Prisoners in the Tower

Serena Williams, ranked as the number one women’s tennis player, recently received a trophy in Australia. “I have to thank Jehovah God for this,” she said, facing the crowd. She and her sisters became Jehovah’s Witness in the early 1980s. “We believe in God and the Bible,” she said, “and without him I wouldn’t be here right now.” Most JWs will tell you the same, but we need to look beyond the paintings and scale over the fence to see what lies behind the tower.

When JWs show up at your door, they first ask if you have a Bible and request to study the Bible with you. They hand you their study book, What Does the Bible Really Teach? and tell you to read out a portion and answer the questions on each paragraphs. For the next hour, that’s all you do and this is how each session will go. Wait a minute, I thought they said this was a “Bible study.” They are not studying the Bible with you, but conditioning you to accept the Watchtower’s faulty interpretation of the Bible.

This is a “bait and switch” system where what you are told outside is different from what you get once you walk in. On the outside, the Jehovah Witness religion claims to have faith in Jesus or primarily study the Bible, but as you are drawn in, the main emphasis shifts to the Watchtower Society.

“The only reliable guidance by which to direct our steps is spiritual guidance which comes through Jehovah’s word, his spirit and his organization.” (The Watchtower, Sept. 1, 2005, 23)

“We should meekly go along with the Lord’s theocratic organization and wait for further clarification rather than balk at the first mention of a thought unpalatable to us and proceed to quibble and mouth our criticisms as though they were worth more than the slave’s provision of spiritual food.” (The Watchtower, Feb. 1, 1952, 80)

“We ‘see’ Jehovah and ‘hear’ his voice of salvation by heeding what he says through his inspired Word, the Bible, and through the faithful and discreet slave.” (The Watchtower, Dec. 1, 2006, 9)

The terms “Jehovah’s organization,” “the Lord’s theocratic organization” or “faithful and discreet slave” all refer to Watchtower leadership which Witnesses must submit to. Thus, when JWs tell you they are “hearing” or trusting in Jehovah, what they really mean is that they are hearing and trusting in the Watchtower Society – Jehovah’s organization through which his spirit teaches Bible truths. This principle of blind loyalty to an authoritarian leadership as a condition of “salvation” is a mark of all cults. Here are more quotes:

“Put faith in a victorious organization” (The WT, March 1, 1979, 1)

“To receive everlasting life in the earthly Paradise, we must identify that organization and serve God as part of it” (The WT Feb. 15, 1981, 12)

“Respond to the directions of the [Watchtower] organization as you would to the voice of God.” (The WT, June 15, 1957, 370)

“Come to Jehovah’s organization for salvation” (The WT Nov. 15, 1981, 212)

Contrary to what JWs say in public, their faith is not in Jesus, but a man-made organization. In their 2013 study article, Make Sure of the More Important Things, the term “organization” appears 24 times, while the name of Jesus appears only 18 times. The accompanying chart on it shows that the Watchtower Society next in command after Jehovah – omitting Jesus Christ!

We need to ask JWs: what would your life be without Jesus? Since He is the “way, truth and life” what qualifications does the Watchtower Society have that equal Jesus’ claim? If John 14:6 is true, then why do they need the Watchtower? If they were to go through life without the Watchtower Society where would they be and if they were to go through life without Jesus which loss would be greater?

The Bible is clear that “Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men, by which we must be saved.” (Acts 4:12) Jesus Christ – not an organization – “is the gate; whoever enters through [Him] will be saved” (Jn. 10:9) We are saved “only by believing in Jesus Christ…in order to receive God’s approval by faith in Christ” (Gal 2:16). As many as believe in Him receive eternal life (Jn. 3:16). The only way to be saved and have God’s approval is to receive Christ by faith into one’s heart. So it’s not about being in an organization but being in Christ and Christ being in us.

The totalitarianism wielded by Watchtower leadership helps absolve them of their false teachings and evil practices. Julie, an ex-JW, recalled reporting an elder whom she felt was a wolf among the sheep to another elder. “He laughed at the absurdity of my comment and said ‘Those verses [of wolves among sheep] only refer to the first century.’ ‘What?’ I asked myself. He explained that since Jehovah’s organization was fully formed, there were no wolves in the congregation.” So they are infallible!

Eventually, Julie was summoned to a judicial trial. “At those hearings, I upheld my faith in Jehovah, Jesus Christ, and the Bible, but I refused to put faith in the Watchtower Society.” This was deemed a great offense and she was disfellowshipped. Let’s look 4 facets of Watchtower control over JWs:

I. Fostering a Child-like Dependency

“[We must] show our respect for Jehovah’s organization for she is our mother and the beloved wife of our heavenly father, Jehovah God.” (The WT, Nov. 1, 1995, 25)

“So we stand up respectfully and bless his faithful organization, his queenly ‘woman’ in heaven which makes all these loving provisions for us as children of God.” (The WT Oct. 1, 1950, 348)

JWs are reduced to “little children” who depend on Father and Mother to teach them how to behave, think, what to feel or say. The Watchtower organization demands absolute submission to their control. This is why after a JW leaves the religion, he feels confused because he has depended on their leadership for his identity and direction for so long.

