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Waking Up

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One of the oddest things about being one of Jehovah’s Witnesses is what happens when a JW “wakes up” and discovers TTATT (the truth about The Truth).

This awakening is a long process.  It starts with a niggling doubt, some teaching that just doesn’t quite sit right.  Maybe it’s a change in a teaching, what the Society calls “New Light.”  For me, it was a change in a core teaching about when The End would come.

The Watchtower Society has taught for well over 100 years that Jesus gave his followers a clue as to when the end would come.   In Matthew 24 his disciples asked him for a sign that the end was near.  Jesus described a whole laundry list of not-so-remarkable events (wars, earthquakes, etc.) to watch for.  Then he said, “This generation will not pass away until all these things occur.”

Mix together a vague prophecy, some devil-may-care chronology, a belief that God is communicating only with you, and a whole heap of hubris, stir well.  Yield:  An adjustable end-time teaching.  Serve relentlessly.   Without getting into nitty-gritty detail, the Watchtower Society had taught that the “time of the end” began in 1914 (with a whole lot of emphasis on WWI), and since Jesus had said that the end would come within the lifetime of a generation, it is logical to conclude that the system would end in the 20th century.  Many times in their literature they stated outright that the end would come before the new millennium.

Fun fact:  The Watchtower Society holds that God’s truth is revealed gradually, only when Jesus’ followers are ready for it.  They cite a handy scripture in Proverbs 4:18 that says that the light gets brighter and brighter, even though that scripture is not talking about doctrine, and is probably mistranslated in their Bible.  In any case, all JWs get really excited whenever there is “new light” in the Watchtower magazine.

Around about 1995, the Society could hear their chronological clock ticking and came out with some “new light” about the meaning of the word “generation.”  It was so murky and illogical that I can’t even remember exactly what their argument was.  It had something to do with the definition of the word “generation” that made it possible for any group of contemporaries to be part of a “generation.”   The moment I heard it I said, “We’re going to see the year 2000 in this system.”  I recognized it as a maneuver.  An organization that claims to be the sole conduit of God’s Truth shouldn’t need to maneuver,  shouldn’t find it necessary to overturn a doctrine that had stood for nearly a century just to save face (and they’ve changed the understanding of “generation” twice more since then).   That realization started the ball rolling for me.  It took another nine years for the ball to strike the pins.

During those nine years I started noticing cracks in the Christian personalities of those around me.  I saw politics and cliques at work, elders who hardly ever used their Bible when giving talks, and just general hypocrisy.  I was irritated.  Luckily, I was not alone.  I had a friend who shared my irritation.  Once she and I discovered our mutual growing antipathy we started to get together regularly for what we called “natter” sessions where we would express our feelings about the organization freely without worrying that the other one would turn us in to the elders.

I had known for several years that Jehovah’s Witnesses had a big problem with pedophilia.  Of course, in any microcosm you’re going to see a cross-section of the human condition, but there was a much bigger problem with JWs, and it still exists.  Their procedure for dealing with accusations of pedophilia does not involve law enforcement, nor is it likely the perpetrator will ever be disciplined for his actions.  Here’s why:  Even as recently as October 1, 2012 the Watchtower’s stated procedure when an accusation of child abuse is brought to the elders’ attention is for the elders to contact their local branch office of the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society.  The branch will give them instructions.  Under no circumstances are the elders or the accusers to contact the police.   In other words, keep it hushed up.

Within the congregation, the elders can convene a judicial committee only if there are two witnesses to the offense.  When does that ever happen in a case of child molestation?  I’ll tell you – never.  The perpetrator is considered innocent of the charge, and it is quite possible that the accuser will be the one in hot water for making an unsubstantiated accusation.

I knew of a situation in a neighboring congregation where this very situation existed.  There was more than one report of a young man in the congregation, an elder’s son, molesting younger boys, sometimes even in the kingdom hall.  Because nothing could be done to discipline the young man, he was free to prowl the congregation and snatch more victims.  Outraged parents took their children and started attending my congregation, even though it was a long drive for them.  Some of them actually packed up their households and moved to my town because their home congregation had become a dangerous place.

