto the second portion of the service. This was the “Watchtower Study” portion. And this is where things got interesting. I couldn’t have chosen a better week to come, because they were discussing the end times and the actions that Jesus is going to take during his final judgment. The study article was entitled “Our Active Leader Today”, and the first line said, “Christ was enthroned as King of Jehovah’s Messianic Kingdom in 1914.” My first thought was, “Oh boy, this is gonna be good.”

For those who may not be familiar with the intricacies of Jehovah’s Witnesses, their primary leaders are part of an organization called the “Watchtower Society.” They are continually printing dozens of booklets and tracts and such about all sorts of things, and this material is often given out when Witnesses are out going door-to-door as they often do. Watchtower also prints these study guides for their members as well. Essentially, all doctrine is passed down to congregations through this Society. As I understand it, the actions of the Watchtower Society are controlled by the “Governing Body“, the members of which are essentially the head honchos of the Jehovah’s Witnesses. Thus, the literature and doctrines of the JWs are strictly controlled by this group, and when I describe the remainder of the meeting, I’m sure you will be able to see how they are able to maintain such control.

As I said, the first part of the meeting took about half an hour. The rest of the time, about an hour and a half, was spent on this Watchtower study guide. They had assigned a “reader” to read aloud each paragraph of the guide one at a time, and then another person to guide the discussion. The whole thing was about four-and-a-half pages, and it was evident that these people had read it ahead of time. I saw plenty of highlighted pages and scribbled notes in the margins. So the reader would read a paragraph or two, and then the discussion leader would ask the questions that were at the bottom of the page. Then individuals would raise their hands, and two people would walk up and down the aisles and hand a microphone to a person selected to speak. The whole thing was reminiscent of high school—with people reading the book aloud, then questions answered by raising hands.

What I found entertaining was just how basic some of the questions really were. Let me give you one example. One paragraph read, “Before Jesus comes against Satan’s visible organization, the last of the 144,000 members of spiritual Israel will receive the final sealing. The Bible states clearly that the winds of destruction upon Satan’s system will not be released before this sealing of the 144,000 is completed.—Rev. 7:1-4” At the bottom of the page, this was the question: “What work will Christ complete before the winds of destruction are unleashed?” That was how basic most of the questions were. It was entirely clear just what the answer was as soon as you read the paragraph. In at least about 80% of the cases, the first answer that someone gave would be a quotation of a sentence from the paragraph itself—they just read it right off the page. There was very little analysis needed, other than perhaps reading a bit of the context of the Bible verses that were mentioned. I imagine that this has the effect of making people think that they are actually critically engaging in the material, but without actually encouraging them to think for themselves.

"Think for yourself!" "Make me!"

As I quoted earlier, the first line of the article mentioned 1914 as the date when Christ was enthroned. This is a very important date in Jehovah’s Witnesses theology. Essentially it is based on a failed prophecy from back in the 1800s, when Charles Taze Russell (essentially the founder of JWs) predicted that in 1914 the political rulership would be overthrown. When this didn’t happen, of course, it was reinterpreted to mean that Christ had restored his kingdom, but that the actual revelation of this fact would only take place later. So during this study time, a number of world events were tossed around as being significant. Both World War I and II were mentioned, and there were several references to an event which is supposed to take place at some point soon: their belief is that the UN is soon going to somehow outlaw Christianity, or something like that. This event will be put into action by Jesus himself, who will (potentially overnight, one person said) “put it into the hearts of political leaders to devastate this spiritual harlot.” They identify the entity known in Revelation as the “harlot” and “Babylon the Great” to be Christendom. Possibly all religion, but I’m not sure; only Christendom is mentioned.

