You may recall this image taken from the July, 2016 Watchtower Study Edition, p. 7. You can find our review of that particular study article here. The theme of the article was “Why Must We ‘Keep on the Watch?’”
At the time, this reviewer felt that the new rule requiring all regional convention attendees to sit down and listen to the entire musical prelude for each session was just an example of encroaching paternalism on the part of the leadership of the organization. It did seem at the time to be a somewhat pointless exercise to force everyone to sit down and listen to the full ten minutes of the recording. It was like the pianist at a restaurant telling everyone to put down their forks and show some appreciation for his music. After all, is not the whole purpose of any musical prelude to give people time to get to their seats at their own speed? When did people who took their own good time to get to their seats during the prelude become branded as rude and disobedient? It seemed picayune, but now the 2017 Regional Convention indicates they had something planned all along. It now appears that there was a method to their madness – or perhaps it would be more appropriate to say, ‘a system to the silliness’.
At this year’s regional convention, the musical prelude is not really a prelude at all. In actuality, it is part of the session, though it precedes the song and prayer. It is a music video. It is not intended as a countdown, as the aforementioned Watchtower article suggested. In fact, now we have a proper countdown clock, giving us five minutes to sit down so we can listen and watch the music video in its entirety. That way we get the full benefit of the presentation which appears to have been the whole idea behind the rule made in The Watcthower last year.
So what of it? What’s so wrong about the music video? Perhaps nothing. Perhaps a great deal. Before we get into that, let’s look at the content of these videos. It should be noted that there are two each day for a total of six. They run 10 minutes each, meaning that by the end of the convention the audience will have spent one full hour stilling and compliantly watching music videos.
These videos depict idyllic situations. Beautiful people in beautiful surroundings. If they are depicted preaching, it is in places we’d all like to go. If they’re working in Kingdom hall construction, they’re shown to be so happy and fulfilled that we’d all like to be right there working alongside them. When they are attending meetings or, in gorgeous panning shots taken by remote drones, assembling in large, international conventions, we just want to be there with them to share the joy and the warm camaraderie.
Always the faces are beaming. Always the men are handsome; the women, beautiful; the children, well-dressed and precious. When we see historical shots of Kingdom preachers with bags and boxes of literature, we feel a swelling of pride for what has come before us. Some scenes depict the darkness of this old world, but then change to show the light of the New World which witnesses earnestly hope for. And always the music matches the scene.
The photography is very professionally done. The music is often very moving. And the producers have made extensive use of drone technology to enhance the visual impact of landscape scenes. A great deal of thought and effort, time and money has gone into the manufacture of these powerful motivating videos.
So what is wrong with that? Anything? After you have seen each video at your convention, ask yourself if any other organization could have produced exactly the same video? If you are honest with yourself, you have to admit that all you would have to do is change the kingdom songs to the songs or hymns of a different church, and you would be able to show exactly the same content so as to similarly motivate Adventists, Mormons, or evangelicals to greater zeal in their own faith. Indeed, it would surprise me if those religions have not already done similar videos themselves.
This is not to say that what is depicted in the videos is wrong. The point being made is that the purpose of these videos is only honorable if what they are depicting is true and leads us to the Christ. Otherwise, this medium can be used to influence the mind and heart so that the viewer is drawn to follow and obey men.
Why has the Governing Body effectively made viewing of these videos mandatory? Aren’t the many talks and dramas of the program enough?
When one listens to a talk, one hears words which are symbols only. These symbols enter through the ear and must be interpreted by the brain to mean something. As such, there is a filtering and evaluation process. What enters through the eye goes directly to the cerebral cortex. What we see is held to be true. “Seeing is believing” as the saying goes. Take the power of an image to instantly convey an idea, often with little or no evaluation on the viewer’s part, and then attach it to a moving piece of music to tap directly into the emotions, and you have a powerful tool for motivation and even manipulation. If you doubt the power of music to reach us emotionally, try watching a suspenseful movie scene with the sound off.
As we’ve already suggested, and as will become evident to anyone viewing all these videos, considerable time and money and human resources have been expended in their making. What an absolutely wonderful opportunity these could have afforded to help us understand more about the Christ, so that we could appreciate him and be drawn to him all the more. Yet in each of the six ten-minute video presentations, there is no depiction of Jesus Christ. What is likely to well up in the heart of the viewer is pride in the Organization and a renewed hope that what it says about the nearness of the end is true. All will want to be even more zealous in the loyalty and obedience to the Governing Body, several of whom are depicted in the videos.
While this convention is like virtually every one we’ve had since the Governing Body was formed in the late 1970s—that is, with little true spiritual content but with the same tired reminders being trotted out yet again from the platform—it is evident that the Teaching Committee has vastly improved its ability to deliver the message effectively. And the power they exercise to make us sit down and absorb the message and be properly conditioned is a little frightening.
