If It Comes from the Faithful and Discreet Slave – We Obey


I recall paying the francophone boys from my old congregation in Brixton a visit one evening. I found myself in the kitchen chatting with the chef of the day (the boys took turns cooking supper). I’m not sure what the topic of discussion was but one of the lads joined us in the kitchen and somewhere in the potpourri of the conversation he cheerfully said (in essence): “If it comes from the Faithful and Discreet Slave, we obey. Even if we don’t understand, even if it doesn’t make sense; if it comes from them we obey because the bible tells us to. If they are wrong or if they mislead us Jehovah will sort that out; we must just follow the instruction, that’s all.” He said it so matter-of-factly.

I’m certain I had a smile on my face, but quietly inside I was like: You have got to be kidding me. I found his statement fantastically preposterous. Obey just because it comes from the Faithful and Discreet Slave; even when it don’t make sense? Hai wethu! Hm-eh. I think the lad even appealed to me for confirmation. My simple response was a good-natured laugh. What was I to say? “Nah, man, if it don’t make sense then tell the Governing Body you’ll take a rain check on it.” Yeah right. I was not ignorant of the fact that as a Witness one is expected to (merrily) consume every teaching coming forth from “God’s channel.” It’s no buffet situation; you’re not put to an election as to what you’ll accept or not, you can’t pick and choose. You take it all.[1]

Aberrant Witness

I was one of the few (aberrant) Witnesses who cared enough (or had the “chutzpah”) to hear the other side of the story; to hear, not only what the organisation had to says about itself, but also what its critics had to say about it. I mean, how else is an honest man to make an objective evaluation of something if he fails to give the other side – less popular though it might be – its fair chance, its fair audience? As for me, I cared enough to make sure; not only was it my God-given mandate (1 Thessalonians 5:21), but I was deeply invested in this organisation, I’d made real sacrifices and I was regular pioneering. I owed it to myself and my future to make sure, if for no other reason, to solidify my faith and conviction.

My feeling had always been that genuine truth should never fear any legitimate inspection. Usually at the time of one’s baptism, one seldom knows what the right questions to ask are, you don’t know enough to articulate your concerns. Only with time and experience does one develop this appreciation and ability to formulate the right kind of question. Unfortunately, though, by that time, you also simultaneously appreciate the scope of the Catch-22 situation you’re in, specifically if the answers you unveil are less than satisfactory. You’re “trapped,” by Watchtower’s technical contrivances.

By the time of this kitchen conversation, I had long since read former Governing Body member, Raymond Franz’s, book Crisis of Conscience. It augmented my appreciation of the inner workings of the Governing Body. In concert with other research – some of it empirical – I came to appreciate that certain teachings in the organisation, profound through they may seem at the particular time, are truly transient… they have an unwritten and undisclosed shelf life. It’s a pattern you’ll only see if you engage in honest research. When you see how succeeding members of the Governing Body can wipe out an entire body of teaching under the auspice of “New Light” (Proverbs 4:18) effectively revealing these previously cherished beliefs (“truths”) for what they really were, that is, speculation on a grand scale; as a thinking Witness, then, you learn to adopt a healthy measure of scepticism for anything new that the Governing Body gives birth to – you’d be negligent if you didn’t – for it may very well turn out to be illegitimate down this very long passage of time.

Unfortunately, though, by the time these grotesque speculations are revealed for what they are, many a Witness has since banked on them as a matter of faith, having had a bona fide belief that these teaching had divine backing, the premise of which was the “fact” that these teaching came from “God’s sole channel of communication.” [laughing] How things done changed now.

Obedience vs. Spirituality

Throughout the course of my “Witnesshood” it occurred to me that Witnesses equate obedience with spirituality. If you obey the Elders, the Faithful and Discreet Slave – anyone who outranks you really – then you’re a spiritual man. Never mind if the direction given is subpar. Just obey and all will be well. Attaboy!

There’s something very military about that.

Witnesses have long since been primed for this kind of obedience. Songs like Listen Obey and be Blessed[2] promote this notion. A diligent observer may be forgiven for thinking that Jehovah’s Witnesses give blind obedience to the Governing Body; the 2013 Watchtower certainly lends itself to this idea:

“At that time, the lifesaving direction that we receive from Jehovah’s organization [“Faithful and Discreet Slave”] may not appear practical from a human standpoint. All of us must be ready to obey any instructions we may receive, whether these appear sound from a strategic or human standpoint or not.”[3] [Emphasis mine]

That, right there, is a very dangerous precedent – this idea that one must be “ready to obey any instructions […] whether these appear sound […] or not.” And this, coupled with the general chain-of-command culture within the Witness ranks, is what causes an otherwise intelligent person to comply with an instruction that is fatalistic in nature.

Resistance to Rational Inquiry

Again I find myself invoking Carl Sagan’s reflective sentiments, namely, that “near the core of the religious experience is something remarkable resistant to rational inquiry.”

Alas, I can hear that distant apologist protesting: “We walk by faith and not by sight.” Granted, but there are many a faithful Witness who sang that particular song, but who, today – in their grey-headedness – find themselves drenched in a pool of regret, even if they elect to remain silent about it. There are invaluable lessons to glean from those who have travelled this path before us. Many such ones have catalogued their experiences. If we borrow the biblical suggestion that “all the things that were written aforetime were written for our instruction” (Romans 15:4) then we do well to school ourselves with the experiences that others have garnered over the years – both the positive and the negative. An effective way to cure ignorance is to read. Open a relevant book and read. Be objective. Don’t deprive yourself of an informed decision.

Cure Ignorance


So, as I reflect on that matter-of-fact statement of my francophone friend about obeying the Faithful and Discreet Slave come-what-may, it occurs to me that some lessons take longer to learn. But, for Christ’s sake, learn them we must.

[1] ‘Approved association with Jehovah’s Witnesses requires accepting the entire range of the true teachings of the Bible, including those Scriptural beliefs that are unique to Jehovah’s Witnesses.’ [Italics mine] – ‘Question From Readers’ The Watchtower April 1, 1986 page 31.

[2] Song 120 Sing to Jehovah (2009).

[3] ‘Seven Shepherds, Eight Dukes – What They Mean for Us Today’ The Watchtower November 15, 2015 page 20 para. 17.