RANK-AND-FILE JEHOVAH’S WITNESSES
The average Jehovah’s Witness is, at the very least, prima facie sincere, humble and altruistic (of course, there’s always that ‘one’ mampara in every group of people). Their diligent efforts in the ministry are usually an expression of their love for the wellbeing of their fellowman. They often make real sacrifices and endure a great deal of real hardship in order to fulfil what they genuinely believe to their divine mandate as communicated to them by their spiritual leaders the GB (the ‘Faithful and Discreet Slave’). It would be negligible to omit the overall genuineness and beauty of this people; and this, in particular, is what makes them so… enchanting.
BELIEFS OF JEHOVAH’S WITNESSES
While classifying themselves as Christian who adhere to the bible, they are considered as otherwise aberrant from mainstream Christianity, this largely due to their peculiar eisegesis and exegesis. Popular beliefs and practices include: 1) Jesus died on a stake (not a cross), 2) Jerusalem was destroyed in 607 BCE (not 587 BCE), 3) the Last Days began in 1914 (the same year Jesus is alleged to have been invisibly enthroned as king in heaven), 4) don’t celebrate birthdays, Christmas and holidays, 5) don’t accept allogeneic/autologous blood transfusions, 6) practice shunning (‘disfellowshipping’), 7) no hellfire, 8) God is not a trinity, 9) only 144 000 anointed Christians go to heaven (the rest of faithful mankind stay on paradise earth) etc.
CRITICISMS OF JEHOVAH’S WITNESSES
Critics of Jehovah’s Witnesses include both independent groups and former Jehovah’s Witnesses. They’ve been referred to as a sect, a cult, or false prophets, due to their unique beliefs and management style. Their leadership, the GB, is viewed as autocratic (hence ‘cult’ – with particular reference to Steven Hassan’s BITE model as explained in his books: Combatting Cult Mind Control (1988) and Freedom of Mind (2012)). The GB consistently discourage their members from going to university (‘higher education’). Their disfellowshipping practices are viewed as excessive and corrosive to healthy family relations. Their stance on blood transfusions is viewed as illegitimate, legalistic and superficial – not to mention lethal. Their policy on child sexual abuse, specifically the rules pertaining to evidence (the ‘two witnesses rule’) is viewed as, not only archaic, but permissive of such abuse. The GB’s intolerance of criticism, dissent or correction – together with their exclusive claim to ‘truth’ (New Light) – are viewed as ingredients of unjustified monopoly; this is compounded by the motif of the GB’s constant flip-flopping of pivotal tenets and beliefs. One such example relates to the definition of ‘generation’ as expressed in Mathew 24:34, a generation that served as a timebar of sorts for the nearness of the End of this system of things (‘Armageddon’); the interpretation has volte-faced several time over the years, carrying with it serious implications.
NOTABLE FORMER JEHOVAH’S WITNESSES
At the top of this list is none other than Raymond Franz (nephew of Frederick Franz) who served as a member of the GB for nine years; he was expelled on allegations stemming from ‘apostasy.’ What had happened was, subsequent to the failed expectations of 1975, many indignant Witnesses began leaving the organisation – a mass exodus. Those were trying times for the organisation, it was slowly exsanguinating. So the GB devised a method of putting a tourniquet on the situation; this involved a process of redefinition, namely, redefining the meaning of ‘apostate,’ specifically, how such alleged apostates should be treated by faithful Witnesses, that is, in the same manner as disfellowshipped persons. This was a fairly new idea at the time and it just so happened that the newly disenfrenchised Franz happened to be sharing a meal with his employer, Peter Gregerson, who himself had been a highly respected and well-known Elder, but who had since officially disassociated himself from the organisation. It was at this time that Franz was ‘caught’ sharing a meal with his boss Gregerson and was swiftly disfellowshipped on the basis of this technicality.
In 1982, Time magazine wrote an article, Witness Under Prosecution, in which they interviewed Franz on this whole debacle. He subsequently wrote a book, Crisis of Conscience (1983), which shed light on the whole affair and which also served as a rare exposé of the coterie that is the GB. This was subsequently followed by his second book, In Search of Christian Freedom (1991).
Moyle served for four years as legal counsel for the Watchtower organisation at its world headquarters in Brooklyn, New York. After his stay at world headquarters and witnessing the general ill-treatment of rank-and-file bethelites and what he felt was megalomaniac behaviour from the then President, Joseph Rutherford, he gracefully chastised him in an open letter (in much the same method as Rutherford had openly chastised other religious leaders). Rutherford was not impressed. Moyle was eventually ‘de-bethelised‘ and then disfellowshipped by his home congregation (the ‘Milwaukee Company of Jehovah’s Witnesses’). Rutherford’s administration even succeeded in turning Moyle’s son, Peter – a fellow bethelite – against him. A court battle ensued due to alleged contumely on Rutherford‘s part – Moyle won, the court awarding him $15 000. He was replaced by Watchtower’s new ‘rockstar’ lawyer, the sensational, precedent-setting, Hayden Covington… Rutherford‘s favourite ‘son’.
CARL OLOF JONSSON
Jonsson, former Swedish Elder, got kicked out for shedding unpleasant light on the much cherished date of 1914; the key issue related to the question of when precisely was it that ancient Jerusalem was destroyed – the GB insists 607 BCE while every respected academic/historian/scholar/theologian says circ. 586/7 BCE. In August 1977, after collating his research, Jonsson sent the GB his treatise highlighting the shortcomings of the date. He was instructed to keep quiet. He eventually got disfellowshipped – in absentia. He later expanded his treatise and published it as a book, The Gentile Times Reconsidered (1983).