To Whom Shall We Go Away To?

In his Branch Visit to Central America (March 2015) Governing Body Helper,[1] Robert Luccioni, under his checklist to the question ‘Are We Keeping in Step with Jehovah’s Organisation?’ makes the following statement:

‘We have to make sure of the more important things. That means we have to be at our Kingdom Halls – we have to be at our meetings. Now it’s true at times things may happen that we don’t understand; changes may take place that we don’t understand. Someone may say something that hurts us. What do we do? We may think of Peter’s words in John chapter 6 and verse 68. That’s when ones were stumbled by Jesus’ words and he said to Peter,[2] he says, “Peter, do you wanna go also?” And what did Peter say? He says, “Lord, where else do we go? You have the sayings of everlasting life.” And the same is true for us. Where else do we go? What other organisation has provided us with the protection and the spiritual food, the comfort and the training that we receive? No other organisation! There is no place else to go. Stay close to our brothers and sisters in the congregation. We need each other. This will help us to get through these last days. And it will help us to keep in step with Jehovah’s organisation.’

Put more succinctly, Luccioni is disadvising against leaving the Watchtower organisation because it is (he feels) God’s organisation; therefore to leave it is tantamount to forsaking Christ (because Christ, in 1919, ‘evidently’ appointed it as the exclusive channel of communication). Luccioni’s viewpoint is premised on two things, namely, that: 1) the Watchtower organisation has divine backing and 2) it teaches the truth (‘sayings of everlasting life’). Suffice is to say that these two points are rebuttable. Any religious group can claim those words for themselves. So the real question is, what was the context of the scripture that Luccioni referred to?

Well, Jesus had just spoken to a crowd of people; among the things he had mentioned was that he (Jesus) was the bread of life that came down from heaven (John 6:35), this he paralleled to the manna that the Israelites were fed with during their odyssey in the wilderness (John 3:31-34). He went on to advise them (the crowd) to eat his ‘flesh’ and drink his ‘blood’ if they entertained any hope of everlasting life (John 6:54). Not grasping that he was speaking symbolically, this shocked the crowd, resulting in a multitude abandoning him (John 6:60, 66). It is at this point that Jesus then asks his intimate circle of apostles if they too aren’t inclined to leave him as the others had, to which Peter, speaking on behalf of the apostles, answers in the aforementioned words paraphrased by Luccioni, namely, ‘To whom shall we go away to, lord?’

What cannot be faulted is Luccioni’s cognizance of the fact that certain teachings (‘changes’, ‘new light’ etc.) from the Watchtower may boggle some; also, and that hurtful things may be said (by individual members or the organisation, who, in my experience, are usually the Elders, who seem to have adopted a somewhat 007 mentality – you know, ‘licence to speak’ whatever they want)[3] that stumble some to the point of leaving. The question though is, are the departures of contemporary ex-Witnesses necessarily unwarranted, in the same vein as the departures that were made by the crowd in Jesus’ case? Is leaving the Watchtower organisation equal to abandoning Christ, that is, are these two thing not capable of being mutually exclusive? Well, this premise should be viewed with circumspection. As Daniel Grissom put it, ‘Facts weigh more than feelings; and the fact is that Jehovah’s Witnesses feel that they are God’s [organisation] and sole channel on earth.’

So then, never mind what anyone feels; what do the (unsanitised) facts indicate?

The scriptures say ‘make sure of all things; hold fast to what is fine’ (Thessalonians 5:21). But, now, how do you ‘make sure’ if you’re not allowed to actually make sure? Have you really made sure unless you’ve heard the other side – unpopular as it might be? There is a Latin maxim well-known in the legal fraternity which goes: ‘Audi alteram partem.’ It loosely translates to: ‘Hear the other side,’ or ‘Let the other side be heard as well.’ In principle, it promotes fairness in a trial; a person should not be condemned until he has been afforded the opportunity to present his case. You don’t need a law degree to appreciate the simple, yet profound, logic of this maxim. Thus, as I’ve often said, anyone who promotes ignorance should be viewed with great suspicion.

Now, at some point or other, making use of whatever facts were available to them at any given time, most Witnesses satisfied themselves that they indeed were ‘in the truth.’ Having done so, they, unbeknown to themselves, began the process of confirmation bias. They adopt a selective outlook, assisted, no doubt, by the Governing Body’s relentless admonition to reject anything that isn’t sanctioned by them (‘the Faithful and Discreet Slave’) – a monopoly effectively. This is accomplished incrementally by appeals, then phobias, until it escalates to the point of fear-mongering; the position sought is that  any ‘critical’ speech (whether from ‘apostates’ or ‘worldly’ people) is a product of the devil and that giving audience to it is an insidious tactic designed to sabotage your faith and ultimately cause you to forfeit your much cherished everlasting life. A catch-22 situation if there ever was one…

While all of this externally generated apprehension is brewing inside the person, the organisation makes a concerted effort to appeal to the emotions of the person by highlighting and cherry-picking all the wonderful things that the organisation is accomplishing – the International Conventions, the pleasant associations, the worldwide brotherhood, the disaster relief efforts (and, to be sure, the average Jehovah’s Witness is a kind human being). In so doing, the organisation becomes the hero of this nightmare of its own creation. A Witness is kept so busy on this treadmill-of-thought by the relentless meetings, publications, and field service that the person seldom has time to stop and think, to reflect. Thus, it is a relentless process of indoctrination – rinse, wash, repeat; rinse, wash, repeat. All the time. Kept in this constant loop.

Luccioni‘s paraphrase of the Apostle Peter’s question to Jesus is fundamentally flawed. Peter asked, ‘To whom shall be go away to,’ not ‘Where shall we go away to.’ Thus, Peter was referring to a person – not a place.

So, then, to whom shall we go away to, Luccioni? Of Jesus, Peter said: ‘You have sayings of everlasting life.’ Well, then, it is to Christ that we should ‘go away’ to; as to where that is precisely is a question of fact.


[1] He is a helper (a.k.a. ‘Given Ones’, ‘Nethinim’) in the Service Committee.

[2] More correctly, Jesus’ question was addressed, not specifically to Peter, but the apostles as a whole.

[3] And if the party being spoken to gets upset, then it becomes a question of motive. The Elders can invoke that ‘Hail Mary’ scripture of ‘no discipline for the present seems to be joyous but grievous; yet afterward to those who have been trained by it it yields peaceable fruit, namely, righteous’ (Hebrews 12:11). Hallelujah! Amen! Okay…