While it is true that Jesus said one of the ways to distinguish true worship from false is to look at the fruits produced, he wasn’t referring to numerical growth, nor the expansion of a real estate empire. (Mt 7:20; 13, 14) If he had been, then the Catholic church would win hands down. Yet my JW brethren will look at these videos as proof of God’s blessing. Well, they are not alone in using that yardstick as this video shows.
Today was the first day. The chairman literally read from this watchtower stressing the importance of being seated and how it is a sign of lack of spirituality and respect for Jehovah. The opening introduction was a regional counsel talk that left many uncomfortable. My wife (who’s in) said what was all that about? And that the talk made her very uncomfortable. Overt Orwellian “programming”.
I remember last year at the convention (probably the last I’ll ever attend, by the way) when they made the “gentle” announcement about how too many brothers and sisters were milling about talking during the videos presentation and that these were actually “part of the program”…. blah, blah, blah. Sorry, not trying to be nasty with my comment, but I remember thinking it was just one more form of micro-managing people, of trying to control every detail of their lives. Between that, the “shunning” video, and the “bunker” video – well, I knew it was time to move on.
This year it wasn’t a gentle announcement. The first introduction by the chairman was counseling talk, emphasizing for 20 mins that everyone must be seated as part of the program. It was ridiculous.
The Mormons have 104 videos dealing with the Life of Christ and how many do we have? 2. Who is leading who to Christ? I must say I have watched most of them and the JW’s videos do not even come close to the content and quality and yet very simple and sticking to what the scriptures say.
Those are excellent videos, Eve04. Very professional and they adhere closely to the Bible text. In fact, and I say this with regret, they are closer to the Bible text than those two produced by JW.org.
For anyone interested in viewing them, go to http://www.biblevideos.com
[This is not an endorsement of the Mormon church nor its teachings.]
Meleti – I’ve heard brothers defend the lack of Jesus in videos and dramas because they don’t want to cast an ‘imperfect brother’ in that role. Do you believe that’s a legitimate reason? Or a cop-out?
I’m not Meleti, but that’s one of the most ridiculous things I’ve ever heard. Typical rationalizing. ‘Nuff said.
Good morning everyone, Meleti, you have given yet another objective appraisal. When I used to attend the Meetings, give or take every time the Congregation would be asked to look at one or so of the pictures. And I am going to initially draw people’s attention to the opening picture. Does this really comply with what Witnesses are being asked to do over the last couple of years’ of Conventions? My goodness, I hope the drones and CCTV aren’t doing overtime that day – if people are busy nattering between themselves, ogling over their mobile phones rather than having accord… Read more »
I asked around two years ago when they first started releasing them. The music videos make the brothers and sisters uncomfortable. Their attitude toward them is that of an adult appeasing a young musician’s efforts as at least honest efforts, though not very good efforts as yet. “Their heart is in the right place.” Is the most common conclusion I get. Speaking strictly from an artistic standpoint, great art will never be created from the feedback of a captive audience – an audience too micromanaged to expect anything better. It’ll only find its footing from being pummeled by honest criticism.… Read more »
“It won’t be long before it will be expected of us Witnesses to substitute the organization’s music for the much better ‘worldly’ music during our car rides and gatherings. You watch.”
Seriously, they have been strongly encouraging us to do that for the past couple of years.
I know of people like that , oh no I can only listen to the kingdom melodies , even classical music beethoven, Ect no good , considered demonic ,
In the world of politics they call this “virtue signaling.” It’s in every “experience” we get to hear at our conventions, it’s in the drive to lean on a brother to listen to only the music our group writes, or to lean on parents to make their children watch Caleb And Sophia. Virtue signaling.
That’s a term I shall strive to remember. If you can name it, you can break its hold over you.
Hey IfIonly…. yes, I know of a number of “zealous” witnesses who are the same way – you go into their house, the only thing playing is Kingdom melodies, you ride in their car, same thing. It’s not like I want to hear “death metal” music or anything, but I think you can tell how indoctrinated someone is with the Organization by how insistent they are that we only listen to “Jehovah’s” music.
three things strike me about this article; one is your excellent observation that the effort, expense etc. is not used to magnify Christ as one would rightfully expect, second is the interesting point of the musical interlude or prelude was intended for a later purpose, interesting because this shows intent to program, to condition etc. third is that I have long suspected the watchtower organization as potentially being an organization whose purpose is actually to see how much and to what degree they can subject, manipulate and program persons minds in the direction that they desire. In all I am… Read more »
You got it mediator 007 , and they use all 8 of Liftons points to do it ,