There were a couple passages that I found particularly interested and amusing. Speaking of the letters to the churches provided in Revelation, it says, “Jesus commended Christians in Thyatira ‘who did not get to know the “deep things of Satan.”‘ (Rev. 2:24) Today, he likewise approves of those, young or old, who refrain from delving into the ‘deep things of Satan’ by means of the Internet or violent video games or by indulging in permissive human reasonings.” That last bit about “permissive human reasonings” cracked me up—oh no, make sure not to think too much! I later asked Lubert whether they were entirely against the Internet or were just supposed to stay away from the bad stuff, and he said it was the latter. He told me that they are not against the Internet, or TV, or movies, or dancing, or drinking, just that they needed to stay away from the dangers of immoral behaviour. In one of the pictures in the study guide, there are two elders talking to a teenager in his home, and one elder has the box of a video game in his hand that says “Warfare” on the cover. So while they aren’t against video games, they are against violent video games (and probably especially against games depicting war, considering their aversion to war in any circumstance).

The Governing Body also made a few appearances. The “anointed” Witnesses are known as the “faithful and discreet slave“, and while I don’t think that the Governing Body and the anointed Witnesses are the same thing, I’m sure there must be a significant overlap. So the booklet mentions that “As Head of the Christian congregation, Christ has used this ‘faithful and discreet slave’ to administer His Kingdom interests on earth. He has provided direction for the anointed ‘domestics’ and their ‘other sheep’ companions by means of a Governing Body.” Later it mentions that “Christ is using a small group of anointed Christian men as a Governing Body to lead and direct his disciples on earth.” And while I can’t vouch for the connection between Christ and the Governing Body, it certainly seems that the lives of the disciples on earth are certainly controlled by these people. It was truly amazing to see these people repeating back the material in these booklets, seemingly with no doubt in their minds as to its truth. Of course, perhaps some of these people do doubt, and simply don’t show it. I hope so. But on the outside, at least, there is rigid conformity.

New World Translation of the Holy ScripturesI must say that I enjoyed myself today. It was fascinating to observe this meeting. And while I don’t plan on returning (if you want to attract people like me, you’re going to need a lot more good-looking women than were present there), I am glad that I went. I do want to point out some of the positive aspects that I noticed. First off, the people there were certainly very nice. I felt accepted and welcomed, for sure. Second, it was very multicultural, which I enjoyed. Lubert is from Guyana himself, and he introduced me to someone from Greece. I saw a couple Black people there, and some Asians, and in another room on the other side of the building, they had another meeting going on in Spanish. Because Jehovah’s Witnesses do not consider themselves to be of any worldly nationality, it does lead them to be very accepting of others. That is certainly good to see. Third, these people have a high respect for the Bible. Of course, while they did spend more time reading the Watchtower study guide than they did the Bible, the guide was littered with biblical references throughout. In one service, I received a more coherent end-times theology than I ever learned in hundreds of services in the Pentecostal church. Sure, there are other things to learn than just about the “coming judgment,” but they connected their theology with real events and ascribed the players in Revelation to real entities. While on some level that frightens me, it at least shows that they take themselves seriously. They know their Bible inside and out, and if you bring up any topic, they will have several verses that they can share with you. That is the kind of behaviour I expect from people who claim that the Bible is the inspired word of God. I mean really, if you believe the Bible to be absolutely 100% true and given from the ruler of the universe, shouldn’t you be reading it eagerly every night to see what it says? These people, at the very least, seem to show consistency in that area.

Anyway, like I said, I don’t intend on going back for another service. I did this for interest’s sake, and now that has been satisfied. But I do enjoy talking with these people and coming to a better understanding of what they believe. I found this whole experience a bit bizarre, but fascinating. Hopefully my description can give others a better sense of what it’s like. But if you decide to go and see it with your own eyes…just be prepared for the mumbling. Oh, the mumbling.

