Tested and Found Wanting!

Every industry has a quality control section. There, the shelf-life, microbial load, purity and safety levels of the product are assessed. There is usually a standard chart against which the product’s qualities are compared. If there is a breach in this process, it poses a great danger to the consumers and the integrity of the organization will plummet.

In the field of religion, the testing of truth claims is essential. The more gnomic the claims religious leaders make, the more they should be held up to scrutiny. The Watchtower Society is one organization headed by a Governing Body with such exclusive claims:

“[W]hen the Master arrived, he found his faithful slave conscientiously feeding the domestics as well as preaching the good news. Greater responsibility now awaited that slave. Jesus said: “Truly I say to you, He will appoint him over all his belongings.” (Matthew 24:4) Jesus did this in 1919, after the slave had passed through a period of testing” (The Watchtower, March 1, 2004, 12).

“While all anointed Christians collectively form God’s household, there is abundant evidence that Christ chose a small number of men out of the slave class to serve as a visible governing body. The early history of the congregation shows that the 12 apostles, including Matthias, were the foundation of the first-century governing body” (The Watchtower, March 15, 1990, 11).

“Naturally, all elders must submit to Christ’s right hand of control, guidance, and direction, which he exercises by means of the spirit and the spirit-begotten members of the Governing Body” (The Watchtower August 1, 1987, 19).

It’s on the bases of their claims as God “faithful and discreet slave,” “Christ’s right hand of control” and “spirit begotten” successors of the 12 apostles that the Watchtower leadership demands blind loyalty and absolute obedience from millions of Jehovah’s Witnesses worldwide. JWs are forbidden to pit their reasoning, opinions, personal feelings or harbour private understanding of the Bible against this Society.

They are not allowed to test this authoritarian leadership; they have no quality standard to asses whether they are being led by true or false leaders but are made to believe that everyone outside “Jehovah’s organization” is a false teacher:

No matter what false teachers may say, we must not follow them! Why go to such dried up wells, only to be deceived and disappointed? Instead, let us be determined to remain loyal to Jehovah and to the organization…” (The Watchtower, July 2011, 17).

By using pronouns “we” and “us” the Watchtower subtly conditions JWs into a groupthink. Since the Witness has already taken the epistemological leap of embracing the Society as Jehovah’s organization, he/she is precluded from asking the real questions: What really makes our leaders true teachers and the outsiders false? Where are the “abundant evidence” underpinning the Watchtower leadership’s special claims?

In a study edition of The Watchtower, they are told:

How can we protect ourselves against false teachers? The Bible’s counsel regarding how to deal with them is clear. (Read Romans 16:17; 2 John 9-11) “Avoid them,” says God’s Word. Other translations render the phrase “turn away from them,” “keep away from them,” and “stay away from them.” There is nothing ambiguous about that inspired counsel” (July 15, 2011, 16).

Notice that the real question has been moved back one step: how to detect false teachers. If we are directly warned to avoid them, then there must be ways to identify them before we turn away from them. The Watchtower magazine was curiously silent about this crucial aspect. That’s not a coincidence; it’s a tactic of institutional self-preservation.

It further says: “When we learn that Jehovah disapproves of something that we enjoy, for example, our initial reaction might be to rebel. That indicates that we need to make progress in the realm of being “ready to obey.” (James 3:17) In this article, we will review a few areas in which our willingness to fit in with God’s purpose to be obedient from the heart – would be put to test” (p. 28).

Nothing is still said about how false teachers can be discerned, instead, the moral responsibility of being “put to the test” is shifted back on the individual JW to “keep pace with Jehovah’s organization” (p. 29). The words “put to test” comes from Revelation 2:2 which says:

“I know your deeds and your labor and endurance and that you put those to the test who say they are apostles; but they are not and you found them liars” (NWT).

This verse unequivocally stresses the necessity of Christians to test those who claim to be apostles, yet the magazine doesn’t quote it. The term apostle means “a sent one” and it’s technically identical to the claims made by Watchtower leaders – of being Jehovah’s mouthpiece and “the faithful slave” sent by Christ to feed the people. If they were truly appointed by Christ since 1919 then they must be tested just as the early Christians tested those claiming to be apostles. And if found to be liars, they should be rejected.

Until a Jehovah’s Witness does this, he/she has no yardstick of determining whether he has been feeding on pure lies or a mixture of truth and lies. But Watchtower leaders don’t want to tested and found wanting, so they de-emphasize Revelation 2:2 in their materials such that JWs will seldom encounter it let alone apply it – unless they directly read the Bible. The Watchtower 2006 library CD shows that Revelation 2:2 has been quoted a total of only six times in Watchtower literature from 1950-2006.

