By now you’re wondering, “Where do these people get their outlandish ideas? Who is coming up with this wacked-out stuff?”
I’ll tell you. It’s a group of men called the Governing Body. What they say goes. To question their authority or openly raise doubts about their teachings is to risk excommunication.
Who are they and what makes them so special?
To explain that I’ll have to start with a scripture in Matthew 24:45-47 which describes the “faithful and discreet slave whom his master [Jesus Christ] appointed over his domestics to give them their food at the proper time.” Now, this is a vague parable at best, but JWs cling to this interpretation fervently: In Christ’s figurative household, the Governing Body of the Watchtower Society claims to be that “slave” who provides spiritual “food” to the “domestics” who are members of the anointed class specifically, but can be extended to include the entire membership of JWs. Therefore, without them everyone would starve spiritually.
Now it gets weird. One of the core teachings of the JWs is that only 144,000 spirit-anointed individuals are destined for life in heaven. This is based on Revelation 7:4. Interestingly, the number “144,000” is the only number in the book of Revelation that JWs take literally. (Sounds fishy, doesn’t it?) This exclusive group’s purpose is to rule with Christ for 1000 years while mankind cleans up from Armageddon and gradually moves toward perfection in body and mind. After that 1000-year period, there’s no indication what they’ll do for the rest of eternity. Take up the banjo, perhaps.
Christ started collecting this group beginning with his disciples back in the first century. Supposedly, every Christian back then was anointed, but once the Great Apostasy started (after the death of the apostles) it was pick and choose for God, and who the heck knows who was worshipping truly enough to be picked?
In the late 1800s with the appearance of the International Bible Students (later renamed “Jehovah’s Witnesses) God began to find his type of people again in larger, economy-size quantities, and the anointing continued. This number was apparently filled by 1935, and after that the only hope available was your basic life-in-paradise-on-earth-forever, which is roughly equivalent to flying coach.
Here’s how these favored people knew they had been chosen: When someone is anointed by God, the only way they know is that “God’s spirit bears witness with their spirit that they are God’s children.” (Romans 8:16) It’s kind of like knowing that the chimichanga you ate is going to keep you awake all night. You just know. Conversely, if you have not been anointed you also just know. Sound flimsy? Just wait.
Now, out of this large group of anointed ones some of them are on the board of directors of the Society, and they decide who gets to be part of the Governing Body. They say they pray about it, and either Jesus Christ or God tells them who to pick. Again, this is probably a “feeling,” rather like heartburn.
So, this group of benighted individuals, chosen by heartburn, gets to call the shots for the entire JW organization. They decide doctrine and get to pick the next date for Armageddon not to come. They go so far as to decide what intimate acts are appropriate for married JWs. Now, that’s pretty invasive.
They don’t do all the writing, but they decide on the content for all the magazines and books produced by the Watchtower Society. Basically, every aspect of a JW’s life is decided by these guys. Interestingly, as in the first century, there are female members of the anointed. Can they be members of the Governing Body? Such a silly question. Women have no voice whatsoever in the congregation or the Society.
Let’s recap for a second: The Governing Body’s authority is based on a feeling that they are part of a special group mentioned in one of Jesus’ parables that probably has nothing to do with the modern day and bolstered by another scripture in Revelation where a number is taken literally, whereas the guy who wrote the book says it was written in signs – in other words, not literal.
Oh yeah, these are the guys I want deciding how I live my life and even how I might die.
You can easily identify who has heartburn…whoops…who is anointed every year at the Memorial of Christ’s Death which is held around the same time as Passover. The solemn ceremony mimics the Last Supper in that unleavened bread and wine are passed among all those present. Only the anointed ones are allowed to partake, so if you watch carefully you can figure out who in your congregation claims to be of the anointed.
Since the “first class” section was full by 1935, you would expect that very few anointed ones would be left on earth. You’d be wrong. Being human, some anointed ones have proven unfaithful and have lost their boarding passes to first class. As a result, new ones have been selected to take their first-class seats. Of course, these would likely be very few in number since who would want to give up their anointed status?
Every year the Society prints an annual report giving the preaching work totals – hours, placements, etc. At the bottom of this report they indicate the number of partakers at the Memorial. For many years when I was a JW this number declined steadily. Lately, however, it has inexplicably begun to rise, leaving the Governing Body scrambling for an explanation.
Must be the chimichangas.
More next week.