Notes:

  1. We had previously been talking about the cross and about other Christian imagery, and so I had asked them if they used any religious symbols in their “Kingdom Halls”—which they don’t. So they invited me to come see for myself. []

22 responses to “Witnessing the Witnesses”

Corinne

Hi Jeff! Fascinating read, to say the least! I have questioned some of their belief system over and over again and, to me, a lot of it contradicts itself. I won’t get into my beliefs verses theirs, but how is it that they consider themselves Christians when they don’t believe that Jesus is the Son of God? This is one of the main cornerstones to being Christian. Perhaps they are under the assumption that they are a different denomination like Pentecostal or Baptist??? The reason we have different denominations within the Christian church is because we can’t agree! However, we all believe that Jesus is the Son of God, so again, how are the JW claiming to be Christians??? Just a thought.

Anyway, there are my thoughts. And I didn’t mumble them! Maybe I should have been singing?! lol

Corinne

Jeff

Hey Corinne,

You’re right that they don’t believe Jesus is God. They do, however, still believe he is the Messiah and still attribute just about everything else in mainstream Christianity to him. They just view him as God’s first creation (only-begotten son), and then everything else was created through him (whatever that means). But while there are other non-Trinitarian Christians (some Pentecostals, for example, call themselves “Oneness” Pentecostals), and there have been non-Trinitarian Christians throughout history (a major one being Arianism), you’re right that it is a little odd that they still call themselves Christians. But they pretty much view all other Christian denominations as being deceived by Satan and that they are the only “true” Christians. So that probably explains most of it. I’m not sure they would even consider themselves a “denomination”, but rather say that they are holders of the Truth.

Anyway, ultimately, I think “Christian” is a pretty loose term, considering the wide range of beliefs among them. But really, “Christ” means “Messiah”, and JWs still believe Jesus is the Messiah…so I don’t think it’s entirely strange that they call themselves Christians. But whatever. Anyway, thanks for the comments!

Corinne

Got that straight, now?! Um, NOT! lol Still not sure exactly what they believe and why they believe it, even after reading up on them myself. But your blog post was an interesting read and humourous. (-:

Corinne

TIMOTHY

Jeff and the rest of you should no that Jesus is NOT Almighty God. Bible book of Isiah says is a mighty God. And Jesus Christ also proved that to us that MY FATHER IS GREATER THAN I.

when he was teaching disciples how to pray he told them to direct their prayers to God (JEHOVAH) not himself

(Matthew 6:9-13) 9 “YOU must pray, then, this way: “‘Our Father in the heavens, let your name be sanctified. 10 Let your kingdom come. Let your will take place, as in heaven, also upon earth. 11 Give us today our bread for this day; 12 and forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. 13 And do not bring us into temptation, but deliver us from the wicked one.’

and at the point of death he also prayed to his faithful father

(Matthew 27:46) 46 About the ninth hour Jesus called out with a loud voice, saying: “E?li, E?li, la?ma sa·bach·tha?ni?” that is, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”

NOTE JEHOVAH GOD CANNOT DIE but JESUS DIE AND GOD RESURRECTED HIM ON THE THIRD DAY.

Gandy

“While I wouldn’t really classify Jehovah’s Witnesses as a “cult” (since they don’t operate around a charismatic leader, for one thing), I certainly felt welcome there.”

What ?? …You suggesting Jehovah isnt charismatic enough ??.

Grrrr…Right that does it …Jeff your excommunicated

Ohh my giddy Watchtower …such Sacrilege.

Jeff

Lol I meant that they don’t have a leader like Jim Jones or David Koresh that everyone follows. The Watchtower is pretty “Big Brother”-ish but there isn’t any sort of fanatical devotion to one single person like in most cults and New Religious Movements. But I’m sorry…I’ll make sure my next post is more in line with JW doctrine 😛

Gandy

🙂 hmmm ….Well maybe we can forgive you …Maybe …so long as you agree to hand out about 2 zillion Watchtowers . Ok ? 🙂

But serriously Jeff.Many faithful folks are mighty kind ,and so im not wanting to seem to place them all in cults.But still they all do actually have a “very charismatic figure” ..and his name is Jesus.Folks dont always need a visable leader to still be brainwashed and under a type of spell.

