In 1934, The Golden Age journal (predecessor of the current Awake! journal), in one article headed ‘Free Radio Essential to People’s Liberties,’ the organisation laments and castigates the officious interference of the Roman Catholic Church (RCC) in its efforts to silence the otherwise intrepid Witnesses who, under the leadership of the then president, Joseph Rutherford, 65, openly and without fear bring the Pope and his administration to account. The journal frankly states:

‘It is understood that Catholics themselves are not permitted to question any action of the hierarchy or its head [the Pope], even the most trivial. It is for them whether they will submit to this unscriptural bondage, but it is manifestly intolerable for them to seek to impose these same restrictions upon others or to censor reference to the hierarchy and its head to the press or over the radio. If Paul took the liberty to “withstand” Peter, is the Roman Pope, who unscripturally claims to be a successor to Peter, to be above criticism? The attempt of the Catholic Press to subject non-Catholics to the restrictions current within the confines of the Roman fold is a poor piece of business.

The American people, in fact, all people, should be free to hear the truth on every subject, and they should, especially, be permitted to freely discuss and try by the Scriptures any movement or course of procedure in which their cooperation is solicited […]. As a result [the Catholic hierarchy] launched a campaign of misrepresentation and intolerance by which they hoped to effectively silence this frank and bold exponent of the truth.

Judge Rutherford took occasion to freely discuss and even to criticize the public pronouncements and official actions of the Roman pontiff […].

Judge Rutherford, following in the footsteps of Christ Jesus, sets forth the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, in his discourses. He does not shun to declare the whole counsel of God including the divine disapproval of clerical sham and oppression, just as Jesus did.’[1] [Bold mine]

Joseph Rutherford

Joseph ‘Judge’ Rutherford (right); the intrepid debater.

To his credit, the Governing Body of today doesn’t have nearly the same firepower and chutzpah of Rutherford. Rutherford, much like his predecessor, Charles Taze Russell, was valiant about his views and wasn’t afraid to stand up for his beliefs. He engaged with the audience; he invited his adversaries to engage in public debates; he didn’t delegate his ‘battles’ to his minions (i.e. the Helpers, Circuit Overseers, Elders etc.) – he fought his own battles. For all his faults (and he had many faults), I respect Rutherford for that. Just for that. The Governing Body of today make very bold (and often ludicrous) statements; they expect absolute allegiance, but refuse to engage in discussions of a town-hall-meeting nature. They shy away from the media (relying instead on the likes of J.R. Brown, the WTBTS publicist, to stand in the line of fire). They are known to refuse appearances in court (even when subpoenaed to do so; opting instead to forfeit $13.5 million in penalty fees – money, mind you, sourced from donated funds). They choose instead to stand in front of JW Broadcasting (JWB), where the script is controlled, where nobody questions anything that’s said. They speak in voices that are not their own (clearly unacclimatised to the teleprompter) in a fashion that would ordinarily get the rank-and-file Witness marched into the ‘B’ school and given the kindly counsel by the Theocratic Ministry School (TMS) conductor on the subject of modulation and natural delivery etc.

The Golden Age (Aug 16, 1933). Notice the box on the top left corner; this in conjunction with some of the article titles, makes clear an effort to fight clergy-inspired censorship.

The Golden Age (Aug 16, 1933). Notice the box on the top left corner; this in conjunction with some of the article titles, makes clear an effort to fight clergy-inspired censorship.

But that aside, the point is this, the organisation of Jehovah’s Witnesses – no wait, let me be specific – the leadership of Jehovah’s Witnesses, the Governing Body (aka the Faithful and Discreet Slave), laments the very freedoms that they themselves deny their followers. They claim to speak for God; what they teach, through their literature and public discourses, is the ‘truth,’ they tolerate no correction or dissent from their adherents; they themselves launch ‘a campaign of misrepresentation and intolerance,’ lambasting as wicked, or spiritually ill, anyone who undermines or questions their particular brand of ‘truth.’ Like a noose, they hang the heavy label of ‘apostate’ around the necks of any dissenters. They disfellowship. They shun. They monopolise. They hijack your family and friends through this ‘unscriptural bondage’ for the covert purpose of ‘effectively silenc[ing] this frank and bold exponent of the truth.’

To the GB, truth is a trademark: ‘If it comes from us it’s the truth’. And yet, they themselves reserve the right to tamper and modify this alleged ‘truth’ as they see fit – often volte-face – under the self-authorised ‘copyright licence’ of ‘New Light’ (Proverbs 4:18), often times adopting the very same propositions that they had earlier on penalized others for holding; except, in this case, only they [the GB] possess immunity.

John Dalberg Acton; English Catholic historian, politician, and writer

John Dalberg Acton; English Catholic historian, politician, and writer.

This sort of thing brings to mind the famous words of Sir Dalberg-Acton, namely, ‘power tends to corrupt and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Great men are almost always bad men.’ In The Golden Age article, they criticise the Pontiff and the RCC for strong-arming and censoring their parishioners (and the world at large) into compliance, but then end up duplicating the very same approach themselves.

We must necessarily invoke Paul’s words to the Romans to whom he asked: ‘Do you, however, the one teaching someone else not teach yourself?’ (Romans 2:21) If you expect people to adhere to your ‘religious’ instructions, should those people not be free to ‘discuss and try by the scriptures any movement or course of procedure in which their co-operation is solicited?’ Huh? To suffocate such liberty would be go against the very spirit of making sure of all things (1 Thessalonians 5:21) and not putting your trust in nobles and the sons of earthling man to whom no salvation belongs (Psalm 146:3, 4).

And this, what we see in the administration of the current breed of Governing Body members, smacks of serious perversion; it is patently duplicitous. To which we might ask: ‘Where is the humility, gentlemen? Where is the justice?’ You continue the pattern of your predecessors in criticising the RCC; granted, but under the circumstances, have you not become the pot calling the kettle black? The tagline for The Golden Age claims to be ‘A Journal of Fact, Hope and Courage.’ Where is your love for facts now? Where be this courage for truth? Your own long-forgotten material now resurfaces to rebuke you; and, to be sure, your current modus operandi is ‘a poor piece of business.’



[1] ‘Free Radio Essential to People’s Liberties’ The Golden Age March 28, 1934, pages 396-397.