In almost every instance, the text is so remotely interpreted that its real meaning is somewhat muddled. Below are 3 examples of their explanations after quoting the verse:

(I) “We can see that the apostles, during the ‘last hour’ of apostolic care on earth, stood in the way, preventing the organizing of the ‘mystery of this lawlessness’ into a corporate body, the ‘man of lawlessness’ (The Watchtower April 15, 1957, 253).

In the verse Jesus was commending the Ephesian believers for testing those claiming to be false apostles. But The Watchtower avoids talking about this but applies it to a singular figure: “the man of lawlessness.”

(II) “Faithful ones soon find that the speech and conduct of these deceivers do not ring true. Like the Ephesians, Christians today “cannot bear bad men” so they disfellowship them from their congregations” (Revelation – Its Grand Climax at Hand! 1988, 34).

They deflected the verse to apply to individuals who didn’t claim to be Christ’s right hand of control or Spirit anointed leaders instead of the Governing Body of the Society.

(III) “Today, congregations of Jesus’ true followers have a similar record of good deeds, hard work and endurance. They do not put up with false brothers who want to be viewed as apostles. (2 Corinthians 11:13, 26) Like the Ephesians, loyal Christians today “cannot bear bad men.” To maintain the purity of Jehovah’s worship and to protect the congregation, therefore, they do not extend the hand of fellowship to unrepentant apostates” – Galatians 2:4, 5; 2 John 8-11 (The Watchtower May 15, 2003, 12)

Again, the text is flipped around and placed on ex-Jehovah’s Witnesses (“apostates”). But these individuals have not claimed to be apostles or their successors. For some people to have claimed to be apostles in the 1st century implied they were in leadership positions so what we see here is a classic shell game to hide the truth.

People who make special claims must be tested and critically assessed before being accepted as true teachers/leaders. The Bible is clear on this testing:

a) Deut. 18:22 says “If what a prophet proclaims in the name of the LORD does not take place or come true, that is a message the LORD has not spoken.” Leaders who truly speaking for God give accurate prophecies, but the Watchtower leadership have given many false prophecies.

b) Gal. 1:8 says “But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you, let him be eternally condemned.” The Gospel revolves around the death and resurrection of Christ but Watchtower leadership preaches a false gospel and a false Christ.

c) Isa. 8:20 says “To the law and to the testimony! If they do not speak according to this word, they have no light of dawn.” True teachers teach in harmony with the Bible, whereas Watchtower leadership teach doctrines that conflict with plain Bible teachings.

d) Matt. 7:15-16 say “Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves. By their fruit you will recognize them….” True teachers bear godly fruit but Watchtower leadership has historically and presently borne the fruitage of falsehood, hypocrisy, cruelty, sexual depravity and hate.

e) 1 Pet. 5:3 says to church leaders: “not lording it over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock.” Godly leaders lead by example, personal growth and gentleness, but the Watchtower leadership lords it over JWs, binding heavy burdens on them, forbidding them from independent thinking and holding their leaders accountable.

An outgrowth of all man-centred, authoritarian leaderships is exemplified by the Society’s desperate efforts at mentally and spiritually subjugating JWs, demanding they have “complete confidence” in whatever the organization reveals. This is like consuming food and drinks that haven’t passed through quality control on the leverage of blind faith and sentiment. The spiritual consequences of such stupor is perilous.

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Weighing the Objections to Transfusion

In an earlier post, I showed how the JW religion is no different from curious cults that program members to lay down their lives for their beliefs – a cruel feat often perpetuated in the name of God. The Watchtower Society’s policy on blood transfusion is plagued with incoherence, fallacies, falsehoods and inconsistencies which need to be pointed out.

The precedent for prohibition of blood transfusion was set by the Watchtower’s previous rulings on vaccinations and organ transplants, which are not without some contradictions:

Vaccination

1921 – “Vaccination never prevented anything and never will, and is the most barbarous practice. We are in the last days; and the devil is slowly losing his hold, making a strenuous effort meanwhile to do all the damage he can … Use your rights as American citizens to forever abolish the devilish practice of vaccinations” (The Golden Age, Oct. 12, 1921, 17).

1952 – “Is vaccination a violation of God’s law forbidding the taking of blood into the system? … After consideration of the matter, it does not appear to us to be in violation of the everlasting covenant made with Noah, as set down in Genesis 9:4 nor contrary to God’s related commandment Leviticus 17:10-14” (The Watchtower, Dec. 15, 1952, 764).