When I found out what was happening I was completely outraged.  Being a survivor of child sexual abuse myself (although it happened before I became a JW) I couldn’t understand how God’s organization could permit such a situation to continue.  Maybe the boys in Brooklyn didn’t know about it.  Shouldn’t we tell them?  Of course, being a woman, any letter I sent to headquarters would be sent back to the elders in my congregation.  I asked my husband at the time to write, but he decided he would “leave it in Jehovah’s hands.”   My faith was strong then, so I went along with his decision, but the idea that there were children suffering shattering emotional trauma was impossible to ignore.

If you are outraged that a mind-control cult is harboring pedophiles, please view this video http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fcIC4g5tulw and visit this Facebook page:  The Association of Anti-Watchtower Activists

Next week:  The Final Straw

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Unfriending Your Family

When you start studying with Jehovah’s Witnesses at first it’s all paradise in a New World, resurrection of dead loved ones, perfect health, and end of wickedness.  You’re pumped.  Wow, why hasn’t the rest of the world found out about this?  I have to share this with my family members!

So, positively vibrating with excitement, you pounce on any relative unfortunate enough to be living near you and perform a data dump of all your new beliefs.  While the poor relative is still spluttering in horror you tell them how wonderful all of the love bombing is and what nice people JWs are.

Finally pausing to take a breath, you wonder why your grandma isn’t jumping up and down clapping her hands at the joyous news.  In fact, her eyebrows are doing that thing where a deep  vertical crease forms over the bridge of her nose.  This reaction does not compute.  Instead of the program happily running, you’re getting the equivalent of the blue screen of death.

Recovering her grandma composure she says, “Well, dear, that’s wonderful for you.  Would you like a cookie?” and shuffles out to the kitchen.

Okay, well, that’s grandma.  Maybe she missed her meds this morning.  You try the same tactic with your brother who asks if you’re going to be moving into a compound somewhere in Montana with all the other loonies in your group and warns against accepting any Kool-Aid.

It’s the same all around the family circle.  Nobody believes any of the hoo-hah you’re preaching at them, and some even warn you against joining because they heard that JWs break up families.  You cheerfully brush that comment off by saying that JWs are very family oriented and actually strengthen familial bonds.

Even your best friend isn’t having any of it, especially since you turn every single conversation into a witnessing session.  She longs for the days when you could talk about muffin recipes, cellulite, and what in the world was Betty Jo thinking when she wore that low-cut blouse to your son’s birthday party?  Pretty soon you find that your BFF is hanging around with Betty Jo instead of you.

But it’s worse in your own household.  Not only does your spouse not want to listen to your constant babbling, but he also complains that you’re out at meetings and field service all the time and are neglecting him and the kids.  Then he lays the big one on you – he doesn’t want his children going to those damned meetings.  One of them is on a school night and he has to employ high explosives to separate the kids from their beds the next morning.

You run to the JW who is studying with you (we’ll call her Mary) and tell the dismal tale of family opposition.   Mary pats you on the arm and reassures you that this happens all the time and is a test of your loyalty to Jehovah.  Satan is using your relatives to discourage you from pursuing true worship.  Whom will you choose in the war for universal sovereignty – Satan or Jehovah?  Well, duh.

Your newly minted faith is strong, and your new support system, the love bombers, offer hugs and stories of others who have survived similar storms of opposition.  They pepper you with scriptures showing that Jesus himself warned his followers that they would encounter opposition from family members.  The good news is that even if your family members pull away you will find substitute mothers and fathers and children among Jehovah’s people.

You steel yourself to stand firmly on Jehovah’s side.  The issue of universal sovereignty is bigger than family or so-called “friends.”  And, really – Betty Jo?  Hrmph.

None of your former associates can stand to spend 5 minutes in your presence, no matter how much they love you.  It’s like you bathed in Eau de Skunk bubble bath.  So, you throw yourself into the congregation and theocratic activities with the love bombers who think you smell like a rose.

Then comes the first family holiday.  You can’t go because you no longer celebrate it.  Grandma’s 90th birthday – no can do.  Your niece’s wedding, which will be held in a church with the reception in the basement.  That’s interfaith, so you can’t attend.   After an angry phone call from your highly offended sister you are now the pariah of the family.

And that’s how it happens.  You’ve lost your family and friends.  Your formerly happy marriage is on the rocks, and you have no one to turn to but the JWs in the congregation.  Welcome to your new life.

Just a Spoonful of Sugar…

 

 

One of your first experiences upon attending a meeting at a kingdom hall of Jehovah’s Witnesses is what cult experts call “love bombing.”  Usually, a new recruit will be introduced around by the publisher who is studying with them and much solicitous clucking will ensue accompanied by a warm smile, widened eyes, and an “it’s so nice to see you here.”  That’s phase one.