And with regards to you personally not seeing anything that you thought resembled cult action.This doesnt mean it isnt there.My friend ,many cults become “experts” at putting on a special act.Indeed thats exactly how they escape prosecution for so very long.

Its a very sad thing.I have personal experience of just how excellent some cults are at getting away with all sorts ,by putting on a good front for the general public.Maybe ..and i mean maybe …Sometimes folks just dont dig deep enough ..Have a wee read in places like this Jeff http://exjehovahswitnessforum.yuku.com/

And there are more sites like that.

You might be thinking ..but these could just be unhappy people …people with nothing better to do but moan …Etc

I understand folks thinking that way.I have folks say those very things to me .

But its to much like somebody saying …Ohhh those windging lung cancer patients ..they just are unhappy about how much money tobacco companies made.Got nothing better to do ..Etc

There is just far to much evidence that something very wrong is happening.Its not evidence from year 5o ad either ,its not just written in some holy book neither.

But this world has evolved with this fear of ever daring doubting or being seen as looking like you have lost respect of folks of faith.

Jeff

That is true – I have no idea what kind of behaviour goes on, for example, in the homes of JWs, or between individual members, or at other types of meetings. I can only talk about what I’ve seen myself, and while certainly there is a level of uniformity of beliefs much greater than in other Christian groups, I didn’t see anything to cult-like behaviour. But then again, I’m using a pretty specific definition of “cult” or “New Religious Movement” that is used in sociological/psychological literature. Of course, if someone’s using a bit of a looser definition, JWs might reasonably fit the description.

But I’m sure ex-JWs definitely have some very interesting stories, especially about the difficulties leaving the church. I’m sure harassment or complete shunning is pretty common with them. I’ll have to poke around a bit on that forum you linked to and see what they say. Thanks!

Gandy

Jeff said …“But then again, I’m using a pretty specific definition of “cult” or “New Religious Movement” that is used in sociological/psychological literature.”

Hi Jeff .Id be real interested to look at this specific sociological/psychological literature.Can you suggest a link?.

I hope you dont think im being too pushy ,this stuff is just kind of very close to the bone for me personally thats all.As such i do take extra interest.As i understand it Jeff,you dont seem the type who minds open discussion.And im not here to try changing your mind ,infact what i like the most about you , is you seem the type who always dicides for himself.

I just want to discuss a few points a little more so hope thats ok.But before i start i want to say i fully understand what you say about only being able to judge by that what you seen yourself.But in saying that im picking maybe some folk who visited David Koresh or Jim Jones groups for quick visits ,may have felt exactly the same way.I know for sure some folks who make short visits to the faith group i came from ,sure do think these folk sure seem mighty fine.

In you OP it talks about :….“The Governing Body also made a few appearances. The “anointed” Witnesses are known as the “faithful and discreet slave“, and while I don’t think that the Governing Body and the anointed Witnesses are the same thing, I’m sure there must be a significant overlap”

When i follow the link you provided through i see this…..“The faithful and discreet slave is the term used by Jehovah’s Witnesses to describe the collective body of “anointed” Christians alive on earth. This “remnant” of the 144,000, whose members expect to ascend to heaven at death,[1] currently numbers more than 10,800.[2] Jehovah’s Witnesses believe this group exercises teaching authority in all matters pertaining to doctrine and articles of faith.[3][4]

The “faithful and discreet slave” is described as a “class” of Christians that operates under the direct control of Jesus Christ[1] and has been delegated the task of “feeding” Christians with scriptural instruction and exercising direction over their interests and affairs.[5] The concept is a central doctrine of Jehovah’s Witnesses’ system of belief[6] and is based on their interpretation of the parable of the wise steward in Matthew 24:45-47.