Organ Transplant

1967 – “Is there any Scriptural objection to donating one’s body for use in medical research to accepting organs for transplant from such a source? … Those who submit to such operations are thus living off the flesh of another human. That is cannibalistic. However, in allowing man to eat animal flesh Jehovah God did not grant permission for humans to try and perpetuate their lives by cannibalistically taking into their bodies human flesh whether chewed or in the form of whole organs or body parts taken from others” (The WT, Nov. 15, 1967, 702).

1980 – “Some Christians might feel that taking into their bodies any issue or body part from another human is cannibalistic … Other sincere Christians today may feel that the Bible does not definitely rule out medical transplant of human organs … It may be argued, though, that organ transplants are different from cannibalism since the ‘donor’ is not killed to supply food. There is no Biblical command pointedly forbidding the taking in of other human tissue” (The WT, Mar. 15, 1980, 31).

These are commands from the Governing Body, said to be “anointed” by the Holy Spirit. They dogmatically make up critical doctrines and then turn around to refute them years later. With this policy reversals and backtracking, how can we be so sure they won’t rescind their stance once again in the future?

When one considers how many JWs became physically blind because cornea transplant was forbidden; died because kidney, liver and bone marrow transplant were ruled as “cannibalism” or were delibilitated by preventable child diseases because Watchtower leaders forbade vaccinations when they were young, one needs to ask: When will Watchtower leaders accept responsibility for the lives they have sacrificed on their altars of falsehood? Have they apologised for the many lives they led astray and damaged?

How can they even apologise to those they have been goaded on to a Christless eternity with a bogus promise of living in an earthly paradise as reward for blind loyalty? This is why we must never allow sentiments, blind devotion and fear deter us from questioning and critically examining the beliefs of any religious organization, no matter what grandiose claim they make.

In Awake! No. 1, 2016 they state:
We do accept medical treatment … However we reject any treatment that conflicts with Bible principles. For example, we do not accept blood transfusions, because the Bible forbids taking in blood. – Acts 15:20, 28, 29.

Even then, we seek the best medical care for ourselves and our families. In fact, blood conservation treatments that were developed to help Witness patients are now being used to benefit all in the community. In many countries, any patient can now choose to avoid blood transfusion risks, such as blood-borne disease, immune-system reactions, and human errors” (page 8).

These are typical objections a JW is likely to prattle at your doorstep within 60 seconds, but when carefully analysed, they are found to have gaping holes:

1. The statement “We do accept medical treatment” is newspeak. A more accurate statement is that Jehovah’s Witnesses accept only medical treatments approved by the Watchtower Society. Since they agree that blood is a tissue and a transfusion is a tissue transplant, it’s highly irrational and inconsistent on their part to allow all other tissue or organ transplants except blood.

II. The term “treatment that conflicts with Bible principles” also once applied to vaccination and organ transplants and the very misinterpreted Bible passages appealed to as “proof” are still the ones used to denounce blood transfusion today.

Blood has 4 primary components: red cells (RBC), white cells (WBC), platelets and plasma. Jehovah’ Witness are taught that “accepting whole blood or any of those four primary components violates God’s law” but regarding fractions from any of these 4 blood components: “We cannot say. The Bible does not give details, so a Christian must make his own conscientious decision before God” (WT, Jun. 2000, 29).

This is as dicey as it gets. The Bible gives no details about “whole” blood or blood components. Blood components and fractions are technically the same. They are not blood but necessary for blood, so there’s no justification for rejecting transfusion of blood components while allowing those of blood fractions.

III. Not one text in any of the biblical books JWs cite refers to using blood for medical transfusion in which case, blood continues to serve as blood and not as food or nourishment in the human body. To assert that God’s law forbids blood transfusion, 3 problems quickly arise:

a) Transfusion of fractions from blood cells or plasma are permitted because “blood fractions can pass to another person in this natural setting” (WT, Jun. 15, 2000, 31). But why is blood cells transfusion banned? White cells are naturally present in breastmilk a mother feeds her baby with. Fetal blood cells have been detected in women several years after giving birth. “Leukocytes [white blood cells] bearing a Y chromosome have been identified in women for up to five years after giving birth to a son” (Williams Obstetrics, 19th ed., 1993, 127).