Phase two will commence once the new recruit has started attending regularly.  Suddenly, their social life explodes with invitations to dinner, get-togethers, ice cream after the meeting, and so forth.  Everyone at the hall is their friend.   At this point it will be nearly impossible to extricate the new recruit from the grasp of “The Truth” (this is what JWs call their religion).

Prior to studying with JWs my family had virtually no social life outside of the extended family.  My mother certainly didn’t have friends, and my father’s friends were all workmates.   Mom hated to entertain with a nearly thermonuclear passion, so there were no dinner parties at home except for the occasional family Thanksgiving dinner (which I think happened only once in those 12 years).  Dad, on the other hand, loved to entertain a crowd and he was the soul of hospitality.

Things changed dramatically once we started attending meetings.  We were nearly suffocated in the enthusiastic embrace of the congregation.  Suddenly, we had 60 friends, all of whom lighted up when they saw us.  That’s heady stuff.  Sometimes we’d be invited to come over after a meeting for popcorn and some fellowship.  During these visits our new friends would tell their experiences about finding The Truth or fill our heads with JW urban legends.

The effect of all of this was to make us feel like we had a place in the congregation.  We had found something rare and wonderful.  The love bombing was the chocolate coating that made the weird doctrine go down easier.

Our entry into the cult was swift; altogether it took only about 6 months before we were sufficiently drunk on love to become fully committed.  The local elders desperately needed more help with their duties and figured out pretty quickly that my father was a sucker for flattery and prominence.  They arranged for my folks to get baptized at a circuit assembly 200 miles away so that he’d be qualified to be recommended as a ministerial servant during the next circuit overseer’s visit in three months.  One of the qualifications is to be “not a newly converted man.”   I think they fudged that one, because three months is a pretty short time for a new JW to marinate properly.  Less than two years later, dear old Dad was promoted to elder and we were well and truly entrenched.

As you might expect, once a “new one” has become one of the regulars, the love bombing tapers off.   In our case, however, since Dad was in a position of prominence, we didn’t go through the post-love-bomb letdown experienced by most of those who join JWs.

By the time the letdown comes along you’re convinced that Armageddon is tomorrow and that if you leave The Truth you’ll be miserable and die.   It has also been pounded into your head that if you are unhappy it’s your own fault because you obviously haven’t been studying enough, praying enough, preaching enough, and attending every single meeting.  And that’s when you pull up your spiritual maturity panties and deal with it.

Standing Out in a Crowd

With all the rules and principles to be followed as one of Jehovah’s Witnesses, you might justifiably wonder just how they get through the day, because, like it or not, they still have to attend school or go to work where they must rub elbows with “worldly” people.

For children in school being a JW is a heavy burden.  It means that they will stand out in the crowd, and not in a good way.  For starters, a JW child will likely be dressed like a dork.  I’m not totally up on current children’s clothing trends, but when I was in school mini-skirts were the fashion of the day, an immodest garment that would never pass muster at the kingdom hall.  So, while all the other girls glided through the school halls with their patooties barely covered, my knees peeked out shyly from beneath the hem of my skirt.  My father required me to wear a dress or skirt to school at least 3 times a week, but I could wear pants the other two days.  Adding to my humiliation, Daddy felt that at 13 I was too young to shave my legs and wear nylon stockings; I wore knee socks.  In this stand he was at odds, apparently, with every other father in the school district, a fact which my observant classmates never failed to point out, repeatedly.  I’m just lucky they never beat me up for it.

Children of Jehovah’s Witnesses cannot share in holiday- or patriotic-themed activities, so they’re a pain in the butt for teachers who have to provide an alternative craft project or game for the JW kid in their classroom and excuse the child from any holiday or birthday parties.

JW kids cannot participate in patriotic ceremonies, such as the flag salute (due to political neutrality) and so must make a spectacle of themselves by being excused from the classroom to stand in the hall while the other students perform that rite.  I totally lucked out in this regard, my JW school years occurring at the end of the Vietnam War and during the Watergate scandal, when most of the country was angry with the government.  We never did the pledge in my school.  Until one day when I was taken by surprise at a school assembly that occurred on Flag Day.

