On page 27 of the July, 2017 Study Edition of The Watchtower, there is an article intended ostensibly to help Jehovah’s Witnesses resist the influence of satanic propaganda. From the title, “Winning the Battle for Your Mind”, one would naturally assume that the writer’s goal is to assist each of his readers to win this battle. However, we must be careful in making such an assumption. Whom does the writer really envision as the winner? Let us analyze the entire article to see.
It begins by quoting Paul’s words to the Corinthians:
“I am afraid that somehow, as the serpent seduced Eve by its cunning, your minds might be corrupted away from the sincerity and the chastity that are due the Christ.” (2Co 11:3)
Unfortunately, as is often the case, the article ignores the context of the Bible writer’s words; but we will not do so, as the context is pertinent to the discussion at hand. From this point on, and for the first nine paragraphs, the article offers some really fine, bible-based counsel. Some highlights include:
- If you are going to win the battle for your mind, you must recognize the danger that propaganda poses and protect yourself from it. – par. 3
- What is propaganda? In this context, it is the use of biased or misleading information to manipulate the way people think and act. Some equate propaganda with “lies, distortion, deceit, manipulation, mind control, [and] psychological warfare” and associate it with “unethical, harmful, and unfair tactics.”—Propaganda and Persuasion. – par. 4
- How dangerous is propaganda? It is insidious—like an invisible, odorless, poisonous gas—and it seeps into our consciousness. – par. 5
- Jesus gave this simple rule for combating propaganda: “Know the truth, and the truth will set you free…. In the pages of the Bible, you can find all you need to combat Satan’s propaganda.” – par. 7
- Become “thoroughly able to comprehend” the full scope of the truth. (Eph. 3:18) That will take real effort on your part. But remember this basic fact expressed by author Noam Chomsky: “Nobody is going to pour truth into your brain. It’s something you have to find out for yourself.” So “find out for yourself” by being diligent in “carefully examining the Scriptures daily.”—Acts 17:11. – par. 8
- Keep in mind that Satan does not want you to think clearly or reason things out well. Why? Because propaganda “is likely to be most effective,” says one source, “if people . . . are discouraged from thinking critically.” (Media and Society in the Twentieth Century) So never be content passively or blindly to accept what you hear. (Prov. 14: 15) Use your God-given thinking abilities and power of reason to make the truth your own.—Prov. 2:10-15; Rom. 12:1, 2. – par. 9 [Boldface added]
The key source of this lying, deceptive and poisonous propaganda is Satan the Devil. This is in accord with Scripture where we read:
“among whom the god of this system of things has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, so that the illumination of the glorious good news about the Christ, who is the image of God, might not shine through.” (2Co 4:4)
However, Satan uses a channel of communication to disseminate his propaganda, Paul warns us all:
“And no wonder, for Satan himself keeps disguising himself as an angel of light. 15 It is therefore nothing extraordinary if his ministers also keep disguising themselves as ministers of righteousness. But their end will be according to their works.” (2Co 11:14, 15) [Boldface added]
To this point in the discussion, would any reasonable Christian disagree with what has been written? Unlikely, since it all fits with what reason and the Holy Scriptures indicate.
Returning to the article’s opening scriptural reference, let’s expand on it and read the circumstances that prompted Paul to issue his strong warning to our Corinthian brothers. He starts out by saying, “. . .for I personally promised you in marriage to one husband that I might present you as a chaste virgin to the Christ.” (2Co 11:2) Paul did not want the Corinthians to lose their spiritual virginity by following men over the Christ. Yet they seemed to have a propensity for that particular sin. Observe:
“. . .For as it is, if someone comes and preaches a Jesus other than the one we preached, or you receive a spirit other than what you received, or good news other than what you accepted, you easily put up with him. 5 For I consider that I have not proved inferior to your superfine apostles in a single thing.” (2Co 11:4, 5)
Who were these “superfine apostles” and why were the Corinthians so predisposed to putting up with them?