Jeff that meeting you went to doesnt tell us how far this bit goes …“exercising direction over their interests and affairs”

http://www.allaboutcults.org/religious-cults.htm talks about … ” Religious cults add their own rules, rituals and ceremonies — their own works of righteousness to the finished work of Jesus on the cross. These organizations officially state that Jesus’ sacrifice is sufficient for salvation, but then they go on to say that their version of “works” must be added to the simplicity of His grace in order to warrant true salvation.”

In you OP …“I later asked Loubert whether they were entirely against the Internet or were just supposed to stay away from the bad stuff, and he said it was the latter. He told me that they are not against the Internet, or TV, or movies, or dancing, or drinking – just that they needed to stay away from the dangers of immoral behaviour.”

David Koresh or Jim Jones could have said the same type things.I know the group i came from do .The group i came from will also say.. Look we are not entirely against Christians of other dominations oh no not at all ,but we just think our members should try and stay away from “the dangers of immoral behaviour” of those other christian people who are not actually within our own group.

Naturally Jeff you were a there that day as a “prospect” .You already said it seemed “love bombing” was present ….Do you really think Loubert is going to think it so wise to say …Yes for sure Jeff , if we see you involved in any things our “anointed” Witnesses that are known as the “faithful and discreet slaves“ dont agree with.You will be given a right “Tally Hoe” to quickly learn to tow the line in a great hurry ! , and if you dont learn to obey! you`ll be just as quickly shown the door , son .

🙂 .I know the group i came from might be deluded and under mind control …But they are still not entirely silly …They have been schooled at manipulating situations ..They know exactly what wording to use when trying to make everything sound all sweet n rosy , just as they also know when and how to quickly poke a foot in your door ! so as to try to not ! take any “no” for an answer , should you suggest you dont want their faith .Just as your cuz Corinne already explained earlier herself.

Gandy

I say this …“Jeff that meeting you went to doesnt tell us how far this bit goes …“exercising direction over their interests and affairs”

Simply because as far as i know one thing dangerous cults are very well known for, is for having feelings of “grandeur” and for feeling extra “special” in some way.This factor is what makes the Jim Jones and David Koresh types ,feel need to move away from the rest of society, out into their own special places.

“The faithful and discreet slave is the term used by Jehovah’s Witnesses to describe the collective body of “anointed” Christians alive on earth. This “remnant” of the 144,000, whose members expect to ascend to heaven at death,[1] currently numbers more than 10,800.[2] Jehovah’s Witnesses believe this group exercises teaching authority in all matters pertaining to doctrine and articles of faith.[3][4]

The “faithful and discreet slave” is described as a “class” of Christians that operates under the direct control of Jesus Christ[1] and has been delegated the task of “feeding” Christians with scriptural instruction and exercising direction over their interests and affairs.[5] The concept is a central doctrine of Jehovah’s Witnesses’ system of belief[6] and is based on their interpretation of the parable of the wise steward in Matthew 24:45-47.”

1. “anointed” Christians

2. This “remnant”

3 . The “faithful and discreet slave”

4 described as a “class” of Christians

5 . direct control of Jesus Christ

I smell people who “to me” seem they might be very full of feelings of great grandeur and feeling extra special , Jeff.

Gandy

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Governing_Body_of_Jehovah%27s_Witnesses

“Its size has varied, with as many as eighteen members from 1974 to 1980;[9] since June 2010 it has comprised eight members,[10] who each claim to be of the “anointed” class with a hope of heavenly life.[11][12] Its membership is unelected; ((existing members)) invite new members to join the body.[13] Once appointed to the Governing Body, almost all members have remained in the position until their death. Ewart Chitty resigned[14] and Leo Greenlees left the Governing Body about 1984.[15] Raymond Franz left the Governing Body in 1980, later claiming he was forced to resign over accusations that he had been promoting “apostate” teachings as “new understandings” in private conversations with other Witnesses.[16][17][18][19]

Governing Body meetings are held weekly in closed session.[20] Watch Tower Society publications provide no details of the agenda or discussion leading to decisions.[21] Until 1975, decisions of the body were required to be unanimous; since then, a two-thirds majority of the full body has been sufficient to allow proposals to be carried, regardless of the number present ”

“A year later, in an article opposing the democratic election of congregation elders, the magazine said the appointment of congregation servants was the duty of “a visible governing body under Jehovah God and his Christ”

“who are collectively said to be God’s “prophet”[72] and “channel for new spiritual light”.