II. Control of Behaviour

A good example of behaviour modification is how JWs are forbidden by Watchtower policy to report any case of sexual abuse or incest within the religion to the police in order to protect the image of Jehovah’s organization – ironically, the very organization that covers the abuse and shields the abuser (as many victims have testified). Three quotes from The Watchtower November 1, 1995 article which deals with sexual abuse were quite revealing:

Can we doubt that the Devil now plays upon child abuse and the ‘downhearted spirit’ of many adults who suffered this (or are troubled by ‘memories’ of having suffered it) to try and weaken the faith of Christians?” (p. 26)

This rhetoric is aimed at preventing victims from exposing their abusers or talking about the abuse so it won’t appear that they are being used by the devil to weaken the faith of other JWs. Such a clap trap would keep lips sealed and “the Society” in a clean image.

If there is some valid reason to suspect that the alleged perpetrator is still abusing children, a warning may have to be given. The congregation elders can help in such a case. Otherwise, take your time. Eventually, you may be content to let the matter drop.” (p. 28)

You can’t miss the undertone here: “take your time…let the matter drop.” This is the same look-the-other-way policy adopted by Catholicism towards sex predators in its ranks. One wonders how only congregational elders can help in cases when the abuser is also an elder. Will an elder expose a fellow elder? I  don’t think so.

If the accusation is denied, the elders should explain to the accuser that nothing more can be done in a judicial way. And the congregation will continue to view the one accused as an innocent person…Even if more than one person ‘remembers’ abuse by the same individual, the nature of these recalls is just too uncertain to base judicial decisions on them without other supporting evidence.” (pp. 28-29)

How ludicrous! So once a sex predator in the Watchtower rank denies he abused a child, he is deemed innocent and the victim is quickly told there’s no justice! Even when several children point him out as an abuser, these are still “just too uncertain” to make him guilty. What “supporting evidence” is required? Do the judicial elders have to watch the sexual act itself before an action is taken? With this “policy,” a paedophile can continue abusing children for another 20-30 years before the Watchtower would debate whether he is guilty. Such a paradise for paedophiles.

III. Control of Emotions

Two things inform a human emotions – thoughts and pictures. The pictures on Awake! or The Watchtower magazines portray JWs as happy, peaceful people who will live in paradise earth, while non-JWs are presented as mindless hypocrites or wicked folks who will be blown to bits at Armageddon. Such images are meant to keep the JWs from leaving and at the same time lure in the foolhardy. Labels are powerful. Once they are hurled at a group, it sticks, and negative images are evoked. Here is an example:

“Suppose that a doctor told you to avoid contact with someone who is infected with a contagious deadly disease. You would know what the doctor means, and you would strictly heed his warning. Well, apostates are ‘mentally diseased,’ and they seek to infect others with their disloyal teachings (1Timothy 6:3, 4).” (The WT, Jul. 15, 2011, 16)

The venom there can hardly be hidden. Apostates, (i.e former Jehovah’s Witnesses) are labeled as “mentally diseased.” They Scripture-fish for a liberal rendering of 1st Timothy 6:5 and use the term “mentally diseased” to smear all ex-JWs. This creates an image in the minds of JWs about those who leave the cult – as insane and diseased people. It’s a psychological weapon more potent than a physical one. Remember, the pen is mightier than the sword.

IV. Control of Information

JWs are conditioned to avoid or distrust any information whether in books or websites that critiques the Watchtower Society. Their leaders do not want them to read from the other side, but continually hammer their own ideas into their heads. This is brainwashing. It is also implemented by isolating them from ex-JWs or knowlegeable Christians who can weaken their faith in “the Society” with the Gospel:

“The talk ‘Guard Against Deception’ showed that we wisely treat as poison the distortions, half-truths, and outright falsehoods propagated by apostates.” (The WT Jan 15, 2003 23)

“Like rocks hidden below water, these false Christians mask their real intent beneath a pretense of concern for the Witness youth. But their goal is to shipwreck the faith of the unwary ones. – 1 Timothy 1:19, 20. This journal, as well as other materials produced by Jehovah’s Witnesses, has repeatedly warned of this particular danger.” (The WT, Oct 22, 2005, 18)

“Having this accurate knowledge, who would become so curious as to pay any attention to apostate mouthings? May no man ‘delude you with persuasive arguments.’ (Colossians 2:2-4) False religious propaganda from any source should be avoided like poison! Really, since our Lord has used ‘the faithful and discreet slave’ to convey to us ‘sayings of everlasting life,’ why should we ever want to look anywhere else?” (The WT, Nov 1, 1987, 20)