The superfine apostles were men within the congregation who exalted themselves over others and presumed to take on the mantle of leadership within the congregation, replacing Jesus. They preached a different Jesus, a different spirit, and a different good news. The willingness of the Corinthians to submit to such men should not surprise us. So much of the tragedy of human history can be traced back to our willingness to surrender our will to any man who wishes to lord it over us.
Who are the “superfine apostles” in our day and how can you identify them?
You will notice that Paul told the Corinthians that Satan’s agents—his ministers—disguise themselves in the trappings of righteousness. (2Co 11:15) Therefore, you would expect his agents to sing a good song when it comes to warning you against the insidious propaganda of Satan, while at the same time cleverly employing that very propaganda to win the battle for your mind.
Is that what is happening here?
Build Up Your Defenses
The first break from what is taught to what is actually practiced appears under this subtitle. Here, we are told that “in the pages of the Bible, you can find all you need to combat Satan’s propaganda”. You are directed to “become ‘thoroughly able to comprehend’ the full scope of the truth” and to “find out for yourself by being diligent in ‘carefully examining the Scriptures daily.’” Good words and easily spoken, but does the Organization practice what it preaches?
They want us to attend five meetings every week and prepare for them all. They want us to meet our quotas for field service hours. They want us to clean and maintain their properties free of charge and discourage us from hiring outside help. They want us to dedicate an additional evening for our Family Worship night and use it to study one of their publications. They also say they want us to study the Bible, yet if you ask any Witness, you will likely hear that there is simply no time left..
Further proof of the split between theory and practice are the number of cases where some diligent Witnesses have made arrangements to get together on a regular basis to simply read and study the Bible. As soon as the elders learn of such extra-organizational arrangements, the brothers in question are counselled against continuing and are told that the Governing Body discourages any meetings outside of the “theocratic” arrangement.
What happens, though, if you do manage to “comprehend the full scope of the truth” by “carefully examining the Scriptures”? You are likely to find some things in the Bible that are at odds with official JW doctrine. (E.g., the absence of proof for the overlapping-generations doctrine.) Now let’s say you share your findings with other Witnesses—in a car group for instance. What will likely happen?
The third paragraph under this subtitle says, “propaganda ‘is likely to be most effective,’ says one source, “if people . . . are discouraged from thinking critically.” (Media and Society in the Twentieth Century) So never be content passively or blindly to accept what you hear. (Prov. 14: 15) Use your God-given thinking abilities and power of reason to make the truth your own.”
High sounding words, but empty in practice. Witnesses are strongly discouraged from “thinking critically”. As a JW, you will be “encouraged” by enormous peer pressure to “passively and blindly accept what you hear.” You’ll be told to “wait on Jehovah” if you have findings that differ from official JW dogma. If you persist, you’ll be accused of causing dissension, of being a divisive influence, even of holding to apostate ideas. Since the penalty for the latter is to be cut off from all family and friends, one can hardly argue that in practice Witnesses are encouraged to “think critically” and not “be content to passively and blindly…accept what [they] hear.”
Beware of Attempts to Divide and Conquer
The propaganda tactic used under this subtitle is to equate the Christian congregation with the Organization of Jehovah’s Witnesses. If you accept that premise, then the writer is able to use the Bible to show that it is wrong to leave the Organization. However, Paul was speaking to members of the Christian congregation in Corinth and he was warning them, not about leaving the congregation, but of following a corrupted congregation leadership. The superfine apostles were trying to take over the congregation of the Christ to their own ends. What should we do if a similar circumstance exists today? What if the particular church we associate with, be it Baptist, Catholic, or JW.org, has been taken over by modern-day superfine apostles? What should we do?
Satan’s method of “divide and conquer” is to divide us from Jesus Christ. Nothing else matters. Does he really care if we leave one false religion for another? Either way, we are still under the thumb of his “ministers of righteousness”. So your only concern should be whether you are being taken from the Christ and seduced into servitude to men. Is the Organization of Jehovah’s Witnesses trying to divide us from the Christ? That will sound like an outrageous question to most dyed-in-the-wool Witnesses. However, rather than dismiss the idea out of hand, let us wait until we finish considering this particular Watchtower article.