All interesting stuff Jeff ..These folk have Gods prophet among the eight in the governing body.And they have this new spiritual light too.

Did you see any extraordinary large glows ?

Jeff

Thanks for your thoughtful response, Gandy. I don’t have a link to specific literature about the definition of New Religious Movements – I’ve picked it up from my social psychology class as well as a couple of my friends who have taken psychology classes about cults and NRMs. So I admit that my definition is second-hand and somewhat summarizes what is an on-going discussion in the literature. With that said, here is a pretty good summary of how I conceptualize cults. Note that they list JWs as an example of a “sect”, which is in some ways similar to a cult, but has some important differences.

Also, don’t think that my hesitation to call them a “cult” is indicative that I’m legitimizing their beliefs in any way or saying that they don’t have controlling and manipulative practices. That’s not it at all. At one time, they probably would be classified as a cult, and they seem to have kept some of those restricting practices as they’ve grown. But almost without fail, cults are centered around a charismatic leader (sometimes a pair of leaders), and are typically small. They also usually die out or disperse when the leader dies. As they grow in size or create more institutionalized practices, they tend to get classified as “sects” or “denominations”. I would say that the fact that the “Governing Body” even exists is evidence of the institutions that have been set up.

So I agree with you that their practices of interfering with the activities of their members is bad. I agree that they are manipulative and controlling. However, I think these are necessary conditions of cults, but not sufficient conditions. In other words, they have some of the aspects that cults do, but not quite enough to fall in the same category.

As far as the Governing Body is concerned, I honestly see very little difference between that and something like the Vatican. The Vatican has a hierarchical structure with the Pope and archbishops that make decisions about the official doctrine of the Catholic church. They consider themselves to be the representatives of God on earth, they are unelected but rather are appointed by existing members, and their meetings are closed except for their official proclamations. But very few people would claim that the Catholic church is a cult. So the fact that the Jehovah’s Witnesses have a similar structure doesn’t make them a cult either.

Again, let me stress that I’m not trying to defend the JWs in any way. I’m only trying to defend my classification of them. A lot of people will call just about any group they don’t agree with a “cult”, and I would like to use a more nuanced definition with some criteria like 1) a charismatic leader, 2) isolation from the outside world, 3) claims of “new revelation” or esoteric knowledge, 4) lack of a bureaucratic structure, and 5) typically small size, with members in direct contact with the leader. Scholars likely use more criteria than these, but I think that’s at least a half-decent list. JWs would only fit #2 and, to a certain extent, #3.

Anyway, I do appreciate your comments, Gandolf. I would be interested in hearing what you have to say about that list of criteria so that maybe we can reach some common ground over what to call these guys 🙂

Gandy

Jeff said…”Also, don’t think that my hesitation to call them a “cult” is indicative that I’m legitimizing their beliefs in any way or saying that they don’t have controlling and manipulative practices. ”

Hey Jeff ..honest no worries , i like thinkers, not puppy dogs.Please dont feel you ever need to make an apology for having a different opinion.

I agree its a tough call.But then i already said my opinion is many faiths seem very borderline cults ,to me.And my opinion is this is also why so many of these group are able to freely continue on harming.It is my opinion that freedom of faith has opened the way.

So this “group harm” will very likely continue.And folks of faith will continue to sanction it, by suggesting some other faith groups exist to help pick up the peices.Its kind of like sinners who feel prayer relieves them of guilt.

