Jehovah’s Witnesses know they are God’s people. They don’t just believe it, they know it to the core of their being. As a result, God’s enemy, Satan, is also their enemy and wants to destroy them. Wants it bad.
Satan uses a number of different weapons in his war against JWs, everything from their own bad qualities (greed, lust, etc.) to family members who oppose their belonging to the cult to national governments who ban their religion and persecute them. They see anyone who isn’t a JW as a potential threat – an us-versus-them mentality. They also see persecution as a sign that they’re doing it right. After all, Jesus told them to expect persecution. Well, he told his first-century disciples to expect it, and he was right.
JWs often end up becoming a self-fulfilling prophecy because when they take a stand on an issue they won’t back down for anything – well, most of the time. Back in Nazi Germany, they managed to get on Hitler’s bad side, and were rounded up and herded into concentration camps, receiving a purple triangle for their stubbornness. Many died in those camps. JWs view that whole episode as a badge of honor and practically worship the survivors.
Back in the 1970s the African nation of Malawi passed a law that required all citizens to purchase a political party card. JWs refused because of their stand of political neutrality. It could easily be reasoned that because there was only one political party, the country being ruled by “President for Life” Banda, that it would not violate their neutrality to purchase the card, viewing it as more of a tax than delving into politics. However, the Watchtower Society would not back down on the issue, and the JWs in Malawi experienced a number of waves of persecution where their crops and homes were burned, many were beaten, raped, and even murdered by gangs of thugs, the government egging them on.
At the same time, a curious double standard arose in the hallowed halls of the Brooklyn headquarters. JWs do not perform military service and will even refuse to perform alternative service, and consequently men of military age spend years wasting away in prison to pay for their impudence.
At the same time the JWs in Malawi were suffering, a veritable get-out-of-jail-free card was handed to Mexican JWs. In Mexico, men of military age were required to obtain cards that identified them as members of the reserves who had completed a year of weekly training sessions. Possession of this card was necessary in order to obtain a passport. Instead of taking a stand, for some reason the Watchtower Society agreed to allow the brothers there to bribe government officials in order to obtain a card under the table.
How were these guys making decisions? Dart board? I thought Bible standards were the basis of their policy making. I don’t know what the motivation was for this shocking double standard, but it horrified one member of the HQ staff who took the time to document the whole thing and later include it in his book, “Crisis of Conscience.”
These guys were (and are) deciding who would die for standing in opposition to the government and who could get off easy by bribery.
The governments aren’t the only entities lusting for the blood of JWs. JWs in the early part of the 20th century were very in-your-face in their preaching, marching around with sandwich signs and shouting “religion is a snare and a racket” in front of churches, using sound cars in rural locations to blast the local livestock (and farmers) with sermons, and generally being a nuisance. Needless to say, these actions failed to evoke kindly feelings on the part of townspeople. JWs were tarred and feathered, beaten by mobs, and jailed for their trouble, heroes all.
Luckily for me, by the time my family joined JWs, they had dialed it back a few notches and were concentrating on the peaceful-new-world message. Still, we heard lurid reports of what was happening in Malawi, and we were told to expect the same sort of mistreatment when the Great Tribulation started, leading to God’s swooping in and rescuing JWs in the form of Armageddon.
The reports on Malawi scared the bejeezus out of me and many other kids at the time, some of whom had nightmares about it. I tossed uneasily in my bed many a night contemplating being beaten or raped for my religious beliefs. I even formulated a plan to cut my hair short if persecution developed so that I wouldn’t be as easy to catch by the hair. I doubt that hair would have factored in to my inevitable capture as I’ve never been even slightly athletic.
Perhaps the most ominous threat to the average JW is Satan’s henchmen, the demons. More about that next week.