For this review I read through the study edition of the Watchtower, I skimmed the ‘for public’ edition as well. For readers interest I was in Lusaka Zambia in my hotel room doing this review. Zambia has the largest percentage of Jehovah’s Witnesses of any reasonable sized country. They are pervasive is large chunks of the country and I do sessions on them every time I come here (it’s my 18th visit).
The main edition of the watchtower seemed to me to be a pretty bland offering with little of interest but as I read through the Study edition I initially was mildly complimentary and then it descended. The issue was all about ‘transformation’ and worked through ‘Contrasts’ Guidance, Personal decision making and the process and culmination of ‘transformation’.
In the first section on ‘Contrasts’ they provide some helpful pictures of contrasting situations which I actually thought were useful. However there was a real ‘peach’ …it says ‘most people in this area believe God and Jesus are the same person….but the bible says…’ they provided this as one of the contrasts. Now it’s easy for an individual to make a mistake, I sometimes hear Christians say that JWs don’t believe Jesus was or is the son of God for instance. They do of course but it’s the meaning of ‘Son of God’ is the issue”! This magazine is the official study publication of the Watchtower and they include an incorrect statement which utterly misrepresents ‘the Trinity’ and the Father Son relationship. This is serious and shows that even though millions of pretty books, thousands of Kingdom Halls and some 7 million witnesses are led and fed by an unscrupulous organisation.
As the magazine continued on into ‘Guidance’ the level descended further. The obsession with ‘being busy in Kingdom activities’ was depressing. The practice of repeating phrases and expressions was criticized…how superficial is this? If anyone thought the blood issue was disappearing…no way, they mentioned how important ‘Gods standard on blood and dress and grooming’ were. There was I thought some hope that this WT may actually be spiritually better than other offerings, they then talked about dates! I was amazed, they talked of 1914 and how some had raised hopes of that and then Judge Rutherford came along and showed everyone that they were to ‘advertise advertise, advertise, the King and the Kingdom’ and there was much more work to do. Nothing about the official teaching about 1914, nothing about the official teaching of 1918, 1923, 1924, 1928, nothing about the expectation of the OT saints in California. I realised again that the JWs are totally hoodwinked, misled and truly lost in the WT world of spin, lies and deception. These things are not put about by rabid ex Jws they are clear, obvious and damning facts.
It wouldn’t be long I thought that the organisation and its rules would appear and I wasn’t wrong. They railed against those who questioned ‘congregational procedures’ or who had reservations about the wise instructions about the internet or higher education. Nothing changes, some softer language even an aspiration for ‘knowing Jehovah’ but in the end we are left with just more rules, reinforcement of old ones and doing more work!
The issue of clothing and grooming came up a few times and my recent encounter with three Pioneers (full time JWs) on a blazing hot summers day dressed in shirt jackets and ties pointed to ongoing obedience not to simple modesty guidelines but a deep legalism and a stifling formality.
There was one story that stood out for me.
It talked of a man who had been offered a higher paying job it discussed the reasons he originally took the job and how he didn’t take up the new offer. The reasons he took the first job was ‘to have weekends off allowing him to attend the meetings and be in the ministry with his family’. The magazine really pushed ‘doing more’ and this article where the story occurs was encouraging people to become Pioneers. Notice, it wasn’t so he could be with his family and young children the two and the only two reasons given were to attend meetings and do door to door work with his children. Such deep religious legalism and superficial spirituality. The various spiritual things for Christians are important of course but here we see a heaviness and an organisational mindset which is very worrying indeed.
I write this from Zambia and I will and already have passed or visited orphanages, schools, clinics training institutions founded and run by Christians. 1% of the population are ‘committed Jws, 5% attend the memorial, the influence of the WT is everywhere, I will often see police, and security guards reading the Watchtower, and yet there is no orphanage, clinic, hospital, feeding programme or school set up or run by JWs, they should be ashamed of themselves.