We were all assembled in the auditorium for some announcements when the principal ambushed us with the national anthem.  Everyone else rose to their feet, but I remained seated.  That’s protocol for JWs.  Unhappily for me, I was conspicuously seated on the aisle.  A teacher saw me showing apparent disrespect and angrily hissed at me, “Stand up!”  My school friends, likewise, tried to get me to stand up.  Since this issue had never arisen before, I had never explained it, so they didn’t understand.

Then, the principal wanted everyone to recite the Pledge of Allegiance.  Now, that one I was able to stand for, but I wouldn’t put my hand over my heart or say the words.  At least now I wasn’t the only one seated in a crowd of 1200.  After the assembly I had to explain my behavior to the teacher and my friends.

JW children have the most boring entries in the class yearbook.  That’s because they can’t participate in any extra-curricular activities.  Period.  No sports, no student council, no prom committee (and no prom), no cheerleading, no nothing.  It’s straight home and do your homework.  Oh, and prepare for the next meeting at the kingdom hall.

It’s a little easier for adult JWs in the workplace.  Mostly, you just look like a bad sport.  You can’t sign the birthday cards, you can’t sing “Happy Birthday” or eat the cake, you can’t participate in Secret Santa or attend the office Christmas party, you can’t buy Girl Scout cookies (it’s a paramilitary organization, don’t you know), and you can’t go with the gang after work to…whatever.  I did that once (yes, I broke the rules, although that one has a little wiggle room) and paid for it dearly.

I had a coworker, Gerri, who was a twice-divorced single mother barely scraping by.  Her parents, as she had told me, were JWs in another state.  She was about to remarry one of her exes, and we all chipped together to take her out to dinner to celebrate.   Wanting to be supportive and possibly help her into the cult (glad I didn’t succeed there!) I agreed to go to dinner with them.  We had a fun evening together, and one of the other girls planned to drive Gerri (who didn’t have a car) and me home.  We were only about 2 miles from the restaurant when another driver turned left, crossing our lane and attempting to occupy the same space as our car.

I wasn’t belted in (the belt was underneath the seat somewhere, this was 1982) and was catapulted into the windshield at 25 miles per hour.  Ouch!  I thought I had broken my neck.  Everyone else, in both cars, was unharmed.  An ambulance was called, and I went to the ER.  Everything was fine, but I had broken a bunch of blood vessels under the skin and my forehead filled up with blood – I looked like an alien.  It took months for that blood to drain down through my face and be absorbed, so I went about my days looking like I had been tattooed by a drunken Maori.  I didn’t believe that the accident was judgment from Jehovah, but you can be sure that I buckled up without fail after that.  And I never went out with my coworkers again. No sense tempting the Almighty.

I was in the seventh grade when my parents started to study with Jehovah’s Witnesses, so I can’t write with authority about the long-term effects of attending school as a JW child, but I know from reading others’ accounts, there is lasting damage to the psyche.  Surviving the adult work world as a JW is pretty much just tiring and a bit uncomfortable at times.  It has been such a relief, since I left the cult, to be able to participate in birthdays and holidays.  In fact, a couple of Christmases ago, nobody else showed any interest in decorating the office tree, so I recruited an Indian coworker to help me, and between us, the ex-JW and the Hindu decked the halls that year.

Jesus Christ! – Part 2

Jesus was well-known as a miracle worker.  He restored sight to the blind, healed leprosy, cast out demons, and raised the dead.  He even healed a young girl from a distance.  And she wasn’t a Jew.  Her father was a Roman army officer who was known as a kindly man.

Interestingly, most of Jesus’ miracles were acts of mercy that helped the person(s) involved to lead a productive life.  He wasn’t a showman, so we don’t read about flashy displays of magic.  No, he was focused on charity.  As mentioned last week, Jesus also had a money box containing funds to assist the poor.

Another way he helped was by teaching people about God and His kingdom.  The Jewish religious leaders of the time were focused on obeying the letter of the law rather than the spirit of the law.  Jesus taught that God was far more interested in the mercy in people’s hearts than in ostentatious exhibitions of piety.  Needless to say, the religious leaders did not approve of his message.

Because they claim to be the only true followers of Jesus Christ, you would think that Jehovah’s Witnesses would be well known for their charitable works as well as for teaching people about God.  You would be wrong.  In fact, Jehovah’s Witnesses are actively discouraged from participating in charities or volunteer work in the community.  They are told that their preaching work is the best possible way to assist their fellow man.