A real truth is never afraid of lies. It is a lie that fears the knowledge of the truth. It’s the Lord Jesus Christ Himself – not a religious organization –  that has the sayings of eternal life. While true Christianity embraces and recognizes all who confess the name of Christ in faith and practice, the Watchtower Society denounces anyone who disagrees or think differently from it as “apostates.” (1Cor. 3:1-9) Typical of cults. JWs must come to the point of acknowledging their sin of giving to an organization a place of honour that belongs to God alone. This is sheer idolatry, and even the Watchtower Society agrees:

“If one renders obedient service to someone or some organization, whether willingly or under compulsion, looking up to such as possessing a position of superior rulership and great authority, one can scripturally be said to be a worshipper.” (The WT, Sept 1, 1961, 525)

“We  cannot take part in any modern version of idolatry – be it the worshipful gestures towards an image or symbol or the imputing of salvation to a person or an organization.” (The WT, Nov 1, 1990, 26)

Rationalism and Mysticism

As we combat theological or doctrinal errors, there are two ends of the spectrum we need to avoid falling into – rationalism and mysticism. In-between these two extreme pits however, is a balance.

Rationalism is a system of reliance on human reason for morals and truth. It presupposes that logical reasoning can serve as a compass of what is right and true without an appeal to divine revelation. It’s a worldview that is closely related to reasonlatry, in which reason becomes the final authority.

Reason in itself is not evil. God said to Israel “Come now and let us reason together” (Isa. 1:18). He approves of reasoning and dialoguing in arriving at truth. The problem arises when reason is used as the only yardstick for determining truth. During the Rennaisance, particularly during the French Revolution, many people rejected every form of established or revealed authority and sought to replace it with Reason. They enacted this by carrying an actress into the Notre Dame Cathedral and enthroned her as the goddess of Reason. This trend spread to churches in Holland, Geneva and Germany, and it later paved the way for savage persecution and subsequent triumph of Darwinian evolution. It ultimately gave rise to the rejection of all supernatural themes in the Bible.

Rationalism and intellectual phariseeism still remain the fountain head of theological views like Open Theism, the New Perspective, the Seeker Sensitive Movement, Theistic evolution and Cessationism to name a few. In these systems, Reason, or a man-made philosophical system, is used as the only valid standard by which all revelations and spiritual experiences are judged. Thus, many rationalists tend to dismiss any experience they find hard to reconcile with their presuppositional box as heretical or demonic.

Two Christian authors (whom I respect) once commented on an experience a Muslim lady had. She dreamt that Jesus led her to a church and said “this is where I live.” This experience actually led her to Christ. Yet these men dismissed it as an “experiential … incredibly subjective … emotional experience with some apparition claiming to be Jesus.” I think this dismissal was because her experiences didn’t square with their denominational doctrine.

Jesus can (and does) reveal Himself to whoever He chooses. Just because you have not had a certain spiritual experience doesn’t always mean someone who did was deceived – that is, if it wasn’t unscriptural. Reason must not be exalted above revelation. Christianity is a revelation; we can’t reduce it into an exercise in philosophy or abstract theology.

There are certain Christian beliefs we accept by faith before their understanding comes. We can’t pick and choose what to believe based on whether they are “rational.” Also, there are some experiences that are self-evident. Once you have them, you wouldn’t need a theological debate or studying 10 books on the subject before you know they are real (Prov. 3:5).

Mysticism is an opposite pit. It’s a system that relies on inner impressions, feelings, emotions or intuition as the only reliable standard of truth and morals. In mysticism, reasoning plays no part at all. This worldview is very common among African and Asian Christians who have been raised in an environment of that embraces supernaturalism.

Mysticism can lead a Christian astray because it shifts one’s faith from Scripture to an experience such that one becomes immune to discernment. Once you get to the point where you assume any supernatural feat is coming from God and you have no objective standard to guage your experiences, you may be walking in deception.

For example, people have embraced Mormonism solely because they felt a “burning sensation” in their bosom when they prayed with the book of Mormon. Some have claimed to see a vision of Mary and then embraced Catholicism. Some “feel a power” at a pagan shrine and they embrace Neopaganism. Some Christians also regard miracles as proof of doctrinal purity. They insist they have found the truth because of their “inner feelings” or “signs” and they become impervious to every Biblical critique.

Christian mystics forget that Satan is not only a deceiver, but also knows how to manipulate human emotions to make us think we are on the right track. Sometimes people defend they aberrant groups they belong to by saying “So long as God is answering my prayers there, even if they teach lies, I’m okay.” No, you are not okay. You’ve lost your wisdom and discernment. Our faith ought to be in God and His Word, not a human figure or an experience.

A person who trusts in his own heart is a fool (Proverbs 28:26). Our hearts are so deceitful and we can mislead us by them. Blind faith is as poisonous as reasonlatry and both extremes lead to fanaticism. In Christianity, faith and reason work together. We must not replace one with the other or use either as a final authority.