Another work states: “In the last weeks of pregnancy, small numbers of the baby’s red cells escape through the placenta into the mother’s circulation” (James Brevan, A Practical Handbook of Anatomy and Physiology, 1978, 26). It has been demonstrated that platelets, erythocytes and leukocytes transverse the placental barrier. Fetal red blood cells are present in the maternal circulation in approximately 80% of all pregnancy (Hematological Problems in the Newborn, 3rd ed., 1982, 41).

Since primary blood components naturally pass from mother to child, on what basis then does “the Society” forbids their transfusion? If God allows transference of blood cells to occur in 80% of pregnancy and even during labour, how then can blood transfusion be a violation of God’s law? Certainly, God’s law doesn’t condemn blood transfusion.

b) JWs are ordered to reject blood transfusion because the blood are collected and stored whereas the Bible says blood should be “poured out,” but they are allowed to receive blood fractions such as immuno globulin, fibrinogen, factor VIII etc. Yet The Watchtower itself says: “Each batch of Factor VIII is made from plasma that is pooled from as many as 2,000 blood donors” (Jun. 15, 1985, 30).

This shows that JWs still accept stored, processed, collected and donated blood when they receive blood fractions. If storage of blood is really against God’s law, why doesn’t “the Society” condemn its use for transfusions and injections of blood fractions but rather condemn it in cases of whole blood? This inconsistency is as clear as the sun.

c) The Watchtower says taking in blood is forbidden but blood fragments can be taken in. The blood plasma consists of water (90%), hormones, inorganic salts, enzymes, nutrients (sugar and minerals), proteins, albumin and clotting factors (e.g factor VIII). JWs are allowed to take these substances yet they are forbidden from taking blood! Why not just cut the drama and accept blood plasma?

This is like a parent forbidding a child from eating sandwich but allowing him to bread, egg or fish separately. Isn’t this hilarious and pharisaical? Is it OK to break God’s law a little as long as you don’t break it a lot? If God’s law forbids taking blood why is taking a blood fraction acceptable? This inconsistency is hard to reconcile.

IV. The much vaunted “blood conservation treatments” actually have limited benefits, yet The Watchtower assures its readers: “Most who refuse blood, for religious and/or medical reasons, yet accept alternative therapy do very well medically. They may thus extend their life for many years…” (Jun. 15, 1991, 12).

This would be amusing if it wasn’t so tragic. There are 3 main alternative therapies to blood transfusion. One, is the use of blood volume expanders. They are solutions intravenously given to boost plasma (fluid) volume and keep blood circulation going. Volume expanders do not carry oxygen nor raise the number of blood cells; they only increase blood volume and thus cannot help someone with serious blood loss. So far, there is no real substitute for human blood.

Two, there are growth factors given to people with low blood cell counts to boost RBC, WBC or platelet counts. But unlike transfusions, growth factors often take many days or weeks to raise blood counts and may not help people who need their blood cells urgently restored. People with bone marrow diseases may also not respond to growth factors due to insufficient blood-producing cells in the bone marrow.

The American Cancer Society 2016 findings note that some growth factors cause certain type of cancers (breast, cervical, head etc) and notably, these factors are more expensive than blood transfusion. The autologous transfusion, another alternative therapy involves blood being removed from the person, filtered and introduced back after surgery. Since this involves storage of blood, JWs are banned from utilizing it. Now where is that “extending of life for many years” Watchtower writers talk about?

V. Scare mongering is another tool Watchtower leaders utilze. JWs are constantly warned of serious risks of blood transfusion based on dated (and often misquoted) scientific sources. In 2008, the London Health Science Centre noted that Canada’s blood supply is one of the safest in the world and the risk of transfusion-transmitted disease for each unit of blood is:

HIV (AIDS) about 1 in 4 million

Hepatitis C about 1 in 3 million

Hepatitis B about 1 in 1.2 million

West Nile Virus about 1 in 1 million

Thus blood transfusion is still far more safer than the touted alternative therapies. Immune system reactions and human errors occur in all organ transplants, yet these do not warrant them being banned by “the Society.” No medical procedure is free from risks or errors. To claim that blood transfusion should be rejected on that basis is like saying food shouldn’t be eaten because there have been cases of food poisoning.

Jesus denounced the false religious leaders of His day who stridently adhered to the details of the Mosaic law while neglecting “the more important matters of the law – justice, mercy and faithfulness” (Mt. 23:23). Similarly, Watchtower leaders exalt their own laws above justice, mercy and faithfulness. By banning blood transfusion, a life-saving medical precedure, they have replaced mercy with sacrifice whereas God says “I desire mercy, not sacrifice” (Mt. 9:13).