I found this de facto ban on acts of mercy to be excruciatingly frustrating while I was a JW, and I’m sure many current JWs feel the same way.  If a natural disaster struck we were told to donate to the Worldwide Work (the Watchtower Society) and that funds would be channeled to assist our brothers and sisters in the affected area.  Months later, an article in one of the magazines would describe how an organized team of JWs had swept into a ruined neighborhood and worked tirelessly to repair the homes of local JWs, along with a token non-JW widow or single mother.  Photos would show a group of men hammering away on a roof.  There might even be a quote from a local newspaper about how quickly the JWs got there and how nice they were.  We could all feel proud of the JW contribution to the cleanup.

Meanwhile, back at home, a call would go out to donate school supplies or coats for local children, but we could not participate.  Instead, we could knock on more doors and tell our neighbors that they could have a gloriously happy future if they left their church which provided practical help to the community and joined JWs.

Jesus’ ministry lasted only 3 years, but it got him into some serious hot water with the religious leaders, and eventually they just wanted him dead.  More on that subject next week.

Jesus Christ!

Jehovah’s Witnesses are the only true Christians on earth today.  That’s what they’ll tell you.  They are the only ones practicing the Christianity that Jesus taught his followers, the only true followers of Christ.

Well, sort of.

Who is Jesus as interpreted by JWs?

As I’ve mentioned before, in his pre-human existence Jesus was known as Michael the Archangel.  He was the very first creation of God.  Then God brought Michael into the family business and allowed him to create the heavens and the earth (although God takes credit for it while He was sitting back in his celestial easy chair, probably chugging some celestial beer) and everything on the earth.  Oh, and the other angels. That’s quite a load of responsibility.  Clearly, Michael was not just a product of nepotism; he had mad skills (although one might look askance at such creations as the platypus and the mosquito).

After that, Michael was given the assignment to more or less oversee the earth and mankind.  Since humans are such lowly creatures, God Himself could not communicate with them directly, so all of his chats with Adam and Eve, Noah, Moses, and so on, were actually carried out by Michael.  He materialized a few times for a more hands-on approach, guarding the way to the Garden of Eden after Adam and Eve were evicted, competing in an ancient cage match with Jacob, and providing the fire on the burning bush, to name a few.  Kind of fun stuff.

But God had a larger role in mind for Michael, as I mentioned a couple of weeks ago, and when it was time for the Messiah to appear he transferred the life force of Michael into Mary’s womb, and 9 months later, at the most inconvenient time and place imaginable, she gave birth to a baby and called him “Jesus.”

Jesus grew up as a perfect human child who had brothers and sisters and was bookish (or scrollish, I guess), probably insufferably so, if the anecdotal evidence is accurate.

According to the Bible, when he was 12 his whole extended family went to Jerusalem for a festival, the ancient equivalent of a family vacation at Disney, but without the fun stuff to do.  When it was time to go home his family suffered a “Home Alone” type of incident at the end of their first day of travel.  He was nowhere to be found.  Everyone had assumed he was with Uncle John or Aunt Deborah or someone else and hadn’t worried.  Well, the donkeys were turned around, and there was a mad dash back to Jerusalem.  Three days later – yes, I said three – they found the little egghead at the temple hanging out in the rabbis’ lounge.

His parents were totally freaking out, like any parent would in such a circumstance, but they resisted the urge to smack him upside the head.  Instead, they told him they were in mental distress looking for him.  Now, here’s the kicker:  He says, “Why did you have to go looking for me?  Did you not know that I must be in the house of my father?”  I don’t know about your parents, but to my parents that unapologetic quip would have qualified as “sass,” and I would have had a hand imprint on my cheek.  The Bible only says that his parents didn’t quite understand what he meant by his remark, so I guess he slipped that one by them.

We don’t see Jesus again until he is an adult, working as a carpenter.  He gets the urge to get baptized, so he visits his cousin, John the Baptist (who, coincidentally enough, shares a middle name with Winnie the Pooh and Jabba the Hut) gets dunked, and then sees the heavens opened to him and the holy spirit descending.  God’s voice is heard declaring, “This is my son, the beloved, and I approve this message.”  Actually he said he approved of Jesus himself.

Then Jesus goes on a sort of walkabout in the Judean desert to fast while the Devil tempts him 3 times to misuse his power.  Doesn’t seem like a truly effective test.  I mean, if the Devil wanted to tempt me it would be with cheeseburgers, chocolate, and expensive perfume, but that’s neither here nor there.