Do Not Allow Your Confidence to Be Undermined
The first paragraph under this subtitle opens with this seemingly valid line of reasoning:
A soldier whose loyalty to his leader is weakened will not fight well. So propagandists attempt to break bonds of confidence and trust between a soldier and his commander. They may use such propaganda as: “You cannot trust your leaders!” and “Do not let them lead you into disaster!”
Your leader is the Christ. (Mt 23:10) So any propaganda that weakens your bond with your leader would be disastrous. In fact, many have allowed their confidence and trust in Jesus to be undermined and have suffered a shipwreck of their faith. Thousands of Witnesses—not to mention countless others from other faiths in Christendom—have become agnostic, even atheist, due to the effect of satanic propaganda. So you must be wary of propaganda that attempts to break your bonds of confidence and trust in your leader, Jesus Christ. But remember that this very article also warns you that propaganda is like an “invisible, odorless, poisonous gas” that can ‘seep ideas into your consciousness’. So you should not expect a frontal attack, but something far more subtle and insidious. With that in mind, notice how the article shifts from our single leader, the Christ to the plural: “You cannot trust your leaders!”, it says. What leaders? The article continues:
To add weight to these attacks, they may cleverly exploit any mistakes those leaders might make. Satan does this. He never gives up trying to undermine your confidence in the leadership that Jehovah has provided.
The leadership Jehovah has provided is Jesus. (Mt 23:10; 28:18) Jesus makes no mistakes. So this paragraph makes no sense. Nowhere in the Bible is there evidence that Jehovah has provided human leaders. Yet that is the idea that the article wants you to accept. The article is talking about the Governing Body. It calls them “leaders” and refers to them as the “leadership that Jehovah has provided”. This goes directly against the command of our one true leader who told us:
“. . .Neither be called ‘leaders,’ for YOUR Leader is one, the Christ. 11 But the greatest one among YOU must be YOUR minister. 12 Whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted.” (Mt 23:10-12)
So if you accept the article’s premise, you are disobeying the command of your one, true Lord. Does this fact not qualify the article’s reasoning as ‘insidious, poisonous propaganda?’ Jesus tells us not to call anyone “leader” and not to “exalt ourselves” over others. Yet, the men at the head of the Organization call themselves the Governing Body which is by definition, a body of men who govern or lead. Let’s not quibble. The Governing Body in name and in practice are the Leaders of the Organization. This directly defies Jesus edict. Moreover, they have presumptuously proclaimed themselves to be the ‘faithful and discreet slave’ (John 5:31) and stated in print that they will be approved by Christ when he returns and that he will delight in appointing them over all his belongings.[i] Can there be a better example of self-exultation?
In the battle for your mind, whom does the writer of the article want to come off as the winner? Clearly, it is not you as we will now see:
Your defense? Be determined to stick to Jehovah’s organization and loyally support the leadership he provides—no matter what imperfections may surface. – par. 13
Excuse me!? “No matter what imperfections may surface”!!! Chuck “thinking critically”. Ignore “knowing the truth”. Set aside the need to hold men accountable for their actions. Instead, be prepared to “passively and blindly follow”.
The Bible-based exhortations to use critical analysis instead of passive acceptance, found in the opening nine paragraphs of this study, are really just high-sounding empty words when applied by the Organization. Apparently, they are useful to examine everyone but the Governing Body. They have just given themselves carte blanche. They are saying that no matter what they have done, or may yet do, it’s only because of human imperfection and so we must overlook it.
You may learn of the neutrality-compromising ten-year membership they held in the United Nations. You may realize that the publications condemn such an action as a sin, the equivalent of spiritual adultery, and call for the perpetrator to be disassociated. But when it comes to the Governing Body, they seem to be coated in spiritual Teflon. They can somehow cheat on their husbandly owner and yet remain “chaste virgins to the Christ.” (2Co 11:3)
You may find that for decades they have systematically failed to report the crime of child sexual abuse to the superior authorities as directed by God’s Word. (Romans 13:1-7) They have also added to the burden of the “little ones” by shunning any who do not submit to their leadership and their judicial process. (Luke 17:2) Yet, this is nothing to be concerned about. They get a free pass. This is just human imperfection.
