My wife has a Bible study with a young woman who used to associate with the congregation about 15 years ago when she was a teenager. She made an offhand remark regarding what appeared to her to be a lot more emphasis on obedience to the faithful slave than she remembered from her past. She wanted to know if she was just imagining this, or if it was a indeed something different. I had to admit to her that obedience, particularly to the direction from the governing body, is being repeatedly stressed of late. It seems that with almost every new issue, there is one more swing of the hammer on this particular nail.
I really don’t know why this increased emphasis on obedience is being presented. I have my suspicions, but I wasn’t about to risk jeopardizing the faith of a new one based on speculation, so I obfuscated as best I could.
However, about the same time, my wife commented that something in the tone of the life story article in the April 15, 2012 Watchtower was troubling her. Within days I got two separate emails from friends about the very same article, both commenting on the excessive name dropping (16, by one count) as well as the undue importance the article seemed to put upon prominent men, and particularly on governing body members. I hadn’t read the article, so I figured it was time to correct that oversight. When I was done, I had to agree with the assessment of my friends and wife. If you’ve been around the truth for more than a half century as we have, you have been well trained to avoid both praising men and accepting their praise. All glory goes to God. I’m still uncomfortable accepting a sincere compliment after a public talk. So to read an article that heaps so much praise on men is off-putting to say the least.
I’m sure the author is very well meaning and sincere, as are those that edited and cleared the article for publication. However, I can`t help thinking about the example Paul set in this regard:
(Gal. 1:15-19) But when God…thought good 16 to reveal his Son in connection with me…I did not go at once into conference with flesh and blood. 17 Neither did I go up to Jerusalem to those who were apostles previous to me, but I went off into Arabia, and I came back again to Damascus.
18 Then three years later I went up to Jerusalem to visit Ce?phas, and I stayed with him for fifteen days. 19 But I saw no one else of the apostles, only James the brother of the Lord.
(Gal. 2:6) But on the part of those who seemed to be something—whatever sort of men they formerly were makes no difference to me—God does not go by a man’s outward appearance—to me, in fact, those outstanding men imparted nothing new.
He seems to be taking pride in the fact that he did not confer with flesh and blood, nor was he unduly influenced by the opinion or prominence of men in authority. Yet, we are talking about the holy apostles chosen by Jesus Christ himself.
(Gal. 2:11-14) However, when Ce?phas came to Antioch, I resisted him face to face, because he stood condemned. 12 For before the arrival of certain men from James, he used to eat with people of the nations; but when they arrived, he went withdrawing and separating himself, in fear of those of the circumcised class. 13 The rest of the Jews also joined him in putting on this pretense, so that even Bar?na·bas was led along with them in their pretense. 14 But when I saw they were not walking straight according to the truth of the good news, I said to Ce?phas before them all: “If you, though you are a Jew, live as the nations do, and not as Jews do, how is it that you are compelling people of the nations to live according to Jewish practice?”
Here Paul publicly criticizes the actions of both Peter and Barnabas, and he does so in writing for all the world to read about. I’m trying to think of some modern-day parallel, but my memory fails me. Perhaps one of the readers of this post could contribute an example of such outstanding honesty and humility in our modern era.
The Continuing Trend
Now you may think this is much ado about nothing. Taking this as an isolated incident, I would have to agree. However, this trend of what appears to be undue prominence to the position and office of men has been going on for some time, so this is not an isolated case. Still, am I reading too much into all the separate incidents—some of which are detailed in this blog? Are these not minor perturbations in the ebb and flow of any human society, even the New World Society? You could still make a case for that, perhaps. At least, you could have before today. Today I went to the Friday sessions of the 2012 District Convention. Today I heard the talk, “Avoid Testing Jehovah in Your Heart”. Today, everything changed.
But I’ll leave that for my next post.