If a cult is that what “usually die out or disperse when the leader dies.” then yes that term tends to free the group i personally came from of any guilt of being accused as an abusive cult.If an abusive cult must be defined by only having a certian amount of domineeering leaders (say 1 or 2) then yes that factor might free the JWs even if they continue to be an “abusive group”

In my opinion these are loop-holes that leaders of these cults groups are also very well aware of.

Jeff ..”The Vatican has a hierarchical structure with the Pope and archbishops that make decisions about the official doctrine of the Catholic church”…..but are these decisions kept hidden entirely within the hierarchical structure?.Are the pope and archbishops able to quietly fleece the system without the rest of the church having any ability to keep any account, for instance?.

I never learned much at school,but cant dictatorship be also said to have a “type” of bureaucratic structure?.If so i dont understand how simply having a “bureaucratic structure” in place ,resolves a group of being involved in abuse .But as an ex cult member i fully understand that it is this “fear” of daring to upset some folks of faith,that has our society shuffling around, carefully trying to apply classification of all the finer details.While some folks still suffer so long and so harshly,quite a number still get driven to suicide.While folks decide on classifications.

Still i suppose, atleast those folks of faith dont get to upset.And im sure God would rather see “faith abuse” still drive quite a large number to suicide ,rather than have some folks of faith group bear the “dreadful angony” of ever being wrongfully investigated which might mess around with their pride.

Jeff im honestly glad you look at these things from a professional view.And im totally against things ever becoming unprofessional ,or like witch hunts.

I havent been through any formal education.My experience in sum total is the result of graduating the school of har knocks.

But my humble opinion is this .Something seems to be wrong with professional approach ….When the professional approach still allows so many to still suffer on endlessly within so many faith “groups”

I highlight “groups” ….Purposely because we are not just talking about 1 or 2 or 3 Joe Blogs here, who decides to be abusive ….We are talking about abuse still being “allowed” to continue on happening within organized “groups” of people .

Gandy

A few crazy muslims decide they are going to blow up a building in down town New York …This produces enough outrage …that “double quick” a country sends troops to fight a war that lasts for years.

Faith groups quietly blow apart the whole lives of quite a large number of people , continually year after year ! for thousands ! of years …And folks dont do anything much about it because the abuse dont fit the right classification.

L.o.L …..:)

Gandy

Funny thing is ..many of those folk in down town New York.possibly suffered a whole lot less.It certainly wasnt long-suffering what caused their death

The same thing cant be said for a number of folk still caught up in abusive faith groups.Some who find the suffering so very extreme.Its simply seems less harsh, and far easier to decide on commiting suicide.

Gandy

So to sum it up.This is how i see matters.

1.The professionals would say ..Gandy.. these groups just dont fit the “criteria” for “classification” to be classed as being an abusive cult

2.This lay-man named Gandy simply “suggests” in return, yes but surely something is very dramatically wrong ! with the “professional criteria” for classification of what might or might not define an “abusive cult” …When quite a “large number” of people are still obviously suffering so “harshly” within these “groups” ,that quite a number are still even being driven! to far PREFER commiting suicide as a way to try and escape the endless pain they obviously are suffering from.

Gandy

Again, let me stress that I’m not trying to defend the JWs in any way. I’m only trying to defend my classification of them.

I know my friend.And im being completely honest when i continually say that is what i like best! about the fact you try to look at things from an unbiased critical view and continue to make up your mind on what you honestly feel is the correct decision.

The world honestly needs this type of person.

Jeff

I think what we’ve ended up doing is quibbling over terminology. Not calling a group a “cult” doesn’t restrict us from calling that group “abusive” by any means. The difference in classifications of “cults” and “sects” and “denominations” and so forth are for the psychologists and sociologists to compare and contrast things. It’s for their own literature, really. But I’m certain that those researchers would be perfectly willing to say that other groups besides cults can be abusive or domineering or restrictive, etc. The term is just for their own comparison purposes.