While counselling us to think critically and make the truth our own, this article now tells us to disregard all of that when it comes to the men at the helm of the Organization:
Do not be “quickly shaken from your reason” when faced with what appear to be damaging attacks by apostates or other such deceivers of the mind—however plausible their charges may seem.
No matter how “plausible their charges may seem.” Yet another astonishing statement. What if the charges are not just plausible, but true and easily verified by anyone with a computer? What then? Is not the basis for reason, the truth? Is it not the case that a person whose reasoning is based on truth cannot be “quickly shaken” from his reason so as to believe what is false? Indeed, who is the apostate? The one speaking the truth, or the one telling us to ignore the evidence before our eyes? (“Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain.”)
Do Not Let Terror Tactics Weaken You
Under the penultimate subtitle we read:
Do not let Satan use fear itself to weaken your morale or break your integrity. Jesus said: “Do not fear those who kill the body and after this are not able to do anything more.” (Luke 12:4) Have complete confidence in Jehovah’s promise to watch over you, to give you “the power beyond what is normal,” and to help you withstand any attempts to frighten you into submission.
Now please think for a moment. Have you read articles written by those the Organization would call ‘apostates’? If you have only recently come to this site, you might be reading this article all the while considering me as an apostate. I surely quality as one based on the Organization’s definition. Given that, are you afraid? Am I using fear tactics to persuade you? What power do I have over you? Indeed, what power do any of these so-called apostates have over you so as to instill fear in you? Any fear you feel at reading this or other similar articles does not come from us, but from the Organization, does it not? Do you not fear being discovered? What if the elders were to learn of your dalliance? If you honestly consider this situation, you’ll see that the only source of fear is the Organization. They carry the big stick and are more than willing to use it. They will readily disfellowship you for disagreeing with them. They are the ones who want to “frighten you into submission” by threatening to cut you off from all your family and friends should you disagree with them. Only they hold the power to make your life a misery.
The hypocrisy of condemning and persecuting “apostates” (those bold enough to speak the truth) for using fear tactics when the only ones using such tactics are the leaders of the Organization is surely something for which they must answer when our Lord returns.
Be Wise—Always Listen to Jehovah
From the closing paragraphs of the article:
Have you ever watched a film in which, from your vantage point in the audience, you can clearly see that someone is being deceived and manipulated? Did you find yourself thinking: ‘Do not believe it! They are lying to you!’ Imagine, then, the angels shouting the same message to you: “Do not be fooled by Satan’s lies!”
Shut your ears, then, to Satan’s propaganda. (Prov. 26:24, 25) Listen to Jehovah and trust in him in all that you do. (Prov. 3:5-7) Respond to his loving appeal: “Be wise, my son, and make my heart rejoice.” (Prov. 27:11) Then, you will win the battle for your mind!
The article takes a very binary approach. Either we follow God’s truth, or Satan’s lying propaganda. Jesus said that “he that is not against us is for us.” (Mark 9:40) There are only two sides to this equation, the side of light and the side of darkness. If what the Organization teaches is not God’s truth, then it is Satan’s propaganda. If these men that presume to lead us are not self-effacing humble servants of our Lord, then they are self-exalting superfine apostles. You can fear them, or you can fear the Son. The choice is yours, but you should bear in mind that Jesus, like his Father, is jealous:
“For you must not prostrate yourself to another god, because Jehovah, whose name is Jealous, he is a jealous God;” (Ex 34:14)
“. . .Kiss the son, that He may not become incensed And YOU may not perish [from] the way,. . .” (Ps 2:12)
“. . .And do not become fearful of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul; but rather be in fear of him that can destroy both soul and body in Ge·henʹna.” (Mt 10:28)
[i] “In view of the foregoing, what can we conclude? When Jesus comes for judgment during the great tribulation, he will find that the faithful slave has been loyally dispensing timely spiritual food to the domestics. Jesus will then delight in making the second appointment—over all his belongings. Those who make up the faithful slave will get this appointment when they receive their heavenly reward, becoming corulers with Christ.”
(w13 7/15 p. 25 par. 18 “Who Really Is the Faithful and Discreet Slave?”)