After the walkabout he commences his ministry.  In doing so he covered a lot of territory, living on handouts and the kindness of strangers.  Of course, he came with an entourage to rival anything Mariah Carey could muster, consisting of 12 disciples as well as some hangers-on and women who ministered to the group as a whole.  Imagine if this crowd came trouping into your quiet little village, and then plunked down in the town square (which is how you got a room in those days, Motel 6 having not been invented yet) waiting for someone to offer hospitality.  Meanwhile, Jesus’ fame having preceded him, everyone drops what they’re doing and runs to the town square, dragging their ailing relatives with them.  Jesus heals everyone, and then gives a moving speech.  People would fall over themselves offering food, accommodations, supplies, and whatnot.

In fact, there are a number of accounts in the gospels where Jesus is eating with wealthy people at a banquet.  He was the “It Guy” in Palestine in those days, and everyone wanted to be seen with him, so he got lots of invites from wealthy people to feast at their house so as to impress their friends.  There are several accounts of influential men inviting Jesus and his disciples to dine with them, along with accounts that suggest that Jesus’ conduct at these lavish affairs surprised his hosts.

For example, one time a prostitute came in, threw herself at Jesus’ feet, and washed his feet with her tears, drying them with her hair, to the tut-tutting of those assembled.  Then she did something truly outrageous.  She cracked open an alabaster case containing a very expensive perfumed emollient and rubbed it on his feet.  Now we venture beyond tut-tut and into expostulation territory.

“Why, this is expensive stuff!  It could have been sold and the proceeds donated to the poor!” said one of the disciples (spoiler: Judas, the one who would betray him) indignantly.  What he meant was, “Hey! The proceeds from the sale of that expensive stuff could have been donated and I could have stolen it!”  News flash:  Judas was a bad guy from the start, which raises the question of why the prescient Jesus didn’t treat him to the kind of private fire-and-brimstone shower his Daddy was famous for.

 

When we pick up again next week, Jesus is turning water into wine and feeding multitudes with the scraps from someone’s picnic basket.

Don’t Spoil a Good Doctrine by Strict Adherence to the Facts – Part 3

Even More Doctrinal Romping

When my father started studying with Jehovah’s Witnesses my brother and I were 10 and 12 respectively.  At first, the entire family assembled in the living room while Chuck, the man who studied with us, attempted to conduct the study.  Dad loved the sound of his own voice and more or less took over the proceedings so that the study, which should have lasted an hour, would go on for 3 hours, during which time we kids would nod off.  After a few such sessions Dad told us we could watch TV in a distant room and then turn in at our usual time instead of sitting in on the study.

Surprisingly, Dad eventually talked himself out, and he and Mom made actual progress on the study.  At that point Dad decided to include the kids in the study.  That first night we sat around the dining room table while Chuck brought my brother and me up to date.  We covered every doctrine in a single session.  The effect of it blew my hair back.  I wasn’t some ignorant little kid.  I actually believed some of the stuff we had learned in Methodist Sunday school – not that I could explain any of it.

Chuck read scriptures and presented arguments that blasted holes in everything I believed.  By the end of the evening I was left standing dazed amidst the rubble of my religious upbringing wondering how I’d got to Oz.

After that night, Chuck started bringing along his 14-year-old stepson, Mark, to conduct a separate study with little brother and me.  Mark could put all of his enthusiasm for the Bible into the tip of his pinky finger and still have room for a standing rib roast.  He’d go over a couple of paragraphs in the book we were studying and then adjourn to the front yard where we’d just hang out until the adults were finished.   After a few weeks of that, Mark stayed home and Dad took over the Bible study with us.

But, I digress.

Spirit/Soul

Bad news, folks.  According to Jehovah’s Witnesses you do not have an immortal soul. The doctrine is based on the Greek and Hebrew words that are translated “spirit” and “soul.”   Jehovah’s Witnesses believe that the soul is the person themselves.  Your physical body is a soul.  You don’t have a soul, you are one.  In this sense, every creature on earth is a soul.  Your dog is a soul, that spider just landing on your shoulder is a soul.  (Did you look?)  When you die, your soul dies too.  Kaput.  You’re gone.