So I don’t think we disagree on anything other than terms. Abuse is abuse (though we could break that down into different types as well, like physical, sexual, psychological, etc.), and should be stopped no matter where it occurs. There’s no reason to let a word stop us from taking action, and I don’t think it does. What stops us from taking action against abuse in religious groups is a general acceptance in society of the merits of faith and religion, and thus a disinclination to keep a watchful eye on these sorts of groups.

To sum up what I’m saying, I’m pointing out that “cult” doesn’t necessarily mean “abusive cult”, and that “sect/denomination” doesn’t necessarily mean “non-abusive sect/denomination”. The two classifications between abuse and religious group are separate, and should be treated as such. Doing so would likely make it easier to identify abuse for what it really is, and where it really occurs, rather than assuming that because it’s a religious group, it must be okay.

Gandy

Hey Jeff yes i would agree most likely its only terms we quibbling on.And most of that will be to do with “my” lack of understanding of the terminology.

And im sure there are plenty of real decent folks within the JWs.I know there are within the group my own family came from.The catholic folk too.And Anglican and Baptist the whole lot.

What stuffs it all up for everyone though is the “protection racket” they continue to run as a collective by voting for general respect of religion.If there is nothing to hide in these groups, they should not have reason to fear public scrutiny , right?.Im country there has been times when government departments have removed kids from what they considdered an abusive situation,only to hand the child on to another child abuser.Their fear was about respecting the general public first.This came at the cost of the child who continued getting abused.

This same thing is happening within faith.The general respect that is demanded by faith,comes at the cost of those who continue to be abused.I cannot see that Jesus would sanction such practice,otherwise why didnt he allow them to set somebody else up to take the fall !, for his faith?

In my opinion its about time all the decent folk within all these many faith groups spoke out a little more for need of some more transparency, rather than collectively voting for the protection racket, in which abusive groups will then also use to hide.It could help save some anger that tends to exist.

But then i guess like they say Rome wasnt built in a day.Its only been a few thousand years abusive faith “groups” have been allowed to exist.Maybe in some time to come these things will start to change.

By the way Jeff i found your next post very excellent too.I know so little about it though,so im quietly reading and listening, waiting to hear what your other readers think.

Jeff

That is true. But then again, what religion allows members to vote democratically on dogma and doctrine? I can’t think of a single example.

TIMOTHY

the truth of the matter is that you people don’t have better understand what bible really teaches.

you better pray to God to grant you clear different between Holly Spirit , Jesus Christ and God.

do not forget that Jesus said … Sanctify them by means of the truth; your word is truth

“I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. . .
Jesus is “the truth” not only because he always spoke and lived the truth but also because all the prophecies written about the Messiah—scores of them—were fulfilled in him. “No matter how many the promises of God are,” wrote the apostle Paul, “they have become Yes by means of him.” (2 Cor. 1:20) Even “a shadow of the good things to come” contained in the Mosaic Law became a reality in Christ Jesus. (Heb. 10:1; Col. 2:17) Jesus is the focal point on which all prophecies concentrate, and they shed light on his central role in the outworking of Jehovah’s purpose. (Rev. 19:10) To benefit from the fulfillment of what God has purposed for us, we need to follow the Messiah.
15 Jesus is “the life” because he has bought the human race with his lifeblood, and everlasting life is a gift that God gives “by Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Rom. 6:23) Jesus is “the life” also to those who have died. (John 5:28, 29) Moreover, think of what he will do as High Priest during his Millennial Reign. Why, he will obtain everlasting deliverance from sin and death for his earthly subjects!—Heb. 9:11, 12, 28.
16 Jesus’ answer to Thomas, then, has great meaning for us. Jesus is the way and the truth and the life. He is the one God sent forth into the world for the world to be saved through him. (John 3:17) And no one comes to the Father except through him. The Bible clearly states: “There is no salvation in anyone else, for there is not another name under heaven that has been given among men by which we must get saved.” (Acts 4:12) Whatever our background may be, therefore, it is the course of wisdom for us to believe in Jesus, follow him, and thus be led to life.—John 20:31.

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