The spirit is the life force that animates the body, as in “the breath of life.”  It has no special qualities and does not exist apart from the body.  (Based on that I can’t even begin to explain what “spirit fingers” are.)  When the body dies, the spirit is gone.  So, JWs don’t believe in any paranormal stuff, right?  Well, we covered the demons a few weeks ago.  They sure do believe in it, but they blame it on the demons, not dead humans.  Now, the Bible does say that when a person dies his spirit returns to God.  JWs interpret this to mean that the person’s hopes for future life return to God, meaning that He can decide to resurrect you after Armageddon or not.  This understanding seems forced.

Now, they do refer to angels, demons, and God as “spirit creatures,” which makes this whole doctrine a bit confusing.  They use the same word to refer to an impersonal, unintelligent life force as well as an intelligent being with personality.  Eh?

I always thought these teachings were, first of all, a huge bummer, and secondly, contrary to my instincts.  To me, the human spirit is so dynamic and creative the idea that it could fizzle away like a drop of water in a hot frying pan seems ludicrous.  What a waste!  Of course, I kept those thoughts to myself or I would have been unceremoniously drop-kicked out the door.

 

The Bible

Jehovah’s Witnesses believe the Bible is God’s Word.   It is their ultimate authority.

Even though the Bible was written by men, JWs believe that these writers were inspired by God.   For example, Moses wrote the first five books of the Bible which describe events that happened thousands of years before Moses was born.  A logical explanation for this record is that Moses was writing from oral tradition passed on from generation to generation.   JWs believe that Moses wrote as God placed the information into his brain, “as he was borne along by holy spirit.”

Same thing with the writers of the gospels.  These books were written sometimes decades after Jesus’ death, but they are accurate (to the JW mind) because God transmitted the detailed information to the writers’ minds.

Despite a great deal of evidence to the contrary, they say that the Bible does not contradict itself, and this “fact” reassures them that it is indeed God’s word.

Because of this steadfast belief, they are supremely confident that the Bible is a book they can rely upon without question.  Every word of it is from God.  How do they know?  The Bible itself tells them so.  At 2 Timothy 3:16, 17 it says, “All scripture is inspired of God and beneficial for teaching, for reproving, for setting things straight, for disciplining in righteousness that the man of God may be fully competent, completely equipped for every good work.”  So there you have it – the ultimate self-help book.

Alarmingly, if you actually read this self-help book, this guide to living, there’s some whacked-out stuff in there.  There’s a whole book, written by the Donald Trump of the ancient world, Solomon, that’s about sexual attraction.  However, to the JW mind it’s a lovely analogy for the relationship between Christ and the anointed.  All I can say is, YUCK.  Here’s a sample.  Decide for yourself.

“Look! You are beautiful, O girl companion of mine.  Your eyes are those of doves behind your veil.  Your hair is like a drove of goats that have hopped down from the mountainous region of Gilead.  Your teeth (this guy is nothing if not exhaustive in his praise of her physical features, so let’s skip a bit)…Your two breasts are like two young ones, the twins of a female gazelle that are feeding among the lilies.”  A little farther on he says, “With comb honey your lips keep dripping…”  This guy is dead gone on this girl.  “A garden barred is my sister, my bride, a garden barred in, a spring sealed up…”  Then she responds, “Let my dear one come into his garden and eat its choicest fruits.”  We all know what that means.

The very first part of the Bible is full of stories of bloody conquest, genocide, and a God who can only be described as petulant and vindictive, striking down people left and right for the slightest offense.

Later in the Old Testament you will find a large book of poetry followed by a couple of books of proverbs and wise sayings, which are very good.  Then comes a long slog through some dense prophecy and denunciation against Jerusalem for disappointing its God so grievously.  JWs have a field day in this section, picking and choosing verses to support their story of a future paradise earth.

Things lighten up in the New Testament which is a series of 4 accounts of Jesus’ life, then a book that follows up what his 12 apostles did after he died.  Then you get a long series of letters from various prominent men to various congregations in Asia Minor.  This all builds up to the final book, Revelation (notice – no “s” at the end) which reads a lot like John, who wrote it, got into a bad batch of ‘shrooms.

In any case, I’ve read the Bible through, lid to lid, at least 9 times, believing the entire time that it was the word of God.  Not so much anymore.  It’s definitely a good piece of literature, but holy cow, I wouldn’t want to do what JWs have done – base my entire life on this one book which was largely written by people whose diet included a disturbing percentage of goat meat and didn’t even have indoor plumbing .

 

Happy Thanksgiving!

 

Next week:  Jesus Christ!